Davinia Taylor on addiction, losing custody of her son and her biohacking superpower

December 8, 2023. Series 7. Episode 78

Former Hollyoaks star, best-selling author and biohacking superstar Davinia Taylor’s story is a true masterclass in how to turn personal crisis into a rocket-propelled positive.

In this episode she talks about it all with raw honesty, emotion and humour. And all done without a hint of self-pity.

*DISCLAIMER – This episode includes discussion about addiction issues. Anyone struggling should seek professional help from an expert. https://www.talktofrank.com/get-help/find-support-near-you




Hack your Hormones, Davinia Taylor (Sunday Times No. 1 Bestseller) – https://amzn.eu/d/5RyN8ag

It’s Not a Diet (Sunday Times No. 1 Bestseller) – https://amzn.eu/d/b2gBSKu

Stream/buy ‘Allies’ by Some Velvet Morning: https://ampl.ink/qp6bm

Some Velvet Morning Website: www.somevelvetmorning.co.uk

Your Daily Practice: Sleep by Myndstream: https://open.spotify.com/track/5OX9XgJufFz9g63o2Dv2i5?si=b2f9397c92084682


Production team:

Host – Andy Coulson

CWC production team: Louise Difford and Jane Sankey

With special thanks to Global

For all PR and guest approaches please contact – [email protected]


Episode Transcript

Davinia Taylor:   [0:00:00] It was the morning after I’d been drinking, and it was then, me walking up the hill to go to the supermarket, that was when I woke up in the Royal Free Hospital, I don’t know how long later, and my face was- I’d faceplanted the floor. I’d hit the floor, because of the- my body had just gone into shock because it didn’t have its fuel source, which was alcohol.

Andy Coulson:    [0:00:25] Welcome back to Crisis What Crisis, the podcast that aims to guide you towards a more resilient life and whatever it might throw at you. If this is your first time with us then please hit subscribe wherever you’re watching or listening, it really does help make sure that these, I hope useful, conversations are shared as widely as possible.

My guest today, I am absolutely delighted to say, is Davinia Taylor. Actress, best-selling author and one of Britain’s leading and in my view most inspirational biohackers. A woman who in her twenties was well-known not just for her role in the TV show Hollyoaks but also for her hard partying alongside pals like Kate Moss and Sadie Frost. The Primrose Hill Set, as they were labelled by a certain newspaper that I might have once edited.

After leaving Hollyoaks the roles dried up but the drinking continued. She married Dave Gardner in 2007 and they had a son. Davinia struggled with a crippling post-natal depression coupled with a growing addiction to alcohol. A difficult divorce followed and Davinia lost custody of Grey, a situation that she has described as one of the worst experiences of her life.

She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and prescribed heavy medication; drugs she would remain on for almost a decade. Her alcoholism deepened, leading her doctor at one stage to warn that she was just a drink away from death, her liver and pancreas were so badly damaged.

A painful, at times terrifying journey of recovery from her alcohol addiction then followed, and by 2009 she was sober. But a second addiction to food had taken hold. That issue was compounded by the sudden death of her mother from breast cancer in 2013. Admirably managing to maintain her sobriety, Davinia however became in her own words obese.

But then, after taking a breast cancer gene test Davinia began a process a self-discovery that revealed she was genetically predisposed to addiction. That essentially meant that she was dopamine-driven, and those drugs she had been taking for a decade were only making her situation worse.

Davinia, driven by an innate and energetic curiosity threw herself into the world of biohacking, to unpick and better understand her own story, but in doing so transformed herself into a writer, campaigner, frankly a one-woman powerhouse, now helping others take control of their health and their happiness.

Her two books, It’s Not a Diet and Hack Your Hormones, are best-sellers. Her supplements company WillPowders is flying, and on Instagram her one million or more followers enjoy free content that’s accessible, that’s straightforward and that’s frankly pretty useful.

As I think will become clear in this conversation, Davinia is a woman on a mission. A mission to help us better understand the link between mental health, gut health, addiction and the brain. A stunning example really of how to turn personal crisis, something we talk about on this podcast a lot, into a rocket-propelled positive.

And all done, by the way, minus any self-pity, any preaching. As Davinia says, I think rather brilliantly, “I’m not an expert, except on myself.”

Davinia Taylor, welcome to Crisis What Crisis.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:03:35] Bloody hell, that’s an intro. Thank you very much.

Andy Coulson:    [0:03:41] All true. How are you?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:03:43] I’d say it was all true except the Primrose Hill thing. None of us actually lived in Primrose Hill.

Andy Coulson:    [0:03:47] No I know, it was Belsize Park wasn’t it?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:03:49] Yes, there was Belsize Park, St John’s Wood, someone who was up in Hampstead, but for some reason it was called the Primrose Hill. I mean, that was- in fact a load of people moved to Primrose Hill to be part of that clique, and it was like the most expensive postcode in London but we were on the outside of it. So yes, it did its job.

Andy Coulson:    [0:04:04] Two things there. One, it did wonders for the house prices in Primrose Hill. Two, I’m afraid Belsize Park, St John’s Wood, just did not work as a headline.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:04:18] Yes, exactly. I understand the creative licence on it absolutely fine, but I just wanted to caveat that’s the only lie in there. So yes.

Andy Coulson:    [0:04:26] Very good, very good. Davinia, I touched on this in the intro. You’re wired in a way, it seems from this distance, that is sort of fundamentally curious. I’m sure that will become clear as we chat today.

When you were younger, when you were thinking about what you were going to do with your life, was there ever a moment, even just sort of a glancing, a passing thought, where you thought, “Do you know what? Maybe I’ll work in health.” Because you would have been a brilliant medic.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:04:59] The absolute opposite. I was never drawn to studying, and I think particularly how the curriculum is taught in school, because I’ve got a son who has just gone through his GCSEs now and the I’ve got another three more heading that way. And of course we revisit the syllabus and it just isn’t inspiring because it isn’t applicable.

I mean, we’re fundamentally selfish people half the time. And if it doesn’t impact our lives immediately, often it just becomes white noise. And it was just a case of me trying to remember some facts, getting them on paper, getting a decent grade and moving on to the next step.

So I completely dismissed science as anything exciting. And as you mentioned in the intro, I’m dopamine-driven. Which means I need excitement and a few hormones like adrenaline to get me going. And when I hack into those particular hormones- so if something excites me or interests me or is applicable to me or my immediate safety and the safety of my family, all of a sudden it becomes accessible and something that I can hyper-focus on.

So yes, because I’m a selfish person, and we all are, it just wasn’t interesting enough. You know, I didn’t realise on a low level ever since being a little girl I’ve always seeked excitement. So I’ve always climbed trees too high, I’ve always ran across the road, I was a bloody nightmare. I’ve always been, you know, a huge risk taker. Always, always like, I’d jump before I should have done.

So for me, I’ve always had that predisposition, I just didn’t know how to harness it and how to make the boring and the mundane seem exciting and therefore something I can absorb and learn.

Andy Coulson:    [0:06:35] Well, there’s a message for educators, right? Because you might also say that the way that you were being taught those subjects- your brain actually was pretty open to some of that stuff if it had been exciting enough. But that’s a different podcast, I think.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:06:50] Absolutely.

Andy Coulson:    [0:06:52] Often on this pod when we talk about personal crisis, which is kind of the core of the conversation that we have here, especially in the context of addiction, it usually begins with a trauma, right? Or usually, though not always actually, you know, linked to childhood. It can obviously be an adult event.

But that’s not the case for you. And you’ve been very kind of up front that, you know, your story is purely about biology, it’s not about biography. I’ve got that right, haven’t I?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:07:27] Yes, absolutely. I really struggled with being an alcoholic, because a) there’s shame around it anyway, you know, there is massive shame around it, and I do think there’s shame around the whole addiction message regardless of the fact that most of the population are addicted to something, it’s how we survive, you know? Whether it’s our screens, our shopping, relationships, food, alcohol, cigarettes. Whatever it is, there’s an outlet for it. Even gambling you know, it’s on the increase. So it needs to be- the stigma needs to come away because we need to start normalising it.

And it doesn’t necessarily come from a place of massive trauma, which I didn’t understand. I just thought, whenever you see movies or shows there is always childhood trauma. And I’m talking of the most ferocious level. And I just didn’t know, as a bystander and someone who hadn’t been educated on addiction and how it manifests, I just thought it wasn’t applicable to me. So it kept me in denial about, I should be able to control my alcohol, I should be able to have two glasses of wine like they do on telly.

But I didn’t realise that I had crossed what’s known as the invisible line, and that alcohol was now working against me, and I was actually drinking to feel normal and not in a state of panic. So it had turned on me. But by the time you cross that line it’s too late, and then you’ve got to give up completely.

So it’s a double-edged sword.


Andy Coulson:    [0:08:49] Yes. Did the professionals that-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:08:56] So it’s a double-edged sword with addiction and trauma. Because often people think, “Do you know what? I’ve had a really nice upbringing, my parents loved me, I’ve had a nice school, you know, nothing really happened. Therefore that doesn’t apply to me, I need to just control my drinking more.”

Whereas if you look at it from a biological point of view, i.e. people with say ADD or ADHD, because we’re dopamine-driven, because we have low levels of dopamine, I can get that from a glass of wine, and that is where the problem lies. And someone can get it from pressing- I mean, I worry about the next generation, particularly with social media. Because where I was sat in a pub at 16, they’re sat on their phones, isolated and getting likes.

So I think addiction is always there, even if you take alcohol away, but because there’s no trauma people think it’s not applicable to them. But it is. If you have an attention deficit you’re going to naturally seek dopamine just to get you motivated through the day. It’s a survival mechanism, that’s all it is. You’re just surviving to make yourself feel elevated so you can function.

Andy Coulson:    [0:10:00] Good. I want to get into that in a bit more detail. Just a quick question though, when you’re talking about the period of time when you were- as I understand it, you went through rehab in a number of different forms before you finally I think went to South Africa and got what you needed. When you were talking to those professionals along that bumpy road, did anyone at any point say, “Actually there’s nothing- there’s not root cause here. This might be- this might just be the way you’re made”?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:10:31] No, because-

Andy Coulson:    [0:10:32] You never got that from a single professional?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:10:34] No. So that was pushing twenty years ago when I first tried to start getting sober, so the whole- I didn’t even know I had ADHD, which by the way I don’t take medication for, I hack with things like caffeine, sunlight, cold showers; it’s super easy to hack around unless you’ve got a very severe case.

So no, that wasn’t on the menu, so to speak. It was, “You have- you’re repressing trauma. There is something in your childhood that you’re repressing.” So you’re doing hypnotherapy and all this stuff, and I’m like-

Andy Coulson:    [0:11:02] So you were trying to find something that-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:11:04] I just really can’t pinpoint, I’m trying desperately yes. I’m thinking perhaps the dog, the dog drowned, I remember that, but I didn’t even get told that until I was 21, so was this a repressed memory that I somehow- I knew that the dog had drowned? I mean, it’s all this, you know? And you constantly doubt your childhood, you doubt- and they put the fear of God into you about your own mental- your sanity. Because I’m like, “I do not remember anything.”

So that just made me just rebel even more and say, “No, this isn’t for me. This isn’t for me.” Rather than, “Do you know what? Shall we just have a look at your biochemistry? Shall we just have a quick check there maybe, and see where we’re up to with your DNA?” And then I could accept something. Then I could go, “Alright then, that’s the way it is, let’s move on. How do I hack around it? How do I make myself feel better without drinking?” Because obviously that’s off. It’s like having a shellfish allergy. I’m not going to go back to eating flipping oysters if I get a huge reaction, or peanuts, you know? But with me as an alcoholic it will always try and find a way.

But if I had a decent, just paper diagnosis that, “This is what your genetic code is, this is what you’re predisposed for. Stay away from this and your life will get better.” That would have been easier to accept than going through hours and weeks of trauma therapy and hypnotherapy, and going through- I just don’t have any recall of any trauma, so it really blocked me, you know?

Andy Coulson:    [0:12:20] Yes. Tell me a bit more about the upbringing. Just give us a bit more of a flavour. I mean, your mum and dad, very important people in your lives.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:12:29] Of course, yes.

Andy Coulson:    [0:12:30] Very, very driven individuals. I suspect a fair amount of dopamine perhaps at play there as well, I don’t know.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:12:36] Yes, definitely. Like, it is in your genes, you know? It is genetic and I’ve definitely- my parents were both- they lived on the same council estate in Liverpool. Mum was trained as a hairdresser, my dad just left school. And basically they wanted to get out of Liverpool, out of that estate, you know?

And so they got married very young, I think Mum was 18, and it’s the usual sort of rags to riches story. My mum believed in my dad’s ability to sell anything, and eventually she sold her- she built a salon, a hair salon herself outside of Wigan, and then that money invested into my dad because one day he- I don’t think he had a job at the time, he was unemployed. He used to like sell encyclopaedias door to door, this sort of thing.

I think he was sat on the loo and he shouted down to my mum, he said, “Lynn, we’ve no toilet rolls.” And he went, “That is what I’m going to sell, because everyone needs it and it’s not recession-proof.” And him and my mum developed a company that manufactured toilet rolls in a new town called Skelmersdale in between Liverpool and Manchester, and created thousands of jobs.

Andy Coulson:    [0:13:41] Wow.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:13:41] And yes, it was toilet rolls. They used to supply big supermarkets in the end, like Asda and Marks’s and all that, and he was the first guy in the ‘80s to decide we need to recycle pulp instead of cutting down trees. So he was ahead of the game with the whole recycling thing. Not from a place of virtue, just from a place of, “Hang on, there’s a byproduct there I can reuse and I can bring it in cheaper.”

So yes, so I mean, manufacturing is in my blood. Factory floors are in my blood, selling things are in my blood, you know. And that’s what it is, that is dopamine-driving. When you take a product to market it’s exciting, and that’s what I’ve ultimately done with all the knowledge I’ve gained. I’ve tried to develop products with my company WillPowders that help people get ahead of their craving for my nemesis number two, which is carbohydrates.

So yes, so once I put the wine down I picked up the pizza and the donuts etc.

Andy Coulson:    [0:14:35] We’ll get into that.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:14:36] We will do. But just to show you, that’s how genetics work. And it’s also- of course it’s environmental factors, like I used to sit around the kitchen table and listen to them talking about business, and I hated it. Because I was an only child, I was really bored. So I don’t know whether that also- as soon as I left home I’m like, “I am never going to be bored again. I am never going to sit in the house with my mum and my dad without having-” there was no X-boxes or anything, was there?

And we literally lived in a field because they wanted to get away from that city living, and I was- I didn’t have any neighbours. So there was me on my own, and my cat, and obviously the dog that died which I alluded to earlier, for company.

So yes, maybe that was my trauma. Endless boredom.

Andy Coulson:    [0:15:15] Tell me a bit about your mum.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:15:18] My mum. She was very beautiful, very determined, very driven, very ladylike. I am definitely more like my dad in character, I’m a bit more feisty. She was very humble, very quiet, but very hard-working and a real critical thinker as well. I miss her terribly because I’d love to have- more than anything I wish- she always wanted to be a grandmother, so she’s missed out on four- very different experiences from having an only daughter to having four sons, four grandsons would have been her dream actually, it would have been her dream.

So she passed away, like you said, in 2013 of breast cancer, and it was that that- the only silver lining is it was that that made me sit up and take notice of my health, and not accept what her fate was, and investigate. And once again it’s that self-preservation. I’m not going to let my kids go through what I went through.

So she got diagnosed at 59, died at 60. So I was lucky to have that length of time with her, I understand it could have been way earlier. But yes, it’s like there’s more to this. And that’s how- I just can’t help it. Maybe I’m just nosey, I just want to know more, and how I can protect myself.

Andy Coulson:    [0:16:40] That connection between those two moments in your life, you know, the sort of tragedy of losing your mum and then- and then that kind of door that swings open that allows you to start to understand yourself and get properly well, is incredible. But it’s also incredibly poignant.

You’ve obviously, you know, that must mean a tremendous amount to you, that what’s come after actually came from, albeit in the most tragic of circumstances, you know, what happened with your mum.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:17:11] I think it’s not unique. I think we all suddenly become- once you’re diagnosed with something like a terminal disease, I think every single family member suddenly becomes hyper-focused on it. And suddenly you know, it happens time and time again throughout our population, you know, foundations get set up, charities get set up. Like myself, books get written, you know?

            And I think from tragedy so often the human nature is, “So let’s build something from this and let’s help other people.” Which is really nice to think about, really. You know, let’s learn from this mistake as opposed to giving up.

And I think that, the word you said in your opening, resilience, I think that is a fundamental human characteristic that we forget we’ve got absolute abundant access to if we hack it correctly, if we know what we’re up against and how to tweak the edges. There’s so many little tricks of the trade that you can do to become more resilient, so when the shit hits the fan you can turn it on itself, and you go, “Right okay, how do we navigate out of this?”


Andy Coulson:    [0:18:17] You’re right Davinia, of course there’s a link between loss and campaigning and people feeling- and a focus on their own lives, and obviously as you say, so much good comes from that.

But you’re also being quite modest. Because what most people don’t do is what you’ve done. Right? Most people don’t decide, “Actually, not only is this going to kind of spur me into-” you know, maybe they’ll get involved in a charity, maybe yes it’ll live with them in some way, which is all very admirable by the way. They’ll run a marathon, maybe they’ll become a Trustee of a charity.

Not many people will then throw their life towards it in the way that you have.


Davinia Taylor:   [0:18:57] And this is where the addictive personality becomes a superpower. So you know, I don’t drink but bloody hell I can create. Because I need that outlet, I need that focus to give me the dopamine that I need. So whenever anyone, say a teenager who has got addictive tendencies, I’m like, “Just be patient.” Just explain to them what it is, and explain to them, “If you can hyperfocus into something that you’re driven into, you could be number one on the planet at that.” And that’s the gift. That is the gift of addiction.

So you know, it’s taken me forty-six years to understand that, but it is a gift. Bloody hell I went round the houses to figure it out, but yes, I relish the fact that I can do that. And I can think outside the box, and I can always turn a negative into a positive.

In fact that’s probably when I’m at my best, when I’m in crisis, all of a sudden my brain starts clicking into some sort of order.

For example, let me explain. I think it was back in 1998 I was in London with my cousin and my friend, and we were in Soho and I think we were going for a drink. Well, of course we were going for a drink in Soho. And we were walking down Old Compton Street and there was this huge explosion. A bomb- the bomb went off in Old Compton Street, do you remember?

Andy Coulson:    [0:20:09] I do.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:20:10] And we were just metres away from it. The noise was deafening, the screams, the blood and everything. And I just went into everything is- I was cool and calm as a cucumber. I led the three of us away from the immediate situation, I wasn’t screaming or crying, everything just slotted into place. I knew where I needed to go, I needed to go towards the fire engine, I needed to go to the nearest professionals, they knew what to-

My cousin, who is hysterical, Alison, and she thinks of herself as like the together one. She’s my elder cousin, she’s from Liverpool. She goes, “Oh my God, I just can’t believe it. You held it all together and I was losing it.” And it was just then that it- it’s only on reflection that I realise, that’s the genius of having an ADH brain.

Often you have people in- a great career choice for people with ADHD is paramedic, CEO, just people who have to think and strategize slightly in a crazy situation.

Andy Coulson:    [0:21:09] That can just focus, that can just push the drama to one side.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:21:12] Yes, because the adrenalin that’s through your body all of a sudden makes your brain work in a functional way.


You put me in something mundane and I am going to switch off and I’ll probably disrupt the situation just to liven myself up. So if I’m in a meeting I’ll have to jump up and down about five times and literally walk, make a coffee, come back, go to the toilet, just to keep the neurons in my brain moving.

And it’s just something that I’ve accepted. And that’s why every single school report was, “Dolly daydream, needs to learn to focus, chatterbox.” Of course, I’m just surviving, I’m just trying to keep myself awake during this boring time, this beige time.

So I mean, it’s different mechanisms that work in different brain systems, that’s why the world works. You know, you’ve got some people who really enjoy order. I don’t. So yes, it’s interesting. And I can see that across my four kids as well. Some of them are more order driven and there are definitely two who are chaos driven.

Andy Coulson:    [0:22:08] Right. Let’s fill in some of the gaps of the story so people can just understand just how-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:22:13] Sure.

Andy Coulson:    [0:22:15] Because this is- you know, you’ve described it, this is the heart of the matter. Your ability, because of the way you’re made, to create opportunity out of crisis. But let’s just talk a little bit more about the crisis and kind of what led to it, if that’s okay.

So modelling then acting, not medicine, was the choice as we’ve discussed. Hollyoaks was the big break. After Hollyoaks- I’m rattling through, so apologies. After Hollyoaks, which is a big success, you move to London. You know, famous friends, endless parties, all the high octane stuff that I alluded to in the intro and which as I say may or may not have found its way onto the pages of the News of the World was the- I feel like I need to apologise to you for that.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:23:00] Oh it’s alright, I think we all sued everyone.

Andy Coulson:    [0:23:04] Everyone was playing their part weren’t they, I suppose.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:23:07] I mean, it was a weird old time because if you look back at the headlines now it’s like, “Oh my God, that is so dated.” But it was the nature of the beast, and that’s what you contended with. And now, to be honest, you can-

Andy Coulson:    [0:23:22] You quite enjoyed some elements of that as well, didn’t you?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:23:25] Well not really, because it used to give you the terror come-down on a Sunday. But let me tell you, every Sunday if I knew that I wasn’t in the News of the World we bloody bought it and we’d think, “Who’s been done this week?” So you know, don’t worry, you entertained. I mean, it was awful, we were crucified, but when we weren’t we were like, “Oh great, let’s have a look and see whose turn it is this week.” So yes, don’t worry about that, it served its purpose.

But it’s like, now what I think is the News of the World was there, and that was like, you know, you got shamed and then you moved on, whatever. But now, I see social- and the only people that matter are your immediate family, the general public don’t really give a shit. They’re like, “Whatever, it’s chip paper,” But it’s your immediate family.

And that’s what I see the problem with social media now, you can be shamed on social media as a 15-year-old kid to the ferocity that the News of the World impacted me, it’s happening because your classmates know something, your mother knows something, your grandmother knows something, and I think that’s the situation we’ve got now.

We’ve shut down the News of the World, but trust me there’s a bigger problem afoot. And that is how social media is used as a platform to shame people. You know, be it boy, girl, whatever. And I think that is an issue. Because at least it was a tiny demographic that got picked up by the News of the World, but we’re talking a populous here.

Andy Coulson:    [0:24:42] It’s like having a newspaper posted through your front door every five minutes, is what it’s like.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:24:45] Yes, every five minutes. And it’s got the power to affect somebody who has not even got, I don’t know, who has got any sort of professional training in the media.

Andy Coulson:    [0:24:54] In fact that’s unfair, and we shouldn’t characterise by the way everything that was in the News of the World in that sense. I’m going to just momentarily point out that there was a lot of good stuff in there as well, but you’ll forgive me for doing so.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:25:06] That’s fine.

Andy Coulson:    [0:25:08] But with the social media piece there’s no- that’s the Wild West, right?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:25:14] It is, and that can cause major crisis.

Andy Coulson:    [0:25:16] It’s actually not like a newspaper being posted through a front door but it is the kind of-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:25:20] But it has the same impact.

Andy Coulson:    [0:25:22] The same impact, yes.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:25:23] So that for me is a worry, that I think kids are going to go through that particular crisis. And that could be a life ending crisis. That feeling of shame at that age is phenomenal. So yes, we need to put some parameters in place for them to get out of those crisises. You know, it is a dangerous beast.

Andy Coulson:    [0:25:43] Yes. And that’s a difficult one as well, right? Because there’s positives there, you know? Much in the same way as I say there were positives with newspapers, there are positives with social media. You know, you’re using it, and by the way very effectively, but also very generously; you give away a lot of free content on social media.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:25:57] Well yes, because I’m not like an influencer, I never wanted to be affiliated. You can’t buy me. I’ve got my other company WillPowders, but before then I just found out like little things, I just said, “This is for free.” And if a company approaches me and gives me products I’ll say, “Alright then, I’m going to tell them if it’s good or it’s bad, so it’s up to you if you want to take the risk. You know, you can’t buy my favour here. But if it’s good, give us a discount code and I’ll hand out-” Because most influencers take 20%, and I just get rid of that and I hand it on to the followers.

And I just think that’s the sort of community we want, you know? I’ve got my bread and butter, I don’t need to start profiteering off flipping followers, it’s ridiculous.

Andy Coulson:    [0:26:33] So you’re putting it to positive use, but how are you- you know, you’ve got four kids, how are you handling then the- because they are addiction machines, right? That’s they way they’re designed, that’s what the algorithm is there to do, it’s all about dopamine and it’s all about keeping you focused only on that one view of the world, right? Which can be very divisive, can be very negative, can be very dangerous.

Also it can be quite positive as well. We’ve had guests on here, one of our guests who had a terrible, terrible experience, Payzee Mahmood. When I asked her for her Crisis Cures as we called them then, we’ve changed it to Comforts because there are no cures, she said, “Well actually Instagram has been one of mine.” She said, “It’s introduced me to a group of likeminded people I simply didn’t know existed,” and it absolutely has played a fundamental part in getting her through.

But how do we find the balance, then? So when we say, “Oh, let’s sort that out,” I don’t really know how you begin to approach that. I mean, there are some obvious things around truly dangerous content that we can, you know, that we can get into the social media companies about and that kind of is underway. But in terms of our personal behaviour, what do you do with your kids? How do you manage social media?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:27:42] Well, we have joined every single ridiculous, awful sports club that there is after school. I hate standing in the middle of Lancashire on a February evening in a dry robe. I mean, actually admittedly I’m on my phone when I should be watching under-9 football, but I try and push that, really.

Andy Coulson:    [0:28:02] But it has a limited appeal for you.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:28:04] It has a limited appeal for me, but it’s the sacrifices we make. So yes, I just lean into sport for them. You know, they still think they’re going to be Ronaldo so I’m just leveraging that as much as possible, and say, “Come on, what would Ronaldo do?” And that seems to work. I don’t have the pull Ronaldo does in my house, so that’s how we play it.

So yes, we do as much sport as possible. And really it’s- it’s hard actually at night, it is hard at night because of the- it’s raining, it’s pitch black by the time they come home from school. So what we do is we let them play on Fortnite, so they’re playing together as a team and I can hear them across the house. And I’d rather them be on that screentime than on- we call it LieTube, on YouTube or TikTok or anything like that.

So I have to sort of- and I know Fortnite is highly addictive because it is a game, but they’re playing as a team, which I’m hoping- and then you hear hysterical laughter, you know? And Matthew, my other half, he plays with them as well.

So that is kind of the best I can do right now to come up against these beasts of industries.

So yes, as much sport as possible. Obviously they’re in school all day, and then I’ll let them play Fortnite and just try and keep them off the phones and things like that. I mean obviously the youngest one doesn’t have a phone, but the older two do.

You know, my eldest is 16, turning 17 soon, so God knows what he’s consumed. I really dread to think, and I don’t know how numb they’ve become from- they must have seen all sorts of stuff I can’t hazard a guess at, and I don’t know how to stop that. Hand on heart, I don’t know how to stop it. But I do what I can. So when they grow up they know I tried.

Andy Coulson:    [0:29:46] I am rattling through Davinia, so apologies because you know, we’re sort of- I just want people to understand the back story here.

You meet and marry Dave Gardner. For listeners who have watched the recent Beckham documentary, he is David’s best mate. So you were in that orbit as well for a while. You have your son Gray, but your problems are deepening, your alcoholism is deepening and you suffer, as I touched on in the intro, post-natal depression.

How did that manifest itself? How were you behaving?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:30:17] Okay. So a weird one. I was always like a heavy drinker, as you knew anyway. But it became a tool for anxiety after I’d had my son. So, you might not know but I had IVF, which of course means flooding the system with a huge amount of artificial hormones, harvesting eggs, like about twenty eggs, so a completely crazy amount of numbers, fertilising the egg, putting it back in you.

So when I gave birth, obviously I had an incredibly drop in all the oestrogen hormones, which pulls down all the other feel-good hormones. So when your oestrogen levels plummet, as they do in menopause, often you’ll hear women in menopause saying they’ve got anxiety and they’ve got brain fog and they feel overwhelmed. I believe it was that that happened to me.

And of course I wasn’t told anything about this after I’d had my son, I was told, “Oh you’ve got the baby blues, you’ll be fine, it’ll go away.” When actually it was getting worse as my oestrogen went lower and lower. Of course I’m already low on dopamine anyway, which is our confidence, get up and go, sort of desire hormone, so you compound already low dopamine with even lower serotonin, your safety hormone, and you’ve got a major disaster.

I was literally dragged, kicking and screaming into rehab.

Because what happens is when you sign yourself up to rehab you have to hand over custody of your child. So that was what the deal was. So there was nothing I could do, I had to surrender.

Andy Coulson:    [0:32:09] Do you remember that moment when that was explained to you? Do you remember that day?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:32:13] Yes, I was baffled. I was baffled. I’m like, “Where’s the logic?” So for me to get- the Family Courts is a strange place, it’s a very, very strange place. Anyone who has been through either the public or the private Family Courts knows it’s a heap of contradictions that goes on.

And I think that is probably one of the most toxic places in the world. Since I’ve been looking and speaking to other women, particularly looking at the Rotherham cases up here in the North, the Family Courts, what they do to the women who have been impregnated is insane. But that’s a different thing.

So I look at myself and go, “Bloody hell, I got off lightly compared to the trauma that these women have been through,” and they still have to facilitate visitations with their rapists. I mean, come on. So mine is a drop in the ocean.

So what I had to do was then prove myself sober for five years, which I did do on the basis that I was so frigging mad that drove me through it.

So once again, the rage created a hormonal cascade of dopamine and adrenalin in my body that made me sober for five years. So when people say, “Don’t get mad, calm down,” actually it saved my life and it saved me from getting drunk again.

Andy Coulson:    [0:33:21] Wow, so it was anger.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:33:25] Anger got me through that. Anger got me through that. And so once I was through those five years I’m like, “Brrr, now what?” And then of course my mum passed away, so here we go again. So it was one to the next.

And you know, you can’t dismiss anger. It’s a very motivating physical state to be in, and it can do a lot of good. It can also ruin.

Andy Coulson:    [0:33:46] It can also cause damage, yes. How do you stop it tipping into-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:33:53] Revenge.

Andy Coulson:    [0:33:53] And this is over the long time. Well, there’s revenge-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:33:58] That’ll be- and that’s your time in jail. So yes, that stopped me from crossing that. But do you know what? I know it is a tool for survival. And once again, if you can harness that anger and put it into a position of a) I’m not going to get drunk, and b) I’m going to show you that I’m going to be the best mum in the world, and c) I’m going to do x, y and z, and I’m going to create something out of this catastrophe. Again, it’s another motivator. This drives people, you know, this drives people. It’s there for a purpose.

Andy Coulson:    [0:34:25] How did you stop it falling into bitterness? Because you agree presumably that bitterness is just the worst and most destructive place to be, and a pit that’s very difficult to climb out of.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:34:41] Yes, that is patience, which I’m not naturally abundant in. So there’s a saying in AA which I always keep in my head, and that is, “This too shall pass.” And every time I look back on my life and see all the crises I’ve been in, yes, funnily enough they have passed. And then there will be a day when I’m bored and there’s nothing to fret about, and I know that this too shall pass.

So for me that is a mantra that I always have to stick with, and it helps me harness my rage and just put it to a point where, “Hang on, let’s just use this energy that’s keeping you up at night and let’s just do something productive with it. Let’s create something. Let’s create a brand, let’s create a network of people who are struggling. Let’s do something with this abundance of hormones that’s keeping you awake and facilitate some sort of outlet.” And that’s how I work.

And I know if some crisis is coming now I’ll go, “Okay, I wonder what I’m going to build out of this one,” as opposed to, “Is it going to take me down?” Because time and time again it’s not.

Andy Coulson:    [0:35:38] That’s your first though it is, when a problem arises?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:35:42] It is now. It wasn’t back then, but it is now because you’re like okay, because I know my brain will strategize its way out of it, it always has.

Andy Coulson:    [0:35:51] Can we just go back a step to sort of pre- the period of time before you finally got on track with your recovery in relation to the alcohol? You’ve said that the only time- I think I’m right with this, please tell me if I’m not. You’ve said that the only time that you’ve ever felt suicidal is in that period when you’re sort of trying but failing to get sober. You know, there’s Valium, there’s seizures as a result of your drinking. You’ve told a story previously about blacking out on the street and ending up in hospital, waking up in hospital.

Just tell me about that period. And then reason I’m asking is because this isn’t just about- this isn’t purely about biology, this is also about strength of mind ultimately. This is ultimately about, as well, it’s two things together, your innate resilience, right?

So just so that we can understand that, just tell us a bit about that period. What you remember about that period.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:36:55] So what I didn’t know back then was, coming off alcohol and just white-knuckling it, particularly when you’re as intoxicated as I was, and like you said at the beginning my liver was wrecked and my mental health- I mean, you’re completely insane by the way at this point, completely insane. There’s no question about it, your brain is literally warped into- the logic is completely twisted. All you can think about is, “I will feel better if I just have one more drink,” because you are in the pits of hell. It’s like a reoccurring nightmare.

I’ll tell you what it feels like, because I only felt it again- when my mum was diagnosed and I was in the cancer hospital in Manchester and he said, “You’ve got six months to live.” And it’s that sinking feeling. Many of your listeners will know that drop, and it’s like you feel like the heat drops from your face and into the pit of your stomach.

Andy Coulson:    [0:37:44] You were with your mum when she was told that?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:37:48] Yes. But that is the same feeling I used to get, on loop, when I was coming off alcohol. It’s that bad. That is the feeling you get, why you need a drink. So you’re not drinking to get high or party, you are drinking to avoid that sinking feeling. That is the only like for like feeling I can say when you’re coming off alcohol.

And what I didn’t know, that if you do suddenly come off alcohol, because that’s all everyone was telling me to do, “Just stop drinking, just stop drinking.” And when I did, my body was in that much shock it went into seizure. So you have an alcoholic seizure which is really dangerous and you can die from that.

I didn’t know any of that, because they don’t tell you that. No one tells you that, they just tell you to stop drinking. Or they put you on Valium which is even more addictive than alcohol.

Andy Coulson:    [0:38:34] So just paint a bit of a picture for us Davinia, when did that happen? Give me an example of when that happened.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:38:39] I was with my mum in London and she’d asked me to go- she had a little flat there so she could see her grandchild. She asked me to go and get her some teabags, she was a massive tea drinker, because we’d ran out. And it was the morning after I’d been drinking, and it was then me walking up the hill to go to the supermarket, that was when I woke up in the Royal Free Hospital, I don’t know how long later, and my face was- I’d faceplanted the floor. I’d hit the floor because my body had just gone into shock because it didn’t have its fuel source, which was alcohol.

So I woke up in the Royal Free, my face stitched up, my mum was obviously there, panicked, I must have had some ID on me. And all I could think of was across the road from the Royal Free there’s a pub. And I just couldn’t understand why the doctors wouldn’t let me go to the pub for just a glass of Pinot Grigio and I’ll be much better. Just let me do that. Because my body knew what it needed, but of course it’s the poison. And that’s the insanity, because my body knows it needed the alcohol to survive. Again, it was trying to survive but it’s not sustainable because it will kill me.

It’s just a parody, but it’s getting away from that deathly feeling of imminent doom, which is terrifying, and that’s what you want to get away from. And the only way you can see out of it is death, and that’s what I would face if I drank again. Without question, I’d feel that dragging-

Andy Coulson:    [0:40:07] So the strength of mind, in and amongst all this drama and crisis and, you know, never mind the physical impact on you from being so ill, the strength of mind was still there, right? That flame, albeit I suspect pretty dimmed at times, was very much alive in you. When you think back to those darkest-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:40:32] I didn’t want to die, I just wanted it to stop. I wanted the- and I couldn’t articulate it. And I’ve said it a few times before, it’s like screaming under water while you’re being told terrible news, like someone you love is dying, imminently dying. And to be honest, you chuck shame on top of that, and guilt, and you’ve got a massive, massive cocktail which would make you consider ending your life because there’s no way out.

But, there was something in me that was like, “There has to be something scientific to help me. There has got-” I’m looking around the Royal Free, looking at all these machines and everything, and I’m like, “This has been around since man first crushed grapes. Surely to God there’s a solution. What the hell is going on?” was in my brain.

So already there was that, “What if? What if there’s a solution to this?” So there was- and that glimmer of hope pushed me through. So hope is the antidote to despair, as we know. So if you can hold on to the possibility of something, your body will go, “Okay, we’ll dig in for another hour. Let’s push on. Let’s hold on for another hour.” And that’s what it is, you live from hour to hour when you’re detoxing. And minute to minute, actually. An hour is an eternity, so yes.

Andy Coulson:    [0:41:41] So after trying many forms of rehab you ended up in South Africa I think didn’t you, at a pretty sort of hardcore kind of isolated, right, this is sort of you know, a pretty brutal regime.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:41:55] Yes.

Andy Coulson:    [0:41:57] What do you remember about that time? Why do you think that regime worked for you?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:42:04] Just being able to cut off from the drama that was going on at home, obviously the divorce, custody and all this sort of stuff, and just being able to focus on myself and get some sort of education around the disease of alcohol. I didn’t know it was a disease, I thought it was what you- well, I just thought it was me being excessive and spoilt, I guess. I didn’t know that it could touch any demographic, I didn’t know that it had many guises, the isms of addiction.

I didn’t realise that the disease of addiction comes in many guises like gambling, over-eating, sex, relationships; I didn’t realise that. I was just focused on alcohol. And so all of a sudden my brain opened up to a little bit more, and less guilt. And because alcohol is so obvious, I started to feel grateful that, “My God, imagine if I had another disease that was more secretive, that I could have hidden for longer.”

I knew I’d hit my rock bottom so the only way was up, and I started thinking, “Bloody hell, it’s only alcohol. It’s only alcohol, all I have to do is cut that out and my life will get better.” And again, more hope came in but I had to be isolated. I could not have access to my passport or a credit card or a phone, because that would have driven me back. I would have got involved with what was going on at home and I would have tried to take to control. So I had to let go and once again practice some patience. Which is a nightmare for someone like me.

            Don’t get me wrong, it was really, really tough. And when I signed in, this is how strong denial is. So first of all I got a ban from British Airways for my behaviour on the plane flying down to South Africa, they banned me.

Andy Coulson:    [0:43:40] Why, what did you do?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:43:42] I don’t know, I was in blackout.

Andy Coulson:    [0:43:45] Sorry, you blacked out on the plane?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:43:48] Yes. Obviously they had alcohol on the plane, so I thought, “Right, final hurrah.”

Andy Coulson:    [0:43:51] And this is on route to-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:43:54] On the route to South Africa, yes. Anyone who has gone through addiction will understand that that’s what your brain will tell you to do. Just one final hurrah, this is it. I mean, it is so crazy. Instead of just going, “Okay, we’ll pull the plaster off now and we’ll sit on the plan,” oh no, no, no. “I’m going to make it a little bit harder for myself. Well, impossibly hard for myself.”

But obviously I wasn’t the first person to turn up to rehab in a complete dishevelled state. So they put me into detox, because like I said earlier, coming off alcohol ferociously will kill you. So I was put into a detox facility really- and I woke up and I’m like, “Oh my god, where am I?” A really rough part of town. And that was it, that was the beginning of my recovery.

But when I signed into the actual rehab facility, you had to sign in your name and obviously write a disclaimer. And I thought I was still in the wrong place, but I wrote my name backwards. I wrote it from right to left. I was that mental, that insane, that brain-damaged, I couldn’t write my name.

And do you know what? After three weeks I started writing, and I started writing a lot. And I started realising that I’ve got a creative brain and I’d forgotten. I’d completely forgotten for like a decade.

Andy Coulson:    [0:45:09] Because you’re a- sorry, this sounds awfully patronising. You’re a great writer.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:45:14] Thank you very much.

Andy Coulson:    [0:45:16] Because it’s straightforward. There’s no fuss, right? And it’s very generous. You write very much with a kind of open heart, it’s very- it’s there. You hadn’t done any writing prior to that? That’s interesting, so that skill was born out of-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:45:31] Had been forgotten, that had been forgotten, yes exactly. It was born out of necessity, and having to entertain myself in these four walls, you know? Because like I said, I need constant entertainment. And that forced me to look within me to do something that I didn’t even know I had. I’d forgotten that I used to like writing at school, because I left school actually at 16. I walked out of my A-levels, I thought, “I’m not doing this.”

So you know, I’d forgotten all these skills and I was way- I was pushing 30 you know? I mean, how bizarre is that? And I remember once we had to read out our own obituaries, and I had it in the voice of my son, I wanted him to read this out at my death. That’s what they make you do, these sort of things on a Tuesday morning, oh the joy.

And I remember all the class saying, “Wow, who wrote that?” and I said, “I did,” and they just didn’t expect it from me. And I was like, “I’m going to have to prove myself to people and to myself. I’ve got to like utilise- I’ve got to stop dampening down myself and just drinking away my self-esteem. This is the Devil’s work, this alcohol. It is literally taking away all my God-given gifts including my addictive personality, including my ADHD, including my risk-taking. And they are gifts, and I am just literally squashing them by numbing myself with alcohol because I don’t want to feel despair because I’ve got a hangover.”

Andy Coulson:    [0:47:00] If you don’t mind me asking you, Davinia, and you certainly don’t have to tell me because this is deeply personal stuff. But I mean, the gist of that-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:47:10] I think it was- because I’d not had the other three children at this point, so I think it was along the lines of- the obituary was like, what would you like them to say? And it was like, “She was an amazing mum, she was always there for me, she taught me life skills,” this sort of thing. It was like a really positive perception of how I would like to be remembered. Which I do believe I’d be remember now, but back then it was like, there is no way that that because I’m-

Andy Coulson:    [0:47:36] So you were actually giving yourself a bit of a roadmap as well.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:47:41] Well that’s obviously- I mean, they’re clever in rehab. They are clever, and that’s one of the points that- there was a bit of a lightbulb moment there that I thought, “Oh my goodness, I can write.” Little did I know I’d end up writing two number ones from The Times Bestsellers, just putting that in there. You know, it’s a hard position to get.

Andy Coulson:    [0:47:58] You’re right, I forgot the number one bit.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:48:02] You’ve got to put the number one. Anyone can be a best-seller, but- and anyone can be a one hit wonder, but you know, I did it twice, so.

Andy Coulson:    [0:48:08] Very good. Let’s move forward again, because of course you know, you’ve described very eloquently how you handled the challenge of alcohol, but then another emerges and, you know, food becomes the issue. You’ve talked about this a lot. You talk about this a lot during the course of, as I say, the fantastic content that you put out there. This is often the kind of context of it, or the backdrop of it.

But just in short order, tell us what happened. It wasn’t as simple as moving from one addiction to another, I don’t think. It was more complicated than that. But in essence, what happened next, really?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:48:44] Well, my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was spinning plates with the children. I think I was pregnant with Asa at the time, who was number three. And as we do when we’re under stress, you’ll notice nine times out of ten, most people reach for carbohydrates. And that is biohacking. You are hacking into your biology but in a detrimental way, because of course, like alcohol, that is an addictive substance and you will need more and more to get the same effect each time you use it.

And the trouble is, unlike alcohol it is kind of pushed on you as a health food, like wholegrains, veg oils, all these ingredients. I’ve actually taken a huge dive into it with- there’s a great scientist, actually a professor of neurology called Doctor Andrew Huberman over at Stamford in the USA, who has done a lot of research on the brain and addiction and how something as innocent as rapeseed oil and sunflower oil has an impact on our brain which makes us reach for more. Hence it being in everything. It’s deemed heart-healthy but actually the data is coming out that it’s actual opposite and we should be having butter and things like this. Real foods, not pseudo foods made in factories and plants using hexane which is derivative from petrol. But I digress.

What I didn’t realise was, what I was medicating with were highly addictive food products. And the weight was piling on and the brain was getting foggier and foggier. And it felt more and more like a hangover, but I hadn’t drank. And I couldn’t put my finger on it. The weight was going up, but that wasn’t the major problem. It was the fact that I couldn’t be arsed to open the dishwasher. I couldn’t- everything was huff and puff.

And by this time I’d had my son, my mum had passed away, so it wasn’t like a crisis, this was now-

Andy Coulson:    No, but was there a point where you thought maybe grief is to blame?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:50:45] Quite possibly. Again, you’re just- you are comfort eating. These foods are the most over-used antidepressant, and actually they trigger depression. They are everywhere, and they’re under the guise of health foods, so we don’t even realise that we’re feeding this- this mind-numbing substance into our biology.

And what I hate feeling is feeling sluggish, and that’s what I felt like. Sluggish, my ankles were swollen and my fingers were swollen, I was inflamed, I was like a walking bruise and I was wading through tar. I was watching- the aha moment was when I was watching a documentary, I think it was a BBC one, and it was to do with cold water, and the subject of dopamine came up. And something triggered in me, I thought, “Hang on, that sounds like something I’m depleted in. That sounds about right.”

And this is like five or six years after I’d put the booze down anyway, and no one had ever mentioned dopamine to me. Not in the rooms of AA, not in the rooms of rehab, no doctor, nothing. In fact they wanted me on antidepressants. They had me on antidepressants. It was only because I changed postcodes because we needed a bigger house because we’d had another baby, that I was re-registering the children, and the doctor said, “Let’s have a look at what you’re on.”

And this is when he went, “What on earth has happened to you? Bipolar? Tell me your story.” And I told him my story and he went, “No, no. We need you off this. This is clogging your liver, this is giving you brain fog. This is bad news.” And it was only because I moved house. I mean, all hail that chap.

Andy Coulson:    [0:52:20] And not just because you moved house, you just met the right person, right moment, proper- which we often talk about on this podcast, a sliding door moment.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:52:31] Yes. I mean, imagine if he hadn’t gone, “Okay, we’ll take you off these mind-numbing substances.” And you know, I feel like I should go back, he was in West London the doctor, I feel like I should go back to him and give him a cuddle, actually. I will do. That’s what I’ll do. Next time I’m in town I’m going to make an appointment, if I can get one.

Andy Coulson:    [0:52:46] Can you remember his name?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:52:51] Doctor Sajid? Yes, Doctor Sajid, yes.

Andy Coulson:    [0:52:54] Good, well he gets a mention on this podcast.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:52:57] But he was quite young, you know? He was a bit younger than the previous doctor, so he was like younger than me, he must have been early thirties, so that must have been on his syllabus. So the older doctor who was in his sixties- and it depends on what syllabus they’ve read, or what research. You know, it’s always changing.

Andy Coulson:    [0:53:12] Davinia, does that make you angry?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:53:1d] Yes.

Andy Coulson:    [0:53:15] Do you get- and I don’t just mean angry as a kind of means to then sort of explain it and talk about it in the way that you do brilliantly, but I mean actually are you still angry? I mean, the best part of a decade you were on those drugs.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:53:30] Yes. I mean, it is what it is. I’m okay about me, because I am where I am today. But on reflection it was a lot of time wasting but it got me to where I am. What I worry about is people who don’t get to where they need to be because of it. You know, there’s a lot of dated information there, and like I said you know, doctors are so overburdened with all the bloody admin and stuff you can’t even get an appointment, never mind them reading the latest research in depth and not just looking at the results put together by some crazy conflict of interests to do with big pharma which is again another podcast series.

But you know, it’s like our Health Minister is married to the guy who is MD for the UK sugar company. I mean, what? This is what we’re dealing with.

            And you have to look after number one. You have to do your own due diligence, you have to lift the lid on it. Because if you feel underwhelmed with life, something is wrong. And you could be from any walk of life, and it’s what’s impacting you.

Because if your cat dies and it’s taking you right under, that is valid. If your mother dies and it’s taking you under, that too is just as valid. It’s what’s impacting you. If you’ve got trauma, no matter how big on someone else’s scale it is, if it’s impacting you to the point where you can’t live, you can hack around this. And it’s up to you to get your own help. Because the doctors just don’t have the time to do the research that we do. And we know our own bodies. We can do it.

There’s so much research out there, there is so much information, there are so many podcasts with incredible pioneers of science, which will take about- I think the lag time between lab to GP office is seventeen years. So if you can wait seventeen years until someone says to you, “Actually do you know what? I think antidepressants aren’t quite right for you,” fine, be my guest.

But if you want to fast-track your health, you’ve got to take responsibility. Which can be exciting, because if all of a sudden you’re a Perry Mason, you’re like, “Oh my god, I’m a genius,” and that’s a nice pat on the back, you know?

Andy Coulson:    [0:55:26] Perry Mason. There’s a cultural reference that’s not been chucked in for a while. It’ll be Columbo next.

Davinia Taylor:   [0:55:32] I don’t know where that came from. Another politically incorrect character from our heyday.

Andy Coulson:    [0:55:37] So look, you throw yourself in, properly throw yourself in. All that intellectual curiosity, all that energy, all that focus that you’ve kind of weaponised in a way, you chuck at this. And you reach a sort of- you know, not to get too grand about it, you settle on a philosophy about all this stuff, right? About the connection between mental health, gut health, brain addiction.

I’m going to ask you now just to kind of give me a short summary of that philosophy that you have. Because I know that you’re very open to new- you talk about whatever’s, you know, the new trends, new stuff that’s out there, you’re very curious about all of that. But what sits at the core? What is your fundamental view on the connection between those things and what we’re getting wrong about it?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:56:27] I think it’s the- and I’ve had an argument with Tim Spectre about it actually, I WhatsAppd him not long ago. I think the push-

Andy Coulson:    [0:56:35] Who is a tremendous-

Davinia Taylor:   [0:56:38] Oh, who is a brilliant guy and a pioneer, but he is like obsessed with- right now, this is what we’re talking about right now where we are today, he’s like pushing the plant-based rhetoric. I think there’s far too much fibre in it, which allows the agricultural industries to get in there with their pesticide-filled bloody oats and all this stuff, which is the cheapest food on the planet, and it manages to get big food and processed food back on our diet when really we should be focussing on foods which support the gut.

Which would be high saturated fat from good quality red meat like British beef, the best in the bloody world, lamb, again, I live in Lancashire, I’m surrounded by them, they are grass-fed as well, no glyphosate, no industrialised agriculture. And getting back to a more palaeolithic lifestyle. So taking out all the foods that your great grandmother didn’t have. And that seems- for me, keeps my liver clean because I’ve not got junk food in it, and I’m talking about emulsifiers, weird preservatives.

If you have a look on- rapeseed oil, like I spoke about earlier, if you have a look on the back of any packet you’re going to see xanthan gum, rapeseed oil, sucralose, all of this wrecks the gut and the liver, and this will affect your mental health. So for me, the key to a happy life is mental health, but you have to look at the pillars that are holding that up. The gut feeds the brain so much serotonin, that is your safe, happy hormone. Without that you’re going to be in a state of panic and you’re going to start doing stupid things like ordering a Chinese takeaway or a box of wine. Notice I said box not bottle. And things spiral out of control.

But it’s knowing your enemy. And that’s what we don’t have. That’s what we don’t have. We don’t have someone going up there to the big food and saying, “Look. You can’t buy me out, we don’t need this in our diet.” What we need to focus on is regenerative farming, stop talking about bloody industrial cattle in South America, that’s not applicable to me. I’m in the middle of England, I want to eat local, I want to eat raw dairy, I want to have decent cows, I want to have access to organic eggs, and that’s my day sorted. Instead of all these weird pseudo plant-based foods that are shipped over from China under what conditions God only knows.

And that for me is what’s wrecking all our guts. Those crazy ingredients-

Andy Coulson:    [0:59:00] So that’s the food bit, thank you. In terms of the mental health piece, and if we focus that on rehab, you I think feel very strongly that, you know, and you are a case study of this, that the conversation that takes place with someone who is facing an addiction like alcohol, that conversation has to include, “What are you eating, what’s the full picture of your life, what is the total view of you and whatever it is you’re inputting?” All of that has to be understood in the same conversation, they are not different conversations. Am I right?

Davinia Taylor:   [0:59:40] Absolutely. And because Western medicine is so reductionist they isolate the brain from the gut, from the liver. And they’re all connected. Any piece of stress that you perceive through your eyes is going to end up in the liver. A slower liver will stop you losing weight and metabolising the food you’ve consumed and turning it into actionable energy for the brain. You’re going to feel overwhelmed.

And these conversations are so simple, yet they’re just completely isolated from today’s society, from today’s chat in a GP. You know, the pills don’t work half the time, they’re just going to clog up the liver and they’re going to make you even more inflamed. Like I said about fat fingers, I couldn’t put my engagement ring on, my trainers were tight, because I was a walking bruise. Water retention everywhere, you know.

And this wasn’t even an issue to the doctors. They were just like, “Oh well yes, exercise more, eat less, make sure you have wholegrain and make sure you have plenty of fruit and veg.” What? What? Are you not going to mention the most abundant nutrient-dense thing on the planet which is beef liver? Are we going to just totally ignore B12? “Oh it’s okay, I’ve got a B12 shot for you made from cyanide. That’ll do.” No.

So I mean, I could go- I go into huge detail about what you should and shouldn’t have in my books, it’s super easy, there’s shopping lists and everything. But these are the little things that were making my rain barrel full. There is a thing call the rain barrel effect and it’s about all these little different- little drops of toxins that come into your life and you seemingly don’t even know about them, including deodorants, including shampoos and stuff, you can get really orthorexic about it.

But I know the key ones for me that make my rain barrel overflow and make me feel bloated, tired, sluggish and more likely to reach for a glass of wine are the foods. They’re the trigger for me that make me really feel sluggish and toxic. Of course I can put perfume on and certain deodorants and stuff, I think I’m okay with that.

You can go super-clean on it, but I know the ones that make me- that impact me very, very quickly, and because I’m so in tune with my brain now I know if I’ve had veg oil, I know what’s coming, I know how to detox it and I know how to get back into wellbeing. Because that keeps me alive and it keeps me thinking sharp, and it keeps me positive. And it keeps me a better mum, a better wife, better friend, you know? A better boss. Because without all that I can’t spin plates very well. I need my mental health more, over and above everything, absolutely.

And every decision is made in the brain isn’t it? You’re either going to reach for a pair of trainers or reach for a KitKat. That decision was made way before you opened that foil, you know? So you need to stay ahead of the craving.

Andy Coulson:    [1:02:19] Davinia, that’s brilliant. I’ve loved this conversation, thank you for it. And what I love about it, what I love about your approach, as I touched on earlier, is the total absence of self-pity. Not once have you alluded to, or given a hint of ‘woe is me’ in the middle of that. And that, you know, we love that on this podcast.

Davinia Taylor:   [1:02:41] Good. There’s nothing to be woe about.

Andy Coulson:    [1:02:44] The other thing I love is the sort of generosity of it all. Because I know that your view is, again as I touched on in the intro, you’re an expert on you, you give your opinion clearly and authentically, it’s for other people to work out what bits they want, what bits the don’t want, right? People are free to disagree, and that is exactly the right approach on this stuff.

Davinia Taylor:   [1:03:02] Correct.

Andy Coulson:    [1:03:04] So thank you. Thank you for being so generous with us, it’s been a fantastic conversation, I really appreciate it.

Davinia Taylor:   [1:03:13] I’ve loved chatting to you, and I hope some people have gained some insights and it’s helping them, really.

Andy Coulson:    [1:03:18] If you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Davinia, please do give us a rating and a review, it really helps. And if you hit subscribe wherever you download your podcasts from you will find loads more useful Crisis conversations. You can follow us on Instagram and TikTok, and you can watch the full episodes on YouTube. Just search for Crisis What Crisis podcast. And you can also find full transcripts of this and every episode on our website, crisiswhatcrisis.com

Thanks again for joining us.

End of Recording [1:03:55]