Get to know Heights co-founder Dan Murray-Serter
Heights co-founder Dan Murray-Serter shares his journey on mental health and nutrition.
As the co-founder of Heights, it's really important to share why and how we started. Unusually, our journey actually began from my own struggles with mental health. Here's the messy truth.
The not-so-glossy version of starting Heights
Like so many people, I've struggled to come to terms with unpacking and understanding my own struggles with mental health over the years. In my experience, being honest and open about it has only led to having deeper connections with others but, most importantly, with myself—and learning to love the skin that I'm in.
Things seemed to be going well
I was 30 years old and my life was objectively great—I was getting married to my best friend, I had two cats that made me laugh daily, a roof over my head, and my mum had just recovered from cancer for the second time. It's fair to say that my gratitude practice was in full swing and I had a LOT to be thankful for.
Yet I noticed tension creeping up on me... frequently feeling sick in my stomach, quite shaky, and—bizarrely—sweaty when doing absolutely nothing. I completely shook it off as something totally normal for any busy human. My life was great. I should've been happy—but that didn't change the fact that I was struggling to catch my breath, even just sitting in front of a screen.
Hello, sleepless nights
The first time I woke up at 2am full of energy, I found it a bit strange, but—I'll admit—I was also kind of naively excited. I was ready to carpe diem and smash through my work, making me doubly productive.
I continued with this narrative for two-three weeks, ignoring the obvious fact that this was clearly not sustainable behaviour.
But, maybe I was the new Elon Musk—after all, he only sleeps two hours a night, right?
I didn't give it a label. I didn't really know what was going on, only that my energy was spiking at all the wrong times.
I tried to go it alone at first. Maybe no alcohol would hold the answer—or maybe it was a lot of alcohol. Ok... that was only giving me hangovers. What about a sleeping app or meditating before bed?
Finally, I sought out help—first seeing a therapist and then a sleep therapist. Neither was able to find a solution, and as months passed, I was still only averaging about two hours a night.
I even tried the doctor, who just recommended sleeping pills. I may have been desperate, but I personally didn’t want to take them. I’d have to find something else.
Some food for thought
I was having dinner with a friend, explaining the last five months in an exhausted ramble.
She listened patiently and asked me if I'd considered my brain's nutrition as a cause. I honestly thought she was a bit weird or I was hearing things due to my lack of sleep. I'd never heard of brain nutrition—but at this point, five months into barely sleeping—I was hopeless and open to trying pretty much anything.
I bought a couple of books on the topic in the hope of understanding what she meant, and they piqued my interest, so I booked in to see a dietitian on the NHS.
Was my plant-based diet to blame?
I didn't know what a dietitian was at the time, I'd only heard of nutritionists. Dietitians work with sick people. They are medically trained and credible scientists with a tonne of training, which is why they work with the NHS.
Together, we assessed my diet—I was plant-based at the time—and she instantly pointed out that a lot of people come to her with mental health problems because they are increasingly vegetarian (as was she). She informed me that by excluding certain food groups, you are cutting some key nutrients you need for your brain—and ultimately, these are hard to get naturally from a plant-based diet.
Being recommended supplements
She recommended three high-quality supplements—DHA omega 3s, blueberry extract, and B complex to try and help:
DHA omega 3s—because your brain is 60% fat and 90% of that fat is the compound DHA. It is literally what your brain is made of, and very hard to get in a plant-based diet. Truth be told, as I've learned, it's hard in any diet (how much oily fish or seaweed do you eat?).
B vitamin complex—because my body was spiking in energy at all the wrong times and B vitamins regulate the energy throughout the brain and body.
Blueberry extract—because as a powerful antioxidant it would ‘clean out’ the glymphatic system of my brain as I slept.
But do supplements work?
Naturally, I was sceptical, I was not a fan of the sleep medication nor receiving more pills now. But I was also desperate. I spent more than £100 on a month's supply of all these different supplements.
It sounds crazy—but within two weeks, the tension I felt had reduced dramatically. I was sleeping through the night... I was amazed, especially given nothing else had worked yet. Maybe this dietitian was on to something.
What is the science behind it?
Wanting to know more about why or how this could happen, I started reading scientific papers on nutrition and mental health. I was pretty surprised to see the ||masses (||hundreds of evidence-based papers relating to nutrition ||as well as|| and optimising your cognitive performance for productivity, performance, decision-making, and more.
I even started writing a newsletter that shared everything that we (my best friend and business partner, Joel) called "braincare", translating the tough science into short and snappy articles. And thus, my new obsession and business were born.
Many emails and interviews later
The number of subscribers grew and it felt good helping other people care for their brain too. Seeing the role that supplements had played in my braincare, it seemed only natural to help others find brain vitamins. But Joel and I didn't want to suggest that everyone spend £100 a month on different capsules. We also didn't want to recommend taking multivitamins (often filled with additives and all kind of nasties, as well as not having the recommended doses).
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The broken promise of supplements
Visiting house after house, we saw people's supplement habit tended to be the following:
A cupboard filled with eight different supplements. People would open the cupboard, see all the bottles lined up promising better health... and just end up shutting the door. We also noticed that people always forget to take their vitamins with their meal and then end up skipping supplements.
There had to be a better solution, but nothing was available. That needed to change.
Heights is born
So we decided to become that change. Supplements shouldn’t be a hassle—they’re a part of our everyday lives, and they should be as simple as brushing your teeth.
Truly effortless supplements can help us fill in the gaps in our diet and support us in mind and body. For me, that’s what ultimately made the difference. And what ultimately led to us founding Heights.
Always feel free to reach out to me: firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or your story if you can relate,
P.S. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @danmurrayserter for all things mental health, founder life and braincare of course.