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Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com, and I am back with a return guest I’m very excited to chat with Dr. Steven Gundry, author of The Plant Paradox, the new book Gut Check, and many others as well. And in this episode, we go deep on the topic of how to keep your gut in check and transform your health. And he goes into some amazing information about this, including some statistics like that 94% of autoimmune patients can resolve their autoimmune issues and what it takes to do that. We focus on gut health, including some things you may not understand or know about ways that you might be harming your gut unintentionally, and some unique strategies for resolving leaky gut, which seems to be at the root of a lot of autoimmune issues.
Dr. Gundry is the founder and creator and director of the International Heart and Lung Institute in California, the Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs. And after a distinguished surgical career and as professor and chairman of the Cardio-thoracic Surgery at Loma Linda Institute, he changed his focus to curing modern diseases via dietary changes, which is what he now focuses on. He’s written the bestselling books, The Plant Paradox, The Plant Paradox Cookbook, The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy, The Longevity Paradox, and many others. And we go deep on his new book, Gut Check, today, where he provides some additional strategies from his research and his extensive work with patients for decades. I always learn so much from Dr. Gundry, and I really enjoyed this episode. So let’s join him now. Dr. Gundry, welcome back.
Dr. Gundry: Hey, thanks for having me back again, I appreciate it.
Katie: Well, I always love our conversations, and I love that today we get to talk about a whole new book and a new focus for you. So to start off broad and with a little background, I would love to hear what the inspiration was for Gut Check and maybe tie in how diverse gut microbiome is so key for longevity and for essentially every aspect of health.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, you know, each of my books, I hope has built on the previous books. I don’t write a book just kind of for fun. And, of course, The Plant Paradox was the big book for me that is now almost seven years old. And because of The Plant Paradox, a lot of my patient population shifted to patients with autoimmune diseases, and probably 80% of my practice is now autoimmune patients who either aren’t getting any better or want to get off of biologic drugs or looking for another way out of all this.
And so because of that, I’ve luckily been able to utilize tests, blood tests for intestinal permeability, better known as leaky gut. And also look at food sensitivities and look deeper dive into how the gut microbiome and the wall of the gut influences everything that happens to us. And so Gut Check is, and one of the chapters in Gut Check is Plant Paradox 2.0. And it’s kind of like, okay, what have I learned in the last seven years that my readers might want to know about.
And one of the interesting things about me is that I get to change my mind. And if something, some research, either that I’ve done with my patients or that I’ve studied, suggests that maybe my initial recommendations might have been wrong or there’s a nuance that should be chosen, then I’m more than happy to write about it and admit, yeah, that was dumb. Here’s the new idea, and we’ll go from there. There are a lot of authors who I’ve been saying the same thing for 20 odd years, despite a wealth of new research, despite not even up until the end of 2016, when the Human Microbiome Project was completed, we didn’t even know that there were a hundred trillion bacteria in our gut, in our mouth, on our skin, we didn’t even know they existed. So that’s kind of what’s new.
Katie: And it seems like this is definitely research continues to point to, as you mentioned, the gut health being absolutely pivotal for all aspects of health and, of course, all of the things in modern society that really assault our gut health. What are some of the hidden dangers that you found in researching this that are affecting our gut health that people might not even be aware of?
Dr. Gundry: Well, I think one of the things that would surprise a lot of people who think that whole grains are the best food that a human being can eat. One of the striking findings when we do leaky gut tests. First of all, anyone with any disease, you name it, anyone with any complaint, we can trace that to a leaky gut. I’ve yet to meet a person when we start, who doesn’t have leaky gut. That’s amazing. Number two, 100% of people with leaky gut have antibodies, have their immune system activated to the various forms of wheat. Wheat germ agglutinin, gluten, non-gluten wheat proteins, which are also present in barley and rye. There’s a protein in oats that cross-reacts with gluten. Seventy percent of people who react to wheat crops react to corn. And so that’s been a real eye-opener. Most people have antibodies to wheat. And so there’s, at least when we’re starting out with people, there is no safe form of wheat. Darn it.
Now, I think you mentioned, well, what’s kind of changed? I think more and more the presence of glyphosate, Roundup, in almost all of our food is one of the real troublemakers for multiple reasons. Most people, I think, still don’t realize that Roundup is now sprayed on most conventional crops, not GMO crops to desiccate the plant. It’s much more efficient to harvest grains when the stock is dead and dry. And so big factory farming kills off a field of corn, or a field of wheat, or a field of oats, or a field of soybeans with glyphosate so it’s easier to harvest.
Now, that Roundup isn’t washed off. It’s then fed to our animals, and glyphosate is then in the flesh of our animals that we eat, and it’s fed to us. And, for instance, there’s not an oat product on the market, even organic oats, that don’t have glyphosate in them. Most California wines have glyphosate in them. So it is everywhere.
So why is that important? Well, two reasons. Number one, glyphosate was patented as an antibiotic. It wasn’t patented as a weed killer. And that’s kind of interesting. So glyphosate can kill the microbiome, but it’s actually fairly selective. It loves to kill off the microbiome that is important for the tryptophan, serotonin, 5-HTP pathway, the feel-good hormones. And we’re beginning to realize, like the book talks about, that almost all of our anxiety and depression, which is rampant in this country, comes from the fact that we no longer have a normal microbiome that produces these feel-good hormones. And we go into it a lot in the book on exactly why this is, how this is.
Number two. Glyphosate in and of itself causes leaky gut. You don’t need anything else. So that’s, those are bad things. Now, I actually just yesterday, I saw a young lady who had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and she resolved that issue by following the gut check program, as do 94% of our autoimmune patients. Not bad. And she’s off of her thyroid medication, et cetera, et cetera. And she went over to Europe recently. And went to Cyprus, went to Italy, went to France, and like most people, she was eating the croissants and the pasta and the pizza. And she said, you know, the amazing thing is I did not react to these things. They didn’t bother me. I didn’t have an upset stomach. And thank you for curing me. And I said, well, hold on. Yeah, you can get away with that over there, but don’t think for a minute that you can start eating our pizzas or our crackers or our breads because over there, there’s basically no glyphosate. And so, and I hear this all the time from my patients, and I have actually the same personal experience. So I think glyphosate is one of the things that’s really changed things for all of us.
Katie: And that makes sense. And it definitely seems like from just a cost-benefit analysis perspective, it’s worth avoiding and for sure testing. And it sounds like 94% of people see drastic improvements when they follow that and the other parts of your protocol. And like your patient, I used to have Hashimoto’s and no longer do. And it was quite the process of learning all of this and letting my, I firmly believe our bodies are designed and meant to heal, and we just have to sort of get out of their way sometimes and let them do that. And another term that you use in the book, I hope I don’t butcher pronouncing this, but estrobolome. Maybe I mispronounced that, but can you explain why that’s important?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, that’s, you know, it’s, the postmenopausal women are under the impression that they don’t make estrogen anymore. And yet, a large number of, I see a large number of women, postmenopausal, who make estrogen. And a lot of times that estrogen comes out of our fat cells. But in fact, there is a flock of bacteria that are capable of making estrogen, modifying estrogen, modifying hormones into other hormones. And there’s now very good research that we should be aware, particularly women and men for that matter, about the influence of our microbiome on our hormonal health. And why that’s important is, well, if a postmenopausal woman has a set of bacteria that can manipulate the food she eats into estrogen, she might want to know that.
And the other thing I talk about in the book is we now know that, sadly, there’s a microbiome associated with almost every cancer that has been studied. There’s a breast cancer microbiome. There’s a lung cancer microbiome. There’s a pancreatic cancer microbiome. There’s a prostatic cancer microbiome. And there’s an ovarian cancer microbiome. And who would have guessed that these bacteria are either participating in the cancer growth or at least they’re there and we ought to pay attention that they’re there for a reason. Now, you know, association does not mean causation, but isn’t it interesting that each cancer has a different microbiome. It’s not just a bunch of bacteria decided to hang around with some cancer cells. They’re each unique. In fact, there was a paper a couple of years ago looking at the oral microbiome of pancreatic cancer patients, and the oral microbiome is predictable of who’s going to get pancreatic cancer. It’s like, whoa.
Katie: That’s fascinating to me because oral health has been a pet research topic of mine for over a decade and how connective that is to our whole-body health and how the saliva interacts with our enamel and remineralizes. It’s like there’s so much there that we didn’t used to understand. And so I love that you’re looking so deeply at all of these things.
And I know there’s more, obviously, in the book than we can cover in one podcast episode, so I’ll, of course, link to it so people can check it out. I highly recommend all of your books. But I would love to talk about, we’ve explained some of the problems that we’re seeing and things that are assaulting our gut health. I would love to talk high level of some of the solutions because I know from reading it and from following your work for so long, many of your patients see drastic results and resolve a lot of their issues, not just at a symptom level, but at a root cause level. So what are some of the things you take people through in this book?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, let me just preface that with Hippocrates, 2,500 years ago, said all disease begins in the gut. Now, I’ve been spending 25 years trying to figure out how he knew that. But he was right. And I’ll paraphrase that to say all disease begins in a leaky gut. And the good news is all disease resolves when you seal a leaky gut.
So sealing the leaky gut is challenging on two parts. I could sell you some supplements to seal your leaky gut, and they work very well. And other people have supplements to heal leaky gut. But as I tell my patients, if you keep swallowing razor blades that will slice open your newly fixed leaky gut, the problem will not go away. And I think one of the things that made and now Gut Check so useful is that there are these compounds, a lot of them defense proteins in plants, that are really good at causing leaky gut. This was really first proven by Dr. Alessio Fasano, who’s now at Harvard. But the mechanism of how lectins, and gluten happens to be a lectin, cause leaky gut is well established. And the great thing is we can measure the degree of leaky gut for anyone, and then we can quantify how fast that is healing. And we haven’t met anyone who hasn’t been able to completely seal their leaky gut. It usually takes nine months to a year. But when they do, their immune system forgets all of these antibodies to the various things that they were sensitive to, which is really exciting.
So one of the things that make people cry is, you know, I try to take away most of the grain products. There’s a couple of grains that don’t have lectins and that’s sorghum and millet. If people want to have grain products, I beg them to pressure cook them. Same way with beans and legumes. There are several companies that make pressure-cook beans and legumes, Eden Brand, Jovial brand, they’re great. Or a pressure cooker solves the problem. I can’t tell you how many people have antibodies to peanuts, to cashews, they’re troublemakers. Years ago in my first book, almonds were banned. There’s a pretty nasty lectin in the peel of almonds. And when HarperCollins bought The Plant Paradox, they, you know, thought I was a really mean person for taking all these various wonderful foods away from people, and they say, you know, come on, everybody knows how good almonds are. I said, well, no, not really. A lot of my autoimmune patients react to almonds. And they said, well, what exactly? And I said, well, it’s in the peel. And they said, well, okay, how about Marcona almonds and how about blanched almond flour? And I said, okay, so we gave people that. Lo and behold, when we got more sophisticated food sensitivity testing, and that’s different than food allergies, a lot of my patients who were a whole lot better but not perfect, when we tested them, almonds popped up all the time. It’s remarkable how mischievous almonds are. So in the last part of the book, I kind of list my big 12 of what shows up frequently on people’s food sensitivity tests. And those surprises a lot of people.
The other thing that surprised me, I initially really allowed omega-3 eggs, pastured eggs, A2 milk dairy products like goat and sheep and water buffalo, and I still do, but it’s remarkable how many people with leaky gut initially are sensitive to all forms of dairy. And are sensitive to both egg yolk and egg white. And that surprised me. And so particularly if people are dealing with an autoimmune disease, it’s well worthwhile, regardless of whether you get leaky gut tests from me or somebody else, to eliminate dairy and eggs initially. And that makes a lot of people cry, but there’s some good egg substitutes, there’s some good dairy substitutes that are well worth getting rid of initially.
Now the exciting thing that I alluded to is that once you seal your leaky gut, your immune system, and once you get a good gut flora again, the gut flora teaches the immune system what it needs to worry about and what it doesn’t need to worry about. It basically says, hey, we’ve got your back, we’ve got everything that’s coming down the pipe that this person swallows we can handle it, you go relax, go have a donut and a cigarette, and get your finger off the AK-47 trigger. And so we actually can measure the immune system no longer being interested in these things that it was very interested in before. And so we can reintroduce these foods that were once very irritating to them, and people can have them back, which is exciting.
Katie: Super exciting for people to realize this may not be a lifelong thing. It’s a short-term process to let the body heal, which it’s designed to do. I also love that you differentiate between polyphenols and antioxidants and why that distinction is important. So can you explain why that difference matters?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, for a number of years I used to present my research, there’s a World Congress on Polyphenols every year that’s headed up by a professor from Paris, France, Martin Edith. He, we were at a meeting in Lisbon a number of years ago, and at the start of the meeting, he said, “Anyone in this room,” and there’s 400 of us, “who thinks that polyphenols are antioxidants may leave now because I don’t have the time to explain to you why polyphenols are not antioxidants and leave right now.” And you know, I went, “What? They’re not?” And so he was absolutely right. Polyphenols are not antioxidants.
What is exciting is we’ve known the polyphenols, which are plant protective compounds that are used by the plant to protect their mitochondria from sun damage and environmental damage. We eat polyphenols. Those are all those bright colors and dark colors and fruits and vegetables. And we don’t absorb them very well at all. And that’s always, everybody’s been going, well, they’re so important, we just don’t absorb them. Well, little did we know that polyphenols are actually one of the favorite foods of bacteria. And so bacteria eat the polyphenols, and then bacteria make postbiotics out of polyphenols.
Now, postbiotics, I’ve written about now, this is the third book I’ve written about it, but postbiotics are, so probiotics are friendly bacteria. Prebiotics are the fiber that friendly bacteria like. So we now know that polyphenols are prebiotics. But what’s important is bacteria then take these compounds and make new compounds that are absolutely essential for our health, absolutely essential for the functioning of the wall of our gut, essential for our brain health, and essential for our mitochondrial health. And it’s these postbiotics that polyphenols are made into that have such a potent effect. Getting back to what you’ve been mentioning. Hippocrates believed that all of us have a green life force energy. And that’s really California-speak. But, um, what, what he meant was that we all have a innate ability to have perfect health. And there are external factors that suppress the expression of green life force energy, and Hippocrates believed that a physician should be a detective and find out what those external factors are and teach the patient to remove them. And like you said, once those external factors are removed, then this green life force energy will take over, and you’re right. We’ll fix the problem. And the guy was right. Now, I would argue that it wasn’t a green life force energy. What he was talking about, of course, he didn’t know about them back then, was our microbiome. Our microbiome has far more genetic material. We just recently discovered there’s 8 trillion trees in the world, but there are 92 trillion more bacteria inside each of our guts than there are trees in the world, which gives you some idea of the enormity and the power of the symbiotic relationship with the gut microbiome. And so my teaching is, you know, give these guys what they want. And they’ll take care of you because you’re their home. And they, they want to take care of you.
Katie: That’s a really compelling statistic and that’s fascinating. And I also want to just circle back to what you said earlier, which is that the immune system forgets those antibodies when we heal. Because I always love to, anytime possible, leave people with hope. Because I know having had an autoimmune disease diagnosis in the past, it can seem overwhelming. You can feel a little helpless. You can feel like your whole life is changing permanently and forever in horrible ways. And that’s what I love about your message in all of your books is that you really bring people to the practical solutions and give them hope for letting the body actually heal, like you just explained, it’s designed to do. We just have to get the things out of its way that are in modern society that are making that process really difficult. And it knows what to do to heal. It’s not that we have to externally force it to do that. It already innately knows exactly how to do that.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, I mean, not a day goes by that, you know, I still see patients six days a week. Seventh day, McHenry MD. But I see patients on Saturdays and Sundays, and people go, wait. Holy cow, you’re closing in on the mid-70s. What the heck are you doing that for? Well, I’m really still a kid in a candy store. I just get to see what I guess I would have described as miracles way back when. But you can follow this. You can watch leaky gut heal. You can watch the immune system change what it’s after. And you can watch these markers for, you know, any autoimmune disease, you become normal.
One of my favorite stories a few years ago, I had a older woman who, normally my PA sees my new patients first and then I see the new patient in three to six months after she gives the initial consult. So I see this lady from my first visit with her, and she had seen my assistant. And I said, so, you know, what are you doing here? She says, well, I’m here because I have Hashimoto’s. Well, I had already seen her new labs. And her antithyroid, globulin, and TPO were now normal. And I said, well, no, you don’t have Hashimoto’s. And she said, well, don’t be so flippant. She said, of course I have Hashimoto’s, and that’s why I’m here. I said, oh, you used to have Hashimoto’s, but you don’t anymore. Her mouth dropped open, and I showed her the labs, and she starts crying. And she said, but everybody told me that, you know, this is my disease for the rest of my life. I said, well, sorry, it’s no longer your problem as long as you keep doing it. So it’s like, holy cow. It’s amazing.
Katie: I love that story, and it highlights something I say on here so much, and I’m going to say it again, which is that I firmly believe that at the end of the day, we are each our own primary healthcare provider because we’re the ones making the decisions that impact our daily health. And that when we take ownership for that, we step into so much power and ability to affect change. And I also think what you just said brought up an important point, which is often when we’re diagnosed with something, it becomes our identity. And so the importance of letting go of that being part of our identity, I even learned to shift my language to stop saying I have Hashimoto’s to saying I’m healing from Hashimoto’s because I do think it’s very important. Our inner thoughts and that, of course, could be its own whole topic. But I love that you highlighted that story at the end. And like I said, there’s, of course, so much more nuance that you go into in the book, which I loved. I’ll make sure it’s linked in the show notes or it’s available I know everywhere books are sold, but highly recommend all of your work. And I’m always so grateful for your time and your wisdom. Thank you so much for being here and for your new book.
Dr. Gundry: Thank you. Appreciate it.
Katie: And thank you for listening. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama Podcast.
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