Dr. Devin Miles And Ashley James
- Difference between MDs and NDs
- Different types of kidney stones
- Magnesium and potassium can be helpful to calcium oxalate kidney stones
- Herbs that maintain kidney function and helps treat kidney disease
- 3 alkalizing foods: pomegranate juice, cantaloupe, and pinto beans
Most people think that if you have kidney disease, it can’t be reversed anymore, but that is not always the case. Dr. Devin Miles, a Naturopathic Physician specializing in gastrointestinal disorders and kidney disease, joins us to share more information about kidney health. She enumerates different types of kidney stones and provides information on how to prevent kidney stone formation as well as how to treat kidney stones.
Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. I can’t believe it’s already June. Can you believe that? Time really flies. I’m so excited for you to listen to today’s episode because we focus on kidney health. Prevention is the most important thing, so if we can adjust our lifestyle and diet now to support kidney health, we can encourage our body to have a longer, healthier life. By supporting healthy kidneys, as what’s discussed in today’s episode, you’re actually supporting every organ of the body, so prevention is one thing. But if you have kidney disease right now, regardless of what stage you’re in, you can do things to support optimal health. No matter what, you can do things naturally to support yourself in achieving optimal health, and we discuss that in today’s interview.
There are a few exciting things happening this month because Father’s Day is coming up. I’ve talked to my favorite health companies, and we have some really exciting sales for you for Father’s Day. One really exciting sale is from my favorite sauna company, Sunlighten. I talked to them and talked to them and talked to them and whittled down a really, really great deal, so I’m very excited for you. For the month of June, right now they’re running some kind of special sale, but for Learn True Health listeners, on top of their already current sale price for their saunas and their solo systems, you’re going to get as a Learn True Health listener $200 off your sauna and free shipping. Shipping for a sauna system like a big wooden sauna system is over $500. They’re going to give you free shipping, and they’re going to take $200 off. If you get a solo system, they’re going to take $100 off.
Usually, in addition to that, for the Learn Truth Health listeners, they throw in some things like their bamboo towels and stuff like that. I really like the special, non-toxic pad that you sit on in the wooden sauna. I love their 3-in-1 system. I’ve had several episodes about it. I’ve interviewed a cardiologist that uses saunas for heart health. I’ve interviewed the founder of Sunlighten. She talks about why she started the company. I’ve interviewed an employee of theirs that shares some really cool stories of success. The reason why I chose Sunlighten out of all the other sauna companies in the world, for me to buy my own personal sauna from them, is because they have a 3-in-1. It’s a full spectrum of light whereas most saunas are just the far-infrared. The Sunlighten is the near-infrared, the mid-infrared, and the far-infrared. There are benefits to healing the skin and actually reducing wrinkles, reducing scar tissue, decrease in chronic pain, and decrease in inflammation on all layers through the skin and into the soft tissue.
You can sit in it at a lower temperature and get a really great sweat, so it increases your core temperature while still breathing comfortable air instead of breathing stuffy hot air. There are general benefits that everyone gains from using sauna therapy such as decreasing stress, decreasing inflammation and pain, and stabilizing blood pressure into a more normal range. All these things are great for overall health, but specifically about the kidneys.
There are many articles in PubMed and other studies that you can find that healthfully using sauna therapy can benefit those with liver and kidney disease. One particular study showed that the concentration of ammonia in the body was released through sweat. That we also release urea through sweat as well as high levels of nitrogen. Using sauna therapy in the study, they were able to take the load off the kidneys by allowing us to sweat through the skin instead of having to have the kidneys do all the work.
The reason why I bought a Sunlighten two years ago is because my doctor told me to. She said that my liver was having problems and that I should support my body in detoxifying, especially heavy metals. I’ve been using a Sunlighten to detoxify heavy metals, but also support my body in releasing these metabolites like ammonia and urea through my sweat. Lots of nasty byproducts of our metabolism can sweat it out, and then we’re giving our kidneys in our liver a break.
Of course, if you’re under the care of a physician for a disease like a kidney disease, you should definitely work with your doctor, but add to your team. Find a naturopathic physician, find a functional medicine practitioner, and find more doctors and experts to add to your team to give you different opinions and of course all science-based. Dr. Andrew Weil, who’s a very famous medical doctor that specializes in holistic medicine, is quoted as saying that he regularly tells his patients with liver and kidney disease to sweat in a sauna two to three times a week. That the increase in blood flow is so good for those organs—the detoxification that happens in the sauna but also that it lowers blood pressure and that’s really great for the kidneys as well.
There are several reasons why sauna therapy is great for the kidneys. I love the Sunlighten is a very gentle form of sauna therapy. But of course, work with your doctor and make sure that sauna therapy is right for you if you have a disease. There are some cases where sauna therapy is incredibly beneficial, and there are some cases where it’s not recommended, so make sure it’s right for you. There are many reasons why I love Sunlighten. If you go to learntruehealth.com and type Sunlighten or type sauna into the search bar, you’ll find several episodes where we’ve gone in greater detail but why I love Sunlighten.
I wanted to let you know that this Father’s Day sale is going on right now, and it’s such a perfect gift to give to your whole family, but especially give to your father or your husband for Father’s Day. The smallest wooden system is like a phone booth. It looks quite small on the outside, but you can actually sit in it with your spouse. My husband and I can sit in it comfortably and then our five-year-old comes running in sometimes. He likes to be in there for a few minutes, and it’s safe for a few minutes for children to be in there. Typically, it’s one minute for every year of age. He gets to be in there for about five minutes and then he jumps out, but my husband and I can sit in there comfortably together. It fits in the corner of one of our rooms.
You can get the wooden system, but if you don’t have a lot of space, you get the solo system. The solo system is ultra-low EMF and non-toxic. It’s very comfortable to lie on. Then you wipe it up and put it away in the closet when you’re not using it, so that’s very exciting that you have those two options. Then of course they have larger systems and they have different kinds of wood. I got the cedar because I love the smell of cedar, but if you’re hypersensitive to smell they have different types of wood depending on that.
Give them a call. Just google Sunlighten and give them a call. Mention Learn True Health with Ashley James and they will give you that discount. They know that this discount is for you guys, the Learn True Health listeners, and they’re more than happy to answer your questions. It’s a wonderful company that’s based in the United States. I just really, really love the quality of their products and their customer care.
If you have any questions for me about my experience with them, I’ve been working with them and using their system for about two years now, you can always reach out to me in Facebook or you can email me [email protected] Stay tuned for the other Father’s Day sales that I’m going to be letting you guys know about. Medterra CBD, which is my favorite CBD company because of the quality of their CBD. I’ve had them on the show twice to talk about that. Of course, my favorite magnesium soak and there’s going to be others that I will be letting you guys know about. I’m going to let you know about it in the intros of the next few episodes, but I’ll also be letting you know more details in the Learn True Health Facebook group. Go ahead and join the Facebook group by going to Facebook and searching Learn True Health, or you can go to learntruehealth.com/group and that’ll take you straight to the Facebook group.
Thank you so much for being a listener. I’m so excited that you get to learn more about how you can reverse and prevent kidney disease. That includes kidney stones. That includes even if you have scar tissue in the kidneys, we talk about how to reverse that, which is really exciting. Please share this episode with those you love especially those you know who have high blood pressure, have diabetes. These are conditions that harm the kidneys and that could lead to kidney disease later on. We really want to do everything we can to support our kidney health as much as possible. If you’re healthy now let’s stay healthy, and if you have some health problems now, if you have symptoms now, let’s get you back on the road to health. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day and enjoy today’s interview.
[00:10:01] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 434. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have Dr. Devin Miles on the show who is a Naturopathic physician that specializes in gastrointestinal disorders and kidney disease. I’m really excited actually to talk about kidney disease today. Out of the 400 and something episodes we’ve had, we’ve never done a whole episode on kidney health, and that’s something I’ve been really excited to discuss. I’m very excited to have you on the show today. So many people are on dialysis needlessly that we could support everyone’s kidneys now to prevent dialysis. I have heard Naturopaths helped people get so healthy that they no longer need dialysis. I’m very excited to have you on the show. Welcome.
[00:10:57] Dr. Devin Miles: Thank you, thank you. Good to be here.
[00:11:00] Ashley James: This is going to be a lot of fun. Before we jump into kidney health, how to reverse kidney stones, and prevent them and all the different kinds of kidney disease that we can reverse and prevent, I’d like to get to know you a little bit. What happened in your life that made you want to become a Naturopathic physician?
[00:11:16] Dr. Devin Miles: I started having digestive issues in my senior year of college, I was 21 years old. For me, it was just out of the blue. I had not had any digestive issues. Just one day, I noticed my lower abdomen was just bloated, then I had constipation, then I had more constipation, more bloating, more gas, and then it was foul gas. I started noticing I was having food sensitivities that I never had before. Fast forward, I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. There wasn’t much of a resolution in terms of cure or even understanding what it was. I was introduced to this health food store in my neighborhood at the time and told the guy what I got diagnosed with and he had had the same thing. He was the first person that really gave me hope about what to do about it.
It really started as trying to figure out things for me. Then I started to realize that I was way more into researching about health than I was at my job at the time. I was like okay I think I want to make a career out of this. Eventually, I found naturopathic medicine. That’s when I was like yeah that’s it, that’s what I’m going to do. Then I went for it.
[00:12:55] Ashley James: I love it. You just dove right in and never looked back.
[00:13:00] Dr. Devin Miles: My body spoke to me in such a way that I had to listen. It was too much. When I found out about Naturopathic medicine, it was from a book that my parents gave me that they were reading at the time. That was significant because that was the first book, probably since the first grade, that I wanted to come home and read every evening. Outside of that, I was not somebody who read for leisure. My only time of reading was for educational and work purposes, that was more than enough. The fact that I actually wanted to come home and read that book every night, that really spoke to me.
[00:13:43] Ashley James: That’s so cool. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve got one right here I can’t put down. It’s called the Encyclopedia of Healing Juices. That’s not like a book you’d read like a novel but it does. I can’t put it down. Like you said, when your body speaks to you and when you’re really into health, when you’re really on the right path everything aligns. I just love that you couldn’t put that book down. What was the book?
[00:14:14] Dr. Devin Miles: It was called 21 Pounds in 21 Days. That was written by Roni DeLuz. She is actually on Martha’s Vineyard. She has her own retreat up there, which actually does incorporate a lot of juicing. She’s a Naturopath as well.
[00:14:35] Ashley James: I imagine her program isn’t about just losing weight but about losing the inflammation.
[00:14:41] Dr. Devin Miles: Yeah. It really can apply to everyone. My mom picked it up of course because she was trying to lose weight. Dr. DeLuz’s people from all walks of life are not just weight loss.
[00:14:54] Ashley James: Very cool. As you went to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, what times blew your mind? As you’re going through it, did you have these aha moments? Like oh my gosh, I couldn’t believe that we can reverse this disease or we can reverse this. Because we’re raised to believe, if our family traditionally went to an MD, we’re given drugs, we saw our family members given drugs for diseases and told that they’re just going to have them for the rest of their life. That’s just the way it is.
We’ve watched Hollywood and mainstream media and we’re told this is just the way it is. Then you go to a Naturopathic school and you realize my gosh, we can reverse these diseases naturally? Did you have any of those aha moments?
[00:15:45] Dr. Devin Miles: I’m guessing that whatever I read prior to going to school made me walk into school with the expectation that I would find out how to reverse those. It wasn’t so much an aha. Reading Dr. Roni’s book, going to see her, and talking with her was very pivotal for me to believe that I could probably find the solution to anything. It was more so an expectation, but I will say the first quarter of school was very majestic for me. I was very much like ohh, wow, ahh type of thing. It wasn’t an aha moment, but I was just enjoying what I was learning that first quarter.
[00:16:39] Ashley James: Can you share with us something that you just really, really, really enjoyed learning in Naturopathic school?
[00:16:46] Dr. Devin Miles: I feel like the philosophy of Naturopathic medicine. I feel like that first quarter we went into that quite a bit. Just understanding how the body works and how connected it is, I really started to harness that mindset when I was in school. I realized that what we have is we’re trained to have a certain mindset that is understanding that the body is connected, that it works as a whole, but it’s not a rigid framework.
I was recently quoted by the Institute of Natural Medicine about that that I have, what I consider, an open-minded framework. There’s some structure but there’s a way for you to be open to other things that you may learn that could also be pieces of the puzzle. I think it helps you to know where to put those pieces. First, you can accept them, and then second, you can figure out where to put them in the puzzle that you have already started to create.
For instance with carpal tunnel syndrome. I remember learning that, I think it was, vitamin B6 was helpful for that. Then there was something within acupuncture that was also really helpful for carpal tunnel, and I linked those two things together in such a way that I understood why both of them worked for a carpal tunnel because I knew one and then I could put in the other one after that. Just being able to link things like that and be open to how it works and that it does work I think is what’s been really, really nice.
[00:18:45] Ashley James: Awesome. I also know that there are certain minerals that when we’re deficient in can exacerbate carpal tunnel, can help when we supplement with certain trace minerals, and can help to alleviate, I’ve seen that before. The fact that you are not closed off like this is the only way. What’s the difference in terms of philosophy? Because this is really the key to healing our bodies is our mindset about what direction we’re going to take when it comes to our health protocol. What’s the difference between seeing an MD, a medical doctor, and seeing an ND, a Naturopathic doctor? What’s the difference in the philosophy of healing?
[00:19:30] Dr. Devin Miles: Medical doctors, MDs, have a standard of care that is I think quite rigid. It’s more rigid, it’s more strict than a Naturopathic doctor. Naturopathic doctors have standards, but as I mentioned before, they have a framework that they can really build upon and branch out from. It allows them to be more receptive to learning new things, in my opinion.
There are more tools in our toolkit for addressing different things. When you go to a Naturopathic doctor, if you go to one and then another you might notice that they use different approaches to get to the same result. That’s really why I think Naturopathic medicine came about because this German guy named Benedict Lust who put all of these pre-existing therapies together because he saw the synergy of them being put together. In other words, these therapies were around because he saw that they were effective, but they may not always be effective by themselves and different people need different things.
I think naturopathic medicine allows you to have a broader framework from which to choose what is going to work for that person. It helps you to figure them out better. We use things that the body better understands them. We as human beings are of nature. When we use things that are from nature, the body understands that better because it works with it versus if it’s something synthetic, the body knows it’s synthetic. The body is probably missing something that it needs for that to fully work. When we use things in Naturopathic medicine, we’re helping to resolve the issue versus forcing one piece of it to just work better.
For instance, if it’s hypertension, if I put somebody on hypertensive medication yeah their blood pressure would probably come down right, but if you take that person off of a blood pressure medication, the blood pressure’s going to go right back up. Versus if you adopt a lifestyle that is conducive to reducing hypertension and you use different herbs, homeopathy, and some other nutrients that can keep the blood pressure down, the body is very understanding of that and it’s getting what it needs to keep the blood pressure low.
You could say well if you get off of all those things of course the blood pressure comes back too. That can be true, but the reality is the difference is that your body has what it needs to be in balance. It’s not that the drug is restoring total balance to your body, it’s balancing you for the sake of your blood pressure. But is your whole body in balance? Probably not.
That is the difference when we are working with a Naturopathic doctor. It’s not just about your blood pressure, it’s also about getting your whole body in balance. If you come to me with one condition, you probably have eight other symptoms that you may or may not be telling me that you might notice go away when you start to work with me because I work on the body as a whole.
[00:23:21] Ashley James: I love how you put that restoring total balance. Using the example of high blood pressure, the body is speaking to us in symptoms. So many Naturopaths who have come on the show have said that we need to listen to the language of the body, and the body is speaking and symptoms. If someone has high blood pressure and they just take medication for it, it’s kind of like if your car was making a really loud noise like maybe a belt is about to go or something and your mechanic gives you earplugs. You’re like here this is going to stop the noise. You put these earplugs in and then you’re not going to hear that noise. The car is still going to break down.
I believe there are statistics, and maybe you could speak to this, but there are statistics that for people who are on high blood pressure medication long-term they have shorter lifespans. All cause mortality. For those on high blood pressure meds will not live as long as those who figured out how to naturally support the body’s ability to heal itself and maintain optimal blood pressure.
[00:24:31] Dr. Devin Miles: I was going to say I think that applies to a lot of different medications even outside of blood pressure.
[00:24:36] Ashley James: Right. There are certain medications. We always have to say this, certain medications save people’s lives, certain medications are really necessary. I’ve even talked to Naturopaths who say they would prescribe blood pressure medication in the short-term while they’re helping the person to make lifestyle changes, nutrient changes, and figure out more in-depth. My husband had out-of-control high blood pressure a few years ago. He’d always had borderline high blood pressure but then it went through the roof. We figured out it was—and this is going to lead to kidney issues.
We had done the ketogenic diet under a Naturopath’s care for three months. After that, we did blood work and my liver was very damaged. It took me years to recover and my husband’s kidneys were incredibly damaged. We had to do several tests to find out. As a result, we ended up going whole food plant-based and focusing on herbs and supplements to support his kidneys. He was temporarily put on two blood pressure medications. It was a water pill and a blood pressure medication in order just to bring it down, but it only brought it down eight, nine points.
Then the Naturopath worked with him. At that time, we were seeing one that specialized in cardiology, a very interesting guy. He figured out that my husband just runs in stress mode. He’s always stressed out. He had him on Carditone and that immediately dropped his blood pressure, which is really interesting. By that time, his kidneys were healed, he got off of his blood pressure meds very quickly. Everything’s good now. His blood pressure is totally fine. But it’s interesting though if he gets stressed out or starts worrying about something he can raise his blood pressure.
For him, even though yes he has to eat a healthy diet that’s conducive to kidney health and heart health. It’s just as important as his diet to lower his stress levels and to do that internal work to not work himself up, so it’s interesting to see. If we had gone to just an MD then he would have just put him on meds. Whereas the Naturopaths we went to address his stress levels, his lifestyle, his emotional mental health, his sleep, his energy, his kidney health, his heart health, and his diet. There are so many more facets of his life that have been enriched by Naturopath care than an MD would have.
MDs have their place, they’re one piece of the pie of medicine, but they’re not the whole pie. In the mainstream media, we’re taught that MDs are the whole pie, that allopathic medicine is the whole pie, and everything else is like this alternative dessert. It’s not the case, right? It’s not the case.
One Naturopath I’ve worked with calls it allopathic reductionism. He says that MDs are trained in philosophy as reductionistic thinking. If you come to them with a kidney problem, they’re just going to look at the kidneys and focus down on that, reduce it to that, and not look at all the other symptoms of the body. Whereas a Naturopath, like you said, you’re looking at all the other symptoms.
When you’re supporting someone in that vitamin deficiency they might have had for their carpal tunnel, you’re actually supporting them in their sleep, in their energy, in their mood, and their stress. You’re supporting them in all those other areas of their life because a mineral, a nutrient, or a vitamin deficiency will create hundreds of potential symptoms. You’re not treating a symptom, you’re treating the body as a whole and what the body needed. I
I feel like Naturopathic medicine should be the main medicine that we go to, and we should go to MDs for emergency medicine because that’s where they shine. Go to Naturopaths for prevention and for chronic illness because that’s where you guys shine.
[00:28:59] Dr. Devin Miles: Right. I am in full agreement with you that yes, sometimes medications are helpful. Sometimes Naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine do need to get used at the same time. It also depends on their stage of life, what they know, what they’re exposed to, and what answers they have. That’s also why I like to be on different media platforms so that I can expose people to what is out there, to what is possible. I know what it feels like to be on a journey of knowledge. You’re doing the best that you can at each point.
There was one guy, when I was in clinical rotations, who had schizophrenia. He was better managed, not just on his medications, but on medications plus acupuncture. That is what finally got him to a much more stable space. Even with my clients, I would say maybe half of them are on medications. I don’t tend to touch the medications.
On top of that, I am in a state where—there’s about 22 states that are licensed where Naturopathic physicians can practice medicine. I’m in a state that is not that. It’s pre-license. I definitely don’t touch their medications, but I tell them that—especially if it’s something like blood pressure—you need to be taking your blood pressure every day. Being mindful of that, what I’m doing may drop your blood pressure further. We have to be mindful of episodes of hypotension because you can get symptomatic of course if you have hypotension.
These are times when you need to start going back to your physician to be like hey, can we reduce the dose? The goal, of course, is for you to eventually not need the medication, right? Everybody’s in their own path and they got to find what works for them, what keeps them stable, and all of that. I respect that.
[00:31:13] Ashley James: That’s actually progress because when I first got into working with Naturopathic doctors, I was being mentored by Naturopath as a health coach. Back in 2011, only 17 states were licensed. I know that Naturopaths have been fighting for being able to be licensed in other states. That’s great, that’s progress to go from 17 to 22 in the last few years. That’s great. I’d like to see, obviously, all 50 states. I’d like to see all the provinces of Canada. I’d like to see every country in the world recognize Naturopathic medicine. It’s going to be one state at a time. The fact that there are 22 states that recognize Naturopathic physicians as doctors that could prescribe drugs and are at the same level and be able to use insurance with Naturopaths for those states. It’s good. It’s growing, it’s growing. This is what we want. Absolutely.
[00:32:15] Dr. Devin Miles: I enjoy what I do here in—I’m in Texas right now. Austin, of course, is a city that I think is much more receptive. That’s where most of the Naturopathic doctors. I am in Houston at the moment. So It’s a different dynamic, but I enjoy it when I get to educate people. When I first got here most people were like what? Wait, what’s the word again, Naturopath? I feel like now, for whatever reason, not as many people are responding in that way. They’re like oh, okay, okay. Cool. That’s good.
[00:32:59] Ashley James: Very cool. Back in 2011, I started working with a Naturopathic doctor and he was training me. One of my friends, who is in his early 30s, had kidney stones—chronic. He, for five months straight, was urinating kidney stones, passing kidney stones. For a man, that’s more painful for a woman just because they have a little longer urethra, so he was in agony. He couldn’t leave his house. He said the only thing that helped was to sit in the shower with the hot water beating down on him, and that’s just what he did all day for five months.
I called him up and I said, “I am working with this Naturopath. He has a protocol for kidney stones.” My friend said, “Sign me up.” He got on these supplements, specifically very bioavailable minerals including bioavailable calcium, and his kidney stones immediately stopped and they have not come back.
The Naturopath that I worked with explained that, and of course, there are different kinds of kidney stones and you’re going to go into this today that there’s not just one kind. This Naturopath, actually, he’s 80 years old now and he’s still practicing. He’s really cool. I just had him on the show, Dr. Joel Wallach. He said that when we are deficient in calcium in our diet our parathyroid glands, which are the four little dots in the thyroid, the parathyroid glands will continue to release this hormone telling our bones to release minerals, like calcium, to the soft tissue.
Over time, those will just do too much because we’re not getting enough from our diet and then it would collect in the kidneys. By supplementing with a bioavailable calcium that has all the other mineral cofactors, then the parathyroid gland stops doing that. That supplementation satisfies the soft tissue—the calcium and all the minerals the soft tissue needs. The kidneys stop creating the stones. I know this is very simplified—what I’ve said is very simplified. I’m sure he has a more medical explanation.
It worked. My friend never had kidney stones again, and I’ve since heard many other stories of people who have had the same result. But if you go to an MD, if my friend had gone to an MD at the time, the MD might have checked his calcium levels in his blood, seen that it was high, and would have told him to stop eating things that contain calcium because he has too much calcium. The MD sees it under the reductionistic lens and says you have too much calcium, not looking at the whole picture. Whereas the Naturopath understands the whole picture and would say, no, you actually need more calcium.
There’s a big difference. If he had gone to an MD, he might have gone on drugs, and surgery whereas the body was crying out for a balance of nutrients, and that’s what it needed. Have you experienced that? Obviously, you had great success with reversing kidney stones, but I’d love for you to dive in and explain the different kinds of kidney stones and speak maybe about my experience with my friend and his kidney stones that were actually a mineral deficiency.
[00:36:28] Dr. Devin Miles: I haven’t seen that particular story but it brings to mind something that I have seen in a different form. I won’t go too in-depth because we’re talking about kidneys and that’s digestive issues, but the theme of deficiency and overcompensation due to deficiency. I’ve seen that in different walks of life in different behaviors. That’s the theme that I pick up from that if you have a deficiency of calcium and then the parasite just over supplies calcium because of that.
I would love to get into the kidney stones and talk a little bit more about some of the different types. It sounds like that might have been, of course, coming from too much calcium in the body from the parathyroid. I want to talk about what a kidney stone feels like first. You talked about it a little bit but I wanted to mention that a kidney stone is going to feel like back or loin pain radiating down into the groin or the side. It’s excruciating pain. You would probably know that it was a kidney stone because it’s that type of picture that goes with it.
You can also have blood in the urine as well as an urgency to urinate. The way that this can be discovered is through an ultrasound. Your story that you mentioned before about the guy that was dealing with for five months, anyone who’s listening I would definitely urge not to wait that long.
I’m glad he didn’t have complications from it but you can definitely have complications from having a kidney stone. You can definitely have a blockage of urine and that could of course go further up and cause problems. Anyone who is listening and is thinking that they may in fact have a kidney stone, please go get that checked out right away.
Some risk factors for having kidney stones. There could be a bone disease as you mentioned with the one guy, hyperparathyroidism, there could be hypercalcemia. That’s of course too much calcium in the urine. You could have too much cystine in the urine. There could be some sort of low-grade infection and I’ll talk about that in a little bit. There could be some abnormalities in terms of the structure of your body that creates poor urine flow. Then there could be different components that are in the urine that are in larger amounts in it that they should be. It creates a supersaturated urine and that can form crystals, and that can form kidney stones.
A couple of ways that this might happen could be changes in your urinary pH. If you have acidic urine, and we’ll talk about that more, that could be a reason why you create kidney stones. Decrease urine volume. This is why if you are prone to having kidney stones you want to drink a lot of water on a daily basis to keep the urine from getting too saturated to where it would form crystals. If you think about salt for instance, if you put a lot of water in the salt and you stir it up it dissolves, but if you only put a few drops and water in the salt it’s going to mainly just stay crystallized.
That’s a good analogy for understanding why you need water to keep things dissolved so that they can pass instead of forming a crystal. Again, if you only put like a few drops in that salt, you can easily make a clump of salt because you’d only have enough water.
Bacteria could also form it. Inflammation or scarring within the urinary system. Another risk factor is being elderly, being sedentary. Sedentary, of course, can apply to any age, it’s not just the elderly. Cadmium exposure. One of the top reasons someone might be exposed to cadmium is through smoking. High intake of alcohol, oral contraceptives, and then long-term use of diuretics. Diuretics is any substance that can make you have to go to the bathroom more.
Some medications are considered diuretics especially if you just have a lot of water on your body that’s not supposed to be there. A diuretic is what would be used to get the water off. Of course, going back to hypertension, some of those are in fact diuretics too. Not all of them but certain classes are diuretic medications.
Calcium oxalate stone contributors. This is one type of kidney stone—it’s calcium oxalate. This is the one that I think is more well known by the public is calcium oxalate stones. That can come from when your body is in a state of hypercalcemia, so there’s a lot of calcium in the blood. This could be from a bone disease, as well as sarcoidosis, and tuberculosis. This is called primary/enteric hyperoxaluria secondary to bone disease. Because of the bone disease, you can have too many oxalates within the body. When they say enteric they’re talking about the intestine. It could also be high calcium in the urine without high calcium in the blood. This could be a hyper absorption, so too much absorption of calcium happening in the intestines. There is a compromise in the amount of calcium that the kidneys absorb.
Your kidneys are filters and they’re also absorbers of certain things at different processes along with their function. There could be an issue in terms of how the calcium gets reabsorbed. Also, increased uric acid excretion. The uric acid crystals themselves can form different calcium oxalate compounds. That could happen within what’s called the collecting ducts of the kidneys. There could also be more oxalates in the urine. This could either be genetic or caused by enteric or intestinal diseases resulting from intestinal over-absorption of oxalate.
There is in fact a link between the gastrointestinal system and how well your kidneys function. I think sometimes this can be missed again when you’re only looking at the reductionism factor. There’s a particular test that I run on my clients with digestive issues. It’s a urine metabolite test. Within that test, you may see that you have a high oxalate count. It doesn’t mean that you have kidney stones but there’s something about your body that is producing a very, very high oxalate count. In that case, it can be important to address that then before you even have something like an oxalate kidney stone. Actually, I have noticed that people with autism can also have very high oxalate counts.
Hypocitraturia is also a cause and that can come from chronic diarrhea as well. That’s considered idiopathic. For me, as someone who focuses on digestive health, I’ve had clients come to me with chronic diarrhea. That will be also in the setting of bloating, food sensitivities, and all of that. When we work on those things diarrhea can slow down and they can have better-formed stools.
I’ll probably say this later but I’ll say it also now, one of the things that I hope you’re that you’re picking up as you’re listening is the fact that it is important to figure out why you are in fact forming kidney stones. This is like Dr. Wallach did with the guy that you mentioned. He figured out it had to do with the deficiency of calcium and it was causing hyperparathyroidism. You have to figure out what type of stone it is and then why you’re creating that stone to be able to get to a solution that works for that person.
On to the next type of stone is the uric acid stones. That essentially, going back to what I said before with the crystals, it’s because you have high uric acid in the blood. That can prosper of course in acidic urine. Lastly, there are the ones but I just wanted to focus on a couple, cystine stones. This is more genetic and it also forms in acidic urine. The first client I had with kidney disease he has cystine kidney stones. That’s actually a more rare type. Most people, as I mentioned before, have the oxalate type of kidney stones. For cystine kidney stones, what can be really helpful is alkalinizing the urine, but we’ll go into that as well.
In general, when you’re dealing with kidney stones, the pain treatments that are usually prescribed by physicians in terms of medication would be antispasmodics. That is designed to help keep you from spasming. When a kidney stone is in there you want to try to loosen up everything so that it will be able to pass better. The antispasmodics can be helpful in that regard. Hemostatic is another type of medication that’s designed to help stop the blood.
A hot soak bath, as you mentioned with your friend, is that the hot soak baths may be also helpful for pain. A few other things to keep in mind, going the more Naturopathic route, is to reduce large amounts of meat. If you’re having a lot of meat, it can create a very acidic environment. If you’re having way too much of it can cause a lot of problems and it’s not the best thing for your kidneys, especially if you already are having kidney disease, that is a very common thing for me to tell someone is you definitely need to reduce your protein. Particularly animal protein, in large amounts, can be quite damaging for kidneys. If it’s already damaged, it’s even more important for you to reduce it, but if they’re not damaged you want to only have a moderate amount. You can’t be meat, meat, meat all day long.
[00:48:10] Ashley James: It also depends on the type of meat. Dr. Wallach was a pathologist. He was given diseased kidneys after they were removed for patients who had kidney transplants. He looked at the kidneys and said why did you send me a healthy kidney? The doctor said what are you talking about? I removed the diseased kidney. He said there’s nothing. I can’t find anything wrong with this. He ended up getting the strongest microscope he could and looking at the nephrons of the kidney. What he figured out was that the kidneys were being clogged by nitrates and nitrites. These preservatives that are in deli meats and smoked meats—the molecules are large enough that they actually clog the kidneys, the nephrons in the kidneys.
The kidneys are kind of similar to the eyes in that they’re incredibly vascular. Kidneys and eyes are the first to go. If we have a vascular breakdown, people will lose their eyesight, they’ll start losing their night vision, or they’ll need stronger glasses. Same with the kidneys because they’re very vascular. So vascular that only one blood cell can pass through at a time. That’s how narrow it is. If those passageways are inflamed or damaged by certain chemicals like sodium nitrite, potassium nitrate, or however—it’s the nitrates and the nitrites. The bacon is the most common example but hotdogs and any kind of smoked meat, that, Dr. Wallach found, will absolutely over time, not only damage the eyes but will damage the kidneys and damage the vasculature in the body where the capillaries are so thin that only like one blood cell pass through at a time.
That’s where the nitrates and the nitrites do their damage to us. They’re not needed for preserving meat, they actually just prevent the meat from looking gray. When someone goes to buy hotdogs or bacon, if they see the hotdogs are gray, we think oh it’s gone bad. That’s actually what meat normally looks like if it’s sitting there for a few days or if it hasn’t been frozen. So many meats have been preserved with these chemicals that are harmful to the body to make them look appetizing.
That’s what Dr. Wallach does. The first thing he does with someone who has kidney disease is he says no nitrates or nitrites, no fried food at all, 100% remove fried food. There are about 12 foods that he removes from the diet that cause damage to the vasculature of, not only the kidneys but the whole body, but it’s most important in the kidneys because of the concentration of vasculature. Then he focuses on high amounts of antioxidants and then he gets them on certain nutrients to make sure that they get the 90 essential nutrients—all vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids. That’s his protocol no matter what. No matter what kind of kidney stone the person has, no matter what kind of kidney disease because he’s looking at supporting the kidney’s health overall.
It’s very interesting when you start to see how an experienced Naturopath treats someone’s kidney disease versus how an experienced medical doctor would treat someone’s kidney disease because the medical doctor is not trained to heal the person to the point where they no longer need medication. The medical doctor is trained to manage someone’s disease state. Manage them, make them comfortable, obviously, make sure they don’t die and get them on dialysis that kind of thing. But a Naturopath’s goal is to get them to the point where they’re disease-free. It’s a totally different philosophy. It’s very interesting.
I like that you brought up alkalizing the body, drinking plenty of water. Depending on which kind of kidney stone or kidney disease they’re going to see more benefit, but in general, wouldn’t everyone across the board, wouldn’t all kidneys benefit from a more alkalized urine or alkalized diet and drinking enough water? Is there a time when a kidney wouldn’t benefit from that?
[00:53:02] Dr. Devin Miles: In general, the body does better when it’s—I wouldn’t say just so far alkaline. At one point I saw alkaline urine but the person was still having a lot of problems. I wouldn’t use the urine as a marker to say everything’s good because my urine is alkaline. There are other things that can be out of balance. It depends on what the person is dealing with, but yes, in general, if you stay in a more alkalinized way of life compared to what the standard American diet is, you’re bound to see some improvements in your health. Because the standard American diet is very, very acidic. That’s why this push into a more alkaline diet can bring you back to the balance that you need to be at.
[00:53:58] Ashley James: We have to understand that kidney disease or kidney stones is actually a symptom and not the problem. It is a problem but it’s not a problem. All the symptoms we’re experiencing are not the root cause. The body is speaking to us, my body is out of balance, something’s going on. We have to go deeper and find the root cause and the root cause is always going to be how do I support the body to balance itself out? Because the body knows how to heal itself when we remove the things that are hurting it, give it the nutrients it needs and it’s important needs so that it can do its own work the body does its own healing. We have to figure out what we’re doing to hinder that healing and how we can support that healing. That’s why I love how flexible Naturopaths are because that’s what you’re looking for. How can I support this body to heal itself?
[00:54:53] Dr. Devin Miles: Yeah. Going back to what you said about the nitrates and nitrites, chemical and heavy metal toxicity is a significant obstacle that needs to be removed. That I think is a huge piece as to why Americans and I suppose Canadians as well, I can’t speak to Canadians, but in general, I think why our world is getting sicker and sicker. Because it’s in addition to I talked about with medications being synthetic, chemicals themselves are foreign to the body. They’re not supposed to be there. When we’re consuming them through our food, our water, and our air all of these things also need to be looked at.
Not too long into when I started my business, I’m on Instagram @drdevinmiles, and another organization reached out to me. They were advocating for farmers. I think it was Central America, but apparently, there was something about the practices that were going on down there that was giving people kidney disease. It was a chemical within the crop that they were farming.
[00:56:15] Ashley James: It was probably glyphosate which is in Roundup. I’m only saying this because in Sri Lanka, the whole country banned glyphosate which is in Roundup. At the time it was Monsanto, they banned Monsanto’s Roundup because the farmers who are working in the rice paddy field so if you’ve ever seen rice fields it’s like a marsh and the farmers— their skin is exposed to the water. Before they used Roundup they were using arsenic as a way to combat pests. That was working, I guess. I don’t know how they didn’t have arsenic poisoning but that was working, and then they used glyphosate.
The problem with glyphosate is that it’s a chelator. It binds to certain heavy metals and then it will release them when pH changes in the body. When pH changes in the body it’s when fluids change from one to another so blood to cerebral spinal fluid, blood to urine. That’s why, all of a sudden, all farmers in Sri Lanka developed kidney disease because the glyphosate which had bound to the, I believe it was arsenic, metals in the water and then was releasing them quickly into the kidneys. If you can imagine running a country and all of your farmers who are working in the rice fields become sick you want to take action.
Luckily, they detected it was that and they got rid of it. Unfortunately, Monsanto or now Bayer has been pressuring the country to let them use it again. I don’t know where that stands, but that’s the problem with glyphosate. I’m sure there are other ones but glyphosate in particular is a nasty chemical that is put into our crops because it is a chelator that will bind to heavy metals and then deposit them into our brain and into our kidneys. Kidneys more so than the brain, from what I’ve heard. I’m imagining that’s what it is. Like you said, chemicals are man-made are foreign to the body. We did not evolve for hundreds of thousands of years with these chemicals.
[00:58:36] Dr. Devin Miles: Right. I would just like to also say when it came to these farmers these are like 28-year-old men. Sometimes we look at kidney disease as something that may happen to people later, and that’s not necessarily the case. It is important to keep a diet that is conducive to kidney health and also to be mindful of the different chemicals like the nitrates, the nitrates, and glyphosate to make sure that you’re avoiding those things as much as possible.
Of course, if you can have more of an organic diet you’re going to reduce the amount of chemicals that you’re exposed to even through eating things that are per se from scratch or fresh produce. Because, of course, there’s going to be higher amounts of pesticides, fungicides, and all of these, there’s going to be higher amounts if you are in fact eating non-organic produce. I particularly tell people who like to juice, when you’re juicing juice organic because you’re getting a higher amount of everything—the good and the bad. Just make sure when you’re juicing that you’re juicing organic.
[00:59:48] Ashley James: Absolutely. That’s very important. Even go so far as to grow your own produce and juice it or a friend or a farmer locally that you know that you can get to know the quality of the produce. That’s awesome. Are there any other? I know we got side-tracked there. You’ve got a list, you’ve got a list. Okay, let’s continue on your list.
[01:00:15] Dr. Devin Miles: In addition to large amounts of meat, restricting alcohol, coffee, and black tea. One thing that I would say about coffee is that coffee is in fact a diuretic. When you drink coffee, you have to make sure that you’re balancing it out with even more water because coffee is going to make you lose water. If you’re trying to protect your kidneys and you’re trying to avoid kidney stones you have to compensate with drinking more water if you’re in fact going to drink coffee. But in general, it’s better to get off of having too much coffee in your life. Again, you would have to figure out why someone’s drinking. I’ve seen some clients drink like half a pot of coffee, that’s way too much. Helping you to get off of coffee is going to be really important for you, as well as black tea.
One of the things that can be helpful for calcium oxalate stones is magnesium, and the reason for that is because it increases what’s called the solubility of it. Getting back to making sure that it does not clump and form a crystal in the urine. Magnesium helps to decrease that chance of that happening. Also, potassium can do essentially the same thing. It helps to reduce the saturation of calcium oxalate and it helps to decrease crystal formation.
Stopping smoking. As I mentioned before, if you are a smoker you’re getting in more cadmium and that can increase your chances of forming stones. Of course, that’s easier said than done but starting that path. This is another reason why it would be worth starting that path. Reducing caffeine intake and in general, hydrating to the point of two liters per day of output. That’s what I mean when I’m saying drinking a lot of water.
I have a lot of clients who when they first start coming to me they’re only drinking about two glasses a day. You hear everybody say drink water, make sure you hydrate yourself, but there’s a lot of people on a day-to-day basis who are not doing that. I would just encourage everyone, not just people who have kidney stones or kidney disease, to drink a good amount of water every day. I try to make sure people are getting at least eight glasses a day, it just depends on what they’re coming in for, but particularly for kidney stones, kidney disease you need to be drinking a lot more water.
[01:02:45] Ashley James: Could we stop there for a sec? How much is enough? I’ve heard drink ½ of your body weight in ounces. If you’re 200 pounds you should drink 100 ounces a day. I’ve also heard you could drink 1/3 of your body weight in ounces but then add 8 ounces for every vice. Every time you’re stressed out, exercise, smoke, or drink caffeine or alcohol. What’s your philosophy on how much water we should drink?
[01:03:17] Dr. Devin Miles: I usually try to get people to do half their body weight in ounces. If it’s somebody who’s overweight, that can be an astronomical number for them. I just try to get them to drink as much as possible. When I say half your body weight in ounces, I find that to be something that has to be worked up to. I’m always just trying to get my clients to get to that level. I mainly just keep it at half your body weight in ounces. I try to talk to them about the type of water that I would like them to drink.
If they have like a reverse osmosis filtration system I’m going to suggest adding more minerals, or at the very least, adding some sea salt to the water you drink or some lemon juice, cucumber, or lime juice to put minerals back in the water. Because when you drink just water that is reverse osmosis, it’s less nourishing to your system because water is not just something to help with solubility and increasing filtration, it’s also supposed to be very nourishing to the body. It supplies some of these minerals, right? Having something like spring water, alkaline water, or putting things in your water to increase the mineral content is something that I do suggest and just making sure that they’re drinking half their body weight in ounces. At a minimum, eight glasses a day.
I’m somebody who needs about eight glasses or so in terms of my body weight, I’m a smaller person. When I put that rule out there, I know that that’s roughly the minimum. That’s why I’m always trying to just get people even to that point.
[01:04:59] Ashley James: It also depends on someone’s diet. Someone who eats a carnivore diet versus a paleo diet versus a whole food plant-based diet, it’s going to get different levels of fiber. I’ve known people who’ve switched over to eating more fiber and all of a sudden they became more dehydrated because they didn’t realize that fiber binds to the moisture. If you’re going to start eating more fiber eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Especially chia or flax, you definitely want to add a lot more water to it.
If you don’t get enough fiber, there’s a whole separate discussion on the long term damages that the body will undergo if we don’t get enough fiber. Of course, not enough fiber and not enough water combined—you’re setting your body up for disease. We want to increase fiber and increase water. If you increase fiber you’ve got to increase water even more.
[01:06:00] Dr. Devin Miles: Another way that some men might be able to gauge their water intake is by their ejaculation fluids. Sometimes it can be very, very clumpy if they’re not drinking enough water, and other times it’s more fluid if they’re drinking enough. That could be another quick way to tell.
[01:06:24] Ashley James: That’s interesting. I didn’t know that. I learned something new.
[01:06:31] Dr. Devin Miles: The other thing that I wanted to mention was some things that can be helpful for the cystine stones because that is more rare, as I mentioned before, alkalinizing the urine is important. I had a client who was forming kidney stones every single year for the past 30-something years. He had to get lithotripsy to dissolve them and break them up. That’s a procedure you would go in the office to get the skinny stones broken up.
He would notice that every time he would get those procedures done his kidney function would go down. Now that he’s very focused on keeping his urine alkaline, which he does test through the pH strips, through his diet he does this. Ever since he’s done that he has significantly reduced how often he gets kidney stones. At one point he was not getting them at all. Just recently he had a little pinch of something but nothing compared to what he used to get every single year.
For people with kidney stones that are cystine, just know that if you are very committed to alkalinizing the urine you can see some results that way from preventing the formation of kidney stones. Of course, just restricting the amount of sodium that’s less formation of different crystals within the body as well. I was just going to talk about a few herbs that can be helpful for kidney function as well, is that where you like me to go next?
[01:08:22] Ashley James: Yeah.
[01:08:23] Dr. Devin Miles: Okay. All right. Cool. Of course, the next step is how are your kidneys in general? If you’re somebody who’s forming kidney stones a lot there may be a propensity to do kidney damage. One of the things that I implement with my clients who have high-risk factors for kidney disease and then I also would implement it for clients who also have kidney disease are herbs that can be protective of the kidneys and also help to restore function to the kidneys.
When I said to address the cause, hypertension and diabetes are two top reasons that people might have kidney disease or get kidney disease in the United States. Just remember that, in general, you have to look at the cause of kidney disease. Kidney disease usually happens because of something else going on in the body. Even if it’s very much kidney related, there’s some sort of imbalance going on in the body that needs to be addressed.
Milk thistle is an herb that most people know about for the liver, but milk thistle is also very beneficial for the kidneys. It helps to reduce blood glucose. It also helps to reduce your HbA1c as well as serum creatinine. Creatinine is a marker that you can look at to assess kidney function. It’s often looked at when you get routine blood work. It could also reduce uric acid in urine volume, and it does help to regenerate the kidneys. Milk thistle itself is an antioxidant. I do want to mention what you said about what Dr. Wallach said about increasing antioxidants. In my studies of kidney disease, the main theme that I pulled from that was you have to reduce the inflammation and you have to improve the antioxidant status of the person’s body.
Inflammation can feed free radical damage, free radical damage can feed inflammation. It’s important to reduce the inflammation and boost the antioxidants at the same time. Milk thistle can be helpful with improving antioxidant status within the body. Secondly would be cordyceps. Cordyceps isn’t actually an herb, it’s more like a fungus but it could also help to reduce blood urine nitrogen.
Again, another marker that is often used to assess the kidney function, reduces creatinine, and increases protein in the urine. Protein in the urine is a common sign that people look forward to assess if the kidneys are damaged. When I talked about kidneys being a filtration system, the kidneys are not supposed to be filtering out protein in such a way that it would be picked up on a urinalysis. If there’s protein in your urine, there’s some sort of compromise going on with the kidneys.
Cordyceps also, just overall, improves the immune system, it can help with improvement in anemia, and also is good for kidney regeneration. When we talk about kidney regeneration I highlight that on purpose because in conventional medicine, if there’s not that idea that the kidneys can regenerate themselves is non-existent. The liver is very well-known to regenerate. It has the capability to regenerate itself.
In modern conventional medicine, that belief system is not there unless you’re at extremely early stages of kidney disease. They may see that oh you’re having some protein in your urine. It may be something having to do with your blood pressure is too high. If you start to correct things very quickly in that moment like an MD, you can see some reversal and get out of kidney disease. But if you’re at kidney disease stage 3, they’re not trying to tell you that we can get you out of kidney disease because they have this idea that the kidneys cannot regenerate.
This is where Naturopathic medicine can come in and help to start to bring back function to the kidneys. A lot of people do call me when they’re at kidney disease stage 4 or stage 5. I want to bring that to people’s attention as well. I launched a free ebook for people to start to learn how to monitor their own kidney function because it’s like there’s some sort of disconnect between the position telling them hey you’re at kidney disease stage 1, 2, or 3. It’s like they don’t really tell them until they’re at stage 4 or stage 5. Even before that, even if they know they have kidney disease, the physicians are saying things like oh you’re fine, it’s not that bad.
Around stage 4 or stage 5 they’re like hey you’re at stage 4 or stage 5, you need to be considering dialysis. I think that the educational piece is not there. I find it important to put that back on the public to be like hey this is what you need to be looking at when you get your routine blood work and it’s only a few markers that I educate people on to look at and to look at it regularly, especially if you are at higher risk for getting kidney disease [inaudible 01:14:13] thing because you have something like hypertension, lupus, or diabetes so that you can bring that to your physician and be like hey what do we need to do about this? This is what’s going on. That’s really important.
The milk thistle can be helpful, cordyceps can be helpful, and then flaxseed can also be helpful as well. It helps to reduce the inflammation and can be very helpful in the case of lupus nephritis. Any other questions you have, Ashley?
[01:14:47] Ashley James: Yeah. I’ve definitely heard of herbs being used to soften the kidney stones and herbs used to support the kidney function and decrease inflammation. These are all tools that MDs have no training in. Of course, Naturopaths, this is where you guys shine. What about homeopathy or other forms of therapies or therapeutic interventions to support kidneys? Have you seen homeopathy be successfully used?
[01:15:19] Dr. Devin Miles: I have not used homeopathy for kidney disease. I’m aware that it has been used, I just haven’t used it myself yet. I’ve been more focused on the herbs for helping with kidney disease. Unfortunately, I can’t speak too much to that, but I do know that in some cases like homeopathic mustard seed might be helpful for kidney disease.
[01:15:43] Ashley James: Interesting. That’s cool. Awesome. Do you have any stories of success you’d like to share?
[01:15:53] Dr. Devin Miles: The main one is the guy with the cystine kidney stones. As I mentioned before, when we alkalinized his urine, he stopped having kidney stones. In addition to that though, when he did start to have more of an alkalized diet, he also was someone who was dealing with hypertension and high uric acid. He has not had to take as much hypertensive medication. His uric acid also went down. Of course, by the time I started working with him he was already at like stage 4 kidney disease. I did put him on a blend of herbs that also included cordyceps.
Another one that can be helpful is nettle seed. We hear about nettles more so from the standpoint of seasonal allergies but that is nettle’s leaf. When it comes to herbs, you have to also know what part of the herb that you need to bring about the result that you’re looking for. Nettle seed is also helpful for improving the function of the kidneys. It was that as well as gotu kola can also be helpful for reducing the scarring of the kidneys. That’s something else to keep in mind is that when the kidneys are scarred, that is another area where conventional medicine does not have a solution for. Once it’s scarred it’s scarred. But with herbal medicine, you can in fact start to see a reduction of scarring within the kidneys.
[01:17:44] Ashley James: Gotu kola is not a type of soda pop.
[01:17:48] Dr. Devin Miles: No, no. It is not a type of soda pop.
[01:17:50] Ashley James: It sounds like a delicious drink, gotu kola. It’s an herb, right?
[01:17:57] Dr. Devin Miles: Yes, it’s an herb. Kola is spelled K-O-L-A. This is an herb with multiple benefits—as most herbs are. Most herbs have multiple different things that they are capable of doing. In school, we had a garden of herbs in the back. Some of the students would just chew some of the gotu kola leaves before they went for an exam because it can be helpful with cognitive function. It’s also helpful for situations like venous insufficiency. It’s a good toner for the vessels. When we’re talking about kidney disease, of course, we’re also talking about the blood vessels as well. It may be indicated in that way as well, but I particularly use it if I am looking to help reduce the scarring of the kidneys.
That would be my main one where I saw not just the blend of herbs that I used on that client did help to increase kidney function. It was at a point where he was very concerned about going on dialysis. This was somebody who really wanted to avoid dialysis. He had a commitment to staying on the herbs, sticking to his diet. That would be a big thing that I would tell people with kidney disease is that you have to be very, very proactive about it because, for years, this client was not.
He ate a lot of meat. He took his blood pressure medication but at one point he wasn’t taking it the way he should and all of these things. You just have to make sure that you’re very committed to helping make sure that your body stays in balance and taking the different herbs that people are suggesting or the different minerals and being consistent with that.
Just speaking up, if for some reason something is not working for you, particularly with men. I have noticed that sometimes they will stop taking something and not tell you something about it—I felt sick or something like that. You have to be able to voice that so that the doctor can adjust things because there’s a lot of different herbs that can be helpful for kidney disease. It’s not like I’m just sticking with just one. It’s just important that you are very much communicating what you need with your doctor so that you can get to the goal of restoring kidney function.
[01:20:27] Ashley James: I love it. It is possible. It’s possible to support the body’s ability in healing itself. Just to come at it from a different angle, my cat who is 16 years old has kidney disease. I was seeing a traditional vet and there were very little resources she had. Then I went to a holistic vet. I guess this is kind of like the Naturopath of vets. He’s been a vet for over 30 years, and he uses natural medicine for animals. I know him because a friend of mine, he reversed a chronic disease in her cat. Her cat lived, I think something like 21, very healthfully.
I brought my cat to him and he immediately found so many issues. He found a parasite that was actually never seen in cats, it’s only ever seen in dogs, so we treated that. He adjusted our cat’s food and gave him a supplement. He said I don’t expect it to completely go away, but I definitely expect us to go back to like early, early stage. That’s what’s happened for our cat, who’s a senior—as a 16-year-old, he went from almost end-stage kidney disease to very, very beginning kidney disease. Our vet believes that now he’s going to live a very long and healthy life.
We are animals. Our bodies are just like animals. If we can do that, if we can reverse and prevent disease in animals, we can do it to our own body. Bringing back up Dr. Wallach, his background is on a farm. He was raised on a farm. He saw as a child, he asked his parents why do we give supplements to the cows but we don’t take supplements. Our cows don’t wait to get sick and then go to a doctor and then get put on a bunch of medication. His farm wasn’t like a factory farmer; those cows got to go outside, get exercise, and eat grass.
They were also given supplements. He read the ingredients and he saw well there are vitamins, there are minerals in here. They make sure the calves are given all these pellets with all these minerals. He thought it was really odd that the system of medicine for animals was to prevent disease because preventing disease is cheaper than waiting to get sick and then having to pay for medication.
Can you imagine if our animals were in the same medical system as all of us, right? A burger would be $5,000 because the animal would have to wait to get sick and then be put on all these medications and have all these surgeries. It’s kind of ridiculous but it’s because it’s for-profit. Because it’s for-profit, it benefits the farmer to make sure they prevent disease in animals. Why isn’t our focus in medicine to prevent disease in humans? Because it’s for profit.
We have to remember that the funding that these universities have, and have had for over 100 years, are from the pharmaceutical industry. That there’s a lot going on in the background that has the system set up in a way that is for-profit. I’m not saying that individual doctors are evil and looking to profit from our sickness, but that the system as a whole is set up to profit from people being sick and not profit from preventing illness.
If we can look at that, how do farmers keep healthcare costs down on the farm? Again, I’m not saying factory farms because those are incredibly sick and damaged animals, but the farms where the animals roam free. What are the farmers doing to keep animals healthy and prevent disease, and why don’t we adopt the exact same philosophy? Have access to clean water, get plenty of outdoor exercise, get really healthy, eat lots of plants, and also take supplements when needed to fill in those nutrient gaps.
That’s what farmers do to prevent disease on the farm is to make sure that there are no nutrient deficiencies in the animals. When there is, there are documented cases of the disease. That’s the same as humans. It’s very clear that the philosophy of health and medicine make a difference when it comes to seeing a Naturopath versus any other kind of practitioner.
[01:25:23] Dr. Devin Miles: Just kind of an overall thing that I think our society, the way that it’s built, is that there were things built upon that needed adjustment. When you build something and you’re not flexible in the building of it to create an environment that allows for adjustment, I think that is maybe where some of the problem lies especially if it’s lucrative in how it’s built. When we’re talking about the system of health in this country is not what it should be, it’s a system that was built. You have to be able to break that down and to adjust it. When people are finally willing to break it down and do it again, I think that’s when you’re going to really see some change.
[01:26:22] Ashley James: Those that are listening right are those who their thinking is in the right place. They want to do everything they can to support their body’s ability to heal itself, they want to nutrify their body. The 37.2 trillion cells in their body are crying out to be detoxified, filled with nutrients, hydrated, and treated with love. That’s what we want to do, it’s what our listeners want to do. They’ve learned so much from you today. I’d love for you to give us some homework. Set us up with some homework that we can do every day to optimize our kidney health and prevent kidney disease.
[01:26:59] Dr. Devin Miles: A few things that have been helpful for alkalinizing the urine—one of them is pomegranate juice. Making sure that you’re getting a very high-quality pomegranate juice is where you’ll see the most benefit from that. Cantaloupe is another one. Pinto beans, which was like oh really. Pinto beans can also be another one that can be helpful for alkalinizing the urine. Getting pH strips if in fact you do have kidney stones or kidney disease and regularly testing your urine to make sure that it’s staying in the alkaline range.
You will be able to start to notice what acidifies your urine, what makes it more alkaline. Through that process, you’ll be able to have a more balanced diet. I’m not saying that you can’t eat meat, but it needs to be most likely more moderate if you have very acidic urine. That’s the same with, of course, coffee, which is in addition to being a diuretic it’s also very highly acidic. Looking at the things that cause acidity, it’s not just about knowing what alkalinizes the body, it’s also about knowing what makes it acidic and having a better balance between those.
Pomegranate juice, cantaloupe, and pinto beans are three foods that you can start incorporating more to achieve better alkalinity. Water, water, water. I cannot stress that enough because I really feel like most people take that part for granted like it’s not that important but it is very, very important. Just remembering that magnesium can also help increase the solubility of these different compounds that can form crystals.
Magnesium can be helpful for constipation. It’s also helpful for reducing muscle spasms. When we were talking about the prescription medications that are called antispasmodics, magnesium can also help to be an antispasmodic. The three alkalizing foods: pomegranate, juice cantaloupe, pinto beans. Remember to drink half your body weight in ounces with water, and then keeping in mind that magnesium can be very helpful if in fact you have a kidney stone, or if in fact you have constipation.
Again, remembering if you have a digestive issue you have some sort of intestinal problem, that also needs to be addressed so that you can reduce forming different types of kidney stones.
[01:29:47] Ashley James: Before we hit record, you had alluded that there’s a connection between gut health, maybe in the microbiome, and kidney health. Can you go into that a bit?
[01:29:58] Dr. Devin Miles: If there is an imbalance within the intestinal tract, sometimes you can have increased absorption of certain compounds like intestinal over-absorption of oxalates. When you have that happening, then the kidneys have to filter that out. If you’re putting too much in the kidneys in terms of different compounds that are conducive to forming kidney stones, again, that’s another situation where it’s too saturated. It’s important from that standpoint, in terms of understanding where this excess amount of compounds going to the kidneys is coming from, it may in fact be coming from a compromised intestinal mucosal layer.
In that case, I would be concerned about okay, do you have good digestive health? What’s your secretory IgA levels? Do you have food sensitivities? Do you have gas and bloating? What’s your mental health like? If clinically, something is a little bit imbalanced mentally, that could also be something simple as you need to stop eating gluten because gluten and mental health have been very much linked, and of course gluten and digestive issues have been very much linked. It’s about figuring out okay do you have a digestive component to kidney stones? Do you have a digestive component to kidney disease?
[01:31:37] Ashley James: You mentioned earlier oxalates, should everyone monitor their oxalates and reduce them, or only those with kidney disease? Do oxalates cause kidney disease? How can some people eat pounds of spinach and be totally fine, and other people barely look at spinach and get a kidney stone?
[01:32:02] Dr. Devin Miles: I think some of that could in fact be genetic. Going back to maybe someone has a deficiency of the calcium and so they’re forming calcium oxalate stones. Maybe it has more to do with the calcium versus the oxalate. If they have digestive issues, I do think getting tested to see if you have high oxalate amounts could be a good idea, especially if kidney stones were running in your family, there’s a chance that you might be more prone to making them.
So no, I don’t think everyone needs to be monitoring their oxalate levels, but I think people who might have conditions where there’s a propensity to monitor oxalates, then yes, it would be a good idea for you to monitor them. As I mentioned before, if it’s increased uric acid excretion that’s forming the calcium oxalate stones, then decreasing the uric acid would be really important as well. B6 is another vitamin that can be helpful for reducing calcium oxalates as well.
[01:33:15] Ashley James: Excellent. You mentioned magnesium and I got to say, my favorite magnesium—my favorite source, is Kristen Bowen. I’ve had her on the show a few times. She has a magnesium soak that is from the Zechstein Sea and it also has other cofactors in it. You absorb 20 grams of magnesium when you soak in it for an hour.
The first time I soaked in it I felt drunk. I actually felt like I was getting a Myers push. I felt like I was getting IV magnesium, and I couldn’t believe it. I felt it in my body. I’m like whoa, this is amazing. If anyone’s ever had like a Myers push or had like an IV magnesium, you kind of feel drunk. You feel high, you feel very happy, and very relaxed. That’s exactly how I felt in my first time doing her foot. It’s easy just to put your feet in it and soak, but you can also soak in a whole bath. That was probably about two years ago. I’ve had her on the show.
It’s very interesting, she’s done thousands of labs with her customers over the years, over the last I think 13-14 years, and she has people test their magnesium RBC levels before starting and then they do a 30-day challenge where they soak every day for 30 days in the magnesium and then they test their magnesium RBC levels again. 76% of people reach full cell saturation of 5.0, which that’s not the ideal number. Ideally, you want to be more closer to 7.0, but being at 5.0 is good. We’re out of the deficiency. We’re no longer magnesium deficient. The other percentage just takes longer and take more time in soaking.
What she finds is that then when people—through the skin, when you’re absorbing through the skin, they’re obviously bypassing any digestive issues with absorption. Those people then, they’re sort of burning their magnesium faster than they can absorb either through chronic fatigue, or there are other things going on that their body’s sort of using up more magnesium than it can take in and it just takes them longer to soak in it to get to full cell saturation. It helps them to understand underlying issues.
That’s been my favorite source of magnesium. If you want, I’ll send you some information on it. I’ve had over 2,000 listeners use her magnesium soak and absolutely love it. Many of them have shared in the Learn True Health Facebook group their experiences with it, that it’s been life-changing.
My whole family, including our son, loves it. It really helped him with his sleep because we had a really hard time getting him to sleep until he started soaking and putting the magnesium in his bath. He now goes to sleep much easier, which is great. Any parent who struggles with a child that won’t go to sleep it’s like a lifesaver. It’s a magnesium soak and it can be found at livingthegoodlifenaturally.com and then use coupon code LTH for the listener discount. I know that’s like the world’s longest URL, livingthegoodlifenaturally.com. Coupon code LTH.
Your website is easy to remember, however. It’s drdevinmiles.com. Of course, the links to everything you do—your Twitter, your Instagram, your Facebook, and your YouTube—it’s all going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com.
It’s been great talking to you about kidney health. Everything that you talked about, in terms of supporting kidneys would support the whole body. Drinking more water supports the whole body. Focusing on making sure digestion is optimal. Making sure we’ve got the right vitamins, the right minerals. Making sure that we’re adjusting the diet to include more plants, more fiber. Taking some herbs that not only support the kidneys but support other functions of the body.
In terms of taking those herbs, I would hate for someone to take too much of it. Is there a dosage or a way? Would you rather have them take it as a tea, a tincture, or a dried herb in a capsule? Could you get into that?
[01:37:43] Dr. Devin Miles: That’s varied per person, to be honest. There’s definitely such a thing as too much of an herb. When it comes to dosages, it really is dependent. It’s like what you were saying before with people with digestive issues, they sometimes may need more, sometimes they may need less. It really does depend. When you’re talking about the magnesium, one thing that can be helpful for people with digestive issues is instead of a tablet, having more of a capsule, a powder, or a liquid [inaudible 01:38:18] so much further with them versus something that’s like one more thing that’s hard for them to digest because the powder or the liquids are going to get into their system much quicker.
But when it comes to kidney disease, usually what I try to do is the tinctures, which is a liquid so that it can get into their system much quicker. Especially when you’re doing herbal combinations and you’re doing at least five herbs, doing it in the liquid form is going to be much easier for them to take versus five different capsules of herbs. It just depends on the person though because I could say that and then they may be like no, I’d rather capsules. It’s also about listening to the person in what they need. In terms of dosages, it really just depends on the person.
[01:39:10] Ashley James: Got it. It’s best to work with a Naturopathic physician who’s experienced in working with supporting the kidneys.
[01:39:18] Dr. Devin Miles: Yes, yes, yes.
[01:39:20] Ashley James: Like yourself.
[01:39:21] Dr. Devin Miles: Yes, you know what I mean? It brings to light the hope that things can change. We’re more educated in this realm of possibility. It’s that yes, these things can in fact help your kidneys. You don’t have to just wait until dialysis happens. You can be doing something in the interim to support kidney health.
That’s one thing that I’m always trying to help people to understand is that what I do is empowering. I’m not just here to help per se fix you. It’s not just about that. It’s about teaching you how to help yourself, and that’s really what I’m doing. I’m a teacher, and I like being able to teach people.
[01:40:10] Ashley James: Right. The root for doctor is doceri, which means teacher, so you take that very seriously. You can’t come home with us, make us take our supplements, cook our food for us, make us go for walks, and make us drink our water. You have to teach us so that we go do it ourselves. The hope needs to be installed, needs to be shared. We really need to believe. The first thing we need to do is believe the body can heal itself.
The things I’ve seen the body heal are so miraculous. Using Dr. Wallach as an example, he has helped thousands of people get off of dialysis—no longer need dialysis when they were told they would be on dialysis for the rest of their very short life. We can heal our body to the point where it recovers even when we’ve told it won’t ever recover. So who are they to say you can’t heal yourself.
We first have to decide that yes, there’s always a point of bifurcation, there’s always a point of no return, right? There’s always that, but are you there yet, and who’s to say that you’re at that point? We should never give our personal power over like that. We need to fight right to the very end. Doing things like supporting the body’s ability to heal itself, even if you’re on dialysis, change your diet. Work with a doctor that knows kidneys and know dialysis and so that you can take the supplements that are in alignment with you right now, but take the herbs. Change the diet, change the lifestyle, and do it in a way to support your kidneys. Maybe your body will get so healthy you no longer need dialysis, or maybe you get so healthy your dialysis gets cut in half. Either way, you’re supporting the body as a whole.
It’s just so important that we don’t give up and give our personal power over to someone and just say okay whatever this doctor says this is just the way it’s going to be. It’s ludicrous. We’re giving over our personal power when we do that. We need to fight, keep educating ourselves, and keep learning from doctors like you who have alternative information that is science-based and that empowers us.
We have to question, why is it that not all doctors have this information? We have to advocate for ourselves and go to different doctors. Go to different holistic doctors, go to all sorts of different professionals who have different perspectives and different pieces of the pie so that we can help our body heal, but never, never take no as an answer. Never believe that our body is just breaking down and we’re done.
It upsets me when I hear someone with type 2 diabetes was told they’ll always have type 2 diabetes. They just have to be on this medication for the rest of their life, they’ll always have it. That should be a crime. It should honestly be a crime to be told that when it’s reversible and easily reversed all the time under the care of the right physician, under the care of a Naturopath or under the care of a doctor that practices holistic medicine. Under your care, you’re supporting your clients and your patients in having optimal kidney function at any stage.
[01:43:40] Dr. Devin Miles: To second what you just said, the theme that I want the listeners to keep in their minds is stay curious. If somebody says no this is not possible—just stay curious and go look somewhere else because you’ll probably find the answer that you’re looking for. This world is a very, very large world with a lot of different opinions.
The US is not God when it comes to healing information, they’re certainly not. There are different things that are great here, but if you’re not finding the answers that you’re looking for—stay curious. That would be the thing I would definitely want you to keep in mind because that has really been helpful for me.
I think a lot, and I was curious, and so I just went for it. I didn’t even think about it, honestly. When I was doing all these things in my 20s, I just did them because I saw the possibility. As I learned more, I realized there’s more and there’s more. Just stay curious.
[01:44:51] Ashley James: Stay curious. I love it. Awesome. Thank you so much Dr. Devin Miles for coming on the show today. It’s been such a pleasure having you here.
[01:44:59] Dr. Devin Miles: You’re welcome. Thank you for inviting me to be on the show. I just want to mention to everyone that I am doing telehealth consultations. Even if you’re not right here in Texas I am reachable.
[01:45:15] Ashley James: Fantastic. That’s great information especially nowadays when we can’t even see our doctor in person. Might as well call you up.
[01:45:25] Dr. Devin Miles: That’s what I mean. Go find the answers that you need even if they’re not right in your neighborhood, they’re somewhere else.
[01:45:35] Ashley James: I hope you enjoyed today’s interview with Dr. Devin Miles, holistic Naturopathic physician, and how you can support your overall kidney health. I did mention the supplements that Dr. Wallach created. The mineral supplements that have the very bioavailable form of calcium that’s really supportive of the kidneys, and in some cases, helps to even prevent stones especially when the person has a mineral deficiency.
If you’d like to try those supplements and talk to an expert on them please go to takeyoursupplements.com. You will definitely love those supplements. I’ve been on them since 2011, and they have helped me to reverse my health issues and conceive our child naturally. I have a whole story I’ve shared in the past.
I’m going to be publishing very soon my interview with Dr. Wallach who just turned 80 years old and is still a very active and practicing Naturopathic physician. He is my hero, he’s my mentor, and he is the creator of the supplements that I take and the supplements that we sell at takeyoursupplements.com. Please go to takeyoursupplements.com and check them out. I absolutely love them. I highly recommend them. They are bioavailable, all-natural supplements so that we can make sure that you have all 60 minerals in your life, in your body so you don’t have a mineral deficiency.
Excellent. Thank you so much for being a listener and sharing this episode with those you care about. Let’s help as many people as possible to learn true health.
Get Connected with Dr. Devin Miles!
Recommended Reading by Dr. Devin Miles
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Dr. Michael Greger & Ashley James
- Foods that we should be adding to our daily diet
- Benefits of whole food plant-based diet
- Diseases reversed by whole food plant-based diet
- What people in Blue Zones share in common
What is the best diet that provides the best outcome for everybody? Dr. Michael Greger, author of books How Not to Die, How Not to Diet, and How to Survive a Pandemic, shares with us the best diet for everybody. He also talks about some of the foods we should eat on a daily basis and what lifestyle changes we need to do.
Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. I’m so excited for you to listen to today’s interview with Dr. Greger. He only does half-an-hour interviews so I had to be very on point with my questions, to get as much information out of him as possible. One big message that he brings is how you can heal your body and prevent disease with food. If you have a disease, you can actually reverse it with nutrition.
If you’d like to learn how to cook in a way that heals the body that is in alignment with how Dr. Greger teaches, please join the Learn True Health Home Kitchen. I designed a membership where I teach with my friend Naomi how to cook food that is delicious, that’s healing for the body, and that your whole family will love. Come join the membership and check it out. You’ll also be supporting the Learn True Health podcast and helping me to continue to produce interviews like this when you join the Learn True Health Home Kitchen. Go to learn to your learntruehealth.com/homekitchen. That’s learntruehealth.com/homekitchen.
Come check it out and just learn how to bring more nutrient-dense foods into your diet to heal your body and support your body’s ability to prevent and reverse disease. Excellent. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you love. Enjoy today’s interview.
[00:01:32] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 433. I am very excited for today’s guest. Dr. Greger, you are quite an honored guest to have here today. My best friend and I are both whole food plant-based. She just wants you to know that if you ever become single she would leave her husband for you. You’ve got a lot of fans. You’ve got a lot of fans here. We’re big admirers of your work, your books—How Not to Die, How Not to Diet—and then you have the latest one, How to Survive a Pandemic. I can’t wait to talk about that. Your website nutritionfacts.org is fascinating. I highly recommend everyone go to it and use it. How do you do everything you do? You’re constantly pumping out books, articles, and videos. You must have a huge team to support you. You either that or you have a troubling meth problem. I don’t know. You’re just always producing amazing things. We’re really in awe of you.
[00:02:43] Dr. Michael Greger: That’s very sweet. I do indeed have this fantastic staff, not only 14 folks on staff in the non-profit Nutrition Facts, but we have about 200 active volunteers at any one time. We have this tremendous team of folks—all churning out wonderful life-changing, life-saving information. That’s what it’s all about.
[00:03:09] Ashley James: Absolutely. It’s quite controversial asking people to change their diet to reverse and prevent disease especially since the government puts out their recommendations. According to what they put out, that’s a disease-causing diet. There’s so much controversy. MDs are not trained in nutrition. You have to go above and beyond as an MD to learn how to heal with food. Can you tell us about what happened in your life that made you want to help people heal with food?
[00:03:41] Dr. Michael Greger: Sure. It was really all thanks to my grandmother. I was just a kid when the doctor sent my grandma home in the wheelchair to die. She was diagnosed with end-stage heart disease. She basically already had so many bypass operations. The surgeons basically run out of plumbing at some point, confined in the wheelchair, crushing chest pain, and her life was over at age 65. Pretty sure you’ve heard about this guy Nathan Pritikin, one of our early lifestyle medicine pioneers. What happened next is actually detailed in Pritikin’s biography. He talks about Frances Greger, my grandmother. They wheeled her in and she walked out. In fact, within a few weeks, she was walking 10 miles a day. Thanks to [inaudible 00:04:22] though she was given a medical death sentence at age 65, thanks to a healthy diet she went on to live another 31 years till age 96 to continue to enjoy her six grandkids including me. That’s why I went into medicine. That’s why I started nutritionfacts.org. That’s why I wrote the book How Not to Die and why 100% of the proceeds I get from all my books are donated to charity. I just want to do for everyone’s family what Pritikin did for my family.
[00:04:49] Ashley James: How do you make an income then if everything you do seems to fund amazing charities?
[00:04:54] Dr. Michael Greger: I’m on staff at nutritionfacts.org. I’m the Chief Science Officer. Those who make donations to the 501(c)(3) non-profit Nutrition Facts, they are helping me put kale on the table.
[00:05:14] Ashley James: I love it. Speaking of kale, you’ve mentioned kale as being one of your favorite superfoods, what other foods should we eat every day or at least every week and why?
[00:05:24] Dr. Michael Greger: That’s the second half of my book How Not to Die. The first half is just 15 chapters and each of the 15 leading causes of death talking about the role of diet. [Inaudible 00:05:32] preventing, resting, and reversing each of our top 15 killers, but I didn’t want it to just be a reference book. I wanted it to be a practical guide. I’m translating this mountain of data into day-to-day grocery store type decisions. To that end, the second half of the book centers around my recommendations wherein a daily dozen checklist of all the things that try to fit into my daily routine. For example, berries every day the healthiest types of fruits, greens every day the healthiest types of vegetables, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed, and ¼ teaspoon turmeric. The best beverages, best sweeteners, and how much exercise to get. Basically, just try to motivate people to include some of the healthiest of healthy foods into their daily diet.
[00:06:13] Ashley James: You discuss Blue Zones or at least we see that there’s so much information coming out of Blue Zones and there’s a controversy because some Blue Zones consume meat, there’s one that doesn’t. The one in Italy is all about olive oil. Apparently, olive oil is the cure and the best thing we could ever do. We don’t know what the driver is. We have to look at the similarities. Obviously, you pore through the science. You’re all about science-based nutrition. What is the commonality in all the Blue Zones that really make the difference that if we applied the same principles to our lifestyle and diet we would get the same result?
[00:06:51] Dr. Michael Greger: What they all share in common, again, Blue Zones are areas with the greatest long human longevity, the most centenarians per capita. For example, the people who live over 100 years old. What does every single one of them share in common? They eat a diet centered around whole plant foods and their primary source of protein is some form of legume: beans, split peas, chickpeas, or lentils. For example, the Okinawan Japanese, the second-longest living population in the world, it’s about a 97% plant-based diet. Actually, 70% of the calories of sweet potatoes, basically a vegetable centered diet. The only formally studied population that lives longer is the Seventh-day Adventist vegetarians in Loma Linda California. They live longer than anybody else, and they don’t eat any meat at all.
[00:07:45] Ashley James: I just heard a really troubling statistic. I was listening to a White House presentation this week about lowering the cost of insulin. I heard that one in three senior citizens are on insulin. That really disturbed me that the level of insulin use is that high. The level of type 2 diabetes continues to rise. Now there’s so much controversy because, in the mainstream sugar, carbs, and sweet potatoes would be the cause of insulin issues or needing insulin in diabetes, but you propose that a plant-centered diet would actually help to reverse diabetes. Can you explain why?
[00:08:26] Dr. Michael Greger: It’s not controversial in the medical literature. It’s just controversial in internet land where even the roundness of the earth is in question. But no, the science is very clear. Type-2 diabetes and pre-diabetes is caused by insulin resistance. Your body’s resistant to the effects of the insulin that your body produces. What’s that caused by? This is not controversial. If you look at the peer-reviewed medical literature, it’s caused by what is called an intramyocellular lipid. This is fat that’s stuck inside your muscle cells and inside the liver cells in the context of excess calories so it’s caused by fat. Now that can be fat in your mouth that’s going in your mouth, or it can be excess fat that’s on your body. Either way, we have high levels of free-floating fat in the bloodstream, which clogs up your muscle and liver cells, impairs their ability to respond to insulin, and you can end up with type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of adult-onset blindness, amputations, and kidney failure.
It’s no good. Now, we have two pandemics colliding. A pandemic of obesity and diabetes colliding with an infectious disease pandemic. It’s important to realize that the underlying risk factors for COVID-19’s severity and death are obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes all of which can be controlled or even reversed with a healthy enough plant-based diet and lifestyle.
[00:09:59] Ashley James: What about this keto phenomenon? It used to be Atkins back in the day, right? Then it was paleo and now it’s keto. I think people like to think that they can reverse disease if they eat a bunch of meat and fat and avoid those really evil carbohydrates. People see really good results in the short-term with keto, but that’s increasing fat. According to what you just said, wouldn’t that increase insulin resistance and have poor outcomes in the long term?
[00:10:30] Dr. Michael Greger: Within the short-term, within days you increase insulin resistance with a ketogenic diet. In fact, the largest chapter in my book How Not to Diet I talk about the ketogenic diet. The data is very clear. People love hearing good news about their bad habits so any book that comes out and tells people to eat bacon and butter, obviously, are just going to sell better than those that come out and tell people to eat broccoli, but the science is very clear. In fact, switching to a ketogenic diet actually cuts the rate of fat loss in half after switching to a ketogenic diet because you’re actually cannibalizing your own protein, but you get the loss in water weight, which flushes out the ketones. Looking at the bathroom scale, the ketogenic diet seems like a smashing success, but what we care about is not a loss of water or protein. What we care about is the loss of body fat. Actually, body fat loss slows down. That’s why CrossFit trainees placed on a ketogenic diet, their leg muscles shrink as much as [80%] within 2 months. Exercise is supposed to make your muscles bigger, not smaller but that’s what happens when you’re on a ketogenic diet, not a good idea.
[00:11:56] Ashley James: Originally, the ketogenic diet was created to mimic fasting so that children with epilepsy could stay on it long term. What about fasting? There are so many health benefits to fasting being promoted out there. What are your thoughts on fasting and should we do it on a regular basis?
[00:12:12] Dr. Michael Greger: I talk about all types of fasting: alternate-day fasting, intermittent fasting, 55-2 fasting, 25-5 fasting, fasting-mimicking diet, and time-restricted feeding. Bottom line, there are benefits from early time-restricted feeding meaning narrowing your eating window 12 hours or less, but critically, that’s in the morning rather than the evening. If anything, you skip supper not breakfast. That has a variety of benefits both chrono biologically based on our circadian rhythms as well as metabolically. We talked about all the benefits. It’s really quite extraordinary. We should not be eating after sundown. I encourage people to fast after 7:00 PM and try to wait for their greatest caloric intake towards the beginning of the day.
[00:13:03] Ashley James: You have a book How to Survive a Pandemic, is it out already or are you still releasing it?
[00:13:09] Dr. Michael Greger: It is out as of Tuesday, May 26.
[00:13:13] Ashley James: Very cool. Tell us about How to Survive a Pandemic and why should we read it.
[00:13:18] Dr. Michael Greger: I try to cover everything there is to know to protect ourselves and our families from the coronavirus. Everything from optimal [inaudible 00:13:26] and hand hygiene, surface disinfection, masks, and how to make your own and hand sanitizer, but the best way to survive a pandemic is to prevent it in the first place. The bulk of the book actually centers around tracing the origins of the COVID coronavirus and what we can do to prevent even greater infectious disease threats in the future.
[00:13:45] Ashley James: Based on your research, because you love to look at the science and then decide what is the best route based on the results, you’re not choosing diet dogma. I think that doctors who like to share that a plant-based diet is healing for the body tend to get criticized because those who see that there’s look, there’s a study that says that this meat is healthier, this fish is healthier, this dairy is healthy, and then they like to discredit them. But you like to look at the science and the results and go and then share that and go listen, don’t listen to me listen to the results, listen to the science. But based on your research, is there a one diet fits all? If we put 100% of the population on one way of eating, would we be able to reverse all disease, or do there need to be certain tweaks? Let’s say, someone who’s a bodybuilder versus a 90-year-old grandmother versus someone with fatty liver disease, should they all be on slightly different diets based on their nutritional needs?
[00:14:46] Dr. Michael Greger: The good news is that we have a tremendous power of our health, destiny, and longevity. The vast majority of premature death and disability are preventable with a plant-based diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviors just like smoking is bad for everybody. It’s not some people that smoking is good for. Eating a healthy diet is good for everybody. There are things that are good for your body and bad for your body. Some people have allergies to a specific food. Are peanuts bad for you? If you have a peanut allergy, it could kill you, but otherwise no. The same kind of thing. The people that are lactose intolerant that would affect some people will have different caffeine metabolism rates, so coffee affects them a little differently. But it’s not like there are people out there where hotdogs are good for them or broccoli is bad for them.
If you go to truehealthinitiative.org, this is an initiative set forth by Yale’s Prevention Research Center which asks hundreds of the top nutrition scientists in the world to agree on a consensus statement as to what the healthiest diet is. Just like you want to know about climate change, you go to the IPCC. What do climate change scientists have to say, right? So the same thing. You can see that there’s a consensus as to the core tenants of healthy eating and living going back decades, and that is centering one’s diet around whole healthy plant foods.
[00:16:18] Ashley James: You have given many video talks and lessons on your website nutritionfacts.org, which one of all of them are you the most proud of?
[00:16:30] Dr. Michael Greger: Oh, wow. What a great question. Thousands of videos. If I can remember half of them that would be… Every time I put out a book I do a new talk, an hour-long presentation where I pick all the most akin of practical, groundbreaking, interesting bits together. Then it gives you this broad overview. Those are probably my favorite talks. I have one for How Not to Diet. I have one for How Not to Die. Those are probably the talks I’m most proud of. Though I yet have to have an hour-long presentation about How to Survive a Pandemic, but I do have about three hours’ worth of videos coming up—17 videos starting at the end of May running through July on nutritionfacts.org.
[00:17:36] Ashley James: We’ll look out for them for sure. As a doctor, as you’ve been taking your own initiative to study nutrition outside of school, because that’s what doctors have to do in order to really, really learn the truth, and as you’ve been helping people, what one story stands out for you? What healing story surprised you? Someone who actually healed their body that you were really surprised that they were able to heal using nutrition.
[00:18:05] Dr. Michael Greger: Those diseases for which we didn’t think that they were reversible. For example, we didn’t think heart disease was reversible until Pritikin came along and showed that was indeed the case. Diabetic retinopathy, diabetic blindness, we thought that was irreversible you go worse, worse, worse and you go blind. No, that can be reversed with a healthy diet. There are two case reports that just came out suggesting that, caught early enough, even type one diabetes may be able to help with a healthy diet. There was the first case report in enclosing spondylitis, this horrible autoimmune condition attacking the spine. Never had any data on that, but no, plant-based diet helps with that too. No surprise an anti-inflammatory diet helps an inflammatory condition. Those are the most exciting things, these kinds of reversal. We have new data on lupus, which is another autoimmune condition with beneficial effects not just for kidney function, which we had already known, but for other symptoms as well. Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, these are just really exciting to see diseases for which there were no good options. Where the traditional approaches have such downsides in terms of adverse effects. That’s really the most exciting work out there.
[00:19:30] Ashley James: What question am I not asking that you would love to answer?
[00:19:34] Dr. Michael Greger: I don’t know. What’s nutrition facts? Nutrition facts is a free, non-profit, science-based public service providing daily updates in the latest nutritional research via bite-sized videos—more than 1000 videos. Nearly every aspect of healthy eating with new videos and articles uploaded every day—are the latest in evidence-based nutrition. What a concept—nutritionfacts.org.
[00:20:00] Ashley James: For those who are not used to the whole food plant-based diet but are intrigued, can you share what do you eat? What do you eat? What have you eaten in the last 24 hours? What do you eat? Maybe you could share a recipe, one of your favorite recipes that would get people excited about trying to eat more plants.
[00:20:22] Dr. Michael Greger: The daily dozen is what I eat. That’s the reason the Daily Dozen came around because I wanted to eat an evidence-based diet and so I’m just sharing that with everybody. In terms of what I eat in 24 hours, I had a big bowl of miso soup for lunch and some cherries. It’s cherry season and oh my god they’re delicious. Then this morning I had my prebiotic mix, which is a combination of oat groats, purple barley, rye berries, and Beluga lentils mixed with cocoa powder, dark sweet frozen cherries. It was kind of like choco berry cherry action with some nuts and seeds. That was delicious. What did I have last night? Last night I had these blue corn tortillas, which I toasted mixed with a fajita mix, which was onions, peppers, black beans, salsa, and some hummus to make it kind of creamy with some adobo sauce, and some smoked jalapeno peppers. It was nice and spicy. Threw a whole bunch of greens in there. A tortilla kind of action.
In terms of what might be particularly motivating, I think it’s important to realize there’s only one diet ever proven to reverse heart disease in the majority of patients—it’s a plant-based diet. Anytime anyone tries to sell you on some new diet, do me a favor, just ask them a simple question. Wait a second, is this new diet improving to reverse heart disease, the number one reason me and all my loved ones will die? If the answer is no, why would you even consider it? If that’s all a plant-based diet could do—reverse the number one killer of men and women. Isn’t that going to be the default diet to be proven otherwise? In fact, that can also be so effective in preventing resting reversing other leading killers like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. It would seem to make the case for plant-based eating simply overwhelming.
[00:22:46] Ashley James: I love that you mentioned your app, Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen. I have that on my phone. I think it’s a really cool app and I definitely recommend it. I’ve had Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn on the show. I just love, love that he so clearly says here’s the way to eat to reverse heart disease—being a cardiologist still practicing. I think he’s 86. I’m sure you guys are friends. But what’s really frustrating is I’ve had other cardiologists on the show who say we should drink a liter of olive oil a week, that it’s the most healthy thing we could possibly do for our heart. I’m really frustrated because when I learned the damages that oil can have on the body, can you just talk about is oil healthy, is it not healthy? How do we get healthy fats? Could we become fat-deprived by not eating fat? Can you just demystify fat and oil for us?
[00:23:37] Dr. Michael Greger: Oil is kind of the white sugar of the fat kingdom. You take something like a sugar beet, which is really healthy. You remove all the nutrition and you’re left with just sugar, so it’s empty calories. Same thing. You take a walnut, remove all the nutrition, you’re left with walnut oil, and it’s just empty calories. There are a few fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin E, but basically, just throw a lot of fiber, throw out the minerals, and throw out the rest of the nutrition. It’s like why would you do that? If you want to eat olive oil, fine, eat an olive. The problem is, there’s too much sodium in it, so eat an avocado, eat nuts and seeds, or eat whole food sources. How are we going to get carbohydrates? Whole plant food sources. How are we going to get proteins? Whole food plant source. How are we going to get fat? Whole food plant sources. Are these the healthiest? Not only because the stuff that doesn’t have cholesterol, saturated fat, and hormones—all that blah, blah, blah, blah. There are all the beneficial things that you want like antioxidants, fiber, and vital nutrients.
There are some essential fats: omega 3s, omega 6s, but that’s one of the reasons I recommend people to eat a tablespoon of ground flax seeds today to get their alpha-lipoic acid and omega-3 fatty acid, which is important for protecting against cardiovascular disease.
[00:24:51] Ashley James: My dad died of obesity and heart disease, but he survived my mother who was seemingly healthier—died of cancer at age 55. That was the shocker in our family. She died very quickly of liver cancer because she was very healthy on the outside. We want to obviously probably prevent heart disease—being the number one killer. We obviously want to prevent infection. That’s the big focus right now. Many people are turning to comfort foods and alcohol to just get through this crazy time, which in turn is actually hurting them more. Cancer is one of those big things that looms over us, at least over me. Something even scarier than heart disease. What can we do to reverse cancer? If someone has cancer, what evidence-based nutrition should they do to reverse cancer?
[00:25:47] Dr. Michael Greger: After Dr. Dean Ornish conquered our number one killer, heart disease, he moved on to killer number two, cancer. Took a group of men with early-stage prostate cancer, put them on the same kind of diet that reversed heart disease. For the first time ever showed that diet and lifestyle intervention could reverse the progression of cancer as measured by PSA levels, which is a proxy for tumor volume. In the control group that was told to just eat whatever your doctor was telling you, the tumors continued to grow. Whereas in the group that was randomized to a plant-based diet and lifestyle program, the tumor shrank on average— first men ever shown. The nice thing about diet is regardless of what other choices you make in terms of whether you are doing radiotherapy or chemotherapy, you can always eat healthier.
[00:26:37] Ashley James: Very interesting. Should we limit the amount of nuts and seeds like the plant-based fats or could someone go eat as many peanuts, for example, as they want to? Even though it’s plant-based, is there a ratio of carbs to fat to protein that is optimal?
[00:26:56] Dr. Michael Greger: The most important thing is a source, not the quantity. As long as you’re getting your macronutrients from whole plant sources, that’s the most important thing. I mean the only way you could overeat nuts is if that’s all you ate. Obviously, that wouldn’t be a good thing. But I encourage people to eat an ounce of it a day. It’s like a palm-full of nuts. A critically important one of the few foods along with dark and leafy from vegetables associated with literally years of an extended lifespan.
[00:27:28] Ashley James: Peanuts are not nuts, they’re legumes, right?
[00:27:31] Dr. Michael Greger: That’s true but they’re nutritionally similar enough that they actually have the same type benefits. The downside is that when we expose nuts and seeds to high dry heat, it produces these advanced glycation end-products. When you expose high protein fat foods to high heats, you get these AGEs, which we want to minimize. That’s why I encourage people to eat their nuts and seeds raw, but you can’t really find raw peanut butter, for example. But you can find raw almond butter, so that would be a better choice.
[00:28:00] Ashley James: You can make your own if you have a Vitamix or something.
[00:28:03] Dr. Michael Greger: You can make your own, exactly.
[00:28:05] Ashley James: That was my question was the high heat or the roasted nuts. We just need to basically eat the raw ones to preserve healthy fats. My last question, because I know you have to go, autoimmune disease is on the rise. Some autoimmune conditions are exacerbated by nightshades and some grains. What do we do to help people with autoimmune disease to recover?
[00:28:28] Dr. Michael Greger: You put them on a whole food plant-based diet. The most powerful intervention that’s ever been published in the peer-reviewed medical literature for multiple sclerosis and autoimmune disease where you take your own nerves. The most powerful intervention for Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune inflammatory bowel disease. We now have data for benefits for ulcerative colitis, lupus ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis. You name the autoimmune condition and the odds are, we have data supporting an anti-inflammatory diet, which is essentially synonymous with a plant-based diet. It’s true, there’s an autoimmune disease known as the celiac disease for which gluten can be an inflammatory trigger. For those rare 1 in 140 or so people, need to stay away from gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye, but those are healthy foods for the vast majority of people. People with joint pain, about 1 in 20, feel better after cutting nightshades out. So hey, might as well worth a try, but if it doesn’t help your joint pain, I would put those super healthy foods back into one’s diet.
[00:29:51] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much, Dr. Greger, for coming on the show today. It has been such a pleasure to have you here. Leave us with some homework. Leave us with some actionable steps we can take today to improve our health.
[00:30:10] Ashley James: And go to nutritionfacts.org and pour through your thousands of videos.
[00:30:14] Dr. Michael Greger: Do it.
[00:30:16] Ashley James: Thank you so much. It has been such a pleasure having on the show today. You’re welcome back anytime.
[00:30:21] Dr. Michael Greger: Keep up the good work.
[00:30:25] Ashley James: I hope you enjoyed today’s interview with Dr. Li. Please share it with those you care about. Let’s get this information out to help as many people as possible to learn true health. Come join the Facebook group. Search Learn True Health on Facebook or go to learntruehealth.com/group and join the Facebook group. It’s a wonderfully supportive community. We’re all in this together to learn what we can do to tweak our diet, our lifestyle, supplements whatever we can do to just switch it over to build the body into a place that develops health instead of disease. We can heal the body. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. Even if you’ve been told you’re going to have this for the rest of your life, I have met so many people, myself included, who have reversed diseases and illnesses that they were told by doctors they’d always have for the rest of their life.
So don’t give up hope. Instead, dive in, listen to more episodes of the Learn True Health podcast, and come join the Facebook group. There is hope. As long as you’re living and breathing, as long as you have a pulse, your body can heal itself. You can do many things to support your body’s ability to heal itself. I’m so happy that you’re here to learn how you can optimize your health through every meal, through every breath. There are so many things you can do mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and energetically. That’s exactly what this podcast is here to help you with.
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Dr. William Li & Ashley James
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Can food really be used as medicine? In this episode, Dr. William Li, author of Eat to Beat Disease, shares some interesting research about how foods have helped to beat different diseases. The key is eating whole foods rather than processed and fast food and also eating in moderation. He also talks about the things he’s been eating and taking during this COVID-19 era to ensure that he mounts a healthy immune response to any viruses.
Hello, true health seeker, and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. I am so excited for you to hear today’s interview with Dr. Li. He has some wonderful information about healing the body with food from a medical standpoint. I know you’re going to love it.
If you want to learn how to cook really healthy delicious healing foods, come join my membership. You’ll also be supporting the Learn True Health podcast and you’ll be learning from me and my friend Naomi. We’re all really great in the kitchen, focusing on using foods that heal the body and integrating them into your diet. Go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen. That’s learntruehealth.com/homekitchen. Enjoy all the wonderful and delicious videos, recipes, and lessons there because we love to use the kitchen as our pharmacy to heal the body and prevent disease.
I know you’re going to love learning some great tips today on the foods that you can eat and drink to support your overall health with Dr. Li. Enjoy today’s interview.
[00:01:06] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 432. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have Dr. William Li on the show, best-selling author of Eat to Beat Disease. He has an amazing TED Talk, Can We Eat to Starve Cancer? I love it. It has over 11 million views. You are a scientist first and a doctor. We’ve had a wonderful discussion before we hit record on COVID-19, so I’m interested in everything that all the science that you’ve been poring through, any advice that you can give to us on staving off disease, which is what your specialty is. Welcome to the show. This is going to be a really interesting discussion.
[00:02:03] Dr. William Li: Thank you, Ashley. It’s really a pleasure to be here, and certainly an interesting time in history. Generations from now, people will be referring back to 2020 at that time. The difference between now, that time, and the medieval ages where people were running from the plague and other deadly health scare is that we really have a lot of science to put wind in our sails. I think that’s really how we’re going to dig our way out of the mess we’re in right now, which is to use science to find the way.
[00:02:43] Ashley James: We need to find the science and look at that. I think what’s going on is we’re listening to the interpretations of the science and the predictions. We’re listening to a lot of predictions. I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s a lot of fear-mongering. I would love for people to be grounded in science instead of grounded in their fear. Because we want to empower people to take appropriate steps to remain healthy, but being in fear mode is actually harmful to the immune system. That’s the thing we have to avoid is staying in that fear mode.
[00:03:22] Dr. William Li: That’s right. I’m a physician—internal medicine, I’m a scientist, I study blood vessels, I’m a vascular biologist, and an author. I wrote a book called Eat to Beat Disease. One of the things that I started my career doing is, like every other medical researcher, studying disease, and trying to understand what makes diseases similar, different from one another. Then I started to realize that studying common denominators that united different diseases could be really a powerful way to really make advances because if we could pull the bow back and send a single arrow through the common denominators of disease and of health, we could actually make a lot more progress.
What you’re talking about which is that fear with which is a really primitive response, it’s hardwired in our brain. Whether it’s a spider, a rattlesnake, or a saber-toothed tiger our fear nerve endings allow us to actually react smartly to get out of the way of something that could be damaging. But the problem that we’re all having right now with COVID-19 is that there’s really no break from this right now.
[00:04:47] Ashley James: It’s constant.
[00:04:48] Dr. William Li: This virus came out of the blue, took everybody by surprise, and put an entire civilization down on its knees. Every country, more than 180 different countries, have been affected. Pretty much organized economies around the world. There might be some aboriginals and the jungles of Borneo or Brazil that are actually just going about their way, but I think every other organized modern society has had to pause. When you pause, you’re actually more heightened to your emotions. Emotions of fear really have to do with uncertainty, lack of knowledge, and the feeling of lack of control. That’s really where science helps us because the more we study something we don’t know the more confident we are that we can actually navigate our own position with that threat that we are just starting to understand. I think that’s coming through with COVID-19 as well.
What started as this mystery illness from bat to wet market to human to air passenger and around the world, we’re beginning to really throw down the tools of biotechnology and medical research to understand, not only what is the virus like, but what does it do in our body. As we’re beginning to understand that we started to realize some interesting things. First of all, COVID-19 is a coronavirus, and coronavirus is the same kind of virus that causes the common cold. It’s very different from the influenza virus, which causes the flu. Lots of misconceptions out there that this is just like a bad flu. In fact, this is not even related to the flu. It’s more related to the common cold. Imagine if a common cold were potentially lethal, that’s really what we’re dealing with.
Again, even that piece of understanding allows us to actually put pieces into their place as we start getting deeper and deeper. One of the things that I am doing as a COVID-19 researcher is trying to get to the bottom of what do we know, what are the facts about this disease, and what possible ways do we have to protect ourselves to fort the damage it can cause. For people that are actually sick and maybe have recovered, how do we actually repair and heal ourselves more quickly?
[00:07:35] Ashley James: I’m really looking forward to you diving into that and sharing with us how we can prevent it, what we can do to support the body in mounting a healthy response, if we do come in contact with it, and how to then recover quickly. What I’ve seen in the last week is interesting information coming out of Italy. A pathologist was doing autopsies on over 20 people who passed away in the hospital—of COVID. They saw that there was a similarity that they all had blood clots in the lungs. He says that it’s not pneumonia that is causing blood clots in the lungs, and so our approach to treating it is all wrong. That we should be treating it with blood thinners, antiviral, and anti-inflammatories. Have you seen this? Have you seen any science to support this? What are your thoughts on that?
[00:08:35] Dr. William Li: Yeah. I actually know a lot about this because that’s exactly in my wheelhouse. My background is in vascular biology. I study blood vessels, which allow blood to flow or—when they’re damaged—blood to clot, which clotting is a good thing. If you’re wounded, you want the bleeding to stop. It’s a bad thing if you are not wounded and blood clots in your body and then you can’t get oxygen or nutrients to the rest of your cells in your body and then you wind up having big problems. That’s something that I have studied a lot. Here’s the picture of what we’re putting together. It’s not black or white, either-or, one person’s right, and one person’s wrong.
What I would tell you is that COVID-19 is a coronavirus. Like the cold virus, it’s a respiratory virus. We become infected by breathing it in. If you think about breathing in a virus and how easy it is to catch a cold, you can see how infectious this COVID-19 can be, which is one of the reasons of trying to wear masks is because if everybody wore a mask, then we would be cutting down the likelihood that the droplets—the water droplets that the virus hangs out in—would actually leave our mouths, and that would be yours and mine if we were in the same place at the same time, so we would be less likely to infect each other.
Mask-wearing actually, which was really confusing for a while, is now becoming so obvious how important it actually is. Most of the countries like Taiwan, Korea, Singapore, or Hong Kong are now beginning to demonstrate with real scientific evidence that wearing masks is not lip service, so to speak. It’s actually cutting down the risk of transmission. This airborne virus we breathe in can block with a mask, but if you breathe it in where does the virus go? Like a cold virus, it actually goes into the mucus in your nose. That mucus is what you blow into a handkerchief or a Kleenex. Our mucus in our nose is full of antibodies. We actually—what we call IgA—it’s like the nonspecific defense antibody line of first defense.
If it probably weren’t for COVID, a lot of the battle is fought and won right there in your nose just like the regular cold virus, but this thing is sneaky and it’s pretty aggressive. If it manages to get through your mucus and into your mucous membranes, the cells in your nose, it starts to be able to track into your body. We do know that it goes down to your lungs. When it’s in your lungs, let me be very clear, we do know that it causes pneumonia. Although it’s not the classic pneumonia you would get with a bacteria, it’s a viral pneumonia. That basically means an organism is causing massive inflammation and response and causing an interruption of your airflow. There’s no question this thing actually causes pneumonia. When it actually causes pneumonia, most people get over it but some people actually succumb or their breathing gets worse and worse.
For the people that are unable to make it back home make it at home, they have to be admitted as a hospital. Some percentage of those people actually wind up really crashing and they need to go on a ventilator to have artificial support or their breathing hopefully until their body actually is able to overcome the attack of the virus. This is an epic battle between the virus and our bodies. When our bodies start to win, we can get off the ventilator, we can leave the hospital, and we can go back home. Hopefully, if we win early enough meaning the security in our host is really, really solid, we won’t even go to the hospital at all. We might have something even as mild as a cold or a little bit of a viral syndrome and not downright crash.
What you’re hearing from Italy is now being seen around the world and verified by the research I’m actually doing. I’ve also looked at autopsy tissue from people who have died of COVID-19 and gone way deep to take a look at what is actually going on. What we are seeing is something really amazing. When the virus gets into your lungs, in addition to causing pneumonia, one of the first things it does is it makes a beeline for the blood vessels in your lungs. When it gets into the blood vessel lining, it causes that lining to be damaged. It damages that lining. Anytime a blood vessel has damaged lining it becomes what we call prothrombotic or more likely to clot. Then the blood vessels kind of go into a tizzy trying to recover from the blood clot and they start to respond in ways that make the blood more sluggish, the immune response tries to clear out the virus and the blood vessels, and the blood vessels get damaged kind of a collateral response.
Think about the SWAT team trying to rescue some hostages in a bank. There’s a lot of bank robbers there and when you’re trying to rush the bank, some of the hostages wind up getting killed. This is the thing that also happens with our immune system. It’s not that we have an autoimmune response. It’s that we have the right immune response, it’s just that it takes out a lot of healthy tissue along the way. We think that that contributes to even further likelihood of blood clotting. When blood clots in your lungs in small blood vessels, which is what you’re seeing, it becomes a problem because even if you’re moving air in and out, you’re not getting that oxygen from the air into your blood vessels to deliver to the rest of your body.
We’re beginning to see how these clots are actually responsible for some of the problems of breathing and circulation that we’ve observed. Of course, now we’re seeing blood clots in the lung, the brain, and other parts of your body as well. This respiratory virus does cause respiratory infection, that’s for sure, but what we now know is that this respiratory infection—the virus goes further to cause a whole-body—a systemic illness. That’s really where we are right now. That takes the research to present-day where we’re now diving even deeper into understanding what’s actually happening in all these other different parts and organs of the body including the blood vessels.
[00:15:59] Ashley James: If a patient has the infection, should they be put on a blood clotting drug to prevent the clot? Should anticoagulants be used preventively as their body’s fighting this virus?
[00:16:21] Dr. William Li: An article came out in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology two weeks ago showing that people who were in the hospital who are on anticoagulants and in fact with COVID-19 definitely had a better outcome. Now, based on that observation, which makes sense with the research that we were just talking about how the virus causes blood clotting, now the studies are being done to actually put people proactively on blood thinners to protect them. An interesting question is if you’re infected at home, should you be taking a blood thinner like an aspirin? Obviously, that’s an over-the-counter medicine. Anybody can go to a drugstore to pick up an aspirin, but like anything, medicines can have effects and side effects.
One of the things that’s happening in this pandemic of the virus that’s leading to a pandemic of fear is leading people to actually just knee-jerk and try to go out to buy everything they can and try to self-minister. Again, this is where teaming up with your doctor, and having medical researchers work on this is really important. Even something as simple as aspirin, which may indeed be life-saving in this particular case with COVID, can cause stomach bleeding, can cause other side effects. I’m one of the doctors that basically I don’t discourage my patients, people that I know, from taking their health into their own hands with things that are as safe as food for example, or even dietary supplements. But when it comes to medicines, really, I think it’s important to track along, follow along with real medical researchers. Because it’s only through the data that we get from science that we can actually know if what we’re doing has more benefits than risks.
[00:18:15] Ashley James: The people that were in the hospital that the journal wrote about, were they already on blood thinners, or were they put on blood thinners because they were infected?
[00:18:27] Dr. William Li: Most of the first reports were basically for people that were already on blood thinners. There’s a lot of people that are already on blood thinners. For example, if you had a heart condition like atrial fibrillation or if you had a valve replaced where you need your blood to be thin, many of those people are walking around on blood thinners all the time. If you’ve ever had a stroke in the past you probably were put on a blood thinner. Lots of reasons that people actually are on blood thinners. Of course, there are some genetic conditions where people are extra clotty so they wind up on blood thinners as well. I think this is where the science of observation—even observation can be a science, but the science of observation is really picking up patterns.
I think that this is where being alert in a situation that is foreign to us—this is called a novel coronavirus because humans have been walking around for 200,000 years and we’ve never encountered something like this. There’s no way you can Google all the answers. There’s no Wikipedia page that tells us everything. We’re learning as we go along—making observations, doing the research, going to the deep dive, we’re much better now than we were a month ago, and definitely much better than we were four months ago when all this started to break. I think it’s a very, very important advance to understand the importance of making sure blood doesn’t clot in people who are infected with COVID-19.
[00:20:16] Ashley James: My friend’s father is in the hospital currently. He’s had four brain surgeries because unfortunately, his doctor had him on aspirin and a blood thinner after a heart surgery he had for a valve a year ago. He had massive headaches a few months ago, went into the ER, and the ER doctor said, “You’re having a brain bleed. We have to get you into the emergency surgery right now.” That doctor said, “I can’t believe your cardiologist has you on this amount of blood there and an aspirin. This is what caused your brain bleed.” They took him off of the aspirin, they reduced his blood thinners after retesting his clotting factors, and he is still having brain bleeds, so they’re chasing with several procedures. That’s an example of if you’re on too much of a blood thinner, you can have a major problem.
We wouldn’t want to just arbitrarily get on a blood thinner like you said. You definitely want to work closely with a doctor. I’m wondering though if someone who has COVID could then be given a blood thinner if that would be fast enough to kick in, and if there’s any evidence to show that as of yet?
[00:21:35] Dr. William Li: I think that’s what’s going on right now. We don’t know yet. I would tell you that if you were concerned about it to talk to your doctor. I imagine that this is going to be one of the recommendations in the future. If you can document that you’ve got the infection and you have risks that might set up for a blood clot that the medical community will recommend that you go on a blood thinner. That’s probably right around the corner. What’s interesting when it comes to diet and lifestyle, there’s a school of thought that foods that contain vitamin K like spinach, kale, and many other greens that can thin the blood might not be good for all people to take. But here’s a situation where it might be actually beneficial to eat more foods, more whole green plant-based foods that actually contain vitamin K to keep you, not only healthier from all the other good stuff—the bio-actives that plants have, but also as an additional benefit that they might be able to keep our blood a little bit thinner.
[00:22:46] Ashley James: This is the funny part is he eats a whole food plant-based diet. He eats tons of vegetables, tons of leafy greens, and they brought this up to his cardiologist and his neurosurgeon or vascular surgeon. I’m not sure what the classification is for the person who’s working on closing up the vessels that are bleeding in his brain. They brought this up to his doctors and they said listen, he eats a whole food plant-based diet. They had never heard of that. They didn’t know what that was. They had to explain how he ate and they said that just sounds like eating healthy. His family said this is a diet that thins the blood naturally. His doctors said diet has nothing to do with this. You can’t affect the body with food. You can’t affect blood vessels with food. I was just floored, but so many doctors think this way that you can’t affect blood clotting or even the health of the brain or the blood vessels with eating.
[00:23:48] Dr. William Li: To some extent, you can’t blame doctors who haven’t been educated. Nutrition has really, until recently, not been a part of medical education or not adequately part of it. One of the reasons that I got into food as medicine, and I’m one of the people that are actually doing the research to study foods just the same way that we would study medicine with a lot of rigor and using the same type of testing systems is because—look, I was taking care of patients at a Veterans Hospital. Some of my favorite patients were people that used to serve the country in the Armed Services. They would receive these really terrible diagnoses from me. They were in their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Many of them were overweight, had cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. All kinds of problems.
After I gave them the diagnosis, wrote the prescriptions, and gave them referrals to the other specialists, a lot of these guys would put on their jacket and walk out the door. I would turn around to do my notes. They would turn back and come and pop their head in the door and say, hey doc, one more thing. What should I eat? Is there something I can do for myself? At that moment, I started realizing that I didn’t have the answer to that because I was never taught that. That just seemed wrong to me and that sent me really on this journey to understand how does diet actually works and what answers could we be giving people when they need to know.
The other thing that was interesting I thought from my experience that the Veterans Administration is some of these people that were in terrible shape—out of shape and in terrible shape—they might be morbidly obese, and really their bodies were a wreck let’s say in their 60s or 70s. I realized when they were in their 20s, they were the cut, fit buffs, perfect specimens that they couldn’t even get into armed services in the military unless they were in perfect shape. What the heck happened between the time of 18, 20, and the age 60 really are diet and lifestyle.
That really only underscored for me the importance to really dig deeper and try to answer that. Not surprisingly, this is not the typical experience of most medical doctors. I really believe that food as medicine is a concept whose time has come. I think more and more, the medical community realizes how important it is. The older doctors who’ve been out there longer who definitely weren’t taught this in the 70s, 80s, and even 90s, they’re struggling with the idea even though each of them do know, on a personal level, how important diet could be. They just don’t have the intellectual framework to know what to do with their own instincts. This is getting back to basics in some ways, but now applying science to it, we ought to be able to make people more confident in understanding how food can be medicine.
[00:27:02] Ashley James: I love it. How have you changed your lifestyle? How have you changed your diet after diving into all the research?
[00:27:13] Dr. William Li: I’m a little bit of an unusual creature because between college and medical school, I did a gap year. In my gap year, I went to the Mediterranean long before the Mediterranean diet was popular. What I was interested in was the Mediterranean diet. I was interested in how foods in a particular part of the world shaped culture, and how that culture actually helped to inform the way that arts and sciences emerged from history. I was always interested in the history of regions. I was interested in the history of the Mediterranean and of Asia and trying to understand how do these old, old cultures, how did people live in the land, grow and assemble their foods into meals that today are regarded as amazingly delicious combinations and healthy to boot? How did that kind of life and lifestyle help shape things like painting, drawing, sculpture, mathematics, physics, and biology? It was an interesting thing.
I went to Europe. I lived there in Italy and in Greece. I was exploring diets. Again, this is long before anybody really knew what a Mediterranean diet was. I was living it. I wasn’t talking the talk, I was just walking the walk back then. For decades, I’ve actually lived a pretty Mediterranean style life. I have an Asian background so I grew up eating a lot of Asian-inspired cuisines. I’ll tell you what the common denominator of these old ancient healthy cuisines. They all tend to rely mostly on whole plant-based foods as their backbone. They tend to use fresh foods as opposed to a lot of prepared foods. There are very few ultra-processed foods involved in their diet.
Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds are common. Fish, not just salmon, but all kinds of fish—mostly seafood. Fish and shellfish also are common along the coastline, as you might expect, and very little meat. Not the absence of meat. Some people don’t realize this but the Sardinians, which is one of the blue zones where people routinely live to above a hundred, the villages of the Sardinian Blue Zone are in the mountains were nowhere near the sea. They need a fair amount of meat too, I mean they eat meat.
One of the things is that it’s a very naturalistic integration of plants that are easy to grow, seasonal, eaten fresh, cooked in combinations, incorporating different ingredients that are tasty, making you want to eat more, and diversity of cuisine. I would say between the Mediterranean and Asia, those are the common denominators. I’ve really just embarked on that type of a lifestyle for the last 20, 30 years. It makes me feel great.
[00:30:50] Ashley James: What isn’t in your diet that’s in the standard American diet?
[00:30:55] Dr. William Li: Look, I grew up in America. I grew up probably eating the same stuff that everyone has eaten—the stuff out of boxes. I’ve had a Twinkie, I’m not ashamed to say, when I was a kid, right? I wouldn’t have one now, but I certainly had them when I was growing up. I would tell you what I’m very careful to avoid—I don’t eat a lot of meat. I try to cut down or cut out red meat. I try to stay away from processed meats of any sort. I try not to eat foods that come out of boxes. I do look at ingredients when I shop for things. If I see a whole bunch of Greek and Latin words that refer to chemicals, I try to stay away from the ultra process stuff. If I have a choice between having something that is pre-made versus freshly made, I will go hands-down for the fresh stuff.
By the way, I would say the other thing that I tend not to do is really do a lot of errant snacking is what I call it. We know that actually restricting your calories is actually healthy. It re-primes your immune system. It actually slows down your cellular aging, it lowers inflammation and helps fight cancer by cutting off the blood supply. Lots of things that caloric restriction does. That’s the opposite of let’s call it the Vegas buffet mindset. Let’s go in there and stuff our face. The other thing I don’t do is I live a life where if I miss a meal or two because I’m busy or I’m doing something else, I’m okay with that. I don’t try to make it up by stuffing my face. Those are some of the things that I don’t do. I really don’t do fast food. Like I said, I grew up doing that kind of stuff, but I can’t remember the last time that I went to a drive-thru or picked up fast food. I would rather not eat, and I’m okay with that. I’ll find something healthier when I get home.
[00:33:11] Ashley James: Your mission is to teach people how to use food as medicine. The number one killer is heart disease. That’s number one. Heart disease is going to kill more people than all infections combined and yet we focus so much on worrying about infection when most people statistically will die of heart disease. What can we do to prevent heart disease?
[00:33:37] Dr. William Li: Heart disease is really interesting because it’s really not just about the heart, it’s about the blood vessels supplying the heart. That comes from my field of angiogenesis or how the body grows healthy blood vessels. The heart, of course, is part of the circuitry, part of the plumbing of our blood vessels, but most people don’t know that there are 60,000 miles where the blood vessels are packed inside our bodies. Think about a ball of yarn that’s 60,000 miles long. Literally, if you unspool that yarn, you could have a string that would wrap around the earth twice, right? That’s your blood vessels. That’s your garden hose in your body. Our heart, which is the pumping machine, actually just really jets out oxygen and nutrients through our blood to every single cell in our body.
If it has any problem sending out that oxygen and nutrients, then the heart winds up struggling. If it can’t pump, you wind up having heart disease. There’s a lot of ways that the heart can have trouble. For example, the muscle can get weakened by itself. The blood vessels feeding the heart can get clogged. Then the vessels, the circulation that the heart pumps blood into can go from being kind of soft and elastic to being really hard and rigid. Imagine trying to blow into a long metal pipe, you know how hard that is. If your blood vessels are really hardened, the heart has to work really, really hard, which tires it out, wears it down, and causes it to actually eventually fail.
All that means that to prevent heart disease we need to take good care of our blood vessels, prevent them from actually getting hard hardened, prevent them from clogging up, and make sure that these cells lining our blood vessels are as healthy as possible. Sleep, exercise, lowering stress, staying away from smoking, not drinking in excess, and physical activity. All those things are common-sense things. When it comes to food, here’s really where some really interesting research is happening. We used to think about heart health in our diet as cutting things out—no butter, no meat, no this, no that. You’re a bad person if you eat that. If you’ve got heart disease you got to cut out everything right away. It was really like guilt, fear, and shame mindset, an elimination program if you wanted to avoid heart disease.
Now what we know with science is that if you want to protect your heart and you want to avoid heart disease, you should be adding things to your diet. Yeah, sure, stay away from the bad stuff but really focus on the good stuff. We want to have good fiber in our diet because good fiber feeds our gut microbiome and our gut bacteria actually helps. When our gut bacteria are healthy because we’re feeding it fiber, those bacteria digest the fiber. As part of the byproducts of the bacteria’s own digestion—the metabolites—they create particles that actually lower our cholesterol, which then prevents our blood vessels from getting hardened.
They actually help our body metabolize cholesterol and sugar better so we can be able to use our blood glucose better. It’s like our bacteria is like our diabetes for better. Eating plant-based foods with a lot of fiber is super healthy for your heart. We also know that there are foods that, believe it or not, can actually help the lining of our blood vessels regenerate themselves and continuously repair themselves so they’re not quite as clotty. They don’t clog up or they don’t clot up quite as much.
Some of these things are, for example, omega-3 fatty acids, which you can find in nuts. You can find them in seafood, but you can also find them in nuts. You can also take it as a dietary supplement. A surprise would be cacao—dark chocolate. The cocoa bean actually can is used to make cacao. Cacao is the basis for making chocolate. Dark chocolate is where you have mostly cacao. That’s Mother Nature’s blood vessel helper.
What’s amazing is there’s been a study that was done in individuals who had heart disease, this was out of UCSF, where they gave two groups either a placebo drink or they gave people hot chocolate made with dark chocolate—dark cacao. The placebo, by the way, had the flavonoids and polyphenols were low, so it’s got low versus high. Then they fed the people we’ve known heart disease just two cups of hot chocolate a day for 30 days. Then they measured the number of stem cells in their bloodstream at baseline and compared it to the end of 30 days of drinking two cups of hot cocoa made with dark cocoa. They found that the people who had the dark chocolate version of hot cocoa had doubled the number of regenerating blood vessel cells, stem cells, in their bloodstream. They had better blood flow as well.
Again, human studies, plant-based foods, heart-healthy, these are the kinds of things that we should be leaning into and embracing. Now, for heart health, it’s all about leaning into the good stuff while, keeping in mind, we need to kind of cut down on the bad stuff as well.
[00:39:41] Ashley James: I love it. There’s a school of thought that consuming mass amounts of virgin olive oil is very, very healthy for the body, and just like the Mediterranean diet, every time I think of the Mediterranean diet we think of drinking gallons a year of olive oil. Then there’s a school of thought that we should not consume any oil once it’s been processed away from the plant, so we should eat olives not olive oil. For example, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who’s a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, says that oil harms the endothelial lining, which is the skin on the inside of the blood vessels. He sees that consuming oil and animal fat harms it, inflames it, and that we should eat our fat from a whole food source and not from the processed source. Have you sided with either side? What does science say for you?
[00:40:43] Dr. William Li: There’s a couple of ways to look at this. First of all, consuming anything in gallon form is probably not good for you. My first position on most things when it comes to food is that more is not necessarily more. There’s actually a biological concept called hormesis, which describes this which is that a little but isn’t enough, a little bit more is good for you, even more is even better, and then a little bit more than that gives you the optimal amount. But then if you keep on adding more, you start losing the benefits. You keep on adding more, even more than that, you start losing it. It’s the classic upside-down u-shaped curve where there’s an optimum amount where you get the optimum benefit, but if you keep on going beyond that you actually lose it.
I know Caldwell Esselstyn. He’s an amazing guy—a friend. We worked together on a couple of projects. Really smart, and I think he’s right. You do not want to damage the lining of your blood vessels. That’s my field of angiogenesis as well, but here’s what I will tell you. Not all oils are created equal. Saturated fats are clearly more damaging to the blood vessel lining—the endothelial lining of our blood vessels. Polyunsaturated fats have less damage. Obviously, if you go too high in concentrations, I mean anything is bad for you in excess. But olive oils are polyunsaturated, for the most part. It has less to do with the processing. If you think about it, eating an olive out of a barrel is a plant-based food. That is packed with olive oil, right? A little bit of olive oil such as you would use in a dressing or use for in cooking, not bad for you.
Actually, most of the study has shown that if you actually have up to about three tablespoons of olive oil a day, that’s probably okay—and or less. If you use olive oil in cooking, you’re probably in good shape. Don’t forget, it’s not about the fat that’s the good stuff in olive oil. The fat of olive oil is less bad for you, but in fact, olive oil has these bioactive compounds like oleic acid and hydroxytyrosol. These are some of Mother Nature’s secret weapons that happen to be found in plant-based foods. For example, hydroxytyrosol has been shown to be one of those olive oil-derived substances that can actually improve your immune response.
In this COVID-19 era, we pay attention to things like that when we hear something is good. The next time you’re actually sautéing something I would say it’s okay to use a little bit of olive oil, don’t take too much of it. Never have gallons of anything.
[00:43:54] Ashley James: You said someone could be safe taking up to three tablespoons a day, what if someone does more than that? Could they be damaging their blood vessels, and is there a way to get all those great nutrients in a different form? Because you’re saying olive oil really isn’t a great way to get fat. You’re not actually taking the olive oil for the fat, you’re taking it for the medicinal extracts from olives. Whereas it would be more concentrated in an olive itself, wouldn’t it?
[00:44:21] Dr. William Li: It could be. By the way, a lot of the good stuff in olive oil, in olives, actually is not the oily part of it, it’s in the liquid part of it, which when you press an olive to make olive oil what comes out of olive is a liquid, which then is drained away, but the fat actually floats to the top and that’s what’s collected. In fact, there’s a lot of really great stuff in the olive water that gets drained away. That’s a whole other sustainability issue.
[00:44:47] Ashley James: Olive juice.
[00:44:48] Dr. William Li: Yeah, exactly.
[00:44:49] Ashley James: Why aren’t we drinking olive juice by the gallon?
[00:44:52] Dr. William Li: I love olive juice. Have you ever had it by the way? It’s just fantastic. It’s super concentrated olives. It’s like all the goodness of olive without the fat.
[00:45:02] Ashley James: Oh my Gosh.
[00:45:04] Dr. William Li: I’m actually not saying that olive oil is a bad fat. What I’m saying is that it’s actually a pretty decent fat, all things considered. By the way, if you look at clinical trials and if you look at population studies, people who live in regions where olive oil tends to be the predominant fat tend to be a little bit healthier. The [correlate] between consuming olive oil is healthier than not consuming olive oil. You’re asking though are there any other ways of getting healthy fats? I mean look, many nuts and flax seeds all contain healthy fats.
We probably shouldn’t be having a ton of fasts to begin with. There’s no food that is really just only the fat, right? There are other things that are good with it. We have to take a more considered approach to what we’re putting in. For example, if you’re having olive oil, it’s not just the polyunsaturated fats you’re having, you’re also getting all these other bio-actives. If you’re having a saturated fat, there’s probably nothing good that you’re taking in with it.
[00:46:15] Ashley James: Got it. This olive juice, this olive water, the extract that’s not the fat, that’s where all the polyphenols are, all these chemicals that you’re talking about. How would one go about getting this into their life? Just by eating olives or is there a place to buy olive juice?
[00:46:38] Dr. William Li: It’s a great question. I know that I was traveling once in the Mediterranean. There was, for the lack of a better word, an olive bar. I’m trying to remember where it was, but it was amazing. You could get little shots of pure olive juice from different types of olives. I’ll tell you, it was just such an amazing treat to sample that. Be on the lookout. I suppose, if you have time in a lockdown mode to actually try out different baking recipes, maybe we should try to make our own olive juice. I’m sure there’s a way of actually doing it.
[00:47:23] Ashley James: There’s a ton of people baking right now. We should be cold pressing olives and drinking the juice instead. That sounds delicious and so nutritious. I’m predicting in the next 20 years that’s going to be a big health trend like goji berries and kale. We’re going to have little bottles of olive juice. That’s really cool. You focus on food as medicine, you focus on preventing disease because it’s more important to prevent a disease than treat it. At least, we have more tools to prevent a disease than we do to have to treat it because by the time someone is so sick that they have the disease it’s much harder to reverse it. What actionable steps could we take today? What specific steps would you tell us to start doing today to prevent disease?
[00:48:19] Dr. William Li: The one thing that everyone needs to know is that we actually have, from the time we’re born, all the defensive weapons we need to stay to live long healthy lives. Our body really craves health. Health is not just the absence of disease, it’s really a result of our own bodies—hard-wired health defense system—working as hard as it can—I call it firing on all cylinders—from the time we’re born until our very last breath. Some people say I know somebody who developed cancer or heart disease, why did they develop that? I would turn it around to say why don’t more people develop cancer, and why don’t more people develop diabetes or heart disease?
It’s because when our body’s defenses are working at full capacity, full throttle, they naturally resist cancer growth, metabolism going on haywire, blood vessels clogging up causing heart disease. Actually, even fat cells growing to ridiculous sizes our body kind of knows how to do what it wants to do. The problem is that once we’re born and we’re living on planet earth, life itself exacts a toll like the tax we pay for living on this planet is that we’re continuously assaulted by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Modern life, we’re surrounded by off-gassing from furniture and carpets. I always tell these damages our DNA and cause all kinds of problems.
I always tell people if you still drive a car that uses petrol or uses gasoline and you get to fill your tank, do you stand upwind or downwind? A lot of people go I haven’t even thought about that. How about you, Ashley? Do you actually stand upwind or downwind when filling up your tank?
[00:50:16] Ashley James: I sit in the car while my husband does it.
[00:50:19] Dr. William Li: All right, the smartest one of them all. I’ll tell you what I do. I stand upwind because I realize that if I stand downwind and I can smell that gas, those solvents are actually going into my lung damaging my own DNA. Something like that, just even a small thing like that, is an assault on your body. The question is, how come we don’t have lung cancer every day, the next day, or the next week after we fill up a tank of gas? Because our body fixes itself.
The number one thing I think is super important is that our body already has the secret to actually stay healthy. Number two is that those defenses have to work harder and harder as we get older because there are so many cumulative stresses that we’re subjected to, our body’s defenses have to work harder and sometimes they can break down. The third thing I would tell you, so you want to sort of stay away from those dangers.
This is like wear sunscreen, stay physically active, avoid solvents and toxins, but there’s even more which is that we can actually do our health defenses a favor by feeding them because foods can activate, support, and even enhance our health defense system. What are those health defense systems? I wrote about five of them in my book Eat to Beat Disease. There’s angiogenesis, our circulation, that’s 60,000 miles worth of blood vessels that deliver oxygen to all of our cells. There’s our stem cells, the regeneration. We talked about regeneration a little bit. Our stem cells are actually found in our bone marrow. We got tons of them even as adults.
When we were kids, we were told that starfish and salamanders regenerate but people don’t, humans don’t. Well, that playbook’s been thrown out. We have a new chapter written. We know that humans do generate very, very slowly. Foods can actually make that regeneration happen from the inside out, and we can speed it up and make it more efficient. Our microbiome, gut bacteria, we got 37 trillion bacteria in our bodies and most of it’s in our gut.
When I was in medical school I was told bacteria are bad, kill the bacteria, prescribe antibiotics, and now we know, in fact, most of the bacteria in our body is good. Occasionally, there’s a bad actor that calls itself out. Sometimes, you need to actually bust out the pharmaceutical police to take care of that, but for the most part, we have a good ecosystem of healthy good bacteria. By feeding our good bacteria, it affects our mood, our brain, our emotions, our immune system, how good our skin looks, how fast we heal, whether or not we’ve got inflammation, our metabolism.
It’s so important, our bacteria, that we actually realize that we’re not even fully human anymore because we’ve got 39 trillion human cells, we’ve got 37 trillion bacteria, so we’re like 50-50. Half of us isn’t even human. By the way, Ashley, the term for an organism that’s made up of different species like we are, humans and bacteria, is called a holobiont. That’s what you and I are. We’re all holobionts. We’re an ecosystem walking around. The bacteria are just walking around inside our human shell. That’s really important and foods can actually boost that.
DNA is another defense system. We’re all taught that DNA is our genetic code, and it makes proteins, absolutely. That’s true, there’s no quarrel about that, but many people do not realize that our DNA is a defense mechanism that protects us against environmental damage. For example, we know that if you go out to the beach and lay out you’ll get tan and you’ll get burned if you stay out too long. If you get burned that can actually lead to skin cancer because it damages our DNA. We know if you want to speed up that damage you should go into a sun tanning booth and bingo, in an hour you’ll have done 20 years of damage to your skin—really a bad thing to do.
Did you know that actually even sitting in a car stuck in traffic on a beautiful day with the sun shining in through the windshield or with your arm out the window coming in stuck in traffic that also causes damage. Being in an airplane. Pilots receive huge amounts of ultraviolet damaging radiation just by sitting in a cockpit flying the plane. As do the passengers.
The fact of the matter is our DNA knows how to fix itself. It repairs itself, it can rebuild itself when it’s damaged, and our DNA is kind of a fuse like, a life fuse, that burns itself down in our cells so that the longer the fuse is the healthier and longer-lived we are. When our fuse burns down really short, they call these the telomeres that are protective they’re like the caps of a shoelace at the very end—the plastic tips. What happens when your shoelace loses the cap? Your shoelace frays open and immediately it starts to fall apart. That can happen to our DNA. Our DNA protects ourselves against damage including aging.
Then finally, our immune system. Everybody now thinks about immunity as one of the most important defenses against COVID-19, but listen, we’re surrounded by viruses, bacteria, molds, and fungi all the time. Our immune system does more than resist attacks from the outside, which is what we’re thinking about with COVID. Our immune system prevents us from being attacked from the inside by cancer cells. In fact, we know that the immune system is so powerful that even if you were in your 80s or 90s, like an elderly person, their immune system is powerful enough to completely wipe out cancer even if it’s spread if you give it a chance.
We figured this out through one of the biggest breakthroughs in medicine in the last couple of decades, which was immunotherapy for cancer where you can now treat cancer some cancers with medicines that don’t actually kill the cancer cells directly. Instead, what they do is they actually help the immune system discover cancer and get rid of it by itself. A great example is President Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States and one of the oldest living presidents now. He actually had melanoma.
He was one of the most amazing people that after his presidency dedicated himself to building homes for people that needed to have homes constructed. He and his wife Rosalynn would go out and build houses in Habitat for Humanity. A lot of sunshine in the state of Georgia. Got a melanoma, spread to his liver and his brain. It was thought that someone in their 90s would never survive a melanoma that spread to the brain, but he got immunotherapy in the 90s that didn’t kill the cancer cells. All they did was rip open the cloak that cancers try to hide from your immune system. His 90-year-old immune system said aha, I see you, I’m going to get rid of you. His own immune system wiped out all visible traces of cancer. Amazing. I never thought we’d see that happen, not in my career, but here we are.
Five defense systems: angiogenesis, stem cells, microbiome, DNA repair, and immunity. The great news is that our diet can be used to activate these, so you can, in fact, Eat to Beat Disease.
[00:58:28] Ashley James: I love it. Your book is just full of the science-based evidence showing us that every single time we walk into the kitchen we’re walking into our pharmacy. That every time we put something in our mouth we can be healing our body or we could be harming our body. We really want to maximize the nutrition, the nutrient density of every meal to support the body’s ability to heal itself and maintain optimal health no matter what our age is. The more you dive into this and help people to shape their diet to support their overall health, what illnesses have you been surprised that were able to be reversed with diet?
[00:59:17] Dr. William Li: One of the most surprising is in fact cancer. We talked a little bit about this earlier. I’ll tell you about the experience. This immunotherapy that I told you about there’s a bunch of different treatments that are out there like this. Even the best ones sometimes aren’t effective, and we don’t know why. Some people who actually wind up getting immunotherapy will have this incredible, amazing, and complete response. Back to baseline—they just regain their health back even after cancer has spread. On the other hand, some people don’t respond at all. Getting the treatment doesn’t do them squat—diddly-squat. What’s going on?
My colleague, Dr. Laurence Zitvogel in Paris did this amazing important study. She took 200 cancer patients who were being treated with the immunotherapies. She just separated them out into people that actually had a good response and people who didn’t respond. Then she dove deeply to figure out what the differences were between the people who are responders and non-responders. It seems like a really simple logical thing to do, but in fact, it’s quite a complicated thing if you really wanted to look for differences.
What she found, when you accounted for sex, age, comorbidities, medications, other risk factors, diet, lifestyle, and all kinds of other things, the only difference between someone who responded and didn’t respond is one bacteria in their gut—one bacteria. If you had that bacteria, you responded. If you didn’t have that bacteria, you didn’t respond. That bacteria is called akkermansia muciniphila. It’s a normal healthy gut bacteria that we now are beginning to realize it actually governs and helps to control. It’s like air traffic control for our immune system—it conducts surveillance.
Here’s the amazing thing about that bacteria, when she took out the bacteria from patients who were responders to the treatment and went to the lab to figure out—she took lab animals, mice, who actually didn’t have any bacteria and put them in there—if she put a tumor on there and then treated them, the same thing that you saw in patients. The immunotherapy would allow the mouse’s immune system to completely wipe out cancer. If on the other hand, she put the bacteria in there, the animal had a tumor and she gave an antibiotic and wiped out that bacteria, no effect of the immunotherapy.
Powerful, powerful concept of a single bacteria helping your immune system function, but where the surprise is for me when it comes to diet has to do with the fact that you cannot actually eat this bacteria. There’s no probiotic for akkermansia. The only thing you can do is to eat foods that actually cause your own gut, your own intestines to secrete the mucus that this bacteria love to grow in. By the way, what is the food? Pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, and Concord grape juice. They cause our colons to secrete mucus. When that mucus is secreted, the akkermansia loves to grow. It’s like putting fertilizer into your garden. The flowers start blooming, and you can actually put yourself into a situation where you can then have the best possible chances of responding.
This isn’t a food versus medicine. This is food and medicine. To be able to get that kind of impact from diet, life, and that situation to me was a delightful surprise.
[01:03:13] Ashley James: Oh my gosh. That makes all the difference. It’s funny, I googled akkermansia muciniphila. Is that how you say it?
[01:03:22] Dr. William Li: Exactly.
[01:03:23] Ashley James: I googled it and the first thing that comes up is a bunch of probiotics, but as you’re saying, you don’t want to take a probiotic. You want to eat food to support the gut in creating the environment that then this bacteria comes and lives. Does it have to be grape juice? Can you eat grapes or grape juice is the best way to do?
[01:03:48] Dr. William Li: The studies have been done so far with grape juice, but obviously, the juice is just coming from the grapes so you might as well eat the grape too and you get all the other good stuff that’s good for other parts of your body including your blood vessel health and metabolism. I always go for the whole food if you can get it, if you can eat it, but the juice isn’t a problem either. I would say many people are concerned about the amount of sugar that’s found in fruit juices. What I would say is that number one yes, sugar is found in some fruit juices, and yes, having too much sugar, from any source, is bad. But sugar in a natural fruit juice is better than added sugar in a soda or in a cup of coffee. You choose your weapons, you choose your sugar wisely.
The good thing about fruit is that you actually wind up having a lot of other good stuff that comes along with it. If the sweetness of the fruit makes your mouth water and it makes you want to eat more of it, that’s not a bad thing necessarily. Again, moderation.
[01:05:02] Ashley James: Moderation is key. It’s interesting to know that fructose is the only carbohydrate, I believe, that will not trigger satiation. That’s why an 18-year-old could consider drinking two liters of Coke, but they would never drink two liters of milk in one sitting. The fructose does not trigger that satiation, so people tend to want to binge on or the brain wants to binge on fructose. It’s part of our mechanism for when we were hunter-gatherers. It’s just good to know for people who maybe have addictive tendencies that when they start drinking juice or start eating even just fruit or any form of fructose, it can help to trigger more of their addictive tendencies. But if you stay in moderation, like you said, everything in moderation, you have someone drank a few ounces a day of cranberry juice, which is very tart, I can’t see anyone wanting to over-consume that.
You said concord grapes, pomegranate juice, or cranberry juice, or someone could eat pomegranates. It’s kind of hard to eat cranberries. I actually have made a really delicious cranberry relish that didn’t have any sugar in it. It was raw cranberries diced in a food processor with a bunch of orange and orange zest. It’s very delicious.
[01:06:36] Dr. William Li: If you were to put cranberries with some mango, or cranberries some banana—I’m trying to think of other things you could actually blend with cranberries. I think you could actually find other ways to sweeten it. You don’t have to just do the old Thanksgiving recipe of dumping a cup of sugar with a cup of cranberries, as tasty as that might have been when you were a kid. Maple syrup is another kinder, gentler way of actually putting a little bit of sugar in something. I know you’re from Canada originally. It’s the home of maple syrup.
[01:07:13] Ashley James: Maple syrup courses through our veins.
[01:07:17] Dr. William Li: Exactly. I think it’s all about moderation.
[01:07:24] Ashley James: Right. That’s amazing. You’ve seen people reverse cancer with diet, but just understanding that those who consumed those foods so that their gut could have that bacteria made all the difference to them. Are there any other keys that you were really surprised to uncover?
[01:07:47] Dr. William Li: What was really amazing to me is that if you were to compare the potency of food side-by-side with a cancer drug or even a non-cancer drug, you can really get the sense of how powerful foods are. We did this actually with green tea where we tested green tea in the same system for doing cancer drug development. We found that it was at least as active as about half the cancer treatments that we had tested. What was also interesting, that was kind of a surprise to me, is when it comes to food and health, there’s a lot of science—more science to be done—but there’s also a lot of ideology, there’s a lot of belief system, there’s a lot of pride of thinking that’s out there. Sometimes that’s confusing with science.
What’s interesting is most people would say that tea is good for you and that green tea is really good for you and that black tea might not be so good for you because it’s been fermented and a lot of the polyphenols have been destroyed, but actually, we found in angiogenesis assays would say that in fact—and then people will say with green tea, that Japanese tea, is the best. When we actually were agnostic like we had no ideology. We said let’s just test some green tea from Japan and other places like China. Let’s test some black tea as well.
A big surprise for me was we found that jasmine tea from China actually was more powerful in an angiogenesis assay for blood vessel health than Japanese tea. But even more surprising was that a black tea, Earl Grey, which is black tea with bergamot which is kind of a citrus type of citrus peel was more potent than any of the green teas. What was even more surprising is when we did something unthinkable culturally, which is to mix, blend Japanese and Chinese tea together, we actually found that when you tested that combination that was even more powerful than any of the teas.
So it opened their ideas of food synergies, right? Because nobody eats food by itself. We really tend to mix things together. What don’t we know? I mean we know tomatoes are good for you, we know that olives are good for you, and we know that some spices or herbs are good for you, but do we know what happens if you mix them together? Does 1 plus 1 equal 10? That’s the kind of research that lies ahead that I’m super excited to be doing.
[01:10:48] Ashley James: Absolutely. What was the Japanese and Chinese combination that made the biggest difference?
[01:10:53] Dr. William Li: It was a Japanese Sencha, which most people revere. I mean it’s got a great taste, I love Sencha. Then we tested it against Chinese jasmine tea, which they call Dragon Balls. Teas rolled together with jasmine flowers. We tested either those, side-by-side, in an angiogenesis assay. A big surprise to me was that the Chinese tea was more powerful and potent than the Japanese tea, but then when we actually mixed the two together we got actually an effect that was more powerful than either, and even more powerful than the black tea. If you counted the potency, it was definitely synergy. They were more than additive. They actually did something yet different again. What’s the impact on the growing conditions, the soil from which they came, or the age or the season in which the leaves are picked. All these are amazing questions that need to be asked.
[01:11:57] Ashley James: When you did this study, did you figure out how much? What was the optimal brewing and consistency of the tea and how much someone would need to drink every day to maximize the benefits of drinking it?
[01:12:14] Dr. William Li: The way I do food as medicine research is by looking at lots of different types of data and lots of different types of studies. The reason that’s important is that you can’t really study food in the exact same way you’d study a drug. You study a drug like a pharmaceutical, what do you do? You give 1,000 patients the drug and you give another thousand patients a sugar pill or a placebo. Then you make them take that drug X number of times a day for a few months or maybe a year and then you measure the outcome. You can’t make anybody just eat only tomatoes, and you can’t make the other people not eat tomatoes for a year. The way that I approach the research is number one, we look in the lab. We see in cells and looking at the genetics and molecular biology, what does the food actually do or the substance within the food?
This can be done in tissue culture and genetic studies. It could be done with lab animals, animal models. All the standard stuff. Then you can go to clinicals in humans. For humans, you can actually do a clinical trial. The cacao, the hot chocolate study I told you about—regenerative blood vessel cells, stem cells—was actually a human’s trial done with people. Small studies because it’s really difficult to do long term studies like this. But then you have population studies where you cannot just do a couple of dozen people, you can do hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people. In fact, some of the largest epidemiological studies, they call them population studies, can involve hundreds of thousands of people.
There’s a gigantic study in Europe that is looking at 500,000 people across a dozen European countries and studying them over the course of their lifetime. The conclusions that you get are really by converging all that data, and then figure out what does the data tell you. When we were talking about tea earlier when you were asking about the right dose, well, many of the studies have been done in humans have shown that tea benefits that protect the heart, to protect against cancer, even protect against dementia, any range, anywhere from two to four cups of green tea a day, most of the studies have been done in green tea. So that would be the dose. The question is, how long would you need to take it? Many of these studies are conducted over a period of years, looking at people’s intake over the course of years.
This is, again, food isn’t like a drug. You just go out to the drugstore and you pop a pill and you’re done or pop it once a day for seven to ten days like an antibiotic. This is why having a great habit when you’re young can pay off later on in life, but it’s never too late. You’re never too old to actually shape-shift a little bit and lean towards what I like to say, a delicious healthy diet that pleases you that you love. In my book, I write about more than 200 foods. They all activate one or more of the body’s health defense systems. Everyone can find something that they love in that list of 200 plus foods. If you start with the foods that you love as healthy choices, you’re already way ahead of the game because you’re not about cutting out things you love, you’re adding things to your diet that you love.
[01:16:07] Ashley James: That makes total sense. I was amazed to learn about—I’m not going to say this right—anti-angiogenesis or the compounds that prevent new blood vessels growing to cancer.
[01:16:26] Dr. William Li: That’s anti-angiogenic foods.
[01:16:28] Ashley James: Right.
[01:16:30] Dr. William Li: Some of the really interesting ones are also surprises. I got involved in this many, many years ago. When there was a research paper that came out, I spied. It was a Greek researcher doing research in Germany. The lab had vials and vials and vials of frozen urine from Japanese villagers outside of Kyoto who all ate vegetarian diets, mostly soybean products. The laboratory was studying female hormones. Obviously, during menstruation, there are female hormones found in urine. That’s what the lab is originally doing. They had all this extra frozen urine around, and they were trying to figure out what type of experiments would be useful to do. They decided they would just see what’s in the urine and not be biased. They looked at everything that was in the urine, and they found a couple of really interesting surprising peaks.
Think about urine, you put it into a device that can measure all the chemicals. If there’s a chemical, the needle jumps and you get a little spike in the readout. There’s a sticker tape that comes out and the readout there. They found a couple of gigantic spikes. They’re like what the heck is this? It turns out they were not female hormones, but they were homormoneish-like. They found that it was a phytoestrogen that comes from soy. We now know this. Soy is a phytoestrogen. What they did though is they tested the chemical from the urine. They tested it on blood vessel cells and they found that it potently shut down the blood vessels that tumors would grow to try to feed themselves. It was anti-angiogenic cancer starving.
You say, wait a minute, we know that women are often told to stay away from soy products because these phytoestrogens are dangerous for breast cancer, right? That’s an urban legend. The urban legend is from well-intentioned people trying to interpret the information is that soy estrogen, plant estrogens look nothing like human estrogens. They’re called estrogens but they actually don’t do the same thing. In fact, plant estrogens block human estrogens. We know that human estrogens can be responsible for some types of breast cancer, and in fact, we give blockers of human estrogen to treat those cancers. Turns out, soy estrogens—phytoestrogens—do the same thing as those pharmaceuticals. They block the human estrogen.
How do we know that soy is safe to take? A study of 5000 women who already had breast cancer, so the highest risk women were studied and this was a study done out of Shanghai called the Shanghai women’s breast cancer study. They found that those women with breast cancer diagnosis who ate more soy had better outcomes, less mortality, and less chance of cancer coming back the more they ate. How much soy do they need to have? About 10 grams of soy protein a day. That’s the amount of soy you would get in about a glass of soy milk per day, not that much. Again, go to the lab, look at what’s in there, look at human samples and human trials, then look at big populations and see. A study of 5000 women is pretty convincing. You would think that if it’s dangerous you would see it right there.
Then there was a meta-analysis of 14 different studies of women with breast cancer and studying the effects of soy. In every single case of these 14 clinical trials, the intake of soy was associated with better survival and in no case was the intake of soy associated with more mortality. I think that’s a case closed kind of thing.
[01:20:51] Ashley James: Do you know, in those studies, did they choose non-GMO soy or organic soy, or did they differentiate what kind of soy they were using?
[01:21:02] Dr. William Li: That’s a good question. In those big studies, they haven’t really differentiated those. Some of these studies were coming out of Asia, some of them were coming out of Europe. The big concern about GMO—the debate, the controversy about GMO—is something that’s really worthwhile studying. I’ll tell you something interesting that came out recently that I discovered about GMO and about organic. A lot of concepts of GMO being worse and organic being better are all based on the principles that they should be better or should be worse. The real question is how would you actually know? You’d have to do human studies, which some of which are underway right now, so we have to wait and see what those research studies show.
So far, what I would say is that for GMO, it’s very, very difficult to avoid GMO anything because the seeds are out there, butterflies and bees take them everywhere. Even if you think something is not GMO, it may wind up being that the pollination has contaminated a non-GMO with GMOs. That the seeds that they started them with weren’t that way—really, really difficult studies. The other thing that I got surprised with was organic. I mean organic supposedly better, and of course, nobody wants pesticides in their foods.
Recently, there was a paper study published showing that strawberries that are grown in an organic fashion, meaning without pesticides, actually have more healthful properties in the berry. That’s the reason is that when you don’t have pesticides used to grow the strawberries, bugs eat the strawberry leaves. That’s the whole point of pesticides to keep the pests away, but when insects eat at the leaves of the plant, the plant views it as a wound to the plant and it responds by actually healing itself. Part of the wound healing response is to put more bioactive stuff into the fruit. You actually get a more powerful fruit when it’s actually eaten, attacked by an insect.
[01:23:39] Ashley James: Interesting.
[01:23:40] Dr. William Li: Really interesting stuff, right?
[01:23:42] Ashley James: Also, when you’re eating food that isn’t sterile and been harmed by these chemicals, when you’re eating food like strawberries that have been grown in the most organic fashion—let’s say in your own backyard—when we eat the strawberry, we’re consuming bacteria that live on the strawberry. That bacteria helps our body to digest and assimilate the nutrients from that strawberry. I think that it’s really good to eat a variety of raw and cooked foods, if you can tolerate it. Some people with digestive problems can’t, but if you can eat a variety of fresh raw foods because it helps us to invite those good bacteria that are specific to those foods that help us to assimilate the nutrients.
My biggest concern is glyphosate, which is Roundup. It’s known as a chelator. I’ve had a few people on the show about it. Dr. Stephanie Seneff has talked about how it binds to heavy metals and it releases the heavy metals when pH changes in the body like blood to urine or blood to the cerebral spinal fluid, and that they find that it deposits heavy metals into the tissue in the body. We want to avoid Roundup or glyphosate as much as possible. I also had Jeffrey Smith on the show who’s a producer of documentaries around GMO. He brought up a really interesting study. It’s been a few years since I interviewed him so I don’t remember the exact title of it. In Canada, they studied women and found that Bt toxin—that they actually had gut bacteria. They stopped eating GMO but that their gut bacteria, the DNA of their gut bacteria, had been hijacked by the Bt corn. They believe that the DNA, the genetically modified DNA of the corn then attacks and hijacks our gut biome. The gut biome was producing Bt toxin.
We’re playing with the DNA of the foods we’re eating. We have to wonder about the effects it will have on our cells but also the effects it will have on the microbiome, which, as you pointed out, is so important. I totally agree with you. We can never be 100% sure if the soy we’re eating is non-GMO. If we could buy organic, hopefully, there’s no glyphosate in it. Very interesting what you’ve pointed out that consuming healthy amounts of soy can help to prevent cancer but also people with cancer benefit from it as well.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman talks about the importance of eating even just a cup of mushrooms a day and something like maybe half a cup or a cup of onions a day, raw or cooked, can increase the ability to prevent vasculature growing to new cancer. Like you said, if you eat food that you like I love mushrooms and onions, so I make sure I eat them every day. If we can pick foods that we like that we enjoy that also nutrify the body, then go for it. Eat lots of variety of those healthy fruits and vegetables.
I definitely want to make sure listeners get your book, Eat to Beat Disease. Your website is drwilliamli.com. Of course, the links to everything that Dr. Li does is going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com. Do you do telemedicine? Do you work with people? What are the other ways that listeners can follow you, learn from you, and work with you?
[01:27:40] Dr. William Li: One of the best ways is actually to sign up on my website at drwilliamli.com. Actually, I’m going to be unrolling a new program where I’m actually able to give out the breaking news information, news you can use, tips on how you can actually live a better lifestyle. One of the things that you can get, definitely just by signing up, is a free shopping list. Because I’ve taken the 200 foods from my book, and I’ve broken them down into, generally, the order that you might encounter them when you actually go into a grocery store. These days, you don’t want to waste any time in the grocery store. You want to get in there and get out like a SWAT team.
The more you can actually take a look at what the healthy stuff is—mark it off, check it out, make a list, get it in your head, make a beeline for the parts that you want to get, and then get out of dodge that’s something that I really feel like a healthy food shopping list can be useful for. That’s how I encourage people to do it. I’m also on social @drwilliamli. Please follow along, like, and spread the word because this is something so important in the COVID era. This virus has been a big wake-up call for the entire human species that our health is no longer about juicing, jogging, and yoga. It’s about how we take care of ourselves every single day, and we make decisions when we eat that can really help make the difference between whether we can resist disease and whether we might succumb to it.
[01:29:26] Ashley James: If everyone did a little bit of juicing, jogging, and yoga I think this world would be a better place. Thank you so much for coming on the show. My last question for you is I know you already eat a very healthy diet and you focus on a healthy lifestyle because you see the science behind it in preventing disease, what did you change in your diet and lifestyle in the last few months? What did you encourage your family, your close loved ones to do because of the COVID pandemic.
[01:30:00] Dr. William Li: I’ll tell you, one of the things that I really wanted to make sure that we’re doing is getting enough vitamin C and vitamin D. Those are micronutrients that are found in many different types of foods like citrus or mushrooms that if you’re deficient in, your immune system is more likely to fail to detect viruses. I wanted to make sure that, at least for me, I’m actually getting up to snuff at the baseline. Then some of the other foods that I started eating that really can enhance our community are things like I mentioned pomegranate juice. I started to have more tomatoes, which are a great source of vitamin C. I started really making sure I was eating tree nuts like pecans, which I really love, olive oil, blueberries, and blackberries are really great.
Actually, one of the things that I did is I actually did a little public service announcement on YouTube called 10 Things You Should Eat Right Now To Beat COVID-19 and put it out there. Immediately, it started to go viral because people were just looking for information of what I would do to actually eat and what I’ve done, so I put that out there—10 things that you can eat to be COVID-19 on YouTube, subscribe. Those are how I changed my life. I’m happy to continue to let people know what new things I’m actually doing as well.
[01:31:31] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you, Dr. William Li. It’s been a pleasure having you on the show. You are welcome back anytime you want to come and teach and share. We’d love to have you back.
[01:31:40] Dr. William Li: Thank you, Ashley. It’s a real pleasure to be with you.
[01:31:43] Ashley James: I hope you enjoyed today’s interview with Dr. Li. Please share it with those you care about. Let’s get this information out to help as many people as possible to learn true health. Come join the Facebook group. Search Learn True Health on Facebook or go to learntruehealth.com/group and join the Facebook group. It’s a wonderfully supportive community. We’re all in this together to learn what we can do to tweak our diet, our lifestyle, supplements whatever we can do to just switch it over to build the body into a place that develops health instead of disease. We can heal the body. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself. Even if you’ve been told you’re going to have this for the rest of your life, I have met so many people, myself included, who have reversed diseases and illnesses that they were told by doctors they’d always have for the rest of their life.
So don’t give up hope. Instead, dive in, listen to more episodes of the Learn True Health podcast, and come join the Facebook group. There is hope. As long as you’re living and breathing, as long as you have a pulse, your body can heal itself. You can do many things to support your body’s ability to heal itself. I’m so happy that you’re here to learn how you can optimize your health through every meal, through every breath. There are so many things you can do mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and energetically. That’s exactly what this podcast is here to help you with.
So please, dive in, keep listening. Make sure that you share this episode and share the podcast with those you love so we can help as many people as possible. Come join the Facebook group so that you can keep learning, keep asking questions, and keep growing. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day.
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