Naveen Jain And Ashley James
- Bad oral hygiene causes inflammation in the gut and the body
- The byproduct of the gut microbiome is important
- What diet ages people the quickest
- No such thing as a universal healthy diet
Every single person is unique, not only physically, but even internally. Because each person is unique, shouldn’t we have a diet specific to what our body needs? In this episode, Naveen Jain tells us the at-home tests that Viome has created that help in optimizing our health. He talks about the importance of feeding the microbiome what it needs and that every gene in our body is important, so all genes expressed in the body need to be tested to fine-tune what diet our body needs specifically.
Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. Today is one of those days that’s going to change your life. I’m so sure of it. This episode is mind-blowing. Cutting-edge, state-of-the-art at-home tests—you don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to go to the doctor’s office. You don’t have to go to a lab somewhere to have blood drawn. An at-home test that can take a few drops of your blood easily with a finger prick, can take stool, and even saliva and do a huge immense amount of genome work on the microbiome and of the mitochondria of your body, which are also bacteria, and understand exactly what you need to eat to bring everything back into balance and to make your gut bacteria work for you instead of against you. We can heal a leaky gut. We can heal all kinds of autoimmune issues that are triggered by and at its root caused by dysbiosis. This is very exciting.
If you listen to episode 440, the one right before this, I had a gastroenterologist who has been working for 14 years helping people heal the gut with food. This episode complements that one because now we’re taking something to a whole new level where now you get to determine exactly what foods specifically for you right now, specifically for the very complex and individual microbiome matrix that is so specific to you. No two people in the world have the same makeup of gut bacteria, and so of course, not one exact diet fits all. Why is it that some people can eat bananas and some people can’t? It’s because of our gut, and it all starts there.
We could even heal food allergies by following this method. So I’m so excited for you to listen to today’s episode. I want to let you know that I always ask founders and owners of companies to offer discounts to the listener. So Naveen has offered a discount for listeners. If you choose to do his at-home test, you’re going to use the coupon code LTH when you go to his website Viome and you use the coupon code LTH. I want to let you know that his website has a discount right now. He does have things on sale, but he does have things at a discounted rate, and you’ll get an even further discount by using the coupon code LTH. But there will come a time when those discounts on the website go away, you’ll still get a discount by using coupon code LTH. Go to viome.com, use coupon code LTH, and get a further discount.
Enjoy today’s interview. It’s a doozy for sure, and I can’t wait to have him back on the show. My husband and I have ordered the kit, and we are going to be doing it. So the next time I have him on the show I will be sharing our experience with it, and I’m very, very excited. I’ve already told some friends about this and every single one of them said how can I get my hands on this kit. This sounds amazing. I have a feeling that everyone’s going to enjoy today’s interview and make you think about your bacteria in your body in a new way.
Thank you so much for sharing this episode. Thank you so much for supporting the Learn True Health podcast. Come join our Facebook group if you get a kit from Viome and use the coupon code LTH there. If you end up going to viome.com and doing the kit, please come to the Learn True Health Facebook group and share your results as I will share mine as well. I’d love to hear from you guys and hear what you think. Excellent. Let’s figure out what we can do to feed our mitochondria and feed our microbiome to achieve absolute, amazing health together. It’s so exciting. Enjoy today’s interview.
[00:04:09] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 441. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have Naveen Jain on the show. Viome is your website, is your business—viome.com. I’m very excited about this. You are offering a discount to listeners. The LTH coupon code they can use. You give testing that allows us to get precise food and supplement recommendations based on our gut microbiome and mitochondrial health, and this is fascinating. So many of my listeners have asked me what food allergy tests they should get. And every week, my listeners are asking about different probiotics and how they can heal the gut. Many of my guests have said that if you want to heal any disease, you have to start by healing the gut microbiome. It is that important.
And of course, now we know more and more that if you don’t have mitochondrial health you have a disease. Your company is helping people to get right to the root and solve this health crisis we have of chronic disease. I’m excited today because you said you wanted to talk about how we can, as a society, move in the direction so that chronic disease becomes optional. Welcome to the show.
[00:05:43] Naveen Jain: Thanks, Ashley. It is just amazing that we are living in this world of COVID, and it is hard to even mention that as a humanity, we really have done a great job of infectious disease. These pandemics, like COVID, happen once every 100 years. But at the end of the day, the world has this epidemic of chronic diseases. Think about it, we know or every one of us knows at least a dozen people who are suffering from obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, or autoimmune disease. You can give names like heart diseases, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, but these are just the symptoms. These are just symptoms of chronic inflammation.
So one of the things that I realized is that chronic diseases are really caused by chronic inflammation. In terms of chronic inflammation, the root cause of almost all of the chronic inflammation, especially the systemic chronic inflammation, tends to be the gut microbiome. We somehow feel that we have discovered some new signs and new biology about human beings, and we are so much smarter. But if you go back 2500 years ago and Hippocrates say the same thing, “All diseases begin in the gut. Let food be thy medicine. Let thy medicine be the food.” It’s not that we have become any wiser or any smarter, except that now we have a scientific way of actually looking inside the body and finding out what is going on.
So if I were to describe Viome in a simple way, we digitize the human body. We look at every single gene that’s expressed in the human body. We look at the human gene expression, mitochondrial gene expression, the gut microbial gene expression, and the oral microbial gene expression. As you mentioned, these things all work together. Unfortunately, it’s not like these things are just siloed. What happens in your gut doesn’t stay in the gut. It changes our body. What happens in our mouth when we chew our food changes what happens in the gut that changes what happens in the body.
All these things are interconnected. As we go along here, we’re going to talk a lot more about this latest research and the latest science of what we’re learning.
[00:08:10] Ashley James: I’m going to just come out and say the big elephant in the room. Let’s just clear the elephant in the room right now. A lot of my listeners are really interested in doing the different gene tests, but they’re afraid of—myself included. My naturopathic physician was suggesting I do one of these gene tests, but I don’t want to give my genetic code over to a company that’s going to sell it to a pharmaceutical company. Does Viome promise to not sell our RNA or DNA sequences or the information of our body to other corporations? Do you keep our information protected and safe?
[00:08:54] Naveen Jain: First of all, the short answer is yes. I’m going to give you a slightly longer answer as well.
[00:08:58] Ashley James: I’d love a longer answer.
[00:09:00] Naveen Jain: So the longer answer is, remember, your DNA or your genes never change. That means you’re born with your DNA, you’re born with the genes, your genes never change. Anytime someone who is telling you they can give you some recommendations based on your genes is simply fooling you, here is why. Now imagine, if I made the recommendations to you based on your genes and a year later you gained 200 pounds, has your genes changed? No. Your recommendation better change because you’re not going in the right direction. Now let’s assume you also developed depression, now you have autoimmune diseases, now you have diabetes, you have every chronic disease known, and now your genes still haven’t changed. So how can you possibly tell me that somehow the solution lies in the genes?
What really the diseases develop when your gene expression that means your expression of genes is constantly changing, your genes don’t change. So if you’re not looking at gene expression you will never be able to know what is causing a disease, and that’s literally how cancers are formed or everything. It is the microbial gene expression signaling the human genes expressions and they’re literally working in coordination that causes almost every single chronic disease. If you’re not born with a disease you’re not going to get a disease unless you actually trigger it, and these triggers happen with the choices that we make every day.
The interesting thing about gene expression is genes are like your thoughts. You can have good thoughts or you can have bad thoughts, and as long as you don’t express any bad thoughts there is no crime that happens. In the same way—you can have good genes or bad genes. If your bad genes are not being expressed, then you are in good shape. It is really about the expression of genes. You may or may not know, Viome is the only company in the world that actually measures the gene expression because no one has figured out how to sequence RNA because they all look at DNA, which is genes rather than RNA, which is really where the gene expression comes from. As we go along we’ll tell you a lot more about that. I just want to make one more point.
Assume hypothetically that I looked at your gut and I got the gene expression of it. God forbid, let’s assume somehow somewhere our data got stolen. Let’s just assume because anybody who tells you that they have a complete foolish safeguard. We are HIPAA compliant, we have every single security put in place. But let’s assume, God forbid, it does get stolen, then what now? The question you have to ask yourself is since your gene expression is always changing, someone can beat the out of you and you still have a different gene expression so they won’t be able to match it back to you. That means since it’s a dynamic environment we know what is happening right now. And six months later or a year later, it’s going to be completely different. That’s why it is less critical to worry about gene expression than about genes. I hope that makes sense.
[00:12:07] Ashley James: You said some very interesting things in there. Your microbiome gene expression triggers your body’s gene expression. We know the microbiome is incredibly important, but the microbiome is reaching out and sending signals to our body, and our body’s gene expression will change based on our microbiome’s health.
[00:12:29] Naveen Jain: Of course. Think about that, right? I mean 70% of our immune system is along our gut lining. How does our immune system get trained? So it’s literally the signals that microbial—what I would call micro poop, which the technical term is metabolites. The microbiome metabolites. That means the molecules that are produced by the microbiome based on the food they eat they produce certain molecules, and I call them micro poop because they’re literally the poop of these microbiomes. Sometimes these poops are really, really good. They produce short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate.
So the butyrate is a microbiome metabolite or microbiome tool. That literally triggers our immune system to calm down, so it’s anti-inflammatory. There are things like that microbiome produce a molecule called LPS, lipopolysaccharide, that literally creates then tells the immune system to start creating more pro-inflammatory compounds because it says, hey look, the bad stuff is here. Start creating the pro-inflammatory stuff so we can kill that stuff right. It’s constantly interacting with the immune system. Just know that our immune system does not have eyes and ears. Our epithelial cells don’t have eyes and ears. It is simply acting on the biochemicals or the chemicals that are being produced by the microbiome. And based on what is being produced, our body changes. For example, most people probably know that 90% of our serotonin is produced in the gut, not in our brain. And serotonin is, as most people know, is the molecule that actually makes you feel good. Serotonin makes you feel good, right?
The interesting thing is 90% of it is produced in the gut, and it’s produced by the human epithelial cells. But how do the human cells actually know when to produce it? That is triggered by the gut microbiome. So the microbiome triggers the chemical that actually causes the epithelial cells to produce serotonin. They literally are always interacting with each other and you will find that that’s why without microbiomes, your genes are necessary for you to be born, but you couldn’t live if you didn’t have the microbiome in your body.
In fact, the majority of if you look at all the genes that are expressed in our body, 99% of them are expressed by the microbes, which are foreign to our human body. If you look at the human genes, Ashley, less than 22,000 genes that are expressed in the human genes are protein coding genes. When you start to look at the microbes, 39 trillion microbes in our gut, and a trillion in our mouth and all over our body. They are expressing somewhere between 2 million to 20 million genes. And that means at any point of time, we have probably less than 1% of the genes that are expressed in the body are our own, and the rest are all coming from somewhere else. We are literally a container for all these organisms. That’s really—we are beautiful containers for these organisms.
I might even argue that these organisms may have actually created us for their own benefit, right? If you are interested I’ll give you my creation story of how I think humans may have been created.
[00:15:55] Ashley James: We definitely have to hear that, especially when you look at it that way. When you look at it from a standpoint like we’re the planter box that the garden lives in. When you realize that that’s six pounds of gut biome sitting in our digestive system is trillions of cells and does 99% of the gene expression of our entire body. And it does things like convert our thyroid. 25% of our T3 is converted there. Our serotonin is made there. Our short-chain fatty acids are made there. So much of our nutrients are digested there. We know that when someone has an unhealthy or a sick microbiome that their entire body becomes sick. There’s a direct relationship.
Yes, it’s not us in that we didn’t grow. It’s not like the cells of my eye that I grew or the cells of my finger that I grew, but it is ours to take care of or to neglect. Just like having a pet, we have to take care of the microbiome. We can’t just eat whatever we want. If we eat whatever we want we’re going to get the common diseases. I often say in the show if you want to be a statistic, do what everyone else is doing. If you don’t want to be a statistic like the number one killer is heart disease. One in three people will have a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. One in three people has pre-diabetes or diabetes and are obese. All these diseases are on the rise, even though we spend, as a nation—I’m talking about the United States, but most industrialized nations are similar to us in that we spend the most out of every nation “health care” and yet we come in dead last in things like infant mortality and other chronic illnesses.
Your mission is to help build a society where chronic illness is an option. Where someone could choose to not be chronically sick. I love that you also mentioned if you’re not born with a disease, if you didn’t develop a disease in utero, and you weren’t born with a disease, then any disease that comes after birth is optional. Very interesting. I want to talk about those points. Let’s start though by going back to what you said about your creation story because it’s interesting. I’ve had an expert on the mitochondria on the show and he said—and this just blew my mind—that the mitochondria of our cells are a different DNA than the rest of our body. So at one point, we merged with mitochondria and made an agreement that they would be part of us.
We really do have foreign living organisms in a beautiful relationship with us. So tell us about your creation story.
[00:19:02] Naveen Jain: I think as you started that, think about it. Microorganisms have been on planet earth for three and a half billion years. The humans are, give or take, a couple of hundred thousand years old. How do you think the human came to be? And this is my tongue-in-cheek story and then I’m going to tell you the scientific basis of all how it actually happens. But this tongue-in-cheek story, once you hear it you can never unhear it. Now imagine this world. Close your eyes and imagine this world. All these microorganisms are living in Africa and then one day they all got together and said we are sick and tired of living in a small space. We want to take over the world, and they all looked at each other. One of the microbes says I have an idea. What is your idea?
What if we can create something bipedal and trillions of us could live right inside it? Now, all we have to do is keep this person. We can make it crave any food we want and they’re going to run all over the world, find the food for us. All we have to do is keep this thing healthy. Now we can make it crave anything we want and it’s going to go everywhere, it’s going to poop, everywhere, it’s going to spread us around, and we’re going to just take over the world. They actually created humans and they named it humans. Right after they created humans, they started to wonder, oh my God. What have we just done? As you can possibly imagine, we are so worried about artificial intelligence and we keep wondering what if someday the AI becomes smarter than us, what will happen to us humans?
So microbes had exactly the same thought. They all reassemble and say, master, master, what have we done? We created this monster called humans. What if someday it became smarter than us? What will happen to all of us? Master says not to worry for a second. We took care of all those problems. Master, what have you done? Master says, well the first thing we did is right inside their cell we put one of our brothers right inside their cell, and can you believe that they call that mitochondria. It provides all the energy for their cell and we keep in direct communication with us all the time. We are bacterial brothers, we talk to them all the time. At any point in time the humans don’t take good care of us, we tell our mitochondrial brother to shut the energy down and they’re all dead.
Master, that is brilliant. However, you’re forgetting something. What son? They are starting to develop this thing called the brain, what are we going to do about that? Master says, that’s the first thing we thought about what do you think we did? We put a direct connection to their brain and can you believe they call that a vagus nerve? They thought they’re going to name it after Las Vegas thinking what happens in the gut is going to stay in the gut. They’re so wrong. What happens in the gut goes everywhere. Now, through that vagus nerve, we control their mood, we control their behavior, we control their thinking, and we control their craving. And guess what, if they want to feel good they better take good care of us because we’re not going to let them produce most of the serotonin. 90% of that we’re going to produce it ourselves.
So ladies and gentlemen, we are the ones that actually are the puppets, and our puppet masters are these trillions of organisms that are constantly pulling the strings and telling us what to eat, what to do, how to think, and what happens to us. It’s a tongue-in-cheek story, Ashley, but I can tell you some of the research that came out. Just two weeks ago there was a research that showed that our social behavior, whether we are extrovert or introvert, actually is driven by our microbiome.
[00:22:55] Ashley James: Wow.
[00:22:56] Naveen Jain: Our mood is driven by our microbiome. Our cravings for the food are driven by microbiome so much so they did an experiment on different types of sweeteners, and it turns out that the microbiome releases the signal directly to the brain that releases the dopamine that is specifically designed for the sugar molecule. They want to test the theory is it just a sweetness versus actual preference for the sugar. So they did the artificial sweetener, and the microbiome hated that. They wanted their sugar. So they thought maybe it is because of the amount of calories the sugar has. So they actually created this molecule that had identical to sugar except that it cannot be digested. That means it won’t produce any calories. Guess what, they still have the same preference for the sugar molecule. That means they literally want their sugar, and that’s what happens. When we eat sweet stuff we crave sweet stuff, right?
But now interestingly, these organisms that make you crave for that stuff if somehow you can use two weeks of willpower not to eat sugar, guess what happens. You actually don’t even feel like eating anymore because we kill the organisms that are making you crave that stuff. And that’s literally what happens. You and I look at some people and say oh my God, how can you just eat this salad and some people say I love it. I enjoy it. For our microbes it’s like, I don’t want that stuff right. I want my bread. I want my pasta. I want my pizza.
Another very interesting thing we noticed, Ashley, was our blood sugar, diabetes, or glycemic response is completely dependent on what is happening in our gut. We actually did a large study that showed that we are able to predict the glucose response for a specific food based on what is going on inside your gut. That means two people can eat the same slice of bread and one person will get six times the glycemic response and the other person get none. Intuitively, we know some people who can eat bread all day and never get fat, and some people like me can smell bread and get fat, right? We all know that happens. That thing is all are driven by our gut.
The other interesting thing that we talked about—cancer and heart disease, I’m going to tell you something very interesting we found. In the last 30 days, there were two research papers published—one in cell and one in nature. And they looked at about 20 different types of cancer. What they realized was every single cancer tumor had microbiome inside the tumor, and that microbiome was very specific to each cancer, not only providing the energy to the cancer cells, but also protecting it from the immune system.
Remember, the microbes can tune the immune system down, so they were releasing the anti-inflammatory signal to let the cancer actually continue to grow so the immune system doesn’t kill it. Isn’t that amazing that now we are able to simply look at—there is a company that’s looking at it, just looking at the microbiome in the cell and the blood plasma and predict that not only you have cancer but what type of cancer just by simply looking at microbiome.
In fact, we applied for FDA now that by looking at the microbiome in our saliva we can predict stage 1 or stage 0, the pre-cancerous cells in your mouth oral cancer with 94% accuracy just by looking at the saliva microbiome. And it is really amazing how oral microbiome is communicating directly with the gut microbiome, is in constant communication. So essentially, are in fact our body. The other thing that’s really very fascinating to me is almost all of the metabolic diseases and you look at some of the neural diseases like depression, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s, many of them are obviously directly tied now to the gut microbiome. In fact, they were able to do a fecal transplant and were able to actually transfer the depressed person’s poop into a person that was not depressed, and actually the same phenotype goes across.
There was another very interesting research that recently came out. There was a person who had Alzheimer’s, and it turns out the person ended up getting a C. Diff infection. And for the C. Diff infection, they gave you tons of antibiotics, and then they do the fecal transplant. This person, after they got a C. Diff infection, they got a fecal transplant and six months later, this person’s memory came back. So Alzheimer was reversed simply with changing the microbiome.
Think for a second. Now what we are learning is just like when our gut microbiome is behaving improperly or what I would say dysbiosis, we get this leaky gut. And these microbes are constantly now going past the epithelial barrier into our blood, and our immune system is constantly inflamed trying to deal with that. The same thing happens when we have leaky gum. Remember, when you have blood, the gums which are inflamed. And now when you brush you’re bleeding because that inflammation now the microbiome from the mouth is now starting to go into the blood causing the same systemic low-grade chronic inflammation.
What they found was, at least in a couple of papers, oral microbiome could be a predictor for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and autism just like the gut. What’s really happening is that when you get the inflammation in your gum, in one of the studies they showed was not only the pathogens move from the mouth to the gut, even the immune cells—the Th17 cells—they actually fluorescence those cells. They saw them move from the mouth all the way to the gut. That means our immune system cells are moving as well when we have inflammation in the mouth. When we don’t have good oral hygiene, not only you are actually causing inflammation in the body, you’re also causing the inflammation in the gut, which also furthers the inflammation in the body.
[00:29:16] Ashley James: There are two things, one is to screen. So you can use the microbiome to screen for cancer, you can use the microbiome if there’s dysbiosis in the mouth, for example, which could be a precursor, like you said, to dementia and other problems. We can screen the microbiome and see what kind of diseases could have been created in the body because of this. So screening or early detection, especially with cancer, is key, but it’s not prevention. Prevention is the best key, it’s the root cause because if we could do a course correction or prevent it from becoming a dysbiosis in the first place, that would be the best thing.
So here we have people. Most of our listeners are really excited about getting even healthier. Some have major health issues, and some are fairly healthy but they want to get to the next level. Let’s just assume that all of us, on some level, may not have the perfect microbiome. We all have some form of dysbiosis or Homer Simpson gut. I once heard someone refer to the standard American microbiome as the Homer Simpson of microbiomes because there are so few. It’s like a dumbed-down microbiome, and that makes us crave really bad food for us. We could grow a new microbiome that would make us crave healthy foods instead of bad foods, that would give us our serotonin so we’re happier, that would prevent diseases, that would heal up the gut so we didn’t have leaky gut, and it just cascades into better and better health.
Does your testing help us do both screening things but also then teach us what we can do to regrow a healthier microbiome?
[00:31:18] Naveen Jain: The first thing is, I will tell you, we’re not a diagnostic test. We don’t tell you have cancer or you have this particular disease because that will be an FDA-approved diagnostic test. What we do instead is to look at what is going on inside your body. We will look at that blood, stool, and saliva, and based on that we can tell you what your cellular health looks like. That means cellular health consists of many things. In terms of what your oxidative stress looks like, how do your cells behave under stress, what is your cellular senescence looks like, how is your immune system activation, what is causing the immune system to be active.
We will give you things like your gut health, your cellular health, your mitochondrial health, your immune system health, your stress response health, and your biological age because in some sense, what is your true inside age rather than what your chronological age is. And under each one of those scores, we give you the sub-scores that if your gut health is this, what is causing you gut health to be this poor? Is it because your LPS is too high? Is it because your butyrate is too low? Or is it your sulfide production is too high? Ammonia production is too high. After looking at all of that we say here are the foods that you should avoid, and for each thing, we tell you why for you specifically.
For example, the first time when we launched the thing I did a test. I honestly thought, Ashley, I was eating the healthiest one could. I’m a vegan, to begin with. I’m eating spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprout. I wasn’t thinking I am going to be the person they’re going to put a picture of me and say this is what the healthy person looks like. It turns out, my gut was so bad it told me not to eat broccoli and says your sulfide production in your gut is very high and the broccoli contains a very high amount of sulfate. You should lay off the broccoli because the sulfide is causing a lot of inflammation in your gut.
My second thing was not to eat spinach because it sees your oxalate pathway for your gut microbiome, which is very poor that means you eat spinach that is very high in oxalic acid, it is not going to be digested properly. All the protein that lentils and legumes I was eating says it’s producing a lot of protein fermentation and producing ammonia that was causing issues because I was eating so much of this. That means they were not being digested, instead were going to the colon where they were being fermented and microbes were releasing ammonia. It told me to take a digestive enzyme along with my food to be able to digest that protein so it does not get fermented in the gut.
Literally, for every food it says here’s what’s going on, here are the food you should avoid, and why. Here are my superfoods and for each one it tells you why. And then it says here are the supplements that you need to keep your body currently correct. Because a lot of the things that your body is not currently producing that your body needs, so in the short term you should take these supplements until we can get your microbes to start producing that. Take butyrate so you can at least heal your gut lining while we get the short-chain fatty acids to get going.
Literally, that is what the test does. What is interesting is come now three years later, having followed this, my biological age now, I am in my 40s even though my chronological age is at 61. I’m in my 40s as a biological age just because I’m able to heal my gut and get my immune system health, mitochondrial health, and my cellular health to be this good.
[00:35:19] Ashley James: You’re in your 60s?
[00:35:20] Naveen Jain: Yeah, 61.
[00:35:22] Ashley James: You really do look like your early 40s.
[00:35:26] Naveen Jain: Yeah, so there you have it. My biological age is still I’m 40.
[00:35:29] Ashley James: I mean some of us would just do your test because we’re vain and we want to look 20 years younger.
[00:35:36] Naveen Jain: Ashley, I’m going to tell you something very interesting here. Now we looked at biological age and something really fascinating data that now that we’ve analyzed over a quarter-million people now. It’s a lot of people we have analyzed, and here is the thing that really surprised us. The number one offender of your biological age, that means what makes you really, really old is—now I’m going to say it and I’m going to probably get a lot of hate mail for that—the keto diet. The ketogenic diet makes people really thin and lose weight in the short term, but technically it completely their body.
[00:36:17] Ashley James: I can believe it. I had several keto doctors on and it sounded really interesting. My husband and I ended up doing the ketogenic diet with a naturopathic physician where we came in weekly. We did it for three months and we were very strict on it. I’ve done it about three times in my life, but this was a very strong stint of being in constant ketosis for three months with this naturopath. At the end of it, I had developed such bad liver problems that my liver was distended. You could see my liver was sticking out of my gut. It was very inflamed and painful. I went for an ultrasound and they said it wasn’t cirrhosis, it wasn’t fatty liver, it was just inflamed liver. My liver was so bad. All of my liver enzymes were through the roof. Basically, my liver was very damaged.
But what was worse was my husband developed incredibly high blood pressure like worrying about an aneurysm kind of blood pressure. Very scary high blood pressure in those three months. We went for further testing and he found out that he had such bad kidney damage from the ketogenic diet that it took him over a year of eating a whole food plant-based diet and supplementing to heal his kidneys. He had been put on several medications in the interim. We’re working with a really great naturopath here. It’s a naturopathic physician who’s a cardiologist. He specializes in heart and getting people so healthy they no longer need high blood pressure medication.
Working with him, it took my husband over a year to heal his kidneys and get his blood pressure back down from that event and get off of all the medications. It wasn’t worth it. What I do love—
[00:38:08] Naveen Jain: My point is you and I are both going to probably get canceled.
[00:38:13] Ashley James: I’m sorry.
[00:38:14] Naveen Jain: We are both going to be canceled. In a cancel culture, people are going to just think we are the two nut people trying to bad mouth keto diet because there are so many fans of the keto diet.
[00:38:24] Ashley James: You know what, my experience with my listeners is they’re very open to learning about and hearing it. I hope they’re not going to just cancel out what we said because they love the keto diet, and I get it. I get it. I was a raving fan of the ketogenic diet. I looked in all the research, followed the doctors, and I really, really loved it until my husband and I had those experiences. Then I turned around went wait a second, I was really ignoring all of the signs that it was deteriorating my health and it’s a very acidic diet. It’s very bad for the gut. It’s a way to manipulate the survival mechanism in the body, but is that really health? Is that really going to be long-term health?
I have a few friends that are really heavily into keto, and they have been for a few years. I’m afraid for them in the long term. So you’re seeing though that when they analyze cellular age that it is the one diet that ages people the quickest?
[00:39:32] Naveen Jain: Yeah. Remember, the aging is fundamentally the aggregation of all the damage that we are doing to our body, right? To some extent, the keto diet was one of those biggest offenders followed by the paleo diet, by the way. It’s really all these fad diets that we fall into maybe the short term may work for some people, not for others, but they really damage our bodies. To me, it is all about the right balance. You have to eat a balanced food. You can’t say carbs are bad. Carbs are not bad. Carbs are needed for your body. The point really is there is no such thing as a universal healthy diet.
A diet that’s good for one person may not be good for another person. Or even the foods that are good for you today may not be good for you six months from now because remember, when you change your food habits your gut microbial ecosystem completely changes, and then you have to readjust. It’s a constant tuning of your body. Just like you have to tune your car once a year, you got to tune your body every couple of times a year to keep this body into a perfectly working machine. If you want a great working machine you got to keep it tuned. And that’s what the gut microbes do is adjusting your diet so you can keep tuning your gut microbiome to stay in homeostasis. Another thing, Ashley, I found the concept of this good microbiome and bad microbiome. I think that is being just one of those misnomers just like good genes and bad genes.
These microbes actually all work together as one big ecosystem. Think of your gut microbes as a rainforest. That means every step you take in the rainforest can be completely different from each other, yet everything can be lush and green. That means no two people have the same gut microbiome. Both can be extremely healthy. In a sense, it is not about what organisms are there in each person’s gut. That is the second part that when you talk about health, and this has been a big, big misnomer in the field of microbiome. That’s the reason why science has never advanced. Our focus has always been in genes—microbiome genes, and the human genes—the DNA. What that meant was the focus on microbiome was to tell me who is there. I want to know the names of every organism that is there. Somehow thinking that will allow us to find out why people are sick.
The biggest breakthrough for us at Viome was we say that can’t possibly be the problem because I’m being naïve. I thought the microorganisms are probably like human beings. That means there are two people who could have completely different microorganisms producing exactly the same thing that may be causing a disease. Or the same organisms could be producing completely different things in two people’s gut based on the environment and the ecosystem it finds itself in, right? Because remember, you and I both know—like human beings—depending on which company we are in, our behavior changes, what we do completely changes. Me at work—an entrepreneur, me at home—a dishwasher. What changed? Not me. The environment, right?
And it’s very interesting that you look at Akkermansia, which generally most people consider to be good bacteria. Akkermansia can be very good when it is actually taking the fiber and producing butyrate or short-chain fatty acid for us. And Akkermansia can be extremely pathogenic and is known to cause many of the diseases including cancer when it actually turns into virulent and pathogenic. It is not about the organism itself, it is the environment. When you find an organism under attack—so let’s assume there are a lot of other pathogens or something that actually the organisms find to be inhospitable. The organisms start to release inflammatory compounds and antibiotics to kill other organisms so it can protect itself. Now the same organism that was producing short-term fatty acid is now producing toxins trying to kill everything else, in turn harming the body that it’s inside.
The point I’m trying to make is this fundamental change that we did at Viome was we focused on what these organisms are producing. That means what biochemicals are being produced rather than who they are because our body can’t see the bacteroidetes. My body cannot see the fusobacteria. My body cannot see Akkermansia muciniphila. It only can see the chemical signals that are being produced, and it doesn’t care why. It only cares about what is being produced. Our job now is to look at this ecosystem and say what biochemicals are being produced? How do we change the input? Like a computer, if food is the information, when you give it a new set of information, now the process comes up with a totally different output. So when input changes, your output changes.
But in this case, it is a self-modifying operating system in a sense that when you change your food, the organisms that can thrive on that food start to grow, and other organisms that can’t digest those foods start to wane. And now your ecosystem changes, that means now you have to start changing your diet again so that you can start to create a balance. Otherwise, when you keep eating the same food, the certain organisms that are really, really good at metabolizing that food they become in so much quantity then they start to behave poorly and they start to form the biofilm and they start to misbehave. It’s literally about getting the right balance between all of these different organisms to actually produce more and more nutrients for us.
[00:45:52] Ashley James: I love it.
[00:45:53] Naveen Jain: Makes sense?
[00:45:54] Ashley James: Yeah, absolutely. So the trillions of cells in our gut doesn’t matter what they are. There’s a variety. It’s like a rainforest. It’s more about what they’re producing. Don’t think of it like it’s a bad microbiome or good microbiome, it’s what’s being produced. What if someone has candida, for example? What if someone, in the past, we’ve called that a bad microbiome. The candida—the concern though is the byproducts it’s producing are toxic for the body, right?
[00:46:24] Naveen Jain: The interesting thing is, again, every organism—for example, one of the worst offenders is C. Diff, right? I mean everybody knows about C. Diff. Obviously, once you get a C. Diff infection then literally there’s not much you can do. You take as much antibiotics as you can and your only survival for people I’ve seen is FMT after that—fecal transplant. It’s very interesting almost every one of us has C. Diff. It is when it becomes out of control that means other organisms, which are good organisms, don’t keep it in balance, then it goes out of proportion. Remember, we need some of these—what I would say—pathogenic people to constantly keep our immune system primed.
Immune system is very interesting. When it is very, very low activity that means not prime and suddenly you get an infection, your immune system is really not ready for it. The immune system can’t be too inflamed—it’s really bad, or it’d be too low where it’s actually not ready for attack. The best way to do that is to have your immune system ready, but not be at high, high inflammation. That means at high activation where it’s dealing with so much inflammation. And that means a little bit of these pathogenic activities actually keep your immune system primed for you to be actually capable of dealing with when there is a pathogen out there.
In fact, when you look at our immune system health, when you have low immune system activation it is bad, and when you have high immune system activation is bad. And if you want to protect yourself from flu, cold, or for example COVID, the best thing you really need to do is to be right in the middle when it is in the best adult prime hood to go take on the enemy.
[00:48:11] Ashley James: Fascinating. Here we have a vast microbiome, and we want to support the body in having a diverse microbiome. Because what you’ve described as being optimal for the immune system. With your test, it’s testing for the byproducts of the microbiome. Then we can see what’s out of balance because it’s not so much, like you said, about what bacteria you have, which ones. The body doesn’t see that, but the body is affected by their poop and is affected by their byproducts. And some of their byproducts can be incredibly healing for the body, so we want to continue to feed those and give them the nutrients for them to thrive like the short-chain fatty acids are—
[00:49:08] Naveen Jain: Are good.
[00:49:10] Ashley James: Sorry.
[00:49:10] Naveen Jain: They’re very good. The SCFAs they’re very good, but they need fiber.
[00:49:15] Ashley James: Right, and they need fiber. You want to be eating the potatoes, for example, instead of the white bread. You want to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, but the problem is then we have these other microbiome that might be over-producing something that is harmful. So your test will say okay, this substance is too high in your gut so you want to limit these foods. Does your test also tell us what we should eat more of or continue to eat to support and grow a more diverse and healthy microbiome?
[00:49:51] Naveen Jain: Yeah. We give you a superfoods. Here are your top 20 or 25 foods you should eat as much as you can. Here are your foods of another 500 foods that you should enjoy as much as you can, here are the foods you should minimize, and here are the foods you should avoid. You lift all those four categories. And the one thing we are doing next, Ashley, which we have not announced yet but I’m going to tell you since you asked. We always found that getting these supplements, which are an augmentation to the food, how do we only give people what they need rather than giving as much as you can get?
What we found is any time you give your body something it doesn’t need, it actually has to work hard to get rid of it and that means it only causes damage to your body. We thought what if you can actually create supplements made to order for each individual, one capsule at a time. That means if I looked at your body and say here are the 60 things you need, here are the herbs you need, the food extracts, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, prebiotics, and probiotics. If you only need 22 milligrams of lycopene, there is no way to find it. What if we create these things for each individual made to order?
We’re going to be launching that next month. We’re launching that in August, basically making make to order after we do the test and say you need 22 milligrams of lycopene, 11 milligrams of elderberry, 2 milligrams of chicory root, and we need these 60 ingredients. We’ll literally take those exactly in that dosage for you and put them in these eight capsules in a sachet, make them for you only that time. And then when we do the retest, you can see all your health markers, what they were after you took all the changes, what they changed to, and then we reformulate again as we do the new results. Literally, constantly reformulating and giving you a new recommendation as your body is changing and adapting.
Imagine every four months, you get a completely new set of food recommendations, a new set of supplements that you need, and they’re all sent to you every single month and made just for you.
[00:52:18] Ashley James: Fascinating. So you recommend that someone would take this test every four months because they want to continue to adjust their diet? Obviously, diet is key, but then they can also have supplements made to order for their specific gut health and their body health.
[00:52:35] Naveen Jain: We also take all your superfoods that you need and we actually extract their stuff and put them in these supplements. For example, we know you may need fisetin that is in strawberries. But the problem is, first of all, you have to eat five pounds of strawberries to get enough fisetin. And the second problem is it also contains a lot of histamine producing products in the strawberry. In fact, we will see strawberry is avoid for you but the strawberry extract actually could be in the supplement. People say wait a second, how can the strawberry extract may be in my supplement when you’re asking me to avoid strawberry? And the answer is we literally just took out the fisetin from the strawberry, we gave them as a supplement, and we took out all the other histamine producing stuff that is going to cause you problems.
It is quite possible the food maybe avoid, but the underlying ingredients can actually be in the supplement that you need. That makes sense to you?
[00:53:35] Ashley James: Absolutely. When you went back and you took the test and it told you should take a digestive enzyme because you’ve been fermenting your food instead of digesting it. You should avoid these foods but eat more of these foods. Even though you eat a whole food plant-based diet, you eat a very, very healthy wholesome diet, you made these slight changes, which don’t seem bad. Cut out this vegetable, include this vegetable, and take an enzyme. That’s almost no effort at all to do. What health changes did you see in your body take place after doing that?
[00:54:10] Naveen Jain: Another interesting thing that you’ll find fascinating. My wife had completely different. Everything that was my superfood was her avoid, and my avoid for her superfood. And it became a challenge. We’ve all been told to eat together in the same dinner. It became a challenge for us to start following those diets. We ended up really making two things—one that was good for her, and one that was good for me. We started adjusting smoothies because for even right now, coconut water is her avoid and coconut water is my superfood. Guess what we do. We make the smoothie and I put the coconut water after.
What I’m trying to say is she is healthy, she works out every day. She tells me, “Why do I need to do anything? I am just so healthy already.” When she did that test and followed the diet—the husbands are always or your spouse is probably the dumbest person you ever know because they think what do they know? They’re not a doctor. How can their company be telling me do this. He’s not a doctor, what does he know? I said, “Look, why don’t you do the test and follow it for three months and you’ll find out for yourself.”
She does the test and she says, “You know it’s amazing. I used to always feel tired in the afternoon. I just needed a 15 minutes nap, and I just thought it is something that is needed. Now, I just don’t feel tired all day. I just never take a nap.” It’s like wow. She tells me quietly, “You know all my baby fat is gone.” I didn’t know how to respond to it. All I could say was, “What baby fat? I never saw it.”
[00:55:52] Ashley James: Good husband.
[00:55:58] Naveen Jain: The point I’m trying to make is for me, I don’t need more energy, but God, after I change my diet I feel so good. I jump out of the bed at 4:00 AM in the morning jumping with joy, wanting to do things, and I can work 17, 18 hour days and I work 7 days a week and never feel tired.
[00:56:18] Ashley James: I love it. Both of you—even though you were healthy to begin with—saw total improvements in your health in a few months just by making sure your diet was going to be optimal for what your gut biome produces. It’s so cool to think about how we can just cut out one food, include another, and all of a sudden our microbiome is producing better chemicals for our body. And then our whole body responds on every level. Energy, weight loss, mental clarity, and even hormone function.
[00:57:01] Naveen Jain: Everything.
[00:57:02] Ashley James: You have two tests. At viome.com you offer the Gut Intelligence service. I’m really surprised by your prices, to be honest, because I paid over $200—it was close to $300—to have my food allergy testing done. And I thought your services would be like $1000. The Gut Intelligence service is cheaper than what it cost for me to get my food allergy testing done. I’m thinking that if I followed your system in terms of the food recommendations, I’d have far better outcomes than following the IgG food intolerance test. You’ve got this Gut Intelligence service, and then you have another one, which is the Health Intelligence service that includes the Gut Intelligence service. Can you tell us about each one and why we should choose one or the other, or should we all just choose the Health Intelligence service because it includes so much more?
[00:58:11] Naveen Jain: Yeah. Obviously, one thing is the price. Look, if you can’t afford the Health Intelligence service, then you use the Gut Intelligence service. And again, the Health Intelligence service looks at your body, which is human gene expression, mitochondrial gene expression. That means we’re now looking at your cellular health, we’re looking at your immune system health, we’re looking at your mitochondrial health, we’re looking at your stress response, and we’re looking at your biological age. All that stuff also goes into our recommendations. If you’re not doing that test, then you still get very, very good recommendations, but only based on what’s happening in your gut microbiome.
Gut Intelligence test only looks at the gut microbiome. Health Intelligence looks at the gut microbiome and all the stuff that’s happening in the human body from the blood test. It is essentially an at-home test. When you order, it comes in—by the way, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the test or not—a beautiful kit. It’s literally like a Louis Vuitton silver metallic box. But the interesting thing is because we didn’t want people to feel it’s some type of a product that looks like a medical product because we want to make it very easy for people to use.
The way it is done is so easy at home. Even for blood, you don’t have to go somewhere to draw the blood. It is literally you finger prick it, four drops of blood. There is a small pipette, you put the pipette next to it, it draws a full drop of blood, you put in the test tube, prepaid envelope, a touch of stool—prepaid envelope, and you’re done. Literally done. Ten days, two weeks later, in the app, it tells you everything that we saw, so all the insights into your body. And it tells you here are your superfoods, here are your foods to avoid. For everyone it tells you why, so here are your superfoods and why, here are your foods to avoid and why, here are your foods to enjoy, here are your foods to minimize.
And the supplements that you can made to order for yourself, or you can just go buy them from Amazon. But in that case, you’re getting a whole bunch of stuff that you don’t need and paying 10 times more for the stuff that you don’t need. That means you could be spending $500, $600 a month getting these supplements, and most of the stuff you don’t need versus we just only put the stuff that you need and give it to you on a monthly price, which is substantially cheaper than what you would buy.
[01:00:36] Ashley James: Absolutely.
[01:00:38] Naveen Jain: Another interesting part that you mentioned was the food sensitivity test. I just want to say it because I think most people don’t realize. The food sensitivity is actually about IgG, which is the immune system antibodies for this food. Why would a food ever create a goal into the blood for your immune system to create antibodies? Think for a second.
[01:01:02] Ashley James: Because you have a leaky gut. You got a leaky gut and the food is getting in there. You eat some carrot, a tiny piece of carrot gets in. For me it’s bananas. I’m just so depressed about this. I loved bananas, and now my body just wretches and has such a negative reaction to bananas out of nowhere, but it’s leaky gut. So I ate some banana, I had a leaky gut, the little particles of banana got into the bloodstream, my immune system attacked it because it’s a foreign body—it’s not supposed to be in the immune system. Anything injected into the bloodstream that the body didn’t create as a foreign body that the immune system is going to mount a response against, and it’s not supposed to be there. If I were to eat a banana, my immune system would mount a huge response and my gut totally hates it.
[01:01:56] Naveen Jain: But here’s a very interesting thing. There are two points to make. One was if you have a leaky gut, you’re going to get the antibodies for almost every food that you eat a lot of because a little bit of it’s always going to end up in the blood. Literally, the IgG tells you that you have a leaky gut because if you are allergic to all these foods, all that means is you have a leaky gut. Not that you really are sensitive to those foods, it is what they show. If you fix the leaky gut because these antibodies go away in six months or nine months, then you would be able to eat the food. More often than not, most of the IgGs goes away.
In a sense, if you can now fix the leaky gut and you can tighten the epithelial barrier, then many of those IgG just disappear. So my point I’m trying to make is that the food sensitivity test is the wrong, wrong word. You’re not sensitive to those foods, you simply have a leaky gut. The point is, food should never be in the blood to begin with and there should not be an antibody. You’re not sensitive to those foods. You made them sensitive by eating the foods when you had a leaky gut. That’s all happened.
[01:03:09] Ashley James: Following the advice after doing your test would allow us to seal up the gut and heal it so we no longer have a leaky gut?
[01:03:19] Naveen Jain: That is correct. One of the scores that we give you is actually the intestinal barrier health. That means how tightly your intestinal barrier is actually regulated. You want to keep it nice and tight, and we give you all the foods and supplements to make sure that the only reason it gets permeable or leaky is because of the inflammation. As you can see, inflammation stretches the thing and that causes it to get the junctions to get loose. The best thing you can do is to reduce the stuff that causes inflammation, increase the stuff that is anti-inflammatory, and get more foods that are going to give the nutrients that your body needs. Remember, there is no such thing that more of the good thing is better. That is another thing that most people actually make mistakes on.
For example, somehow you probably heard that you take NAD, and NAD is really good for longevity. It increases your mitochondrial biogenesis, it’s going to make you younger, and you’re going to live longer. And it turns out, there was the research that came out, I think, two months ago that shows that actually the NAD precursor, NMN, and NMNH, when you have high inflammation or high cellular senescence, it causes the cytokine storm and causes the inflammation to get even worse. The point is when you have higher mitochondrial biogenesis, you are actually now creating more free radicals. And if your free radicals were already being over-stressed because they were not getting cleaned up, now you even have high amount of free radicals that are going to cause more inflammation in your body, and higher cellular stress.
[01:05:10] Ashley James: So it just cascades? It’s like a domino effect. People are often just eating whatever they want. You go to a restaurant, you go to a friend’s house, or your spouse cooks, you cook. You cook something that your kids like to eat. We just throw anything into our mouth, just whatever. Just order Thai food. Let’s just eat that. There’s a ton of ingredients in there that might be triggering to your microbiome. Okay, now we’re going to order pizza tonight. Okay, now we’re going to go to McDonald’s drive-thru, or we’re going to go to Starbucks. It’s interesting, though, I got to tell you. My husband switched from Starbucks to a different kind of coffee at one point in his life and he noticed a huge health change. He looked into it and he saw that there’s stuff in Starbucks. There are ingredients they put in their coffee and that will disrupt your health. And if someone were to just switch to a cleaner organic coffee, many people have noticed emotional health changes, as well as physical changes.
Let’s say you wanted to have a pizza, there’s a difference between something you make at home, from scratch, with your own ingredients and you know exactly what’s on it versus the delivery pizza. If we make pizza, we have a cauliflower crust. I make my own sauce on it. We don’t have any cheese, we put some vegetables on it, and we can make something really healthy. But when we do, which a lot of people are doing right now, ordering out at restaurants, we’re throwing just random stuff out of our microbiome to handle. Actually, one of my clients recently said my poop is fine. My poop is fine. I’m good, my poop is fine. I thought that was just the weirdest response. I don’t need to change my diet, my poop is fine. I get enough fiber. I’m fine, I poop. It’s okay. And I just thought that’s so interesting that someone thinks they have a healthy gut just because they poop.
[01:07:08] Naveen Jain: A couple of interesting points you brought up, Ashley. Same thing on supplements. Oh, I heard my friend tell me that the elderberry is really, really good for me not to catch COVID. And I should be taking vitamin C, vitamin D, and I should take this. They have no idea what that thing is doing to your body. You just hear it, you read about it in some magazine you say, oh, I need the green coffee extract because it will help me lose weight. Really? My point is all these things, you get every single magazine—here are the 10 supplements you should buy, here are the 10 ingredients that are a superfood, and you’re always looking for what is it that you need. You keep popping more and more and in the morning you take 20 pills just to make sure you got everything that everybody has mentioned to you and end up harming yourself rather than actually helping yourself.
That is really the trick is to know what exactly your body needs and how much, rather than just thinking somebody recommended so I’m going to take it. I think it’s not just the food but also, as you mentioned, how you prepare it and where you buy it. Let’s assume tomatoes are good for you. If not, you can now buy some tomatoes which obviously have all kinds of pesticides in them. You may still want to get good organic tomatoes. How you cook the food, the tomatoes are more beneficial when they are cooked rather than when they are raw. We eat pizza just like you do. We sometimes make a whole wheat at home pizza, no cheese on it, and we put so many different colors of vegetables on it. We make our own tomato sauce, and then we actually now cook the tomato sauce with basils and stuff and herbs and oregano. We literally make our own pizza that I think is pretty healthy.
It’s not the pizza is bad, it is the ingredients on the pizza and everything else you put on top of that and the crust itself that may be the one that’s causing problems.
[01:09:07] Ashley James: Exactly. Now I’d love to know a little bit more about your company and Viome. Tell us about the history of your of Viome as a company. Because I know that you have a mission and that you see a future where biome is helping the world to make chronic disease an option. They get this testing and then they go okay, I can choose this path and go down this road of disease, or I can choose this path and go down this road of health. We’re not forcing it upon anyone, but it is giving people information and giving them the ability to make better-educated choices about everything they put into their mouth because they’ll know. They’ll have the science to know what is the optimal thing that they could eat and put in their mouth or drink at every moment of the day to maximize their longevity and their health.
Viome I know has this mission. You’re seeing where you’re going in the future. First, tell me about your past. How did Viome get started? How long have you guys been doing this? What kind of doctors and scientists are behind it?
[01:10:29] Naveen Jain: The technology for Viome came from Los Alamos National Lab, which had designed this for the biodefense work. And this is the only technology that’s available to be able to actually measure the gene expression. Preserve your RNA, measure your gene expression, and find out what molecules from the gene expression are being produced. And then we use the AI to be able to see if this is what’s happening in the body. Here are the bioactive compounds in this food. How your gut, which is really a chemical factory, is going to turn a food chemical into what will be the output. It’s a complex chemical factory, but once you know what are the bioactive compound in a food, then you can see what they’re going to translate them into, what is the poop of the chemical factory that’s going to come out, and is that going to be good for you or bad for you?
We started this company four years ago. And anytime I start a company, Ashley, I ask myself three questions. One is why this, why now, and why me? The first question is, God forbid, I am actually successful in doing what I’m about to be doing, is it going to be able to help a billion people live a better life. And if the answer to that is no, then I’m thinking why would I dedicate 10 years of my life to doing something that does not move the needle. And the reason for that is whether you do something small or you do something big, it takes every ounce of energy and it takes every effort to do something. Why not do something that is meaningful and that’s going to literally improve the lives of as many people as you can?
And the second part of that thing is are you truly obsessed about solving this problem? I didn’t use the word passion because a lot of people talk about I’m passionate about this. Me, in my world, passion is for losers. Passion is for hobbies. Passion is I am passionate about meteorites. That’s a passion. That’s not an obsession. Obsession is I go to sleep thinking about how do I solve the problem of chronic diseases? I jump out of the bed at 4:00 AM thinking about how do I go solve this problem? And part of this obsession comes from having lost my own dad to pancreatic cancer and watching him go through the system that could have easily, not only prevented cancer, could have also cured cancer, but they would not go beyond what is the current practice.
I showed them all the research how pancreatic cancer is caused by the gut microbiome going through the bile depth into the pancreas. Showed in the research how the researcher, in fact, injected the antibiotics directly into the pancreas, killed the microbiome, and the immune system killed cancer. Showed them research. I said all I want you to do is just put antibiotics in his pancreas and I would take the responsibility. My dad will sign the thing, I’m going to sign the thing, and you are not responsible. They say we will not do it because that’s not what’s allowed. No, I could not do anything. Nothing I could do and watch him die.
And I told my dad, I said, “Dad, look. I can’t save your life but I’m going to dedicate my life to making sure no one else has to suffer. No one has to suffer from cancer. No one has to suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or watch someone lose memory from Alzheimer’s or have Parkinson’s. I just don’t want that to happen to anyone else.” So that’s my obsession.
Part of it is you have to believe that what has changed in the last five years that allows you to do this now than 10 years ago. The reason is if something could have been done 20 years ago and if nobody’s doing it, you have to assume you’re not the smartest guy in the world. Somebody would have solved this problem. So there has to be what has changed? To digitize the human body, the cost of sequencing has to come down. When we started, the cost of sequencing would have been several thousand dollars. We said look, it is an exponential curve. I know in the next couple of years it is going to come down. We were able to use robotics and break it down, and we said let’s go do that.
The second part of it was: are computers going to be powerful enough to be able to analyze these petabytes of data that’s going to come out of, which is the cost of competing going to kill us? And the answer was you can fire up a thousand cores on Amazon Web Service and you’ll survive, and the cost of processing is coming down to zero. AI has to be powerful enough to analyze this massive data because every single person—you’re now looking at you know tens of thousands of these gene expressions and you have to analyze for every single thing. That’s massive AI. Is it powerful enough? The answer was yes, it is happening now.
The last part is the most, I would say, interesting part for me, entrepreneurial perspective, called why me? Why me is what is it that I believe that other people are not thinking about? What question that I am asking that is different from what everyone else is asking? And that’s why they are solving the wrong problem, they are working on a different problem, or they are not going to be solving the problem—their question is completely wrong. And let me give you a couple of examples of that, what I mean by asking the right question.
My other company is Moon Express. We are trying to make humanity a multi-planetary society. Can we settle down on the moon? And then essentially take that humanity into Mars, Pluto, and beyond. And the reason for that is all eight billion of us are living on a single spacecraft. And God forbid, if we get hit by a large asteroid, humanity is going to get completely wiped out. It’s not the planet won’t survive. The planet will do just fine. Remember 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the planet? All the dinosaurs completely got wiped out, and dinosaurs were much larger than us. The planet actually did just fine. The planet did so fine that it created humans.
Now we may get wiped out and it may create superhumans for all we know. But the point is if you can hear any dinosaur rolling in their grave what would they be saying? If they had one good entrepreneurial dinosaur they’ll be roaming on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. So I thought, what if we can do that? Now, what do you think the first question people ask when we say hey, we can live on the moon. They say how are you going to grow the food on the Moon? And my thinking was wait a second, that’s the wrong question.
Instead of asking how to grow the food on the Moon, what if we ask a different question. Why do we eat food? Because if you ask the question of how to grow the food, the only solution is to grow the food. But if you ask a slightly different question, which is why do we eat food? Now there are many solutions. You eat food for energy, and you eat for nutrition. What if you can get energy from radiation? What if you get energy from photosynthesis? What kind of nutrition do you need? Hydrogen, oxygen. What if you can get that from water? But the point is, just by changing the question, now you have a plethora of possibilities rather than just growing the food.
The same thing happened in the space of Viome. Look, all the research is clearly showing the gut microbiome is key to chronic diseases. There are tens of companies doing microbiome as service. Why is the problem not getting solved? And it turns out that everyone was asking the same question. I want to know what organisms are in our gut. And I say what if the question is different, which is what they are producing? And if we can solve that problem, then we will be able to solve the chronic diseases. And that’s the reason I started Viome.
By the way, we hired the head of IBM Watson who worked on the AI, and he runs our AI. We hired the best genetic expression people out of human longevity, Craig Venter’s team. Craig Venter, as you know, is the guy who sequenced the human genome. And then the guy who developed the technology for Los Alamos, Dr. Momo Vuyisich. We actually hired him to go develop this technology for us. So we got the best and the brightest from around the world to solve the problem that we wanted to solve.
Another interesting point, Ashley, is if you set out to solve a problem like how to make chronic diseases optional, you get the best and the brightest because they want this to be their legacy. Smartest people want to work on the toughest problems, right? And that’s why it’s easier to solve an audacious problem than to solve a smaller problem. So that’s really the history.
In four years, as we have come along, we have helped hundreds of thousands of people. If you just literally look at the emails I get every month about the number of people telling me that you saved my life, you saved my wife. I thought I was going to die and now I can walk. It’s just an unbelievable amount of comfort you get that your hard work is not being wasted. You’re doing something that actually improves people’s lives. Really, my goal is to provide actionable information to people that they can act on rather than simply do things and give you information that is not actionable.
My DNA test, I’m six times more likely to get Alzheimer’s, enjoy. What am I going to do with that?
[01:20:13] Ashley James: That’s true. You go get those DNA tests and they just say here’s what you could have. Angelina Jolie has her breasts removed because she has the BRCA gene. Well, the BRCA gene doesn’t mean you’re going to have breast cancer. And in fact, when the BRCA gene expresses in a healthy way it prevents breast cancer. She was worried about the BRCA gene expressing in an unhealthy way that would create breast cancer, and then what, she continues eating McDonald’s, continues eating whatever she wants and disrupts a bad microbiome. Cancer can show up anywhere. It doesn’t have to show up in the breast. She could get a different kind of cancer. What is she going to do, remove everything? Cut out all her organs?
This just infuriates me that women are being told, and I’ve had clients where the women were told to have full hysterectomies and their ovaries removed because their sister had ovarian cancer, or their sister had some form of cancer that was triggered by hormones. Because it’s in their family and their genes, all the women in their family should have their ovaries removed. This is ridiculous. This isn’t preventive medicine. To remove organs to prevent cancers is ludicrous, absolutely ludicrous.
[01:21:42] Naveen Jain: And more than, these genes would not have actually evolved through the selection if they were always bad for you. Think about that. They would have been wiped out from the human population if they were bad for you, right? The same thing by the way for Alzheimer’s is called APOE6. APOE6, it turns out in the Amazonian forest they have 8 or 10 copies of them and they never developed Alzheimer’s. In fact, it turns out it is supposed to protect you against all types of bacterial infection because they have so much mosquito-borne diseases it protects them from all those diseases that’s why they have these many copies of things. Elephants have eight times more the same APOE6 gene and elephants never get Alzheimer’s, right?
[01:22:27] Ashley James: And an elephant never forgets.
[01:22:30] Naveen Jain: And never forgets. There you have it. My point is, these GWAS studies are so bogus. In fact, it turns out, when you look at these GWAS, which is Genomic-Wide Association Study, they did 20 studies on depression. They basically will take 200 people who are depressed and say oh, look at what we found in common. The 20 separate research were published all differently. One guy decided that he’s going to do a matter research of look at all these 20 research and see what is in common. And he concluded there is not a single gene that is actually in common between these 20 research that causes depression. It is nothing but measuring the noise because any time you can find a pattern in the noise when you have these millions of these genes, you’re going to find something out there that’s common between these 200 people and you publish a paper. It doesn’t mean that it’s actually causing the disease.
[01:23:26] Ashley James: Like they all ate apples.
[01:23:28] Naveen Jain: Yeah.
[01:23:29] Ashley James: Right. It must be apples because they all ate an apple on a Tuesday. It’s not about the gene is what you’re saying. It’s about the genus expression, and that’s epigenetics. Because we epigenetically can turn gene expression on and off depending on the nutrients that are available. So people can express in a way that develops a disease. And you give the body new nutrients, different nutrients, and the body then expresses in a healthy way that suppresses that disease. So it all comes back to the food. But you take it one step deeper and go back to the microbiome, so it all comes back to what we’re feeding the microbiome because the microbiome is feeding us these chemicals. And we have to optimize the chemicals the microbiome is feeding us in order to optimize our own health. I’m very excited.
[01:24:29] Naveen Jain: Agreed. That’s literally what it does. And I really hope that your audience gets to go try this because I’ll tell you that it will change their life. It will fundamentally. Small changes will have a massive impact on their own, and they can feel it. Not only will it improve their health from the inside out. They will be able to feel it. They will feel younger, they will look better, they’ll have more energy, the mental fog, and all the stuff. And hopefully, prevent all these chronic diseases from happening. Every single person who joins also essentially helps everyone else before them and after them so that we can together understand what is causing these diseases and prevent it from future generations. Even if we don’t do it for ourselves, let’s do it for our children and grandchildren.
[01:25:21] Ashley James: Absolutely. As we’ve been sitting here I’m thinking, well, I’m definitely going to do the Health Intelligence service, which you give listeners a discount. So please listeners, you can go to viome.com and use the coupon code LTH as in Learn True Health. Use the coupon code LTH for your discount. I’m going to get the Health Intelligence service, but I’m also going to get it for my husband because like you said and I just know this, he and I react differently to different foods. I’ll feed him at dinner and all of a sudden his gut looks like he’s nine months pregnant. Because he’s fermenting. Whereas I eat that dinner and my gut’s great. I’m like oh, that felt wonderful. But for him, it made him bloated. And then there’s another meal I’ll make and I get bloated and he doesn’t. We definitely have two different microbiomes going on that we need to help. But what about my son?
My son’s five years old and we have a lot of listeners with children. Can children do this as well?
[01:26:20] Naveen Jain: Yes. Yes, they can but the parents have to consent to it.
[01:26:26] Ashley James: Of course. Well, yeah because we’d be the one pricking the finger for the blood and collecting the stool sample. That’s right. So walk us through. Is it saliva, stool sample, and a little prick of blood that we can all do it in the comfort of our own home?
[01:26:42] Naveen Jain: Yeah. Currently, the Health Intelligence only has blood and stool. We are launching the next product, which is going to be the whole body intelligence that will also include saliva. But that’s currently not available. So only products available are Gut Intelligence and Health Intelligence.
[01:26:58] Ashley James: Got it. So very soon you’ll have the one that has all three. We’ve talked a lot about Gut Intelligence. I’m interested about the microbiome. Your Health Intelligence service, what kind of information does it give us to help us to optimize mitochondrial health? I’m really interested in supporting mitochondrial health. You talked about how the gut talks to our mitochondria. Is it that by correcting the gut and supporting the gut health and supporting the microbiome we’re supporting mitochondria? Or are there further steps to take to support mitochondria?
[01:27:36] Naveen Jain: Well, first of all, as you pointed out earlier, Ashley, mitochondria is an organelle inside our own cell. It has its own genes. It replicates itself just like any other bacteria. So inside ourselves, these bacterial cells are constantly replicating. It has its own 12 genes. We look at its own gene expression to see how much energy it is producing? How much is it replicating, which is called mitochondrial biogenesis? When the cells divide you need the mitochondria, you need all the energy. So if you don’t have enough mitochondrial biogenesis happening, you’re going to start feeling tired. You don’t have enough energy. Cells are going to die.
So we look at all of the mitochondrial biogenesis. Then remember, if you go back to high school biology, the mitochondria is the one that completes the Krebs cycle, that ATP cycle. You take glucose and it actually gets converted into ATP. If anything inside that, to complete that cycle there are a whole bunch of coenzymes that they need. So for example, if you are missing some coenzyme like CoQ10, then you may actually not be able to produce energy. And then we will actually give you the foods that are high in CoQ10 or the supplement that contains CoQ10.
It’s literally by looking at your mitochondrial gene expression, we are able to recommend the foods that are good for you, recommend the food that you should avoid, and also include them in the right set of supplements. If there are certain things that you’re not producing but you need, we give them to you as an augmentation or supplement with that.
And we do the same thing with, by the way, cellular side. So by looking at your blood, we’re looking at your cellular senescence. These are the cells that neither died but they’re still alive producing toxins. And the cellular senescence causes aging. So we have to also worry about making sure how do we go out and making sure these cells don’t become these zombie cells. So we look at your cellular stress. We look at, as I said, stress response. We look at your immune system’s health. Because if your immune system is highly inflamed, not only at that point.
Essentially your body is going to constantly be in inflamed mode causing a whole bunch of diseases and getting your organs to start failing. But also, you’re not prepared to be able to deal with the infection. Whether it is cold, flu, or COVID. To be able to get your immune system right in the place, that’s the reason I recommend people do the Health Intelligence Test because they get the most comprehensive insight into their body, and the recommendations are now based on more information rather than just the gut information.
[01:30:16] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you. I’m really excited about your pricing. Just thinking about the last time I got blood work at my annual visit with my naturopath. Even after having insurance, insurance pays for only so much because you’ve got deductibles. I actually paid more. I paid more out of pocket than having your test. So it cost me more to get all these other tests, whereas they didn’t actually tell me. The blood tests I get that I pay a ton for, even with insurance at the doctor’s office, don’t tell me what to do. I mean, the doctor is supposed to tell you what to do, but most doctors don’t. Most doctors go okay, well I guess we got to get you on statins now. You’re going to get on metformin soon. Because MDs will use blood tests to determine if you need to get on drugs. That’s not health. We’ve got two different philosophies of thinking.
The mainstream philosophy of medicine is wait till you get sick and then get on a drug, which will probably make you sicker but whatever. We’ll suppress symptoms in the body. You’ll do that until you die and maybe get on more drugs as you age. And then there’s the other way to think, which is I want to get so healthy I don’t need to be on medication. I want to get so healthy that I optimize myself and I look 40 when I’m 60. I want a blood test that I pay hundreds of dollars for at the doctor’s office to actually tell me what to do. Okay, here’s the information. Here’s where you are. Now here’s what you should do to get better. That’s been my frustration.
Even though yes, I get to sit down with the Naturopath and they look over. Here’s your A1C hemoglobin. Okay, you’re getting better. Here are your triglycerides. Oh, they’re a little up. The Naturopath would be like—because I eat brown rice they’re like—eat less brown rice. What do you mean eat less brown rice? Is that really what’s causing high triglycerides? And we go through all these different things on the blood test, and at the end of the day, I was left confused because it was sort of muddled. Keep taking your supplements, maybe a little less brown rice, and see you in a year when you pay another $500 for all your work up. That just drives me up the wall when I’m not given a really clear intelligent scientific path to take.
Here enters your third option. The third option is your testing. Now you’re not saying don’t go to a doctor, don’t go to a Naturopath. You can absolutely continue that route but taking the Health Intelligence service that you offer in the comfort of your own home. And now you’re given very, very specific instructions on what you can put in your mouth to optimize your health, and then you do it in another four months or so and then you see that you’re getting better. You see that you’re progressing.
If someone were to do that for a year they’re going to get much better results that if they just waited to get sick, go to the MD, and get on drugs. Or saw a holistic practitioner who just took a bunch of blood and then said well, we’ll keep monitoring this but maybe eat a little bit less rice. They have no idea because they didn’t test for what your microbiome needs and what your mitochondria needs.
So I’m very excited for what you’re doing. I’m really, really excited to take the test myself, my husband, and my son. I know that some listeners are going to absolutely want to take the Health Intelligence service test and join me in trying this and seeing how they can optimize their entire body, every cell in their body, to be fully nutrified because they’re eating to feed the gut. To make the gut biome make exactly what we need.
This is just so cool. I love it. It’s finally the right time, like you said. It’s the right time because now the costs can be driven down so low because of AI and because the way machines can be used, robots can be used in labs. Now gene sequencing isn’t thousands of dollars. When I started the podcast four years ago it was thousands of dollars to take tests similar to this, and now it is a few hundred dollars, so this is very exciting.
I definitely want to have you back on the show after I take the test and after my husband and I do this. We can follow up, and I’m sure we can talk more about it because like you said, your company is releasing this next test shortly. There’ll be more information to talk about, but I’d love you to come back and have you continue to share what Viome is doing in the future as you unfold more and more exciting services in your effort to make chronic disease optional. This is very exciting. I definitely want to have you back on the show. Is there anything you’d like to say to wrap up today’s interview?
[01:35:25] Naveen Jain: I would say, first of all, Ashley, thank you very much for hosting me. And all I can say is keep dreaming and dream so big that people think you’re crazy. And never ever be afraid of what you want to do because imagination is the only thing that stops us from achieving what we want. Let’s just keep moving humanity forward. Let’s just keep doing the things individually what we can to contribute back to humanity. I look forward to coming back and talking more.
[01:35:53] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much. Listeners can go to viome.com and use the coupon code LTH. Join me in doing the Health Intelligence test, and let’s feed our gut what the body needs. It’s so exciting. Thank you so much.
I hope you enjoyed today’s interview with Naveen Jain from viome.com. You can go to viome.com and use coupon code LTH as in Learn True Health, coupon code LTH for your listener discount. And please, join the Learn True Health Facebook group and come tell us about your experience. And I’d also love for you to join the Facebook group and share what you thought about this episode, other episodes, come ask questions. It’s a free community of wonderful holistic-minded people who want to achieve true health. I look forward to hearing everyone’s results using the Viome experience. The Viome feedback from their tests and their app, and I can’t wait to do it myself. I’ll let you guys know how it goes in a few weeks after I get my results back and start eating specifically for my mitochondria and my microbiome. And I can’t wait to hear back from you guys and hear how it’s helping you as well.
Excellent. Have yourself a fantastic rest of your day. And I hope wherever you are, you get to go out in nature, put your feet in the grass, have sunlight on your face, take a few deep breaths, and think of things that you are grateful for. Help ground yourself, come into yourself and feel love and gratitude for all the trillions of cells in your body and all the wonderful energy that’s flowing through you. God bless.
Get Connected With Naveen Jain!
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Dr. Will Bulsiewicz And Ashley James
- The biggest issue is the absence of fiber in the American diet
- Fiber is the preferred food of our gut microbiome
- Most powerful driver of gut health was the diversity of plants within your diet
- Human health starts in the gut
- Raw and cooked vegetables feed different microbiomes
- Prebiotic and probiotic
How important is fiber to our health? In this episode, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz explains the importance of eating a variety of plant-based foods to support our gut microbiome’s overall health. He also shares how to increase our gut microbiome’s biodiversity, the difference between prebiotic and probiotic, and the effects of these two in our gut.
Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. I’m loving the series that we’ve been doing on gut health and healing the body by healing our gut. If you haven’t already listened to the last episode, we did episode 439 as I think it plays really well into today’s episode with a gastroenterologist who focuses on—instead of using drugs and surgery—using food to heal the gut. I know these two episodes play really well together. And then after this episode, so 441, is going to be an amazing episode about healing the gut as well and tests that we can order to fully understand the foods that we want to eat or avoid to properly feed the microbiome.
Why is it that your husband can eat one food but if you eat that same food you’d get bloated? Or why is it that some people can eat a certain way and be fine but other people are not even though those are both healthy foods? Well, that is going to be uncovered in episode 441. We’re continuing our series on gut healing.
Something I found with the Learn True Health podcast is guests tend to book themselves all clumped together and it ends up being the same subject. I reach out to many different holistic health professionals. I give them a link and they sign up to get on my schedule, and they choose the date that works best for them. So many times it turns out that within one week, I’ll have several interviews that are all about the same thing, that are all about heart health, or all about gut health, and I didn’t coordinate it. They don’t know each other, and they don’t know that they’re doing it. But so many times, I’ve sat down and looked at my calendar and realized that I’ll have several interviews in the row about the same topic. Not covering the exact same information, but complementing each other. This is where I really feel that God and divine intervention are taking place on so many levels in our life, and I can see it when these episodes come together in such a wonderful way.
I believe the latest episodes that have been published and are going to be published really complement each other. And I invite you to look at your life and see where wonderful divine intervention is taking place, possibly the information you’re hearing today. I’ve heard from several listeners, they’ll contact me through email or through Facebook and they’ll say, you know, I was just praying or I was just thinking about wanting this information and boom, I turned on your podcast and they were talking about exactly what I wanted to hear. That is so cool. I just love that. I love how what we focus on and what we want to have show up in our life we can create it. Neurologically speaking, it’s the reticular activating system, which is a part of the brain that will seek out what we choose to focus on.
If you’re someone who has anxiety or would love to learn more about how the brain works, and how we can optimize our life for success, eliminate procrastination, and eliminate anxiety, I invite you to take my course. So I’m a master practitioner and trainer of neuro-linguistic programming, and I spent 14 months putting this course together. It is a wonderfully fun course where you learn all these techniques—the behavioral change techniques for personal growth and development. Go to learntruehealth.com and in the menu click on the Free Your Anxiety course and take it. It’s phenomenal, I love it, and I do give a money-back guarantee if you take it and it’s not your cup of tea. Although so many listeners have said it’s been completely life-changing. So I invite you to check that out.
I also invite you to check out the course that I put together with my dear friend Naomi where we have filmed ourselves cooking in the kitchen delicious recipes, and we also include information on how to heal the body with teas, herbs, and different foods—both cooked and raw—and why those fibers or those nutrients in those foods are so healing for the body. So if you love listening to the podcast, you’re going to love the Learn True Health Home Kitchen membership. Check it out, try it for a month, it’s less than $10 to just try it for a whole month and get all the delicious recipes out of it. And if you continue to enjoy it continue being a member. You’ll be supporting the Learn True Health podcast. This is what I do full time, and so you’d be supporting me to continue putting out these episodes, but also helping you and supporting you and your family to learn delicious recipes that are designed to heal the body and nutrify the body. So you can go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen for more information about that.
Like I said, also check out the Free Your Anxiety course. It is very powerful. And please, come join the Learn True Health Facebook group. We’d love to see you there. We have a wonderful community of people that are totally into holistic health and healing, love to answer questions, support each other, share insights, and share inspiration. Whatever you’re dealing with, whatever you’re looking to heal or to optimize, we’re a whole community that wants to get behind you and get to behind each other and support each other in our success.
Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you love. Continue to share the episodes that you know will make a big difference. We’re going to turn this ripple into a tidal wave and help as many people as possible to learn true health. Enjoy today’s interview.
[00:05:50] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 440. I’m so excited for today’s guest. We have on the show a doctor that specializes in healing the gut. And isn’t that the first place we need to start when it comes to building our health? I’m really excited to have you on the show. Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, welcome to the show.
[00:06:20] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Ashley, thank you so much for having me on the show. It’s an honor to be here. I’m excited to talk about it.
[00:06:24] Ashley James: Absolutely. I’m thrilled that you focus on healing the gut when so many doctors just throw drug after drug after drug at people. I know in my 20s I was so sick. I had chronic infections, and every time I went to the MD, I got another antibiotic. And I’m sure that did not help. Years of being on antibiotics did not help my health. One of the first things I had to do was heal my gut and what a difference it makes. When you heal the gut first, so much comes into balance. So I’m really excited to hear your story though. What happened in your life that made you want to become an MD? Which normally, MDs don’t typically go the route of holistic medicine, right? That’s not a typical MD move. So what happened in your life that made you want to become an MD? But then what happened that made you want to help people heal their body and heal their gut with food?
[00:07:22] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah. Well, I think that when we have individual experiences, similar to what you described in your own life, those things motivate you and drive you to think outside of the box. Particularly when you have to go outside the box to find your solution, to begin with. So for me, how I became a doctor really starts from a really simple thing, which is the desire to do something where I would help people. I started down that path. I mean, basically made the decision when I was in high school—16 years old. This is what I want to do with my life, and that was the motivation. Truly, if it was about money, you should go on banking, not medicine.
So I started down that path and I didn’t really get there until I was 34 years old. But during that process, it feels like I woke up one day and I was 30 and I felt like I was 60. I look in the mirror and I weigh 50 pounds more than I did in high school, which is for me a tough pill to swallow because I was a three-sport athlete, so I think of myself as an athlete. And there I am, looking in the mirror and I have this gut. I have high blood pressure, tons of anxiety, low self-esteem, and tremendous fatigue to the point that I’m basically caffeinated 24 hours a day like drinking coffee at 9:00 PM at night. Something had to change.
I trained at these great American institutions. I went to Georgetown for med school. I was the chief medical resident at Northwestern, one of the top internal medicine residencies in the entire country. And I went to the University of North Carolina for my GI training. And within my field in gastroenterology, many people consider UNC to be—if not the best—clearly one of the top two or three. I trained at these great institutions, but here’s this problem that I have. I weigh 50 pounds more than I used to. I have high blood pressure, high anxiety, and I don’t know how to fix my own issue.
At that point in my life, I was incredibly good at dealing with the care of an acutely ill person who is crashing in the hospital. That’s what I have been built for, that’s what I spent so much time training on, which is the person who might die unless you do something, then you do that thing, and you bring them back. That’s what I was good at, but I was not good at conventional healthcare, taking care of the routine person, giving them dietary advice, and preventing illness as opposed to waiting for the illness to arrive. I wasn’t good at that because the system didn’t prepare me for that. So I needed a solution. I needed a solution in my own life.
So being a typical type A medical doctor type, I decided to try to work my way out of it with exercise, and I started showing up at the gym six days a week—30 to 45 minutes of heavyweights, and then jump on the treadmill for a 5K to 10K during the winter. Or if it was the summertime, go to the community pool and swim 100 laps. Did that six days a week. I could build strength. I could build muscle. I could build endurance. I couldn’t lose the gut.
When things changed for me was when I met the person who actually is now my wife. Because we went on a date and I have to tell you, at this point in my life—I’m in my early 30s and I’d never been around anyone who was vegetarian let alone vegan. I honestly didn’t even really know what the difference was. I see this person that I’m on a date with who’s eating completely plant-based, and she’s eating without restriction, cleaning the plate, loving her food, and completely satisfied. Meanwhile, I have a post-meal hangover, and I’m struggling just to keep up after because I want to go home and put on some sweatpants.
This relationship opened my eyes and made me think. Maybe it’s the diet that I was raised on. Maybe the food that I have consumed since childhood is what is actually affecting my body in a negative way and holding me back. So I started to make changes in my nutrition. It wasn’t a radical change. It wasn’t going all the way to one extreme. It was just making simple substitutions. Instead of going out for fast food, I would go home and I’d make a big like 30-something ounce smoothie. Or instead of drinking a two-liter of soda, which I actually did back then, I would drink water.
And making those simple substitutions, next thing I know the fat is just melting off my body. The blood pressure issue goes away. The anxiety lifts, my self-esteem surges, and I start feeling young, vibrant, and alive again. It was so powerful that I said, why have I not heard anything about this? I trained in these great places. How come I was never taught anything about this? I turned to the medical literature thinking there must not be anything out there. This must be a space where we just don’t have the studies yet. I was really shocked when I found there were literally thousands of high-quality studies that already were in existence, and I just hadn’t been taught about them.
This motivated me to start devouring nutritional information, and I was studying in my free time. I was doing it at night. I was staying up to do it. And then I was bringing what I found into my medical practice, using it to take care of my patients with digestive issues, and seeing radical transformations in their life on par with the way that it changed in mine. And that was so provocative that—I mean, I have to tell you. I never in a million years thought that I would be on this podcast with you, talking about my New York Times bestselling book, or having an Instagram account with 150,000 followers. I never thought of any of those things because it wasn’t the plan.
I’m the guy who creates plans. I think they’re going to happen, and all of a sudden here I am—and this was like 2016—and I just felt like I had to share this story of what was happening in my clinic. I didn’t really like social media at all. I still don’t, but I felt compelled to share. So I started posting stuff and not really thinking anyone would be interested. One thing led to another and in 2018 I did a podcast interview that went viral. 300,000 people have listened to this podcast now. When that happened, the energy was so profound surrounding these ideas that I was putting out there. There was so much energy that I was like I have to compile this into something so that people can get the whole story in a structured, organized fashion. And there’s really no better way to do that than to write a book.
That’s when I decided, in August of 2018, that’s what I wanted to do. I spent basically the next year and a half doing it. Investing everything that I had, all my effort, waking up early—5:00 AM in the morning writing. I was at Starbucks here in Charleston, South Carolina from 5:00 AM until 7:30 PM. They know me really well at Starbucks. I know the deals. I know that you can get a free refill if you want it, and basically wrote this book. And then it came out in the middle of a pandemic. I just had to adapt to that. But the bottom line is that here it is, it’s arrived, and two months after release 35,000 people have bought a copy of this book.
[00:16:14] Ashley James: Nice.
[00:16:15] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah, and I’m getting messages. If you just go back to that 16-year-old kid who sat there and said I want to help people. That has been what’s motivated and driven me this whole time. People, they may or may not know this, a book itself does not pay the bills. I paid the bills with my medical practice. I’m a full-time gastroenterologist, but to get messages from people from around the world who have read the book and are healing their digestive issues—healing their autoimmune, their hormonal, their metabolic, or their mood issues, restoring function to their body. To get those messages on a daily basis is incredible, it’s a dream come true for a doctor.
[00:17:11] Ashley James: You have a clinic as a gastroenterologist. What does that look like? Are you doing colonoscopies? What does it look like to go to you if someone has gut issues?
[00:17:24] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: So I spend about half my time doing procedures. So during that time that I’m doing procedures, I do colonoscopies and upper endoscopies. For example, an upper endoscopy, it is typically a five to ten-minute procedure, and it allows me to look in the esophagus, the stomach, and the small intestine; allows me to, for example, take biopsies for celiac disease, which these days, unfortunately, our blood tests for celiac disease—I don’t know how much people realize this, but the blood tests are completely inaccurate or completely inadequate in terms of testing for celiac disease.
So the endoscopy is the gold standard that allows me to firmly know whether or not a person has that. I also spend my time doing colonoscopies. A big portion of that is colon cancer screening. But then the other half of my time, this is part of what I love about my field. One of the things that I love is I get to use my mind, to be very personal with my patients, and have relationships. But I also get to use my hands, and that’s kind of fun. So half of my time is spent in the clinic talking to people, hearing their health history, breaking down what the problems are, creating complex plans of how to attack them, and finding solutions.
[00:18:48] Ashley James: I have an interesting guest. Have you heard of Chef AJ?
[00:18:53] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I love Chef AJ. She’s a dear friend.
[00:18:55] Ashley James: Okay, great. So she tells her story in one of our past interviews. She’s been on the show twice. I think it was the first interview I had her on. And she shares that although was vegan for ethical reasons, was a junktarian, ate lots of junk food. She went for a colonoscopy cancer screening and her doctor found pre-cancerous polyps—bloody polyps through her whole colon and her colon looked just totally destroyed. She’s so afraid of surgery that she decided not to get surgery to have them removed, but she ended up going to a center and doing a deep cleanse, doing a raw food vegan. Whole food but the foods are alive. She did that, and then she came back six months later and had her colonoscopy. Her doctor got very angry at her. Have you heard her story when she tells it?
[00:19:52] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I don’t think I’ve heard this one.
[00:19:55] Ashley James: Okay. So her doctor gets really angry at her. I imagine the doctor was the same kind of profession as you are. So he’s sitting there, he’s doing the colonoscopy, he just starts getting angry, and he goes, “Who did your surgery? And she said, “What are you talking about? You’re my doctor. I have insurance with you. I wouldn’t go to a different doctor. I’m terrified of surgery. If I were to get surgery it would be with you.”
And he’s sitting there, the camera, staring at her colon and going, “Someone did surgery on you. I knew where every single polyp was and all the pre-cancerous polyps and none of them are here. They’re all gone. Your intestine, your colon looks like vascular and healthy like a newborn baby. It used to look just disgusting and purple.” Whatever color it looked like before. He was visibly upset at her because he did not believe that she healed her body with food. But there was another doctor who was maybe a resident or something from India. She whispered to Chef AJ. She goes, “I believe you.” Because this doctor had seen coming from India where it’s more acceptable to heal the body with food.
It was interesting. I’ve heard many stories, and I’ve had my own personal experiences where MDs just do not believe you can heal the body with food. That it’s part of the training. So what happened in medical school? Did you have teachers say to you like no, you can’t heal the body with food? Do they actually try to tell you guys that? Or why is it that most MDs don’t believe you can heal the body with food. I love that you have broken away. It’s kind of like you came out of the Matrix and you’re able to think for yourself and go no, we can heal the body with food. Drugs are a tool but they’re not the only solution. Since we’re putting something in our mouth that our body is using to build healthy cells, shouldn’t we look first to food? Did any part of your education try to tell you that we can’t heal with food?
[00:22:04] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I think that there’s a pervasive culture of allopathic Western medicine that stands in the way of accepting these types of ideas, and that’s unfortunate. It’s something that is hindering the quality of care and also the quality of the relationship with the individual patient. Because at the end of the day, if you try to tell a reasonable, rational person that the food that you eat makes no difference, any reasonable or rational person would say that’s BS. That’s BS. How can you possibly say that the food that you eat makes no difference? It’s very obvious that the food that you eat does make a difference. So if it does make a difference, how much of a difference does it make?
The modern science shows us that if you look across all of humanity on our planet, and you were to quantify health and disease, you would discover that just 20% of actual disease is driven by genetics. I mean, look, there are individual diseases, don’t get me wrong, like down syndrome. If you have the gene, you have the disease. But if you look across all humanity, just 20% of disease is driven by genetics, which means that 80% is driven by our environment, driven by diet and lifestyle. The 80,000 pounds of food that we are going to eat during our lifetime, that will always be far more powerful than a couple of milligrams of medication. And you can’t prevent disease effectively with medication. There’s very little evidence to support that that works.
You can’t overcome a bad diet with medication. You can’t make someone back to net neutral. The best that you can do is cover it up. That’s the best you can do is just cover up the problem with the medication, and that’s not really addressing the root of the issue. If our problem exists because of our diet and lifestyle, then to ignore our diet and lifestyle in the treatment plan is to never actually address the root of the issue.
So from my perspective, we need to go there. We have to go there. Now I can’t say that there was ever any conversation where people said, that there was formal teaching, that no, diet is worthless, or diet is not important. That was never said. It’s more so that if you withhold the education on diet and nutrition, if you never actually provide that information to people, and all you do is ask them to study and learn the side effects of all these bazillion drugs and the indications, and you know how to do this surgery, if that’s all that you teach them, then it’s unrealistic to expect them to just automatically transition. As intelligent as medical doctors are, they’re not trained and taught how to have a conversation about conventional nutrition. That’s the problem.
[00:25:36] Ashley James: Yeah, absolutely. In college, when I took anatomy, my teacher was actually a retired neurosurgeon. When it came to studying the joints, he said once someone has—because we also studied pathology with him—arthritis, when your client has arthritis, they cannot regrow it. Once you have damaged your cartilage you cannot regrow cartilage, no supplements work, and he got kind of angry. Supplements don’t work and diet doesn’t work. Nothing works. When someone has arthritis that’s it. They’re done. You can’t regrow cartilage. Obviously, he must be smarter than me. He was a neurosurgeon. He knows what he’s talking about. And I just thought it was really interesting.
Years later, I met a naturopathic physician who regularly helps his patients and clients reverse arthritis. I know a friend of mine, her mom, in six weeks on a whole food plant-based diet, all of her arthritis symptoms went away. It’s amazing what the body can heal, and it’s also amazing that we’re taught by people we put on a pedestal—people that we put in authority—were told that we can’t heal.
Now as a patient is on your table, you’re doing a colonoscopy, and you see they have polyps. Let’s use Chef AJ’s example. Their colon is bleeding a little bit. It definitely does not look vascular and healthy. Maybe it looks just discolored and they’ve got some polyps that you identify as possible pre-cancerous polyps. What’s your next step with them versus other doctors? What do you do with them to help them to heal their body?
[00:27:16] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Well, I think that from my perspective, the solution is in having a conversation about diet and nutrition. That’s where the opportunity lies. And a big part of the issue, from my perspective, is the absence of fiber in the American diet. If you look at the consumption of fiber in the United States, we may be the culture with the least consumption of fiber in human history. We certainly are probably about as close as we could get to the worst. The average American is consuming 15 grams of fiber per day.
Now to put them into perspective—15 grams—the minimum recommendation on a daily basis for women is 25, for men is 38. Actually, it’s really embarrassing when we do these fiber studies because the way that we’ll set them up is we’ll say let’s compare high fiber consumers to low fiber consumers. And what you’ll see when the study is done in the United States is you’ll see the high fiber consumers are getting 22 or 23 grams of fiber per day. And most people don’t know enough about fiber including the doctors to register the point that even the high fiber consumers in these studies are not even getting the minimum recommended amount on a daily basis. It’s embarrassing. 97% of Americans are not getting enough.
When I say fiber, by the way, I’m talking about fiber from real food. Fiber comes from plants. Plants have a monopoly on fiber. And the way that you should get your fiber is by eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. The reason that I want to motivate fiber consumption is that I know the vast majority of Americans are wildly devoid of fiber in their diet. And also, because I know that there is a direct connection between fiber and the prevention of colon cancer. So let’s unpack that a little bit.
When we eat fiber, we’ve been taught that fiber goes in the mouth and just goes through, sweeps through the colon—some people describe it the way it sweeps through, and it just comes out the other end as a torpedo. All right. That’s like sort of the traditional teaching on fiber. We always think of grandma stirring the orange drink so that she can have herself a bowel movement. We need to update our definition. We need to understand the actual way that fiber works in the body, which is that there are many different types of fiber. They’re not all the same. We have oversimplified fiber by just counting grams or just calling it soluble or insoluble fiber. And the reason why we’ve simplified it so much is because fiber is incredibly biochemically complex.
If you were to look at fiber molecules—I was a chemistry major in college—I look at them just like what the heck is that? Because of that complexity, we try to keep it as simple as we can and we look at it as soluble and insoluble fiber. Well, insoluble fiber does what we traditionally think of fiber. It just goes in the mouth and it comes out the other end. But soluble fiber is a totally different story. Soluble fiber passes through the small intestine—untouched—and it arrives into the colon. When it gets there, your gut microbes, which reside predominantly in your colon, they get into an absolute feeding frenzy. They go crazy because fiber is their preferred food. You’re feeding your gut. And when you feed them, they consume it, these microprobes become stronger, and they become energized. Because of that, they are more capable of upholding your human physiology.
These microbes are so central to the way that our body works. We need them in tip-top shape to help us out if we want to be healthy. When we feed them fiber, that’s what we get. We get healthy microbes that are strong, energized, and ready to help us, and they help us immediately on the spot. Because what they do is they take that soluble fiber, they consume it, and they transform it into short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, acetate, and propionate. These short-chain fatty acids, we can unpack them. We can talk more about them throughout the entire show. I am obsessed with them. They are an entire chapter in my book. I honestly think this is the biggest secret in all of the nutrition that no one is talking about, and we should all be talking about it.
We can get distracted by all these other red herrings. We should be talking about why we need more short-chain fatty acids in our life. And when we talk about colon cancer itself, in the study of colon cancer, we discover that short-chain fatty acids have been shown to directly impair the development of colon cancer. So it creates this mechanistic pathway, which is that fiber comes into the colon, connects with the gut microbes. When you put these two ingredients together—prebiotic fiber and these probiotic microbes, you combine them, and they basically will create for you these post biotic short-chain fatty acids that will directly impair the development of colon cancer.
It’s no surprise that colon cancer is the number two cause of cancer death in America because we’re completely fiber devoid. If you compare African Americans to native Africans, native Africans consume a very high fiber, low-fat diet. African Americans, typically, traditionally, consume a very high-fat low fiber diet. Before I even tell you the number to frame this, if you said there were two times the risk of developing colon cancer, in the cancer world, that would be a lot. If you said three times, you go whoa, that’s crazy. If you said five, you go this is completely bonkers.
All right, the number is 65. African Americans have 65 times the colon cancer that native Africans have. It’s absurd. That’s ridiculous. And it’s because we’re not taking care of our diet, we’re not taking care of our microbiome, and we’re not feeding our microbiome what it needs to give us these protective molecules, these short-chain fatty acids. And when you zoom out and you apply this mechanism, it’s more than just this connection from an epidemiology perspective between African Americans and native Africans.
You can find studies from around the world, different cultures showing us that high fiber consumers—when I say high fiber I mean actually high fiber meaning definitely more than 38 grams of fiber per day. High fibers consumers have virtually no colon cancer, and there was a major, major, major review done that came out in January 2019 by Andrew Reynolds, and I wrote about this in my book, where it was basically a mega meta-analysis. So a meta-analysis is where they compile studies. We have a hierarchy of evidence, and the hierarchy of evidence says that the highest quality evidence comes from a meta-analysis where you compile studies to answer questions. And in this mega meta-analysis where he did multiple meta-analyses, Andrew Reynolds and his science team found numerous benefits to fiber for longevity, for heart disease, and for cancer, in particular—no surprise—colon cancer.
[00:35:57] Ashley James: That is something to wrap our brains around, isn’t it? I’m fascinated by the microbiome. It’s about six pounds of bacteria that live in our gut that help us. It actually makes nutrients for us. It helps us digest our food and make nutrients for us. And we live in such a sterile world, especially now, everyone’s using hand sanitizers. We’re constantly thinking about how to sterilize our food and food is just dead. The average household is eating packaged food, and the food is just dead. It’s void of life. It’s void of healthy bacteria.
You’re saying we need to adopt a diet that works with our microbiome to get the nutrients the body needs. And that’s great. The fiber, it just doesn’t go in one end and out the other. It’s doing so much more for us. I loved learning that fiber helps bind to the toxins that the liver has excreted through the gallbladder and helps to remove the estrogen that the body is getting rid of. It helps to remove all of the chemicals, the pesticides, and everything that the liver is trying to excrete. And it also binds the cholesterol in the gallbladder. The bile juice, it’s binding to all that and bringing it out. And that people who are constipated or eat low fiber, the colon can reabsorb it. And we see that in studies where people do fasting.
I had a guy on the show where he did different things with fasting. They took blood and they found that the body would reabsorb certain pesticides because they were testing for chemicals and pesticides. But with fiber, when there was something to bind to it, the body wouldn’t reabsorb it. So it becomes very exciting. Are you saying everyone should go and start drinking Metamucil? Is any fiber good? Or are certain fibers better than others? I’ve heard that there’s a kind of fiber from potatoes, for example, or there’s non-resistant starch. There are all these different kinds of fibers, which one should we eat?
[00:38:27] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I have so much I want to say. I’m so excited to talk about all this.
[00:38:33] Ashley James: You have the floor.
[00:38:36] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I’m a nerd, I’m a nerd. I love everything that you just said. I want to get into it more. All right. So to answer your question and try to not get distracted by so many tangents that I would love to talk about, let’s talk about fiber and optimizing fiber, okay? It starts with exploring the relationship between fiber and these microbes, which is an incredibly important relationship for the health of our gut microbiome. Fiber is their preferred food. But let’s talk a little bit about what that means. Let’s define the gut a little bit first.
Your gut is made up of 39 trillion microbes. That’s a ridiculous number. How can we put that into a number that makes sense? Okay, try this. We live in the milky way, that’s our solar system. Take our solar system with every single star that exists in the sky—every single one—and you have 100 solar systems worth of stars living inside of you right now that are microbes. Mostly bacteria, but they also include yeast, archaea, sometimes parasites, and I’m not counting viruses in this number 39 trillion, but there are viruses too. They all live there in harmony and balance. This is an ecosystem. Your gut, microbiome this community of microorganisms that by the way are as alive as you and I are, they are.
There’s an ecosystem in the same way that the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon Rainforest are also ecosystems. And if you’re a biologist, there is a simple rule that applies to every single ecosystem and is a measure of the health within that ecosystem, which is biodiversity. When you have a more biodiverse Amazon Rainforest, a more biodiverse Great Barrier Reef, you have an ecosystem that is resilient. It is strong. It is prepared for any challenge or perturbation that you throw at it.
Let’s go to the Amazon for a moment. I don’t like snakes. They terrify me, I used to have nightmares when I was a kid like snakes being in my bed. I don’t love mosquitoes, they annoy me. I don’t like these creatures, but here’s the issue. If you remove all snakes and all mosquitoes from the Amazon Rainforest, you’re going to create a biological hole that the other animals are not designed to fill. And there will be a ripple effect that will have negative consequences on the health of the entire Amazon Rainforest because of that.
So biodiversity is key. We need all these players. We need as much diversity as possible, and that applies to our microbiome too. We need a diversity of species, as many different species as possible. So how do we get there? Okay. Let’s understand how they live because they’re alive, which means they need food. They got to eat and their preferred food is fiber, but not just generically fiber. There are at least millions maybe even billions of types of different fibers that exist in nature. Every single plant has its own unique types of fiber. And these microbes, they’re just like us. They’re picky eaters. All right.
Chef AJ is vegan, I’m vegan too, but we don’t eat the same food. She’s got her preferences, and I have mine. Guess what, these microbes are just like that. They have their preferences. They don’t all eat the same. They don’t just generically eat fiber. So when you eat a particular food, let’s use the black bean as an example. You consume black beans, you send these black beans down to your microbiome, and there are specific populations of bacteria that are going to thrive because you just fed them. They will grow, they will be more strongly represented within your microbiome, and they will reward you with whatever it is that they do best, which may include the production of short-chain fatty acids. They will go to work helping you.
But the opposite of that is also true. If you say I am going bean-free, no more black beans. Okay, well this population of microbes that are waiting to be fed black beans, they’re not being fed. And just like us, when you don’t feed them, they starve. They grow weaker. And at some point, they grow weak to the point that they’re incapable of holding up and doing the job that your body needs them to do. And potentially it can get to the point where they go extinct. Just like the loss of mosquitoes and snakes within the ecosystem, when you have bacteria within the ecosystem that are not able to do their job, you create a loss of balance where that ecosystem, that gut is not able to keep up with the rigors of supporting human health anymore. And that’s what dysbiosis is.
Dysbiosis is a damaged gut that’s out of balance. Some people call this leaky gut, and we’re basically talking about the same thing. So we want to maintain that biodiversity. And the way that we do that is by recognizing each unique species of bacteria has its own way of eating, and they like fiber. But not all fiber is the same. Every single plant has its own unique types of fiber. So when we eat as many different varieties of plants as possible, we are delivering as many different types of fiber as possible to our microbiome, and therefore supporting the dietary preferences of the broadest diversity of microbes possible. This is a core idea in my book, this is my central philosophy for human health and diet, and this is the most important thing that I’m going to say in the entire episode, okay. Not that I want people to turn off after I’ve said this, I got more to say. But if there’s only one thing that you take away from our episode today, let it be this.
And this is more than just Dr. B’s idea. This is actually scientifically validated in the largest study to date to make a connection between diet and lifestyle and the health of our microbiome, which is called the American Gut Project. In the American Gut Project, they found that there was a clear-cut number one predictor of a healthy gut. The most powerful driver of gut health was the diversity of plants within your diet. So it’s a change of philosophy where this is not about grams of fiber, and this is certainly not about consuming mono fibers like Metamucil.
This is about getting as many different types of fiber into your diet as possible so that you can support the biodiversity of your microbiome. And as a result, just like the Amazon Rainforest, just like the Great Barrier Reef, you create a lush, biodiverse, stable, and strong microbiome that is prepared to uphold the pillars of human health, which are digestion of your food which basically is access to nutrients. What’s more important than that?
And these microbes, beyond that, are also connected to our immune system, our hormonal balance, our metabolism, and even our mood and the way that our brain functions. Human health starts in the gut. And the most important part of human health isn’t even human, it’s these microbes, and we need to feed them. We need to feed them, and we’re just not feeding them in the United States. We’re starving them. Then we’re surprised when we have an epidemic autoimmune disease.
[00:47:11] Ashley James: That came out of nowhere. When you and I were kids, autoimmune disease was not as pervasive as it is today. It’s definitely on the rise. Would you agree with that? Would you say that the illnesses that we’re seeing now are in no way the same numbers as when even when you were in medical school? That we’re seeing an increase in these illnesses. I mean, the question is, is it that they’re getting better at screening? Of course because technology advances, right? However, there weren’t this many autoimmune issues 20, 30 years ago, was there?
[00:47:55] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yes, there definitely was not. People can argue the statistics in whatever direction. And if they have an agenda, they’ll figure out their way to argue the statistics to feed their agenda. But if you take a step back and you just look objectively, think about something like ulcerative colitis, which presents with profound profuse diarrhea that’s bloody, and it occurs around the clock. You wake up in the middle of the night because you got to go number two. That to me is not something that you would miss for years on end. That’s not detection bias. It either exists or it doesn’t exist.
In Brazil, it’s quite fascinating to do epidemiology case study looking at third world countries as they modernize into first world countries. Brazil westernized really ramping up from the late 80s through the 90s and into the 2000s. They really started to ramp up and westernize. And during that period of time, they saw an 11%-15% increase in ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease on literally a yearly basis. Think about that growth. That’s absurd. And these doctors that were down there, they had never seen this before. We were very used to treating this in the United States because our epidemic was already fully here, but down there, they had never been seeing this. So they had to start basically flying up to the United States and attending our meetings and hearing how we treat these patients because they had no experience.
[00:49:50] Ashley James: Because the diet changed so quickly because the country became more Americanized and their diet changed to more of an American diet?
[00:49:58] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: They just changed to more of an American diet. This is starting to unfold in China too. Not that we have reliable statistics coming out of China, but they’re starting to westernize and follow the same patterns. Ashley, I know you would agree with me that it’s more than just diet.
[00:50:17] Ashley James: Yeah.
[00:50:18] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Diet is the number one driver, okay. Let’s take a step back and think of our life in the context of how radically things have changed in 100 years. Think about your relative, whoever that might be, your great grandparent or your grandparent, whoever that may be. A hundred years ago, for them, there was no processed food. They knew the farmer more than likely. Everything was locally sourced and in season. There was very little use of pesticides—at least the modern pesticides had not been invented yet. The animal products that they consumed—if they did consume it, most of them did—at least those animal products were not hyped up or pumped up with antibiotics and hormones.
Lifestyle-wise, think of the percentage of people who walked to school back then compared to the percentage that walks to school today. Radically different. Think about how they entertained themselves. We do Twitter at 10:30 PM at night and expose ourselves to the blue lights, which by the way disrupt our circadian rhythm and suppress our melatonin. So that even if we do sleep, we’re not getting good sleep. We are watching television. We’re sitting on couches. We’re sitting in offices and working on computers all day. That’s not the way that they lived back then. They were very active. They didn’t have access to vehicles for transportation as readily as we do these days.
Here we are, and there’s just been this radical lifestyle and diet transformation that has occurred in the last 100 years where now, the average American, their diet is 60% processed foods that didn’t exist 100 years ago. And 30% of the American diet is animal products that are hyped up on hormones and antibiotics. And literally just 10% of the American diet as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain seeds, and nuts. And perhaps the saddest part of it all is that when I say 10% actually most of that is french fries.
We have made huge, huge changes in a very short period of time. It’s putting an evolutionary strain on these microbes, and none of the changes that we’ve made have been advantageous to our microbiome. All of them have inflicted harm. And now, here we are.
[00:53:05] Ashley James: About 15 years ago, I read a really funny book. So if anyone’s looking just to kick back with a funny but true story, The Sex Lives of Cannibals. Have you ever read that book?
[00:53:16] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: No, but I love the title.
[00:53:19] Ashley James: Yeah. I bought it because of the title. I was like, what is this? But it’s a true story. So a man travels with his wife—I think it was actually his fiancé at the time—and they go to the South Pacific. There are island chains in the South Pacific like Vanuatu and Christmas Island. He talks about how hot it is, obviously, down there. I think she works for Red Cross or something and he’s a journalist, and so he thought this will be fun. I’ll bring my typewriter or whatever. I don’t know if he brought a laptop because it was spotty whether they would ever have access to electricity.
They get down there and the first island they land on after—I think they came from New Zealand—they land on a bigger island and it is definitely Americanized. He couldn’t believe how many fast food joints from America he saw because he thought he’d be exposed to a different culture, and yet it just felt like he was in Hawaii with all the American food. And he also noticed the people kind of looked like they were from Hawaii or looked like they’re from the United States. And then they ended up going on a smaller island where there was all the people who lived there ate the way they’ve eaten for hundreds of years. And they all gardened, fished, and lived off the land. And they were all very healthy and they didn’t have any access to McDonald’s.
He just noticed the two. He just noticed it was interesting. He didn’t go deep into it, but that planted that idea in my mind of I wonder what it looks like. It’s probably been long enough since he wrote that. I think he wrote it 20 years ago. I bet we could go and collect the information—because they’re all Polynesians. They’re all genetically similar, but we could go look at this one island that’s 50 miles away from this island and see okay, well this island people have been eating for the last 20 years McDonald’s and more of an American. They have constant access to electricity so they can watch TV. They have more influence to eat the way we’re eating in the standard American diet. And they have more access to oil, more access to meat, the potato chips, and whatever.
And then we go 50 miles away, these people are still eating—and they’re not vegan by any means—coconuts, fish, and whatever vegetables they can grow. They have very little imported. And we look at how they’ve been doing the last 20 years. I think that would be really interesting. Just from the microbiome standpoint, the people who stuck to the diet that their ancestors have been eating—a whole food diet—versus a diet that’s been disrupted, the microbiome has been disrupted by lowering fiber and consuming oil, which also affects the microbiome. And then eating food that’s dead, that’s microwaved, that doesn’t have any bacteria. Because they’ve disrupted their microbiome, how’s their health as a people changed
I think that would be a really interesting study, and I’m sure people are doing it like you said. Looking at those from Africa versus those born and raised in America but have their ancestors are from Africa and seeing the differences. And I’ve heard of people from Japan. Japan used to have an incredibly low rate of heart disease and now they don’t. Okinawa used to be a blue zone and now it’s not. The people have changed their diet enough that people are no longer living in their hundreds on a regular basis super healthy.
I would like to address the urgency that we need to turn this ship around on a personal level. Okinawa, in one generation, is no longer a healthy population. We can’t wait any longer. Things are going downhill. We need to take individual responsibility and turn this around right now.
[00:57:49] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah, I totally agree. I totally agree. Let me talk a little bit about what you just laid out with the South Pacific, which by the way, I love that idea and I find it to be fascinating. I think the South Pacific is very interesting too, by the way. But there’s actually a guy, his name is Justin Sonnenberg, who’s a microbiome researcher. World-class, one of the leading microbiome researchers. Wrote a great book by the way. It’s called The Good Gut. And he endorsed my book Fiber Fueled. He was fully in support of everything that I wrote in my book. Sonnenberg has done these studies on a population of people called the Hadza. And they live in Tanzania in Africa. They are tribal and they are pre-agrarian meaning that they are hunters and gatherers.
He has basically taken a look at their life, the way they eat, and then he also has done microbiome analyses on them. First of all, let’s talk about their diet. Again, they don’t have crops. There’s no farm and they’re not part of organized society. They’re not going into the supermarket. They don’t have dollars and cents. They’re, as described, foraging for their food, and then to a degree, hunting. And they’re not vegan. They’re eating an omnivore diet. But if you look at what they eat, they eat more than 100 grams of fiber per day. More than 100 grams of fiber per day.
I said before the diversity of plants feeds a diverse gut microbiome. If you look at the diversity in their diet, they eat 600 varieties of plants on a yearly basis. A lot of this seasonal. So berries come to the season, they start eating berries again. And then something else comes in the season, they eat that. 100 grams of fiber per day, 600 varieties of plants. Ashley, let me ask you a question. All seriousness. Give me just ballpark, rough estimate, off the top of your head, how many different plants do you think you eat on a yearly basis?
[01:00:11] Ashley James: Oh, geez. I just went grocery shopping at Costco this morning. We have a great Costco with organic broccoli, cauliflower, corn, spinach, mixed greens—so there’s maybe three different kinds of greens in there. We eat potatoes, brown rice, brussels sprouts. I think I just rotate about 20 different vegetables. I probably eat 20 different vegetables a year, maybe 30, but on a regular basis probably 20.
[01:00:51] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Okay. Does the number 30 include whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes, fruit?
[01:01:00] Ashley James: I would say vegetables. Probably 30 different kinds of vegetables a year. I get a variety of potatoes. I like different potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, different squash, and gourds. Maybe 50 or 60 different. I really do try to get a variety, but maybe between 50 and 60 if you include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and beans.
[01:01:25] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yup. Okay. I don’t have an exact number. I don’t track my—
[01:01:30] Ashley James: I’m going to write it down. I’m going to start thinking about that.
[01:01:35] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Okay. We can talk a little more about what number people should have in mind on a weekly basis, but just to continue the conversation with regard to the Hadza, if I had to estimate for myself, I would probably guess I’m 60 or 70. For most Americans, certainly less than 50. And the Hadza over here are having 600 on a yearly basis—600 different plants. So that would lead us to believe, if my theory from the prior conversation is correct, they should have a more diverse microbiome. And guess what, they do. It’s radically more diverse. In fact, they have 30% more diversity than the average Brit, and they have 40% more diversity than the average American.
We are born with a 40% deficit in terms of biodiversity—the measure of a healthy microbiome. We are born with 40% less biodiversity than you find in this population of native tribal people. That shows you how much things have changed on a radical basis. And there’s actually a doctor who’s associated with the American Gut Project who has created this. I mean it’s kind of interesting to think about, but it’s also terrifying. He’s created a doomsday microbe bank. Basically, what he’s done is he said, “I’m worried that we’re killing too many species too fast. I’m worried that we’re eroding our microbiome so fast that we’re just going to be disease-stricken.”
The sad thing is these Hadza, the tribe is falling apart because just like in Okinawa, the younger generation doesn’t want to carry on the tradition. They want a cell phone. They want a job. They want money. They want to watch television. I mean, they’re not living in someplace where they don’t even know that real society exists. They know it’s out there. They’re choosing to continue what they have. So the tribe is eroding. The concern that they have is that we may lose these microbes forever. So they’ve created this doomsday microbe bank where one day, if we need to open up the bank, multiply these microbes, and bring them back, we have the ability to do that if we need to.
Going back to the urgency of this, there are a few things that I want to talk about with regard to this. and part of it is individual health, which is that if you wake up one day and you have Crohn’s disease, you can’t just walk that back. You have it. I personally believe, and I take care of these people for a living, there’s no such thing as a cure. Once you have Crohn’s disease, there’s remission. That’s the best that you can do. And you may be able to put yourself into a deep remission and keep yourself there effectively having the appearance of a cure, but there is no cure. You’re always vulnerable to the recurrence of Crohn’s disease.
You don’t want to wake up one day and have this. Even in health, it becomes imperative that we nurture the health of our microbiome. The second thing, Sonnenberg who is the doctor from Stanford who is studying the Hadza, he’s done some other studies that I think are super fascinating. If you think about the transfer of microbes from mother to child, that’s where we get started in life. If we pass through the birth canal instead of the cesarean section, the birth canal is our first exposure to the outside world, and it’s designed to basically inoculate us with these microbes. So there’s an inheritance that occurs as a result of mom passing down microbes to the child. And there’s a question, could we alter the inheritance of microbes in a way that’s detrimental to future generations? We all care about our kids. Many of us care more about our kids than we do about ourselves.
Sonnenberg, you can’t recreate this study in humans because a generation of humans takes 25 years. But you can do this study in mice very quickly using human microbes—the same microbes that we have. So Sonnenberg did mouse studies looking at generational differences in the microbiota and the biodiversity. Again, biodiversity is key to the health of the ecosystem. And what he found is that if you withdraw fiber from these mice, there is a generational loss of species that compounds. So for example, if grandma has 1000 species but she’s not eating fiber, then by the time she has mom, she’s down to 700 species. So mom starts with 700, and by the time mom has you, she’s down to 400 so you start at 400, and you start at a 60% deficit relative to grandma. And that deficit may be enough to make you far more fragile to developing the disease than grandma was.
[01:07:22] Ashley James: Wow.
[01:07:23] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: So the concern is there’s this generational inheritance of the microbiome that could have negative consequences that perhaps some of the issues that we’re seeing in 2020 or in our generation are the results of the initiation of a low fiber diet that started with our parents and even our grandparents’ generation. And what’s interesting is, a ray of hope here, let me just say—
[01:07:53] Ashley James: We’re all doomed. The end.
[01:07:55] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah, as scary as that sounds. I mean, look the framing of the question was why do we need to do it today? We have to have at least a little doom and gloom in there. But the ray of hope here is that if you reintroduce fiber, you can get the species back, all right. You just have to do it early enough, so do it today. Why wait? Do the fiber today and support your gut microbiome and support the gut microbiome for future generations to come.
And then the last thing that I wanted to say is this. This is the third thing. I can’t help but say that we need to think about the impact that we’re having in our environment. I usually don’t like to go there because I feel like as a medical doctor it’s not my place, but increasingly, I’m starting to feel like we can no longer deny the connection between our environment and human health. And if that connection is there, then it’s my job as a medical doctor to make people aware of that connection. Consider human population growth, we have 7 billion people on the planet right now. We will have 10 billion people in 2050. So in 30 years, we will go from 7 to 10 billion people.
Guess how many people there were in the year 1800. One, there was only one billion people on this planet in 1800. We’re about to have 10 times that number in 250 years. Humans are resource consuming on a very heavy basis. We consume resources like crazy. The planet is reaching a point of saturation in terms of our consumption. And we need a food supply for 10 billion people. And how are we going to actually accomplish that? And they actually got together a bunch of scientists recently. They wanted to try to understand what is going to be the best way for us to preserve our environment, preserve the resources, and not flog this planet to the point that we destroy ourselves.
It was called the EAT-Lancet Report, and one of the big issues that people need to realize is that 80% of the agricultural land, which we are currently sort of stretched and maxed out, 80% of that land produces just 18% of the calories that we consume. So we have a very inefficient system. And what I’m referring to, by the way just to be totally clear in case it’s not, is animal agriculture. There’s a huge loss of efficiency when we build a diet around animal products. And that loss of efficiency has to do with the fact that if you have 10 calories when you start, and you feed those 10 calories to the cow, the cow is going to burn a certain percentage of those calories. The cow is going to use a certain percentage of those calories to build joints, bones, eyeballs, and stuff that you’re not going to eat. The cow is going to fart and poop out a certain percentage of those calories. And then a small fraction of it is what actually goes into creating the food product, which is the meat.
So there’s a huge loss of efficiency there where when you could have just had a human consume 10 calories. You could just feed that to the human. Why give it to the cow and run it through that system with that huge loss of efficiency? And this is how you end up in a scenario where 80% of our agricultural land produces just 18% of our calories. So when we see the Amazon Rainforests burning, let’s not be naïve. That is a rain forest. It doesn’t burn like California. This is not a forest fire. These are man-made fires for forest clearing to create more land because you need more land if you want to expand that business. The land is already fully consumed. The only way to do more is to get more land. And so how are we going to do that with 3 billion more people? A 50% jump. How are we going to do that?
[01:12:22] Ashley James: Yeah, we’re going to lose all the rain forests. And this is what they think happened to Africa. I saw a really interesting—I don’t know if it was a TED Talk—but Africa and the Sahara desert didn’t use to be a desert. We just think it’s always been a desert. It actually wasn’t. They cut down all the beautiful huge giant trees to make wood ships—500 years ago, 600 years ago. And because of that, the moisture that the forests used to create helped to make the clouds and make rain on the inland of Africa. And with all the forest cut down for all the ships they built it, it completely changed the dynamic of that continent. That’s what they’re thinking is going to happen to South America. That they’re cutting down enough rain forest that it will forever change the ecosystem of an entire continent again.
We have to learn from our history. We have to learn. I love that you’re addressing this. A good documentary to watch would be Cowspiracy. I think it’s still on Netflix. It’s a good documentary because they do cover—in more detail. I’m a very visual person so with graphics they show what you’re addressing. But someone might say eating animals is healthy for me. It’s a necessary step. Isn’t it healthy for me to eat this? I should have dairy because that’s how you build strong bones. I should have eggs, that’s a good source of vitamins and vitamin D. I should eat animals because that’s where I get my protein and my energy from.
This is what we’ve been told since we were children. It’s like a necessary evil. Cows are beautiful and I don’t want to hurt the environment, but then if I didn’t eat cows, it would be harmful to my body to not eat it, so I have to keep eating it. This is the mindset that many people still have because it’s what we’ve been told our whole life through all of the marketing. So maybe you can address that because people are afraid to give up meat and eat more fiber because they think it would be harmful to their body. That they wouldn’t have energy, they wouldn’t have protein, they wouldn’t have those vitamins that they’re getting from dairy, eggs, and meat.
[01:15:02] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah, let’s start with the marketing campaign. Marketing is incredibly powerful. Most food industries and also supplement industries have discovered that you’re far better trying to attack people’s emotions through marketing campaigns than you are actually conducting clinical research. Clinical research is expensive and it may not support the perspective that you want. It may in fact show the opposite, right? Why invest your money into that when you can invest your money into marketing campaigns that are designed to prey on people’s insecurities or their emotions and build fear? Got milk, the entire campaign, which most people understand comes from our government. Maybe you don’t. That was a government-run campaign. “Got Milk” was subsidized by the US government.
“Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.” That was a US government subsidized campaign. Now, what is the government doing getting involved in what food we choose to eat? Well, that’s the issue. There is lobbying that exists that is tremendously powerful. There’s a reason why organic fruits and vegetables are expensive. The reason is that they’re not subsidized at all. If you have allowed animal products to be their true cost, the true cost would make them prohibitively expensive, and we wouldn’t have problems with people who are of lower socioeconomic status who, as part of being lower socioeconomic status the vast majority of time that also means lower educational level. And they don’t have the ability to see the big picture, which is that going to McDonald’s and getting the $3.99 Happy Meal that your kid is jumping for joy, they’re kissing you, they’re thanking you, and it’s an easy dinner, that’s actually hurting us.
We have made it readily accessible. We’ve made it cheap. We’ve gotten rid of all the barriers to people consuming these unhealthy foods. And so you make the choice simple for people who fail to really have a complete understanding of what the big picture is and how that’s going to hurt them in the long run. When it comes to consuming these foods, here’s the thing that I’ll say. First of all, if you read my book, I really truly believe in meeting people where they are. And so I’m not in the business of saying this is all or nothing. This is not black and white. I’m in the business of saying the path to optimal human health is with plants. All of the healthiest cultures in human history are predominantly plant-based.
The blue zones—all five—90%+ plant-based. It’s the tie that binds them together. They are all predominantly plant-based. So the evidence is clear. Science repeatedly shows us that when we substitute and we use plant products instead of animal products we live longer with less disease. It’s consistent. I mean, how many studies do we need to say the same thing? I feel like we’re in the era 50 years ago where the tobacco industry was pushing back maybe 60 years ago. Seriously. Do you know how many studies they had to do to convince people that smoking actually caused lung cancer?
[01:18:55] Ashley James: Oh my gosh.
[01:18:56] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: There is no randomized controlled trial to prove that smoking causes cancer. It doesn’t exist. Do we all agree that smoking causes lung cancer? It is so obvious. But they had to do a bazillion studies to convince people this is the truth, and the problem is that you had a big tobacco industry that was extremely rich, was buying lobbying power, and was basically mobilizing their resources to create confusion and tried to make this less clear. And now the exact same thing is repeating itself when it comes to our food.
You have big industries that are tremendously powerful that have bought influence. And they’re also intentionally running and conducting studies or doing marketing campaigns to create confusion so that ultimately, the status quo reigns supreme. Here we are, and the average American eats 220 pounds of meat per year. That is simply not sustainable. And the problem is that we get upset when we see the amazon rainforest getting cut, getting burned, and we go do something about it. And we turn to our government.
They’re not going to do anything about it. First of all, they can’t. Second of all, there are not motivated to because the lobbyists are convincing them to do otherwise. But I want everyone to keep in mind, at the end of the day, we have the ultimate power, not them. The government can do whatever it wants to do, but we are the consumer. And every single dollar that we spend is a vote for an industry. And when we choose to spend our money on purchasing 220 pounds of animal products, guess who we’re making rich? That industry.
Instead, if we cut it back—literally consider this. Consider this picture, Ashley. American diet right now—10% plants, 60% processed, 30% animal products.
[01:21:04] Ashley James: Oh my gosh.
[01:21:04] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Okay. What if we did this? What if we went to drop the processed food and replaced it with plants? Now we’re 70% plants, 30% animal products. Gosh, that’s pretty good. But hold up. 220 pounds of meat, that’s absurd. Do we really need that much? So what if we cut that down by 65%? What if we took a third of that? We’re still eating more than a pound of meat per week. Right now, the average American eats more than their own body weight in meat per year. It’s gross. And what if we cut that down to where we are consuming one-third of that—70 pounds, 75 pounds. You can still have your meat, and now you have moved into a blue zones diet where you are 90% plant-based, 10% animal products.
But the truth is this, and this is what happened to me. My favorite foods, if it was my birthday, I was going to have a rib eye and a glass of red wine. That was my food. All right. The interesting thing about it is as I started to change my nutrition and the weight was melting off my body and my anxiety was lifting and my blood pressure was dropping and my confidence was soaring, as I was doing that I wanted more and more and more. I wanted to keep feeling better and better and better. So there’s no reason to stop. You just keep ramping up your nutrition and doing better and better and better emphasizing progress, not trying to be perfect, and you keep moving in this direction. I’m just going to tell you, if you get to 90% plant-based, first of all, that’s a healthy diet. Second of all, you’re going to want more. Why would you stop? Keep going.
For the people who live in fear of I don’t think I can do it, I don’t think I can be 100%, you don’t need to go and be 100% starting today. You need to take an honest look in the mirror of what you’re currently doing and say where can we do a little bit better? I just want to start this week. Give me one meal that’s plant-based. Start with that and let’s go from there.
[01:23:23] Ashley James: I love it. So there are two things to consider in terms of the microbiome of the gut. You’re a gut doctor, you’re a gut specialist so it’s best to talk to you. There’s the prebiotic and the probiotic. The probiotic is the alive bacteria that are digesting our food, making nutrients, making the short-chain fatty acids, and helping prevent disease in our body. The prebiotic is the fiber that we’re eating that feeds. I’ll use this as an example because I had a guest use it as an example. The six-pound gut biome is like having a chihuahua. But I wanted a panda, she wanted a kangaroo. Anyway, it’s a six-pound animal. People take care of their dogs and their cats more than they take care of themselves. I’m a pet owner, I will go out and buy the best food and the best everything.
I know a woman who spends hundreds of dollars a month on handcrafted organic treats for her mastiff. We really take care of our animals. Imagine your gut biome is your pet. It’s your pet. You take it for walks. Go take it for a walk. Put it on a leash, take it for a walk because when you go for a walk, you’re taking your pet by microbiome for a walk. But the food you feed it is the food that’s either going to allow it to thrive or it’s going to kill it, right? And the prebiotic, the fiber you eat is feeding it. Now my question to you is about raw food versus cooked food versus a package supplement like taking a Metamucil as a fiber.
We want to increase the biodiversity of the gut biome, and how we do that is by eating a variety. But if I eat cooked broccoli versus raw organic—I’m always organic because of the pesticides. Does raw broccoli have an advantage overcooked broccoli in terms of feeding the microbiome and also introducing new healthy bacteria?
[01:25:41] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Okay. There’s a lot that I want to tackle, but let’s start here. First of all, raw versus cooked. All plants contain fiber. Each plant has its own unique types of fiber, and that fiber is specific to the way that the plant is being served. So there is another well-regarded microbiome researcher named Peter Turnbaugh who did a study. This is fairly new. This is less than a year old. The study is fascinating where he basically looked at the effect on the microbiome of cooking the food, so raw versus cooked. And here’s what he found. The key is there was a difference. You wouldn’t describe necessarily that one is superior to the other. Instead, what he described is when you cook your, food you’re creating different types of fiber that feed different microbes. We want to feed all the microbes.
So the key is rather than choosing one versus the other, we should have both. So if you are cooking your food one of the things I talk about in my book is the health hack, which is that if you are cooking your food, you should have a nibble of the raw food before it’s cooked. If you’re going to braise your greens, braise your kale, just make sure you chop up a couple of pieces of that kale and nibble on it while you’re cooking, while you’re braising those greens.
[01:27:33] Ashley James: Yeah.
[01:27:34] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: All right, that’s one of the things. Yeah, kind of cool. There are a couple of other topics that you brought up. You’re bringing up so many great points that you just get me really excited to talk. Let’s talk about organic versus non-organic in the context of living food. Now, when I say living food, to the average person they’re going to hear fermented. And that’s true, fermented foods have microbes. But guess what, all life—most people have not thought of this—has a microbiome. All life either has a microbiome or you are a part of the microbiome. Those are the two choices. If you’re alive, you’re one of those two things.
[01:28:19] Ashley James: Oh wait, are we the microbiome of the earth?
[01:28:21] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I think we kind of are. I hate to say this, actually, I kind of think we’re a virus because we’ve grown exponentially and we’re destructive. All right. Think about that growth—1 billion in 1800, 2 billion in 1900, 7 billion today, and 10 billion in 2050. That’s exponential. That’s the same thing that you see with viruses. All right. But all life has a microbiome, right? Take an apple, for example. They’ve actually studied this. They’ve discovered that an apple has about 100 million microbes as a part of the apple. The tremendous diversity of species. Actually more diversity on an apple than you will find inside the human body. A couple of paradoxical or interesting things. Out of curiosity, Ashley, because I’m guessing you’re going to give the answer that anyone would including me. Where do you think the microbes are on the apple?
[01:29:28] Ashley James: On the skin.
[01:29:29] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Exactly. That’s what I would say too, and it’s not a bad answer. Anyone would say that. But actually, most of them are in the core.
[01:29:36] Ashley James: In the core? The thing we throw out and don’t eat?
[01:29:39] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: The part that we throw out. That’s where most of the microbes are.
[01:29:42] Ashley James: So we should be juicing them, right? Or blending them? How would you?
[01:29:48] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Or just eat the core.
[01:29:48] Ashley James: Eat the core.
[01:29:50] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah, why not? What’s stopping you other than tradition?
[01:29:56] Ashley James: I guess there’s a minor amount of arsenic in the seeds.
[01:30:01] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah. You could throw out the seeds. You don’t have to eat the seeds if you don’t want to. But what’s interesting is this microbiome that this plant has serves a purpose to the plant in the same way. There are parallel tracts that exist where these microbes are there to support plant life in the same way that these microbes support us. They’re the architects of life on this planet—these microbes. We rely on our microbes to support us as we grow from newborns all the way to grown adults. And the same thing happens with these plants. From flower to fruit, the microbiome of the individual plant is evolving and it’s helping to facilitate the growth of the plant.
So this apple has a hundred million microbes in a tremendous diversity of species, and they’ve looked at organic versus conventionally raised. What’s cool is the organic—to me yet another reason to motivate to consume organic—apple had more diversity. Okay. So more biodiversity on the apple, that’s a good thing. That’s a measure of health. And also, the organic apple had a stronger representation of species that are known to be probiotic. Because the word probiotic does not just mean bacteria. To be considered probiotic you have to actually demonstrate a health benefit in humans.
Eating that apple goes back to this idea—eat an apple a day keep the doctor away. We’re now learning there’s a lot of truth to that, and this is part of the reason why—these microbes.
[01:31:50] Ashley James: Fascinating. I’m so excited. I’m going to start eating apple cores now with my apple.
[01:31:55] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: And then the other thing that I wanted to say really quick is the debate about prebiotics and probiotics. I’m moving a little bit into the supplement space. So before I move into it let me just say above all else that diet always comes first. All right. Diet and lifestyle come first. You can’t supplement your way from a C- gut to an A+. That’s impossible. You can’t keep a junk diet and have an A+ gut. That’s impossible. If you want a good gut you have to take care of your diet. It’s the only way. All right. But that being said, there is a place for this prebiotics and probiotics. So let’s talk about this.
All right, probiotics. So everyone’s heard of probiotics—living bacteria that as I just said, they have a health benefit in humans. So we always think you got to take this capsule that has this probiotic, but that’s again a construct of marketing convincing us that the path to gut health is through a supplement. That’s what they’ve taught us. That’s not true.
[01:33:02] Ashley James: Well, they’ve taught us to go to the doctor, get a pill, and you’ll be fine, right? I believe medications have their place, but we’re overusing them 90% of the time. I believe that supplements absolutely have their place, but the problem is people have the mentality, like you said, you cannot up out supplement a bad diet. Just like you can’t out-drug a bad diet. A bad diet is a bad diet. I know everyone listening probably eats way healthier than the average person and genuinely wants to eat even healthier than that. So if we could incorporate a good diet and then find a supplement just to kick-start us or get us an edge, I’m sure we’re all interested. So we understand the advice you’re about to give is has to go in conjunction with a really good gut health diet.
[01:33:57] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yes. A supplement is meant to be the word. It’s a supplement, right? It’s done in addition to a healthy diet. And there’s definitely a place. Going back to your point, I just want to double down on what you said, which is we should not live in a world of absolutes. Meaning we should not choose to live in a world where we are fully reliant on pills and procedures for our health. That doesn’t work. And we also shouldn’t live in a world where we believe that diet alone is a silver bullet. That’s not true. The optimal approach for human health is to optimize diet and lifestyle, to fully support and potentially even extend your health with the use of supplements that are targeted, and frankly, not excessive. I don’t believe in taking 20 different supplements because you just don’t know what the interactions are.
But supplementation—where appropriate—to optimize our health, and then engaging with the health care system—where appropriate—to protect ourselves. Anyway, we’ve been sold to this idea that probiotics are the source of gut health. The problem is you, for example, Ashley, have a completely unique gut microbiome. There’s literally no one on the planet with the same microbiome as you including your mom. It’s like a fingerprint. When I give you a probiotic I am prescribing a generic formula. And what I’m doing is I’m really crossing my fingers and hoping that when this generic formula mixes with your completely unique gut microbiome, that we get good chemistry. And you just don’t know.
There are some people who benefit—no question. There’s also a lot of people who spend a lot of money and they get nothing. So we have to understand this limitation of our current approach, but the second part is we should understand that these probiotics already live inside of us. We don’t need to introduce it from the outside with the hope that we’re introducing something that our body is missing. Instead, we just need to acknowledge that the microbes that live inside of us, we could use them and just make them stronger. Make them more powerfully represented.
And that’s where prebiotic comes into play, which is that Ashley, once again you have a completely unique gut microbiome. And although I don’t know the nooks and the crannies and the details of what’s there and what’s not, what I do know is if I feed your microbes with a prebiotic, I’m going to be selecting for specific healthy bacteria. I’m going to be selecting for the probiotics. And we’re going to enrich them, we’re going to make them more powerful, more well represented, we’re also going to be feeding them. Fiber is requisite for feeding these microbes, and then they’re going to have the ability to transform that into short-chain fatty acids.
Just to step back for a moment and reconsider our big picture. If we had probiotics but we did not have fiber, there really wouldn’t be much of a point. If we had fiber but we were sterile creatures, which we’re not, there really wouldn’t be much of a point to fiber. But when fiber, specifically prebiotic fiber, connects with these bacteria, specifically probiotic bacteria, magic takes place. And what we get are postbiotic short-chain fatty acids. And the entire point of this relationship is not one or the other. The entire point is what happens when you connect the two. And that’s why I’m a bigger believer in prebiotics than probiotics.
[01:37:54] Ashley James: Because you already have a gut biome. I’ve heard someone reference the Americans have the micro Simpson of gut biomes because it’s so not diverse. We need to have something more complex and intelligent, or we have to incorporate and support our microbiome to have many more species, so be much more diverse. And we can do that, over time, by eating a variety of plants that are organic because we take on the microbiome, like you said, you eat the core of the apple with the apple. Your gut is taking on those bacteria that become part of your healthy and diverse gut biome. But the most important thing is to feed it. Feed it first. So we have to feed it before you just take a probiotic.
I heard this study once that they had people take a probiotic, like acidophilus. We all heard of acidophilus. They examined their stool a month after they had stopped taking it and they found that the acidophilus was no longer there. They thought for sure taking the probiotic, taking acidophilus, or whatever probiotic would have then continued to live in the gut right. It doesn’t probably because they didn’t change their diet to incorporate enough fiber to feed it to continue its development. So you’re saying the most important thing is to start by feeding the gut the healthy fiber, variety of fibers—both cooked and raw—so that the gut can get fed, so that microbiomes can get fed.
I know you’ve got to go, and I definitely want to have you back on the show because I have this whole list of topics and questions I want to explore. How to reverse chronic constipation? How to reverse diarrhea? What about people who have IBS or have a really irritated bowel and they can’t tolerate it. Every time they try to eat fiber they can’t tolerate it. These are topics I want to go deep with you. So I’d love to have you back on the show to explore that.
You keep mentioning hormone balance as well, that’s something I’d like to go deeper and have you explain why is it that healing the gut, fiber, and the microbiome affects our sex hormones and our stress hormones. Why does it affect all of the hormones in our body? Interesting that I’ve heard that 25% of our T3, our thyroid hormone, is converted in the gut. What without a healthy gut we have significantly low T3 levels. So low in fact that then someone’s put on medicine. And isn’t that a shame that there are so many doctors out there that prescribe a synthetic T3 drug without even addressing gut health? Because the root cause could be in that person’s gut, and likely statistically is, given how little fiber the average person eats.
There are so many more things to explore, and I definitely want listeners to know about your website. Theplantfedgut.com. The links to everything that Dr. Will does is going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at Learn True Health. I definitely am going to encourage listeners to buy your book as well, and the link to your book will be there. And people can also go to your website The Plant Fed Gut. And it says right there, want the ultimate plant fed super snack, put in your name and email. And they get a little booklet from you. That’s really cool. And of course, they can follow you as well on Instagram. I saw some of your Instagram posts that I really, really appreciated them.
One, in particular, was about racial equality, and you address that we cannot have racial equality until we have medical equality. And if we really look statistically, our medical system is so skewed, especially in the United States. Other countries it is less, but in the United States it’s so skewed and it is not a fair system. We need to change. We need to make sure that our medical freedoms are protected for everyone, and that medicine is available to everyone. I don’t want to get into politics, I love that you addressed that while we’re all really conscious of it’s in our daily consciousness to be addressing and looking at and trying to change racial equality, we should know and we should also address that medical equality needs to be addressed in order to fully help everyone of all races.
Thank you so much for everything that you’re doing. I love your message. You’re speaking out. You’re kind of a black sheep. I’m so excited that you’re here talking to our community of listeners, we’re all the black sheep. Let’s just say we are all on the same page as you. At times, if you ever feel like you’re the odd one out because you’re the MD that doesn’t want to give people drugs first but wants to really, really help people on a root level, heal their body, and do it in a way that is radical. It’s radical to tell someone to eat plants and not meat. It’s totally radical. You’re going to get more and more and more results the more we go down this path.
I just interviewed an MD who’s been a plant-based doctor for 39 years. I love that you and your career and you’re seeing how you can help people and then you can even go do a colonoscopy and see that these diets actually work and they help heal the body from the inside out. Knowing all the science of exploring the microbiome, it’s so fascinating. Please come back on the show. I’d love to have you back. I’d love to continue to learn from you.
[01:44:04] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I appreciate it, Ashley. I definitely would love to come back. I’ll be honest, I don’t feel like a black sheep. I mean, seriously. I guess for me maybe it just seems so obvious.
[01:44:21] Ashley James: Right?
[01:44:21] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: It just seems so obvious so we need to talk about it. And I’m not afraid to share how I feel about these kinds of things because it’s really important for people. If this is the way to heal people, then we need to put it out there. And that’s been something that has been a part of me and everything I’ve done and it’s brought me to where I am today. I just wanted to add real quick a couple of things, I hope you don’t mind.
[01:44:45] Ashley James: Please do.
[01:44:46] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: At theplantfedgut.com, we have a COVID-19 guide. We have a guide to clinical research. I really think that one of the big issues—this is why I wrote this guide—is people are confused by the conflicting information that they receive. On a consumer-level, we have to have protections in a place where we become smart enough to sniff out fraud, to sniff out something that’s fake, to sniff out an agenda, and to see the truth. Because the truth exists but there’s a lot of noise. Because the truth brings us to health. Truth is the compass that guides us to health, but the only way to find that is to get rid of the noise. You can’t believe every single word that every person puts out there. We have to start discriminating because we have excessive access to information these days.
And then the other thing I wanted to add is probably by the time this episode airs I have a course that I’m starting in late August that I’m super excited about. Basically, what this is is an opportunity to connect deeper with me and my ideology to go beyond the book. When I see problems I go, okay, how are we going to fix this? One of the problems is I only get 30 minutes with my patient, and I wish I could have a day to just completely educate and give them everything. And that’s where this course comes in. It’s a structured way for me to give you over seven weeks all of the information that I think is necessary to actually understand gut health and to understand how to navigate our health care system to make yourself well.
What’s cool is I’ve been working on this course for about a year, and I’m just releasing it for the first time. But I’ve beta tested it twice in private with small groups and had amazing results. I’ve had people who have suffered from issues for more than 10 years who have healed because the course empowered them with the right information to know how to talk to their doctor, what questions to ask, and then we found solutions. I’m super excited about it because it’s just another way for me to connect with more people and provide the information and education necessary to help people to heal so that they’re not overly reliant on a system that’s not giving it to them. Let me step in and intervene and give you what you need.
[01:47:33] Ashley James: I love it, I love it. And so many symptoms people don’t realize are related to gut issues like the thyroid we had mentioned, but also serotonin levels. So depression and anxiety often the root is in the gut because there’s a direct relationship between serotonin production, gut health, and the nerves that connect the brain to the gut. Skin issues—so psoriasis, eczema, dermatitis, and the list goes on and on.
You had mentioned hormones, but our brain fog, our energy, our weight gain—there are so many health issues that you don’t realize start in the gut. By making sure we have the healthiest gut possible, we may actually be resolving mental, emotional health issues and strengthening our mental and emotional health, strengthening the health of our immune system. 70% of our immune system surrounds our gut and is directly affected by our gut and by the food we eat.
I’m sure you have this information on your website, especially because you have a guide to COVID and maintaining optimal health through this. Listeners can go to theplantfedgut.com. They can fill out their information to get your super snack guide for gut health. And then once your course is available, you just email them? Is that the best way for them to be notified on your—
[01:49:06] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: That’s right, theplantfedgut.com
[01:49:07] Ashley James: What’s the name of your course? Have you named it yet?
[01:49:11] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: Yup. It’s the Plant Fed Gut Online Course.
[01:49:13] Ashley James: Okay, great. Easy enough to remember. Awesome. We’ll have all that information in the show notes of today’s podcast. Thank you so much. Please come back to the show. I’d love to have you back.
[01:49:23] Dr. Will Bulsiewicz: I would definitely will. Looking forward to it. Thanks, Ashley.
[01:49:25] Ashley James: Thanks so much. I hope you enjoyed today’s interview with Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. It was amazing. I did not know that fiber in the gut creates short-chain fatty acids that are so important for overall health. And there are so many fascinating things to learn about how we could support the microbiome through our diet.
Coming up next in the next episode, we’re going to dive even deeper and learn more about how we can support the microbiome of the body with the food that we eat. And how we can actually use tests—special lab tests that you can do in your own home that will tell you all about what foods to eat and what foods not to eat to best support your microbiome in producing special chemicals that heal the body and boost the immune system. It is so fascinating.
Now, as you listen to the episodes of all these amazing people and you think to yourself you would love to learn more about holistic health, you’d love to learn more about how you can heal your body and also help others. If you’re interested in augmenting your own health or changing your career becoming a health coach, I highly recommend checking out IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I went through their program, I absolutely loved it.
Many people go through the program just for personal growth alone, and I had such an amazing time with the personal growth that I got out of it that I would have just done it for that alone. But on top of that, you also learn a whole career. So you can do it just for yourself and your own personal growth, you can do it to help your friends and family, or you could do it to shift careers. Or maybe you already work with people and you want to have another tool in your tool belt, IIN sets you up to be successful as a health coach, they train you how to do it. They guide you, they hold your hand, it’s an amazing program, it’s very nourishing, it’s all about holistic health on, not only a physical level, but also a mental, emotional, spiritual, and energetic level. It’s a fantastic program.
Why don’t you just try a section of their course for free? Go to learntruehealth.com/coach. That’s learntruehealth.com/coach and they’ll give you a free module for you to try out and see if you like it. See if that’s something that you’d be interested in. And if you’re interested in it, call IIN. Just google IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and talk to them. Make sure you mention Ashley James and the Learn True Health podcast because they give a huge discount to our listeners. I’ve been just raving about them for years because I had a wonderful experience with them, and so many of our listeners have gone through the program as well. They’ve given all of our listeners a really fantastic discount.
You can go ahead and check out a free module by going to learntruehealth.com/coach and you can just give them a call. Just google IIN and call the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Everyone you talk to on the phone has gone through their program, so they can actually sit down with you almost like a coaching session. And they can help you plan out your goals. They genuinely want to help you. There’s not like a sales pitch when you get on the phone with them. It’s not like a high-pressure sales pitch. They really lovingly and genuinely want to support everyone to make the right choice for them. And if IIN is the right choice, then they want to help you with that.
So go ahead, check it out, give them a call, and see how you like it. I highly recommend it and encourage you to check it out if you’re looking to do some online learning, especially these days when we can be home more, learning more, absorbing more great information to better ourselves. What a perfect time to do that. To take this time to go into our cocoon and transform ourselves.
We can choose to be a victim or we can choose to be a cause in our world, and I choose to be a cause in my world-transforming myself. When the times get tough, I’m going to transform myself. I’m going to choose to learn and grow and be even better when times are hard. And I know you want to as well. Have a fantastic rest of your day. I’m looking forward for you to listen to the next episode. It’s going to be fantastic, I can’t wait. Please share this episode with those you love and continue sharing so we could help as many people as possible to learn true health.
Get Connected with Dr. Will Bulsiewicz!
Book by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz
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Dr. Michael Klaper And Ashley James
- The food is square one
- Humans are herbivores
- Type 2 diabetes is a disease of fat toxicity
- High protein diets are toxic to the kidneys
- Indications that humans are herbivores
We have heard that a whole food plant-based diet is the best diet because it can prevent and reverse diseases. But there are also different indications and proofs why we should be herbivores as shared by Dr. Michael Klaper in this episode. He explains why food is square one and why type 2 diabetes is a fat toxicity disease and not carbohydrate problems. He also gives tips on how to ease into a whole food plant-based diet.
Hello, true health seeker, and welcome to another exciting episode of the Learn True Health podcast. I’m very excited for you to hear today’s interview. It’s with a doctor who’s been practicing medicine for 39 years. And instead of walking in the room with a prescription pad ready to dole out drug after drug, he looks to help his patients reverse major diseases and extend the longevity and quality of their life with food. It’s going to be a lot of fun today so strap in your seat belt and get ready to go.
I want to let you know, as you’re listening, if you’re interested in learning more about using food as medicine and healing your body with nutrition, please go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen and sign up. I created a very affordable course that teaches you how to cook delicious food for your whole family that also heals your body. And it’s totally in alignment with what this doctor is teaching today. Just give it a try. Just try it for a month and just see how you feel. Especially if you’re quarantined at home right now, what’s a few weeks of just trying nutritious foods, trying different dishes in the effort to support your overall health? That’s learnturehealth.com/homekitchen.
When you sign up you’d also be supporting the Learn True Health podcast to continue doing what we do, so you’d be supporting yourself and you’d be supporting the podcast you love. Awesome. Learnturehealth.com/homekitchen and use the coupon code LTH. If you’d like to sign up for an annual, it gives you a big discount. That’s coupon code LTH at learntruehealth.com/homekitchen. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you love. Please share this episode with those in your life who have any kind of heart disease or are afraid that they might develop it—high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and any kind of circulatory problems. Please share this episode with them as they will want to know this information. Enjoy today’s interview.
[00:02:17] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 439. I am so excited for today’s guest. We have Dr. Michael Klaper on the show. His website, or one of his websites, is plantbasedtelehealth.com. It’s going to be really interesting. The other website you have is doctorklaper.com. And of course, links to everything that Dr. Klaper does is going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at Learn True Health.
You’re quoted as saying, “It’s the food. It’s always the food.” And you love to show people how they can reverse disease, prevent disease, and heal their body with the nutrition in their food. So I’m very excited that you’re here today because you’re going to break down the science of how we can use food as our medicine. Welcome to the show.
[00:03:12] Dr. Michael Klaper: Well, thank you very much, Ashley. Good to be with you and your listeners.
[00:03:15] Ashley James: Absolutely. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of how we can heal our body with food, I really want to hear more about your story. What happened in your life in your youth that led you to want to become a doctor? You kind of broke away. I mean, whenever I see an MD teaching people how to heal their body without drugs, I feel like they might be a little bit of a black sheep. You broke away from the stereotypical norm and you are an advocate for helping people heal their own body. So what happened in your life that made you become a doctor and then had you break away like a renegade to teach people how to heal without drugs?
[00:03:56] Dr. Michael Klaper: Oh my. Got a minute?
[00:03:59] Ashley James: Absolutely.
[00:04:00] Dr. Michael Klaper: Here’s my life story. I did much of my growing up on my uncle’s dairy farm in Northern Wisconsin. The natural world entered my life very early, and I’ve been milking cows since I was eight, driving tractors, and I saw a lot of things on the farm. I saw life, death cruelty, and the reality of putting meat on the table. But like the rest of society, I just closed my mind and my heart to that reality. It was registered, no doubt. But I was the kid on the farm who always wanted things to be okay. I patched up the injured animals and just as fascinated by biology in general.
It was natural that I grew up and went to medical school. I graduated in the early 1970s. For the first nine years, I practiced blood and guts emergency room medicine, outpatient clinic, emergency rooms, operating rooms, and I did anesthesia. That’s what I thought I was going to do. Just acute care medicine, just patch people up when they got sick or hurt.
A couple of things happened in 1981. I was a resident in anesthesiology. I thought I was going to be an anesthesiologist, and I was up in Vancouver. I was on the cardiovascular anesthesia service. Day after day, I’m putting people to sleep and I’m watching surgeons open their chest and open their coronary arteries and their heart. From their arteries, the surgeons pull this yellow greasy guck out of the inner linings called atherosclerosis. And I knew very well what that stuff was.
There were already studies in the medical literature explaining it, and actually, some showing that you can melt this stuff away with a plant-based diet. I had an academic interest in it, but a personal one, my dad was already showing signs of clogged arteries. He already had a blue leg, diabetes, and chest pain. I knew that I had the genes, and if I didn’t change my diet, I was going to be laying on that operating table with that striker saw going up my sternum. I didn’t want that. I saw those folks when they woke up.
I was getting some really strong messages to stop eating animal fat because that’s what that stuff was. It’s the fat of the animals largely these folks are eating. When I changed my diet to a plant-based diet, my body responded dramatically. Within 12 weeks, a 20-pound spare tire of fat melted off my waist. My high blood pressure went to normal. My high cholesterol went to normal. I felt great waking up in a nice lean light body. And I realized at that point, three-quarters of the way through my anesthesia residency, that I didn’t want to be an anesthesiologist and spend my time putting people to sleep. I’d rather go back to general practice and help them wake up.
So I did, much to my parents’ dismay, and I moved to Florida. Started doing nutrition-based medicine. My patients who were able to follow my counseling—I found people in the area who would do plant-based cooking lessons. Those patients who are able to change their diet in this way to a whole food plant-based diet, they noted the same wonderful changes. They lost weight. Their high blood pressure came down, their cholesterol came down, they felt really good, and I became the happiest doctor I know. My patients get healthy right in front of my eyes.
It’s the most exciting transformation in medicine to watch someone waddle into your office obese, diabetic, hypertensive, clogged up, and inflamed. And week after week, meal after meal, month after month of these healthy plant-based foods, it’s just remarkable what you see. The obesity melts away, the arteries relax and open up, the high blood pressure comes down, the joints stop hurting, the asthmatic lungs stop wheezing so much, the migraine headaches get better, the colitic bowel settles down, and they turn into normal healthy people. How exciting that is to celebrate with them these health victories.
I’ve been a nutrition and lifestyle medicine doc ever since. And as important as the lifestyle is, you got to get enough sleep, you need to walk every day. Yes, yes, yes. But until you change the food stream washing through your cells meal after meal after meal, the other modifications are not going to make a great difference. It’s the food. It’s the food. There’s the food. It’s square one. You’ve got to do the other things, but the food is square one.
There’s just remarkable magic, if you will, pharmacological effects of plant-based diets that we can talk about. It’s become an art form for me to look at all the different ways that plants change the body, how they promote healing. And now we’re giving master classes in plant-based nutritional healing.
That’s been my evolution. My body’s the same weight as it was back in 1981 when I graduated. It was the same weight when I graduated high school. I don’t need medications. I feel great, I just turned 73 yesterday, and I plan on doing this for as long as I can. As I said, I’m the happiest doctor I know and I want to share with the medical students before pharmaco sclerosis sets in their brains. I’ve been going to the medical schools to tell them it’s what your patients are eating before you order another $1000 scan, another $500 set of blood tests.
Ask them what they ate yesterday. If it’s full of pepperoni pizzas and buffalo wings, that’s why they’re sitting in front of you, doctor. Send them to the plant-based dietitian. Let them do the counseling. You see them back in a month and they ought to be doing better. Trying to put a new model of how medicine should be practiced in these young doctors’ heads. That’s my mission of late, and it’s a challenge, but I’m enjoying it.
[00:10:13] Ashley James: I love it. We have a listener who was going to be—I don’t know what the term is—fired but discharged from the military. He’s a career man in the military. It’s his life, he loves it, and he works down in DC. His cholesterol was so high that he was going to be medically discharged from the military from active service. I don’t know the details other than he came listening to the show, came to us. I think he heard my interview with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. He’s a steak and potatoes kind of guy—gets on the whole food plant-based, no salt, sugar, oil protocol for one month and his cholesterol numbers came down in one month so fast that he’s been able to keep his job and keep his career.
That was so cool to see that in one month, it could change that fast. You’re 73. You look very young for 73. You’ve been eating a whole food plant-based diet for 39 years?
[00:11:28] Dr. Michael Klaper: Correct, that’s exactly right. The more I found out about how meat is produced, especially today’s industrial factory farming and what I saw happen on the farm, I chopped the heads off chickens. I did all of that, and now I realize the violence involved. I just don’t want anything to do with that. And learning what it’s doing to the earth, to the animals, and to the people who consume it, that’s certainly gotten me into a plant-based diet, and there’s no looking back. There’s no sneaking a cheeseburger now and then.
[00:12:04] Ashley James: But you know what, there are unhealthy vegetarians. There are unhealthy vegans. Just cutting meat out doesn’t mean someone can be healthy. I’d love for you to explain the finer nuances of what going just going meatless alone could still have someone develop diabetes or develop a heart attack. But what are the finer nuances of a whole food plant-based diet versus vegetarianism that would have people heal, prevent, and reverse disease?
[00:12:35] Dr. Michael Klaper: Thank you. That’s such a key question, of course. And the answer is in that phrase. It rolls off our tongues, people like you and me—whole food plant-based diet. It sounds like one word here. But wait a minute, whole foods, stop right there. We’re talking about whole foods like they grew out of the ground that you could recognize in the garden. Oh, there’s a tomato over there. There’s a carrot growing over there. There are green beans hanging on the fence there—whole foods. That’s really what we’re designed to eat.
We have the same digestive system that our gorilla and bonobo cousins have, and they’re up in the trees eating leaves and fruit because we have this digestive system meant to digest a high-fiber, plant-based food. We are not carnivorous apes. We are plant-eating, simian-like creatures. We have fingers on our hands, not claws. We got long intestines for digesting fiber. We’ve got enzymes in our saliva for digesting starch, not protein. We’re clearly plant-eating creatures. And as long as we stay on that diet, it’s a whole food plant-based food stream, then our body knows what to do with it.
The microbiome hums along there, the arteries stay open, the blood stays free-flowing, and we live our long healthy natural lives. I’ve never had a gorilla in the office saying doc, I can’t keep my hands off the cheeseburgers. The animals know what to eat. And our simian cousins do fine with their whole plant foods. When we stray from that, and there are two ways that the [inaudible 00:14:23] vegetarian straight one is broadening their definition. I’m vegetarian so I can eat eggs and dairy.
Well, you put cow’s milk with baby calf growth fluid and it’s filled with the hormones, fats, allergenic proteins, and growth factors. You flood your system with that—with the milk, the cheese, and the ice cream. That’s going to not do great things for your system. It’s going to spawn bacteria that cause problems. It’s going to change your blood chemistry. It’s going to change your hormone levels. It’s going to set you up for everything from diabetes to autoimmune diseases.
And eggs that people have—they’re full of cholesterol, saturated fat, and choline that turns the bacteria turn into trimethylamine that drives cholesterol into the artery walls. We’re not egg and dairy eating creatures either. You don’t see the gorillas going around raiding birds’ nests and eating the eggs. That isn’t our affair.
When we stick to the whole grains, whole potatoes, legumes, and the whole wonderful world of plant-based foods, lots of steamed grainy yellow vegetables, colorful salads, hearty soups, stews, casseroles, and stir-fries. When we keep our belly filled with that, we eat all these colorful sweet fruits for dessert, our body hums right along. Our arteries stay open, and the inflammation in our body subsides, and the blood is free-flowing. The artery is good. There’s a reason that long-term vegans are lean. They will not become obese. We can talk about why. The calorie density just isn’t there. It’s mostly fiber and water that we’re eating. It doesn’t stick to you.
If you go back for the fourth bowl of vegetables, who cares, they’re just fiber and water. It’s like high-quality gasoline in a sports car. Runs great, but you start putting the eggs, the dairy, and then the processed food—even the vegan process food. But if they’re made of flour, oil, sugars, flavorings, glutens, dough conditioners, yellow number three dye, and all the adulterants that get put into the various chips, [inaudible 00:16:51], the bips, the burgers, and all of that. Well then, It’s like you’re mixing diesel fuel, kerosene with your racing gasoline. The engine starts running rough, the gas line plug gets clogged up your arteries, and diseases happen.
Then we put names on them. You have high blood pressure, you have type 2 diabetes, but really, they’re just putting the wrong fuel and the engine clogs up, our insulin receptors clog up our arteries. Similar to your man in the service there who jumped on Dr. Esselstyn’s program there, he gets on that whole food plant-based food stream and the arteries clear out, the cholesterol comes down. They say, oh, how wonderful, how wonderful. But really, it’s predictable. That’s what should happen. That’s what must happen. You put the right fuel in and the numbers take care of themselves.
I joke that clinical reporter, that people get better on plant-based diets was published in that prestigious medical journal called duh. Yeah, that’s the point. We do get better because it’s the food we ought to be running on. Long answer, but it’s just a matter of obeying natural law. Your house cat is a carnivore. The majority of food that goes down a mountain lion’s gullet or your house cat is the flesh of animals. They are carnivores. We are not. We are herbivorous creatures. The majority of what goes down our gut should be whole plant foods.
Now, you can quibble around the edges with a little bit of meat once a month or no, you probably wouldn’t. I’m sure the gorilla eats the occasional beetle little worm on the underside of the leaf there, but by and large, as long as we stick to those whole plant foods, our body knows what to do with it. It functions beautifully and these diseases should not occur. Type 2 diabetes should never occur in a homo sapiens body. Obesity should never really occur. These autoimmune diseases shouldn’t occur. These are all dietary diseases. And the hopeful news is they get better when you put the right fuel and then most of them go away.
[00:19:12] Ashley James: In working with your patients for the last 39 years, you have helped people reverse so many different diseases. If a woman comes to you with an autoimmune disease like maybe MS or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, what do you do? Do you put her on prescription drugs? Or do you start her on a whole food plant-based diet and see how fast and how far you can go with that before you put her on drugs? Or do you not use drugs at all?
[00:19:45] Dr. Michael Klaper: Very perceptive question. The answer is kind of yes to all of the above. I’m a complete pragmatist. I’ll do what works, and I want to save that woman’s tissues whether it’s in her joints, her kidneys, or her nervous system. I want to quell the inflammation and get to the root of the disease as efficiently as possible. In the past, if someone’s in the middle of a big arthritis flare or whatever, I have no qualms about her short course of tapering down prednisone or other types of anti-inflammatories.
The beauty of changing to a whole food plant-based diet, but we’re not anywhere near answering your very complex question there, is it bathes the tissues with antioxidants and it has a real anti-inflammatory effect. When you say autoimmune diseases, the most common ones we see are the autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. The woman who wakes up and her joints are sore and severely fatigued, maybe she’s got a faint skin rash, and goes to the rheumatologist. Negative for rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. Here’s a woman that has most likely a so-called leaky gut phenomenon. She’s injured her gut wall and food proteins and bacterial cell walls are leaking out into the bloodstream and flowing through her joints and causing this inflammation.
Here’s a person that if you pull out the offending molecules, and that includes even starting with water fast for 5 days, 7 days, or 10 days to just put the fire out. It’s remarkable how dramatic these inflammatory states respond to a water fast—we can talk about that—but even without the water fast, if she just can’t or doesn’t want to do that. Just drinking vegetable broth for a day or two and then going on a very low antigenic plant-based diet—blended squash, sweet potatoes, quinoa. So just slowly add these in—steamed green vegetables and probably some omega-3 algae-derived DHA and a fairly hefty dose—300-600 milligrams a day. We often get a dramatic improvement in the inflammation throughout the body. And then you want to keep her on that so it doesn’t flare. You can’t go back to the fried chicken and the grilled fish that she was eating before.
Occasionally, it’s indicated to do a leaky gut repair if they’ve got all sorts of hives and skin rashes after they eat particular foods. They’re showing signs of leaky gut. There’s a protocol of various supplements—quercetin, glutamine, and probiotics for a couple of months to help the gut wall heal. That’s the most common type of autoimmune conditions that we commonly see.
Now over on the other end of the spectrum of autoimmune diseases are the real tough gunslinger diagnoses that make most doctors want to run the other way when they see it on the chart there are multiple sclerosis and Hashimoto’s. These are very complex diseases. These are more than just inflammation from a leaky gut. If you see Hashimoto’s thyroid under a microscope, it is swarming with lymphocytes. There’s an inflammatory fire burning in that gland, and it’s hard to put out. Eventually, it burns out after a couple of years. I have not found the magic pill or herb. I wish I could tell them to eat two cloves of garlic and wear rutabaga around their neck and their thyroid will heal. But most of us docs here, we would love to turn off that raging inflammatory fire in the thyroid gland.
You support them with thyroid hormone, and we nibble around the edges with various herbs, anti-inflammatory oils, and things. But I’ve not found the magic key for Hashimoto’s and similar to multiple sclerosis. Certainly, there are legendary recoveries for multiple sclerosis. Dr. Saray Stancic, an infectious disease specialist, pretty much cured herself of multiple sclerosis. A number of people have done these dramatic turnarounds, but I’ve got a couple of other MS patients who they’ve been plant-based for years and the disease is still progressing. It’s clear when you have a lot to learn about those particular conditions.
But still, even if the disease is progressing, there’s no way I can see when you bite into a chicken leg or a chicken breast, what are you really eating? At the risk of being graphic here, you’re biting into that chicken’s muscle, artery, tendon, and nerve and now you’re chewing up the nerve tissue—the myelin and neural proteins of another animal. Especially if you’ve got a leaky gut, some of that myelin from the cow, the chicken, the pig, the lamb, or whatever you’re eating is going to get in your system. If you’ve got antibodies against myelin or you’ve got some type of neurologic activity going on, the last thing I would think you would want is the myelin of another animal flowing through your immune system, in your bloodstream. Just to help put out the autoimmune inflammatory fire, stop running animal tissue through your body just seems to be a square one logical thing to do.
And then again, lots of dark leafy greens and the omega-3 containing nuts and seeds. If you’re also seeing a neurologist, you can use some of their high-tech medicines. I’m fine with that it’s I won’t stand on principle if it will let them keep walking and keep seeing the MS patients then I’m happy to work with the conventional docs. The patient still should be eating a really healthy plant-based diet no matter what other therapies that they’re on.
[00:26:56] Ashley James: Very good, Dr. Terry Wahls, I’ve had her on the show and she’s doing studies now using diet to reverse MS. Very promising work, and she’s working with Dr. Kahn doing studies on the plant-based diet reversing MS. I love that you’re pragmatic and you’re willing to continue to learn, grow, and implement what you can to help your patients to heal. It’s just those more complex cases where it’s like how far can food take us, right?
I’m a health coach so my client comes to me. I don’t want to throw the kitchen sink at them. I used to do that early on. I’ve been doing this for nine years, and I used to do that early on. I just want to throw everything at them at once and overwhelm them. That doesn’t help them with long-term success, but in the beginning, let’s just get them on the path to eating and bringing in nutrition into their body. Like you said, bathing all those cells in their body with the right nutrition and see how far you can get just with that.
It’s amazing how many symptoms. I have them write down all their symptoms and grade them at the beginning. A full of symptom inventory checklist. Then a month later, I have them go back and do it again, and every month have them do it. What’s amazing is they see how many of their symptoms resolve just by the fact that they’ve changed their nutrition to nutrient-dense foods so that now their body is being bathed, like you said, in these antioxidants, in these phytonutrients, and all the vitamins and the minerals they can possibly take in, and so much reverses.
And then after that, maybe there’s still some lingering things that they can work out with. Like you said, herb supplements, or maybe they need to work with a functional doctor and see how that can be supported. You’re eating a standard American diet, you take your symptoms, and you go to a typical MD, you’re going to walk out with a bag full of prescriptions. Which one of my previous guests—who I just had on the show—he’s basically the mayor of Brooklyn. Very interesting story. He walked out of his doctor’s office with a prescription pad full of drugs and basically came home with a bag full of drugs with multiple problems. Diabetes, he’s losing his eyesight, losing his feeling in his hands and feet, and has an ulcer. The doctor, the MD was like get ready to be on this entire bag of drugs—like 15 medications—for the rest of your life—and probably more.
He went home and he had a little pamphlet they gave him that said, how to live with diabetes. And something about that saying didn’t sit with him. It was almost like divine intervention. He went home and googled how to cure diabetes, and that’s when he discovered the whole food plant-based diet. He got on that, and it’s been a few years. He’s totally off all those meds, he’s reversed all those conditions—the conditions that his MD said you will have for the rest of your life and you will be on these meds for the rest of your life.
Does that upset you? You’ve been a doctor for so long. You’re kind of a pioneer. You’re way ahead of your time helping people reverse disease with food. Doesn’t it upset you when you see so many people being told they’ll always have type 2 diabetes? They’ll always have these problems. They have to be on these meds for the rest of their life when you know they can heal their body. I mean, doesn’t that just get to you?
[00:30:41] Dr. Michael Klaper: It drives me around the bin. It leaves me somewhere between anger and despair, but the determination to correct this. It’s just outrageous to let these young students go through four years of medical school and never once ask about what their patients are eating. We practice medicine like what our patients are eating has no effect on these diseases. It’s some genetic mismatch, or your liver is making too much LDL. Let’s pound down those enzymes and drop that LDL level. No, doctor. It’s from what they’re eating meal after meal.
I practiced medicine for 45 years before anybody put the words disease reversal into the same sentence for me. When the light went on, I said these are reversible diseases. Why didn’t somebody tell me this? Why aren’t we telling these young medical students these are reversible diseases. All of us who practice a diet and lifestyle kind of medicine, we have files full of patients who used to have type 2 diabetes, who used to have high blood pressure, who used to be obese, who used to have an autoimmune disease. These diseases go away. How can we withhold that information from the students and from our patients? It’s unethical to do that, and it really has to change. The public needs to demand that. The students have to demand it, which is what I’m advocating.
We’ve formed a non-profit initiative called Moving Medicine Forward, and I’ve been going to the medical schools telling this to the students. You’re dealing with reversible diseases from what your patients are eating. Ask them what they’re eating, get them on a plant-based diet, and you will see most of these diseases go away right before your very eyes. Do you want to heal these patients or don’t you? I let that question hang in the air. Why are you going into medicine? Do you want to heal these people or don’t you? Either way, if you just call in your obese diabetic patient and you clock your time over their A1C level. You’ve got to raise your metformin level, we’ve got to raise your glyburide level. Okay, you come back in two months. Let’s see what your numbers look like.
If that’s the kind of medicine you’re going to practice, you’re sure not helping your patients. You’re just going to watch them get fatter and sicker until you get that call from the wife, John had a big heart attack. He’s in the ER. They’re not sure if he’s going to make it. That’s what you’re going to witness, and you’re going to leave medicine. You’re not going to do this for 25, 30 years. It’s discouraging. It’s bleak medicine, especially when the way to heal these patients is right in front of you. It’s on their dinner plate. Probably you need to change your diet too, doctor, because there’s nothing sadder than a doctor who walks in the exam room with a big obese potbelly and a pocket full of statins and beta-blockers for his own high blood pressure and his own hyperlipidemia. That’s no example to set for a patient. They want to see a healthy healer walk through that door.
It’s all accessible just for ordering the bean chili instead of the beef chili. That’s the huge sacrifice we’re asking people to make. I mean the cuisine is delicious. You can eat all you want. And you could do it Italian, East Indian, Mexican, or Chinese. This is not a diet of deprivation, but somebody needs to speak the truth to these students. But with the meat industry, big pharma, big egg, and all that, there’s a lot of distortion of the truth that’s getting into these young docs heads. So a few of us are trying to reach them directly. And if people are interested, again, go to my website doctorklaper.com. It’s all spelled out, doctorklaper.com, and click on Moving Medicine Forward. You’ll see the work we’re doing. But absolutely, it causes me great consternation that in this day and age, we’re still withholding that information from the students and the patients. It’s unconscionable and it can’t stand. The patients know it.
It’s getting easier though. When I go to the medical schools—years ago before COVID, now we’re all online—now, in every second, third, fourth-year med school class, there’s always 20, 30, 40 students who’ve seen films like Forks Over Knives. They’ve seen What the Health, and they’ve seen Cowspiracy. The light’s on, and the kids know something’s up with nutrition here. They’re worried about the environment. They know the importance of all of us adopting a plant-based diet. So the message is getting easier to deliver to the students, but the faculty is still pretty resistant. But they will yield. Let the truth be told or the heavens fall. We’ll keep pecking away at that wall and eventually the wall of ignorance and resistance it’ll come down.
[00:35:38] Ashley James: Very cool. I’d like to talk about carbohydrates. I was type 2 diabetic. I reversed it with food and supplementation of nutrients. I no longer have type 2 diabetes, but I was left afraid of carbohydrates. It really started when I was a child. My mother, who was thin and fit, was incredibly afraid of carbohydrates. She was very afraid of becoming fat, of becoming obese, and she would wake up really early in the morning to go to a 90-minute exercise class. She would do that every day and eat lean chicken and vegetables and never ever, ever touch potatoes or rice or any kind of grain. She was just so afraid of carbohydrates.
When I had type 2 diabetes, I was again afraid of carbohydrates. I would do things like Atkins wishing that the promise of Atkins would be bestowed upon me. That this promise of being incredibly healthy. Oh, all you have to do is eat lots of fat and protein and very very few carbohydrates and you too could be diabetes free and full of health and vitality. Well, I don’t know anyone who has achieved long-term health and vitality by eating such an acid-forming diet, but I felt very sick doing Atkins. But every time I did it, I thought it was me. That I was failing somehow, or my body was broken somehow because I kept reading these books and kept seeing all the information out there that that was the way to go.
Even my doctors would say you have to eat 50 grams or less of carbohydrates. Well, in coming into the whole food plant-based diet, it seemed radical this idea that you would eat almost entirely your diet is carbohydrates. Of course, there’s healthy fats and protein as well within a whole food, but the majority of it is a complex whole food carbohydrate—brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, and vegetables. They all contain carbohydrates and starches, and I was afraid of it.
I chose to dive in because I like doing experimentation, and in eating this way, what shocked me was my blood sugar went even lower. I actually burst into tears. I had a meal, an hour later I took my blood sugar—it was 87. I burst into tears. I eat 200 grams of carbohydrates on average every day, but they’re whole food sources. So I’m eating potatoes every day, brown rice every day, and what I noticed is I wake up earlier, I have more energy, and my body wants to go to sleep at night. I just noticed that my body shifted, and it has more energy throughout the day, but I also wake up earlier. Then my body’s more ready for bed at night, which was really just an interesting shift in just increasing carbohydrates in the form of whole food carbohydrates.
I know some people who are still afraid, even with all this information, they’re still afraid of eating potatoes. They’re still afraid of eating brown rice because carbohydrates have received a very bad rap. I would love for you to get into more details. You wouldn’t be taking these potatoes and putting butter on them or putting olive oil on them. You wouldn’t put even some veganaise or whatever. You wouldn’t take processed oil and include it in the foods. Why is it that someone can eat more carbohydrates and their blood sugar becomes more stable if they eliminate processed fats? Why is it that we’re seeing that processed fats have a larger role in disrupting blood sugar and insulin regulation than eating a whole food carbohydrate would?
[00:39:40] Dr. Michael Klaper: That’s a key question. Congratulations on your bravery for persevering with a really natural diet, and you got rewarded—as you would and should. Because we are carbohydrate burning creatures. Ask any gorilla, ask any gazelle, ask any buffalo. We are meant to burn carbohydrates. The mitochondria in our cells burn glucose preferentially, not fats. We are sugar-burning organisms, and that’s what the grazing animals are eating. That’s what the gorillas are eating—the leaves, the fruits, and the roots. And that’s what our ancient paleolithic ancestors ate, not mammoth meat. We spent all day foraging, digging up these starchy roots and tubers.
Most of the calories that came in the paleolithic camp were gathered by the women who spent all day foraging for the starchy roots, tubers, berries, leaves, and fruits, but these are carbohydrate-heavy whole plant foods. Nature makes their plants out of carbohydrates. We’ve got this beautiful digestive system that burns them cleanly, and that’s the point. Glucose, which is what sugars and starches are, it’s a clean-burning fuel. Once it goes into mitochondria, the energy is extracted from the glucose molecule. And what’s the waste product? The carbon dioxide that you breathe off in your lungs and water that you pee out in the urine. It leaves the body cleanly, elegantly, and delivers a lot of good energy.
The problem is fats. When people are grossly diabetic—and type 2 diabetes is the most common type because people have clogged their insulin receptors up with fats, we’ll get to that in a minute. Once they’re all insulin resistant and their insulin receptors are clogged up with fats, then they eat some rice, potatoes, or some fruit—and because their insulin sectors don’t work because of the fat—their blood sugar spikes way up. And people say, aha, see those bad old carbohydrates. They’re evil foods for you and they make you fat.
No, they don’t. Carbohydrates cannot, with one exception, turn into fats. They can’t. When you think about it, the body is not going to take a ring of glucose, blow it apart of the mitochondria, grab the two, three-carbon fragments, and start stringing them together and make it a long-chain fatty acid with a bunch of enzymatic steps to turn that sugar into fat. Not going to happen. Your body’s not going to do that. What’s it really going to do? If you, at dinner time, eat a couple of potatoes and a heap of rice, you take in a carbohydrate load at 6:00 PM in the evening, what’s going to happen?
Blood sugar is going to go up, that’s true, and insulin is going to be secreted by the pancreas. That’s going to move the glucose into your muscles and your liver where it’s going to be stored in a form called glycogen. That’s the energy we use in our muscles to walk around, breathe, et cetera. But once the glycogen stores are full in the muscle, what happens to that extra energy? You burn it off as heat. Your body temperature will go up a quarter of a degree, and you’ll stick your foot out from under the covers at night or throw the covers off, and you’ll radiate that heat off to space. It will not turn into fat.
What will happen is as you rightly imply—now if you pour olive oil on your baked potato or on your pasta—you eat fat and sugar at the same time, the body will preferentially burn the sugar and will store that fat for later. That sugar and fat combo does stick to you, but the real damage is done is that is the fat. And again, people are keeping fat in their blood all day of bacon and eggs for breakfast, cheeseburger for lunch, and fried chicken for dinner, or pizza with cheese then the olive oil. All these fats, they’re keeping their blood fatty all day, day after day, week after week, month after month. It never really clears out of the bloodstream.
And as a result, the fat starts oozing into the liver and into the muscle cells and they start clogging up the fat molecules, clog up the insulin receptor mechanisms. And then insulin that needs to move sugar from your bloodstream into your muscle doesn’t work, so the sugar piles up in the bloodstream and goes up. It’s not a good thing to walk around with high sugars. It hurts your arteries, it hurts a lot of things. But the primary problem is not the carbohydrates, it’s the fats. We need a little bit of fat, but get it out of a handful of almonds, walnuts, some olives on your salad, or some avocado in your dressing. Get it out of whole foods. We need some fats. You don’t want to eat grossly fatty foods as far as the things made with egg yolks, vegetable oils, certainly the meats, the dairy, the cheeses, and all that stuff. That’s where it comes from.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease of fat toxicity, it’s not a disease of carbohydrate problems. Your mother—God bless her—your mother didn’t know, my mother didn’t know, who knew? But she was given bad information by the doctors at the time who are chasing these blood sugar numbers. Oh, it’s the sugar, it’s the sugar. No, it’s not, doctor. It was fat all along. You changed that. You got rid of most of the fat when you went on a whole food plant-based diet. Your insulin receptors cleared out, and suddenly you’re able to metabolize that very slowly released glucose that comes from whole rice, whole potatoes. They’re released very moderately into the bloodstream and don’t cause a big spike in sugars, as you noted there.
Again, it’s just going back to natural law. We are carbohydrate burning creatures here, and it’s the fat that seduces us. The folks on the keto diets who have these low blood sugars, they’re all insulin resistant, but because they run the other way when they think about eating any carbohydrates. They never eat any so no, their blood sugar doesn’t go up. And they say, see, it cures diabetes. No, ma’am. No, sir. Your diabetes is not cured. You are insulin resistant as hell as you would find out if you ate some carbohydrates how high it goes, but this is not a state of health. The steak in ketosis week after week after week. There’s stress on the body. I think these folks are setting themselves up for some bad diseases, but that’s another story.
But anyway, ask any gorilla. We should subsist on whole plant foods, and if we do, the gorillas don’t go diabetic, and there’s no reason we should either. Again, thank heavens it’s one of those eminently reversible diseases. If you’ve got any pancreas function left at all, you should be able to handle the glucose from whole plant foods quite well, and diabetes is one of those reversible diseases.
[00:47:02] Ashley James: Triglycerides is something that we have come to know as being a better indicator of heart disease than cholesterol. I’ve been told by my doctor that high triglycerides are caused by eating sugar. Can you explain how we could eat a whole food plant-based diet where we’re eating a ton of carbohydrates but at the same time lower our triglycerides?
[00:47:29] Dr. Michael Klaper: We’ll get to that at the end. Yes, when I said with one exception, sugars don’t turn into a fast. The one exception is if you really flood your liver, especially with fructose, which is not a friendly sugar. Muscles cannot burn fructose. There is only one organ that burns fructose and that’s your liver. If you’re eating way too much fructose, fruit juices, various high fructose corn syrup, confectioners, and things like that, the body will take some of those fructose molecules, rearrange them, and turn them into your triglycerides. But let’s talk about some science here, if you don’t mind.
[00:48:15] Ashley James: I’d love that, please.
[00:48:17] Dr. Michael Klaper: The real issue here when you say triglycerides is a better indicator than cholesterol, realize that all of those statements are derived from a population of Joe meat and potatoes Americans who are eating meat and dairy every day. In those folks, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol they’re markers. They’re indicators. These are the folks you’re going to get in trouble because of what they’re eating. It’s not so much the absolute number of your triglyceride or your LDL is. Atherosclerotic plaques do not form on your artery walls because your LDL is too high. These are inflammatory lesions.
These arteries are being injured meal after meal of fried chicken muscle, vegetable oils, frying french fries, high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid from cola drinks, the artificial colorings and flavorings, the detergents, and the polysorbate 80 that keeps the candy bar soft. These detergents injure the inner artery walls, the endothelial lining. Meal after meal, day after day of exposure to this chemical these all rips up the endothelial linings. When you grill a steak or a burger, you are oxidizing cholesterol in the muscle of the animal. When you eat that oxidized cholesterol and it goes over those ripped up endothelial linings, that’s how it’s able to get into the wall of the artery and set off the inflammatory reaction that winds up with a plaque being formed that can rupture and kill you.
But this is an active biological process. It’s not just about how high is your triglycerides, how high is your LDL. There is an inflammatory fire burning in the walls of the arteries kindled and kept blazing by the person’s daily diet. If you are on a whole food plant-based diet, if the only thing you’re running through those arteries are rice, greens, beans, papayas, fruits, and vegetables—just filled with antioxidants without the fried animal muscle, the Neu5Gc, the endotoxin, the aldehydes, and all the things that are inherent in a meat-based diet. You pull those out and you bathe those artery walls with antioxidants, phytonutrients, resveratrol, and all these things meal after meal, the arteries heal. And these plaques melt away as Dr. Esselstyn demonstrates, but cardiologists have become these fear-filled technicians ricocheting off these numbers.
What’s your LDL particle size? What’s your ratio? What’s your LDL number? Doctor, you’re a healer of arteries. Think about what is injuring those arteries. It’s artery abused by the owner of the arteries, doctor. Talk to the owner of those arteries about how they’re treating them. If you never change the oil in your sports car and you’re screeching the tires, eventually you’re going to wind up with a rickety engine and bald tires. That’s what this person’s doing to their artery walls. Talk to them, doctor. Get real. Don’t just raise their statin dosage. There’s an active biological process going on here that will turn that process into a healing one with a change in the fuel mixture flowing through those arteries and those arteries will heal, doctor.
When you say triglycerides are higher, they’re just indicators for who’s beating up on their arteries. Now I’ve got vegans with cholesterols at 210, and cholesterol is not an evil molecule. Your liver makes it, so your adrenal glands can make cortisol out of it. And your genitals can make your estrogen, your testosterone out of it that’s why the liver makes it. If you don’t have enough iodine in your diet, and you have low-grade hypothyroidism, that will raise your cholesterol. There are reasons why a vegan may have slightly higher cholesterol. But if their inflammatory markers are stone-cold negative, they’re not injuring their arteries meal after meal, I don’t care that their cholesterol is 208. They’re never going to develop a plaque.
As I said, when the arteries are inflamed, there are all sorts of inflammatory markers you can measure—high-sensitivity CRP, myeloperoxidase, oxidized cholesterol. There’s a whole panel now that you can measure. If those are stone-cold negative, you get an ultrasound of their carotid arteries and they’re smooth and clean, I don’t care that their cholesterol is 210. I can put that person on statins. They do not have the disease of atherosclerosis.
There is a medical term, I would say, doctors, please, make the distinction between benign hypercholesterolemia where your liver just happens to put out a little extra LDL in your bloodstream versus the disease—the active biological inflammatory process of atherosclerosis burning in the walls of the arteries. They are not the same thing. You can have benign mild hypercholesterolemia without the artery disease. It depends on how the owner of the arteries treats those arteries.
Thanks for letting me get that out, but I want to free people. It’s what I call the tyranny of the numbers. We’re so scared. Oh my god, my LDL is 184. How many statins do I need? Get off that merry-go-round. Treat your arteries like the gorillas treat theirs. I don’t have any gorillas on statins or any bonobos. There really shouldn’t be any humans needing them either, ask Dr. Esselstyn. He occasionally uses it acutely to drive down their cholesterol for a few months. If you got a patient on death’s door or were all clogged up, yeah I don’t have any problem with six months of statin. There’s an emergency measure. But it’s the food, it’s the food, it’s the food going to heal that person, not the statins. People need to be aware.
I’m giving that masterclass this Sunday evening if people want to hear that in my masterclass. Go to my website and sign up for a master class on healing arteries and hearts.
[00:54:49] Ashley James: Very good. You mentioned that it’s more about what is doing damage to the artery and what is damaging and inflaming the artery. There are all these blood tests and they’re showing either triglycerides and cholesterol. Cholesterol is a catchphrase for a bunch of different sized molecules. It’s like what’s damaging that artery for that person? Is it high blood sugar? High blood sugar damages the artery, all the oxidative stress. What you’re saying is really the best thing to look at are the inflammatory markers.
[00:55:25] Dr. Michael Klaper: Yes.
[00:55:26] Ashley James: Can you break down and teach us what are the safe numbers? You said there’s a whole panel, but for those who don’t know about the inflammatory markers, what is the best way to measure artery damage, basically?
[00:55:42] Dr. Michael Klaper: I’ll be glad to answer that question. Pulling back the focus a little bit though, a wise doctor once said, anybody who’s been eating the standard American diet for more than 30, 40, 50 years, you have artery disease. It doesn’t matter what your markers are. I used to order a lot of these, I don’t order so many anymore. Because the truth of it is no matter what the numbers are, the treatment is the same. Get on a whole food plant-based diet, run those greens and beans through your blood vessels, and no matter what the numbers are, they’re going to take care of themselves.
Ultimately, no one needs to really focus on these numbers. The idea is that what they’re telling you is there is an inflammatory fire burning in the walls of your arteries or not. And if there is, put it out with a whole food plant-based diet. If people are really serious about pursuing this, go to the website of either Boston Heart Laboratories—I have no connection with either of these labs—or Cleveland HeartLab. They have these lovely diagrams and the lovely panels of all the inflammatory markers there. So Boston Heart or Cleveland HeartLab will show you.
But basically, there’s a progression. As the artery starts to get inflamed—first of all, measure the oxidized cholesterol. That’s the really atherogenic particle. See if that is elevated. And the different labs, the other different range of normal. But check for oxidized cholesterol. Then as inflammation starts happening, you start getting prostaglandin E2 two building up. Isoprostane two is one of the early markers of inflammation. And then, as it progresses, as plaque starts developing, you get a protein release called C-reactive protein. And the test for that is hs-CRP—high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. You want that less than one.
As plaque develops and the white blood cells invade the plaque and start softening it and getting ready to rupture, which would set off a clot, then the enzymes that the white cells use to soften the plaque material, the monocytes release phospholipase A2, PLA2s. And the white blood cells release an enzyme called myeloperoxidase or MPO. That’s the panel. If I’ve got a patient eating a standard western diet and his isoprostane is up, he’s full of oxidized cholesterol, he’s already putting out CRP, and his myeloperoxidase and fossil lipids are up, he not only has a plaque, but they’re probably getting ready to rupture. This man needs to jump on Dr. Esselstyn’s green heavy diet. Boot in, full tilt.
If I have a vegan—10-year, 20-year vegan—who’s eating rice, beans, and greens, but his cholesterol is 222 but his oxidized cholesterol is near zip, and his CRP is less than one. Again, his myeloperoxidase and his fossil lipid, they’re all negative. I send him over to the ultrasound store there and they check his carotids and they are slick and clean with nice laminar flow. This man does not have the disease atherosclerosis. I don’t care if their cholesterol is 220. He’s not cooking up plaques here. He’s a very low risk. This man does not need a statin.
Those are markers. The individual numbers vary with the different labs, but if they’re grossly high or negative, those are the two boundaries that you’re looking at.
[00:59:49] Ashley James: Very cool. Thank you for clarifying that. When you had said that fructose can increase triglycerides if someone were to eat a raw vegan diet that’s more of a fruitarian, would that be enough to increase triglycerides? Or you’re saying more like concentrated highly processed foods like high fructose corn syrup and drinking Coca-Cola, that kind of thing? It’s basically the standard American diet, which is full of processed sugar and processed fructose versus eating whole fruit.
[01:00:25] Dr. Michael Klaper: Correct. When you bite an apple, what’s really in your mouth? What do you find? It’s mostly water, fiber, and a little fructose. There are other sugars involved. There’s not that much fructose, but it comes in with B vitamins and minerals to help with the metabolism of the fructose. Really, how many apples can you eat? You’re not going to be getting that much fructose from whole fruits.
Now once you throw six mangoes, a pound of grapes, four bananas, and pineapple into a blender and make a fruit smoothie, you are full of fructose. Chug-a-lug it down in 90 seconds, that’s a heck of a fructose load. You do that—and some of my fruitarian folks do—that’s a good way to get to jack up your triglycerides and give you a surge on your weight and possibly a fatty liver. But again, there’s no one other animal that does that. I tell folks if you’re going to do a smoothie, it should be a green smoothie. Just packed solid with baby kale and baby broccoli or whatever with some almond milk in there, some ground flax seeds, and maybe some frozen mangoes for sweetness, but mostly greens.
If you’re making up a smoothie like that, or any kind of smoothie, don’t chug-a-lug it down all at once. Take a mouthful, put the glass down, chew up the mouthful, mix it with your saliva, swallow it, wait 10 minutes, wait 15 minutes, let it get down into your stomach out into your duodenum, let it absorb, and start getting into your bloodstream there before you take the next swallow there. But take an hour, take two hours to drink a smoothie. Don’t chug-a-lug those things down all at once. There’s nothing physiologic about dumping 32 ounces of fructose and potassium into your system all at once. That’s my thought on fruit. How many mangoes are you going to eat? Three? That’s really not going to cause a huge fructose injury to your body, I don’t think.
[01:02:32] Ashley James: Especially because, like you said, the sugar, the fructose is bound to the fiber, the body has to break down the fiber, and the fiber helps feed the healthy gut biome. It slows everything down. I was fascinated when I learned that the body takes nine hours to utilize all of the carbohydrates, the fuel, the energy from a sweet potato or a yam. So you eat a yam, it’s nine hours of constant fuel slowly being dripped into your system because your body has to break it down, has to break it away from the fiber versus if you were to process it. Let’s say we process that yam into a flour—removed it from the fiber or broke it down, processed it, and made some kind of pasta out of it. Oh, it sounds like a really cool gluten-free paleo pasta. It sounds like a fun treat, but that would shoot up blood sugar much quicker because we process the fiber or removed the fiber.
So when you eat whole food, it reacts much differently in the body than any kind of processed food, especially if a processed food that’s had oil added to it, which is what you explained. It’s interesting looking at this way of eating because we have to continue to remember, it’s no oil. Really coming back to you, if you want to get fat, you have to get it from whole food. So many people keep saying, but what about olive oil? It’s so healthy. And what about coconut oil? It’s so healthy. There are studies that show that these foods are healthy.
I keep coming back to then eat the whole food. They’re actually removing it out of all the other nutrients and throwing those nutrients away—throwing the fiber away, throwing the minerals away. Eat the whole coconut. Drink the coconut milk and eat its flesh. That way, that coconut oil is going to be inside that, but you’re also going to get it with all the other nutrients. Same with an olive. Find some low sodium olives. It’s not that I’m against sodium. If you want to eat 12 olives, you’re definitely going to want to look for a low sodium olive because they are packed full of sodium and get the nutrients from that.
You mentioned some really great documentaries. One that I actually went into the movie theater to see is the Game Changers. That one was different from the others because they were following the lives of elite athletes—gold medal winners in the Olympics. There’s a man in his 70s who is able to perform athletic feats that 20-year-old athletes couldn’t do. There were fighters in mixed martial arts battles, and there was the world’s strongest man. He kept referring to gorillas as well and looking at a 1500 pound or a 2000 pound bull. Looking at these giant bulls rippling with muscle or a giant gorilla rippling with muscle. He would refer to them and say, “What does the bull eat? What does the gorilla eat? They don’t eat a giant 30-ounce steak to get their muscle. They’re eating 100% plants. That’s just where they get their protein from.”
This man, who’s the world’s strongest man, gained after he went whole food plant-based. Actually was able to gain 30 more pounds of muscle. That really shocked me. There are people who have different health goals listening to this. Some want to gain weight, some maybe are a little thin—on the thinner side—would like to gain some muscle, like to gain some more definition, or just be in a healthier place. Many people want to lose weight. 70% of Americans and many other countries around the world— because we follow what America does in terms of the diet—the hyper-palatable foods.
Many people want to lose weight, so 70% of adults are considered overweight and also have pre-diabetes, a diabetic, or on their way to becoming diabetic. They have different health goals. How can someone who wants to lose weight, someone who wants to gain weight or gain muscle, and someone who just wants to maintain their weight but be healthy or maybe reverse a disease, how can they all achieve the same goal with the same way of eating?
[01:07:08] Dr. Michael Klaper: Beautiful question. There are two separate issues, though they do meet in the middle so to speak. As far as the weight loss goes, yes, we are overweight, obese nation. I’ve been a physician for 49 years since the early 70s. I’ve seen this tsunami of obesity sweep through the American public. It’s been eye-watering to see this. Despite the movement for fat acceptance, obesity is a state of inflammation. There are no healthy obese people. They are inflamed, they have hormone imbalances, and they die earlier from clogged arteries, cancers, and strokes. Obesity is not something to be accepted.
Now, the way through it is not to pack your intestines full of meat every day, and it’s not to starve yourself of calories. The beauty, as we implied much earlier, of a whole food plant-based diet is mostly fiber and water. If you start your meals with a big salad, a hearty bowl of vegetable soup, and some steamed green-yellow veggies, already your stomach is pretty full with just a couple of hundred calories. And then have your rice and potatoes towards the end of the meal there, but a meal like that is going to take the weight off you. You can’t hold an obese body on that kind of dietary fair. The calorie density is just not there.
So the answer is just to adopt the whole food, and here’s again that whole food. It’s got to be whole plant foods. It can’t be energy bars, cookies, granola cereals, and energy drinks. These hyper-concentrated, hyper-palatable foods—even if they’re vegan—are not going to help you get a lean body. But as long as it grew out of the garden, and you can call it by name—that’s a cucumber, that’s a cabbage—then keep your belly full of that and your weight will take care of itself. Within 3, 6, 12, or 18 months, you’re going to have a much leaner healthier body. That kind of takes care of itself.
Now, as far as muscle mass goes, it’s not a matter of just trucking down huge bolts of protein and expect your muscles to ripple. One, it doesn’t work like that. You can’t eat brains and expect to get smarter. It’s not a matter of just eating a cow’s muscle or a bull’s muscle and expect to have muscles like a bull. It doesn’t work like that. But before I just blow past that, it’s not healthy to do that. High protein diets are toxic to the kidneys. When you eat these high protein meals—and that includes the veggie protein powders that these bodybuilders bolt down—you slam the glomeruli with 100 grams of amino acids and it hurts them. I’ve seen chronic kidney disease in long-term vegans who are eating way, way too much protein.
Get your protein out of beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils in their whole form and you can easily make it to that magic 70, 80 grams of protein. Nobody really needs that. Most people function just fine on 40 or 50 grams of protein. Even that’s plenty. But if the bodybuilders eat one gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight, you ought to be eating 70, 80 grams. Okay, so you have an extra hummus sandwich and a scoop of lentil stew or have a nut butter sandwich. You better eat the more calorie and protein-dense foods, but that’s not going to put muscle on you.
What puts muscle on you is then getting up off your duff and going to the gym or going into the room where your weights are and spend 40 minutes using those muscles. That’s why that bull’s got that rippling muscular body because he’s carrying around 2000 pounds of bone and muscle in every place he goes. The gorillas, they’re constantly doing these feats of strength as they lift their bodies up and they brachiate through the forest. These animals develop these muscles because they’re using them all day. They’re muscular athletic creatures. That’s what builds muscle. Whether you want to get into the whole rippling bodybuilder thing, but just have enough. You want to get to your 80s and 90s with enough muscle in your body so you can get out of a chair unassisted. That’s the most important thing. If you fall so you can get up off the ground. That’s the most important athletic act you will ever do.
When they go to the old folks home on the senior citizens’ home and they see who can get out of a chair unassisted, they’re the ones who are still there the next year. The folks who can’t get out of a chair unassisted often don’t survive very long. No one needs all these rippling muscles. I don’t think it’s a terribly physiological healthy thing to do to really just way overdevelop your muscles. But if that’s what you choose to do, yes, you can do it on plant-based foods. But again, it comes from those sweat in the gym. It’s not a matter of how much protein you can bolt down.
[01:12:51] Ashley James: Thank you for the clarification. You’re mentioning gorillas several times. I guess two schools of thought. One is that we’re evolved from gorillas or we’re distant cousins of gorillas. And then there would be the more biblical Adam and Eve story. Of course, we’re not here to say that anyone’s religious beliefs aren’t incorrect. But for those who have a religious belief about where we came from, why is it that we want to look at gorillas as a good example for our health?
[01:13:34] Dr. Michael Klaper: I don’t want to step on anybody’s religious beliefs. Yes, I’m assuming that if you believe in evolution at all—all the way up from the fish to the lizards to the whole evolutionary tree there—we homo sapiens creature, we’ve come up through the simian line, through the ape line. We didn’t come up through the antelope line or through the ungulates. We came up through the simian ancestors. You did not evolve from your cousin. We did not evolve from the gorilla, but way way way way back, we probably had a common ancestor, probably a lemur or something that was 10 million, 20 million years ago. But we clearly came down the simian branch of evolution.
So we look at the great apes and the monkeys that are on this planet. They’re all essentially plant-eating creatures. Yes, the baboons can get into flesh-eating et cetera, but even the majority of what they eat is still fruits and herbage. It is just because I’m just being true to just our evolutionary heritage there. None of those animals go out. You don’t see a bunch of gorillas banding together into a group of 20 of them and hunting down a gazelle and tearing its flesh.
[01:15:10] Ashley James: They could.
[01:15:12] Dr. Michael Klaper: They could but they don’t. They’re not built that way. Their nature is not in their digestive system. And could they really bite through that hide? It’s not simian-like to do that. We are not carnivorous apes. Because they’re so close to us in our anatomy, et cetera, it’s not that big of a logical leap there to say they’re of the same prototype.
[01:15:44] Ashley James: For those who don’t prescribe to that belief system, what kind of science can you bring? What kind of examples can you bring to show that eating the way an ape would eat benefits humankind?
[01:15:59] Dr. Michael Klaper: Well, certainly, our body gives us lots of indications. Plants have no cholesterol so it keeps our arteries clean and it feeds our microbiome a plant-based diet, breeds the beneficial prevotella organisms that crunch cancer growth and inflammation. I mean, on every level, our body hums along, but when we start eating flesh, and especially in any quantity, our arteries become inflamed and clogged up. We spawn Bacteroidetes and other microbes in our gut that produce carcinogens and uncouple our bile salts and set it up for colon cancer. There are just so many red lights that start flashing when we drift into an animal-based fuel. That alone should ask us to just obey the nature of who we are.
We’ve got our canine teeth shorter than our central incisors. If we jumped on the back of a cow, you couldn’t bite through its hide let alone its muscle, but these short little canines work great for biting into starchy roots, tubers, and apples. That is really what our dentition is made. We’ve got these made flat grinding molded teeth and a rotary jaw joint that lets us chew in a rotary motion to chew up leaves, grains, and seeds, et cetera. Again, we’ve got fingers on our hands, not claws.
In fact, I would invite people, if you really want a beautiful discourse on this, go to YouTube and search for the wonderful presentation by Dr. Milton Mills, MD. Is man an herbivore or an omnivore? And he gives a brilliant discourse removing all doubt we are herbivorous creatures. And to stray from that is to transgress national natural law and we wind up summoning all those diseases that reverse on a plant-based diet. I don’t know what more proof people need.
[01:18:18] Ashley James: The best thing we can do is learn from our history, learn from our past so that we don’t repeat it. Many of us don’t know what the diet of our ancestors was like and also don’t know the statistics of disease. Could you let us know what our great grandparents—what was their quality of food? What was on their plate versus the diseases they had? Statistically, we’re most likely to die of heart disease. If we look at it, the biggest killer in the United States and in many countries around the world is heart disease. This is why it’s so important. If you eat a diet that keeps your heart and arteries clean, you’re likely to also stave off other diseases. That’s what we see, we learn from the whole food plant-based diet.
This is not a new fad. You’ve been doing this for almost 40 years. This is certainly not new, but it is new to us in that we were raised under the marketing and under the hypnosis of the mainstream media pushing us, marketing to us to eat eggs, bacon, butter, and dairy—makes a body good. Let’s get cracking. We were all marketed to eat a certain way, and of course, our tax dollars are funding subsidies, which artificially lower the cost of meat because we subsidize the corn and the feed for the animals. They’ve altered the food supply in the last 100 years so much and now we see disease skyrocketing. What did it look like 100 years ago or 200 years ago in terms of the statistics of disease versus today? And what was on their plates versus today?
[01:20:13] Dr. Michael Klaper: Oh my. We’ll get to 100 years ago, let me take back 100,000 years. As far as what our ancient ancestors ate—people say, well, how do you really know? One thing we know is that when we look at their encampments, these people—just like us—they had bowel movements. The feces became fossilized, and there are fossilized fecal droppings, called coprolites, all over those ancient encampments. When you look at the mass of the bowel movements of the fecal that they passed, you see the massive amounts of fiber these people were eating. They have been eating about 100 grams of fiber a day to produce these large stools. Again, that’s plant material. Whether they had a mammoth in the freezer and ate the occasional animal flesh, again, the majority of what those folks ate was a whole food plant-based diet.
That said, coming into more modern times here, the picture’s kind of skewed in medical history because 100 years ago, certainly 150, 200 years ago, people were dying of infectious diseases. They were dying of tuberculosis, scarlet fever, typhoid fever, and all these diseases of crowded cities and poor sanitation. That really carried away about half the public there. There were still heart attacks, but I think Eric described the first one I think in 1910. Again, it seemed to be a 20th-century disease, they certainly had gout, they certainly had diabetes, and they certainly had the diseases of affluence—the diseases of kings and queens. Now people ate like that back then got those same diseases. But the regular folks who couldn’t afford meat every day, they didn’t die so much of the artery disease. But again, they were the poor folks who wound up in crowded cities and dying of typhoid and tuberculosis.
No matter when in history we tune in, the diet was certainly playing a major role. But the main thrust of your question, you are right. After World War II, I was born 1947, from that era on, the western diet changed. We got rich in this country, we got high techie, and we got money-driven. The food folks learned that you put fat, salt, and sugar on people’s tongues, man, you can sell them anything. They developed it into an art form. Their science of it. We’re left with the sorry legacy of that juggernaut that got spawned with that lethal mix of marketing, the money, and the disregard for public health. I don’t care what it does. As long as they’re buying my product, as long as my stockholders are making money, that’s all I care about.
Look at our children. Look at the cost of that philosophy and the costs have been way, way too high. I don’t care if they’ve made a lot of money. They’re going to wind up giving it back with all the hospitals, the medical plans, and the insurance. The old saying, pay your grocer now or your doctor later. The one or the other. You’ve got to pay for your health. It’s better to pay the grocer for healthy food rather than paying your doctor to bail you out of the problems that bad food has created.
[01:24:16] Ashley James: In all your years of working with people and helping them to heal their body with food, is there one story that stands out? Someone who you were so surprised that they were able to reverse that. You didn’t expect them to reverse that problem with a whole food plant-based diet.
[01:24:39] Dr. Michael Klaper: Oh my, yeah. A number of them. I had a man in his 40s come in. He had low-grade cancer, but he had some numbers that were of concern regarding his blood tests, his arteries, et cetera. He had read Dr. Esselstyn’s book and he said, “I know I have to do this.” And I really encouraged him to do that. He was living with his mother and father and both of them said we’re fine, but as an act of solidarity to support you, our son, we’re going to eat the same way you are. Not only did Andre do beautifully with his cholesterol levels and his cancer never came back, but his father lived—totally unbeknownst to me.
He had diabetes, high blood pressure, was taking four medications and was on insulin. I would see the son every month or so and about six months into it, he brought his father with him. His father walked in and gave me the biggest cry. He had tears coming down his face. He said, “You don’t know me,” but he brought in the pills that he was on. He had a paper bag full of pills. He says, “I don’t take a single pill. Every morning I work out on my exercise, I bike like you recommended for my son, and I’ve never felt so good.” You never know who hears, you never know who sees, you never know who gets inspired. We became quite good friends. We see them a couple of times a year. I’ve got a really fine thing with the father now who wasn’t even my official patient.
I had another patient. He was the head of physiotherapy at Truckee hospital in the California mountains. He had angina so bad and he was clogged up. He used to be a football player. He couldn’t walk across the courtyard of our clinic without taking two nitroglycerin. He was in such a bad artery shape. He did a water fast and got on a really lean clean diet, and every morning, I would meet him for our morning and afternoon walk. When we started he could barely make it at half a block, but day after day, healthy meal after a healthy meal, I watched him. I watched the weight come off him, I watched his walking ability increased, and I watched his confidence increase. His face changed as he lost weight. He became a different man right in front of my eyes. And by the time he left our clinic in Northern California, he was walking five miles around Santa Rosa. Yes, it makes you go to bed at night saying yes, that’s why I went into medicine to help people get into that state. Wonderful good stories. Everybody’s got a bucket full of those who practice this kind of medicine.
[01:27:58] Ashley James: I love it. I call my kitchen my pharmacy and you walk into your kitchen, when you walk through the threshold of your kitchen, just know, say to yourself, I’m walking into my pharmacy. Use farm like farmacy. You’re walking into your farmacy. You open that fridge, and when it is full of a beautiful variety of colorful vegetables, leafy greens, it is so beautiful. There’s just something magical about it. I love cooking, and I love making delicious food. Some people are really intimidated by it. There are so many recipes out there. I had Chef AJ on the show a few times. She has at least 100 videos on YouTube teaching different recipes.
Then I got together with a really good friend of mine who got on the whole food plant-based diet as well and has seen amazing results. But not only that, her parents, her mother-in-law, her entire family, and they all have had results. She converts people. It’s pretty amazing. She’s a living example. She’s in her 40s, she was diagnosed with heart issues, or she was told she has heart issues. She noticed that she was having some pain and she thought it was a different health problem, but the pain in her chest was the beginning of angina.
And then she got on a whole food plant-based diet, and within just a matter of—I think it was less than two weeks, it was really really soon—her walking partner, she goes around the block with a working walking partner very often. The walking partner said you’re walking faster, and she didn’t really believe her. She has three boys around the ages between 9 and 13 or 8 and 13, and they were usually always in front of her. Come on, mom. Come on, let’s go. Keep up. They’re walking somewhere together and all her boys were behind her. Mom, slow down. She turned around and she started crying. She’s like oh my gosh, I am walking faster. I don’t have angina, and then just things progressed from there. The weight came off. I think she said she’s at the same size as she was back in college. Just so many things are getting better.
It’s like watching a snowball melt. It’s like watching your body slowly transform, but not only that, her mother, her arthritis within six weeks went away—completely went away. Both her parents are doing great on a whole food plant-based diet. We’re just seeing so many wonderful changes that are taking place.
She and I got together, she’s an amazing cook, and we started filming ourselves cooking in the kitchen. We made that available through our website as a course. Everything that we can do and I could think of to help people to just try it, just try it. I was so afraid to try it. I had never had a meal without meat. I really went into this kicking and screaming. My husband, I think it was about three years ago, he woke up one day and he was a meat guy. He barely ate anything other than meat. It was just coffee and then meat, that’s all he ate and eggs. He woke up one morning a few years ago and he said to me, “I am never eating meat again.” Just something inside him snapped and he said, “I’m never having anything from an animal again.”
If I had told him that 12 years ago when I met him he would have laughed at me out of the house. He totally transformed into seeing all this health information. Me, I went kicking and screaming because I was so afraid. I was so afraid of what might happen, but I tried it and I was fascinated with the results. At every turn, my body rewarded me with better and better health. I’m still on my health journey, so is my husband, and we’re just seeing the changes take place as we continue down this road.
For those who are just starting out, potentially they’re interested, but again they might be like me where they’ve never had a meal without meat. They don’t even know what life would look like in that way. Maybe they have a spouse that wouldn’t support them in this way. Can you give us some resources or some tips, or maybe just walk us through what they can do to transition or try this out?
[01:32:26] Dr. Michael Klaper: Absolutely. If they have a pencil and paper or they can remember this. Go to a website with these initials pcrm.org—Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. They have a 21-day plant-based kickstart program there that will walk you through. They’ll find your favorite food. You start with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, just things that you’re already eating, and just get a couple of plant-based breakfasts together, a couple of plant-based lunches and dinners. They ease you into it. That’s a really useful website, pcrm.org. But also go to a website called Forks Over Knives and see the film at the website of that same name, but they’ve got beautiful transition plans and recipes. Another one is called Engine 2, which is Dr. Esselstyn’s son Rip’s website. Those four will certainly get you started.
You’ll find no oil and salad dressings there, and you can find everything you need at those four websites, but there’s no end of wonderful cookbooks. Cathy Fisher’s Straight Up Food is wonderful. Katie Mae’s plant-based gym is wonderful. There are lots of resources on the web, but start with pcrm.org and Forks Over Knives and they’ll walk you through the transition deliciously.
[01:34:02] Ashley James: Very cool. Do you personally have any tips? Imagine we’re sitting in your office, we’re new patients of yours. What are the things you would tell us to help us get started?
[01:34:13] Dr. Michael Klaper: Again, take your time. There’s no emergency here. Don’t get uncomfortable, but don’t linger in bad food land there either. As the PCRM folks, let’s start with the food you already eat. Let’s see if we can healthify them. What do you have for breakfast? How about oatmeal with some fruit on it and little almond milk there, are you okay with that? Sure. Or just a bowl of fruit, wonderful. Just drink water if you’re not hungry until you get hungry. That’s all fine. And lunches and dinners, I want a salad with every—Dr. Fuhrman says the salad is the main dish, and he’s right. You want that fresh, live, colorful salad every day, and a hearty bowl of vegetable soup.
Just start with that. Have a salad and soup as part of lunches and dinners. And realize starches are your friends. The whole grains, rice, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat are wonderful things to put in soups and to put on your plate there and cover with vegetables. Learn to love legumes, beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and anything in a pod. Lentil stews and bean burritos without the cheese—should visit your plate frequently. And there’s a world of colorful fruits for dessert. Instead of ice cream, have berries with some almond milk on it. My wife and I enjoy that. Have a couple of mangoes. Have some grapes and cherries for dessert.
It doesn’t take much. These are all delicious foods. Learn to do batch cooking. Make up a big pot of soup and eat part of it and put the rest in freezer containers and put it in the freezer for those days you don’t feel like. You can just pull them out and heat them up, and you only have to cook like twice or three times a week. You just coast the rest of the days on the soups, the stews, and the casseroles that you made up in those big batches. There’s an art to it, and the more you do, the easier it gets after you’ve made these dishes two, three times. You can do it in your sleep. They’re not that complicated.
Have fun with the seasonings. As I said, you can make it Italian style, East Indian, Mexican, or Asian. Have fun with the different cuisines so you don’t get bored. Enjoy, eat all you want, and you’ll wind up lean and healthy.
[01:36:47] Ashley James: I love it. It sounds great. That is such a perfect way to ease into it, but like you said, don’t dwindle but definitely ease into it. That is such a simple plan that someone can get started right away. Your website, you offer some great services. You do telemedicine, people can work with you, and you also have these classes. Tell us a bit more. When someone goes to your website, of course, all the links to your websites are going to be in the show notes of today’s podcast at learntruehealth.com. When someone goes to plantbasedtelehealth.com or doctorklaper.com, what kind of classes should they sign up for?
[01:37:31] Dr. Michael Klaper: Sure. Plant Based Telehealth, this is our official medical services company. I work with two other plant-based doctors, Dr. Laurie Marbas and Dr. Chris Miller, and we do plant-based nutrition consultations. We do 30-minute consultations about any disease you’ve got there, so if you want a plant-based doc who won’t cluck their tongues when you tell them that you’re vegan, go to plantbasedtelehealth.com and make an appointment. It’s very reasonably priced, but that is for straight medical counseling.
But if you want to learn about the plant-based diet, the scientific side, the ethical side, the environmental side, and you want to see videos, et cetera, go to my website, doctorklaper.com. You’ll find free videos there. You’ll find recipes, you’ll find articles, you’ll find Q&As there. It’s just a treasure trove of plant-based information. You can sign up for our masterclasses and plant-based nutrition. We do them every two weeks for 12 classes, but once the course is finished, people can download the recordings. It’s never too late to sign up if you’d like. Again, that’s all at doctorklaper.com.
[01:38:56] Ashley James: Awesome. Tell us what you ate in the last 24 hours.
[01:39:01] Dr. Michael Klaper: Oh, wow. Well the last 24 hours, we always have a big salad going in the fridge. My wife makes these dynamite salad dressings in the blender, and we always have a big Crock-Pot full of super stew on the counter. We’ve got an Instant Pot. We just made some Gordo beans soup. I could live on soup, salads, and greens.
So yesterday, for lunch, I had soup and a salad. Dinner time my wife had made a tofu lasagna and we splurged on cooked foods about once a week. That was our decadent treat for the week. She put up overnight oats before we went to bed. She started soaking oats for the morning, and so this morning the overnight oats were ready. I put in half a quart of blueberries. I love blueberries. I loaded up with that and my wife makes cashew milk in the blender. I put some ground flaxseed and hemp seed on the cereal. And lunch, I haven’t had lunch yet here, but I think she’s making a buddha bowl. I think she’s cooking up some quinoa and she’ll put some greens and some tahini dressing on it. I’m a big fan of her buddha bowls. It’s cherry season here. She brought back some dynamite organic cherries, and we’ve been feasting on the cherries in between meals.
[01:40:43] Ashley James: That sounds delicious. Dr. Michael Klaper, it has been such a pleasure having you on the show today. Thank you so much for bringing your 39 years of experience helping people to reverse disease and prevent disease with a whole food plant-based diet. Do you have any final words you’d like to say? Words of encouragement or some challenges that you’d like to give us, some homework you’d like to give us to wrap up today’s interview?
[01:41:10] Dr. Michael Klaper: Absolutely. No matter where you look, the lights are flashing, the bells are clanging that major changes are needed here on planet earth. By far, the one thing we can do as we are hurtling towards environmental catastrophe is each of us to evolve our diet to a whole food plant-based diet. It’s beyond nicety, it’s beyond your cholesterol level. Large-scale industrial animal agriculture is destroying this planet. It’s destroying the forest, the waters, and the soils and it’s what’s putting greenhouse gases into the air as we cut down the forest.
We are being told, humans, if you want to survive on an individual level, you want to live a healthy life with clean arteries, adopt a whole food plant-based diet. But if you want a livable planet that we can pass on to our children without hanging our heads in shame, as species, we need to adopt a whole food plant-based diet. If we do, we’ll need so much less land to grow our food that the forest will come back. As the trees grow, they’ll take carbon dioxide out of the air. The waters will run purely again. The soils will stabilize. The earth will heal. But the age of animal eating is over. We’ve used it up. We’ve used fishing up.
The bell is clanging, the red lights are flashing. We’ve run out of time here. What can we do? What can we do? We can adopt a whole food plant-based diet as individuals and as species. I urge people, don’t put it off. It’s the most life-affirming thing that you can do. On some level, if we hold on to our old meat-eating ways, the future looks very bleak. Plant-based diet offer a future of health, stability, and healing. I urge people to take it seriously. Get on the plant-based train, and it’ll take you good places, I promise.
[01:43:22] Ashley James: I love it. I love it. One final thing. I just remembered you said that when we don’t eat processed fats—so no oil—and we don’t eat the animal fats, so now we’re just getting whole food plant-based fats from a whole food source like avocado, some nuts, or some olives. Occasionally, not in excess quantity. We’re primarily getting starches that the body will take the excess starch or the excess carbohydrate and burn it off as heat.
Sometime after I gave birth—my son’s five—I noticed that I’m not cold anymore, and I attributed that to something changed in my body because I gave birth. Because I couldn’t figure out what it was. I was always freezing. I’m from Canada so I just thought it was the cold weather because it would be -40 in the wintertime, but I was always cold. I had to wear heated socks. You put them in the microwave, you heat them up. I even had an electric blanket in my house. I found an electric blanket that plugs in the car and I would wear that around me. I was just always cold all the time.
After adopting a whole food plant-based diet, and it didn’t click until you said it because I thought it had something to do with maybe my hormones after giving birth, but it was after I went whole food plant-based. I am hot all the time in the last few winters. I’ve walked around barefoot in the winter even outside. I am so hot I don’t ever have the blankets on me. My husband is amazed. I can’t believe it. Something about my circulation, something about the heat, but I know so many women are complaining that they’re cold all the time. Their hands are cold, their feet are cold.
I’m telling you I’m hot, but I’m not uncomfortably hot. But I run hot now. That’s so funny you mentioned that. Any excess carbohydrates I’m eating the body’s just burning it off as heat, and I run hot, which is really cool. I mean it’s really hot, but it’s so much better than the alternative. It was so uncomfortable being cold all the time, which almost is like saying I had a carbohydrate deficiency. My body was unable to produce enough heat, and now it is having a healthier circulation and producing enough heat. I thought that was really interesting.
Thank you so much for everything you brought today, and I’d love to have you back on. Anytime you want to come and share more information, we’d love to have you.
[01:45:44] Dr. Michael Klaper: Thank you very much. You’ve done a great service in bringing this information—and hopefully inspiration—to your listeners. It’s a great service that hopefully will help everyone heal including the planet, so it’s been a delight and an honor. Those are great questions. You’re an excellent interviewer, by the way, and I really enjoyed being on your show. Thank you very much. All the best to you and your listeners.
[01:46:08] Ashley James: Thank you. I hope you enjoyed today’s episode of the Learn True Health podcast. You can go to learntruehealth.com and check out all of the wonderful resources there. We transcribe all of our interviews, so you can scan through and read interviews. We have some really great free goodies on the site as well. If you have a friend, family member, or yourself suffer from anxiety, I have a wonderful course where you learn tools on how to eliminate anxiety. How to turn off the anxiety response in the body, how to decrease stress, and increase health mentally, emotionally, and physically.
So go to learntruehealth.com, search through the menu. You’ll see there are many resources on the site available to you there. Thank you so much for being a listener, and thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you care about. Let’s help turn this little ripple into a tidal wave and help as many people as possible to learn true health.
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