431: The Plant Paradox

Dr. Steven Gundry & Ashley James


  • Importance of removing lectins from beans
  • Leaky gut causes leaky brain
  • All diseases come from the gut
  • Why nightshades are bad for us
  • Why we should consume olive oil
  • Go-to foods to eat that support our gut

Hippocrates mentioned thousands of years ago that all diseases start from the gut. Now we’re finding out that his statement is true based on different researches on health and nutrition. In this episode, Dr. Steven Gundry talks about which foods harm the gut and which foods heal the gut. He also shares why we need to remove lectins from our diet and how we can destroy lectins.


Hello, true health seeker and welcome to another episode of the Learn True Health podcast. I'm so excited you're here. Today is our interview with Dr. Gundry. He wrote the book The Plant Paradox, and I have to say, it was quite controversial. I know you're going to love today's interview. Dr. Gundry talks about removing anti-nutrients from your diet. If you, as you listen, want to learn how to do that, come join the Learn True Health Home Kitchen. Go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen. I've been filming for several months. There are many videos in there, and I teach you how to remove these anti-nutrients from your diet—the oxalates, the lectin, the gluten, and how to eat a whole foods diet filled with nutrient-dense foods that heal the gut, prevent heart disease, reverse disease, and nutrify the body. Go to learntruehealth.com/homekitchen, sign up, and start cooking food that heals the body.

Awesome. Thank you so much for being a listener. Thank you so much for sharing this podcast with those you love. Enjoy today's interview.

 Photo by Shelley Pauls on Unsplash

[00:01:06] Ashley James: Welcome to the Learn True Health podcast. I’m your host, Ashley James. This is episode 431. I am so excited for today's guest. We have, this is going to be such an interesting interview, Dr. Steven Gundry. Your book is The Plant Paradox, and from everything I've seen, people either love it or hate it. There's no in-between. I've not met someone who's lukewarm about your book. People are either passionately for what you do or passionately against what you do. I think it's going to be fun to have you on the show today and share what happened for you to discover and create The Plant Paradox, and how your system is helping people reverse disease and heal their body. Welcome to the show.

[00:02:03] Dr. Steven Gundry: Thanks for having me.

[00:02:05] Ashley James: Absolutely. I have interviewed several whole food plant-based doctors that reversed disease with plants. They are up in arms about what you do. They say it’s just ridiculous that someone would cut out legumes, beans, and plants that contain lectins. They think that these are very healthy foods. I'd love for you to start by sharing. Obviously, there's so much controversy around that, especially with doctors who claim that the opposite of what your diet is healthy. How do you handle that kind of criticism?

[00:02:50] Dr. Steven Gundry: I just show them the data that I show in my book and it’s subsequently published. There's actually no getting around the fact that the harm of lectins has been known about for actually well over 100 years. In fact, just to use an example, there are three papers in the literature in monkeys showing that the lectin in peanut oil is a major cause of the hardening of the arteries—of coronary artery disease in monkeys. When you remove that lectin from peanut oil and give it to monkeys they don't get coronary artery disease. Recently, I published a paper in circulation showing that lectins are a major cause of an autoimmune attack on the inside of blood vessels. That when you remove lectins from human’s diets, that they're markers for an autoimmune attack on their blood vessels minimizes. We can say I'm telling people falsehoods but in fact, this is all published data that I write about.

[00:04:20] Ashley James: How does one go about removing lectins from their diet?

[00:04:25] Dr. Steven Gundry: That's actually pretty easy. Recently, I had, on my podcast, Dr. Joel Fuhrman who actually I am a big fan of. A few years ago, when The Plant Paradox, came out, I believe he was pretty vocal that how dare I take beans away from people. I don't take beings away from people, I merely ask them to destroy the lectins with the pressure cooker. While I had him on the podcast and we were chatting, it turns out that he actually pressure-cooks his beans. He does not eat his beans unpressured-cooked. Sometimes, the noise gets in the way. I had beans three times last week. Believe me, they were pressure cooked. I have nothing against beans, but we have to know our enemy, and we have to know how the plant decided to protect itself. The good news is, for the most part, you can neutralize the enemy by some simple tricks.

[00:05:41] Ashley James: You brought up a really good point that plant protects itself. Explain what lectins are. How does the plant create it, and how does our body react to lectin?

[00:05:51] Dr. Steven Gundry: Lectins actually were discovered almost 150 years ago now. We use lectins to blood type. There was a very famous lectin diet, it was well-hidden, called the Blood Type Diet. Lectins are used by plants as a defense mechanism—one of the defense mechanisms—against being eaten and of having their babies—their seeds—from being eaten. Lectins are proteins. They're what are called sticky proteins because they actually look for sugar molecules to stick to—specific sugar molecules. Those sugar molecules line the inside of our gut, they line the inside of our blood vessels, they line the inside of our joints, and they line the space between our nerves.

The theory is if lectins can break through the wall of the gut and they're very good at this, Dr. Fasano from Johns Hopkins a few years ago proved that gluten, which is a lectin, causes leaky gut by binding to the sugar molecules in the gut and breaking the tight junctions. There’s no question that this happens. Why do they do that? Because quite frankly if you can cause an animal to not feel well, to not thrive, then a smart animal says every time I eat these particular plants or these plant babies I don't do very well. I think I'll go eat something else. The animal wins, the plant wins, and everybody's happy.

Then humans arrived. As most of us know, we're not very smart. When we eat something that bothers us, let me give you an example, heartburn is caused by lectins. Instead of avoiding lectin-containing foods, like for instance, a hot pepper, which is loaded with lectins, we instead take Prilosec or Nexium and we keep eating these things. That's really dumb because, actually, there's a beautiful paper in humans that shows that in normal human beings who were asked to take one of these proton pump inhibitors for one week—one week only—they had dramatic changes in their ability to remember things, process—one week. I can't believe Larry the Cable Guy thinks that not being very smart is worth a corndog.

[00:09:03] Ashley James: How do lectins cause heartburn?

[00:09:05] Dr. Steven Gundry: Lectins actually break down the mucus lining, that mucus is a mucopolysaccharide—a sugar molecule, and exposes the covering of our esophagus. The mucus is used up by a lectin attack and then the acid irritates it. I used to have horrible heartburn. I used to eat Tum's left, right, and every day. I haven’t had heartburn in 20 years now.

[00:09:36] Ashley James: Amazing. Tell us a little bit about your story. Your background is so extensive. Reading your biography, it's amazing what you've accomplished through the years and what you have given to the medical space. You have helped so many children and so many cardiac patients around the world, but you yourself had health issues. You uncovered this particular way of eating to heal yourself. Tell us a bit about your personal journey with recovering your health.

[00:10:15] Dr. Steven Gundry: I was a very famous heart surgeon, children's heart surgeon, and transplant surgeon. Very famous for inventing devices to protect the heart during heart surgery, but I was 70 pounds overweight despite running 30 miles a week, going to the gym one hour a day, and eating a healthy low-fat, primarily, vegetarian diet. I had high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, and arthritis. I used to operate with migraine headaches doing baby heart transplants, I don't recommend it, but somebody had to do it. I thought this was normal because I was assured it was normal because my father was very much the same way.

It wasn't until I met a fellow I described in my books by the name of Big Ed from Miami Florida who in six months’ time following a diet, very much like what I described and taking a bunch of supplements from a health food store, he cleaned out 50% of the blockages in his coronary arteries in six months’ time. He had inoperable coronary artery disease. I was totally shocked that that could happen. I was taught, as most doctors are taught, that coronary heart disease is progressive. Yes, we could maybe slow it down, but eventually, it's going to get you. To watch an individual—now many individuals—reverse coronary artery disease with food and supplements changed my life.

I was ready to discover this. Believe it or not, as an undergraduate at Yale, I had a special major in human evolutionary biology—basically epigenomics. I had a big thesis that my parents had. I'm actually staring at it in my bookcase right now. I actually put myself on my thesis and I lost 50 pounds in my first year, another 20, and kept it off for over 20 years. I started treating patients that I operated on with my program to try and keep them from visiting me again. Lo and behold, not only did they not visit me again, but their diabetes went away, their arthritis went away, their high blood pressure went away, and their autoimmune diseases went away. That's what I've been doing for the last 20 years.

[00:13:10] Ashley James: I love it. Lectins, are they proteins?

[00:13:15] Dr. Steven Gundry: Yes, they're proteins.

[00:13:16] Ashley James: They’re proteins. Everyone's heard of gluten at this point. I've been gluten-free since 2011. So many people have heard that gluten can cause leaky gut. There's also this new thing that we're hearing about called leaky brain. Have you heard of this?

[00:13:37] Dr. Steven Gundry: Have I heard? What do you mean? I've been studying and writing about it.

[00:13:40] Ashley James: Tell us more about leaky brain.

[00:13:43] Dr. Steven Gundry: It turns out, there is an incredible gut-brain connection that is being elucidated, actually, with every passing day. I wrote quite a bit about it in The Longevity Paradox but my next book, which is entitled The Energy Paradox, gets even more into that. What we found, we now have some pretty nice sophisticated tests that look at the breakdown of the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is basically a barrier that keeps everything out of the brain. For instance, if you had a malignant brain tumor, we can't give you chemotherapy by swallowing it or through your veins because the chemotherapy won't get past the blood-brain barrier. We actually have to inject chemotherapy into your spinal fluid. That's how impenetrable the blood-brain barrier is.

In people with leaky gut, a great number of people actually have a breakdown of that blood-brain barrier. There is more and more and more evidence that conditions like Parkinson's, like Alzheimer's, and like plain old everyday dementia is in large part coming from leaky gut and causing leaky brain. You don't have to look very far to realize we have an epidemic of dementia, and we have an epidemic of leaky gut. In fact, this certainly was known for a very long time. Hippocrates 2,500 years ago, the father of medicine, said all disease begins in the gut. He didn't have a human microbiome project, but he knew this. The fascinating thing he was absolutely right. All disease does begin in the gut, and the good news is, all disease can be reversed by reversing leaky gut.

[00:16:03] Ashley James: How do we heal the barrier for our brain? How do we heal leaky brain? By focusing on the gut?

[00:16:11] Dr. Steven Gundry: Correct. Leaky brain comes from leaky gut, not the other way around.

[00:16:15] Ashley James: Got it. How do we heal the gut? Is it as simple as removing lectins from our diet?

[00:16:20] Dr. Steven Gundry: It’s not as simple as that. For instance, I just gave a paper at the American Heart Association Lifestyle and Epidemiology meeting in March where we looked at people who were gluten intolerant, who did react to gluten. These people were gluten-free and yet they still had leaky gut. We found that 70% of people who are gluten-sensitive also react to corn vigorously. Sadly, most gluten-free products have corn in them. We also found that in this report, taking away other major lectin-containing foods like brown rice, like peas for instance, like legumes, like the nightshade family—tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes—then and only then did these people stop their leaky gut.

It was not only just being gluten-free, but it was also actually being lectin-free. In fact, as I wrote about The Plant Paradox, you can take people with celiac disease, which is the extreme form of gluten intolerance, and you can put them on a gluten-free diet for a year and a half and 70% of those people on a gluten-free diet will still have celiac disease by biopsy, which is the gold standard, even though they're on a gluten-free diet. My premise is it's because most of the gluten-free foods that they're eating have lectins other than gluten. This is what I just showed in that paper I gave in March.

[00:18:11] Ashley James: So many people who are gluten-free don’t avoid oats and oats getting gliadin, which is such a similar protein. I always tell people to try to avoid oats and then try to avoid them for a month. Avoid them for a month and then add them back and see what happens. Very quickly people notice a difference once they've been abstinent from it.

[00:18:31] Dr. Steven Gundry: Yeah, there's no such thing as gluten-free oats because you're right, they could cause reactivity of those proteins. As my daughter who's a horsewoman always reminds me, the only purpose of oats is to fatten a horse for winter.

[00:18:50] Ashley James: Wow. That's interesting. It reminds me of looking into the idea of eating chicken. People who want to bulk up at the gym are told to eat chicken. People who want to lose weight are told to eat chicken. That's paradoxical in and of itself. It's like wait a second, one person wants to bulk up and they're told eat a bunch of chicken like the bodybuilders, and then people who are on Weight Watchers and stuff are told to just eat chicken, it'll help you lose weight. But it doesn't. That's a paradox. There are foods that people think are really healthy, but they have to look deeper like you do.

What about resistant starch? So many of these foods you've mentioned, which contain lectins, are also full of resistant starch, which helps to feed the good gut bacteria. This is the paradox. It's something that could help us but also is harming us at the same time?

[00:19:45] Dr. Steven Gundry: The good news with most of these resistant starches is that you can destroy lectins with the pressure cooker. The only lectin that has not been capable of being destroyed is gluten. You can pressure cook gluten for an hour, two hours and it will not break. All the other lectins, in general, will break. Oats is also a problem. We've had a number of people try it and it won't work, but there are two grains that don't have lectins because they don't have hulls and that's sorghum and millet. I have a lot of sorghum of millet recipes. The other great news is that the best resistant starches are tubers like sweet potatoes, taro root, yucca, or green bananas. They're fantastic sources of resistant starches, and they don't have any lectins in them.

[00:20:47] Ashley James: I noticed that you didn't mention any nightshades. What are nightshades, and why are they so bad for us?

[00:20:55] Dr. Steven Gundry: Two reasons, the nightshade family that we think of have pretty impressive lectins in their peel and their seeds, the flesh doesn't. Traditional cultures have always peeled and deseeded tomatoes or peppers before they eat them. The nightshade family came from America and, believe it or not, even goji berries are nightshades. They actually came from America and were taken to China and trade. They were called wolfberries in America. Even goji berries are pretty nasty little lectin sources.

If you go over to Italy and talk to chefs, which I do all the time, they will tell you that you cannot make tomato sauce without peeling and deseeding your tomatoes. If you go talk to the Southwest American Indians, you know that you have to peel and deseed peppers before you eat them or grind them in chili powder. In fact, what's really hilarious, is those chili pepper flakes and seeds that we put on our pizzas we're actually the byproduct of making peppers safe to eat.

[00:22:14] Ashley James: Oh my gosh.

[00:22:15] Dr. Steven Gundry: Oh, yeah. That's why they exist because they were thrown away.

[00:22:19] Ashley James: That's so funny. What about peeling a potato, just a regular Yukon potato, would that make it safe?

[00:22:27] Dr. Steven Gundry: Yeah but there has recently been discovered a new class of lectins, which are called aquaporins. There is an aquaporin in potatoes, there is an aquaporin in green bell peppers, there's an aquaporin believe it or not in spinach. I have, sad to say, a number of, particularly, women who have autoimmune diseases and leaky gut who we've been befuddled as to why they get better but not all the way. These women, for the most part, react to the aquaporin lectin in spinach. When we take their spinach way, and they're usually big spinach eaters, they finally get better. Why haven't I had a podcast on that? Because I don't want to have mass panic. Most people don't react to the aquaporin in spinach, but those that do it's pretty impressive.

[00:23:34] Ashley James: It's like if you've tried everything and it's not working, try this one thing, but not everyone. Does aquaporin become destroyed by pressure cooking it?

[00:23:47] Dr. Steven Gundry: Probably, nobody has actually done the experiment but I do have people that eat potatoes and I do ask them to pressure-cook it. So far so good.

[00:24:00] Ashley James: Because they're discovering new lectins, what can we do to stay on top of this information? Is your book updated? Does your book have the aquaporin information in it, or should they follow your podcast? What's the best way to make sure we stay on top of this information?

[00:24:21] Dr. Steven Gundry: My podcast covers these subjects. For instance, between my Plant Paradox book and The Plant Paradox Cookbook, it was discovered that pecans have a lectin that in some people it actually causes an autoimmune attack on the pancreas. We put that into The Plant Paradox Cookbook that probably pecans are not your best not to eat, particularly if you have an autoimmune disease or if there's any question of diabetes.

[00:25:03] Ashley James: Are there any nuts or seeds that are safe?

[00:25:07] Dr. Steven Gundry: Oh, yeah. For instance, walnuts are quite safe, pistachios are safe, macadamia nuts are safe, for the most part, hazelnuts are safe, and Brazil nuts are safe. You notice I'm not mentioning almonds. There is a lectin in the peel of almonds that a number of my patients with rheumatoid arthritis react to. That's why we recommend either blanched almond flour and/or Marcona almonds—the peeled almonds. Again, it's very interesting that there are a number of cultures, particularly Spain and Portugal, where the mothers teach the daughters how to soak and peel almonds before they're eaten. Again, you start looking at cultures and say why do they do this? Because it's kind of a lot of work. Why not just eat the skin?

[00:26:13] Ashley James: When I was six years old my mom took me to a Naturopath. He put us on a specific diet, and it turned out that Naturopath was Dr. D'Adamo. I grew up on the O blood type diet. It changed my life. I was very sick. I was just sick all the time, and my mom was sick too. He had a practice in Toronto. Overnight, my life changed. It was phenomenal. One day I was sick, the next day I was healthy. That's how quick it was shifting my diet to the O blood type diet. Then, of course, when I was 13 I got incredibly rebellious and started eating everything my mom didn't want me to eat. I got to develop sickness again. Then through my 20s, I was very sick, and in my late 20s and through my 30s I spent trying to get my health back and reversing all the diseases I gave myself by eating the wrong foods.

I've lived this several times. Eat the wrong foods, get sick. Eat the right foods, get healthy. The waters can be muddy for many of us especially those with autoimmune because, like you said, some people react to this but not to this, some people react to this, not to this. Where do we start? Should one do an elimination diet? What's a good place to start? Because not everyone reacts to all the lectins like you mentioned.

[00:27:41] Dr. Steven Gundry: I've published a paper of 102 people with biomarker-proven autoimmune diseases whether they're lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's, ulcerative colitis, or MS who were put on my program for six months. At the end of six months, 95 out of 102 or 94% were biomarker negative and off of all immunosuppressive drugs. That's not a bad result. My first principle, The Plant Paradox, is it's not what I tell you to eat that matters, it's what I tell you not to eat. It really is. That's an elimination diet. Interestingly enough, the carnivore folks, have taken my recommendations to the extreme. Since all plants are out to get us one way or another, that total elimination of plants is a rather impressive elimination diet.

I happen to think that they're going to be sadly mistaken because there are some really great things, particularly the soluble fibers in plants that our gut microbiome is dependent on. As people found in The Longevity Paradox, and they're going to learn more in The Energy Paradox, we are absolutely positively dependent on messages and transmitters that our gut microbiome makes that keeps our mitochondria working properly, that keeps our brain working properly.

Taking away the known causes of leaky gut, and that includes more than just changing the type of plants you eat. It's primarily trying to eliminate, for the most part, antibiotic overuse, which is rampant, not only in us but in the animals that we eat. Eliminating the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen for instance like Naprosyn. One ibuprofen is literally like swallowing a hand grenade. Eliminating the antacid drugs like the proton pump inhibitors like we mentioned earlier. They totally changed the bacterial flora.

Eliminating artificial sweeteners like Splenda, just as an example, completely changes your gut bacteria. Something that many of us are passionate about trying to get glyphosate roundup out of our lives. It's probably not doable, but glyphosate is a major disruptor by itself of our gut ball—really good at causing leaky gut.

[00:30:59] Ashley James: You said that ibuprofen is like swallowing a grenade. Can you elaborate on that?

[00:31:06] Dr. Steven Gundry: I could give you an hour lecture. Long ago, the original nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory was aspirin. Aspirin was used extensively in our arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Of course, people know that it cause stomach bleeding. A class of drugs in the same family were developed that wouldn't cause stomach bleeding, but the drug companies knew that the bleeding wouldn’t actually be caused in the small intestine. You couldn't see down into the small intestine with gastroscope so you would never know it was there. Believe it or not, when these drugs came out, they were prescription only. Things like Motrin was a prescription, things like Naprosyn was a prescription. There was an FDA black box warning that you could only use these for two weeks at a time because they were so dangerous.

Now, of course, they are the largest over-the-counter drug there is. There is children's Advil for instance. What these do, and this is documented and google it sometimes, great fun. These are drug company research that shows that these destroy the lining of the small intestine causing leaky gut. I can't tell you the number of people that I see, young women and men who were athletes, who suffered an injury and were put on high-dose non-steroidal anti-inflammatories by very well-meaning orthopedic surgeons, and they, in turn, developed autoimmune diseases. I write about some of them in my books. When we stopped these medications and sealed their gut, lo and behold, their autoimmune disease went away.

[00:33:07] Ashley James: How quickly can one recover their gut? How quickly does it take to seal the gut once they have eliminated the foods that have been causing holes in it?

[00:33:22] Dr. Steven Gundry: Great question. We've seen it turn around as early as three months. One of my more troublesome patients with multiple autoimmune diseases all her life took about nine months, but there are other things that are part and partial with healing the gut. The vast majority of people have very low vitamin D levels. As I write about in The Longevity Paradox, vitamin D is essential to tell stem cells that help repopulate the gut to grow and divide. Without vitamin D, they just kind of sit there and twiddle their thumbs. The vast majority of people I see with autoimmune disease and/or leaky gut, they have very low vitamin Ds when I see them.

I'll give you an example of a woman I just saw today from Southern California. She's in her 40s. She developed ulcerative colitis five years ago, out of the blue. We think we know why but she was put on an immunosuppressant and then came to see us a year ago. She was positive for antinuclear antibody, which is an autoimmune disease marker that most people associate with lupus—very positive form. She had a very low vitamin D. We've now been seeing her for a year. She stopped her immunosuppressant a year ago. She's had no episodes of ulcerative colitis since. She is negative for antinuclear antibody and has been actually since we started the program. She's a pretty happy camper.

[00:35:28] Ashley James: I love it. The idea, for those suffering from autoimmune, that they can completely go into remission—I mean, that's a dream come true. There are so many people suffering. They're told by the average doctor that they're going to be on medication for the rest of their life and this is their new norm. It's so frustrating that so many doctors are still in this old way of thinking that once you're in a diseased state you're going to always be in the diseased state. They don't look to nurturing the body through food and shifting diet and lifestyle to heal the body. You must be really waking a lot of doctors up showing them that there's a way to heal. You've obviously published so many articles on helping people to reverse autoimmune. Are you starting to see that doctors are listening and prescribing your diet?

[00:36:29] Dr. Steven Gundry: Particularly in functional medicine, I don't do functional medicine, I do what I call a restorative medicine. I'm not quite sure what functional medicine means. I have good friends like Mark Hyman and Jeffrey Bland in functional medicine, and that's fine. But I think there are more and more people interested in the fact that Hippocrates was right. That all disease comes from the gut, and that we really ought to be looking at the gut as to where we need to do our work. Somebody tell Kelly Clarkson that you can't reverse Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Kelly found my book. She had Hashimoto's thyroiditis, she was on thyroid medication, now she doesn't have Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and she's off of medication. Her doctors told her hey, you're going to be on thyroid for the rest of your life.

[00:37:35] Ashley James: I love it. I love hearing stories of success of people being able to reverse diseases and get off of medications.

[00:37:44] Dr. Steven Gundry: I'll tell you another funny Hashimoto’s story. Usually, we're so busy that the first visit in our office they see my PA and then the next visit they see me. That's usually three months or six months after the first visit, depending on the severity. I'm seeing a woman in her late 50s for the first time after she had seen my PA. I say, “Why'd you come here? She said, “Well, I have Hashimoto's thyroiditis.” I said, “Oh is that a fact?” She said, “Yes, I've had it all my life.” I had seen her new results and when we first saw her she in fact did have both markers for anti-thyroid antibodies and Hashimoto's. This time they were negative and I said, “Well, that's interesting you should say that because you don't have Hashimoto's.” She said, “What kind of quack are you? Of course, I have Hashimoto’s that's why I'm here.” I said, “Well, yeah. You used to Hashimoto’s but you don't now.” I flipped her lab results open and she said, “Oh my God. It is true. You can get rid of this.” I said, “Yeah, look at that.”

[00:38:59] Ashley James: I love it. Once her antibodies go down do the hormones restore themselves? I know of some people who have completely eliminated—the antibodies are virtually non-existent in their labs but their thyroid is still not functioning optimally. Are the lectins causing harm still to their thyroid levels?

[00:39:24] Dr. Steven Gundry: A lot of times, people who have had it for a long time, they're immune system has destroyed—their thyroid gland. For instance, type 1 diabetes, the immune system destroys the beta cells in the pancreas. But having said that, we always, once we get these antibodies turned off, start weaning off thyroid medication. We actually just started this weekend with a woman from San Francisco, a fairly young woman, who we now have negative for anti-thyroid antibodies and we're starting to wean her thyroid know, and we'll see. The good news about thyroid medication is that you can take both T4 and T3 and do a good job of replacing what the thyroid does, but that doesn't mean we should actively allow Hashimoto's thyroiditis to continue. Because one of the things that got me interested in this in the first place is this autoimmune attack takes many forms, and you could have multiple autoimmune diseases at the same time.

Recently, there's increasing evidence that Parkinson's disease is actually an autoimmune disease, which to me makes a great deal of sense since I and others are convinced that Parkinson's disease comes from the gut, not from the brain.

[00:41:05] Ashley James: Fascinating. I have heard there's a relationship between MS and Parkinson's and MS is autoimmune, so that doesn't surprise me. Have you seen someone reverse Parkinson's through healing their gut?

[00:41:19] Dr. Steven Gundry: We've seen it stop. My father had Parkinson's for 20 years without changing his medication at all. If you know anything about Parkinson's that's impossible, but we got to him early. My mother was a very good person about denying him the foods that he loved. He made it to 91 and then actually died suddenly of a bladder infection. Getting to 91, 20 years with Parkinson's pretty doggone good run.

[00:42:01] Ashley James: Very cool. We've talked about gluten and lectins, are phytates or phytic acid, I know they're anti-nutrients, are they also lectins?

[00:42:11] Dr. Steven Gundry: No. Again, the plant has lots of tools to prevent itself from being eaten, or to warn the predator that you really don't want to eat me, or try to make the predator not thrive. Phytates are one of these methods. I actually think and agree with some of my vegan colleagues that there's a lot to like about phytates, but this is all part of the anti-nutrient system. One of the things that we have to realize, for instance, since lectins are proteins, rats and rodents are primarily grain predators. Rats and rodents have 10 times the amount of proteases that are enzymes that break down proteins than we have. They're very well equipped to go after these lectin proteins in the food that they eat. 

When people point out we look at these great rat and mice experiments where whole grains are really good for them. That's great. They have a great protease system that breaks down these proteins, we don't.

[00:43:50] Ashley James: Are you suggesting that we shouldn't get our protein primarily from plants?

[00:43:58] Dr. Steven Gundry: Oh, no. Are you kidding? I am a plant predator. I tell my patients that we should actually be gorillas who live in Italy. By that I mean we should be eating huge amounts of leaves and pouring olive oil on them.

[00:44:21] Ashley James: Very interesting. Why consume olive oil?

[00:44:26] Dr. Steven Gundry: Great question. As I wrote in The Longevity Paradox, there are three groups of people who live in blue zones, and blue zones are those areas of the world that Dan Buettner, the journalist, described as having incredible longevity. I'm actually the only nutritionist who has ever spent most of his career living in a blue zone and that was Loma Linda, California where I was a professor. When people talk to me about blue zones and say I don't know anything about blue zones, I said, “Well, I guess I didn't live in one for most of my life.” Anyhow, three blue zones use a liter of olive oil per week. That's about 10 to 12 tablespoons a day. 

There are some fascinating head-to-head studies done in Spain called the PREDIMED study making 65-year-old people use a liter of olive oil per week versus a low-fat Mediterranean diet. Lo and behold, at the end of five years, people who used the olive oil had actually gained memory compared to when they aged 65, while the low-fat group lost memory, the people in the olive oil group had a reversal of our disease, whereas the low-fat diet group increased their heart disease, and we could go on and on.

[00:46:02] Ashley James: Could we gain the same benefit from eating olives instead of drinking or consuming olive oil?

[00:46:10] Dr. Steven Gundry: Yeah, and I actually ask people to do both. I actually have a product that I sell that is the combination of incredibly high polyphenol-rich olive oil, olive leaves, and olives that are pressed into little pearls that look like caviar. They're called polyphenol olive oil pearls. It turns out, interesting fun fact, there are far more polyphenols in the leaves of fruiting plants than there are in the fruit. For instance, there are far more apple polyphenols in apple leaves than in apples, there are far more polyphenols in black raspberry leaves than there are in black raspberries, and so on.

[00:47:03] Ashley James: It's nettle season right now so we can go out in nature and harvest nettles, which the leaves are rich in polyphenols. I learned recently that if you grow sweet potatoes or yams, you can harvest some of the leaves and eat them much like spinach. That is such a delicious thing to grow in your own backyard. I know a lot of people are looking into growing their own food given that they're all at home and want a new hobby and that they'd like to have some sustainability and have some healthy food. I know you tell us what not to eat, what are some of your go-to foods to eat that are very supportive of our gut and just are very healthy overall?

[00:47:51] Dr. Steven Gundry: Great question. Avocados are a great choice to start with. The family of chicories: radicchio, chicory, Belgian endive, and curly endive are some of the best foods you can possibly eat to help your gut buds. Jerusalem artichokes and artichoke hearts are just loaded with a type of sugar molecule that we can't digest called inulin but our gut buddies think it’s the best food that they could possibly eat. That along with the cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, bok choy, and Swiss chard. All of these actually have some pretty fascinating compounds that actually tell the immune system in your gut to calm down and relax a little bit. They're called the AHR receptors if anybody wants to look them up, but pour olive oil on them, please.

[00:49:10] Ashley James: Interesting. I think the olive oil thing—it's so controversial depending on who you talk to. There's a handful of doctors that say that we shouldn't consume any oil. That any oil, no matter what kind of oil, even if it's cold-pressed virgin olive oil, raw cold-pressed coconut oil or all the kind you could buy in the supermarket, that they're all bad for you and that they cause damage to the endothelial lining of the cardiovascular system. Once the oil is exposed to oxygen, it creates free radicals, so you're actually absorbing free radicals into the body. What do you say to that? Are the benefits of olive oil outweigh those negatives?

[00:50:01] Dr. Steven Gundry: All I say is why don't you look at the actual human controlled trials where that has been tested, and the results are exactly the opposite. One of the most famous trials was the Lyon Heart trial where they looked at a diet that was supplemented with alpha-linolenic acid oil from purslane and compared that to the low-fat American Heart diet. It was a 5-year study, it was randomized. They stopped the study at three years because the group given the Mediterranean diet with the alpha-linolenic acid oil, and large amounts of it, did so much better in new episodes of MIs and unstable angina that it was not fit to continue the trial. 

Anybody can look it up—the lean Lyon Heart diet—and anybody can look up the PREDIMED trial and see a head-to-head of high-oil versus no-oil or low-oil and the results always come out that it wins. The olive oil wins, the alpha-linolenic acid wins. People say this becomes rancid. Yeah, olive oil could become rancid. That's why you want to buy it from a high-volume source, and you want to use it quickly.

Interestingly, olive oil is the least capable of oxidizing of any oil. It even beats coconut oil as not being oxidized with cooking. We've had two of the world's oil experts on my podcast and they both confirm that olive oil is the safest cooking oil. People say no, no. It smokes and that means it's oxidizing. That's not true at all. It has a low smoke point but smoke has nothing to do with oxidation. People have been cooking with olive oil for over 5,000 years and the results speak for themselves.

[00:52:16] Ashley James: I don't think when you burn olive oil it tastes that good anyway. If I were to eat olive oil, I'd eat it raw anyway. The idea of cooking with oil just concerns me, especially it doesn't particularly taste good when you burn it. Very, very interesting. Where would one buy oil that is very high quality? Where's the place to buy oil in the highest quality form?

[00:52:45] Dr. Steven Gundry: They can come to my website Gundry MD. We have an olive oil list that has 30 times more polyphenols than any oil that's ever been tested. Having said that, you're not all going to come to gundrymd.com. Believe it or not, Costco has an excellent olive oil. It comes in at a tall square bottle. It says Toscana on the label, and I use it as my everyday oil. That's a good source. There's another very good company out of California called Bariani. Again, I have no relationship with these companies. They just have a very high-quality oil. There's a company out of Napa and Sonoma Valley called O, just a big O olive oil company. All small producers, all organic. Those are good choices.

[00:53:38] Ashley James: Very cool. You had touched on mitochondria. Obviously, you're coming out with your book The Energy Paradox. Can you give us a little bit of preview into this book? How does your method help our mitochondrial health?

[00:53:55] Dr. Steven Gundry: Well, it turns out, we've done just the best job of destroying our mitochondrial function. You couldn't design a better lifestyle, a better diet than the standard American diet for destroying mitochondria. In the book, I talk about how—and I talked about this actually in The Plant Paradox as well. Mitochondria are the energy-producing organelles in our cells. They're actually ancient engulfed bacteria. They carry their own DNA, but they are bacteria that live inside our cells. 

If you think of them as workers on an assembly line, they have periods of time where they're going to do one shift, but currently, in the United States, we're asking them to do three shifts with no time off. They actually produce a labor slowdown because they don't want to work that hard. That labor slowdown is the cause of pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, and cancer. We got to have them have some time off. That's why fasting, intermittent fasting time, restricted feeding actually gives our workers some much-needed rest and recreation. The more we do that the more work they're able to do for us and do it better. That's a little teaser.

[00:55:52] Ashley James: I am such a big fan of fasting, and I love that you brought that up. Since mitochondria are bacteria, when we take antibiotics, do antibiotics harm our mitochondria?

[00:56:11] Dr. Steven Gundry: Indirectly because it turns out, as I write about in The Longevity Paradox, that the bacteria in our gut actually talk to their sisters in the cells. They actually tell the mitochondria how things are going in the outside world. The more diverse those bacteria are and the happier those bacteria are, then the better the mitochondria function. We used to conjecture that there were text messages that we hadn't been able to measure, but they had to be there. It turns out, we've discovered a large number of those text messages—they are real things that we can measure. The book is about we ought to have a diverse group of bacteria in our gut, we ought to give them what they want to eat, and they need to tell their mind everything's great.

[00:57:21] Ashley James: Since researching and writing The Energy Paradox, what changes have you made to your lifestyle or diet?

[00:57:31] Dr. Steven Gundry: Actually not a whole lot because The Energy Paradox is where The Longevity Paradox would naturally take me. If you actually look at the people who enter my office, fascinatingly, fatigue is one of the biggest complaints. At least 50% of the people I see are fatigued for apparent no reason. The Energy Paradox grew out of that. Believe it or not, there are really good reasons why most normal people are fatigued.

[00:58:25] Ashley James: Since the last few months have been really crazy with the COVID-19, have you done anything to change your lifestyle or diet to give extra support to your immune function?

[00:58:41] Dr. Steven Gundry: As most people know, I'm a huge fan of vitamin D. I've never seen vitamin D toxicity, neither is my friend Dr. Mark Hyman. There are now four human papers showing that people with low vitamin D are much more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus and are likely to do poorly with it—that is die. Whereas if you have an adequate or high vitamin D level, you're much likely not to contract it and/or much likely not to die. That's number one. Number two, sugar dramatically suppresses our white cells' ability to engulf bacteria and viruses. I’m releasing a podcast about that. The less sugar or things that we turn into sugar the better. What's really fascinating is a paper from 1973 showed that white blood cell function dramatically increased daily during five-day water fast and that the longer you fast the better your white blood cells work and aggressively ate bacteria and viruses.

Additionally, that same study showed that even orange juice, even fructose would dramatically suppress your white cells ability to engulf bacteria for up to six hours after you had that beverage—even orange juice. The idea that drinking orange juice right now is going to help you fight these viruses is actually exactly wrong.

[01:00:35] Ashley James: You said that foods that convert to sugar, which would be plants, would be carbohydrates. Are you saying that we should look at more of a low glycemic diet right now?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

[01:00:48] Dr. Steven Gundry: Right. Here's the problem with a lot of my well-meaning patients. You can take a resistant starch in its natural forms like say yucca, taro root, turnip, or even almonds for instance. You can grind it up into a fine powder and make a flour out of it. Unfortunately, and I've seen this much too much, those will rapidly turn into sugar even though what you originally started with isn't sugar. For instance, I had Dr. David Kessler who was the head of the FDA when the food labeling law came into effect back in the Reagan era. The food labeling law was incorrectly made because of food lobbyists and not tell the truth about how much sugar. 

One of the things I have people do is on the back of the label read total carbohydrates, subtract the fiber, and that will give you the amount of grams of sugar per serving in that product and it will shock you. It will have nothing to do with what they put has the sugar content on the label. For fun, since there are four grams of sugar per teaspoon of sugar, divide the number by four and you will see the teaspoons of sugar per serving. You will shudder when you see it.

[01:02:36] Ashley James: Right. You can take a healthy food, if you dehydrate it and turn it into flour, it reacts totally different with the body. You could eat chickpeas—pressure-cooked chickpeas—or you could eat something like a chickpea pasta. Chickpea pasta is going to convert much quicker to sugar, give you a larger sugar spike in the blood. Even for those who are not diabetic, they still will have that. Whereas if you ate pressure-cooked chickpeas, it's a slow steady release of sugar.

[01:03:08] Dr. Steven Gundry: Covered in olive oil.

[01:03:10] Ashley James: Covered in olive oil.

[01:03:13] Dr. Steven Gundry: And throw some mushrooms in.

[01:03:15] Ashley James: Oh, man. Mushrooms are so great for the immune system. Get your vitamin D. Let's just clarify that. What form of vitamin D is best, and how many international units should someone be taking a day?

[01:03:30] Dr. Steven Gundry: Vitamin D3. The bare minimum should be 5,000 IUs a day. For me, my 5.000 gets me vitamin D level above 120 nanograms per ml, but during this season, I've doubled my vitamin D to 10,000. If I think I'm coming down with something, and I've said this before, I actually take 150,000 international units of vitamin D3 three days in a row. Now I'm not telling people to do that. I'm telling people that's what I do. For instance, when this all started and I decided to keep seeing patients, even though I wasn't feeling anything, I took on a Sunday, 100,000 international units, on a Monday 5,000, on a Tuesday 25,000, and then I continued on 10,000. I just load up with it. 

I just saw one of my patients in Santa Barbara last weekend. Her vitamin D level is 244. I assure you, she's not vitamin D toxic, and she doesn't have an elevated calcium level. I think we've underestimated what a normal vitamin D level is. The Cleveland Clinic Lab now says that a normal vitamin D level can be up to 150.

[01:05:08] Ashley James: Amazing, amazing. I know people whose vitamin D level is 10.

[01:05:15] Dr. Steven Gundry: I know, it's really scary.

[01:05:17] Ashley James: I have known MDs to say they don't want to see it above 30. They're scared if you're above 30. They want you to stop taking your supplements. Whereas NDs want you at least to be 60, but many NDs I've met don't want you above 90. They're afraid that if you get above 90 that that could cause toxicity. You're saying that you've never seen toxic levels. Because of course, the worst-case scenario is vitamin D toxicity could cause kidney failure. At that point, it's almost too late. We definitely don't want to harm ourselves with supplements, but you've never seen that happen in prescribing large amounts of vitamin D.

[01:06:01] Dr. Steven Gundry: I measure vitamin Ds on people every three months. I've been doing this for over 20 years. I've never seen vitamin D toxicity. I have some patients who taught me in their late 70s they run their vitamin Ds in the high 200s and have all of their lives. When I first met these people I couldn't believe they weren’t dead, they didn't have kidney failure, or they didn't have calcifications and kidney stones. They didn't. When I was researching The Longevity Paradox, it turns out that people with the highest vitamin D levels have the longest telomeres. If you like the telomere theory of aging, and it's a good one, why wouldn't you want long telomeres?

[01:06:54] Ashley James: That's exciting. What form of vitamin D is best? Obviously, you said D3, but I've seen supplements where it's like a dry capsule, and then I've seen the liquid form as drops.

[01:07:06] Dr. Steven Gundry: Great question. Turns out that Dr. Michael Holick from Boston University, probably the most famous researcher in vitamin D, showed that vitamin D is absorbed whether or not there is any fat around. So a dry vitamin D is perfectly fine. Most vitamin Ds in capsules or gel caps. Interestingly, I see a number of people who use vitamin D drops. As a general rule, those people have much lower vitamin Ds than people who swallow the little gel caps. Most of my liquid folks I change over and I’m delighted to see that their vitamin D goes up.

[01:07:53] Ashley James: I was using a liquid and my vitamin D went down and down and down and I kept using more and more and more. I got so frustrated I switched to a capsule even though I heard from a Naturopath how could that work? There's no fat in it. I was like well I'm going to try this now. My vitamin D went up. I was told it's not going to work but my labs say it worked.

[01:08:18] Dr. Steven Gundry: Dr. Holick showed that it has nothing to do with fat even though it's a fat-soluble vitamin.

[01:08:25] Ashley James: Should we take it on an empty stomach, with food, or does it not matter?

[01:08:28] Dr. Steven Gundry: It doesn’t matter.

[01:08:30] Ashley James: Love it. What did you eat in the last 24 hours?

[01:08:35] Dr. Steven Gundry: Let’s see. When did I eat? Last 24 hours I had nothing for breakfast, I had nothing for lunch, and I had some sautéed calamari and a Chinese cabbage salad with olive oil and rice vinegar on it. That's what we had.

[01:09:08] Ashley James: Very interesting. Now your diet has helped people to reverse autoimmune conditions. You've also helped people to reverse cardiovascular issues and weight loss. Weight loss is the biggest industry out there. You look at all the diets and people are just yo-yoing. Every diet seems to work for a short amount of time. They blame themselves. The diet stops working, they blame themselves, they fall off the bandwagon, and they go back to eating the state American diet, but people are left feeling broken, right? They failed. What we're looking at is it's not their fault, it's the diets fault because there are so many wrong diets out there. You've had great success in helping people with weight loss. Why does removing lectins help with weight loss?

[01:10:09] Dr. Steven Gundry: As I write about in The Plant Paradox, there are actually some very interesting data looking at one of the lectins called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which is present in whole grains, whole wheat. It binds to the insulin receptor on muscle cells and also on fat cells. In muscle cells, it actually blocks insulin from letting sugars and protein into the muscle cell, but in fat cells, it actually continues to pump sugar into fat cells. I go into more of this in The Energy Paradox. We're set up with our diet to literally starve our muscle cells and feed our fat cells with lectins are a big chunk of that. Also, it turns out, that it starves the brain and so your brain is constantly hungry despite how much you eat or not eat.

[01:11:19] Ashley James: Wow. So when someone removes that, they're all of a sudden not feeling so starved? They're not feeling hungry all the time?

[01:11:28] Dr. Steven Gundry: Yeah.

[01:11:29] Ashley James: Very cool.

[01:11:31] Dr. Steven Gundry: The other thing that we have to make sure we understand is that we took over the world because of our ability to go prolonged periods of time without eating. Where the fat ate for a good reason. It is absolutely normal to go periods of time without eating. In fact, do you really think our ancestors crawled out of their cave and said what's for breakfast? There wasn't any. There was no storage system. We had to go find breakfast. If breakfast occurred at lunch, or breakfast occurred at dinner that's when we found food. I actually tell my patients, when we get into this, to embrace the hunger. There is nothing horribly wrong with going a period of time without eating. In fact, just the opposite. It's really one of the smartest things that we can do for long-term health.


[01:12:32] Ashley James: Actually, I haven't eaten today, and I'm not going to eat today. I love fasting. Hunger is probably the hardest part about fasting, but hunger goes away.

[01:12:44] Dr. Steven Gundry: It goes away quickly, very quickly.

[01:12:45] Ashley James: It's kind of like going to the gym. Just get your shoes on and go to the gym. The hardest part is actually getting your shoes on. Once you're there, it's easy. Starting a fast is the hardest part, and then following through is the easiest part. I love all the science that's coming out about fasting. What resources could you point us to for those who haven't really dived into fasting yet?

[01:13:14] Dr. Steven Gundry: There's a lot of good ways to learn about it. I certainly spend a lot of time talking about it in The Longevity Paradox, one of my New York Times best-selling books. My friend Jason Fung has some good books about it. I think Dr. McCullough and I would agree that for most people who have been following the standard American diet that a prolonged water fast of 3 to 5 days is probably the dumbest thing to do because heavy metals and organic pesticides are stored in fat. They're released into our circulation and we do not have a good detoxification system. I've got a lot of podcasts out on that, so please be cautious.

[01:14:05] Ashley James: Right. Always proceed with caution when fasting, especially if someone's on medication. I agree. I like some of Jason Fung's work—easy to digest. I particularly like—he has a video on YouTube called the 2 compartment syndrome. I think that's a great place to start. Intermittent fasting is something where it’s gentle enough that people can ease into it. I actually did a whole series with a man who has invested his own personal money into labs doing fasting to show the heavy metals and pesticides being released in the body and how to best remove them while fasting. He found that, dramatically, if you were to use a sauna while fasting and also consume activated charcoal while fasting throughout the day, they saw a dramatic decrease in heavy metals and pesticides being released from the fatty tissue into the bloodstream.

There are ways to combat it but we have to be aware of it. Thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been such a pleasure having you on. I definitely would love to have you back to talk more about your next book when it comes out. It's been such a pleasure having you on the show today.

[01:15:28] Dr. Steven Gundry: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

[01:15:31] Ashley James: Awesome. Thank you so much. It's been a real pleasure, and I can't wait to read your new book when it comes out.

[01:15:37] Dr. Steven Gundry: All right. It'll be out right after the first of the year, 2021.

[01:15:43] Ashley James: All right. Sounds great. Terrific. Thank you so much. Have a great day. Take care. Bye

[01:15:46] Dr. Steven Gundry: Take care.

[01:15:48] Ashley James: I hope you enjoyed today's interview with Dr. Steven Gundry. Did you know that the Learn True Health podcast has a Facebook group? Come join us. It's a very supportive community. Just search Learn True Health in Facebook. Come join the Facebook group, or you can go to learntruehealth.com/group. That'll redirect you straight to our group. It's a free group, a very supportive community to support you in your holistic health success, support you in your true health journey. Come join the Facebook group, and please, go to the website learntruehealth.com. You can find all my episodes there—all 431 of them now and counting. You can find free wonderful resources. You can find my course.

I have a month-long program where I teach you all the techniques—the NLP techniques—for eliminating anxiety, decreasing stress, and increasing focus on productivity in your life. Go to learntruehealth.com, and on the menu, you'll see where it says free your anxiety and click on that. There's a great video there for you. Lots of resources to explore. I have a search function on my website. You can search for topics that you are interested in learning about. You can also go to the Facebook group and search for topics there. There's a search function on Facebook as well. There are so many resources that I provide through my membership, the Learn True Health Home Kitchen membership, through my free your anxiety program, and free resources at learntruehealth.com.

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to reach out to me. Just ask questions in the Facebook group. I love helping, I love supporting you guys in achieving optimal health. If you're interested in becoming a health coach just like me, check out IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. That's the program I took. I absolutely love it. It's 100% online. If you're quarantined at home right now you could be becoming a health coach. Go to learntruehealth.com/coach. That's learntruehealth.com/coach and there, it'll give you access to a free module of IIN, the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s online programs so you could see if health coaching is right for you. It's a free course so go ahead and take it and see what you think about it, experience it for yourself. Learntruehealth.com/coach.

Awesome. Thank you so much. You are so wonderful, and you so deserve true health. I'm really glad that you took the time today to honor your body and honor your mission for achieving optimal health through learning more about what you can do naturally to support your body's ability to heal itself. Have yourself a wonderful rest of your day.

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Ashley James

Health Coach, Podcast Creator, Homeschooling Mom, Passionate About God & Healing

Ashley James is a Holistic Health Coach, Podcaster, Rapid Anxiety Cessation Expert, and avid Whole Food Plant-Based Home Chef. Since 2005 Ashley has worked with clients to transform their lives as a Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-linguistic Programming.

Her health struggles led her to study under the world’s top holistic doctors, where she reversed her type 2 diabetes, PCOS, infertility, chronic infections, and debilitating adrenal fatigue.

In 2016, Ashley launched her podcast Learn True Health with Ashley James to spread the TRUTH about health and healing. You no longer need to suffer; your body CAN and WILL heal itself when we give it what it needs and stop what is harming it!

The Learn True Health Podcast has been celebrated as one of the top holistic health shows today because of Ashley’s passion for extracting the right information from leading experts and doctors of holistic health and Naturopathic medicine


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