The AutoImmune Battle with Dr. Steven Gundry

Headshot of Dr. Gundry

Quieting The Internal Auto-Immune Battle

Dr. Steven Gundry MD is one of the world’s top cardiothoracic surgeons and a pioneer in nutrition and medical director at The International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restorative Medicine. He has spent the last two decades studying the microbiome and now helps patients use diet and nutrition as a key form of treatment. He is the author of many New York Times best-selling books, including The Plant Paradox. In his new book The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Gone, Dr. Gundry offers readers the information and tools necessary to quiet the autoimmune battle raging within—a battle that depletes precious energy reserves, leaving you drained and prone to mood disorders and weight gain.

Introduction and Dr. Gundry’s Work

Mimi: Welcome back to the Heal Podcast. This is Mimi, and today we have Dr. Steven Gundry. He is one of the world’s top cardiothoracic surgeons and a pioneer in nutrition, as well as a medical director at the International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restoration Health.

He has spent the last two decades studying the microbiome and now helps patients use diet and nutrition as a key form of treatment. He’s the author of many New York Times bestselling books, including The Plant Paradox. In his new book, The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone, Dr. Gundry offers readers the information and tools necessary to quiet the auto-immune battle raging within. A battle that depletes precious energy reserves, leaving you drained and prone to mood disorders and weight gain. This is especially important for us Lyme Warriors.

To get my detox for Lyme checklist, go to lyme360.com/detoxchecklist.

Dr. Gundry, thank you so much for coming on today. I’m really excited to talk to you and talk to you about your new book, and the reason why I find your specialty so important to me is because of having chronic Lyme, a lot of what applies can be applied to people with chronic Lyme, Lyme plus, right? It’s not just Lyme, and that’s one thing I’m realizing now with Lyme is it’s not just Lyme. If you’re not getting better, then there’s something else going on, and that’s what is so great about your book and your specialty is because you dive into what else is going on. So thank you so much for coming on today.

Dr. Gundry: My pleasure. Great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Mimi: Yeah. So can you just tell us a little bit about your practice?

Dr. Gundry: Yeah. For the last 21 years I’ve been practicing what I call restorative medicine. Some people would call it functional medicine, but restorative makes more sense to me. I was a professor and chairman of cardiothoracic surgery and cardiology at Loma Linda here in Southern California. About 23 years ago, I saw a patient reverse his inoperable coronary artery disease with a diet and supplements, and I said, “Son of a gun, I think I should put myself out of business.” So I actually started experimenting and lo and behold this guy was right. So I actually resigned my position and set up clinics in Palm Springs and now in Santa Barbara, where basically 80% of my patients are auto-immune patients who have been everywhere and not getting any better. It focuses on leaky gut and I do see a lot of patients with Lyme and we can get into that, but I think the underlying process is chronic inflammation. And the book, The Energy Paradox is so much of our chronic low energy tiredness, fatigue, is actually due to chronic inflammation, primarily from leaky gut. That’s what we focus on.

Mimi: And can you tell anybody who’s not listening, like what leaky gut is.

Dr. Gundry: Great question. If you’d asked me 15 years ago, what I thought about leaky gut, I would’ve told you it was pseudoscience, but really thanks to work by Dr. Fasano, who’s now at Harvard and hopefully from some of my work, we now know that Epocrates was right, that all disease begins in the gut. If you ask Dr. Paisano, myself, we’ll both agree that all disease begins with leaky gut. Those are bold statements, but the lining of our gut actually is the same surface area as a tennis court inside of us and that surface area, if we had one design flaw, is that our lining is only one cell thick and those cells are actually held together with glue that are called tight junctions. It was Dr. Fasano’s work that shows that this glue can be unglued by among other things, what I specialize in is lectins, which are proteins that are sticky, and lectins, from Dr. Fasano’s work, break the tight junctions.

So you have spaces between the lining of your gut and bacterial particles can go through lectins. Proteins can go through, undigested food particles can go through. The important thing for your listeners is about 80% of all of our immune cells, our white blood cells, line this border, this gut. That’s because they’re basically our border patrol looking for invaders that come across the border. So when they see invaders, and it happens nearly constantly, sadly, they mobilize the troops, there’s warfare in our gut, and that warfare is inflammation. One of the things that we now know, troops require huge amounts of energy to do the battle and that energy has to be diverted from our muscles, our brain. So many of us unknowingly, there is a fire of inflammation going on and we don’t necessarily feel it, but it manifests itself as tiredness, as fatigue, as my get up and go has got up and gone, as the book says. These are actually warning signs that we really need to take seriously, rather than saying, “Oh, it’s our modern, stressful lifestyle. I have to get the kids to 14 places simultaneously. I’ve been locked up for a year with nobody to talk to except on zoom.” That’s actually not normal. So these are all warning signs that we should heed.

Mimi: It’s interesting because a lot of those warning signs or symptoms are kind of similar to the symptoms for Lyme. Right?

Dr. Gundry:  Correct.

Mimi: So that’s where the crossover is because you can get rid of your Lyme, which is kind of where I’m at, where I pretty much test negative now on Lyme tests, but I still have some of my symptoms. So that’s kind of where it gets tricky is like, is it the Lyme or is it this inflammation that’s causing it?

Dr. Gundry: Yeah, and so many of my colleagues who treat almost exclusively chronic Lyme, I think we agree that we should be treating chronic inflammation rather than specifically focusing on, well, is this spirochete still there and is that causing the problem? Because so many of my chronic Lyme patients, actually, when we look and test whether they have leaky gut, they’ve got rip roaring wide open leaky gut. And interestingly, when we seal their leaky gut with what we talk about in The Energy Paradox, their symptoms of Lyme get better. So yeah, I think we’ve in a way, missed the forest for the trees in treating Lyme disease. Sure, we’ve got an acute Lyme problem, let’s break out the antibiotics, but so many times you’re right. It’s very difficult to know when you’ve got these symptoms that are compatible with chronic Lyme. Which came first, the inflammation, or is the spirochete still around? So that’s what we do.

Mimi: Is there a proper test to figure out if you have leaky gut or is it just based on symptoms?

Dr. Gundry:  Well, you can certainly use symptoms, but there are now some really good companies that we use. The one I use is called Vibrant America and the test we use hilariously are called Zoomers and they were called that long before Zoom. It’s a stupid name because they’re very sophisticated tests, but they’re blood tests that could actually be done on a finger prick now. You don’t even have to go have your blood drawn. So Wheat Zoomer was designed to measure whether the tight junctions are being broken, whether zonulin, which was what was discovered by Dr. Fasano, which breaks tight junctions, we can measure it. We can measure antibodies with zonulin. So we can wake can tell you whether you got it or not. The exciting thing is we follow people with this test every three months and when they follow the rules, which…

Mimi: You know.

Dr. Gundry: Yeah, we know. We go, look, here you go.

Mimi: It’s like the piano teacher that knows if you’ve been practicing or not.

Dr. Gundry: Pretty much so. Yeah.

Causes of Leaky Gut

Mimi: So what would you say are the biggest causes for leaky gut?

Dr. Gundry: Great question. This is tea, by the way. I’ve written about it in some of my other books. There’s pu-erh tea, there is some mushroom tea. There is mint tea. There is white willow bark in here. Let’s see, what else did I put in here? Usually about five of these, I’ve forgotten what else. I have a bunch of cups of tea over here.

” It’s what I tell you not to eat that’s going to make the difference in your life rather than tell you what to eat.” – Dr. Gundry

Green tea as well. Chocolate pu-erh tea as well. So I call them the three L’s in the book that cause low energy, and we talked about one, which is leaky gut. The big cause of leaky gut that I see in our diet are these things called lectins, and lectins are a plant defense system that plants produce to prevent being eaten. Strange as it may seem, plants don’t want to be eaten, and they certainly don’t want their babies eaten, their seeds. You rescued your daughter from a flat tire. You’d do anything for your children. Well plants feel the same way, but they can’t fight. They can’t run. They can’t hide, but they are chemists of incredible ability. So they make these proteins that are called lectins. Gluten just so happens to be a lectin, but there are plenty of other lectins in primarily grains and beans and legumes. In the night shade family like tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, goji berries.

Mimi: Oh goji berries is? Wow.

Dr. Gundry: Goji berries are a lectin containing food. Chia seeds have tons of lectins. Peanuts and cashews are loaded with lectins. Quinoa is loaded with lectins.

Mimi: So lectins bad.

Dr. Gundry: Lectins bad.

Mimi: So everything you just named, we should not be having.

Dr. Gundry: Yes. You should not be having them but there’s a proviso. If you pressure cook lectin containing foods, except wheat, rye, barley, and oats, the pressure cooking will destroy the lectins.

Mimi: So oats even have lectins?

Dr. Gundry: Oh yeah. One of the… Oats cross-react with gluten, so they have virtually the same protein as gluten. I get a good laugh because you’ll see gluten-free-

Mimi: Free, that’s why it was extra… I thought I was doing well because I switched from my…

Dr. Gundry: Can’t tell you the number of people with chronic fatigue who were having their gluten-free oats and when we take their gluten-free oats away from them, that’s one of the big factors in getting rid of their chronic fatigue.

Mimi: Wow. That’s unbelievable. Yes. Okay, so with that being said, what should you be eating?

Dr. Gundry: Number one, in all my books, it’s what I tell you not to eat that’s going to make the difference in your life rather than tell you what to eat. But there are two grains that don’t have lectins and they’re sorghum and millet. We talk about millet cereal on the book. If you want sorghum as a replacement for rice, it’s fantastic. So those are options. The other thing that’s really important in the book, is we’re beginning to realize now that we have a very good defense system against lectins, and it is our microbiome, but our microbiome, believe it or not, there’s actually bacteria that love to eat gluten. Unfortunately most of us have a destroyed microbiome, primarily because of the antibiotics we’ve been given. For reasons we shouldn’t have been given them, sore throat, runny nose, antibiotics don’t work on viruses folks. They’re in our food.

Mimi: Diary.

Dr. Gundry: Yeah, dairy are fed antibiotics and it’s sadly still legal. There’s loopholes to give these animals antibiotics. Those antibiotics are in the flesh or in the dairy and we consume those and we just literally wipe out all of our microbiome. The second thing that’s important is, our microbiome has to be fed what they like to eat, and what they like to eat are prebiotic fibers. These are soluble fibers, resistant starches. Like for instance, a yam is a wonderful resistant starch and one of the tricks we talk about in the book is that if you cook the yam and then cool it, and then reheat it, you will actually increase the resistance starch content of whatever you’re cooking, including for instance, like white rice. Anytime you cook a starch, cool it, and then reheated, you’re making more resistant starch.

Now there’s a whole family of vegetables like asparagus, like artichokes, like jicama, like the inulin containing vegetables, like chicory, radicchio, Belgian and Jerusalem artichokes. Inulin is one of the best things to feed what I call your gut buddies because they actually do you an incredible favor and they make these compounds, which are fairly new probably to anyone listening, called postbiotics. So you got probiotics which are friendly bacteria, you got prebiotics, which are the food, the friendly bacteria you eat. And then they make postbiotics, and postbiotics are gases, and also what are called short chain fatty acids. That is an actual language that’s been discovered between the microbiome and our brain, our mitochondria that produce energy. They actually tell our energy producing mitochondria to make more energy. The discovery of this language, this postbiotic language, won the Nobel prize for medicine a few years ago. So who would believe that you could be sitting at the dinner table and let loose a fart and say, “Oh, I got so much energy going on. Sorry, folks, but I am boosting my energy. I just turbocharged my mitochondria.” So I want everybody-

The Plant Paradox – Dr. Gundry’s Eating Plan

Mimi: That’s true. I didn’t realize that. Wow, that’s crazy. So is there like a name for your eating plan? Like, is it closest to paleo or closest to keto? Is there something that people can kind of be like, okay, I can somewhat identify and then tweak it.

Dr. Gundry: Well, it’s called The Plant Paradox and it’s sold over two and a half million copies in 36 languages. It’s called The Plant Paradox and people can find it… It’s in The Energy Paradox, but people can find it for free online. I’ve got two YouTube channels. You can go to drgundry.com to read about it. There’s yes foods and no foods. You can go to the Dr. Gundry Podcast. We talk about this as well.

Mimi: That’s great. That’s great. You mentioned as well, mitochondria and how important… I’ve learned a lot about that from my doctors and that if it doesn’t work… I’m not a scientist, so I know I’m not going to be saying this right, but if it’s… There’s causes that make it not work and if it doesn’t work, you’re kind of in trouble because that’s the key to the kingdom. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Dr. Gundry: Yeah. So mitochondria… Just to get really nerdy, mitochondria are these energy ATP producing organelles in most of our cells and they’re actually engulfed bacteria. Two billion years ago, one cell ate a bacteria and it didn’t digest the bacteria, and the bacteria said, “Hey, I make a deal with you. It’s kind of nice in here. If you feed me, I’ll generate energy for you. What do you say?” And apparently worked out very well. Mitochondria are actually ancient bacteria and they actually have their own DNA, and for the women who are watching and listening, we get all of our mitochondrial DNA from our mothers. It is passed on only through the female line, males don’t give any mitochondria, sorry guys. It turns out that we get all of our initial microbiome from our mothers, coming through the birth canal or through breast milk. There’s actually a language between the bacteria in our gut and the bacteria in all of our cells and they’re sisters. I have two daughters and sisters always talked to each other, sometimes well and sometimes not, but that’s the communication system that was discovered a few years ago. People knew it had to exist, but they couldn’t decipher the language.

So mitochondria are in charge of taking the sugars we eat, the amino acids from proteins we eat, and the fatty acids from fats that we eat, and they basically run them down a gauntlet and they energize these substances, and at the end of the gauntlet, if everything works out okay, you make ATP. How this process works is actually a lot more complicated than it seems. Two Nobel prizes were awarded for figuring out how it works. But long story short, we overload our mitochondria workload by the way we eat processed and ultra processed foods, and we literally slam our energy producing mitochondria with too much food to work with at any one time. Just like, you and I are both in Southern California, just like it’s rush hour on the 405 and nobody moves anywhere, your energy production plummets when you actually eat energy rich food. So the book actually teaches you how to stop actually clogging up your freeways that are in your mitochondria.

Mimi: That’s great. So you mentioned something about eating too much. The kind of trendy thing right now is intermittent fasting. I have to say, dealing with my chronic Lyme, I actually feel better when I don’t eat, and especially when I don’t eat a lot. Once you stop eating, you realize how much you really don’t need to eat because you’re really not that hungry and you can get by with little. So can you talk a little bit about intermittent fasting?

Intermittebnt Fasting

Dr. Gundry: As far as I know, and I’m welcome to be corrected. I was the first one to write about this in 2006, I had been doing it for five years prior to that, and what I did, and wrote about it in my first book, was literally from January through June every year, I fast 22 hours a day and I eat all my calories in a two-hour window from five to seven at night. Now that’s extreme, it’s called eat one meal a day. And some people said, “Well, if I did that, I would go mad rather than OMAD.” But the evidence is really startling clear. If we can compress people’s eating windows to about six to eight hours a day, and what I mean by that is when you start after your breakfast, and when you finish, if we can get that down to six to eight hours a day, then your energy levels will soar.

Just like you’ve noticed. And your inflammation numbers will plummet and your brain will work better. We go into why that is in the book and the nice thing is for most people, if I said, “Okay, tomorrow, you’re not going to eat breakfast until noon.” About 80% of people would fall flat on their faces. They’d get hungry, they’d get tired, they’d get brain fog. They’re headachy and their stomach would growl. They’d get hangry. And we go in why that is, but what I’ve found in my clinics is okay, tomorrow… You usually eat breakfast at seven o’clock. How about meet me at eight o’clock and we’ll start. And you go, oh, okay. Yeah, I can wait an hour. Then how about the next day, now that you’ve done a… Let’s go for nine o’clock, and then so on. And then the weekends we’ll take off. You have a nice day. Then next week we’re going to start an hour later than when we did the first of the week. So in a six week program, we get people to, it’s really easy to start eating breakfast at about noon and finish at six or seven o’clock at night. So you don’t have to jump off the cliff to do this.

Mimi: One thing I find too is, it makes me, in that time, if I’m hungry, you actually almost focus more on water. Which for me, you kind of get distracted in the day, you’re busy, you forgot. Like, oh my God, I haven’t drank water today. Whereas if in that morning, if that’s all you know you can have, is like water and tea. That’s what you’re focusing on. Then you just make sure you’re consuming water and tea.

Dr. Gundry: Yeah. The other great thing is that you have so much more free time. You know, I don’t eat lunch and so we joke, oh, that’s when I’m writing or I have a podcast or whatever, and I don’t eat breakfast. So I just have-

Mimi: So you do one meal a day?

Dr. Gundry: Yeah one meal a day. During the winter, from January through June, the rest of the year, I do two meals a day, but I never eat breakfast.

Mimi: Right, and it’s so much healthier for you too. Someone said, it’s almost similar to getting like stem cells.

Dr. Gundry: If you accurately activate stem cells, the longer you actually go between meals. That’s actually been shown also in Ramadan. The Ramadan fast where you have to eat before sunrise and then don’t eat or drink until after dark. The Ramadan fast, and I call it eat, pause, eat in my book, also works extremely well for activating stem cells. Interesting.

Mimi: That’s great. So you also talk about the seven deadly energy disruptors. Do you mind talking about them as well?

The Seven Deadly Energy Disruptors

Dr. Gundry: Sure. So we’ve mentioned one already, and that is the antibiotics that we swallow and the antibiotics in our food. Probably the biggest troublemaker right now is glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Roundup. Glyphosate was actually patented by Monsanto as an antibiotic, not a weed killer. It is an antibiotic against the earth, in my opinion, and other people’s opinion. Glyphosate actually kills our farm microbiome. It was designed as an antibiotic. Glyphosate individually, without any help from anybody else, can cause leaky gut. Glyphosate actually disrupts how we listen to our adrenal glands, how vitamin D is made, and glyphosate is in everything now. We used to think it was just in GMO products, but now glyphosate is sprayed on almost all wheat grown in the United States, almost all oats grown in the United States.

Mimi: Even if it’s organic?

Dr. Gundry: Even if it’s organic, it drifts. In fact, there’s two organic oat products that test positive for glyphosate.

Mimi: Wow. I always just assumed if you’re not having GMOs and it’s organic, you’re okay.

Dr. Gundry: Sadly, it’s everywhere now, and it drifts from fields. We just tested a young lady who’s got some issues trying to get pregnant and she’s eaten really organic for the last 10 years of her life, and she’s loaded with glyphosate. It’s off the charts.

Mimi: What do you do? I mean, because you can’t avoid… I mean, you got to eat vegetables.

Dr. Gundry: For one thing, most California wines are loaded with glyphosate, sadly to say. Get biodynamic or organic. So much of the wine in France and Italy is safe because it’s mostly organic or biodynamic. So that’s one thing. The second thing is that you can actually help protect yourself by taking glycine. Glyphosate plugs into many of our energy chains by substituting for glycine molecule. So you can kind of flood the system with glycine, and I talk about in the book, how to do that. Also glycine actually really helps you sleep. Glycine lowers your body temperature, and we actually induce sleep by dropping our body temperature a tiny bit. So glycine is a double win for dealing with glyphosate.

Mimi: That’s great. Okay. So number three.

Dr. Gundry: So number three, over the counter drugs, like NSAIDS, ibuprofen, and Naproxen, sometimes called Advil and Aleve. These things actually create holes in your gut. They literally are like swallowing hand grenades, and the drug companies knew about this when they were introduced in the 1970s. In fact, they were illegal to be prescribed for longer than two weeks because of their known side effects of causing leaky gut. But somehow that loophole doesn’t get told to anybody. Secondly, the acid reducing drugs like Nexium and Prilosec and Protonix. These actually stop your mitochondria from making ATP. They are what are called proton pump inhibitors and that’s how mitochondria make ATP. That’s why there’s a warning label on all these drugs that you should never take them for over two weeks time.

Mimi: How about Claritin?

Dr. Gundry: Claritin is okay.

Mimi: Okay good. Because I still get my hives. I live with that. So I’m like…

Dr. Gundry: But even better than Claritin, there’s a natural compound called quercetin. That is a really, really great anti-histamine that doesn’t make you sleepy. Also rosemary extract is also a great anti-histamine and I’ve weaned a lot of my really bad allergy patients off of those like Claritin.

Mimi: Okay. That’s good to know. Okay, perfect. So, okay. That’s three. So four.

Dr. Gundry: So number four is blue light, and not the blue light special from Kmart. Blue light is now everywhere, and blue light is the intense spectrum of midday sunlight. It’s actually designed to keep us awake and to make us hungry. Now most of our devices are primarily blue light focused. Most of our light bulbs, our computer screens, our cell phones, our TVs at home. So we are surrounded and washed with blue light constantly. Literally from the second we wake up to the second we go to bed. There’s really sad, elegant studies showing on how this affects our sleep pattern, it affects our hunger, it affects our mood. There are devices, for instance, make sure on your cell phone that it is in a nighttime mode whenever you can. Get yourself a pair of blue blocking glasses, they’re getting really cheap now and there’s some really effective ones out there. I show them in the book. So blue light is a real bad one. The other thing, speaking of cell phones, is electromagnetic fields. We are a wash in electromagnetic fields. Electromagnetic fields actually affect how heat is produced in our mitochondria and they also affect how calcium is moved in our mitochondria. 5G is really good At making calcium move the wrong way in mitochondria. For instance, Santa Barbara, where one of my offices is, has banned 5G.

Mimi: It has? Good for them.

Dr. Gundry: We will probably never, hopefully ever, see 5G in Santa Barbara because of these worries. We’ve had people on my podcast talk about this. So one thing, Arianna Huffington, who wrote a nice blurb for me, one of the things, please, please, please don’t have your cell phone anywhere near you when you go to bed and make sure it’s put to bed in another room. That’s one thing that you can do to protect yourself. That’s another real troublemaker.

Mimi: Yeah. That’s a big one.

Dr. Gundry: That’s probably enough to, in the interest of time, that’s enough to whet people’s appetite.

Mimi: Yes, yes, exactly. What’s six and seven? Was that six or is that five?

Dr. Gundry: The other ones are, we go into more depth about these endocrine disruptors that everybody’s being exposed to. Like plastic, like phthalates, where if you have wrapped chicken, you’re ingesting phthalates, and there’s really scary data that women who eat a lot of chicken when they’re pregnant, give birth to boys who have much smaller penises than normal. It’s because of the phthalates being estrogen disruptors. Plus we now know that most sunscreens have estrogen disrupting chemicals that are directly absorbed through your skin. So we have a whole section on, please eat your sunscreen, and I don’t mean squeeze the sunscreen in your mouth. These are energy disruptors that people just are unaware of.

Mimi: This has been amazing. I’ve learned so much today, so I really appreciate it. I’m so excited for your book. So anybody who’s listening, get The Energy Paradox and can go into depth more about what we talked about today. Is there anything else that we should finish on that we didn’t cover?

Dr. Gundry: No. People should know that fatigue is not your fate, it is a warning sign to look under the hood and figure out where the energy production has failed you. Let’s pick up everybody’s energy.

Each week, I will bring you different voices from the wellness community, so that they can share how they help their clients heal. You will come away with tips and strategies to help you get your life back. Thank you so much for coming on and I’m so happy you were here. Subscribe now and tune in next week. If you want to learn how I detox and do you want to check out my detox for Lyme checklist? Go to lyme360.com/detoxchecklist. You can also join our community at Lyme 360 Warriors on Facebook and let’s heal together. Thank you.

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