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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr. G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.

Dr. Steven Gundry (00:14):
Do you think bananas are healthy? Think again. I’m Dr. Steven Gundry, best selling author of The Plant Paradox series, and on The Dr. Gundry Podcast, you’re going to learn the foods to eat, and the ones to avoid, to lose weight, boost your energy, and feel your most vibrant, active self this year. You’ll also learn simple tips from the world’s top experts on health and nutrition. Plus, you’ll discover the truth about calories, how running could actually be hurting your health, and why fat won’t make you fat. Subscribe now to The Dr. Gundry Podcast on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music or wherever you get your podcast, because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.
Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. You know, this past year has brought with it incredible stress, uncertainty and actually even tragedy, and in times like these, more than a few of us probably wish we could just think ourselves happy.

Dr. Dawson Church (01:20):

Dr. Steven Gundry (01:20):
Well, my guest today says we can. So, in fact, he says that we all have the ability to rewire our brains to modify our health and achieve states of deep happiness. So, boy, do we… you got to stay tuned, you got to listen, because boy, do we need this.
So, join me today is Dr. Dawson Church, a research scientist, founder of the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare, and award-winning author of three best selling books, including his newest release, Bliss Brain: The neuroscience of remodeling your brain for resilience, creativity and joy.
On today’s episode, Dr. Church and I will discuss the science behind the brain’s ability to radically change in response to spiritual experiences, and share how you, yes you, can acquire deep states of happiness in just a matter of minutes. And, boy, Dawson, it is so great to have you on the program. We got to find out how to do this.

Dr. Dawson Church (02:29):
It’s a real pleasure to be here and I can’t wait to share how quick and easy it is possible to get to those states.

Dr. Steven Gundry (02:37):
So, you’ve been researching the brain and the effects of neuroplasticity for 40 plus years, and it turns out happy people actually have a vastly different biochemical and neurological profile than unhappy people. So, can you explain this a bit more? I think this is a good jumping off spot.

Dr. Dawson Church (02:58):
Well, some ways in which people who are happy, not happy, have a different biological profile are really obvious. If I get stressed, if I get upset, if I have negative emotion, it’s, it’s known to most people that hormones like adrenaline and cortisol will rise. At the same time, what’s not as well known is that hormones responsible for things like bone density and muscle mass, like DHEA, drop at the same time. So, stress is producing these biological shifts in the body. And around 2005, I began to reason that if it was producing changes in hormone levels, then the underlying gene expression must be changing because those hormones are built out of genes.
And so I began to look experimentally in a series of studies, first at the hormones and then looking at the genes below them, and it turned out that people who were stressed had very different gene expression profiles from those who had discovered how to be relaxed. That then led to research into EEG research, into neuroplasticity, and then that led to brain states, and then finally, MRI research showing that structural changes happen in the brains of people who use their [inaudible 00:04:14] to shift into these states of joy, and those structural changes make them resilient. So, all of these downstream results occur in our biology as a result of our spirituality and our psychology.

Dr. Steven Gundry (04:26):
That’s, that’s a, that’s a, that’s a lot for everyone to grasp. Let’s, let’s go-

Dr. Dawson Church (04:32):
(laughs) I never said this would be easy.

Dr. Steven Gundry (04:35):
All, right. So, tell me what the heck… we’ve, we’ve heard this term before, but tell me what the heck is neuroplasticity? Do I have plastic in my brain or, you know what, what is the… Actually, I do have nanoparticles in my brain, sadly, but that’s not the subject today.

Dr. Dawson Church (04:52):
(laughs). But yeah, the brain is, is neuro-plastic, and we, we didn’t know this at first. For a long time, a century of neuroscience, most of the 20th century, we thought the brain grew and developed as the fetus grew, and then the, the, the, the organism grew to adulthood, we had no idea that the brain was changing dynamically in adulthood. And in fact, Marian Diamond was the researcher who first showed this in the 1950s, and she was female, of course, and she got a… she was just shut out of the male neuroscience establishment when she announced her findings. And so when she announced that there were anatomical changes happening in the brain as a result of experience, I mean, that was just a bombshell.
And then in the 1990s, early 2000s, Eric Kandel won the Nobel Prize for showing, not only how our brains changing in response to stimulation, they’re changing really fast. And in a landmark experiment, he showed that if you pass a signal through a neural bundle over and over and over again for one hour, in one hour, the number of synaptic connections in that neural bundle doubles. So, we are literally reshaping our brains with every thought we think, every experience we have, every belief we hold, every time we meditate or calm ourselves, all of those things aren’t just experiences that are mental, they’re literally shaping our neural structures inside our brains.

Dr. Steven Gundry (06:20):
So, how, how much of us, uh, is genetically hardwired? Uh, I’m, I’m an angry person, my father was an angry person, my, you know, my whole family comes from angry people, and it’s my genes, and there’s… And that’s… I’m not talking about myself, because I’m actually a happy person.

Dr. Dawson Church (06:20):

Dr. Steven Gundry (06:40):
Uh, but… so, how much, you know, how much can we impact, uh, this behavior or our mindset?

Dr. Dawson Church (06:50):
Well, if you’d asked a biologist or a physiologist that in 1950, they would have said pretty much 100%, is genetically programmed. We haven’t figured it all out yet, but we know that there was the theory of genetic de- determinism. You are your genes. And Sir Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the double helix structure of DNA, said that. He said, “Everything you think of as you, your beliefs, your preferences, your musical ability, everything, it’s all, it’s all in your genes.”
Now, as that theory has been eroded over the last 50 years, the answer that most of those experts will give you is 15% of the genome is fixed. Like I have gray eyes and I’m six foot five, those things are genetically programmed, I’m not about to shrink to four feet tall or, or get, have brown eyes. I mean, those things… but that’s only 15% of the genome. The other 85% is engaged by experience, or activities, or other forms of outside influences. So, epigenetics, and that’s the subject of my, of my very first book, the gene in your genes, is how we can really shift the process of gene expression by, for example, when we are stressed and having high cortisol, and we feel jittery, and we feel nervous, and we feel tense, we can do things that calm us down very, very rapidly.
And I’ve done work now in, through my nonprofit foundation with over 21,000 veterans over the last 12 years with PTSD, and they will go from nightmares and flashbacks. One young veteran I worked for after he got back from Iraq, he had just terrible PTSD symptoms, and they had to do with being a medic, dealing with body parts, bo- blood, body fluids. I mean, he just had… uh, what, what he described, the experiences he had, because they would, they would, they, they cause, they caused stress in the, in the audience. But, um, he worked in, for example, on cleaning the uniform of his best friend after his best friend got killed in combat, and just the terrible tragedy of that, and his first experiences, first description of that, his stress levels were sky high, 10 out of 10, for anxiety and stress.
We did about half an hour’s work with him using these advanced energy therapies, and they were down to zero, and they stayed at zero when we retested them later on. So, we, we’ve now found that people can rapidly change their gene expression, that those genes that were highly expressed and were triggering the production of all those stress hormones, within a few minutes of using the right techniques, they come right down. And we’ve now treated, again, over 21,000 veterans, seven randomized controlled trials, a meta analysis, showing that these techniques really work and we can change our gene expression if we use the kinds of stress reduction techniques in my book, Bliss Brain.

Dr. Steven Gundry (09:40):
Okay. So, in, in Bliss Brain, uh, you take us through quite a journey of how you used your research to overcome an incredibly traumatizing event that you went, uh, through. Can you tell us all about that?

Dr. Dawson Church (09:54):
Well, I was due to write a book about post traumatic stress and also post traumatic growth, because the research shows that if you look, for example, at veterans coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan, they’ve all had the same terrible experiences, one-third of them develop PTSD, two-thirds don’t. Two-thirds are resilient, a third of them develop PTSD. What’s the difference? So, I was due to write this book on post traumatic growth, and the publisher said to me, “You know, Dawson, you have just lived through one of the California wildfires. Tell your story.”
And so chapter one of Bliss Brain is about how on the night of October 9, 2017, my wife shook me awake and said, “Dawson, something’s really wrong.” We lived in the foothills of Northern California, Santa Rosa, California, and I glanced out the window and I saw this glow on the horizon. I looked at the alarm clock, it was blinking 12:45 AM. A glow on the horizon at 12:45 AM is not a good thing in fire country. So, I sprinted outside [inaudible 00:10:54] to my deck, looked at the adjoining hill, and there was a wildfire cresting the hill and sweeping toward our home, and I just yelled at her, “We’re getting out of here right now.” And we just literally grabbed our phones, threw out some clothes, grabbed the car keys and sprinted out in this surreal world of… you know, there, there was ash swirling around, the winds were gusting up to 70 miles an hour, it looked like a snow storm of cinders and ashe all around us.
And as we tore down our driveway, we had this big property with an office building, our home, storage facilities, all kinds of things, as we tore down the long driveway, my wife felt this heat on her head, and she looked up through the moon roof of the car, all the branches of the trees above her were on fire. So, we, we narrow- narrowly escaped getting killed. 5,400 homes, 5,400 homes were destroyed that night in this massive, fast moving wildfire. 22 people were killed in the wildfire. And we were totally disoriented as we were displaced and trying to figure out what to do with our lives after that.
So, in chapter one, I tell the story of the fire, the night of the fire, and the next year after that, because suddenly, I was teaching PTSD techniques to therapists and helping them help their clients recover, I suddenly was dealing with symptoms myself. And so we to apply meditation, acupressure, all the energy techniques we use to train professionals in to use with traumatized clients, we were using them intensely ourselves, and they just worked. I mean, within just a, just a few days, 48 hours after the fire, we were having a shift in perspective. We were coming back into ourselves and realizing that we were alive, and gratitude began to be our predominant emotion rather than fear and stress. So, uh, we had a chance to do a naturalistic experiment (laughs) in our own marriage and live out those techniques.

Dr. Steven Gundry (12:54):
Gosh, I wish I had met you, uh, you know, uh, almost three years ago now when we had a similar situation. We lost our home in Montecito, uh, to the mudslide that follow the fires here in Southern California. And I actually… my wife was in Palm Springs that night, and I left. I had a premonition. We, um… I was going to stay over because I have a clinic there, and I loaded the dogs in, in the car at, uh, about midnight, and I called my wife, I said, You know, I think I’m coming home to Palm Springs tonight.” And she said, “No. Wait, what?” I said, “I, I just want to get home.” And two hours later, the, the mudslide, uh, you know, tour our home to shreds and killed our neighbor, and 25 people in, in our area were killed with that.
And, uh, you know, it’s… and all of, all of our family heirlooms, all the pictures of our parents, uh, everything, like you, was gone. Uh, we have, we have nothing left. Uh, but you’re right. Um, I’m an op- I’m one of these crazy happy people and an optimist, and I, we weren’t able to get back to our home, uh, to even see it for several months. It was all cordoned off. And there was a Google that showed the roofline, and the roo- it was… the roof was standing, and I kept telling my wife, “It’s going be fine. You know, everybody else’s home is, is wiped off. Look, there’s our home.” And I said, “It’s fine.” And of course, we finally got back in, and what was not fine was there was six feet of mud, of course, inside the house, and everything destroyed.
But I guess my optimism, um, for two months at least kept me going, and so all right. Enough of our terrible tragedies and we’re smiling through it so…

Dr. Dawson Church (14:48):
But you want to be one of those people who is resilient who can smile, maybe not, you know, you, you aren’t brushing it away, you aren’t unaffected by it emotionally, you are, but you have those tools. Be one of those two-thirds of people who, not only… I mean, what that, that word post traumatic growth means, not only do they cope, not only are they resilient, it often… that tragedy and that negative experience often is the fuel for personal transformation.
So, you want to be one of those two-thirds of people that is able to use, even the, you know, the, the adverse experiences, getting sick, getting divorced, going bankrupt, housing crash, whatever it might be, these things affect us all, and you want to be one of those two-thirds of people who’s able to not just cope, but then move through and use those tragedies for post traumatic growth.

Dr. Steven Gundry (15:36):
Okay. So, I mean, the technique that, you know, you and your wife used to get through this, um, had to be simply more than closing your eyes and attempting to relax-

Dr. Dawson Church (15:48):

Dr. Steven Gundry (15:48):
… uh, uh, and, and, and take a big breath and say, “Oh.” Um, uh, so he- help our listeners and viewers, what techniques did you use and why is this so effective?

Dr. Dawson Church (16:03):
Well, uh, well you have to use certain techniques that are effective, and when I was writing Bliss Brain, I was focused on really combing through the neuroscience to see what really was effective in terms of meditation. And what I learned very quickly was that meditation is a generic term, it’s like sport, and not all sport is equal. If you’re doing extreme skiing, very, very different from say, being on a treadmill. And you want to use meditation methods that are effective. And, so I looked through over 400 studies and I found that certain things really shifted the brain’s function quickly. And it wasn’t the prayer beads, it wasn’t the saffron robes, it was the spiritual beliefs… and I’m not knocking spiritual beliefs, but it turns out there are certain things that trigger quick neuroplasticity. And so you want to find techniques that will very quickly shift your brain.
And I know, I got that instruction you mentioned earlier when I first joined a spiritual community at the age of 15, and I was a really un- unhappy person back then. I, I was depressed, I was anxious, I’d had a pretty rough childhood, I had all symptoms of PTSD, I had constant nightmares every night. And I looked at my face once at the age of 15, in a mirror, and these words flashed into my mind, “That’s the most unhappy face I’ve ever seen.” I realized I had to do something to improve, so I went in spiritual community, started learning psychology, all the… trying, trying to find these leverage points. And the meditation master said, just like you mentioned earlier, “Close your eyes and still your mind.” And that didn’t work for me at all and it doesn’t work for most people who try meditation.
You close your eyes, what happens is, when your eyes are closed, the flood of information coming from your eyes to your brain shuts off and a part of the brain, called the default mode network, kicks in. And I devote a whole chapter of Bliss Brain, chapter two, to this phenomenon. And the default mode network is the part of the brain that fires up when you aren’t doing anything. So, when you aren’t doing a task, then the default mode network is highly active. And it has two nodes. One is the mid prefrontal cortex, right over here behind your forehead, the other is the posterior cingulate cortex, at the back of your brain, and these two nodes are responsible for constructing your sense of self.
And so when those are active, you’re very self-referential in your thinking, you’re very self-absorbed. It’s all about me, mine, and especially threats to me from yesterday and possible threats to me from tomorrow. So, we aren’t in the present moment, we’re thinking about the past stuff in our lives, we’re thinking about the future threats, future problems we might have, and that’s what the default mode network does. And so people try who to meditate, close their eyes, default mode network comes on, and suddenly, they’re just obsessed with the problems of the past and worries about the future. And it doesn’t work, and people try meditation and then quit.
So, you have to learn to meditate in the way that meditation adapts to. And now there’s all this research on Tibetan monks who spent more than 10,000 hours in meditation, Franciscan nuns who spent more than 25,000 hours in contemplative prayer and these elevated emotional states. And these people’s brain function is remarkable. They shut down that default mode network, and parts of the brain like the insula, which governs compassion. The insula is a center of pro-social activities and has special neurons in highly social species that are very active and allow us to feel empathy, and concern, love for other people.
Those parts of the brains of these [inaudible 00:19:47], like those nuns, like those monks, turn on. And so now these people have really different brain functions, and the brainwave of happiness, gamma, it’s highest brainwave, that wave is highly active in these meditation experts. And so when we meditate effectively and turn on those brain centers, the empathy network, the attention network, we shut down the default mode network and we have a sense of compassion. If you do all of those things, then you start to [inaudible 00:20:22] as those Tibetan monks, as those Franciscan nuns, and your happiness level showed that those monks have 25 times the amount of gamma that the average person has. I mean, they’re so blissful.
In my book, Bliss Brain, I have like, uh, a painting of St. Francis of Assisi in ecstasy, and he’s just totally paused out. [inaudible 00:20:45] ecstasy. I mean, the- these are really powerful states described by Robert Krishna, and Rumi, and Hafiz and the other Sufi poets, described throughout history by mystics. And so if you’re able to rate each of those states, and that then triggers neuroplasticity in all the happiness centers of the brain, then you become not just in a happy state, you will literally grow the neurons that put you into a happy trait, so you now turn a state into a trait, and you are just a fundamentally happy person, and that’s when you become resilient.

Dr. Steven Gundry (21:19):
Wow. So, now, wait a minute. So, when I close my eyes and try to meditate, you know, I get, you know, my typical monkey brain, um, like, and, and I just, you know, I give up. Uh, so I, I have other ways to do it. Actually, believe it or not, when, when I practice heart surgery, that’s when I meditated, and I, we actually had, me and other surgeons, wired up, and I get into gamma waves and all sorts of fun stuff.

Dr. Dawson Church (21:48):

Dr. Steven Gundry (21:48):
But okay.

Kimberly Snyder (21:49):
Welcome to the Feel Good Podcast with Kimberly Snyder. My goal is to help you develop a holistic lifestyle based on our four cornerstone philosophy, food, body, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual growth. This holistic approach will help you feel good, which I define as being connected to your most authentic, highest self. And this is the place from which your energy, confidence, creativity, true power, and true beauty will start to explode. Every week, we provide you with interviews from top experts in their field, or a solo cast from yours truly, to support you in living your most beautiful, healthy and joyful life. I’m your host, Kimberly Snyder, founder Solluna, New York Times bestselling author, and holistic wellness, nutrition and meditation teacher. Let’s get started.

Dr. Steven Gundry (22:46):
So, the person listening to you, how can a meditation newbie get into bliss brain? I mean, it sounds like, “Okay, I just flip the switch and now I got my bliss brain going.”

Dr. Dawson Church (22:58):
Let’s go back up there for a second to your state of doing surgery and being in that space. And what you’re, you are is you’re in a state of flow-

Dr. Steven Gundry (23:07):

Dr. Dawson Church (23:07):
… and flow is a high performance state. Some people get there through their work, you watch a jazz saxophonist playing along a riff, and if you hook that person up to an EEG, you’d find they had lots of gamma because they’re in flow, super athletes are in flow, scientists are in flow when they’re making a discovery. All of us have experienced flow, often in nature, we’ve had these elevated experiences. And so there are two ways to flow. One is performance, high performance, the second way is meditation.
And so what we found in meditation studies is that you have to do something to anchor yourself in the body. Trying to do it in the mind is usually futile and counterproductive. You can’t fake yourself out of stress. I mean, all of us have had this experience of [inaudible 00:23:54] ourselves, trying to think ourselves out of stress, we have a presentation we have to make, we’re nervous, we say, “Don’t be nervous,” and it doesn’t work. We, we can’t talk ourselves out of anxiety, depression and, and PTSD. So, what you need is you need something that anchors you in your body.
There’s a famous psychiatrist after World War II who was working with stressed out World War II veterans, and he looked for something that would help them relax. He was a Freudian, he tried, he tried the talking cure. That he, they would lay there on the couch and describe landing on Omaha Beach. And what he wrote about later in his career… he, he was a really famous guy in the ’50s, Joseph Wolpe. He said, “Those types of techniques are not ineffective, they’re harmful.” And we now know what is going on in that kind of a brain, you’re reawakening all the neurobiology of stress, and we now have a term for it. We now know that it’s re-traumatizing you to talk about that old stuff.
So, what Wolpe found was that one thing helped, one thing helped those veterans drop in their stress level, and that was staying in their bodies and doing deep breathing while they recall the trauma. And that’s counter conditioning. So, we’re conditioned to have these stressful responses, what you have to learn to do is counter condition them. And this is the whole new field in psychology called memory, reconsolidation and extinction. You literally extinguish the fear response.
So, you’re still thinking like that, that young soldier who served in Iraq who was cleaning the, the, the, the uniform of his friend who died in combat, and he described the scene in great detail about how it smelled so bad, he’d have to run outside the hut and take a deep breath of air, and then run back inside and dip the uniform in disinfectant, and run back outside, gulp air again. I mean, all of these things, but now, as he was counterconditioning that experience, eventually, a couple of days later, he was telling the whole experience without emotion. So, you have the memory, but you no longer have the emotion. And that’s what you do.
So, in those flow states, you are now providing a neutral and a positive cue context for trauma. And if you can keep yourself in your body like Joseph Wolpe’s World War II veterans, by breathing, we also use acupressure. That’s what we use in my veterans stress project. We use acupressure techniques of tapping on acupuncture points, meridians, to calm yourself down. And you see people’s stress levels just dropped dramatically. You see the limbic system of the brain just turn off. So, before they were stressed, the limbic system, their, their hippocampus, the amygdala was highly active now, it just shuts off when they tap, when they do diaphragmatic breathing, when they do any of these stress reduction techniques.
And so you have to learn to do something that’s body based. Mentally trying to talk yourself out of stress, very rarely works. Stress is not a mental phenomena, it’s not in your prefrontal cortex, it’s in your limbic system and your hind brain. It’s in your amygdala, it’s in your hippocampus, it’s in your, in your thalamus. So, all these midbrain structures to do with emotion, it’s fear, and you can’t tell yourself not to be afraid, but even tap yourself, and you can breathe, and you can meditate, and if you use those techniques, then these non cognitive, these somatic techniques are able to very, very, very quickly calm people down, counter-condition that old memory, and then the person later on, when they think of the memory, remembers the details without the stress, without the fear.

Dr. Steven Gundry (27:28):
So, in your book, you talk a lot about tapping. Uh, my, uh, good friend, Joseph Mercola, has been into tapping for many years. You’re not saying I should bang my head against the wall. That’s not tapping.

Dr. Dawson Church (27:40):

Dr. Steven Gundry (27:42):
Um, describe to, you know, our, our viewers and listeners, tapping on an acupressure point, uh, let’s get real basic and simple.

Dr. Dawson Church (27:54):
So, there are 12 meridians in the body through which energy flows. Um, ancient Chinese texts show them, parchments show them, these, these lines of force with little dots on them where the meridians are at the surface. And so they look, to me, when I first looked at acupuncture 20 years ago, like uh, this old oriental system of energy flows that look pretty, um, metaphysical and non Western, but now that we have, um, equipment, like with a galvanometer, we can measure the charge on the skin.
And it turns out… and I have these galvanometers I use in my, my live workshops, we literally put a galvanometer on a person’s skin rather than over their skin, and it starts beeping right at the point where those old 2,000 old Chinese charts say the point is. And these points are very, very small, we can now measure them, though, scientifically.
So, with EFT, we don’t use acupuncture, we don’t use, uh, needles to put in those points, we use tapping, and so the tapping like I’m doing right now, very lightly on these points. Again, we use 12 of them, and we tap on the end points are those 12 meridians. And this, this balances out the body’s energies. If we say, for example, have somebody in an MRI and an… or an EEG, we’ll see that when they think about a fear, their midbrain, their limbic system, their emotional brain is highly active. If they then tap, tapping is counterconditioning stimulus that, again, is somatically based. Like those World War II veterans using diaphragmatic breathing, they stay in their body.
If a person thinks about a trauma and doesn’t have a way of staying in their body, they dissociate, they go to their mind, they have what my psychologist friend, uh, Jerry [Wesch 00:29:45] at Fort Hood where I did grand rounds said, “They go into this 1,000 yar- yard stare. They’re not in their bodies. You have to keep them in their bodies.” And EFT tapping and any kind of somatic stimulation does that. EFT, though, does it really fast, and there are now over 100 studies of EFT showing it’s, it’s very rapid. So again, it’s thinking about the bad stuff while you tap the 12 points. And what that does is it shuts down the fear part of the brain, so remember the event but minus that emotional tag of stress and fear.

Dr. Steven Gundry (30:19):
So, how, how long does someone have to practice these techniques to begin triggering neurologic changes?

Dr. Dawson Church (30:29):
Astonishingly, small amounts of time. In Bliss Brain, I talk about one study that showed that people, in one experiment, doing 12 minutes of a really effective meditation per day for eight weeks already had neurological changes in their brains. And I did a study recently, not published yet, but MRI study, a randomized controlled trial with a pretty large group of people, and we had them do either this body based meditation I developed called eco meditation, or we had them do a placebo meditation. And, um, it was the same as eco meditation but minus the body based components of eco meditation.
And we found that in only four weeks, 22 minutes a day, they were having structural changes in the brain. Their default mode network literally shut down. It’s, it’s like, you looked at the MRI, it’s, it’s, “Whoa, this is amazing.” And if you looked at that MRI… I sent it one, one neuroscientist, not telling him what it was, he said, “Oh, these are clearly Tibetan monks who’ve done 10,000 hours of meditation.” And I said, “No, they’re volunteers just who came into the lab, off the streets with no meditation experience, most of them, failed meditation, some of them, and they did this in only a month, 20 minutes a day. No long retreat, no going to the Himalayas, no living in the monastery, none of that, they just did this for a short, short period of time.”
So, that’s the answer. In only a month, just one month, you start to show structural changes in your brain. You literally… I mean, get this, we’re, we’re literally changing the anatomy of our brains with a software of our minds. It is just astonishing that we have this superpower to do this.

Dr. Steven Gundry (32:16):
Um, you know, I’ve written about this, um, in The Longevity Paradox, and I want to just bring it back. What, what do you think the effect of our gut microbiome and the gut microbiome gut-brain access plays in any of this? For instance, we know that meditators dramatically change their gut microbiome for the better, have much more diversity. Um, is there… what’s your experience with meditation and the, and the gut?

Dr. Dawson Church (32:56):
I, I think that people need a holistic approach, and I actually coaching people, I do a lot of training of professionals and lay people, and often, they get really enthusiastic about one modality. And that’s fine. I mean, there are lots of great modalities out there, but I caution them against going overboard on any one of those things. So, yeah, we need all of those interventions, and, and, and, and a balanced, holistic approach, use all of them.
And the remarkable thing is that, like watching in one study, the researchers had people tapping, and they, they measured their gene expression, and they found that 72 genes were upregulated by one hour of tapping. And these were all kinds of cool genes. These were metabolic genes, these were cancer suppression genes, these were genes that repair the axon shields and neurons. I mean, all kinds of highly useful things going on just in, in one hour of this.
So, what, what I, what I recommend people do is they, they experiment with different editing techniques, and then do all of the, the thi- nutritional things as well. And that way, you get the best of all possible worlds.

Dr. Steven Gundry (34:08):
So, does that mean an hour of continuous tapping? I mean, do I have to sit here like this for the next hour or can I break it up?

Dr. Dawson Church (34:17):
Normally, tapping is used situationally. You’re getting into heavy traffic and you’re getting nervous, you tap, you have a presentation coming up and you’re feeling anxiety about that, you tap, you think about a past insult, you tap, you think about a childhood memory, you tap, and tapping takes about two minutes to do. That particular study was people working with a highly skilled therapist who is leading them through dealing with childhood trauma. So, she was having them tap for that hour thinking about events of their childhood, the beating, the rape, the bullying, the, the, the, the panic attack, all of those childhood events and really doing a thorough one hour therapy session with them before and after measurements of their genome.

Dr. Steven Gundry (35:01):

Dr. Dawson Church (35:02):
So, um, you either work with a therapist or you do it situationally to reduce your own stress.

Dr. Steven Gundry (35:08):
So, with your book, um, can somebody, you know, read and follow your book and not, you know, have to find a class and a therapist to get them through this? I assume that’s why you wrote the book.

Dr. Dawson Church (35:22):
Yes or no, (laughs) both and. Because we all have things that we can tap away really quickly. Like, for example, there have been, um, I think four studies of performance anxiety and EFT, and in, usually in a very brief treatment, about 15 minutes, people lose their performance anxiety.
In one sports polling study I did with Oregon State University athletes, it took only 15 minutes, and their, their free throw performance improved by 38%. So, that’s situational. It’s super quick, you can do, do it yourself. But if you’re suffering from, um, a recurring relationship pattern where you get emotionally triggered in relationships and then damage your relationships by what you do, if you are dealing with, uh, say, for example, obesity, or overeating, or emotional eating, or binge eating, and you haven’t been able to help yourself, you’re far better off going to a therapist who’s learned clinically EFT and working with that person rather than stumbling around and try to fix it yourself.
So, for simple situational things, tap yourself. Like at Fort Hood, the, the therapist there taught the veterans EFT their very first session, because they knew between sessions the veterans would have flashbacks, nightmares and would need to use EFT, but then they used it in the therapy sessions as well going really deep. If you’re traumatized, you don’t want to go there without professional help, without a therapist. You need a trained person to deal with early childhood trauma. Otherwise, the possibility of an abreaction or emotional flooding is, is too great, and you can re-traumatize yourself as well. So, little things, tap on yourself, big things, work with a professional.

Dr. Steven Gundry (37:02):
Okay. So, let’s say that, uh, we’re one of the people who did not have childhood trauma, at least that we’re aware of, uh, and we’re, we’re fine, happy person, where do these techniques, or will this help improve creativity, will it help productivity, or, or is it just for people who really need to get out of a hole?

Dr. Dawson Church (37:27):
One of the things I, I, I enjoy is when I have an, an argument with my scientific colleagues and, and I, I get proven wrong, which happens fairly often. I mean, I’ll have a hypothesis, we’ll test it experimentally, and I’ll, I’ll be wrong. And I was, I was totally wrong about that. Like I used to think that people who meditated were selfish, like these people in the Himalayas going into caves, the monasteries, disappearing, into Nirvana, having those huge increases in gamma, having all this ecstasy, and then how’s that helping climate change? How’s that helping the refugee problem? How’s that helping species extinction? How’s that helping any of the world’s problems? And it turns out…
So, I, I was like pretty dismissive 20, 30 years ago of those ecstasy seekers, those new-agers who were just like, you know, either the traditional spirituality or New Age spirituality, just doing spiritual bypassing, going off into Samadhi or nirvana, and then how’s that helping the veterans? I mean, we, you know, here in the US, we have like a million veterans with PTSD, and, and, and that, to me, is, is what we need to be working on, amongst many other social problems. So, um, I used to be one of those people who said, “Ah, you know, those meditators.”
What we now show… and in Bliss Brain, I talk about this in my chapter, is that those flow states that you achieve in meditation make us more productive, more creative, and give us greater problem solving ability. And the degree in which that’s true is astonishing.
Teresa Amabile, a researcher at Harvard, she found in her lab, that you go to that state for an hour, you’re more productive for 48 hours after that. Another study, 10 year study by McKinsey Consulting Group found that people who enter these states, they are five times as productive as when they aren’t in those states. So, in other words, they’re accomplishing in one day what normally takes them five days to accomplish.
A third study, and there, there are several others like this by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Agency, found that people who enter these states have a 490% increase in their ability to solve complicated problems, whether that’s diagnosing a patient, in your case, whether that is doing an operation in your, in your case, whether that is looking at solutions for the 29% drop in the bird population that we’ve now measured recently, um, in, in studies, whether it’s looking for a solution to artificial intelligence warfare and counter warfare.
I mean, there are all these profound problems we have to face as a species. And if we are five times as productive, if our problem solving ability has gone up by 490%, like in that DARPA study, when we go to work, when we volunteer for a nonprofit, when we spend time with our family, when we work with people in our, our, our jobs, or in our workplace, or virtually, we’re far, far, far more productive than we otherwise would be.
So, it turns out the biggest leverage for working effectively and productively in the world out there is getting into these flow states mentally in the world inside here.

Dr. Steven Gundry (40:43):
You got one quick tip on how to get into this deep bliss state at home or we got to read the book?

Dr. Dawson Church (40:53):
Read, read the book. And the book also comes with eight free meditations, and so when you get the book, which you can get free at blissbrain.com, uh, you also get eight meditations. And those eight meditations put you into that state, and they’re each about 20 minutes long. And we find that’s kind of the sweet spot, meditate, meditating for five, 10 minutes is, is okay, but if you can do a deep meditation and spend 20 minutes there, like in those eight free meditations we have in the book, that’s when you trigger that neurobiological change in four weeks. And the cruc- and the crucial thing is there, you’ve then built enough neural capacity, you’ve done enough neural firing to kickstart the wiring process.
And people tell me, and we can’t prove this experimentally yet, but they tell me where they start to do this, that they feel their brain changing. And it’s quite common people point to their prefrontal cortex and say, “I feel something happening here,” they’ll point to their temporal parietal junction, and they say, “I feel something going on inside my head over here.” And what that is, possibly, is the stimulation of those parts of the brain. So, you will begin to feel different.
After the very first time, we had one woman called [Tawny Tumbleson 00:42:04] who wrote in and said, “I’ve tried other meditation techniques, I tried a whole slew of them, and I so failed at them. When I first sat out to do your meditation, I thought, ‘Tony, it’s a waste of time, you will fail too.'” And then she said, “Uh, you have seven steps you teach. When I hit Step three, tears of bliss began to flow down my cheeks, and I knew I was there at last.” And then she said, “I’m going to do this meditation every single day.” We find people are doing it every single day because it feels so good and you will literally sense the changes in your body for the very first time. So, we don’t have to do a, a, a really hard sell on this, we, we just have people do it once and twice and they’ll start to feel so much better that it’ll encourage them to do it again and again.

Dr. Steven Gundry (42:48):
Speaking of hard sell, this year has been collectively probably one of the hardest years that anyone could have imagined, predicted, not wished for, um, is it all the more important to, to try and get into this bliss state now or is it even harder now to get into this bliss state because of everything that’s happened?

Dr. Dawson Church (43:16):
What we’re doing is counseling people that are in this community, in our community, of meditators, of tappers, is to really ratchet up their level of compassion, because if you’re a meditator and you are in joy and bliss every day… like after the election, I had… the day after, I, I wanted… I, I so wanted to turn on my TV and check the news before meditation that day. Normally, I, I’d never think of doing that, but that one day, you know, I, I, I, it was like, “I, I, I got a look.” And I thought, “You know, the news will be there for me in an hour. I’m going to meditate first.” And then you meditate and you become really, really calm.
But what you can… the, the one adverse side effects of that can be being really disconnected from those around you. So, you’re walking around super happy, nothing fazes you, and then are you relating to other people effectively. So, we train people to really listen deeply, feel the pain of the world, be compassionate, do active listening, listen to the people in your community, feel their, their emotions, their pain, and then become an influence for upliftment by just, first of all, connecting with them, and then being yourself, and sharing who you are. And you don’t have to do it overtly, just being in that state. You being in that state will lift everyone else up.
I’ve been on, on some Zoom calls with literally hundreds of people at the same time, and you watch them, and we have them post all of their worst fears in the, the Zoom chat room, and they’re saying, “I’m afraid I’m going to die in my apartment. People won’t find my body for two weeks. I’m afraid my 95 year old mother’s going to die. I’m afraid my, my 10 year old son will get the virus.” I mean, there’s, there’s so much fear going around there. We sit, we breathe, we enter compassion with the people around us, we, we, we really are in that emotional space with them. And then as we are, are who we are, we find that we’re able to really lighten the load. At the end of those Zoom calls, everyone’s laughing, everyone’s happy. But you don’t want to start out like that, you’re just totally disconnected from the outside world.
So, if you have a spiritual practice, if you are using these techniques and attaining bliss brain, it becomes even more important to really sit compassionately, and lovingly, and connectedly with the suffering of the world and the people around you, and not just be this kind of, you know, uh, disconnected, disembodied being out there. That’s not an effective way of being in the world, and you have to learn to do, to do both.

Dr. Steven Gundry (45:53):
Well, I would think that if, you know, if you learn to quiet your brain, you’re far more receptive to being able to listen, uh, and receive from others, um.

Dr. Dawson Church (46:08):
You are. And there’s this phenomenon called emotional contagion that’s been studied extensively in the Framingham Heart Study for three generations of people, and the happy person, the centered person, the optimistic person exerts an influence on the people around them. And in the Framingham Heart Study, if you’re happy, your neighbor is 35% more likely to be happy, and her neighbor, who you don’t even know, is 15% more likely to be happy, and his neighbor, who you certainly don’t know, is 6% more likely to be happy. Happiness is highly contagious. And in one Facebook study, they found that they had a small group of people, they tweaked their Facebook feeds, and that small group produced emotional contagion in 680,000 other Facebook users in one week.

Dr. Steven Gundry (46:59):

Dr. Dawson Church (46:59):
So, we are affecting people all around us all the time, and the best thing you can do is love, accept and take care of your own wellbeing if that is contagious to those around you.

Dr. Steven Gundry (47:11):
So, uh, any, any final thoughts on how you’re going to make happiness contagious in, in this contagious pandemic?

Dr. Dawson Church (47:21):
(laughs). Well, for one thing, I’m ratcheting up all of our efforts, I put out a free immunity meditation that’s been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. I was teaching a class in China in December 2019, when the first virus cases began, I realized something was really wrong, and so, uh, a month later, I made, made an immunity meditation for, for the people in China, which has been shared tens of thousands of times. That’s been translated into, I think, like 15 other languages now. It’s reached huge numbers of people. So, I’m, I’m, I’m doing that. Um, I’m, that, that will have an impact.
We also looked at the results of research we did a few years back, we found that as cortisol drops, your levels of immunoglobulin antibodies, which is your, your first line of defense against viruses, rises dramatically. In one EFT study, people tapping at an intensive workshop for a week, their levels of those antibodies rose by 113%, and that result was highly statistically significant.
So, we, we now have research showing that as you lower your stress, those things rise. And we’re, we’re doing tons of free programs like the free giveaway of, of the book Bliss Brain, free giveaway of the Immunity Meditation, and we’re doing paid courses as well where people pay us to go to a workshop or take a course. But what is really passionate about getting this to millions of people, because we’ve seen the effects on those 21,000 veterans and their spouses and their families, we know this stuff works. And really, all the suffering that is otherwise embedded in their psyche is depressing their immune systems, driving their cortisol high. We know it’s treatable and so we’re just on a, a, a big mission to get the word out there with the free meditation, the free immunity workshop, meditation, free book, we just want the world to know this stuff is out there. And so we are doing our best to spread the, spread the joy.

Dr. Steven Gundry (49:23):
Well, Dr. Church, uh, that’s fan- that’s great. I’m glad you came on the show. How do people find you? Where, where do they go, um, because this is a incredibly important service you’re doing right now?

Dr. Dawson Church (49:39):
Thank you. I so appreciate that, I appreciate you sharing with your community. And that immunity ri- that immunity meditation is at a website called Dawson, just my name, D-A-W-S-O-N, gift, G-I-F-T.com. And so if you want to boost your immunity, that meditation’s there. And then the book is at blissbrain.com, and you’re going to pay for shipping and handling, get the book for free there. And that linked blissbrain.com is also on dawsongift.com. So, again, get the immunity meditation, use the meditation, get the book, get the free meditations with, that come with the book, and then use those. Feel the changes in your body, and that’s what we recommend people do.

Dr. Steven Gundry (50:25):
And for everybody watching and listening, uh, let’s be careful out there but let’s be happy.

Dr. Dawson Church (50:31):

Dr. Steven Gundry (50:31):
Um, we’re going to make that the latest pandemic.

Dr. Dawson Church (50:35):
(laugh). The pandemic of happiness. I love it.

Dr. Steven Gundry (50:39):
Why not? I mean, come on. It’s, it’s got to beat this one. All right. Thanks very much for coming on the program. Good luck.

Dr. Dawson Church (50:47):
It’s been a joy. Thank you.

Dr. Steven Gundry (50:49):
All right. All right, it’s time for our audience question.
Hey, Dr. Gundry here. People are constantly asking where they can find the specialty foods I recommend in my books. It’s a good question. After all, not everyone can find these foods at their local grocery store. That’s why I’m so grateful for Thrive Market. Thrive Market is an online store with a huge selection of the highest quality, healthy, and sustainable foods. In fact, I love Thrive Market so much, I’ve not only mentioned it in nearly all my books, but I’ve also set up a page with some of my favorite products. And the best part, when you become a Thrive Market member, you’ll not only save money every month, but you’ll also find all the groceries you need all without leaving your home. And when you become a Thrive Market member, you’ll even get a free gift of your choosing.
So, to get started, just go to thrivemarket.com/gundrypodcast, I think you’re going to love how easy it is to find what you need, including Lectin-Free Gundry favorite in one place and at a fraction of the regular store price. So, remember, just go to thrivemarket.com/gundrypodcast to become a member today.
Jen Compton asks, “When exposing ourselves to the sun, how much of our body do we need to expose to get adequate amounts of vitamin D in a 30 minute period, and does it matter what time of day?” Well, I actually talk a lot about sun exposure and vitamin D and the other principal benefits of sun exposure in the upcoming Energy, Energy Paradox, but unless you’re my friend, Joseph Mercola, who walks in a Speedo an hour and a half to two hours a day on the beach in Fort Lauderdale every day, um, it’s… and he can get his vitamin D level up to about 50 to 60 nanograms per deciliter, but unless you’re doing that, you really, quite frankly, are never going to get enough vitamin D, in my opinion, from sun exposure alone.
So, please, please, please, uh, do not be afraid of vitamin D supplementation. There are now six separate studies in humans showing that a low vitamin D level is, uh, inviting COVID-19 and worse complications if you get it, whereas a high vitamin D level is very preventative of getting COVID-19, and if you get it, uh, it’s going to act like almost nothing happened.
In fact, this week, one of my, uh, snowbirds came back to Palm Springs, she’s 88 years old, she caught, uh, COVID-19, uh, back in March, and for her, we’ve… she sees me, her husband doesn’t, uh, we’ve kept her vitamin D levels at around 100. In fact, her vitamin D level when I saw her this week was 113. Her, her symptoms lasted 48 hours. She said it was just kind of a mild cold. Her husband got it simultaneously. He ended up in intensive care for 45 days, had blood clots in his lungs. The experience was totally different for the two of them. So, that’s really, um, a brand new recent example.
Please, please, please take your vitamin D supplementation. If you’re an adult, kind of bare minimum is 50 thou- is 5,000 of D3 a day. And I have never seen vitamin D toxicity yet in 20 years, Dr. Mark Hyman hasn’t seen it yet, so please take your vitamin D. Um, you’ll pro- you’ll really help protect yourself.
All right. That’s it for The Dr. Gundry Podcast. We’ll see you next week, because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.
Disclaimer. On The Dr. Gundry Podcast, we provide a venue for discussion, and the views expressed by my guests do not necessarily reflect my own.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch each episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/drgundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.