Speaker 1 (00:00:00):
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. Gundry (00:00:13):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry podcast. All right. When’s the last time your doctor prescribed you a bowl of leafy greens or a handful of mushrooms? Well, unless you’re my patient, probably never. And that’s unfortunate. Because the truth is food is the most powerful tool we have for optimizing our health. And my guest today couldn’t agree more. I’m welcoming back, Dr. William Li, physician, scientist and author of Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself. In just a moment Dr. Li and I will reveal what most doctors miss when it comes to illness prevention, the shocking science behind nutrition and disease and the health transforming foods everyone should be consuming on a daily basis. So don’t go away will be right back.
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Dr. Li, it’s great to have you back on the show.
Dr. Li (00:03:39):
So good to be back Dr. Gundry. It’s always a pleasure to speak with a fellow physician and scientist.
Dr. Gundry (00:03:45):
Well, as you know, most medical students are actually taught very little about nutrition. At what point in your career did you actually realize how powerful food is when it comes to health?
Dr. Li (00:03:57):
There’s a backstory. Before I went to medical school, I did a gap year and this came out of my college inspiration where I studied biochemistry like so many other pre-meds. But my passion was actually in history, specifically the Renaissance out of the Mediterranean Basin. So I had learned about the golden age of discovery of arts and sciences. And I began to realize that in this crucible of culture, came this incredible array of delicious foods that I’ve always enjoyed throughout my life.
So before going straight into the treadmill of medical school, like we all wind up doing, I decided to do a gap year and I embedded myself, I traveled to the Mediterranean. I lived there for a year. And my specific project was to actually study how food is integrated into the life of the people in Italy and the people of Greece. And so this was long before people started to more broadly recognize the Mediterranean diet. I was literally walking the walk long before people were talking the talk.
So my appreciation of nutrition actually started before I became a doctor. And throughout medical school and you and I share this, we’ve talked to each other about this before, we are indoctrinating in the principles of pharmaceutical prescription writing. So much memorization, so many pathways and things to memorize, and you come out at the end of this, I could never forget the influences that I absorbed before I went to medical school. And I always wondered, so where does food fit into all of this?
Well, actually I came back into nutrition itself more scientifically when I had quite a successful career in biotechnology, drug development for cancer drugs, diabetes drugs, drugs to treat vision loss. It was a very exciting and very successful area, but I felt very unsatisfied knowing that the treatments I was developing was used to treat the horse out of the barn. And so this is when I went back to buy my nutrition and food roots. It’s not just about nutrition. It’s really about the life embracing aspects of food, delicious food, foods that are consistent with cultures. And I began realizing you can actually map that back to the science. And I think you and I shared the same kind of realization with the light bulb goes into your head, that food is medicine is not just a slogan, but there is an actual discipline to it. And that’s really how I got into it.
Dr. Gundry (00:06:36):
Maybe we can have a gap between pharmaceutical companies teaching us everything in medical school. But that’s another subject.
Dr. Li (00:06:41):
That’s another subject.
Dr. Gundry (00:06:44):
In your book. You explained that the body has five natural defense systems, one of which is my favorite subject, the microbiome. Let’s talk about this some more. As the father of medicine, Hippocrates, said that all disease begins in the gut and how he knew this 2,500 years ago still amazes me to this day. He didn’t have our sophisticated tests to track leaky gut to measure leaky gut. He didn’t know about the microbiome. At least I don’t think he did. Let’s just track with one thing. How could an unhealthy gut potentially lead to Alzheimer’s or even cancer? Give us a bit of the mechanism.
Dr. Li (00:07:33):
Yeah, well, again, just contrasting what doctors have learned in medical school, which is that bacteria are bad. Must kill bacteria, must write antibiotic to kill bacteria. In point of fact, the fast forward to the present days, in fact, we now know for sure that most of the bacteria that we all as humans encounter are actually good bacteria and these good bacteria mostly live inside us. And so we’re not even fully human; we’re partly bacteria. And that’s really important, I think, glass ceiling that has been broken in terms of our understanding of just how important these gut bacteria actually are. Number one, if you take antibiotics, as is so commonly done in the community, usually for not a particularly appropriate condition, sore throat, [inaudible 00:08:27] bacteria, bronchitis, we overwrite these prescriptions. And whether we kill bad bacteria or not, we actually do wind up harming the good bacteria.
So this then leads to the question you asked is what are these good bacteria doing? Well, I like to think of it as an ecosystem of partners that work together to create this incredible diversity in our gut, kind of like the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, myriad of these microorganisms that do all kinds of things together. And sure, there were some sharks and moray eels and sort of apex predators out there, but by and large, even they wind up getting along with everyone else, as long as there’s balance. So I think that Hippocrates knew, somehow, that when there’s imbalance in the gut, your gut just feels bad. You feel bloated, gassy, crampy, you have diarrhea or you have constipation. And all of this winds up actually translating back to that, our ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef kind of crying out for help.
And the reason that we actually feel badly is because the normal gut function, this collaboration of this incredible ecosystem, they work together to lower inflammation, to help us streamline our metabolism, to help pump up and support our immune system, to be able to help us heal wounds faster. And then, as it relates to the mind, you were talking about Alzheimer’s disease. Something that’s quite amazing is this increasing recognition that when we have problems with our ecosystem healthy gut bacteria, it’s correlated with people that wide up having dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s disease. So problems in the gut can lead to problems in the mind.
Now, what do we know about that? We know that good, healthy gut bacteria, in fact, text message our brain every single day, and prompt our brain to release social hormones and neurotransmitters. And so you can imagine, although we don’t fully understand the exact mechanisms yet, if you actually dump toxin on the Great Barrier Reef and you can destroy part of this ecosystem, that text message to the brain might not be normal anymore.
And when the brain’s not working normally, well, as we get older, I think this is what we’re beginning to appreciate things aren’t going well. By the way, one last thing, we talk about the gut microbiome in the colon and the lower gut, in the ileum specifically, where a lot of the bacteria located, but for Alzheimer’s, something I’m really struck by is that the dental community has shown that the oral microbiome, because our gut begins in our mouth, right behind our lips is where our gut begins. That actually seems to play a big role as well. So now we have to watch out for our teeth and our gums.
Dr. Gundry (00:11:16):
And as my friend, Dale Bredesen, likes to point out, our mouth and our nose is a direct shot to our brain. I mean, it’s right there. And who would’ve imagined that taking care of our mouth and our oral microbiome would have such an effect. And as a heart surgeon, I’ve known that certain oral micro flora are really going towards vessels in coronary arteries and-
Dr. Li (00:11:52):
Dr. Gundry (00:11:53):
And bells. Oh yeah. Used to see that unfortunately all the time.
Dr. Li (00:11:58):
Dr. Gundry (00:11:59):
All right. So, let’s get back to food. So, where does food fit into gut health, which is obviously your and my interest?
Dr. Li (00:12:08):
Yeah. Well look, I mean, this is a passion of mine, I think like yours. This is a new frontier, this whole idea of our gut microbiome. And unlike some of the more intellectual or ethereal kind of concepts like genes and DNA and even telomeres, our gut is so sensible. Anybody can get the fact that what we feed our bodies actually winds up feeding our gut bacteria as well. So think about it. Here we are as humans with healthy bacteria, this ecosystem, this Great Barrier Reef of great bacteria inside our gut and starting from our mouth on our nose and whatever we’re feeding ourselves, of course our human cells and our organs are absorbing nutrients, but everything else gets passed on down, down, down over to our gut. And so we are leaving the leftover, so to speak, for our gut.
Now when our gut is being fed good quality foods and we’ll talk about that in a second, they’re happy. They collaborate. They’re getting the food that Barrier Reef needs. When they’re getting harmful foods and we can talk about that as well, but actually honestly it fits to the paradigm of what we know from other types of food as medicine research as well. Ultraprocessed foods, added sugars, artificial sweeteners, all these other kind of things that are just not that good for our overall health. They’re also not good for our gut bacteria. It makes them upset and damages the Great Barrier Reef, that ecosystem, and causes all kinds of problems. So now the challenge is identifying what are the categories of foods that are beneficial for our gut bacteria and what are the ones that are not so helpful so that we can at least begin separating and making good decisions and avoiding the bad ones.
Dr. Gundry (00:13:57):
All right, so that’s one of our defense systems. Let’s go into some of the other of the four defense systems. And one of the things I want to bring up, which is you’re a world expert on is angiogenesis. What the heck is that? And why do you and others think that it’s really one of the basis of modern diseases?
Dr. Li (00:14:20):
Well, I mean, when you and I met the very first time, Dr. Gundry, we talked about blood vessels because as a heart surgeon, that was your wheelhouse. That’s what you worked in. And the new science of blood vessels teaches us that, from the very beginning of life, I mean, just really within about a week or two after mom’s egg met dad sperm in the womb, one of the first systems that formed in the nascent human, that we all were, was our circulation. We started to form the channels that later became larger and more extensive. The highways and byways that actually every pump of our heart delivers a jet of blood that brings anything that we breathe or anything that we eat through a 60,000 mile channel that is packed and woven into our body. And what’s in our blood vessel feeds every single cell, every single organ and without good blood flow, our cells and our organs actually can’t survive for any period of time.
So the science of angiogenesis is really all about, well, how does our body maintain this defense to make sure that everything is fed and nourished adequately? And what happens when that defense system actually is compromised? When we have too few blood vessels, could be in the heart, could be in the brain, could be in the wound of a diabetic leg. What happens? Our tissues die. And then we have too many blood vessels. So this is another principle of biology.
I mean, the other thing that I think that you and I clearly embrace together is like biology teaches us important principles that really fall through different systems of the body. And one of them is that more isn’t always more. So when it comes to circulation, having excessive blood vessels actually is dangerous. It can feed cancers. The new vessels can be ineffective and leaky. They can bleed and cause blindness. And so we don’t want too many and we don’t want too few. We want to have just enough. And that is in fact, the definition of a health defense system. How do we raise our shields, have just the right amount of defense, not too low, not too high, but just the right amount? And circulation is so important as a defense system and the foods that we can actually affect that.
Dr. Gundry (00:16:49):
So, let’s talk about food. I know you’ve made a career thinking about foods and angiogenesis. Give us a few of your top foods for balancing angiogenesis?
Dr. Li (00:17:03):
Well, I’m going to actually try to link two things that we just talked about together, angiogenesis and the microbiome, because most of the foods that are good for us have multiple uses. And so the foods that are actually beneficial for our gut bacteria, that ecosystem, many of them are also good and supportive for our circulation to make sure we have enough good blood flow. And I’ll tell you an interesting one. So green leafy vegetables, what we call the brassicas, cauliflower, the bok choy, the cabbage, the Swiss chard, the broccoli, the kale, they actually contain sulforaphanes, isothiocyanates. These are chemical names that people that are listening or watching don’t need to memorize, but just know that mother nature imbued this incredible set of natural chemicals in these leafy greens.
And when we eat those leafy greens actually help to help our angiogenesis system actually stay more balanced, not too many blood vessels. So no overage of blood vessels. If the blood vessels try to overgrow like a cancer might try to do it, these leafy greens, the sulforaphanes, they pretty much mow down those extra blood vessels and prevent them from growing.
The dietary fiber that you find in a serving of bok choy or cabbage, wonderfully actually feeds the gut bacteria as well. And in fact, that’s the prebiotic aspect of some of these foods. But the sulforaphanes also help to spark the function and help some of the gut bacteria also function better. And so here’s an example of the scientific explanation of why our grandmothers or our mothers always told us to eat our salads or our leafy greens. And which is why, honestly, regardless of what your dietary pattern is or what type of diet you’re actually on, if you actually focus on the green part of your plate, the colorful part of your plate and make that your main, as opposed to the side, you’ll actually be doing your circulation, your gut bacteria, your gut ecosystem, as well as the other health defense systems, a big favor.
Dr. Gundry (00:19:20):
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. Some of my toughest patients with diabetes and insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, they go, well, what am I supposed to eat? And I said, I’m going to make it really easy for you. I want you to become a gorilla who lives in Italy and they look at me and go, well, what do you mean. I said, I want you to eat leaves and pour olive oil on it. And it’s amazing, that single principle they actually get. And when they do that, you’re right, all these amazing transformations happen to them because you’re getting these important chemicals that we’re now recognizing, and you’re feeding the gut bacteria, exactly what they want and which in generations past, that’s what they got.
Dr. Li (00:20:13):
Right. By the way, it’s not that difficult to do, because these leafy greens are growing everywhere and you can find them all season round, even in a regular grocery store, you can find them and something as easy as olive oil, you cook them simply. You don’t need to be a chef, a fancy chef to do it. Easy to cook, blanch, put them in a hot pan, little olive oil, or dress them up with some olive oil afterwards. It just kind of lights up the flavor. So what I think is so important as a message is that the foods that are good for us actually taste good.
Dr. Gundry (00:20:48):
Yeah. I think that’s really important. I try to teach my patients. I want them to follow a diet that they can live with literally and figuratively. And if you’re eating food that you don’t like, or you’re eating twigs and bark, you’re not going to do that for very long, because it’s just no fun.
Dr. Li (00:21:11):
That’s why you called it a gorilla living in Italy, as opposed to Norway.
Dr. Gundry (00:21:16):
Exactly. All right. Let’s talk about, we’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s well worth mentioning, the place of fermented foods and you’ve studied cultures, I’ve studied cultures and I continue to be impressed with the place fermented foods have a lot of these healthy cultures. And I think probably long ago, it was a consequence of, there was no preservation system. And so things naturally rotted and people actually found that they had health benefits, maybe they didn’t recognize, of eating these rotten foods.
Dr. Li (00:22:00):
It’s interesting that you say that. If we were to go back into a time machine, right now and go back 3000 years, I think that we would find that people knew that outside of the growing season, that it would be important to continue to have food when it was cold and the soil was not growable. And so between growing seasons, the food that had to be maintained were dried or they were pickled. And pickling is sort of in that family of fermentation. The idea is pretty simple. You take your food that you’re not eating right away, you put them into an urn or something ceramic or these days glass or whatever and you just let it sit there. And around the same time in history, thousands of years ago, they knew grapes were the same way. You could make wine by just letting grapes sitting out there.
And if you had your cabbage sitting out there, which by the way, like sauerkraut, which originally came from Asia in order to be able to transfer cabbage over time, you put some cabbage in a ceramic jar, you put a little bit of water in it. You just kind of let it sit there. The thing that a lot of people don’t realize is the process of fermentation is so amazing. I’m always amazed by how natural our planet, and this is another reason why we need to protect it, what our natural world does for us.
You let the bacteria and air just naturally kind of trickle down onto the plants, onto the water that your old food is sitting in, and it will do its job. Those bacteria will grow. Some bacteria will grow more than others. And if you cover it and let it just sit there for time, the good bacteria usually will overgrow the bad bacteria. And this is over thousands of years, people discovered, this is how you create kimchi. This is how you create sauerkraut. This is how you pickle things. And that to me is one of the most remarkable things is that the ingenuity of humans to try to preserve food for periods, that when we couldn’t get fresh foods, they’re actually generating something even better, which is the fermented foods that contain the healthy bacteria that when we eat it, actually contributes to that ecosystem.
Dr. Gundry (00:24:30):
I’m working on my next book. And I think one of the things I’ve learned about these fermented foods is not so much the living bacteria that may still be present in these foods, but the postbiotics that are present in these foods like short chain, fatty acids, like gasotransmitters, but also, and you know this, but I don’t think a lot of people do, these dead bacteria cells transmit incredibly important information. I mean, it’s just fascinating that living bacteria in our gut read these messages off of these dead bacteria. And I think it opens up just, I mean, it’s preserved text messages, how’s that?
Dr. Li (00:25:21):
Dr. Gundry (00:25:23):
That haven’t been erased, but that’s…
Dr. Li (00:25:25):
No, I mean, listen, that is such an amazing aspect of it for us to respect what the bacteria actually do for us. So I first learned about this, Dr. Gundry, when I was talking to my colleague, Dr. Susan Erdman, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And she was studying a bacteria called lactobacillus reuteri, which is in the gut, sometimes, not always. And we need to probably have more of it. And she was doing animal experiments that found that the lactobacillus reuteri would text message the brain and to have the brain release oxytocin, which is the social hormone. It’s the hormone you get when you see a family member you like, when you have a French kiss or you have an orgasm, lot more oxytocin comes out.
And what was amazing to me is that she was just feeding her lab animals through the water container, so that they were just drinking the water and had live bacteria. But then she took the bacteria and she put an ultrasound onto it to fragment. She sonicated the bacteria, so it was nothing left but fragments. I mean, it’s like an asteroid impact. You just blast all these bacteria into the little bits and there’s nothing live left. Put them into water and the exact same thing happened. So what is going on has got to be these text messages being read. To me, that was a jaw dropping moment when I realized this was going on.
Dr. Gundry (00:26:51):
It’s absolutely amazing. Years ago, there’s a commercial product called Epicor, which was left over from making brewers yeast and they noticed people in the factories that made brewers yeast really never got sick. And they said, well, what the heck? And they found that it was actually the dead leftover bacteria that was aerosolized in the factory that these guys were breathing and swallowing. And it actually became a product. And I have no relationship, but Epicor, but it’s dead bacterial fragments. And it’s like, you’re right, who would’ve guessed that there’s this entire text messaging system.
Dr. Li (00:27:39):
And by the way, that’s that’s actually part of the promise, I think, of this whole enterprise of using science to discover more about our foods and using science to discover more about our bodies as well, which is exactly what you and I both do.
Dr. Gundry (00:27:53):
I’ll give you one last fun fact on this subject and we’ll move on.
Dr. Li (00:27:57):
Dr. Gundry (00:27:57):
There’s several French studies that show that women who drank two glasses of champagne a day have actually very good vascular health, compared to women who don’t. And they’ve traced this to champagne by law in Champagne region has to sit on the lees for a minimum of three years. And the lees of course is all the dead yeast that have sat, sunk down to the bottom. And you have to rack it every few weeks. The longer it sits on the lees, the more expensive the champagne is. And what one study has recently shown in is the exposure to the lees that actually provides the health benefit in champagne. So who knew that there were text messages in champagne that might be good for women’s vascular health. I thought you needed to know that.
Dr. Li (00:29:06):
Listen, you’re making me think as a scientist more about how you would study that and what more could be done using that information. But by the way, this is another aspect of sustainability to help our planet is that a lot of these enterprises, I mean, maybe the stuff that’s on the bottom, we should be scraping it up and figuring what to do with it.
Dr. Gundry (00:29:28):
You’re absolutely right.
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All right. Sorry to change the subject, but how about other great gut boosting foods that you and I love or you love?
Dr. Li (00:35:54):
Yeah, well, I mean, I love mushrooms. One of my favorite foods are mushrooms, the lowly white button mushroom that everybody has had. I’ve been doing research on it and it’s got beta B glucan, which is a soluble fiber. The fiber’s prebiotic, but mushrooms of course grow naturally in the wild, many times they’re harvested from the wild, but even when they’re grown, they’re grown kind of in a dark place that has lots of bacteria. And so very likely, eating mushrooms not only gives you good dietary fiber for your gut microbiome, but also has some of these other probiotic benefits as well.
What’s interesting is that most people who buy a mushroom and I’m just talking about the lowly white button mushroom right now. What do you? You bring it home, you might rinse it off, you put it on a cutting board. You cut off the cap, which is what we eat and you, I used to do this myself, throw away the stems. But it turns out when you look at the amount of the soluble fiber beta B glucan, which is good for your gut and by the way, good for your vascular system as well and good for immune system, another health defense system, it turns out that the stem, it’s called the stipe, actually has twice as much of the beta glucan as the cap.
And so I always tell people, and I do this myself now, I always find something to do with the stem. Go back to many cultures, Latin American cultures, Mediterranean cultures, Asian cultures, they’re always using the stem for their food. You slice it up, you can put it into a blender, all those kinds of things you can actually do with it. And then what’s interesting is if you take a look at the fact that the lowly white button mushroom, it has a lot of good stuff to it, let’s step it up and see what these other mushrooms that are eaten can do.
Golden chanterelle mushrooms. Packed loaded with beta glucan. Porcini mushrooms, another kind of culinary mushroom. Really delicious, also loaded with beta B glucan. Maitake mushroom from Asia, tons of beta B glucan. And so one of the things that I think that we’ve been alluding to is that when you talk about a healthy food like mushrooms, what we’re really talking about is a group of plants that when you analyze them, some have even better properties than others. And that’s another future frontier that I think is super exciting that I’m starting to do is to say which one of the edible mushrooms that we actually have is most potent. And we can do that with the same thing with nuts. We can do the same thing with brassica and leafy greens.
In the future, we talked about champagne and how you rate the champagne. Or wine, how they rate the wine. I think there needs to be kind of a rating system of potency in the produce section. So in addition to the cost per pound and whether it was organic or locally grown, we have another number that gives us a [inaudible 00:38:58] color that tells us how much potency is in the product that we are going to select.
Dr. Gundry (00:39:04):
I think that’s a great idea. We’re going to put you in charge of that labeling system. I’m going to make you the FDA commissioner and you’re going to come out with the new food label, probably be far more useful than the one we currently have.
Dr. Li (00:39:18):
Dr. Gundry (00:39:22):
All right. So foods that boost the immune system, mushrooms get a high mark for their ability to boost the immune system. And certainly a lot of it is the soluble fiber that’s available. In other words, they feed good gut bacteria, which in turn influence T regs, and we could go on and on. Are these foods, they’re miraculous to improve your immune system. We shouldn’t be using those terms, should we?
Dr. Li (00:40:01):
The terms like miraculous?
Dr. Gundry (00:40:02):
Dr. Li (00:40:04):
No. Honestly, I think that it is stunning to realize that the foods that we grew up with can do much more than we thought. But I don’t think it’s a miracle. I think that foods aren’t, there’s no such thing as a true super food. What I think is really super is the body is super. The body is actually super. And to the extent the human body is kind of a miracle of creation. If you think that way, the reality is that what’s amazing is that ordinary foods that we can put into our breakfast table or have for snack or whatever, what we’re beginning to discover is they do a lot more than we thought they did. And they do it a lot better. So something like a blueberry for example, is really great for the immune system. Those anthocyanins that actually make the blueberry blue, actually has something beneficial to it.
Tree nuts like walnuts. It’s got dietary fibers and healthy fats. They also play a role in actually helping our gut microbiome as well. So I think that the things that people have enjoyed eating, we’re now beginning to nail down what they might be doing to specific aspects of our health. And as we discover the mechanisms, the manner by which they improve our health, I think it helps us just, and I think it takes it down to earth, in fact. It’s the opposite of a miracle. It’s sort of like, oh, I get it. Eating these foods is actually good for my immune system. Well, actually isn’t that what your grandmother told you too? And so I think that it actually helps us make more sense of the world around us.
Dr. Gundry (00:41:44):
Well, we talk about foods that are good for our immune system. It probably goes without saying there are foods that we should avoid. You want to rattle off a few?
Dr. Li (00:41:57):
Well, I mean, this is what I tell patients. There’s a whole category of foods that actually kind of damage, devastate and even can destroy your health defenses, lower your shields against all kinds of diseases, not at just one of them. And they’re the ones that you’ve been hearing about all over the place and ultraprocessed foods, added sugars, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, artificial preservatives, artificial colorants. The things that actually came out of the 1950s to make foods more colorful and cheaper and more tantalizing to look at. Things that were, I would say of a cheap trick to actually make us attracted to certain foods, like bait, not the real deal, they’re distracting. Those are the kinds of things I think an overage of red meats and processed meats especially also have been found to be harmful to not only the gut, but other health defenses as well.
And so here’s the thing, a lot of these things are found in a typical American diet, but I don’t like to use that term either. I don’t like to use the term western diet, although it is an accepted kind of bucket to use. I think that the west depends on where you start from. A lot of people would call something west. I think that, you know what, in general, manufactured foods that transform the whole basic plant food or animal food into a form or a substance and mixes it with other additives into a form that doesn’t appear in nature and usually could be stored for an unusually long period of time in a box or a can. That’s kind of the definition of something that’s not so good for us.
Look, and to be realistic, we live in a society where that kind of stuff is all over the place. And a lot of us have habits and some of us even like that stuff, so you’re going to eat it every now and then. I think the message that we’re sending is just realize that that stuff actually forces you to take a step back in your health, not a step forward.
So what you want to do is just focus more time, more emphasis on eating foods that take a step forward, because every now and then going to take a step back. That’s okay. As long as you keep on marching forward in terms of your health, that’s what we’re all looking for. And that’s really based on the beneficial foods that we’ve been talking about.
Dr. Gundry (00:44:32):
Yeah. Three years ago, we lost our home in the mudslide in Montecito, California and we had to buy a new house. And the house we bought actually came furnished thankfully. And in the kitchen was this humongous jar, glass jar, filled with layers of Oreo cookies. And it was almost kind of a decoration. Right next to it was a big jar of Taco Bell seasoning. But anyhow. So we decided to leave it there. And so we’ve owned the house for three years now. That jar of Oreo cookies is as pristine as when we moved in. There has been no fermentation. There has been no degradation. And I tell myself every time I look at it, if a bacteria or a fungus won’t come near this, why in the world would I want to eat it? It’s yeah, three years now and counting.
Dr. Li (00:45:40):
That’s quite amazing. And I think that if we thought a little bit more about all these synthetic chemicals that are preserving, embalming our foods, mummifying our foods effectively, it makes it a little bit less appealing to actually eat it. And it’s actually the complete opposite of the fermentation aspect of the food, where you get something by preserving it for a longer period of time. You could actually get something benefit. Here is actually something just quite the opposite. By the way, I also want to kind of just bring this up as a point when you talk about Oreos. Oreos are technically a plant-based food. So you got to be careful when you hear about plant-based this, plant-based that, just because the word plant is in it, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Dr. Gundry (00:46:29):
No, I think that’s so important because we are now seeing more and more ultra processed plant-based foods and plant-based meats that are still ultra processed. They are not anything of the original ingredients. And we have to be very careful. You and I both like plants, but a plant is not a plant if you chop it up and change its character and do a protein isolate of a plant.
Dr. Li (00:47:01):
And I would argue that if you were eating a really great quality sirloin burger, every once in a while, compared to eating a plant-based ultra processed, genetically modified, plant-based meat burger every night, okay, that distracts you from eating other whole plant-based foods because you think you’re getting the plants, you’re probably better off just enjoying a treat every now and then with the real deal.
Dr. Gundry (00:47:31):
Yeah, I agree with you completely. Hopefully this trend will die a natural death, but I don’t think so. I think it’s going to contribute to our death in a way that people don’t realize.
Dr. Li (00:47:48):
Well, it’s that kind of desire to innovate and think, not take the long view. What I think is maybe a helpful message for people to think about is we’re also at a time in the history of human society where we’re beginning to look back at some of the old traditions that have been preserved and valued for hundreds of years, generations. And I think that there’s something wonderful to recognize that what your grandma and my grandma and their grandmothers actually passed down. It’s not lost. It’s still around. And actually it tastes just as good to actually make those recipes today, as it did back then with the added knowledge of the health that they can actually bring. Our grandmothers didn’t have that knowledge before. Now we do.
Dr. Gundry (00:48:43):
Yeah. A lot of them didn’t know why these wives tales existed, but now we’re realizing, holy cow, there’s a scientific basis for what they were doing.
Dr. Li (00:48:57):
Dr. Gundry (00:48:57):
So yeah, that’s a very important thing. Lastly, before we let you go, where does sleep fall in all of this? You could have the healthiest diet in the world, you could take care of your gut health, but where’s sleep fit in all of this?
Dr. Li (00:49:18):
You’re bringing up such an important aspect of health. There’s a reason that those of us who actually are trying to care for patients usually say diet and lifestyle and not just diet alone. And just like as a medical doctor or physician, we are looking at aspects of the entire body. Everything is interconnected. So too is an aspect of our lifestyle called sleep, that actually really is important for running that engine of health for the rest of our body, including our health defenses, properly.
And so one of the things that I think is that is quite important and amazing is that, while most of us believe that when we’re sleeping, we’re off the grid, we’re relaxed, we’re not doing anything. Well, at least our bosses don’t think we’re doing anything when we’re sleeping. The reality is that, from a medical and a scientific perspective, our bodies are working really hard. They just shifted gears. Their doing night shift when we are actually sleeping and in that sleep state, our body is cranking up stem cells. It’s renewing our stem cell population, rebuilding our immune system. It’s right sizing and cleaning up and doing the landscaping of our microbiome ecosystem is helping getting rid of and pruning away some of the old bacteria.
It has a process called autophagy, which actually is cleaning out all the dead cells and dying cells that have got toxins on them. Getting rid of those. One of the things that’s really amazing that people think that they’re just asleep and unconscious more or less, maybe unless they’re dreaming, is that when you’re in deep REM sleep, there is a whole new sewer system that opens up in our brains called the glymphatic system. These glymphatics are like the sewers of Paris. They’re incredibly engineered. They open up only when you have good quality deep sleep. And they drain out all the toxins and garbage and oxidative stress factors that have accumulated during the day.
And if you’re not sleeping well, you don’t feel so great the next day you might be foggy. You might be grumpy. There’s a reason for it. Our system hasn’t been reset. We haven’t rebuilt. The engine was stressed out. It’s kind of like running your car, driving your car all night long. That engine is really hot under the hood. You need to rest that car. And by the way, all those other good things that we do with our food, doesn’t get processed. We’re not getting the most of our food, if we’re not getting good sleep as well.
Dr. Gundry (00:51:59):
Yeah, exactly. Well made point. This is when the maintenance of the body is being done. And if we don’t have routine maintenance on this engine, it’s not going to work. It’s not going to work. And that’s our maintenance period. You’re right. All right. What other fun stuff are you doing? Any exciting research that you’ve done or just run into that you can share with us today?
Dr. Li (00:52:32):
Well, I’ll do a recent research finding that I found absolutely jaw dropping, that actually relates to the microbiome and other topics I know that you’re interested in which is resistant starches. So there was a recent study that came out, looking at a population, almost 1,000 people that actually have a genetic mutation that they inherit from [inaudible 00:53:00]. So it’s really kind of a time bomb, a ticking time bomb genetically, that makes you more likely that you might develop cancer. And these are the people that have inheritable, colorectal cancers. They can develop ovarian cancers and Lynch syndrome is what it’s actually known as. And if you have that and it can be detected by genetic screening, then your doctor’s going to say, you really need to actually [inaudible 00:53:36] earlier you need to have your regular overall health checks. And as I said, it’s kind of a time bomb where the fuse gets lit on the day you’re born.
Well, they actually started to study the impact on diet and impact on dietary factors. And what they found is that resistance starches can lower the risk of all the cancers in this 1,000 patient study that come from Lynch syndrome by 60%, if they add resistance starches to the diet. Now how much do they need to add? I’m always into food doses. So what’s the dose that you would need? And you can calculate this from the clinical trials, it’s just a way to actually start doing a little bit of math to figure out, well, how much did they use and what is it related to? The amount of resistant starch that they gave to each of these patients in the clinical study was equivalent that you would find in one green banana. That’s it?
Dr. Gundry (00:54:35):
Wow. That’s it.
Dr. Li (00:54:36):
To really be able to have that impact? What’s the explanation not fully known. Is the microbiome involved? Yes, because they actually look at the microbiome and they actually were starting the study. That’s really going to be the starting point to understand this phenomenon. But here’s an example where new research is just like a week old, actually is teaching those of us in the medical science community, there is something, again, we need to pay attention to that could be beneficial for our patients.
And because these heritable cancers, genetically driven cancers, are such a tough nut to crack. Right?
Dr. Gundry (00:55:11):
Dr. Li (00:55:11):
And there’s so many of these that we worry about. I think that it just shows to us just how powerful our food is. It’s another underlining of how important our gut microbiome is. And I think it’s exciting that patients with those kinds of syndromes now have another avenue that they can look to that is in their hands; not in the healthcare system’s hands, but that they can actually start to think about, well, how do I incorporate this research finding into my own life?
Dr. Gundry (00:55:40):
Yeah. I think that as a corollary to that, I think you and I are both aware that many of these cancers have their own distinct microbiome.
Dr. Li (00:55:51):
Dr. Gundry (00:55:52):
We now know there’s a microbiome of pancreatic cancer. There’s a microbiome of breast cancer. And I think any glandular structure has a connection to the outside world in one way or another, whether it’s breast tissue, the pancreas connects to our GI tract, which is technically the outside world. And I think the whole idea that maybe we should be paying attention to these bacterial species and what they want, how to stop an overgrowth of one that is oncogenic. I think it just opens up this whole crazy field of wow, food is medicine and down to the oncogene.
Dr. Li (00:56:41):
Yeah, exactly. I mean two things. One, another great idea that somebody could work on one day is that we began to appreciate the splendor of the natural world back, I think, 200 or 300 years ago when they started to create zoos to just show us what an elephant looked like and what a tiger looked like. I think it’d be really awesome to create an exhibition of the microbiome to show us what’s in the pancreas and what’s in the normal pancreas versus a cancer. And we can begin to learn that and children can begin to use that as part of their basic education at the same time, they’re learning about lion and tigers and bears, they can start learning about the incredible organisms in our bacteria that are good for us. And then to use that to connect to food.
Dr. Gundry (00:57:33):
Look, mommy, I want some more Akkermansia muciniphila.
Dr. Li (00:57:39):
Dr. Gundry (00:57:41):
All right. Well, this has been fun. What’s next for you? I know you’ve got a new YouTube series. Tell me about that.
Dr. Li (00:57:50):
Yeah. Well I have a series called Dr. Li and friends and you were kind enough to come on to it and it was a lot of fun. It’s a basic opportunity to be a fly on the wall and for viewers and to watch me have a conversation with my friends and colleagues like Dr. Steven Gundry, about things that we care about, things that we’re interested in, things that we’ve seen or experienced recently. It’s a little bit of an unplugged kind of conversation that if you’ve ever been to a dinner table where you watch two people having a conversation like, oh man, they’re talking about some interesting stuff. That’s what I’m doing.
So I’m having conversation with different people that I know and I’m inviting people in to my world and to sort the things that I’m thinking about. And I think the last time when we were doing it, we were talking about our travels and what we discovered in terms of food and how do we connect our day jobs of thinking about food and health into the things we see in real life when we’re on our holidays. A lot of people just think that, I mean, we’re real people that do real things, just like everyone else. And so this is just a little opening the curtains and letting people peek in to see what we’re really like in real life.
Dr. Gundry (00:59:07):
You can find this on YouTube. And where do they learn about you and Eat to Beat Disease?
Dr. Li (00:59:14):
Yeah. So I’m easy to find. It’s Dr. William Li, L-I dot com on the web. If you want to look for my handle, it’s at Dr. William Li, Dr. William Li, L-I. I’ve got TikTok. I did a little piece last week. That’s got 1.6 million views. I’m on Instagram. I’m on Facebook. And I think that the fact is that there’s a lot of cool things to talk about, including the stuff that we talked about today, that people just love to hear about. And I love to talk about it. So please come to Dr. William Li sign up for my free newsletter. I do a masterclass. I’ve got all kinds of different projects I’m working on. And one of my favorite things is to talk to folks like you, my friends and colleagues about the things that we care about, which is food is medicine.
Dr. Gundry (01:00:05):
Perfect. All before I let you go, I told you that we have an audience question. And sometimes I ask my guest to hop in on this. So without ado, the audience question comes from [inaudible 01:00:21] on YouTube. He says, is exercise imperative for reducing all cause mortality or is it overrated? You’re first.
Dr. Li (01:00:31):
Is exercise overrated? No. Exercise, actually, I like to be very precise with my words because exercise means a lot of different things. I think of exercise as a range physical activity that starts from just moving regularly, like even going for a walk after dinner for 20 or 30 minutes to really going to the gym and working out to actually competing in something athletic, like cycling or jogging or going on a marathon. That’s all exercise. And I cannot [inaudible 01:01:05] how important that is for us as humans, not only from the time we’re we’re little kids, but also as we get older to remain limber, to agile, flexible. Movement exercise actually helps our circulation. That circulation stimulates our stem cells. When you’re exercising, physically active, our breathing is better. A lot of us just when you’re sitting on the couch, you not only your lungs scrunched up, you’re not taking full breaths. When you’re walking and swinging your arms or you’re jogging, you’re biking or swimming, you’re taking big physiological breaths that are good for us.
So what I would say is that exercise, as a range of activities, is vital in order to remain vital. And is it overrated? I suppose that’s depending on what type of advertising you’re looking at, but I certainly don’t overrate it. I think there’s a range of activity that’s appropriate for each individual and just like diet and just food and just like everything else for health, find out what works for you, tailor it to yourself. This is a kind of exercise as kind of a physical activity, a DIY type of activity. You don’t need a doctor to tell you exactly what to do or to monitor it. This is something you can do just at home yourself.
Dr. Gundry (01:02:25):
Yeah. Speaking of you and me learning from travel experiences, one of the things I’ve noticed, looking at long lived people or healthy people is a great number of them walk after dinner. And they stroll. And there’s a new meta-analysis that just came out, I think yesterday, looking at the benefit of walking after dinner, even for three to 10 minutes, changing the rise in glucose, changing insulin release and, come on, just three to five minutes after you eat. And you look at these healthy people and that they stroll after dinner. And that’s an easy thing to do.
Dr. Li (01:03:12):
That’s low hanging fruit, as they say.
Dr. Gundry (01:03:15):
Yeah. All right. Well, Dr. Li, thanks so much. I know we’ll be in contact and keep up the good work.
Dr. Li (01:03:22):
Thank you, Dr. Gundry. It’s always a pleasure to be on with you.
Dr. Gundry (01:03:24):
Great to see you.
Dr. Li (01:03:25):
Yeah. Good to see you.
Dr. Gundry (01:03:27):
We’ll meet over in Europe, studying the Mediterranean diet, maybe.
Dr. Li (01:03:30):
Dr. Gundry (01:03:31):
All right. Take care.
Heather Dubrow (01:03:39):
Hi everyone. It’s Heather Dubrow telling you to check out Heather Dubrow’s World on Podcast One. Every week we discuss the hippest hottest newest trends in health, wellness, parenting style, and so much more, including all things, Housewives and Botched. Download new episodes of Heather Dubrow’s World on Thursdays and Fridays on Podcast One, Apple Podcast, Spotify and Amazon Music.
Dr. Gundry (01:04:07):
All right. It’s time for the review of the week. This comes from Paul6 on Apple Podcast. She says, I listen to a lot of health, nutrition, longevity podcasts and Dr. Gundry is consistently my number one go-to source. He has a knack of explaining things so non experts like me can understand and benefit from them. He wants to help us be healthy and not just show us how smart he is. You are truly a hero to me, Dr. G.
Well, Paul, thank you very much. My wife has taught me how stupid I am. So I’m never going to try to tell you how smart I am, but I do this because I want to give you usable information that I’ve found, for over the last 20 years working with my patients, will benefit you in so many immeasurable ways. And I thank you for tuning in.
Please, if you like what you’re hearing, rate us and who knows, Paul, I might be reading yours again next time. So thank you very much. That’s it for today. I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.
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 could always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/DrGundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.