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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. Gundry: 00:14 Hey everybody, it’s Dr. Gundry here and I’ve got some very exciting news. Right now, you can sign up for Dr. Gundry’s newsletter. As a subscriber, you’ll get updates about new episodes of The Dr. Gundry podcast where we talk about all things health. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out. I’ll also keep you in the loop of all the things I’m up to from news to events to special appearances, visit www.drgundry.com to sign up.

Dr. Gundry: 00:45 So, welcome to The Dr. Gundry podcast. Today, we live in a world where your doctor is far more likely to prescribe an expensive medication than a handful of kale, but my guest today says that we need to start thinking of food as medicine. Imagine that and realize that we already have all the tools we need to fight disease and to live longer, healthier lives. He’s Dr. William Li.

Dr. Gundry: 01:11 Dr. Li is a world renowned physician, scientist, speaker, and author. He’s written over 100 scientific publications and his 2010 TED Talk, Can We Eat to Starve Cancer has been viewed more than 11 million times. He’s also the author of the bestselling book, Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself.

Dr. Gundry: 01:37 On today’s episode, Dr. Li and I are going to talk about your five natural health defense systems and how to boost them. His 5 x 5 x 5 technique and why he thinks beer might actually be good for you.

Dr. Gundry: 01:53 Dr. Li, welcome to The Dr. Gundry podcast.

Dr. William Li: 01:56 It’s a pleasure and thank you for having me.

Dr. Gundry: 01:58 Thank you so much for coming. This is going to be really exciting. Let’s start with the title in one of the chapters in your new books, Starve Your Disease, Feed Your Health. What do you mean by that and how can people actually do that?

Dr. William Li: 02:13 Well, as a physician, as fellow physicians, we know that what we eat can really impact our bodies, but when it comes to food and health, what really matters is how our body responds to what we put inside it and why we stay healthy at all, why don’t we get sick more often?

Dr. William Li: 02:31 And cancer is one of these diseases that everybody cares about because it is such a feared condition. And what I read about is that in fact, we’re forming cancers in our bodies all the time. We’ve got trillions of cells that are making divisions and they’re going to make mistakes. And these mistakes lead to microscopic cancers that are completely harmless because our body defends against their growth. One of the way that they defend against their growth is that they don’t allow blood vessels to grow into them. But when cancers hijack those blood vessels, the process is called tumor angiogenesis, growing new blood vessels to feed the cancer, a tumor can grow up to 16,000 times in only two weeks.

Dr. William Li: 03:15 So the question is how can we boost our body’s defenses against cancer blood vessel growth and foods can help starve a cancer by cutting off its blood supply.

Dr. Gundry: 03:26 Really? Come on now. You mean there’s actually food, and I know we’re going to get into this, that can actually starve cancer cells.

Dr. William Li: 03:33 Yeah, well, look. The story goes back into the early 1970s when the first idea of controlling cancer without chemotherapy came about and that’s a biological approach. So rather than just trying to slash and burn everything, could we clip those blood vessels? It’s like a harmful scuba diver, a frogman, an enemy frogman, you can clip its air hose, right? Now, he can’t breathe, he’s got to come to the surface. You can pick them right out.

Dr. William Li: 04:00 And so the idea of can we do the same thing for cancer came about in Boston in a laboratory by the name of a guy named Judah Folkman, who I trained with and that ultimately led to biotechnology companies developing antiangiogenic drugs that are super powerful, FDA approved, more than a dozen of them, but they’re super expensive. And so what I did, actually as somebody who’s been involved with that drug development, used the same approaches that are applied to drug development, but to study food and when food is studied in the same systems we used to study medicine, you’ve got some real science behind it. So yes, there are foods that inhibit angiogenesis.

Dr. Gundry: 04:41 So what you’re saying is you’re a doctor who actually helped develop these drugs, expensive drugs, right?

Dr. William Li: 04:50 Right, exactly.

Dr. Gundry: 04:50 And then you said, “Well, I’m very proud of developing these drugs,” but surely there’s a better, less expensive way of doing this. Is that putting words in your mouth?

Dr. William Li: 05:03 No, that’s exactly what happened. I mean, honestly, when I was involved with doing cancer research, I was marveling at the fact that you could go online, order experimental chemotherapy drug, FedEx it the next day. You could test it in the research lab, in a test tube or an animal and within a few days you would know if this was effective against cancer. But yet you could call it food delivery service and have something delivered within a half an hour or 15 minutes if it was a pizza and researchers wouldn’t know how to actually deal with that. How would you study that? And I thought that was wrong, so what I actually did was figure out how to break things down from a food perspective, down into ways that we could study using real sites.

Dr. Gundry: 05:42 Yeah, I think that’s why you and I have hit a common bond is that I was obviously developing lifesaving surgical techniques to treat heart disease, for instance, and actually lung cancers. And I said, “Gosh, wait a minute, there’s got to be a better way of doing this.” And of course I changed my career, so I think it’s really exciting to have two individuals who kind of came from the medical side of developing techniques and then said, “Wait a minute, maybe we should look at foods as the option.”

Dr. William Li: 06:17 When I think what it means is that we can actually speak the same language across almost any area of Medicine and that allows us to actually communicate with our peers and colleagues in Medicine as well as our patients as well as families and I think that’s what’s really important. I’m sure we went into Medicine for the same reasons, which is that we wanted to help people.

Dr. Gundry: 06:37 Yep.

Dr. William Li: 06:37 To help people, you have to communicate to them.

Dr. Gundry: 06:39 Yeah, that’s absolutely true. Okay, so you’ve got five health defense systems. What are they and how do they affect your health?

Dr. William Li: 06:49 Right. So what is health, right? So if we were to ask a doctor or ask an athlete or a school kid, they’d probably tell you the same thing, which is that health is the absence of disease, right?

Dr. Gundry: 07:03 Yep.

Dr. William Li: 07:03 You’re not sick, you’re healthy. I actually argued in my book, that’s exactly not true. Health is much more than the absence of disease. It’s the presence of our hardwired defense systems that we’ve been born with, health defense systems that are firing on all cylinders from the day we’re born until our very last breath. And these health defense systems actually are the reasons why we don’t get sick more often. And some of them relate to, and these are all based in biotechnology, so we know our angiogenesis system, our circulation is critical, brings oxygen and nutrients to every cell. Our stem cells, there’s plenty of drug companies from the biotech company trying to develop stem cell therapies, but guess what? Our body produces its own stem cells that we can actually use and foods can mobilize those.

Dr. William Li: 07:49 The microbiome, everybody knows now that gut health is important, and this is the frontier of a whole new area of Medicine, which is how do we treat our gut bacteria in healthy ways so that our gut bacteria can treat our body in the right way, and prebiotics and probiotics and other things that we can do can help that. Our DNA, which most people think about as our genetic code, the code of life, much more than that. Our DNA is hardwired to protect us against the environment and against aging. It actually has got built into it defense systems to prevent the harm that can occur. And then our immune system, which every grandma told their grandkid that the immune system’s important, but we now know the immune system’s more powerful than we ever thought because even if you’re in your 80s or 90s, if you have cancer, your immune system is potentially powerful enough to wipe out all cancer in your body if it’s given the chance.

Dr. William Li: 08:46 And so we’re beginning to revisit what health is using the same knowledge and wisdom that have come out of the biotech community, but they’re looking at disease, they’re looking at drugs, and what I’m looking at, and I think what you’ve been looking at, what we’re talking about today, is how do we use what we already have, our natural tools to defend against the diseases that we fear the most.

Dr. Gundry: 09:08 So are you trying to put your drug discoveries out of business or is there a place for these?

Dr. William Li: 09:16 Well, look, I mean I think that being healthy, being well, and getting sick and recovering is the natural part of our life cycle. I’m somebody who truly believes in the power of Medicine. People are going to get sick. They’re going to need to be healed. They’re going to need surgeons, they’re going to need medicines, but the missing tool, the toolbox actually is our diet, our foods, and how we think about them because when we’re young and one we’re healthy and as we’re getting older and becoming more exposed to toxins in the environment and other harms, that’s when we need to be able to do the healthcare that doesn’t occur in a doctor’s office or the hospital, it occurs at home between visits to the doctor. That’s where food comes in.

Dr. Gundry: 10:01 Great. So I know you’re a big fan of eating foods that promote VEGF. For viewers and listeners at home, what the heck is VEGF and how can they promote it?

Dr. William Li: 10:14 Well, so VEGF is a protein. Lots of foods have proteins. Legumes are good sorts of protein, but our body makes proteins themselves. In fact, the body makes proteins out of DNA. It reads the code and it makes the protein. Some proteins are universal proteins that help us live and VEGF is one of those proteins that stands for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor, VEGF, really discovered in the late 1980s. I was in the lab that actually was in the early race to discover it.

Dr. William Li: 10:51 The body makes it when it’s injured, when it needs better circulation, more blood flow and when it makes this protein, blood vessels starts sprouting all over the place in order to be able to nourish, refeed and recirculate oxygen and nutrients to where it needs to go. If you cut yourself, which is a paper cut or a bigger injury, that tissue will release VEGF right away and it will start to heal up and grow those blood vessels under the wound. I always tell people that if a scab comes off too early, that bright red stuff you see under there, that’s the eagle’s eye view of thousands of new blood vessels stimulated by VEGF protein in order to be able to heal that wound. And there are foods that can actually stimulate that as well as medicines that actually do that as well.

Dr. Gundry: 11:38 So I have a new puppy. So you’re saying that the more my puppy scratches me and bites me, it’s probably good for me because I’m going to make lots of VEGF in my hand?

Dr. William Li: 11:47 Well it’s never good to actually be injured, but I will tell you that VEGF does a lot of things in addition to heal wounds. It actually can help restore nerve function, which can be really, really important as we age. It’s important for helping to maintain clear vision you need. It’s a neuro protectant actually. It helps the retina actually maintain its function. Really important for the cardiovascular system, for the heart as well.

Dr. Gundry: 12:16 Okay, so can I go to the grocery store and buy a VEGF? Is there a section?

Dr. William Li: 12:20 Nope. There’s no VEGF section. You can’t go to either the food section or the supplements section to actually go look for it. But this is what’s amazing that I write about in my book is that researchers have figured out that certain foods that we eat can prompt our body’s health defenses to make VEGF in order to be able to up the ante of our own circulation because isn’t that always what we want. We want better circulation, right?

Dr. Gundry: 12:44 Yeah.

Dr. William Li: 12:44 So some of the foods that can do this, by the way, are peels of fruit. So there is a natural acid called ursolic acid that is very common in apple peel and the peel of pears, and other stone fruit and that peel part actually is a great source of ursolic acid. Ursolic acid when it’s fed to the body, wherever the body needs more blood vessels, it will prompt VEGF to actually grow those blood vessels and decelerate healing. Some of the research is really amazing is that actually if you have a system in the lab where there’s such poor blood flow that you’re getting wounds and even in a whole limb that might not survive, if you feed that lab animal ursolic acid derived from fruit peel, you will actually bring new blood vessels and you’ll save the leg.

Dr. Gundry: 13:37 Wow. So you’re saying that if I’m going to grab an apple, I should peel it, eat the peel and throw the rest of the apple away?

Dr. William Li: 13:47 Even better yet, you can actually eat the whole apple, including the peel. But this is the reason, by the way, why sometimes buying organic is helpful because a lot of the pesticides will stick to the peel, the outer rind of the fruit and what I try to do is to keep in mind that if I’m going to eat the fruit peel, which I encourage anybody who wants better circulation to do because of VEGF, to really be mindful of what’s kind of environment and what kind of pesticides or chemicals this might have been exposed to. That’s where organic actually can count.

Dr. Gundry: 14:15 Yeah, you’re absolutely right. And isn’t rosemary a good source of ursolic acid?

Dr. William Li: 14:21 Another great source is rosemary, one of my favorite herbs.

Dr. Gundry: 14:25 Mine, too.

Dr. William Li: 14:27 And I to cook. I believe that food and health is rooted in culture and great cultures have always been involved with developing great foods, whether it’s Asian culture, Mediterranean culture, Latin cultures. There’s always been a passion about food and rosemary is one of these sacred herbs and spices that’s used to light up a meal. I mean, who doesn’t to have rosemary as a spice? And now when you know that there’s ursolic acid in it, you actually can appreciate an additional benefit for adding it to your diet.

Dr. Gundry: 15:03 Yeah. I write about in the longevity paradox that the villagers of Acciaroli, Italy, South of Naples, one of the fundamental parts of their diet is rosemary. They chew on rosemary, they put it in all their foods and it’s recently been discovered that one of the tricks of their longevity and their brain health is the fact that they consume rosemary every day.

Dr. William Li: 15:27 Well, rosemary also has something called rosmarinic acid.

Dr. Gundry: 15:30 Oh, yeah.

Dr. William Li: 15:31 Which also really helps your circulation. So one of the things that happens as we get older, aging is not kind to our circulation as you know as a heart surgeon and so anything that we can do to help our blood vessels stay healthier is a big favor to us.

Dr. Gundry: 15:47 All right. I want to continue on that note because I’m a student of history and food history and I’ve always been fascinated with the spice trade in the middle ages and the mortality of sailors on ships in the spice trade routes was about 50% chance of dying. And the prices were ridiculous for spices, for pepper, for cinnamon, for cloves. And I got interested in why would people risk their lives for this and it was a drug trade. And the only reason now in our modern society, people will risk their lives, is for drugs. And these people didn’t know that these were drugs. Nobody knew that black pepper had incredible properties of BioPerine. They didn’t know the effect of cinnamon and yet people were willing to risk lives and to pay large amounts of money for spices and that-

Dr. William Li: 16:51 Well, maybe they intuitively knew more than that it was good for you.

Dr. Gundry: 16:58 Right.

Dr. William Li: 16:58 And therefore, is valuable, right? What we know is good for us, we value and I think that’s very different than writing a prescription and going to the pharmacy and having it filled that somebody else call the insurance company pays for. We’ve kind of been disconnected from value, but food and spices and herbs are really valuable.

Dr. William Li: 17:16 I’m glad you brought up the spice trade because what’s really interesting was the connection between the East to the West, both in terms of materials, but also in terms of philosophy and so much of health. If you think about the totality of health was second nature in Asian and Eastern cultures and so I think along with the spice route and the spice trade and all the foods that came along with it, including not only spices but fermented foods.

Dr. Gundry: 17:40 That’s true.

Dr. William Li: 17:41 Right? You know that horseradish, which certainly most people think about Northern European food, actually came from cabbage from China that was brought over and it was adopted into the cuisine of Germany and other places. So I think that this is where history becomes really important. It’s useful to know and to appreciate where our best foods come from. And when you look into it, you realize that there was value long before what we’re talking about. Now, we’re kind of going back to the future. We’re rediscovering our own past.

Dr. Gundry: 18:15 Yeah. I’ve got some cookbooks that were written in ancient Venice and almost everything had huge amounts of cinnamon. And you often showed your wealth by the amount of cinnamon that you were able to put in dishes. And now, we come full circle and we go, “Oh my gosh.” Cinnamon is one of the ways we potentiate insulin’s action.

Dr. William Li: 18:38 Exactly.

Dr. Gundry: 18:39 It’s amazing. It wasn’t a flavoring. It had a medicinal benefit. They didn’t know what it was doing, but they certainly were willing to put it.

Dr. William Li: 18:50 And they could incorporate it into their cuisine.

Dr. Gundry: 18:52 Yeah.

Dr. William Li: 18:52 Another one is licorice, the actual licorice root.

Dr. Gundry: 18:56 Yep.

Dr. William Li: 18:57 Which was brewed into teas. Star anise, which actually Tamiflu is made from, the antiviral.

Dr. Gundry: 19:03 Antiviral, yeah.

Dr. William Li: 19:04 Right? So I mean again, I think that there’s so much to be learned from the spice trade. Now what I really believe is the modern interpretation of all this is how do we take cutting-edge sides? How do we take the stuff that we people can count on, believe in? It’s not myth, it’s fact, just like anything else in Medicine and how do we actually put that right in front of people? How do we teach doctors and patients to really have the same language? I think that’s really important. And when it comes to food, that’s what unites us all.

Dr. Gundry: 19:34 That’s true. I mean, everybody’s got to eat. Exactly.

Dr. William Li: 19:37 Well, I mean look, we are all influenced by where we came from, where our parents lived and what they ate and our grandparents and their parents as well. This is the whole thing about individuality when it comes to food and health. One thing that’s very clear is, for example, our microbiome, our gut health is very much influenced by whether we’re breastfed or not.

Dr. Gundry: 19:58 Yep.

Dr. William Li: 19:59 And actually even where our moms might’ve lived and whether they were breastfed and research study show that if you actually have a healthy gut microbe like Lactobacillus reuteri and it’s transferred from mom to baby. By the way, do you know that some of the most exciting recent discovery is that around eight months of pregnancy, the uterus with the baby sends a signal to the gut and tells this one bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri, it’s about a month way, so let’s get ready. The bacteria send a signal to blood cells called neutrophils. It’s calling an Uber and they get into these cells, the cells come by the colon, they get into the cells, get into the bloodstream. So now you have bacteria in the bloodstream but you’re not sick.

Dr. William Li: 20:43 So it’s changing our way of thinking about it and those cells drop off the bacteria in the breast, like getting out of the Uber and then just waiting for the child to be born, so during the first episode of breastfeed, they’re injecting this bacteria into the baby. In lab studies, it shows that this bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri, I can protect the mom against breast cancer and the baby against breast cancer for four generations.

Dr. Gundry: 21:08 Whoa. We need more of this stuff.

Dr. William Li: 21:10 Yeah. Well, and again, so can you get it as a probiotic? Yes. But can you find it in food? It turns out Lactobacillus reuteri is the exact bacteria used traditionally in making sourdough bread. It’s what makes the bread tangy. It’s also used in making Parmesan cheese.

Dr. Gundry: 21:29 Yes.

Dr. William Li: 21:29 In the Mediterranean. And so, again, what we’re really discovering is that a lot of this things that are good for us are also good. They taste good, too.

Dr. Gundry: 21:42 My mentor at the NIH, Dr. Morrow, Andrew G. Morrow, always said that there is nothing new that hasn’t been known before, that the purpose of research is to re-search, to look again. And I think this is exciting, particularly for our listeners. What we’re saying is people somehow knew so much of this and it was passed down from generation to generation to generation, but we’re just now discovering all these ancient wisdoms that are in food and in the preparation techniques of food.

Dr. Gundry: 22:23 Let me give you one example. I was recently in Tuscany working with some chefs and winemakers and biodynamic wine. And we were walking through an organic garden and they’re of course very large tomatoes, grown organically at San Marzano. It looks a Roman tomato. And I said, “What are you going to do with those?” And they said, “Oh, we’re going to make pasta sauce.” And I said, “Well, how do you do that?” And they said, “Well, it’s easy. You just peel and deseed the tomato and then cook it.” And I went, “So why the heck do you peel and deseed the tomato?” “Oh, anybody knows you can’t make pasta sauce with the peels and seeds? They’ve got a toxin.” And I said, “Who taught you that?” “My mother.” “Who taught her?” “My grandmother.”

Dr. Gundry: 23:07 And these culinary traditions are just fascinating to figure out. Okay, tomatoes is probably good for you, but maybe there’s parts of the tomato that we don’t want and we should get rid of it.

Dr. William Li: 23:19 And what are the parts that we want? We want actually what we’ve discovered is that the lycopene in the tomato is really great for us. This is a carotenoid. It’s what makes carrots orange and what makes tomatoes red and watermelon red as well, right? I mean it’s good stuff and what’s interesting about lycopene is that when it appears in mother nature, like a tomato off a vine, if you were to eat it in a salad raw or even like an apple, most of the lycopene isn’t really absorbed by your body. However, if you take the peel tomatoes and you simmer them gently, and lycopene is what we call fat soluble, so it dissolves into oil. So what’s the best way to cook it is with some olive oil.

Dr. Gundry: 24:01 Olive oil.

Dr. William Li: 24:02 Tomatoes, olive oil, simmer it, you actually gently convert the chemistry of lycopene as it occurs in nature into a form the body loves to absorb. So once again, you can actually, just look back at history and culture and realize that some of these old wisdoms that grandma’s working in the kitchen really were aimed at lighting up the body’s health defense systems, which is really a modern view.

Dr. Gundry: 24:34 Speaking of health defense systems, do we underestimate the power of our immune system to help us?

Dr. William Li: 24:42 Well, look, immunity is something that has been known for well over a hundred years. It protects us against the cold and viruses and we know when we got a bad immune system and bad can be not active enough. A great example that everybody knows how bad it is, is with AIDS. Immune deficiency is really a horrifying situation where you become vulnerable to everything. The boy in the bubble, so to speak, but you also have an overactive immunity, auto-immunity. That’s where you attack yourself.

Dr. William Li: 25:20 And so just like every other defense system, the immune system functions perfectly for health when it’s in the middle, when it’s got that balance, whether you’re talking about angiogenesis or stem cells or microbiome or DNA repair or immunity, it’s really about getting your body to sort of stay in that happy state, that middle balance.

Dr. William Li: 25:39 When do we know when the immune system needs to be powerful to be reared up? I think one of the most striking advances in Modern Medicine is in immunotherapy against cancer. Won the Nobel prize, this whole field in 2018, recognizing that rather than just throw chemo at the body to kill normal organs as well as cancer cells, why not just kind of guide and urge the immune system to do what it is designed to do, which is clean up cancer. By the way that’s why even though we form microscopic cancers all the time, why they never mostly turn into anything dangerous.

Dr. William Li: 26:19 Did I mention to you that there was an autopsy study done of women in their 40s, between 40 and 50 and when they died of other things besides cancer and they didn’t have cancer, but when they actually did the autopsy, they found 40% of women between the ages of 40 and 50 already had microscopic breast cancers that most of them will never turn out to be anything because their immune system will wipe them out. 50% of men between 50 and 60 have microscopic prostate cancers and over the age of 70 almost everybody has thyroid cancer. But it’s our immune system that actually does the job of doing surveillance security and it takes out this microscopic cancer.

Dr. William Li: 26:57 So immunotherapy jacks up our immune system to find and search and destroy the cancer. Here’s what’s interesting. President Jimmy Carter, who is the oldest living former president today had melanoma that spread to his liver and his brain from the skin. And he actually was given no hope but then was given an immunotherapy, one of the first patients to receive this and by activating his 90-year-old immune system, his body could destroy all the cancer. So today he’s cancer free.

Dr. Gundry: 27:31 Yeah.

Dr. William Li: 27:32 My mother also had metastatic endometrial cancer, a cancer from the uterus that spread and was given really little to no chance. She was in her 80s and we gave her an immune therapy that helped her rip off the cloak from the cancer, so her own immune system could find the cancer and destroy it. After three treatments, all of the cancer disappeared and she’s cancer free today.

Dr. William Li: 27:53 But here’s why food is important because as remarkable as these treatments are, they really only work in about 20% or less of people. Super frustrating for doctors, like how come we can’t achieve this miracle for most people? Well, it turns out our diet and our gut microbiome may actually hold the key.

Dr. William Li: 28:12 One of my colleagues, Lawrence Zitvogel, who’s a cancer immunologist in Paris, looked at 200 consecutive patients, cancer patients on immunotherapy and separated them into the people who responded and did well versus the people who didn’t respond to this breakthrough and didn’t do well. And she looked at everything, compared everything, left and right to figure out the differences are. It turned out the difference one of being in one bacteria in the gut called Akkermansia muciniphila.

Dr. Gundry: 28:40 Read a lot about it.

Dr. William Li: 28:42 And it’s actually one of the surveillance protecting bacteria in our gut. Important for a lot of things, including helping us properly monitor how well we do when we’re aging. But for cancer, it seems to be very important and in the patients who responded, they all had Akkermansia and the patients who did not respond, and some of them were on antibiotics, they had no Akkermansia.

Dr. William Li: 29:03 So what she did is she took the Akkermansia from the responders and went back to the lab and stuck them into mice that had no bacteria but had a tumor growing and they would actually respond to the treatment. When she gave an antibiotic to wipe it out, they stopped responding.

Dr. William Li: 29:18 And so now, even in oncology, we’re beginning to reconsider the important of gut health, not just for irritable bowel or inflammatory diseases, but really thinking this could be life or death in terms of whether one of the breakthrough drugs of our century is going to work or not. And so this is why I think this idea of gut health is so important. And by the way, there’s no probiotic for Akkermansia right now.

Dr. Gundry: 29:43 Right.

Dr. William Li: 29:44 You can only manipulate it by eating food. One of the best, pomegranate juice. Studies have shown that the ellagic tannins in pomegranate juice and you only need eight ounces a day, can actually cause our gut to secrete the mucus that this bacteria loves to grow in. So how do you actually grow your own Akkermansia? With pomegranate or cranberry juice or Concord grape juice.

Dr. Gundry: 30:07 My great grandmother who lived one-month shy of her 100 birthday and I write about her. She actually lived on the third floor of her house and her bedroom was on the third floor.

Dr. William Li: 30:22 Wow.

Dr. Gundry: 30:22 And my sister and I thought she was nuts, in her 90s, going up to her bedroom on the third floor every day, multiple times a day, and say, “What an idiot.” She should move her bedroom down to the first floor where it’d be easy. She’s pretty smart, but she always actually before bed every night had a small glass of Mogen David Concord grape wine. And we thought, “Yeah, that’s silly.” Well, there you go. She was actually feeding-

Dr. William Li: 30:50 Her Akkermansia.

Dr. Gundry: 30:51 Yeah, exactly. And I mean, she was smart and wonderful until the day she died. She just went to sleep, which is what I think we’d all like.

Dr. William Li: 31:00 Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: 31:03 So you’re saying that we can actually change our body’s immune system or our ability to deal with cancer cells by foods that we eat. Now, are you saying that if I’ve got cancer, the first thing I should do is drink eight ounces a pomegranate juice?

Dr. William Li: 31:25 No. I mean, look, this is where it’s not food versus medicine. It’s really a new way of thinking about food and medicine. I mean, this is a continuum.

Dr. Gundry: 31:33 Right.

Dr. William Li: 31:34 Look, if you’re well, use your diet. If you’re not well, use your diet and real medicines. You’ve got to combine it all together. Cancers is one of the diseases of aging. It’s considered a chronic disease, but a preventable disease in most cases. If you’ve got cancer, you really need to go to the doctor and get an accurate diagnosis. I mean today we can actually take a tumor, we can bust it down to its fundamentals in terms of genomics and discover things we couldn’t do even three years ago in order to be able to find smoking guns that we can use to design treatments.

Dr. William Li: 32:08 One of the things that I think is so important though is to recognize that the same vulnerabilities that we might find for drugs could also give us clues to what we can eat and how we can actually treat ourselves. Every cancer patient I’ve ever seen, by the way after besides you tell them all the medical stuff, they always say, “Hey doc, what should I eat? What can I do for myself?”

Dr. William Li: 32:26 And in fact, that’s one of the things that prompted me to write my book and to get into nutrition itself is that I felt I was never educated about nutrition. There’s not a lot out there to educate doctors in a structured rigorous, trustworthy fashion and I thought that was just wrong. So it was time to really put some real muscle behind the science and up our ante, as you’ve done yourself, to look at the science behind nutrition.

Dr. Gundry: 32:51 On that note, in your book, you described the 5 x 5 x 5 framework as a way to eat to beat disease, but what the heck is that and how does it work?

Dr. William Li: 33:01 When I actually set out to write a book about food and health, of course everybody asked me, “So what’s your diet going to be? What’s the plan?” And I felt like diets are difficult because they tend to put you into a box that you’ve got to stick to everyday for the rest of your life. And how many of us can really do that? I mean, life is for the living. Everybody’s life is different. We enjoy certain things. And so I felt like how can you have a diet without dieting, right?

Dr. Gundry: 33:32 Sounds like an idea.

Dr. William Li: 33:33 Well, listen, the great martial artist, Bruce Lee said, his skill was the art of fighting without fighting. And so it’s really how do you adapt to your circumstances at a given time and use the weapons and assets that you have at hand to help yourself. So when I came up with is a, just a simple way to think about how to eat healthy, and I call it a 5 x 5 x 5 kind of strategy or framework to approach it.

Dr. William Li: 34:00 In my book I wrote about more than 200 foods that can activate one or more of your health defense systems, angiogenesis, stem cells, microbiome, your DNA protection or your immunity. One of these five can be activated and in some cases, there are certain foods that activate all five. I call them grand slamming foods because single food will like knock it out of the park. And so 5 x 5 means that five health defense systems.

Dr. William Li: 34:27 On average, we encounter food about five times a day if you think about it, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a couple of snacks. Most people somehow they meander through the day, encounter the opportunity to choose food about five times a day. That’s an opportunity to make a choice. You don’t have to eat, but if you’re going to eat something, you can just select something, you can think about which of your health defense systems you’re activating. And so what I say is take five foods, each one to activate one of your health defense systems every time you encounter food. 5 x 5 x 5. Super easy way to think about this.

Dr. William Li: 35:01 And one of the things is that there’s 200 plus foods. So I made it possible, I actually created a shopping list according to how you would find foods in the grocery store that anybody who’s listening to your podcast or watching can actually download for free on my website at www.drwilliamli.com and really, this is sort of the opportunity just to get familiar with things that are good for you.

Dr. Gundry: 35:27 So give me three easy ways for people who are listening to us to do this at home. Where do you start?

Dr. William Li: 35:36 Well, the first thing to do is to realize where you encounter food. The first place is usually your home someplace. Always keep things that are healthy in your home. And I break that into two categories. One is fresh plant-based foods. Always good to actually get something that’s fresh and seasonal in the market. Organic if you’re going to be eating the skin or anything else where you’re kind of careful about that. And the other thing is dry goods because surprise, we used to always say don’t shop in the middle of the grocery store, but in fact, there are some good things that are in the middle. Nuts, different sources of fiber, whole grains. Those are good things that you can actually get in store to really help you. So, what you have at home.

Dr. William Li: 36:19 When you go out to eat or when you’re encountering food, if you’re at work or you’re running an errand or you’re traveling someplace, that’s another choice to make. I always try to go for the fresh plant-based material first. If I’m in a restaurant, for example, and I’m looking at a menu, right? This is always the dilemma everybody has.

Dr. Gundry: 36:40 Sure.

Dr. William Li: 36:40 “Man, what am I going to eat? What’s good for me?” Okay, what you want to eat might not be good for you, but if you want to actually make those things marry, what I try to do is I personally just look first and look at the foods I recognize that are good for me. This is why getting familiar with this language of food and health becomes so important. And then I will build my choices around the vegetables usually that I see. And that’s sort of another trick that I actually do.

Dr. William Li: 37:06 And the third trick has really don’t eat as much as your eyes or your mind might want you to eat. So think about that classic dilemma of being in front of the buffet line, right? I mean, you get a plate. It’s completely empty. You get this big line of food, take as much as you want. That’s probably one of the biggest pitfalls, pratt falls, you could actually have. Take only about a third of what you might want to eat and you don’t even have to finish it. I always tell people, quit the clean plate club and better yet, don’t even put as much on the plate.

Dr. Gundry: 37:37 Use the salad plate rather than the dinner plate when going out.

Dr. William Li: 37:40 Absolutely. And eat more slowly because really you want to be able to savor and enjoy what you’re eating. And this is why eating with people, community eating is what happens in these so-called blue zones where people age gracefully and healthfully as they tend to eat together by having conversation, meaningful conversation at lowest stress, you get oxytocin secreted. You’re too busy to just wolf food, you’re talking and you’re also enjoying the food that you’re eating. Ideally, fresh prepared healthy foods.

Dr. Gundry: 38:11 Yeah. One of my good friends, Tom Guy used to tell me that a menu only tells you what the chefs got in the back and never just accept what is on a particular entree. He said, the menu tells you what he’s got back there and if they won’t give you the pieces that you want, one from column A, one from column B, then don’t go back because they’re not actually interested in your health.

Dr. William Li: 38:42 It’s so interesting you mentioned that. So, how many of us have been to a restaurant where we see something and we want a dish and you’re like, “But I’m allergic to this or I prefer not to have that. Can you remove it?” Imagine going to a restaurant and seeing something you want and you want to ask the chef if they can add something healthy to it. Could you add some turmeric to it? Fresh cracked pepper might be interesting.

Dr. Gundry: 39:03 Or where’s the olive oil?

Dr. William Li: 39:04 Where’s the olive oil? Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Gundry: 39:06 And probably the olive oil isn’t actually olive oil in many restaurants.

Dr. William Li: 39:09 Well, yeah. I mean that’s the other thing I think is authenticity, right? One of the things that I think we’re all realizing in this day and age, even with honestly the internet brings us to this point, this brink where we’ve got so much information, we don’t want fake stuff, we want real stuff. And I think that’s where we’re beginning to realize our minds tell us, we know when something’s real and something’s not real. And so I think when it comes to food, we’ve got to use those same instincts to go for the real stuff, which is why when it’s in a box and it’s ultra-processed and you can’t pronounce most of the stuff, that’s probably not real food and it’s probably not real good for you either.

Dr. Gundry: 39:47 Very good. So why do you think the medical community has been so resistant to seeing food as medicine? I mean, you and I both came from training that we maybe got a 15 minutes on proteins, carbs and fats.

Dr. William Li: 40:02 Yeah. Well, I mean I think that originally medicine and food was tied together very closely. I mean, Hippocrates was the guy who said, “Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine,” right?

Dr. Gundry: 40:14 Yep.

Dr. William Li: 40:14 So really what’s interesting is it’s not when did food start to become part of the medicine? It’s kind of when did we lose track? When did we lose our way? When did our focus change? And I think probably the focus started changing during wartime, particularly during World War I and II where you had to feed masses of soldiers, inexpensive, highly preserved foods. I think that the industrial revolution, the industrialization of food, when you can make a lot and make it cheaply, right?

Dr. William Li: 40:45 So think about after World War II, when people were worried about having enough food afterwards you had prosperity. Prosperity meant you could, what? You could get cheap TV dinners wrapped in foil that you can sit in front of the boob tube and just wolf down. And it was like a whole cooked meal, right?

Dr. Gundry: 41:02 Yeah.

Dr. William Li: 41:03 And so I think we started to lose our way when things became manufactured and cheap and convenient because it’s true. It’s not as convenient to actually grow your own food or to cook your own food, but man, it is just so much more satisfying. So as we become more detached from our planet, and by the way, that’s one of the things that’s really becoming clear is that what’s good for our bodies also tends to be good for the planet. We should be thinking about more than ourselves. I think this is where the movement is now. We’re beginning to revisit the past, think about basics, consider not only ourselves and our families, but also consider the planet. You just want to do good things all around.

Dr. Gundry: 41:45 Yeah. I like to remind my patients that during World War II in the United States, 40% of all the food in the United States was grown in victory gardens, home victory gardens, 40% of all the food we ate. And if we could just realize that actually wasn’t a long time ago and maybe we should be turning our front lawns back into victory gardens.

Dr. William Li: 42:10 And rooftops.

Dr. Gundry: 42:11 And rooftops.

Dr. William Li: 42:12 Right.

Dr. Gundry: 42:12 And balconies.

Dr. William Li: 42:13 Exactly.

Dr. Gundry: 42:14 You can grow food in very limited space.

Dr. William Li: 42:18 And by the way, gardening itself is calming for the soul. There’s something that is relaxing about going into your own garden and tending to it, taking care of it.

Dr. Gundry: 42:31 Yeah. Actually when I was a resident of the University of Michigan, we planted a victory garden in Ann Arbor and my kids, we’d go out and you’d pull out a carrot and we didn’t wash the dumb things off. You shook off the dirt and munched it.

Dr. William Li: 42:45 Well look, this is the victory against the war against disease.

Dr. Gundry: 42:48 Yep.

Dr. William Li: 42:48 Right? So that’s really I think that will be a good campaign about.

Dr. Gundry: 42:52 There you go. We’re kind of touching on this. What’s going to change the status quo. Your book is a great start. I happen to think my books are a great start. How do we get buy in into this?

Dr. William Li: 43:08 Well, I think that the medical community at large is being forced to consider new ways of thinking about managing health and disease because everything that you and I were trained in is unsustainable.

Dr. Gundry: 43:23 Correct.

Dr. William Li: 43:23 Just taking care of sick people, dealing with the train wrecks, and sweeping up the train wrecks on the highway after the cars have already crashed. And that’s what we were trained to do.

Dr. Gundry: 43:33 Sure.

Dr. William Li: 43:33 And that’s what most of the technologies that should have been around. And by the way, as you mentioned, ‘ve been involved with drug development. It takes 10 years on average, more than a billion dollars and the odds of 10,000 to 1 that you’re not going to succeed and so everything is expensive. You can’t afford it. We’re waiting too late. The outcomes aren’t satisfactory. And I think this isn’t just the United States, this is worldwide. So I think the pressure of economics is a wakeup call for the system at large.

Dr. William Li: 44:02 So what do we have to do? What role do we have to play? I think the medical community needs to find champions internally, yourself and me and other colleagues that we actually have.

Dr. Gundry: 44:13 Sure.

Dr. William Li: 44:13 And we need to educate our own brother and we need to educate our colleagues in Medicine to be able to help that because one doctor with a panel of 3000 patients, that’s a scalable impact, number one. Number two, I think we need to give consumers real facts. We need to be able to answer their questions when they say, “Hey doc, what should I be eating?” We should be able to feel comfortable that what you’re saying to somebody is the same thing I would say to somebody because it’s based on science and fact. The same way it would be if we were talking about a medicine or a diagnosis, right? And so one of the big problems I think that consumers have is they’re not trusting what they’re hearing about food and health, so we have to work to give them that trust.

Dr. William Li: 44:53 The third thing I think is that, we need to be able to apply science to really support marketing as opposed to have the marketing overwhelm the science. I have no problem of finding great, interesting ways of appealing and finding appealing messages to people as long as the science is real. But I think when you don’t have really solid science or you have piecemeal science then what you wind up doing is just creating marketing around it, it confuses everyone. And by the way, doctors like us, we’re just consumers as well. We’re seeing the same stuff, everybody else is, so everybody’s confused. So I think these are three things that will actually move the needle.

Dr. Gundry: 45:35 So tell me a few foods that you think we ought to be eating that might surprise people.

Dr. William Li: 45:42 Ah, okay. So I have a whole chapter in my book called Exceptional Foods that are really the surprising foods that most people wouldn’t even think about and a couple of that I’ll bring up is, I mean obviously let me just say, green leafy vegetables are good for you and fruits and vegetables in general have incredible healthful properties. All the research supports that, but what are some of the uncommon things or that are not normally connected to health? One of them is oysters.

Dr. Gundry: 46:11 Yeah.

Dr. William Li: 46:12 Oysters. I love oysters. By the way. Oyster meat contains an amino acid that actually helps to protect our DNA. It is a powerful antioxidant and although most of us don’t live by the ocean and even if you do, you’re probably not shucking oysters in your kitchen at home. The fact of the matter is you could actually get the same benefits from oyster sauce, which you can actually find next to the soy sauce in a grocery store.

Dr. Gundry: 46:37 Wow.

Dr. William Li: 46:37 Now. here’s what’s interesting. Oyster sauce is really oysters cooked down. There’s polysaccharides and proteins that are found in there and they’ve been actually found to activate your immune system in addition to protect your DNA. So I’m not trying to tell that everybody should go out and rush out to eat oysters. Everybody’s going to be different, but this is a real surprise to me is that you can actually measure immune system function with blood tests after feeding, giving people oyster sauce and it actual elevates, increase their T-cells or natural killer cells, which can be helpful. That’s one surprise.

Dr. William Li: 47:13 Another interesting surprise food is omega-3 fatty acids, the polyunsaturated acids are really a good for you and of course, a really good fish supplement, a fish oil supplement is a super simple and easy way to actually get what you need. But people who live by the sea or people who can get fresh seafood can find amazing sources. So we always think about, “Oh, eat your salmon.” Well, most of the omega-3 in salmon, a lot of it especially the skin.

Dr. Gundry: 47:45 Yep.

Dr. William Li: 47:45 Not everybody eats the skin, so I encourage people to eat the skin. But what if it’s not salmon? What are some other sources you can actually find? Well, it turns out that clams, the Manila clams, are one of them. And cockles are another source of omega-3 fatty acids. And so again, there are entire tables that I put in my book where they’ve measured the different amounts of different healthy fatty acids and other bio actives in different foods, that’s another one. And another thing that is surprising to me when I encountered this, as a scientist, we just look at data and we’re reading it critically and sometimes you just see stuff that’s just, wow, surprising.

Dr. William Li: 48:28 There was a publication that was presented by cancer researchers at ASCO, which is the big American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting a few years ago, 2017, where they studied 700 patients with Stage III colon cancer, so this is advanced colon cancer undergoing treatment. And they wanted to figure out what people were eating and what they found was that those patients with Stage III colon cancer who were eating two handfuls of nuts, tree nuts, a day, had a 50% decrease in the chance of death.

Dr. Gundry: 49:02 Yeah.

Dr. William Li: 49:03 Amazing, right? So what could that be? Well, nuts not only have good healthy fatty acids, but they also have great fiber that feed our microbiome. “Oh, that’s the same microbiome that might be Akkermansia that may actually help to promote our immune system to fight cancer.” So again, the secret’s in our body. Our body is the most highly engineered system there is that we can’t actually even imagine. And so finding foods that can activate our health defenses is really clearly the way to go.

Dr. Gundry: 49:34 Now, you mentioned beer. Really? Beer is good for you.

Dr. William Li: 49:41 I was surprised when I saw that, too. That’s another… it was a fascinating surprise. I mean, I’m a researcher and a doctor, but I sometimes feel like one of these science journalists where I’m finding myself so amazed that I have to tell the narrative of how I discovered this. Well, look. We know that there are healthful beverages; green tea, we know about coffee. Green tea is good for your circulation, lowers your cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure. We know that coffee lengthens your telomeres and actually improves your cardiovascular outcomes. Red wine, another well-known especially biodynamic red wine grown properly, rich with polyphenols.

Dr. William Li: 50:19 And so that led me and others to ask, “Well, what about other fermented beverages beer?” Well look beers made with hops, right? And you drink the suds, but actually the in a beer, but the hops are on the bottom. Well, it turns out that the hops actually contain a natural chemical called xanthohumol and the xanthohumol actually cuts off the blood supply feeding cancer, so actually, ironically enough, if you drink a small number of beers a week, there’s been a study that show it reduces the risk of kidney cancer. Now it’s not the alcohol. Let’s be clear.

Dr. Gundry: 50:53 Correct.

Dr. William Li: 50:54 It’s the stuff that the alcohol coaxed out of the hops and the xanthohumol also mobilizes your regenerative stem cells. So now there’s something about beer that could be non-alcoholic beer will do the same thing by the way, that mobilizes your stem cells, good for regeneration, good for aging, helps to stimulate, repair and maintenance of your heart and can help your body fight cancer. Hard to beat that kind of science if it’s actually in something that we enjoy drinking.

Dr. Gundry: 51:23 Yeah, I think the hops is the important part of beer. I would disagree with you that beer is good for you because of the lectin content in wheat or corn where most beer is made of. Non-wheat beers, I’ll put in with you. That might be a good compromise for us.

Dr. William Li: 51:41 Well, look, I mean this is the whole thing. If you can understand the best ways to actually produce a product and you can preserve the good stuff, the best stuff, the stuff that actually has the activity, that’s the best of all possible worlds.

Dr. Gundry: 51:55 Yeah. In fact, I take a hop extract every day. It’s been extracted, but maybe that’s not the right thing. So, Dr. Li, where can we find Eat to Beat Disease?

Dr. William Li: 52:07 You can find Eat to Beat Disease anywhere books are sold, online or at your favorite bookstore. I’m a big proponent of going to your local bookstores. That’s where you can go in there and browse and discover new things. And again, I want to sort of just emphasize to your viewers that if you want to get something I felt was the most useful thing for me to have, which is a free downloadable shopping list of all the 200 foods that are in my book and I went to a series of grocery stores and I actually organized this list in the order in which you encounter them in a grocery store. It just makes your shopping a lot easier. All you got to do is come to my website at www.dr, D-R, williamli, L-I.com, that’s drwilliamli.com or you can follow me on social @drwilliamli.

Dr. Gundry: 52:56 Perfect. Okay. So it’s time for one of my favorite parts of the show, the audience question. And I want you, Dr. Li, to please maybe take it first. So, I’ve had David Asprey as my guest on this podcast and he hates kale. So here’s the question, Joy on YouTube asks, ” I love high-oxalate veggies like kale and Swiss chard and eat them five times a week lightly sautéed. Is it okay to consume them that often?” What say you?

Dr. William Li: 53:33 Well, so this is where I think it’s important to use science. Yeah, I mean, there are some green leafies that actually contain oxalate and if you are normal and healthy and your kidneys are working fine, you can handle a pretty good oxalate load and just pass right through, you’ll be fine. What’s interesting about kale is that although some people don’t really like the slightly bitter taste to it, if you cook it, you can mellow it out and kale and chard all belonged to the Brassica. It contains isothiocyanates. These are other chemicals and there are hundreds of isothiocyanates such like there are hundreds of lectins, too.

Dr. William Li: 54:11 And the thing is that the by and large, the isothiocyanates in Brassica actually are good for you. They actually can boost your androgenesis system. They can actually help your stem cells. They’re good. The fiber that you get for your microbiome. So what I would say is that you can feel safe to eat kale five times a week if you enjoy it and if you don’t have any other active medical problems. You always talk to a doctor if you do and if you’re concerned about it. And the best thing I think that I discovered in writing Eat to Beat Disease is that you got more than 200 foods you can choose from.

Dr. William Li: 54:44 So maybe you don’t like kale because you don’t like the taste of kale, but that’s okay. You can choose something else within that family that’s actually good for you. And I would try to encourage people not to get too fixated on any one molecule that’s found in any one food because foods are made out of hundreds of molecules. It’s mother nature’s factory for bioactives and most of the bioactives in foods were originally in the plant, to protect the plant.

Dr. Gundry: 55:10 Correct?

Dr. William Li: 55:11 Right. So what happens is when mankind, humankind started to eat the plants, they had a new job description, they had to figure out how they worked in the body. And sometimes they’re not so good for you and sometimes they’re really great for you.

Dr. Gundry: 55:22 Yeah. No, that’s absolutely true. Our ancient ancestors probably encountered 250 different plant species on a rotating basis. And those plants were all growing in your six feet of lawn soil. Everything was organic. And even the animals that we were eating were eating those plants and getting those polyphenols. And as I tell anyone who will listen, the average person will probably eat 20 different vegetables in a year, maybe if they’re lucky. And if they think even if they’re eating organically, that they’re acquiring those polyphenols with 250 different species, and I got ocean front property in Palm Springs to sell, it just can’t be done.

Dr. William Li: 56:03 Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: 56:03 And so I think you’re right. The more varied our diet, the more we change, even seasonally change, the better off you’re going to be.

Dr. William Li: 56:10 It’s really interesting. If you look at these healthy aging populations, the so called blue zones, right? There’s five of them around the world. These are people that are not on strict diets. They’re not depriving themselves. They’re living really good lives. They enjoy. They would tell you they’re having great meals every day. But, the thing is that they’re eating very diverse repertoire of foods.

Dr. Gundry: 56:33 Yeah.

Dr. William Li: 56:33 They’re not limiting. They’re actually broadening their menu. So I would actually encourage anyone if you want to eat well, you think broadly. Don’t eat too much and eat mostly what’s fresh.

Dr. Gundry: 56:45 Yep. And in answer to Joy’s question from my end, I actually have a couple of female patients who have gone on kale kicks, kale smoothies in the morning, kale salads for lunch and dinner and they have over the course of a few months suppressed their thyroid function to the point that I can pick it up and they don’t have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. When we back off on kale in particular that their thyroid returns to normal. So just again, be careful. Don’t become focused on a single food as the key to health and vary these things. Change it up more.

Dr. William Li: 57:32 More is not more.

Dr. Gundry: 57:34 That’s true. Yeah, that’s true. So that’s it for The Dr. Gundry podcast and we’ll look forward to seeing you next week. And thank you again for coming on, Dr. Li.

Dr. William Li: 57:44 My pleasure.

Dr. Gundry: 57:47 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.