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 Welcome to this week’s episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast. You’ve probably heard all about the health benefits of meditation, how it can lower your stress levels, calm your mind, and help you heal. In fact, in my new book, The Longevity Paradox, I even explain how meditation can help improve your gut bacteria, of all things.
Well, today’s guest is going to provide practical tips for getting started, explain how meditation can improve the quality of your sleep, who knew, and teach you how to become your best self by meditating. Her name is Emily Fletcher. She’s a former Broadway star, and we may start with that bit of history, and now founder of Ziva Meditation. She’s a leading expert on using meditation to improve performance, and the author of a brand new book called Stress Less, Accomplish More.
So, Emily, welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast.
Emily Fletcher: 01:12 I am so pleased to be here. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Gundry: 01:16 Let’s start with your story. How do you go from performing on Broadway to explaining the benefits of meditation to CEOs and Fortune 500 companies? That’s interesting.
Emily Fletcher: 01:27 Yeah, it’s quite a journey from wearing headdresses and sparkly tights to talking about neuroscience to high performers. But as a performer, my body was my instrument, my voice was my instrument, and so I was always looking for ways to be in peak performance.
But unfortunately, what my dream had been since I was a child, actually, the reality of it became a nightmare. My last job, I was understudying three of the leading roles in A Chorus Line, which means you show up to the theater with no idea which character you’re going to play. That level of uncertainty led to some anxiety. I started having insomnia. I couldn’t sleep through the night for 18 months.
Dr. Gundry: 01:27 Wow.
Emily Fletcher: 02:04 I started going gray at the tender age of 27. I started getting sick and injured, and it was very confusing to me why I was living my dream, but I was miserable.
Thankfully, the girl sitting next to me in the dressing room, who had a harder job than I did, she was nailing her job. I mean, every song, every dance, every bite of food that she ate was a celebration. And I said, “What do you know that I don’t know?” And she said, “I meditate.” I probably rolled my eyes and I said, “Oh, God, one of you,” because there was not the science then that there is now.
So I didn’t believe her. I just kept having insomnia. I just kept going gray, and to be honest, not doing a very great job. Then finally I thought, “I have to try something.” So I went along to this meditation course. First day of my first class, I was meditating. To be honest, I had no idea what that even meant, but I was in a different state of mind, a different state of consciousness than I had ever been in before, and I liked it. That night, I slept through the night for the first time in 18 months, and I have every night since, and that was 11 years ago. I’m going to be 40 next week and I have one gray hair. I was legitimately going gray in my late 20s. I did not get sick eight and a half years after I learned. I stopped getting injured, but most importantly, I started enjoying my job again, and I thought, “Why does everyone not do this?”
So, I left Broadway. I went to India, and I started what became a three-year training process to teach. Since then, I’ve taught over 15,000 people. We created the world’s first online meditation training, and now I have this book, and so it’s just been an exciting, fascinating ride.
Dr. Gundry: 03:31 Wow. Tell me, obviously you were intimated by meditation.
Emily Fletcher: 03:37 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Gundry: 03:38 Certainly, when my wife introduced me to yoga practice, and the fact that yoga could maybe get me meditating, because I have the classic monkey brain. Tell me, how do you do all this? How do you convince somebody that you can actually quiet the mind? Let’s start there.
Emily Fletcher: 04:03 Yes. Interestingly, this is the number one what I would consider a misconception around meditation, right? Everyone thinks that they have to clear their mind. At this point, we know we would be meditating. We know it’s good for us. The science is in. But we sit down and we try, and we’re like, “Okay, brain, stop thinking. Mm, I sure would like a snack. Maybe I should have some tomatoes, but Dr. Gundry says, ‘Don’t eat tomatoes.’ Oh, no, now I’m thinking about snacks. I suck at meditation, and I quit.”
And that’s the beginning and the end of most people’s meditation careers, and it makes me sad, because people have potentially robbed themselves of a lifetime of better performance because they’re judging themselves based on misinformation. The really good news here is that the mind thinks involuntarily, just like the heart beats involuntarily. So, trying to give your brain a command to shut up is as impactful as trying to give your heart a command to stop beating. Doesn’t work, and yet this-
Dr. Gundry: 04:58 I command hearts to stop beating all the time in my business. Now, of course-
Emily Fletcher: 04:58 Let’s not do this.
Dr. Gundry: 05:02 … I get a little help with potassium and magnesium, but no, yeah, we don’t want our heart to stop beating under most cases.
Emily Fletcher: 05:11 Under most cases, yes.
Dr. Gundry: 05:14 You call this the meditation shame spiral. Okay. In other words, the harder we try, the more we fail?
Emily Fletcher: 05:26 Yes. Well, if you’re judging yourself based on misinformation, and you think that the point is to clear the mind, then every single time you sit down to meditate, you’re going to feel like you’re failing, and none of us will do anything for very long that we feel like we’re failing at. We want to feel like we’re progressing and succeeding.
With Ziva, what we do is that we give people a tool that actually helps them to de-excite the nervous system. We give them a tool that helps to induce a deep healing rest. When you give your body that deep healing rest, it knows how to heal itself, and one of the things that it heals itself from is stress. Interestingly, not only stress from today, which is what mindfulness does, but this type of meditation is actually helping to get rid of that stress from our past, that stuff that gets stored in our cellular memory, and now we know, even in our epigenetic memory, the stuff that we’re passing down from generation to generation.
The cool thing is is that I have called Ziva the lazy man’s meditation, because you don’t have to have any fancy fingers. You don’t have to have an erect spine. You don’t have to sit in uncomfortable positions. It just looks like a nap sitting up. You just do it in a chair, and then your whole life gets better.
Dr. Gundry: 06:32 You talk about the three Ms in the book. I think that’s where we should go next. What’s different about the three Ms, about each of them?
Emily Fletcher: 06:42 Yeah. The three Ms are mindfulness, meditation, and manifesting. Where this gets a little confusing for folks is that a lot of people are using the terms mindfulness and meditation as synonyms, but they’re not actually the same thing. I would define mindfulness as the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment. We could take a mindful breath right now. This is why people say, “Well, cooking is my meditation,” or, “Exercise is my meditation.” What they’re saying is that it makes me more present. I am more mindful when I do those activities, which is fine, but that’s quite different than this type of meditation.
Mindfulness is very good at dealing with your stress in the now, like a state change, versus this type of meditation is very good at getting rid of your stress from the past, and to do that, we’re giving your body that deep healing rest that I was talking about. So, it really does kind of look and feel like a nap sitting up.
Then the third M, the manifesting, which I sometimes get some eye rolls, people are like, “Oh, gosh, you want me to secret my dreams?” But to me, manifesting simply means consciously creating a life you love. It’s you getting intentional about what you want your life to look like, and using that very powerful time at the end of your meditation where the right and left hemispheres of the brain are functioning in unison to set your intentions.
What we found, from teaching a bunch of people, is that the combination of meditation and manifesting is so much more powerful than either one alone.
Dr. Gundry: 08:07 Hmm. Okay. So, when people are rolling their eyes, saying, “Well, we got to get the right brain and left brain coordinated,” why is that so important? Most of us say, “Oh, I’m a right brain person,” or, “I’m a left brain person, and I really don’t want my two hemispheres to talk to each other.”
Emily Fletcher: 08:27 Well, I would say if nature gave you two legs to run a race, why would you want to run a one-legged race? That’s what many of us are doing. We’ve been taking our left brain … When I say, “Left brain,” I really mean the prefrontal cortex, the executive function of the brain. Most of us have been taking that to the gym for a very long time. We think, we take action, we achieve, we make money so we can be happy in the future.
Left brain is in charge of critical mind, language, past and future, versus what I’m calling the right brain is basically in charge of creativity, intuition, creative problem solving, present moment awareness, music, connectedness. These are all right brain activities. If you look at a human brain, it splits right down the middle, 50/50, and I don’t think that nature makes mistakes. I don’t think that nature would have given us 50/50 if it wanted us to use 90/10.
So, what we’re doing in this meditation practice is that we’re taking the right brain to the gym so that we can access those creative problem solving ideas even when the heat is on, even in the middle of the high-demand situation. Because no one cares how good your presentation was the night before. No one cares how funny you were the day before you’re giving the talk. It matters how you perform when it’s go time. And in order to really be performing at the top of your game, you want that critical mind and creative mind happening simultaneously.
Dr. Gundry: 09:46 Now, a lot of our listeners and viewers are going to say, “Okay, now I’ve heard that men in general are left brain and women are right brain.” Is that not true, or what’s your experience, now, in doing this for 13-odd years?
Emily Fletcher: 10:03 Well, I think that probably what they’re saying there is that women tend to be more intuitive, where men tend to be a bit more critical-minded. I think that certainly there are some gender stereotypes that hold true. But I think that again, why would we want to run a one-legged race? Why would we want to rob ourselves of this latent potential that we’ve all been given?
I think real, true mastery means having dexterity and resilience, and the ability to call on whatever tools we need for the task at hand. I know plenty of men who need their intuition, and plenty of women who need their critical mind. Why choose either/or when we could really be firing with and?
Dr. Gundry: 10:43 Give us a teaser. How do we get these two parts to connect in your process?
Emily Fletcher: 10:49 Yeah. What the techniques look like is that we started … The mindfulness that I use is something called come to your senses, a very simple but powerful tool where we’re utilizing our five senses to access that right brain, that present moment awareness. It’s so simple, but it’s quite powerful.
I start by walking people through hearing what they’re hearing, feeling what they’re feeling, seeing what they’re seeing, tasting, and smelling, which basically, what we’re doing is we’re almost tricking the mind into coming into the body, into the right now, because our stress hangs out in the past and the future. We cannot move away from our stress. We cannot move away from the past and the future. We must move towards the present moment. So, we’re utilizing our five senses as a tool to access that present moment, which is where our joy hangs out, always here, always now.
Then from there, we transition into what I call the main course of the Ziva technique, which is the meditation. Then we introduce something called a mantra, and that word mantra has been a little hijacked by the wellness industry. We think that it means affirmations, like, “I deserve abundance,” or something like that. Affirmations are great, but they’re not going to induce this deep, healing rest that I keep talking about.
So, mantra’s actually a Sanskrit word. Man means mind and tra means vehicle. So, we’re utilizing these mind vehicles that are going in and de-exciting the nervous system, kind of calming everything down. It’s what makes this process so sort of lazy and effortless. It’s like the mantra’s doing the work for you, so you don’t have to concentrate or control the mind or try and tame the monkey mind. The cool thing at Ziva is that thoughts are not the enemy.
Then at the end of that basically like nap sitting up, it feels like you’ve taken a little vacation for your brain. Then at the end of it, we want to keep our eyes closed so that we don’t shock the optic nerve or the brain. So then we keep the eyes closed for a little while, and that’s where I recommend we use the manifesting, which is basically just imagining a dream as if it’s happening now.
This is the real trick to manifesting is imagining your dream as if it is your current reality. Where a lot of people make the mistake is that they imagine the dream, but it’s far away, or they’re pouring their attention on the space between where they are and whey they think they should be, and that is the definition of stress, the space between where you are and where you think you should be. So, we do not want to water those weeds. We want to water the flowers of imagining your dream as if it is your current reality.
Dr. Gundry: 13:15 Now, is that similar to throwing it out there, asking something to manifest, or is this different than what you’re describing?
Emily Fletcher: 13:25 Well, to me, when you throw it out there, it sort of suggests that nature is in charge, and I think there is some power in detaching. Have you ever heard that quote of, “Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening.” And I love this quote so much because it connotes that this isn’t in conflict with anyone’s religion or philosophy of life. It’s really just tuning in to your own intuition, to your own higher power.
The thing I like about the manifesting is that it allows it to be a two-way conversation, that yes, you’re getting clear on what your intentions are, but you’re also taking the time to listen. How does nature want to use me to deliver my gifts to the world, instead of just, “Please sir, could I have some more? Please, could I have some more money? Please, could I have some more girlfriends? Please, could I have some more shoes?”
Dr. Gundry: 14:17 One of our people here, she wants more shoes. She’s in blue suede shoes today.
Emily Fletcher: 14:23 Look, I mean, you can manifest new shoes if you want to. It’s just, where this gets a little tricky is that it’s never about the manifesting of the thing. You could manifest blue suede shoes, but those shoes are not going to make you happy.
Dr. Gundry: 14:23 Sure.
Emily Fletcher: 14:35 It’s the meditation that’s making you happy. It’s actually the meditation that’s flooding your brain and body with dopamine and serotonin. Where this becomes a little paradoxical is that once you realize that you have access to your own fulfillment internally, you become more detached about everything you want to manifest externally, because you realize that they cannot make you. If they can’t make you, then they cannot break you. So, it just makes the whole game of life a little bit more fun, a little bit more free.
Dr. Gundry: 15:02 You said, “Mantra.” Now, whenever anyone hears that, or I hear that, now we’re going back to, you know, “Okay, I’ve got to hold my fingers like this and say, “Om,” all the time.”
Emily Fletcher: 15:13 Yup.
Dr. Gundry: 15:14 Is that what you’re saying, or …
Emily Fletcher: 15:17 No. I mean, aum is probably the most famous mantra, and we think it’s O-M, but it’s actually, it’s A-U-M, aum. It’s the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. It’s the sound that contains all other sounds. But interestingly, aum is a mantra that was originally designed for monks. So if you are not a monk, meaning you like living in society, you like having sex with people, you like creating companies and things, then chances are aum is not a great mantra for you, because if you were to be chanting it all day, or meditating with it day in and day out, you might start waking up some more monastic qualities inside of you. You might find yourself giving your car keys and your deed to your house away, whereas-
Dr. Gundry: 16:01 The monk who sold his Ferrari, right?
Emily Fletcher: 16:01 Yes, exactly, exactly. But whereas the meditation portion of Ziva, even though it’s 6,000 years old, or based on something that’s 6,000 years old, it was designed for people with busy minds and busy lives. So you don’t have to chant, you don’t have to do any fancy fingers, you don’t have to use a monastic mantra.
The mantras that we use … And when I teach face-to-face, they’re actually meaningless, primordial sounds. In our online course, we have a little bit gentler mantras, and then in the book, I give people a universal mantra. And that is by design, because when I teach people face-to-face, this practice can create a bit of emotional and physical detox. Many of us have been pretty stressed for many decades. And so, the sadness, the trauma, the rage, the anxiety, all that stuff that we have inside, when we start a purging practice, which is really what meditation is, that stuff can start to come up and out.
That’s my job is to help people through that. I can do that when I’m with people face-to-face, but I wanted to create a bit of a gentler protocol for online, and then even gentler for the book, because the idea with the book is that I want to make these tools as mainstream as possible, because it turns out people are suffering right now. People are very stressed.
Harvard Medical School is suggesting that stress is responsible for 90% of all doctors’ visits. To me, it’s like, this is a solvable problem, and I want to give people the tools to help them solve it.
Dr. Gundry: 17:23 You bring up a good point. I went to medical school in the dark ages, and we had a psychiatry rotation, and the head of psychiatry at my medical school was actually an internist who realized, and again, this is back in the dark ages, in the 70s, that most of the things he was seeing in his practice, in his internal medicine practice, was from the mind, from stress. I thought that was so enlightening that this guy said, “Yeah, I basically quit my day job, and started listening to people’s stress and teaching them.”
Emily Fletcher: 18:03 Hmm. Good.
Dr. Gundry: 18:05 So, how does this detoxing from stress manifest it? That sounds like a big deal.
Emily Fletcher: 18:15 Well, it can be, and it can be pretty intense for folks. Certainly when I teach face-to-face I like to screen for if anyone’s dealing with recent trauma or PTSD or severe depression. Because oftentimes, I will have them start with a gentler program first, just to make sure that it is safe.
But it can manifest in a lot of different ways. Sometimes people will have a few tears in the first few sessions. Sometimes they’ll go to the bathroom a lot. Sometimes they’ll have nightmares. Their skin sometimes gets itchy. They can get nauseous. So, if you want to sign up, just head to zivameditation.com. Just a great sales pitch.
Dr. Gundry: 18:50 All right.
Emily Fletcher: 18:50 Well, you know, it sounds not so fun, but the good news is that once you kind of wring the body out, there is a finite amount of stress in our nervous systems. Once we purge, then we have so much more energy, so much better sleep, so much better digestion. It can improve our immune system, because when we have that backlog of stresses in our body, that’s ultimately why stress is making us stupid, sick, and slow as a species. I think that we can’t afford to be sick, stupid, and slow anymore.
We’re being called upon to solve some pretty intense challenges in our generation, so I think it’s time for us to be firing on all cylinders mentally so we have all hands on deck to solve these challenges.
Dr. Gundry: 19:31 So, speaking of firing on all eight cylinders, you say that meditation is the new caffeine.
Emily Fletcher: 19:36 Yeah.
Dr. Gundry: 19:36 Wait a minute. Doesn’t caffeine stress you out? What does that mean?
Emily Fletcher: 19:42 Well, I gave a talk at the Google headquarters called Why Meditation is the New Caffeine, and I like putting caffeine and meditation in the same sentence, just because it’s helping with my mission of reframing meditation as a productivity tool, right? Because if you’re reaching to coffee, why are you doing that? It’s because you want to be more productive at work. You want to get through your to do list faster.
What I’m hypothesizing is that if you meditate instead, or even in addition to, it’s like, okay, with meditation, it’s a sustainable form of rest. Interestingly, and I’m sure you know this, caffeine is molecularly very similar to a chemical called adenosine, right, which is what your brain produces to tell you that you’re tired.
Dr. Gundry: 20:19 Correct.
Emily Fletcher: 20:19 So, the caffeine isn’t necessarily giving you energy. It’s blocking your brain’s ability to feel tired. Then when the caffeine leaves the brain’s receptors, you’ve got all that adenosine floating around that floods back in, which is what the crash is. And because you’re sort of putting your adrenals into hyper alert, over time, it’s not sustainable, versus the meditation is not blowing out your adrenals, it’s actually calming down your adrenals and it’s increasing neuroplasticity.
Over time, and in combination with diet and sleep and exercise, it can help with neurogenesis. So, I just think that if there was a tool that would help you be more productive and help heal your brain, instead of perhaps costing you a little more than you would like, I say why not choose that thing? And it takes about the same amount of time to leave your office, go to the coffee shop, get your coffee, drink your coffee, you could have done a meditation in that time.
Dr. Gundry: 21:07 Okay. Let’s take a quick break.
If you’re listening to this podcast through your favorite podcast app, I’ve got some great news. You can also watch every episode of this podcast plus hundreds more special videos on my YouTube page. Just go to YouTube.com/DrGundry, and be sure to click the subscribe button.
I mean, should we … When you’re at Google, or advising CEOs, or big corporations, are you saying, “Hey, you should have employees have a five-minute meditation break instead of a coffee break”?
Emily Fletcher: 21:45 Well, I would say 15-minute meditation break, but absolutely, yes. This whole book, my whole mission is basically helping people to see that if you’re not meditating, that stress is slowing you down. You are not performing as well as you could be if you’re not actively managing your stress. Because even if you’ve had a great childhood, and even if you don’t consider yourself to be stressed, just being a human being on the planet Earth right now, we’ve got EMF, we’ve got planes, our food is not food anymore. We’re dealing with lights and computers and cell phones, and that is costing our brains and bodies something.
So, the thing is, if you are not managing your stress, it is managing you. A lot of us don’t even realize how stressed we are, so I do recommend that companies give their employees an opportunity to learn a sustainable meditation practice. I suggest that they have a conference room, or a coffee room, and they just say, “Look, from 3:30 to 4:30, you don’t have to meditate, but it’s available to you, and you can come in here. We won’t schedule any calls during this time.”
If you think about it for smokers, if they’re taking four five-minute smoke breaks in a day, that’s 20 minutes to go and kill themselves. So, are you going to give your employees 15 minutes to be a better employee, to cost your company less, to be more productive?
Aetna did a study recently. They taught, I think, a third of their 50,000 employees, and they noticed that it saved them $3,000 per employee per year, and they gained three hours of productivity per employee per week. So, it’s like, if you do the numbers on that, it’s a savings, for the company and the employee starts to feel taken care of. They feel like you’re treating them as a human and not just as a machine.
Dr. Gundry: 23:31 This almost sounds like nap time in kindergarten, where we all put out our little rugs, and I was never good at that in kindergarten. I don’t know. Maybe I need more nap time.
Emily Fletcher: 23:44 Or maybe you need a mantra. Maybe that would help. I have a nine-month-old son, and I see him now, he gets so cranky. He goes and he takes a nap, and he wakes up smiling and happy. It’s like, maybe this is the answer, just adult nap times.
Dr. Gundry: 23:59 Okay. We’re being bombarded by blue light. We’re always on our screens. We’ve got EMF that Dr. Mercola and I talked about a couple weeks ago. How does meditation fit into getting a better night’s sleep? How is that going to protect us against all of this incoming stuff?
Emily Fletcher: 24:18 Yeah. Great question. This is what happened for me is that meditation cured my insomnia on the first day, so it’s something I’m really passionate about, because life is hard when you’re tired. Our sleep quality is declining, it seems, collectively.
For most of us, the deepest form of rest that we have is sleep. So, if the deepest form of rest you have is sleep, then your body has to use that time as a time for stress release, because that’s one of the things that it needs to heal itself from. If you’ve ever looked at a body data monitoring device, if someone’s tracking their sleep?
Dr. Gundry: 24:51 Yup.
Emily Fletcher: 24:51 You’ve got the-
Dr. Gundry: 24:51 Oura ring.
Emily Fletcher: 24:52 … Oura ring. Perfect. Harpreet, who’s the CEO, a Ziva graduate.
Most people’s sleep before meditation, it looks like hills and valleys. It’s light, medium, deep, wake up, light, medium, deep, wake up. This takes us eight or nine hours, we wake up, we’re exhausted. Then what most people have shown, after inserting meditation, and Ziva is twice a day, so they do the twice a day meditation. And in that time, they’re using the meditation as a time for stress release, which allows them to use their sleep as a time for sleep. So, instead of their sleep signature look like hills and valleys, it starts to look like a basin, where it’s light, medium, deep for six hours, medium, light, wake up.
A lot of people, because they’re falling into a deeper sleep faster, the body is not using that time for stress release, so it can stay in that deeper rest longer. Sometimes they’ll even shave hours off of the sleep that they need at night, because it becomes more efficient.
Now, the caveat to that is that that is usually a few weeks in. In the first few weeks, sometimes people need much more sleep, because most of us are tired and we’re working off a bit of a sleep deficit. But once you get out of the red and into the black, then a lot of people will report needing a few hours less sleep, and yet, waking up more refreshed. It’s simply because you’re using your meditation as a time for stress release, so you can use your sleep as a time for sleep.
Dr. Gundry: 26:10 Yeah, you know, in my new book, The Longevity Paradox, I talk a lot about the importance of deep sleep. Deep sleep usually occurs very early in the sleep cycle for most people, and it’s during that period that the brain actually goes through a wash cycle through the glymphatic system. I think certainly watching people with an Oura ring, they really do not have an adequate deep sleep cycle, most of them. So, if we could use your technique to have people have a longer deep sleep cycle, they’re going to clean their brains of debris so much better. I actually am far more interested in that deep sleep period than REM or light sleep. That’s what I track in myself, mostly.
Now, I also talk about that there is a good connection between meditation and gut health, that meditators have a far more diverse microbiome. Quite frankly, the more diverse microbiome, the younger you are for the longer period of time, so that you can die young at a ripe old age. Tell me your experience with meditation and gut health.
Emily Fletcher: 27:29 The combination between meditation and gut health seems like an unlikely one, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you understand what happens to the body when we get stressed. We want to understand why the human body reacts to stress in the way that it does, we have to cut back in time a few thousand years. They were hunting and gathering in the woods, saber-toothed tiger jumps out with the intent to kill, body’s going to launch into a series of chemical reactions.
One of the first thing that happens is the digestion floods with acid to shut down digestion, because you need that energy that you would have spent digesting your food, you need that to fight or flee the tiger. Now, that same acid will seep onto your skin, so you don’t taste very good. If you get bitten into by the tiger, blood starts to thicken and coagulate. Immune system goes to the back burner.
All these things are really relevant if your demands are saber-toothed tigers, but if your demands are in-laws or kids or red-eye flights, then this fight or flight thing has now become maladaptive. It’s the thing that’s making us stupid, sick, and slow. And if we’re living our lives in this low-grade fight or flight thing, then we’ve got this constant acid drip happening in our digestion. I’m no gut health expert, but it seems to me that if you’re dumping acid into your digestion, that might kill some of the good bacteria that we really want to be thriving.
What I’ve seen, and interestingly, I’ve never suffered from IBS, you know, Irritable Bowel Syndrome? I don’t talk about it. It’s not in any of my messaging, and yet, it’s the number three benefit that people report from Ziva, that their IBS has gone away. The only thing I know to attribute that to, and this is totally anecdotal, but it seems that they’re changing the pH of their body. They’re getting out of that acidic fight or flight. They’re starting to flood their brains and bodies with dopamine and serotonins. They’re becoming more alkaline, and so it seems that that’s a more hospitable environment for the good bacteria to diversify.
Dr. Gundry: 29:16 Well, it’s very interesting that there’s a new paper out last week, the week before, looking at people who have a stroke, and their gut microbiome changes within the day of having a stroke.
Emily Fletcher: 29:31 Really?
Dr. Gundry: 29:32 So, as I talk about, there’s actually nine more fibers, nerve fibers, coming from the gut to the brain via the vagus nerve, and one from the brain down. But it’s clear that that two-way street, the brain, a damage to the brain, suddenly damages the microbiome. So, it’s fascinating new research that there’s a lot more connection here than we knew. Also-
Emily Fletcher: 29:59 And so from that, would you hypothesize that healing the brain and increasing neuroplasticity may help the microbiome?
Dr. Gundry: 30:05 Yeah, and I think it actually goes stronger the other way. The more I can get the microbiome diversified, the more the brain is going to improve.
Emily Fletcher: 30:15 Yeah.
Dr. Gundry: 30:15 But, okay, people have asked me, being a heart surgeon, that’s a rather stressful thing, although it’s interesting. Some of my best meditation is during heart surgery, because I’m one of these individuals who does not think during heart surgery. Audience, yes, I think during heart surgery, and not the way you think I think. But it flows, you know, like an athlete doesn’t think when they’re doing their athletic performance.
But when a stressful part of the operation comes along, and hopefully, it’s not very often, the thing I get through my stress is to change my breathing pattern. I know that’s incredibly important in your program. Can you talk us through how controlling the breath, changing the breath, can help our viewers and listeners destress?
Emily Fletcher: 31:13 Yes, absolutely. There are a lot of techniques that use the breath as the tool, and I love what you were saying. I get into a high demand situation, probably the heart rate accelerates, your breath might get a little shallow, it might speed up, and then that’s signaling more things to the brain of high alert. Let’s be alert. Let’s get that fight or flight thing going. Then when we get into fight or flight, a lot of our brain and mental energy goes to the amygdala, and so when it goes to the amygdala, we’re not as creative. We’re not as available for the intuitive downloads to be in that flow state.
Definitely a quick hack, if you will, if you find yourself in a high demand situation, or even with an anxiety attack or a panic attack about to come on, a really simple thing that you can do is manipulate your breathing. What we do is we use the breath almost as the precursor to Ziva, because it’s just a great way to change your state really quickly.
One of the things I teach in the book is something called the 2x Breath. It’s super simple, but you’re basically just doubling the length of the exhale from the inhale. This is designed to help calm that vagus nerve, right, like you said, that two-way highway that’s connecting our brain and bodies. All we do, and we can do it together if you want. You just inhale through the nose for two, and then you exhale through your mouth for four. Inhaling through the nose for two, and exhaling through the mouth for four. It even helps sometimes when people count the breath, so just inhaling one, two, and then exhaling through the mouth for four.
It’s super simple by design, because if you’re about to have a panic attack, you can’t do some complicated thing. It’s like you just need the simplest thing. When we dial up the length of the exhale, it just starts to slow down the metabolic rate, it starts to calm that vagus nerve. Sometimes, a lot of people will report that it will help stave off a panic attack. Like you said, it might help you get back into a flow state.
Dr. Gundry: 33:09 Yeah. That’s a great trick, and that’s exactly … Some of us even use the box trick-
Emily Fletcher: 33:16 Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Gundry: 33:17 … where we hold both on the exhale and the inhale. Yeah.
Emily Fletcher: 33:21 Yeah. And that’s just, for people who don’t know, it’s just in for four, hold for four, out for four, hold for four. That’s great too, very simple. Again, it’s almost like you’re using that tool, it’s like we want to move towards the breath, towards the present moment, instead of, “Oh, no, what if I mess up in heart surgery?” “Oh no, what if he doesn’t call back?” “What if I can’t make rent this month?”
One of my favorite quotes is that, “Speculation leads always and only to suffering.” That’s really what stress is, it’s speculating about what may or may not happen in the future, what should or should not have happened in the past. So, instead of speculating, we just come into the now, and the breath is a great and easy way to do that.
Dr. Gundry: 34:02 It’s funny, on the plane I watched a documentary about Bill Murray. Now, most people will remember him from Groundhog Day, and Bill shows up apparently around the country just … random moments. The takeaway of Bill Murray, and he’s really one of my favorite gurus, I guess they were summarizing, “What is the message that Bill Murray brings?” The message is, “It doesn’t matter.”
I think it’s interesting. I think a lot of this of what you’re saying is, Tony Robbins says, “You got to stop playing old movies.” But I think, well, all of what you’re saying is, particularly when you’re breathing like that, you can’t really think of anything else, and really nothing really matters.
Emily Fletcher: 34:52 Yeah. I love Bill Murray, because he seems to be really having so much fun, like gamifying life and really treating it like a game?
Dr. Gundry: 34:59 Yeah.
Emily Fletcher: 35:00 The thing I love about that is that to me, I would … and I haven’t watched the documentary, but to me, it’s like everything matters and nothing matters.
Dr. Gundry: 35:07 That’s exactly right.
Emily Fletcher: 35:08 It all matters and it’s a game. I think when we start meditating, we start accessing these different states of consciousness, you’re actually accessing something different than waking, sleeping, or dreaming. It’s like that super consciousness, if you will, or that pure being. When that thing starts to permeate your waking, sleeping, and dreaming, it’s much easier to see life as the beautiful game that it is, and you can fully play it.
The thing I love about this practice is that it’s not either/or. It doesn’t take you away from life, or just make you monastic, where you’re only looking at the divine. It’s like, no, it’s divinity and humanity happening simultaneously, so that we can be present, play the game, play it full out, and see that we’re all hurtling towards the grave. You know, from the moment the sperm hits the egg, we’re all hurtling towards the grave, so we might as well have some fun while we’re here.
Dr. Gundry: 35:56 That’s what I actually say in The Longevity Paradox, “None of us is getting out alive. Get over it.” Yeah. No, you’re absolutely right. None of us, nobody’s been back to tell us otherwise, quite frankly, and-
Emily Fletcher: 36:13 Yeah. One concept that I think might be really in line with The Longevity Paradox that you might enjoy, it’s probably the most woo-woo, hippie-dippie thing I put in the book. But I just talk about some monks in India where they will actually call their death date. This idea of getting sick and dying that we’ve assumed to be normal in the West does not necessarily have to be the case. And I’m so glad that you’re out here with this message of, like, “What if we keep upleveling and improving and getting stronger and healthier, until the body becomes irrelevant?”
They have this analogy of, what if you take off your body like you would a beautiful suit? You’re not going to just put it and crumple it on the ground. You’d take it off with respect and care and gratitude. I love the work that you’re doing, and I just think that meditation can really be a very complementary tool to help people to uplevel until they don’t need the body anymore.
Dr. Gundry: 37:02 Beautifully said. Beautifully said. There’s a wonderful book. It’s a difficult read. It’s called, I Decided to Live to 120 Years, and the point of the book is, okay, I’ve decided to live to 120 now, and the gentleman was in his 60s. He said, “Okay. How am I going to accomplish it? Now that I’ve decided that that’s when I’m going to die,” just like these Indian monks, “how do I construct my life to get there, and what am I going to do with my life on the way there?”
I talk about, actually, a lot about that in the book that being an elder and giving back is something that we’ve really lost in our society. Luckily, a lot of the very long-lived people, the value of elders is a huge part of what elders do in giving back. All right. You’re our elder, even though you’re wonderfully young, in teaching us meditation.
All right. This has been great fun. How do people find you? What’s your website, social media, where do you get the book?
Emily Fletcher: 38:19 Yeah. The book is just Stress Less, Accomplish More. It’s available basically anywhere books are sold: Amazon, Barnes & Noble. I’m looking forward to maybe one day having the number one and number two book on Amazon, like you have. So impressive.
Then, well, you can find me just at Ziva, so Z-I-V-A, meditation.com. Then we’re all over social media, just @zivameditation.
Dr. Gundry: 38:45 All right. Thanks so much, Emily, for being on, and good luck with this meditation, folks. I talk about it in the book. It’s so important, if for no other reason, to keep your gut buddies happy. And why do I want you to have gut buddies? Because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you, and for meditation. Thanks a lot, Emily.
Emily Fletcher: 39:11 Thank you for having me.
Dr. Gundry: 39:14 Let’s get to this week’s review of the week.
Kathleen R.L. writes, “Plant paradox for large and small pets. Dr. Gundry, hello. This is so exciting. Thank you for sharing this with the world. I have read Plant Paradox and The Plant Paradox Cookbook, and listened to your podcasts. I’m so thrilled to learn about this new lifestyle and the science behind it. After two months, I am already seeing results not only in my own weight loss, but crazy amounts of energy have returned and my brain is actually in turbo mode. I am interested in learning about how this nutrition transition can be beneficial to my dogs, cats, and especially my horse. Can you dedicate a podcast to horses?”
You know, that’s a really good idea. My oldest daughter is a horse woman. She has five horses. Maybe I’ll get her on here and we’ll talk about horses.
“I listened to the show about dogs and it was inspirational. I would really like to learn more about helping my OTTB seven-year-old ex-racehorse, especially now knowing that your daughter is an equine enthusiast too. Thank you.”
Well, we are glad you liked the dog show, and I think we’re going to have some more animal shows if we can get people on.
If you’d like me to read your review, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes. If you’re listening on your mobile device, take a screenshot, share your favorite takeaway, and add a tag me in your Insta stories. I’ll make sure to reshare them in mine.
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/Dr Gundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.