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 the Dr. Gundry Podcast. Life can test you in many ways that feel frustrating, overwhelming, and even insurmountable. But with the right tools and the right frame of mind, you can unleash your inner warrior and tackle anything that comes your way. And my guest today is leading by example. In just a minute, I’m going to be speaking with none other than JJ Virgin. JJ is a certified health expert, podcaster, multiple New York Times bestselling author, and founder of the Mindshare Summit, a yearly conference for health and wellness influencers. As a tour de force in the wellness and health industry, JJ spent her entire career helping men and women, particularly those over the age of 40, get fit, lose weight and enjoy happier healthier lives. But in 2012, her own life was turned upside down when her son Grant was struck by a hit and run driver and left for dead.
Dr. Gundry: 01:19 Well, Doctor said Grant wouldn’t make it through the night, JJ refused to give up and poured her efforts into helping him not just survive, but thrive. In her book, Warrior Mom, she shares what that ordeal taught her about resilience and beating the odds. Today, we’re going to discuss ways to tap into your inner strength, overcome difficult circumstances, and be a warrior for your family, your community, and yourself. Because whether you’re trying to lose weight, build a better business, or bring a family member back from the brink of death, JJ said the lessons she’s learned are universal. And with the right mindset, you can be unstoppable. JJ, welcome to the podcast. Good to see you again.
JJ Virgin: 02:05 Good to see you. Thank you for that intro.
Dr. Gundry: 02:08 Well, you’re a big influencer out there. I really wanted to concentrate on this part of your life, because you and I were in Palm Springs when all this happened. I mean, this is a parent’s worst nightmare. But things weren’t actually totally smooth even before that. Can you tell us a bit more about the accident and what life was like for you and your family leading up to it?
JJ Virgin: 02:40 I know. Here’s what was so ironic about the whole thing. My son had had challenges from early, early on. And early on I took him everywhere. I went and I got to be really good friends with Dr. Daniel Amen. Went and had him spec scanned. I took him to the FIFO clinic. I mean, I was really uncovering every rock. I even switched grad schools and studied pharmacology because I wanted to learn what nutrients could be doing what those drugs could do, because the drugs had such horrible side effects. In fact, the side effects were creating a lot of these problems.
JJ Virgin: 03:14 So, the diagnosis, the first psychiatrist, you’re going to love this. The first psychiatrist I go to in Palm Springs tells me in five minutes that he has OCD, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, all this stuff. And I’m like, “What?” I like what-
Dr. Gundry: 03:33 And you just met him.
JJ Virgin: 03:36 … I’m like, “You just met him. What are you saying about me behind my back?” But I like what Dr. Amen says about, the brain is the only organ that we don’t look at, and then we make these suppositions. It was just ridiculous. I just went, “All right, we got to do something else.” And I will tell you even today, he like everybody else doesn’t fit into some kind of mold of a diagnosis. And I think that’s one of the key takeaways we have to look at is, yes, the diagnosis now is bipolar disorder, but it doesn’t really look like bipolar disorder. What’s interesting is, I just started working with a awesome doctor out of Mindshare, Dr. Kat Toups who found a viral infection that happened when he was a young boy where his personality started to shift that could be what’s been causing it the whole time.
JJ Virgin: 04:20 So, you just never know with these things. But what was really frustrating about the situation is we’ve gone through all of these struggles with Grant. And at 16, he’d finally gotten on the right path. He had a girlfriend, he was actually going to school and liking it. Everything really was chugging along. The other crazy thing was, I lived in Palm Springs area because it was such a safe place to raise kids. Right?
Dr. Gundry: 04:47 Right. Exactly.
JJ Virgin: 04:49 Not LA or New York City. No. I’m going to live here, it’s a safe place to raise your kids. Turns out it is one of the highest hit and run areas in the country. Who knew? So, one evening, and this was right before the Virgin Diet was coming out. A couple weeks before, and you know what that’s like. It’s absolute pandemonium. Grant goes to walk to a friend’s house, it’s dusk, and he gets hit by a car. Now, no one saw it. The only thing that was seen was a neighbor saw a woman get out of her car, get back in her car and drive off. That’s all we know. It was in an area that at the time had a speed limit of 40 miles an hour, after that they changed the speed limit. Interestingly enough. And Palm Springs is also, I don’t know if you’re aware of, has an ordinance called the Starry Night Ordinance where they don’t turn the street lights up very high so that you can see the stars. Forget the people in the street, but we can see the stars.
JJ Virgin: 05:49 So, he was rushed. He was airlifted to the local hospital. Yes, we got to go to Desert Hospital. So you know exactly the challenges already. Here we are going to a hospital that the emergency room there treats older people, not 16 year old boys. I can totally understand if someone who was 85 had the injuries that my son had, that they would have told me what they told me. He had a torn aorta that kills 90% of the people right on the scene. And the doctor said his aorta was going to rupture sometime in the next 24 hours. It was like an onion skin, unless we had surgery. But the surgery he needed, they couldn’t do there because it was a very specialized surgery.
JJ Virgin: 06:33 His brain was bleeding. He had multiple diffuse axonal injuries. He was in a coma. He also had like, covered in road rash. Literally bone sticking through his skin, 13 fractures. And the doctor said, “You’re just have to let him go.” My son, my 15 year old son standing there with me, and my ex husband who was a former medical malpractice attorney, which came in super handy. And it turns out, I mean, we actually had family connections to the doctor who ended up doing the surgery. I mean, it was just one of those things where everything just worked in our favor. But we’re standing there and the doctor says, “He’d never survived the airlift to the hospital.” We needed to get him to Harbor UCLA. And even if he were to survive that airlift, he wouldn’t survive the surgery. And even if he were to survive both of those, he would be so brain damaged, it wouldn’t be worth it.
JJ Virgin: 07:33 And my son, Bryce, looks over at this doctor and says, “Well, maybe there’s 0.25% chance he’d make it.” And the doctor said, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” And Bryce says, “Okay, we’ll take those odds.” He’s looking at me like it’s not zero. So, we got into action. My ex husband’s had a couple very good legal terms to get things going. And the hospital in UCLA they, boy, they were amazing. At midnight, Dr. Carlos Donaire assembled five surgical teams. He got a hold of a stent that had been one he’d used in studies that was not supposed to be used, it’s only approved for adults. He found it. He said, “I figured I just asked for forgiveness,” and got ahold of it. And when we got there at 5:00 in the morning, it was like full court press. He walked up to me, he goes, “You don’t need to worry about this. I do this all the time. I got this.” I’m like, “Okay.”
Dr. Gundry: 08:31 That’s what you want to hear as a parent, right?
JJ Virgin: 08:32 Right. Oh, my gosh. I mean, such an amazing. I said, “You should really teach bedside manner.” Because he walked up uber-confident. And I was like, “I’m going to go with what he’s saying.” Then he said, “Let me show you where we’re going to do the surgery and then I’ll take you over to the waiting room.” He just was trying to get me out of there. Because it was a bleak situation. He just was fantastic. He came in after the surgery said, “Okay, he’s fine. The stent’s in. Now, I don’t know if he’s ever going to wake up. That’s not my job. I’m just a plumber.” It was like highs and lows, this whole story all the way along.
Dr. Gundry: 09:11 Good news, bad news.
JJ Virgin: 09:12 Yes, good news, bad… Well, here’s the thing. Can’t do anything if he’s not with us anymore. I figure as long as we just keep him alive, I know so many people in the medical profession, I’m going to figure something out. We just need to keep him alive. That first 24 hours when he was at Harbor UCLA, the doctor on call didn’t go home. He was supposed to be off, he didn’t. He stayed and he just monitored his kidney function, monitored everything to make sure that he was making it through. They were just amazing. I mean, we were number two trauma center in the country and this is what they’re built to do.
Dr. Gundry: 09:49 All right. So now you’ve come through this big surgery and we don’t know if he’s going to wake up, we don’t know what his brain is going to do it. Tell us as a Warrior Mom, what number one goes through your head? And number two, what happens then from a mother’s standpoint to make things happen? Or at least get the best for your son?
JJ Virgin: 10:20 It was a very interesting time. I will tell you when it first happened and I went to the hospital, it was like I was watching a movie. I couldn’t believe it was real. Then when it clinked in that was real I went into a big freakout and my son actually was the one who was being the most adult in the family at the time. Then I had this time to drive from Palm Springs to LA and I just processed a lot of it. And by the time I got to that hospital, I just was prepared to do whatever it took. I remember standing in the ICU after this whole thing happened. And he said in the ICU, and he’s on the ventilator, and he’s got a central line and everything is beeping. There’s literally like two fingers that I can get a hold up because everything else is either in a cast or it’s bandaged or it’s raw.
JJ Virgin: 11:16 So I’m holding these two little fingers. And they said, “He can’t hear you. He’s in a coma.” I’ve never believed that. So I said, “Grant, I love you so much. You don’t need to worry, I’m going to do whatever it takes to help you get through this.” And nothing. And then I said, “And your brother loves you so much.” And I felt just the famous little squeeze. Then I said another thing and no response. And then I said, “And your girlfriend wants you to get better.” And he grabbed my hand and lifted off the bed. And then I said, “Grant, you are a warrior.” Turns out Grant’s name means warrior. I go, “You’re a warrior. I got this. I can bring in everybody. We need to get you to 110% but you have to fight.” And the thing with my son is he is the most stubborn human being I’ve ever met, ever.
JJ Virgin: 12:00 So, he has been fighting ever since. And it was interesting. One of the nights in the hospital he said to me, he just describing where I was in the hospital. What was going on. He goes, “Yeah, that night, the gray man came and asked me if I wanted to live or die. It’s really nice over there. On the other side.” He had the full nerd near death experience, which I think is so cool and fascinating. “Because it’s really nice over there, mom. You never need to be afraid of that.” He goes, “But I kept hearing your voice and so I decided to come back.” I was like, “Phew.” [crosstalk 00:12:37] But I knew he could hear me.
Dr. Gundry: 12:42 Yeah, that’s actually very true. Early on in my training, I was at the NIH doing heart surgery. And we had a fascinating story. We had a young man actually from Asia that we operated on and post-operatively he was in a coma. He did not wake up. We had no idea. Brain scans were perfectly normal. I mean, he did not wake up. And about two weeks into this, we’re all sitting around going, “Well, maybe we have to pull the plug.” And his brother arrives from Hong Kong. And his brother says, “Oh, you don’t understand. He’s actually a kung fu expert. And he’s designed to protect himself if he thinks he’s being harmed. And I actually have the secret word to tell him. It’s all right. And he’ll wake up.” So, he literally goes in the room, whispers the word and the guy wakes up. This is true story.
Dr. Gundry: 13:46 We’re looking at this going, “What did we just see?” And then this guy proceeds to tell us everything we’ve been saying. The nurses, he recognizes the nurses. He said, “Oh, Lily, thanks for being there. See, my brain isn’t dead.” And we’re all going, “What the heck?” NIH. You’re right. People absolutely-
JJ Virgin: 14:11 Yes, be careful what you say around those people in comas because they’re hearing everything. Not only that, here’s even crazier thing. Grant described what his dad was wearing when we were waiting for him during surgery. He had changed clothes, we’d driven to LA. He described everything. He described the whole scene, but he wasn’t there. He said, “Yeah, I would leave my body and go cruise around and look at everything.” I was like, “Oh, okay.” Yeah, fascinating.
Dr. Gundry: 14:42 … We’re going to do that for another podcast, the out-of-body experience.
JJ Virgin: 14:47 Well, I haven’t had one.
Dr. Gundry: 14:50 Actually, I hope I don’t, but not in that way. So, how long did this process go on at UCLA and then moving forward?
JJ Virgin: 15:06 Here’s what’s interesting. When he was in a coma, and he was in a coma for a couple weeks. The doctors were super positive. They go, “Kids are resilient. They can get through anything.” And meanwhile, I am just doing everything I can. I’ve put the SOS out to all my friends. I go, “Listen, I do not need your sympathy. I need your support. I’m going to get my son to be better than before the accident. What you got.” So I now have him on. I’m doing some progesterone essential oils. Someone gave me holy water. I’ve got a scroll. I’m like, whatever. Bring it on. Some sound therapy. But-
Dr. Gundry: 15:44 Now, let me stop you right there. The ICU nurses, are they thinking, “Oh, this is [crosstalk 00:15:50]
JJ Virgin: 15:50 … She’s a lunatic.
Dr. Gundry: 15:51 Yeah, JJ Virgin?
JJ Virgin: 15:53 It was actually pretty interesting because they finally were like, “Who are you?” Because all these doctors were coming in. I mean, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana come in, they make me all this food and come in to visit. All these people are coming in to visit. So they’re like, “What is going on here? Who are you?” But here was what was interesting, and this is what I think is a big challenge is, they kept saying to me, “When he wakes up, it’ll be ugly.” That was their big advice. When he wakes up it’ll be ugly. Now I thought, because I’ve watched the movies. Now I see in the movies when they wake up, they look at you lovingly, and they say, “Hi.” So I figured he’d wake up, maybe be a little bit like scream for a minute and then he’d say, “Hi, Mom, I love you.” That is not how people wake up out of comas as you know.
JJ Virgin: 16:40 So Grant wakes up, and every day this big neurological resident would come in and literally do titty twisters on his nipples and yell in his ear. And I’m like, “What are you doing? That is not the way I want him to wake up. That’s horrible.” So, he finally wakes up a couple weeks in. His eyes are open, we get them off the breathing tube but that’s all he does. He stares off into space and he starts moving the only arm that’s not in the cast, he moves it back and forth. That’s all he does for days. Looking to the side, moving his arm back and forth. And I’m thinking, this was the most challenging piece was to manage my mindset and go, “Okay, oh, oh, oh.” Because you don’t know. Like, I didn’t know who was waking up here. I’d had a son with bipolar disorder. I didn’t know who was waking up. I didn’t know, would he be paralyzed? Could he see? Could be hear? We had no clue on any of this.
JJ Virgin: 17:38 And truthfully, I have no idea how he is where he is today except I believe that so much of it was this decision to just do whatever it took to get him and to be 110% and a lot of luck. But as he started to wake up, I just thought, I’m going to wake up everything. I’m going to wake up all of his senses. So I started just smuggling all sorts of stuff into the hospital. I was doing music, I was doing massage, I had a friend come and do acupressure. We were doing essential oils, I was giving him popsicles to see what he would do. I mean, everything I could think of. I started throwing balls to him. And he just started to, it was very quick. It was like having a very large baby that went from zero to a year old to two years old, very fast. But then he got stuck at the two year tantrum point and that’s when really all hell broke loose.
Dr. Gundry: 18:32 So now he’s two years old and-
JJ Virgin: 18:36 And he’s a big two year old.
Dr. Gundry: 18:38 … he’s big.
JJ Virgin: 18:39 He’s big.
Dr. Gundry: 18:42 Let me stop for a second. Do you think your career of nutrition and health and fitness helped you get through this time?
JJ Virgin: 18:56 There’s a couple things that helped me get through this time. The first thing was that night in the hospital standing there and going, “All right, I’m the financial support for my family. I’ve invested everything into my book. My book is coming out in a matter of weeks. If the book doesn’t go, I’m going to be bankrupt. And I won’t be able to pay for any of this great ideas that I have to help my son be 110%.” So, I’ve got to make sure the book goes, but I’m not leaving. And how am I going to pull this off? I realized that the only way is going to be able to pull this off. And thankfully, I walked into the situation in extreme health. I just went, the only way I get to do this is I have no margin for error, I cannot get sick. You can’t be sick in the ICU. And when I was under the level of stress that I was under, which luckily I knew how to manage, you’re at a higher risk.
JJ Virgin: 19:46 I got my eight hours of sleep every night. I did exercise every day. I was running in the hospital stairs a lot of the times. I was eating healthy. Whole Foods was delivering. I just made it the absolute top priority above everything else because I knew if I didn’t do that, I’d never be able to do any of the rest. But there was a level above that, that I think was really important.
JJ Virgin: 20:07 I wrote Warrior Mom, and I wrote about all of these different mindset tools that I had that helped me show up strong. And people were like, “Well, how did you learn those?” I go, “I don’t know, they were just in me.” Well, here’s the funny part. When I was 30, I had a mentor who really is responsible for savings Grant’s life. I mean, she dramatically changed my life. She was supposed to help me with business, but the reality was, six months of working with her was all mindset training. She taught me how to take a situation, a really challenging situation. She always said there are no limitations, the only limitation is in your mind. Don’t wish it was better, make yourself stronger. All of these things that just were so much a part of me that when I looked at the situation, and they said there was a 0.25% chance he’d make it. That’s all I saw. I never saw the 99.75 chance that he wouldn’t. It was solely that.
JJ Virgin: 21:07 So, I think that’s a key takeaway, because we can have, I mean, let’s face it. There’s great nutritional information out there. There’s great exercise information out there. We all know we should be sleeping and managing stress but yet so many of us don’t do it. And really when you look at the big differentiator between someone who’s successful at life or not, it really comes down to their mindset.
Dr. Gundry: 21:31 No, it’s absolutely true. So you think all of that mindset training is really what got you through this?
JJ Virgin: 21:39 I know it’s what got me through it. And it’s also what made me willing to put myself first. Which especially for women is such a weird thing. I remember when I was seeing people one on one as a nutritionist, I had this client who came to me because she was in the hospital. She got super sick. She was the financial support person to her family. She was, “I better take care of my health.” So she comes to me. We outlined her plan. She’s supposed to be checking in. I don’t hear from her. Ping her, I don’t hear from her. I’m thinking, “This is odd.” Three weeks later I hear from her and she goes, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I was so busy. I needed to get all these other things in order including my life insurance.” I go, “So you prioritize your life insurance above getting your health in order.” Head scratcher.
Dr. Gundry: 22:25 Yeah, that brings up an interesting point. Yesterday, I saw a patient who’s now become a caregiver for her husband. And one of the things that you learned with your son is, caregivers are actually some of the most stressed people who are not taking care of themselves. And you could actually see it in her labs. I mean, I hadn’t seen her in about six months, and her labs had just fallen apart, she’d fallen apart. So, we spent actually the time together. Around 30 minutes, actually reviewing how she is not going to be a good caregiver unless she first cares for herself.
JJ Virgin: 23:14 Amen.
Dr. Gundry: 23:15 Yeah. It’s so true. The old saying, to give love away you have to love yourself first. You’re right. That’s what I do with all my caregivers.
JJ Virgin: 23:29 It’s so interesting, because I wrote that book and the book was first called Miracle Mindset. I was like, “Ah.” The publisher wanted to name it that, my agent wanted… And I was doing this interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, our buddy. And they said, “Oh, we had to have you on because you’re such a strong mom.” And I said, “I’m a warrior mom.” They went, “Well, that is it.” And I really realized writing that book that this book is really a book for caregivers. And here’s the thing, most of us at some point in our life are going to be a caregiver. Either for our children, for our parents, for our spouse, and it’s a long game thing. And it really becomes a mindset management game to get through it. Because it can be exhausting, and super stressful. So these are tools, what’s awesome about it, these are tools that anyone can learn and use. They can literally make the difference between life and death for you and for who you’re taking care of.
Dr. Gundry: 24:30 We’ve touched on this a bit. Give us three tips to accomplish this.
JJ Virgin: 24:39 All right. I actually have something I created called my GAM, for G-A-M. Gratitude, Appreciation and Miracles. Now, you hear about gratitude all the time. It’s all out there. The challenge is actually getting it done. I think there’s something super impactful about taking a pen to paper. So, the first thing every morning, you pull out your journal, you write down three things you’re grateful for. That’s what I did when Grant was in the hospital. Sometimes it was, he made it through the night. A lot of times it was, he made it through the night.
JJ Virgin: 25:13 Then the appreciation is really to help you manage yourself during the day. Because we all have those days where things just are not going the way they were supposed to go. The easiest way that I know to shift my state when I’m in that state is to send someone a text or an email, I like to do it by text and tell them what I appreciate about them. The minute you do that, you know what you’re getting back. It’s like they’re going to tell you that straight back, but you just made someone’s day. Then at the end of the day, I like to really put a frame around the day. So, the mornings it’s gratitude, and the evening, I think of them as your little wins, or your little miracles. It’s, what were the amazing things that happened today because we don’t celebrate those. After you get out of elementary school and get your little cool stars that you come home with on your shirt, you’re done with them. You got to give yourself the little stars and smiley faces again.
Dr. Gundry: 26:12 Yeah, believe it or not, in my office I give away silver and gold stars for meritorious achievement on which accomplishments particularly [crosstalk 00:26:22]
JJ Virgin: 26:22 It’s fantastic. I love it.
Dr. Gundry: 26:24 We all want those. That’s exactly right. In fact-
JJ Virgin: 26:28 [inaudible 00:26:28] a personal trainer, I got trophies for my clients. You would have thought I bought them Bentley’s. I mean, it was like crazy. We die for that recognition. So important.
Dr. Gundry: 26:38 … This last week, I’m rereading the 25th anniversary edition of Everything I Know in Life I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, and it’s worth reading again. Because you’re right. We want those little bits of appreciation, and little bits are really all we need. Right?
JJ Virgin: 26:59 Right. Just a little bit.
Dr. Gundry: 27:01 All right. So, gratitude. What’s A?
JJ Virgin: 27:04 Appreciation. So gratitude, appreciation, and miracles are little wins. GAM, five minutes. Doesn’t cost a thing. Simple, Simple. That was one. I’ll tell you the other big one. I used to be one of those grudge holding people when I was younger. And I really worked hard to not be a grudge holder. It was not something I wanted to be. But I didn’t realize that you have to take it further than that. When this happened, this was a hit and run. This woman hit Grant, got out of her car, got in her car and left. And people were up in arms. I was at the hospital in LA and people wanted to start this fund to find this woman. And I’m like, “Well, if you’re going to start a fund, start a fund for my son. Don’t start a fund for this woman.” What are we doing? Who cares? It doesn’t matter.
JJ Virgin: 27:58 So, I always thought it was fine because I wasn’t like, none of us in the family were like, “Who’s this woman? Let’s go get her.” We just focused on what was important, which was helping my son get to 110%. But what I didn’t realize is, that’s not enough. And if you’ve got any energy around something or someone, you actually have to go through a very active forgiveness process. Which is the most freeing thing you can do. As I started to talk about this and teach this to people they’re like, “Yeah, but I can’t even get a hold of that person.” I go, “It’s got nothing to do with the person, it’s all got to do with you.” I’ll give you a powerful example of this.
JJ Virgin: 28:37 I just had the opportunity. This is honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s going to sound bizarre. But I have a girlfriend who goes into maximum security correctional facilities, prisons, and she helps rehabilitate prisoners by giving them business skills, and personal development skills. She has a 90% success rate when they get out of prison versus the 90% failure rate that’s typical. I heard about this and I go, “This is the most amazing thing.” And I went with her. And she took a whole group of business entrepreneurs to do this. We were doing some different things with the inmates and one of the guys, I just had this instant connection with this kid. He was 30 years old, and I think he’d been in there for 12 years. And there were people in there who’d first been in prison at age eight. It was crazy. But here he is and we were talking about forgiveness.
JJ Virgin: 29:35 He goes, “I can never forgive my mom. I’m here because of her. She was on drugs when she was pregnant with me. She was on drugs when I was a kid. She brought gang members into the house, I had no chance.” And I’m like, “Well, you have a chance now.” So, I walked through how my forgiveness system and how I do it that I learned from Dave Asprey at 40 years of Zen, and explained to him what it’s allowed me to do in my life as I have forgiven people. And he’s like, at first, “Well, I couldn’t do that.” I go, “Well, could you be open to the possibility that you could learn how to do it?” He goes, “I could do that.”
JJ Virgin: 30:10 Anyway, we’ve been conversing since. I sent him my book on How to do Forgiveness. It’s like a complete shift. So, the guy who’s been doing a bunch of the forgiveness research found that, in bad situations, like mass murders and stuff, the people who forgive the fastest have the least psychological damage from the situation. This is a super powerful tool that we can all use, because I think a lot of the disease we have is just this anger of forgiveness eating us up inside.
Dr. Gundry: 30:43 All right. On that note, we’re going to take a quick break. So, stay tuned, we’ll be right back.
Dr. Gundry: 30:50 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/Dr. Gundry, and be sure to click the subscribe button.
Dr. Gundry: 31:10 Welcome back to the podcast. We’ve got my wonderful guest, JJ Virgin, who’s just this mega superstar in the health and wellness area. I want to come back to what you mentioned earlier on. You talk about Grant having bipolar disorder. That actually affects over six million Americans. And I actually see a number of people with that in my practice, including kids. Tell me how nutrition in your opinion helped Grant before and after the accident and how it’s going now.
JJ Virgin: 31:51 I remember when he was in school I got a call from school saying, “You have to come pick up your son, he’s climbing the walls.” Literally climbing the walls. I go, “What happened?” They go, “Well, he sold a bunch of wrapping paper for the Christmas wrapping thing and he won a pound bag of M&M’s.” I said, “You gave him a pound bag of M&M’s? You keep him.” I mean, of course, he’s climbing the walls. What I noticed with Grant the most as one of his big triggers is unstable blood sugar. What’s super key important for him is to eat very, very clean. He doesn’t eat gluten, he doesn’t eat dairy. We pulled those out earlier on. That was quite interesting to do when he was a kid in school. So, we’ve been doing that for a long period of time. He does not handle sugar well. He finally now that he’s older, he realized, he goes, “When I eat gluten, I get angry.” He has connected those dots, which I think is one of the most powerful things in nutrition is when you connect the dots and go, “Oh, I eat this, I feel like crap, maybe I shouldn’t need that.” I don’t know.
JJ Virgin: 33:00 So, stable blood sugar is super important. Then here’s the other one. Earlier on, we started with high dose fish oil. Honestly, I think one of the reasons that he was able to get through this accident, if you look at the research on high dose fish oil, and fish oil having good Omega-3 in your brain. It’s neuroprotective. I felt very fortunate that he was already on fish oil when he got hit. The challenge was, once he got hit, I got all the information. I mean, Dr. Barry Sears sent me everything I needed to take to the hospital board to get him on fish oil and they said no. Because I am a warrior mom. They wouldn’t give him more than two grammes. But he actually spit up his own feeding tube and then at that point, to me, it was game on.
JJ Virgin: 33:52 So, we were in our own room, I brought in my own stuff and I got him on 20 grammes of fish oil. I kept him on 20 grammes for six months and then I took him to 10 grammes and now he stays on five grammes. I think that, that is a key important part of this.
Dr. Gundry: 34:08 Wait a minute, JJ, the media tells us that fish oil is worthless. There is wonderful studies, controlled studies of a gram of fish oil a day has no effect. It’s just, throw it down the drain.
JJ Virgin: 34:26 So good. Because they just put a dixie cup of water on a forest fire. I mean, it’s so crazy. I look at what we’ve done to help Grant come back. And what’s interesting now is he’s better than before the accident. He’s so much more aware of his brain. Whatever this is, whatever bipolar really is or how it’s been triggered, because again, I think there’s some really interesting research now showing things like Bordetella triggering a bipolar-like brain. So, who knows what’s really going on there. I think that the more we look at our health and say, “All right,” exercise makes a big impact. I mean, I keep telling Grant, “Hey, the number one thing we can do to heal your brain is exercise.”
JJ Virgin: 35:07 So, he exercises every day. Learning new things. All of a sudden he is out in the dirt. He’s grounding. He’s doing gardening. He’s drawing. He’s reading. So, learning and challenging. But I think the bigger one is really, and this one I think is our biggest threat to our health today is social isolation, lack of community, not having a role. That’s my biggest one I worry about with him. That’s been our biggest struggle coming through this brain injury because when he got it, they said it’ll be ugly, but they didn’t tell me it would be ugly for years. That there’s so many things you have to do when you come through any kind of a brain injury.
Dr. Gundry: 35:48 How do you socialize him and get away with it?
JJ Virgin: 35:54 It’s very challenging, because big crowds, too much going on, too much stimulation, and he’ll fall apart again. So, we have to do it in small amounts. We give him, he’ll come to family things with some friends and he comes for a little while and then he leaves. We just don’t put him into stressful situations. We now have a feel for what it is and how much he can take. I think we’re all like that. I mean, I know with me, I’m more of an introvert. There’s only so much I can take and then I need to take a break. So, it’s fine.
Dr. Gundry: 36:24 That’s right. That’s a great question. How do you take a break as a warrior mom?
JJ Virgin: 36:32 How do all of us take a break?
Dr. Gundry: 36:34 This is a tough question.
JJ Virgin: 36:36 I know. I was like, “You got me stumped there. Where’s the break?” Hanging out with my little dog, I was looking if she was under here, I’d show it to you. But… what do I do? I don’t know. I don’t know what to say about that. Exercise.
Dr. Gundry: 36:51 Yeah.
JJ Virgin: 36:52 Exercise, I would say I exercise, I cook. Right now I’m in the middle of setting up a whole new house in Tampa, which is super exciting on the water. So we’re working on that. Reading, listening to podcasts, hanging out with friends, I have a really cool network of friends. I feel like I have created a life that I never need to take a break from. Because I do, and I’m sure you feel the same way. I love everything that I’m doing. I’ve managed to create businesses so that all the stuff I do not like I found people who love to do that. They get to do it and not me. Well, that’s really the way life should be. Everybody strengthen people’s strengths. If someone loves accounting and bookkeeping, then turn it over to them and don’t suffer, making yourself crazy doing it yourself.
Dr. Gundry: 37:40 We’ve actually, I take care of a number of kids and young adults with bipolar. Getting back to fish oil, I follow an omega-3 index, which basically looks at how much DHA and EPA is in you for the last two months. The baseline that is normal is a number eight. These folks, I make sure they’re up at 12 to 14. Because people have to realize that our brain is 60% maybe 70% fat. And half of the fat in our brain is DAJ. And you’re right, this is an insulating system of the brain. I actually think that so much of bipolar and a lot of anxiety is this short circuiting that happens between neurons.
Dr. Gundry: 38:29 I’m old enough to remember back in the good old days of stereos that we would have cables running across the room to our speakers. Those cables would have multiple layers of insulation, because the electricity would degrade the farther it had to go. I actually use this example for my patients. That you’ve got to have insulation, myelin sheath on all your nerves, and one of the best ways is to get fish oil into your brain. So, thank you for pointing that out. It is not placebo effect.
JJ Virgin: 39:05 It was interesting. I had some friends in the fish oil business said, “I think you’ve done more for fish oil sales,” because the story started to go everywhere. In fact, I ran into Sanjay Gupta in a green room and told him about it and he did a CNN special around it too. Because I just want that out there. Again, here I was fighting with the hospital says, “Oh, it’s going to increase his bleed time.” So every time I knew they were going to check his bleed time, I’d hit him with more fish oil before. It never touched it. I was like, “Show me a study that shows that?” Because there aren’t any. There are none. It’s one of those things that especially any kids in sports, I mean, who knows when you’re going to hit your head? You don’t plan it. Right?
Dr. Gundry: 39:46 True.
JJ Virgin: 39:46 So, this is just one that we all should be doing. It’s really clear.
Dr. Gundry: 39:53 Yeah. And most people tell me, “Oh, there’s all these pollutants and mercury in fish oil.” Almost all high quality fish oils are molecularly distilled.
JJ Virgin: 40:02 Right. That’s why you take fish oil. That’s actually the safest way to do it.
Dr. Gundry: 40:06 Exactly.
JJ Virgin: 40:07 You don’t go buy bargain basement fish oil. You buy clean, pure, good fish oil.
Dr. Gundry: 40:12 Exactly. Well, as you know, my new book, The Longevity Paradox came out a couple of months ago. I want people to live to a ripe old age while staying young. So I ask my guest, can you give us one thing our listeners can do today to live longer happier lives? You’ve certainly given us some thoughts. Give us one pearl to take away.
JJ Virgin: 40:39 Prioritize your sleep.
Dr. Gundry: 40:41 Very good.
JJ Virgin: 40:43 I wear my Oura ring because-
Dr. Gundry: 40:46 Yeah. I’d hold up this finger but I better not.
JJ Virgin: 40:48 I know. But whether it’s an Oura ring, or a Fitbit, what you measure and monitor, you can improve. I am so darn competitive with myself, then I watch it. But if you look at the things that you can do that make a difference, sleep is right there at the top. I find for most people, it’s not that they’re not good sleepers, it’s that they didn’t make it important enough.
Dr. Gundry: 41:13 You’re right. Right at the top of your book, our good friend Arianna Huffington, found out from personal experience that you may be the greatest warrior of all time. But if you don’t take care of your sleep, you will crash and hit your desk and break your face. It took that to get her to understand the importance of sleep. I can’t stress that enough. I think the Oura ring is a phenomenal sleep tracker. I’m trying out a Whoop. Which comes out of Harvard. Which is another pretty interesting sleep tracker. They actually are tracking pretty well. It’s a little too early to say. But absolutely track your sleep and you’ll get some big surprises as I think you do. Even day to day, you can look back and say, “What the heck? Why did this happen?” Right? JJ, it’s been great having you on the podcast. How do our listeners find you as if they didn’t know.
JJ Virgin: 42:23 I made that one simple. jjvirgin.com. Spelled exactly like it sounds.
Dr. Gundry: 42:28 All right. Stay with me for a second because we always have an audience question. Actually this… let me have you chime in since you’re actually sipping on something like that. So, .5703 on Instagram asks, what is your opinion of water Kefir? Is it a better option for ulcerative colitis patients than milk kefir?
Dr. Gundry: 42:57 That’s actually a great question. Kefir is fermented. Usually people think of kefir as fermented milk. I have quite frankly a big problem with milk kefir because so many of my patients react to casein A1 which is present in most American milk. It’s an abnormal protein. A lot of goat’s milk and sheep milk have casein A2. But quite frankly, with a lot of new testing I’m doing, there is a percentage of our population that clearly reacts not only to casein A1, but they react to whey and casein A2. Having said that, if you’re going to have a milk kefir, I’d much rather you have goat or sheep. But I’d actually rather you do a coconut kefir or a water kefir and you take out that risk. JJ, what say you?
JJ Virgin: 44:06 Right there with you.
Dr. Gundry: 44:07 Oh, there’s a dog.
JJ Virgin: 44:09 There’s a dog making her appearance. Now she’s going to bark. I’m right there with you. Part of the Virgin Diet was pulling out dairy and then having you recheck to see how you feel. I don’t find people feeling better with dairy so I would prefer to keep that out. I’m right there with you on coconut with that. Kind of a bigger thing here. I’m going to just stress is, anyone with ulcerative colitis. And anyone. I think one of the most powerful things that you can do is keep a food journal. When you’re introducing something like this, just introduce one new food at a time and really see how you feel. You’ll know within three to four days if that one works. But I’m not a fan of dairy or gluten. I’m not a fan of whey. Because I see and I see a lot of those whey shakes out there that have a lot of milk protein solids in them, too. It’s the way they keep the price down. So, be careful on all those things.
Dr. Gundry: 45:06 Great point. I just saw a patient with ulcerative colitis who followed my program and weight loss was a side effect. He lost 15 pounds. He and his partner were feeling great. They went on vacation. He started eating on vacation. He flared instantaneously. The big mistake was, he went and visited his gastroenterologist. He got blasted with three immunosuppressants. I just saw him after that. I said, “What the heck?” He said, “I was feeling so great. I was off of everything and then I went on vacation.” I said, “Wouldn’t that tell you that…”
JJ Virgin: 45:56 Hello? I’m like, “Why wouldn’t you just go back to the way you were eating?” And then the bigger take away from that is, as far as I can think, if I’m going to go on vacation somewhere awesome, I don’t want to feel sick on vacation. So I don’t understand this whole idea of, “I’m on vacation, so I’m going to be eating a bunch of crap. Then I’ll feel bad so then I’ll mess up my vacation.” Just take your diet with you. It travels with you. That’s how you should just be eating.
Dr. Gundry: 46:26 That’s a great point. And I get that question all the time. How the heck, and your program, my program have a lot of similarities, how the heck do you travel with your diet?
JJ Virgin: 46:41 It’s easy. I travel 75% of the time. This is not challenging. I also travel with a NutriBullet. I bring smoothie mix with me. I always know where I’m going so I can have food delivered to the hotel. I always make sure that I have a refrigerator in the hotel. I eat at healthy restaurants. I don’t go to fast food places. But there’s so many great options around now that it’s a lot easier. But I do always, I always carry emergency food with me. I think that’s one of the things that will always save you as I have bars with me. You can soak some nuts. Slow roast them. Bring them with you. So you can bring things with you. Again, smoothie mix. Get some coconut milk shipped in. Then, look where you’re going and see if Prime Now or Instacart delivers there because it probably does. And then when you go abroad, most of stuff is so much cleaner anyway that you don’t… The problems are here in the States. It’s not so much abroad. Unless you’re going to Canada, it’s just like the US really.
Dr. Gundry: 47:42 Yet Europe does not have a lot of glyphosate. It’s coming. Sadly. But I think that explains a lot of the reasons that you can eat much better in Europe than you can in the United States.
JJ Virgin: 47:58 Here’s one other thing that I do when I travel. It’s a great time to throw in intermittent fasting and 24 hour fasting. I’m always amazed on planes. I look around and go, “What is going on here? This is like a free for all over here. Why are you having all these drinks and all this food you’re sitting on your butt. This is silly.” I look at these things with time zone shifting as a great time to throw in some intermittent fasting. Sometime restricted eating and not eat. I don’t eat on the planes. You don’t need to and you’re certainly not going to get great options there anyway.
Dr. Gundry: 48:34 Right. Yeah. And most of the stuff you’re given is gluten based and high carbohydrate based. Some of the airlines are going, “Oh, well, we have three options.” And they’re all pure carbohydrates. And it’s like, “I’ll have a diet coke with that though.”
JJ Virgin: 48:51 Oh, yeah. That just kills me. I really am striving not to be judgy but I am a bit judgy on what I see people doing on the planes. Gosh. Especially when they sit down and have a diet coke. That’s where I really want to get on my soapbox and start with them. Because that’s one of the biggest evils that we’ve ever done to our population is artificial sweeteners.
Dr. Gundry: 49:12 Yeah, I was a diet coke addict.
JJ Virgin: 49:15 Me too. I grew up on tab. I used to save my allowance to go get tab, right?
Dr. Gundry: 49:20 My mentor at the University of Michigan in heart surgery kept warm tab in his drawer in his desk. After every case, we would go to his office and we both pop warm tab. There’s probably nothing worse than a warm tab. He was my pusher. That’s how I got addicted to it. So, you’re right. All right. We’re preaching to the choir on that one. Please, folks, stay away-
JJ Virgin: 49:49 That was a little bit of a rant.
Dr. Gundry: 49:52 All right. JJ, thanks so much for being on the program. Hopefully we’ll be talking soon.
JJ Virgin: 50:00 I think we will be.
Dr. Gundry: 50:01 All right. 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/Dr.Gundry. Because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.