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):
Do you think bananas are healthy? Think again. I’m Dr. Steven Gundry, best-selling author of the plant paradox series and on the Dr. Gundry podcast, you’re going to learn the foods to eat and the ones to avoid, to lose weight, boost your energy and feel your most vibrant, active self this year. You’ll also learn simple tips from the world’s top experts on health and nutrition. Plus, you’ll discover the truth about calories, how running could actually be hurting your health, and why fat won’t make you fat. Subscribe now to the Dr. Gundry podcast on Apple, Spotify, Amazon music, or wherever you get your podcast because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.
Kimberly Snyder (01:04):
Welcome to the Feel Good podcast with Kimberly Snyder. My goal is to help you develop a holistic lifestyle based on our four-cornerstone philosophy, food, body, emotional well-being and spiritual growth. This holistic approach will help you feel good, which I define as being connected to your most authentic, highest self, and this is the place from which your energy, confidence, creativity, true power and true beauty will start to explode. Every week, we provide you with interviews from top experts in their field or a solo cast from yours truly to support you in living your most beautiful, healthy and joyful life. I’m your host, Kimberly Snyder, founder of Solluna, New York Times best-selling author and holistic wellness nutrition and meditation teacher. Let’s get started.
Dr. Gundry (01:56):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry podcast. Everybody knows that walking is good for you, right? But could walking actually be better for you than lifting weights or even running? Well, the answer may surprise you. Science shows that living a healthier, happier life takes more than just talking the talk, it actually takes walking the walk literally. In just a minute, you’re going to learn why. On this episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast, I’ll be speaking with the author, neuroscientist and bonafide walking expert, yeah there is such a thing, Shane O’Mara.
Shane is a professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College in Dublin Ireland. A few months ago, he released his latest book, In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration. Today, we’re going to be talking about the history of walking, we were not, apparently there is a history of walking and why we actually both agree, walking is one of the best forms of exercise there is. We’ll also talk about how walking can benefit your posture, protect your organs, oh this I got to hear, promote reverse aging, boy something I love, and so much more. Shane, welcome to the program.
Shane O’Mara (03:30):
Thank you. I’m delighted to be with you.
Dr. Gundry (03:31):
All right. Shane, tell me and my listeners a bit more about yourself. Of all the crazy fields of research that you could dive into, why walking? Come on.
Shane O’Mara (03:44):
It’s actually very straightforward. In my everyday research life, I worked on the brain systems that are affected by stress and depression and that are supported by learning and memory. One of the great convergences in brain science is the discovery that lots of bits of the brain are involved in lots of different functions. These parts of the brain that are involved in learning and memory that are badly affected by stress and depression are also preferentially affected by walking, in fact, are involved in goal-setting and knowing where you are when you’re moving about in the world. It just seemed utterly straightforward. Nobody had put the literature together before, and I thought, “Well, if I don’t do it, I wonder who else will,” so I thought I do it.
Dr. Gundry (04:32):
Now, the first obvious question is, are you a walker or were you always a walker?
Shane O’Mara (04:42):
I’ve always been a walker, and I’ve always preferred walking to running. I was always one of those guys when we were doing school sports, we’d do the 5000 km, and I would be in the back two or three, but I was always really good at walking and I could walk very long distances and still can for very long periods of time without too much trouble. I guess I have a certain bias in terms of my own willingness to walk.
Dr. Gundry (05:10):
All right. I guess there was some motivation here to look into this deeper.
Shane O’Mara (05:15):
Yeah. I’m, of course, where walking is concerned, my big thing is that we need to weave walking into our everyday lives. We’ve designed towns and cities where we’ve engineered walking out of our lives. We’ve also got this strange cultural idea that walking is something you do a boots at the weekend. You get into your car, you drive however many miles out into the woods, and actually we shouldn’t be doing that. What we’re doing is living a very unnatural life at the moment, where we sit, as we both are while we’re talking here for maybe seven, eight hours a day. Our bodies are built for movement and our bodies are built to profit from movement.
It is a peculiar thing actually, which is worth mentioning. Our nearest primate relatives, the great apes, the chimpanzees and others, they live very indolent lifestyles, and it’s without cardiovascular effect. For us though, it is sitting around all day is bad for us in just about every way you can think of, from cardiovascular effects to subtle changes in your personality, to simple things like the gluing up of your joints and all of the other things that you should be capable of doing. We know that walking is intensely health-promoting, reduces inflammation. For example, there is lots of inflammatory factors produced in your blood when you sit around all day, interleukin 6 is a famous one, but also low-density cholesterol, LDL, the bad form of cholesterol. These are all reversed quickly and easily by walking and walking lots.
Dr. Gundry (06:54):
All right. I guess one of the big questions that everybody says is define walking lots.
Shane O’Mara (07:03):
Yes. We can do that and we can do that actually quite easily, because we can look at, because we’ve pedometers now and we’ve got smartphones, we can look at the amount of walking that people and look at their liability to metabolic diseases and other noncommunicable diseases. What you see is that people who walk less than about 5000 to 7500 steps a day, there is a surge of metabolic disorder, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, all those kinds of things in that population and it falls away dramatically once you start to slide that walking threshold up. We can be fairly certain that activity is the thing and the kind of activity that we’re designed for and can most easily engage in is to go for lots of regular walks during the course of the day. My advice always is, because we don’t walk enough, 5000 steps more than you’re currently doing is probably a good guide. If you’re doing 5,000 today, that will take you to 10,000. If you’re doing 3,000, which is not very much at all, that’ll take you to 8,000. The health benefits of that will become very, very apparent very, very quickly.
Dr. Gundry (08:15):
Yeah. I’ll give you an example that I actually have put in my upcoming book, The Energy Paradox. Back in the mid-1980s, my family moved to London, England, where I did fellowship in pediatric cardiac surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital for sick children. We didn’t have a car, we had a walk-up flat. We had littlest, tiny flat, with the tiniest little refrigerator, we had two young kids, five and seven, and so we had to go everywhere walking. The grocery was about 10 blocks away. Our favorite pizza, Pizza Express was a mile away. Even the Tube, the underground was a significant walk to get to. As you know, where we got off it was usually still a significant walk. Even though I was as busy as I had ever been, during that year I actually lost almost 50 pounds just because I walked everywhere.
Shane O’Mara (09:24):
You walked, yeah.
Dr. Gundry (09:24):
I walked everywhere.
Shane O’Mara (09:26):
London is one of the world’s great walking cities. Of course, if you look at indices of walkability in the US, New York always comes out top. Boston comes up out there as well, and so does San Francisco. These are cities that really, a car is a bit of a liability. I think what we’re seeing, especially coming out of this very, very strange period we’ve been in, the cities are starting to think about how they should be redesigned to make it easy for people to get around under their own steam. London is a great example of that, the public transport is fantastic, and really you can do most things on foot. Of course, this is something you inadvertently profit from. You don’t engineer walking into your day, it’s just part of your day and it’s something that you do naturally and you get all the health benefits from as a result, and all of the other benefits. We shouldn’t just focus on health, there are myriad other ones.
Dr. Gundry (10:25):
Yeah. I’m going to add one other thing. We either jog or walk our dogs about 2 1/2, 3 miles every day. That’s a wonderful thing about a dog. They require walking.
Shane O’Mara (10:40):
They force you out.
Dr. Gundry (10:41):
Yes, they do. We have a neighbor, and I won’t tell which town, we have a neighbor. It’s a fairly long drive away, not significant who … they’re our age, but they actually take their car out of their garage. They drive down the driveway to pick up their newspaper, turn around and drive up the driveway, and they do this every day. I knew I was going to talk to you and I said, Shane, what do you think about that practice?
Shane O’Mara (11:14):
I think that’s really sad. One of the kind of arguments I make is we need lots of regular activity built-in right throughout the course of our days every day. I don’t know how long you neighbor’s drive is, let’s say it’s a kilometer long just for the fun of it.
Dr. Gundry (11:33):
Okay. It’s not.
Shane O’Mara (11:36):
Okay. Well, let’s say it’s 500 meters long, it doesn’t matter. The point is that you could be getting an extra 500, 600 steps out and back without thinking about it. The same when you take a phone call, don’t sit when you’re taking the call, walk up and down. There are lots and lots of ways that you can build extra walking into the course of your day. If you have to drive to work, park as far as reasonably possible from where you work, walk the remaining part of the journey. If you have to go to the mall, do the same. If you take a train to work, get out a couple of stops early. I take the train into the center of Dublin every day, haven’t for the last couple of months, but what I would normally do is get out two stations early and that gives me an extra 3000 steps and also clears my head before the workday starts.
Dr. Gundry (12:23):
Okay. Here you are, a neuroscientist and you talk about clearing the head. I happen to believe you, tell me the research. Is there such a thing that walking clears your head?
Shane O’Mara (12:38):
Yeah, there is. You can treat this at all sorts of different ways. A very simple thing is you got a problem to solve. Poets, of course, have known about the connection between walking and creativity since time in memorial. Teachers have the Peripatetic school of philosophers used to walk and talk. Of course, a good way to have an argument with somebody is not face-to-face but while you’re out for a walk. There are all sorts of anecdotal reasons why walking might be good. If you have a difficult problem to solve, coming up with ideas is the problem and sitting there you feel like the problem you’ve got is intractable. It’s big, you can’t get it solved.
A way of dealing with that is to go for a walk. We can push this beyond just saying anecdotally this is a good thing. A good test of creativity in the laboratory is what’s known as an alternative uses test. You’re brought into the lab and people would hand you common objects like a phone or a book or whatever, and you have to come up with uses for those objects. People vary in the number of uses they can come up with. Some people will come up with very few, two or three alternative uses, others will come up with 10 or 20.
Now, here’s the thing. If you get people to go for a walk for maybe 8 or 10 minutes before they do this task, they come up with about twice as many ideas as they would have done had they just been sitting there. I think the reason for this is straightforward. Walking makes demands on the brain and body that sitting simply doesn’t. You’re sitting, you’ve got very nice posture there, you’re breathing, you’re paying attention to me, I’m paying attention to you, we’ve maintained a conversational thread, but that’s really as much as our brain really needs to worry about. When you stand immediately things change, because that’s a call to action to the body from the brain, it’s saying get ready we have to do something. You’re not built for movement from your feet up, you’re built actually from the head down. As far as your brain is concerned, your body is hung out of your head and makes contact with the ground, it’s like your castle in the air.
That means there’s a continuous signal coming out from the brain to the body, and there’s feedback coming back from the body. I’m on a stable surface, I can move in this direction, all of those kinds of things are happening continuously. You’re getting activity spreading out across the brain in ways that wouldn’t have occurred merely as the result of being seated.
Then just to push that thought a little bit further, a wonderful discovery just in the past 10 or so years is the fact that the muscles when they’re activated, particularly the muscles of the legs, produce molecules known as myokines. These are only produced when muscle is contracting, so the muscle must be working. When they’re produced, they diffuse through the vasculature right throughout the body and into the brain among other places, and they help keep the fabric of the brain and body in good working order, to the point that if you take people in their early 70s, this is work which have been done in Illinois, you actually can reverse the functional aging of the brain. Somebody who’s 72, they look much more like somebody who’s 70 or 69 in terms of their performance on psychological tests.
Also, parts of the brain that are involved in attention and learning, all of those kinds of things show greater levels of activity than they would otherwise have done. You have these feedforward things coming out of the brain to the body and then these feedback thing is coming from the body to the brain. It’s a wonderfully integrated system.
Dr. Gundry (16:29):
Okay. The question everybody wants to know, and one of the reasons I want you on the program is, if walking is so good for you, then surely running is far better for you. Come on. What say you?
Shane O’Mara (16:45):
What say I? Okay, here’s an interesting one. If you ask somebody to prepare for a marathon. To run a marathon, which is 3-hour, 4-hour run, that takes between 12 and 20 weeks of intense practice. To get somebody to walk 1200 km across a mountain range takes about four days of adaptation. We’re built to adapt very quickly to the rigors of walking, adapting to the rigors of running, and I’m not down on running, and I don’t mean to be heard as saying you shouldn’t run. We profit very, very quickly from walking lots in a way that we don’t where running is concerned, because the adaptation for that kind of extreme performance takes much, much longer. We have lots of evidence that this is true from studies of people who have taken over, for example, the Villa Alpena, which is in northern Italy, on the Appalachian Trail in the US and lots of other places. Humans are built to walk 15 km a day on average from about the age of 2 until 80 or 90 without any trouble, and it’s something we can do every day of our lives absent injury or illness.
Now, there is one thing about walking compared with running. The amount of injuries that you suffer per million steps walked is approximately flat, whereas the numbers of injuries that you suffer per million steps run is not. It rises quite considerably and runners do spend a lot of time with twisted ankles, sore knees, splinting and other things. If you’re going to run, be very careful about the surface you run on, the shoes you wear, all of those things. I think for walking, a good pair of shoes, maybe because I’m talking from Ireland, a decent raincoat.
Dr. Gundry (18:48):
Shane O’Mara (18:51):
That’s probably enough.
Dr. Gundry (18:53):
All right. That’s a great point. In my first book years ago, I actually mentioned the Kalahari Bushmen, the [icon 00:19:09]. Back in the original running craze, people actually went and asked the Kalahari bushmen what do you think about running a marathon? They basically said, “Well, wait a minute. Why would anybody run 26.2 miles because if you were chasing an animal it wouldn’t be worth it, number one, and if the animal was chasing you he would’ve caught you long before then. Yeah, these guys, of course, are great long-distance walkers.
Shane O’Mara (19:42):
Yeah. They are very good amazing persistence hunters but they run in bursts, they don’t run at the same speed as the antelope that they might be chasing. What they’re doing is working in a coordinated group together to hun that animal down. Again, this is something that humans are remarkably good at. Take a different group that are living a similar “ancestral lifestyle”. The Tsimane in the Amazonian jungle, they walk everywhere. They can’t run because you can’t run in the jungle, it’s really difficult. Here’s the shocking thing about their heart health. The average Tsimane male who is 18 years old has equivalent heart health to the average 55-year-old American. They have a lot more parasites and they have other things going on, but their heart health is absolutely astonishing. The same has been found repeatedly in other populations where people do not rely on mechanized transport. Lots of walking throughout the day benefits you in all sorts of ways.
Dr. Gundry (20:53):
All right. Now, wait a minute. The fitness gurus who are listening are going, “Wait a minute. Walking doesn’t get your heart rate up high enough and anybody who knows anything, you got to get your heart rate up to have good cardiovascular health.” How about that?
Shane O’Mara (21:09):
Yeah, and they’re correct. They’re correct. I don’t think one should deny what’s obvious about the science. But I think the problem we’ve got is we’re damned by the words that we’ve got. We’ve got a singular verb, walking, and actually, what I try to argue is that there are many types of walking that we can engage in. If you want to walk for cardiovascular health, you have to impose cardiovascular strain. There’s no two ways about that. You need to walk at a rate of, let’s say, 5.8, 6.2 kilometers an hour. You need to do on a surface that has an incline, so you’re imposing a bit more strain, and you need to be walking at a pace where it’s difficult to concentrate on your podcast that you’re listening to and you can’t carry on a conversation with the person beside you very easily. That’s the pace that you want to put in if you want to get the cardiovascular benefits.
But if you want to walk for problem solving, you probably want to walk a bit more slowly than last. If you want to talk out a problem with your partner, you probably want to walk a little bit more slowly as well. I think it all depends on the kind of walking you want to do. Again, my general argument comes back to this point. We’ve engineered walking out of our everyday lives, and we would all profit enormously if we could get an extra 8,000 or 10,000 steps a day every day.
Dr. Gundry (22:31):
People ask me all the time, what’s one book you recommend? Well, aside from my brand-new book, The Energy Paradox, one book I’ve really enjoyed in the past year is Eat Like The Animals by David Raubenheimer and Stephen J. Simpson. In fact, I often tell people to pause whatever they’re doing and pick up a copy. It’s that good. Of course, if you’re anything like me, it can be pretty hard to fit books into your busy lives. Fortunately, there’s Audible. Audible is the leading provider of spoken word entertainment all in one place. They’ve got thousands of titles to choose from, including The Energy Paradox and Eat Like The Animals. Plus, if you become an Audible member today, you’ll get a credit every month good for any title in their entire premium selection.
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How about, I like to call them energy snacks. What about just taken 10 minutes before lunch, before dinner or after lunch or after dinner, breaking this up into little bitty bites.
Shane O’Mara (27:09):
Yeah. Lots and lots of bits during the course of the day is ideal. You’ll know very well, of course, those taking a walk before you eat is a good way of actually suppressing your appetite a little and stabilizing your blood sugar levels. It’s a good way if you have a craving to get rid of that craving for whatever it happens to be. Yeah, that’s perfect advice. Lots of 10, 15 minutes here, there and everywhere. Don’t sit for three hours and think getting up and walking for five minutes is going to undo the damage of that. Get up every 25 minutes for 10 minutes or something. You’d be more productive as well.
Dr. Gundry (27:48):
I think the other thing that impresses me in Europe where I spend a lot of time is so many people walk after dinner.
Shane O’Mara (27:48):
Dr. Gundry (27:59):
It’s a stroll, whether it’s on the [Rhombus 00:28:03] or in London or wherever. Is there a benefit to just strolling after a meal?
Shane O’Mara (28:13):
I think there’s two things going on there. Again, walking after a meal help stabilize the drop in blood sugar or the change in blood sugar levels rather to correct myself because you’ll have a surge in blood sugar after you’ve eaten. But there’s also something else going on. If you go to Taormina in Italy, for example, where the [inaudible 00:28:33] is practiced all over, walking is there for social display. This is one of the great benefits of walking. You’re not doing it for cardiac health, you’re doing it for social health. You meet your neighbors, you meet people around that you wouldn’t otherwise meet, you get to chat and you have enormous levels of social cohesion in places like this where people at these random meetings, you’d get to see the same familiar strangers every day and you get that nice stability. It there’s really two things going on there. One is that it’s good where appetite is concerned, but the other is this social wealth that can be built through walking.
Dr. Gundry (29:18):
Yeah, that’s certainly one of the things that’s true of all the blue zones. I happen to have spent most of my career in the only blue zone in North America, Loma Linda, California. All the blue zones are on hilly communities, number one. Number two, they walk these hills.
Shane O’Mara (29:39):
Dr. Gundry (29:39):
All their lives.
Shane O’Mara (29:41):
They were all populated before the car was invented. We’re always inclined to think the car has been a permanent feature of our lives. Actually, it hasn’t been. Widespread car ownership, even in the US, didn’t happen until the 1940s and the 1950s.
Dr. Gundry (29:58):
Shane O’Mara (29:58):
We’re talking within the lifespan of somebody who’s 70 or 80 years old. Really, the car, as a feature of our streets, has only been around since the late 19teens or the early 1920s. Will it be there in a hundred years? I don’t know.
Dr. Gundry (30:16):
We’ve all be flying by then.
Shane O’Mara (30:20):
I hope we’ll be walking.
Dr. Gundry (30:22):
All right. Now, the other argument is walking doesn’t help you build muscle mass, and you got to lift weights and do weight exercises to get muscle mass, and obviously, muscles are really important.
Shane O’Mara (30:41):
Yeah. Again, the answer is that that’s true, but walking facilitates a particular type of muscle mass building, at least it did in our ancestral times because we carried everything. You carried your child, you carried your water, you carried your animal that you just killed, you carried your spears. Back in those days, we used our hands for lots of other purposes, we used our backs for lots of other purposes. They would have built core strength in ways that walking typically won’t for us now. It’s absolutely true. Walking will not build core muscle. You’re going to have to do all the things, unless you wear weights when you’re walking, wear a backpack, do those things.
There is one thing that I would say that’s really interesting where walking and muscle health is concerned, and this is the muscles of the calves. We know something very interesting about these muscles. If you stand for a long time, you tend to get pooling of blood in the feet, and of course, pooling of the blood reduce circulation. Edema is bad for you and you’re more likely to faint, to fall over to have all these deficits in the circulation of blood through the body. However, when you walk, those calf muscles have this peculiar property that they’re electrically excitable in ways that the heart is electrically excitable, and they help push the blood back up through the body. They have an antigravity effect where the circulation of blood is concerned, and they maintain that kind of orthostatic pressure that you need in order not to faint every time you stand up. Walking, in absolute sense, is really good for your thigh muscles but also for your leg muscles. I just think that’s completely undeniable. But if you want to build arm muscles, obviously, lift something.
Dr. Gundry (32:52):
You make a good point. We are one of the few upright walking mammals, animals for that matter, us and emperor penguins, I guess.
Shane O’Mara (33:04):
They don’t have knees and don’t have hands.
Dr. Gundry (33:09):
That’s right. This would strike any of us as a pretty lousy design, and it must be a lousy design because very few animals have chosen this design.
Shane O’Mara (33:23):
I think it’s a brilliant design because there are 8 billion of us, and we’ve hunted every animal off the planet.
Dr. Gundry (33:31):
Shane O’Mara (33:32):
It’s a good enough design. There is no other species occupying this niche, this particular ecological niche, we got there first, and it’s going to be a long time before any other species could come along and push us out of it. We might push ourselves out of it, but that’s a different day’s discussion. The key point is that although we do suffer from lower back pain, there’s no doubt about that, the cure for lower back pain is persistently misunderstood. Don’t sit. Get up and walk. It’s clearly the case of people who are very tall can have spinal problems. Our backs are not well-designed things, but they’re good enough, and it’s been certainly good enough to make 8 billion of us.
Dr. Gundry (34:16):
We talked earlier about, and you’re interested in mood and stress. What’s the connection between walking and mood and stress or managing mood and stress?
Shane O’Mara (34:30):
Yeah. There is lots of different pieces of data all converging in the same place. If you do a very simple experiment on lab student, on university students, you bring them to the lab and you say, “I’m going to ask you to do the following tasks. We’re going to walk around the university campus and we’re going to get you to judge the beauty of the buildings we’re looking at. Or, for another group you say, “Thank you for coming to the lab. We’re going to get you to judge the beauty of these pictures of these buildings. Incidentally, will you fill out a form just saying how good you’re feeling at this moment on a scale of 1 to 5?”
What you find is the group that were taken out for the walk to look at the buildings, their aesthetic judgments will be about the same as the group that looked at the pictures, but their mood goes up and it goes up quite a bit. This is just from an incidental walk. That’s interesting in that group. What we see is if you track people with pedometers who are not currently sick, who do not have psychiatric disorder or who do not of the physical disability, you track them over and 8 or 10 or 12 year period and you break them into bands from the least active, those who walk the least, those who walk the most. What you see is that for every level of movement above the lowest level of movement where people are hardly walking at all, your risk of major depressive disorder falls and falls really substantially, something around about 12% or so.
It is, I think, beyond doubt at this stage that people who walk regularly are simply at much less risk of succumbing to major depressive disorder compared to people who are physically inactive. The causality here is a little hard to tease out because it’s hard to get people who have got major depressive disorder to walk. They’ve got enough going on and ethically, there might be issues. But in terms of a kind of preventative physical activity, walking is the one that we’re designed to profit from very easily, reduces your risk and reduces it very substantially.
Dr. Gundry (36:43):
Speaking of reducing risk, as you know and I know, we have an epidemic of dementia. Any relationship between walking and preventing dementia?
Shane O’Mara (36:57):
Yeah. There’s a major commission by the Lancet Journal that I’m sure you know well, published about two or three years ago looking at lifestyle factors and dementia. There are things that you can’t do anything about, so your genetic liability for dementia, it’s really difficult to do anything about that. But there are lifestyle factors that can make a big difference, not smoking is one of them. Controlling your weight, and eating an appropriate diet is another. Regular exercise, a couple of times a week reduces the risk of dementia quite substantially. It’s probably, given the data we’ve got, too late once dementia has started. But if you’ve been walking regularly throughout life, that’s almost like money in the bank that you put away to look after your own brain health as you get older. A simple way to remember this is what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain.
Dr. Gundry (37:57):
No, it’s very true. In fact, I mentioned in The Longevity Paradox book that I wrote that if you look at women who, unfortunately, develop far more Alzheimer’s than men. Women who exercise regularly, and most of that is walking, they have an 80% reduction in dementia compared to women who don’t exercise regularly. But what’s fascinating is the genetic component to that, people who carry the apoe4 gene, if they get dementia, their dementia arrives 11 years later than the group that didn’t exercise. That’s significant.
Shane O’Mara (38:45):
Yes. There is a really interesting paper just out on apoe4, and what seems to be happening in those people who are carriers is that their blood-brain barrier is compromised or at least more easily compromisable because of the apoe4 gene. One of the great things that walking does for you is it causes you to express an amazing molecule called vascular endothelial growth factor, which actually repairs.
Dr. Gundry (39:16):
Shane O’Mara (39:16):
VEGF and there’s a couple of others, but these myokines are just amazing for this, SN VEGF is another one. It may actually be that the causal thing there is, not anything to do with changes in the brain but actually having a leaky blood-brain barrier and lots of exercise helps reduce the likelihood that that BBB will be leaking.
Dr. Gundry (39:39):
Yeah, I agree with you. Dale Bredeson has become a good friend of mine, and both of us are really deeply involved with the apoe4 folks. Yeah, we’re beginning to realize why that’s a risk factor, but that both of us believe it’s a very modifiable risk factor, and I think exercise is right up there. All right. Okay. You convinced me I got to walk more, our listeners and viewers say, “Oh my gosh, I got to walk more.” Come on, how do you do that realistically?
Shane O’Mara (40:15):
There’s two things that really have to happen. The first is you have to take out your smartphone and turn on your pedometer and check it religiously and be very, very annoyed with yourself if you haven’t managed to get your steps in. I am a little obsessive about that, and I always check it regularly during the day. I have an alarm goes off, so I got up and I walk regularly. You do things, like I’ve said, if you have to take a phone call, don’t sit, walk around when you’re doing it. Walk to the shop rather than actually taking your car if you can help it, do all of those things. But there’s another thing, and this is where, I don’t want to focus too much on the individual, where you live makes a huge difference.
Again, if you look at the great spread of cities that you have in the United States, some are amazingly walkable cities, New York being one that scores as I’ve mentioned very highly on the walkability index. But other places have very poor provision of sidewalks, so there is an issue to do with how we build our societies and make it easy for people to get out and walk. Because if you design your society, so that everything happens in a car, well then, nobody is going to walk. But if you design your society around let’s say a philosophy of individual mobility of the person, no of a box and four wheels, then you end up with a different way of thinking about how your city should be put together.
There’s a great thing happening in Paris at the moment, the 15-minutes city idea. What they’re planning to do over the next decade or so is engineer the city so that all of the homes that are within the periphery will have all of the facilities of life that they need within a 15-minute walk of the front door. Your school, your shop, your place of work, all of those kinds of things will all be easily accessible. Designs like that will transform how our cities will work and the old idea that we should have places for work over in one zone, a place for living in another, a place for shopping in another, these kind of mixed residential areas, mixed-use areas are going to be, I think, much more popular but make them walkable. Don’t make them places where people have to get into a car all the time.
Dr. Gundry (42:34):
Is there hope that we can actually take existing cities and re-design them to make them work?
Shane O’Mara (42:41):
Yeah, why not? It just takes will. It costs a lot of money to build freeways, it costs a lot of money to do things, we just have to decide that actually we’re going to spend our budgets a little differently. You have this, I think it’s in Houston, there is a great example of a 24-lane wide freeway, and the joke that engineers had was, “We talked for all those extra billions we’d get an extra extra movement, but you don’t, you get induced demand.
Dr. Gundry (43:11):
Shane O’Mara (43:13):
Induced demand is a real thing. We have to think, again, about how far-flung our suburbs should be, how connected up our city should be, what is our provision for things like transport, what are our zoning regulations, did they maintain a distance between shopping and housing and offices and all of the other things, or do they mix them all up. You can have very big differences in outcome for very small changes in regulations. I think these things are entirely possible.
Dr. Gundry (43:46):
All right. Before I let you go, this is something that’s talked about all the time. The older we get, the slower we walk and there is, I’m sure you know, the slower you walk the worse your health is going to be. How the heck am I going to speed up my walking?
Shane O’Mara (44:11):
Yeah, it’s a very good question. I think one of the issues, again, comes back to how we design our towns and cities and our streets to make them safe for people who have mobility issues as they get older. There’s a lovely study from UK a few years ago showing that the average person over there aged over 70 has a mobility impairment, about 85% of males and 95% of females have a walking impairment. What’s the consequence of this? Well, the consequence is that we’ve designed crosswalks in streets for adults that can walk at 1.2 meters a second. Of course, somebody who’s 85 with a frame can’t walk at that speed, so they’re trapped in their homes, and that just makes the problem they’ve got worse. If we change, again, design and the environment, so that walking across streets become safe or you raise the middle-of-the-roads so people can walk across that easily. You slow down car speeds, think about the surfaces that we walk on, are they slip-proof?
If you fall, are you going to break your hip? There are all sorts of ways of thinking about how we design things, so that even though you’re going to slow down a little as you get over, the fear that you have slowing down can be taken away. What’s happening to all our old car tires? They can be recycled and be made into payments. They’re already used in children’s playgrounds. There’s lots and lots of things we can think about doing, we don’t have to do, just pour concrete in everything and hope that that would be the best outcome. There are lots of the ways of doing things.
Dr. Gundry (46:00):
Lastly, with COVID-19 and everybody trapped inside, has there been a study yet showing that the fact that a lot of people cannot get out and walk, has that increased stress levels? What do we do? Let’s all get a mask on and get out there or what?
Shane O’Mara (46:23):
There’s a study which has appeared, it’s only a pre-print at the moment, but it’s under review. What it shows is something interesting. Again, it’s smartphone data. People who are inactive have stayed the same level of inactivity that they were all was at, so COVID has made no difference to those people. People who were very active before at the outbreak of COVID, their levels of activity fell and fell quite a bit. What we don’t have, because we’re only three months into this, is enough data to know what has happened in terms of an upswing from that. Currently, and this is on the US population, this is again, one of these examples of how having access to smartphone data could tell us really interesting things about what we do.
But I think my own local town, our local suburb here, it’s an old medieval little village, and the streets are quite narrow and, of course, we have street parking for cars. To make it possible for people to engage in spatial distancing while walking, we’ve had to take, or at least the urban district council has taken away street parking at certain places, so that the footpaths are widened. I think there’s something interesting going on with walking at the moment where we’re paying attention to each other in a way that we didn’t before. We look at each other’s eyes, we say hello, and we swing carefully around each other as we walk. In some respects, I think walking, in a way, has become a little bit more interesting and a bit more pleasurable, because there’s a greater degree of social contact that there wasn’t before.
Dr. Gundry (48:08):
Maybe that will be the bright side of COVID that we’re out and about.
Shane O’Mara (48:13):
There aren’t many, so was have to grasp whatever ones we can find.
Dr. Gundry (48:16):
All right. What one takeaway from in praise of walking that our listeners can get that they didn’t know before?
Shane O’Mara (48:27):
If you walk, it would benefit you in ways that you didn’t know and it will do so for the whole of your life.
Dr. Gundry (48:33):
That’s a good summary, very good. I really appreciate you coming on. I know it’s late there. Where can they find you, your work, the book, anywhere?’
Shane O’Mara (48:46):
If they go to shaneomara.com, they’ll get a link to the book. Of course, if you go to the usual online retailers, you’ll find it very easily. There as well in Kindle and in hardback, and you can get it in about 14 different languages now.
Dr. Gundry (48:46):
Shane O’Mara (49:04):
It’s available in Spanish and it will be available in French, it’s in Polish and all sorts of other languages as well.
Dr. Gundry (49:11):
Very good, very good. All right. In praise of walking, Shane O’Mara, thank you so much. We appreciate you being on and good luck with the book and everybody, keep walking out there.
Shane O’Mara (49:25):
That’s a really great message to end on. Thank you so much.
Dr. Gundry (49:28):
All right, thanks a lot. All right, it’s time for our audience question.
Speaker 5 (49:34):
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Dr. Gundry (50:00):
Keith O’Cote, I think, on YouTube, wrote, “I follow the Plant Paradox day if you’re the UK. Well speaking of which and I’m a lot healthier as a result. There is a trend here for using tomato leaves in salad and for cooking. Tomato leaves contain lectins like the fruit. Hey, that is an excellent question. Actually, most of the nightshades do contain lectins in their leaves. I, personally, have a number of patients who even brushing against a tomato plant will actually make them breakout in rash on their arms or wherever they brushed up on tomato.
I often get a question not to avoid yours, but ashwagandha, many of you know, is a nightshade. Ashwagandha is a very popular adaptogen, and the root of ashwagandha doesn’t have lectins in it, and that’s actually what you’re getting when you’re taking ashwagandha. I would stay away from tomato leaves. Just one more thing, a lot of these plants may not have a lectin in their fruit but they may actually have a lectin in their leaves. I’ve talked about this before, for instance, aquaporins are lectins in leaves of some plants or instant tobacco leaf as an aquaporin. Spinach leaves have an aquaporin that some people absolutely react to. I don’t want to start, spread panic, you can go ahead and have your spinach, but we see a number of people who do react to the aquaporin in spinach. I would stay away from the tomato leaves, but heck, just peel and de-seed your tomato and you’ll be fine or pressure cook them and that’ll do it.
Okay. Review of the week. Following our episode on cannabis, CBD and magic mushrooms, with Jenny Sansouci, Kathy Strickland on YouTube wrote, “Thank you for having Jenny on to talk about all of the benefits of alternative medicine.” Well, that’s what we want to do. We want to make sure you know what’s out there. I may agree or disagree, but this is a forum for voices to be heard and we’re going to keep having you listen to it. Okay. Thanks for writing that. Now, this is for the second.
Speaker 1 (52:36):
[crosstalk 00:52:36] what we’re doing up here.
Dr. Gundry (52:37):
Yup. Okay, it’s time for our audience question. [Svansvamps 00:52:43] on Instagram asks, “Can you talk about amino acids’ impact on the gut lining?” Well, sure. Amino acids, of course, are the building blocks of proteins. We have certain amino acids that we cannot manufacture ourselves, so they are essential amino acids. There are some that are quasi-essential, we don’t make a lot of them but we make enough, but most of those we have to get from our diet as well.
Quite frankly, most foods that you eat will have enough of the essential amino acids for you to do fine with. There is a movement to get peptides, which are one or more amino acids that are combined to improve your health, to improve your gut lining. Certainly, one of the most interesting of the amino acids is glutamine. We know that intestinal cells, particularly colon cells, really like glutamine to eat and to heal themselves. You’ll see that glutamine is a part of multiple formulas for gut health including mine. But there is some worry that excessive glutamine over a few months can actually become toxic turning into glutamate, which is a neurotoxin. I like to use these with my patients or personally for a few months at a time, and then we back away from those. Maybe that was your question. In general, really, most people even eating a total plant-based diet will get plenty of the essential amino acids for health. You do not need animal protein to get essential amino acid. Again, nothing wrong per se with animal protein, but that’s not the purpose of this question.
Review of the week. Chris Tripp on YouTube wrote, “Dr. Gundry, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to devote to these podcasts. Incredible! I look forward to the topics you bring us. All the best, you are a wonderful human.” Wow, Chris, thanks. Check is in the mail, love you and we’ll keep doing this. All right. That’s it for today. Thanks a lot.
On the Dr. Gundry podcast, we provide a venue for discussion and the views expressed by my guests do not necessarily reflect my own. Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcast. If you want to watch each episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast, you could always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/drgundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m all-