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 (00:16):
Welcome to The Dr. Gundry Podcast. There’s something you are likely eating every day that can negatively affect your waistline, complexion, and overall health, and even worse, your immune system too. I’m talking about sugar. Unfortunately, the sweet stuff can lower your body’s ability to fight off illness. As a matter of fact, researchers have found that eating any kind of sugar has the potential to reduce your body’s defenses by 70% for up to six hours after you ingest it. So during the current crisis, limiting your sugar intake is more important than ever.
On this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, I’ll talk more about the effects sugar has on your body’s ability to fight off harmful viruses. I’ll also share tips for conquering sugar addiction once and for all, and how you can enjoy sweet foods without eating the enemy, so tune in. This is not an episode you want to miss. Okay. So let’s start with the basics. What is sugar? Well, sugar comes in so many forms that it’s actually incredibly difficult to figure out what you’re eating has any sugar. So for instance, sugar is a carbohydrate. And a carbohydrate is just a collection of carbon atoms, and depending on how those carbon atoms are arranged, it’s one of the main sources of finding glucose. And glucose is a simple sugar molecule that is the primary fuel that we use to fuel the mitochondria, those little organelles that live in all of our cells.
But unfortunately, glucose is actually not readily available. It’s usually combined with other forms of sugars. So let me give you an example. Sucrose, which most people think is plain old sugar, is half glucose and half fructose, so that white sugar, cane sugar for instance, sucrose is half glucose and half fructose. Most fruit sugars are primarily fructose, which isn’t glucose at all. And in fact, we’ll talk about how fructose is incredibly damaging to almost everything in your body.
There are absolutely other forms of sugars, for instance, the sugar in milk is called lactose. And some people, particularly of non European descent, are unable to digest lactose because we no longer have the enzymes that we had as a child. So these are all forms of sugar, but the important thing to realize is modern food processing has taken the sugars that have been bound together with chemical bonds in nature to make starches. And starches are simply sugar molecules that have been bonded together in long chains. The importance of that is normally starches, because of all these chemical bonds, take quite a while to, during digestion, break these chemical bonds.
Now why is that important? Because long ago, you could eat a starch, such as for instance a whole grain like rice, or a whole grain like wheat, and it would actually take a long time to break those individual starches down into glucose. But modern manufacturing has now been able to break these starch molecules into individual sugar molecules and still disguise them as starches. So what that means is a piece of bread, a plain old everyday piece of white bread, whole wheat bread, actually has the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar in it, even though it doesn’t taste sweet. In fact, there’s so much sugar in white bread that when we calculate it glycemic index, that is: If I eat this, how much does my sugar level go up in my blood? White bread is 100. In other words, it’s actually the highest rated of anything you can eat.
Let me give you another example that I talked about on another podcast. A bagel has about 35 grams of sugar, even though if you read the label, you’ll see zero sugar. And that’s because manufacturers have manipulated the system to hide the sugar content. So starting with the basics, here’s how I want you to look at any package that has a nutrition fact on the back. Take a look at total carbohydrates. That’s the total number of sugar molecules in grams. Then you take the fiber. Fiber is that indigestible starch or sugar molecules that we personally can’t digest, but our bacteria love. So you take total carbohydrates minus fiber, and that will actually give you the grams of sugar per serving.
Now grams mean nothing to most of us, so here’s an easy tip. There’s four grams of sugar in each teaspoon. So for instance, that bagel with 33, 35 grams of sugar, divide that by four, there’s somewhere between eight and nine teaspoons of sugar in that bagel. Now why is that so important? Because researchers, actually many, many years ago, found out how detrimental sugar was in any form to our immune system’s ability to function. Now there are actually a number of papers in humans written in the 1970s on the effect of ingestion of very different kinds of sugar, and we’ll go through that real quickly, on the ability of white blood cells to actually engulf, that means eat, bacteria in this case.
So what they did is they took a bunch of healthy volunteers, and they gave them different forms of sugar. They gave them glucose. They gave them fructose. They gave them starch. They gave them orange juice. Now the equivalent amount of sugar that they gave them was about the sugar in two cans of soda. And believe it or not, there’s about 12 teaspoons in a can of soda, of sugar. Now that sugar is mostly sucrose, not glucose. What they found was, they took blood from these people for six hours, every hour after they ingested whatever sugar they gave them. And they found with each passing hour, the ability of white blood cells to eat bacteria and kill them dramatically fell by 70% ineffective after one hour of eating any of these sugars, including orange juice. And that effect lasted for about six hours. It gradually went back to normal.
So imagine that the healthy glass of orange juice you’re having this morning to ward off the coronavirus is actually impairing the ability of your white blood cells, your defenders, to defend you. It literally paralyzes them. And is that really what we want to do in this time? Same way with a bagel. So a bagel is approach a can of soda in the amount of sugar. And what’s fascinating is that bagel will raise your blood sugar faster than a can of soda. It actually has a higher glycemic index.
So in this day and age, the idea of eating healthy is completely perverted in terms of protecting ourselves against viruses. Now it gets even more interesting. It turns out they took then some diabetics, and they found that diabetics, their white blood cells at their basic state didn’t work half as well as normal people’s white blood cells. Why? Again, it was because the elevated sugar in the bloodstream suppressed the white blood cell function. Now here’s the best news. If you’ve listened to other of my podcasts, you know that one of the only good things that came out of World War II in terms of scientific knowledge was that concentration camp survivors fascinatingly were immune literally from infections. They did not get sick. They did not get colds. Now granted, most of these people sadly starved to death or were killed. But the survivors, the fact that they never got sick prompted scientist to investigate why starvation was good to protect you from harm in terms of bacteria and viruses.
And this study was replicated in healthy volunteers. And they actually put volunteers on a five day water fast. And they did the same thing, they took blood each day and they looked at the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria and kill them. And lo and behold, with every fasting day, as blood sugar declined, the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria increased. So if you’ve ever heard the expression feed a cold and starve a fever, it turns out there’s actually scientific basis for not eating, or fasting, to protect yourself and to actually increase the function of your immune system. Who knew?
Now I don’t want everybody to go on a five day water fast. But the point of all this is even a 12 hour fast in these individuals was shown to improve their white blood cell function. And I’ve got news for you, any of us can do a 12 hour fast. Hey, you’re going to do fasting for seven to eight hours every night. Just add on another four or five hours before you eat breakfast in the morning. Or eat dinner early, and you will actually increase your white blood cells’ ability to defend you. And why wouldn’t we want to do that? So sugars are really bad for you and bad for your immune system. And it’s hidden in almost everything we eat.
Now I get the question constantly. But what about natural sugar? That’s got to be a lot different than cane sugar. Well, sorry, natural sugar is no different than any other sugar. For instance, honey is still sugar. Maple syrup is still sugar. Orange juice is still sugar. So don’t make the mistake that just because it’s natural means it’s better for you. And please don’t pick up the can of soda that says, “All natural cane sugar or organic sugar.” Sugar is sugar. This is a white substance. And if we know anything about white substances, white substances are addictive. And speaking of all natural, cocaine and heroin are all natural, and they’re addictive.
And it turns out that the white substance sugar is equally addictive. In fact, it’s actually more addictive than heroin or cocaine. How do we know? Because we can easily addict rats or mice to heroin or cocaine. And they will press a level and get their heroin or cocaine. When we introduce them to sugar water, within two days, the rats will preferentially hit the button for sugar water instead of heroin or cocaine. And we now know that this actually hits the same pleasure centers in the brain that heroin and cocaine hit, but it hits it even harder. So it’s no wonder that we like sugar. And it’s no wonder that it’s so hard for us to give it up. So think about that the next time you’re craving something sweet. And think about that the next time you’re trying to wean yourself off of sugar.
So how about orange juice? Remember I mentioned orange juice had the exact same effect. One of the things we have to realize, and remember I am not against fruit in season, but season is a very short time normally. But when we take the sugar in fruit and extract all the fiber that was in fruit, and we extract all the other polyphenols that are in fruit and just mainline sugar like apple juice or orange juice, we actually take away any of the possible benefits of that fruit, and instead are literally mainlining sugar. And what we’ve found in the last 10 years is that most of the foods that we like, the highly processed foods, the juices, the fructose in those highly processed foods are one of the biggest drivers of obesity, one of the biggest drivers of mitochondrial dysfunction, and one of the biggest drivers of a fatty liver and insulin resistance.
In my upcoming book, The Energy Paradox, you’re going to find out why fructose in particular is so deadly to our mitochondria and to our health. So fructose in the form of fruit during fruit season, okay, but just be cautious about any fructose as a sweetener in food, as a sweetener in beverages. And remember, high fructose corn syrup is in almost every prepackaged food, energy bar. If you see the word corn syrup. or all natural syrup, or anything like that, brown rice syrup, these are all code words for fructose, and just beware.
Now one question I get asked all the time. Okay, so we now know in humans that sugar ingestion in any form impairs our white blood cells’ ability to ingest bacteria and viruses. What happens once they ingest them? Well, this was the work that was done by Dr. Linus Pauling back in the ’50s and ’60s, the famous vitamin C doctor. And I’ve done this on other podcasts, but it’s worth mentioning again. And it gets a little complicated. Vitamin C is actually manufactured in all other animals except us, guinea pigs, and African monkeys from glucose. There’s a five step process. We lack the final enzyme to do that, so we can’t manufacture vitamin C.
But vitamin C is concentrated in our white blood cells 50 times higher than in our blood. And so there’s actually a gradient to bring vitamin C into our white blood cells and concentrate it there. The problem is glucose competes with vitamin C for the same pumps that pump vitamin C into our cells. And what Linus Pauling showed was the higher your blood sugar, glucose, the more glucose is in the cell instead of vitamin C. And up to 70% of the killing ability of white blood cells is lost because you don’t have enough vitamin C in your white blood cells. So two reasons not to have sugar, one, it stops white blood cells from eating bacteria and viruses in the first place. And number two, if they eat them, they can’t kill them if your sugar is up, double whammy.
Okay. Somehow on Twitter, somebody said that I said that sugar feeds viruses. I’ve never said sugar feeds viruses. There’s absolutely … Viruses don’t eat sugar, number one. What I’ve said is that sugar impairs your white cells’ ability, and those are the studies we just went over. So please, let’s stop the myth that sugar feeds viruses. That’s not the problem with sugar. Well, are there good substitutes for sugar? Well, first of all, if you’re going to eat fruit, please eat fruit in season. If you’re going to eat berries, believe it or not, the modern blueberry has the highest sugar content. They’ve been bred for sugar. If you can find wild blueberries, and you usually have to find the frozen, they’re the safest of the blueberries.
But interestingly, blackberries, followed by raspberries, followed by strawberries have the least sugar content of the berries. One of the best, which is no longer available right now, it’s not in season, is pomegranate seeds. So if you can find pomegranate seeds, it’s actually one of your best choices, not pomegranate juice, pomegranate seeds. You always want the whole fruit. So those are my advice for those kind of products.
Now there’s several quite safe sweeteners. One is stevia, the other is monk fruit or Luo Han Guo. Those are actually two of the safest. A third is inulin. Now inulin has a sweet taste. It’s available in products like Just Like Sugar. It’s also available mixed with stevia in Sweet Leaf sweeteners. The beauty of inulin is, as I’ve written about in The Plant Paradox, inulin feeds good gut bacteria. So you get the sweet taste, but you actually get a benefit in feeding good gut bacteria. Now what about other artificial sweeteners? Well, if you’ve read any of my books, you know that most artificial sweeteners, including sucralose and NutraSweet and saccharine actually kill gut bacteria. In fact, a Duke study showed that one packet of Splenda will kill about half of your gut bacteria, so these are absolute no nos.
The other thing we have to remember from any, we’ll call them fake sugar, non caloric sweeteners, including stevia, including saccharine, including monk fruit, is that we have sweet receptors in our tongue. We don’t have sugar receptors. We even have sweet receptors in our gut. We don’t have sugar receptors. Those sweet receptors tell our brain, they send a message up to our brain that says, “Hey. Just ate sugar.” That’s actually the only sweetness we ever knew. And get ready for it, it’s coming. Well, when sugar doesn’t arrive in your brain, your brain literally says, “Wait a minute. I know this guy just ate sugar. Where is it? He’s been cheated. Go back and get some more and try again.”
And one of the reasons that I was addicted to Diet Cokes, eight a day, was that every time I drank a Diet Coke that had no sugar, my brain felt cheated and made me go look for more. So this is one of the sad things about non nutritive sweeteners. Your brain tastes sugar and doesn’t understand why any hasn’t arrived. So we really have to be cautious, particularly when we’re trying to wean ourselves off the real stuff, that we don’t make the mistake of using even stevia, even monk fruit, as a replacement for that sweet taste. And as you’ve heard me say before, the key is to retreat from sweet.
Now the good news is you actually become habituated to the taste of sweetness and you have to retrain your receptors. And you do this by, as I wrote about in Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, I used to put two packets of sweeteners in my coffee. Okay, so we’re going to cut it in half. We go down to one pack. And we do that for a week. And then we tear off half the package and we put in half a packet. And then we do that for a week or two, and then we put in a quarter, and we do that for a while. You step down the amount of sweetness you add in. Strikingly, you’ll find that the taste of sweetness comes back. In fact, I now primarily eat 90% chocolate, cacao, and that sweetness, and it’s not sweet normally, is just as sweet as when I used to eat milk chocolate.
Now if I started off eating 90% chocolate, I’d go, “Ah, that stuff is so bitter.” So work your way up. Start with 72% chocolate and limit yourself to a square. And you’ll find over the weeks, you’re going to wean yourself off. This is a habit that can be broken, but it’s really difficult to go cold turkey. Does it get easier? Yeah. Like I say, I drink my coffee black now. I don’t use any sweetener. And I have 90%, even 92%, 95% cacao chocolate, and I’m delighted with that. But again, I couldn’t have done it cold turkey.
Okay. Now is there such thing as a sugar blocker? Well, there aren’t truly any sugar blockers. But there are a number of products that can mitigate against the effect of sugar. Now one recently I’ve talked about is selenium. And it turns out that selenium deficiency in humans actually potentiates the COVID-19 virus ability to do harm to you. And a study in China showed that people with normal and high selenium levels were far less affected by the COVID-19 virus, whereas people with low selenium levels were very affected. And selenium has actually been shown to affect blood sugar concentration. So how do you get selenium? Well, the easiest way is to eat three Brazil nuts a day, that’s it. Don’t eat too many. Selenium can be bad for you in too much, too excess amount. But three a day will give you actually about 300 micrograms of selenium, and that’s all you need every day.
Now I shouldn’t tell you that because there’s going to be a run on Brazil nuts everywhere, and I won’t be able to get any. And please don’t hoard them. The second thing that you can do is there are carb blockers. Now what carb blockers do is actually they prevent the absorption of starches or the breakdown of starches. And there are a number of carb blockers on the market, and they actually are effective. The other thing that’s very useful is chromium, chromium picolinate. And chromium picolinate is available in supplements. You can actually find a supplement at Costco with chromium in it. It’s usually combined with cinnamon. And it turns out that true cinnamon, not the fake cinnamon, actually helps mitigate the effect of sugar and actually helps lower sugar.
Now one more trick, magnesium is essential for insulin to get sugar out of your bloodstream into your muscle cells where it belongs. And most of us are magnesium deficient, so much so that in surgery, in heart surgery, most of my patients are so deficient in magnesium, that we actually have to give them two grams of IV magnesium every six hours for 48 hours during and after heart surgery to get their magnesium levels up. Why do we want to do that? Because quite frankly, magnesium is one of the best ways to calm extra beats of the heart. And for those of you who get cramps in your legs, magnesium and potassium are the ways we prevent cramps in legs. So magnesium supplements are everywhere. Get some magnesium in your system and you can handle sugar.
Now that doesn’t mean that, oh, boy, I take selenium, I take magnesium, I take chromium and I take cinnamon, and I can have all the sugar I want. That’s not what I’m saying. But you need to give yourself the best defense you can because I know you’re going to be eating sugar. You can’t help it. It’s addictive. What about diabetics? Can they take these supplements? Absolutely. Now let me be clear about this. This is the time for diabetics to take their diabetes seriously. And we know that diabetics are one of the highest risk groups for bad outcomes with the COVID-19 virus, and that’s because your immune system doesn’t work well.
Now here’s the good news. I have actually never, ever met a type two diabetic that we couldn’t reverse to normal by following the Plant Paradox program. But you don’t have to take it from me. In fact, during World War II, when there was rationing of food, by law, the incidence of diabetes plummeted to almost zero in the United States, in Britain, in Holland, and Norway. The deaths from diabetes plummeted during rationing. Rationing involved rationing sugar. It involved rationing flour. And it involved rationing milk and orange juice and meats. Son of a gun, most of these are great sources of sugar. So in four years’ time, diabetes was pretty much wiped out of all of these countries.
Now here’s the bad news. From 1945 back up to 1950, the rates of diabetes went back to their pre war levels once rationing was stopped. So here’s a tip. You’re at home. There isn’t any meat anymore. Here’s the best opportunity you have to start the Plant Paradox program. You’re cooking from home. Cut back on simple sugars. Cut back on processed and ultra processed foods, and watch what happens to your diabetes. It’s time for us to save our own lives. And this is how we’re going to do it.
Okay. Any other benefits of cutting back on sugar? Well, I talk a lot about this in The Plant Paradox and The Longevity Paradox. It turns out that there are compounds in all of us called advanced glycation end products. And they’re nicknamed AGES for short. And advanced glycation end products are formed from sugar, protein and heat. For instance, when you’re out charring your steak or grilling your hamburger, and you see that nice crust that forms, those are advanced glycation end products. Even when you roast your vegetables and it browns, those are advanced glycation end products. So sadly, the more sugar in our diet, the more advanced glycation end products we make, and the faster you age. And as I’ve written about in all my books, if you look down at your hands and you see age spots, those brown spots, or liver spots, or sun spots, those are advanced glycation end products.
And the cool thing is, as I’ve documented, you can make those disappear by cutting back on sugars and proteins, and by the way, heat. So sugar not only hits your brain with a high, but it kills you and ages you quickly. So this is the time, folks. We’re at home. We’re trying to protect ourselves. Let’s get ourselves off our sugar addiction. And just get any of my books and we’ll help you out. And follow me on YouTube too because we’ve got a lot of tips as well.
Okay. That’s it for today on sugar. And it’s time for our audience question. Star Hill Studios on YouTube asks, “What about eating olives? Is that the equivalent of eating olive oil? What do you think about the high sodium content, healthy or not?” So it turns out that the fruit of an olive actually contains a lot of polyphenols and a lot of the beneficial polyphenols that are in olive oil. You’re pressing a lot of those polyphenols into olive oil. But the great thing is olives and olive oil go together. In fact, in the Mediterranean, you not only use olive oil, but you eat olives. In fact, olives are snacked on before dinner in almost every meal I’ve ever eaten in France and Italy and Spain, so eat your olives.
Now there is actually a huge sodium myth in this country about how bad sodium is for you. Sodium in the form of olives is actually not only not bad for you, but actually may be beneficial for you. And in fact, if you’re following a fasting diet or a ketogenic diet, there’s very strong evidence made by Dr. Phinney years ago that you need to increase your salt intake during these times, particularly if you’re fasting or restricting calories, because uric acid builds up in your bloodstream and can actually damage your kidneys and cause kidney stones. And increasing your sodium chloride, salt, will actually prevent this.
But let me give a word of warning for all of you going to get your pink salt or your sea salt. Please, we have an iodine deficiency in this country, so by iodized sea salt. It’s readily available now, even Morton’s makes iodized sea salt. And you would be amazed how many of my patients with low thyroid function, once we get them on iodized sea salt, their thyroid function improves dramatically. So that’s the tip for today.
Okay. It’s time for a review of the week. Following one of my recent episodes on the COVID-19, Linda [Hertzeler 00:34:54] on drgundry.com wrote, “Thanks so much for your podcast. You have explained everything thoroughly, which I really appreciate.” Well, Linda, thanks very much for listening and watching that. And we’re going to keep the updates coming just like we did today on sugar because knowing how dangerous sugar is to our immune system is why we’re going to keep doing this because I, as you know, I’m Dr. Gundry. And I’m always looking out for you.
Thanks for joining me on this episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you want to watch episode of The Dr. Gundry Podcast, you could always find me on YouTube at YouTube.com/drgundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry, and I’m always looking out for you.