04 May #82 Dr. Will Bulsiewicz on How to Heal Your Gut With Plant-Based Fiber
Anytime you even mention cutting meat from your diet, you hear the question, “Where do you get your protein?” But the question we should be asking is, “Where do you get your fiber?”. When it comes to gut health, the key is and always will be fiber.
WELCOME TO THE DARIN OLIEN SHOW
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz didn’t set out to be the go-to gut health guy. But he sure is.
As a practicing gastroenterologist, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, or Dr.B, has plenty of medical training under his belt. Dr. B went to medical school at Georgetown School of Medicine, trained at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and learned gastroenterology at The University of North Carolina Hospitals. Then he received his Master of Science in Clinical Investigation from Northwestern University and a certificate in nutrition from Cornell University. He’s won multiple awards and distinctions for his work as a clinician and contributed research for more than 20 published articles and 40 national presentations. So yeah, you could say he’s got the credentials.
Ironically, it wasn’t until after Dr. B gained all these prestigious credentials that he discovered his true passion. And like so many stories I’ve heard before, the journey started when he tried to improve his own health. After slowly discovering the power of switching to a plant-based diet, Dr. B began to realize the critical role fiber plays in your gut health. His best-selling book, Fiber Fueled, is a “step-by-step methodology to stop the misinformation madness caused by the diet industry.”
The bottom line, folks, is we all need a hell of a lot more plant-based fiber in our lives. So in this episode, Dr. B gets into the science of how fiber affects your gut. He tells me how he was introduced to veganism on his first date with his now-wife and how everything kind of snowballed from there. Don’t worry. This episode isn’t about trying to get you to eat vegan. Although, of course, I’m all for that, too! But what I want you to get out of it is that the key to optimal health is all in your gut and what you feed it.
ALSO IN THIS EPISODE:
- Will’s personal health journey
- His first date with a vegan
- Biodiversity in your gut
- What fiber does to your gut and why it’s essential
- Small changes in your diet create lifelong habits
- The problem with elimination and restrictive diets
Darin: You are listening to the Darin Olien Show. I’m Darin. I spent the last 15 years exploring the planet looking for healthy foods, superfoods, environmental solutions, and I’ve had my mind blown along the way by the people, the far off places I have been, and the life-altering events that have changed my life forever. My goal is to help you dive deep into some of the issues of our modern-day life, society’s fatal conveniences. The things that we do that we’re indoctrinated into thinking we have to, even though those things are negatively affecting us, and in some cases, slowly destroying us and even killing us. Every week, I have honest conversations with people that inspire me. My hope is through their knowledge and unique perspectives they’ll inspire you too. Together, we’ll explore how you can make small tweaks in your life that amount to big changes for you, the people around you and the planet, so let’s do this. This is my show, the Darin Olien Show.
Darin: Hey, everybody, this is The Darin Olien Show. Guess who I am? I’m Darin Olien. I’m stoked to be with you. Thanks for tuning in. I am always excited that you are getting things out of these episodes. I try my hardest to be connected to my guests, to be inspired by my guests, and to share that inspiration and excitement with you. This is such a fun way of connecting with people and extracting their knowledge, their passion, and passing it on to you. So, keep reaching out, keep hitting that subscribe, share it with your friends, your family. If you hear things in the background like boats and things like that, well, I am in Australia at the moment because we’re still filming Down To Earth, but I am just stoked. My guest, the gut health MD, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, this guy has hit the plant-based movement, the health movement by storm because he has just slipped into an avenue of just some high street cred in terms of his education but also has personally affected him and now that combination of brains, medical training, nutrition training, his own health journey, and then being an advocate for your health, for our health, for community’s health, for his patients’ health has made him into a badass. So before I forget, he wrote an incredible book called Fiber Fueled. And listen, this has come up so many times, it shouldn’t be where you’re getting your protein but where are you getting your fiber, and you work on that and the diversification of plant-based foods. You will be a master in health, immunity, mood, anti-inflammatory, you name it. So he started his medical training at Georgetown School of Medicine, and then at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at Gastroenterology at the University of North Carolina Hospital where he also got his Masters in Science in Clinical Investigation, which is very cool because that taught him how to research, how to dig in, and that was at Northwestern University as well. And then he further got his Certificate in Nutrition at Cornell University. So this guy is loaded. So he has been around and he’s been dedicated to this. We had such an incredible conversation about overall health, about the power of plants, the power of health, and it’s really common sense. It really makes sense and it’s further supported by the science community that your diversification of plants, your holism and not reductionism, the staying away from all these process foods making plants as your first line of defense and celebration of what you’re eating. And when you focus on quality, you get all of the benefits. So it’s really that genesis that created this incredible conversation with my new friend and please enjoy as he comes at it with his angle, with his training, and the celebration of plants and fiber and how it can rewire you from the inside out and help to heal that which is affecting all of us, inflammation. So kick back, relax or workout, whatever you want to do, and enjoy my good friend, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz.
Darin: Pleasure to meet you. I’ve been looking forward to this because I’ve been seeing you kind of move around in the space and I’m like, I like this guy because I was looking through your background as well, you education, clinical investigative side of you as well, and so your book is rad as hell, Fiber Fueled. So I guess let’s just get into the gut of it. So how did you become the gut health guy? How did that happen?
Dr. Will: This was completely unexpected. It was not a choice that I ever made or envisioned for myself, and I’m a planner. I’m a very type A. I have a 5-year and 10-year plan. I expect those things are gonna happen. And it’s so weird because I spent 16 years in a hyper rigorous eductional system to ultimately discover my passion after I completed all that training. And it worked out pretty well because any of the tools that I had acquired along the way turned out to be really important for what I’m doing, but I’m a gastroenterologist. For those that don’t know me, I’m a gastroenterologist. This is what I do full-time. I actually work full time. I now understand why doctors don’t write books. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be a doctor and write a book and properly talk about it with people. But really, what it was Darin is that I was the guy who was suffering myself. There I was, go back a little under 10 years ago, I was in my early 30s and 50 pounds overweight, tons of anxiety, low self-esteem. Things were going well for me professionally yet my self-esteem was insanely low, tons of fatigue, high blood pressure. And I was in this position where it’s like something needs to change. I don’t like the way I feel. I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like this person. And so I did sort of the typical young man thing which is, oh, well, if I just smash workouts like 6 days a week, I’ll get myself out of this hole. I mean, you just work harder. And so I was working out, no exaggeration anywhere from like 75 to 90 minutes, 6 days a week, a combination of lifts and weights. If it was summertime, I was in North Carolina at the time, I would jump into pool and do a swim. And if it was the winter, then I jumped on the treadmill and I did either a 5k or a 10k. And I could build muscle, and I could build endurance, but I could not lose the gut. And then I went on a date with the person who now actually is my wife, but we were just getting to know each other. Literally, it was our first date. And we went to this place in Carborro, North Carolina called Acme. I’ve been to Acme a million times, and I used to always get like some sort of pork chop or something like that. And we’re in there and she orders a whole bunch of plants. I’m just like, what the heck is up with this girl?
This is this was completely unexpected. It was not a choice that I ever made or envisioned for myself. You know, and I’m a planner, I mean, I’m a guy with a, I’m a very type A, I have a five and a 10-year plan, I expect those things are gonna happen. And it’s so weird because I spent 16 years in a hyper rigorous educational system to ultimately discover my passion after I completed all that training. And it worked out pretty well because many of the tools that I had acquired along the way turned out to be really important for what I’m doing. But you know, I’m a gastroenterologist for those that don’t know me, I’m a gastroenterologist, this is what I do full time, I actually work full time, I now understand why doctors don’t write books. There aren’t enough hours in the day to be a doctor and write a book. And properly and properly talk about it with people. But you know, but really what it was there is that I was the guy who was suffering myself. You know, there I was, go back a little under 10 years ago, I was in my early 30s, and 50 pounds overweight, tons of anxiety, low self-esteem, like things were going well for me professionally, yet, my self-esteem was insanely low. Tons of fatigue, high blood pressure. And, you know, I was in this position where it’s like, something needs to change. I am not like, I don’t like the way I feel. I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like this person. And so I did sort of this typical sort of young man thing, which is, oh, well, if I just smashed workouts like six days a week, I’ll get myself out of this hole. I mean, you know, you just work harder. And so I was working out no exaggeration, anywhere from like 75 to 90 minutes, six days a week, a combination of lifting weights, and the either if the if it was summertime, I was in North Carolina at the time, I would jump in the pool and do a swim. And if it was the winter, then I jumped on the treadmill, and I did either a five or a 10k. And I could build muscle and I could build endurance, but I couldn’t lose the gut. And then I went on a date with the person who now actually is my wife. But we were just getting to know each other. It literally was our first date. And we went to this place in Carrboro, North Carolina, called Acme. I’ve been to Acme a million times. And I used to always get like some sort of pork chop or something like that. And we’re in there and she orders a whole bunch of plants. I’m just like, what the heck is up with this girl?
Darin: Oh, boy. She’s eating birdseed.
Dr. Will: Darin, I’ve never been around anyone like this my entire life. I mean, I didn’t know a single person who was vegan at the time. I was basically living in the pork capital of the United States so in Smithfield is like an hour away. What I saw is a person who was eating until she was full, she was satisfied, she was enjoying her food, and she had control of her weight, control of her health, and those weren’t challenges for her. And so it opened my mind because here I am and I’m a medical doctor, I was literally the award-winning recipient for my class at Northwestern, one of the top residency programs in the country. I won the highest award there. And then I was the chief resident. And I’m at the University of North Carolina at the School of Public Health which is tied with Harvard as the number 2 school of Public School in the country. I’m on the grant from the NIH and yet, I don’t know how to fix myself. I literally don’t know how to fix myself, and this date is what really sets me off where I’m like, oh my gosh, maybe the food that you were raised on, the tradition within the family that was passed down, maybe that’s the problem. And so I started super small which is smoothies and it wasn’t any radical transformation. I didn’t declare a day and plant a flag. I was just like, you know what, I’m gonna try something, and I instantly felt different. I didn’t have the food hangover. I was energized. I actually saw my exercise performance in the gym improved. And the next thing you know, the weight is melting off my body, the blood pressure is lifting, the medication goes into the trashcan, the anxiety is gone, my self-esteem surges, and I start feeling the way that a guy who’s like 32, 33 years old should feel. And so it sent me on this quest where here I am, I’m finishing up my training. I’m a doctor who takes care of patients, and I just felt like, you know what, there’s more to medicine than what I was taught, even at these institutions. And so I started devouring nutritional studies at night and bringing them into my clinic. This wasn’t just like, oh, some crazy idea. I mean, I was being reinforced by the results that would occur in my patients. As a GI doctor, I take care of people who have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, massive reflux, diarrhea, constipation. And I started bringing these nutritional concepts into my clinic and people are having miraculous recoveries. And it got to a point where a few years later, it’s 2016 and I’m just like it’s not enough for me to be behind the walls of this clinic having these one-on-one conversations and healing people. The world needs to hear this. And so I did something that I consider to be radical for me because I’m not like one of these young kids, I’m older, I’m over 40, and I decided to start an Instagram account and put my message out there. It was super slow and super humble. When I had 1,000 followers, my wife kind of gave me that look with that glimmer in her eye and came from a super humble place but things really changed in the summer of 2018. I did a podcast for my friend, Simon Hill, from Plant Proof. That podcast, it was one of his first shows and it went viral, and I never really knew what that meant but then I discovered friends were telling friends who were telling friends. And next thing you know, it sets off this cascade of I got to do something with this. Decided to write a book. That was the summer of 2018, and I completed that book and published it in May of 2020, it’s called Fiber Fueled. And now here we are and last week, I found out that I’ve sold over 100,000 copies in 8 months. And it’s just like, this is Mr. Toad’s wild ride, how did this happen? Can someone tell me where it’s going? I have no clue.
Darin: That’s kind of a beautiful thing too, well, maybe not for the type A planned-it-out person in you, but something obviously touched you, and pun intended, it fueled you to liberate more people and get people more of this information, especially as it relates to this kind of thing because this kind of thing, quick-fix, nutritional, self-help, reductionism, even if it isn’t allopathy, it’s reductionism. Our brains just constantly look for, well, let’s try to change this thing, and then I’ll be better. And for you, sitting in this– I’m sitting there going, what a perfect kind of education because I’m seeing just this list of food sensitivities and food reactions and environmental invasion affect this very system of digestion and gut health and the surge of the research around microbes and just how ridiculously 180 degrees, the view has been changing right in front of us. So for you, when you’re going through your reintroduction of new foods, were you literally dealing with sensitivities and gut health as well, or is it just that your expertise was leading you towards seeing all of these reversals in your own clinic?
Dr. Will: I couldn’t eat 2 tablespoons of beans without having ridiculous gas and fooled you over cramping, abdominal pain. That’s where I was because I wasn’t eating beans like most Americans. I mean, an average American eats 6 pounds of beans per year and yet someone will tell you that that’s the cause of our epidemics. Like, come on, are you kidding? So I was definitely there with my own digestive issues. I wasn’t motivated to become a gastroenterologist because of gut health. I wasn’t motivated to become a gastroenterologist because of my own health issues. I became a gastroenterologist and along the path of basically flogging my body through 4 years of residency and 4 years of fellowship, my health fell apart and I needed solutions, and this was what I found. But when it comes to food sensitivity, Darin, this is such an important issue because there’s a paradox that exists that I want people to understand which is that the person who needs this diet the most is the person who will struggle the most to actually implement it. And that’s the problem because people intuitively, they try a food and it could be a legume, they eat a bean, and they’re like, oh man, I got gas, bloating, abdominal pain. That’s inflammation. You know, they think themselves that’s inflammation. I’m not supposed to eat this food, I’m better off without it. And you send yourself down this path where it’s progressive reduction, progressive restriction. You start creating a separation or a barrier between you and your food, no longer is that a healthy relationship between you and your food. Now, what you have is you have fear, and that fear actually affects your nervous system, which activates it, and which actually causes worsening of your digestive health. And the problem is that we need food. This is the irony of it is that we’ve been hearing for the last 20 years that the solution is restriction. Has it worked? We’re going further and further and further down this restrictive path. Let’s take paleo and let’s make it more and more and more restrictive with every rendition that comes out, version 4.0. And people are not getting better and the reason why is because the science doesn’t say that restriction is the solution. The science says that the solution is abundance, that the microbes that we have inside of us, we lean on them to help us to process and digest our food. They have the enzymes that we need. We as humans, as big and strong as we are, you and I, we’re not small people but we don’t have the enzymes inside of us by ourselves to process and digest our food but our microbes do. They have 60,000 of these enzymes. A single cellular organism that we can’t even see with the naked eye could have tenfold more enzymes than we have as humans. And so we need these microbes. Here’s the key, the gut is like a muscle. It can be trained. It can be made stronger. You can develop the enzymes, you can restore the function, you can be like me, and not be able to tolerate two tablespoons of beans. And now like put them on, come at me, give me all you got. But we have to accept and acknowledge that the gut is like a muscle. It needs to be trained. It needs to be worked. And the way that we work it is by consuming these foods. When you restrict the food, the gut grows weaker. If you take beans out of your life, you’re not going to be better at processing beans, you’re going to be worse. And then when you go to reintroduce them, you’re going to struggle even more than you did before because you eliminated them from your diet. And that’s kind of like saying, my knee hurts. And because my knee hurts, I’m gonna stop walking. No one would do that. No one would do that. Everyone knows that if you stop walking, then you break down the muscles of your leg above and below the knee, you get progressively weaker, then you start gaining weight, then your metabolism falls out of whack, then you develop coronary artery disease, and it’s a sequence of events that’s ugly. When a person has a damaged knee, what do they do? They go to a physical therapist, they acknowledge that there’s going to be some discomfort as they work through the process of restoring function to that knee. And they work their way through that to get the knee back so they can get back to being back on the basketball court and have their health back and then they’re thriving again. And that’s what we need when it comes to our gut. We can’t eliminate and restrict. That’s like saying, I’m not going to walk. We need to work that gut muscle by consuming these foods, but the way that we approach it is to go low and slow.
Darin: Many of you who follow me know I’ve spent most of my life searching for the healthiest foods on the planet from the Amazon jungle to the Andes of Peru, to the Himalayas and Bhutan, to the deserts of Africa, and everything in between discovering hundreds of plants and herbs and superfoods like this is my passion. Things like sacha inch, an Incan treasure, wild [unintelligible 00:31:41] mushrooms, things like Maya nuts, another Aztec superfood, wild cocoa moringa, many adaptogenic herbs and on and on and on. If you look hard enough, there are a few unknown extraordinary foods around the world that people still don’t know about. And a few years ago, I came across my favorite superfood discovery of all time, barukas nuts. Why is that my favorite? Well, when I first tasted them, my eyes lit up. I was blown away. They’re so delicious with notes of popcorn and cocoa and chocolate with peanut butter, and with this amazing crunch, so the taste alone just absolutely blew me away. But after sending them to the lab, which I do, and getting all the tests, I realized they’re the healthiest nuts on the planet. No other nut even compares. They have an unusually high amount of fiber, which is critical for healthy digestion. We’re all getting way too low of fiber in our diet and it’s good for the healthy bacteria and microbiome. And they’re off the charts in super high antioxidants, and have few calories than any other nut. It’s jam-packed with micronutrients. And what they don’t have is just as important as what they do have because they’re found in the forest in the savanna what’s called the Cerrado biome of Brazil, not grown on a plantation or a farm. They’re untouched by industrial pesticides, larvicides, fertilizers. They’re truly a wild food. But they’re not just good for you, they’re really good for the planet. Most other nuts require millions of gallons of irrigated water, not to mention, using bees and shipping them across the United States and just horrible sustainable practices just to grow certain nuts annually, but Baruka trees require no artificial irrigation. At one time, the Cerrado’s forest were made up of millions of these trees. These trees are incredible. They’re nitrogen fixers. They give back to the other plants in the forest. Their grandfather of sacred trees, but most of them were chopped down to make way for cattle, soy, and corn production. When you’re down in Brazil, it can be absolutely shocking. And actually, I’ve cried several times with miles and miles of deforested land filled with soy farms. This beautiful Savanna filled with soy farms and cattle grazing. Our mission is to reverse that. And the long term goal is to plant 20 million new baruzeiro trees throughout the Cerrado. And if that wasn’t enough, we are also providing highly beneficial and fair jobs for thousands of indigenous people so they can stay on their land and they can thrive with this consistent income every year forging and working with Barukas. Barukas are truly good for you, good for the planet, and good for the world community. It’s a win all the way around. I really think you’ll love them, so I’m giving all of my listeners 15% off by going to barukas.com/darin. That’s B-A-R-U-K-A-S dot com backslash Darin, D-A-R-I-N and using the code “Darin” at the checkout. I know you will enjoy.
Darin: If someone’s listening to this now going, man, yeah, I do get gassy. And I have been eliminating these “healthy foods” because I don’t know what to do, it doesn’t feel good, I’m uncomfortable. I know that we’re speaking in general and obviously, there’s importance here that everyone’s biochemically individuals, so there’s that caveat. However, there are some fundamental things that you’ve covered in the book as well. So maybe just highlight a little bit of that kind of plan, or at least steps forward as people are starting to grok that their systems a little compromised.
Dr. Will: If you have food sensitivity, and what Darin and I mean by food sensitivity is you consume a food and you get gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, distension of the abdomen, change in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, any sort of reaction or this variety, you’ve already demonstrated to me that you have a damaged gut. Because people who have a healthy gut don’t routinely suffer from food sensitivities. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there’s a certain amount of any food. I mean, if we were ridiculous, and I ate an absurd amount of beans, of course, that would hurt, but that would be being ridiculous. But if you’re eating within reason, and you can’t tolerate these foods, then that by itself is indicative that you have a damaged gut. The solution is to give your gut what it is starving for, which is fiber. Fiber is the food that feeds and nourishes the healthy microbes that live inside you. It’s so strange to consider this, but we truly are overfed and undernourished in our society. How could we be starving? Our microbes, there are 39 trillion of them, mostly concentrated within our colon and they are as alive as you and I are. And they have their own unique personalities. They have their own unique skill sets. They have their own unique dietary preferences. They’re not all the same. They’re not just bacteria. And each one of these microbes, they need to be fed. And their preferred food is the fiber that you will find in plants, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes. And the problem is that in the United States right now, as you know, Darin, people are not eating real food. Sixty percent of the American diet is processed food. Processed food where we pull the fiber out and throw it in the trash and what we retain is the sugar. And then we pour some chemicals on it for good measure so that it can be preserved and sit on the shelf and not changed for three years. That’s 60% of the American diet. Thirty percent of the American diet are animal products. The average American eats more than their body weight and meat on a yearly basis. Somehow there are dietary patterns where we are encouraged to double down on that, it’s not enough, we need more. The fiber contents of what I just described 30% being animal products, the fiber content is zero. There is no fiber in animal products. So if our diet is 90% stuff that contains no fiber, and then when it comes to the actual fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes, if the number one thing that we eat in that category are french fries, which they are, then you end up where we are today, which is that 95% of Americans are not even getting the minimal recommended amount of fiber. Fiber is the food for our microbes. They need it. This is what happens when fiber goes in your mouth. It passes through your small intestine unchanged. That’s about 15 feet. It bypasses digestion and all that. It arrives into your colon intact. And these gut microbes get into a feeding frenzy. You are feeding them. They consume the fiber. Fiber doesn’t just go in the mouth and then munch out the other end like a torpedo. This is food for gut microbes, and they metabolize the fiber. They grow stronger, they multiply, and then they turn around and they go, Darin, thank you. Thank you, my friend, for feeding me. I’m going to pay you back. I’m going to pay you back fivefold, because I’m going to take this fiber, and I’m going to turn it into the single most powerful, most anti-inflammatory molecule that exists on the planet, short-chain fatty acids. We’re talking about butyrate acetate and propionate. You get them from the consumption of fiber. Fiber in the diet comes into contact with microbes in your colon. They produce these short-chain fatty acids. And real quick, let me run down some of the highlights of what the short-chain fatty acids do because you haven’t, and I’m talking to you at home, you haven’t been hearing enough about the short-chain fatty acids. You’ve been hearing about lectins and all this other bowl, but you haven’t been hearing about the thing that really matters. In the colon, short-chain fatty acids, butyrate acetate, and propionate, they enhance the growth of the healthy anti-inflammatory microbes, the ones that reduce disease. They directly suppress the growth of inflammatory microbes. You’ve probably heard of E. coli, salmonella, Shigella, those get suppressed by the short-chain fatty acids. Darin, you were talking about leaky gut, increased intestinal permeability where there is leakage of the colon contents into the bloodstream. This is what happens when a person has a damaged gut. They get increased intestinal permeability, which we call leaky gut. You want to fix that, boom, I just told you the answer, butyrate. Butyrate fixes leaky gut, reseals up the colon, gets it back intact. Colon cancer cells, number two cause of cancer death in America. Over 150,000 people will be diagnosed this year. Butyrate suppresses colon cancer. Butyrate is the food that energizes the colon cells. You want a healthy colon, 70% of the energy should come from butyrate. How about outside the colon, immune system? The short-chain fatty acids selectively optimize the immune system in a quite fascinating way. They help it to be more robust in terms of fighting the viruses or whatever its target is, but at the same time reduce inflammation in the body. Right now we have a problem with COVID-19, which is that people get excessive inflammation and that excessive inflammation, not the virus itself, but the excessive inflammation is what lands them in the intensive care unit on a breathing tube. Short-chain fatty acids counteract that. They actually lower cholesterol in terms of our metabolism. They enhance insulin sensitivity, which basically means that they reverse diabetes. They activate our satiety hormones, which is a wildly underrated thing. But we have this epidemic of obesity in the United States. Forty percent of Americans are obese, 70% of Americans are overweight. And if we could just activate our satiety hormones, we would feel full when we’re supposed to, and then we would stop overeating. They traveled throughout the body and have beneficial effects. We believe that they prevent coronary artery disease, that’s the number one killer. They actually cross the blood-brain barrier. And it looks like they prevent Alzheimer’s disease, which is one of our 10 most common killers. They actually like people that have brain fog. Your doctor probably says to you brain fog doesn’t exist. Yeah, right. Brain fog is real. You know it. You feel it. This is what brain fog is. Brain fog is the same thing as leaky gut, except affecting the blood-brain barrier. This is a leaky brain, just like butyrate can repair leaky gut, it can repair leaky brain too and reverse brain fog. My point to you, Darin, and to the people who are listening to us at home is that we are talking about something that has systemic anti-inflammatory effects. And this is the reason why in a study that was published in January of 2019, in the Journal Lancet by Andrew Reynolds and his research team, they found that dietary fiber makes people live longer with less heart disease, with less cancer, with less diabetes, with less strokes, with lower cholesterol, with lower blood pressure, with enhanced insulin sensitivity, and with lower body weight, just by simply eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes. It doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Darin: I mean, it’s really just simple of eating and diversification of plants, nuts, seeds, legumes, right? Is there anything in the modern-day world where some types of soluble, insoluble, FOS, you name it, is there any areas of focus from a food perspective or maybe call it a functional food perspective that seems to be more important right now as an antidote for some of the things that we’re doing? Have you found any of that?
Dr. Will: biodiversity is the measure of health whether you’re in the Andes Mountains or whether you’re in the Amazon rainforest or whether you are swimming in the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with Simon Hill. In all cases, biodiversity is the measure of health within an ecosystem, and that is true of our own gut. Our gut is an ecosystem, in the same way, that these places that we just described are. It’s just that it is microscopic. It eludes the naked eye. And so it’s hard for us to actually fathom it because we’re visual creatures. But if you gave yourself the microscope, like you were looking through a pair of binoculars and you looked in there, what you would see is you would see diversity of life. And you would see all these different creatures, and they’re all there, and they’re all interconnected, and there’s a balance, and there’s a harmony. And the measure of health within that system is biodiversity. And when we erode biodiversity in any ecosystem, whether it is the rainforest or the Andes Mountains, we are creating instability. That’s what we see happen in the gut. When you take away the diversity within the gut, you start to lose stability. When you take away species, those species are supposed to be there for a purpose, and these other species may not be able to step up and do the job of what you just lost. And this is part of the reason why when we look at the gut and the way that it connects to human health, the loss of diversity within the gut has been associated with obesity, with diabetes, with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, with numerous autoimmune diseases, with irritable bowel syndrome, you go down the line, loss of diversity in the gut translates into loss of health for humans. We need to maintain biodiversity in the gut. And the way that we accomplish that is to acknowledge that it’s about the variety of fibers in our diet. Our modern food systems, which have developed over the last 100 years, don’t care about biodiversity within our diet, don’t care about biodiversity in these ecosystems across the planet. They want you to eat soy, corn, and wheat, period, that’s it. And so in order for us to get the biodiversity that we need within our ecosystem within our gut, we need to introduce biodiversity into our diet. That is the way that we accomplish that task. And it’s not something that someone else is going to do for you. You have to make it your personal mission. And when we find these superfoods, I celebrate that. I think it’s great, but if a person only yacon all day long, you might not be healthy. So but the more that you have that incorporates, yes, these superfoods but along with the mundane run of the mill, apples, oranges, bananas, the regular stuff, and we get more of that diversity of different plants fibers into our diet, the more that we become capable of supporting a biodiverse ecosystem that lives inside of us. And that really, to me, Darin, is the key to all of this is that you have to make it your personal mantra in the way that I have, diversity of plants. You go to the store, diversity of plants. You are making a salad, diversity of plants. And that that really needs to be a guiding principle because when you do that, then you automatically will be supporting and feeding your gut what it’s actually searching for, and what it’s designed to have.
Darin: So for years, maybe most of my life, people have been asking me, “What kind of foods do you eat? What kind of exercises do you do? What kind of water should I drink?” All of these things and so much more we put into a 21-day program so that can take you through a theme every day of knowledge, action, and then eating these delicious meals, working out, getting support, anchoring in these new habits so you can do what? So that you can kick ass. So you have the energy, the vitality to live the kind of life that you really want. That’s what it’s all about. So all in this app, we have grocery lists, we have education about real hydration and what greater oxygenation and the balance of alkalinization. All of these things we are diving into as you’re heading down this hero’s journey of implementation into a new life to give you the kind of life that you actually want. So join my Tribe. All you have to do is go 121tribe.com. Sign up, and you get three free days. Join me on this hero’s journey. Join the Tribe.
Darin: Aside from someone being so uncomfortable and in pain and then a health crisis, what do you find is working? Because now you’ve worked with a lot of individuals, now you’re starting to expand and hear from the mass population, what do you find– because I always find habits is such an important aspect of this and it’s the billion-dollar question if we could tweak our habits. I’m just curious, what do you find is some of the ways that you think are powerful for people to kind of step in and disrupt their automation so that they choose more?
Dr. Will: I talk a lot in my book about the importance of healthy habits. Healthy habits can be weapons for good in our body because when you have unhealthy habits, you don’t even think about it and what you’re doing is you’re shortening your life expectancy. But if you can create healthy habits, then what you can do is you can live your routine life on a Tuesday, go to the Home Depot, go to the Bed, Bath and Beyond and still actually promote longevity, and not just the longevity but health, healthy aging, where you’re eight years old and you’re not stricken with disease. And so to me, it’s about making choices that are sustainable and welcoming and celebrating consistency, and making room for imperfection because none of us are perfect. And so I have a saying that I like which is progress over perfection. And the idea that I introduced in my book is that, let me say this, that for me, I am thriving on a vegan diet. I am thriving. I mean, I am 40 years old and I feel younger than I did 10 years ago and it’s working for me. But I just know, Darin, that 10 years ago when I was not eating this way, if you came to me and said, “Will, you got to be vegan,” I would go, “Yo, there is no way.” I don’t even know what you’re talking about. “What am I going to eat,” which is what many people say. And so instead, my perspective, and I wrote my book truly to connect with the younger version of myself and to try to find that person who’s out there just like I was a few years ago, and give them a path that they can get on that will go the same way that it went for me. And so for me, it’s about progress over perfection. It’s about consistency. It’s about making sustainable choices, and it’s moving the needle. So if you are 10% plant-based, guess what, that’s the average American. You’re not in a bad spot, but we got tons of room for improvement. And you go from 10% to 30%, which isn’t that hard, you are going to feel the difference and I’m going to be celebrating, I’m going to be your cheerleader. And you go from 30 to 50. And you go from 50 to 70, and you keep pushing. And that’s the way that it works for me. And I got to a place, Darin, where I was 90%. And I was still about 15 pounds overweight. And I was actually pescatarian for several years, and I decided you know what, man, I’m just gonna go for it, see what happens, see if this can work. And I cut out the fish and the dairy. Dairy was actually a very big part of what I was doing at the time. I cut out the fish, the dairy, and the eggs and I lost 15 pounds. And there I was, at the time I was 38, and I got back to the same weight that I had 20 years before that for the first time. So for me, it has worked incredibly well, but I really think that for the people who are listening to us, I really sincerely hope and I know that there are, I really hope that there are people listening to us right now who they’re not there right now, and they want to be. And I hope that this motivates them and just know that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about doing a little bit better, and maintaining that consistency as we move forward, and next thing you know you will be thriving too.
Darin: If people are listening, even replacing one meal during the day. It was funny. There’s a nonprofit I just jumped on to called #8meals. So they did the calculation where if everyone replaced eight meals a week, it would be like offsetting as much carbon as it would be you driving a Prius for a year and that 40% is sequestering all of the carbon we would need in The United States. If everyone took on replacing, not to mention, that’s great for the planet, but it’s really good for you and your health and your longevity and your immune system and your gut health and all of those things.
Dr. Will: And you know, one of the things that I feel compelled to say when I was a little bit earlier in my career, I viewed the environment and my job as a doctor as being neutrally exclusive. I thought that they were separate issues. And I now see and I understand that you can’t actually separate the environment that in a powerful way, Darin, these ecosystems are continuous. They’re not separate. Our planet is all one big mix that is interconnected together. And we may view ourselves as autonomous powerful creatures, the masters of our domain, and the planet will strike us down. We’ve seen that. And we have to accept and acknowledge of where we are today and where this is going because if we don’t, then we’re not having the foresight to keep ourselves out of trouble. We have 7 billion people on this planet right now. We are resource-intensive creatures. We are the most resource-intensive creatures. Seven billion today. Darin, it was 2 billion in 1900. It was 1 billion in 1800. One billion people on this planet on 1800 and 30 years from now, we will have 10 billion people. We are the ones that are expanding in almost like a viral way. We are the ones that are growing and taking over, but there is a limit to the resources that this planet has, and right now 82% of the land that is being used for agriculture to feed humans is producing only 18% of calories. And that is because there is a tremendous loss of efficiency when you go to feed animals to create animal agriculture. A cow is not one to one in terms of the calories consumed and the calories produced. A cow consumes whatever you want it to consume. It can consume grass, it can consume feed, but whatever it’s eating that cow is farting, it is pooping, it has eyeballs and bones that you are not eating, and it’s moving around and burning calories because it is a creature that is alive. And if you just took the food that you started with, we would be having so much more efficiency. And people say, how are we gonna feed 7 billion? How are we gonna feed 10 billion people? Well, the answer is very simple, we need improved efficiency. And when we do this, we will be enhancing the health of ecosystems across the planet. We will enhance the health of our own gut microbiome, we will stop chopping down the trees in the Amazon rainforest to clear land, we will take away the mass extinctions that are currently taking place. There are literally a million creatures in this planet. They are threatened with extinction right now because of us. And it’s all interconnected and you can’t separate it. And here we are and we have SARS-COV-2 and we’re coming right off the SARS-1 and MERS and swine flu and bird flu. And I can’t tell you the name of the next one, but I can tell you that it’s going to come if we don’t make changes. It’s gonna happen. I mean, we have 5 vicious viruses in the last 20 years. There will be more.
Darin: You know, I’d go back to like it’s just this miracle that this food we’ve run away from, we’ve recreated it, we’ve added some chemicals, we’ve mixed it in all kinds of weird ways, and we’ve ingested this crap, and we somehow think we’re autonomous or by ourselves in nature but yet, the only way to true health is through this nature. And I think about if I go to a market, I really look at an apple or a banana. And we don’t even have to talk about these superfoods, you can just look at this. It’s converting light energy from the freaking sun and creating energy that we can take in and transmute ourselves and allow us to live. That’s a freaking miracle.
Dr. Will: It is a miracle, and these plants, each plant has its own unique mix of fiber, of phytochemicals, of polyphenols which are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory. And think about that apple, I want the people who are at home right now listening, imagine or even like if you are in your kitchen, just hold an apple and look at it for a moment. That apple has a microbiome. There are living microbes on an apple, 100 million microbes on that apple. And just like us, our microbiome, Darin, helps us to grow. Our microbes want us to be successful because when we live, they live. They evolve with us. We are mutually dependent on one another. And just like we have these microbes that help us to grow into who we are, so too do every single living creature on this planet including the plants. That apple had a microbiome that was there from the seed to the flower to the development of the apple and helped it to grow and thrive and become what it is. And then we as humans are given the opportunity to mix microbes between this apple and our own ecosystem. And that’s part of the beauty that exists. And there was actually a recent paper that came out, Darin, where there is a new push within the scientific community to say our recommended dietary intake shouldn’t be just micronutrients. Our recommended dietary intake should include microbes.
Darin: You know, I love the fact that you went through all of this training and then realize through your girlfriend, now wife, thank God for great strong women in this world.
Dr. Will: Oh, my gosh. I would be nothing. I would be a shell of a man. Seriously, I would be a washup, a broken 40-year-old bomb. I mean, I really would. She turned me into something. I don’t even know what to say. I owe her so much.
Darin: So we celebrate wonderful strong women that allow us to be better men. I love that. And you took that signal, and it changed your life and now you’re changing the lives of people, and really healing people. And from these vantage points that you’ve walked through and this education that you’ve got exposed to, both maybe not the right education or at least a part of it and then a part of this little education and your vantage point now, I know this is a big question, if you could change our view or even the healthcare system itself, what would be some of the things that you would do and decisions that you would make to help stir where the healthcare system is now and to maybe at a better position as US and planetary, I guess, system that could better serve people in their health journey?
Dr. Will: I think my answer may surprise you a little bit because most people probably would expect me to say something about fiber or diversity of plants. But where I feel the most pressing need and the calling right now is in providing high-quality information because we are really challenged right now with misinformation. They call it the internet age, the information age, and we have transitioned to out of that into the misinformation age. We’re oversaturated with stuff that just wax accuracy. And this is not exclusively a political statement but this is somewhat of a political statement because this is our politics. I am blown away that we could all watch the same thing on TV and yet the news agencies will cover it in different ways and our interpretations would be radically different as a result of the way that the agencies are covering the exact same thing that we all saw happen with our own eyes on television. And those same issues are occurring in the nutritional space or in the health and wellness space. It’s not just exclusively nutrition, it’s health and wellness as well. And at the end of the day, the way that I see it is this, I can’t be responsible for every single piece of information that exists on the internet because there are so much out there that needs to be said that there is no way that I could take it all on. And frankly, it would shorten my life expectancy and ruin my life in the process. I mean, I would be miserable. So I would rather be really happy but at the end of the day, we have a guide, the guiding principle needs to be science. It needs to be because there is truth that exists. We can twist the truth, we can contort it but at the end of the day, the sun comes up, the sun goes down. There are rules of biology that exist that are not changing, and the way that we understand and interpret those rules is through the use of science. It is not perfect. It is not perfect. There are times where science can lead us slightly astray, but it’s like a compass. A compass is not a perfect map to get you to where you want to go, but a compass is pointing you in the right direction as you search for the place that you’re trying to get to. And so at the end of the day for me, Darin, if there’s one thing, it is to provide people to use these, you talked about the tools and the skills that I developed through these years of education and training, you know, Masters Degree of Clinical Investigation from Northwestern. I’m obviously a practicing gastroenterologist. I was on a grant from the NIH. I’ve published more than 20 papers in peer-reviewed journals. Those tools even though I didn’t turn into a clinical researcher, those tools are what allowed me to use my compass to provide people with solutions and answers that get them closer to the truth. And that’s why I’m out there and trying to do, that’s what I’m fighting for on a daily basis, that’s what I did with my book, and that’s what I’m doing with the course that I’ve produced that people can take on the internet. And the beauty of it for me, Darin, is that as a medical doctor, I went into this business for the purpose of trying to help people. If I wanted to make money, I would have been a banker and I would have made a heck of a lot more money than I made as a doctor, but I went into this business to try to help people. And when you allow the science to do the talking and you properly orient people, healing takes place. All you have to do is allow the body to work the way it is supposed to and get the other stuff out of the way, healing takes place. And I get messages on a daily basis, literally yesterday, Darin, this is one day. My babysitter who has been taking care of our kids for years turns to me and says, “My dad read your book and lost 35 pounds and he threw his blood pressure medication in the trash.” I got an email through my website from a person who says that, “I had vasculitis of my eye. I was on $5,000 per month drugs. I almost lost my vision. I read your book. I changed my diet, and I’m coming off of these drugs.” I have people in my course suffering with 10 years or more of symptoms that are reversing it. And so for me, in many ways, what the world has given me back is so much more than I ever asked for. And that’s the beauty of if you allow the science to do the talking and you provide high-quality information, then you will help people because they will follow that path and they will reap the reward that comes through them.
Darin: You know, with the work that you’re doing, the propaganda starts popping up, and the hole starts showing themselves, and that’s where we just need more people who are doing exactly what you’re doing and leading them down this science-based also common sense, man. It’s not some weird twisted idea that you’re presenting here. You’re just bringing them back to nature, and that’s what I love, and that’s what I appreciate about you.
Dr. Will: I have to tell you something because I know we’re coming to the end here. And I picked up your book, Superlife, I don’t know if the page numbers differ by paperback versus hardcover, but I’m in the paperback on page 34. And I’m looking at this, this book was published in 2015, and it says, “Aim for a daily diet made up of mostly fresh whole vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.” It says whole food, not pills. Eat at least one meal a day of raw fruits and vegetables, food grown organically and close to home. You talked about variety, you talked about eat more sprouts. Man, we’re like brother from another mother. It’s really cool. And what’s beautiful about it and what I dig is that, this is the part that I really dig is, not just that we’re on agreement and on the same page, but that here we are and we’re coming from different places. I am a humble gastroenterologist. You are the superfood hunter and yet it’s kind of cool to consider that two people who come from 2 totally different places can look through their own personal lense and see the world in the same way, and I celebrate that.
Darin: Now more than ever, man. I celebrate that too. And the fact that you’ve navigated through something that doesn’t have the– unfortunately, at high regard. It’s that testament of through our own self and through our own investigation and you’ve said it a couple of times, stepping in, making that choice yourself, taking that on, making that your habit, that is the most powerful thing. And then I just celebrate you then now using your skills and your education to expand the walls of your clinic to the rest of the world. And clearly, what you’re hitting on is so powerful and so necessary to be heard. So I’m just super stoked we’re finally able to connect here and I have a feeling this isn’t the last time either.
Dr. Will: Oh man, I love it. I hope to one day be in the Indes with you hunting for superfoods. So I thank you so much for having me on the show. It’s a great pleasure and I’m with you 100%. We’re just getting started here.
Darin: Thanks, brother. Appreciate it.
Darin: That was a fantastic episode. What was the one thing that you got out of today’s conversation? If today’s episode struck a chord with you, and you want to dive a little deeper on a variety of topics, check out my live deep dives on darinolien.com/deepdive. More episodes are available on darinolien.com as well. Keep diving my friends, keep diving.
Darin: This episode is produced by my team at Must Amplify, an audio marketing company that specializes in giving a voice to a brand and making sure the right people hear it. If you would like or are thinking about doing a podcast or even would like a strategy session to add your voice to your brand in a powerful way, go to www.mustamplify.com/darin. That’s www.mustamplify.com/darin.