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Ep 161: Secrets to Beating Low Energy

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Episode Summary

Dr. Steven R. Gundry, author of The Energy Paradox and The Plant Paradox, gives us insight into what the science says is slowing us all down, fogging up our brains, and making us look downright lazy. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t simply to get more sleep.

Show NotesInterview TranscriptGuest Bio

Full Show Notes

It feels like these days, we’re all a little more tired than we’d like to be! We pour ourselves an extra cup of coffee in the afternoon, feed our kids nutritious meals to give them a boost, and declare an early bedtime…but none of it seems to help! You and your kids might feel bogged down by 3 PM, or struggle to finish a basic to-do list. We’re trying to take care of ourselves, so why are we feeling so exhausted?

Turns out, the answer is a lot more complicated than you might think–and it’s based in sophisticated nutrition science. Your body’s natural processes have been interrupted by our society’s agricultural and medical practices, and it might be causing you to have a fraction of the energy you once had! The chemicals in your food and the prescriptions you’re taking may be doing more harm than good when it comes to creating a happier, healthier life for yourself and your kids.

To shine some light on this energy deficiency, we’re sitting down with Dr. Steven Gundry! He’s a former cardiac surgeon and the author of several successful books on nutritional science, including his new book: The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone. In this week’s episode, we’re diving into the mechanisms at play in our body’s digestion and immune systems–and what we’re doing that’s causing those mechanisms to get all kinds of messed up.

Ever heard of a microbiome? We’re talking all about how this home for trillions of microorganisms inside your gut serves as the center of your body’s functions….and how our practices are rendering it ineffective. Plus, we’re getting into the real truth about fiber, and unpacking the nuances of metabolic flexibility to explain why we just can’t seem to stay energized.

How We Mistreat Our Microbiome

Did you know that you have trillions of little organisms inside your belly that regulate a huge number of your body’s processes? This is called your microbiome, and it’s an essential part of digestion, immunity, and brain function. Steven explains that we weren’t aware of these microorganisms until recently. Through a fascinating scientific study known as the Human Microbiome Project, we’ve discovered just how much we use the microbial organisms in our gut–and how many issues our diet and medicine are causing!

One of the ways we defile this essential system is with antibiotics, says Steven. When we started prescribing them left and right, we didn’t realize that they were actively killing off the contents of our microbiome. It was only with the cutting edge research conducted by the Human Microbiome Project that we learned our mistake–and it’s only just now that we have to come to terms with the damage that’s been done, Steven explains. Plus, we feed antibiotics to all the animals we eat…meaning that those antibiotics are inside us too!

Another culprit of this microbiome mistreatment is a chemical compound glyphosine, often referred to as “round up”, explains Steven. Glyphosine is used on most conventional crops to make them easier to harvest–even the products marked non-GMO! Doctors and researchers have found enormous amounts of this chemical compound in young  people’s blood, simply from eating crops that have been exposed to it. 

According to Steven, Glyphosine changes our microbiome to create a syndrome sometimes referred to as “leaky gut” in which toxins “leak” though the lining of our bellies and into the bloodstream, causing inflammation. Plus, Glyphosine blocks the effects of Vitamin D and the adrenal hormone, causing us to be drained and fatigued!

There are certain things that are good for our microbiome–and fiber is one of the most important. However, due to misinformation, you may be feeding your family the wrong type of fiber, causing harm to microorganisms instead!

Finding the Right Fiber

Although we may not realize it, there are actually two different kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is the kind our microbiome likes….while insoluble causes serious damage! Even though we might think of grain or bran muffins as being full of healthy fiber, the insoluble fiber they contain actually makes them quite harmful to our microbiomes, as they can’t be broken down and absorbed. Even though we think we’re helping our kids stay healthy, we might not be giving them the fuel to power their bodies, Steven says.

As Steven explains in the episode, a lot of the processed food we eat today is broken into simple sugars, protein and fats. This is in stark contrast to our grandparents’ diet of whole foods. Instead of sitting down to consume a potato or an apple, we’re far too often provided with candy, chips, or microwavable dinners which are, as Steven says, stripped of all fiber. Instead, they contain false flavorings to trick your body into thinking there is any fiber at all! Steven suggests reaching for asparagus, yam, artichoke, or avocado instead.

Steven quips in the episode that we eat the foods we love, but the food doesn’t love us back! He explains that the food with the most fiber is often bitter food…in other words, bitter is better. In the episode, we go over some recipes from his popular title, The Plant Paradox Cookbook: 100 Delicious Recipes to Help You Lose Weight, Heal Your Gut, and Live Lectin-Free, that can make bitter food more enticing…and get you and your family the fiber they need.

If we’re talking about digestion, it’s important to discuss metabolic flexibility, says Steven. This is another area where our practices are causing some problems with our energy flow!

Our Digestion is Damaged…And How It’s Hurting Us

In the episode, Steven and I discuss a process known as metabolic flexibility–or the way our bodies digest food gradually. The mitochondria, which can be found in our body’s cells, processes the food we eat, and typically sorts through sugars, proteins, and carbohydrates separately, Now, unfortunately, with our consumption of over processed foods, these components are all rushing to our mitochondria at the same time, causing it to get jammed and move about as smoothly as rush hour traffic! This clogged system is another reason why our energy may not be as high as we’d like, Steven explains.

In the past, our body would transmit food to glucose, and then start running through the body’s stored fat for fuel. Because of the frequent consumption of processed foods, many of our bodies no longer have the capacity to do this! That’s why when people try to go without juice cleanses or try a keto diet, they find themselves starving. Their body can’t go more than two hours without eating food and adding new fuel to their system.

Instead of regular snacking–which Steven says is certain to shorten your lifespan and make you more fatigued than ever, he suggests compressing your eating windows to last between six to eight hours. What does this mean exactly? We talk more in the episode about that! Here’s a hint: it’s much better than our conventional eating schedule at actually helping you lose weight!

In the Episode…

In addition to the topics discussed above, we also talk about:

  • How the microbiome regulates the immune system
  • Why carbonated beverages are a secret boost for your brain
  • The difference between prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics
  • What to eat to fix a damaged digestive tract

If you enjoyed this week’s episode, you can find more of Steven’s work on his website at gundrymd.com or in one of his many popular books! Happy listening, and don’t forget to subscribe.

Complete Interview Transcript

Andy: This book that I just got through here is The Energy Paradox. And I also really enjoyed Plant Paradox and also the Longevity Paradox from you. And I have this cookbook, actually, this The Plant Paradox Cookbook, I’ve had for about the past year now and really some awesome recipes in there. So super excited to cover some of these topics. Why are you writing about energy? What makes this topic so important for your third book?

Dr. Gundry: Well, interestingly enough, I think most people would admit maybe particularly because of COVID that we’re in the midst of an energy crisis and years and years ago, when I first started my restorative medicine practice about half the people that came into my office would carry a diagnosis that we called fatigue and malaise. And that’s a fancy way of saying that they’re exhausted.

Dr. Gundry: And it became such a common thing that I really forgot about that code because one of the things I found when people started following the “Plant Paradox” and the subsequent books is we no longer needed that code for fatigue and malaise because they right away said, gee, one of the weird things about this is holy cow. I forgot what it feels like to have normal energy.

Dr. Gundry: And I think one of the things that’s happened to all of us is we’ve really forgotten what normal feels like. And since your show is aimed at parents of teenagers, one of the fascinating things is that the parents and the teenagers have been living in a time where a couple things never happened to previous generations including my generation. And that is two things. The broad spectrum antibiotic use that we all take, we give to our kids every time they have a sore throat or a hurting ear.

Dr. Gundry: And for the first time in generations, almost all the animals that we eat have been fed antibiotics to make them grow faster and bigger.

Andy: Right.

Dr. Gundry: And what none of us really knew before the human microbiome project and discovering all these hundreds of trillions of bacteria that live in our gut, none of us realized that these antibiotics were killing the microbiome and the antibiotics that we were feeding our animals were in the flesh of the animals. And then when we ate a piece of chicken or pork sandwich or something, we were eating those antibiotics and killing off the microbiome.

Dr. Gundry: One of the points I tried to make in The Energy Paradox is surprisingly so much of our energy production is actually dependent on messages we get from the microbiome. These what are called postbiotics. And we’ll probably talk about that. But we now know there are literally messages that go back and forth between our microbiome and our brain and our energy producing organelles, the mitochondria. So that’s number one. The second thing is also a thing that parents and kids of the current generations have always been exposed to. And that’s glyphosate, which is Roundup.

Dr. Gundry: Most people still have the impression that Roundup is only sprayed on GMO foods. And everybody’s cautious. You see on the label non GMO. And oh yeah, I don’t eat GMO foods.

Dr. Gundry: But what’s happened in the last 20 years, it turns out that now most conventional crops, non-GMO crops like wheat, like corn, like oats, like soybeans, like canola, almost all of our regular crops are sprayed with Roundup prior to harvest to kill the plant. It’s called desiccation. A dead plant is very light compared to a living plant. And it’s a whole lot easier to harvest a crop. And you actually save huge amounts of money carrying dried crops around than wet crops around.

Dr. Gundry: So the point of it is the Roundup isn’t washed off of our weed or our oats or our corn. And so it’s ground up and fed to us and it’s ground up and fed to our animals. And so we get a double dose, daily of Roundup. Almost everybody has huge amounts of Roundup that they’re blissfully unaware of. Well, why is that important? Roundup is an antibiotic and Roundup changes the bacteria in our intestines. And number two, as I write about in the book, Roundup in and of itself actually produces leaky gut, which is one of the main reasons we all have low energy. And we’ll talk about that in a minute. The third thing that happens is Roundup seems to block the effects of vitamin D, blocks the effects of thyroid hormone, even blocks some of the effects of the adrenal hormones like adrenaline, the energy get up and go. I was talking with a millennial on a podcast fairly recently, and it was about fatigue and being tired. And that millennials are now called the lazy generation.

Andy: Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: And there’s nothing lazy about millennials, but the fact is millennials, they’ve been continuously exposed to antibiotics and glyphosate really for the first time in their lives. And it’s actually a pretty scary experiment. So the next time we go, gee, where’s all my energy? Those are a couple good places to look.

Andy: I thought it was really interesting what you talk in here about a population of people living in the Savannah Woodlands of Northern Tanzania called the Hadzas. Talk about some researchers that were studying the Hadzas. And I guess particularly, because they’re really, really a healthy people. They’re super in shape. You say that the results were really counterintuitive. Why is that? Or what was it that they found about these people that was so interesting?

Dr. Gundry: Yeah. So this was a team of Duke researchers and I actually had them on my podcast, The Dr. Gundry Podcast. The reason they wanted to study the Hadzas is that these guys are one of the last hunter gatherers on earth and the men walk eight to 10 miles every day in search of game, the women walk oh four to five miles gathering berries and digging up tubers and actually collecting honey.

Dr. Gundry: And you’re right. They’re very fit. They’re very healthy. They don’t have any of the traditional Western diseases. But so these researchers said, gee, I’ll bet you these guys are so fit because they’re always on the move. They’re walking, they’re burning up calories—and I’ll bet you that if we look at their energy expenditure in a 24 hour period, it’s going to be a lot higher than a desk work, who’s just sitting at their desk.

Andy: Yeah. They’re chasing game around. They’re building tools out of things. They’re making their dwellings and having to skin game.

Dr. Gundry: They’re having to work.

Andy: Yeah. We just walk on down to the cafeteria downstairs and buy a Snickers bar. Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: That’s exactly right. And so, they set out to prove that in fact we’re sitting on our rear ends and we’re not expending any energy and that’s why we’re also fat. That’s a good hypothesis.

Andy: That sounds good. Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: Well, the problem was when they actually measured the energy expenditure of the desk workers, it was exactly the same as if they had been walking eight to 10 miles a day. I’ve been a researcher all my life and sometimes when our hypothesis doesn’t meet with our expectations, what we’re supposed to do is say, well, our hypothesis was wrong.

Dr. Gundry: And let’s look for why it was wrong, but what they said was, oh, we were right. It turns out that all human beings expend the exact same amount of energy no matter what they’re doing. I’ve certainly walked eight to 10 miles on my hikes. And I can tell you that I certainly expend a whole lot more energy than sitting here talking to you.

Andy: And the treadmill tells you how many calories you’re burning while you’re on there. And it’s a good number. Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: That doesn’t pass the sniff test.

Andy: Doesn’t seem to make sense.

Dr. Gundry: No. So I said, let’s look at this a different way. Okay. The desk workers are expending tremendous amounts of energy, but it’s certainly not in productive exercise muscles.

Andy: Yeah. So where’s it going?

Dr. Gundry: Exactly. And when you look at chronic inflammation, most people now are aware that we’re blaming most of the bad things that happen to us, most diseases on chronic inflammation. And what’s important to realize is that chronic inflammation has to have a source.

Dr. Gundry: It doesn’t just miraculously happen.

Andy: Magically appear.

Dr. Gundry: Yeah. Magically, we all have chronic inflammation.

Dr. Gundry: And the Hadzas don’t. I, and others, particularly Dr. Fasano, who’s a researcher at now Harvard, has shown that a leaky gut, which it used to be the pseudo-scientific term, actually is one of the major causes of chronic inflammation. And so when we look at these desk workers, and I see tons of them in my clinics.

Dr. Gundry: They’re on fire with inflammation. All of their markers of inflammation are sky high. And so inflammation is our immune system literally doing battle with the enemies it perceives. And give you a great example with COVID-19. Many people hear about the cytokine storm of COVID 19, where all of a sudden we get really sick. And this is inflammation taken to the Nth degree. And inflammation is literally a forest fire in our body. And inflammation is really good when we’re under attack by a virus or bacteria, but every day inflammation is not supposed to happen. So when we’re under attack, we actually divert almost all of our energy that would normally go to our muscles, that would normally go to our brain to think to our immune system. And 80% of our immune system actually is inside of our bellies. That’s where they live because most of the mischief is going to come through the walls of our gut through leaky gut. So when you put that into the equation, it’s number one, no wonder that the energy expenditure of the desk workers is as high as the Hazdas, but number two, it now explains why so many of us eating a Western diet our get up and go has got up and gone because our muscles aren’t getting the fuel they need. Our brain isn’t getting the fuel they need. And I see young people, I see teenagers with brain fog and it’s like, what the heck? You’re a 13 year old girl. You’re not supposed to have brain fog. You’re supposed to be able to do geometry problems much better than I was ever able to do.

Dr. Gundry: And yet, they have problems remembering things. And parents go, oh, she’s a slacker. Or my son, all he wants to do is play video games and he’s a slacker. But I’m telling you that there’s actually a legitimate reason why these are happening to our kids and actually to parents.

Andy: You say that the gut plays hosts to approximately 70 to 80% of your immune cells. So a lot of the immune system is really, really tied in with your microbiome of your gut, I guess.

Dr. Gundry: Correct.

Andy: Why is that? Or how does that work?

Dr. Gundry: That’s a great question. So up until about, well, it’s been a little over 10 years ago now, the human microbiome project was a project to basically identify all these creatures that were living inside of our gut, were living inside of our mouth, our nose, on our skin.

Dr. Gundry: It turns out that we thought the gut was just a hollow tube and we’d eat food and our enzymes would break the food down and then we’d absorb it. And then whatever was left over, we’d poop out. And that was the end of the story. And basically I was taught that in medical school years ago.

Dr. Gundry: So when the human microbiome project came out, they said, wait a minute. We found 10,000 different organisms living in your gut. And what we’ve learned subsequently is that they actually have more control over our fate, our future than our own genes. We think we’re pretty cool and that we’re obviously the highest creature on earth. And you would think if that was the case, that we would have the most genes of anything.

Andy: Right. Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: A stalk of corn has more genes than a human. Yeah. And we don’t even have the most genes of an animal. That goes to the sand flee that you can actually see on the beach. So, when people realize this, they say, wait a minute. What are we doing? Well, any parent and any kid knows about how we upload information up to the cloud, right, for computing power.

Dr. Gundry: And bacteria divide rapidly. A lot of us believe we’ve uploaded our information processing power to this bacteria cloud, to our microbiome. And the microbiome in turn says, okay, here’s the information we want the immune system to know. We’ve got your back, immune system. We’re your first line of defense. If any bad thing are coming down here, we’re going to eat them up. We’ll block them one way or another. And I’ve talked about this in other books. And so the immune system normally would get educated, literally educated, by these trillions of organisms going, okay, here’s what you should be worried about. Here’s what we’ve got.

Dr. Gundry: Well, what’s happened now, particularly to parents and kids-

Dr. Gundry: Is this whole microbiome that would normally teach our immune system what’s good and what’s bad has been slaughtered. They can’t do their job of protecting us against the things we eat.

Dr. Gundry: And the immune system, rather than getting messages to chill out all the time-

Dr. Gundry: Is now constantly bombarded with what it perceives to be threats. And so the immune system is always on hyper alert, like never before. So let me give you a great example I used actually in my original book. Humans carry a preformed antibody and most people now have heard about antibodies because of COVID.

Dr. Gundry: You get a shot and you make antibodies. So humans have a preformed antibody to the peanut lectin, a protein in peanuts. 95% of us. When I was growing up, there was no such thing as a peanut allergy. We all took peanut butter and jelly to school. They passed out peanuts on airplanes and nobody was dying from eating a peanut or even a peanut powder in the air. Now, of course, we have an epidemic of kids with such scary peanut allergies that they’re carrying EpiPens to school.

Andy: Right.

Dr. Gundry: As if this was normal. So what’s the difference? We’ve always had those antibodies to recognize the peanut protein as a troublemaker. But when I was growing up, there weren’t any antibiotics in or for animals. There weren’t any broad spectrum antibiotics period. And there wasn’t any Roundup. So our immune system was actually educated that, oh yeah, that’s a peanut protein. Yeah, I know you don’t like it, but calm down. You don’t have to worry about. It’s not as bad as I think it is.

Dr. Gundry: Now our immune system has never been given that message. And now the vast majority of us have a leaky gut that has put our immune system on high alert. So now when it sees a peanut protein, it goes, oh my gosh. Kill it. And we get these kids in anaphylactic shock, cytokine storm. And so that should be driving home the point that we’re really abnormal compared to the way we designed to work.

Dr. Gundry: When I was in medical school, autoimmune diseases, they existed. Things like rheumatoid arthritis, things like Crohn’s disease, things like lupus, psoriasis, but they were incredibly rare. They were so rare that people who were interested in them, there were some blood tests. They were called funny tests because you almost never got it because, oh we don’t know what this is. So let’s get the funny tests, but now there’s over 60 million Americans that have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Andy: Wow.

Dr. Gundry: Yeah. It all goes along and I’ve actually published papers that autoimmune diseases come from leaky gut and a hyper-activated immune system. And the really great thing is in my clinics over 90% of people with an autoimmune disease, when they follow my programs, that autoimmune disease resolves. It goes into remission. All the markers of that disease go away, which confirms that our whole problem, our lack of energy, or all these diseases that never occurred before really can be traced to the fact that Hippocrates was right 2,500 years ago. Hippocrates is the father of medicine. He said, all disease begins in the gut. And he was absolutely right.

About Dr. Steven R. Gundry

Dr. Steven R. Gundry is the author of The Energy Paradox, The Plant Paradox, The Longevity Paradox, and Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, as well as The Plant Paradox Cookbook, The Plant Paradox Family Cookbook, and The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy. Dr. Gundry has worked in medicine for over 40 years. Best known for his work as a cardiothoracic surgeon and heart surgeon, he has published over 300 articles or book chapters on cardiac surgery, as well as on nutritional breakthroughs dealing with high cholesterol, heart disease, and hypertension.

He is the Director and Founder of the International Heart & Lung Institute as well as the Center for Restorative Medicine in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, CA. Previously, Dr. Gundry served at Loma Linda University School of Medicine as Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics as well as Chairman and Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery later in his career. While at Loma Linda, he and colleague Leonard Bailey performed more infant and pediatric heart transplants than anyone else in the world. He is honored to have done operations in more than 30 countries– including charitable missions to China, India, and Zimbabwe.

Dr. Gundry lives in Southern California where his focus is on helping people improve their health, happiness, and longevity by making simple changes to their diet.

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