It’s a jungle out there, Learning what to eat and what to avoid in it, and how and when and why is what The Plant Paradox, by Dr Steven Gundry, is all about. In Part 1 of this 4-part blog series, I explain why I trust Dr Gundry as an authority on this topic and summarize his message.
So, from Dr Gundry we know that plants are trying to kill us, and that it matters how we choose and prepare our food. We also know that it is important to consider our good gut bugs when we eat, because they need to eat too. The next step might seem to be to dive into the specifics of Dr Gundry’s healthy eating plan.
Not so fast. What if, like me, you actually feel pretty OK most of the time? Is it really necessary to change the entire way you eat if, unlike some people, you seem to have an iron stomach – maybe you love spicy foods, for example, and feel like you can eat or drink just about anything without problems. Well … “seem” might be the operative word. Because lectins cause death by a thousand cuts, or as the frog in the boiling water analogy Dr Gundry uses, we don’t appreciate the harm our food choices are producing because in many of us they go until we find ourselves in a health crisis. In addition to the problematic foods we may be eating, and before rolling out the details of his eating plan of Yes Please and Just Say No foods, Dr Gundry bolsters his case by setting forth 7 changes in the last 50 years that have severely compromised our collective health.
Dr Gundry calls these, the 7 Deadly Disrupters. He says they have radically changed the environment, not only of the outside world, but also of each of our individual “holo-biomes,” the unique universe of life forms residing in our guts, skin and the air, a la Peanuts’ character, “PigPen,” around each of us. These 7 Deadly Disrupters – which by the way, also contribute to persistent weight gain – are summarized as follows:
Disruptor 1: Broad-spectrum antibiotics. These antibiotics kill multiple strains of bacteria at the same time. The problem is they do no discriminate. They rid you of your good gut bugs, too. The introduction of these antibiotics enabled doctors to effectively “carpet-bomb” their patients’ bodies, killing microbes and bacteria without the need to specifically identify the real culprit. To make matters worse, many doctors prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics today even when they know the problem may viral, in which case antibiotics will not help and can only harm. It can take up to 2 years to regenerate your good gut microbes after exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics. While targeted antibiotics can be lifesaving, the broad spectrum variety (such as Levaquin or ciproflaxin, which are often prescribed for urinary tract infections, for example) are not something to accept lightly, knowing they will lay waste to your good gut bugs too.
In Thailand this issue is alive and well. If you enter a private hospital for any reason, and if you are not pro-active, you will exit with a small, attractive shopping bag full of medication. One of those medicines will likely be a broad spectrum antibiotic. I learned early on the necessity of assertiveness and diligence in communicating with doctors. In Thailand, partly due to cultural differences, doctors do not always let you know what is on their mind in prescribing medication (though, I have to also say, this is changing). Anyways, the bottom line is if you don’t know what the doctor is prescribing it is difficult to question it and cross any unwanted items off the list.
Also, the problem of broad-spectrum antibiotics does not just come from your well-meaning doctor.
US-resident Americans (especially) also ingest them with our meals. Livestock in the US are regularly fed antibiotics as a matter of course, as it makes them grow faster and fatter. When people eat these animals, it has the same effect on them. In The Plant Paradox, Dr Gundry points out that
almost all American chicken or beef contains enough antibiotics to kill bacteria in a petri dish! You can bet that it indiscriminately kills the friendly bacteria in your gut.
By killing off your good intestinal flora, your body receives the message that it is at war and needs to prepare accordingly. It stores fat for the war effort.
Disruptor 2: Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). These are over-the-counter drugs such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve and other anti-inflammatory drugs. It is known that these drugs debilitate the mucosal lining of the small intestine and colon, and like Broad Spectrum Antibiotics above, create a state of war within the body. That causes pain, which prompts you to take more of these drugs. Pharmaceutical companies knew this all along, apparently. Doctors initially did not know it, because at the time these drugs were created, back in the 70’s, gastroscopes did not reach as far as the small intestines. It was only when the camera pills were invented (the ones that are swallowed and take pics of the small intestines) that doctors became aware of the severe damage these drugs take on our health. Is it any wonder the pharmaceutical industry refers to NSAIDs as “Gateway Drugs?”
Dr Gundry suggests Boswellia or white willow bark instead.
Disruptor 3: Stomach-Acid Blockers. Zantec, Prilosec, Nexium and Protonix should be avoided full-stop, according to Dr Gundry. Yes they reduce stomach acid. But we need our stomach acid, as long as it stays in the stomach. It is one of your body’s best lines of defense against invaders, capable of killing off most of the “gang-banger” bacteria that manage to make it that far into your system. Without this defense system, all havoc is allowed to break loose. Your immune system is again turned on high alert (again, prompting weight gain). Additionally, most of these drugs also mess with your mitochondria and even cross the blood-brain barrier. This leads to a documented vastly increased risk of dementia in individuals who frequently partake. Because the intestines are unprotected, bad bacteria is allowed to flourish, resulting in a threefold increased risk in pneumonia in folks who regularly take stomach acid-blocking drugs. Finally, without stomach acid, protein cannot be properly digested, which has led to an entire generation of old folks whose muscles have wasted away, despite eating sufficient amounts of protein.
Sub in Rolaids instead, says Dr Gundry, which are safe.
Disruptor 4: Artificial Sweeteners.
a Duke study showed a single Splenda pack kills 50 percent of normal intestinal flora!
Sucralose, saccharin, aspartame and the like alter the holo-biome for the worse. And just like in the situations mentioned above, when the good gut bugs go MIA and the bad bacteria move in, the body responds with weight gain in an effort to store fat to do battle. How ironic is that, for products which are supposed to help you lose weight?
Stevia, Xylitol, Erythritol, Yacon syrup and inulin are fine – while they will stimulate an insulin (addictive) response, they do not kill off our good gut bugs.
Disruptor 5: Endocrine (also called “Hormone”) Disruptors. These are a wide-ranging group of low-dose estrogen-like agents, found in plastics, scented cosmetics, preservatives, sunscreens and even cash register receipts. They mess with our hormones.
This is the reason to work toward reducing such items in our daily lives.
Disruptor 6: Genetically Modified Foods & the Herbicide Roundup. The introduction of such powerful poisons into our ecosystems have infiltrated the food and animals we eat. GMO plants produce unique lectins, causing inflammation in the body. The glyphosate in Roundup sticks to the grains it is sprayed on to be eaten by livestock, which are then eaten by us. Washing does not help.
Because non-GMO crops are routinely harvested by spraying Roundup on them, and given the fact that all livestock and poultry are fed these grains and beans, you get a double whammy of Roundup even if you avoid GMO crops.
Despite the fact that in 2015, the International Agency for Research, the cancer agency of WHO, declared glyphosate a “probably human carcinogen,” the Environmental Protection Agency of the US still has declined to ban the chemical (though it is under review).
Disruptor 7: Constant Exposure to Blue Light. Our constant exposure to the blue light from computers and cell phones tricks our bodies into thinking it is constantly summer. The result is that we store weight in anticipation of the long winter ahead, which never comes, due to our constant exposure to blue light.
Simple solutions include blue light-blocking bulbs, glasses and apps.
I loved this section of the book because it very clearly outlines, with evidence, many of the not necessarily food-related problems I have already been reading about for years. Then it goes a step further and explains, with evidence, how these problems directly create problems for human health.
In my next post, I will finally delve into Dr Gundry’s list of “Yes Please” food list.