You know when you are carrying on with your life, thinking you are making incremental but true forward motion toward a healthier lifestyle, only to discover that many things you thought were basic and good turn out to be wrong? Like when it becomes clear, for example, that vegetable oils are evil?
Well, if you have never had this experience, and don’t want to have it, then I suggest you decline to read Dr Steven Gundry’s book, The Plant Paradox. It blew my mind, and I can’t imagine it not blowing anyone’s mind who reads it. And yet the lessons in it makes so much sense.
I had never even heard of Dr Gundry before this year – actually, before a few months ago. I’m inclined to trust him though.
He defines himself first and foremost as a researcher and has published hundreds of articles in peer-reviewed journals. He has also had a high performing career as a cardiologist and heart surgeon where he specialized in the worst types of cases – the triple bypass folks and others. He was a specialist of last resort. If your heart disease had progressed so far that no one else would touch you, you might be referred to Dr Gundry.
After awhile, he noticed with some of his patients that a change of diet negated the need for surgery. These results rekindled an interest in the medicinal (and harmful) qualities of food. They led Dr Gundry ultimately to make a career shift to seek ways to help people, even his own patients, learn how Not to need his surgical services. He walked away from the lucrative OR and re-entered the lab to conduct more research. (Dr Gundry says his wife refers to the day he quit his prestigious position as a heart surgeon, as “Black Friday,” since they had no clue really what their financial future would hold going forward.) But given what he knew about diet and health, he simply could not justify continuing to cut people open for a living. Pretty heavy, and respectable, I’d say.
These days, when Dr Gundry sees patients, it is as Director of the International Heart and Lung Institute and founder of the Center for Restorative Medicine, both in Palm Springs, California. Dr Gundry focuses exclusively on how to heal the body via dietary changes; he practices functional medicine. Today his patients may be suffering from any number of conditions, ranging from heart disease to auto-immune disorders to neurodegenerative diseases to leaky gut to cancer. Dr Gundry has taken everything he learned in his illustrious career and is using it to teach these patients (and via his book, the rest of us) how to eat to, literally, prevent and cure disease.
The Plant Paradox reads easily and contains lots of anecdotes from Dr Gundry’s prolific career. The gist of his message is that while plants truly are the best things for us to eat, not all are created equally, and many are positively trying to kill us. Therein lies the paradox.
Plants use various methods of chemical warfare to protect their seed “babies” and hurt their predators, but the most dangerous, according to Dr Gundry, are lectins. Lectins are proteins, the most famous (but we learn not the worst) of which is gluten, that want to do us in. Lectins bind to carbohydrate molecules, often with highly toxic and/or inflammatory consequences. They also help viruses and bad bacteria stick. They also cause weight gain. Yuck.
By the way, we humans have a powerful built-in defense system to fight these chemical attacks of the plant world, which are also described, as are four key historic changes, beginning 10,000 years ago with the agricultural revolution and leading up to GMOs in our food system, to the human diet that have had devastating consequences to our “good” gut bacteria and created massive problems with our collective human health.
Speaking of the gut, this is another key component of Dr Gundry’s message. Our good gut bacteria require proper care and feeding, just like a pet. Did you know we humans are composed 5 lbs of microbes and bacteria? Neither did I. These 10,000 or so different creatures per human change depending on what we feed them (by feeding ourselves), and they will consequently either work with us or against us to improve health and fight disease or to kill us slowly.
Given how potentially dangerous plants can be, you might think Dr Gundry would advise against eating them. On the contrary, he advocates a vegetable-forward diet. But we learn that with plants, the “which, when and how,” in a life-and-death way, matter. In short, by severely restricting one’s lectin intake, and by taking care to properly feed our good gut bugs what they like, Dr Gundry assures us we can be noticeably healthier, happier people. Dr Gundry then goes on to prescribe very specific guidelines on what to eat and what not to eat to maintain or improve our health.
In the next post I will outline Dr Gundry’s 2 lists, which form the basis of his eating plan: “Yes” Foods & “No” Foods (some of which are negotiable, depending on how you select or prepare them).
If by chance you are already on the holy search for a detox program to kick off 2018, like I am, Dr Gundry’s 6-week initiation into this method of eating could be it.