Episode 13 | Dr. Zach Bush, MD | Is Your Gut Working Against You?

Why you should listen –

What’s happening in your gut? You may be surprised by the important role your gut plays in mental clarity, respiratory wellness, maintaining a balanced immune system and more.

As a math major in college, I loved the sciences and took a scientific approach to my problems while also relying on my intuition. Some days for lunch I ate a tunafish sandwich on whole wheat bread, and I began to notice on those days that pre-lunch, I felt energized and alert; after lunch, my brain felt foggy. Other days I’d maybe have a salad with chicken for lunch, or yogurt with nuts, and I noticed that I felt better and was able to maintain my energy after eating. So I began to refine my eating habits based on how I felt before and after I ate. Fast forward 40 years, and science is now showing the profound connection between the brain and the gut. As food travels through our digestive system, it goes through both physical and chemical changes. Carbs, proteins, and fats are turned into substances that can be absorbed in the intestines, and what happens there impacts everything else in terms of our health — everything! This process can even affect our ability to have flat abs.

Today’s guest offers a life-changing perspective on how your gut health may be the missing link to vibrant health. Dr. Zach Bush is one of the few Triple Board Certified doctors in the country and author of the soon-to-be-released book Gut Bomb. In 2010 he developed a nutrition-based health clinic called Revolution Health with the goal of finding the root cause of the chronic illnesses he has seen in so many of his patients.

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Why is the gut so important?

My background is in endocrinology — the study of hormones — and my basic science research was on tumors, so I did not expect to find myself an expert of gut health. Science now indicates more and more that everything wrong in the body is tied back to an initial injury in the gut. After starting Revolution Health, we began developing intensive nutrition programs. However, we had a significant portion of patients who were not improving with a healthy diet and we wanted to figure out why. What we’ve discovered is a universal injury happening in the gut lining, resulting in skyrocketing rates of food allergies, autoimmune disease, cancer, attention deficit disorder and more. The gut is the largest surface area of the body — two tennis courts in size! — and the lining is made of microscopic cells tied together tightly by proteins called tight junctions, which help create a Velcro-like cohesive, protective membrane. Globally, we’ve made catastrophic changes to our bacterial environment, specifically with the advent of penicillin and antibiotics (and antibiotics used in the meat we consume). In turn, we’ve lost diversity and a number of bacteria within our systems. Toxins such as glyphosate have been introduced into our food chain through the practice of spraying wheat, corn and soybean crops. Glyphosate is now so ubiquitous that it is deposited into soil at 1.2 billion pounds per year worldwide. This chemical can lead to massive damage of the tight junction system; the membrane goes into a state of leaking, rather than protection, and everything we ingest can become reactive to the immune system. Even healthy food is now infiltrating gut lining and hitting the immune system in an unregulated fashion.

What does the gut lining look like? I’m thinking of my ski suit: you velcro it closed and strap your boots in, but eventually the velcro starts to loosen up. Is that what’s going on here?

The notable gut membrane runs from your nasal sinuses to your rectum; if there are loose points throughout (where there is a breakdown of the tight junctions, or the “velcro” in this example) everything you eat and breathe is now permeating that membrane in an unregulated way. The tight junction is a gatekeeper protein that should keep bad stuff out and allow good stuff in. But as the tight junctions loosen and a leak begins, it becomes difficult for the membrane to absorb appropriately as well. The reaction of the immune system to the leak is an accumulation of acid along that membrane. An acidic membrane is going to have a much more difficult time trafficking critical nutrients to your body. As the leak continues, the acidity builds, your immune system malfunctions, and autoimmune disorders occur. Post-nasal drainage from breathing in pollution, pollens and dust, for example, is a common reaction to a breakdown in the tight junctions.

How do we maintain the integrity of the gut? We hear about probiotics, prebiotics, fermented foods…how do we reestablish gut bacteria?

Data is limited regarding what the long-term benefits of probiotics may be. When you examine the ideal ecosystem of the gut lining you can see how far short probiotics are falling: a healthy gut lining has somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 species represented, but many of us are walking around with between 500 and 1,000 species, so we are falling far short of a complex ecosystem. For many years, doctors were prescribing probiotics because it’s all we had in our arsenal. But the typical probiotic will have only three to seven strains — maybe 25 – represented. If you’re making 35 billion copies of the same bacteria day in and out, you’re going to promote a monoculture, or the same bacteria dominating the environment, which is not a pathway to diversity. More importantly, we’ve found that it’s not so much the bacteria itself that help with this leaking membrane/tight junction injury, but the compost coming out of those bacteria that’s protecting the system. We discovered carbon molecules that are the communication network of the gut: when these molecules start talking, this communication network results in an immediate transformation of big, three-dimensional structures in the gut wall (including tight junctions). Restoration occurs not from the bacteria, but the language they produce. Each species of bacteria will create a small vocabulary within that communication network — one species might create 5-15 words. Therefore, in a population of 10,000 species, you now have over 1 million different words to get you into this communication network of cell protection and repair.

Interesting to see how we’ve gotten here. Now that glyphosate is so prevalent in soil, and soil has become so depleted, even if we eat a big plate of vegetables, are we still not getting the nutrients we need, and not creating bacterial diversity?

We’re getting robbed of nutrients at so many levels. Glyphosate has been patented as an antibiotic/anti-fungal that kills bacteria by blocking metabolic pathways that make essential amino acids. This chemical is so ubiquitous in our environment that it is unfortunately now present in 75% of rainfall. It’s blocking the ability of soil and plants to produce the essential amino-acids and nutrients we need for life. Bacterias are killed by these herbicides and pesticides, so they in turn cannot liberate nutrients from the soil and get them into plants. A tomato of today resembles nothing of what a tomato was in 1945. Lycopene is a critical anti-cancer compound in tomatoes that is almost absent now. It’s a devastation of the ecosystem as well as human health.

But it’s not all doomsday, right? Tell me about the Dos and Don’ts for promoting a healthy gut.

  • Avoid antibiotics from the medical system and in the food chain. Eat organic meats and dairy. I am a huge fan of a plant-based diet — the lower you eat on the food chain, the fewer toxins you get in your food. As a consumer in the medical system, avoid antibiotics. So many times my new patients come in with a host of 4-5 major disease processes occurring that can be traced to antibiotic exposure.
  • Add variety to your diet! I’m a huge fan of fermented foods; we’ve been fermenting foods since the dawn of civilization. We need to get back to doing home-fermentation. It only takes adding a couple tablespoons of fermented cabbage to your meal to powerfully get complexity and biodiversity back in your diet. Add more color to your diet as well; while they may be less nutrient-rich today, it’s still the only source of certain nutrients you will get. Juicing is a powerful way to increase your nutrient load. Keep in mind that each piece of fruit is now less dense, so you need to eat a lot of them, and juicing is an easy way to do this.
  • Breathing: we breathe microflora/bacteria that will populate and pass through your gut, which is a huge oversight we’ve previously had in the field of gut health. I advise all my patients to travel out into the environment and breathe different ecosystems. Each one will deliver thousands of different species to the nasal sinuses and ultimately, the gut. Expand your ecosystem.
  • Animals are an amazing source of biome for us! Dogs and cats are still going to the bathroom outside, kicking dirt over their stool and in so doing, they are getting bacteria on their skin. So when you pet an animal, it helps to increase and balance your ecosystem.

The New York Times just had an article about a new study that showed kids who suck their thumb and teens who bite their nails are much healthier. Ultra-hygiene has gotten so popular these days, but we need some germs! Get dirty and get in nature and help our immune system.

The more sterile the society, the more allergies, eczema and asthma we see.

One of the biggest questions I get is, how do I get flat abs? If you don’t address your gut and bloat it’s almost impossible to have flat abs. Strictly from a vanity standpoint, how is your gut important for getting your body in shape?

Central weight gain is the most damaging to metabolic wellness. Inflammation: as soon as you develop inflammation and that inflammation begins to move into chronic inflammatory state, a whole lot of shifts happen with your hormone system. Insulin, cortisol and growth hormone go through counter-regulatory changes where these hormones critical for wellness become their own source of inflammation, disfunction and miscommunication in the body. This counter-regulatory state in response to inflammation will drive central weight gain. I have no doubt that so many people you’ve trained find themselves eating right and working their tails off, but struggling to lose those last five pounds. If we could get them really helping the gut and restoring their gut membrane, their metabolism would kick in. So many women diet themselves into a very slow metabolism. It’s important to remember that your brain is counting calories out and in. 50% of calories burned at night are burned by the brain alone! If you are dieting in an extreme way, your brain and endocrine system will slow down to try and preserve your life, and your system will be in a stress state, thinking there is famine and it must adjust to slow metabolism and store fat. That’s the fat that kills. Do not starve yourself into slowness.

Tell me about Restore. It’s a brilliant product — how did you go about creating it?

We stumbled across it. My research was in cancer and I was working with structures inside the cell called mitochondria. They look a lot like bacteria, but much smaller, and there about 200 of them in each cell. Mitochondria are basically the nursemaid of the cell, taking care of the inside of the cell, regulating cell metabolism and creating fuel. In the process of creating fuel, mitochondria create little redox molecules. These oxygen-based redox molecules signal their environment to do everything from feed the cell, maintain cell repair and kill cancer. I started working at the nutrition center and we pulled an incredible study examining nutrient metabolism in the soil, and on a page of the study I saw a chemical structure reminiscent of some of the chemotherapy I’d been developing. How is that in the soil? How are the compounds from the bacteria isolated? Restore uses a fossil soil — about 60 million years old — that we put through a cleaning process, followed by a process of isolating the carbon redox molecules, which we then balance with trace nutrients from the soil. It’s a carbon-based oxygen redox system that is a communication network of the extracellular environment. The body itself is a healing machine, so capable of doing miracles when it has unfettered access to information. The communication network gets things back up and running.

Where can people check it out?

Listeners can check out our website www.restore4life.com to see time-lapse videos under the microscope and learn more about the science as well.

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