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 calledwith the goal of finding the root cause of the chronic illnesses he has seen in so many of his patients.
Follow Along With The Highlights
Kathy Smith: Why is the gut so important?
Zach Bush: Yeah, my background is in endocrinology, which is the study of hormones, and my basic science research was in tumors and how tumors can be turned on and off and, so, I didn’t expect to find myself as an expert in gut health. And it was really curving pathway that brought me there.
In the end, it turns out that as you mentioned, the science over the last 10 years, every week seems to be pointing more and more that just about everything that goes wrong in the body is going to eventually tie back to an initial injury in the gut. And that’s where my research led me back towards. I started Revolution Health Center in 2010, and we were doing intensive nutrition programs to get chronic disease patients to improve their health. And we had a significant–of course, for those patients that just were not responding, we were giving them kale, juicing, doing everything we could possibly get into and that seemed like a positive nutrient, and they were actually getting worse, not better.
And many of your listeners may have experienced this where they know they should be eating the dark greens and the Brussel sprouts and everything else, but when they do, they get more bloating and are just off in the brain and the immune system. Inflammation can go up in all the rest. And, so, with that segment which was a significant number – maybe 40% of our patients that were not tolerating or responding to a healthy diet weren’t losing the weight appropriately, weren’t doing the biologic changes that we were expecting.
So, that was driving us down this pathway to figure out what has changed in the literature? What’s changed in our environment that the science of the last four years doesn’t seem to apply to our modern-day consumer? And that’s what led us down this pathway to discover that there was a universal injury happening in the gut lining.
Your gut is the largest surface area of your entire body. The surface area of the gut is somewhere around two tennis courts in size. So, this massive surface area is your biggest exposure to your environment. And that massive gut lining is made up of microscopic cells. And, so, the only way that you can have any protection from that entire carpet of microscopic cells is if they are tied together tightly. And that is done by little proteins that we call tight junctions. And those guys are a lot like Velcro fastening each cell to the next cell to create this cohesive, very protected membrane.
And that is exactly kind of ground zero of what’s happened to our population over the last 30 years. We have seen skyrocketing rates of food allergies and environmental allergies, autoimmune disease, all the way out to the Alzheimer’s, dementia, the cancer and, then, in our children, attention deficit, autism and the works. And this epidemic across all of the systems has been rising at epidemic rates for almost two decades now. And there’s really been no description out there that was helping me as a doctor figure out why. Why was my patient getting so sick so fast and not responding right?
The science that has unfolded is pretty amazing. It turns out that we’ve made some catastrophic changes to our bacterial environment that has led us to this massive population injury. And it began in the 1940s with the advent of penicillin and, now, hundreds of antibiotics created since then. We have seen massive usage, not just in humans, but about 80% of all the antibiotics used in the world now are actually used in animals in the production of meat such as poultry, beef, etc. So, this massive antibiotic exposure in our universe has really changed the bacterial ecosystem and we’ve lost diversity and a number of bacteria. And that left us vulnerable.
It turns out that science, over the last couple of years, has revealed that the bacteria are the front line of defense and protection of these tight junctions. You do not have protection from the outside world if you are lacking the bacterial front end. Unfortunately, in the 1990s we, then, introduced in very large quantities a number of toxins to our food chain in the form of herbicides – most of all probably Roundup is the number one most used chemical there. The active ingredient in Roundup and, now, in all of the generic weed killers on the market is glyphosate. And that chemical was added in 1976 into weed killing, but by 1992, we’re starting to grow crops under it. We were spraying wheat in northern climates with Roundup to kill it early so we could get two crops grown.
And in 1996, the famous event happened when we debuted Roundup ready crops, and that meant that we could spray corn and soybean across the country and eventually across the world with this Roundup compound. That glyphosate is now being deposited in soils of our earth at 1.2 billion pounds per year. That stunning number makes it one of the most ubiquitous chemicals that we’re exposed to.
Unfortunately, what we have discovered is that that chemical, especially in concert with gluten can lead to massive damage to this tight junction system, and that leaves your immune system totally raw. You are suddenly a leaky sieve. That membrane goes into a state of leak rather than protection, and everything you eat can become reactive to your immune system. It’s just the 2:00 in the afternoon crash for your listeners. They’re used to trying to eat some healthy food and, yet, they find themselves grumpy at 2:00 in the afternoon and they’re reaching for their refined carbohydrates or caffeine or something to pick them up. What we’re experiencing with the 2:00 crash is whatever we just ate – and it can be actually healthy food – your [unclear 00:10:01] is not infiltrating your gut lining and, in an unregulated fashion, hitting your immune system. So, that leak phenomenon is really a disaster for the immune system.
Kathy Smith: Can I just back up for a second then. Just this idea of the gut and just giving, you know, the lay person what that lining looks like. So, I don’t know if you ever saw the movie, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but you know they would take this journey down into your body and you go through the different organs. But if you think about what it looks like in there and kind of get us into that place of what these tight junctions that are so important to good health, weaving or, as you said, Velcroing the cells together.
And their function as I understand it is to–they’re permeable so certain things go through them. They allow certain things to go through and certain things don’t go through. But as they start to loosen, then things that aren’t supposed to be going through these junctions or Velcro-like, I think of my ski suit and, you know, you Velcro or your ski boots or whatever, you Velcro that tightly together and, then, your boot’s strapped in. So, what you’re saying–but you also know that Velcro starts to loosen up. Is that kind of what’s going on in your body?
Zach Bush: That’s exactly right. And your gut membrane is notable. It’s running all the way from your nose, the nasal sinuses all the way to the rectum. So, at all of those locations you can imagine that Velcro starting to rip apart. And, now, not only in the snow, but everything you breathe, you eat, everything is now permeating that membrane and in an unregulated fashion.
In a nutshell, that tight junction is a gatekeeper. And that protein gatekeeper is as you say, keeping out bad stuff and it should be allowing in the good stuff. But as you get that leak going, it actually becomes very difficult to absorb appropriately as well. The result of inflammation or the reaction of your immune system to that outside world leaking in is an accumulation of acid or positive charge along that membrane.
And acidic membrane is going to have a much more difficult time trafficking critical nutrients to your body. And, so, as that acidious leak continues, the acidity of the gut lining builds, your immune system is dysfunction. This is where you start to get really stomach disorders or immune disorders from antibodies are now being generated in the gut lining and attacking other places in the body. The thyroid is the most common probably, but joints, in the case of Type I diabetes, it’s the pancreas, etc. So, you’ve got all these autoimmune conditions. But certainly, just the simple process of breathing, so many of us are now used to experiencing post nasal drainage – that constant drip down the back of your throat from breathing everything from pollution to pollens and dust and everything else. And that breakdown in the Velcro is really making you prone to that reactivity.
Kathy Smith: Ok, so, we have the tighten up the belt, Velcro, and maintain its integrity. So, one of the things that’s been popularized–I’m trying to think–probably in the last 10 years is you’ve got all your probiotics, your prebiotics. You’ve got your fermented foods. You have all these different techniques and ways and approaches to re-establishing this gut bacteria.
As a matter of fact, I remember when I would take my daughters to the doctor when they were two years old, three years old, whatever and they had an ear infection. They put them on antibiotics. And the one they would say would be, “Just make sure you give them a little bit of yogurt.” And that was kind of the solution of, ok, we’re going to re-invigorate your bacterial growth, I would imagine. But how is this explosion of probiotics and prebiotics helping our gut?
Zach Bush: That’s a great question. The data is pretty limited in the scientific literature as to what the long-term benefits of probiotics are. And when you start to look at what the ideal ecology or ecosystem of that gut lining is supposed to look like, you can see how short these probiotics are falling. A typical gut lining, we now are estimating it somewhere in 10,000 to 30,000 species that should be represented there in a healthy system. I think many of us are walking around with a fraction of that – 500 or 1,000 species. So, we’ve come far short from this complex ecosystem. And they feel, including the doctors, including myself for many, many years were just prescribing probiotics because that’s all we had in our arsenal for this world of bad health.
And the issue is that your typical probiotic is going to have three strains to maybe seven, occasionally as many as 25 strains in that probiotic. And so if you’re taking 35 billion copies of the same bacteria day in and day out, you’re not going to be able to develop eco neighbors. Instead, if you keep doing that long term, you’re going to actually force more of a mono culture type event where you’ve got the same bacteria that are dominating the environment.
That’s not a pathway to diversity. But more importantly, what we’ve found–the big discovery that we made in 2012 was it’s not so much the bacteria that help with this leaking membrane tight junction injury that we’re getting from our environment. It’s actually the breakdown products, the compost that’s pumping out of those bacteria when they eat that is really the protective system.
What we discovered was these little carbon molecules that are the communication network of the gut. And what you see is that when these things start talking, you’ve got these oxygen and hydrogen binding that goes on and it looks a lot like cell phones in a communication network at the electrical level. So, you get this big communication network coursing through your gut, and you get this immediate transformation of big, three-dimensional structures in that gut wall, including these tight junctions. And, so, you see a restoration happening not from the bacteria but from the language that they produce.
And what we have now seen is that each species of bacteria will create a small vocabulary within that communication network. And, so, one species might create five or 15 words. In a population of 10,000 species, you now have over a million different words that are booming along to get you into this communication network of cell protection and repair. And, so, that was the big breakthrough in or science in 2012 that eventually led to Restore, which is, wow, if we get things talking together, we get magic happening. So, instead of trying to just force a whole bunch of mono cultural bacteria into the gut, it’s a sterile product. There’s no bacteria in the Restore. Instead, it’s just the language of the bacteria, the fungi and everything else. When you put that back into the system, you get this eco balance affect.
Kathy Smith: So, it’s interesting. It sounds like this is Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus type of miscommunication or whatever multiplied by 20,000. It’s like everybody’s speaking a different language and, now, we have to kind of get them speaking to each other and on the same page. And, yet–I mean, it’s interesting as to go back and see how we’ve gotten here. And you went back all the way to GMOs and Roundup and where that became so prevalent in our soil. And, then, our soil started getting so depleted that, now, even if you have a big plate of vegetables with every color of the rainbow on that plate, are you saying that you’re not really getting the nutrients we once got therefore and with those, not only the nutrients, but then getting that food into our system helps to create the new bacteria. And that’s not happening in our gut right now?
Zach Bush: That’s exactly right. We’re getting robbed at so many different levels right now. Glyphosate, the compound in Roundup, that stuff has been patented as an antibiotic and antifungal, etc. It kills bacteria and plants by blocking these metabolic pathways that make essential amino acids. And, so, this chemical that’s now in all of our soil–unfortunately it’s even in 75% of the rainfall on earth now.
This is a chemical that is so ubiquitous now in our environment. And it’s tying up and blocking the ability of soil and plants to produce these essential amino acids and nutrients that we need for life. And, so, we’re being robbed of the bacterias as they’re killed by the herbicides and pesticides. They, in turn, cannot liberate the nutrients from the soil and get them into the plant; therefore, as you say, a tomato of today resembles almost nothing of what a tomato was in 1945. Lycopene is this critical anti-cancer compound it’s made of. It’s almost absent now. A fraction of what we saw even just 20 years ago. And, so, we’re being robbed of these incredibly important nutrients at the soil level. And, so, it’s a real devastation of the ecosystem as much as human health.
Kathy Smith: So, I don’t want to listeners to think it’s all doomsday, that there’s obviously, there are things we can do and there are solutions to this, I’m hoping. So, tell me about–I mean, before we get into your product, tell me about just in your natural, day-to-day eating, living, buying, what are some of the to-dos and some of the don’ts to have a healthy gut?
Zach Bush: Absolutely. We’ll start at a couple of the things to avoid because they’re so critical. And the biggest one is antibiotics from the medical system and the food chain. So, eating organic meats and dairy, if you’re going to put those foods in your diet, they’ve got to be organic. You’ve got to get the antibiotics out of the food chain as quickly as you can. I’m a huge fan of a plant-based diet. I think there’s many, many reasons we should eat low on the food chain. Namely, the lower you eat on the food chain, the less toxins you get in your food.
But even if you’re getting that meat and dairy in there, please go organic. Get at least the antibiotic exposure out there. And, then, as a consumer in the medical system, you really want to do everything you can to avoid antibiotics. So often in my clinic, when I am interviewing a new patient, they come in with a host of four or five major disease processes going on in their body. And I can just map them straight back to antibiotic exposure after antibiotic exposure to antibiotic exposure to show them exactly how their body compensated in response to this loss of bacteria in their system. And, so, make sure it’s not in the food you eat. And, then, make sure you are reducing that antibiotic you get.
Then, the next thing is just get variety back in. You mentioned fermented foods. Huge fan. We’ve been fermenting foods since the dawn of food preparation. It wasn’t until we developed widespread refrigeration that we really stopped fermenting our food in homes. And, so, we’ve got to get back to that. We need to start doing our own home fermentation. Incredibly, get wild ferments from the air around your house, reduce your allergy loads, etc., etc. So, wild fermentation’s really great bonus to put back into your food. It only takes a couple of tablespoons of fermented calories with your sauer kraut or sour reuben with your turnips or whatever you’re doing. These are just amazingly powerful ways to get complexity and biodiversity back into your diet.
And, then, as you mentioned as well, the more color you try to go after in your diet – the more fruit, vegetables, etc. – while they may be less nutrient-rich than they were in the 40s, that’s still the only source you’re going to get from, so, going after something like that.
And, of course, many of us in the medical field are now turning to juicing as a powerful way to increase that nutrient load. With juicing, of course, you can get a couple of grocery bag fulls worth of fruits and vegetables into just a few glasses of contents that you compound as an enormous volume. Since each piece of fruit is less dense, you’ve got to eat more of it and juicing is an easy way get that massive volume of fruits and vegetables in. So, for my critically ill patients, they’re juicing a large volume. So, those are some of the tricks.
But one of the neat things, when you turn your attention away from the intestine is your breathing. And you breathe much of the microflora or the bacteria that you’re going to populate and pass through your gut. And that is an amazing oversight that we’ve had in my field of gut health. But I have all my patients, once they’re started on the Restore, we’ll have them start travelling out into the greater Virginia area. They’ll go out to Virginia Beach and spend a couple of days there breathing the ocean environment. They’ll go up to the Appalachian trail, some waterfalls. They’ll find these different ecosystems, each one delivering thousands of different species to their nasal sinuses and ultimately to their gut. And, so, that’s really something that I’ve got a growing passion for is where is your ecosystem and can you get your ecosystem bigger?
I think, Kathy, you may be a dog fanatic, looking at your Skype page here. Your dog is an amazing source of [unclear 00:23:26]. The dogs and the cats that we have in our homes, they are still out there going to the bathroom on the ground, kicking dirt or kicking cat litter back over their own stool and in so doing, they’re getting bacteria back populating their skin and everything else. And, so, when you go pet an animal, we thought that man’s best friend was really extending our life by just reducing our stress, but it looks like probably that dog or cat in your life is actually extending your life by helping increase and balance your ecosystem. So, a powerful tool to have pets in their home. Big fan of getting out and seeing livestock and everything else.
Kathy Smith: Well, you know, it’s interesting. New York Times this week had an article about this new study about kids that suck their thumb and teenagers that bite their nails and finding out that it might not be such a bad thing after all for your immune system. Maybe not for your teeth, but for your immune system, it was actually, they found out to be–they were much healthier.
And I think it speaks to this idea of ultra-hygiene that’s gotten very popular also about killing every germ or bit of dirt that we come in contact with or not coming in contact with. So, what you’re kind of saying is some of that is–we need those elements, that nature, that dirt. When you go camping, I just remember as a kid, all those things we did where you got dirty, you got nature, that was helping our immune system.
Zach Bush: That’s exactly right. And we have such enormous amount of population health data now that the more stale the society, the more we have the allergy, asthma, eczema kind of syndromes going on in our children. And, so, just a huge, huge shout out to the importance of the ecosystem and our interaction with nature. So, get out there hiking and get your kids out hiking. Get them out in that nature.
Kathy Smith: Ok, well, one thing–I mean through the years of being, obviously, in the fitness business for so many years, one of the biggest questions I get – and I started talking about this many, many years ago. But people, especially women, they want the flat abs. And I don’t care if it’s flat abs over 30, 40, 50, 60 and beyond. But the idea is–and I would always talk about, you know, what’s on those muscles. Maybe that layer of fat that’s only part of it. And if you don’t address the internal workings, meaning the gut and the bloat, and if you’re not digesting your food well, then it’s almost impossible to have these flat abs. But can you give us just a, you know, just off the big disease thing and just strictly from vanity’s standpoint how your gut is important for, you know, getting your body in shape.
Zach Bush: Yeah, perhaps it’s vanity, but it’s also very much metabolic calories. There’s so much attention that that central weight gain around that waistline is the most damaging to the metabolic wellness of the individual as well. So, that all plays together because of the word inflammation. So, as soon as you develop inflammation and about 60 to 80% of your immune lies in your gut. And, so, when that inflammation begins to really move from acute inflammation injury to a chronic inflammatory state, there’s a whole lot of shifts that happen in your hormone system.
Among those, the hormones that you would hear about would be insulin, cortisol, growth hormone. All of these go through what we call counter regulatory changes. And these hormones that are critical for wellness suddenly become their own problem to the body. They become their own source of inflammation, dysfunction, miscommunication in the body as they dysregulate. And, so, this counter regulatory state that is in response to the inflammation is what’s really going to drive that central weight gain. And I have no doubt that so many of the people you’ve trained have found themselves eating right, exercising their tails off and just can’t get that last five pounds shed from that waistline. And if we could get them really healthy in the gut, get that membrane up tight and running good again, that’s when they can finally start to let the muscle recover and get that metabolism really sped up.
So, step one to getting that tight abs, the tight gut, everything else. Step one, get the membrane fixed. And, again, Restore’s the first one to market to find a mechanism by which to get that ultra-structure really up and running again. But more importantly, after that, you’ve got to feed the machine. And so many women have made the mistake of dieting themselves into a very slow metabolism.
You have to keep in mind that your brain is counting not only calories out, it’s counting calories in. And, so, it’s counting every calorie that you take in and every calorie you burn, whether that’s in a muscle or just in brain function. An amazing 50% of your calories that you burn at night are burned by your brain. So, that’s a huge, huge balance that the brain is going through every day. How many calories did you eat? Ok, I’m going to match that to calories out. So, if you’re dieting, and you’re only taking in 600 or 800 calories a day, it’s not going to take long – three weeks or four weeks and your brain and the endocrine system are going to slow your metabolism down to that 600 to 800-calorie burn. It has to. It’s trying to preserve your life.
Incidentally, it puts the whole system into a stress state, so after a three or four-week crash diet, your brain is in this hyper famine stress state that’s saying, “Oh, my gosh. There’s a famine. We have to make adjustments.” So, adjustment number one is slow down the metabolism. Adjustment number two is store fat centrally in the liver, around the liver, in that central fat compartment. And that stuff is the stuff that kills so that’s a real critical piece is don’t starve yourself into slowness.
Kathy Smith: Ok, well said. I love that. Let’s just finish off. I want you to tell me about Restore. And it’s a brilliant product. And just–I don’t if the word would be stumble across it, but how did you go about creating Restore?
Zach Bush: Totally stumbled across it. My research was in cancer, and I was working with these little compounds or these little structures inside the cell rather that are called mitochondria. And these guys look a lot like bacteria except about 100 times smaller. They live inside your cells. There’s about 200 mitochondria per human cell. And they’re your nursemaids. They’re taking care of the inside of the cell. They’re regulating cell metabolism. They’re the ones creating fuel, and in the production of the fuel, they make these little molecules we call redox molecules. Again, a communication network. This time not carbon based but oxygen based.
And, so, these oxygen redox molecules are really the cell signaling everybody that there’s everything from feed the cell to maintain cell repair and kill cancer. So, really critical signaling system that we’re working on in the cancer world. I exited UBA, started my nutrition center, we were working with this and we couldn’t figure out why our patients weren’t getting better and we were starting to ask questions about the soil. Maybe the soil has changed. Is this why the kale isn’t working? And we pulled an incredible study that was looking at some soil science around nutrient metabolism in the soil. And sitting in the middle of one of these pages was a chemical structure that was very reminiscent of some of the chemotherapy that I had been developing.
And, so, it was just a stumble across it. “Oh, my gosh. What is that doing in soil and how did it get there?” And with some more research, we found out it was being made by bacteria and, then, we went through a process of figuring out how to get those chemicals or those compounds from the bacteria, isolate it and out of soil. So, we were taking–with Restore, we’re using a fossil soil. It’s about 60 million years old. And we put that through a process of first getting it clean and, then, getting the carbon redox molecules isolated. And, then, we balanced those with some other trace nutrients from the soil. Once we got all of that mix balanced in the oxygen hydrogen, it starts to act like a communication network again.
And, so, what we what we stumbled upon was a carbon molecule or carbon based oxygen redox system that is a system communication network relatively of the extra cellular environment. So, the mitochondria are the nursemaids to the inside of the cell, and we believe that the bacteria are really the nursemaids and the communication network of the outside of the cell environment. And, so, that’s what we stumbled upon and that’s what Restore brings to the market is the first communication network-grown bacteria. And it’s become quite an amazing phenomenon in itself. We get to hear miracle stories day in and day out. Not because Restore is a miracle, but the body itself is just a healing machine. And that healing machine is so capable of doing miracles when it has unfettered access to information. And that communication network restores what is getting that back up and running.
Kathy Smith: Well, I have my bottle in the kitchen and I take it religiously, so where’s the best place for–where can people check it out? At your website?
Zach Bush: Not only the product but all the science behind it is on the website. You can watch a video of those tight junctions falling apart with a time-lapse video under the microscope. You get to see leaky gut develop in just 16 minutes after a meal with glyphosate in it. So, really amazing images there, science behind it. Keep looking for our growing database of [unclear 00:33:04] journals that we’re publishing. So, lots of science there to satiate the most hungry appetites for information there. And, then, there’s lots of information on the product itself. And you can order the product there. That’s www.Restore4Life.com.
Kathy Smith: Ok. Thanks, Zach. It’s been so great having you. You know, it’s an honor, a privilege and I’m sure you’re changing lives. I’m sure you are changing lives day by day so thanks for this. And it’s really turned me around. I really understood gut health a bit but not to this degree. It’s really made me think about everything I put in my mouth now. So, thank you.
Zach Bush: Well, Kathy for as many people as you affect and change lives for, I appreciate that comment. So, thank you for doing what you’ve done for so long.