[00:00] Introduction/Alantril & Qualia
[06:22] About Dr. Steven Gundry
[06:56] What is a Lectin?
[14:36] On Inflammation & Lectins
[20:32] Where Can You Find Lectins?
[23:43] On Lectins & Ailments
[29:18] How Much Lectins Do You Take In Food?
[32:45] On Using Pressure Cookers
[34:19] Quick Commercial Break/Rover/HealthIQ
[36:46] On Fruits & Lectins
[48:45] Brown Rice Vs. White Rice
[52:08] On Lectins & Hormetic Effects
[55:40] Lectin Hacks
[1:00:54] End of the Podcast
Ben: Hey everybody. So there is this book called “The Plant Paradox”. Now this book has been creating a lot of controversy lately because we’re finding out all these plants that we are, supposedly, not supposed to eat. I figured I go straight to the source and get the doc that wrote this book “Plant Paradox” on the show, Dr. Steven Gundry. He’s a renowned cardiologist, he’s a New York Times best-selling author. The guy’s brilliant, during his forty year career in medicine, he’s done over ten thousand heart surgeries, done a bunch of life saving medical technologies, meaning he’s developed them. He patented nine different cardiac surgery devices. He’s not really a slouch. He’s a cum laude graduate of Yale University. He has pioneered the field of Xenotransplantation. If you don’t know what that is, that’s the study of how the genes of one species react to the transplanted heart from something else, like putting a baboon heart into a human. Crazy stuff.
He has been able to himself cure obesity and chronic disease using some of the techniques that we talk about in today’s show. He’s the founder and director of the Center for Restorative Medicine also by the way, which prevents and reverses the chronic diseases of aging with diet and nutraceutical interventions. He’s amazing granted a lot of his stuff is controversial as you’re going to find out during today’s show, but either way, definitely worth listening to this guy’s perspective on plants, particularly lectins. You can access the show notes over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/gundry, by the way. I happened to be travelling while I recorded this, so I was all over the globe, and I was literally in a hotel room as I was doing this interview, so the audio might not be the extreme high quality that you’re used to, but I had to get him on the show. Just had to, how can you blame me?
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In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Four billion people use rice as their staple. Why do four billion people go to trouble while taking the hall of the brown rice and eating it white? Because they’ve been getting rid of that lectin.” “Plants don’t want you to eat their fruit until their seeds, their babies are fully protected against digestion. And to make sure the predator doesn’t eat their fruit before their babies are protected, they use lectins to make the animal think twice.”
Ben: So Dr. Gundry, I know that based off of everything that I just said, you’re quite the underachiever, and there’s really not that much at all that we can talk about. However, I want to talk about the topic that seems to be hot on the lips of everybody in the health and nutrition and fitness sector these days, probably thanks to you, and that is lectins. For the people listening in, and by the way, take as deep a dive as you want to into the science because most of our audience loves to wear propeller hats and really get their heads wrapped around this stuff in a pretty thrill way. What exactly is a lectin? How do you define a lectin?
Dr. Gundry: Well a lectin is defined as a sticky protein, and they are proteins that seek out and try to stick to particular sugar molecules, and they bind to sugar molecules, and apparently irreversible a form. Now lectins are used by both animals and plants for cellular communication, and without lectins, quite frankly there would be one less form of cellular communication from one cell to another. And lectins work by binding onto a sugar receptor and then turning on the membrane of a particular cell. So without lectins, not a whole lot would happen.
Ben: And when you say they’re sugar binders, that can be synonymous with them being a carbohydrate binder, correct?
Dr. Gundry: Correct, exactly. But that’s what they attach to, so we don’t have to go around and say, oh my gosh, we have to fear lectins because they’re in everything. And that’s one of the things I think people should take away. I’m not telling people to avoid lectins, that would be physically impossible nor would you not want lectins in you because they do a lot of important things. And there’s actually some lectins that I talk about in the book that seem to be quite useful for tying cancer for instance or to increasing the susceptibility of insulin talking to certain cells. There’s a lectin in bitter melon that does that, but there are lectins that are used as a major plant defense system, and that’s where the plant paradox came from, and that’s where I like people to think about why we should be interested in certain plant lectins.
Ben: And how exactly does lectin, based on its carbohydrate binding, act as a plant defense mechanism? How exactly is that occurring? Is it acting like the plant’s own insecticide? What exactly is occurring if I suppose a bug or a bacteria were to attack the plant? What’s the lectin doing?
Dr. Gundry: Plants were here first, and they had it great before animals arrived because nobody wanted to eat them. The problem is when animals arrived, and insects were obviously the first plant-eating animal. Plants couldn’t run or hide or fight, but they’re chemists. So they produce among other things, lectins. Lectins and insects are fascinating because one of the sugar molecules that lectins enjoy binding to is a very important sugar called sialic acid. And sialic acid is actually winding up our gut. They are lying our joint spaces, and interestingly they are between nerve endings. Nerve impulses have to cross sialic acid over to the next nerve to give its information.
So from a plant standpoint, if you had a protein that bonded to sialic acid and did it well, you could potentially and in actuality paralyze an insect. And so a paralyzed insect is obviously a rather lousy predator, and so we think, not just me, but a lot of researchers think the original purpose of lectins was to the paralyze their predator which was an insect. I happened to think to a plant, just a giant insect, and one of the fascinating things to me is that a number of people with peripheral neuropathies seem to definitely get a whole lot better when we take major lectin containing foods away from them. They do a whole lot of other things, but I think that’s a starting place.
Now as predators got more sophisticated and became bigger and bigger creatures, plants had more and more interesting problems, but as the gastrointestinal tract of animals became more and more sophisticated, lectins were used by plants to open up the tight junctions that your readers may or may not know about. That line our entire GI tract, and they attach to a molecule on the [12:21] ______ site, the lining of our GI tract that makes a compound called zonulin, and zonulin breaks the tight junctions that hold [12:34] ______ sites together.
Now I think this is a rather clever idea from a plant because the tight junctions, let me back up for a second. Most people hopefully know that the lining of their intestines is actually only a cell thick, and that lining occupies about the space of a tennis court in terms of surface area. So within all of us is actually a huge surface area where we meet the outside world in the things we swallow and also in the microbiome. And this wall in the intestinal tract being only one cell thick has to be permeable to proteins, fats, and sugar molecules, but it shouldn’t be permeable to large molecules or things like bacteria.
So our individual cells are literally locked arm and arm like the game we played as kids called Red Rover, Red Rover, and those locked arms are called tight junctions. Well, lectins actually release zonulin that dissolves these tight junctions, it flips the switch to open them up. And what you do is produce a space between the wall, and not only can lectins go across through the space, but also what I think is equally important, these either pull bacteria or small pieces of bacteria called lipopolysaccharides or LPSs actually go through these gaps, and it’s creating this gap that creates inflammation. Now why does it create inflammation?
One of the things that drives me crazy is there’s all these attempts where we bet to stop inflammation, or inflammation is the cause of all diseases which is true. But it doesn’t really address where the heck did the inflammation come from? Inflammation is not necessarily bad. It depends on if it’s chronic or not. So on the other side of the wall of our intestines sits the immune system. About 65% of the wall, the immune cells in our body are congregated on the wall of the intestine along with a huge collecting of nerves and neurons, and this forms, if you will, our border patrol. And our border patrol is constantly monitoring what’s happening at our border, and they’re constantly looking for, excuse the expression, illegal aliens, and these illegal aliens are foreign proteins which are lectins, which we don’t recognize as self and also foreign cell walls or bacteria.
Now, the receptors that monitor this, your listeners probably know toll-like receptors. Discovery won the Nobel Prize for medicine around 2011 or 2012, I forgot. So toll-like receptors actually are turned on and recognized foreign proteins. They’re basically bar code scanners, and if they see a protein that look unfamiliar, they then send out literally air raid sirens, inflammatory cytokines that alert our body and our immune system that we’ve been invaded, and actually it’s the start of inflammation. Just as an aside, one of the interesting things your listeners may or may not know is that statin drugs, things like Lipitor, Crestor, actually work by blocking or muting toll-like receptors to prevent the actual release of inflammatory cytokines. Now, we’ll noticed when statins first introduced, we…
Ben: And if I could interrupt real quick, what’s the link between that and statin’s ability to reduce cholesterol?
Dr. Gundry: Well, it turns out there’s absolutely none. Turns out we thought that statins work because it lowered LDL. In fact the LDL lowering has very little to do with how statins work, but until this discovery of toll-like receptors that statin drugs worked on muting toll-like receptors, and that’s how they work.
Ben: But cholesterol is used to quell an inflammatory response in many cases, what you are saying is that by reducing inflammation, you reduce the body’s need to ramp up cholesterol production?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, that’s one of the reasons, but in fact, statin drugs in the liver block cholesterol formation, but we get totally distracted by thinking that was the LDL reduction that was making statins so good at what they did, but in fact it was the fact that statins were actually anti-inflammatory. To this day, the vast majority of cardiologists have no idea that that’s how statin drugs work.
Ben: That’s very interesting. So by reducing things like HSCRP or interleukins or some of these inflammatory cytokines, essentially you’re keeping the cholesterol from becoming damaged or keeping it from becoming athrosclerotic, and that would be how a statin would actually work.
Dr. Gundry: Correct. You know Michael DeBakey, one of the great heart surgeons of all time, I got to know him fairly well, used to say that cholesterol has nothing to do with athrosclerosis. It is actually an innocent bystander, and I always liked his analogy, and one of the things that I like to tell people is let’s suppose we’re an alien spacecraft and we’re noticing that every time there is a car accident, there is an ambulance that appears. If we didn’t know any better, one of the conclusions we could make is that ambulances cause car accidents because every time there’s a car accident, we see an ambulance. And therefore an ambulance can certainly be the cause of the car accident. And DeBakey correctly pointed out that just because we see cholesterol associated with athrosclerosis, doesn’t mean that the cholesterol caused the athrosclerosis. It could be just as probable that the cholesterol was an ambulance that was picking up the pieces or the dead soldiers in the war zone and was caught. I like that theory a whole lot better.
Ben: Yeah, and I don’t want to get too deep ’cause I know we have a limited amount of time, too deep down the cholesterol rabbit hole, but when it comes to lectins, you talk in your book about many sources that people are probably aware of like corn, and kidney beans, and peanuts, and legumes, but then there are some other things that actually surprised me like cashews, and zucchini, and pickles, and even our dear friend the avocado. And so, I’m curious when it comes to those common and uncommon sources of lectins that we find, is there a way to know whether or not something has a lectin? Is it pretty much the fact that anything that has a fruit and a seed is a lectin? Or will have lectins as a plant that would contain lectins? How do we actually know, and how is lectin content usually measured or quantified to discover these type of things?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the easiest way to think about lectins, and I talk about it in “The Plant Paradox” is the longer we’ve been exposed to particular plant lectins, the longer we’ve had for not only our microbiome, our bugs, to actually handle and eat lectins, believe it or not, there are gluten-eating bacteria, and gluten by the way is a lectin. It’s actually a fairly minor lectin, but we’ll get into that later. But the longer we’ve been exposed to this, the longer our bugs have grown accustomed to eating them, and more importantly I think the longer we’ve had the ability for a microbiome to educate our immune system, our border patrol. These guys we’ve known for several million years, and they’re okay. They’re not the nicest guys we’ve ever met, but we don’t have to get all bent out of shape whenever you see them. And that’s, to give you an example, we know that 94% of human beings are born with an antibody to the peanut lectin, and you get that up until a few years ago, there were very, very, very few people with peanut allergies, and certainly no one was walking around with epi-pens in case they handed out a peanut in the school yard.
So we know that, in fact, a great number of our attention to a particular lectin can be quelled by the bacteria in our gut teaching our immune system who we should be worried about and who we shouldn’t.
Ben: Right, unless you have something like gut dysbioses or your child via C-section, or you’re in some state where you have poor gut bacteria.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, exactly.
Ben: Or you’re stressed out and you’re an athlete and you have a leaky gut or you exercise. I know that you list in your book, and most people who listen into our show are pretty familiar with the idea with people with a damaged gut can digest the same foods as people with an undamaged gut, and it’s certainly an important point to dwell upon is that, and this is something I wanted to ask you. It seems that human beings should actually be able to deal to a certain extent with some of these lectin-rich foods, which I know you didn’t quite describe yet how to identify what the lectin is. In a moment I want to talk to you a little bit about what you’ve seen as far as human data and how damaging these things really are versus how much is hype, so to speak. But first let’s go back to that question of how we actually determine how much lectin is actually in a food or how that’s even measured?
Dr. Gundry: Well it’s almost impossible to actually measure lectin content, but you can certainly do experiments that I talk about in the book. I think one of the most dramatic, since we’re talking about peanuts, is we know that the peanut lectin is a principle cause of athrosclerosis in Rhesus monkeys, and the way you do the experiment is you take Rhesus monkeys and give them peanut oil, and then they develop very impressive athrosclerosis. You do the same experiment and you take the peanut lectin away. You actually put some sugar molecules in and bind the peanut lectin, and then give them peanut oil without the peanut lectin and they get no athrosclerosis. And so that is a pretty good proof that in fact the peanut lectin is a pretty impressive cause of athrosclerosis.
Now why does it cause athrosclerosis? Because lectins, among other things, bind to the sugar molecules on the linings of our gut. Not going into really very big detail about that, so we know the peanut lectin does that.
Ben: Yeah, but isn’t that, to play devil’s advocate here. There’s some studies also that have linked peanuts to health benefits like reduced risks of heart disease, and I’m just curious how much of that was the actual oil content of a concentrated peanut oil versus say if someone were to eat a handful of peanuts at a baseball game for example.
Dr. Gundry: Well that’s just the point. You can give people, rhesus monkeys tons of peanut oil without the peanut lectin, and they don’t get athrosclerosis. So it’s not the oil. It’s rarely the oil that’s the problem. It’s the lectin in the peanut oil that’s the problem. Now do eating peanuts at a ball park give some people problems? Yeah, absolutely.
I’ll give you a great example of it, just literally saw her this morning. She’s a 33 year old woman who was sent by her brother to me 10 months ago with what’s called Chronic Pain Syndrome, and many of your readers probably know about it. A brilliant woman looks perfectly normal from the outside, but was racked with chronic pain and dismissed with… well, she’s crazy, she’s depressed or she’s anxious, and we’ve been going around trying to find someone who would believe her. And when we looked at her markers of inflammatory cytokines, they were impressively high. So I believed her, and I saw her back in January about three months into this, and her pain was definitely better and her markers were definitely better, and she walked into the office today and actually had a big smile on her face. And I said, “How’re you doing?” She said, “Perfect”. I said, “What do you mean?” “I mean perfect. I’ve forgotten what it was like to be pain free, and now I remember what feeling normal feels like”. She said, “I’ve been like this for several months now”, and she said, “You know the amazing thing about this is I know that whenever I cheat a little tiny bit, I’m going to pay for it for the next several hours”. She said, “For instance, I went to an office party last week, and they had a little guacamole with a tomato in it, and they had some chicken and I’m thinking well. What am I going to eat?” She said, “I had a little guacamole and I had a few bites of chicken, and within thirty minutes, I had to go to my desk. I was just racked with pain in my elbows, in my hands. I felt like I was going to have to fall asleep, and it subsided in about two hours, and I was fine”. But she said, “The better I am at avoiding these things, the more sensitive I am to them, and I realized now that I was so constantly eating these sorts of things that I couldn’t tell the difference”. And now she’s one of my canaries that I talk about in the book. And we can look at our inflammatory markers, and this is not a placebo effect ’cause your inflammatory markers are now normal.
The more I done this looking at people’s blood work every three months for 16 years now, the more impressed I am that taking certain foods away from individuals makes a huge difference in their outcome, and she’s just an example from today.
Ben: Yeah, interesting, and I see this study that you referred to on the rhesus monkeys. I misunderstood at first, but yeah. They took the lectins out of the actual peanut oil and concentrated it and put that into the monkeys, and there are certainly other sources that I know you site in the book as being even higher in lectins like wheat I know is a biggie and soy beans, and red kidney beans are others, but again, a part of this obviously returns to the dose being in the poison, and it depends on how much that you consume. But that kind of reminds me of gluten for example, and this idea that, and I’m sure you’re familiar with this, that many people do fine with trace amounts of gluten. Like my wife’s slow-fermented, sourdough bread which granted, it’s made from a local red wheat crop on the [30:09] ______, and it’s got low levels of glyphosate so I’m not getting holes poked into my gut wall, but it has gluten. A lot of the gluten is predigested however, and compared to eating wonder bread, I can digest that just fine. So, is there a way to actually know how much you can get away with?
Dr. Gundry: Well we can spot it in the blood work, number one, but I don’t think everybody has to go around and get the sophisticated test that we do. What I like people to do is take all this stuff away, and take it away for a month. Take it away for two months, and then start reintroducing these things, and choose a group to reintroduce. Whether it’s for instance, sourdough bread, sourdough with yeast and bacterial starters. These guys do a lot of the work of eating the lectins, and they do a pretty darn good job. The Incas, believe it or not, always fermented their quinoa before they ate it and before they cooked it, and it’s not on the package directions. So reintroduce some of these things, and if you notice that, for instance, you start having bloating or certain joints hurt or you get brain fog, then there’s one of your problems.
One of the nurses that I talk about in the book from Oregon, had severe migraine headaches, and we traced it back to her zucchini and tomato relish that she canned every year. And we got her off of all of this stuff, and her migraines completely resolved, but she really missed her zucchini and tomato relish. So I said okay, let’s do a little experiment. Let’s can some of it the regular way and can the rest using a pressure cooker, and pressure cookers are pretty darn gone good for destroying all lectins except gluten, and she did it. Sure enough a couple of bites of her regular relish, she developed a migraine headache and waited a couple of days and then ate her pressure cooked relish, and she’s done fine ever since. So again, she’s intolerant to these lectins.
Ben: And what is it about the pressure cooker, because you get into a whole bunch of different prep methods in your book like soaking, and sprouting, and fermenting, and cooking, which you do say in your book, can significantly decrease lectin content. Like if I take my sweet potato and I bite into that thing raw while I’m standing in the pantry, it’s a completely different response, and if I say use the pressure cooker and then bake it in avocado oil or something like that, but the pressure cooker one in particular kinda fascinates me. What is it about a pressure cooker that has such a significant effect on lectins because we have a pressure cooker in our kitchen? I don’t use it for much, and admittedly I haven’t yet started to slice up my potatoes and put them in the pressure cooker like you recommend in your book, but I’m curious. What is it about the pressure cooker?
Dr. Gundry: So a pressure cooker will actually break the lectin protein into smaller fragments that are not antigenic. And it’s been shown to break all lectins except gluten. And there’s some interesting obscure studies that show that even an hour of pressure cooking won’t destroy wheat germs in gluten or the gluten lectins which is unfortunate. So there’s far better ways to probably deal with gluten such as fermentation like you were mentioning, or have gluten eating bugs in your intestines.
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Ben: What about the time of year that you eat certain food or this concept of eating things in their ripened versus unripened state? You have a whole section in your book, for example, you say that you should only eat fruit when it is in season. Tell me about why you are so particular about fruit especially?
Dr. Gundry: So I did Tony Robbins’ big seminar in the Prudential Center in New York last weekend, and one of the things that I talk about in the book I think is so important is we know that great apes only gain weight once a year during fruit season. And even in the jungle, fruit only ripens once a year, and we are designed to seek out fruit. Two thirds of our tongue receptors, taste buds are sweet receptors. So it’s clear that fruit had a major contribution in us as great apes and us as humans. But what’s happened to us is our computer program that we run in our brain runs Version 1.0, and we’ve never had an upgrade.
So when we eat fruit, it actually tells our brain that it’s summer and that we should be storing fat for winter. That’s number one. Number two, plants don’t want you to eat their fruit until their seeds, their babies are fully protected against digestion. And to make sure the predator doesn’t eat their fruit before their babies are protected, they use lectins to make the animal think twice. For instance, I grew up as a kid in Omaha, Nebraska and we all knew the consequence of eating green apples long before Granny Smith existed, and we get some pretty impressive abdominal cramps and diarrhea. And that was from the plant lectins in the unripe fruit. Now what’s happened to us is because of 747, we can pick fruit unripe in Chile or Argentina in February, and bring it to the United States and then ripen it with ethylene oxide, but what happens is the fruit lost its communication with the mother plant, and the mother plant never gave the word to reduce lectin content. So we’ve entered a time when modern fruit is actually never to a point where I think it’s safe to eat unless it’s local, and it ripened on the tree and got the communication system from the plant that lectin content should be reduced.
Ben: So you’re saying you shouldn’t eat fruit that’s been artificially ripened using a chemical-based ripening method. You should allow the fruit to naturally ripen if it’s going to ripen, and otherwise, you should choose the more unripened fruits if you want to minimize your exposure to lectins from the fruit?
Dr. Gundry: Right.
Ben: Gotcha, and I know you talk about in the book too. The seeds, from what I understand, are some of the more concentrated sources, so by doing things like deseeding tomatoes or zucchini, you can actually reduce the lectin content even more. Now what about avocados because from what I understand, a gluten in the avocado doesn’t actually interact as much with sugar. It’s not sticky for sugar and interacts with things like proteins and amino acids instead. So is every fruit created equal, or can we say that for example an avocado would be just fine because the gluten in that is different?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, I think it’s very different, and in fact, we do see a few people that react to avocados, but it’s pretty rare, and it may be that it’s not so much the lectin content of an avocado that’s the problem. But yeah, you’re right. An avocado does not seem to bind to the sugar molecules that we expect most lectins to bind to.
Ben: You just made a lot of people very happy. Of course I still don’t recommend necessarily eating the entire pit of the avocado, but I’m sure that’ll make a lot of people happy to hear that avocados are pretty little less.
Dr. Gundry: Oh yeah, I try to have an avocado every day.
Ben: Yeah, I’m a sucker for avocados. They’re one of my guilt food because I know that they still got to burn some jet fuel to bring those bad boys into my backwoods at Washington State, but I still eat them.
Now how about tomatoes? I couldn’t find any evidence that the lectin content on tomatoes, even uncooked, had any significant adverse effects on humans. So for some of these fruits or things like tomatoes ’cause I love to take a whole tomato, and slice it up, and put some olive oil, and some sea salt, and sometimes a nice goat cheese on there and have that as a meal, and I couldn’t find any evidence that the lectin content of tomato has a significant adverse effect on humans. Even though there were studies that show that the tomato lectins can cross the gut and enter the bloodstream, appear to be associated with any deleterious issues. So are there bodies in the streets with some of these fruits? I mean, can we say that because lectins can cross the bloodstream from certain fruits that they therefore are going to cause something like athrosclerosis, or inflammation, or something of that nature?
Dr. Gundry: Well, I think the history of the nightshade family is fascinating ’cause as you know, nightshade is like tomatoes, and eggplants, and peppers, and potatoes are American. So those lectins that we have actually never been exposed to until 500 years ago when Columbus started trade, the Italians actually refuse to eat tomatoes for 200 years after Columbus brought them back ’cause they knew how dangerous they were. In fact, I’ve been trained by Italians to always peel and deseed tomatoes before making sauce.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, the lectins are concentrated.
Ben: And I’m guessing they were approximating this from N equals one and how they looked and felt after consuming the tomatoes and not from actual studies done from tomatoes. I still attribute the same as the Japanese. You mentioned bitter melon extract earlier, right. We know that Okinawans use that to lower post-prandial blood glucose, and I don’t think there were many studies done on it when they started that practice.
Dr. Gundry: Exactly.
Dr. Gundry: And I think for instance, as I mentioned in the book, my grandmother on my mother’s side was French, and she taught my mother to peel and deseed tomatoes before she served, and it wasn’t until I actually went to Yale that I actually had a tomato slice with a peel and a seed, and I thought it was the weirdest thing that I’d ever eaten in my life. So when you look at how culture deal with certain novel, at least to that cultures food supply which you find some interesting things that people do. And that just happens to be just one of them, and it’s fascinating to me the number of people with arthritis who take their tomatoes away from them, and their arthritis pain just dramatically reduces.
Ben: That’s interesting, and I did find evidence that tomatoes, especially when consumed by people with a genetic predisposition to rheumatoid arthritis in particular, they did seem to have a deleterious reaction to tomatoes. They have the genes that put them at the high risk of rheumatoid arthritis. So I don’t know if the entire country of Italy has the gene for the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. I suppose if you’re listening in and you did a 23andMe analysis and you did have that particular gene, it would be all the more reason to be especially careful with, same as Tom Brady does. He’s very careful with nightshades. He’s on one of those nightshade-free type of diets, and it seems to have helped him out a little bit.
Now what about our ancestors? Didn’t they eat plants and lectins? I mean they didn’t have pressure cookers. I don’t want to throw around the word Cavemen Days, but I don’t think King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table had pressure cookers either.
Dr. Gundry: No, but remember. They were never exposed to modern lectins from the Americans.
Ben: Okay, so we’re talking about concentrated lectins from the commercial crop growth?
Dr. Gundry: Well for instance, all of us are not from America. We’re from Europe, Asia or Africa, so that means none of us were ever exposed to an American lectin until 500 years ago when Columbian trade started. And one of my premises is the longer that we’re exposed to particular plant lectins, the longer we have the ability for a gut microbiome to eat these particular compounds and to also educate our immune system, not to be too concerned about these. So we’ve been eating leaves for millions and millions of years, and we’ve been eating tubers ever since fire was harnessed which was probably a hundred and fifty thousand years ago, but we have not been eating grains and beans until about ten thousand years ago, and we have to realize that these are very modern in terms of our immune system. And one of the things that fascinated me in my research at Yale on human evolution was humans up until ten thousand years ago were actually very tall creature. We stood about six feet tall, and our brain size was 15% bigger than it is today, but once we introduce grains and beans, we shrunk to four-foot, ten inches by eight thousand years ago.
So people have this impression that we’re actually little people that then, in recent years, grew, and in fact that’s not the case at all. One of the examples that I used at Tony Robbins’ seminar was up until the last generation, Asians were thought to be extremely, genetically small people, and they were small. But as their diet has become westernized in the last generation, and they’ve taken away a lot of their grain and pulse-based diets. They shot up like weeds, and in my first book I actually showed how plants want you to be smaller and retard your growth because you’ll eat less.
Ben: You mean, technically plants that have not been cooked or fermented or soaked or sprouted.
Dr. Gundry: Correct, exactly.
Ben: Plants that have been eaten by a dummy, in other words.
Dr. Gundry: Exactly. Exactly.
Ben: And again I don’t want to sound harsh and call people who aren’t familiar with traditional cooking methods or ways to reduce lectins in food dummies. What I’m saying is, I hunt, and there is no way that I would just jump on the back of a white-tailed deer and try to wrestle it to the ground. I would probably get killed. I would use proper harvesting methods, and the same should be said for plants. What you’re saying about legumes and plant consumption in the Japanese, a couple of things come to mind. First of all, it’s almost like an inverse curve isn’t it? Because we see that we went from a greater stature to a smaller stature possible upon the introduction of agriculture then back up to a larger stature with estrogenation, with all the milk and the dairy, and the phytoestrogens, so now we’re seeing girls going through puberty when they’re twelve.
Dr. Gundry: Eight.
Ben: And guys getting enormous man boobs. Yeah, you’re right, eight. Single digits, it’s scary, but yeah, so now we’re dealing with the opposite issue in a way. But that’s an aside. What I was going to ask you was what about Dan Buettner’s book “Blue Zones”, right? Where he has all these different characteristics and two of them that you see in there are consumption of wild plants and consumption of legumes of all things, which I know kind of irks a lot of Paleo enthusiasts, but it gives me pause. How is it that we see areas of longevity having a very high intake of plants and legumes?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, I think it’s a great question, and I did this on Facebook Live with Maria Shiver last month, and she knows Dan really well. I think Dan and I would agree on a lot of things except that. And here’s the deal that I think Dan missed is that there are a couple of studies that I sight in my book. Let’s look at the Mediterranean diet which she and I both praised. There are negative factors in the Mediterranean diet that are offset by positive factors, and it turns out in meta-analysis. The negative factors of the Mediterranean diet are grain and bean consumption, and that actually offset by all the polyphenol consumption in the Mediterranean diet in terms of red wine, in terms of olive oil, in terms of the fruits and vegetables they eat, but it’s these negative factors that are counteractive.
I’ll give you an example of the Okinawans. The Okinawans, 80, 85% of their diet is a purple sweet potato. The old Okinawans, it’s not that anymore, and they almost know so far, and they almost know rice, but fascinatingly if you read the Okinawan diet in the book, the researchers actually said, “I can’t get over this”, they said, “Gee, some of the oldest living people in the world, and we’re studying their diet, and wouldn’t they be so much healthier if they ate brown rice instead of the white rice they’re eating?” And you go, “Wait a minute guys, you’re studying some of the oldest living people in the world. Maybe it’s the white rice instead of the brown rice that is helping keep them healthy to a very old age.” But because we know that brown rice, which has the lectins in it, is so much healthier for you, than white rice. They actually went so far to say, “Wow, think of how much healthier they’d be if they ate brown rice which is just intellectual superiority at its worst.”
Ben: So what you’re saying is that brown rice has more lectin content, ’cause the whole grains and the seeds with the hard outer coatings are still in the brown rice, but what you’re saying is that they should be eating more of the brown rice and less of the white rice?
Dr. Gundry: No, that’s what the Okinawan researchers said, and in the end, it’s like really? Four billion people use rice as their staple. Why do four billion people go to trouble of taking the whole off the brown rice and eating it white? Because they’ve been getting rid of that lectin.
Ben: Yeah interesting. Now what about this idea though, potentially again to throw another devil’s advocate, type of question. Now this idea that lectins might have a hormetic effect, that small amounts of immune and inflammation modulation might actually give you some type of longevity or some type of stress resilience especially in the gut.
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, I like that theory a lot, and I talked a lot about it in my first book “Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolutions”. I like the idea of that which doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger. And that’s why the lectins in bitter greens I think are so incredibly useful because from what we can tell, they don’t have the ability to penetrate the gut wall like the lectins in, for instance, grains and beans do. And they don’t seem to have the ability to attach to receptors and are in the thelium in our blood vessels. So yeah, I’m a huge fan of the lectins in bitter greens, but let me give you an example, a personal example. My wife and I eat large amounts of dark green leaves, large amounts, but my wife a couple of years ago bought a NutriBullet, remember when that was the fad? And she started hardcore. She made kale smoothies out of basically pure kale, and after my first kale smoothie, now let me preface this. When you grind everything into a fine pulp, you’ve actually now made every possible lectin in that leaf available instead of going through the digestive process of breaking the leaves down with your digestive enzymes. And after my first NutriBullet of kale, about three hours later I was in the bathroom with explosive diarrhea, and you go how the heck did that happen?
Well, I was perfectly tolerant to kale that went through the digestive process, and my bugs had a shot at it, but when I released it in molecular form, my gut decided to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and I’ll never forget that. So the doses, the poison, but the way the doses consumed is also part of our elegant system. There weren’t any NutriBullets right in kale.
Ben: Yeah, we didn’t have. I mean we had mortar and pestle, but still. I own a mortar and pestle, and I also own a Vitamix, and I can tell you that I can do a lot more to kale with the Vitamix than I can with a mortar and pestle. Now you have plenty of other little simple hacks in your book in addition to the pressure cooker. We talked about shopping for fruit in season, about swapping brown rice out for white rice. We talked about peeling things like vegetables because the lectins are in the skin or in the seed. We talked about soaking, and sprouting, and fermenting, and even this concept of buying a pressure cooker. Are there any other little things that you’d recommend, and actually you know what? I know exactly what I want to ask you, and ask this question. Because I’ve talked to people before who say, “Well I’ve had gluten, so I’m going to take a gluten polypeptide enzyme to digest that gluten. So I guess what I want to know is let’s say I’ve gone out, and I’ve just gone ape nuts on my fresh tomatoes, and I haven’t skinned them or taken the seeds out. Is there some type of biohack, some type of supplement that one can take to reduce the damage for example, or some type of nutrient that can combat the inflammatory effects of lectin?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, well actually there are clearly things that bind a lectin, so one of the one’s that most people know is things like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate and MSM, and these are actually all capable of binding the lectins. And there’s something that anybody can find in any store or Costco or Trader Joe’s. There are a number of products on the market that I think are really quite good. Toot my own horn, I make Lectin Shield from Gundry M.D. which has six different lectin-absorbing compounds. There’s a number of other ones out there. There’s a lectin defense.
Ben: You said yours is called Lectin Shield?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah.
Ben: And is that what that is? Glucosamine and MSM and things like that, or is that something?
Dr. Gundry: Yeah, it’s n-acetylglucosamine. It’s actually [57:18] ______ from ground up shellfish. Believe it or not when I eat shrimp, I eat the whole shrimp because it’s one of the best lectin binding agents there is. We have okra in it. Turns out okra binds lectins dramatically because that slime in okra is a sugar molecule that is really, really good at binding lectins. I even got a recipe in the book for baked okra, fries that people will love, in fact if it ever gets to the dinner table. It just comes out of the oven.
Ben: Yeah, your book recipes, they’re pretty good. The only thing I would disagree with you on in the book recipes is I’m not a fan of microwaving food. And some of the recipes like the microwaved muffins aren’t something I would personally do, and I’m saying that now ’cause I know people have asked me about it, but yeah. You have plenty of really good recipes in there.
Dr. Gundry: The reason those microwave things came in there, if you get a second, I’ll tell you a fun story. Years ago, a gentleman told me I saved his life from horrible coronary artery disease that he reversed by following my diet, and he’s not the first. But the interesting thing is while we were talking of this gentleman that makes sodas that have stevia in them, and I was saying, “Well you know, we really shouldn’t have even sweetened sodas with stevia blah, blah, blah”, and he says. “Look. People are going to drink soda, so I’m going to give them something that probably won’t kill them as fast as the regular soda.” I said, “You know, that’s an interesting point.” I said that I’ve got these recipes for people to have a muffin in a minute-and-a-half, and it’s really good for them, but I have to use a pressure cooker to get them to do it in a minute-and-a-half, and he said, “Get over it. Use a pressure cooker if this will get people to do these things.” So I immediately did.
Ben: I hear you.
Dr. Gundry: Do I think of sugar as a good idea? No, but if it will get people on the right track, go ahead. How’s that?
Ben: It’s about making it accessible for the general population. I get a big part of that. Now we could talk for hours about this, but obviously my time is limited, and I know your time is valuable, Dr. Gundry. So what I’m going to do, for those of you listening in is if you go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/gundry, I will put a link to everything that Steven and I talked about from his book and all of the other books he’s written to pressure cooker, and the lectin shield stuff, and everything else that you need to learn more, and you can also ask your questions and leave a comment over there for me or for Dr. Gundry, and I’ll read through all of those. That’s going to be over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/gundry.
And in the meantime, Steven, thank you so much for coming on the show, for sharing all this stuff with us and for writing this fantastic book “Plant Paradox”.
Dr. Gundry: Well I appreciate you having me, it’s been great talking to you. A big fan of yours, and hopefully meet in person one of these days.
Ben: I’m sure that we will very soon. So in the meantime folks, again go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/gundry for the show notes, and until next time, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Steven Gundry, the author of “Plant Paradox”, signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
Grains of all kinds, especially whole grain wheat.
Corn. Tomatoes. Potatoes.
Beans and legumes, particularly soy.
Just about all nuts, especially cashews and peanuts.
Zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant and pickles.
Each of these foods has one thing in common – a food component that today’s podcast guest, Dr. Steven Gundry, claims may be responsible for some of the world’s most pressing health issues, from obesity to heart disease. In Dr. Gundry’s new book The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain”, he highlights exactly what that food component is.
Dr. Gundry is a renowned cardiologist, New York Times best-selling author and medical researcher. During his 40-year career in medicine, he has performed over 10,000 heart surgeries and developed multiple life-saving medical technologies, including patenting nine cardiac surgery devices.
He is a cum laude graduate of Yale University with special honors in Human Biological and Social Evolution. After graduating Alpha Omega Alpha from the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine, Dr. Gundry completed residencies in General Surgery and Thoracic Surgery at the University of Michigan and served as a Clinical Associate at the National Institutes of Health. There, he invented devices that reverse the cell death seen in acute heart attacks; variations of these devices subsequently became the Gundry™ Retrograde Cardioplegia Cannula. It has become the world’s most widely used device of its kind to protect the heart from damage during open-heart surgery. After completing a fellowship in congenital heart surgery at The Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, in London, Dr. Gundry was recruited as Professor and Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Loma Linda University Medical Center. There, he and his partner, Leonard Bailey, pioneered infant and pediatric heart transplantation. Together, they have performed more such transplants than any other surgeons in the world.
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During his tenure at Loma Linda, Dr. Gundry pioneered the field of xenotransplantation, the study of how the genes of one species react to the transplanted heart of a foreign species. He was one of the original twenty investigators of the first FDA-approved implantable left ventricular assist device (a kind of artificial heart). Dr. Gundry is also the inventor of the Gundry Ministernomy, the widely used minimally invasive approach to aortic- or mitral-valve repair, the Gundry Lateral Tunnel, a “living” tissue that can rebuild parts of the heart in children with severe congenital heart malformations; and the Skoosh™ venous cannula, the most widely used cannula in minimally invasive heart operations.
One of the fathers of robotic surgery, as a consultant to Computer Motion (now Intuitive Surgical), Dr. Gundry received early FDA approval to use robotic-assisted minimally invasive surgery for coronary artery-bypass and mitral-valve operations. He holds patents on devices for connecting blood vessels and coronary artery bypasses without sutures, as well as for repairing the mitral valve without the need for sutures or a heart-lung machine. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Artificial Internal Organs (ASIAO), and was a founding board member and treasurer of the International Society of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery (ISMICS). He recently completed two successive elected terms as President of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, Desert Division.
Dr. Gundry has been elected a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Cardiology, the American Surgical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the College of Chest Physicians. He is a member of numerous other surgical and medical societies. He is also the author of more than three hundred articles, chapters, and abstracts in peer-reviewed journals on surgical, immunology, genetic, nutrition, and lipid investigations. He has operated in more than thirty countries, including charitable missions to China, India, and Zimbabwe.
Inspired by the stunning reversal of coronary artery disease in an “inoperable” patient, using a combination of dietary changes and nutriceutical supplements, in 2001, Dr. Gundry changed the path of his career. An obese, chronic “diet” failure himself, he adapted his undergraduate Yale University thesis to design a diet based on evolutionary genetic coding, which enabled him to reverse his own medical problems. In the process, he effortlessly lost 70 pounds. The equally astonishing results from following what he came to call Diet Evolution in several of his staff led Dr. Gundry to accept a position in Palm Springs where he could devote his efforts to disease reversal.
No longer satisfied with repairing the damage of chronic diseases, since 2002, Dr. Gundry founded and has served as Medical Director of The International Heart and Lung Institute in Palm Springs, California, which serves patients referred from across the nation. He is also Founder and Director of The Center for Restorative Medicine, part of the Institute. Its mission is to prevent and reverse the chronic diseases of “ageing” with diet and nutriceutical interventions, using surgical intervention for heart and vascular disease as a last resort.
During today’s discussion with Dr. Gundry, you’ll discover:
-What exactly a lectin is, and why plants have them…[6:56]
-What happens to the gut upon consumption of lectins, and whether there’s any research behind it…[9:25 ]
-The common (and uncommon) sources of lectins that most people eat…[20:35]
-How a lectin is different than gluten…[21:35 & 30:10]
-Whether our ancestors ate plants and lectins…[31:10 & 44:50]
-Why Steven is such a fan of eating fruit that’s in season, or fruit that is unripened…[36:45]
-Why Steven thinks it is that so many of the Blue Zones in Dan Buettner’s longevity book had a propensity for eating legumes, yet still lived long…[48:45]
-Simple hacks you can use to reduce lectins in common foods like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, apple, rice, etc…[39:55, 43:25 & 55:50]
-And much more!
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