420: Is The Pegan Diet the Answer to the Diet Wars With Dr. Mark Hyman

Child: Welcome to my Mommy’s podcast.

This podcast is sponsored by Olipop, delicious soda that is actually good for you. Did you know that most Americans consume more than the recommended daily intake of sugar, by a lot? And sweetened drinks like soda are the leading source of extra sugar? And most of us also don’t get enough fiber! I’ve found a delicious answer to both of these problems and it’s called Olipop. I was so excited to find a truly healthy soda alternative! Olipop uses functional ingredients that combine the benefits of prebiotics, plant fiber and botanicals to support your microbiome and benefit digestive health… and that taste just like soda without the junk! Olipop is much (much) lower in sugar than conventional sodas with only 2-5 grams of sugar from natural sources. No added sugar. Their Vintage Cola has just two grams of sugar as compared to a regular cola which has 39g of sugar. We’ve worked out an exclusive deal for the Wellness Mama podcast listeners. Receive 20% off plus Free Shipping on their best selling variety pack. This is a great way to try all of their delicious flavors and find your favorite. Go to drinkolipop.com/wellnessmama or use code WELLNESSMAMA at checkout to claim this deal. This discount is only valid for their variety pack. Olipop can also be found in over 3,000 stores across the country, including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Kroger, Wegman’s and Erewhon.

This episode is brought to you by Beekeeper’s Naturals. They’re a company on a mission to reinvent your medicine cabinet with clean, effective products that really, really work. They’ve created a whole hive of products, all sourced from bee products and immune-loving essentials so that you can do your best all day every day. One of their products I especially love is called B.Chill. And it’s a CBD infused honey that I love and that my kids love, and it helps them sleep. It’s the ultimate combination of raw honey and hemp to help you get better R&R. And hemp is famous for its ability to help you unwind while raw honey supports restorative sleep. As an extra tip, a small sprinkle of salt on this honey really, really helps improve sleep. And unlike other relaxation alternatives, you can rest better knowing that there are no some side effects, you won’t feel groggy the next day. And B.Chill is completely non-psychoactive. It contains 0% THC, so you can enjoy it anytime, anywhere, and share it with your kids. If you’re ready to give it a try, check out Beekeeper’s Naturals and save 15% on your first order by going to beekeepersnaturals.com/wellnessmama.

Katie: Hello, and welcome to the “Wellness Mama” podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com. That’s Wellnesse with an E on the end, my new line of personal care products. I am here today again with Dr. Mark Hyman. You probably know of him. You’ve probably heard of him before. But if you haven’t, he is a practicing family physician, internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator in the field of functional medicine. He is the founder and director of the Ultra Wellness Center, the head of strategy and innovation at the Cleveland Clinic for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time “New York Times” bestselling author, among a laundry list of other resume items. We are here in this episode to talk about his new book in which he argues for a better dietary approach and an end to the diet wars that benefits all of us and the planet. It’s called “The Pegan Diet.” And he makes a strong case in this episode. He also really delves into some of the roots of functional medicine which he knows better than almost anyone in the world. So, as always, it was a fun interview. I know that you will learn a lot. So, let’s jump in. Dr. Hyman, welcome back. You’re much requested.

Dr. Hyman: You know, thanks so much for having me again.

Katie: I am excited to chat with you today, especially about this topic because I think it offers a lot of really important keys to ending the diet war and to personalization because for years I’ve been saying, we have all these different dietary approaches and we seem to argue for maybe like the 3% to 4% we don’t agree on when, in reality, there’s so much common ground. And I think if we focus on that, there’s a lot more to be learned. And I also think personalization is a big aspect. And you address both of those in your new book, which I definitely recommend. It’s linked in the show notes for you guys listening. But to start broad, walk us through the impetus for this book and what “The Pegan Diet” is.

Dr. Hyman: Well, you know, I’ve been studying nutrition for over 40 years and practicing it for over 30 as a physician using food as medicine. And, you know, it’s really, over the years, we’ve seen so many dietary trends. It was low fat, and then it was, you know, low calorie, and then it was paleo, and vegan, and keto, and raw. And, you know, it was like every diet under the sun, and there was just so much controversy and confusion. And two things I realized, one was that, you know, there’s a core set of nutritional principles that we should all be focused on that are guides for how to eat well for life. And second, there’s differences in people, and that as a doctor, you get very humbled by seeing real people in the office with real issues. And, you know, somebody is dying to be a vegan, and it’s all in their framework and ideology, but their body just doesn’t like it, and vice versa. Some people wanna eat more fat, and they can’t because their body doesn’t respond well.

So it really depends on each individual. So it’s really about personalization. And I was sitting on a panel once with a friend of mine who was a vegan cardiologist, and another guy was a paleo doc, and they were going back and forth at it, arguing and fighting. And I was in the middle like a ping pong ball, and I finally, you know, to break the ice, I said, “Hey, if you’re a paleo and you’re vegan, I must be pegan.” And everybody laughed and thought it was funny. And then I realized, wait a minute, they’re actually identical except for where to get to protein, animals or grains and beans. Otherwise, they both encourage whole foods and no processed foods. They both encourage good fats, and lots of fruit, nuts, and seeds, good oils, and no dairy and, you know, no industrial food. I mean, it’s really quite striking how much they’re similar compared to the standard American diet.

So, you know, we need to just kind of back off a little bit and come up with a set of principles that is inclusive, that can be adaptable to different dietary preferences and different biological needs and individual differences. And so I, sort of, went down into the science and looked at, you know, what do we know? What do we know what we don’t know and how do we come up with a set of practical principles for reclaiming your health in a nutritionally confusing world? And that’s really about it.

Katie: Yeah, I think that’s so important, especially that personalization aspect because that seems to be the recurring theme. And I think we can learn so much, like you said, from all of the different approaches, but at the end of the day, I’ve said on this podcast so many times, we are our own primary healthcare provider. We’re the ones putting food in our mouth. And you were one of the early voices really talking about food as medicine and bringing that functional medicine approach. Can you give us some examples of the way that food can either feed disease or feed health? I know, like you said, you have decades and decades of work in this space.

Dr. Hyman: Yeah. I mean, the obvious, right, ones where if you eat too much sugar and starch, you can get diabetes and some resistance, heart disease, cancer, or if you’re eating, sort of, gluten and you have a sensitivity, you could get an autoimmune disease or if you’re having, you know, certain food sensitivities and migraines, you can be eliminating eggs. So that’s, sort of, one, sort of, obvious example. But when I think about it, I think about it in a much different way. You know, we know that there’s these basic components in food, right, protein, fat, carbs, fiber, vitamins, minerals. And so that’s, sort of, it right? And the truth is, there’s so much more in food that is regulating every single system in our body. In fact, you know, the plant kingdom has about 25,000 in edible plants, 25,000 phytochemicals that are designed to work with their biology to enhance our health and program our biology for health.

So, for example, you know, let’s say, you know, today we’re exposed to a lot of environmental toxins because of pollution, pesticides, and petrochemicals, and our bodies have an increased burden of how to deal with it. Well, there are certain plants that actually help your liver detoxify and build an important molecule called glutathione. And this is something you really can’t easily get from food, you know, if you’re just eating, like, amino acids and fatty acids and, like, carbohydrates and, you know, just regular stuff that we eat. And it’s found in these phytochemicals that are in these plant compounds like broccoli, or collards, or kale, that whole cruciferous vegetable family, garlic and onions. And they upregulate these enzymes in liver called glutathione peroxidase or glutathione transferase. And these enzymes respond to these phytochemicals, we call them glucosinolates or sulforaphanes. And they, I mean, literally, make your body get rid of the chemicals through improving the function of your liver. That’s just one example.

Another one that I really love, this is sort of a new one that I’ve learned is that, you know, immune systems age and we become, we call it immunosenescence, which means our immune system starts to age. And it’s usually around inflammation and inflammatory processes that happen in the body. And it turns out that your bone marrow has stem cells that produce your white blood cells. And there’s about a million produced every single minute. And that’s a lot of white blood cells. And those white blood cells have to be, you know, healthy in order for you to be healthy. But what happens often, the injury in the stem cells from poor diet, and stress, and toxins, and so forth, is that these stem cells will be injured, and then they’ll produce abnormal white blood cells. And those are called chips, and they go to circulation, and then they become known as zombie cells that, you know, literally are what they sound. They don’t die, and they just make you sick, and they cause inflammation, they cause heart disease, autoimmunity.

Well, it turns out there’s a whole host of phytochemicals in plants that are effective against these zombie cells. And one of that unique plants is called Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, it’s, sort of, an example of how food is medicine where you think, you know, if you grow, like, soy or corn, these mono-crop fields where, you know, they’re basically chemically grown through pesticides, and herbicides, and fertilizers, and there’s almost no nutrients in the soil, and they don’t have harsh conditions, and they’re, sort of, like, coddled, in a sense. And when you look at his Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, it was grown in a wild, you know, like, Himalayan environment where there’s barely any water, and it’s high altitude, and it’s cold, and there’s drought, and there’s, like, you know, bad soil and these things just thrive. And it creates a whole host of defense mechanisms that are these phytochemicals in the plant.

There’s many of them. One of them is called rutin or quercetin and other phytocannabinoids. And there’s 132-plus of these, some of them are over 100 times more potent than you find in any other plant. And it turns out that these buckwheat-derived, like, sort of, phytochemicals are amazing at killing these zombie cells and helping you rejuvenate your immune system, which is kind of really cool. So that’s just another example. And I could literally go through every basic system of the body, the gut, the immune system, you know, energy system, detoxification, your hormones, your structural system, and how food literally makes us do all the functions that our body does. It’s the most important drug we consume every day.

Katie: Yeah, I love that point. And I think about that too when people doubt how big of an impact food can have, but yet they’ll take an ibuprofen and expect it to relieve pain that’s this tiny amount. Just I mean, food, I agree with you, is the most dramatic thing we can do. You also mentioned insulin resistance. And certainly, there’s been a lot more talk about insulin resistance and also about the glucose equation, in general. And even, it seems like continuous glucose monitors are getting more popular and more widespread right now. But walk us through insulin resistance. We know that that’s connected to certain types of chronic disease. But for anyone who’s not familiar, what is that and how do we deal with it?

Dr. Hyman: Well, you know, this is basically the most common condition affecting Americans and increasingly the world right now. We have 88% of Americans that have been determined to be metabolically unhealthy, according to the, you know, government testing and surveys that are done regularly. That’s striking to me because 75% of us are overweight. That means about half of the skinny people are also metabolically unhealthy. And the question is why? And it has to do with the mountains of starch and sugar we eat every day, about a pound a day per person. That’s a lot. And now what that does is that drives up this hormone called insulin. It’s trying to get the blood sugar down as you start eating all the starch and sugar because, you know, when you eat flour, if you eat a bagel, or if you eat a piece of cake, or if you have a Coca-Cola and a piece of bread, they’re identical. In fact, the bread might be worse in terms of its glycemic load.

So the key is really to understand that when the insulin goes high that your body then drives all the stored fat, all of the circulating, I mean, fuel in your blood into the fat cells. It makes them very inflamed. It produces all sorts of hormones. It makes you hungry. It slows your metabolism. It locks the fat in the fat cells. So it really creates this vicious cycle where all you do is pack on the weight in the belly and keep going up in this vicious circle and end up with a condition often known as pre-diabetes, and ultimately, type 2 diabetes. But you don’t even have to have any of that in order to actually have all these metabolic issues. And it makes you, you know, hungry, and tired, and crave sugar and carbs, and have resistance to weight loss because as long as your insulin is high, the fat is locked away. It cannot get out. It’s really, really tough to get it out. So you have to drop your insulin in order for you to actually lose weight. And that is really done by eating more fat and less starch, and sugar, and more protein, and lots of vegetables, and basically following the pegan diet.

Katie: Awesome. Okay. So the other thing I think it’s important to delve into is there are all these different dietary approaches. You’ve touched on a couple of them. And certainly, there’s a lot of heated debate amongst them right now, things like the keto diet, autoimmune, paleo, carnivore seems to be a big part of the conversation right now. Can you explain how your protocol differs from those and if there’s any similarities or overlap we can learn from those?

Dr. Hyman: Well, you know, I mean, listen, if carnivore diets work it’s because not necessarily they’re eating meat but because they’re not eating everything else that’s making them sick, right? If they’re not eating sugar, and additives, and processed food, and gluten, and dairy, and grains, and beans, and all the things that potentially can trigger people, that’s why you’ll see these benefits. And you’ll see the short-term, people go from, like, a traditional American diet or standard American diet to a vegan diet or to a paleo diet or whatever it is that people will do better. But it’s a question of what happens over time?

And I think that, you know, the reason I wrote “The Pegan Diet” book is because there are principles that we can all agree on. I mean, we all agree we should be eating more whole foods. We all agree we should be not eating processed foods. We all agree we shouldn’t be loading up on a pound of starch and sugar per person per day. We all agree we should…I mean, 98% of us now agree we should be eating more good fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. And we all agree we should be, you know, if we’re eating animals, right, and some don’t believe we should be, but if we are, then we should be raising them humanely. We should be using regenerative practices so we restore the earth. We should be, you know, not…we should be having grass-finished or pasture-raised animals that are actually moving to forage and get the nutrients they need from the food and the earth, and not be pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. We all agree that we should be, you know, eating in a way that optimizes the nutrient density of our food and that food is medicine.

So there’s this whole series of things that we all agree on, and the question is how do we achieve that? And, you know, in each diet philosophy, there are ways to, sort of, approximate more because you can be a chips and soda vegan, right, or you can be a burgers and fries carnivore, I mean, paleo person. So, I think you just have to kind of figure out what is nutrient density? What is nutrient quality? How do you pick food as medicine, whatever you’re eating? And so in the book, I do go through, like, okay, you know, what about dairy, for example, isn’t it nature’s perfect food? No. Most of the dairy we have is from homogenous cows that are all bred to be identical, produce high levels of what we call A1 casein in their milk, which is very inflammatory and cause lots of digestive issues. And, you know, there are other forms of dairy. There’s goat and sheep that have A2 casein or they’re heirloom cows that have A2 casein that may be better tolerated. And, of course, you want grass finish. You don’t want them milked when pregnant, you know, because a lot of organic cows are still milked when pregnant and full of hormones.

So, there’s a whole series of things you have to think about with each food that you’re eating. And so in “The Pegan Diet” book, I go through like, well, if you’re gonna eat nuts, which one? If you’re gonna have grains, which one? I mean do you want the hybridized high-starch, high-gluten grain whole wheat that we grow in America, or do you want more heirloom wheats, or are there wheat that may grow in Europe if you’re not gluten-sensitive? So I think there’s a nuance to how to do that. And then there’s some really simple, sort of, guides around some of the big controversies. What about cleanses and fasting? What about time-restricted eating and various practices like that? What about eating for longevity or for mood or for how to feed your cancer? There’s all sorts of really practical stuff in the book that allows people, sort of, to kind of walk away going, okay, it’s like a basic owner’s manual for the body. I mean, if you have a body, you probably, you know, need to know how it works. And most of us have no clue, we weren’t born with a little instruction manual strapped to our leg. We had to, kind of, figure it out.

So, how do you eat for your microbiome? How do you personalize nutrition? How do you eat like a regenitarian, which means how do you eat to help save the planet and your health? Why might meat be medicine? You know, like, there’s some really interesting provocative things there. How do you eat in a way that you can afford it? Like, how do you make it affordable? So, I think it’s a really simple book but it’s been a lot of years of research to get to this point. So it’s, sort of, taking all that I’ve known and crystallizing it down into this really simple, digestible, practical set of principles that you can follow. They’re not dogma, they’re not rules, and they can be adapted to any dietary preference or taste.

Katie: Yeah, I like that they’re not dogmatic and there are not rules. I think there’s been a trend to go overly dogmatic in some of these approaches for a while. And my thought has always been at the end of the day, we want metabolic flexibility. Of course, we wanna give our body good inputs whenever possible. But we also want it to be able to handle variation when it needs to. And so when you get overly dogmatic in one approach and never have any variation, that your body is so smart, it adapts to that. And then you don’t have the metabolic flexibility as easily necessarily when you need it. I also love that you mentioned the planet and the regenerative side because I think this is also a really important part of the conversation right now.

And where some of the debate stems from, certainly, I know many vegans, who I respect their reasons for why they’ve chosen to eat that way because they are wanting to help the planet, they think it’s also very healthy for them but I think the climate and planet environmental piece is really important. Like you said, what we eat does not just affect us. I know this can get a little controversial, but walk us through the planet impact side. And we hear things from, you know, like that eating meat is bad for the planet.

Dr. Hyman: Look, look, look, I mean, growing rice is the largest agricultural maker of, I think, methane because of the off-gassing from the rice paddies. And I think we just can have a realistic view of what we know, what we don’t know. And often arguments, you know, become simplified, right? Meat, bad, vegetables, good. And I think we just have to take a step back and look at, you know, how do we build agricultural ecosystems that provide food that’s the most nutritious, that supports farmers livelihoods, that restores soil, conserves water, increases biodiversity, is not just sustainable, which, you know, we don’t wanna sustain what we have. We wanna regenerate ecosystems and we wanna grow food in ways that regenerate human health. And I think that’s what the whole book is about.

And I think that each section talks about how do we focus on how to do that, but principle nine is really about eating like a regenitarian. And what most people don’t realize is that we think, you know, it’s all factory farming animals. It’s not necessarily. I mean, it’s even how we grow food, any food in this country, we use massive amounts of agrochemicals. We use hybridized seeds. We use massive tillage that destroys the soil. We use irrigation and all the chemicals we use actually destroy the natural habitats and ecosystems for animals and pollinators. We’ve lost 75% of our pollinators, for example, half of all our bird species because of agriculture in America. And we’ve lost, you know, because the nitrogen runoff, 212,000 metric tons of fish in the Gulf of Mexico a year, which is an enormous amount of our fish, because of the dead zones as the nitrogen, you know, basically fertilizes all the algae, which sucks the oxygen out of the water and all the fish suffocate. I mean, it’s pretty gruesome because of our agricultural system.

You know, third of all the carbon in the atmosphere comes from the soil. It’s been tilled and destroyed because of our farming techniques. And we have, you know, incredible use of the freshwater there depleted around the world because of this. So it’s all this vicious cycle. And I think that what people don’t realize is that, you know, we’re running out of soil and we gotta focus on that. And the only way to really build soil is through these techniques that have been used over the years for many different farmers but are now being talked about as a holistic approach, which include, you know, regenerative agriculture, defined as no-tillage of the soil, so you don’t break the soil up and kill the organic matter that sucks the carbon out of the atmosphere. You keep cover crops on so you don’t leave the fields bare or fallow. You do crop rotations to fertilize different nutrients into the soil. You integrate animals into the ecosystem because the animals are the, sort of, glue that makes it all work and work fast. You get high levels of manure, urine, saliva, all stimulating plant growth and nutrient deposition of the soil.

And so you get this incredible ecosystem that’s, sort of, a virtuous cycle and that produces more food, better food, and is more profitable for the farmers, better for us, and better for the planet. And it turns out, you know, depending on who you listen to and the statistics, and not everybody agrees, obviously, but, you know, it’s been estimated that, you know, a third to half of all greenhouse gases come from our food system, right, from soil erosion, from deforestation, from food waste, from factory-farming animals, and so forth. But then, if you actually were to, sort of, shift everything back to regenerative agriculture, not even everything, but like the U.S. says if we took 2 out of the 5 million hectares of degraded land around the world and we turn it into regenerative agriculture, which would basically cost a tenth of what America spends on diabetes and obesity, like, if there’s a tenth in a year, we would be able to stop climate change for 20 years by, you know.

And, you know, people say, “Well, I just eat vegetables.” Well, you can’t grow crops on 40% of agricultural lands. It’s only really through the use of animals that can upgrade undigestible, like, you know, millions of tons of undigestible grasses and foods. They have all these stomachs and they convert into incredibly nutrient-dense food product for us, which is protein. And so, you know, and doing it in the right way can actually restore these lands and help with environmental destruction, and climate change, and ecological collapse, and all the things we’re facing now. So agriculture is really a key solution. And so how do you eat more like a regenitarian? Will your choices matter? I mean, you should shop locally and eat organic when you can. You shop at the farmers’ market. It can be smart agriculture.

Look for the new regenerative organic certified label. It’s starting to be on food, which involves three areas, soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness, which is all good. Just have a compost pile. Don’t throw out your scraps in the garbage because they rot and they end up, you know, causing methane production that’s three times that of cows because of off-gassing from these landfills. So there’s really some simple principles and more and more we’ll able to do this, but I think no one can disagree with becoming a regenitarian. It’s, sort of, like being against mom and apple pie and, you know, football in this country.

Katie: Certainly. Yeah. We all need to be aware of the planet we share. And I think this is a great time of year to highlight things like composting or start a garden, even if it’s just on your porch. And you can container garden. There’s so many ways that you can be more involved intimately with your food supply. And, like you said, supporting local farms and local farmers, any kind of local agriculture, that’s great for the economy. And it’s also more nutrient-dense because you’re getting fresher food.

This podcast is sponsored by Olipop, delicious soda that is actually good for you. Did you know that most Americans consume more than the recommended daily intake of sugar, by a lot? And sweetened drinks like soda are the leading source of extra sugar? And most of us also don’t get enough fiber! I’ve found a delicious answer to both of these problems and it’s called Olipop. I was so excited to find a truly healthy soda alternative! Olipop uses functional ingredients that combine the benefits of prebiotics, plant fiber and botanicals to support your microbiome and benefit digestive health… and that taste just like soda without the junk! Olipop is much (much) lower in sugar than conventional sodas with only 2-5 grams of sugar from natural sources. No added sugar. Their Vintage Cola has just two grams of sugar as compared to a regular cola which has 39g of sugar. We’ve worked out an exclusive deal for the Wellness Mama podcast listeners. Receive 20% off plus Free Shipping on their best selling variety pack. This is a great way to try all of their delicious flavors and find your favorite. Go to drinkolipop.com/wellnessmama or use code WELLNESSMAMA at checkout to claim this deal. This discount is only valid for their variety pack. Olipop can also be found in over 3,000 stores across the country, including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Kroger, Wegman’s and Erewhon.

This episode is brought to you by Beekeeper’s Naturals. They’re a company on a mission to reinvent your medicine cabinet with clean, effective products that really, really work. They’ve created a whole hive of products, all sourced from bee products and immune-loving essentials so that you can do your best all day every day. One of their products I especially love is called B.Chill. And it’s a CBD infused honey that I love and that my kids love, and it helps them sleep. It’s the ultimate combination of raw honey and hemp to help you get better R&R. And hemp is famous for its ability to help you unwind while raw honey supports restorative sleep. As an extra tip, a small sprinkle of salt on this honey really, really helps improve sleep. And unlike other relaxation alternatives, you can rest better knowing that there are no some side effects, you won’t feel groggy the next day. And B.Chill is completely non-psychoactive. It contains 0% THC, so you can enjoy it anytime, anywhere, and share it with your kids. If you’re ready to give it a try, check out Beekeeper’s Naturals and save 15% on your first order by going to beekeepersnaturals.com/wellnessmama.

Another thing I think it’s really important to delve into after this past year, certainly 2020 was a rough year for many people. The memes abound about just how rough it was. But I’ve learned myself over the last couple of years and really seen firsthand just how drastically your mental state can affect your physical health. And, of course, it goes the other way as well. What you eat and what you put in your body can also affect your mental health. It’s a very important cycle. So, walk us through, for people who are struggling and have had a tough year and maybe are working through depression or anxiety, how can we use food as medicine and to our advantage when it comes to that?

Dr. Hyman: Well, you know, one of the challenges that we really think our emotions and our mental health is somehow completely independent of our physical health. And it’s just nonsense. In fact, your thoughts, and your mood, and your energy are all related to your biological health. And yes, you know, there is a mind-body effect that’s profound. But there’s also a body-mind effect. And I wrote about this in my book, “The UltraMind Solution,” decades ago…I mean, it feels like decades ago, probably 15 years ago. And the premise of the book was that all that we do influences our brain. And our brain is part of our body. It’s just another organ. And if we treat it right, we’ll have a good brain. If we don’t, we won’t.

And turns out that our diet, which is, you know, full of sugar, starch, refined oils, processed foods, is extremely damaging to our brains and it causes inflammation in the brain. And it turns out the inflammation in the brain is what’s causing all the dysfunction that we see, whether it’s depression, or Alzheimer’s, or autism, or ADD. These are states of brain inflammation. And so, the question is, what’s causing it? Well, it’s primarily our diet. Too much of the things we shouldn’t be eating, right? Sugar, starch, refined oils, processed foods, inflammatory foods, and not enough of the foods that we should be eating, whole foods, real food, good fats. And often just doing a reset diet can profoundly affect people.

I had this one woman come up to me and after three days, she was on The Daniel Plan, which is a faith-based wellness program based on the same principles essentially. And she did an elimination diet. And at the six-week event came up to me and says, “Dr. Hyman, I’ve been in and out psychiatric hospitals all my life. I’ve been, you know, struggling with my marriage. I’m about to get fired from my job and my life is falling apart. I’m depressed all the time.” You know, she was like 100 pounds overweight. And it was just like…it was bad. And she said, “Is it possible after three days my depression can go away?” I mean, this is someone who has been on every medication, in and out of psychiatric hospitals, simply by changing her diet. And after, you know, six weeks, she was a different person. She lost 40 pounds. She felt amazing and she really had this awakening that, you know, food and mood are so connected.

And so whether it’s depression or anxiety, whether it’s things like, you know, ADD or even behavioral issues, we see just tremendous impact, learning, focus, attention. I mean, the CDC put a report out about nutrition in children and their academic performance. And it’s just so clear that these kids are so struggling to focus and pay attention when they go to school with a bag of Doritos and a can of Coke in the morning, or nothing. And so, of course, they’re gonna have trouble with academic performance and success in life. And, you know, I mean, everything just, kind of, goes haywire.

And then on the other side, not just learning but behavior. We know that in prisons if you give prisoners healthy food that their violent crime goes down in prison by 56%. And if you give them a multivitamin, it goes down by 80% because they’re so nutritionally deficient. And we see this in juvenile detention centers. You can get 91% reduction in violent behavior within those groups by simply giving these kids real food, like 75% lower restraint use, 100% lower risk of suicide. I mean, think about it. It’s the third leading cause of death in that group. You know, if there was a drug that can reduce suicide by 100%, it’d be a trillion-dollar drug, right? And yet, it’s food. So I think we really need to take this seriously and understand that our diet is not only killing us physically but killing us emotionally.

Katie: Absolutely. And we’ve probably all felt the difference in a day when you don’t have those factors optimized, you don’t maybe get enough sleep, which means your blood sugar is not gonna be as dialed in as it could be or you just don’t get nutrient-dense food and, kind of, that draggy, sluggish feeling versus the days when your brain is on and everything’s lined up. And the beauty of that, like you say and you explain really well in the book, is you can optimize for that every day. And the great thing is it is a snowball. When you optimize for that, you feel better, then you want to continue doing those things. And it gets so much easier and easier over time. I mean, you certainly make a compelling case. If someone wants to get started, obviously, they should order the book, but what are the other starting points? Where can someone jump in if they are struggling from some of these chronic illnesses or maybe depression and anxiety or just realizing they need to maybe upgrade their food choices? Where do they start?

Dr. Hyman: Well, it’s a great question. You brought up a lot of different things there about, you know, just getting healthy, losing weight, dealing with chronic disease. And the beautiful thing about it, it’s not like you need a different treatment for every problem, although there are some subtleties. But just swapping out all the junk for real food and upgrading your health, and I call it the science of creating health as opposed to the science of treating disease, which is what most of medicine is about. And for me, by simply learning the science of creating health, which starts with food, a lot of these problems just go away. It’s a quick story and then I’ll, sort of, talk about how to get started.

This is what this one patient did. She did something that I talked about in the book called “the 10-day reset,” which is like it’s a 10-day reset where you hit, you know, the reset button, sort of like turning your body back to its original factory settings and seeing just because of what you’re eating and what’s actually some structural problem or some deeper issue like Lyme disease or metals or something else. And this woman came to our program at Cleveland Clinic called Functioning for Life, which is a group shared medical appointment. And she decided to do this program and essentially, like I said, the 10-day reset. Within three days…She was on insulin for 10 years, diabetic. She was 250 pounds and 5 foot probably. And so her body mass index, I think, was 43. Normal is 25 or less, and 30 or more is obese. So she was in the extreme obese category.

She had heart failure. She had high blood pressure. Her kidneys were starting to fail, her liver was starting to fail, and a host of other issues. And she was paying 20 grand a year for co-pays for her medication. Within three days, she was off her insulin, and three months, she was off all her medications and her heart failure, diabetes, her blood pressure all normalized after a year. She lost 116 pounds and is a completely different person. And I think, you know, when you see someone who goes from eating the worst diet to the healthy, whole foods, pegan diet, or for her, you know, it was reset, it really can be profound.

So, I’m not saying it’s gonna fix everybody in the same way. It depends on what the cause is, but food is usually a big part of it. And so I encourage people if they wanna get started is, you know, either just simply by swappping out real whole foods for all the other stuff. So just don’t eat anything that has ingredients you don’t recognize. Or two, you know, one of the things often is really great for people is to do a 10-day reset, is to actually give themselves a chance to feel what it feels like to be really fully, you know, cleaned out, essentially. It’s just getting rid of all the junk and it’s getting rid of all the common allergens. You know, but it’s really pretty simple. So, you know, I have principle 21 to start the pegan diet today and try to make it pretty straightforward.

But I joke, I say it’s few simple things. One, you know, ask yourself a simple question, did God or nature, if you don’t believe in God, make this, or did man make it? You know, did God make an avocado? Yeah. Did he make a Twinkie? No. It’s a pretty simple choice about what to eat. And if you do that, you can’t go wrong. The second is, don’t eat foods with labels. I mean, yes, you can eat foods with labels, but read the label, right? So, if it says tomatoes, water, and salt, that’s fine. If it says, you know, it’s a dicarbodiimide methydextrine and butylated hydroxytoluene and, you know, monotriglycerides, and emulsifiers, and carrageenan, and xanthan gum, and all this other stuff, don’t eat it. I mean, if you can’t pronounce…If you wouldn’t have the thing in your cupboard, right, if you wouldn’t have like butylated hydroxytoluene you sprinkle on your salad dressing, then don’t eat it. It’s probably in almost all the processed food we eat. It’s BHT, it’s a preservative.

And, you know, when you go to the grocery store, stick around the edges, don’t go down the aisles. That’s where the bad stuff is. There are some things, there are, like, oils, and nuts, and seeds. And eat mostly plants. Like, that’s what Michael Pollan said and I agree with him. Meat is not a main dish, it’s a side dish. I mean, I think for most of us growing up, it’s like a giant piece of meat on the plate and then three string beans and a potato. But I think we really just swap it around and, you know, put vegetables on 75% of the plate with a small piece of protein, palm-size of your hand. And lots of good fats every day, avocados, olive oil. Stay away from the refined oils. Include some of the superfoods like we talked about, like phytochemical-rich foods. And, you know, dairy, I’m not a big fan. But if you’re having dairy, sheep and goat are okay. You know, if you’re eating grains, you know, stick with the gluten-free grains, if you can. If you’re eating nuts and seeds and beans, you know, there’s ones that are better for you.

And, you know, just basically, enjoy life. Like, you know, don’t be crazy. You can do the 90/10 rule. I mean, as a doctor, I never cheat? Well, yeah, I have ice cream and I have cookies, but I make sure they’re made from real ingredients. And usually not dairy ice cream but I have, like, coconut ice cream or other sorbets or things like that. So I will, but I think it’s really about choosing stuff that you made real anyway. So it’s not just a dessert made from a bunch of chemicals or weird stuff but it’s actually something that I know what it is. So, it’s still a whole real food. It’s just more of a treat. So that’s, sort of, the basic way I would get started. But I think if people really wanna get going, the 10-day reset is powerful. And you can learn more about it at getfarmacy.com, G-E-T-F-A-R-M-A-C-Y with an F.

Katie: I’ll make sure that is linked as well as a lot of your other resources. You have so, so many. And I love your point about the reset. I love the quote that almost everything can fix itself if you just unplug it for a little while including us. Like sometimes you just need to reset and unplug and give your body a chance and realize our body’s innate wisdom, it wants to get to a state of health. Very often, like you said, we just have to get out of its way and stop giving it the negative inputs. It wants to be healthy and it knows how to get there. We just have to work with it, not against it. And that process can often be easier than we expect. And you explain that so well in this book. Like you mentioned in the beginning, you’ve been in this field for literally decades. And I have found so many of your resources and your books really impactful. And I think this one, of course, continues the trend. So, highly recommend it for all of you guys listening. And speaking of books, I know I’ve asked this of you before on podcasts, but I’m always looking for new recommendations. So, besides your own, are there any recent books that have been really impactful or profound for you?

Dr. Hyman: Yeah, I’m trying to…You know, the world is kind of a crazy place. And, you know, like everybody else, trying to make sense of it. And I’ve been doing this book called “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Harari, who’s a historian, trying to get some historical context to what’s going on in the world right now because it’s a lot. I’ve really been enjoying that. And so that’s my favorite one for now.

Katie: Perfect. I’ll link to that in the show notes as well. I second that recommendation. It’s a good one. And Dr. Hyman, I know just how busy you are, everything that you run, and helping all the people that you help and I’m so grateful for you being here again today and sharing your valuable time with us.

Dr. Hyman: Of course, thank you so much for having me.

Katie: And thank you, guys, as always for listening, for sharing your most valuable resources, your time, and your energy with us today. We are so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the “Wellness Mama Podcast”.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

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