Restoring Your Gut Health with Dr. Will Bulsiewicz [Episode #473]
This week’s topic is: Restoring Your Gut Health with Dr. Will Bulsiewicz
I am so excited to have my very special guest, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, who is a best-selling author, a board-certified gastroenterologist, an internationally recognized gut health expert and a trained epidemiologist. Listen in as Dr. B shares how he went from eating rib-eye to eating a plant-based diet, getting enough protein eating plants, how fiber improves your gut health, and so much more!
A glimpse into Dr. B’s new book, Fiber Fueled…
How Will came across the plant-based diet and went from rib-eyes to plants…
We discuss the lack of formal teaching connecting how you’re eating with how you’re feeling and imparting that wisdom to patients…
Raising children who are plant-based…
Reversing a not-so-perfect diet for our kids and adults…
Fiber, short-chain fatty acids and inflammation…
Rotating veggies and their cycle timeline…
Plant-based diet and protein…
Our perspective on grains…
About Dr. Will Bulsiewicz
Dr. Will Bulsiewicz is a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine and was chief medical resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and chief gastroenterology fellow at the University at North Carolina Hospital. He won the highest award given in both his residency and fellowship. As a former junk-food junkie and rib-eye steak lover, Dr. Bulsiewicz personally lost 50 pounds and radically transformed his health by discovering the healing power of fiber and transitioning to a plant-based diet. He then brought these methods to his clinic and witnessed his patients have amazing results.
Dr. Bulsiewicz completed 8 years of formal research training, including a masters of clinical investigation from Northwestern, an epidemiology fellowship at the highly rated UNC-Gillings School of Global Public Health, and a grant from the NIH. His extensive research training combined with his award-winning clinical skills make him an internationally recognized leader in digestive wellness and gut health. Dr. Bulsiewicz is also the author of the upcoming book Fiber Fueled (releasing May 12, 2020).
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Kimberly: Hey, Beauties, welcome back to our Monday interview podcast. I am super excited for our guest today, who is the author of the new book, Fiber Fueled, which I have in my hands right now. It’s an incredible book. His name is Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, and he’s also a board-certified gastroenterologist and an internationally recognized gut-health expert and a trained epidemiologist. So we’re really going to pick his brain today for all those gut-health questions that we get, and we love to talk about gut health.
Fan Of The Week
Kimberly: But before we get in, I just want to give a quick shout-out for our fan of the week. Her name is Angela Edlin, and she writes, “Kimberly and her team tackle all wellness topics in a way that’s easy to digest. She takes questions from the community, which are typically questions I have myself. Her energy is so positive and loving, and her thought of the week always resets me in my mindset.” Well, Angela, thank you so much for being our fan of the week. I appreciate you so much. Sending you love wherever you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you for leaving us a review.
Share The Podcast and Leave a Review on Itunes
Kimberly: And Beauties, for your chance to also be shouted out as the fan of the week and for me to read your beautiful words, please just take a moment or two out of your day and please leave us a review on iTunes, which is free and easy, and it’ll take you less than a moment or two. And while you’re at it, you can also subscribe to our show. That way, you don’t miss out on any of these amazing interviews and our Thursday show, which is our Q&A community show.
Interview with Dr. Will Bulsiewicz
Kimberly: All right, all that being said, I’m super excited to have Dr. B. I’m looking at him on Skype right now. He’s in Charleston, South Carolina. Hi, Dr. B.
Dr. B: Kimberly, it’s such a pleasure to be here, and I just want to take a moment because I have always wanted to do this, and I just want to say, hey, beauties. Hey, beauties. I’ve always wanted to do that, and I’m probably going to do it five or 10 more times during this, and I hope you won’t hold it against me because this is a once-in-a-life opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to say hello to the beauties.
Kimberly: I love it.
Dr. B: I want to say, hey, Beauties.
Kimberly: Well, you know what we say, Dr. B, is that everybody is truly beautiful in their own way. So here at Solluna, we talk about our cornerstones of true beauty, which are food, body, emotional well-being, and spiritual growth. So when we talk about beauty, it’s deeper than just, oh, I have great hair or I have awesome makeup on today, but really connecting with our unique expression, ourselves, being comfortable being ourselves, where real confidence comes from.
Dr. B: I think that’s so important, by the way. I think that’s so critically important to… The older that I get, the more that I realize that every single person is beautiful in their own way. Everyone is bringing something that’s amazing to this planet, and let’s just celebrate that.
Kimberly: I love it. And I know you have a daughter as well, and I think especially for women, it’s really tough growing up in such an image-based society where… With Instagram, it’s always comparing how one looks in their lives and social media in general. It’s a really tough world now to raise children, I think. So instilling that idea that it really does start from the inside out is really important.
Dr. B: It’s interesting; I can relate to that so much being a dad. My daughter is six, and my wife was actually… Before we got married, my wife was a model. That’s what she did for a living. But my wife is the most beautiful person I know on the inside, and we have… It’s very interesting for us to frame how we’re raising our daughter because my wife basically said, “Look, I was in that industry. This is what I did for a living, and I want to raise her differently so that she doesn’t associate that with her self-image and instead thinks of herself for the beautiful artwork that she can create and how intelligent she is and how creative she is and all these other wonderful things, and not let basically our society and our culture, the way that we associate value to that and frankly over-value that, not allow that to put her in a place where she feels that’s what really matters,” because it’s not.
Kimberly: Exactly, exactly. It’s all surface. And one of the things I’ll share with you, Dr. B, is on my journey, I had a lot of bloating issues and constipation and acne and a lot of things that actually made me put my head down, and I couldn’t look in people’s eyes. And when I started taking care of my gut health and healing my candida and taking probiotics and giving up dairy and being plant-based and all these different things that we teach, it really… When I talk about beauty from the inside out, it was very magnetic. It felt like I was able to just have this different shift in my energy, and I became more confident. I didn’t have to use caffeine. My skin cleared up. So physically, yes, I started to feel a lot more confident in my looks, but I just felt a lot more connected to myself.
A glimpse into Dr. B’s new book, Fiber Fueled
Kimberly: So I really am passionate about gut health. I’ve been talking about it since my first book. Now there’s five books, but I always touch on gut health in some way. And I’m really excited to get into your book, Dr. B, which is brand new. It actually publishes on May 12th, so congratulations, by the way.
Dr. B: Thank you. Yeah.
Kimberly: Fiber Fueled.
Dr. B: Fiber Fueled. When you crack open Fiber Fueled and you go into the intro, you’re going to find a story for me, my own journey, that’s very similar to yours, Kimberly, in my own way. In my own way.
Kimberly: You gained weight.
Dr. B: Yeah. I was 30 years old. I was 30. I felt like I was 60. Seriously, I gained 50 pounds relative to what I weighed in high school, which is a tough pill to swallow for a guy who always thought of himself as an athlete. I was a great athlete in high school. I was up 50 pounds. I had low self-esteem, low energy, high blood pressure, and was just kind of riddled with anxiety. Professionally, I was the Chief Resident at Northwestern in Chicago at the time. This was after Georgetown. You and I both have a Hoya connection.
Kimberly: Yes, we do.
Dr. B: So I was in Chicago. I was the Chief Resident. I was accomplishing all these things from a professional perspective, but I felt terrible on the inside. I didn’t like the way I looked on the outside, and I didn’t feel good about myself, even though I was accomplishing all these things. It was discovering a plant-based diet and the way that it healed my gut, and next thing I knew, it naturally reversed these things. I tried to exercise my way out of it.
How Will came across the plant-based diet
Kimberly: Sure, like a lot of us do. How did you find a plant-based diet? How did it come across your life?
Dr. B: So here I am. I’m in my early 30s. I’m single, again overweight, trying to out-exercise it, and I meet the person who ultimately becomes my wife.
Dr. B: And we go out on a date, and for me, it was like standard. Okay, am I getting the rib-eye, or am I getting the pork chop? And we go out on a date. Seriously, I mean-
Kimberly: It sounds like me and my husband’s first date.
Dr. B: It’s probably the same. And we go out, and she would turn to the waiter, and she would go, “Look, I know this is not on the menu, but could you ask the chef if they’d be willing to just make a plate full of plants? Take a whole bunch of sides, and make it look nice, and just bring that out.”
Kimberly: That’s what I always do at those kinds of restaurants.
Dr. B: Yeah.
Kimberly: That’s the best option.
Dr. B: Yeah. Well, I think it is the best option, but I didn’t understand that, and I had never been around someone who ate this way.
Kimberly: Yeah, and you didn’t really learn about nutrition in medical school.
Dr. B: I knew nothing about it, and the problem is so here I am-
Kimberly: [inaudible 00:09:32].
Dr. B: Well, I’m a normal guy, right? I’m a medical doctor, but I’m also a completely normal guy. And the problem is that the normal guy was suffering because I ate the same way that I always ate, and in my mind, it was like, “Well, why would this be any different? This is what I was raised on.”
Kimberly: But nowhere in medical school was there a discussion about different diets or whole foods, fiber, nothing?
Dr. B: I think you know the answer to this question, that in medical school-
Kimberly: No classes.
Dr. B: They don’t teach us that. They give us nutrition, and nutrition is this: We’re going to ask you about these rare micronutrient deficiencies that you literally are not going to diagnose in your entire career, and that’s what we’re going to quiz you on. And that’s nutrition in med school.
Dr. B: And you do that for two weeks.
We discuss the lack of formal teaching connecting how you’re eating with how you’re feeling and imparting that wisdom to patients
Kimberly: I ask every doctor this, and I get the same answer, but it still blows my mind that here you are, 30 years old. You’re a chief resident. You’re working in a hospital, working with all these people, and yet there hasn’t ever been any sort of formal teaching in your life connecting how you’re eating with how you’re feeling and imparting that wisdom to your patients.
Dr. B: 100%. And then the issue is I can’t figure out how to get myself out of this. I’m like, “How am I supposed to fix myself?” I’m trying to exercise. I’m exercising six days a week, 30 to 45 minutes in the gym and then go out and do a 5 to 10K, and I can’t get myself out of it. What opened my mind was meeting my wife, who ate a way that I had never been around before.
Dr. B: And I said, “You know what? I’m just going to… ” This was like a baby taking his or her first step. I was like, “I’m just going to try this. Tonight, instead of going to Hardee’s and getting the bacon double cheeseburger and the hot dog, instead of that, I’m going to go home. I’m going to make a smoothie.”
Dr. B: And I did it, and I instantly… I felt full. I was satisfied. I was energized. I did not have the post-meal hangover, and that brought me back for day two.
Dr. B: And I came back on day two and day three and four and five. The next thing I knew, my hair was changing. It was getting thicker.
Dr. B: My skin was becoming more radiant.
Kimberly: You pretty much went the all-or-nothing route. You went completely plant-based right away. Never turned back?
Dr. B: Actually, no. For me, it was a multi-year thing. So I started to drift in this direction and it was like small changes that were compounding over time to leading to huge results. Small changes, because I made them a habit, were giving me huge results. And then I got to a place where I was pescetarian, and I was like, “You know what? I just want to see what happens. I just want to see.” And I decided to go all the way. I got rid of the dairy, the eggs, and the fish, and I lost another 15 pounds. And I stepped on the scale, and there was the same weight from high school again. I was finally there.
Going from a rib-eye eater to fully plant-based
Kimberly: Wow! So it was over… How long was that period to actually take the leap? And some people decide not to take that last leap. We always say small steps. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. But in your case, how did you go from a rib-eye eater to fully plant-based?
Dr. B: It was three or four years. It was three or four years, and I got to this one place… One of the craziest moments in the whole story is I got to this place where I… Okay, my daughter, who is six right now, was a newborn. And it was just after my residency and my fellowship, and I was working insane hours. I’m not exaggerating. Literally already in the hospital, physically in the hospital at 5:00 AM and going home at 11:00 every night.
Kimberly: Oh, my goodness.
Dr. B: And I did that all week, and it’s really crushing to a person when you go home and your wife and your newborn child are both asleep, and you wake up in the morning and they’re both asleep, and you repeat that for a week. So I get to the end of the week, and I’m like, “Man, you’ve got to treat yourself. You have earned something.” All right? So I decided to go to the old steakhouse that I used to love, and at this point, I had not had a steak in years, and I was like, “I’m just going to go and get a rib-eye.” And I went to the bar, and I sat down, and I ordered the steak, and it came, and I was like… And this was not an ethical thing. This was like I wanted this steak. I felt like I had earned this right. But it smelled funny. It smelled funny. It didn’t smell appealing to me anymore. And then I went and I took like two bites, and I was just like, “This is actually kind of gross.”
Kimberly: I love it. You change as you go. Isn’t that incredible?
Dr. B: Your taste buds change.
Kimberly: Yes, yes.
Dr. B: Which is crazy. Even as a doctor, that’s hard for me to believe.
Kimberly: I experienced the same thing with cheese, Dr. B. I used to be obsessed with cheese, and I loved it. I loved cheese on pizza, and it took me about two years to get off the dairy when I started learning about what it was doing to my body. And now when I look at cheese and it’s ooey, it just looks really gross to me, and it smells gross, whereas I used to have such intense cravings for it. So while you’re in it, it’s hard to imagine that you don’t want it anymore, but…
Dr. B: Well, and that’s the thing. We get so used to eating a certain way that it’s hard for us… Most of us, we eat the food that we love, right? We’re not eating the food that we don’t love.
Kimberly: Of course.
Dr. B: So it’s hard to imagine drifting away from something that you’re very used to.
Raising children who are plant-based
Kimberly: Are your children plant-based?
Dr. B: Yeah. My children are completely plant-based.
Kimberly: Amazing. Like, why-
Dr. B: We’re delighted.
Kimberly: Yes. I always say Bubby, my son… That’s his nickname. His name’s Emerson, but he has never been to the doctor except for the standard checkups. He has so much energy. He’s doing great, and of course, the baby that’s in my belly right now has been plant-based since conception, so…
Dr. B: Well, I honestly believe… Honestly, Kimberly, I believe that plant-based since conception is amazing, amazing for fetal development, and then I think it just keeps paying forward from there. And what’s really interesting is that children are born with the taste buds based upon the food that you ate during pregnancy.
Kimberly: Is that true? Because I’ve heard… I like to believe that. I’ve heard different things about that. Have they proven that now?
Dr. B: Have you ever had broccoli sprouts?
Kimberly: Yes, all the time.
Dr. B: You know how bitter they are. Okay, yes. So I’m obsessed with broccoli sprouts. I think that they’re amazing, but you have to embrace the bitterness, because it’s the bitterness that actually is destroying cancer and protecting your body.
Dr. B: Right? But it’s such a bitter food. My son, Liam, came out smashing broccoli sprouts. Like six months, seven months, eight months, nine months old, once we started giving him solid food, he was smashing broccoli sprouts, and it’s because during pregnancy my wife was smashing broccoli sprouts.
Kimberly: Amazing. Yeah, the same thing with my son. He just drinks all the GGS. He does have sprouts, but just he’ll take a whole head of broccoli and eat the whole thing raw. So he does like the same things. I just didn’t know if there was actual clinical research on that. But anecdotally, I can say it was my experience, for sure.
Dr. B: All right, fair enough. I have not seen clinical research explicitly on that, but I mean just-
Kimberly: Yeah, it makes sense.
Dr. B: It blows my mind that a child would eat broccoli sprouts because, as an adult, I think it’s hard for adults to do that. You know?
Reversing a not-so-perfect diet for our kids and adults
Kimberly: Well, this part of the book, I think, is really interesting, where you talk about toddler poop and implanting it in the mice and basically how, from looking at feces of these young children, you can see a predisposition towards certain things like asthma. But for the people that are listening to this right now, saying, “Oh, my gosh. I effed up. I did not give my kid healthy food, or I didn’t eat really healthy when I was little,” what hope can we give about reversing some of this? And not all of us ate ideally when we were small.
Dr. B: I want people… I’m talking to the Beauties directly right now.
Kimberly: I love it.
Dr. B: Yeah.
Kimberly: Talk to them. Talk to us.
Dr. B: I want to talk to the Beauties, and I want you all to know that I don’t want you… I feel like it’s so easy to feel guilty in our modern culture as a mom for imperfections, and it’s almost like people feel like you’re being held accountable, or maybe in some cases, people are holding you accountable, and that’s just not fair. And there’s only so many things that you can control. So let me say this. My kids… Sometimes you’ll see me post, and it’s like… Well, because it’s Instagram, I can only say so much. But sometimes you’ll see me post where I talk about the effect of a Cesarean section or the effect of antibiotics at a young age. I want you guys to know, both of my kids were born by C-section.
Kimberly: Oh, yes, I had a C-section after a failed home birth. Yeah, I get it.
Dr. B: And your kids can be perfectly healthy when they’re born by C-section. Your kids can be perfectly healthy if they have to take antibiotics. Your kids can be perfectly healthy if they didn’t eat a perfect diet, if they ate a lot of chicken nuggets. It’s okay. It’s okay. But I think that the point is we’re all just trying to do our best, and the science helps us to understand what path to follow.
Kimberly: Exactly. So even if we maybe didn’t have the best start, or we didn’t… Now we’re learning, and we have a different diet than when our children were small, there is… The gut is so dynamic it’s able to shift and change as we change our diet, so at any point, we can make positive change.
Dr. B: You can change your diet literally your next meal, and that will start to change your gut immediately. Literally, in less than 24 hours, your gut is already starting to adapt to the dietary changes that you’ve made, and we have studies that show that.
Dr. B: So it’s a beautiful thing.
Dr. B shares how he started to focus on the path of gastro health
Kimberly: When you became plant-based, is that when you decided to focus on gastro health, or were you already veering along that path?
Dr. B: I was already in it. I was already in it.
Kimberly: Oh, interesting.
Dr. B: Yeah, I was at the University of North Carolina. I was in a combined GI specialty, like gastroenterology-plus-epidemiology program. I’m just a nerd. I’m a total nerd. So I was in this special program, and I thought of myself as a cancer epidemiologist during this period of time in my life. So what kind of is interesting is I had the science background to read these studies, and I’m a person who values the science. I can’t change that. If I felt better eating this diet, but the science said that it’s not good for you, then I would go, “Whoa, okay, I don’t know about that.”
Dr. B: But what shocked me, Kimberly, was that as I was making these changes and feeling better and losing weight, I went to the medical literature expecting to find nothing, because I was like, “I haven’t heard anything about this.” Right? I trained at Northwestern, Georgetown, University of North Carolina, right? And I went and I opened up the medical literature, and I’m like, “Oh, my Gosh.”
Kimberly: Thousands of studies.
Dr. B: Thousands of studies that I’d never heard of.
Kimberly: That we never hear about.
Dr. B: That we never hear about, and they are powerful studies that actually show me that not only can this improve a person’s life, but that this is actually the root of the issue. This is the root of the issue. And if we don’t address the root of the issue, then what are we doing?
Dr. B: We’re patching it up. We’re covering it up with a sheet.
Fiber, short-chain fatty acids and inflammation
Kimberly: I just get goosebumps. I’m really interested, Dr. B, why you decided to call your book Fiber Fueled? We talk about plant-based, and we talk about broccoli sprouts that have all these antioxidants and phytonutrients. Let’s talk about fiber and short-chain fatty acids. I mean, obviously, fiber is only found in plant foods, so we’re talking about a plant-foods-based diet. But tell me about your focus on fiber.
Dr. B: Okay. I don’t understand why I’m the only person who thinks that fiber is sexy.
Kimberly: No, I believe you, Dr. B. I always say smoothies and juice aren’t the same thing. Drink your smoothies. Keep the fiber in. We’re on the same team.
Dr. B: All right. If we were not socially distancing with COVID-19, you and I would do like a circle dance, and it would be really cool. And maybe some Irish dancing. I think fiber is sexy. I don’t get why everyone thinks it’s boring, but for the beauties, I want you guys to delete the idea that… the mental image of your grandma stirring up the orange drink…
Dr. B: … late at night, yeah, so that she could poop. Please delete that from your brain, and let’s start over and recognize that, yes, like you said, Kimberly, fiber is exclusively found in plants. Plants have a monopoly over fiber. Fiber is not just fiber. That’s like saying protein is protein when we all know that the source of the protein matters. Not all fiber is the same. That’s my point. There are millions, maybe even billions of types of fiber that exist in nature. We don’t even have an estimate.
Dr. B: And each one has its own unique biochemical properties. So what it boils down to is this: Fiber has a special relationship with your microbiome. When you eat fiber, it passes all the way through your intestine, all 15 feet, to enter into the colon, which is the large intestine. And when it gets there, your microbes get into a feeding frenzy. They are feasting. They are getting the nourishment that they need. They’re as alive as you and I are. I mean, we can’t see them. The naked eye can’t see them, but they’re as alive as you and I are.
Dr. B: Trillions. I mean, trillions. More microbes than you have human cells, and they need energy just like we need energy. And when you feed them fiber, they thrive. They multiply. They grow. And then what they do, which is a beautiful thing, is they turn around and they go, “Thank you, Dr. B, for feeding me this delicious fibrous meal. I am going to pay you back in spades. I am going to pay you back in spades.” And they take the fiber, and they basically transform it into short-chain fatty acids. And if you’ve never heard of short-chain fatty acids, then it’s time for you to get familiar with what is the biggest secret, most powerful thing in all of nutrition, from my perspective, because 97% of Americans are not getting enough fiber, which means that they’re depriving themselves of short-chain fatty acids. And short-chain fatty acids heal the gut, reverse leaky gut. They actually interact with our immune system. We could talk, if you want, about the studies with respiratory viruses, similar to COVID-19, and how short-chain fatty acids make the immune system stronger to fight the virus.
Dr. B: Drink the smoothie. Get your fiber. Get these short-chain fatty acids, and then they actually affect the rest of the body.
Kimberly: What about inflammation? Inflammation too, right, Doc?
Dr. B: They reduce inflammation. They reduce inflammation throughout the entire body. They actually-
Kimberly: What about anti-aging?
Dr. B: I am 40, and I think… I get asked more often now at 40 whether or not I’m old enough to be a doctor than when I was 30.
Kimberly: I love it.
Dr. B: I’m telling you, it’s the truth. I’m reverse-aging. I’m telling you, this was it.
Kimberly: So short-chain fatty acids. Now when you say there’s different forms of fiber, let’s say we’re eating a general… We’re eating plant fruits and veggies in general. Are you talking about focusing on specific ones, or are you talking about staying away from more of the metamucil sort of synthetic fibers?
Dr. B: Well, I’m talking about dietary fiber, like you’re saying, but I think the key is this. This is not just, hey, Dr. B has got a creative idea. This is, hey, let’s let the science do the talking. So in the biggest study to date to correlate our diet and lifestyle to the health of our gut microbiome… It’s called the American Gut Project. When they put it all into the formula and they let it kick out the answer, “Hey, guys, what is the number-one determinant of a healthy gut microbiome? What is it?” there’s a clear-cut answer: the diversity of plants in your diet.
Dr. B: So for the Beauties listening at home, if there’s one takeaway for today, the one takeaway is, no matter who you are, whether you are 100% whole-food plant-based or you’re paleo or keto or agnostic or whatever you are, make sure you are getting more diversity of plants in your diet. And to unpack it, if it’s okay, Kimberly, just real quick…
Dr. B: To unpack this a little bit, it actually makes complete sense, because here’s how this plays out. Take one specific plant. Do you have a favorite plant that you enjoy eating?
Kimberly: I eat a lot of kale.
Dr. B: Okay, cool. So let’s take kale. Because you eat kale, there are specific populations of bacteria and microbes that live in your microbiome, and they thrive and they multiply and they get stronger every time you eat kale. Okay? So we want to feed those microbes because they are anti-inflammatory. They are going to help you heal. They are going to reverse aging. They’re going to do all the good stuff.
Dr. B: Here’s the problem. If one day, Kimberly, you wake up and you go, “You know what? I’m not eating kale anymore. I’m done. I’m done with kale,” and you completely restrict it from your diet, now those same microbes that were thriving, that were basically helping you, that were healing you with their anti-inflammatory properties, now they are dying. They are receding. They’re weak. They’re not able to do their job the way we need them to. They’re actually starving, right? So every single plant food has its own unique types of fiber that feed its own unique microbes and allows them to thrive.
Rotating veggies and their cycle timeline
Kimberly: Well, you can’t eat all the different plants. And what if you eat seasonally? What if you… Say, you take a kale break for a couple months, and then you eat a bunch of chard. Are you saying, Doctor, constantly rotate, or what’s your cycling timeline here, so we can make the microbiome as robust as possible?
Dr. B: To me, I make this my core philosophy. I’m not one for restrictive lists. I think they’re actually hurting people.
Dr. B: We could talk about that more. I worry about… We don’t talk enough about the eating disorders that come out of that, so that’s a separate issue that we could talk about it if you want. But I’m not one for that. I’m not one for macros or weighing my food or calorie counting.
Kimberly: Mm-mm (negative).
Dr. B: It’s very simple for me: whole food, plant-based, in abundance with maximum diversity. So a quick example. We’re a normal family. We will make pasta with tomato sauce, right? So organic, whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce. But that’s only two plants. That’s not that healthy. Here’s what we do. Garlic, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, maybe some kale, maybe some spinach. Cook it all up. Oh, my gosh, that sauce is amazing now. Now I’m going to throw some basil and some parsley on top, right? And we went from two up to 10. It tastes way better. It’s literally making my mouth water as we talk about it.
Kimberly: You’re making this pregnant lady hungry.
Dr. B: We can’t make you too hungry. I don’t want you to have the baby right here while we’re talking and stimulate contractions. But anyway, and your gut microbes are thanking you. Your gut microbes are… They’re down there dancing and doing their own thing because you just fed them.
What to do when you have a diversity to plants and if you should take a sensitivity test
Kimberly: Dr. B, I love that. I have a question for you because I get this question a lot, and sometimes I have clients or friends that I’m talking about having a diversity of plant foods, as you are, and they’ll say, “Oh, I took this test,” whether it’s a saliva or whatever sort of… Maybe it’s a blood test. “I have all these sensitivities. Now I can’t have pineapples and orange bell peppers.” It’s so specific the things that they cannot have. And I always say, as you really do heal your gut, I believe a healthy body should be able to handle healthy, natural food. And over time, I think I’ve had sensitivities, and they’ve actually gone away as my gut has healed. What do you think about those super-specific minutiae tests and if it shifts as you do heal your gut?
Dr. B: All right, so-
Kimberly: A very led question. I’m trying to get you to agree with me, but yeah.
Dr. B: No, I agree with you. I agree with you. Look, I can’t lie on this one because it’s written in a book that’s coming out on May 12th, so everyone’s going to see how I feel about it, Fiber Fueled.
Kimberly: I missed that part. I’m going to go back and find it.
Dr. B: All right, so-
Kimberly: Oh, food sensitivity versus food allergy?
Dr. B: Hey.
Kimberly: Oh, my God, I just opened up to it. It’s page 105, Beauties.
Dr. B: That was kind of creepy actually, how that happened. I mean, that was kind of impressive. Like, you literally just randomly opened that up.
Kimberly: Tell us. Tell us.
Dr. B: Okay. There’s an entire chapter. Probably the most important chapter in my book is How to Find Your Plant Passion with a Sensitive Gut, and I break down for you what food sensitivities actually are because I think they’re very confused. Food sensitivities involve your gut and microbiome. So if you do a blood test, well, blood tests don’t tell you about your gut microbiome.
Dr. B: So it can’t possibly be accurate, and that’s exactly what we see. For the people who are listening at home who have done these blood tests, and it says, “Oh, you can’t eat this food,” let me ask you a question. What happens when you eat the food? Do you feel okay? If the answer is yes, which most of the time it is, then it’s given you false information, and you shouldn’t follow that.
Kimberly: Well, a lot of people are taking the test, Dr. B, because they’re like, “I’m not losing weight, or I am bloated,” so they’re looking for answers.
Dr. B: Yep. The way that it works is this. It’s actually very interesting. There are these very specific digestive enzymes called glycoside hydrolases. That’s what we need to break down our plant food properly. All right, we big, strong humans… Me, I’m 6’4″, 200 pounds. We only have 17 of these glycoside hydrolases. That is pathetically low. Many of these microbes, these bacteria, which are single cellular organisms, have hundreds of glycoside hydrolases. When they actually analyzed this, they discovered that the gut microbiome could have 60,000 unique enzymes to break down and digest our food. This is important because the person who suffers with food sensitivity, gas, bloating, digestive distress, diarrhea, constipation, that’s the person who has a damaged gut. It’s always the person with the damaged gut who suffers with the food sensitivity. And what it is is it’s sloppy digestion because your gut has been damaged and may be missing some of the enzymes that it needs to efficiently unpack your food and make it totally streamlined and easy.
Kimberly: And as you heal your gut, these enzymes start to wake back up?
Dr. B: Your gut is like a muscle. You can make it stronger. So you can heal your gut in the same way that you can make your muscle stronger by going to the gym. If you exercise your gut by introducing the food, you have to introduce it at a low enough level that you’re able to, over time, increase it and not make yourself miserable. But as long as you start low and you go slow, you can introduce that food just like you would with exercise in the gym, and you make your gut stronger and you bring those enzyme levels up.
Kimberly: Wow! So what are those blood tests even measuring if they’re not really measuring what’s going on in your gut?
Dr. B: The blood test is measuring antibodies. They’re measuring antibodies, and the issue is that it’s not… It has never proven to be accurate in terms of its ability to actually tell you what your food sensitivities are.
Kimberly: Right, right.
Dr. B: And even if it did, honestly-
Kimberly: It changes.
Dr. B: That’s the thing. If we check it today and we check it three days from now, the food that you ate during those three days could actually change what that looks like.
Kimberly: I experimented with my own body, and I did this in London, Doctor. I did those tests. And one day, it was like, “Oh, you’re sensitive to curry.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s funny because I eat a lot of curry, and I feel great.” And then the next time, it was something completely different.
Dr. B: Right.
Kimberly: So with your patients, you don’t recommend these sensitivity tests?
Dr. B: I have never ordered one in my entire career.
Kimberly: That’s amazing.
Dr. B: I’ve never ordered one in my entire career.
Kimberly: Because they’re expensive. They’re confusing. They can really throw people off, and I think it’s that… It’s teaching people to not listen to their bodies and to go by all this confusing information outside and to get more disconnected.
Dr. B: Kimberly, you know this from your work as a nutritionist. Don’t treat the page. Don’t treat the numbers. Treat the person.
Dr. B: You’ve got to treat the person. What’s the deal with the person? Not what you see on the laboratory or the blood test. That’s not what this is about.
Kimberly: And also, your approach is so holistic as well. The gut is like this… It affects everything else. So when we affect this, when we repair this, instead of focusing on these little minutiae sensitivities, we can actually create a much more healthy overall system that can work with all different kinds of food.
Dr. B: An abundant, diverse gut is a strong, healthy gut. Your gut is an ecosystem in the same way… Literally, the exact same rules that apply to the health of the Amazon rain forest are the same rules that apply to your gut. What I mean by that is when species go extinct in the Amazon rain forest, that’s bad news for the ecosystem. The same is true in your gut. An abundant, diverse gut is a healthy gut. And an abundant, diverse gut requires an abundant, diverse diet in order to get there because every single type of plant is going to feed special microbes so that they can thrive and grow.
Kimberly: Well, okay, Dr. B, for someone who is a recovering perfectionist, like me, and will hear this and say, “Oh, my gosh, I have to now get 50 different vegetable in in a day,” can you give us some general guidelines? I mean, I definitely mix and match the greens and the fruit in my Glowing Green Smoothie®, which is a big signature smoothie we have in our community. I do create variety, but what is a good amount of variety. I mean, obviously when the farmers’ markets are open, we can try to eat more seasonally. But are we talking over 10? Are we talking to try to have 20 different veggies a week? What’s a general guideline?
Dr. B: All right, give me… Not to put you on the spot, Kimberly, but how many different fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, legumes, how many in a week do you think you probably have? Just give me a number.
Kimberly: Oh. I mean, now that I’m pregnant, I’m eating a lot of fruit. But I eat a lot of, let’s see, mangoes, blueberries, bananas, peaches, pineapple.
Dr. B: Tropical.
Kimberly: Yeah. I’m half Filipino, so I kind of veer that way, I think, naturally.
Dr. B: Nice.
Kimberly: Lemons. We have a lemon tree. And then kale, arugula, chard, two different kinds of kale, spinach. I do love red lentils. I eat red lentils a lot. They’ll kind of turn yellow. But just maybe chick peas, curry. I started eating gluten again since I’ve been pregnant. It hasn’t upset me at all. I also have a lot of brown rice, teff.
Dr. B: You’re definitely veering up into the 30 to 40 range, it sounds like to me, I mean, because you just rattled off 20 right there.
Kimberly: Yes, I’ve never counted, but yeah, there’s a lot there.
Dr. B: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So here’s what’s interesting. In this study, in the American Gut Project study, the number that they used was 30.
Dr. B: Thirty was the number. Now here’s the way that I see this. This is not about there being some magical plateau. It’s not like 30 is better than 29. This is a continuum. So what you want is you just want to make this… It’s so simple once you start doing it. Make this a core philosophy. You go to the supermarket. You hear Dr. B’s voice: Diversity of plants. I heard Dr. B. He called me the Beauties. Diversity of plants. You go and you’re at the salad bar. Here’s my approach at the salad bar. Is it a plant? Okay, cool, it’s going in my salad. It’s just a question of how much, right?
Kimberly: And all the different colors.
Dr. B: All the different colors. And next thing you know… I don’t personally count. I don’t personally count. But what I do is if I think about it with every meal or if I think about it when I go to the supermarket, then it becomes very easy to accomplish this, and you’re going to get past 30. You’re going to get past 30 without even trying.
Short and long-term effects on our gut from diets such as Keto
Kimberly: I love it. I love it. See, Dr. B, I feel like we’re nutrition soulmates because we both don’t focus on numbers. I think numbers are… That’s a Yogic principle as well, is letting go of numbers. When I threw out my scale and I stopped obsessing about my weight and I stopped counting calories is when I actually lost the weight as well. So I too am not into the measuring food, but really filling up with fiber. So I want to ask you about… You mentioned keto and paleo, which are such popular diets now. I really worry, especially about keto, with women and hormones long term. Can you talk a little bit about, from the perspective as a gut-doctor expert, a gastroenterologist, what are the short and long-term effects on our gut from these diets?
Dr. B: So first of all, let me say that the person who has the audacity to actually change their diet in the name of their health is like… I love that person, and I don’t care who you are. I love that person because most people are not willing to do that. And if you choose paleo or you choose Keto or Whole 30 or whatever it may be, it’s not your fault that the system hypes these things up and tells you this is what you’re supposed to do. The problem is that these things are built on a foundation that lacks the scientific strength to actually hold up through the years, and that’s why fads become hype and they don’t have staying power, because the science isn’t there to propel them through into the future. I’m happy to talk about paleo in a minute if you want me to, but let me focus on Keto first.
Kimberly: Let’s focus on Keto because that is the diet of the moment.
Dr. B: Okay. So Keto is the diet of the moment, and there is no denying that people who do Keto can lose weight. There is no denying that people who do Keto can have short-term improvements of certain metabolic things. The question is can you do Keto and give yourself a longer life, a better health span? Can you reverse aging? Can you accomplish your long-term goals with this diet, or are you going to pay a price where the short-term gain at some point, and I would argue very quickly, transforms into long-term loss? Are you getting the benefit up front, and then you’re paying the price the longer that you go? Because if that’s the case, why would you walk down a dead-end path that’s ultimately going to lead you to harm? You wouldn’t want to do that.
Kimberly: I mean, even the popularity of plant-based Keto, I worry about just the imbalance of not having carbs and grains. We had a friend on here, an amazing… I don’t know if you know the Blue Zones Kitchen and the Blue Zones diet that Dan Buettner–
Dr. B: Yeah. Yeah.
Kimberly: You guys would love each other.
Dr. B: Oh, my gosh, Dan Buettner is a…
Kimberly: Your bro?
Dr. B: … legend. Well, he’s a legend, and his book was a big part of my plant-based journey.
Kimberly: Oh, that’s incredible. So what he said on our podcast, Dr. B, he was like… He said, “Hey, these zones, not only are they eating grains every day, they’re eating them pretty much every meal with lots of veggies.” So again, talking about how these diets hold up long term, there’s so much more history and cultural significance and longevity in plant-based diets.
Dr. B: That’s exactly right. These are high-carb diets. The problem is that we make the mistake of associating carbs as being bad because we’re talking about potato chips and sugar and stuff like that.
Dr. B: That’s not… No, fiber is a carb. Fiber is incredibly healthy. The problem with Keto is I worry that even in the short term, it can have negative effects on your gut because it is such a restrictive diet. The most underrated thing… I alluded to this earlier, and I want to get into this a little bit more. The thing that we’re not talking about enough with Keto and these other restrictive diets is that it’s leading people, especially women, down a path that ultimately leads to an unfair, unhealthy relationship with their food. Now, it could be minor like, “Gosh, I’m avoiding that food, and my blood pressure goes up and I get a little bit anxious with the idea of eating it.” But it very, very quickly can transform into orthorexia. And I have seen cases, like my own patients, where they start down this path of restriction, and it activates a full-on eating disorder, and they end up with anorexia or bulimia.
Dr. B: And once you have that, you can’t just turn around and walk away from that.
Kimberly: No, it’s very difficult.
Dr. B: That’s a life-long thing. Yeah. So I worry about that. And then naturally, there’s a reason why low-carb diets have never been associated with improved longevity. If anything, they’ve been associated with a shorter life expectancy, and the reason why is because you can tell me it’s great in one year, but what about the risk of heart disease, the number-one killer in the United States?
Kimberly: Right. Right. Loading up on all these fatty foods and cutting out all these beneficial foods.
Dr. B: What about colon cancer, the number-two killer in the United States in terms of cancer? And you’re basically spiking the type of food that leads to colon cancer.
Our perspective on grains
Kimberly: Was it a couple of years ago, all these books started coming out like Wheat Belly, Grain Brain, making people really scared of grains? Can you talk about that, Doctor, a bit, your perspective of grains?
Dr. B: How much time do we have?
Kimberly: I know. I know. Just give me the overview because I’m a huge grain eater myself, and we talked about the Blue Zones and how much they eat grains, and then some of these more modern diets and books. And doctors come out and say, “Oh, no, no. We actually weren’t meant to be eating grains.” And it’s so confusing for people. I’d love to hear your perspective.
Dr. B: All right.
Kimberly: Summarized. I know you could go on for a long time.
Dr. B: Yeah. No, no. No, no, I can summarize here. But basically, let me say this: If I wanted to sell as many books as humanly possible right now, I would write a book spinning the science to make it seem like paleo or keto make sense, because they have a ravenous following and those people are looking for a doctor that will come out and just tell them what they want to hear, which is that you shouldn’t eat grains, you shouldn’t eat beans, right? That’s why the lectin theory got hot.
Kimberly: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. B: The issue with all of these things, these ideas, including gluten being harmful, the issue is that they’re using test-tube studies, which test-tube studies are notorious for not actually being accurate when you apply them to real humans eating real food. The question is what happens when real humans eat whole grains? Here’s what happens. Systematic review and meta-analysis, this is the strongest evidence that exists. They live longer with less heart disease, with less heart attacks, with less death from heart attacks or from heart disease, with less cancer, with less death from cancer, with less death from infectious diseases. Why? Why is it? Because when you get into it, what you realize is that these are foundational foods for the gut microbiome. If you want short-chain fatty acids…
Kimberly: Yes, thank you.
Dr. B: … you need the whole grains.
Kimberly: And somewhere along the way, like you said, it got morphed. And these books, like you said, they are a feeding frenzy. People want to know about something that’s really controversial. Oh, this is the magic way. It’s like when the Plant Paradox came out, which is basically another paleo book in sheep’s clothing, saying, “Oh, all these plants are bad,” but it’s essentially the same sort of diet.
Dr. B: It’s yet another laundry list of 85 different things that you’re not allowed to eat. And instead I’m saying, “Bring all 85 things to my plate because I want all of them, or virtually all of them.” I mean, look, we will all agree to get rid of the processed foods, but yeah, the bottom line is, Kimberly, when we throw out gluten… Let me just be clear on this. I’m not saying to make gluten the backbone of your diet, okay? But when we eliminate gluten entirely, we are eliminating the number-one source of whole grains in the American diet, and our studies actually show that the person who does not need to eliminate gluten and they do increases their risk of heart disease, which is the number-one killer. We have studies now showing that on a gluten-free diet you increase your risk of heart disease.
Dr. B: Now a person like you, you understand nutrition, so if you personally went gluten free, I think that you would know exactly how to navigate your diet by adding more teff, more sorghum, more quinoa, more gluten-free oats to compensate for the loss of wheat, but most people do not.
Kimberly: But the average American… Yes.
Dr. B: Yeah, most people don’t get that.
Plant-based diet and protein
Kimberly: Let’s talk about… I could pick your brain all day, Dr. B. But as we wrap up here, we get asked a lot about protein, which is something that I have to answer millions of times, and we know that everything has protein in it. But could you just give us a brief summary of your perspective? Your focus is fiber. Your focus is on plant diversity, and I haven’t heard you talk about the macros, which is really refreshing. So just tell us about your perspective of protein.
Dr. B: All right, so-
Kimberly: In a nutshell.
Dr. B: When I told my dad that I was eating plant-based, his fear was, “Well, Will, where are you going to get your protein from?”
Kimberly: Exactly. My parents too initially.
Dr. B: And yet we live in a country where, as a medical doctor, aside from a person who is either in a nursing facility or has cancer, I never see protein deficiency, never, right?
Dr. B: And the studies show that even as a complete vegan, you get 70% more protein than what your body actually needs.
Kimberly: It’s incredible. 70!
Dr. B: 70%. 70% more than you actually need. So on the flip side, I feel like we should be asking the question, where do you get your fiber from? Because 97% of Americans, 97% are not getting the minimal amount of fiber, and what I’m telling you is that fiber has healing effects through your gut microbiome that translate throughout the entire body. It affects your immune system, your brain, your hormonal balance, your metabolism, and obviously your digestion.
Dr. B: So we need to start thinking about this.
Kimberly: Well, I have to say, Dr. B, thank you so much. I could talk to you all day. I have to say that I read a lot of, and I have read hundreds and hundreds of different nutrition books, but your book… And you’re obviously so personable and easy to talk to, and you really do put a fresh spin on things, and I really do love your book. Beauties, again, it’s called Fiber Fueled: The Plant-Based Gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome. It’s not only informative, but I feel like it’s an easy read, Dr. B, which says a lot about your energy coming through.
Kimberly: I think you’re a really positive, beautiful person, and it’s not a dry doctor’s book. Sometimes I try to talk about these books, and people are like, “It’s so boring. I could never read this.” I actually learned a lot from this book, and I think it’s a really… It’s a book everybody should read. So we’re going to link to it directly in the show notes, beauties. Again, it’s called Fiber Fueled by Dr. B, also known as Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, MD, on sale May 12th. Thank you so much, Doctor, and congratulations on the book.
Dr. B: Kimberly, thank you. It was an honor to come on the show. I kind of feel like you’re my sister almost, which is kind of weird.
Kimberly: I know. I feel like we’re-
Dr. B: It’s kind of weird. You know what I’m thinking it is? All right, I hope you don’t mind me saying this. I didn’t realize that you were half Filipino. My best friend as a kid was Filipino.
Kimberly: Oh, wow!
Dr. B: So I feel like I’m hanging out with my best friend’s older sister right now.
Kimberly: Oh, my God. That’s what it is.
Dr. B: Yeah.
Kimberly: Yeah. I’m mixed, but I feel very connected to the Asian side. My father is Caucasian with blue eyes, but that’s amazing.
Dr. B: Yeah. No, that’s really cool. So anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for having me on the show. And to the beauties and one last address to the beauties, I just want to thank you guys. And what I wanted to say is that we live in this time where it’s kind of crazy when it comes to misinformation.
Dr. B: I feel like it’s actually kind of stressful to try to figure out what’s real and what is not for people.
Kimberly: Very stressful.
Dr. B: Yeah. And trying to get rid of the noise so that we can find sources… Like, high-quality sources is really important. So I say that because I feel like we all have a responsibility or we should all think about, when you find something that is legitimate, when you find something that you believe in, you should celebrate it, and you should lift it up so that others can find that source too. And I say that because if you’ve enjoyed this podcast with us, like I’ve enjoyed this conversation with you, Kimberly… If you guys, the beauties, have enjoyed this podcast, share it. Share it, and that way we can get the word out, and we can celebrate high-quality information.
Dr. B: And the same is true for my book. If you guys read my book, and I hope that you do, if you read my book and you love it, share it. Tell your friends, because my book… The reason why I’m so passionate about sharing this book is that I had to write this book. I was so compelled.
Kimberly: I feel it.
Dr. B: Yeah. I was a man on a mission. But the book is nothing if it sits on a shelf. The book is nothing if no one reads it, so it has to get out there. People need to read this book because I really think it can help them.
Kimberly: I 100% agree. I get sent a lot of books, Dr. B. I get pitched a lot of books for this podcast, and I always feel the energy of what’s going on. It’s the Yogic side of me coming out. Of course, a lot of people have great information, but there is a very strong energy in the book of just your authenticity and how much this can help people. And it’s written in a way that’s very accessible. It’s very informative, and it’s just very doable. So I do agree that it should be shared, and hopefully you could also share this podcast because I do think it’s great for people to hear from you, Dr. B. I had no idea what you looked like or how old you were. Sometimes we have doctors come on that are in their 80s. Sometimes we have young doctors such as yourself.
Dr. B: I’m actually 95, but a plant-based diet has done wonderful things for me.
Kimberly: So we will link to all of Dr. B’s information, Beauties, as well. Thank you so much, Dr. B. I learned a lot, and I’m going to keep reading the parts of the book that I have not. This has really inspired me to go through. There’s so much information here. So sending you lots of love. Thank you for writing the book.
Dr. B: Sending you love too, and I wish you well with the baby and to a safe, beautiful pregnancy and delivery and to this little special boy coming soon.
Kimberly: Thank you. Another plant-based baby coming into the world. Beauties, thank you so much for tuning in. Sending you guys love. Check out the show notes over at mysolluna.com, and we will be back here Thursday for our next Q&A podcast as well.