Dr. Will Bulsiewicz On How To Develop And Optimize A Healthy Gut Microbiome

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Dr. Will Bulsiewicz On How To Develop And Optimize A Healthy Gut Microbiome
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“The number one predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is diversity of plants.”
— Will Bulsiewicz

Greetings, SuperFriends!

Today I'm really excited to be joined by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz – very hard to pronounce, but very interesting to listen to. Dr. Bulsiewicz is an MD, MSCI, board-certified, award-winning gastroenterologist.

Yes, there are awards. In gastroenterology. That was one of many, many things that I learned in today's episode. Dr. 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 ribeye 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 and has spent over a decade trying to help people improve their health.

His latest book is called Fiber Fueled, and is coming out on May 12th, 2020. If you want to check it out and read more, you can follow him on Instagram. His handle is @theguthealthmd, if I'm not mistaken.

So, why did I so enjoy this episode? Well, first off, it's always fun to talk about poop, right?

But more than that, we discovered some of the misconceptions around just how much influence you have over your gut health and how much influence that has over your overall health. I learned some very, very surprising things about just how impactful improving your gut health will be in the overall picture of your SuperHuman health.

And, I learned some interesting stuff around what it takes to actually have a healthy microbiome. Guess what? It does not involve buying pills, potions, or products. It involves a very specific diet that you will learn about throughout this episode. So I really enjoyed talking to Dr. Bulsiewicz and I know that you will as well.

-Jonathan Levi

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • Who is Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, what does he do, and how did he get here? [4:15]
  • What aspects of our health really affect our well-being, beyond genetics? [9:30]
  • How important is the microbiome to our health? [13:05]
  • How genetics are expressed differently based on our lifestyle [16:20]
  • How much control do we have over our microbiome, and what can we do? [20:50]
  • What changes could we make to our nutrition to improve our gut health? [30:20]
  • How you implement a diet is more important that what it is [39:00]
  • Is over-sanitizing our food a good practice? [44:00]
  • What is Dr. Bulsiewicz's take on probiotics? [46:00]
  • Where can you learn more about Dr. Will Bulsiewicz? [51:00]

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Favorite Quotes from Will Bulsiewicz:

“You already are SuperHuman.”


Welcome to the award-winning SuperHuman Academy podcast where we interview extraordinary people to give you the skills and strategies to overcome the impossible. And now here’s your host, Jonathan Levi.

Jonathan Levi: Hey, listen up and don't skip over this. Before we get started, I want to let you know that I am giving away completely free copies of my latest best selling book – The Only Skill That Matters. This book is going to teach you how to upgrade your memory, read faster, learn more, and conquer your dreams, and it contains all new content written for 2020. Now again, I am giving away completely free copies of this book, all you need to do is pay shipping and handling. So to pick up your free copy as a listener of this podcast, visit freelearningbook.com, that's freelearningbook.com.

Greetings super friends! And welcome, welcome, welcome to this week's episode of the SuperHuman Academy Podcast. Listen, today I'm really excited to be joined by Dr. Will Bulsiewicz – very hard to pronounce, but very interesting to listen to. He’s an MD, MSCI, board-certified, award-winning gastroenterologist.

Yes, there are awards. In gastroenterology. That was one of many, many things that I learned in today's episode. Dr. B is a graduate of Georgetown and he was chief medical resident at Northwestern and gastroenterology division at the University at North Carolina Hospital. He won the highest award given in both his residency and fellowship.

He is a former junk-food junkie and ribeye steak lover who 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 amazing results. He has spent 8 years of formal research training and over a decade trying to help people improve their health.

His latest book is called Fiber Fueled, and is coming out on May 12th, 2020. If you want to check it out and read more, you can follow him on Instagram. His handle is @theguthealthmd, if I'm not mistaken.

And why did I so enjoy this episode? Well, first off, it's always fun to talk about poop, right? But more than that, we discovered some of the misconceptions around just how much influence you have over your gut health and how much influence that has over your overall health. I learned some very, very surprising things about just how impactful improving your gut health will be in the overall picture of your SuperHuman health.

And, I learned some interesting stuff around what it takes to actually have a healthy microbiome. Guess what? It does not involve buying pills, potions, or products. It involves a very specific diet that you will learn about throughout this episode. So I really enjoyed talking to Dr. Bulsiewicz and I know that you will as well.

So without any further adieu, Dr. Will Bulsiewicz… Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, welcome to the show my friend! How are you?

Will Bulsiewicz: I'm great. Jonathan, thank you so much for having me on, man. This is, um, this is kind of surreal for me. It's like a, it's a great privilege for me because, you know, I think we're going to probably talk about my origin story a little bit.

And it's funny enough that like, as part of my origin story, you know, five, six years ago I was, I was listening to this show specifically in the car a lot. And there were many episodes that I listened to that, that, you know, really kind of inspired me on my own health journey. And now here we are, and it's kind of insane for me to imagine that I'm the one being interviewed because so many times I've listened to you interviewing.

You know, people I really admire. So it's 

Jonathan Levi: all so cool. I am completely honored and touched by that. And it really shows the ripple effect. You know, you never know which episode is going to impact which person. And that is, that is absolutely so cool. So for let's, let's, let's do the whole thing. Who. Who are you and what do you do?

I mean, I know, but our audience doesn't yet know. And who knows if they had a chance to read the episode description. So tell us a little bit about who you are and what your passion is and, and, uh, how you help make humanity a little more super human. 

Will Bulsiewicz: Yeah. Oh, well, my name is Willville Switz. I am a board certified gastroenterologist, the stomach and intestines specialist.

I'm also board certified in internal medicine practice in the United States in Charleston, South Carolina. I'm a. Fully functioning, practicing doctor. I have patients I'm going to start seeing in about an hour here. And, um, but I also am deeply passionate about, you know, trying to find solutions for people.

And. Um, identifying where like the root cause of problems exist. So it's just not adequate from my perspective to, to see a patient and prescribe a pill or a procedure and, you know, and from my perspective, fully know that that's just a patch and you're not really getting to the root of the problem. So for me, this journey started a few years ago, and you know, I guess the bottom line is that.

I was able to radically transform my own health. I lost 50 pounds. I improved anxiety issues. I, um, I got my blood pressure under control. I am encroaching on 40 years old and I feel younger than I did when I was 30. Um, I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life right now. You know, when most people are like having a midlife crisis and, um.

And I brought these, I brought these, these things that I discovered into my practice and I started using this, these ideas to heal my patients and with remarkable, like remarkable striking results to the point that I was so moved by everything that I felt compelled to share it more broadly. And like I was never a social media person.

I've literally posted on Facebook like two times a year. And three years ago felt compelled to open up a social media account. And now I have this Instagram account with 75,000 followers, and I have a book coming out called fiber fuels that I'm, I am, you know, I mean, truly, this is just, just my passion just weighed out in words.

Um, and something that I really, truly believe is going to help a lot of people, and it all comes back to gut health. No, that's the bottom line. Uh, that's, that's my area of expertise and focus. And if you're asking me the question, so how do we make people a little more SuperHuman? Here's where I would start.

You already are like, you already are. You're, believe it or not, this is actually the completely appropriate term. We, we each are super organisms. And the reason why is because we don't live in isolation by ourselves. You're not sterile. Um, you have 39 trillion microbes that are a part of who you are. And you know, people always love to talk about evolutionary biology.

I find that fascinating myself. And if you think about human evolution, 3 million years of human evolution. There's never been a moment in human history where the microbes weren't a part of our story. We wrote, we fell together, and as a result of that partnership that we've forged through 3 million years of evolution, now we have a situation where it's 2020.

And we, we depend so deeply on our microbiome for, uh, our body to function the way that really it's supposed to. And so it's something that we need to be conscious of and we need to nurture. And if you are someone, you know for your listeners at home, if you're someone who cares about health at all.

Whether it's a medical issue that you're trying to reverse incorrect or whether it's that you are healthy and you want to stay healthy and continue to live that way and have quality of life as you age. This is something that you should really be paying attention to because I feel like, and most scientists actually would agree with me, that health starts in the gut, and the reason why is the relationship with our microbiome, these microbes.


Jonathan Levi: I mean, I feel like in all the work that I've done in all the folks that I've just kind of briefly touched upon the subject with, I feel like it's one of those frontiers that. We don't know a lot about yet relative to what we're going to know, but it's kind of like genetics in the fifties and 


Will Bulsiewicz: where we were 

Jonathan Levi: just starting to figure out like, Whoa, this has way more of an impact on us than we think and it, and because it's counterintuitive, right?

It's like, okay, well, you know, I have some different gut bacteria than you do, and so therefore. Maybe my body would like different foods. But what we don't realize is, and, and we're coming to realize, and I'm sure we can talk more about this, is that so many different conditions, including depression and add and obesity, they're all so intimately intertwined with what is happening in your gut.

Would you say that's true? 

Will Bulsiewicz: 100% and I would love to, I would love to take a deeper dive into some of those specific categories, but before we go there, there's, you sort of have touched on so many things that I, that, that really, you know, um, I want to discuss, which is that, you know, start with genetics. So you're right.

So we, we discovered DNA. You know, back about 70 years ago and, um, started to study it and we thought that this was like manifest destiny, that by studying human genetics that we would be able to predict and potentially reverse or prevent virtually all diseases. And if you go back about 20 years ago, um, that's when they, for the first time, unlocked the complete human genetic code.

And it was a huge deal. Um, the president of the United States at the time was bill Clinton, and it's not often that you see a president call a huge press conference for a scientific discovery. Like, you know, when they do that, it basically means we think we just cure cancer or something of that variety.

And so bill Clinton calls this press conference and he has representatives from people from around the world, literally, who are there with him standing at the podium. And he has these scientists with them and they're speaking is if you know, this was like the greatest discovery ever. And the problem is, here we are and it's 20 years later, and, um, we have not cured cancer.

And why is it, why is it that the genes that we carry as humans have proven to be not quite as valuable in terms of predicting, reversing, preventing medical issues, um, as we, as we thought they would be? Well, there was a scientist at the time who. Who wrote a letter to the journal science and he said, if we're going to talk about human health, we have to include the microbes too.

And he's a hundred percent correct because what's interesting is that you and I, Jonathan, are 99.9% the same in terms of our human DNA. 99.9% the same, but yet, in terms of our microbes. We could be, we could be a hundred percent different. We can literally be a hundred percent different in terms of our microbes.

And when it comes to the genetic code that we carry, the microbes actually make up 99.5% of our DNA. So if you're looking at your DNA, you are less than 1% human. Wow. 

Jonathan Levi: Isn't that incredible? I mean, on a Rob basis and in terms of also just the, the number of cells, it blows my mind 

Will Bulsiewicz: in terms of cells, you know, there's 39 trillion microbes, which is a number that's really difficult for the human mind to fathom.

I mean, that would basically be, if you could see literally every single star in the Milky way, our source system. If you could see literally every star, take that and take a hundred Milky ways. And that's still not 39 trillion microbes. That's how many there are. It's absolutely insane. And they clearly outnumber our human cells.

So in terms of cells, you know, I mean ICU, you see me, we're human. We can't see these microbes. So it's very hard for us to wrap our mind around them. But they're there and they outnumber our human cells. And some estimates, like at a minimum, it's more than 50% that we are microbial at a minimum. Isn't 

Jonathan Levi: that wild?

So I mean, but surely it's not the case that, or maybe it is, you tell me, right? Like is it the case? This is such a generic kind of layman question, but I intentionally want to ask it in this way. Do you think that because of that, because there. There's so much more microbial activity going on, then there is our own cells and our own DNA.

Would you go so far as to say that our microbe has, or our microbiome, sorry, has more of an influence on our health outcomes than our actual DNA? Or can we safely say that yet? 

Will Bulsiewicz: So, uh, I think we can, I mean, I think we can. So let me, when we first frame the answer to the question, because, um. I want to make sure people fully understand there are some genetic conditions which are, which are 100% reproducible, where if you have the gene, you have the condition, right?

So what I'm talking about are, for example, down syndrome or cystic fibrosis where there's a clear cut gene, you check it. If the person has that, that's what they're going to have. Okay? So in those cases, it's a hundred percent that if you have the gene, you have the condition. But if we take, if we zoom out for a moment.

We look at all disease, all disease, 100% of what? Of what constrict and human being our current estimates are. That just 20% of disease is genetically motivated. And when we think about, you know, our top killers, when we think about, um, heart disease, cancer, stroke. Diabetes, you know, go down the mine and we're, if we're talking about our top killers, I'm sure you've noticed there's no gene tests that will tell you whether or not you're going to get heart disease or whether you're can get cancer.

Right? And that's because it's the other 80% that matters. And that other 80% you could call it the environmental influence. So what is the environmental influence? It's our diet, sort of lifestyle. It's the, it's the way that we live. And so, you know, some, some might say, Oh, well I'm 80% gosh, you know, that's a lot of heart disease.

That's a lot of cancer. The flip side of that is, to me, I say that's empowering. That's empowering you. You are not the victim. Of your genetics in the vast majority of cases, you are not the victim of your genetics. You do have predispositions to certain conditions, but at the end of the day, it's the diet and the lifestyle that ultimately is going to determine.

The manifestation of disease, and that doesn't, that's not to like point blame at people who do ultimately manifest disease or say that they've made poor choices. We live in a time where there are cultural norms. We have normalized things that are very abnormal. I'm sure you would agree with you. 

Jonathan Levi: Yeah. 

Will Bulsiewicz: So, yeah, so, so I actually find that to be empowering, but 80% of conditions we, we believe, come back to diet and lifestyle.

And this is where the microbiome plays a critical role because it's so deeply embedded in human health. 

Jonathan Levi: I mean, this is the idea behind epigenetics, right? Is that we have these genetics, but in order to get them to express a certain way or not express a certain way, it really is in our hands. 

Will Bulsiewicz: It's, it's in our hands, or you could argue that it's in our microbial hands, you know, in, in the, in the hands of you single cellular organisms.

Um, now let me give you an example. Uh, let's talk about celiac disease for a moment. So celiac disease is a condition. Where the immune system reacts in a way that it should not. And what it's reacting to specifically is gluten, which is a protein found in specific grains, wheat, barley, and rye. Most people have probably heard of gluten because for the last basically 10 years, people have been vilifying it and you know, turning it into, um, the scariest thing out there and food.

But anyway. People that have celiac disease, they can't, they cannot consume gluten because when they do, their immune system goes on the attack and it tears up their intestine creates chronic inflammation. If they continue to consume gluten, even if they don't have symptoms, even if they're able to live that way, they put themselves, they put themselves at risk for developing cancer.

So the question is, where does celiac disease come from? Because we have seen a 500% increase. In the last 50 years, 500% human genetics do not change that quickly in 50 years. Celiac disease is a genetic condition. If you don't have the gene, you cannot have the disease, but one in three people carry the gene for celiac.

It's not rare. It's extremely common. And so how do we determine who are the people who actually get celiac versus the people who do not? Um, if you have the gene, just to put this into perspective, if you have the gene, there is a 97% chance that you do not have celiac disease. So do you know if you do not only 3% of people, yeah.

Only 3% of people that have the gene will manifest the disease. But again. The condition 500% increase in 50 years. Like that's insane. I had a day, I'm not exaggerating, like six weeks ago, I had a day where I diagnosed three cases of celiac on the same day. Hmm. What are the chances? So. Anyway. The question that as scientists have been asking for years, and we only recently have figured out, is how do you explain this?

What, what's up with the increase when this is a genetic condition and there is a researcher in Ontario, Canada, her name is Elena Verdu, who has laid out the pathway to developing celiac disease. There are three criteria, three steps to developing celiac disease. Number one, you need to have the gene. If you don't have the gene, you cannot have celiac disease.

Boom. Done. Number two, you need to be exposed to gluten. That is everyone in the industrialized world, right? Everyone, everyone in Israel, everyone in the United States, everyone in Europe. Number three, this is the critical factor. It is damage to the gut microbiome. That activates the gene for celiac disease.

The word that we use is dysbiosis. Dysbiosis means a loss of balance within the microbiome, and when you get dysbiosis. All of a sudden you manifest or activate this gene for celiac disease, and this is why some people that I've seen in my clinic, they'll go, you know, they'll be in Mexico on vacation.

They'll get sick, get Traveler's diarrhea, come home. The Traveler's diarrhea clearly has gone away. It's been a few weeks later. The diarrhea persists. And I do an endoscopy, I biopsy of their intestine and I discover that they have celiac disease. The injury that occurred as the result of that infection manifested the condition.

So that's just an example of the power. You know, that's just one of the, of the. What I would describe as six things that the microbiome specifically does for us. One is that it regulates our genes, and that is incredibly powerful. Isn't 

Jonathan Levi: that incredible? So I guess, I mean, I, we, we've already come up through about half our time.

So I do want to ask, how much control do we have over this? I mean, let's assume by the time most people are listening to this, they've been fed whatever their parents thought was the right thing for them to eat. And so, you know, we're all in this situation where we may not have the best microbiome.

Hopefully our parents raised us on lots of fruits and vegetables, but. Short of, you know, doing a, a transplant, you know, I, I always forget what the medical term for it is, but actually having someone else's poop transferred into your intestines. What can we do from a day to day perspective to improve. Our gut microbiome, cause I know it's tricky, right?

I mean, the, these are bacteria that are pretty rugged. I mean, after all, they live in a pretty shitty environment. One could say, and they're, they're rugged and they're stubborn. And also they make us crave certain foods, uh, which is why they perpetuate themselves. So what can we practically do on a day to day basis to actually improve our gut by them?

Or do we start by first diagnosing? What are. Got biome is 

Will Bulsiewicz: so, so today, uh, you know, um, to date there is no tests that I would say has been clinically validated for the purpose of studying the microbiome and then knowing how to modify it. That's the future. That's the future. So when we, when we jumped off the top of this episode, you said, we're just starting to get to know what's going on here, and I completely agree with you, but here's what we do know.

We do know that you can modify your gut microbiome very quickly, very quickly with diet and lifestyle. Diet appears to be the number one driver of the microbiome and it makes complete sense because the vast majority of the microbes with inside of your colon and they are as alive as you. And I. Okay.

They may not have lungs. They may only be one cell. We ne, we may not be able to see them, but they are as alive as you and I. And what that means is that they need energy and their energy comes from the food choices that you make. And there are many different species of microbes. You know, each one of us could have certainly hundreds of species, potentially over a thousand different species of microbes living inside of our colon.

And the food choices that we make will empower specific groups of microbes. So what we have seen in our studies, uh, I'll give you an example there. One of the major game changing studies was published in the journal nature. Number one journal in the world by a scientist. His name was Warren's David. Also on this study was Peter Turnball.

These are, these are legends of the microbiome research space published in 2014 and what they did was they, they, they ask the question, can we alter a person's microbiome with their diet? Right now, we had seen in animal model studies for many years prior to this that it was that you could do this in an animal, but the problem is, you know, in a mouse, for example.

But the problem is that those studies don't necessarily translate to us humans. So we needed to actually prove in humans that you could do this. And so they fed people a radically different diet. They did five days of a completely 100% plant based diet. 100% fruits, vegetables, whole green seeds, nuts, legumes, and then they flipped them over and they did five days of a 100% animal product, diet, no fruits, vegetables, 100% meat, dairy, eggs.

That's it. So that essentially, you know, they weren't trying to get involved in like diet Wars and people fighting over veganism versus carnival or that kind of thing. They're just trying to study science and, and, and answer really important questions. And. What was fascinating is that regardless of which diet you chose in less than 24 eight in less than 24 hours, there were radical changes, radical changes to the gut microbiome, and less than 24 hours.

So in other words, your, your gut is adapting to your dietary choices in real time. Okay. So it's not even Jonathan. Honestly, it's not even 24 hours. 24 hours is how often they were checking. They were checking once a day. So that's what they noticed is boom. The first day that we checked, there's already a difference.

I would contend that the dietary choices that you, that you make are, are, are affecting your gut and altering it in real time. Every single food choice that you make is going to have an effect. Certain microbes are going to rise, are the ones that are going to starve or are going to fall off as a result of the foods that you choose.

So, and in this study, when people consumed the plant based diet, they saw the rise of these anti-inflammatory microbes, the same type of microbes that you would potentially put encapsulate into a probiotic. These microbes were, um, uh, able to produce what's called short chain fatty acids, which I am completely obsessed with.

I think in all of nutrition, this is the thing, the thing that we should be talking about more. And we're not short chain fatty acids, which have healing effects throughout the entire body, all the way up to the brain, all the way down to the gut. Um, so they saw these anti-inflammatory microbes capable of producing more short chain fatty acids when people ate the plant based diet.

And on the flip side, what I would characterize as in in disturbing fashion, be completely animal product based diet. In less than five days, they were already seeing the rise of what we would describe as pathogenic microbes. Microbes, yeah. Including one in particular that's called , and this particular microbe biofilm Wadsworth.

Yet they were like kind of taken aback when they saw that this was rising in Western five days because it's been in numerous studies associated with inflammatory bowel disease. So, Hmm. You know, I'm not saying that five days on a diet like that is going to cause people to actually manifest inflammatory bowel disease.

But going back to our celiac disease conversation, if you take a person with a genetic predisposition and you alter their microbiome in a certain way. You will manifest the disease. And we do see the rise of inflammatory bowel disease throughout the world. I mean, it's far more common today than it was 50 years ago.

And we see in, you know, for example, in third world countries as they industrialize, take Brazil, for example, through the nineties and Brazil, inflammatory bowel disease was increasing on a yearly basis, on a yearly basis by more than 10%. By more than 10% every single year, more than 10% more cases than the prior years.

And it has to do with industrialization. It has to do with the changes that occur to our microbiome, but it also has to do with adopting a Western diet where, you know, I'll speak for my own country in the United States, we eat more meat than any country in the world. And so, you know, and. Let's kind of step back for a moment and reframe this study.

You know, the question was, can we change our microbiome? The answer is yes. And the, the thing that people listening at home need to ask is, what do you want your microbiome to look like? Because the dietary choices that you make, I'm going to see them in your microbiome. Show me your microbiome. I'll tell you what you're eating.

Show me what you're eating, and I'm going to tell you what it's going to do to your microbiome. And so you need to ask the question, what do you want it to look like? And what I know is this, in the United States right now, the average diet is 60% processed food and, and more than 25% and will products, um, in some estimates, 30% animal products and 10 at the most, 15%.

Whole plant foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, the type of stuff that gives us those anti-inflammatory microbes. This the type of stuff that's capable of allowing our gut to produce the short chain fatty acids that I'm telling you are so incredible from a human perspective, but that you can only get from dietary fiber.

Jonathan Levi: Alright, at this point I want to take a quick break to let you know about an awesome deal that we've worked out with this episode's sponsor – Natural Stacks. Natural stacks is the maker of a series of all natural, transparent lab tested and verified formulas that are proven to help you alter your state of mind and your brain chemistry for the better. Whether that means improving your focus, improving your mental clarity, improving your mood, or just improving your sleep. They have a product for whatever state of mind you want to be in and you can get there naturally and safely. 


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Alright, let's get back to the episode. 

So if I'm understanding correctly, we've so far covered, you know, there isn't a test out there that consumers should really be doing that's going to give us recommendations.

Uh, you know, of what to do and, and I did want to ask you, and we can come back to it. You know, you buy 'em via them, how you feel about these tests if they're even worth the effort, but also that doesn't matter. Because you're saying you can make positive changes very, very quickly, and a big part of that, obviously, if I'm understanding correctly, is cutting out all the processed junk.

I don't think there's any surprises there, but it's also to judge from your upcoming book. It's adding in more fiber to our diets and not necessarily cutting out meat, but just decreasing the processed foods and replacing them with fibrous fruits and vegetables. How am I doing so far? 

Will Bulsiewicz: I think you're doing really well and so, and I think you know.

The weight of the evidence from my perspective. Let me, let me throw one more study into the mix for our consideration, which is that the largest study to date, this was an international study. It's called the American gut project, but it included people from the industrial world around the world, the largest study to date, to allow us to correlate a person's gut microbiome to their diet and lifestyle habits.

They asked the question. It's really simple and they allowed the, you know, essentially the data to do the talking. What is the single greatest predictor of a healthy gut microbiome? What is the, what is the one thing, if you could do one thing to, to, to allow yourself to have a healthy gut, what would it be?

And what they found was that jumping out, like off the charts, out of the study, the number one predictor of a healthy gut. Was the diversity of plants in your diet. And the point is that each one of these plants has a unique profile that includes different types of fiber. Like we, we make fiber sound very generic, like fiber is fiber.

That's not the way that it works in nature. Every single plant has unique forms of fiber and you know, other, other, um, elements to the plants like polyphenols and phytochemicals and things of that variety. And each one of them is going to support a specific, specific family of microbes. So when we have that dietary diversity, it allows us to have diversity within our own gut microbiome.

And diversity within any ecosystem is health. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about the Amazon rainforest or your own personal gut, which is an ecosystem. Diversity within an ecosystem is health. So what I'm saying. Is that our current diet, it's no surprise that we are stricken with disease with our current diet that is just 10 to 15% plant based.

It's no surprise. What I'm saying is that we need to be on a predominantly plant based diet and there's a lot of different ways that you can manifest that. Let me first say like I don't use the word vegan to duct to, to describe a diet. The veganism to me is an ethic. It means that you are choosing to not consume animal products and you could have a horrible diet that's a vegan diet that's predominantly junk food, and I know plenty of people who eat that way.

That's not a healthy diet. What I'm saying is that a healthy diet. Is predominantly plants and you get to choose what you want to do outside of, you know, consuming a diversity of plants, whether you choose to be 70% 80% 90% or a hundred percent plant-based. To me, it's a move in the right direction, particularly considering that most of us statistically are nowhere near where we need to be when it comes to these ideas.

Jonathan Levi: Yeah. Now, but at the same time, I did notice first you said predominantly because you also said people going on a strictly plant based diet did get all kinds of these, 

Will Bulsiewicz: uh, 

Jonathan Levi: nasty biome, uh, critters, I don't know if you would call them bacteria or fungi or whichever they were, uh, that are, that are denoted with gut disease and inflammation.

So it really is a matter of don't go to either extreme. 

Will Bulsiewicz: Well with the nasty critters, actually, that was more, if we're talking about the 2014 study from nature, that was actually on the completely animal product based diet where the most 

Jonathan Levi: animal, yes, yes. Cutting animals. 

Will Bulsiewicz: No, no, no. That was on the 100% animal product based diet.

Whereas on the flip side, um, the completely plant based diet actually showed that the rise of anti-inflammatory microbes that are actually to our health benefit. So, you know, the way that I feel about it is this, I, I personally am on a 100% plant based diet. It's worked for me. I didn't, I didn't wake up one day and become this.

Um, I didn't also become this for ethical reasons. I, I was trying to take control of my health and as I started to become more progressive, we plant based. I saw the weight naturally, just, you know, disappearing from my body. I was restoring health as I increased plants in my diet. And I actually got to myself to a place and, and let me say like, my favorite foods used to be like hot dogs and cheese steaks and rib-eye.

Like those were my favorite foods. I used to love those things. Um, but in giving them up and moving towards a plant based diet, I, um, I restored my health and I also found what was really exciting is my taste buds came along for the ride. And so for me personally, I was pescatarian for several years, meaning that I consumed fish and still some eggs and dairy.

And, um, I decided to give that up and, uh, just kind of go for it and see what happened. And I lost another 15 pounds almost immediately when I did that. And so, so I definitely felt the benefit and I noticed the energy difference. And, you know. People who choose to try this, you're going to notice the difference.

You know, I think in, in literally one meal because you feel light and you feel energized and you don't feel like you need caffeine to get you through the rest of the day after that, you know, after you eat lunch or something of that variety. But you know, with all that being said, Jonathan, I view this as a journey, right?

So your listeners at home, I'm not telling you that there's only one choice, right? What I'm telling you is that. I want you to think about where you are right now and like taking, do an intake on, you know, where you're at in terms of your diet and say, okay, where are there opportunities for improvement?

And you know, I don't care if you're 10% plant based, like if you're 10% plant based, you're, that's the normal out there. And if you get it to 30% I'm your best friend and I'm your biggest cheerleader. That's the way I feel about it. And if you keep ramping it up, I really truly feel like you're going to find the health benefits are going to continue to increase.

And you know, people like, I don't think that there's some sort of magic threshold for all of us where it's, Hey, we all need to be 100% or we all need to be 90% right? But I do believe that we all need to think about this element of our diet, both, you know, what percent is plant based and also. Perhaps even more important dietary diversity.


Jonathan Levi: right. And I think that's, that's the take home point here, right? Because we have a lot of experts on the show. I'm, I'm very outspokenly a paleo enthusiast, and yet at the same time, even I have come to acknowledge that fact just from the environmental and ethical standpoint that we need to change the quantities.

I mean, paleo just means. Return to natural foods, it doesn't mean Atkins. And, and I've come to realize that, you know, you can do, you can get by with a lot less animal protein. And let's, let's also acknowledge the fact that all these studies are being done with animal protein that is just disgusting from a, from a bacterial perspective, but also from an anti Biotics perspective, from a hormonal perspective.

And so it's like, you know. Given the state of today's animal protein industry. Yeah. It makes a lot of sense that that's going to do a lot of harm here. Microbiome. I recently invested in a, in a VC fund that is working on alternative protein. So what happens if we start, uh. Actually printing or lab producing meat that is free of all these antibiotics, hormones, disgusting bacteria that comes out of a bodily waste.

I think that's really interesting, but I totally hear what you're saying around, I don't think any dietary expert, there's actually only one who advocates the all starch diet, uh, which we have not had him on the show, but. Every dietary expert, every doctor, old school, new school, functional medicine, vegan, they would all agree eating more vegetables than anything else is the absolute best dietary advice that a human being can listen to.

Will Bulsiewicz: Well, and you know, I appreciate you. Um. Sharing that because I think it's a great opportunity to say that there's so much common ground, like this is not, this is not, Hey, there's only one option. Okay. So I think a paleo diet can be an extremely healthy diet and can be even more healthy than many vegan diets when it's appropriately applied.

But the key is this. Let's, let's think about, you know. Our conceptions of a paleo diet or perhaps the way that we implement it in 2020 and let's compare it to the way the people actually did eat during. Um, paleolithic times. Right. And I think for that kind of information, we turn our attention to the modern hunters and gatherers.

And there are tribes of, people have said, we've, they're starting to disappear. But you know, for example, you could look at the Hudson, which are in Tanzania, and they are, they're modern day hunters and gatherers. They, they do not have organized agriculture. And they've done microbiome studies on the Hudson.

Okay. And. It's quite fascinating. Um, they have a far more diverse microbiome than we do, far more diverse microbiome than we do. So, uh, you know, uh, Westerners or, you know, living in the industrialized world. We have anywhere from 300 to a thousand species. And the reason I bring up this species count is that diversity is really important.

And when you lose diversity, that's when we see disease show up. And so we have 300 to a thousand and if you look at the Hudson, they're more like in the 1500 or 1600 range. And that's a disturbing difference because that means that we have already lost. Hundreds and hundreds of species of microbes that were a part of our world.

Yeah. And no longer are. And what happens when we start losing species? What that means is that our gut is not quite as healthy. So. You know, the Hudson, the last thing that I would say is that, so they have this diversity and they are not, they're not vegan. Okay. Um, but they also are not predominant. We, you know, uh, animal product based.

They're predominantly plant based. So look at, you know, in the United States we average, I mean, it's actually, to me, perhaps the most disturbing thing that we've talked about in the United States, the average fiber consumption is about 15 grams per day. If you look at the Hudson, they're well North of a hundred grams of fiber per day, well, North of a hundred grams of fiber per day.

And then we have said dietary diversity. Okay, so dietary diversity. Is really critically important in the Western world. Most of us are query less than 50 total species of plants in our diet. Query Westland 50. When they look at the HUD's, uh, they noticed that they consumed 600 different species of plants.

Yep. So in order for us to take these ideas, like I think the Palio idea. There's, there's complete merit to the idea of a return to our origin diet. I would, I would, I would dispute that we are healthier by the eliminating legumes and whole grains. That's a different conversation than we probably don't have time for sure.

All right. Um, you know, I feel like that's limiting your dietary diversity when you take those things out of your diet. But the point is this, you, Jonathan can eat Palio and you can implement the ideas that I'm describing to you today. It'd be predominantly plant based and emphasize dietary diversity within your paleolithic diet.

And that's, that's an incredibly healthy diet and it's going to work really well for you, I'm sure. 

Jonathan Levi: Yup. Yeah, absolutely. Now, I do have some questions for you, dr B, that I, that I've been dying to ask, uh, around. Microbiome first one being the role of, uh, not over sanitizing your environment and food. I mean, I know we need bacteria and some people scrubbed their food.

You know, is that an important factor in this as well? Should we be intentionally allowing some, for lack of a better word, contamination into our diet to help populate the gut microbiome. 

Will Bulsiewicz: I think the answer is so queer to this, and that is that every single culture in human history had fermented food as a celebrated part of their food tradition.

Every single one. And you know, particularly in the United States, we, we gave it up. And instead what we replaced it with, you know, we took living food. And we replaced it with processed food. Processed food is where you take something that is originally healthy and you then start to alter it with chemicals.

And at some point it crosses the mind very quickly into becoming completely unhealthy. And the question is, what is a preservative? What is a preservative? 

Jonathan Levi: Something that prevents bacteria from completely, you know, destroying the food. 

Will Bulsiewicz: 100% food decomposition. When, when you know, when food is allowed to take its natural course, there's a circle of life that exists, you know, and there's a window of opportunity.

Think about an avocado, very narrow, very narrow window of opportunity where you can actually consume the food. And then it crosses that line where it's no longer meant for human consumption. And now what it's doing is it's moving. Because of the microbes moving towards turning into something that's organic matter that can help to promote healthy soil.

Right. And so, and we are trying to disrupt that natural cycle that exists with our modern food system. 

Jonathan Levi: Right. Yeah, absolutely. I think that makes a ton of sense. How about probiotics? You did mention probiotics recently. I was at a gastroenterologist and she said. Absolutely. BS makes no sense to take probiotics.

What's your stance on it? 

Will Bulsiewicz: Well, I think the two categorically, so I think that there is a granular conversation that needs to exist and it's so to like categorically say that they're the best is, is not true, and to categorically say that they're worthless and BS. Where we not be true either. When there are, you know, randomized placebo controlled studies that show people benefiting from them.

So it's hard for me to say that there's no value to probiotics, but I think the way that I think about them is this, let's pretend hypothetically that you're in my clinic. Jonathan, you're my patient. Okay. To me, I want to start with getting at the root cause of the problem, and that starts with diet and lifestyle.

So I want to have a conversation about what we can do from a dietary perspective or with your lifestyle to try to get things working the way that they're supposed to. You can't take a person who has a C plus microbiome as a result of their diet and lifestyle and turn it into an a minus with a probiotic.

You can't do that, right? You can take the C plus, and maybe if you're lucky, you turned it into a B minus. So you're only getting a little bit of wiggle with the probiotics. After pill, there's no magic pill. And so even though we want it, you know, even though we want it and it's so sexy, um, it doesn't work that way.

After dynam lifestyle, the first thing that I would consider would be actually pre biotic, uh, pre P R E biotic, which is essentially soluble fiber. Soluble fiber allows us to feed an energize the healthy microbes that live inside of you. We are selecting for the right antiinflammatory microbes. And then what happens is they reward us by taking that fiber and transforming it into short chain fatty acids that have healing effects throughout the entire body.

And I wrote an entire chapter about short chain fatty acids, my book, because I'm so obsessed with them. So that would be number two. And the reason why it's number two for me. Is because it doesn't matter who you are. It could be, you could be me, we could have radically different, radically different microbiome, but the, the effect that you're going to get from the prebiotic is going to be beneficial to both of us because we are selecting for healthy microbes.

I would make probiotics number three. All right, so in my hierarchy there, number three, and the reason why I make them number three is this, Jonathan, you and your listeners at home right now. Every single one of us has a completely unique microbiome. There's literally no one on the planet, not even your mom who has the same microbiome as you.

It could be your fingerprint. And so to take a generic capsule with a standard formulation and drop it into your completely unique gut microbiome, we're crossing our fingers at best and hoping that there's biochemistry that results in a benefit. Now, probiotics are very safe. There are literally millions of people across the planet taking them on a daily basis, and it's quite hard to dig up.

Dirt to say that people are being hurt by probiotics. There are some things or specific scenarios that exist. They're very safe. But the question is, are they worth the dollar? Are they worth the money that you spent? And at the end of the day, what are you trying to treat? And just recognize that where we stand.

So like the future of probiotics is really exciting because personalized probiotics will happen in the future. But it has to be done properly. It's we're not there yet. There are people claiming that they have it. They don't have it all right. Personalized probiotics is going to be the future, but where we stand right now is it's trial and error.

If you try it and you feel better, then stick with it. If you try it and it does nothing, stop wasting your money. 

Jonathan Levi: That's sound advice. And which prebiotic do you like? Are there any on the market that you recommend. 

Will Bulsiewicz: So I, I, I, what I would say is this, the number one predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is diversity of plants.

I also believe in diversity of prebiotics. That doesn't mean that you should buy 10 of them and do them all at once. Um, but I am not someone who would say that categorically. There's one, I'll give you a list. There's a whole bunch. Um. So Acacia powder, wheat, dextrin, beta glucan, uh, partially hydrolyzed guar gum.

Uh, let's see. Glucomannan there's one prebiotic that is the most well studied. It's called . You'll find anyone, like when people say that Jerusalem artichokes or, uh, garlic or leaks or asparagus, when they say that those are prebiotic foods, what they're referring to is that they contain anyone. Um, anyone is healthy.

It is prebiotic, but when you take it as a supplement in concentrated form, it is extremely gas producing. I don't encourage people to choose that one. But beyond that, I feel like there's multiple choices and what you do is no matter what, when you choose one, you start Whoa and you go slow. So you may start with just a half of a teaspoon or a teaspoon and then you ramp up over time.


Jonathan Levi: advice? Once again, dr B, I know we've pretty much come up on time here. I do want to give you an opportunity to let folks know where they can reach out and learn more about you and check out of course, your new book. 

Will Bulsiewicz: Fiber fuels. Yep. So my book is called fiber fuel that's available on Amazon, Barnes and noble.

Um, it's launching on May 12th. So depending on when, uh, your podcast is released and may actually already be available, super excited about it. I spent an entire year just completely focused, never been so focused in my entire life. Um, and uh, writing this book and. So I, and I think people are really, really going to enjoy it.

You can also come and join me at my website. The plant fed the plant fed gut.com. Let me say that again because I messed it up. The plant fed gut.com. Um, you can join me there, uh, and sign up for my email list and I have a course that's going to be munching probably either June or July as well. Fantastic.

Jonathan Levi: And you said May 12th the book is coming out 

Will Bulsiewicz: May 12th at launches in the United States, people who are overseas who want to buy it, there are ways that you can buy it. And it's hard for me to know when it will be coming to each individual country. But I, I mean, I'm, I'll tell you, man, I am so excited about this book.

I, um, it's really validating to me because I recently got endorsements for the book and I was actually quite taken aback by how, how excited. The people who were reading the book about it. And these are people who are, you know, I have. Multi New York times bestselling authors who are endorsing my book. I have scientists and sourcing the book.

Yeah. I mean like would you, to mid career microbiome scientists who are, who are saying nice things, and at the same time, the people writing the, you know, diet and health books are also saying nice things. So I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot with 

Jonathan Levi: all that. That's fantastic. So if you are listening to this episode, uh, on the day it comes out, it is coming out May 12th.

Today is May 12th ladies and gentlemen, so please go ahead and check out that book and we will give you a link in the podcast episode at SuperHumanAcademy.com/Podcast for you to check out all the links that dr B has mentioned, and you can discover the mystery of how. He spells his last name doctor both Souix both the wits I think I got at that time.

Thank you so much for coming on the show. It was a pleasure having you and I do hope we keep in touch. 

Will Bulsiewicz: Yes, ma'am. Please keep in touch. As I said, I'm a huge fan of the show and I really appreciate you having me on. 

Jonathan Levi: All right, my friend. Take care. 

Will Bulsiewicz: All right, take care.

Thanks for tuning in to the award winning SuperHuman Academy Podcast. For more great skills and strategies or for links to any of the resources mentioned in this episode, visit SuperHuman.blog. While you're at it, please take a moment to share this episode with a friend and leave us a review on iTunes. We'll see you next week!



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