Harnassing the Power of The Mind Gut Connection – Interview With Dr. Emeran Mayer

While ancient healing traditions have long understood the complexity of the interaction between brain, mind and gut, Western medicine has been slow to depart from it’s mechanistic approach of the human body. But there is a microbiome revolution happening which is embracing a more accurate and complex model of the human body as an ecosystem where our gut microbiota – the trillions of microorganisms that live inside our digestive tract are giving us a whole new appreciation for the complex interplay of Food, Mood, Emotions, Metabolism and more.

In my interview with Dr. Emeran Mayer, professor of medicine and executive director of the UCLA Center for Neurobiology of Stress, he shares how we can harnass the power of the biological link between the mind and the digestive system to take charge of our health.

Dr. Mayer is a gastroenterologist, neuroscientist, and the author of the bestselling Amazon book, The Mind Gut Connection who has been studying this interaction for over forty years.

Learn more about Dr. Mayer at https://emeranmayer.com

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Podcast Transcript

0 (1s):
Welcome to the Soul Science Nutrition Podcast, where you’ll discover that when it comes to your health, you’re so much more powerful than you’ve been led to believe. And now your host, she’s a holistic nutrition and lifestyle coach, chef author, and Yogi, Christine Okezie. Hello,

Christine Okezie (23s):
And welcome to the soul science nutrition podcast. I’m Christina KZ. Thanks so much for tuning in today on today’s special show, we’re going to dive into the gut brain connection. We’re going to learn how to harness the power of that biological link between our mind and our gut to take charge of our health. You see, there is an explosion of research happening now that suggests that restoring our gut health will be one of the key drivers of 21st century medicine. When it comes to optimizing our health, we really can’t overemphasize the importance of a healthy gut Hippocrates.

Christine Okezie (60s):
Once said, all disease begins in the gut today’s rise in obesity, brain disease, auto immune disease. Mental disorders can all be linked to an altered microbial health in the wake of huge changes in our diet lifestyle and food system while ancient healing traditions like traditional Chinese medicine. And I are Veda have long understood that complexity of the interaction between our brain, our mind, and our gut Western medicine has been slow to depart from its mechanistic view of the human body.

Christine Okezie (1m 36s):
But in the last 10 to 15 years, there’s been a microbiome revolution, which is embracing a more accurate and complex model of the human body as an ecosystem where microbiota trillions of microorganisms that live inside our digestive track are giving us a whole new appreciation for the complex relationship between food mood, emotions, and metabolism. And more health really is a function of this gut brain access.

Christine Okezie (2m 8s):
Think of the gut brain access as a powerful way to build your understanding of the mind body connection. So I am so excited for today’s guest. I have Dr. Emeran Mayer. He’s a gastroenterologist neuroscientist and author of the best selling book. The mind gut connection, dr. Meyer has been studying this brain gut access for over 40 years. He’s a professor of medicine and executive director of the UCLA center for the neurobiology of stress.

Christine Okezie (2m 42s):
Dr. Mayer offers a revolutionary and provocative look at this developing science, his research, and how the tiny microbes in our gut communicate with our brain show, how an unbalanced communication system can give rise to a wide variety of health issues affecting our physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Dr. Mayer.is here to teach us how to harness the power of the mind gut connection. So we can take charge of our health and learn to listen to the innate wisdom of our bodies.

Christine Okezie (3m 13s):
Hello, Dr. Mayer.welcome to the podcast. It’s so great to have you here today.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (3m 18s):
Thanks for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to talk to you.

Christine Okezie (3m 21s):
Yes, thank you. So let’s just dive in the ever growing body of research in the last 15 to 20 years, you know, the discussion of the gut brain access has become a little bit more mainstream. Nonetheless, I think it’s really important that we get your perspective to start this call with why you believe it’s so important to embrace this model of our bodies

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (3m 42s):
Because it’s system. So it’s always been something that has fascinated me. And I can’t even tell you, you know, if it has to do that, I I’ve grown up in a, in a family of, you know, chocolate makers and, and then abandoned the path to medical school. So there’s always been sort of this diet, you know, culinary taste environment for my first 15 years of life. The thing that fascinated me most about, about health and diseases is this mind body connection from the beginning.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (4m 16s):
So this was debated between psychiatry and medicine psychiatry was at the time too strange for me, quite honestly. So it did not relate to my primary interests. Didn’t have the body in it and then sort of pursued this pathway and created mountain paths because this was not something that was, you know, mainstream medicine either. So it was carving a path with very few allies and people that found that interesting.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (4m 48s):
And then, you know, it homed into the brain gut access because from my clinical experience, I’ve felt that patients that have GI problems have put ever particularly extensive, you know, mind component to their, to their disease for most physicians, certainly for most gastroenterologists, that’s invisible to my surprise still, still today. I still can’t believe that, but so it’s this continued to, you know, and until about 10 years ago, I was totally immersed in this sprinkled research in animals and in cells and in humans.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (5m 27s):
And in about 10 years ago, the microbiome revolution started. And then that obviously became a very important component to it. It, I thought I could explain pretty much everything I saw in the clinic, even without the microbiome, but what the microbiome introduced is the link to diet and food that, you know, to the

Christine Okezie (5m 50s):
Yes. Yes. Thank you. And it is kind of shocking how even in today, you know, very well versed world, this, that you can still kind of hit a roadblock with conventional approaches to metabolic issues or digestive issues. It’s a little frustrating. So yeah. And I love the way that you say the mind body connection is not an idea. It’s a biological fact, right?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (6m 16s):
Yeah, absolutely. It’s, it’s nothing psychological, you know, it says biological is as, as any other disease or any other aspect of our health and wellness. I should also say, you know, ever since I published my first book and was exposed to audiences that I normally would have never talked to with all the speaking engagements. So this is even intensified this conviction that the, the, the, the brain got taxes and the role of the microbiome, or a, a core component of our overall system of our oval network.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (7m 2s):
And it appears so in my new book, I deal with this a lot that a lot of diseases that we don’t necessarily link together or link to the gut or linked to the microbiome are all now evidence is, is, is, is accumulating that they are related to disturbances. And so for me, it’s not so much, you know, like obesity and the cosmetic aspects of that. It’s really when the midst of a healthcare health crisis public health crisis that is, it’s almost like normalized to while, you know, people are to be safe, to do more exercise, but it’s, it’s much more than that.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (7m 46s):
I mean, it’s something like this has really never happened in that dimension before how many people are affected and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes and brain disorders and cognitive decline. So seeing that all these are somehow connected to these sprang of microbiome interactions, that’s still, you know, it’s a fascinating idea

Christine Okezie (8m 14s):
Which important work it really is getting to the root cause of so much of our health, individual health, and certainly public health concerns. But let’s just back up a second. How does the brain in our gut talk to the brain in our head?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (8m 33s):
So does like everything that happens within the rain garden annexes is my directional, you know, and so a big brain can send signals to the little brain in the gut when it’s necessary. And the little brain, even though that’s less well established has, has ways to feedback to, to the brain. What’s important about this. The, our enteric nervous system is that the proper name for this little brain in our gut, but a hundred million neurons with very similar design principles and neurotransmitters is big brain.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (9m 15s):
And that system has evolved for literally millions of years and is present in almost every animal. So it’s a really ancient system and which has developed primarily for digestion, for peristalsis and secretion and regulating the speed of transit through, you know, through the gut. Our, our big brain has evolved from the entire nervous system has used the same blueprints, and, but it deals with a lot more.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (9m 49s):
It deals with the environment, people around us, making predictions about what’s going to happen, threat assessments, and it leaves a little grain pretty much alone. For most of the time. It’s a little brain doesn’t really need the input from the brain. It’s only something happens that the little brain would not really know about or needs to be reminded. So like a threat, you know, a physical threat flight fight and flight response.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (10m 22s):
That’s when the big brain sends down signals to change gut function. But normally if you have a healthy gut, it operates, you could disconnect it from the brain which they’ve done in mouse models. And it works, you know, perfectly well signaling from the little brain to the big brain. It’s a little bit more complicated. I think the, what we know the best is the little brain can regulate gut function, contractions.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (10m 56s):
And then with all these sensors we have in our gut that vagal nerve endings that send feedback, this information about increased tension or compression or pressure that feeds back to the brain. It’s probably also chemical communication, but it’s, it’s less well understood than, than the top down influence. Okay.

Christine Okezie (11m 19s):
So w you know, I’m getting the understanding that it’s helpful to see our body, right, as sort of a communication system. I mean, we were housed in this physical organism, but the essence of health, when we look at gut brain access is this bi-directional communication system. And then we have faulty communication or disruptive communication in some way that creates a disease state, or puts us at more higher risk for certain dysfunction. Right?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (11m 48s):
Yeah. And I could give you one example that previously a few people think about. So any, any bi-directional communication system with feedback loops is not static. You know, it, it always oscillates because if one thing changes and the other side adapts to it and feeds back, and so you have these oscillations and every healthy system shows oscillations. So if a system loses these either changes the frequency of the oscillations or loses them completely.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (12m 25s):
That’s an early sign of a decline of the health, and it puts people at increased risk. So, you know, one of the most one on the variations is the diurnal variation. So day and night and sleeping and waking time, and the God follows that quite closely and the microbes follow that quite closely. And there’s recent evidence that, you know, a disturbance of that rhythm will affect microbial function and microbial interaction with the gut and is a risk factor of what development of metabolic syndrome, for example.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (13m 5s):
So this is something that you wouldn’t necessarily know, you just would say, you know, I I’m, I’m not sleeping well, or I have to take a sleeping pill, but this has a lot more serious consequences because it will affect the whole, you know, Frank out taxes with secondary effects on ritually, every aspect of the body.

Christine Okezie (13m 26s):
Yes, yes. And in the same manner, you know, when people say, Oh, you know, I just, I just have some constipation or I’m feeling bloated. And that really is kind of what they consider to be their normal for me. I know it’s a red flag, right? Because again, it’s dealing with such a delicate and important, you know, system in our body. Like you said, it has wide reaching effects in all our systems when it comes to the role of psycho, emotional stress impacting the function, the communication system, or infecting the composition of the ecosystem.

Christine Okezie (14m 4s):
Right. What what’s going on there, what’s going on with, you know, modern day stress, just life stress.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (14m 11s):
Yeah. So, I mean, acute stress, you know, there’s tons of studies and our group and collaborators have pursued this for a long time that, you know, it goes back more than a hundred years. Investigators have looked at this. So with the fight and flight response, you clearly have a component of the gut. There’s, you know, that’s an extreme sort of life threatening situation. We’re every everything within our body is altered, preparing us, optimizing us for either fighting or running away, optimizing musculoskeletal activity and compromising GI function.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (14m 53s):
So that doesn’t really happen that often, you know, when we talk about stress today and, and this fight and flight response is an ancient response. If you didn’t have it, mankind would have died out long time ago. So this, this, our current problem is, is the chronic low grade persistent stress, which has really not, not happened in evolution to any degree like this.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (15m 27s):
If it does happen. For example, if we see it, this students, this general, one called maladaptive responses, you see in animals, you know, animals in a zoo or in a circus. I mean, they’re not, you know, they’re perform, but, but they’re not really healthy cause on the chronic stress.

Christine Okezie (15m 47s):
Yes, yes, yes. So how does that affect the activity around microbiome or the microbiome? You know, the microorganisms.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (15m 55s):
Yeah. Anything that happens in our brain, you know, the gut is a mirror image and the gut is the mirror image. And, but the gut sets the context or the habitat in which the microbes live. So the microbes sense that as well, so it’s changing their home, that they live in. It changes the rate of transit through the gut, but importantly, it also has a direct effect that the stress mediators like moping efferent have a direct effect on the microbes.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (16m 27s):
So they, they leak into the gut and affect the behavior of the microbes. So when you’re in a chronic stress, you have a different gut and you have different microbes and, and it’s not good for you, you know, so it’s not good for your heart, but it’s also not good for where it got. And in, in a simple way, if you, to significant chronic stress, you will develop similar kind of changes in your gut. Then you’ve got microbiome, as you would develop on a, on an unhealthy diet.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (16m 60s):
So increase of permeability, low grade immune activation. So you can imagine if you on a chronic, if you’re under chronic stress and are in an unhealthy diet, which applies to a lot of people in our society, it puts you on a, at a, at a very high risk for, you know, any of the metabolic, any of the brain got microbiome diseases, even at a high risk, in my opinion, for these COVID-19 outcomes.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (17m 35s):
So it’s not causing it, it’s not causing it, but it’s, you know, it, it increases the risk of having a more severe or more serious

Christine Okezie (17m 44s):
Because your immune system, right. But explain the link between that and this, you talk about low grade inflammation, right? Which keeps people in this side of pre disease States, you know, how much we weigh in necessarily body shape, not necessarily the most comprehensive, accurate telltales where a person is in optimal health. So because of the time, right, that can, this can take the simmer and fester and then manifest. So explain the link, if you would please, the effect of this chronic longterm stress on the activity and our microbiome, biome and inflammation.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (18m 22s):
So it, it changes, you know, what we call the relative abundances of microbes. So certain like lactobacilli, the relative abundance of them goes down. The percentage that I have on the overall system. So lactobacilli have an effect on, on tryptophan metabolism. And so if you decrease the number of these items in life, the effects, the trips to him had have Ally’s metabolism, creating potentially harmful metabolites from dietary tryptophan that then affect, you know, nerve function.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (19m 0s):
Some of these metabolites are being absorbed, can make it to the brain, can have neurodegenerative and lower inflammatory effects. And we’re really just at the beginning of, it’s a very complex, as you can imagine, a very complex system, you have hundreds of thousands of, of, of microbial strains and species that are affected that interact with each other. So for example, you know, the lactobacilli might produce hydrogen peroxide and they produce that because it’s a way of establishing and defending their niche in the ecosystem of the gut that hydrogen peroxide has also other effects.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (19m 48s):
So, you know, I think today, if we understand maybe how to give a, a number to that, maybe 5% of the system, I think that would be an, a realistic number. And, and you can imagine them and like all these extra populations that people make, you know, you have to, you have to eat more this to increase the number of your, of your lactobacilli, or it’s, it’s really naive because it’s the ecosystem.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (20m 20s):
You know, you want to know what all these thousands of organisms, how they interact and talk to each other, how that is affected. And that’s much harder to, we’re just beginning, really now to use technologies to measure that, you know, so

Christine Okezie (20m 35s):
Thank you. So, you know, to, to your point, there’s a lot of, you know, people saying, you know, you should be taking probiotics and I’m talking about supplementation right now, you know, and our prebiotic supplementation, right? So what are your thoughts on that?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (20m 54s):
Difficult to answer? You know what I mean? They have been critical recently critical articles and critical recommendations by the American guests, from project association that for GI diseases, probiotics are really not, they can be used in clinical trials, but they cannot be recommended based on their, on clinical evidence, on sufficient clinical evidence. That remains a real problem. You know, I think that regular intake of, of microbial organisms that are associated with, with the diet also goes back, you know, tens of thousands of years, people fermented, fermented foods.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (21m 39s):
People developed this to preserve food because they didn’t have refrigerators. And I’m convinced everything like this takes about 15,000 years for some dietary intervention to cause permanent or genetic or epigenetic changes. So I would predict that this intake of naturally fermented food had an effect on, on our gut genetics, which then would mean it’s a good thing.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (22m 9s):
If you continue to do that, now, if those commercially available lactobacillus strains are the best ones that’s has not really been answered because we don’t have those high quality clinical trials that you would need to approve a medication, but I certainly would always recommend people to increase the amount of naturally fermented fruits of different sources in their diet. I think our human gut is adapted to that.

Christine Okezie (22m 40s):
Yes. Yes. And, and, and frankly, almost every culture excluding the Western culture has, it’s always been an indigenous food source. Yeah, yeah. Very much a part of the culture. Thank you. So going back to what you mentioned around the, the mirror in the gut, you actually say in your book, all emotions have a mirror in the gut. Right? So explain that a little bit. That’s fascinating.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (23m 7s):
Yeah, because of this close connection through the autonomic nervous system and the sensory nerves that go from the gut to the brain, any, any emotional expression in the brain is associated with, you know, neurotransmitter release and activation of distinct emotion, specific patterns. So anger, fear, anxiety hasn’t been studied as much for positive emotions, but I have no doubt that this will also have a distinct pattern of autonomic outflow to the body.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (23m 46s):
And so that’s kinda the, that’s, that’s the link. If you have this emotion that starts in your brain, it will then affect the gut and the microbes. But the micro center will produce chemicals that some of which can feed back to the brain. And the question is, we don’t know this a hundred percent. Does it reinforce the emotion? Is that one of the business, why, when you’re in a bad mood, whites sticks around so long, you know, you can’t get rid of it.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (24m 19s):
We, this would be a typical effect, you know, there’s feedback loop through the volume, which is slow and, and potentially, you know, and we know less about that. I mean, can, can the emotion come from the gut primarily, you know, can it, so if you eat certain foods, would that affect your, your, your emotional makeup? And then, you know, the cycle would start in the gut and it goes through the brain.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (24m 50s):
So Dan Barber, you know, with this, this, this Ultimate Taste, so that would start in the gut or maybe in the mouse, you know, because of the taste receptors. And then it would make its way up to the brain. I think that if you have a system like that, that has two, two different entry points and two different components, I think things can start at either end of the, of the system.

Christine Okezie (25m 23s):
And it’s, it’s interesting. I think it’s useful to understand there is that feedback loop, which from a practical standpoint, means that from an emotional regulation standpoint, we have a few ways in, we have the dietary component, right. And we certainly have the psychological meditative mind component. Right. So we,

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (25m 44s):
And then there’s always this, you know, I’ve always been a big fan of the abdominal breathing technique cause it’s so easy to do. And because it’s so effective and you can literally feel, you know, how it affects your, the ones in your abdomen and which is obviously the blood flow. And so that’s another way. I mean, we don’t know what happens during that intervention to the microbes, but we certainly know it has a positive, you know, emotional anti-stress effects.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (26m 20s):
And I would bet my money on it that it’s linked to a gut component as well, you know, and a microbial component.

Christine Okezie (26m 27s):
Thank you. Yeah, no, I couldn’t agree more. And when we do abdominal or deep belly breathing, doesn’t it, how does it affect, isn’t it, isn’t there some interaction with the vagus nerve, it sort of strengthens or activates the biggest nerve. So maybe there’s a communication.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (26m 44s):
Yeah. the Vagus plays a big role, both at the gut level, but also from the diaphragm, the diaphragm has a vaguely innovation. So if you affect the pattern of, of, of breathing, you get a different activation pattern of the Vegas nerve, which then the, the, the brain perceives as being relaxed. So you can’t did, this is action, a good example, you know, how, how, how much the brain has learned to listen to the body.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (27m 17s):
Because if you, if you’re really good in this abdominal breathing, you will override what your brain might come up with in terms of stress and anxiety. And you can actually do that. Yeah, yeah,

Christine Okezie (27m 30s):
Yeah. That’s powerful. You know, again, looking at, going back to some of the, just the brilliant design of the body, which is why, you know, I, I’m just fascinated by the mind body connection, it’s, it’s profound. So the gut brain access, one of the things that the microbiota, you know, you talk about is we sort of have our built our own builtin pharmacy, you know, the production of GABA the production of serotonin, oxytocin, right? All these healing things, chemicals in the body that produce wellbeing, which happened to be something that the pharmaceutical industry is trying very hard to replicate.

Christine Okezie (28m 5s):
Right? How can we, I think it’s really important for people to understand that we actually have that built in to us. So from a lifestyle, self care standpoint, what guidance would you have or what insights would you have to help people understand that there’s actually some more, you know, beautiful healing capabilities within them?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (28m 28s):
Well, two things today, one is we clearly have it built into our system and teaching people skills, you know, of mindfulness meditation are, are obviously extremely powerful. I would say they’re more powerful in, in, in a, in a pre disease state. And they mobilize, we know a lot of what they mobilize within the brain oxytocin and, you know, the endorphins, opioids, we, we also, you know, now know that this is always associated with microbial production of, so this whole serotonin story, you know, which is a fascinating story that the microbes play a very big role in the synthesis of serotonin in our gut.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (29m 23s):
So if we can influence this with our mind is one question, but we certainly can implant it. If we realize we don’t just have this pharmacy in our bodies, but it’s available in our food. So, you know, I mean, plant based food is obviously the biggest pharmacy on the planet, and it’s pretty much free for most people that eat, you know, to survive. It’s a, it’s an added benefit.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (29m 55s):
Interesting to me that people are more willing to pay money for all kinds of all kinds of supplements and expensive, you know, medications we’re, it’s, it’s all out there, you know, he’d just have to really, I mean, you have to be to become aware and you have to know how to take advantage of it, you know?

Christine Okezie (30m 19s):
Thank you. Thank you. So yeah, let’s dive into food. So when it comes to keeping our microbiota, you know, functioning and happy, and it all boils down to really, that’s what it is, we’re feeding them so that they can do the right thing for us. Right. In many ways, what would be your considerations, you know, around food? I mean, there’s just a lot of noise and you go through some really brilliant insights into vegetarian gluten-free keto, paleo, traditional diets, you know, how it’s can be very overwhelming.

Christine Okezie (30m 53s):
So how can we support a healthy gut, you know, with some, just a handful of recommendations.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (31m 1s):
Yeah. I would say, you know, if, if you’re healthy, it’s, it’s the easiest thing that you can imagine. You know, I think there’s overwhelming evidence that a, a largely not necessarily exclusive with a largely plant based diet provides you the highest amount of, of health gut health promoting molecules on top of the list, being dietary fiber and polyphenols, and then some plant based fats, you know, the only good threes.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (31m 33s):
So there’s absolutely no, no, no question. If you’re healthy, if you want to live the longest evidence for all of these is, is, is available. And I personally don’t even understand why there’s an argument, why there’s in a discussion where some people would tell you, you know, you have to live from, from animal fat and meat in order to stay healthy. It’s this just makes no sense if you, if you, if you have a disease it’s somewhat different. So yeah. Well, let me, before I get into this, let me, let me say one thing to this also.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (32m 5s):
It’s not just what you eat, it’s also how you eat it. So, so a lot of emphasis recently on time, restricted eating and intermittent fasting. They’re interesting story, how that affects the microbes and how the microbes interact without gut. I personally, based on the literature, I think any kind of fasting is not really sustainable for over a year. The great 90% of studies show that, that it’s, it’s not sustainable maybe for, you know, monks for spiritual reasons that they can do that, but not modern person modern yet.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (32m 51s):
And, but the time restricted eating way, compressed the time where you exposed to microbes to food and leave them a lot more time. W without this task of breaking down, food seems to have the same benefits as you know, the ketogenic diet may have, or that that fasting may have, Oh, without the downsides. And it’s relatively easy to implement. Everybody can do that. You know, I mean, and in our family and know it takes a couple of weeks to get used to it, and you have to change your, some of your daily routines, but ultimately it’s not, not, not, not a huge challenge and coming to the diseases.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (33m 36s):
You know, if you have, for example, if you have irritable bowel syndrome and you suffer a lot from bloating, you have to, I think this is what I recommend. My patients still start out with the largely plant based diet, but then customize it for you personally, by reducing or eliminating food items that consistently worsen your symptoms. And consistently that’s an important part. You know, if it’s, if it works once, but not the second time, it’s probably not the food.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (34m 7s):
It’s some something else. The good thing is then you have, the patient is empowered. They have learned to develop their own diet and, and it works really well. You don’t have to go on the FODMAP low FODMAP diet and after four weeks, you know, then reintroduce food is just not, it’s just not necessary. Yeah.

Christine Okezie (34m 33s):
Really empowering to hear that.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (34m 35s):
So, so, yeah, and you know, I’m pretty one of very few gastroenterologists who would say that because once something like this, like the low FODMAP diet gets incorporated into the, the guidelines that the society issues, everybody will do. It it’s becomes like religion. You know,

Christine Okezie (34m 58s):
It becomes very restrictive in, in, in a, in a psychological sense, which does not promote healing. I found it actually already enhances the whole stress that’s going on with someone who is struggling with symptoms.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (35m 11s):
Absolutely. And it suppresses anxiety, any ritual around your diet, obviously, you know, doesn’t resolve but suppresses anxiety, which then finds another way of, so, so yeah, I mean, it has to start with eating has to be a pleasurable experience and should not be associated with any kind of stress related to how you eat them and, and, and, and what you, you know, it’s, so, I mean, there’s other diseases, there’s obviously celiac disease.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (35m 44s):
You have to be there’s no, that’s not, not, not even a point to argue about if a gluten free diet is good for people who don’t have celiac disease or other question, I personally think that’s another one of those unnecessary restraints that people put on themselves. Some people like in my practice, some people say, yes, they felt better when the wing of gluten free diets. And some people say they’re lost that brain fog, even, even colleagues of mine.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (36m 20s):
And so, so we don’t know the whole story about the non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but I think there’s a lot more to it. It’s the processed food that, you know, if you either cook them through diet, you eliminate a lot of other things that may be responsible for that, but this whole multibillion dollar industry that has, you know, evolved just because somebody wrote a book about it and recommended that, that it solves every conceivable medical problem, which this phenomenon is a huge prominent in our society.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (36m 57s):
Now, you know, as you said earlier, the confusion, if somebody comes up with it with a book like this and the media jump on it, because they want sensational things they’re recommending a plant based diet is, is not interesting, you know, but eliminating gluten is exciting, you know? Yeah,

Christine Okezie (37m 17s):
Yeah, no, and it’s, it’s, it’s that gadget, you know, no one size fits all type thing and it’s, it sells well. The science is really clear that we have an incredibly, beautifully designed, very complex system that we, that we operated. And there’s a degree of, we can understand connections and correlations, but there’s such a degree of personalized experience when it comes to our health state. Right. What more specific or individualized can it get with regard to our, our microbiome?

Christine Okezie (37m 54s):
It’s kind of like that finger, it’s like a fingerprint almost, you know, it’s so specific. So I love the fact that it’s, you’re, you want to basically not, you want to empower people in their health to appreciate the complexity, but with that comes the responsibility of paying attention to what’s going on in your own body. Right. And really doing the work of becoming more self aware of, to your point emotions and sensory experiences. Cause they’re really important, right?

Christine Okezie (38m 23s):
Yes. Yes. So my question for you is, you know, when it comes to a lot of these tests that look at all the strains in our gut, and they do these leaky gut panels, this is like a really big area of, of medicine right now. Is that useful? I mean, I don’t mean it’s like, it’s not a simple yes or no question, but when, when a lot of my clients will go down that functional diagnostic testing and trying to manipulate different strains and I’m not, not withstanding parasites and viruses, you know, and that kind of stuff, how where’s the science on that for you?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (39m 1s):
It’s very, the, the way it’s promoted by the functional medicine community, I think is very shaky. I mean, it’s a very shaky brand it’s over simplified. Yeah. And yeah, I mean, obviously it’s, it’s all geared towards making money, you know, doing the tests and then selling supplements. And this is the unfortunate thing, you know, they criticize regular medicine, but in reality only to have the same business model, you know, it’s just charged for something else.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (39m 35s):
And so, yeah, I’m, I’m a big skeptic of that. I think our current technologies to assess God’s permeability, I mean, the gut is leaky to start out with, you know, because it can absorb large molecules. And so there’s different degrees of permeability, you know, not everything is, is, is, is negative. Some of these mechanisms that give the immune system more access to what’s goes on inside the gut, probably adaptive, otherwise we wouldn’t have them.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (40m 14s):
So I’m very skeptical. So most of my patients come with these test results now. And, and, and generally out of politeness, I look at them, but you know, I was

Christine Okezie (40m 25s):
Helpful from an, from taking action, right. Cause it’s not a one-to-one

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (40m 32s):
No, it’s not a one. And, you know, by far the best, I mean, it’s, you know, so you’re totally aware of this. I mean, a, a highly varied diet with as many different types of, you know, fruits and vegetables and, you know, certain types of fish pro provides you the ideal combination. So I, I like this. This is almost like, you know, traditional Chinese medicine.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (41m 4s):
It was always combi notorious. They, they don’t, they, they don’t give one substance to cure. One thing, they give a mixture of things. Some are stimulatory others, inhibitory, how they came up with this. I have no idea, but I’m sort of gravitating to that kind of system and that you can do this with eating plant based food. You know, you can, you can vary by the season. You can vary. What do you do in the morning?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (41m 34s):
What do you do the evening? Part of it is, you know, because there’s not too many studies on that is experimentation. What makes you feel better personally? Because, you know, and as I said, the, the individualized gut microbiome that we only share, you know, less than 10% of the organisms with our neighbor, th that gives credence to that, that individualizing it for yourself.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (42m 6s):
I mean, you don’t need the tests really. I think you need, you need to look at your wellbeing, you know, do you feel better if you eat more or less of this particular vegetable or if you eat it

Christine Okezie (42m 17s):
Well, I can’t tell, tell you how that’s music to my ears, because that’s really how the success that, you know, I’ve worked with people is really putting the power and the responsibility and the accountability back in their hands. So I think that makes so much sense once again, and when it comes to intuition, right? Cause that’s what we’re really talking about here. We’re coming, you know, the ability to trust our gut, right? Even, especially when it comes to just what works for me in my health plan, how can we increase our intuition?

Christine Okezie (42m 54s):
I, I love the science that you bring up about, you know, what happens when we go to sleep and our microbiota are actively, you know, working with those emotions. Can you just share your insights on that intuition and health?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (43m 7s):
Like in many, you know, areas of science, we, we don’t have the full answer. You know what we’d say today? I’m sure in 50 years from now, people are gonna laugh. The laugh about it. You know, I’m an intuitive person who is in touch with their body and their gut and listen to the gut. Then doesn’t do things when it doesn’t feel right in, in, in general is a healthy, is a healthier person. But as I mentioned in a book, this mechanism maybe negatively biased early on in life, if a lot of bad things happened, then the system basically operates always on a certain level of alarm and you make saturated judgments.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (43m 54s):
So you afraid of things that you don’t do need to be afraid of if you had a happy childhood. And if you don’t have this biasing of your system, I think the more you you learn, and sometimes it’s certainly not taught in school and it’s not, you know, many parents don’t teach it. I mean, yeah,

Christine Okezie (44m 12s):
No, not the society here, right?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (44m 14s):
Like, like career decisions are almost never based on, on that gut, feeling that based on how much money the parents want their children to make as much money as possible and successful. So they get these advice that often is not compatible with. So I think as society we’re doing really poorly with that. Yeah. And I think many traditional societies are, are much better in doing this. So can we learn it? Yes. I do believe that if you go on this path of, you know, firstly awareness of this is complex system and it’s very powerful, it’s we can influence our own health and happiness by it.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (44m 58s):
I think once you go down this path becoming more aware and receptive to your intuition is a very, you know, it’s a very important component yes.

Christine Okezie (45m 10s):
Of healing and, and having being driver in the driver’s seat right. Of your health. Okay. So you said in your book that we are in a watershed moment in human physiology, and I there’s a lot to that, but is this paradigm or this mind body shift, is it becoming more widely embraced? Is there traction in input in the public health model? What are you seeing?

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (45m 38s):
I think, I think there’s progress certainly compared to, you know, when I started my medical training w where I felt like I’m seem to be the only person, you know, who actually believes in that and sees it, I think what’s happening today is this really this sort of increasing split between like the specialties where people become technologists very sophisticated, like in my own specialty, you know, there’s more and more sophisticated techniques endoscopy’s in scopic surgeries.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (46m 15s):
So that moves further and further away from that holistic model. But then for example, in our division at UCLA, we have a very innovative visionary division chief who has created this section of wellness and, you know, with psychologists, with dieticians. And so that deals with, with the other assets. So it’s, it’s kind of split. The physicians are not trained in that cause they select the specialties to make as much money as possible, which is cardiology, oncology.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (46m 52s):
And those become more and more technical ultimately. And ultimately those things will be done by robots anyway, you know, so it’s just a matter of time. But on the other hand, there is now more and more academic centers that established these wellness centers within there. So I think that’s a big step forward. And I think the brain gut microbiome axis has helped a lot. I mean, the, the number of review articles that I’ve written on this topic for textbooks now, and that’s wonderful that will ultimately change students.

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (47m 30s):
You know, the mindset, there’s something more than, you know, just cutting out a piece of gut if you have belly pain, you know,

Christine Okezie (47m 39s):
All right, well, right on, I hope so. That would be awesome. That would be progress in, in a world that really needs to move in that direction. So, and we’re, and I want to thank you so much for your time. This has been a gift and I hope we can continue this conversation. I there’s just a world of knowledge and insight and I’m going to promote and highly, highly recommend your book. It is a must have,

Emeran Mayer, M.D. (48m 4s):
Thank you so much.

Christine Okezie (48m 6s):
I’m so glad to know you. It was great talking to you. Yeah. Bye bye. Bye. And for my listeners, you definitely want to explore the work of Dr. Mayer@emeranmayer.com and pick up The Mind Gut Connection that best-selling Amazon book that is such a powerful resource for you. You can get it on Amazon or wherever you get your books. And of course I’ll post everything in the show notes. So thank you again so much for listening. Bye for now.

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