Ep. 236 Keto Code: Unlocking Mitochondrial Health

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It was so exciting to connect with the prolific Dr. Steven Gundry today! Dr. Gundry is one of the world’s top cardiothoracic surgeons and a pioneer in nutrition. He hosts the top-rated health show, The Dr. Gundry Podcast, and is the medical director at The International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restorative Medicine.

At the height of his career as a famous heart surgeon, Dr. Gundry resigned from his position and set up a clinic to teach people how to eat to improve their health and longevity. He talks about his background and dives into how one of his patients impacted the trajectory of his second career. We discuss mitochondria, the value of MCT oil, ketones, mitogenesis, mitochondrial uncoupling, anti-nutrients, and nutrition.
I hope you enjoy listening to today’s fascinating discussion with Dr. Steven Gundry!

“More likely than not, much of our current epidemic of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s is a mitochondrial dysfunction problem.”

– Dr. Steven Gundry


  • What prompted Dr. Gundry to shift from cardiovascular surgery to doing what he does today?
  • Dr. Gundry talks about mitochondria and their purpose.
  • How to support mitochondrial health.
  • Dr. Gundry explains the purpose of ketones.
  • What is mitogenesis?
  • Things that can help uncouple mitochondria.
  • Why is it important to have your fasting insulin checked?
  • Why is MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil unique when compared to other healthy fats?
  • Why ketones are not a super fuel. 
  • Why it is important to make slow and incremental dietary changes for sustained weight loss. 
  • Dr. Gundry dives into DNP and the benefits of consuming polyphenols.
  • The problem with oats


Dr. Steven Gundry is one of the world’s top cardiothoracic surgeons and a pioneer in nutrition. He is the founder of Gundry MD, a line of wellness products and supplements, hosts the top-rated health show, The Dr. Gundry Podcast, and is medical director at The International Heart and Lung Institute Center for Restorative Medicine. He has spent the last two decades studying the microbiome and now helps patients use diet and nutrition as a key form of treatment. He is the author of many New York Times bestselling books, including The Plant Paradox, The Plant Paradox Cookbook, The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age, and The Energy Paradox: What to Do When Your Get-Up-and-Go Has Got Up and Gone. He recently released USA Today’s national bestseller, Unlocking the Keto Code, which offers a revolutionary take on the keto diet that debunks common myths and shows readers how to reap the rewards of keto with less restriction.


Connect with Cynthia Thurlow


Connect with Dr. Steven Gundry



Cynthia Thurlow: Welcome to Everyday Wellness Podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent, is to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.

Today, it was a distinct honor connecting with the prolific Dr. Steven Gundry, who’s one of the world’s top cardiothoracic surgeons and a pioneer in nutrition. He is also the host of the top-rated Dr. Gundry Podcast and medical director at the International Heart and Lung Institute for Restorative Medicine. Today, we dove into his background, which I found particularly of interest with our shared love for the heart, the impact of one of his patients from many years ago, Big Ed on his trajectory of his second career. We spoke at length about the mitochondria, dysfunctional mitochondria, the value of MCT oil, why ketones are a signaling molecule, the role of mitogenesis, mitochondrial uncoupling recent studies, the value of antinutrients, and nutrition. I hope you will enjoy this podcast as much as I did recording it. Welcome Dr. Gundry. I’ve really been looking forward to connecting with you and talking about your new book.

Steven Gundry: Well. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I would love to know, how someone with your background know the heart is an area of the body that I have been fascinated by, I worked 16 years in cardiology as an NP. How did you get from cardiovascular surgery and to the work that you’re doing today? What was the transition? Was there an aha moment, did you get tired of writing prescription. What happened for you because I find this fascinating.

Steven Gundry: Oh. Well, my life changed about 27 years ago now when I was Professor and Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Loma Linda University here in Southern California. I was very famous for, among other things, operating on people who nobody else wanted to. I met a gentleman who I call Big Ed in all my books from Miami, Florida, who was 48 years old, he had inoperable coronary artery disease and that means you have so much disease in your arteries that you can’t put stents in them because there aren’t enough places and you can’t do bypass surgery because there’s no place to land a graft because it’s all clogged up. People like Big Ed would go around to various centers in the country looking for idiots like me to operate on him. Everywhere he went, he got turned down and he spent about six months doing this. He finally arrived in my office and I looked at his angiogram, the video of his heart from six months earlier done in Miami and I said, “I agree with everybody else Big Ed, there’s nothing I can do for you, love to help you but they’re right.” He says, “Well, look, it’s been six months since my diagnosis. I’ve been on a diet, I lost 45 pounds in six months.” Now, the reason he’s Big Ed, when I met him, he was 265 pounds. He was over 300 pounds when this started and he said, “I went to a health food store.” I’ve been taking all these supplements and he literally brought in a shopping bag full of supplements. He said, “Maybe I did something in here.” Well, I’m stroking my professor beard and going. Well, Big Ed good for you but you didn’t do anything in there. I’m glad you lost way and I know what you did with all the supplements, you made expensive urine, which is what I firmly believed back then. And he said, “Well, I’ve come all this way.” What would it hurt to get another cardiac catheterization, another angiogram. Don’t get your hopes up? Okay, so we get an angiogram and this guy in six months’ time has cleaned up 50% of the blockages in his coronary artery as in gone. I’m going, “What the heck.” This is impossible, everything I know about this is impossible. I mean I used to be on the abstract committee for the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and if we had a statin drug trial, where they got 0.1% reduction in plaque, 0.1% in a four or five-year trial, we’d go “Oh, this is miraculous.” This is unbelievable and yet here’s this guy in six months, changing his diet and taking some supplements, 50% are gone. 

I said, “Oh, tell me about this diet.” So, he starts rattling off what he’d been doing and just interestingly enough back in the dark ages when I went to Yale undergrad, and we could design our own major, and it was basically a thesis program, a master’s program, and my major was you could take a great ape, manipulate its food supply, change its environment and prove you derive at human being. I actually wrote my thesis, defended it, got honors, gave it to my parents and went away and became a famous heart surgeon. So as Big Ed’s talking about this diet, I go in and timeout, this is my thesis from Yale. You’re doing the ancient human diet that I described. And so, I called my parents who lived in San Diego at the time say, “Hey, do you still have my thesis,” and they said, “Yeah, it’s here in shrine.” I said, “Send it up to me.” [Cynthia laughs] And then I said, “Hey, Big Ed, let me look at these supplements of yours.” And I was also very famous for protecting hearts, during heart surgery from damage, protecting hearts from heart transplantation during damage, and I had this concoction that I would put down the veins and arteries of the heart that was known to protect heart cells from dying. So, I started looking through his supplement list and a number of the crazy things I was putting down the veins and arteries of the heart IV, he was swallowing. It never occurred to me to swallow these dumb things. So I put myself on my program. And what’s really humorous is, here I am a real famous heart surgeon who’s 70 pounds overweight, despite running 30 miles a week, literally, going to the gym one hour a day every day and eating a healthy low-fat diet, because that’s what you did as a professor at Loma Linda University.

I had prediabetes, I had such bad arthritis that I wore braces on my knees to run, I had migraine headaches, when I did baby heart transplants, I had hypertension, you name it, I had it, high cholesterol and I was told it was genetics because my father was the exact same way. Lo and behold, all this stuff went away. I lost 50 pounds my first year, I lost another 20 and kept it off for 25 years and I started taking a bunch of supplements. I started looking at bloodwork on myself, every three months, changes were drastically amazing. So, I started putting patients that I operated on for coronary artery disease on my program with the idea that look, I got you all patched up, I want to keep you away from me. I don’t want to see you back here in five years, which was kind of the routine and I want you to do this. So, they do this and lo and behold, their blood pressure would normalize, their diabetes would go away, their arthritis would go away. So after about a year of this at Loma Linda, I was actually going into work on a Friday morning, my wife calls it Black Friday to this day. I looked at the mirror and I go, I’ve actually got this all wrong, instead of operating on people and then teaching them how to eat to avoid me later, I need to teach them how to eat so they’ll never have to see. Now for a heart surgeon, that’s a really bad career choice. I mean, it’s just like, as all my friends used to [unintelligible [00:08:27] you are trying to put yourself out of business. And I said, “Yeah, actually, that’s what I’m trying to do.” I actually resigned my position at the height of my career, and set up a clinic in Palm Springs, which is just down the road from Loma Linda. Because I’m a researcher, I said, “Hey, I want to get blood work on you every three months, I want to take certain foods away from you, I want to have you eat certain foods, I want to send you to Trader Joe’s or Costco because there wasn’t an Amazon back then and I want you to buy some supplements. I want to see you know what happened?” So, I guess the rest is history. Yeah, that’s how it all started, Big Ed.

Cynthia Thurlow: That’s an incredible story. I think about how incredibly courageous someone that– I worked in the medical field for 20 some odd years and walked away from cardiology because I kept feeling as if the work I was doing with patients was ameliorating symptoms, we weren’t fixing the problem. I recall at the time everyone thought I was completely crazy for really wanting to just focus in on talking about diet and talking about lifestyle. And yet, you really took this tremendous shift in your lifestyle and look at how much impact you’ve been able to make far greater than you would if you had stayed working as a surgeon. Certainly, for me coming from a cardiology background we sent a lot of patients to the surgeons and every 5-10 years they were seeing the surgeon to get a tune up. When we existed dealing with them on any other interventional level. So, I applaud you for taking that great step. A lot of what you’re talking about is this reduction in inflammation and improvement in insulin sensitivity with regard to nutritional and supplemental changes. But I’d love to kind of start the conversation because I loved your new book in particular, I have all your books. I love this one in particular because you spend so much time talking so eloquently about mitochondria, what’s their purpose. what are the things that we can do to support the mitochondria, so let’s start the conversation there.

Steven Gundry: All right. Well, my previous book before Unlocking the Keto Code, was called The Energy Paradox. It was written to try and explain to people that mitochondria, those little energy producing organelles that are in most of our cells are really the center of the universe in terms of our health and part of trying to explain what mitochondria did and how they work was realizing that mitochondria producing ATP, which is our energy currency is incredibly hard work. It’s a sweatshop for producing ATP and mitochondria are fascinatingly a little ancient engulfed bacteria that have been enslaved within ourselves, I guess to produce ATP and the conditions are horrible. Interestingly enough, we combine oxygen and a proton from the food we eat and that combination of binding oxygen to a proton produces ATP, but it produces a lot of other nasty things in the process. It’s those nasty things that people have heard about, people have heard about free radicals, they’ve heard about reaction, reactive oxygen species, etc., etc. People are beginning to realize certainly in the dementia, memory loss category that more likely than not much of our current epidemic of Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s is a mitochondrial dysfunction problem. Also, we’re beginning to realize and I go into this in the book that cancer at its very core maybe and I certainly believe a mitochondrial dysfunction problem.

We ought to probably be interested in how our mitochondria work and how we can keep them in the best possible shape. So that was in The Energy Paradox, I was trying to describe how ketones might be useful as a fuel for mitochondria to use to make them more efficient and I have ketogenic version of my diet in all my books. You’ll notice that even in The Plant Paradox, my monster bestseller, we’re just five years old now, I have MCT oil as the basis of my ketogenic diet. And we can get into that maybe as we go along. But when I started showing the research of how ketones work, because I like to base everything I say on factual facts and research and patients. When you look at the literature, human literature, primarily out of the NIH, where I was a fellow and also out of Harvard, you see that ketones in fact are not some super fuel that they are not the fuel that our mitochondria think is the best thing that ever happened to them. They’re not what our brain think is the best thing that ever happened to them. They’re not, and so there I’m going, we know the ketogenic diet has a lot of benefits. We know that a ketogenic diet was designed to really minimize seizures in children when that was nothing else, so if ketones aren’t some amazing fuel, what the heck are they doing? And so, when you start looking at what they’re doing, it turns out they’re signaling molecules.

Now, what the heck is a signaling molecule? Well, signaling molecule tells the receptor what it wants the receptor to do, whether it’s mitochondria that’s the receptor, whether it’s DNA that’s the receptor, whether it’s a cell membrane that’s the receptor. a signaling molecule tells information about what the cell or mitochondria should do. I had an epiphany moment when I read this paper, which is a small paper that I think everybody should, read was written in the year 2000 by a PhD by the name of Martin Brand, just like brand name. Simple describe uncoupling to survive, and you go, “What the heck is that?” Well, this underpins everything thing in the old books so I might as well explain it. 

Mitochondria, it’s hard work making ATP and mitochondria have to have ways of [unintelligible] [00:15:09] gets damage even undoing damage. It turns out that in this race way along the electron transport chain and mitochondria there are escape hatches. So, there are emergency exits where when things get too hot, when things get too steamy, when things get too violent, then protons can escape without making ATP. These escape hatches are controlled by what are called uncoupling proteins, and so when mitochondria uncouple, you are uncoupling oxygen, coupling to protons to make ATP. I joke that uncoupling is not what Gwyneth Paltrow did with her previous marriage. Now, I spent six months trying to figure out a new word for uncoupling. Unfortunately, uncoupling is what’s used in the literature to describe this process, so I was stuck with it. So back to professor Brand, if you’re starving to death when you would be making ketones. That was when ketones were discovered, you would think that you would ask mitochondria to become profoundly efficient at making ATP from whatever fuel is left. You wouldn’t waste one molecule of sugar or protein. But in fact, the observations were exactly the opposite that during starvation, mitochondria become more inefficient, they uncouple more than you would think they would, and they waste fuel. And you go, “Oh, that’s really stupid.”

Well, so what happens is if you’re starving to death, if you don’t have your mitochondria at the end of the day, you’re dead, because they’re making the fuel for you. So, if you’re starving, who cares about your muscles, who cares about your skin, who cares about your hair, everything’s got to focus on saving the mitochondria. If making energy is such hard work then we have to make it really easy for the mitochondria to protect themselves, but there’s a cool twist in the story. As mitochondria get the message to protect themselves individually, they also get the message to make more of themselves to carry the workload. And that’s what’s really cool about mitochondria is that they have their own DNA, they can divide without the cell dividing, they can make more copies of themselves within the cell, called mitogenesis. I like to use the example of a dogsled, so if we had one dog pulling a dogsled, yeah, the dog can pull the sled, you’re not going to go very fast, and you’re not going to go very far before the dog gets tired. If we hook five more dogs up to the same dogsled, now each dog only has to do a sixth of the work, and you’re going to go a lot farther and you’re not going to get as tired but the only downside is you got to feed six dogs instead of one dog. So, when you start looking at that, you go, “Oh, so we’ve recruited a bunch of mitochondria, each mitochondria has to work less.” The downside is we’re actually going to waste some fuel in the process and so when you look at that whole thing, you go son of a gun, the ketogenic diet makes you lose weight, not because you’re an efficient fat burner, blah, blah, blah, but because you’re actually wasting fuel to protect your mitochondria. In the process, the mitochondria get healthy, you make more to share the workload, and that’s what Professor Brand was talking about. Now, is that believable? Well, he’s gone on to show that if you look at the oldest of the oldest people, people over 105 years old, who are thriving, they have the most uncoupled mitochondria of anybody. And we can talk about birds if you want to in a minute, but birds actually prove the thesis so.

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s amazing. I love your analogies because it allows for the lay public non-clinicians to really clearly understand what is going on in the mitochondria. Now, in your book you talk about the emergency exits and the bouncers and so all these wonderful analogies just make it so much clearer. But I would love to talk about what are other things that can help uncouple mitochondria because a lot of our listeners are familiar with intermittent fasting and metabolic flexibility and so I have this long list. I know these are a lot of things that you talk about in the book and for everyone that’s listening, you need to get this book. I actually have my group of coaches, this is their book for September, because this is such important information that we all need to read this together so we can better understand what’s going on at a cellular level.

Steven Gundry: Well, thanks. Yeah, and your wonderful book behind you there, Intermittent Fasting Transformation. That’s important corollary to all this. Like I talk about the book and I’m sure you know, only 50% of normal weight individuals have metabolic flexibility. Now, your listeners probably know metabolic flexibility basically says, “Look, mitochondria can use glucose as a fuel source to make ATP.” But a mitochondria should be able to use free fatty acids or ketones as a fuel source to make ATP. But only 50% of normal weight individuals have the ability to turn on a dime between using glucose as a fuel and free fatty acids as a fuel, can’t be done with 50% overweight individuals, 88% of overweight individuals have no metabolic flexibility, and 99.5% of obese individuals have no metabolic flexibility. What that means is that even if you stopped eating, even if you stopped eating carbohydrates and went on a high fat, or high protein ketogenic diet, the vast majority of individuals can’t make the switch from burning sugar as a fuel to burning fat as a fuel, free fatty acid. And what most individuals don’t know, sadly, is that insulin is actually the culprit in all this. Insulin is the fat storage hormone and insulins job is to sell sugar and proteins to muscle cells. And when you’ve eaten a lot and get it out of circulation, and primarily turn it into fat if there’s extra.

Now, when insulin is also– if you’re trying to store fat, the last thing in the world you would want is somebody taking that fat out of storage that’d be silly. So, when insulin is elevated as it is in the vast majority of Americans, insulin prevents free fatty acids from being released from fat cells. So, you can eat all the fat in the world, you could even fast for days at a time, but until your insulin level drops, and I can tell you it can take two or three weeks in my practice to see it you won’t free up three fatty acids, you won’t make ketones because you got to have free fatty acids to make ketones unless you’re having MCT oil, which they have something here, we’ll get into that in a second, you’re going to fall flat on your face. And you know that, I know that you get the keto flu, the Atkins blues, your exercise performance plummets, and you get hangry and you give up, so many patients do. 

I profile a woman in my book, Miranda, who was on a ketogenic diet. Her physician supervised for two years, and she was gaining weight and this well-meaning physician had never checked a fasting insulin level on this poor woman. And we got a fasting insulin level on and she was 16. And, folks, that’s high. She was apoplectic, here she was eating a ketogenic diet and now we know why she was gaining weight because the insulin was taking anything she ate, which was a lot of fat and storing it as fat. So, when we stopped her doing her ketogenic diet, she started to lose weight, her insulin now is four, only just checked in a month ago.

Cynthia Thurlow: That’s fantastic. I’m so grateful that you talked about fasting insulin because this is oftentimes that first biomarker that will start to dysregulate but if we’re not checking it. Anytime I talk to anyone, I always say, “Help yourself by ensuring that you’re having your fasting insulin checked a couple times a year.” I know depending on my thyroid medication, I can see where my fasting insulin trends, it’s always within a healthy amount, but if my thyroid is starting to lag, I’ll see the resultant changes in my insulin sensitivity. Now, when we’re talking about MCT oil because you so appropriately brought it up, let’s explain what is different and unique about MCT oil compared to other types of healthy fats?

Steven Gundry: Yeah. Again, in all my books in the ketogenic version of all my diets, I emphasized MCT oil. MCT is medium chain triglycerides. They are very short chain fatty acids that are water soluble and unlike any other fat, MCTs are absorbed directly from our intestines. All the other fats we eat, even olive oil have to be carried by moving bands called chylomicrons, and they actually have to enter our lymph system before even getting into our bloodstream. But MCTs go right through the wall of your gut and are taken directly to the liver and in the liver, they’re turned into ketone bodies, ketones. So, the cool thing about MCTs is that I could have a large fresh fruit salad and have a tablespoon of MCT oil, and I would actually make ketones. I would be in ketosis despite the fact that I had this ridiculous fresh fruit salad. So, I’m not telling everybody to rush out and have a fresh fruit salad and have some MCT oil. But the point is, with most of us being insulin resistant, with most of us having high insulin, we can’t get to our fat stores because insulin is blocking it. But we can make ketones from MCT oil and we can kind of keep the motor running if you will until we get to the point that our insulin drops on its own and then we can start releasing free fatty acids from our fat cells. Now, the important thing I think that people should realize is that ketones are not this amazing fuel, they are not a panacea. I spent a lot of time in the book debunking the ketone myth that ketones are the world’s greatest super fuel. Human studies out of Harvard in the NIH show that at maximal ketosis, muscles only derive 30% of their energy production by burning ketones. The rest come primarily from free fatty acids and glucose. And even at full ketosis, the brain, which supposedly thinks ketone is great, only 60% of its fuel will be from ketones, and they will want 30% to 40% of its fuel as glucose at full ketosis. Finally, to put the nail in the coffin, if you look at full ketosis human beings, the muscle use of ketones is maximum at three days into ketosis. But if you look at the athletic literature of the ketogenic diet, athletes who should have been perfect at three days because that’s when they’re using ketones, that’s when their performance plummets, and you got to get ketone adapted three to four weeks out before you see an improvement in performance. So, sorry folks, ketones aren’t just some amazing fuel, but they’re a great way to get us through that transition, to get to burning free fatty acids, get them released from our fat cells. That’s what we all want. So MCT oil is a great trick for them.

Cynthia Thurlow: Do you have a maximum therapeutic dose that you recommend to your metabolically flexible patients versus the inflexible ones. Because I know this question will come up and I have to sometimes caution people, when they’re looking at ketogenic diets, if they have a little bit of fat is good then more fat is better. Where is the happy kind of middle ground on that?

Steven Gundry: So, if we think about MCT oils for a second, certainly the women in my practice do not tolerate advancing MCT oils rapidly. A lot of the women get nausea, they get diarrhea. I found interestingly enough that powdered MCTs are better tolerated by women. And the nice thing about powdered MCTs is you can mix them in your coffee. I’m having a powdered MCT drink of my own right now, delicious but what I like to do is start people off with like a teaspoon three times a day. And if I can get people up to about a tablespoon three times a day that’s a pretty good spot to be. We know that a tablespoon will absolutely generate ketones for several hours. The other trick I like particularly when we’re doing time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting is getting people to extend their break fast is very difficult. And it’s primarily because most of us are insulin resistant when we start these programs. In the book, I like to hold people’s hands and we step down one hour a week and we take the weekends off until we get to 11 or 12 o’clock is when we break our fast, but MCTs are really useful to get through this period, because it doesn’t break your fast because you’re actually producing ketones and gives you hopefully a little crutch to lean on as you’re going along.

Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s certainly important that when we’re talking about an otherwise metabolically unhealthy population that we have to go about strategies in a different way than we would in someone who’s metabolically healthy. I remind people there should be no white-knuckling when it comes to fasting or to making behavioral changes that we sometimes need to make very small changes over time. As opposed to saying, “Okay, we’re going to go from eating a standard American diet being a couch potato, and we’re going to now ask you to fast or 15 hours.” Their body is not designed to be able to effectively fuel their body and to be able to get to a point where they can do that comfortably. And that would be an example of white-knuckling it but I see a lot of what I want to believe are well meaning individuals in the health and wellness space to encourage that behavior. They’re wondering why their patients can’t stick with those kinds of recommendations.

Steven Gundry: Yeah. I mean I used to joke that it would be like Kobe Bryant when he was alive, teaching me how to dunk a basketball. He could tell me every spring in the step, how to position the body, how do you do that. I’m 5’10 and quite frankly all the coaching in the world could probably never get me to dunk a basketball. We have a lot of, I believe, well-meaning health coaches out there who are for the most part very fit, and trying to take their ability to be metabolically flexible, and tell everybody that that’s what you ought to do on day one. Again, it’s like when my wife taught me how to run and in my middle age. The idea that I could run a half marathon, stepping out the door, I couldn’t have done it. Number one, I would have fallen flat on my face but I would, you got to walk and then you got to jog, and blah, blah, blah. The idea that we should not know that whatever sport we’re entering into including eating, you can’t just jump in the deep end of the pool, you just can’t do it. It’s physiologically impossible because most people are metabolically inflexible.

Cynthia Thurlow: I think it’s important for people to hear that not just from me, but to hear that from other clinicians because I’m much more of a slow and steady win. These small incremental changes are things you can sustain as opposed to the diet culture has does us all tremendous disservice by convincing us that we should be able to lose 10 pounds in a week that should be sustainable and you only have to do this “diet for two months,” and it’s going to change everything and we know that that’s actually not the case.

Steven Gundry: No. In one of my books, one of my sayings was, “Weight off fast will never last, and weight off slow, you’re good to go.” One of my other quotes was, “Fat in your gut, you’re out of luck and fat in your ass you’re built to last.” [Cynthia, laughs] That’s why J. Lo, is going to live forever, as far as I can tell so.

Cynthia Thurlow: In your book, you bring up some very interesting studies. It was interesting for me because I’ve read your book now twice and each time I’ve read it, I glean different perspectives. Let’s talk about DNP. I thought this is a very interesting compound that you talk about at length in the book. 

Steven Gundry: Yeah. Back in World War II– World War I, sorry about that. It was noted that munition workers, factory workers in France and Germany were extremely skinny even though they eat a lot of food, and they always seem to be running a low-grade temperature. It wasn’t until the 1920s when it was discovered that one of the compounds that used in making gunpowder is called 2,4-Dinitrophenol, phenol, remember that word, and its abbreviated DNP. And DNP, they found increased the metabolic rate of these individuals and that was why they were running a temperature and that’s why they were so skinny. So, a couple of, I guess you could call them entrepreneurs, doctors at Stanford in 1930, said “Son of a gun.” This DNP stuff could be a miracle weight loss form, and they began writing prescriptions for DNP and it was a miraculous weight loss drug. Now, over 100,000 prescriptions were written for DNP, just in the United States alone. At low dose, you could lose a pound a week, which is great. At high dose, you could lose 5 pounds in a week, which is a miracle and so it became very, very popular. Now unfortunately, the more popular it got, and the more concentrated dosages people use, people started having thyroid issues, they developed cataracts and this is before cataract surgery. And I joke, can you imagine getting into that skinny red dress and you can’t see yourself in the mirror? Oops, and there were deaths. And so, the FDA, the newly formed Food and Drug Administration banned DNP from sale in 1938. But there’s been considerable research on DNP of finding a way of harnessing DNPs power without killing people. And what’s been learned is that DNP is really the first mitochondrial uncoupler in an oral agent. The reason it causes such significant weight loss is that you literally told mitochondria to just waste huge amounts of the fuel that you would normally turn into ATP and that’s where the weight loss came from. So, you could find DNP on the dark web I am told, it is still used, I guess, by bodybuilders to get cut for competition. But please don’t, there is a very slippery slope in DNP use, but DNP the phenol ring caught my attention, because I have been fascinated by polyphenols, lots of phenols for most of my current career. We know that certain polyphenols are thermogenic compounds and we never know why they’re thermogenic compounds. But so, when I started looking at what polyphenols do, I went well “son of a gun.”

Let’s talk about where polyphenols come from. Well, plants have to make ATP, so we use oxygen to make ATP, plants use sunlight photons to make ATP and just like oxygen is damaging to our mitochondria, surprisingly sunlight is damaging to plant mitochondria. They’re called chloroplasts, but they are mitochondria and so plants manufacture polyphenols. Those beautiful colors that we see soon in the fall in Richmond, Virginia. After the chlorophyll leaves the leaves in the plant all those yellows and reds and purples and oranges come out. Those are the polyphenols that were actually there to protect the mitochondria plants. And how do they protect the mitochondria plants? Shockingly, they uncouple the mitochondria of plants so that the mitochondria don’t have to work so hard and don’t get damaged. So now we know that these brightly colored products of plants eat the rainbow as I talk about our polyphenols. So, what happens when we eat the polyphenols in plants? Well, two exciting things. It turns out, this is recent research, our microbiome, our good bacteria absolutely love polyphenols, they just think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread and we won’t talk about sliced bread which is not the greatest thing. So, they eat the polyphenols as a prebiotic fiber, they then transform those polyphenols into bioabsorbable compounds. Polyphenols are not well absorbed without microbiome intervention and those polyphenols then uncouple our mitochondria in the same process. So, we get this wonderful phenol ring every time we eat these colorful plant compounds and it just so happens that most spices as I talk about in the book are just chock-full of polyphenols. Most of the healthy vegetables that chock-full of polyphenols. Coffee, tea, chocolate chock-full of polyphenols. So, when you hear eat the rainbow what I want really people to hear is I want to eat polyphenol-containing foods and every time we do, we uncouple our mitochondria and that’s really a good thing.

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s really fascinating to me because there are dietary changes or things that we do every day in my house. My husband and I are not coffee drinkers, but we do drink green tea. And it’s one of those things where I have patients say to me, “It’s bitter. I don’t like plain coffee; I don’t like bitter tea.” I’m like, we have to find a way for you to drink it. There’re so many benefits from it and I love that you included chocolate because that’s my only vice in life and that’s certainly very important. Now, I just want to make sure I touch on one area that I got a lot of questions about when I reached out to listeners and told them that we were going to have a conversation today, the concept of anti-nutrients. Because I think we can’t say this enough, how there are certain food stuffs that are in the processed food industry that we are exposed to that we presumptively assume are healthy, that are not. I just had my husband do a Whole30 for a month and he was amazed to see how much better he felt not eating gluten and dairy, but I would love to at least touch on gluten and oats and lectins and some nightshades because it really is relevant not only to the health of our gut microbiome but symptoms that patients just assume are related to old age, or they’ve overworked a muscle and it’s really attributable to the exact foods they assume are healthy to be eating.

Steven Gundry: Yeah. That was the whole basis of The Plant Paradox, there are obviously plants do not have our best interest in mind. They were here first, they want to live, they want their babies, their seeds to live and they have protective mechanisms to make sure that there’re predators, which include us think twice about eating them. And one of the things that I chose to focus on was lectins, which are proteins that are well known. Thanks to the work of Alessio Fasano who is now at Harvard to cause leaky gut, to break the tight junctions in our gut. And you could eat the best gut-healing diet, you could take the best gut-healing supplements, and I’ll be happy to sell you some. But if you keep swallowing razorblades, you will just tear this up every day. We can measure these things, it’s not pseudoscience, intestinal permeability is real, leaky gut is real. I and many of my colleagues now realize that Hippocrates was right, that all disease begins in the gut and I happen to believe that all disease ends in the gut including heart disease. 

So, these particles are designed to cause porosity and of the lining of the gut and 80% of our immune system lines are gut because that’s where trouble comes across. And so, people talk about, well, I want to eat an anti-inflammatory diet, you could take all he anti-inflammatory compounds in the world and living here in Southern California, that’s like fighting one of our forest fires with a garden hose. You’ve got to stop feeding the fire and you’ve got to stop this leak and once you do that it’s amazing what people feel. So, gluten quite frankly is a troublemaker, but I can tell you from so many of my autoimmune patients and 80% of my practice now is autoimmune disease, nobody’s got help with. The amazing thing is that glyphosate roundup in our food products is one of the biggest issues we have now in the United States than leaky gut. Now know that glyphosate in and of itself can cause leaky gut without any other help. We know that glyphosate selectively kills off the gut microbiome that makes the feel-good hormones like serotonin selectively kills them off. And we wonder one of the reasons we have so much anxiety and depression in this country is that glyphosate has been with us now for 50 years. When I have people who are clearly gluten intolerant, and we can measure that gluten sensitive when we heal their leaky gut, 98% of them no longer have antibodies to gluten, gone. And when they go over to Europe, Italy, France, and they cheat, they have pasta and pizza and breads and croissants, they don’t reactivate their autoimmune disease. And they’re really excited and they come back here, “Oh, Dr. Gundry, you cured me you know I can eat this stuff.”

Within a week of coming back to the United States and eating our bread products, our oats, they’re back. Their psoriasis flares, their rheumatoid arthritis flares, their lupus flares, their Crohn’s flares and they go, “What the heck?” I was cured. It’s because they don’t have glyphosate over there. It’s really sad. Speaking of oats, this oat milk craze is driving me crazy. [Cynthia laughs] My older daughter is a horsewoman, is great [unintelligible [00:45:16] training for the Olympics. She says, “Look, there’s only one purpose of oats and that’s to fatten horses for winter.” And I firmly agree with her, oats have a molecule that cross reacts with gluten and we see it all the time in our patients. 

Just yesterday, we had a patient who is celiac, was on a gluten free diet for 10 years, still had celiac. Even had a biopsy, still had celiac. And when we did her testing, lo and behold, she was sensitive to corn, she reacted to corn as if it was wheat and she reacted oats and that was the basis of her gluten-free diet was corn and oat products. We took that away from her and within a week she calls up and says, “Wait a minute, something’s really weird here.” I don’t have what– my gut is fine. What the heck? You mean to tell me though a gluten-free diet was causing my celiac and it’s true. 

Cynthia Thurlow: That’s incredible. 

Steven Gundry: Yeah. Oats here are not our friend.

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s interesting. The oat milk craze has definitely been enlightening. I feel like there’s a lot of memes on social media, people ask about oat milk all the time. I think my general consensus is if you don’t tolerate dairy, try to find, I’m not sure what you feel about milk but like a cleaner nut milk or a clean coconut milk-

Steven Gundry: Yeah. Coconut milk.

Cynthia Thurlow: -if you feel like that’s what you want to use Yeah, that’s usually what we use in my house.

Steven Gundry: Yeah. Coconut milk is really quite safe. Plus, it does have some MCTs, it’ll uncouple your mitochondria. So, yeah, coconut milk is the safest out there right now.

Cynthia Thurlow: Yeah. What are you working on right now? Are you working on your next book?

Steven Gundry: Yeah. We just started writing it. If I told you the title, I’d have to kill you. [Cynthia laughs] But it’s really actually looking at the Hippocrates and saying, “Okay, is this true does all disease begins in the gut?” And I’ll just give you a funny story. Through the years, I’ve gotten to be good friends with Dr. Dale Bredesen of Alzheimer’s fame, and David Perlmutter, Grain Brain, and recently Drop Acid. And David and I were talking one day and I said, “The funny thing is, you’re a neurologist and all you and I talk about is the gut.” I said, “I’m a heart surgeon and cardiologist and all, you and I talk about is the gut.” I said, “Isn’t it crazy? That we’ve come from these diverse areas of specialization and we’ve come to the realization that all of this came from the gut.” He says, “Yeah.” He says, “I hate it, and Hippocrates is right.” So, all of us now focus on the gut. 

I gave a published paper a couple years ago looking at several thousand people in my practice with known coronary artery disease, who had been treated with my program for up to 10 years. And like you mentioned, normally, if you give people maximal medical therapy, statins and diet, their recurrence rate is usually 50% of them will have new event or a new step within five years. In our patient population going out to 12 years, we have a 1% recurrence rate. And so, Hippocrates was right. You can manipulate what’s happening in the cardiovascular system, Perlmutter and Bredesen would tell you, you can manipulate what happens in the brain. And so, this next book is okay, “Here’s why all this is happening and here’s the tricks that we can make this work.”

Cynthia Thurlow: Well. I can’t wait to read it. Obviously, I’m a huge fan of yours. I could have probably had enough content to talk for hours. Please let listeners know how to connect with you on social media. You’ve got a vibrant Instagram account, where to purchase your books, etc.

Steven Gundry: So, you can find me on Instagram. You can find me at The Dr. Gundry Podcast. It’s now one of the leading health podcasts, in the world we’re podcast one. You can find me at drgundry.com. Please come to my supplement and food company gundrymd.com. I got two YouTube channels and it’s all free content. Just hop on by, we’re happy to talk to you. 

Cynthia Thurlow: Wonderful. Thank you.

Steven Gundry: Books wherever they’re sold. But please, as anybody knows from the pandemic, please go into your local bookseller. Luckily my books are very popular, so they’ll have them, if you don’t have them, make them get them. Help your local bookseller. They’ve been decimated, they need our help. 

Cynthia Thurlow: I so agree. And thank you for all your valuable contributions.

Steven Gundry: Thanks a lot. And again, I keep doing this because just kind of every day I get to hear a success story. Physician wrote me last week, he had been diagnosed biopsy proven prostate cancer, and he put himself on my program and he demanded a new MRI and biopsy nine months later, and it’s gone. He said, “Thanks.” And he says, “I’d never met you, but I read your books, and thank you.” So that’s why I keep doing it.

Cynthia Thurlow: It’s wonderful. What a wonderful story to end with.

Steven Gundry: Yeah. Now, I don’t cure cancer. But there’s a lot of really good research that cancer is a metabolic mitochondrial disease, and there’re a few tricks in the book to help you out with that.

Cynthia Thurlow: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Steven Gundry: All right. Thanks for having me.

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