Dr. Vincent Pedre knows all about gut health and the latest science on how it’s so much more than just a place that digests food. This up-and-coming science is something we all need to be aware of to achieve our best health, and it’s more than overcoming digestive issues. Dr. Pedre believes the gut is the gateway to excellent health and a better brain. As the bestselling author of “Happy Gut—The Cleansing Program To Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy and Eliminate Pain”—he has helped thousands of people resolve their digestive and gut-related health issues.
What got you interested in health?
I was a sick child. Starting at age 10 and all through my teenage years I was sick over and over with pneumonia, bronchitis, and more. My immune system was so weak that I would get gamma globulin shots and I was frequently on some sort of antibiotic. I was also extremely sensitive to bread, gluten, and dairy. My father took many supplements so I was around 13 or 14 when I first thought about using supplements to help me. My motivation at first was just to not get sick so often. It wasn’t until medical school when I accidentally changed the eating patterns that I noticed how my diet was affecting me. I noticed that after I stopped consuming as much dairy and bread I wasn’t getting sick as often. That really kicked off my interest in gut health.
What do you think about our soil being linked to our health?
The USDA has been looking at the mineral content in soil and food for years. Now we know that spinach, for example, has less than half the amount of iron than it had in the mid-1900s. So we can see proof that our practices deplete the nutrients in the soil and then in our food. A huge portion of the crop we see now is genetically modified to resist the effects of pesticides. A common pesticide (glyphosate) starves weeds of minerals, but it also starves the plant too. There’s no question that plants being grown under these conditions are devoid of minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants are part of how plants protect themselves, so naturally, locally grown organic produce will have more antioxidants. The soil now has a lot of problems like less biodiversity and more harmful organisms. Biodiversity is the key to healthy soil and a healthy body, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to accumulate that diversity.
What is the “gut-brain axis”?
The gut-brain axis is the fascinating relationship between the gut and the brain. As an example, not many people know that there are more nerve connections in the gut than in the brain. The gut microbiome produces all sorts of neurotransmitters that make you feel excited, stressed, relaxed, etc. There have been studies that show some strains of bacteria in the gut can help boost serotonin. For many years we thought mental diseases were in the brain without realizing that they are connected to the gut. If your gut is inflamed that will affect how you feel mentally. We don’t realize we’re affecting our internal environment when we eat. If you’re eating a lot of processed foods and sugar you’re putting your body in an eternal cycle of rising blood sugar and spiking insulin. Now you might not feel that exactly, but you might feel the inner turmoil. Maybe you feel more irritable at work or you have less patience with your kids. It’s important to realize that there’s a direct link between the gut and your mental health. You might think you’re just having an off day, but you could be doing that to yourself with the food you’re eating.
Is fasting beneficial for gut health?
Yes! Fasting is great for the gut because it’s a way to hit the reset button on it. A lot of people ask me what they should eat for gut health but they should be asking what they shouldn’t eat or when they shouldn’t eat.
Consciously not eating after dinner is one of the most important steps people can take. Those evening hours when people eat unconsciously and out of boredom really sneak up on you. Late in the evening, your blood sugar will start to drop and you’ll crave something salty or crunchy, or maybe a sweet dessert to keep your blood sugar even. You have to be good about planning your dinner to accommodate this. Including complex carbs and healthy fats will keep your blood sugar even so you won’t feel the need to snack.
I’ve seen the damage that social media and technology can do to people. Social media companies themselves designed their apps to be addicting. So a technology “fast” along with an intermittent fast is a great idea.
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What lifestyle tips do you have for wellness?
First, it’s important to address stress and how it affects your body. That might mean mediation or it might mean doing something that is meditative in nature. That could be a hobby like playing an instrument, taking a walk, or even hitting a ball against the wall. Not enough people do things that are mediative in nature where you’re fully present. The majority of people I ask don’t have self-care practices. One thing I’ve learned after all this time is that the body won’t heal in a fight-or-flight mode. It will only heal when we’re in a relaxed state. So the easiest way to get to a space of healing is to get into that relaxed state. No matter what you choose, breathing is very important to this state. One of my most important discoveries was the fact that we can control our bodies with our breathing.
Control your sugar intake
Sugar (and artificial sweeteners) basically stuns your white blood cells for six hours. It’s one of the biggest factors in disease. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners cause alterations in the makeup of the gut microbiome. That shifts it into the type that causes insulin resistance, causing weight gain. This can then lead to cardiovascular disease, strokes, heart diseases, and more. We need to find the natural sweetness in food. If you want to use a sweetener you can use a little bit of maple syrup or honey, but it’s still training you to want more sweetness when you eat.
Eat more fermented foods
Incorporate more fermented foods like sauerkraut, fermented juice shots, and cultured foods. These are especially beneficial after any stomach upset or digestion issues. Depending on the person an unsweetened kombucha can be alright, but if you are healing from yeast overgrowth or candida I would definitely avoid it. Kefir is similar, depending on your sensitivity you might want to avoid dairy and look into a coconut milk kefir. I would watch out for any flavoring like strawberry-flavored kefir because that will have a lot of sugar.
A lot of people don’t realize that one of the things the gut needs to rest and heal is just to not have food in there. Depending on the kind of foods you’re eating you can be causing inflammation. Even just taking longer breaks between meals, like removing extra snacks during the day, can be helpful. Women, on the other hand, should fast for a maximum of 12 hours. We don’t have too much information about women and intermittent fasting, but we are seeing that they can really damage their metabolism by fasting excessively.