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Your Microbiome: The Role of Probiotics and Prebiotics, with Shawn Stevenson

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Everyone has a different metabolic footprint, and it changes constantly, so we need be aware of our diet and make changes when necessary. One of the most important factors to keep an eye on is the role probiotics and prebiotics play in our microbiome. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen are again joined by “Eat Smarter” author Shawn Stevenson for a discussion on how the components of our microbiome work, and how we can make small changes to our diet that will make a big difference in the health of our gut, brain, and body.

For more info on Shawn’s new book “Eat Smarter”, visit https://www.amazon.com/Eat-Smarter-Metabolism-Upgrade-Transform-ebook/dp/B07W3M55SP

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Welcome back. We are still here with our friend, Shawn Stevenson. We are having such a great conversation about his new book, Eat Smarter. And Shawn, I love this, because you are just speaking my language. You are validating my points. This is my passion. It’s what I love. Thank you.

Daniel Amen, MD:

You love that.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

I do. I love being right. But anyways, the reason I’m so passionate about this is because before we even came on, you were talking, and we’re going to do a live chat on this, about how much food affects society, and anger and moods. And I was one of those kids. I grew up poor. I grew up with a lot of trauma. I grew up eating processed foods. This matters. This matters for getting people well, not just for losing weight. The first three letters in the word diet are die, but for getting people healthy. You were in the middle of making a point. I want you to make that point, but then take us through more of your program and why this matters so much to you.

Shawn Stevenson:

Absolutely. So this point, and also part of the program, it’s highlighting something … This might be the most important thing in the universe of diet and food, is that we each have a very unique metabolic fingerprint. There’s never been a person who has the same metabolism like you in the history of humanity.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Wow.

Shawn Stevenson:

And nobody ever in the future will have a metabolism just like you. And here’s the most important point, even yourself next week, doesn’t have the same metabolism as you have right now. It is constantly changing and fluid and in flux. And this isn’t accounted for. This is why a diet can work great for year, then all of a sudden, the weight starts coming back. Or maybe I start to have some kind of a symptom of, maybe I’m having joint pain. Something happens, and we have to have the wherewithal and internal intelligence to adjust our diet framework to fit us. Because there are many wonderful diet frameworks, and I know the guys, but Eat Smarter is a unifier. You can take this diet framework, but do not allow it to imprison you.

And so, one of those other points in what is controlling what calories do in our bodies, for example, in our digestive and metabolic uniqueness, is our digestive efficiency itself. Two people can be the same height and same weight, and one person can have a foot longer digestive tract, which in and of itself is going to give more time and availability for them to absorb more calories, right? That’s not taken into consideration.

Also your bioproduction, your enzyme production, stomach acid production, all of these things that help to modulate and determine how many calories you’re actually absorbing from your food, can be radically different in two people that are on the same diet, same exercise program.

And wonder why, so what we know in the data is that we can have these two folks do the same thing for an entire year, and one of them can burn upwards of a hundred thousand more calories in a year doing the exact same thing. Again, it seems like it’s just not fair. We’ve got to address the things that control what our metabolism is doing.

So part of my program is adjusting and looking at the things that are controlling what calories do in the body. One of the big ones and what a lot of folks are talking about today is the health of the microbiome and your microbiome makeup. Your microbes are the frontline determining whether or not your body’s going to absorb calories, what it’s going to do with the calories, and also the elimination of waste, of course.

And so, really quick snapshot study and then I’ll talk about how this relates with how we connect with other people. The journal Cell discovered, and researchers published this in journal Cell, but there’s two parts. There’s a specific bacteria they found in mice that literally blocked their intestines from absorbing as many calories from the food that they ate.

Through the lens of allopathic medicine, we’ll be like, well, we just need to bottle up that bacteria and sell it so it stops people from absorbing as many calories from their food, but there’s always residual side effects. Our bodies don’t operate in a vacuum. That might affect our bacteria’s ability to make B12 for us, or to produce short chain fatty acids to protect our gastrointestinal track and reduced rates of auto-immunity. The list goes on and on.

What we really need to look at is how are bacteria controlling whether or not we’re absorbing calories. And research at the Weizmann Institute … and I would see this in my practice. I could have somebody send out for a stool sample. Basically, they poop into a nacho basket. It’s really weird. Send it out. And if I’ve never even seen the person before and I could get their report back and look at their bacteria cascade, I can know with a high degree of certainty whether or not they’re obese without ever seeing them.

We know there’s a specific makeup of our microbes associated with obesity, insulin resistance and being overweight. And so, these researchers took folks that had a cascade associated with obesity and implanted that into lean mice. And they took folks who had a lean microbiome makeup and implanted that in lean mice. Those mice ate lean. The mice who received the implant of fecal matter from the folks with the bacteria associated with obesity, these mice became insulin resistant. They gained weight and gained body fat, not changing anything with the diet, just changing the microbes.

So a big part of the program, it’s unbelievable. A big part of the program is what are practical, simple things we can do to support and optimize our microbiome. And as Dr. Amen mentioned on an earlier episode, a big part of it is avoiding the things that’s destroying our microbiome, especially pesticides, rodenticides, herbicides. Those things are designed to kill very small things, small organisms. We are made, our microbes are those things, and most of them are neurogenic or estrogenic, so damaging the nervous system.

And our bacteria, in school I was taught, these are single-celled organisms. They don’t have a nervous system. They can feel pain. They communicate with each other. Sounds very similar to a nervous system to me.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Even artificial sweeteners can damage our microbiomes.

Daniel Amen, MD:

And this is where plastics can come in.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But there’s so many things.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Because plastics are hormone disruptors. The toxins you put on your skin in your cosmetics.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right-

Daniel Amen, MD:

Or in shaving cream.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But people trying to lose weight-

Daniel Amen, MD:

They’re hormone disruptors that can also disrupt your microbiome.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

But think about how unfair it is, all these weight loss products that use artificial sweeteners, that kills your microbiome.

Shawn Stevenson:

Yeah.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

That’s not fair, so all these “health foods.”

Daniel Amen, MD:

So some of the dos and don’ts I have in my notes, don’t stock up on water in plastic bottles, because of BPAs, the toxin that can impact your body. Do boil tap water if you’re concerned about the chemicals. Don’t buy white rice, pasta, cereal, bread, and flour tortillas, because they’re high-glycemic. Don’t fill up your shopping cart with cookies, cupcakes and candies. My grandfather was a candy maker and my dad owns, owned before he died, a chain of grocery stores. It’s in my family. I grew up eating crap.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

My grandmother was diabetic, so.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Yeah, no, I love the dos and don’ts, but what do you do to keep your microbiome healthy?

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Besides just taking a probiotic? I mean, we-

Shawn Stevenson:

Oh, no. Even that, that idea, again … In my practice, I was getting pretty much everybody on a probiotic, but I was really missing the point, because probiotics, even if we have the very best probiotic in the world, it cannot colonize and really proliferate, and take hold and do all the positive things in your gut if the probiotics don’t have prebiotics, if they don’t have the food source for them to colonize and do their job.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Right.

Shawn Stevenson:

This is not talked about enough. So these are prebiotics for the probiotics, who then make post-biotics for you. All right? So all the beneficial things that these microbes can do. And so, prebiotics, people can go to Google and look at a list of prebiotic foods, but it’s very short-sighted. Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, onions, garlic. Okay, that’s great. But here’s the truth. Every single food, every real food functions as a prebiotic for some type of beneficial flora. And it’s going to be unique to you.

For example, your ancestors might’ve been eating a certain food for centuries. Maybe it was a certain type of bean. And all of a sudden, a diet doesn’t allow for that food and you strip that away. And the microbes associated that eat that food, now they don’t have any food to eat, so they leave. It’s kind of like an extinction or like an endangered species. And in order for you … And it might’ve been protecting you against weight gain, against autoimmunity, but this is not an advocation to eat that food.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Think of immigration now.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Think of if your ancestors like ours-

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

This has a huge implication.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Grew up in the Middle East, and now they moved, and now they have processed American food that puts them in higher risk for illness.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

So if people were to come to you, I’m assuming by what you’re saying, you somehow do a personal profile on them?

Shawn Stevenson:

Yes. This is what I did. This is what I did in my practice.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

And so, do you have something in the book that helps people identify to some degree-

Shawn Stevenson:

Continuously, continuously, I’m encouraging and creating this ability for folks to see like, Oh, that thing, that sounds like me or this thing sounds like I need to avoid, just to have more self inquiry and to ask these questions, because again, we all have a unique metabolic fingerprint.

The last point is this with the prebiotic side, every single food has prebiotic capacity, but here’s a really powerful insight and walk away for today, a takeaway for today. When you eat a food, you’re eating that food’s microbiome. So when you’re eating a berry, you’re eating that berry’s microbiome and you’re taking it on. When you eat an avocado, you’re eating that avocado’s microbiome, right? So it’s just like, when we talk about you are what you eat, literally, these foods are becoming a part of us, but also are a part of our microbes, which gene for gene, 99% of our genes are from our microbes, right? Gene for gene.

So this is very, very important and powerful. So number one, and here’s the big takeaway in the data, the number one thing that’s been found to increase the diversity of your microbes … And by the way, we found that as your diversity of microbes go down, your rate of obesity goes up. Your diversity of microbes goes down, your rate of heart disease goes up. Your rate of insulin resistance goes up, the list goes on and on. We know that they’re directly connected. The number one way to increase your diversity of microbes is to increase the diversity of foods that you eat.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Real foods, all foods.

Shawn Stevenson:

Yes. And even if we’re eating healthy, we can all get caught in a rut of eating the same foods over and over again. So this is a big advocation for us to just start to add in some different foods each week and experiment and have different things to feed our various microbes.

Daniel Amen, MD:

Well, and you have a 30-day program in here to help people eat smarter, use the power of food to reboot your metabolism, upgrade your brain, I love that part, and transform your life. Stay with us. We’re here with Shawn Stevenson. You can get Eat Smarter anywhere great books are sold.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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Daniel Amen, MD:

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