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In this podcast, I interview Dr. William Li all about food. Specifically, we’re talking about the science of how your body defends itself and heals, and the role that food plays in that process.
I’ve talked before about “superfoods” in my book Beyond Bigger Leaner Stronger and here on the podcast, but in this episode, Dr. Li dives deeper into how certain foods can affect our body’s ability to heal and prevent disease through their effects on angiogenesis (the process the body uses to grow new blood vessels), the immune system, and the microbiome.
We also talk about the specific chemicals in those foods that exert the benefits, how fiber works and affects the gut, foods that can hurt your microbiome, and more. You’ll also learn some of Dr. Li’s favorite foods to incorporate so that you can fit all of this scientific knowledge into your daily life.
In case you’re not familiar with Dr. Li, he’s an internationally renowned physician, scientist, and author of the New York Times bestseller Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself.
He’s also the president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that works to promote medical innovation and breakthrough technology to disrupt disease and improve world health.
So, if you want to learn all about how food affects the body’s ability to thrive and beat disease, and what foods you should be eating on a regular basis to boost your health, listen to this podcast!
Lastly, if you want to support the show, please drop a quick review of it over on iTunes. It really helps!
7:07 – How does the body heal itself?
11:50 – What are your favorite “super” foods?
14:01 – The key to remaining fit for as long as possible
16:06 – Foods that can prune away unneeded blood vessels
19:13 – What is the chemical in cruciferous vegetables that’s so beneficial?
20:23 – How do you increase absorption of isothiocyanates?
22:50 – What is the microbiome, what effects does it have on your body, and what foods can improve your gut?
26:29 – How does fiber work?
30:20 – How can we support the immune system with food?
36:47 – What foods are harmful to the microbiome?
43:03 – What does the research say about artificial sweeteners and the microbiome?
44:09 – What causes controversy in food research?
Mentioned on the Show:
Dr. Li’s Book: Eat to Beat Disease
Legion VIP One-on-One Coaching
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Mike: Hello, friend, and welcome to another episode of Muscle For Life. I’m your host, Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today. And if this is not your first time here, if you like my podcast, take a moment and please subscribe to it in whatever app you are listening in because then you will not miss any future episodes.
They will be queued up for. And you’ll help me because it will boost the rankings of the podcast on the various charts, and that will help other people find me in my work. Righty. So in this episode, I interview Dr. William Lee and we talk about food, and specifically we talk about the science of how your body.
Defends itself against disease and dysfunction and heals itself from disease and dysfunction, and maintains good health and good working order, and the role that food plays in that process. Now, I’ve talked about a lot about, and written a lot about the importance of eating a lot of nutritious foods.
I’ve even talked and written about the quote unquote, super food phenomenon and why I. It is mostly marketing puffy, although some foods are more super than others, maybe more nutritious than others, or special than others. If you have read my book Beyond a Bigger Lean or Stronger, for example, you know what I’m talking about.
But in this episode, Dr. Lee is going to dive into that topic a bit deeper than I have. He’s gonna talk about how food can help our body heal, how it affects the immune system, how it affects the microbiome and other vital physiological processes. We also talk about very specific molecules, specific chemicals in foods that exert those effects, that produce those benefits.
We talk about fiber, how that works, how it. The gut we talk about foods that can hurt your microbiome, can hurt your gut health and more. And in case you are not familiar with Dr. Lee, he is an internationally renowned physician scientist and the author of the New York Times Best Selling book Eat To Beat Disease, and he is also the president and medical director of the angiogenes.
Foundation and we talk a little bit about what that word means, angiogenesis, and that organization though is a nonprofit that works to promote medical innovation and breakthrough technology to disrupt disease and improve world health. Also, if you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my v i p.
One on one coaching service because my team and I have helped people of all ages and all circumstances lose fat, build muscle, and get into the best shape of their life faster than they ever thought possible. And we can do the same for you. We make getting fitter, leaner, and stronger, paint by numbers simple by carefully managing every aspect of your training and your diet for you.
Basically, we take out all of the guesswork, so all you have to do is follow the plan and watch your body change day after day, week after week, and month after. What’s more, we’ve found that people are often missing just one or two crucial pieces of the puzzle, and I’d bet a shiny shackle, it’s the same with you.
You’re probably doing a lot of things right, but dollars to donuts, there’s something you’re not doing correctly or at all that’s giving you the most grief. Maybe it’s your calories or your macros. Maybe it’s your. Selection. Maybe it’s your food choices. Maybe you’re not progressively overloading your muscles, or maybe it’s something else, and whatever it is, here’s what’s important.
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It’s really just a discovery call where we get to know you better and see if you’re a good fit for the service. And if you’re not for any reason, we will be able to share resources that’ll point you in the right direction. So again, if you appreciate my work and if you want to see more, If you also want to finally stop spinning your wheels and make more progress in the next few months than you did in the last few years, check out my VIP coaching [email protected] legion.com/vip.
Hey, Dr. Lee, Thanks for taking the time to do this to come talk to me about using food to get
William: healthier. Thanks Mike. I think food is just another dimension to fitness.
Mike: I totally agree, and it’s something, I talk about this in, I have a book for intermediate and advanced weightlifters.
It’s called Beyond Bigger, Leaner, Stronger, and I didn’t put this information in bigger, leaner, stronger because there’s already so much information in it. I think I, I do my best to make it all digestible and. Practical, but there’s so much in there. I was like, All right, I’m gonna, I’m gonna save the food optimization for the next book because a lot of the people coming into bigger leaners, stronger, this is the first time they have really thought about consistently even eating, let’s say fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
So I, I. Was like, ah, let’s just let them get into the routine. And then let’s talk about some more specific foods that they may want to consider incorporating into their diet now that they’re used to. Eating well, so to speak.
William: You know what I mean? Yeah, no I love the idea of including and adding things.
So much of the emphasis of healthy eating has been on elimination. And this has been going back 10, 20 years, and I think that’s trained people to actually react to this idea of healthy eating as thinking about deprivation, but it’s quite the opposite. I think there’s, as you and I have spoken about before, Plenty of opportunity to select from things that everyone enjoys individually to be able to make healthy choices.
Mike: I completely agree, and that’s something that I’ve been promoting since the beginning, since my foray into fitness, I guess in the, this is in the scientific literature. But in the fitness space, people know this as flexible dieting. And some people have taken that to an extreme and their version of that is only caring about calories and macronutrients and not caring about nutrition.
But if that’s really not, if you look to the scientific literature, that’s not what flexible dieting is. It’s very much what you’re saying. And before we get to foods in particular, I wanted to hear from you and I think people listening would. Be interested to hear a bit of the science of how the body heals itself.
When I was on your Instagram page, you had commented that super foods, there’s no individual food that, that, that is the heal all. There are no magic bullet foods, but the body. Is super in many different ways, and especially in its ability to heal itself and to stay strong and resilient. What are some of the physiological systems that allow for that to happen or that make those things happen?
William: Yeah. This all comes from my own background. I’m a physician, I’m a medical doctor. I study internal medicine. I’m also a research scientist, and I’m a vascular biologist, which means that I study blood vessels, which form our circulation, which feeds all of our cells and tissues. And of course I wrote a book, I’m an author.
I wrote E to B Disease, which. Really talks about the science of food as medicine. And my world’s all converged because I spent the first part of my career actually helping to foster the development of new bio technologies using medicines and using new cutting edge science to be able to bring breakthrough treatments for diseases like cancer or diabetes or even vision loss.
If you can imagine, there are treatments now for. Blindness that that weren’t available before that were untreatable causes of vision loss. So now, not only can you helped vision loss in its tracks about 10 to 20% of people you can achieve in reverse vision loss. So we can do things with medicines that we could never dream of before, and that includes, treating cancer and healing wounds with diabetes.
And that was really the first part of my career. And something I noticed as a medical doctor is, My patients would always ask me at the end of a visit, Hey, Doc, what? What could I be doing for myself? Of course I’ve given them diagnoses and written them prescriptions, and I realized that I was never taught what to.
What people should eat in medical school. And I thought that was just wrong. In fact, I was stunned to realize that I, I had so many other answers to people’s questions, but not that one. And so I went back and it took me, about 10 years to do this, and I went back and said, What can I do as a scientist to study what foods can actually do?
To help the body. An interesting kind of dimension on my story is that, I, for a while I, Wei was treating patients at the Veterans Administration. So these, this is the nation’s veterans all being taken care of. Most of them were active, former active duty people, and and the people that I were seeing in their fifties and sixties and older were terribly outta shape.
They had obesity and lots of chronic diseases. And the thing that struck me when they asked me these questions about what they should eat was I realized that all the veterans when they were in their twenties were cut, fit, buff specimens, and they couldn’t even serve unless they were perfect fitness, right?
And so it may be asked the question, whatever happened to them? Why didn’t their bodies help them? Maintain fitness throughout their life. And that’s what also made me realize that there was an opportunity to study what food does in the body. But to use my background with drug development. So when I study food as medicine I literally use the same kind of thinking that, that have been used to develop cancer drugs, to say, how do we activate the body’s own physiological systems?
What foods? Like when you hear about, the super foods, you know there’s only one food and you just eat it and close your eyes and it’s gonna create miracles for you. That’s not so you could never do that with medicines. In fact, The serious nature of drug development is that, you need to understand how the body works.
You need to do science to figure out what you could do to, trigger something beneficial in the body. And then it takes a decade to come up with it if you’re lucky in biotechnology. But f. What I, what was so amazing when I studied food in the same systems that we used to do drug development is that we found foods that had the same or even better activity than a lot of drugs and food doesn’t need to wait.
I always say that food has immediacy. Something that, we talk about now that your listeners actually hear about they can put to work right away. They don’t need to wait.
Mike: Yeah that’s That, that’s exactly again what I talk about in this beyond bigger than your stronger book is, hey, if you’re already used to now eating nutritious foods, here are some specific ones you should consider including.
And so what are some of your favorites that you think that people listening should consider eating? And I’m assuming this would be a daily thing or just on a regular basis.
William: So I get past this question all the time. What’s the, what five foods should I eat? Or, what’s the one single food I should eat?
And I think that has to do with the human nature of wanting to be reductionist, right? Just give me the magic bullet. Give me the silver bullet. Tell me what I, tell me the one thing I need to do, the burrito principle, right?
Mike: Just what’s the 20% that’s gonna gimme 80%? I’ll just ignore.
William: Exactly what and listen, I think, first of all, let me just tell you, I think when it comes to food and I’m somebody who really enjoys food.
I wouldn’t say I enjoy eating, but I do enjoy food because I think food is one of these really intimate parts of our lives that tells us something about our background, our families. Everybody can remember that smell on their mom’s cooking from the kitchen window growing up that really shaped.
Who they are. And so for our food and our food choices, tell us something about where we came from, where we grew up, our communities, and of course our culture. Because in, in America anyway, everybody came from somewhere and they were probably influenced in some background way for that. And of course, as we go through life, we’re traveling, we’re visiting, we learning or exploring.
We, we encounter new things that shape our. Our preferences as well. So when I get asked the question, what are some of the things that I think everybody should know about I saw you first say, First, understand how your body works and what health and fitness means. Our body is hardwired to keep us fit, and our body is hardwired to keep us healthy.
In other words, when we are born, there’s machinery inside us that repels disease and helps us stay. In fitness. And what happens is that as we go through life, there’s many forces in the environment, things that we do to ourselves, things that we don’t even know are happening to us that kind of erode.
They pick at and can deteriorate. Our health defenses, and that’s actually why we get sick. And so the key to actually remaining fit for as long as we possibly can throughout our lives is to keep supporting and even boosting, activating our body’s health defense system. So there’s five of them.
And this comes outta my research. Because we have been involved with drug development, I’ve been involved with drug development to find biotech things that can actually overcome diseases in five health defense systems. One is angiogenesis. That’s how our body grows as circulation. We’ve got 60,000 miles worth of blood vessels in our body.
And these blood vessels bring oxygen and nutrients, Whatever we’re eating, it’s our highways and byways of our body that actually bring it right to our cells and our tissue. So we need in our brains and our heart, so we really need good circulation. What are some foods that actually can help our circulation?
It turns out that healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids actually help keep the blood the highways and byways flowing. Really smoothly. It turns out that there are natural chemicals in fruits. I know that you’re somebody who believes in eating, regular portions of fruits on a daily basis.
This, the peel of fruits contains a natural chemical called Earth solic acid. And I don’t think your listeners need to un memorize what the particular chemicals are, but I can tell you leave it to the researchers like me. We’ve looked at our solic acid and it helps our. Develop our body, develop more blood vessels to keep feeding our healthy organs.
Now the other part of our circulation as just one example is actually our body knows how to prevent too many blood vessels from growing. Cuz just like your lawn if you have too much grass growing, you know you can’t play. A game on it, right? So you wanna bring the gardeners into our lawnmower and you wanna mow that lawn down.
And so our body knows how to mow down our circulation. So it’s got just the right amount, not too hot. Many, not too few. I call it the Goldie lock zone. And some of the, like the not too hot, not too cold for the bears, and some of the foods that can actually help our body prune away extra blood vessels, the unneeded extra blood vessels, green tea can do it.
Pomegranates can actually do it. There’s a natural chemical in peaches. It’s a summertime. I love peaches chlorogenic acid that’s found in the meat of the fruit of a ripe peach. That’s delicious. Olive oil has some of it. Allium, like garlic and red onions have a lot of it as well, but even carrots.
Most people eat the orange part, the tap root that’s under the ground. When you go to a farmer’s market and you buy a whole food, whole carrot, you usually buy it with this big bushy green top on it. It looks like the tail of a. Main coon cat and turns out that that when we compared the carrot bottom with the carrot top, the carrot bottom actually has blood vessel pruning properties, which by the way, are good for starving cancers.
Cancers can’t grow without a blood supply, so carrots can actually help cut off the blood supply too little microscopic cancers that might be trying to grow. And then, but the top part, which most people don’t eat, but I’ve learned to eat because you can make pesto out of it. You can actually juice it, you can put it into a smoothie.
There’s all kinds of things. You can make it, put it into a salad. Carrot tops actually have twice the amount of blood vessel cancer starving extra pruning power. And so this is just one of the five health defense systems and some of the foods that can actually help us. Balance. That’s really an important property.
Yeah, that’s fantastic.
Mike: I didn’t know about that. The Carita. I’m gonna stop throwing them away.
William: Oh yeah no, I meant, but besides the carrot tops, we’ve also done really interesting research looking at broccoli broccoli and a farmer’s market. And this is where I’ve gone, when Indiana Jones goes to these wild lands that go look for, the holy grails and stuff like that, I go to the farmer’s market, to do my research and.
Pick up foods, Whole foods, the way they come out of the ground. And when you buy broccoli, it’s one giant long stem with a little bit of treetop, the florets. And so we studied the Flores, which are also have cancer starving blood vessel pruning right sizing the bloods of your circulation properties.
But the broccoli stem has twice the potency as well. So again food waste is something that, I really emphasize people should try not to waste their food and now we know that like different food parts, the anatomy of the food can be helpful. Yeah, that’s that’s
Mike: also good to know because I generally throw the stems away and I’m just eating the flott and I regularly eat, I always include some sort of cruciferous vegetable, and that’s something I talk about in, in this book I’ve been mentioning as one of the quote unquote super foods.
I think everybody should try to eat regularly in I’ll usually. Rotate between broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Those I’ll just eat one regularly in different ways until I feel like switching to the next but I’m gonna make a little mental note to do something and cut up the stem and eat that too.
William: Why not? Yeah. And you wanna know a little performance tip with those cruciferous vegetables that you just mentioned. So the I’m a scientist, so I think about the details and the details are the chemicals that Mother nature, Mother Nature has created her own pharmacy, not with a pH, but with an M.
All these natural chemicals that are found in Our plants. Which by the way, most of those natural chemicals which are healthy for our body were also health helpful for the plant when they’re growing. MO mostly, many times it’s actually as a natural insecticide prevent bugs from eating the plant and chewing it.
So it’s got a defense role to begin with. And when humans started to eat plant-based foods, those natural. Mother Nature’s Pharmacy had another job description, which is to interact with our human cells. So those cruciferous vegetables that you’re talking about they, they belong to a class of natural chemicals called ITCs, like India, Thomas, Charlie, and ITCs.
Are I Isothiocyanates Again, you listeners don’t need to remember all the details on this, but here’s the key thing. Iso thi cides are found inside plant cells. So humans have cells, but plants have cells as well. And when you eat the plant we chew them and it’s chewing that releases those natural chemicals.
Iso. pH signage. So the more you chew your broccoli brussel sprouts the more you chew. That looks like our, what our mom said. Don’t just wolf your food. Don’t chew it. And with the, and you’ll chew it if you actually prepare it in ways that are really tasty. So food should be tasty. Then you’re chewing it, you’re actually breaking down those cell walls and releasing the natural chemical so you’re not just flushing it through your system, you’re absorbing it in.
Mike: That’s a great tip. even go as far as chopping up my garlic and then leaving it sit for 10 to 15 minutes or so before cooking it, just to, to preserve some of the Allison, there’s, I’m sure you’re all, I’m sure you’re familiar with that, that I thought that’s it’s interesting that there’s actually research on that point in particular that if you eat your garlic raw or if you are gonna cook it, let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes before and it’s even more nutritious.
William: So to Yeah. When, when we break our foods down, right? So you gotta understand, like humans actually are pretty smart in many ways. And so when we began preparing our food whether it’s instinctively or we learned over. Trial and error, cutting, chopping, mixing, allowing food to rest, all those kinds of techniques that you just described, like cutting the garlic and letting it rest for a little bit.
It actually helps the food prepare itself a little bit better. So I think that, we have this instinctive way everybody talks about inventing new foods, right? And there’s all these kinds of new I don’t know, engineered foods that are out. The plant-based meats, et cetera.
Yeah. Yep. I actually think that it’s really worthwhile going back and looking at some of those old ways of doing things. Now, obviously not with a lot of butter and a lot of un unhealthy things, we, I think we can put today’s filter and remove a lot of this, but a lot of old techniques like chopping and sitting marinating, fermenting, those all turn out to actually be activating our health defense.
Mike: Interesting. Yeah. That’s something I have not looked very much into. I’ve heard these things, but I haven’t, I wouldn’t be able to, I wouldn’t be able to describe it nearly as expertly as you would. Can you talk to us about the microbiome? You mentioned this in the IG Live and it’s, Something that I’ve written and spoken a bit about, and it’s something that is getting a lot more attention these days.
And I would be curious as to your take on, maybe if you want to quickly explain what it is and some of the ramifications of a healthy and unhealthy. Microbiome and it’s not just, oh, you’re gonna have stomach aches and then maybe some of your kind of go-to foods or the foods that you like to promote for improving the health and function of the microbiome.
William: Yeah. This is, the microbiome is one of these again, it’s become a very trendy term that people are talking about all the time. So I’m actually gonna, share with you and your listeners what I know as a scientist. And so the first thing about when you know you’re talking to a scientist is a scientist.
Will, honest scientist will always tell you that, there’s a lot we don’t know yet. Okay. Yep. And so what I’m gonna tell you about the microbiome, I will tell you this is a brand new field. It’s very exciting, very important, much more important than we ever thought. But we’re just at the tip of the iceberg.
And so when you hear people talking about the definitive microbiome diet or whatever, we’re, we hardly understand what it is. But let me just tell you what we do know. We know that our body is made of. 30, 40 trillion human cells. And what’s remarkable is that while we’ve always known that we’ve got bacteria in our skin and and our scalp and everything else, and in our gut because feces is actually filled with bacteria, what we didn’t realize is this stuff that gets flushed.
Actually, some of those are the remnants of really healthy bacteria. And so when you count those bacteria in our body, cuz it starts with just. Saying what it is, the microbiome turns out in the gut. We’ve got 39, about 39 trillion bacteria that live inside our gut. So I told you we’ve got about 40 trillion human cells.
We’ve got 39 trillion bacterial cells, so we’re not even fully human. If you think about it, we’re an ecosystem that’s part human and part bacteria. And there’s even a term that describes an organism like us humans. That is not made of only one living cell, but made of different types of organisms. And that term is called a holo bio to holo bio.
So it’s not like a cyborg. It’s not like a terminator . It’s about a holo bio, basically refers to an organism like a human. That’s part. Human cells and part bacterial cells. So here’s what we need. Cyborg would be a little cooler, but . Yeah, . It’s, it is true. That’s coming, so like true that’ll be kinda like the next level of things.
Yeah. But with our gut microbiome, Our gut bacteria is all throughout from our mouth, in our tongue, all the way down to, the tail end of us. And most of it’s in our colon, which is on the back end. This healthy gut bacteria. When we eat food, our body absorbs most of it. So think about it.
You eat a. Broccoli for a piece of broccoli or a spoon full of broccoli forkful. You’re gonna absorb the nutrients, you’re gonna absorb some of the plant proteins you’re gonna absorb a lot of the good stuff, the vitamins, and then the fiber that’s in that broccoli. Some of it will get absorbed, but there’s a lot of fiber in plants that don’t get absorbed, and those fi, those, that fiber just goes down into your lower gut, into your colon.
Now, when I went to medical school, what I was taught. What we were all taught is that the fiber just, stimulates your bowel so that you go regularly, so to speak. But now we know it that’s not quite true. That fiber that, that our human cells don’t absorb goes to feed our bacterial.
Cells so that fiber that we don’t absorb feeds the bacteria descend on it and chew it up. So every time we eat, we’re like feeding our pet bacteria inside our body, and that bacteria eats the stuff that we, our bodies don’t absorb. And I’ll come back to this in a second in terms of harmful foods.
And then when they eat the fiber, for example, simply chew it up as part of the metabolism of the bacteria. They kick out these metabolites. So there are the things that when you feed them, they produce these metabolites. These metabolites are called short chain fatty acids, and the bacteria release them into our bloodstream, our healthy gut bacteria, and what do they do?
These metabolites, lower inflammation, they speed up healing. They boost and improve our immune system, which can actually help us fight cancer. And then most remarkably, and again, I talked about the tip of the iceberg, but most remarkably, we’re beginning to realize. These gut bacteria and the metabolites that they create activate our brains.
There’s a gigantic nerve in our body called the vagus nerve. It’s just one of many nerves that connects our brain, our guts to our brain, but they signal our brain, our gut bacteria can just connected to our brain, and they kinda ring the ring, the bell, and they prompt our brain to release neurotransmitters like dopamine, like serotonin, like oxy.
And that actually controls our mood. So our gut actually is connected to our brain, which is connected to our mood, which is connected to our behavior. So some of the foods that I think that people need to know about are the same foods that we wanna take good care of, our gut bacteria, foods with fiber, plant-based foods, cruciferous vegetables are a great example, but fruits as well.
I’m a, I’m, I love fruits. Kiwi is a great source of fiber that feeds our gut bacteria. It’s packed with fiber. Mushrooms also are a great source of fiber to feed our gut bacteria. It’s the fiber in the mushrooms called beta Decan really is a strong immune. Booster, and of course we’ve all learn, all learned last year, how important a good immune, healthy immune system.
Yeah, that’s gonna be my next question for you. Yeah. So our microbiome does a lot of stuff and then fermented foods are actually deliver the bacteria right to our guts. When you actually have foods like yogurt or chi or sauerkraut you are taking, again, old school. Preparation of foods, fermentation and the healthy bacteria that winds up in the edible bacteria in these foods that we actually swallow, populate our gut and help to build up that 39 trillion population in an ecosystem.
Mike: That’s fantastic. If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my v i p one-on-one coaching service because my team and I have helped people of all ages and circumstances lose fat, build muscle, and get into the best shape of their life faster than they ever thought possible.
And we can do the same for you. You already were segueing into the next question which was gonna be about the immune system. Cuz of course, really the first point of just helping your. Vascular system work better. That’s also relevant to Covid, right? Because, correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is it’s really a vascular disease more than a respiratory one.
And if you wanna quickly comment on that and then I would love to hear your thoughts on the immune system. Maybe some of its basic function and then how we can support it with the right.
William: Yeah. Let we’ll talk about, I’ll come to Covid in one second. The whole thing about our immune system is actually formed, our immune system is formed while we are in the womb.
So when we’re inside our moms, that’s when our immune system actually forms and it’s then our immune system’s formed from stem cells. Which means that our immune system continues to renew itself. So it’s like the it’s like the gift that keeps on giving if we take care of her properly, which is why it’s so important to take good care of our immune system.
Things that actually, before talking about what boosts our immune system, let’s talk about things that take down our immune system. If you eat foods that are way too salt, Over time, that extra salt actually takes down the immune system. If you eat foods that have too much sugar, that hyperglycemia like you wear out not only your pancreas, but you also wear down your immune system.
And so too, if you a eat foods that are have too much saturated fat, people who are in that excess western diet where you’re eating, the gigantic two inch. Or three inch T-bone steaks all the time. Those things take down your immune, That’s the other thing’s still thing among paleo.
Mike: And paleo has now branched off into different subsets but many forms of. I don’t even like to call it the paleo diet because that’s how people know it, but as you probably know, it’s based on pseudo history and a lot of pseudoscience. It’s an okay. Some of the variations are an okay way to eat because they would.
Basically come down to eating a lot of the stuff you’re talking about, there would be some strange restrictions like, oh, but no potatoes or no sweet potatoes, no oatmeal, stuff like that, which is unnecessary. But you have these days also a lot of people following the carnivore diet, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, where you just eat a bunch of meat and it’s usually a lot of fatty, tasty meat.
William: And that’s also a diet that I do not recommend. And but a lot of people are doing it right. . Yeah. Listen, there’s a lot of these fads and trends that are all based on I what I call kind of good intentions, right? People that really want to find better ways. And so I never criticize the intent, but what winds up happening is, there are scientific principles that either hold up or don’t hold up.
And our body is still a mystery that we’re peeling the layers of the onion back and to figure out. What we do know is that lots of red meat ex saturated fats high salt dyes, high hyperglycemic diets. It doesn’t mean sugar or salt’s bad for you. It just means that too much of anything knocks you out of balance and actually can take down your immune system.
But other things that we do also take down our immunity, like sedentary lifestyle. If you’re not active, you’re, if you’re not physically active, if you’re not exercising in some way, shape, or form, regularly. Your immune system is down and so I think that the idea of immunity is something we’re born with.
We carry it with us. It’s up to us to take good care of it and keep it in good shape, just like our muscles. And the foods that actually can boost your immune system that I really enjoy. Blueberries are contain anin. That it’s a anin are a natural dye that makes that nice dark purpleish bluish color.
Blackberries have them anin Pomegranate has a lot of anin, even dark chocolate has anin as well the cranberries have them as well. So the fact of the matter is that cherries do those anin can actually Increase certain functions of our immune system called T-cells.
I, most people don’t have any appreciation of how complicated the immune system is. When I was in medical school, it was one of those things when I was starting to learn it there’s like a textbook on immune immunity we have to read like in two weeks and to have a test on, it made my, it made me glaze over cuz it was so complicated.
So I tried to explain to people today that your immune system, it de defends you and like an army. It’s like an army, but it’s an army of super soldiers and every type of cell and immune system. Every component is like its own type of super soldier that has its own weapon. It’s trained to have its own skills, and they all work together as an army to defend you.
So blueberries, oh, something that you might like to know is Broccoli, which you like to eat. Also upregulates or stimulates or boosts your immune system. An amazing study that was done by researchers in the southeast of the United States and in young healthy people. They wanted to study the f.
Flu vaccine. This is old school, get your flu shot kind of thing. But for people who don’t like jabs you can actually get a flu vaccine by a nose spray. And so they took some young kids in our twenties, outta college and they I gave ’em a flu spray. They’re equivalent of a flu shot.
And then they gave half the people only the nose spray with the vaccine. Then they gave the other and a placebo drink. And the other half they actually gave the nose spray with the va with the vaccine, the flu vaccine. But they gave them two cups every single day of a shake made with broccoli sprouts.
So I’m not talking about raw food, I’m just talking about broccoli sprouts that you can. In the grocery store and cuz you don’t have to do anything special with them, they just put ’em into a and made ’em into a smoothie. And it turns out that these iso thi signate that we talked about, the boost your immune system, what they found in these young people just getting a flu vaccine and compared to the placebos that those who had the vaccine plus.
Broccoli Sprout Shake had an amplification of their immune response against the flu by 22 times. Wow. It’s really amazing. So this is a human study super practical food and a great way to actually boost your immune system. Yeah. That’s awesome.
Mike: And, mentioning a couple of the foods that brings the immune system down made me think what are some are there foods that you would say, Yep, these are not good for the microbiome.
Things that. Again, the point of course, like you said, is to not completely avoid them. You don’t have to completely avoid the fatty steak. You just probably don’t want to eat 16 ounces of it every day. Are there any foods though that if eaten consistently, make the microbiome, make it harder for it to do its job?
William: Yeah. So first of all I think you’d agree with me on this. If we all spend most of our time, let’s just call it 80% of our time, taking good care of our health defenses, we can afford, our shields are up, we can afford to take a few hits and we’ll bounce right back. And so really the whole idea is to practice good, healthy.
Lifestyle habits, including a health good, healthy diet most of the time. And, and it’s not that hard. It’s really practical. But there are some things that I would say the research has shown time in time and again, that they’re not good for your microbiome. And if they’re, they hurt your microbiome, you’re good, healthy gut bacteria, they help hurt your immunity and actually make your body more inflammatory, which doesn’t sets you up for all kinds of diseases, which could.
Helping cancers, microscopic cancers to take off. So nobody wants that. So what are some of these foods that research science has shown is not good for you? Not good for your microbiome, and therefore not good for your immune system? First of all, Heavy duty alcohol, like if you were heavy drinking is good, bad for almost every aspect of your body, including your microbiome and including your immune system.
I, I don’t think that needs to be said But other things that people tend to not appreciate as much is that, Processed meats. Okay. These are the, the packed with preservatives or packed with all kinds of chemical preservatives. And I’m not talking about the kind that they, hang up to dry in Italy, which people don’t eat that often, even in Italy.
But the stuff that, like the lunch meat stuff that’s going on that, that you see in every deli counter that gets sliced up and put into a sandwich every single day. From the time you’re a kid, those preserve meats and those chemicals actually really injure your microbiome. They’re your gut bacteria.
They like to eat the fiber and they like to eat other things. They’re pretty adaptable, but preserve meats they don’t like, it really changes their, the ecosystem from good towards bad. The other thing that actually is harmful to the microbiome that’s been shown now by research is artificial sweeteners.
I don’t drink so. As a general rule. And I’ve never drank diet soda, but I know they’re really popular. And so I try to tell, friends and family members who, I’m watching them pick up a can of diet soda and swinging it down on a hot day. I’m just saying listen, it’s important to get hydrated, but you know that the artificial sweeteners in a lot of these diet sodas actually harm your microbiome, and because your microbiome actually helps you regulate your insulin and your glucose sensitivity, Even though you’re having a diet soda to avoid that extra calories that could make you fat, so to speak, the reality is you’re harming your microbiome.
People who drink a lot of diet soda actually gain weight cuz you’re messing up your microbiome. And it also influences your immune system. And then the final thing is really that’s been now studied that harms your microbiome, hence your immune system is if you are on a staple diet of. Ultra process foods.
So there, people talk about ultra processed foods all the time. It’s really hard to define it. I would say ultra processed foods tend to come in a box. Yep. They come to be made from big companies. They tend to have ingredient lists that, take up half the. Size of the box and starts with things that you can’t pronounce.
And so I say for anything that you buy in a grocery store pick it up, look at ingredients, see if you feel comfortable with those ingredients. And if you can’t even pronounce stuff that’s on there, then that’s probably that should send of red flag to you, that there might, that might be an ultra processed food.
Mike: Yeah, that’s, I have said for a long time, if you just stick to most of your calories coming from foods that you cut and prepare and cook yourself, and then if you want to allot a minority of those calories to, even if it is an ultrapro, let’s say you really like Oreos and you’re like, I’d love to have a couple of Oreos every day.
I don’t see anything wrong with that. So long as you are getting most of your. Calories from all of these nutritious foods that you’re talking about. And certainly in addition to that, if you’re also exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body composition, you don’t have to be ripped or jacked, of course, but just healthy.
And then with that comes the flexibility that we’ve talked about and the sustainability. Where then people they go, Yeah, I could do that. I can, I have all these tasty foods to choose from that are nutritious and I can have. My Oreos, Maybe not even every day. Maybe I just want to have it every other day.
William: Okay. I can do that, and that’s the whole idea of, being prepared to go out into the world, to go live your life. And, like I said, life is full of trials and tribulations and just, there’s a tax on our body just for being on planet Earth. Yep. We’re exposed to radar on, we’re exposed to ultraviolet radiation, not to mention all the stuff that’s in the environment that, that, we put on there with manufacturing.
But listen, we have to live to enjoy our life. I used to always tell my patients, life is for the living. And so you really need to prioritize the things that, that you value, that are also healthy for you. And if you can align those things, and especially comes to food, like I, my, my mantra, my motto is, Love your food. To love your health. If you can align the things that you love with the things that are good for you, that’s perfect.
Mike: Completely agreed. And before we wrap up, I wanted to follow up on this point of artificial sweeteners in the microbiome. Cause I know that’s controversial. I know some people would push back and they would say, No research has been overblown.
And Yeah. In rats, maybe that’s the case. But even though we share 99% of dna, we’re not just big rats. And if you look at these other studies over here, Studies, it indicates that’s probably not true. What are, I understand this would, this could turn into a long, this could be a podcast episode under itself, but I thought it would be, Cause I know some of the people listening have heard some of those things, so I thought it would be a good opportunity for you to share some of your thoughts about some of these counterpoints that I’m sure you’ve heard.
William: Yeah. First of all The, as they say, the, whether something is a cure or poisons in a dose, right? Yeah. So it has to do with how much exposure you actually have. And it is clearly true in a laboratory that artificial sweeteners actually damage are actually quite damaging for the gut microbiome.
But, I listen as somebody who’s done cancer research, we’ve cured cancer in mice. Over and over again. But we still have a great deal of difficulty getting those types of results in humans. And so I’m the first to tell you that you have to respect what the science says in the lab, and you have to take a look at what actually happens in the clinic.
It. Turns out that when it comes to food, part of the controversy that occurs is that the moment that something comes out about that’s bad, about a certain food that is easily available, you know what happens is that the companies that make those foods fun research that’s biased, that actually comes to the opposite conclusion and then, and there starts the controversy.
And so I think that, the thing, the first thing to realize is that the poisons in a dose. So if you have a little bit, it’s probably okay if you have a lot, probably not. Okay. For these artificial sweeteners, number one. Number two is that, we have found repeatedly in the lab that actually that artificial sweeteners do damage the microbiome.
And if that’s, if that’s a risk that you’re willing to take, whether holds out in humans, then it, that’s up to you. It’s a, like we’re free to make our own choices. But it turns out also that there are human studies that are randomized, double blind. Crossover clinical trials that have been done published, not so long ago looking at non-nutritive artificial sweeteners to take a look at their effects on the gut microbiome in humans.
And they looked at the feces, they looked at the stool, and they found that there were changes that that were not favorable in people that were actually having these non-nutritive sweeteners as well. Again, I mentioned to you about the microbiome. We were just at the tip of the iceberg and there’s nothing really definitive about anything about the microbiome.
We just need more research on it. But hey, listen, I’m somebody that would rather take the risk. Towards something healthy and good for me because I’m focused on being as fit as I can and doing everything possible. And if I’ve got choices to make, I would like to be mindful enough to make a good choice rather than a bad choice.
And so it’s one of those things that once you know the information, you can’t unlearn it. You just have to act on it. Yep. And what
Mike: is a little versus a lot? I know some people are gonna be wondering cause certainly people who are having maybe some of these chemicals regularly are now wondering am I having too much?
William: Yeah. I think this is what’s not really known. Yeah. The, what is the optimal dose of, frankly, not only an unhealthy food, but even a healthy food. So again the cure is in the dose as well as the poison. Can you overdose on garlic?
Absolutely. In fact I had a a classmate of mine in college who was a garlic fiend. I remember this guy used to walk around that unique fetish to have, it is a crazy fetish. His room smelled like garlic. And when he came into the dining hall, you could smell him like from the other end of the dining hall, right?
And and I remember. He used to just go on and on about garlic and he would eat six clothes at once, like it was , like they were TicTacs. And and I heard some years later that he died of kidney failure because of all the garlic he actually ate. So we know garlic’s good for you, but an overdose of anything isn’t so good for you.
And I think that this comes back to something that we started this conversation about Mike, which is. It’s it’s up to all of us to really take reasonable approaches, to be as fit as we can. We put as much focus and attention as we can to the things we prioritize. At the end of the day, it’s all about living our life with reasonable balance, and I think that’s true for good things.
Mike: As is true for bad things, moderation is what’s key. I think to having a long, healthy fit life. Fantastic put. I completely agree. And just to echo your take on artificial sweeteners, that’s one of the reasons that’s really the primary reason why my sports attrition company has not used.
We’ve used. Natural sweeteners and natural flavoring. And natural coloring as well. No, no artificial sweeteners particularly. I wanted to stay away from sweeteners and food dyes. I don’t know of any research to indicate the artificial flavoring is an issue, but I figured, hey, if we’re going natural, we’ll just use natural everything.
And I started Legion believe this is year seven now. Back then I was pointing to research that was coming out and I, there was rodent research. It was speculative. And I acknowledged that. I said, Hey, look I don’t know if this is gonna be a problem. I don’t know how this is gonna pan out, but I’m betting and real money because in some cases it costs me three, four, maybe upward of $5, certainly three, $4 per bottle to use natural substances.
Where if I were to switch to OSE and artificial, Flavoring. It would go down to probably 50 cents or less per bottle. That’s how much of a premium I’m paying to stick to the natural ingredients. And I was saying back then, look, think of your average person who’s like into fitness, who takes supplements.
They’re having probably two to four scoops of protein powder per day. They’re probably having something pre-workout. A lot of them like to have something in the middle of their. They are probably gonna have something after their workout. You have all these different products that they take, then you throw in a greens supplement or you throw in a couple of others that, that people like to take.
So now on average, I mean you might be getting 6, 8, 10 plus servings of Ace K or Sulo or Aspert tame per day. And back then I was saying, I’ll bet you when the research. If we fast forward, I was saying 5, 10, 15 years from now, there’s gonna be more and more evidence that’s probably not a good idea for your gut health.
And then that of course has other ramifications. And so I was saying then, and I have the same type of philosophy as you do. I don’t want to, I don’t see the need to take that risk with my body and I with supplements, I was not taking supplements that were maybe I would have, I. There a little pre-workout I was taking, which I would take like half of a serving one not even every day was artificially sweetened and I wasn’t concerned about that, but I would not want to have that much artificial sweetener and certainly not.
William: Food dies on a regular basis for myself. So why would I put it in products and sell it to others? Like that would be completely unethical. Yeah, no, and I love you obviously have really good intuition and we do have to think about the nature of research, which builds our knowledge going forward.
And, that’s one of the things that I That made me want to do things like create masterclass and create an online course and offer it to people periodically. Because as a researcher on food, on diet these things have such immediacy. I feel like there’s an opportunity as we learn new things to be able to get it out and it’s a, it’s an opportunity to to deliver information.
It’s like science news that people can use. And that’s really why I created my masterclass. And people who wanna find out about my my free masterclass, they can sign up or sign up for online course. I teach about it can go to Dr. William lee.com, Dr. William Lee l i.com to find out more.
But I appreciate really being. To share and kind of mind meld with you on these, It sounds like a lot of our philosophies are very congruent and convergent and would love to be able to keep having this conversation.
Mike: Yeah. This was great. I really appreciate you taking the time.
And why don’t we also wrap up with, again, you mentioned your book earlier, but for people who have forgotten, if you wanna share that with them and then if there’s anything else you want them to know about, let’s definitely let them.
William: Sure, listen. My book is called Eat to Beat Disease, The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself.
The New York Times bestseller, you can find it online on Amazon and anywhere. That books are sold. I actually did a update on it during the pandemic to include immune boosting recipes. Even if you have the book, there’s actually a new edition that’s got more information in it. I put 25 new recipes and the best would actually.
Keep up with what I’m doing which is really science based and new research based on food in his medicine has come to my website, dr. William Lee l i.com, Dr. William lee.com. And I really love to invite people to come up to sign up for my free masterclass. You can find out about it on my website.
And if you wanna take an online course you can learn more about that there too as well. Love it. Love it.
Mike: Thanks again for taking the time, Dr. Lee.
William: Thank you.
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