Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, welcome. Here we are at our Big Bold Health Podcast, and oh my word am I so excited. You’ll notice—I wish you were seated next to me—but virtually seated next to me, is Dr. Tom O’Bryan!
Tom and I have shared a journey in life, both professionally and personally, now for several decades. Tom is more than just an intellectual treasure to me, he’s an intellectual, personal treasure.
In our road of life, many, many people we have the privilege of meeting, every individual brings their own unique texture to our lives of their experience, and I’m a believer that at the end of life, the winner is the person that’s had the most personal positive experiences in their life with other people. That’s the winner of all.
I’ve been very, very fortunate in my life, in traveling more than six million miles—even to say that sounds crazy, but it’s true—to have met many really remarkable people and learn so much.
But on my shortlist is Dr. Tom O’Bryan, who is one of those seekers, a shared person walking on this trail of self-discovery, and bringing experiences through his own lens to the world that can be shared with many others, to their betterment, through his diligence, his perseverance and his depth of thinking.
So Tom, thanks for being one of our charter members of our season two of Big Bold Health.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Well, thank you. It’s a real honor to be with you, Jeff. This journey we’ve shared has been one of, we see each other a couple times a year and kind of high five, and how’s it going, and what’s new on the plate. It’s just been a treasure for me also, to refer to you as my mentor, and a gift as my friend.
So thank you very much. And it’s a pleasure to be on Big Bold Health.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, thank you. One of the measures I use for evaluating the nature of connection you have with other people on the planet is how it brings out of you, the deepest of your emotions. You and I, I feel, have shared the privilege of having a number of deep conversations that certainly brought me to tears, in a very positive way, and I think you as well.
My father said many very important things to me as I grew up, but one of them that has stuck with me that I’ve said to so many people since, was he said, “So Jeff, as you grow up, if your life is like mine, you’re going to have three kinds of interactions with people over time. You’re going to have interactions that lead to the discussion of things. You’re going to have interactions that lead to the discussion of people. And you’re going to have interactions that lead to the discussion of ideas.
And of all those three, most of your time probably will be discussions about people and things. You probably won’t remember those so much. The minority of the interactions you’ll have will be those that lead to the discussion of ideas, and those will be much fewer in number, but those are going to be the ones that are similar in your life, that you’ll remember.”
I’ve thought about that so many times because it’s true. The greatest memories I have are those less frequent experiences, where you can touch together with a person in communication, around the substance of ideas of being human.
You and I have had the privilege, I believe, of those kind of seminal moments over the years. With that as kind of a sociological introduction, why don’t you tell people about who Dr. Tom O’Bryan is, from the level of your discovery of life, because your trail of living has been quite remarkable in its own right. So I’m going to turn it over to you to give us your story.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Oh, my. Born in Detroit, a tough kid growing up, tough neighborhood. Many of my friends didn’t make it into their mid to late ’20s, they’re gone. My heart was always in people, always in community, and always wanting to connect. I spent eight years in Ann Arbor, with my hair down to my waist and a beard, and I was a baker—I don’t know if I’ve ever told you. I was a baker in a natural food restaurant, baking 48 loaves of the best destination bread—meaning people drove to get it! Just the very best unyeasted, stone-ground whole wheat flour, water, and salt, but we’d get it to rise. It would take 24 hours to rise with the natural yeast. It was just a fabulous bread! The bread comes out of the oven, I’d take a slice, I’d cut off about a thick piece of an end cut and I’d put peanut butter on it—protein, got to have protein, I want to be healthy—so well, I think it was. Then I’d pour honey on it, and then slice bananas on top of that, and it was just delicious, but it was a blood sugar time bomb!
Dr. Jeff Bland:
And how about that gluten, Dr. Tom O’Bryan?!
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
That’s right! It’s called the glycemic index, how much sugar your body thinks is in what you’re eating—that a slice of whole wheat bread has a much higher glycemic index than a Snickers bar!
I was doing this every day when bringing the loaves out of the oven, so in my late 20s I had blood sugar problems.
Back in the ’80s, we were talking about hypoglycemia, and everyone had hypoglycemia. To some degree, that was probably true—the vast majority of people did—but that’s what got me into health.
I started reading this magazine that was out called Prevention magazine, and there was an author – he had a monthly column of case studies. It was a doctor. He was from the University of Michigan, and I’m from the University of Michigan, so I resonate with this guy, so I would read his case studies. This was Jonathan Wright.
He was writing case studies about “somebody came in to see me, they had piles,” and he used the language that the people would use and then he’d talk about the exam he did, and then he’d make a dietary recommendation and some nutrition. A paragraph or two down, all of a sudden, the guy comes back in six months and piles are gone. Then at the end of it would be a reference to a medical study as to why this particular food had benefit with that condition.
I read those case studies every month, and, well, I certainly was looking forward to them—reading the next one, and reading the next one. My love at the time was martial arts. I was teaching Aikido, and I had gone to Japan and I was a Deshi—I lived in the main headquarters. Being a Deshi means you get to clean the toilets, and so that’s what I got to do.
But I missed my girlfriend, so eventually I came back and I married her and then it was time for a real job. I thought about health care. I was, “You know what? I can do this!” Diet, some vitamins, and things. Jonathan Wright was such an excellent writer, and just a brilliant guy—a true pioneer. So I looked at osteopathic schools—my uncle is an osteopath—and I was accepted. But I just didn’t like hospitals, and I was a hippie in Ann Arbor. I just did not like hospitals at all.
My girlfriend, soon to be wife, had a back problem and she couldn’t walk. My friend at work said, “I took my wife to a chiropractor,” and I said, “What’s a chiropractor?” I didn’t know! But we called, he said, “Bring her right in.” I carried her in, she walked out.
Dr. Harold Swanson was 76 years old, just a beautiful, kind man—ham hock hands. But he said, “Tom, you come back and watch.” “Oh, okay, Dr. Swanson.” So he saw something in me. So I went back and I’d visit every once in a while, and Dr. Swanson said, “This is Tom. He’s going to watch,” and the patient would say, “Oh, okay. Hi Tom.”
I’m a long-haired guy with blue jeans with holes in them, and not the fancy holes of today, but worn-out blue jeans back then. I would watch and Dr. Swanson would say, “Carol has asthma. She has difficulty breathing. Now Tom,” and Carol would be laying on the table, and say, “Feel here. Do you feel anything different here?” And he put my hands between T2 and T4, the upper back area.
I say, “Well Dr. Swan, it kind of feels like the muscles over here are a little… more than on the other side.” He said, “That’s right. I’m going to adjust that area, and it might help her breathe a little better,” and he’d make an adjustment and the patient would get off the table and say, “Huh. It always feels so much better, Dr. Swanson.” So that was my introduction.
This 74-year-old man would say things like, “Tom, everyone should rest, and your digestive system should have a rest, so one day a week, give your system a rest.” He was talking about fasting!
He didn’t know the language we know today or why, but he was introducing these wholesome concepts of what a healthy body is like.
I enrolled in chiropractic school, I went to Chicago—this was January of 1978. And some of my first talks that I heard outside of my instructors, Jeff, one of the first was you. And you were in Chicago, you came to Chicago, and I just sat and went, “Yeah. Yeah!” I didn’t know a half of what you were talking about at the time. But it was such a catalyst for me, just carrying me up from the Prevention magazine case studies with the reference in the back, to saying, this doctor, the British Medical Journal said this, and this doctor in the Journal of the American Medical Association said this, and you see what this one said last week in the Journal of Pediatrics and how they connect. You got me thinking about how to connect science facts, and not be stuck in one line of thinking, and it’s just been a journey ever since.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Again, I didn’t realize this connection we had with Jonathan Wright, because Jonathan Wright and I both started together in Redmond, Washington (Bellevue, Washington). He was with the local health group, and I was with Dr. Leo Bolles at the time I was a professor. I was head of the medical lab that served Dr. Bolles’s clinic, and he and I were together in studying in a study club, and we met both as authors for Prevention magazine. I wrote an article on vitamin E from the work that we were doing, it connected him to me and we both studied, in this study club that ultimately became a study club with Dr. Joe Pizzorno and many others, the founding fathers and women in natural medicine in the Puget Sound area we’re all engaged in. That became Functional Medicine Update eventually, that I did for 35 years. So all of this connection is interesting history.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Dr. Jeff Bland:
For me, one of the things that has struck me about your career, is your ability to humanize, personalize, and demythologize a lot of this gobbledygook that I talk about—the deep science. I remember, I don’t know if that was your first lecture that we did in combination, but one of the early ones where you were talking about your father and your mother and the relationship of that, that kind of guided some of your principles in thinking.
Maybe you could share without getting too personal. But I think all of these are part of what sends us on our way to become advocates and to reach out beyond ourselves.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Well, my father died in 1990 of a massive coronary at 64 years old. He had no cardiovascular indicators whatsoever. The chief pathologist for the city of Detroit, a friend of my brother’s, did the autopsy and he called me and said, “Dr. O’Bryan, I’m sorry. I don’t know why your father died.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, he had a heart attack, but there was no evidence of a clot, and he only had 30% blockage in his left descending coronary. Now, that’s the widow-maker, but that’s not enough for the blockage. We suspect foul play. I’m sorry, but that’s the law.”
So he did toxicology screens, there was nothing. He looked for needle marks on the whole body, there was nothing. He did lung biopsy, there was nothing. He said, “This is the second time in my career I’m baffled. I don’t know why you’re bothered. He had a heart attack but we don’t know why.”
Well, that sent me on the hunt, and the first person I called was you. And you said, of course, “Very sorry. Call Kilmer.” And I called Dr. Kilmer McCully.
Dr. McCully is the godfather of homocysteine research. It’s a marker of inflammation in the body.
I said, “Dr. McCully, I know that elevated homocysteine can cause vasospasm, meaning the blood vessels to spasm—like restless legs and that kind of thing.” He said, “Yes. Yes.” “Can elevated homocysteine cause a basal spasm at the site of a 30% blockage, in the left descending coronary artery, effectively making it a 100% blockage? And then when the heart attack comes and the person dies, the blood vessel relaxes again?”
And he said, “Tom, that is an entirely sound theory. We’ve reproduced that in the laboratory.” But by that time, my father was buried and no one ever checked a homocysteine level for him in 1990. So I did the next best thing—I checked mine. I had elevated homocysteine, my brother did, my sister did, 19 of my 21 first cousins did, and so it’s genetic. So the assumption is my dad had elevated homocysteine. That’s a $40 blood test that his doctors never ran on him. And so every new patient exam I did for 20 years, we also checked homocysteine, and we found a lot of people that didn’t know that they had elevated homocysteine.
Now, elevated homocysteine occurs, most often, because of a B vitamin deficiency. You’re just not getting enough of the B vitamins. It’s so easy to fix—you fix them in three weeks! And doctors, I always say, you recheck in three weeks and make sure what you’ve given the patient has done the job so that the metabolism is now working better. It doesn’t take long to know if you fixed it or not.
Why did my father have a B vitamin deficiency? Well, by then I was already on the trail of wheat-related disorders. Of course, we know B vitamins are absorbed in the first part of the small intestine, which is where celiac disease occurs—in the first part of the small intestine—because that’s where the inflammation begins when people eat wheat, is in the first part of the small intestine. And if you have that inflammation, you’re not going to absorb the nutrients very well there. So my dad likely had a functional B vitamin deficiency which caused elevated homocysteine, which caused a basal spasm at the site of a 30% blockage, making it 100% blockage. And we lost our dad at 64 years old.
After that, when a patient would come in and we do our exam, and I would say, “I suspect, we need to check this, this, and this.” And the patient would say, “Well, how much does that cost? Or does insurance pay for it?” And I say, “Well, it depends on your insurance, but likely to pay for these first two but this last one most likely not, they won’t pay for it, but this is why I think it’s important.” And if the patient says, “Well, Doc, I don’t want to spend the money. I can’t afford it.” I say, “Okay. Patient refuses such and such blood tests because of finances. Would you please sign this? And I’ll put it in the file?” And well, “Why would I do that?” “Well, because I’m going to do my best to help you, but if you die because I didn’t know that you had an elevated homocysteine or whatever the marker is for the test, I’m not responsible.” “No, no. Okay. I’ll do the test.” “Good. Thank you.”
Doctors should be concerned if they order tests and they come back normal, because you don’t order tests to go fishing to find a problem. You order tests based on what your clinical indicators are, of this is a likely path where there might be a problem and I can’t miss it, because it killed my father. You can’t miss it. So when people would give me flack, excuse me, but if they give me flack about my recommendations because they can’t afford it, and then two months later, I see him on the street or in the shopping center and they have a deep tan because they just came back from two weeks to Mexico, that got me to understand that I wasn’t educating well enough about the priority of why the test was important. So my entire career has been based on the premise—test, don’t guess—so that we don’t miss things.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Oh, boy. This is why we do these discussions…because this is another place that you and I are deeply connected. So my beloved father, who later in his life worked with me at the start of what became later to be HealthComm and functional medicine, who I’m very proud to say, in his retirement, I had to force him out of the company, so he could spend more time with my mother. At his retirement dinner, he said he had actually recorded every boss that he had ever had since he delivered architectural drawings during the depression to help his family out, at 10 or 11 years of age. He had every boss he had written down, the person that he reported to in every job he had. He eventually became an aeronautical engineer. And so at the end of his story to the team—this little address he was giving us, he was retiring from our team—he said, “And I want you to know, the reason I’ve gone through this is, my last boss was my son. And he was the best boss I’ve ever had.” Now, that’s the kind of relationship that I shared with my father.
So after he did retire and he and my mother spent more time together, he started to develop Parkinsonism. It got to the point where his quality of life had become so impaired that the thing that he loved doing the most, which was programming on his computer, was now really jeopardized. It would take him something like an hour to write a line of code—just to get his hands to use the keyboard correctly.
Obviously my mother was the principal caregiver and so she and I would be in conversation, and she says, “So Jeff, the stuff that you do, is there anything you think we could do for your father?” And he was being seen by the top line, medical professionals out of Stanford, actually. They were living in Northern California at the time. I said, “Well, I wonder if his internist has ever measured his homocysteine and his methylmalonic acid levels.” And when I looked at the pedigree of his internist—he was an MD, PhD, with his PhD in hematology—so I just made an assumption, right? Just as you were describing with your father, maybe that something had already been analyzed with this level of expertise.
So when I then called him and spoke with him it turned out that, no, it had not been analyzed, and then he said, “Well, why do you think it’s important?” So I gave him the Tom O’Bryan story in capsule, and he said, “Oh, are there any papers on that?” Well, you never ask Jeff Bland or Tom O’Bryan for papers, right?
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Dr. Jeff Bland:
This is the day of faxes. I said, “Let me fax you some.” Well, it turned out to burn out his fax machine. I just sent a whole ream of papers. The next day, his office manager called me. She said, “So the doctor would really like to talk with you.” And I said, “Well, I’m pleased. That’s why I sent all those papers.” And he said, “Well, this is a whole area that I was unfamiliar with. I didn’t understand this association, as these papers are describing. So where can I get this test done?” So I said, “Okay, well, let me work out a couple of the laboratory options for you.” Then he came back and he said, “Well, I’m not sure that Medicare will support these tests, so I’m not sure I can call them because I don’t want to get in trouble with Medicare.” And I said, “Well, let’s not worry about that. I’m more than happy to pay cash for the tests—that’s not the issue.” So then finally we got over that hurdle, which was the reimbursement hurdle.
Then the data came back, as with your father, well, you didn’t know for sure. But in my case, I did know for sure: my father’s levels were elevated. Then he said, “So what do I do about this?” So I said, “Well, why don’t you prescribe a therapeutic dose of folic acid? I suggested 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate and intramuscular vitamin B12. And I said to him, “Why don’t you have your nurse teach my mother how to administer the IM B12, so he could get it daily.” And he said, “Oh jeez, that sounds like a lot of B12.” And I said, “Well, relative to a normal average person maybe. But maybe in this particular case, we’re going to use this test to titrate what level is required to get his homocysteine levels and methylmalonic acid levels down.”
So that started. My mother was giving him daily injections, and she would call me daily and report in and would say, “Well, Jeff I’m not noticing any change yet. Your father is still in pretty much the same condition.” Ten days into this therapy, my mother calls me, and she’s frenetic, and she’s crying, and I am really worried that something really disastrous happened. So I try to get her to calm down. Eventually I’m able to. She catches her breath, she is able to communicate, and so I’m thinking the worst.
I said, “So has dad really had a serious problem?” She said, “Oh, no, no, no, no! It’s the opposite. I’m calling for the opposite! We’re not sleeping in the same room anymore, because your father didn’t want to keep me awake with all of his restlessness, so he’s in the other bedroom. For the first time in three years, I’m woken up by your father who’s fully dressed on his own, standing at the foot of the bed saying, “It’s a lovely day, do you think we can go on a picnic today?”
For the next four years, my father was at his computer every day. He completely regained his cognitive function, and it was a miracle. Now, let’s ask the question about the physician. The physician then observed this. So he calls me up and he says, “So I looked you up and I see that you do something called functional medicine.” He says, “Is that related to what I was doing with your father?” And I said, “Yeah, that’s a part of it. That’s part of our body of knowledge that we teach.”
And he said, “Hey, this could be really interesting for me. I think I want to be doing this.” And I said, “Well, fine, I’ll send you some information, we have courses.” This is just when we were starting the Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice program. And you can do this in a couple of sessions—get the basic information.
When I sent him the information he called me back, he says, “I’m really busy. Do you have a one-hour tape, that I could listen through to do this?” I said, “Well, it actually takes a little more than one hour – even with a person with all your background and education, it really takes more than one hour.” So, unfortunately, he never took that up. But later, I went down and saw his office some years later. Now he was a shingles, internal medicine, hematology, and metabolic disease specialist.
It’s so interesting what we learn about ourselves, other people. The story here, however, is so similar to the story that you experienced. What it does, as it did you, it did me, emboldened me to not be apologetic about what we do, try to be understanding of those that don’t know, try to do the best job I can in communicating. But if there is a resistance and unwillingness to even open the door for exploration, then my thought is, don’t waste the time. There are plenty of other people out there that have still neuronal plasticity that have enough open-mindedness to look at these opportunities.
So I think we’ve shared the same energizing of our advocacy through our parental experiences.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
I’ve tried to be kind when talking to a patient about a practitioner like that that they may have. And I’ve said, “Well, it may be time to expand your healthcare team and just bring on another specialist who might have a different outlook.” Or when patients come in and they’re on high blood pressure medication, I’ll say, “Now, look, here’s what we’re going to do. You stay on your medication, of course. You need medication, you take it. But I want you to go back to your doctor and say, “Listen, I’ve met this new doctor that I’m working with. I’m changing my diet, I’m learning to exercise, I’m taking some vitamins. Would you monitor my blood pressure for me? Can I come in once a week, or whatever you think is appropriate so that you monitor me so that I don’t take too much medication, because they’re telling me my blood pressure might get better? And if it gets better, I can get dizzy if I take too much medication, or I could pass out. So could you monitor me?” And every doctor in the world wants their patient to be healthy, and one would assume they would say, “Yes, of course, come in once a week we’ll check your blood pressure.” If they say, “No, don’t take any of that,” then you get a new doctor for your blood pressure to monitor you. Right?
We all have a place in this world to contribute. We all do. It would be silly to think that you don’t need to see a hematologist if you’ve got a blood problem, just do functional medicine. Nonsense!
You see the specialist you need to see to C.Y.A, to cover yourself. Right? But also be looking and asking, “Where might this be coming from? What in my life has set up the direction of my health so I’m going downhill, here?”
It’s like a boulder rolling downhill. There’s nothing in the world that’s ever going to turn your health straight up like this. It just doesn’t happen. The best that you can hope for is to taper that downward slope and plateau it out. Then eventually, as you’re going to more health, the destructive processes are slowing down and they stop. Right?
It’s like in Big Bold Health’s omega-3s, you’ve got these pro-resolvins in them. No one puts pro-resolvins in their omega-3s that I’ve seen before. What a great idea! Because what pro-resolvins do, is that you’ve got inflammation. It’s normal to have inflammation, you must have some inflammation to protect the body from the bugs we are exposed to and all that. But if you have too much inflammation, you want to turn off those genes of inflammation when they’re no longer needed.
And so you’ve put some pro-resolvins in the omega-3s that just help calm down those inflammatory genes, just kind of tone them down.
I shouldn’t say this to Jeff Bland, but genes don’t turn on and off. They’re on a dimmer switch! We want to dim down the genes. There are 1200 genes for inflammation, over 1200. We want to dim down the genes of inflammation and turn up the genes of anti-inflammation. So pro-resolvins turn down the genes of inflammation in a gentle, easy way.
I mean, it’s just there are some common sense things that, unfortunately… I just did a talk in… where was it? London, a couple days ago. It’s all remote now, so I don’t know where I am sometimes. I was talking about, unfortunately, the nutrition education in medical schools has been terrible. A paper in 2010 showed that 26% of medical schools had adequate amounts of nutritional education, as deemed necessary by the American Board of Nutrition Education. In 2004 it was 32%, but in 2010 it was 26%. In 2015, it was 24%, in 2018 it was 26%. So our medical students are coming out of school without knowledge about diet and nutrition. It’s not their fault, it’s the system. They’re just not getting the knowledge.
And I thought about it, why is that? And I wanted to look up some documentation, but I didn’t. I didn’t have time to do it yet, about how much the pharmaceutical industry contributes to medical schools on an annual basis, for grants on research and things like that. So pharmaceuticals is the emphasis, whereas how much do nutrition companies contribute to medical schools? And you may know better than I. But I don’t think it would be very much at all. It’s peanuts, if anything, compared to the pharmaceutical industry.
Our new doctors are being trained on what the influences are that are coming in. So it’s not their fault. Until they start talking to you saying, when you hear a gastroenterologist that you’ve gone to see because you’ve got some kind of gut issues, maybe an autoimmune disease or some kind of gut issues, and they tell you, “No, it doesn’t matter what you eat, it doesn’t have anything to do with it.” You know that you’re talking to the wrong guy. Right? Anything that’s going on in your digestive tract is going to be influenced by what you put in the digestive tract! You put bad gas in a Ferrari, it’s going to run like a Studebaker. So there’s just some common sense things like that.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, I think one of the things that you have done brilliantly, on kind of a broad platform, you’ve taken the concept of eating, by using gluten and gluten-containing grains as an exemplar, and you’ve connected it into health and the health care system in a way to show the continuity. It’s not that in and of itself, it is what it embodies to the whole of the nature of how food agriculture, food processing, food delivery, food preparation, influences the function of our body through this signaling system called the immune system, of which something like 60% is clustered around our intestinal tract.
That’s your beautiful message because you’ve harmonized those, showing how they’re integrated through using gluten and glutinous grains as an example.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Well, thank you for that. Common thing I say is, most common source of inflammation is what’s on the end of your fork. So if you’re putting things down there, that are activating an immune response to protect you, that’s what inflammation is in your gut. Your body is trying to protect you from something, and it could be an altered microbiome that’s developed over time, it could be the food you’re eating or something you’re drinking, could be the bugs that you’ve accumulated in your gut. But your immune system is trying to protect you. The more you put down there that activates an immune response, the more you’re withdrawing from the bank account of your immune strength.
How do you expect to fight a virus that is threatening right now, if your immune system is constantly fighting to protect you, so many resources to protect you from food that you’re eating that’s causing a problem for you? Now, people say, “I don’t have a problem with wheat, I feel fine when I eat wheat?” Well, the science tells us that the ratio is eight to one. For every one person that has gut symptoms with an immune reaction to wheat, there are eight that don’t. They’ve got brain symptoms, or skin symptoms, or joint symptoms, or hair symptoms (they’re losing their hair), or thyroid symptoms. They don’t have gut symptoms. So if you think that you have to feel bad from a food you eat before you need to check to see if this is withdrawing from the bank account of your immune system. If you think you have to feel bad, you’re going to miss it eight out of eight or seven out of eight times.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Yeah, and I thank you and owe you some homage for this. That’s what kind of led me into this Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat story, because as I learned about its history and use of 3500 years as a food source and saw that it’s a gluten-free, not a cereal, it’s a fruit seed. Then it’s got all these unique polyphenols that also have immunological activity. I thought to myself, well here is something that really at this time where we’re being burdened with foods that are all challenging our immune system, why don’t we bring back this product that actually was a colonial food, that was brought over by our colonial ancestors to the states because it’s such a hearty thing to grow? Doesn’t require fertilizer, doesn’t require irrigation, it has its own insecticides it makes through all these polyphenols, so it didn’t need biocides. Why don’t we rebuild that back into the American food supply system? And that was really a lot of building off of your advocacy, through this whole field of food and immune system.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Well, thank you. That was very kind of you to say that. Our coffee time is sacred in the morning, for my wife and I and our son. And we sit outside and listen to the birds, and watch the butterflies, and have our coffee, and we love having our cookie—we have one cookie a day. And our cookie always contains Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat. That’s our daily dose of getting those polyphenols. I’ve done a lot of talks in the last year about this virus, and about the threats from the virus—what would you do for the immune system?
The two things that I say that will help you dramatically, is first, identify how you’re throwing gasoline on the fire, causing inflammation in your body, meaning withdrawing from the bank account of your immune system, and stop withdrawing so much from the bank account. Stop eating or being exposed to the food, if there are foods. That’s one.
And the second thing, thanks to our friend Dr. Deanna Minich, is the rainbow diet. I want the full spectrum of colors, and Deanna says 50 different colored foods a week. And that’s the goal of Mrs. Patient, because those colors of the vegetables and fruits, those colors are the polyphenols that help strengthen your immune system. You know that the virus has to get inside your cell so that it can shed—they don’t reproduce, they shed—but they have to get inside the cell, and to get inside the cell they have to go through the receptor site on the outside of the cell. The receptor site is like a catcher’s mitt. The pitcher throws the ball to the catcher that sits on the outside. Well, when you have abundance of polyphenols sitting around your receptor sites, then the virus has a really hard time getting in and it gets eliminated! So the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the stronger your immune system gets. And now we include in that recommendation Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, thank you. And you’ve also done a really nice job of demythologizing a big thing in science that won a Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology back in 2012, called pattern recognition receptors, which are members of that family with different names, like the Toll-like receptor family, TLRs. And we now learn that they’re triggered by debris from bacteria in the gut, so-called, you’ve got polysaccharides that can activate these Toll-like receptors that initiate then a signal to the whole body. You’ve done a very wonderful job in helping people to understand—without getting too science-geeky—about how these receptors that are unique genetically to each of us receive information from the diet and influence the whole body in terms of response. So maybe you wanted to say a couple of wisdom words that you do so well.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Thank you. Mrs. Patient, you have the same body as your ancestors, thousands of years ago. We have the same kidney, the same lungs, they work the same, the same immune systems. Our immune system, for ancestors, had to fight against bugs, parasites, viruses, mold, fungus, and bacteria—that’s it. There was no red dye number 42, there was no soda pop, there was no colas, there was no BPA, bisphenol A, the plasticizers that we’re all exposed to. There was none of that. Bugs, parasites, viruses, mold, fungus, and bacteria.
Our immune system today is the same as our ancestors, we’ve not genetically changed. There’s not been enough time, tens of thousands of years, to genetically change and adapt, so our immune system today is designed to protect us from bugs, parasites, viruses, mold, fungus, and bacteria.
So no matter what comes in, the inflammation response, your immune system thinks it’s a bug, parasite, virus, mold, fungus, or bacteria.
When our ancestors found food, first they’d sniff it, then they’d nibble it, make sure it was okay, then they’d eat it. And if there was bad bugs on the food, but not enough to make the food rotten—so they couldn’t smell it—hydrochloric acid in the stomach was supposed to kill it. Hydrochloric acid kills everything. But if it doesn’t, there are sentries standing guard just inside the first part of the small intestine. It’s called the proximal part of the small intestine. Those sentries are standing guard, they’re what you referred to as Toll-like receptors. There’s nine, I believe, for humans. Toll-like receptor four is the one for bugs. So those sentries are standing guard just in the inside of the small intestine, so anything that comes out of the stomach, if there’s a bug that comes out of the stomach, Toll-like receptor four gets activated right away.
What happens? It sends a message and you get leaky gut. And the mechanism—you make more zonulin protein, and it opens up this space between the cells, water comes into the cell—that’s leaky gut. Because it’s washing out the bad bug, that’s its job. “Oh, there’s a bad bug here, let’s wash it out. Turn on the garden hose.” And you turn on the hose in your gut to wash it out. That’s the first thing that Toll-like receptor four does.
The second thing, Toll-like receptor four activates the major amplifier of inflammation. Now I always talk about garage bands when I talk about it because back in the ’60s, you’re in a garage band. Why were they called garage bands? Because our parents said, “Take that stuff out to the garage. It’s too loud in the house.” Right? And we’d have to get an extension cord and plug it in from the bedroom, out the window, out to the garage, because there was no electricity in the garage back in the ’60s. Right? And the amplifiers.
Well, the major amplifier of inflammation in the body is NF-κB, and Toll-like receptor four (or the sentry) turns on NF-κB, so here comes all the inflammation in your gut. So now you got leaky gut, and you get inflammation to kill this bacteria, it’s a one-two punch.
What we know now, and the first paper I read on this, I think was in 2006. Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology 2006. Is that wheat activates Toll-like receptor four in all humans. The human gut misinterprets gluten as a harmful component of a bug. And the papers are really clear, they say this, Maureen Leonard from Harvard says this in her paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this mechanism occurs in all humans who consume gluten. That means you.
“Well, I feel fine when I eat wheat.” Well, remember, the ratio is eight to one, it doesn’t matter how you feel. Do you have headaches? Are you on medication for high blood pressure? Do you have skin problems? It doesn’t matter where the symptoms are, you always want to check. If you’re dealing with a health concern that is not getting better the way it should be, just check properly to see, do I have a problem with wheat? Just check.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, Dr. O’Bryan as always, information, content-dense, huge news to use. Such fun your ability to weave stories and articulate them in engaging ways is a huge skill, a huge gift that you have. This is Big Bold Health in the reality. This is what we’re talking about—taking charge, being big and bold about it.
I can’t thank you enough for allowing us to walk down your journey of life with you, and to have a chance to look at a few of the nooks and crannies of the treasure trove of information. We wish you well, and continue to do the extraordinary work as an ambassador that you’re doing, and we’re going to be following you closely.
Thanks so much.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan:
Thank you, Dr. Bland. And I was just thinking about this, it’s now a privilege to include in my own resume, ‘visiting faculty – Big Bold Health.’ Again, thank you so much.
Dr. Jeff Bland:
Well, I will appoint you as a demonstrable member of our core faculty from here on! So thank you so much. Be well.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan: