The real reason microbiomes matter, with Mary Purdy

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Meet Mary Purdy. Mary is an Eco-Dietitian, charting a new path forward that connects human health to the health of our soil and our planet. If you really want to know why there’s so much buzz around microbiomes and regenerative agriculture, this is the conversation for you.

This podcast is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services.

Dr. Jeff Bland:

Well, here we are once again at the Big Bold Health Immunity Podcast. This is so exciting for me, because we’re redefining immunity in a much broader context than it’s normally considered. Normally, we think of immunity as these cells that are floating around in our bloodstream that are protecting us from infectious disease. But, in this podcast, we really tried to expand the horizon of understanding of the immune system and all the factors that influence immunity, and seeing how our immune system is interconnected to other people’s immune systems, to plants’ and animals’ immune system, and even to the planetary immune system.


With that as a context, I could not be more excited about this particular expert, this key opinion leader that we have to discuss this concept today. And that has to do with her remarkable book of many things that she’s done, and the Microbiome Diet Reset, and this is Mary Purdy, who I want to introduce just quickly, and you’ll get to know her because her energy comes across infectious.

But she is an eco-nutritionist. She has both an RD and a Masters in nutrition. She’s done an extensive nutrition counseling, both as a clinician, as a teacher, lecturer, opinion leader, course guide convener, creator. Many, many different things, as well as being a foodie, but I think one of the most important things that I’ve taken away from my opportunity to get to know Mary over the years, is her expansive view of how nutrition interfaces with our ecology and how our ecology interfaces with us as human beings, both through our microbiome, which then influences our gut-associated immune system, and then, ultimately, our systemic health.

So we’re going to have a chance to sit down with this leader, this extraordinary sage, Mary Purdy, and have this conversation. Mary, welcome to the Big Bold Immunity Podcast and thanks for giving us some of your precious time.


Mary Purdy:

My goodness, thank you so much for having me. I’m absolutely honored to be here.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Let’s start with what might be, for some individuals, a new concept. You call yourself an eco-nutritionist. Could you kind of talk through what that means for us?


Mary Purdy:

Absolutely. This is really just a term that I attach to my name. So dietitian nutritionists, we are concerned with how diet can positively or negatively affect health. I believe that we can no longer separate environmental health from human health, and this means several things to me. Number one: how our food is grown, how our food is produced, has an impact on the environment. And this is from deforestation, antibiotic use, degradation of the soil, pollution, and a lot more.

And that has an impact on the quality of our food, from a nutrient perspective. Number two: the current industrial model of growing our food and producing agricultural crops, in the way that we’re doing it, is leading to environmental degradation, and that also has an impact on our health. Like contaminated water and air pollution. Usually, this is occurring disproportionately in communities of color. And then, number three: climate change, which is driven in part by our food and agricultural system. About a third of our greenhouse gases comes from this system. That is resulting in these extreme weather patterns, drought and flooding, which is ultimately having an impact also on the quality of food, on food access, and on crop yields.

Being a dietitian that thinks about ecology and environment, or an eco-dietitian, is that when I think or teach or talk about food, I’m considering the environment. I’m considering its impact on our food, both positive and negative, and the way that our industrial food system has a negative impact on the environment and how all of those pieces intersect and affect human health. There you go. Simple explanation.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Well, it’s a good way to start into the topic because there’s obviously a lot of depth below the water line here in this extraordinarily important topic. Let’s take it to the next level in this granular kind of connection of eco-nutrition, eco-dietetic, into the global food supply, and ultimately how it impacts human health.

Your book, the Microbiome Diet Reset, is a really important book because it gets us to think, again, more systems connection of what we’re doing. And when I think of the microbiome, often we land on the human microbiome, and often, we land on the gut human microbiome, but actually the microbiome when we want to talk about our food supply, starts within the soil. And you do a beautiful job of speaking to this important concept. Could you take us through this whole soil connection into our microbiome health, and ultimately to our immune system?


Mary Purdy:

The soil is truly where it’s at, and currently, with our industrial food and agriculture system, the way that we are growing food, with tons of chemical inputs, with lots of techniques that actually disrupt the soil. Tilling, not covering the crops, not diversifying crop systems, actually degrades the soil, and the soil should be rich and teeming with microorganisms. In fact, what’s interesting is that, the microorganism makeup of the soil is very similar to the microbial ecosystem in our guts.

So we are getting huge amounts of input from the health of the soil, as it relates to how that soil and the nutrient density of that soil impacts the health of the plants and the microbiome of the plants, and ultimately, helps to create healthier plants, which helps to create healthier humans and a healthier gut microbiome. So without that healthy soil, we are missing a huge component of the opportunity for plants to ultimately improve, affect, reverse varied diseases that we know are connected with our gut microbiome.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Yeah, I think that is such a powerful concept. I want to hang with that concept for a moment, because for many people, this may not be so obvious. The construct that the soil microbial architecture interfaces with the gut microbial architecture of humans, which then interfaces with our immune system of plants and immune system of humans, that may appear to be very abstract to some individuals, but I’ve really, over the last couple of years, particularly, started to become much more well-educated in this area.

We have the soil scientist Dr. Emily Reiss that’s working with us now at Big Bold Health, who is a steward of the soil. That’s what she calls herself. A PhD from Cornell. She really has started to educate me as it relates to how the soil integrity of the microbial community, both the mycorrhiza community, as well as the microbial-bacterial community, has such a powerful impact upon the way the root nodules of plants speak to the soil, which speaks to the germ seed to the plant, and ultimately, alters its phenotype. Its fruit or its seeds or its leaves or its roots and stalks. And so, this construct, that we’re all interconnected, is very powerfully represented by what you’re talking about, so maybe you could give us a little bit more thought about this microbial connection from soil to humans.


Mary Purdy:

Yeah, it is truly about relationships. Underneath the soil is this incredible community, this network of all these microorganisms and fungi, and they are constantly talking to each other, and, essentially, when soil is healthy … Ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, when things are optimal, when soil is healthy, there is this incredible rich community, and that community of microorganisms is communicating with the plant. So the plant can’t necessarily reach some of the things that it needs in the soil, so the microorganisms are saying, “Hey, let me give you some carbon over here. Let me give you some nitrogen over here.”

And the plants, in exchange, will say, “Let me give you a little something called an exudate.” Or a little special something that those microorganisms can use. And there’s this wonderful exchange that occurs, this relationship, and that’s what makes a healthy plant, which is richer in phytochemicals or richer in nutrient value. However, when that soil is degraded. When there are lots of input, when there are agrochemicals … This includes fertilizer, this includes pesticides, which are rampant in our industrial food system right now, that community, that network, is ultimately negatively, adversely affected.

That communication doesn’t occur on the same level. And when those inputs are part of that system, the plant gets lazy. It says, “Hey, someone’s doing the fertilizing for me. Hey, someone’s keeping those pests out of here. I don’t need to do much work.” And we know that part of the plant’s defense mechanism is to create these incredible phytochemicals, these compounds, that act as its own defense mechanism, but also bring protective components to our immune system as well. Without that whole communication system occurring, those phytochemicals are going to be in much lower amounts in that plant, which, again, is going to have an impact on human health. So it is truly about this relationship, and when that relationship is dysfunctional, as we know it is right now, that creates a problem.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Let me be a devil’s advocate just for a second here, just to kind of stimulate some controversial back and forth.


Mary Purdy:

Please.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Let’s say that I heard what you just talked about. It sounds logical and reasonable, but then I say, “But hold just a minute. We’re producing all sorts of food. Our production per acre of foods has gone really up over the last decades, and gee whiz, these things that we’re doing with agri-farming and how we then squeeze out more yield per acre, it would seem to suggest that this model of really focusing on the soil is not so important as focusing on the genetics of the plant and plant breeding, and then giving it a lot of food and keeping a lot of pests away by giving biocides. So why isn’t this model that we’re using right now very effective, because it’s producing a lot of food?”


Mary Purdy:

Right, it is creating, or it has originally been thought to create … That was the intention back in the fifties and sixties with the so-called Green Revolution, which was really focused on yield, on output, but at the expense of nutrient value, at the expense of environmental degradation, at the expense of what we now know to be our climate crisis.

So while there may be a larger production, a greater yield, that yield of food is based in a monoculture system, meaning we’re growing one type of crop. Maybe it’s soy, maybe it’s wheat, maybe it’s sugar cane, maybe it’s corn, and that is usually creating plenty of calories, but those calories are not nutritious. We have seen the rise of the techniques that we’re using in the Green Revolution, and I wish it was a different word than green, because green has positive connotations. But anyway, that’s what we got, this Green Revolution focused on agrochemicals that we are seeing, that rise in the use of these technologies and these techniques, with a rise in all the chronic diseases that we see on such a regular basis. From metabolic syndrome to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune issues, simply because we are creating food that is not nourishing anymore.


It might be a lot of food out there, but it has very little nutritional impact that’s positive on humans. And, of course, it’s degrading the environment at the same time and reducing biodiversity and contributing to climate change, all of which also has an impact on our ability to survive …


Mary Purdy:

Which also has an impact on our ability to survive.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

If we were to go back to an individual who made a huge impact on me, as well as millions of other people in understanding this nutrition connection to health, that’s Frances Moore Lappe and her Diet for a Small Planet book which was certainly one of the classics that kind of followed on Silent Spring with a different kind of approach to thinking about plant foods and health, the greens and legumes, you can get complementary amino acids from the two by proper balancing, but that kind of argued and in some cases, people said, “Okay, then I know what a vegetarian diet is. I’m going to be a Frances Moore Lappe devotee. I’m going to use refined soy, and I’m going use refined wheat. Then I get grains and legumes. Isn’t that really fulfilling all the chapters that we need for good health and nutrition.”


Mary Purdy:

Right. I think that’s the simplistic view of what it means to have maybe a plant-based diet, quote, unquote, a vegetarian diet, a vegan diet that does not necessarily equal a healthy diet because we can eat as many calories or macronutrients as we feel is necessary for our biological needs but if we aren’t focusing on those micronutrients, if we aren’t focusing on the phytochemicals, which are ultimately acting as protectors, which are ultimately helping us to function better, acting as these co-factors, these co-enzymes, making sure that our body operates at its optimal capacity, that is the key to human health.

That is the key to immunology. Right? Or I should say our immunity. It really isn’t just about, oh, I got my 2000 calories for the day. I got 80 grams of protein, however many grams of carbs, got some healthy fat in there. No, it really matters about the quality of the food. It’s not just the food, calories are not calories are not calories. It’s about what is going into making that food, what is our food eating? That’s what we’re eating. What is our microbiota eating? That is also what we are eating. That’s what makes up our bodies and our systems.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Wow. There’s so much powerful news to use out of what you just said. Let me drill a little bit deeper for a second. I recall back in the 70s when I was teaching courses on food chemistry and nutritional biochemistry, that we would often go to the textbooks and look for the sections of the textbooks that were the principal text used in the schools of nutrition at that point, and look for chapters on what we now called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. There would be out of a 300 or 400 page textbook, maybe two or three pages. They would basically say these are interesting plant secondary metabolites. They’re probably useful for plants, but there’s no need in human nutrition that’s been identified. They’re certainly not essential for human health. The absence of them doesn’t lead to a deficiency disease.

They were just kind of marginalized. Now suddenly it seems that these are resurrecting their importance and becoming really an important feature set of the full complement of orchestrated nutrients in a healthy diet. How do you think looking back this transition has occurred? Why did we so marginalize them and why are they suddenly becoming more important in our discussions?


Mary Purdy:

I think when we have learned about diet and nutrition, human nutrition, people have seen it from a real bird’s eye view of those macronutrients and micronutrients. Very much the focus has been on the RDA, the recommended daily allowance. What amount of this food do we need in order to not be deficient? I argue that it’s not about deficiency, it’s about insufficiency. Many people have higher nutrient needs because of medical issues because of our environment, because of all kinds of things that might be happening that are compromising their ability to have optimal nutrition status, medications. There’s a much greater need to have probably more than what is considered to be necessary in times when we were first understanding this. Then as you mentioned, with the phytochemicals, with the phytonutrients, those were really hard to measure.

I remember going to a conference about eight years ago where someone talked about, “Oh, we don’t really digest phytochemicals. You can’t measure anthocyanins in the bloodstream. We don’t really see how eating a beet is going to actually lead to higher levels of anthocyanins.” That’s because I don’t think we made the connection back then that it’s about the metabolites of the phytochemicals. Those metabolites are created by our microbiota, the microbiota in our digestive tracts. We may not be measuring anthocyanins but we can learn how to measure perhaps the metabolites or not sure how the measurement goes these days but we have to understand that it really is more than just what we’re eating, but it’s how our body is digesting, absorbing and transforming those compounds into other molecules that we can then utilize for our own protection and defense systems. We’re seeing a lot of research now associating phytochemicals with being very protective for things like cancer, reducing inflammation, reducing chronic diseases that we see rampant in our communities.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Well, this to me where you’ve just touched is so powerful. I want to spend a little moment to hang out in this area, because if we think about moving from a logic system, not just in nutrition but in healthcare in general and medicine, and maybe even societal implications, we look for single agents that produce single outcomes. Right? It keeps it a simple binary model. This does that. Most of us can memorize that this becomes that. It seems like a fairly simple model. If we overly simplify the complex nature of the way systems really work, then often we learn about something that really doesn’t map against reality very well, but we keep tied to it because it’s simple. It’s a lot like the old metaphor of someone loses their keys and they’re looking under the streetlight for the keys and someone asks them, “Oh, are your keys around here? They say, oh no, no, they’re over there in the dark, but I can’t see over there. I’m just looking where there’s light.”

When I think of the way you’ve just described this, and that’s why I want to kind of revisit it here for a moment, because it may be less familiar to our viewers is that if in fact the soil microbiome, this complex nature of all sorts of organisms in the soil, in a healthy soil, send out information in the basis of what they metabolize and excrete that are picked up then by the germinating seed and the roots of that plant as it’s growing so that it changes then the way that plant responds to its environment, which is by the way that plant’s immune system, because these phytochemicals are there to defend that plant against what it perceives to be its foreign invaders or its hostile triggers.

That then activates the genes in that plant to produce then more of its immune system, which then as the edible portions of that plant are consumed by an individual which then goes to their microbiome for which it’s then further metabolized to send signals to the body of that individual, its gastrointestinal associated lymphoid tissue or its mucosal associated lymphoid tissue, the body’s immune system, which then modulates its effect which then sends out its messengers to all the cells of the body. This is a tremendous example of this network biology, substance biology concept that you can only have stability if all parts of that system are in communication. That’s kind of my takeaway from what you said.


Mary Purdy:

Mic drop right there. Everything you just said yeah, that has hits home for me. Absolutely. Everything is an input, right? Everything is imprinting upon the plant from the soil and the microorganisms in that soil. Then when we are eating the plant, whatever is in that plant, whether it’s pesticides or a no pesticide or other phytochemicals that are part of that plant that is imprinting on us. We’re affected absolutely. This whole communication system. When our bodies are compromised, that communication system is also going to be compromised. I don’t mean just what by what we’re eating by, but by all of the other inputs that we’re constantly exposed to on a regular basis. You can have the best diet in the world, right? You can eat all organic, but if you’re dealing with stress and poor sleeps and whatever other kinds of negative situations we find ourselves as in this human life that we live, then that may have an impact as well on our body’s ability to even process good quality food. A lot goes into it.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

With that in mind, could you help us to understand the difference between this term that seems to be rising in more prominence now, regenerative agriculture, and how that differentiates from organic agriculture. It seems like we landed on organic as really being a good place to be, but now we’re seeing well maybe there’s another variation of that which is regenerative. What are the differences?


Mary Purdy:

Yeah. Well, I think organic back when it started, gosh, maybe the sixties or seventies when there became an actual certification for USDA organic, certified organic that helped to make sure that consumers felt they were buying a product that where people were growing in a way that was supposedly supportive to the environment, using fewer chemicals and composting. However, over time, that certification has been somewhat diluted. It’s become somewhat questionable because so many large food corporations are becoming organic and we have got organic Doritos and organic Coke. Right? Which organic is not necessarily always going to be healthy, even if it says organic on that label. It may still be a monoculture. Right? Maybe an organic corn, but it’s still grown in a way that’s not necessarily supportive to the environment depending on who is doing the growing and the producing.

There’s a lot of loopholes that I think corporations take advantage of. When we think of regenerative agriculture and regenerative is the key here. We are regenerating the soil. We are regenerating the system. This is kind of like organic plus. Right? There isn’t unfortunately an agreed upon definition as of yet, but this is essentially kind of like we talk about food is medicine. Right? I think of regenerative farming as being farming as medicine, we are building health back into the system, specifically building health into the soil. We are minimizing disturbances to the soil, keeping the soil covered with cover crops. There is diversification of crops. It’s a system, again, working in tandem with one another. When there’s diversity in the crop system, that means there’s fewer pests. There aren’t other chemicals that are used.

Another key piece of regenerative agriculture also involves integrating livestock. You’re keeping that poop in the loop and utilizing the cow manure and the rotational grazing to actually continue to build the soil health and the soil health is the key piece here as you know, because as we’ve been talking about this whole time, when soil is healthy, then plants are healthy and then people are healthy. It goes even beyond that because when soil is healthy, there’s that incredible bacterial underground that’s occurring that make more nutrients available to plants, makes them healthier. You don’t need as many pesticides. The soil has greater water holding capacity. It is going to be more resilient in times of drought and it will be able to store carbon. It will be able to …


Mary Purdy:

… in times of drought, and it will be able to store carbon. It will be able to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and in the ground where it belongs. That can be a climate crisis mitigator as well.

Regenerative agriculture. Man oh man, this feels like an incredible solution to both human health and planetary health.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Boy, oh, boy. That’s so many, again, powerful concepts there. Because I think again about the system that we’re referring to, this kind of global immune system, because this regenerative agriculture is regenerating soil health, regenerating plant health, regenerating agricultural health. In the process, then, the results of that, when translating to human health, is rejuvenating or regenerating immune health in the consumers of that new agricultural approach.

It’s a very interesting example, again, of systems connection. The term we might use in the agricultural system is regenerative, but the term we might use, it’s an impact on the humans, is rejuvenating the immune system. Because the immune system, just like the soil microbiome, can find its health if it’s given the right principles to rejuvenate. I think, again, as a Big-Bold-Health-ite, we’re really trying to think about this whole concept of systems interconnectedness. That what happens on one side happens on the other, and then over here feeds, as you were talking about with the animals, back to the … It’s a loop. It’s a cycle.

I remember saying when I was teaching environmental science way back in the ’70s, I’d say, “The food of one is a waste of another.” It’s a cycle. When you have the right food of one and the right waste of the other, it recapitulates itself in such a way to produce stability.

Now we look at it through an immune lens, and we say, “Look at all the immune problems that we have in human cultures now,” as we see these comorbidities associated with SARS-COVID-2. That we’re saying, “Where did these comorbidities come from?” They come from a depreciated, or let’s call it imbalanced, immune system.

When people have balanced immune systems that are optimally resilient based upon their genetic potential, things like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, the relationship to inflammatory disorders is significantly attenuated. Their comorbidities are lower, which means they have higher immune resilience, which means they’re not overreacting to triggers like viruses or bacteria they may be exposed to. That would then translate right through the plant community. You’ve really given us this powerful metaphor for seeing ourselves as part of a bigger picture.


Mary Purdy:

Absolutely. I would throw into that mix of chronic diseases autoimmunity, which we have seen a huge rise in. For many people who feel that, “Gosh, I’m not sure why this is this happening. Is this my genetics? My mom had an autoimmune disease,” or, “My parents, nobody had an autoimmune disease. Why am I suddenly saddled with an autoimmune issue?” I think a lot of that has to do with that lack of balance in our immune system, which is fundamentally, foundationally in our gut microbiome.

Without the proper tools, which includes diet, and, of course, lifestyle, and environmental factors, and genetics all working together in conjunction with one another … Without those proper tools, of course our immune system is breaking down. Of course we’re more susceptible to these diseases. Anything we can do to work in concert, same way that regenerative agriculture works in concert with nature, with natural processes, we need to work in concert with the natural processes of our own body and not have additional negative inputs that are compromising our ability to function optimally.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Let me throw out a wild card here and see what you think of this.


Mary Purdy:

Okay.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

We use the term autoimmunity in medicine and healthcare under the assumption that somehow the body is found itself to be hostile and is responding to it. Autoimmunity. The immune system turns rogue on us and attacks us as a bystander. I ask myself the question, why would the body do that? Why would it suddenly say, “I’ve been living in this body for some time, but now I’m tired of living in this body and I’m going to tell the body that I don’t like it anymore.” The immune system fights back, and makes us like we’re an enemy with our immune system.

I started thinking about that over 25 years ago. Actually I think it was more like 30 years ago. I’ve now come fairly convinced, and I think there are many, many other investigators over the years that have filled in this gap much better, saying that that’s not really what happens. The body doesn’t just suddenly dislike itself.

What happens? It starts disliking certain things that have happened to the body over the period of time. Things that the body has been exposed to that has made it less friendly to the immune system. The immune system does what it should do. It finds foreigners that it sees as hostile, non-invited guests, and responds to them.

What can do that? Let me give an example. We know that there are a family of autoimmune diseases, particularly systemic lupus erythematosus, in which a certain family of drugs can exacerbate, maybe even cause, those conditions to occur, those autoimmune diseases.

How does that happen? It’s because the drugs interface with specific chemicals in the body to produce funny outcomes that the body’s immune system recognize as foreigners. This is a foreign chemical, a drug introduced in the body, for which the immune system then, because those chemicals cause the body systems to change their stripes or their clothes, the body then sees these as foreigners and starts to respond.

What happens if you start using a lot of agricultural chemicals? What happens if you start having all sorts of food additives? What happens when you start, just, producing an environment that increases the relative risk of chemicals to interfere with both proteins and nucleic acid materials in terms of their composition so that they’re no longer the friendly molecules that were produced off our genes, they’re modified? They become now not just innocent bystanders, they actually become hostile invaders that our body sees doing what it should do, try to defend us against them, and now we have autoimmunity. How do we turn that back the other way? It’s your system that you’re describing.


Mary Purdy:

Yeah. I really agree with what you’re saying, that the body is doing what it thinks it’s supposed to be doing. It sees something that it recognizes as not being part of the system, and it launches that response, which is what it’s supposed to do. I think part of that problem, as you mentioned, is the inclusion of all of these foreign bodies in our food system, in our environment that cause the body to perhaps break down to be less resilient.

This immune response is operating in an internal environment inside our bodies that is not functioning optimally. Then you combine other things with that. It’s not just what we’re eating. It’s not just our environment. It’s our stress. It’s other determinants of health, which we’ve determined now are things like racism and discrimination. In the lack of equity in the current world in which we live, that has an impact. Stressors can reduce secretory IgA, for instance, in the gut, which is going to have an impact on our ability to respond, or compromise that gut lining, or create more chemicals in the body that are causing inflammation.

I got a little excited there, but I think your question was, how do we turn this around? I think we turn it around by, how do we bring balance back into the body? How do we, number one, reduce the stress response, improve our sleep patterns, fight some of the issues that are systemically pervasive in our society that are causing so much strife and inequity?

Then, how do we create diets that are rich in nutrients, that are low in those food additives and food chemicals? How do we ensure that we have balance throughout the day? That we don’t have an excess amount of sugar, and refined carbohydrates, and refined fats, and refined oils, and processed meats? All of that is so integral to making sure that we’re giving our body all of the pieces that it needs to really be operational and to thrive, and not just try and be in a state of alarm all the time.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

That’s one of the many reasons why I really love your book, because I think it makes a lot of these principles usable, apply-able, executable, because you’ve really, with the Microbiome Diet Reset, given some practical tips, tools, and techniques for … Those are my three T’s of the morning.


Mary Purdy:

Nice.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

For introducing these in a user-friendly way. Tell us a little bit about what went into your book, and how you conceptualized what you wanted the reader to get across.


Mary Purdy:

I think there’s a lot that we can do as individuals. There’s some major systemic changes that need to be made. We have a food and agriculture system and a political system that needs reimagining. That aside, we can do a lot as consumers, as eaters, as people living in our bodies to improve our gut microbiome health. I would say there’s a few things that come to mind, and they fall under the category of, there are things that in the diet that we need to increase. I would say one of the top things is your fiber, your plant-based, fiber-rich, nutrient-dense foods, the more we can get more whole grains, the more we can get beans, the more we can get fruits and vegetables, and nuts and seeds. Getting more fiber is absolutely key, because that’s feeding those good bacteria, helping them to create those short-chain fatty acids which are super supportive to all of those systems.

Number two is we need to be having more phytochemical-rich food, which is those fruits and vegetables, but also herbs and spices. This can be tea. This can be green tea, oolong tea. Those are also key. Those phytochemicals are key for the supporting the gut microbiome as well.

Then number three would be to have diversity, to have as many diverse foods in the diet as possible. Because the more diversity we have in our diets, the more diversity we end up having in our gut microbiomes. Right now we eat, I think … About 75% of the calories in our diet come from 12 foods which are usually grown in monocultures, like wheat, and soy, and corn in unhealthy food products. Those are the things we want to increase.

Then there’s the question of, how do we think about saying what we want to decrease in the diet? We want to make sure that we are reducing one of the biggest culprits is those ultra-processed foods, which displace nutrients, but then also have negative impacts on our gut microbiome in terms of increasing inflammation, inviting the pathogenic bacteria to come in, reducing microbial diversity. This is your high fructose corn syrup. This is your sugary product. This is your refined oils, your refined fats, and other ultra-processed foods. That’s number one, is that category of foods.

Then number two to reduce in the diet is red meat and processed meats, which we know also invite pathogenic bacteria, and contain compounds in them that the microbes in the gut can transform into a metabolite that has been shown to lead to cardiovascular disease. That’s TMAO, which many people may already have heard of.

Then, lastly, what I’d say is decrease any foods that are grown with-


Mary Purdy:

Lastly, what I’d say is decrease any foods that are grown with agrochemicals and pesticides. A pesticide is meant to kill the pest. It’s meant to kill something. So we have seen in the research that things that are utilized in these agrochemical environments in our crop system also have a negative impact on the gut microbiome. And in fact, glyphosate, which is an herbicide, which falls under the category of pesticides, just an umbrella for all of those biocides, that glyphosate has a negative impact on the gut microbiome and also has been shown to interfere with our cytochrome p450 pathways that are a part of how we detoxify and protect ourselves from environmental toxicants. So there’s a lot to include and there’s a lot to exclude from the diet. And those are some of the ideas.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Yeah, they’re very well stated, and very user friendly. You said something there in the stream of really useful information that I wanted to kind of revisit for a second. And that is this concept of monoculture and how it impacts our nutritional status. I was amazed about, oh, it must have been a couple of years ago, I got involved in looking at this research that was published, which was examining, from human individuals around the United States, the isotopes of different carbon atoms in their body, knowing that carbon makes up a lot of our body. It’s the basis of the structure of our cells in both carbohydrate, fat, and protein all have carbon atoms in them. Which by doing isotopic analysis you can kind of determine where that carbon came from. And it turns out that when studies were done to try to define the source of carbon, remember carbon has to come from what we eat because we don’t photosynthesize. We’re not like plants that can make stuff from carbon dioxide, so we have to take our carbon in from our food, it’s something like 60% of the carbon atoms in people living in the United States came from corn.


Mary Purdy:

Hmm.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

When I learned that it was like, whoa, now just a minute, I don’t eat that much corn, but we forget about all the way that food processing converts corn and soy into multiple, multiple products to introduce those carbon atoms into our bodies in ways that we never actually fully understood. Because we say, “Well, I don’t know that I ate corn, or I don’t know that I ate soy.” But if you look at the technological reconversion, and you were mentioning one major source, high fructose corn syrup, which is used in a lot of a highly processed nutrient defined foods, those carbon atoms in high fructose corn syrup came from corn. So I think this is a real interesting below the waterline thing that we’re learning, that not only have we simplified our diet with the number of foods that we eat, but also the source of those things that make up our protoplasm are coming from even in smaller number of foods that we probably would’ve even understood based upon food technology.


Mary Purdy:

Yes. And this is why it is so key to get our patients, if you’re a practitioner, or to get your diet, to be back to the basics. How do we get more whole foods, unprocessed? And I’m not talking about processed like olive oil’s a processed oil. I’m talking about the ultra processed foods that are so abundant in our food supply right now. How do we get people back to eating, hey, have some rice and beans, or have some vegetables sauteed and throw some onions and garlic in there. Keeping it really simple. Doesn’t have to be somebody becoming Martha Stewart suddenly in their kitchen, but just getting people to eat real food, not too much, mostly plants to quote about Michael Pollan, that is going to really reduce significantly that input of all of those you called them, I’m not an isotope specialist necessarily, but I’m like, “What’s an isotope again? I got to think back to my biology class, but all of that input from those little teeny ingredients, which are in everything. If you check the back of your label of your Pop-Tart, or even if it says natural, organic, there’s going to be some soy lethicin or corn starch in there that is making up a component of that food, or that product masquerading as food.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Yeah. And let’s even talk about meats because I think we often forget that in feed lot fed animals, that they’re often being fed corn. 


Mary Purdy:

Yes.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

And so even when we eat meat, the corn molecules that are making up the carbon of those food end up in the carbon atoms of those animals. So we’re indirectly eating corn when we eat beef, if it’s come through a process of this type.


Mary Purdy:

Yes. And that is usually resulting in the fat makeup of that animal beef of the meat that is being consumed, because corn fed animals have a much higher proportion of Omega-6s in their meat than Omega-3s that animals that have been grass fed would have. And so that is having an impact again, on that ratio that people have in their bodies that can be associated with inflammatory diseases, with cardiovascular disease, of high amounts of Omega-6s and lower amounts of Omega-3s. Or if you want to get more specific it’s higher amounts of arachidonic acid and lower amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA that can be measured.

And that ratio we’ve seen to be quite problematic. And that very often is coming from the massive amount of corn fed beef that we are consuming, which is also correlated in their research with higher levels of obesity. So yes, we have got to get to either eating less meat, which is necessary no matter what, and also eating better meat. So focusing in on the animals that are raised humanely and also raised with a diet that is supporting their livelihood, their lives, and making for a better meat product as well.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Yes. And I think that people often forget the fact that the cow, the steer, is an undulate, and as an undulate, it is an herbivore that digest it’s food principally by all the microbes that exists in its complex digestive system, multiple stomachs. So if you’re feeding the microbiome of a cow a certain diet that is principally corn, you’re going to have a different microbiome with a different immune system activity with different fatty acids as you’ve just described than if you’ve fed them grass. And so I think that this model that you’ve helped us understand, this network concept of everything is interconnected, plays at every level throughout the system. And once you start thinking of this way, it really guides a lot of your selection about how you make decisions, because when you’re making a decision for yourself, based upon these principles, you’re making a decision that’s a benefit to the whole system, to the ecosystem.


Mary Purdy:

Absolutely. And when I think of the word sustainability, which is such a key concept these days, we’re hearing it everywhere. And I wish there was a different word because sustainability means we aren’t trying to maintain and we aren’t really looking to maintain what we have, but when I think of a sustainable food system, I really am thinking of something that includes four pillars or four dimensions. 

So there’s the human health or the nutritional health component of it. There’s the environmental health component of growing foods in a way that don’t harm the environment. There’s also this economic health. So is the supply chain making sure that everybody is making profits in a way that helps people’s livelihoods and is the food affordable? And then the last one is that socio-culture component of what it means to be sustainable, which includes animal welfare, which includes farm worker welfare, which includes indigenous communities. Are these individuals, are these communities, being considered when we think of what that overall sustainable food systems means? As you mentioned, it is a system. We are all working together. And if one of those dimensions gets left out, we don’t truly have a sustainable or regenerative, resilient, equitable system that benefits all people and beings.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

So powerful. And I want to urge people to go to the Big Bold Health website and look at the video that we’ve just put onto our website of our harvest, our 2021 harvest of our Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, because we interviewed the farmers that are our regenerative organic farmers and their families, and our miller, who is an artisanal miller in Trumansburg, New York. And you can just tell by the way they present themselves and talk about their connection to our Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, how connected they are to this system you’re talking about. There’s a wonderful little sequence in that short video of one of our farmers and he and his wife out with their cows in the field and how they’re talking about how the animals are part of their system, are built into their system, and the kids and their family are learning from the way that they live about this concept of sustainability.

So this concept of systems thinking, how the immune system of plants are connected to that of their animals, which are connected to us, even to our pets, I might add, all of these things are part of a new way of thinking that leads to sustainability at every level. So, Mary Purdy, wow, what a guide and incredible energy source you are for us. And again, your book, really, news to use in how to kind of make these things executable for individuals, healthy microbe of our gut, healthy microbe in our soil, healthy microbe in our plants and also in our animals. It is a system. So thanks so much for being with the Big Bold Immunity Podcast today. We so appreciated it.


Mary Purdy:

Thank you so much. This was an absolute pleasure to be chatting with you today and I just am so honored. So thank you very much for having me.


Dr. Jeff Bland:

Thank you.

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Effective Date: March 2019

 

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Please read this Privacy Policy carefully. By visiting and using the Site, you agree that your use of our Site, and any dispute over privacy, is governed by this Privacy Policy. Because the Web is an evolving medium, we may need to change our Privacy Policy at some point in the future, in which case we’ll post the changes to this Privacy Policy on this website and update the Effective Date of the policy to reflect the date of the changes. By continuing to use the Site after we post any such changes, you accept the Privacy Policy as modified.

 

How We Collect and Use Information

 

We may collect and store personal or other information that you voluntarily supply to us online while using the Site (e.g., while on the Site or in responding via email to a feature provided on the Site). The Site only contacts individuals who specifically request that we do so or in the event that they have signed up to receive our messaging, attended one of our events, or have purchased one of our products. The Site collects personally identifying information from our users during online registration and online purchasing. Generally, this information includes name and e-mail address for registration or opt-in purposes and name, postal address, and credit card information when registering for our events or purchasing our products. All of this information is provided to us by you.

 

We also collect and store information that is generated automatically as you navigate online through the Site. For example, we may collect information about your computer’s connection to the Internet, which allows us, among other things, to improve the delivery of our web pages to you and to measure traffic on the Site. We also may use a standard feature found in browser software called a “cookie” to enhance your experience with the Site. Cookies are small files that your web browser places on your hard drive for record-keeping purposes. By showing how and when visitors use the Site, cookies help us deliver advertisements, identify how many unique users visit us, and track user trends and patterns. They also prevent you from having to re-enter your preferences on certain areas of the Site where you may have entered preference information before. The Site also may use web beacons (single-pixel graphic files also known as “transparent GIFs”) to access cookies and to count users who visit the Site or open HTML-formatted email messages.

 

We use the information we collect from you while you are using the Site in a variety of ways, including using the information to customize features; advertising that appear on the Site; and, making other offers available to you via email, direct mail or otherwise. We also may provide your information to third parties, such as service providers, contractors and third-party publishers and advertisers for a variety of purposes. Unless you inform us in accordance with the process described below, we reserve the right to use, and to disclose to third parties, all of the information collected from and about you while you are using the Site in any way and for any purpose, such as to enable us or a third party to provide you with information about products and services. If you do not wish your information to be used for these purposes, you must send a letter to the Online Privacy Coordinator whose address is listed at the end of this Privacy Policy requesting to be taken off any lists of information that may be used for these purposes or that may be given or sold to third-parties.

 

Please keep in mind that whenever you voluntarily make your personal information available for viewing by third parties online – for example on message boards, web logs, through email, or in chat areas – that information can be seen, collected and used by others besides us. We cannot be responsible for any unauthorized third-party use of such information.

 

Some of our third-party advertisers and ad servers that place and present advertising on the Site also may collect information from you via cookies, web beacons or similar technologies. These third-party advertisers and ad servers may use the information they collect to help present their advertisements, to help measure and research the advertisements’ effectiveness, or for other purposes. The use and collection of your information by these third-party advertisers and ad servers is governed by the relevant third-party’s privacy policy and is not covered by our Privacy Policy. Indeed, the privacy policies of these third-party advertisers and ad servers may be different from ours. If you have any concerns about a third party’s use of cookies or web beacons or use of your information, you should visit that party’s website and review its privacy policy.

The Site also includes links to other websites and provides access to products and services offered by third parties, whose privacy policies we do not control. When you access another website or purchase third-party products or services through the Site, use of any information you provide is governed by the privacy policy of the operator of the site you are visiting or the provider of such products or services.

 

We may also make some content, products and services available through our Site or by emailing messages to you through cooperative relationships with third-party providers, where the brands of our provider partner appear on the Site in connection with such content, products and/or services. We may share with our provider partner any information you provide, or that is collected, in the course of visiting any pages that are made available in cooperation with our provider partner. In some cases, the provider partner may collect information from you directly, in which cases the privacy policy of our provider partner may apply to the provider partner’s use of your information. The privacy policy of our provider partners may differ from ours. If you have any questions regarding the privacy policy of one of our provider partners, you should contact the provider partner directly for more information.

 

Be aware that we may occasionally release information about our visitors when release is appropriate to comply with law or to protect the rights, property or safety of users of the Site or the public.

 

Please also note that as our business grows, we may buy or sell various assets. In the unlikely event that we sell some or all of our assets, or one or more of our websites is acquired by another company, information about our users may be among the transferred assets.

 

Google Analytics

 

We also use Google Analytics Advertiser Features to optimize our business. Advertiser features include:

  • Remarketing with Google Analytics
  • Google Display Network Impression Reporting
  • DoubleClick Platform integrations
  • Google Analytics Demographics and Interest Reporting

By enabling these Google Analytics Display features, we are required to notify our visitors by disclosing the use of these features and that we and third-party vendors use first-party cookies (such as the Google Analytics cookie) or other first-party identifiers, and third-party cookies (such as the DoubleClick cookie) or other third-party identifiers together to gather data about your activities on our Site.  Among other uses, this allows us to contact you if you begin to fill out our check-out form but abandon it before completion with an email reminding you to complete your order.  The “Remarketing” feature allows us to reach people who previously visited our Site, and match the right audience with the right advertising message.

You can opt out of Google’s use of cookies by visiting Google’s ad settings and/or you may opt out of a third-party vendor’s use of cookies by visiting the Network Advertising Initiative opt-out page.

 

Facebook

 

As advertisers on Facebook and through our Facebook page, we, (not Facebook) may collect content or information from a Facebook user and such information may be used in the same manner specified in this Privacy Policy. You consent to our collection of such information.

 

We abide by Facebook’s Data Use Restrictions.

  • Any ad data collected, received or derived from our Facebook ad (“Facebook advertising data”) is only shared with someone acting on our behalf, such as our service provider. We are responsible for ensuring that our service providers protect any Facebook advertising data or any other information obtained from us, limit our use of all of that information, and keep it confidential and secure.
  • We do not use Facebook advertising data for any purpose (including retargeting, commingling data across multiple advertisers’ campaigns, or allowing piggybacking or redirecting with tags), except on an aggregate and anonymous basis (unless authorized by Facebook) and only to assess the performance and effectiveness of our Facebook advertising campaigns.
  • We do not use Facebook advertising data, including the targeting criteria for a Facebook ad, to build, append to, edit, influence, or augment user profiles, including profiles associated with any mobile device identifier or other unique identifier that identifies any particular user, browser, computer or device.
  • We do not transfer any Facebook advertising data (including anonymous, aggregate, or derived data) to any ad network, ad exchange, data broker or other advertising or monetization related service.

 

General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR)

 

The GDPR took effect on May 25, 2018, and is intended to protect the data of European Union (EU) citizens. 

 

As a company that markets its site, content, products and/or services online we do not specifically target our marketing to the EU or conduct business in or to the EU in any meaningful way. If the data that you provide to us in the course of your use of our site, content, products and/or services is governed by GDPR, we will abide by the relevant portions of the Regulation.

 

If you are a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA), or are accessing this site from within the EEA, you may have the right to request: access to, correction of, deletion of; portability of; and restriction or objection to processing, of your personal data, from us. This includes the “right to be forgotten.”

 

To make any of these requests, please contact our GDPR contact at annettegiarde@bigboldhealth.com

 

Children’s Privacy Statement

 

This children’s privacy statement explains our practices with respect to the online collection and use of personal information from children under the age of thirteen, and provides important information regarding their rights under federal law with respect to such information.

  • This Site is not directed to children under the age of thirteen and we do NOT knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under the age of thirteen as part of the Site. We screen users who wish to provide personal information in order to prevent users under the age of thirteen from providing such information. If we become aware that we have inadvertently received personally identifiable information from a user under the age of thirteen as part of the Site, we will delete such information from our records. If we change our practices in the future, we will obtain prior, verifiable parental consent before collecting any personally identifiable information from children under the age of thirteen as part of the Site.
  • Because we do not collect any personally identifiable information from children under the age of thirteen as part of the Site, we also do NOT knowingly distribute such information to third parties.
  • We do NOT knowingly allow children under the age of thirteen to publicly post or otherwise distribute personally identifiable contact information through the Site.
  • Because we do not collect any personally identifiable information from children under the age of thirteen as part of the Site, we do NOT condition the participation of a child under thirteen in the Site’s online activities on providing personally identifiable information.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule

 

The US Department of Health and Human Services provides:  The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.  The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization. The Rule also gives patients rights over their health information, including rights to examine and obtain a copy of their health records, and to request corrections.”

 

You acknowledge that our operation of the Site does not constitute the practice of medicine, and specifically does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. Jeffrey Bland, PhD (the “Doctor”).  The information provided on the Site is for educational purposes only. 

 

Notwithstanding the fact that the Site does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and DOCTOR, our preservation of your personal health information shall be HIPAA compliant.

 

For purposes of this Privacy Policy, “patients” are those individuals who have secured the in-person services DOCTOR.  If you are a patient of DOCTOR, you will be provided with a copy of DOCTOR’s HIPAA Privacy Statement, which governs the information collection practices of patients’ personal information by DOCTOR.

 

How do we store your information?

 

Your information is stored at the list server that delivers the Site content and messaging. Your information can only be accessed by those who help manage those lists in order to deliver e-mail to those who would like to receive the Site material.

 

All of the messaging or emails that are sent to you by the Site include an unsubscribe link in them. You can remove yourself at any time from our mailing list by clicking on the unsubscribe link that can be found in every communicaiton that we send you.

 

Changes to this Policy

 

This policy may be changed at any time at our discretion. If we should update this policy, we will post the updates to this page on our Website.

 

Questions About this Policy

 

If you have any questions or concerns regarding our privacy policy please direct them to:

annettegiarde@bigboldhealth.com