In the last episode, we talked about why the gut microbiome is important for your overall health. In this episode, Mary Purdy returns to bring more insight into how food can affect your microbiome!
We answer these questions:
What lifestyle changes are important for the microbiome?
What depletes the microbiome?
How do we get proper nutrition from our food?
Is there a difference between organic/nutrition/conventionally grown nutrition?
How is Roundup affecting soil and nutrients in our food?
Listen to part 1 of this microbiome series: https://rss.com/podcasts/fearlesshealthpodcast/251026/
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Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: My name is Dr. Anne Marie barter and thank you so much for joining us here today. Today on the gut health reset podcast, we are talking all about the microbiome. We also talk about lifestyle factors that will deplete your microbiome and some things to avoid. We also talk about the food groups that are going to improve your gut microbiome.
And also how you need to be careful about soil depletion, medications, and chemicals that could be creating issues with your microbiome. We are also going to talk about tips and tricks that you can do to improve your gut health right now.
My special guest is Mary Purdy, who is an integrative eco dietician with a master’s degree from Bastyr University, where she currently is an adjunct faculty.
She’s been in clinical practice for over 12 years, utilizing personal medicine and a functional nutrition approach. She’s given over a hundred nutrition workshops speaks regularly at health and nutrition conferences, and was the keynote speaker at Bastyr university commencement ceremony in 2019.
Additionally, she hosts a podcast, The Nutrition Show, and she’s authored the books, Serving the Broccoli Gods and The Microbiome Diet Reset. She is a trained climate reality leader and a consultant working with organizations to create sustainable and a food system that supports planetary health and helps to mitigate climate change.
You know, what’s interesting. I actually get this question a fair amount in practice is okay, well I don’t have time to sleep. I don’t have time for it. And I’m super stressed out and I don’t have time for exercise. Can I eat my way out of a bad microbiome, but I’m going to do what I want with the lifestyle.
But I mean, personally, I think that lifestyle changes have to be made. I slowly start to make the lifestyle changes because if you’re so stressed out, you can’t exercise, but the exercise is going to make you feel better. So I slowly, because it just seems like a big jump sometimes for people like they can’t work everything in at one time.
So I just make small, small changes to their lifestyle so that they can slowly start to incorporate those things.
Mary Purdy: I don’t believe you can eat yourself out of anything. I think those lifestyle factors, especially when lifestyle factors often drive decisions around eating, if you don’t sleep enough and you’re super tired, I can guarantee you, you’re gonna crave foods that may not necessarily support your body as well. That’s a fatigue thing, same thing with exercise. We know that when people move their bodies more, they feel better. They make different dietary choices. When someone is stressed out, it’s very common for them to want to eat pretty much anything they see in front of them because that stress or those emotions are driving the behavior behind food, which for many people is comforting.
Right? So getting some of those lifestyle pieces in play, even if it’s one thing as you. What’s the one thing you could see yourself doing that you think would have the most benefit, even if it’s 15 more minutes of sleep, 10 minutes of exercise. Or doing whatever is a stress reliever for you for five minutes, it doesn’t have to be, I’m going to go on retreat for 10 days. I’m going to sleep 12 hours a night and I’m going to exercise three hours a day. That is not realistic, not for me either. So, whatever place someone is willing to start or ready or able to start, even with one small shift, I think can make a big difference.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: You know with the things that deplete your microbiome and foods, my own personal experience for myself and just knowing that I sleep really well, I exercise pretty frequently, but I eat really well, but I tend to be a stress case.
My secretary IGA was tanked and my gut microbiome was tanked. Like I did not have the diversity just from one of these factors when I ran my own GI map and just looked at it, it was like, Holy Toledo, no bad pathogenic bugs, but low gut flora and it’s still eating enough fiber per day, et cetera.
So, I hundred percent agree. I just don’t think you can eat your way out of it. You have to make those lifestyle modifications.
Mary Purdy: And let me throw something else to your way, because I think there are oftentimes things that people don’t consider when they think about what helps the microbiome and what depletes the microbiome.
So we also have to remember, that medications have an impact on the microbiome that a lack of stomach acid, right. Has an impact on the microbiome. Stress depletes stomach acid, oral contraceptives have an impact on stomach acid. PPIs, proton pump inhibitors, or antacids have an impact on stomach acid, and say it’s having an impact.
So, many other things may be playing a role. And the other piece that I think people don’t think of. I’m happy to talk about more foods that disrupt microbiome: health is the environmental piece. So we’ve talked about lifestyle factors, but we also need to look at the environment. This is why I call myself an eco dietician because you cannot, or we can no longer separate environmental health and how we grow our food or how the food is grown with human health and specifically microbiome health.
If the food that we are eating, even if it’s a beautiful batch of broccoli, the way that we are growing our food now by disrupting the soil, tilling the soil, not keeping it covered, planting with lots of fertilizers, or using pesticide. Those all have been shown to disrupt the soil microbiome.
When the soil microbiome is disrupted, that can have an impact on your own microbiome as well. Not only because the microorganisms are no longer in the soil, but also because the soil is not producing food with the same phytochemical content because of that disruption of the soil. And lastly, we may ourselves be exposed to pesticides from pesticide residues of plants that have been sprayed with pesticides.
Or we may in turn be eating animal foods that have been fed, fed antibiotics. And we now know that those antibiotics, even in small trace amounts are being fed to us, even in small amounts are leading to things like antibiotic resistance and therefore may also be having an impact by being an antibiotic.
Really depleting the good bacteria, the good Biotics that are hanging out. So those are all other factors that I think sometimes are not even on people’s radar. And the more we think about our environment, our food system, our agricultural system, how that food is grown or not grown, that is another piece of this equation.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: So when we’re looking at this because our soils are so depleted, we’re not getting the nutrition that we once were getting from food. So it’s almost like we need, it’s not almost like we need to supplement in order to support our nutrition, right, because we’re getting deficient in certain minerals, certain vitamins, et cetera, phytonutrients, as you said, what do we do to get the proper nutrition from our food?
Mary Purdy: You know, it’s a really great question. And I would say that some of us are lucky and privileged enough to have access to the foods that are nutrient-dense and healthy and organically grown. And many people do not have that access. This is a much larger looking at the root cause or causes or contributing factors of needing to change our food and agricultural system, number one. Now that being said, since we can’t do that tomorrow, the more we can purchase food that is grown in a way that is building the soil, and doesn’t mean it has to be certified organic. Lots of people grow their own food or buy from farmers or farmers who aren’t certified organic, but they are growing in an eco-friendly way, not using as many pesticides or fertilizers.
So that’s one strategy is just where you get your food from as much as you are able to get those foods that are grown in that way is really key. And I think the other thing is the more whole foods we can get in, right. Really reducing those ultra-processed foods, which while they may provide the calories that people need to survive, they don’t ultimately provide the nourishment that people need to thrive and have their health be optimized. So any way we can gather in our diet, more foods in their whole form and minimally processed or really taking out or avoiding or reducing, or just getting less of those ultra-processed foods.
And that doesn’t just mean the refined sugar and the refined carbohydrates, but also those refined oils, which are found in a lot of cooking at restaurants, but also in a lot of processed products, all of those have been shown to deplete the gut microbiome and, and invite the less friendly buddies in there that we don’t want of.
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Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: I was listening to somebody say one time that there was no difference between organic nutrition and conventionally grown nutrition and I thought that that was a really interesting comment. I have since found a lot of studies that actually disprove that. And that there was no difference in the nutrient density as well as in the chemicals. So that was super fascinating that I found that super fascinating. Do you have any comments on that?
Mary Purdy: How much time do we have, because this has perpetuated myths out there that I think are perpetuated by a lot of agribusinesses who want us to believe that there is no difference between organic and conventional. And I will tell you this, in some cases that may be true for certain nutrients. So you might look at, well, it actually has the same amount of protein as this like organic non-organic, same amount of protein.
But when we dive deeper into the specific nutrients, why, when we look at micronutrients, vitamin C levels are higher in organic food. Omega-three fatty acids are going to be higher in your organic dairy or meat, and fish, things like, all those phytochemicals that I talked about, those need to be considered, right?
So a strawberry that’s grown organically versus a strawberry that’s not going to organically is not likely to have the same kind of. The orb that the organic one is going to have more phytonutrients in it than the conventional one. The same goes with those pesticides. And again, how that food was grown and the quality of that soil, that makes a difference.
So there’s plenty of research that shows that organically grown food. And again, not everyone has access to this, but it is definitely higher in nutrient value than the conventional in most cases. So, I’m happy to provide some of that research if people are interested.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: Yeah, I was, I was blown away by that. I was like, really? You think that, okay, well, I’ve got studies from Harvard, studies from Stanford, studies here, I’ve got, Pub Med studies that say, otherwise I can pull those up, but it was really fascinating that that was a really perpetuated myth because it was something that I had accepted for a long time as fact.
And so it was really interesting for me to be taken back. And really needing to explain that again, which was good for me. I think that was really important for me to be able to do that, but I was just taken aback by that cause they were pretty passionate that it was the same, so fascinating I think stuff overall.
Mary Purdy: I think a lot of people have that impression and so it’s great. I think I actually have my notebook here somewhere, that’s about like organic versus conventional. I have all my papers compiled so I can always whip it out, although I can’t find it right now. I think that’s being perpetuated by these large agribusinesses who are growing in a way that’s not really supporting the land.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: So let’s get into a little bit of a controversial topic. Let’s get into Roundup and let’s talk about Roundup and what you’ve actually seen from that perspective, how that’s affecting the soil, how that’s affecting the nutrients, and what you think that that’s doing to our overall food supply.
Mary Purdy: Wow. Again, how much time do we have? Okay, so Roundup is a weed killer, right? It’s the ingredient, the active ingredient is glyphosate. This is this herbicide under the umbrella of pesticides. So we say pesticides, that includes herbicides, and fungicides, and actual pesticide. So the literature is more and more clear on glyphosate.
Actually a ruling was just, just announced several weeks back, about a case of somebody who is a farmworker, who has been directly exposed to glyphosate and, and has experienced cancer. And this across the board we’re seeing this and people who are directly exposed, people who are applying that farmworker in the fields communities, right by those fields that are sprayed with glyphosate.
There are issues with fertility. There are issues with birth defects, there are issues with cancer. So there is a direct correlation and I would venture to say causation or contribution from glyphosate to those issues, but we’ve also seen around and glyphosate being ground-up.
We’ve also seen neurological issues. In fact, I just heard an interview of somebody, again, who was a farmworker who had a constant tick in his eye as a result of being exposed to glyphosate on such a regular basis. So that is, that is people who are directly exposed to that and remember the glyphosate is killing weeds.
So ultimately some of those weeds. Are normally there in the ecosystem of that field or that agricultural system to act as a pest deterrence. So the increase in something like the herbicide glyphosate has actually led to, or the use of this has led to perhaps fewer weeds. Great for the weeds, not being there, but has actually led to an increase in the use of pesticides, which again, have huge implications for the ecosystem, for the environment.
We know that pesticides have an impact on pollinators, our bees, and our butterflies, which are providing one out of every three bites wheat-type of food. And, also an impact again. The health of the soil. And then as it relates to pesticide residues, we’ve seen connections in the literature between pesticide exposure and reproductive issues, autoimmune issues.
Again, those neurological issues, Parkinson’s, so is glyphosate a problem? I would say it is a huge problem and we are learning more and more about this. And it used to be put out by a Monsanto, or Monsanto used to be the name of the organization. Now it’s Bayer Crop Science, so keep an eye out for the literature that’s going to continue, I think, to come out, both about lawsuits and about continued health effects and environmental effects in the future.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: Because this has been banned in other countries, but yet it’s still allowed here. Am I correct?
Mary Purdy: It’s very much allowed here. And it’s in fact, it’s the second most popular used or most prevalently used herbicide.
In fact, it might be it’s either atrazine or glyphosate, which is the most popular and one’s the second one, one is the runner-up. So it’s a huge problem. And, and again, this comes from the power that many of these agribusinesses have and the conglomerates and the consolidation of these businesses.
So that there’s four large companies that are supplying all of these different pieces of our agricultural system. And there isn’t a way to change a system because these powerful systems, these companies have become so incredibly powerful. And boy, they’ve got a lot of people working, including a lot of people who were in the political realm and who were in control of policy.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: Crossovers a little sobering, isn’t it? Between the government and between these corporations, it’s a little sobering.
Mary Purdy: It is, it’s unsettling to see because, it reduces our ability to trust in our policymakers. If we know that they are also on the board or were formerly on the board of a big business, and now they are directly in contact with, with either regulations or the lack of regulations or deregulating those very industries.
So for me, that’s a huge conflict of interest and a red flag that makes me question whether I want to support that person’s run for office if I happened to be one of their constituents.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: Me too
Mary Purdy: I’m getting political, though.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: Yeah, we’ll get out of that. We’ll get out of that. But I, I think it’s really important that people understand about glyphosate and Roundup and understand what’s going on with their food supply.
I recently, well, actually a little while ago saw I had this vision of them just spraying the crops. But I also found out that glyphosate was used in the drying process as well in the crops themselves, for example, in wheat type crops. And I just, that really is concerning to me that you’re just getting tons and tons of doses of potential glyphosate that you are ingesting in your system, which is a neurotoxin, a carcinogenic. It’s a trigger for auto-immune issues. So I wish that they would stop because I think that that’s creating some food sensitivities that appear like food sensitivities, but maybe art.
Mary Purdy: I would not be surprised, and the thing is we think of people who are smaller, right. Children, people who are small, and children whose neurological systems are still in development. If you’re a 30-pound kid versus a 200-pound person, the impact of those pesticides, those herbicides, it’s going to have a very different effect on someone of that size.
That’s going to mean that your intake is going to be much, much higher. Not they’re eating the same amount of food, someone who’s an adult is probably eating more than a child, but the effects are going to be exponential for a child who is still in development. So that’s a really big issue and a really big concern.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: So take home tips from today. Cause we covered a lot of ground and we covered a lot of really cool topics, but you know, somebody just getting going with us and they’re like, it’s so overwhelming. I feel like it’s 10 things that I need to do and everything’s killing me. Which is not the case, right? But let’s give some top tips to maybe start with, for somebody that’s maybe new to the process.
Mary Purdy: Number one. Take a breath, because no one has to be perfect to make a shift that will actually make a difference. So it’s not about being a hundred percent. It’s not about taking everything out of your diet suddenly. I’m a big fan of adding things in. So instead of making people feel like they have to restrict or let go of something or like lose their favorite piece of bacon that they have every Saturday morning or whatever, I start by saying, where can you begin to add something in? If we’re talking about diet, like how can we get a cup of beans in this week? How can you add in one additional vegetable each day? How could you add in maybe a spice each day? And maybe it’s about each week I’m going to add in one thing, right? That’s so easy to take a step back and go, oh, I have to add in one thing each week. Yeah. But then you think about it: at the end of the year, you’ve made 50 changes and that is going to make a difference.
The other thing is that as soon as people start making changes, that makes them feel better – that is an amazing feedback loop that your brain gets like, wow, I feel so good when I ate that thing. I’d let her do it again. So, that incentivizes us to make those changes because they have a positive effect. So I think it builds upon itself.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: That’s a great tip. That’s a really great tip. So is there anything that I didn’t ask that you think is important that we touch on before we wrap up?
Mary Purdy: No, I mean, I think, gosh, we got to politics, we talked about culture, I feel like it was a really great conversation and I thank you for, having all these wonderful questions where we could explore this together and also help people hopefully feel inspired to make a change and not afraid to try something a little bit new.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: Exactly. Exactly. Where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you?
So you can take a look for that on my website or on iTunes or wherever you find your podcast.
Dr. Ann-Marie Barter: Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. It was such a great conversation. It was wonderful to have you love all the wonderful information and love what you do.
Mary Purdy: Thank you, Dr. Barter. It was so lovely to chat with you today and I’m honored to have been a guest today.
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Dr. Ann-Marie Barter is a Functional Medicine and Chiropractic Doctor at Alternative Family Medicine & Chiropractic. She is the clinic founder of Alternative Family Medicine & Chiropractic that has two offices: one in Longmont and one in Denver. They treat an array of health conditions overlooked or under-treated by conventional medicine, called the “grey zone”.