I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Vincent Pedre MD on his background and his book Happy Gut. We get into his protocol called C.A.R.E and what it entails, how he got into gut health, how meditation got him through medical school, and tips of how to get your gut health to its optimal level. Take away those inflammatory foods, pick up your gratitude journal, and read on.
What Is Your Medical Background With Gut Health?
I had an incredible fear of needles, so incredible that I almost did not go to medical school. I loved the whole idea of becoming a doctor but when the reality was getting close I thought “I can't really be in a room with a needle, I’ll pass out”. I then told my parents I didn't want to go to medical school and instead I was going to go to Wallstreet and get into finance. They weren't happy and at the end of the conversation I said: “alright I will continue to apply to medical school.” So I continued, got into medical school and that fear of needles was still hovering over me.
I thought, “If I don’t conquer this I am going to be a false doctor.” I started learning about the nervous system and it ties so integrally to gut health. There's a delicate balance between the relaxation response (the parasympathetic) and the fight or flight (the sympathetic nervous system.) I decided that I was going to conquer the fear. I went to the library to get books and to teach myself how to breathe. I relearned diaphragmatic breathing and started to learn how to gain control over the autonomic part of the nervous system through the breath. That led me to meditation and that led me to yoga. This was back in 1995 and meditation was not the sexy thing it is now. It was more like “ I'm doing this but I am not going to tell anyone because this is crazy.
I thought, I am going to hack this “uncontrollable response” within my body that would lead me to passing out. This shaped the type of doctor I became. I learned to use my breathing to help me relax in many times of stress. Meditation helped me through medical school and I was known as the Zen Guy. Anytime my classmates were stressed they would come to me. This has become one of the pillars of my practice. Especially people with gut health issues. People that present themselves with gut health issues, you cannot separate the mind from that.
I treat the mind, body, and spirit. I believe there is a hierarchy. Most people need to start in the body, the concrete. Things like: what do I need to avoid eating and what supplements should I take. Then you move onto the mental & emotional. What happens when your nervous or stressed? Do you have a knot in your stomach? Then lastly, the spiritual fulfillment. We may talk about how they feel at work and what happens when their boss yells at them and how that makes them feel in their gut. Do they really want to be doing that in their lives? This is one element that is making you sick. You either:
-Leave the job
-Change the way stress enters your body
You need to change your own perspective. All these experiences in life have influenced me. I grew up with gut health issues myself. What I thought was normal for many years was actually leaky gut. I was on multiple rounds of antibiotics starting at age 10-18 and I was on 2-3 every year. My immune system was so horrible, I would pick up any cold at school and I was starting to become a hypochondriac.
I was very thin and could not put on weight. Little did they know that all the antibiotics had ruined my gut bacteria. I developed sensitivities to foods such as:
I grew to understand that it was just going to be this way and I just had a sensitive stomach. I didn't realize that my normal was not normal until about 2 decades later. After I finished my medical training and was doing my functional medicine training, I trained as a regular western MD. I went to a 3-year training course and at the end of it, I realized I had lost my way. I spent those years working 100 hour weeks and feeling completely dehumanized by the training. The control between the brain and the adrenals was completely shot from:
-Not living a balanced life
-Lack of sleep
I was completely disillusioned because I felt like I was a glorified drug pusher for the pharmaceutical industry. Western medicine is a disease management industry. We don't resolve issues for people… After this, I took a sabbatical year and I lived through 9-11 in NYC. I felt very affected. I felt the energy, sadness and pain. I felt like I could not be complete if I didn't do something to give back to that. The opportunity came to be a part of a clinical research project with the department of environmental medicine. Looking at the people that worked on the world trade center site, the recovery workers that were exposed to the smoke. I did that for a year and I went on a retreat with a friend where we did yoga and meditation every day.
That seven-day retreat reminded me of the power of that path. I started looking at the body as a whole entity again. Acupuncture is what lead me to functional medicine. This is where I learned about the gut microbiome and how every system in the body is connected to it. My diet was better by then, but gluten was not out of my diet and I did not have a perfect digestive system. I thought “maybe this normal I have been living with my whole life is because I am gluten sensitive”
I went on a whole revamp. I took out gluten and dairy started incorporating prebiotics, probiotics, and fermented foods. I started to repopulate my gut and I was able to heal my gut through that. Your gut is your intuitive receptacle and still to this day my gut is sensitive. The difference is that I now know how to manage it with the food I eat. The gift of a sensitive gut is to have that intuition and really be able to feel things. I look back and realize I would not have been on this road helping people if it wasn't for that.
I realized everyone needs their guts rebalanced and it was the first place in medicine where I felt this passion come back. I was telling them to eat better, go on probiotics, and this was so different than throwing them on medication for pain in their abdomen like I was used to. I was fixing them from the ground up and that's what I went into medicine for.
When I opened up my own practice in 2004 I was sued by my ex-employer. I had just launched it in July, and I was sued in August. No one won the lawsuit, it was dropped. The gift was that it allowed me to develop inner strength. Through this experience I met my life coach, She reminded me to think positive thoughts and use your affirmations when I was in a time where I thought life was falling apart. I now use all of that with my patients. My first experience with positive thinking was with my 5th-grade teacher. She started teaching us the power of the mind. When people are sick they are full of negativity and it's hard to transform that when all you see is darkness. This teacher has influenced me to be a positive influence to my patients and a shining beam of hope.
Our words are so powerful.
What Is Your Favorite Yoga Pose And What Is A Yoga Pose That Can Help With Digestion?
My two favorites are:
Triangle Pose- This is great for the opening of the hips. For so many people, our hips are tight.
Pigeon Pose- It's a powerful hip opener as well. It also connects you to the ground. In our modern society, it is very important to be grounded. We are in such an era of ungroundedness with the pace of life being so fast.
I think people these days are a lot more stressed. I do meditation on a daily basis and I could not live my life without it or yoga. It is fundamental for my whole well-being. -Kriben Govender
If You Are Committed To Health, Then Part Of That Commitment Has To Be A Commitment To Yourself.
This is not just how you eat, this is how you live and breath. This seems easy but so many people are speaking and voicing what they want but they aren't fully committed. What do you put as your priority? For me, feeling well and my health is one of my highest. I need to walk my talk and I need to be clear and present for the people that I help. I don't have time to navigate not feeling well because I ate the wrong thing because I was under stress.
When you are reaching for that muffin during stress what are you putting as your highest priority? If you are always making a decision from the point of view that you are putting your health and wellness as one of your highest priorities then it makes it easier to look at the muffin and think “that is not in alignment with my priority so I don't need it because I don't want to feel bad.”
A lot of the way I eat is thinking how do I want to feel afterward. Do I want to be mentally clear or in a coma? Trust me sometimes before bed I do say that I will want to be in the food coma and go about my way. But during the workday the way I eat is how I want to function and how clear I want to be. I won't eat anything heavy because I'm busy for 12 hours a day.
Eat for how you want to feel
What Inspired You To Write The Book Happy Gut?
There are several answers:
- There was a book in me. I knew this years before I wrote the proposal. I felt that I had a voice and something I wanted to say. There was almost a soul contract and if I never did it I would be incomplete.
- A month after my mom passed away I decided to write the table of contents and what the book would be about. That was 6 years ago. When you lose a parent it makes you analyze your life. I was 39 years old and I thought about what's the next decade going to look like. Life goes really fast and I wanted to make sure that I have helped people along the way. After my mother passed I had an idea of writing a book about the gut. I realized that it was under my nose the entire time. I had a practice that was based on gut issues so I had been doing it for a number of years but I hadn't thought of it as a great book idea. It felt authentic to me because it was my story, and it was what I focused on in my practice.
- I realized there was only 1 of me and I thought that my ability to reach people would be so much greater through a book. The intention was not just to leave a legacy but to be able to help as many people as possible that I would have never crossed paths with otherwise.
When we were coming up with a name for my book the initial name was “The Ultimate Guide To IBS” and then we decided to do a play on words. We wanted to change the whole meaning behind the word Gut (people often thought beer gut back then.) We wanted to turn it into a common word and that is how we are going to refer to the digestive system. I started calling my book Happy Gut, Happy Life, but then I just started calling it Happy Gut. If you think about it, in the last 6 years the gut has become a household word.
Are Gut Health And Mental Health Linked?
Gut dysfunction and mental health are linked. I was a very calm person. But growing up I had learned to put my emotion in my gut so if I was upset I felt it in my gut. This is true for so many people. When they are upset, angry, nervous, they feel it in their gut. We have more serotonin receptors in the gut than we do in the brain. We know that the gut microbiome produces so many different neurotransmitters such as GABA. Which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that tells your nervous system to relax and be still. If you lose those bacteria, this can cause anxiety.
We have to keep educating people on the powerful connection between the gut and the microbiome and their health. I wrote the forward for a book by Lee Holmes who is a well-known author in Australia. I said that if your body was a royal court, your gut would be the monarch sitting at the throne. The gut is the most under-appreciated organ system and yet:
-If your gut is not functioning properly
-Not absorbing all the nutrients
Then your body does not function well.
What Does Your Gut Care Program Consist Of?
When I came up with this protocol, I wanted to create an acronym for it. The word CARE came to me because most people that come to see me with gut issues aren't caring for themselves. A lot of them might be caretakers for others but they put themselves last. I wanted to shine that light on gut care. Each piece of it is a part of the program
C-Cleanse, take away all the inflammatory foods. Foods that are bad for the gut:
- Dairy (you may be able to bring back kefir once healed)
When farmers in the US grow GMO corn they spray 6 times the amount of pesticides on the crop because it is genetically modified to resist the effects of pesticides. BUT it starves the plant of minerals and nutrients. So you have a plant that is thriving with no minerals. Then that becomes the food. Avoid these foods! You may also need to get rid of the Yeast Overgrowth you may have in your body. You may need to take supplements such as:
-Berberine: It kills off bad bacteria but promotes the growth of good bacteria
-Oregano Oil & Clove Oil: to kill off yeast overgrowth
-Wormwood & Black walnut: to kill off parasites in the gut
These help rebalance the health of the gut. If you eat meat you need to know where it came from and how it was raised. You also need to look at what you are drinking. You need to drink clean water, filtered, no contaminants or heavy metals. Lastly, rid the mind of negativity. You cannot heal if you are being negative about everything. Use Meditation and Gratitude.
In a moment of gratitude, there is no space for negativity. It cannot exist. Try to get into a practice of having a gratitude journal. There is something about seeing it concretely written on a piece of paper and not just saying it in your head. It can be the smallest thing. There is ALWAYS something you can find to be grateful for. This is so important during any healing journey because you have to heal the mind to help heal the body.
A- Activate. This is about reactivating the digestive system with the necessary nutrients. Adding in nutrients that help digestion. Many people have dysbiosis which is the imbalance between good and bad bacteria, leaky gut syndrome or their body is not producing enough digestive enzymes. They cannot break down the foods they are eating down properly. Digestive enzymes are a key part to heal the digestive system.
For Example: Say you hurt your knee and you need to walk with a cane while your knee is healing. Your digestive enzymes are like a cane to your digestive system. They are helping to give a break to your digestive system while you allow it to heal.
In order to heal you need to:
-Change your digestive system
-Change your diet
-Remove inflammatory foods
-Add in anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger and turmeric
-Take digestive enzymes
-Take essential fatty acids. Omega 3 fish oils which help the gut lining and are anti inflammatory.
We need to completely reactivate the digestive system!
R-Restoring the gut microbiome. Bringing in probiotics, prebiotics, fermented foods. People do not realize how important eating a range of vegetable fibre is for your gut. In the modern western culture we are extremely devoid of fibre in our diets. I had a patient that was 90 years old and she said she has seen food change. When she was a girl bread is what we call whole grain today. We eat too many refined foods that are devoid of fibre and do not help your gut microbiome. The majority of people are getting 20 grams of less fibre than they need on a daily basis.
Study: There was a study on the Hazda people that still followed the hunter-gatherer lifestyle They found that they eat a lot of Tubers which are very rich in fiber. They compared their gut microbiome to modern day Italians and you could see that the Hazda’s microbiome was a lot more diverse.
The way to get a diverse microbiome is to eat a diversity of vegetables. A rainbow of colors. Whether you are a meat-eater or vegan, more plant-based food across the board is what helps create great health. You can still have a vegan diet that is not full of this diversity as well. Give the microbiome the food it needs to flourish. When you eat these fibres, the reaction in your gut is going to produce short chain fatty acids such as butyrate. Which serves MANY functions such as:
-Keeping the cells of the colon healthy and preventing colon cancer
-Keeping insulin sensitivity in our blood glucose levels normal
All of this is from a short-chained fatty acid that also crosses the blood-brain barrier. This will help you to learn and create memories. All of this is tied to how you eat.
We are what we eat and we are what we eat has eaten
E-Enhance. Use nutrients that help promote a healthy gut mucosa, the lining of the gut. Help the gut lining heal. We know certain nutrients help heal your lining:
-L Glutamine: It helps reverse leaky gut syndrome.
-DGL ( Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice): it is a very important anti-inflammatory.
-Quercetin: which is a bioflavonoid.
I learned about quercetin while studying Akkermansia. They like to feed on bioflavonoids. Quercetin helps improve the permeability of the gut barrier and reduce histamine in the body. My favorite flavor enhancers is a food that is highest in quercetin...which is...capers! When you eat capers you are feeding your gut microbiome and balancing out microbes.
That is my CARE process and everything that it entails. This is a general guideline and some patients might have to spend more time in R and less time in C. It all depends on the state of your microbiome.
Is There an Approximate Length of Time That People Should Be Following Each of These Steps In The Protocol?
I start every piece of it at once. It's a 28-day protocol. When people work with me I may need to get rid of bad bugs in the gut and that part may go on for two months. But as a general rule, you do all of this at once and in 28 days, your gut is in a different place. Even your relationship with food is transformed. If I tell people to do something, I will do it with them because I need to walk my talk. I cut out coffee for my cleanse and I never went back, that was 2 years ago. For some people, coffee irritates the gut. In its place, I drank green tea. Green tea is a powerful activator for liver detox. But overall, start with doing this for 28 days and see how great you feel.
If There Is One Thing To Improve Your Gut Health What Would It Be?
Learn how to relax. Learn how to do deep diaphragmatic breathing while holding at either end. Inhale with a hold, exhale twice as long, hold again at the exhale and then breathe in again and stay in that cycle. It creates a parasympathetic balance and it relaxes the body. Don't worry about the number of repetitions set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes. You can work your way up to longer.
Anytime I have a patient go on a vacation and they cheat on their diet it doesn't affect their gut. The one variable is the amount of stress in our lives. Stress attacks the gut so we need to start there. The body needs to be in a relaxed state in order to heal. Breathing is a key part, then the next scene is getting into the diet. Start taking one thing out and you will become a master at it. When you go out to eat you will know what to ask about. Then you can add in the next things. You don't have to conquer Rome all in one day. Be successful in the process.
When you are making a change within yourself make sure to stay focused and try to be aligned with your values. Make sure to start a gratitude journal and find an outlet that helps you stay grounded. Whether that be yoga or meditation. Try the CARE method for a month and see how you feel. You will notice your relationship with food change and your gut health will change with it. Take out the bad food, add in the good, and restore your gut lining with supplements. Share this with a friend that could use some tips for gut health!