This paper is a synopsis of some of the most important concepts that I think my patients should know from the author, Steven Gundry. The review primarily is from his book “Gut Check”, but some material is from “Plant Paradox”.

In the future, I would like to give my patients a more in-depth synopsis of “Plant Paradox”, which will include concepts, recipes, and application methods to a healthier gut. That being said, as readers, you should have a much better understanding of achieving a healthier gut after reading what is being presented now.

Gut Health – "Gut Check"

The digestion system is a pathway from mouth to anus made up of trillions of bacteria belonging to at least ten thousand species, with an undetermined amount of viruses and fungi. The oral biome has seven hundred species of bacteria and a skin biome with a thousand different species, collectively called the holobiome.

The microbiome has been wholly underestimated in its abilities and contribution to our lives. Two thousand four hundred years ago, Hippocrates claimed, "All disease begins in the gut." more and more, that claim is proving to be correct. It is possible that most chronic diseases can be cured here. I feel this will become the next explosion of research, a renaissance for the health fields.

The goal is not to have only good bacteria making up the microbiome. Some harmful bacteria are critical to keep the good bacteria on their toes. The three most significant contributors to a healthy microbiome are stability, diversity, and balancing cooperation and competition. If you don't have the right mix of gut buddies working for you, you won't be able to get all the nutrients from your food. You are not what you eat but what your gut buddies digest. They're also responsible for vast parts of the hormonal, nervous, and immune system's ability to function.

Key Concept: You have a great deal of control over your microbiome. It is susceptible to dietary and environmental changes.

When reading this paper, there will be reference made to the mitochondria. The mitochondria are organelle, specialized structures within living cells. This organelle is truly separate from us with its own set of DNA. Its DNA is in a ring formation, whereas ours is in a double helix. The mitochondria are believed to be a bacteria, a good gut buddy, that completely mutated. It was given a safe haven from the cruel world, and we were given energy for it. Without it, all action would cease. Maybe the most remarkable example of symbiosis the world has ever known—key concept: All chronic disease is truly a disease of the mitochondria. As the reader, I want you to think of the mitochondria as a gut buddy because what is suitable for one is good for both.

You would be amazed at how many effective medications work by altering the gut biome. Why not go straight to the source and heal the gut itself? Much of the inflammation issues are rooted in a leaky gut. Eating all the anti-inflammatory food in the world won't be enough until the gut is healed.

Mitogenesis is the creation of new mitochondria. The two methods historically known to produce new mitochondria are fasting and exercise. We now know that certain nutrients can create new mitochondria, known as decouplers. Polyphenols and short-chain fatty acids are two great examples. Remember, what makes more and healthier mitochondria is also creating more gut buddies.

Only two antioxidants or protectors are attached to mitochondria: melatonin and glutathione. Both are used to control reactive oxygen species, a result of metabolism. First of all, tryptophan is the amino group that is the precursor to melatonin. The rarest of all the amino acids, a great source, is pistachios. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant originating from three amino groups: glutamine, glycine, and cysteine. Key: eat sulfur-rich food, i.e., beef, fish, and poultry. Eat vegetables from cruciferous family (See Appendix A) and allium vegetables (onions, garlic, scallions, shallot, leeks, chives.) Taking 500 mg of vitamin C daily improves glutathione in red blood cells by 47%.

Your body monitors the amount of energy available to grow or pull back and clean house. MTOR, Mammalian Target of Rapamysicin, is a type of sensor for energy availability. With plenty of energy, it activates insulin with growth factor (IGFI), leading to cell growth. When we overfeed ourselves and our gut buddies, we are constantly stimulating MTOR. You do not want to be in MTOR all the time. The break from eating improves insulin resistance and longevity, creating an environment for autophagy, cell cleanup. MTOR scans the body for nutrients for growth, i.e., amino acids—especially methionine, isoleucine, and cysteine. You can trick the system and avoid MTOR when eating plant protein. Spending time out of MTOR has shown to decrease the population of bad gut bacteria and increased the population of good gut buddies. Eat in eight-hour windows and then fast for sixteen hours. This not only increases the density of good bacteria it also works as an excellent decoupler for mitochondria.

Patients fed high-fiber diets did not see an improvement in their gut microbiome diversity and a reduction in the levels of their inflammation. Those who consumed fermented foods with a high-fiber diet increased their diversity and reduced inflammation. When it comes to benefitting from dietary fiber, fermented foods are the critical link.

Akkermansia Muciniphila, a keystone good bacteria, is one of its functions to eat the mucus layer of the inner gut lining. This is super important because it helps maintain the health of the inner lining, but it also works as a large stimulator for epithelial cells to make more mucus. Just as important is the stimulation of gut bacteria to produce more short-chain fatty acids, one of which is the all-powerful butyrate.

Deep in the colon, there is no oxygen, and the only way to feed colon cells is by butyrate. Butyrate is a powerful mitochondria decoupler. This allows mitochondria to rebuild and create new mitochondria. Butyrate also tells cells when to release pro-inflammatory cytokines to help with immune function. It also increases the number of regulatory T-cells in the intestinal lining. It is also the trigger for releasing the antioxidant glutathione, which is critical for mitochondria repair. You want more butyrate in your life, powerfully stimulated by Akkermansia. Unfortunately, positive metabolic changes were not observed when humans were given large doses of butyrate. One theory is that butyrate did not reach the lower small and upper large intestines where it needs to be utilized. Three short-chain fatty acids are made from gut buddies: butyrate, acetate, and propionate.

Food for gut buddies

First, polyphenols are naturally found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, tea, coffee, and dark chocolate ( See Appendix B). They have been described for a long time as an antioxidant but are much more powerful. Polyphenols are mitochondria decouplers. That means it allows the mitochondria to re-boot or re-tool and grow new mitochondria. These are the preferred food sources for good gut buddies. Their consumption has shown an increase in good gut buddies as it reduces the number of harmful gut bacteria—especially desirable food sources in fermented polyphenols. Good examples are champagne, red wine, and balsamic vinegar. Alcohol should be kept to six ounces for women and twelve ounces for men. Balsamic vinegar in water is a great way to get fermented polyphenols. The key is to have suitable gut buddies to digest the polyphenols.

Fermented foods are a must to maximize the all-important diversity of gut bacteria and reduce inflammation. Great examples: sauerkraut, kimchi, dill pickles, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, cheese, sourdough bread, and apple cider vinegar.

Fiber is in both soluble and insoluble forms (See Appendix C).

Soluble attracts water and turns it into a gel. Insoluble doesn't dissolve in water and adds bulk. Both are excellent food sources for gut buddies.

Resistant starches (See Appendix D)

When starches are cooked, preferably with a pressure cooker, and let to cool for about 24 hours, they can be eaten cold or reheated. The cooling changes the bond of the carbohydrate, making it resistant to absorption—maybe the preferred fiber to the all-powerful short-chain fatty acid butyrate. If there is an issue with elevated blood sugar, keep consumption to no more than twice a week. If you don't feed your gut buddies, i.e., a highly processed food diet, they have no choice but to feed on you.

Turmeric, a yellow-orange spice with a specific polyphenol called curcumin, causes a reduction in inflammation and helps with intestinal wall defects to reduce very toxic LPS. It is best consumed with a fat source and black pepper.

Fermented dairy helps many people who are sensitive to dairy. The fermentation process reduces the loads of lectins. Fermented or aged cheese, preferably goat or sheep, contains postbiotic polyamines that help protect the gut wall. There is also an increase in the activity of IAP, intestinal alkaline phosphatase, which breaks down lipopolysaccharides (LPS), toxic chemicals linked increasingly to dementia and auto-immune problems.

Fermentation is critical in reducing lectins and giving us greater diversity. Animals fed corn and soy are some of the biggest lectin offenders.

The body stores fat around the abdomen to provide fuel and quick access to the bloodstream. One of the primary energy requirements is for immune functions. They respond to WGA (Wheat, Germ, Agglutinin), other lectins, and LPS. Eating antibiotics in food knocks out good gut buddies that help us maintain a healthy weight. When fewer gut buddies are around, this allows lectins to force their way through the tight junctions in your gut wall and then free to move into the circulatory system, where they can drive up inflammation and wreak havoc.

WGA is a tiny protein compared to other lectins; if the gut barrier hasn't been compromised, they still get through. WGA can mimic insulin, especially in neurons, nerve cells, and muscle cells, works as a gatekeeper to let glucose flow through the cell membrane for energy. On fat cells, insulin tells them to turn glucose into fat. Insulin is a fat-storage hormone. Lectins are large, sticky proteins that like to bind to sugars. Their first step is to pry apart tight junctions in the gut's mucosal lining. In a healthy gut, lectins would have difficulty pushing past the mucosal barrier's junction. If the mucosal barrier is thinned from consuming many lectins, they can attach to the gut wall. This will then trigger the production of a protein called zonulin, which is a key to unlocking tight junctions. Lectins with enough population create microscopic holes in the gut wall. This lays the groundwork for a condition known as leaky gut. This will put your immune system and inflammation into hyperdrive.

The Seven Deadly Disruptors

They wreak havoc on the quantity and diversity of good gut buddies.

  1. Broad-spectrum antibiotics. They can be life-saving, but they are sometimes overconsumed unknowingly when we eat conventionally raised meat.
  2. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) Examples are Ibuprofin, Advil, Motrin, Naproxen, Celebrex and Aleve. It took over in the 1970s as the drug of choice over aspirin. Aspirin, with prolonged use, was found to damage the stomach lining. What the gastroscope at that time did not see was how NSAIDs damage the lining of the small intestine and colon. This leads to more inflammation and pain.
  3. Stomach acid blockers Examples are Zantac, Prilosec, and Nexium, most of which are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). This reduces the amount of acid in your stomach. This is one of the primary tools your body uses to neutralize harmful bacteria and break lectins. It also inhibits protein digestion. Key: reduce the population of lectins that you are consuming.
  4. Artificial Sweeteners Found to decimate your friendly bacteria population. Also, it triggers your brain to seek more sweets. Less gut buddies, the ingested lectins wreck more havoc.
  5. Endocrine Disruptors Exposure to them is linked to an array of health issues. For example, diabetes, cancer, poor thyroid function, and reproductive problems. They also affect the liver's ability to convert vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital to keeping the wall of your intestinal tract. They are commonly found in plastics, sunscreens, personal care products, toothpaste, hand sanitizers, and many processed foods containing BHT as an additive. Often found in whole grain bread – avoid at all costs.
  6. GMO or genetically modified foods and the herbicide Roundup. GMOs are specially bred to withstand the herbicide known as glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup.
  7. When exposed to excessive blue light, our bodies confuse daytime and nighttime. This process stimulates our bodies to store more fat.

Oils full of polyunsaturated omega-6 fat. Also, linoleic acid (LA) is the most prevalent fat in most industrial seed oils. Omega 6 is pro-inflammatory and dominates processed food, including corn, soy, cottonseed, sunflower, safflower, and grape seed; it transforms into aldehydes when heated. Maybe the most toxic compound to your mitochondria ever discovered. If you see ingredient lists that contain one of these vegetable oils, walk away. See Appendix E for the best oils to consume.

Fructose is a toxin to our mitochondria and microbiome, and it creates fat storage in the liver, which starts metabolic syndrome—high fructose corn syrup, ubiquitously found in processed food.

Titanium dioxide, a common additive used in teeth-whitening agents, affects the composition of good gut bacteria.

Avoid anti-bacterial soaps that affect the homobiome and, therefore, intestinal flora.

Stay away from xenoestrogens. Avoid ingredient parabens. Preservatives in many items strongly correlate with breast and prostate cancer. Anything that ends with parabens, for example, propylparaben.

Phthalates. Avoid plastic as much as possible. The best food is wrapped in butcher paper or glass instead of plastic. Fast food also contains larger doses of phthalates.

Nonylphenol exhibits estrogen-like activity in the body. It is found in laundry detergents, personal hygiene, latex paints, and lawn care products.

BPA, Bisphenol A, is used to manufacture certain plastics, i.e., water bottles and food containers. Its replacement BPS & BPF are no safer. Instead, opt for glass and stainless steel.

Chlormequat, herbicide/pesticide, endocrine disrupter. It is found in oat products. Quaker Oats product levels are dangerously high.

If you have markers for auto-immune disease, you have a leaky gut. Everyone with inflammatory bowel disease has a leaky gut. Everyone with Type 2 diabetes has a leaky gut. Coronary Artery Disease is a type of auto-immune disease.

Things to avoid to reduce inflammation in the gut: Very high on the list is a very pernicious lectin called WGA, or wheat germ agglutinin. It is a tiny protein that the plant uses to protect itself from bacteria and yeast. It is so small that it passes through even in healthy guts with tight junctions. When in the body, it creates an auto-immune firestorm and inflammation. It sticks to the glycocalyx, which is the cell outcoat. Glycocalyx is a dense carbohydrate layer. It is made up of part protein or lipid and carbohydrate. WGA attaches to this outer layer, which creates a powerful auto-immune reaction—directly linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Avoid all whole grains.

Aquaporins are pores in the leaves of plants, where they absorb water and exchange gases. We have aquaporins that are nearly identical to plant aquaporins. They are found in the wall of our gut, blood-brain barrier, and myeline sheath, outer coat for nerve cells. If you develop antibodies to plant aquaporins, your antibodies can attach to your aquaporins with cell mimicry. This sets us up for leaky gut, brain, and nerve sheath, which are real drivers for multiple sclerosis. Aquaporins are present in most nightshades, corn, and spinach. (See Appendix F)


Anti-neu5gc, a type of lectin found in red meat, is even more elevated in organ meats, especially the liver. Also found in chicken, chicken broth. When fermented, the bacteria eat the sugar molecule neu5gc, stopping its effect. This is why fermented dairy and meat dramatically reduce the lectin neu5gc.

A1 beta-casein is a highly inflammatory protein found in dairy. This is why goat and sheep dairy is desired; they contain A2 beta-casein. Grass-fed cows with A2 beta-casein are also a viable option. Water buffalo may be the best source of dairy. Yogurt made from A2 beta-casein is a powerful mitochondrial uncoupler; the neu5gc lectin is also eaten in the fermentation process.

Don't eat whole grains and brown rice. Both are too high in lectins, creating over-activation of the immune system and inflammation.

Avoid mouthwashes; they can destroy the oral microbiome. Opt for tongue scraping; it increases the diversity of the oral biome.

Next, Avoid food found to be highest in lectins and nightshades (See Appendix G). Also, see foods with the lowest lectin content. Millet and sorghum are the only known grains without lectins. Realize lectins are concentrated in the seeds and skin. Pressure cooking is a great way to lower the lectin content.

After working with thousands of people to meet their healthy goals, this author found that 10 % of the patients need additional help. The list below, for the minority of patients not reaching their goals when removed, made a difference in their outcomes.

  • Almond, almond flour, almond milk
  • White mushrooms
  • Ginger
  • Pineapple
  • Peaches
  • White Onions
  • Lemons
  • Nutmeg
  • Bananas
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla Bean
  • Commercial poultry

I have heard it said so many times that it comes down to genetics, and there is undoubtedly some truth to that statement. I never really understood which genetics our nearly 23,000 distinct protein-coding genes or the 7 million in our bacteria. There is over three hundred times the genetic potential in our holobiome. The power is genuinely yours to affect the most powerful genetics.

Brian Rafool

Brian Rafool


Contact Me