Naturopathic doctor Tim Gerstmar shares his “new model” for treating autoimmunity—no complex immunosuppressive drugs needed. In this episode you’ll learn how your thoughts and emotions affect inflammation, and how the foods you eat impact your genes and the trillions of bacteria (the gut microbiome) that turn inflammation either on or off. We also discuss top nutrients that you can eat to increase the healing powers of your gut microbiome.
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Curcumin: even if it’s not absorbed, it’s still feeding healthy gut bacteria.
#1 Health Tip
People need to realize that they are in the driver’s seat of their health. They have control. Take small steps daily to improve your health and don’t rely on the “healthcare system” to cure you. Take action; focus on progress, not perfection.
Think about your mindset and its effects on your health.
3:03 The New Model of Autoimmunity Treatment: People with autoimmunity have generally been told that once they have been diagnosed, nothing but immune suppressing pharmaceutical medications can help them. That is not the case. We have genetics that predispose us to some autoimmunity. When we encounter a trigger, we develop autoimmunity. Dr. Gerstmar believes that there is more to it.
4:59 Your Genome and Epigenome: The encyclopedia of you is in your genetics. Epigenetics are the paperclips and highlighters on your genes. Epigenetics emphasizes, highlights, or closes off, paperclips, sections of your genome. In cancer, those markers get scrambled and cells develop differently. Some changes are genetic and some are epigenetic. In the future, we may be able to change our genetics: add new pages in our encyclopedia or tear others out. Right now, we can change our epigenetics, thus we change the way our genome is expressing itself.
7:03 Autoimmunity and Genetics: We have genes that make it more possible to develop certain forms of autoimmunity. Something triggers it. The balance of the things we do every day shifts our genome’s inflammatory expression, and anti-inflammatory expression.
7:36 How Can We Influence Gene Expression? Diet and lifestyle is where we start. What you are eating, your stress load, sleep, and exercise are the foundational components of health. Changing our diets can have effects that can sometimes be felt in as little as one day. These are often the lessening of aches and pains, or digestive upset. Sometimes it takes days or weeks to feel the improvement.
12:59 Familial Disease Tendency: All of us have our strengths and weaknesses. If you have a strong family history of a certain disease, it is a warning that you need to do work hard to avoid it or at least make it less severe.
14:46 Our Mental State and the Epigenome: Laughter and joy change epigenetics, as does depression and anger. We want to be empowered to act to prevent or lessen the effects of disease. We need to forgive ourselves and others if we get the disease and we did not work to prevent it. Your health is not 100% under your control. Examples of this are: whether you were delivered by C-section, whether you were breastfed, where your house was located or most aspects of your childhood. That said there is a great deal that you can do.
16:16 Where Do We Start? The first thing to do is to make dietary changes. Whether you choose to go paleo, vegetarian, or something else, it needs to be a diet of whole real foods, eliminating commonly problematic foods like wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, citrus, peanuts and others. The worst thing that happens is that you’ve taken crap out of your diet. The best thing that can happen is that symptoms of your autoimmunity are reduced or are eliminated. There may be other issues that need to be addressed, but often an improved diet makes huge changes.
19:51 Which Diet is Best for Autoimmunity? There is so much new information and research on the gut microbiome coming out every day that it is easy to become confused. So we take what we know, we try to keep the risks low and move forward with the information we have. The primary food for many of our gut bacteria is starches, sugar and fibers. These are FODMAPs, Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols. They are different components of food that gut bacteria like. Our own digestive system takes some of the nutrition from fibers, but our gut bacteria have the ability to break it down and use it as their fuel. This process often produces gas as a byproduct. Beano is a digestive enzyme that breaks down the fibers so we can absorb it. That means that you don’t have gas, but your gut bacteria do not get to consume the fiber.
22:45 Gut Bacteria and Fiber: For healthy gut bacteria, we need lots of fiber: vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and fruit. The average American gets about 15 grams of fiber each day. The recommendation is for 35 to 50 grams per day. Some estimate that our ancestors consumed over 100 grams of fiber per day.
24:29 SIBO and Diet: Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, an imbalance/over- abundance of gut bacteria in the small intestine. Large intestine should contain a large amount of bacteria. Small intestine should contain a small amount of bacteria. These bacteria steal our food and cause inflammation, damaging the small intestine, causing malabsorption and possibly leaky gut. This cascade causes many health problems. Autoimmunity is one of them. The FODMAP fibrous foods also feed the overgrowth bacteria, exacerbating the situation.
26:03 Autoimmunity and SIBO: We want to encourage the growth of beneficial gut flora, especially ones that are anti-inflammatory in nature. It is tricky to feed beneficial bacteria, when overgrowth bacteria eat the same food. The gut microbiome is a constantly changing environment, since it is influenced by sleep, stress, environmental factors and food. The microbiome can change rapidly. Most bacteria measure their lifespan in hours. Their generations happen quickly. If you react badly to high FODMAP foods, then go to a low FODMAP diet. However, the goal should be to move to a higher fiber, higher FODMAP diet, as it can be tolerated.
30:52 Vegetable Fibers can go in the Other Way…One individual with bad SIBO, poor microbiome diversity and who could not tolerate FODMAPS, did retention enemas of a mix of resistant starches and fibers, holding it overnight. They found benefit from doing that, but most of us are not willing to get that extreme. Infusing probiotics, which some people do, without these prebiotics only has marginal benefit at best.
33:09 Our Body Produces Food for Beneficial Bacteria: The cells that line the intestine produce a form of sugar called fucose that feeds a beneficial bacteria. The vagina produces a sugar that feeds lactobacillus, which makes the vagina more acidic, preventing yeast infections. Beneficial bacteria stimulate mucus production in the gut, protecting the gut wall.
36:01 The Benefits of Polyphenols: Coco powder has been shown to boost the levels of bifidobacterium. There is little fiber in coco, so it must be some other phytonutrient. Dr. Gerstmar has been experimenting with powders from berries and different spices with his patients are FODMAP intolerant. Some seem to be able to tolerate them.
38:49 The Microbiome and Autoimmunity: The gut microbiome is a huge part of dealing with autoimmunity. We have two systems independent of our genetics that we can influence: epigenetics and the gut microbiome. When encouraging his patients, Dr. Gerstmar tells his patients that the worst that can happen is that you are a healthier person dealing with autoimmunity, perhaps needing less pharmaceutical intervention or having fewer side effects. At best, your autoimmunity is in complete remission. It takes time, effort and getting to know yourself and your body.
41:22 Drugs aren’t Bad: Many new patients come to him with their top goal being to get off of their drugs. That is not a bad goal, but the first priority is quality of life. A benefit of becoming healthier and having better quality of life is that drugs may be reduced or eliminated. Being healthy and feeling good is the goal.
44:46 Open the Mind to Alternatives: The human condition is that we are all biased. It is our evolutionary programing. To understand our bias, Dr. Gerstmar recommends the books You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, an d 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself and You Are Now Less Dumb: How to Conquer Mob Mentality, How to Buy Happiness, and All the Other Ways to Outsmart Yourself. He also recommends the book, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. We need to keep an open mind in treatment.
49:27 Getting to Know Yourself Better: All this medicine is about getting to know yourself better both physically, like how foods in the gut impact you, but also how your brain works. Dr. Gerstmar says that in his autoimmune patients there is a modest amount or a large amount of self-hatred. It mirrors the autoimmunity, which is your own body fighting itself. His patients benefit from working on healing those negative emotions through introspection, journaling, tapping and other therapies. When they can come to love and accept themselves, it profoundly improves quality of life and can improve them physically as well. Mind and body are not separate from one another. Most of your body contains receptors for dopamine, serotonin and other chemicals that are only thought to be in the brain.
53:01 Breast Cancer and Community: A study revealed that women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer who attended emotional support groups lived longer than women who did not. Dr. Gerstmar encourages those with autoimmunity to think about emotional healing, if for nothing else than to improve quality of life.
54:22 Dr. Gerstmar’s Favorite Herb, Nutrient or Botanical: His choice is turmeric and curcumin. It is profoundly anti-inflammatory. It is generally liver protective and liver restorative. It helps with detox pathways and glutathione. You don’t have to use the expensive supplemental forms of these types of things. You can cook with it.
57:49 One Health Tip for Americans: He would like to see more empowerment in health care and health in general. There is a lot that people can do for themselves. It can be simple and easy things like getting people to eat more vegetables. Even though high intensity interval training and resistance training are best, just getting a little activity like walking is an improvement to people’s lives. If people could sleep a little more, add a little side salad per day to their diet and manage their stress a little better, there would be health benefits. Even small steps make a change for people.
1:03:02 Treating Autoimmunity is Comprehensive: There are many components to treating autoimmunity. A single diet or a single treatment is not going to address all of the issues. How people got to having autoimmunity is an individual journey, so treatments need to be individual as well. This is why Dr. Gerstmar wrote his e-book, The Autoimmune Answer. You can find it on his website, www.aspirenaturalhealth.com. He says to people with autoimmunity, don’t give up.