In This Episode We Discussed:
  • The relationship between gut health & the microbiome
  • 90% of serotonin produced in the gut lining
  • Gut health & the immune system
  • The danger of Roundup
  • How to repopulate your gut
  • The limitations of prebiotics and probiotics

Zach Bush MD is a physician specializing in internal medicine, endocrinology and hospice care. He is an internationally recognized educator and thought leader on the microbiome as it relates to health. The breakthrough science that Dr. Bush and his colleagues have delivered offer profound new insights into human health and longevity. His education efforts provide a grassroots foundation from which we can launch change in our legislative decisions, ultimately up- shifting consumer behavior to bring about radical change in the mega industries of big farming, big pharma, and Western Medicine at large.

Show Notes

Daniel S.: [00:00:30] Welcome back to the Neurohacker Collective podcast, Collective Insights. My name is Daniel Schmachtenberger. I'm here with research and development at Neurohacker. We are excited to have Dr. Zach Bush here with us today. Zach is the founder and chief scientist product developer at Restore4Life, which makes some really innovative, fascinating technology that I'm excited to talk about today. Zach's a medical [00:01:00] doctor, background in endocrinology and internal medicine and did work in studying neuroendocrinology, cancer, and then ended up expanding into doing really cutting edge and novel work with chronic disease of many kinds, with autism, with neurodegeneration, a lot of things that are relevant to understanding the brain and neuropsych and things that we are very interested in here at the Collective.

Something that I really appreciate [00:01:30] about Zach, getting to start to study his work, is he's a very systemic, ecological thinker, so looking at the relationship between the human genome and the microbiome very deeply, between human health overall and the health of the environment, the relationship between the gut and the nervous system and toxicity and nutrition and etc. and so really excited to get to have a conversation about the gut-brain access and the associated systems with one of the pioneers in the field. Zach, thanks for being here.

Zach Bush: Awesome. [00:02:00] I am excited to be here, Daniel. Appreciate what you guys do at the Collective.

Daniel S.: Let's just start at the very beginning, gut-brain access. What is that? Why is that a thing?

Zach Bush: Absolutely, yeah. It's such an evolving field, really, even as early as the early 2000s. We're probably 20 years into this journey. The 2000 to 2010 was termed the decade of the brain. We learned more about the brain than we had in all previous human history. Then I think 2010 [00:02:30] to 2020 is going to be called the decade of the gut before the brain because what we thought was ... By 2008, '09, we were starting to call the gut maybe the second brain. We were starting to realize that wow, there are so many neurologic connections, dendritic connections, neuroregulatory bodies in that gut environment, everything from your nasal sinuses, all the way to the rectum. This huge, two tennis court surface area is the largest macro membrane in your whole body. It's [00:03:00] enormous, for sure.

There's a lot of people that debate well, maybe there are still a lot more neural connections in the brain than the gut. All of that has suddenly paled in recent years as we've come to increasingly understand the endocrine cells of the enteric system. These are often termed the EECs, or enteric endocrine cells. We're starting to realize that 90% of the serotonin, for example, that is produced in your human body, serotonin being a neurotransmitter [00:03:30] that modulates everything from mood to focus to creative capacity, 90% of that neurochemical is produced in the gut lining rather than in the brain itself. We're starting to, I think, evolve this into a story where you know what? It's not the gut brain. It's really the brain is really fully responsive to the gut. The gut makes everything the brain would need to begin with. The gut is bringing all this information into [00:04:00] the brain.

We have to keep in mind this interesting reality that we give so much respect to this eight pounds of gray matter in our head, but in reality, it's completely useless junk. It's as if the CPU chip of your computer was the source of knowledge. Obviously, there's absolutely no knowledge in a CPU chip. CPU chip is just processing unit. It's just taking in information and moving it somewhere else. That's all your gray matter does in the brain. [00:04:30] The gut, being your largest contact with your environment, is such an interesting place to think about thought, human consciousness, certainly mood, your sense of reserve in the day. Are you hitting the wall and you're needing caffeine by 2:00 in the afternoon or do you have lots of reserve and you're still pumping at 6:00 at night and you're at the top of your game? The difference will be how is your gut doing. The brain, we're starting to realize, is secondary to the gut in a whole [00:05:00] myriad of different ways.

Daniel S.: I think a lot of people haven't thought about it, what a profound thing that it is that the gut membrane has to selectively decide what is a nutrient and take it in and what is a pathogen and to kill it. What is a toxin and to keep it out. The selectivity of that membrane is really mind blowing.

Zach Bush: Mind blowing, you're exactly right. I study this every single day. I look at them under the microscope frequently. It's just you [00:05:30] can't overemphasize the ridiculous intelligence of this membrane. It's one cell layer thick. Contrast that to your skin, for example. Your skin has maybe 50 to 100 layers of cells that are all stacked up on top of each other and your skin protects you from the outside world. Well, your skin with all those 50 to 100 layers of cells, is about 1-1/2 square meters in surface area. Now you contrast that to two tennis courts in surface area of your gut and then contrast [00:06:00] the reality that that's one cell layer thick. That's 50 microns, 50 microns. You pluck your human hair, look at how thin that hair is. Now cut that in half and now you're at about 50 microns. Your half the width of a human hair is this cellophane-like layer that separates your immune system from the outside world.

It's utter chaos for your body if that membrane starts to leak and so it shifts you very quickly from this acute inflammatory [00:06:30] reaction, so some pathogen or foreign invader comes in from the outside. Your immune system just attacks, burst of oxidative stress. It clears that. Macrophage cleans up the site, no problem. That's an ideal world and that's what should be happening in your body minute to minute, day to day.

Now what happens is you open up that membrane, you turn that into a sieve, and suddenly, the entire immune system is getting hit. The majority of that happens in your nasal sinuses and then in the upper segment [00:07:00] of the esophagus can be prone to it, but the duodenum, that's the first section of the small intestine, really prone to this. That environment and then you keep going down in your colon is where you do all this intelligent processing, what's supposed to come in, what's supposed to stay out.

Interestingly, it's always tempting to think well, those gut cells must be so intelligent. They are. I don't want to downplay that, but it's fascinating to realize that it's not even the cells that are the critical piece of this puzzle. It's actually the [00:07:30] Velcro that holds these cells together. The Velcro is a relative term there, but it's a protein structure that has two loops that come together. Kind of in a spot weld is this watertight barrier, so each of those microscopic cells at about 25 to 30 microns wide and about 50 microns deep, quarter of the width of a human hair in width. You take a bunch of those and you line up billions and billions and billions of those and now you get a single macro gut membrane. [00:08:00] That plane of tissue is now your regulator between the outside world and your immune system.

The immune system certainly anticipated our vulnerability here because we built 60 to 70% of the entire body's immune system right behind that gut lining. When we start to talk about the brain here, you got to realize the brain is simply a CPU chip that needs a protected space. That protected space hides behind something called the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain [00:08:30] barrier happens to be a network of these same Velcro-like proteins, these tight junctions, that tie together the blood vessels anytime it abuts a nerve and so a peripheral nerve all the way down to your toe or your central nervous system up in the brain, spinal cord, all of that is protected. It has to be fueled by blood vessels. You got to get oxygen and nutrients to the brain and the peripheral nerves, but you've got to keep it super safe.

This is kind of like the new quantum chips. The quantum chips are phenomenally excitingly [00:09:00] fast, but minor detail, you've got to keep these things near absolute zero for them to function. You have to create these very bizarre, extreme settings for the chip to work. That's almost the situation with your brain. You need a bizarrely protected space for that gray matter to actually be able to traffic information where it needs to go and process things correctly and at the speed that it should.

Many of us are starting to experience in our day-to-day life a decay [00:09:30] in that holy of holies protected space around the brain and that gray matter is starting to be in this soup of inflammation, this soup of chemical invasion, and even normal stuff like glucose, which is the preferred fuel by the brain. Well, if glucose is going through vascular walls in an unregulated fashion, it becomes overwhelming to the brain. The brain just needs a super controlled environment. You guys at the Collective are really bringing so much important information [00:10:00] to the consumer in that there's so many threats to today's brain. There are so many threats more importantly, perhaps, to that membrane or that structure of protection between the outside world and your brain.

Daniel S.: When we first started thinking about the gut-brain access, it was neurologic, right, looking at the enteric nervous system, meaning you got all these neurons in the gut and they're actually a whole additional branch of the peripheral nervous system from traditional sympathetic, parasympathetic. Cool. Then we got [00:10:30] into looking at the endocrinology of the gut, as you're mentioning. Then we started looking at the relationship of the tight junctions and the barrier in the gut and the blood-brain barrier and then also the relationship of the microbiome and the immune system and the inflammatory processes to what moves through the gut into the blood and then can go from the blood and affect the blood-brain barrier and into the nervous system.

It isn't like there's one mechanism that mediates that relationship. It's almost like you can't even think of them as separate systems because [00:11:00] almost every one of the different mechanisms that they're interacting with, they're interacting with each other in this deep way. How does our gut get damaged? How does it function suboptimally? Then what is the effect of that on the blood-brain barrier on making that CPU's environment less protected and what does that do specifically? I know you've done a lot of work with neuropsych stuff, both neurodegeneration and neuropsych and so why is it that when you're looking at [00:11:30] autism or Parkinson's or Alzheimer's that you're looking at a gut at all?

Zach Bush: Very good. Yeah, so we know that the secret has to be in the gut just from a population statistic. We had a very stable rate of autism in the population until about 1975 and then things started to rise a little bit. Then in the 1990s, things just really took off furtively. We had 1 in 5000 children with autism in 1975, [00:12:00] 1 in 5000. Today, we have 1 in 40. The vast majority of that increase we doubled between 2012 and 2015. We are just seeing this extraordinarily vertical rise in a really devastating neurologic condition in very young children. Usually between 18 months and 2 years is where that injury occurs. You see this phenomenon there.

On the other side of the population, we had a very steady rate of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's that was [00:12:30] really traced in the geriatric population until the 1990s. Then we see this steady climb of Parkinson's in males and Alzheimer's in females. That phenomenon has tracked very closely with our autism phenomenon. Whether young to old, we can see these big neurologic injuries happen. Then if we look at the more minor versions of those injuries, which is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in our children, which then by age 12, 15 [00:13:00] will typically manifest as panic attack, anxiety disorders, which is more common in girls than boys that age. Then as we get a little bit older, it'll transition into the full-blown mood disorders by college and everything else.

Then more minor than that would be sleep disorder and so teens to 20 start to get insomnia, fractured sleep patterns, etc. Then in the geriatric population, well, the more minor [00:13:30] version of those is other dementias. There's other slower dementias in the patterns if you're not getting Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, but also, again, the sleep disorders. You can see dysregulation of the sympathetic nervous system with things like the whole menopausal syndrome, hot flashes, etc. All of these are just kind of a continuum of why is the whole population manifesting neurologic degeneration at such a young age, so vulnerable?

[00:14:00] The answers that have come out of our labs in the last six or seven years is really pointing to this twofold phenomenon. Number one, make the system vulnerable. The way to make that gut lining and the tight junctions that protect not just your immune system, but your brain and peripheral nervous system, the way to make that vulnerable is to wipe out the microbiome. The microbiome is a term that basically speaks to not just bacteria, but bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses, all of these microscopic life [00:14:30] that surrounds us.

It's important to note how vast this ecosystem of microbiome is around us because it's tempting to think that you're still the majority and these little, invisible guys are the minority. The fact is you are almost nonexistent compared to the volume of life on the planet in the microbiome. From just a sheer genomic standpoint, to give you an idea of this, well, first let's go to the numbers of the organisms. It's pretty phenomenal. You've got 70 trillion human cells, which sounds [00:15:00] like a heady number. It's slightly more than our national debt in the United States, but 70 trillion cells, it makes up a human body. Well, outnumbering that more than tenfold, pushing 15 to 20-fold 1-1/2 to 2 quadrillion bacteria. Those quadrillions of bacteria are diverse. Ideally, you're in the 30,000, 40,000 species of bacteria. Right now, we're walking around with a fraction of that because of our environment again, which we'll go into.

[00:15:30] Then you go from the bacteria to the parasites and now you're not at 30,000. You're at 300,000 species of parasites. Most of these parasites are actually not damaging, in fact, are life-giving to the human body. We have little parasites that live under our eyelids. We have them that live in our sweat pores. These things help regulate normal, healthy cellular function. These parasites live all over us and we probably depend on them for our own existence and health, 300,000 of those guys.

Then you move to the fungi, 5 [00:16:00] million species of fungi. Then you move to the viruses. We haven't even begun to categorize the species of viruses. We have a rough idea that we have basically 10 to the 31 viruses on the planet right now. That's one with 31 zeroes after it. There's no such name for that number. It's roughly 10 million times more than our stars in the entire Universe. There's 10 million times more viruses on planet Earth right now today than are stars in the entire [00:16:30] Universe, not galaxy, Universe. We're talking about billions times billions times billions times billions of viruses around us.

Now, what's the chances that those guys are out to kill us? The answer is zero. If they didn't want us here, we would've never come. If they wanted to kill us, they would've killed us a long time ago. The fact is is this microbiome is an ecosystem in which we play this tiny, little niche. From a genetic standpoint, this is a tiny, little niche. [00:17:00] We only have 20,000 genes. That's 2/3 as many as a flea. A flea has 30,000 genes. We are bizarrely engineered as a tiny, little genetic envelope. Most of our DNA, 99% of our DNA, doesn't code for a gene. It seems to be inserts from viruses and other species that have inserted data into our genome.

The brilliant capacity of the human being for creativity, for adaptation, we [00:17:30] are the only species that's adapted to every single environment on the planet. That adaptation and plasticity of our genome is thanks to the plasticity of our DNA to be able to absorb all this data from outside inputs, I believe. This has typically been called junk DNA because it didn't make a gene, so we figured well, if it doesn't make a gene, it doesn't make a protein, it must just be junk. Well, nature never puts 99% of its effort into waste. It turns out that just in recent years, we found out that that [00:18:00] 99% that's probably from other species injection into us, we get this reality that oh, my gosh, we are making micro RNA, these little trafficking proteins that modify the behavior of our genes. We know now that a single human gene can make over 200 different proteins depending on its micro RNA and corepressor-co-activator environment. Really, our plasticity is coming from this 99% of our genome, our capacity to build a new body every day.

[00:18:30] If you do the math, with your 20,000 genes, you can do somewhere around 4 million different bodies today. You could produce 4 million different human being bodies today based on your environment and ecosystem. If your body is functioning well and from day to day you're building the body you like, it's because you've built an environment around yourself that's allowing you to build that body. If you have a chronic ailment, whether it's something as minor as postnasal drainage and chronic congestion or [00:19:00] diarrhea, constipation or chronic bloating or obesity, doesn't matter what ailment, if that continues to manifest every day of your life, it's because your environment continues to allow that to be the body you build today. This is very good news for any of us. It means that we have almost incalculable capacity to change who and how we feel today by changing the environment around us.

That's a long approach to the backdrop that I wanted to tell you because for most of us, [00:19:30] even when we say microbiome is important, we don't realize we are less than one millionth of a percent of life on Earth, just a tiny niche.

Daniel S.: Before you finish here and go back to how does gut damage happen, just to say one part that you were saying slightly more explicitly is you use the term plasticity in an interesting way, which is genomic plasticity. Typically, we think of neuroplasticity, meaning that our connectome can actually restructure new synapses, dendrites, etc. We do also have [00:20:00] a genome that can express radically differently through epigenetic modulation. You talked about the diversity of the microbiome and the relationship of the microbiome. You mentioned micro RNA, but you just say the tiniest bit more. What is the relationship between the microbiome and the expression of the human genome?

Zach Bush: Perfect. I'm glad you asked that because I didn't close that loop. The micro RNA are circulating in your bloodstream. The unique thing about some messenger RNA makes proteins, [00:20:30] so you have a gene. You've got 20,000 genes. They stay inside the nucleus of your cell. They can't leave the nucleus of the cell. The DNA unravels a little bit, exposes a gene. A bunch of cofactors and micro RNA will bind on there. It will make an RNA, messenger RNA, which will then leave the nucleus and go into the cytoplasm of your cell and it will code for a protein to be built on top of that.

Now contrast this to the micro RNA that's from the noncoding or non-gene regions of your DNA, 99%. [00:21:00] That 99% that's making the micro RNA, they don't stay at home. They go and leave the cell. Not only do they leave the cell, they can leave your body. Right now, if I was to swab your mouth, we could extract they're basically envelopes that are in your saliva. They're little exosomes, these little packets of micro RNA that are in your saliva right now. If I go and analyze those, I can tell exactly what genes you're starting to turn on and all of that. I can tell exactly which micro RNA are being activated to modify those [00:21:30] genes.

The interesting thing is not only in your saliva, it's in your urine, but it's also in your breath. It's also in your sweat. You've got these exosomes, or pockets of data going out into the environment around you. If you sit in a lecture hall, over the course of an hour, that professor will actually change everybody's genome in the room by exhaling, by getting these exosomes of micro RNA out. Now, that's a tiny little bit of information that [00:22:00] he's going to exchange with you. In contrast, the bacteria in your gut, the fungi and the rest, we already know is making at least 35% of the micro RNA in your bloodstream. Thirty-five percent is nonhuman. That's just scratching the surface because we've barely started to really decode the micro RNA from the fungi and already may account for half of that. Some 15 to 20% of the micro RNA we studied we already can recognize as being fungal.

I think that just by the sheer numbers that I shared with you a few minutes ago, [00:22:30] we are so overwhelmingly outnumbered by the bacteria, the fungi, and the parasites that we're going to find out that 99% of the micro RNA in your bloodstream is not from human source. That's the answer to your question is how do those bacteria do it? Well, they have "junk DNA", too. They're making micro RNA. They're secreting it into their environment, which is your gut, your sinuses, or your breath. If you walk outside ... I live in Virginia. We've got this extraordinary fall going on this year where the colors are just insane [00:23:00] and the trees are beautiful. You get that loamy smell in the woods. A lot of that is decomposition, obviously, of the soils and all the leaves falling.

That microbiome is exuding exosomes of micro RNA and so every time I go out and breathe, I get to be plastic with my environment and I get to have the fall tell my body this is the time for you to reconsolidate. You're going to build strength. I believe that I build better bone in the winter than I do in the summer. I'm putting less of my energy out [00:23:30] to my periphery and I'm starting to go core, just like a tree who puts its energy right into its roots during this time of year. I think I can actually change which organ system is taking the benefit of my fuel depending on which microenvironment I put myself in.

Daniel S.: You're talking about going out and breathing the loam and having it affect you about ... Obviously, you didn't say it, but when you talk about the micro RNA in saliva, you think about what kind of transform is happening when we kiss, [00:24:00] when we're shaking hands, when we're touching. The idea that we have a genome and it codes for who we are is a radically reductionistic idea, that we're actually exchanging code with our environment continuously and we're emerging as the result of our relationship with our whole environment. If we think about the density of the microbiome and the diversity of it inside of us, that mirrors the microbiome in the environment that we evolved in, so the soil microbiome and [00:24:30] etc.

You've talked a lot about the effects of modern agriculture on the soil microbiome and mineralization and etc. Obviously, when we start looking at synthetic fertilizers and then especially getting into herbicides and pesticides and antibiotics and chlorine and things that are intended to kill parts of the microbiome that we would've had a symbiotic relationship with because germ theory made a lot of sense.

Zach Bush: Yeah.

Daniel S.: There [00:25:00] is this thing like we know acute infection can kill people. What is the relationship between thinking about bacteria, viruses, etc. as pathogens, thinking about them as symbionts, and then also thinking about have we made our relationship with our environment and those creatures less symbiotic overall? Is that part of the health exponential curves you were describing?  

Zach Bush: Heat is a part [00:25:30] of it, for sure. The story here is going to tie back to the 1800s. There's these two academicians in Europe that were arguing. One of them was Bechamp, a French guy. He was arguing that there is no problem ... Germs don't cause disease, basically. More it's the terrain or the environment of the human being that makes them vulnerable to infection. Arguing with him was Louis Pasteur, who was arguing no, germs can attack any immune [00:26:00] system or any human being can be prone to polio or they were looking at Black Death. They were looking at lots of different things in the infection world, tuberculosis or what we call tuberculosis today. They were looking at these things and, of course, Louis Pasteur ended up winning the argument. That's how we developed the term pasteurization, where we started heat pasteurizing everything to kill all the bacteria in the milk or in now we kill almonds. We kill anything that could potentially have a bacteria we pasteurize.

[00:26:30] That concept was all the germs, all the microbiome must be bad for us. It's our potential invader, where Bechamp was saying we're pretty much bulletproof as long as we have a good terrain. It turns out Bechamp, 150 years later, we find out was right, that in fact, it's the vulnerability of a poor terrain or a wiped out ecosystem that then makes us prone to an invasive behavior of a bacteria.

I've come to realize that there's really no room in academia for us to call anything [00:27:00] a bad bacteria anymore or a bad fungi or a bad parasite. The reality is if a parasite shows up, Lyme disease being an example of this bacterial agent that can set up this parasitic relationship to blood cells and things like that. That spirochete in the bloodstream looks like the problem, but in fact, I believe that that spirochete is probably there as a last ditch effort to create some sort of normal metabolism in the soil of your body [00:27:30] because this is exactly what we see in organic gardening and everything else. If you go out into Virginia and you go take a rototiller and just clear a bunch of land, chop down the trees, rototill the soil, the first things that are going to pop up when you've just denuded that soil of its life is weeds.

Same thing in the human system. If we go and build a hospital and we try to sterilize the entire hospital, we wipe out the whole ecosystem with alcohols, ultraviolet light, radiation, we do everything known to [00:28:00] man to kill bacteria, well, then we're going to just select for the most ridiculous weeds that are able to survive in any ludicrous situation. It's not the weed being a bad guy there. The weed is actually trying to return life to the soil. You see this in the garden. If you let the weeds take over, they don't dominate for very long. The weeds will take over the soil and then pretty soon you've got tulip poplar tree sprouts popping up. Then a couple weeks or months after that, you've got evergreen sprouts. Then if you let it go for two years, [00:28:30] the weeds are having to die back out and make room for the big ecosystem that's taking back over.

That's exactly what we've done with the antibiotic era. In the 1940s, we created penicillin. What is penicillin? It's a secretion from bread mold. Here's a mold or a fungi that's making an antibacterial. Well, why would mold check the growth or push back bacteria? Because it's trying to be in a cooperative relationship with the bacteria. Guess what the bacteria make? They make antifungals. [00:29:00] They make anti-yeasts. They make antivirals. They make anti-parasites. When we fix the terrain, we see all of these conditions dissolving very quickly not because the terrain is curing anything. It's just the natural progression of the weeds get to back off when they've done their duty to bring nitrogen in and bring all the resources that were missing when you had denuded it. We started with penicillin. Then, of course, every decade since then we've had logarithmic increase in the number of antibiotics [00:29:30] on the market and the different techniques we use to kill bacteria.

We're about five, six decades into this journey of killing bacteria in force through the medical environment. We plateaued as doctors back in the 1990s. We haven't really increased the number of prescriptions in the United States since the mid-'90s. We prescribe an amazing 7.7 million pounds of antibiotics a year. That's a pretty gross number. It equates to 833 prescriptions [00:30:00] per 1000 persons, 833 prescriptions per every 1000 persons in the US is how much antibiotic we prescribe. It's literally impossible to distribute more antibiotic prescriptions than we do in the US. We saturated that market.

Now contrast to the antibiotics that we're using in our food chain and it starts to pale in comparison. As of 2014, we were using somewhere around 30 million pounds, so a good four times more antibiotic in our [00:30:30] chickens, pigs, and cows and their raising right before we slaughter them. Of course, their feces is contaminated with, their urine's contaminated with antibiotic, and their meat itself is impregnated with antibiotic. We have four times as much antibiotic going into the food chain as we do into the humans from their doctors.

Again, that all pales in comparison to what we're doing to our plants and the soils around them. The number one antibiotic on the planet right now is a chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active [00:31:00] ingredient in Roundup. Roundup got patented by Monsanto in 1976, well, '74. It came on market in '76. That was well after its discovery in 1959 when a Japanese guy invented it. It's an amino acid, which is a critical building block for the human body, glycine. Glycine is one of the 26 letters, if you will, or amino acids that build the 200,000 proteins of your body. You take an important amino acid [00:31:30] and you add a phosphate group on one end an amine on the other end and you end up with a toxin, which is in a category called an organophosphate.

The organophosphate that was made famous before this was also created by Monsanto and it was a chemical called Agent Orange. You may remember Vietnam War or before that Korea, we were spraying this chemical over the jungles of the combatants to try to denude the forest. It would do it very quickly. You'd fly over in a plane, dump a [00:32:00] bunch of Agent Orange, three days later, all of the leaves have fallen off the jungle. You can see right down into it and you can kill the Vietcong better there. It was part of our military machine.

Well, we found out that stuff was pretty toxic. By the time our soldiers were coming back from Vietnam, they had skin cancers. They had horrible rashes. They had a lot of eye problems and mucosal damage. It was too toxic, so they were looking for a slightly less toxic version of Agent Orange to kill weeds because who likes weeding gardens? Nobody likes weeding, right? Well, so that was their technique. You remember [00:32:30] the 1980s with the Roundup commercials where the guy comes out of his garage, dramatic soundtrack, comes out with two pistol grips and starts spraying down the five dandelions in his driveway. Of course, dandelions are a superfood that kill cancer, but that's a different story. We're spraying these dandelions down by the 1980s and we're washing all that glyphosate down, or Roundup, right into our gutters and into our municipal water systems. The huge problem with Roundup, or glyphosate, it that it's extremely water soluble, which means it's going to stay [00:33:00] in the water systems throughout the ecosystem.

You fast forward to today, we're using 4-1/2 billion pounds of that antibiotic worldwide. It's interesting because it's never been patented as a weedkiller. That's what they tell us it is, but, in fact, it's an antibiotic. It was patented as an antibiotic, antifungal, antiparasite that can kill single-celled life that it touches. It also kills the plants and it does both the bacteria and the plants through the same mechanism. [00:33:30] It blocks an important enzyme pathway called the shikimate pathway. This enzyme pathway produces the ringed aromatic amino acids.

I mention there's only 26 amino acids. One of them was glycine, the backbone of glyphosate chemical. The three that it blocks is phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan. All three of those are critical for brain function. Here we are talking about neurohacking. We're not only deleting glycine, which is critical for brain structure, we're [00:34:00] deleting three other essential amino acids because you can't make these in your human body. Most of the amino acids the human can produce in our own cells, but there's nine of these guys that cannot be made in the human body, so we call them the essential amino acids. Among those are these ringed aromatic amino acids that are produced the shikimate pathway.

Daniel S.: Just so everybody places it here, the three amino acids he just mentioned are probably the most significant ones for our primary [00:34:30] amine neurotransmitters, so tryptophan makes serotonin, phenylalanine and tyrosine make dopamine and then the rest of the catecholamines, so they do a lot of other things, but just serotonin and dopamine immediately from what he just said.

Zach Bush: Yeah. You just hit 80% of the neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Of course, where those are being produced is in the gut largely like mentioned and so you take away ... Now, picture this phenomenon in human planet. You suddenly take away the building blocks [00:35:00] for neurochemistry in the 1980s, really got out of hand in the 1990s when we started to spray our entire crops with this chemical because we had to genetically modify the crops to be Roundup ready so that the corn wouldn't die, the soybean wouldn't die. We can spray the food and the soils right before it's harvested means an entire lifecycle of that plant, it can't make the phenylalanine, tyrosine, and tryptophan and you're probably replacing a lot of the naturally occurring glycine residues in the body with a misformed backbone. [00:35:30] You've got these four amino acids that I think are being massively affected.

Now, what would happen to the population in the next two decades? First and foremost, you'd see a disruption of sleep early on. Then you'd see an epidemic of early onset anxiety. Then as things progressed, you got higher levels of residues of the chemicals in there, you're blocking more and more of the production the natural amino acids, you would start to get really significant early life vulnerability. You've already killed the bacteria, which is now making the gut vulnerable. Now you put [00:36:00] a food chain that doesn't have the essential building blocks for a healthy human body and that brain becomes extremely vulnerable. You're trying to build a brain with no neurotransmitters and with a lack of ultrastructure. You remember the brain is not just neurons. It's astrocytes, which are kind of like the scaffold that holds all the neurons in relationship and there's a lot of glycine residues in a lot of these structural proteins, this extracellular matrix. It keeps the gut and the brain functioning as a singular unit. You start [00:36:30] to take away the scaffold and you take away the communication network of the neurotransmitters, you've just got this paucity of information.

Daniel S.: You were mentioning the effect of glyphosate on the shikimate pathway. Talk to us about the effect of glyphosate when consumed on the gut because you were talking about one cell thin membrane and what would happen if we damaged that. I think when you talk about the exponential curves of health disorders, IBD is one of the [00:37:00] classic ones to look at here in its relationship to neuropsych and other chronic disease and inflammation. Specifically, why is gluten intolerance a thing all of a sudden after thousands of years of grain-based agriculture?

Zach Bush: Yeah, great. Again, we painted a backdrop of vulnerability, so we denuded the environment of bacteria by spraying 4 billion pounds of antibiotic on our soil, so we killed the soil, [00:37:30] lack of nutrients now in the soil. Then we sprayed a chemical, same chemical that would block the essential building blocks for a healthy human body and brain. Then we would go ahead and destroy the frontline of defense, so the same chemical again, glyphosate, has a direct toxicity of the tight junctions that we had mentioned that ties everything together. Your blood-brain barrier and your gut barrier system all reliant on those tight junctions and glyphosate is extremely damaging to that tight junction.

Now, is glyphosate [00:38:00] the only toxin to the tight junction? The answer is no. Alcohol is probably the oldest one in our environment, so you get drunk, what you've experienced is a huge lysis of the tight junctions. You've got inflammation throughout the body. You wake up feeling all headachy and achy all over. It feels like you've got the flu. You're profoundly dehydrated because your colon couldn't absorb water after all the tight junctions were damaged. You just feel like crap for a day or two. That hangover is maybe and everybody's most common experience of a complete lysis of the tight junction environment.

[00:38:30] Since then, a potent toxin that's moved into the environment is antiinflammatories, so nonsteroidal antiinflammatories like ibuprofen and this. They can be toxic. Then more recently, MiraLAX. MiraLAX is an over-the-counter drug now for constipation and it destroys tight junctions. We've been damaging tight junctions in different ways as human beings for thousands of years, but never has every bite of food and every drink of water and now in the United States, 75% of our rainfall, 75% [00:39:00] of our air we breathe contaminated with Roundup. We've gotten to the point now where we have a toxin that injures the tight junction, causes leaky sieve effect across the whole gut membrane, starting at your sinuses with every breath and flowing through down into the gut with every drink of water and bite of food.

That whole exposure system now and you can watch ... We've got some time lapse videos on areas of our website that you can watch this. We boil 16 minutes of the gut membrane's exposure to glyphosate down [00:39:30] to 16 seconds. You can just see the whole membrane fall apart over those 16 minutes. It's profound phenomenon that really has massive public health implications. That vulnerability, of course, of the gut now shifts you from an acute inflammatory situation where you're addressing little, momentary threats to a chronic inflammatory state where there's been so many acute injuries with every drink of food, with every breath, that your immune system [00:40:00] can't keep up.

You've run out of the antioxidant reservoir. You've run out of the coping mechanisms, the cell-cell communication, and you start to accumulate acid in that membrane. As acidity builds, you lose more and more cell-cell communication. You start to get this stagnancy in the whole system from the gut all the way to the brain, liver, kidneys, in between. The whole system is starting to get sluggish as you shift into this chronic inflammatory state. We now know that everything from your neurodegenerative disorders to asthma [00:40:30] to allergies, all the way down to cancer and Alzheimer's to mention the rest of the end of life, all of this is just spectrum of chronic inflammation manifesting in different organ systems.

Daniel S.: Even neuropsych in the last couple years especially as an inflammatory issue has just really started to catch on as something that is being more understood.

Zach Bush: It's interesting because that blood-brain barrier system in the brain itself doesn't allow white blood cells in and so you don't have a classical immune [00:41:00] system in your brain. Instead, you have specialized neurons called glial cells that will travel around like immune cells like macrophage that will do damage control. They trigger the same inflammatory cytokines and the same things in a lot of cases that the white blood cells do in your periphery. You're absolutely right. This was actually my first area of interest back in the 1990s was neuropsychoendocrinology. There's now like four or five national journals called [00:41:30] Psychoneuroendocrinology is one of them, neuropsychoendocrinology.

What this is saying, basically, is that the hormones that react to an inflammatory environment then will go and modify your neurons to act much differently. We now know that major depression is a shrinkage in the temporal lobe of a very specific site called the amygdala and the hippocampus. You lose short term memory processing capacity. You start to lose control of big, negative [00:42:00] emotions, rage, hopelessness, these kinds of things. That degenerative process in the temporal lobe is set into motion by a very specific set of hormonal events from the pituitary gland that's set into motion by inflammation.

It's really amazing that every single time that you don't feel like you're on your game, you can ask the question where is inflammation happening in my body? Where am I not keeping up with the ratio because you're walking around right now with a super simple reality. [00:42:30] You have a rate of repair and a rate of injury. If a rate of injury outstrips your rate of repair even slightly, you're going to start to degrade in function. You're going to start aging.

In contrast, and this is my passion now with my medical clinic and with my lecturing around the world is oh, my gosh, we have such an opportunity here. Yes, human health is collapsing. Yes, we've never seen so much disease in history, but we are starting to get the tools, we're starting to have the insights to [00:43:00] say we can increase that rate of repair and we can decrease the rate of injury by realizing that things like our food chain and glyphosate are a huge piece of the demise. We can now reverse engineer that and say here's a way to build back up the gut so we can repair faster than we've ever seen before. Here's a way to decrease the injury and the rate so that you're actually getting younger at the biologic level, not older. That's been my passion is to actually get to see people of almost all ages do that.

My favorite couple I have in clinic [00:43:30] have been married 63 years. They're both 91 years old. They are hilarious. He still plays competitive tennis. She's got all kinds of rotary club and everything else. They're just the heart of their community still. I'm watching them get biologically younger. He just reversed cancer of the tonsils and everything else about three years ago. He's still in complete remission despite never having gotten surgery, everything else and so really interesting phenomena. He's getting younger to the point where his cancers are staying [00:44:00] away and everything else. She's getting younger to the fact that she's just gotten, in the last six months, black hairs starting to grow for the first time in almost three decades. You see people even at that end of the spectrum starting to youthify not because I'm a brilliant doctor, but because their bodies are brilliant. We are literally healing machines. We're born that way and we can continue that way if we know which systems to support through that aging process. At any age, [00:44:30] we can shift that ratio.

Daniel S.: I think that this ratio of injury and repair is a very simple, key, valuable thing for people to think about. Decreasing the total amount of injuring is, obviously, key and then increasing the repair support on the decreasing injury side. We can have acute inflammation turn into chronic inflammation because the source of the acute inflammation stays too long. That could come from doing sports wrong, where you keep injuring your knee. What percentage in your experience in the clinical practice and working with doctors all around the world, [00:45:00] what percentage of chronic inflammation that's a contributor to all these other chronic diseases would you say has its origin in the gut?

Zach Bush: I think the answer is 100%, ironically. That's such a ridiculous statement to make at this point because the immediate thought is well, what about trauma because like you said, you're just exercising wrong and therefore, you're doing it. I used to say, "I don't know. It's basically all conditions with the exception [00:45:30] of trauma." Then you ask the question why do we get trauma? We get trauma because we're unaware of our body and its symmetry. We're unaware of patterns of behavior. That probably ties back, again, to our neurocognitive function, how much fight or flight are we in? Are we in parasympathetic? Are we in sympathetic? If we find ourselves chronically in fight or flight or sympathetic nervous system state, we start to get asymmetries in our body and then we get prone to that injury.

There's many people that play tennis [00:46:00] throughout a lifetime and never develop osteoarthritis from that sport exposure, whereas somebody who's in sympathetic fight or flight for a myriad of other reasons, they'll tip into that injury. You think well, what about car accidents? Well, the reason why car accidents happen the majority of the time is well, until recently, cellphones now being a big one. It's hard to say that a cellphone and somebody just not looking at the road is due to inflammation, but I would say that we could probably even track that back. The reason why that kid is [00:46:30] glued to that cellphone and not looking up is because they have a neurocognitive deficit of serotonin and dopamine and they're finding their entire neurocognitive stimulation from a phone rather than the environment around them. At every state and point, if we're on, if we're neurologically sharp, a lion should be able to jump out. We'll know how to respond. We'll take care of that threat. We'll move on without any injury. It's an example of at your highest neurologic function, you should be pretty much bulletproof.

Daniel S.: [00:47:00] We get the top down neurologic function, neurocognitive capacity being optimized is going to both increase situational awareness, increase proprioception, increase sentry motor acuity and so you'll decrease injury and you also will repair injury faster because you have a system that's better at acute inflammation because it's not consumed in chronic inflammation. What are the top things, [00:47:30] if people haven't studied this a lot, for how to deal with decreasing injury in the gut given that we're talking about billions of pounds in the atmosphere? One of the things that you share that I actually love and it's one of the points that we bring up at Neurohacker a lot is it is impossible to think of our health independent of the health of the environment. Now, most people don't have a life where they're working on changing agriculture writ large or changing healthcare writ large. Everyone [00:48:00] who feels inclined to I hope that they do, but the future of medicine requires the future of how we think about industry and the environment and agriculture and all those things because we are an osmotic membrane in an environment, right?

Zach Bush: Absolutely.

Daniel S.: Today, in an environment that has still got depleted topsoil and tremendous amounts of ubiquitous toxicity from many causes, industrial causes, as well as agricultural causes, what are the major steps that people can do to decrease the injury [00:48:30] rate happening in the gut?

Zach Bush: Awesome. The first answer to the question is become less vulnerable. I mentioned that before glyphosate hits the system and does damage, you need vulnerability. That vulnerability is through a loss of the microbiome or a loss of bacteria and fungi and all the good stuff. That loss, unfortunately, is partly from glyphosate, but it's also from our lifestyle, so step one is get that ecosystem back in your body. How do you do [00:49:00] that? Number one, think about your day. If your day looks something like wake up 6:00 in the morning, run to the same kitchen you go to every day, prepare the same few bites of food, maybe the same smoothie, get those down, or you just run out the door with a granola bar, same one that you eat every day, you eat that in a car that's off-gassing plastics all the way to the office, where you sit in traffic for an hour and a half in exhaust-ridden highway. Then you get to an office. You might [00:49:30] track 20, 30 steps from car to office and you sit in a cubicle all day. Then you reverse that pattern back to your TV on the couch in the same drywall box you woke up on.

What I just described is the lifestyle of 80, 90% of working America and we wonder why we are so vulnerable. Why are we so sick all the time? The answer is our terrain is awful because our microbiome is going to mimic our macro ecosystem or our macro environment. If your macro environment is so predictable [00:50:00] and is so separated from nature, there's no way you're going to have a strong defense in that microbiome environment. Step one is at very least become one of those weekend warriors where you're out on your mountain bike every weekend or you're hiking some trail up in the mountains or you're out on your surfboard. You've got to get back out in nature on a very routine basis.

It's remarkable how little it takes to reengage. One of my favorite things is to tell people just to start to weed again. Maybe you don't have [00:50:30] a garden, but if you live in an apartment and you go out and your walkway's got gravel on both sides of it, well, start picking the little weeds before there. You don't have to wait for the landscaping guy to come around every Thursday to wipe those things out with more Roundup. Start plucking those things out of there and you're going to get something interesting is that every time you pluck a weed, there's a little plume of microbiome that'll come up out of the soil. If you lean down and you're engaging with that weed, you've just introduced, at very least, bacteria, fungi, [00:51:00] and some helpful stuff to your skin, which can then slowly repopulate your body. If you also happen to be breathing at the same time, you'll do perhaps the most important thing is you'll reseed the nasal sinuses and the upper respiratory tract with some of these critical bacteria from your environment.

Maybe it's as simple as start promising that you'll touch a few plants between your front door and your car. Then when you get off of work, if you could do something phenomenal is take off your shoes. Maybe there's a little park on the way [00:51:30] home or over by the office or maybe it's by your home. Stop at a park or stop by some greenspace and take off your shoes and socks and get your toes in the grass. If your feet can touch the ground for just a few minutes, A, you're going to create a Faraday cage at the skin level. You're going to take a blessed few minutes where your body's not getting pummeled with electromagnetic field from the wifi systems and everything else.

You're going to go back to some original math or frequency resonances in your body and the microbiome is going to enter through [00:52:00] all kinds of different mechanisms at that point. You've got it touching the skin. You're getting microbiome literally through the skin, into the skin pores of your feet. Grass just feels good between your toes, too. If you haven't felt that in a while, it's kind of youthifying right there. You want to feel like a kid, take off your shoes, run across the park at high speed or, if you haven't done that in a while, maybe a slower speed, but pick something you're not going to injure yourself at and you'll start repairing faster. It's just a fact.

Daniel S.: Just to clarify. I love that the first thing you're saying for how people can get healthier is increase their connection [00:52:30] with an evolutionary environment. Most people can't find anything that's even close to an evolutionary environment by where they live. They don't live in the Vilcabamba Valley, so if they go to the park and they put their feet in the grass, that grass is sprayed with glyphosate for killing the weeds that are in there. Is it still net positive?

Zach Bush: It is, yeah. I think it's totally net positive. I think anytime you engage, even with a trace micro ecosystem, you win. One of the reasons I'm so convinced of this is the dogs. I've [00:53:00] seen my patients go from on death's bed, literally, with chemotherapy-destroyed bodies, sterile gut. They actually are passing white chalk stools, no bacteria in the gut. We put them on the supplement from ancient soil that's still sterile, but then their dog comes in and their dog will repopulate their gut in just a few days as long as there's some substrate for that bacteria to grab onto. I've seen animals just bringing enough microbiome from the backyard, which is not necessarily a normal [00:53:30] paleo man kind of ecosystem. It's a suburban lawn in the middle of fake everything and yet, there's enough microbiome there to get a gut repopulated and take somebody from sterile stools to normal bowel movements in a week. It doesn't take much to get us moving in the right direction. Again, it's because the microbiome is so fricking abundant. Even though we've destroyed a vast amount of it, there's so much of it. It's literally like everything around us. We are [00:54:00] basically being squeezed in and filled with microbiome all the time, if we just give it a chance. We got to get to that little window.

Daniel S.: You're talking about the first way to avoid repair is that your frontline of defense is microbiomic. Before things even actually hit human cells, make sure that your frontline of defense is good and do that by interacting with natural environment. What about intentional microbiomics? What about probiotics, prebiotics?

Zach Bush: Great. A probiotic, unfortunately, is a super narrow spectrum. [00:54:30] Your typical probiotic will have three species or seven species in there at a copy of some 35 to 100 billion copies per dose. You're looking at a massive monocrop phenomenon. You're supposed to have 30,000 species and you're taking three species every day at 50 billion copies, you're going to narrow your ecosystem over time. The only way in which a probiotic makes sense is maybe for a few days after a viral infection or you got an antibiotic for a bacterial infection or something like that and you're trying to repopulate. [00:55:00] Just throw a few good guys into the mix while you're in recovery. I can't argue with that.

However, chronic use of any probiotic, I think, is probably not the right way to get to optimal gut health. If you find yourself benefiting chronically from a probiotic, it means that your environment hasn't enriched and you need to get outside. You need to start fermenting your own food. You need to get a lot more microbiome introduced to get the terrain to the point where it's way past any probiotic capacity. Prebiotics, again, are selecting for a relatively [00:55:30] narrow spectrum of bacteria because it's usually just a single sugar alcohol that's being added, something like xylitol or the rest. The probiotics were a step in the right direction to make us suddenly admit as a world that maybe some bacteria are good. We need to now see all bacteria as good. It all has a role. All the fungi, all the parasites, they all have a role in the ecosystems. We need to welcome in much more than the "good bacteria". Calling things good bacteria, it just [00:56:00] reinforces our belief that most bacteria are bad. I think it's detrimental in the long run to the communication of the field. Nonetheless, if you're on a probiotic, I would just say start dialing that back if you reengage.

Now, one of the major tools, now this is where my company comes in, so everything you're about to hear is going to be from the bias of I created this supplement. I produce or bottle this supplement in my labs here in Virginia. We've become the worldwide distributor for this supplement. This is my industry. This is how I make a living. [00:56:30] It's how my kids are going to college. All of that said, what happened in 2012 is I was studying nutrition science because I had left academia, left my chemotherapy exploration world, and I was running a world of nutrition for chronic disease management.

In that journey, we were starting to realize there was 30 or 40% of our patient population that wasn't getting better on health food. They were fermenting for me. They were super hydrating. They were doing all kinds of things right and they were getting [00:57:00] worse, not better. I was so confused. Then they'd go back on a simple carbohydrate diet like the worst thing in the world for me is from a physician or a scientist standpoint and they would actually get less inflamed. We had to go on a journey of asking why is health food begetting so challenging to the human body. How come kale can be inflammatory to the human body? How come Brussels sprouts can be inflammatory when these things are supposed to be anticancer, antiinflammatory, blah, blah, blah?

The journey took us down everything I just told you into [00:57:30] realizi

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