How to Support Your Immune System with Dr. Mark Hyman

Jun 12, 2020

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In today’s episode, Dr. Mark Hyman shares a wide range of options for boosting your immune system — from food groups and supplements to practices and rituals. He and Jeff also delve into food policy, environmentalism, and how the pandemic may impact our approach to health moving forward.

INTRO: Welcome to Commune, a global wellness community and online course platform featuring some of the world’s greatest teachers. We’re on a mission to inspire, heal, pass down wisdom, and bring the world closer together.This is the Commune podcast, where each week we explore the ideas and practices that help us live healthy, connected and purpose-filled lives.If you and hunkered down at home - as you should be - this may be a good time to check out our course platform at where you’ll find programs from Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Russell Brand, Wim Hof, Brendon Burchard Adriene Mishler and many other brilliant personal development and wellness luminaries. Our courses span yoga, meditation, spiritual development, functional medicine, recovery, and social impact - essentially, everything you need to be holistically well. Just go to now, given the gravity of the global pandemic, one might instinctually think that practices like meditation and yoga are dispensable. Nothing could be less true.If you are one of the superheroes on the frontline - a medical professional, a food provider, a scientist or a government worker, you will be stressed to your limits psychologically and physically. Even 30 seconds of deep breathing and grounding can help you stay centered and focused. We need you and we support you. If you are someone on the front lines and could benefit from a meditation course on your phone, email me at [email protected]. In early February, I got very sick. Fever, shivers, sweats, an awful cough that lingered forever. It was acute for 4 or 5 days. I did eventually get better but felt that my immune system was compromised. In mid-March, the shivers came back. I got a sore throat. A little cough. And a profound fatigue. I would try to work for a couple of hours and then collapse.Given the intense coverage on Coronavirus, of course, there was the additional layer of anxiety.My fever was extremely low-grade. And, because of limited availability of testing, I just started to treat myself the best I could.I don’t know if I have or had COVID-19. Certainly, it wasn’t as remotely as acute as many cases. But I seem to have largely beat it back now.However, since I am not a doctor, I called the best one I could possibly think of to get advice on how to bolster my immune system.Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in the field of Functional Medicine. He is the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of the Cleveland Clinic Center for FunctionalMedicine, a thirteen-time New York Times best-selling author, and Board President for Clinical Affairs for The Institute for Functional Medicine.His most recent book is FOOD FIX: How to Save Our Health, Our Economy, Our Communities and Our Planet—One Bite at a TimeMark and I talk about the myriad behaviors that you can embrace to boost your immune system from food to supplements to practices and rituals. We also delve into food policy, environmentalism and how our pandemic may impact our approach to health moving forward.I hope you find this episode useful. You may be at home feeling mild symptoms, perhaps some that are psycho-somatic. And, even if you’re feeling great, as they say, the best time to fix your roof is on a sunny day. Keeping yourself healthy right now is not just good for you, it’s good for your community and for society at large. Without further ado, my conversation with Dr. Mark Hyman.My name is Jeff Krasno. And welcome to Commune.

Jeff: Hello, Dr. Mark Hyman, how are you?

Dr. Mark Hyman: I'm good. How are you Jeff?

Jeff: Good. What a crazy time to be alive and to be a doctor and alive.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It's true. It's a double hit. It's a double hit.

Jeff: I think it's safe to say that at the core of your philosophy about medicine, but I would say also society at large, is the subject of food. And you have been one of the most articulate messengers around food being at the epicenter of essentially all the salient issues of society from personal health, to our healthcare system, to the environment. And you have a new book that has just been released called Food Fix that addresses many of these topics and I guess the diaspora of food.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah.

Jeff: And as a way into our conversation today, I would love to talk about what's kind of top of mind for everybody, which is foods, relationship with the immune system and general personal health, given the global pandemic of COVID-19. And I think it's probably just appropriate to say that we're recording this on Friday, March 27th in a situation that's incredibly fluid as the statistics kind of change every single day.

Jeff: So just to kind of frame this as a bit of a personal note. I am just recovering from sort of an eight-day stint, where I had many of the symptoms that are highly associated with COVID-19, persistent cough. In my case it was not particularly acute, but somewhat of a low-grade fever, extreme lethargy, aches and pains, kind of shivers, sweats, et cetera. But because of the lack of availability of testing where I live in Los Angeles, I didn't really qualify for a test. And you know, I'm 49 years old, I'm not highly susceptible to any kind of high mortality rate, et cetera.

Jeff: So really my goal was to self-treat, and I did a number of things, and I'm curious what you think about these things and how they relate to how you would generally counsel someone who is trying to boost and bolster their immune system. So I wonder if you could take us through what your regimen would be right now, to protect yourself or essentially bolster your immune system.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. Thank you Jeff, and thanks for having me on the podcast. And I think you know now more than ever, people need to focus on their health and wellbeing, and the role of food and lifestyle on strengthening their immune system. Because we know now that the people who are most likely to die from COVID-19, are the ones with underlying chronic disease, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and even obesity.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Your risk of death is almost three times higher if you're obese, which is 42% of the population, 10 times higher, if you have heart disease, 7 times higher, if you have diabetes. And by the way, one out of two Americans has prediabetes or Type 2 Diabetes which suppresses immunity. So I think now more than ever we have to understand the role of food in our immune system but also you know food in the bigger context of making a susceptible to all sorts of diseases.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And I wrote an article and posted it called, how to protect yourself from COVID-19 supporting your immune system when you need it most. And people can Google that. I'm trying to update it on a regular basis. But essentially talk about the science of what we know about how to best support your immune system. And we know a lot. Food is probably the most important thing.

Dr. Mark Hyman: There are both harmful and immune suppressing foods and there are protective foods. So the harmful foods are really clear. Sugar and starch, which is no surprise. I've been touting that horn for decades, but sugar and starch are among the most harmful components of our diet for immune function. And by the way, they are 60% of our diet for the average American. Which is flour and sugar in all its forms. Second is salt, salt in excess has an impact on your immune system. So salt is good, but excess salt is bad.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And most people do not get too much salt by adding salt to their food, they get it by eating processed food, which is loaded with added salt. Not the salt that you add to your food is the salt that's added to your food by corporations. So you want to stay away from processed food. The other thing is there a lot of additives and ingredients and food, and just processed food in general is very damaging to the microbiome, which is the ecosystem in your gut.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And when that gets altered, it damages the lining of the gut, otherwise known as leaky gut. And that is a problem because 60% of your immune system is right underneath the layer of your intestinal lining. And why that's important is that if you look at all the chronic diseases, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and so forth, they all relate to the gut, and they all relate to a leaky gut. And they all are driven by this inflammatory reaction that happens when your immune system is exposed to the partially digested food proteins, and to the bacterial toxins that are in the inside of your gut.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well you don't want them to get outside and leak in and sort of like coffee grounds leaking through a coffee filter that's got two big holes in it. So getting your gut healthy is really important, and avoiding those additives like the emulsifiers, thickeners and all the gums that are in our processed food is really, really important

Dr. Mark Hyman: So number one, get off of the harmful foods, processed foods, sugars, starch, refined oils. That should be the first step. And I think people are having more time at home. They can cook from real food, they can make real ingredients. You have time to soak your beans, you have time to do all this stuff that people didn't have time to do. And now's the time to really get into cooking.

Dr. Mark Hyman: On the protective side if I can or do you want to ask me a question?

Jeff: I was going to ask you, I know that there are some philosophies around, like for example NSAIDs or Lectins that might contribute to the breakdown of the mucus on the wall of your intestines, that could lead to leaky gut. And there's also been some articles out there written about NSAIDs and when I say NSAIDs, maybe you could clarify what that is.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You mean like Aleve or Advil or ibuprofen, Naproxen, those are anti-inflammatory drugs that seem to be problematic in terms of COVID-19 particularly. So you shouldn't use it to treat symptoms, and also it's damaging to your gut as well.

Jeff: Yeah. Okay, good. Good to know. Because essentially when I was experiencing fever and many people probably are at home having some mix of winter flu, or potentially mild cases of COVID-19 or psychosomatic symptoms, whatever it can be. But you would advise not to treat fever with ibuprofen. I mean there's been written, that maybe Tylenol is a preferable treatment for that or maybe not treat it at all. I wonder where you stand on that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It seems to Tylenol may be okay. Although it is toxic to the liver in high doses. I think there were some case reports initially of how NSAIDs caused worsening of COVIDs-19 when they were used in patients. I think we're still learning about it, so I feel it's better safe than sorry in this situation. And going back to sort of on the good side, there's a lot of foods that are highly protective to your immune system, and these foods include all the typical suspects, all the colorful plant foods that we should be eating anyway that I recommended people to eat.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And foods that contain lots of different nutrients that are particularly good for your immune system. For example, Vitamin C, so a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Zinc, which comes in pumpkin seeds and other nuts and seeds. Selenium, which is found in Brazil nut. B6, I think people should get Vitamin A and B6, which is also very helpful, in system. You can get the dark vegetables, B6 is in some plant foods, but the best sources of Vitamin A and B6 are organic chicken livers.

Jeff: Great.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So very cheap food. I mean I grew up on that stuff because we were very poor when I was growing up. My mom used to make chicken livers and onions and put it on rice and I thought it was like gourmet food. I loved it. And what did I know? I was a little kid, five years old, but it was extremely healthy. Liver is far more nutrient dense in terms of vitamins and minerals than any plant food on the planet. That's just a fact. That's not an opinion.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So I think we all should be thinking of ways to increase spices that help us, that are good for the immune system. Turmeric which is great. Ginger, garlic also have antiviral and microbial properties. Rosemary, quercetin, which is found in a lot of onions and the allium family, vegetables leaves. And then of course there's a lot of foods that we can use to help our gut, both prebiotic and probiotic foods.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And obviously the probiotic foods that we know pretty well. Those are things like Kefir, and yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, and kimchi and miso and natto and tempeh. And these are all things that we can be consuming, the prebiotic foods. So it's like chicory root, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, bananas, barley, oats, apples, konjac root, which is actually from... It's Japanese root, and they make these shirataki noodles, which are really great alternatives to regular noodles. They're high in fiber, flax seeds, and jicama root, seaweed is also very great.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So you can include a lot of these to help your microbiome and protect your gut, which is really, really important. So I really encourage people to focus on optimizing the nutrition through eating nutrient dense foods. Protein is also important, particularly for people who are elderly or sick, they need a lot more protein. And often they're not getting enough. And protein is what you're required to actually build the components of your immune system, your immunoglobulins, your antibodies are made from protein.

Dr. Mark Hyman: A lot of your immune responses depending on adequate protein. And that's why you see in the developing world, people die from inconsequential infections all the time, because they have protein malnutrition, because they can't afford any protein. So good quality protein is really important as well.

Jeff: Yeah. What would you say would be the recommended sources of protein?

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, I mean you can have lots of different sources. We had lentils the other night, which are good. But you want to make sure you get nut butters, beans, whole grains. You have to eat a fair bit to get adequate protein. But [inaudible 00:12:53] are also okay. And I've been getting online sources of good value,

Dr. Mark Hyman: High quality animal products like fish. So I bought, from Vital Choice, lots of cans of salmon, mackerel, and anchovies-

Jeff: I think we've been buying for the last remaining cans of that stuff.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I bought a bunch of cases.

Jeff: Yeah, my wife buys it by the case and I don't know if they have any left.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And we buy from Butcher Box, which has grass fed meats that you can get and animal products. Thrive Market has a lot of low cost products, again, there's a big run on all this stuff. So you know you have to be patient but you can go to your local store. I mean, I went to Walmart and for $500, I bought enough food for almost three months for my ex wife because she was struggling and [inaudible 00:13:44] car. Really you could get a lot of really healthy nutrient dense food. I didn't buy her any junk food. I didn't buy her any processed food. I just bought real food and I literally for $500 I got, enough food for a long, long time. So I think, I think focusing on nutrient density, focusing on adequate protein, on lots of phytochemicals, lots of spices.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I made, for example, [inaudible 00:14:08] the other day which has lots of turmeric and ginger and garlic and some... I made chicken soup, which is actually great for your immune system. I put in all kinds of spices I put in ginger and I put garlic you can, you [inaudible 00:14:24] get now, but you can buy these astragalus things like looks like tongue depressors or Chinese root that are incredibly immune boosting. So you can throw those in the soup and make that immune soup. There's a lot of things you can do that are... And it's fun. I mean, I like taking time to cook and hang out is actually a real joy and a pleasure. I love to do it and I'm just thrilled to be able to make food that's better than a restaurant at this point.

Jeff: Well you're a Renaissance man and those qualities are becoming quite clear on this phone call. What would you say about the body and alkalinity? And one of the things that I was doing was gargling apple cider vinegar and a little bit of water, and a couple of times a day and then actually drinking a little bit of apple cider vinegar. I've read some things around the effects or the impacts of alkalinity on the body and its relationship specifically to COVID-19 but to other forms of disease as well. So I wonder what you could comment on that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, I mean I think there has been so many dietary fads out there and I don't think we need to be commonsensical about this. I think your pH and your body is extremely tightly controlled, but it can become altered in the face of illness on you become more acidotic. Even small changes can have significant [inaudible 00:16:01] on your cellular function and your immune function. So most of the ways in which Americans eat with highly processed foods creates a slight increase in acidity and that seems to accelerate the damage from COVID-19 and you end up often in a metabolic acidosis. So eating a more alkaline diet is good for you anyway. So if you get off of process and junk food, and you eat a plant rich diet, and you cut out the sugar and processed foods, you're going to be alkalinizing your body anyway. There's some people suggesting taking Alka-Seltzer Gold and so forth. I mean, okay. I think it's probably not the most important point other than just reemphasizing the need for a plant rich diet that can help to change your biology into one that is resilient and is able to fight infection, rather than one that is susceptible and more likely to cause a crisis if you do get it.

Jeff: Yeah. Beyond food, I'm curious around what other forms of behavior that you have the power to enact over your own life-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Sure.

Jeff: That may help to boost immunity.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I've doubled down on all my practices because I feel so strongly that they're, they're critically important, especially in this time because not only protecting myself, but by my not getting sick, I'm not ending up in the hospital and overburdening the system. So it is a social act to take care of yourself because it's very selfish to undermine your own health in this time because you will be more likely to get sick, and more likely to end up in a hospital, and more likely to need a ventilator, and burden the healthcare system, which really is a buckling under the weight of this epidemic. So yeah, I think it's the obvious stuff. It's moderate exercise boosts your immune system.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So I took a nice hour walk around our area, up a hill and got a good workout. I'll do seven minute workout every day. I'll do yoga at home. Those simple things. Meditation, 20 minutes twice a day is a nonnegotiable for me. I just meditated before this podcast and I feel like it really helps to, and especially in this moment of anxiety because we're all in this together. You, me, everybody, [inaudible 00:00:18:33], our families, our friends. There's one silver lining here, which is that we're all recognizing that we're one human species sharing this human condition together. That no ideology, no political persuasion, no religious belief, no dietary persuasion matters at this point. What matters is that each of us join the human in this collective effort to work on this problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So I think that meditation is really key, that exercise's really key, sleep, so important. I think people are often not sleeping, they're having struggles with anxiety. I think prioritizing sleep is really important. And I [inaudible 00:19:16] a sleep ritual, which is get off all devices at least an hour or ideally two hours before you go to bed. I love taking a hot bath with Epsom salt and lavender. Lavender actually reduces cortisol levels. So lavender essential oils sounds corny, but the science is really clear. That's why Johnson and Johnson has done a lot of the research on this. They make the lavender baby bath, they know about this. And then I get into bed and I have a little light, which is a [inaudible 00:19:45] but it's actually a no blue light is all the non blue light spectrum.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So it allows me to not stimulate my retina with all these sleep disrupting light. And then I'm going to get tired. I just cuddle my wife and go to bed. So I think there's a real important... Rituals and structures, really important I think also because given this set of all of a sudden time of, lack of structure, lack of focus, it's really important to put in place for each of us a structure for the day that gives us a rhythm and understanding that you know how to cope with this. So I think that's really, really important. So I feel like those are really essential. And then of course there's my supplement regimen, which I think you don't have to go crazy with things that are really, really important. For example, I think vitamin C, moderate amounts of vitamin D, zinc, I think taking quercetin can be helpful, which is a, seems to be very good in regulating inflammation.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So your basic supplements and then of course there's all kinds of things that people are experimenting with, and trying, and suggesting, and it can get out of hand a little bit. I think the other piece is really important is that there are therapies that might be helpful for people. Like intravenous vitamin C.

Jeff: Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman: We're using this in our clinic. In China, they did the trials with this and found very effective in reducing symptoms and preventing death. So high dose vitamin C intravenously. There's, I think an opportunity to look at ozone therapy, which sounds crazy, but using ozone gas intravenously can help actually kill viruses, and boost immune function, and help people recover. I believe. So there's a lot of things out there that people are trying peptides. There's a lot of work around peptides in China. I've seen some preliminary data. Preliminary data of scientists experimenting with high dose vitamin C and thymosin, and other peptides that can help stimulate immune function.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So I think we're going to be learning more and more, but the basics are the key. If you focus on the basics, your diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, sleep, you're going to get through this and we all can do what we can do and nobody has great expectations for you writing the great next novel or doing some great thing. You just need to hunker down, take care of each other. And I think the other thing I think is really important for immune function is social connection. And I think [inaudible 00:22:30] loneliness is really probably one of the biggest killers in America. I worry about that for people today and people who are isolated or alone. Spending more time in deep connection with people is really important. So if you have someone in your house that you're sequestered with, I think it's [inaudible 00:22:49] really drop in and go deep with them and rediscover intimacy, and connection, and sharing, and being in this together with them in a shared collaborative experience, it will actually also help your immune system.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And I've been working with my team virtually now and I had 30 of my employees on a Zoom call. All the video, it was the coolest thing. I thought, I could see them all, I could feel them and we had a great connection. And I think there's a lot of ways to actually to make this work.


Jeff: I wonder if you can take a little bit of time to talk about the food industry, how the food industry operates, who are the winners and who are the losers. And what are the ramifications on our environment and our Health Care System?

Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, before all this started, I think I was very focused on the role of our food system in so many of our global crises. And the role of it, particularly in chronic disease and our chronic disease epidemic, which affects six out of 10 of us in this country and is responsible for 1 in 3 dollars in our Federal Budget, soon to be 1 in 2, within five years. And the importance of addressing this is underscored by the way in which COVID is actually attacking the people who have chronic disease, which is the majority of Americans. So that underscores the importance of it. But as you draw the threads of our food system and what it's doing to us and to humanity through the poisoning of our species. And literally, we see the number one cause of death globally today is, food.

Dr. Mark Hyman: It's not enough protective foods and too much processed foods. Ultra processed foods, I think, can certainly kill about 11 million people a year. And I think it's a lot more when you add in all the other diseases that are caused by food. And there are 2,300 Americans that die every single day from preventable heart disease deaths alone. It's far more than COVID is killing, at this point. So we have to actually look at this more carefully. And then when you start to say, what else does food do and how else does it affect our world? Well, it clearly is the biggest driver of climate change. And most people are not aware of this. Most people think it's fossil fuels. But when you add in deforestation, soil erosion, the animals, food, waste, transport, refrigeration, packaging, processing, you add all that in.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I mean just fertilizer alone is such a massive contributor to climate change. It's the number one cause of maybe between 47 and 54% of all greenhouse gases are caused by our food system in some way or another. And then of course, there's all the environmental degradation, the loss of Biodiversity. We've lost 90% of our edible plants species, 50% of our livestock species, 75% of our pollinator species and which a lot of our agriculture depends on. And then of course, our water resources are being depleted. 70% of our human use of fresh water is for growing animals, for human consumption. Most of our crop land, 70% of it is used to grow food for animals, for human consumption. The deforestation is to grow animals for human consumption. So this is a bad plan and it doesn't mean automatically that I'm recommending everybody become vegan, because as Russ Conser said, "It's a regenerative farmer. It's not the cow, it's the how."

Dr. Mark Hyman: And actually, it turns out that regenerative farming or regenerative ranching can actually restore soils and draw down carbon. And actually soils are the biggest carbon sink on the planet. You can haul three times the amount of carbon as exists in the entire atmosphere. In fact, most people don't realize this, but 30 to 40% of all the carbon currently in the atmosphere, which is a trillion tons, 30 to 40%, about three and 400 billion tons, comes from soil erosion and the loss of soil organic matter. The organic matter in soil is carbon. Carbon dioxide is how the plants breathe. That carbon goes into the plants and creates carbohydrates coming from carbon and people don't get that whole cycle. So, that's a big issue. And then there's even more downstream effects on social justice and on kids and on national security.

Dr. Mark Hyman: We have kids who can't learn in school from eating junk, who have ADD behavior issues, violent. We see in prisons, just by swapping out bad food for healthy food in prisons, you reduce violent crime by 56% and 80% if you give them multivitamins. Same thing in kids, you reduce suicides by up to a hundred percent. In this one study of 3,000 kids who were given healthy food, reduced the suicide rate a hundred percent. Reduced the need for restraints, 7%. Reduced oppositional defiant bad behavior by 90%. So, we know the role of food is playing on our mental health. It's perpetuating poverty, income inequality, social injustice. And so, there's so many different ways in which we're being threatened by our food system. Even our National Security and our nation state is being threatened because the way we're growing food is threatening our future ability to grow food.

Dr. Mark Hyman: The way we're growing food is actually because of climate change and creating different unstable environmental conditions. And climate conditions makes it harder and harder to grow food. We saw over a million acres flooded in the Midwest in 2019 and farms needed a $20 billion bailout by President Trump. And to put that in perspective, farmers get 4 billion a year in subsidies. So, that's five times the yearly subsidy for farmers. So of course, military recruits aren't even able to join the military because they're unfit or too fat to fight. So we have all these problems that are caused by food and unless we attack the food system, starting with the seed and the soil and moving on to how we grow and process and distribute and eat and waste food. I mean, it all has to get fixed. And I didn't even mention food waste, but these are all connected problems. So, my book Food Fix, was about connecting the dots. It's not called food apocalypse, which I just laid out. It's called Food Fix, which is about solving the problem.

Jeff: Yeah. And that's what I want to ask you about now because the one thing that I love about the book is that it is very prescriptive in its solutions. And I'd like to talk a little bit about where the responsibility lies to address some of these underlying conditions that you've laid out and what we can do individually. And oftentimes, it's very easy for us to feel paralyzed in the face of the enormity of this problem. But I'd love to first, have you address if you don't mind, what we can do individually as human beings and as citizens. And then subsequently, where does the other kinds of responsibility lie? What can, for example, the government do with policy to change the arc of this issue?

Dr. Mark Hyman: Great, great questions. So in my book, Food Fix, I go through what individuals can do, businesses can do, what policymakers can do. And on my website, Foodfix, you can actually download the free Food Fix Action Guide. So, I think that we really need to look at what we can do. And I mean, before I get into the individual actions, I just want to make it really clear that it's not enough. If every single human being did everything that I say on this list, it still wouldn't be enough unless it one, drove changes in policy. And two, drove changes in agriculture.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So, I think that's important for us to understand. But I do believe that consumers can make a difference and they are. We're seeing that by our personal choices, we're driving industry to change. For example, Kellogg's, which makes cereal, they told their consumers that they were going to get glyphosate or weedkiller out of their cereal by 2025, that's huge. Cheerio's has more glyphosate or weed killer in a bowl of cereal than Vitamin A or Vitamin D, which are actually ... Sorry, vitamin D or vitamin B12, which are added to the cereal.

Jeff: I want to unpack that a tiny bit because how is that, is that essentially from runoff or from essentially Miracle-Gro product being-

Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. So Miracle-Gro is a Roundup as, right? It's Roundup. And essentially it's a product that's used on 70 crops called glyphosate or Roundup. It's used on crops that aren't even GMO crops, like wheat or oats. It desiccates them and it's used not early on to kill the weeds in this agricultural cycle, but it's used right at harvest. Which is far worse because then it's higher concentrations to desiccate or dry the plant that then actually allows to make it easier to get the kernels off and make the wheat.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So that is why there's so much in our bread and wheat products, so much glyphosate. And it's what's really, really harmful. And I think, even the Impossible Burger for example, has 110 times the amount of glyphosate is required to kill the microbiome of animals and animal studies. And we think that's a healthy plant based meal, but it's GMO soy and sprayed full of Roundup or glyphosate. And also General Mills and Danone are now funding farmers to convert to regenerative agriculture.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You've got these companies actually paying farmers to do this. I see hope in the consumer. So what should we do? And we can become regeneratarians. I think you can be a vegan or paleo, but you can still be regeneratarian. And that means eating food and it's not really fully possible today, but you can eat food that's grown or raised in ways that are regenerative. That restore the soil, that restore ecosystems, that restore watersheds, that help reduce the use of chemicals that build soil in a way that actually draws down carbon.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And whether you're eating animals or plants, it's important to think about how you can do more of that. By for example, searching out sources like ButcherBox, which is grass fed meat or Marin [Poser 00:36:54] Ranch, which is a regenerative ranch. There's Marin Carbon Project. There's all sorts of places where you can buy these things online, direct from farmers. It's much cheaper. And then even buying stuff that's regular meat in a grocery store, if you'd get it direct from farmers. You know, join your community, support agriculture, start a garden yourself, those are really important. In terms of food, stick to real food. I mean, one of the silver linings of this Coronavirus epidemic is that nobody's eating at fast food restaurants. Or maybe they are, they're doing takeout. I don't know, but it's certainly less.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Sure. People are staying home and I feel bad for the food workers because they're marginal workers to start with and they're not actually being taken care of. So I think eating that way and I talk about how to do that and focus on non GMO. Why? Not because necessarily GMO is bad or good for you. We could argue about that all day. But because if your eating a GMO food, you're eating food that's grown in a way that's destructive to the environment and probably destructive to your health, particularly because of the glyphosate and the pesticides. You can actually focus on food waste for your own house and for your community. For example, compost is a just easy thing to do. And some of us live in urban areas, it's a little harder. But there are in apartment composters you can often drop it at farmer's markets. And it turns out food wasted for our country would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And even if you're a vegetarian or vegan and you're throwing your vegetable scraps in the landfill, you're off gassing methane, it's worse than cow burps. People just don't understand the whole connectivity of all this. So, it's very nuanced, it's complicated. But it's an interconnected ecosystem. So, make sure you have a compost pile. You can also, if you get inspired, you can actually start to work on political campaigns. You can work with your local governments to implement community gardens or implement composting systems like

Dr. Mark Hyman: -in San Francisco. You can turn up the heat on your politicians and then be vocal in elections. You can find out what your representatives are doing at the Food Policy Action website, which is And you can see how they vote on food and Ag issues. And you can communicate with them through the tools they have there. And they ousted two food system friendly congressmen that were voting in ways that were harmful. And they got rid of them by activating their base. And there are a lot of other ways people want to support more sustainable investments. Larry Fink from was it Blackstone or BlackRock? Who runs the biggest financial investment firm in the world. Recently wrote a letter to all CEOs saying we need to account for climate change in our investment strategy. One, because it's important, but two, because it's an economic imperative.

Dr. Mark Hyman: So where do you put your money? Do you put it in a bank that's doing gas and oil, or that's supporting factory farms? Or a place like Good Money, which our friend Gunnar's created, which is a company that actually creates a parallel bank system. It creates transparency and it allows you to invest in companies that actually are doing good in the world. So there's a lot of good things we can do from the individual point of view. But ultimately it's going to require massive changes in policy. And that's also what I'm working on through a campaign called the Food Fixed campaign. And people can go to to learn more about it, but it's focused on driving the concepts in the book into actionable policy changes in the government.

Dr. Mark Hyman: And we're working with an incredible team that launched Bono's One campaign and raised $87 billion for AIDS and poverty relief in Africa. And was very effective at getting legislation passed. And they're working with me and many other groups to actually implement changes around three pillars. The first is to transform all of our policies and all of our healthcare systems into a food is medicine strategy. So food first as medicine. Second is reforming broken food policies, whether it's agricultural policies, whether it's SNAP, or food stamps, or school lunches, or FDA regulations, things that really need to be fixed. And the third is supporting regenerative agriculture. So those three pillars, I think are going to help drive the change we need to see. And our job is to educate the 2000 people in Washington that make decisions. Because strikingly, they may have good intentions, but their level of education around this is extremely low.

Jeff: Yeah. And what is the general receptivity there, just given your experience? Because-

Dr. Mark Hyman: I've been blown away actually. I've been in Washington, before all this chaos happened. I spent a lot of time in Washington meeting with congressmen, senators, staffers, people in the various agencies, defense department. And there's incredible interest and openness. I think it's become an imperative that people realize we cannot ignore this any more, that we have to address this as a nation. And it's an economic imperative. It's a humanitarian imperative. And I think the leaders of this country is starting to really understand that.

Jeff: Yeah, because on its face it's an issue that transcends partisanship. And I think there's potentially an image that is somewhat a feat of the coastal, Whole Foods goer that may seem kind of aloof and very, very separate from the American Heartland, and the way most people can afford to live. However, at the core of the message that you're on the front lines supporting. It seems to have economic implications and health implications that affect every single person in the country and in the world, and transcends red and blue, which is rare at this juncture.

Dr. Mark Hyman: All of us depend on health care. All of us depend on food. It's striking to me the level of consciousness about how food does affect our health. I think people understand that if they eat too much, they gain weight. But short of that, I think people just don't understand the rapid impact of improving the quality of your diet has on your health, and how quickly it can happen.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I mean, in the book I talk about Janice who was 66 and had severe type two diabetes, on insulin for 10 years, heart failure, kidneys were failing, liver was fatty, high blood pressure, lots of medications, multiple stents put in her heart. She was very overweight. She was 243 pounds and was very short. And within three days she was off her insulin. In three months she got off all her medications and reversed her heart failure and her kidney failure. And in a year she lost 116 pounds just eating real food. It wasn't really complicated. It was an antiinflammatory, a whole foods, unprocessed diet. So I think people really need to realize how powerful this is, not just in terms of prevention, but also treatment.

Jeff: Yeah, I mean, do you feel that the changes in behavior that we have witnessed, and that we have honestly engaged in ourselves over the couple of weeks. Whether they're cooking, and not going to restaurants, not driving, not flying as much, telecommuting, all of the behaviors that in some ways have been hoisted upon us. The implications of those while set against the backdrop of something very, very serious, may be incredibly positive. I'm looking at, and I'm sure you're following this, but the New York times is covering the impact of COVID-19 on the environment. And I think in LA over the past week you've seen some of the clearest skies in terms of particulate matter in the air in 40 years. And so I wonder, just kind of in summary, if you are optimistic looking forward, hoping that there could be potentially sort of a new human story. Or at least a set of new behaviors that can emerge out of this very, very difficult time that could actually lead us in a more positive direction.

Dr. Mark Hyman: I do. I mean, I've been thinking a lot about this. About how this is going to change human consciousness. How this is going to change our way of relating as a human community. How it's going to change the things that we focus on and care about. How it's going to impact our addressing the epidemic of chronic disease for example, and the overburdened healthcare systems, the stress on hospitals. We were completely unprepared for this from a healthcare point of view. And I think this is a wake up call for people, for governments around the world. Maybe it's a Pollyanna view, but I do think that there's going to be a new opportunity for a different way of being together as a human family that isn't so divisive, that isn't so oppositional. That isn't focused on us, and me, and mine. And more on we, and us, and the sort of interconnectedness of all of us.

Jeff: Yeah. Well, Mark Hyman, thank you for being such a leader on this issue right now, when we need that leadership more than ever. But for years and years and years, your commitment to healthy lifestyle and helping us understand the integrated nature of food, the environment, our healthcare system, our political system. You've been on the front lines of that. So very, very grateful for that leadership and very, very grateful for your new book Food Fix.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Jeff: Yeah, anytime. And we'll do it again. And stay safe, stay healthy, and give Mia a big hug. One of the suggestions that you made as part of behaviors to stay well, is to cuddle your partner. So I'll take that.

Dr. Mark Hyman: You bet, hugging actually helps your immune system, so that's a good thing.

Jeff: Not strangers at this point, but maybe your partner. Okay. Take care of Mark, thank you man.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Take care [inaudible 00:48:37].

OUTRO: Thank you for listening to today’s show. To learn more about Dr. Mark Hyman and his new book, Food Fix, If you have any comments or questions about today’s show, shoot me an email at [email protected]. I always appreciate hearing from you.That’s all from the Commune for this week. I am Jeff Krasno. And I am here for you

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