Podcast 439: Seven Secrets to a Healthy Microbiome – Part 1
Spencer Feldman from Remedy Link joins Martin Pytela to talk about his new product called: Panaceum. In this two part series, we will discuss the microbiome in great detail.
Today in Part 1, we discuss what the microbiome is, the seven secrets to achieving a healthy microbiome, and why it’s so important that you do.
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MARTIN: Hello, this is Martin Pytela for the Life Enthusiast Podcast. And today I have with me Spencer Feldman, my favorite fanatical researcher. When Spencer takes on a topic, he runs deep. Today, we’re going to be talking about his discoveries, the seven secrets in the, well, he probably will say it correctly, probiotics and microbiome, and what’s going on in the gut. I think I mangled it quite well, but here goes Spencer Feldman. Welcome!
SPENCER: Thanks for having me Martin, nice to see you. So what I’ve done over the last couple of months is to really delve deep into the microbiome and I’ve broken it into two talks. The first, which we’re going to start right now is about an hour long and it’s called “Seven Secrets to a Healthy Microbiome, and why you want one.” The second talk is for people that want an incredibly deep dive. We’re going to go into some of the aspects of the microbiome that are much, much more complicated, but if you like the microbiome, you’ll like listening to it. While the second half is geared towards clinicians and physicians, certainly anyone could gain some information from it. So without further ado, let’s start with the seven secrets to a healthy microbiome and why you want one. So before we get to the seven things, we first have to talk about what the microbiome is.
SPENCER: What it does for us, what it is, how we get it, how we lose it, and then the seven secrets to regaining it. Cause we’ve all lost.
MARTIN: You know, let’s start first with, what does it feel like? Or what does it look like? What is life like in a body when microbiome is broken?
SPENCER: Okay. So the microbiome is the master regulator for the whole body. It’s regulating neurotransmitters, hormones, antibodies, body fat, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, energy production, sleep cycles. It runs the whole show. If you were to add up all of the endocrine organs together, thyroid, gonads, pituitary, pineal on one side; and all the endocrine producing cells and the gut on the other, the gut has more cells. If you weigh the brain at two and a half pounds-ish, and you weigh the gut microbiome at two to six pounds, the gut microbiome weighs more. If I ask some someone to draw a picture of a tree, they’re just going to draw the top part of the tree. The trunk, the branches and the leaves, but that’s only half the tree.
SPENCER: I would ask them where’s the other half? And then I would say, well what’s below it? And then if they drew all the roots and all the bacteria on the roots and all the metabolic action happening at the roots, that’s the other half of the tree. And we tend to forget the stuff that’s below the level of the ground, because we can’t see it. Well, this is sort of like that for us, the gut is sort of like the roots of our metabolic tree and if the roots are not healthy, everything goes wrong. I mentioned all the things that the microbiome is modulating; we could get more into how to recognize a bad microbiome, but to answer your question initially, what I would say is: if you think that you have a good microbiome, because you go to the bathroom regularly… digestive issues are only one small part of the microbiome and often not what presents clinically. What presents clinically for someone with really bad microbiome will typically be fatigue, brain fog and immune problems either two weak or autoimmune or both.
SPENCER: And the massive inflammation.
MARTIN: When I think about it, I say to people, it’s actually the microbes that are living at the roots of the plants that are dissolving the minerals so that the plant roots can absorb whatever is in the soil. In the human body it is somewhat like that, too. Microbes have to pre digest or take apart the stuff that’s coming through into the digestive system. And so we’re actually not absorbing the food we eat straight. We’re absorbing that, which the microbiome presents to us.
SPENCER: So yes, absolutely. And digestion is just one very small part of what the microbiome is doing. And there’s so much more than what than the digestive system to the microbiome, because it’s regulating all of these systems of the body. When things aren’t regulating, when we can’t hit homeostasis, that’s a sign, the microbiome is out, right. So if you want to have good health, you have to have a healthy microbiome.
Let’s talk first about this: where did we get it? Based on archaeological studies, we’ve been around as in the human form, we have now for about 780,000 years. And our original diet was mostly tubers, insects, fruit, seafood, wild game, and then occasionally nuts, seaweed and honey, if we were lucky. And these foods contain specific sugars called oligosaccharides and oligosaccharides are a special kind of sugar that your audience might not have heard of before.
SPENCER: Oligosaccharides are the key to your microbiome. There are three classes of sugars that we eat. There’s simple sugars, like we find in fruit and honey, and these are small molecules and we can digest them. And then there’s the complex chains of sugars like starch, that you find in grains and beans and we can digest these too. But then there’s these medium-sized sugars. They’re larger than simple sugars and smaller than starches. These are the oligosaccharides and we can’t digest them.
When early humans and their ancestors would eat tubers, they would consume some soil with them. And the soil was teaming with microorganisms. And you’d also find these microorganisms in rivers and lakes and in the ocean. So drinking river water or going for a swim you’d get them. Humans were exposed to the microbes and they got into their gut. These bacteria living in the soil and water can eat these oligosaccharides that we can’t digest.
When these bacteria found themselves in our intestine, they find a warm, wet place with lots of oligosaccharides, no oxygen to burn them, and so they colonized us. Initially it wasn’t a great thing because a lot of these microbes were deadly to us. But what happens when two life forms live together long enough is it evolves into a symbiotic relationship. The longer we live now and the healthier we are, the better it is for the bacteria in our gut, because they’ve got this gut to live in with all these oligosaccharides to eat. The first trick they learned was how to suppress the bad bacteria that we might eat. But it doesn’t stop there. The microbiome bacteria learned how to make us stronger, smarter, fight infections better, heal faster, age slower. In other words, the microbiome was, and still is today, the most powerful upgrade human beings will ever have.
MARTIN: You just mentioned something that triggered me on the numbers. If I remember, right, there’s something like 10 trillion cells that compose a human body, but there are probably about a hundred trillion living microbes on or within the body. If I’m counting the individual life forms, I’m about a 10th of what the microbiome contains, right? So I’m actually a traveling bag of microbiome territory.
SPENCER: Yes. That’s a great way to think of it. If you add red blood cells into the count, then it’s about equal. We’re about a hundred trillion cells of microbiome and a hundred trillion cells human. Okay. And that’s leaving out the bacteria, phages that are in the microbiome, which is a whole other world. Another way of thinking about that, and we’ll get into the genetics of it, is that the microbiome has a massively larger genetic database than we do, and we get access to that. And we’ll talk about that in the genetic part of this talk. So now we’re back 780,000 years, and time is moving forward. The microbiome is evolving with us and learning how to help us become stronger, faster, smarter, so it can hang on better. And because without modern sanitation, there’s always some microbiome on your hands and under your fingernails as a species, we were always exchanging microbiome information.
SPENCER: Eventually if one person’s microbiome learned a trick, everybody would get it in that tribe. And then in that area and then that continent, and then it learned another trick. It learned how to pass itself on from mother to child. I think this is a kind of an interesting thing to understand, that in the last trimester of pregnancy progesterone in the mother stimulates a bloom of her bifidobacteria levels, which is what you find in infants. So her microbiome shifts to an infant state so that she can pass it on to her baby. And then during childbirth, as the baby’s head descends, it compresses the rectum. And typically a little bit of stool will come out during childbirth. The same muscles that a woman uses to push a baby out are the same ones a woman uses to defecate.
SPENCER: So there’s usually a little bit of microbiome present during the birthing process. And normally if a baby’s born face down, it gets a little bit of the bifidobacteria from the mother’s microbiome and it gets seeded. Now from there, the mother creates oligosaccharides. Remember it’s those sugars that we can’t digest but the microbiome can. The mother creates oligosaccharides in her breast milk to feed the bifidobacteria in the baby. In fact, there are 200 at current count, 200 different oligosaccharides that human breast milk contains. And there’s more oligosaccharides than protein by percentage. Now, what does this tell you? It tells us that we want a large variety of oligosaccharides, and that one or two won’t do. And the amount in breast milk being more than protein means that at least according to the mother’s biological imperative, the mother’s body believes that it’s more important to grow the microbiome than it is to grow the baby, because they’re feeding the microbiome with oligosaccharides more than they’re feeding the baby with protein. That’s how important the microbiome is. Because if the baby gets a bacterial infection, then that’s the end of the child.
MARTIN:I want to put two nails into this: nail one, if you are delivered through cesarean, and if the doctor isn’t smart enough to do a swab of the vagina or the perineum and rub it all over the baby, you have been deprived right there.
SPENCER: Yes I’m going to get into that in detail in about another minute.
MARTIN: Great. And nail two was of course breastfeeding. Yes or no? Well, yes.
SPENCER: Yes. So to finish breast milk, feeding breast milk also continually changes the ratio and types of oligosaccharides and probiotic and postbiotic compounds, depending on the needs of the infant as transmitted to the mother via hormones moment by moment. If a child is born premature, a whole different set of oligosaccharides are created in the milk that goes for that baby. That’s how in tune it is. We’ve come a long way with baby formula… but compared to human milk, oligosaccharides and so forth, baby on formula is still a problem. By two and a half years of age, the infant microbiome is basically that of an adult. The bifidus and lactobacillus level decrease. The bifidus came from the mother’s microbiome, and the lactobacillus came from her vaginal canal. They go down to about 0.01% of the total flora, which is about one 10,000th.
SPENCER: The primary flora become firmicutes and bacteroides. This happens because as the child is weaned off of breast milk and onto solid foods, the child’s oligosaccharides intake changes. The key point to understand here is that you control the makeup of your microbiome by controlling what oligosaccharides you feed it.
I want to talk about the four initiations of the microbiome. I’ve identified four biological initiations, physiological rights of passage, of our microbiome.
The first initiation happens when we’re inside the womb and the metabolites produced by the mother’s microbiome. In this case, Peptidoglycans and short chain fatty acids pass through the placenta into the womb, and guide the developing fetal brain architecture through neuro-proliferation. This is an example of how profound our relationship is with the microbiome.
SPENCER: Even before we were born it’s guiding us in developing our personality, how our mind is going to work, how our brain will function.
The second initiation is self. Meaning: It tells you what not to attack. And this happens in concert with the immunoglobulin that comes in breast milk, specifically in colostrum. And that’s an antibody that teaches tolerance to the immune system. By getting immunoglobulin at the same time as the mother’s microbiome is establishing itself in the infant, the newly formed infant immune system is being taught to tolerate the microbiome as self. This is another organ like the liver or the heart or the brain: don’t attack it.
Third initiation is the brain part two. The microbiome continues to guide brain development after we’re born. Infants aren’t born with fully developed brains or nervous systems. The microbiome is required to keep the blood brain barrier healthy, but it also completes the myelination process of the nerves. Which along with nervonic acid, that is also found in breast milk. If you’re late to the game, we have it in our Nervidyne product. The microbiome is also stimulating an increase of complexity and neurogenesis of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for complex cognitive behavior, personality, expression, decision making, social behavior, and of the hippocampus, which is what gives us memory.
And then the fourth initiation is other, right?
MARTIN: You’re just glossing over it.
SPENCER: Well, each of those is an hour long talk.
MARTIN: Every significant part of our existence is being affected here in a profound manner.
SPENCER: Yes, and we’re just getting started on the microbiome. Okay, the fourth initiation is other, right?
The first initiation is what is self. The second initiation is what is part of the infant’s body? The fourth one is what is other? Now the infant immune system is being taught what to attack. The microbiome teaches the immune system what to fight and what not to fight. It does this by training the GALT, the gut associated lymphatic tissue, which contains 75% of the immune system. This is self – don’t attack. This is foreign – dangerous, attack this. People with autoimmune issues have an immune system that doesn’t recognize self properly. And they attack their own tissue. People with weak immune systems have an immune system that doesn’t know what other is and they won’t attack an infection when they should.
SPENCER: You need a healthy microbiome to understand self versus other, and we’ll get into that in even more detail, because it gets deeper than that.
You mentioned what happens with Cesarean delivery. So let’s talk about how we might not get off to a good start. It used to be a common practice to give women an enema before childbirth to avoid stool from being passed during pregnancy. And if it was, it was whisked away by well-meaning hygienic attendants. By interfering with this natural seeding of an infant’s microbiome with this well-meaning hygienic practice, at best infants end up with a microbiome that’s dominated by lactobacillus, the bacteria in the vaginal canal. That’s mostly meant for the skin and delays the time it takes for the microbiome to be colonized by bifidus. At worst then the absence of the right bacteria and the infant gut creates an entry point for one of the many antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria commonly found in hospitals to get into the infant gut.
SPENCER: Another challenge is with children that are born sunny side up, that’s face up instead of face down, the normal presentation. Or by cesarean, which is about 33% in the US, and 80% in places like Brazil, Greece and Vietnam or mid forceps delivery, where they’re pulled out with basically giant pliers because they’re coming in backwards or also premature deliveries. A cesarean will delay proper infant microbiome development by two years, and the optimal time for the initiations have passed by. You can still do it, but it puts that child at a disadvantage.
MARTIN: I actually have a lot of numbers. I don’t have statistics, solid statistics on it, but anecdotally, a lot of children that were delivered by cesarean are also high on the ADD whatever spectrum, neurological issues.
SPENCER: Yes, and they all have a greater risk of allergies and other things. Finally another stress is if the pregnant woman is stressed during her pregnancy, it can alter her vaginal and colon microbiome and so changing what her newborn will receive. So keep the mother happy or the pregnant woman happy, obviously. Another challenge, like we talked about is if the child isn’t breast fed or for just a short time. Infants that are fed formula, rather than breast milk grow an entirely different set of bacteria in their microbiome, which is one of the reasons why breast fed babies make for healthier and smarter adults. Formula feeds Bacteroides, which is found in the elderly. Not bifidobacteria, which is found in infants and which would stimulate IGA and create proper immuno tolerance or knowledge of self versus other. Now mother’s milk is so attuned to the child that if a baby is born prematurely, the content of oligosaccharides changes. Human breast milk also contains by a current count, approximately 600 species of probiotic bacteria, some of which are thought to come from the mother’s own gut microbiome and delivered to the breast tissue by the lymphatic system to be mixed with breast milk for the infant.
SPENCER: So granted we’ve come a long way with infant formula, but the human breast milk is and will always be infinitely better for the infant.
MARTIN: So I’d like to actually plug in this: early on we were saying that the inside of the human body is sterile, right? Like blood is sterile and the inside is sterile. And yet you are talking about there being transference of microbes through the placenta, into the blood, to the brain. So there’s definitely some disconnection between those two statements, right?
SPENCER: Yes. We used to think blood was sterile. And now we keep finding more microbes in the body. You know, we found it in the brain. We found a microbiome in the liver, in the gallbladder. Obviously in the vaginal canal. Basically I don’t think there’s any place in the human body that there isn’t a microbiome at this point. It’s just a matter of what’s growing there and have we discovered it yet. And the point to take from that would be, if you don’t have the right bacteria growing in a particular organ, it will grow something, right? It’ll grow something you don’t like, if it’s not something you want. So that’s why it’s really important to make sure you’ve got the right microbiome. Now, 90% of the microbiome is in your gut, but that means a good 10% of it is scattered in the rest of your body. As we get older, we can further stress the microbiome. And there’s a few stresses or dangers that they face. The first of course, would be a poor diet because once we’re weaned, we’re no longer automatically getting oligosaccharides, it’s up to us to have a diet that feeds are microbiome. And almost nobody has that. And we’ll get into diet in a bit too. The second would be toxins like glyphosate, which wreck the microbiome.
MARTIN: It was patented as an antibiotic.
SPENCER: Yes. Glyphosates are artificial sugars, which look like things that the bacteria want to eat and then screw them up. Food emulsifiers, statins, anti-inflammatory drugs, oral hormones, and SSRIs, these cause significant damage to the microbiome. And I call them microbiome mass casualty events. You can recover from them, but it takes a lot of work.
MARTIN: Well, I would like to throw in one more, which is chlorine, chlorinated water, on the surface, or ingested. Why do we put chlorine in the water? To kill microbes.
SPENCER: Because we’re recycling sewage.
MARTIN: That’s just the reason. But when you get it inside you, you’re now going to be wiping out the microbes within.
SPENCER: That’s a really good point, thank you. So those things are called microbiome mass casualty events. The next down would be things like antibiotics and severe intestinal infections. And while a salmonella infection can kill 15% of your microbiome species, the antibiotic Cipro can wipe out around 50%. It’s amazing to think that antibiotics can cause three times more damage to your microbiome than a potentially deadly intestinal infection. So long term use or broad spectrum antibiotic can be considered a microbiome extinction level event. Again, you can recover from this too, but it takes some more work. Now the data shows that the loss of microbial diversity is cumulative over generations. And we’re now three generations since the discovery of pesticides, chemical food additives, antibiotics, which means that modern women no longer have a rich microbiome to give to their children. And we have gotten to the point now we are at a tipping point, I believe where modern women and men too. Women who are passing their microbiome onto their children have lost so many key species that the microbiome is getting to the point where it’s starting to collapse. So while recovering a healthy microbiome is important on an individual level, it’s also vitally important to the health of our species. We have to educate women on both the importance of recovering a healthy microbiome and how to do it, not just for their own health, but for the health of their children and the health of their children yet to come.
MARTIN: Yes, this is so dramatic. And we’re working through the industrial food experiment and it’s not going well.
SPENCER: How do you know if you have a microbiome that is in trouble? Okay. well you could do a stool test and that’s a great way to do it. But a good one is going to cost about $500. I want to teach your listeners how to do a very basic test yourself.
You can ask yourself four questions. The first question is, does the stool smell bad? A healthy microbiome has almost no smell. Very little, a little acidic smelling from the butyric acid right? The Second question is, does a person soil themselves, meaning do they need a lot of toilet paper? If you have a healthy microbiome, you wipe one time, there’s nothing there. Three, transit time: How long does it take from when you eat to when you defecate? It should be 18 hours and you can test this with two tablespoons of powdered blueberry extract and see how long it takes for the stool to turn blue.
SPENCER: Some people will say, oh, I go to the bathroom every day. Okay, but look between your belly button and your pubic bone, you see that little pooch? Okay, that’s food that’s been in there for a while. So it’s possible to go to the bathroom every day, which theoretically means you’re not constipated, right? Cause you’re going every day. But it could be what you put in five days ago because the transit time is five days. And so that’s an issue. So just because you go to the bathroom every day does not mean what came out of you was what you put in yesterday. And then finally if you go get some pH paper and you want the pH paper that goes from six to eight if you get the one that goes from four to 10 it’s too wide of range, it’s hard to get the fine gradations you want. Unless you’ve got very dry kind of pebbly pellet stool, the stool’s going to have a little bit of moisture on it and you put the pH paper to it and it should be 6.6. A stool pH of 6.6 doesn’t guarantee a healthy microbiome, cause there can be other things going on. If the pH is above 7.0 or below 6.2, meaning it’s roughly three times too alkaline or three times too acidic, it’s definitely trouble.
SPENCER: Now we get to the fun part. How do you recover a healthy microbiome? At first you may think probiotics. And that was what I thought initially, but actually not so much. And I’ll explain why, because that sounds counterintuitive. The first probiotics humans learned how to make contain the bacteria lactobacillus and bifidus, which is also what’s found in baby or infant guts. And they were used to turn crushed vegetables and milk respectively into sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or yogurt depending on where you live. The challenge with probiotics is that the ones we can buy in the store are also usually just bifidus and lactobacillus. The ones found in the infant, not the adult gut. These represent 0.01% of the adult microbiome, it’s one 10,000th of what should be in there. And as a matter of fact, if you see a lot of lactobacillus in a microbiome of an adult, it usually means something’s up, out of whack.
SPENCER: The issue is we don’t have probiotics available to purchase for the key players of the adult microbiome. They are doing Akkermansia muciniphila, we can talk about that. But most of the bacteria we would find in the gut aren’t being sold because technically they’re very difficult to grow outside of a human gut. There are companies that are making industrial scale human gut simulators to make these, and I’m looking forward to them coming to market, but for now they’re not really available. Bifidus and lactobacillus do have a role to play in helping us recover our microbiome, but there are two issues. One, these ones that you can get are designed to grow in a lab, not the gut. So they’re probably not going to colonize you, you’re really only going to get benefits as long as you’re taking them.
SPENCER: And the second is: different strains have very different effects. Some bacteria raise histamine, some lower it, some increase methylation, some lower methylation, some increase glutamate, some increase GABA and so on. And if you don’t know your own genetic particular setup, you don’t know which way your body tends to be out of balance slightly, then you could take a probiotic that pushes you in the wrong direction. So what I would say is and we’ll give you the protocol. Which is you would actually go and either get a genetic analysis to figure out what probiotics you would need or take as many as you can for about a week and then let your gut sort it out. Okay. You know, you don’t want to micromanage a microbiome, you will never do as good a job at figuring it out as a microbiome will.
SPENCER: The best thing to do is just give it the resources. Let’s talk about that. Where do we get the good bacteria that we might not have or might not be able to purchase? Well, actually there are three reserves for good bacteria. The first is our dormant persister cells. These are the good bacteria that haven’t been getting enough oligosaccharides to stay alive. So they’re not dead, they’re just hibernating, they’re sleeping. They’re metabolically inactive, they’re waiting for food. They’re waiting for those oligosaccharides to appear. Okay. If you give them the oligosaccharides and boom, you’ve got them again. The second is the appendix. I know you’ve heard the appendix is a vestigial organ that has no purpose, that’s not accurate. It’s the backup copy of your microbiome. If someone gets a really bad case of dysentery and they knock everything out, the appendix can then release the backup copy and restart your microbiome.
That works unless the person’s taking really intense antibiotics and the whole thing gets wiped out. The third place you can get it, your third reserve, is every person you meet in the environment. Even the cleanest person has microbiome on their hands. It floats in the air, it’s everywhere you go. You go out to dinner, someone made you a salad, there’s a microbiome on it. Is it disgusting? Yes. But life finds a way. So you are going to be exposed to all of it. However, if you don’t feed them the oligosaccharides, it won’t matter.
MARTIN: There’s a point to be made and it’s called fecal transplant.
SPENCER: We’re going to get there too. All right. So since there’s always some oligosaccharides in the diet, even if only in small amounts, it’s unusual for all of a species without antibiotic use to be wiped out. They’re usually alive and dormant in small numbers. But if you consider that a single surviving bacteria doubling every 20 minutes can turn into 34 billion copies of itself in 12 hours, it doesn’t take long, if you feed them, to repopulate your microbiome. The microbiome is a community of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and bacteriophages living in your intestines and in the mucosa of your gut. Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s go to what I call the seven secrets of a good microbiome.
The first secret is oligosaccharides, the sugars that we’ve been eating for the last 190,000 years and our microbiome needs to survive. Now, can we get enough of them with diet?
SPENCER: Yes kind of, hmm. You’d have to have excellent digestion to get all the oligosaccharides you need out of food. And you’d have to eat a lot of foods you probably don’t want to. You could eat tubers like Jerusalem artichoke or jicama, and roots like chicory. But you’d also be having to add things like insects mushrooms and seaweed to your menu, and you’d have to eat a lot.
You know, hunter-gatherers ate a lot of food. I think the best option is actually to take oligosaccharides in a supplement, and we make a product that has all eight of those oligosaccharides in them. The product is called Panaceum. I’ll show it to you. That’s the product. Panaceum contains the Galacto-oligosaccharides found in tubers, the xylo-oligosaccharides, pectin oligosaccharides, and fructo-oligosaccharides found in fruits and vegetables, the connective tissue oligosaccharides found in wild game.
SPENCER: The chitin oligosaccharides found in insects and mushrooms, the fucoidan oligosaccharides found in seaweed and the isomalto-oligosaccharides found in honey, miso and kimchi. It’s very concentrated, it’s very absorbable, and to compare it to what you’d find in food, you’d get 200 times more Galacto-oligosaccharides than beans and 300 times more fructo-oligosaccharides than brussels sprouts in a serving. So then one question would be, well why so many different kinds of oligosaccharides? Well remember, mother’s milk had over 200. There’s a couple of reasons for this. First, oligosaccharides act as decoy molecules that prevent pathogenic bacteria and fungi from attaching to the gut wall. So the wider the range of oligosaccharides in your diet, the more protection your gut has against the wider range of bad bacteria. Secondly, different bacteria require different food sources. So the greater the diversity of the oligosaccharides, the greater the genetic diversity of your microbiome.
SPENCER: And third, oligosaccharides are not interchangeable, and I’ll give you an example. I have a dear friend who is in her twenties and was two years into a very serious and worsening health crisis. I did a symptom questionnaire on her and it showed virtually every organ system at dangerous levels of dysfunction. She was moving towards needing full-time live-in care. She had chronic fatigue, so debilitating, she could be found laying on the ground, unable to move for 20 minutes at a time. We took her to a whole bunch of different specialists based on what her symptoms were suggesting. So we took her to a cardiologist, no her heart was fine. We looked at all of her hormones and did blood work. No, her endocrine system was fine. Finally, when I got down to this on the symptom questionnaire, I got down to the gut.
SPENCER: It was not by symptoms, or her main issue, but there was nothing left to lose. So I made her a blend of oligosaccharides to see what would happen. And three days into taking the oligosaccharides. She was happy and energetic again for the first time in two years. Then I ran out of one of the oligosaccharides I was making for her. Three days later, even though she was getting the rest of them, she’s back to collapsing again. I finally got that missing oligosaccharide, and two hours after I gave it to her she’s up and out of bed and made lunch for herself. And over the next four days, she returned back to health. The takeaway from this or the takeaways from this are: 1. oligosaccharides are not interchangeable, you never know which one might be the one you need to get your microbiome to turn back on.
SPENCER: And 2. if you have the right materials to work with, you can recover your health a lot faster than you lose it. She was able to recover in four days what took her two years to lose. Okay, so remember we said, one of the things was: how do you know if you’ve got a microbiome disorder? She did not present with bad digestion. She presented with chronic fatigue, endocrine issues, with debilitating depression with all sorts of heart issues. That’s what she was complaining of, and that was not the issue, it was her gut. You never would’ve thought it. Okay, now let’s go to the second secret, which is fiber.
We’re estimated to have been here as humans for about 200,000 years, but 190,000 years, we were hunter-gatherers. 10,000 years we were farmers, and the last one hundred years as modern man. Early hunter-gatherers would eat about 100 grams of fiber a day, early farmers, about 35 grams and modern man gets about 15 grams of fiber a day.
SPENCER: How much fiber should we eat? Because fiber plays a part in your microbiome. If you want to get 100 grams of fiber, you’re going to have to eat like a hunter-gatherer. And this means chewing tubers all day long. That’s too much, but the modern diet’s fiber deficient. So I aim at 35 grams of fiber a day like our ancestors did for the last 10,000 years since the dawn of agriculture. And if you consider that for every 10 grams of fiber you eat, you get a decrease in all causes of mortality by 10% at 35 grams, this calculates out to a 20% across the board decrease in all forms of mortality over the standard diet.
How do you do this? Well, if you make beans a staple part of your diet, and beans were the first crops to be domesticated by humans, you’ll get about 35 grams of fiber a day, and you can do this comfortably. Getting past 35 grams a day means you’re probably going to have to take some fiber supplements, but there are some things you should know first.
One, insoluble fiber can irritate a damaged gut. Insoluble fiber can create methane gas, which aside from the embarrassment of flatulence also paralyzes the gut muscles so it slows down transit time. My suggestion is to stick with beans and if they give you gas, try soaking adzuki beans for a day and then slow cooking them. There’s another trick if you’re getting gas, I guess we can talk about methane production in the advanced section. Now there is a special kind of soluble fiber called mucilage, which is a gelatinous kind of stuff. Jello basically, right? And mucilage is really good at pulling out toxins and repairing an irritated gut wall.
SPENCER: But again, soluble fiber slows transit time. If you want to use mucilage, my suggestion is you use animal sourced versions like bone broth, and gelatins because they cause a lot less fermentation in the gut than plant based mucilages. And again, soluble fibers will slow transit time, which takes us to our third secret: transit time. Depending on the kind of food we eat, it’ll take one to four hours in the stomach, about six hours in the small intestine and then 10 hours in the large intestine. If your transit time is less than 16 hours, you’re not going to give your body enough time to absorb the nutrients to digest and absorb. Far more likely is that the transit time will be longer than optimal. It’s not unusual for people to have transit times to 2, 3, 4, even five days, even if they’re going to the bathroom every day.
SPENCER: So if food takes more than 18 hours from start to finish, the microbiome starts to shift to pathogenic bacterial forms. You can temporarily speed up transit time with herbs like cascara sagrada, but they’re addictive. And then if you stop, the transit time gets even slower. So let’s talk about a few ways to speed up transit time. Since virtually everybody listening to this is going to have a slow transit time, especially considering how much time we spend sitting. One way to speed up transit time is to exercise. Consider the Hadza of Tanzania the most well studied hunter-gatherer group that we have. They eat about a hundred grams of fiber a day, but they also do about 135 minutes of vigorous exercise a day that comes to 1.3 minutes of vigorous exercise per gram of food. So if we’re going to do the standard diet of 15 grams of fiber, that means at minimum, a 20 minute hike or a 30 minute walk once a day.
SPENCER: If you’re going to go to 35 grams of fiber a day, which is what I think we should be at, that means about an hour-long walk a day. Intestinal transit or peristalsis is a very muscular activity, and this is one of the reasons why exercise speeds up transit time. If you have weak muscles in your body, specifically, if you have poor cardio, then you’re going to have weak muscles in the intestine. When the gut is relaxed, when you’re not eating, the gut’s relaxed, but at the moment some food comes in, it tightens up, it tenses. It gets a certain degree of tone and that requires cardio to be able to hold that tone for hours on end. So if you want to get a sense of how your gut’s transit time is doing, how much cardio do you do? A second way to improve transit time is with probiotics.
SPENCER: Your microbiome controls your transit time by regulating molecules like GLP-1 and PYY, both of which slow transit time. So if your microbiome is out of whack, you might be getting the wrong signals. The probiotics B-animalis and B lactis decrease transit time. So those are some probiotics you can work with if that’s a really tough issue for you. But the goal is to have your own microbiome regulate itself and your transit time. Until that happens, you can do probiotics, but don’t try to rely on them. The gut needs to do it for you, and really all you have to do is feed it the oligosaccharides and it will eventually sort things out. A third way is with short chain fatty acids. One of the short chain fatty acids a healthy gut makes is propionic acid.
SPENCER: That will stimulate both GLP-1 and PYY which slow your transit time. But the short chain fatty acids butyrate and acetate speed up transit time. So in the beginning until your own gut is making the proper blend of short chain fatty acids, you could take some butyric acid as a supplement. A fourth way is keeping calm. The parasympathetic rest and digest speeds up your transit time. And the sympathetic fight or flight slows it down. Now here’s another one, a fifth way is don’t eat late in the evening. I know we’ve all been told this, so now I’m going to tell you why, there’s a special peristalsis. Peristalsis is not just the movement of food from your esophagus down, out the body. It also is churning and mixing your food. And it’s also cleaning out your gut.
SPENCER: There’s many different types of peristalsis, and there’s a special one called the giant migrating contraction. And this is how the gut cleans itself of leftover debris, right? So all the little bits and pieces that didn’t get pushed through, gets swept out. And this happens a couple of times a day. Now the small intestines won’t get giant migrating contractions. If they still have food in them, they only do this when they’re empty. So if someone were to eat at eight o’clock at night and food’s in the stomach for four hours, so that’s midnight until it gets to the small intestine. And then it’s in the small intestine until around six in the morning. Well that doesn’t give them very much time to clean out their gut, right? They don’t get any giant migrating contractions. So their gut never really gets cleansed. So depending on what time you wake up, you know, is when you’re going to be wanting to eat.
SPENCER: So try to eat at around five o’clock at night, that gives you at least three hours. If you’re getting up at six in the morning to have the gut go through its cleansing cycle. Now a sixth way is to manage methane versus hydrogen. Methane is produced in an unhealthy gut and by bacteria called methanogens, we’ll talk about that in part two. And it slows transit time because it actually paralyzes the muscles of the gut. Hydrogen is produced in a healthy gut, but in excess, it speeds up the transit time too fast. Hydrogen and methane are ways in which the gut transit time can get thrown off. If you suffer from an overproduction of methane an eighth of a teaspoon of food grade Epsom salts, that’s magnesium sulfate can help deal with that because sulfate favors acetate production over methane production.
SPENCER: And again, we’ll talk about that more. Fourth secret, don’t eat more than you can digest and assimilate. And here’s a key thing to remember, it’s very important that only fiber and oligosaccharides enter the large intestine. When we eat beyond our capacity to digest carbohydrates, proteins and fats will spill over into a large intestine and cause dysbiosis. If proteins and fats enter the large intestine they stimulate the growth of the putrefying phenotypes of clostridia, which are the same bacteria that digest protein and fat in corpses. If carbohydrates, other than oligosaccharides and fiber enter the large intestine, they ferment and create gas, alcohol, formaldehyde, and feed candida. Now the key is balance, right? Eat enough to nourish yourself by not so much that you’re getting spill over into the large intestine and creating dysbiosis and putrefaction. And this is why transit time is so important.
SPENCER: This way any spillover that does happen has a minimum amount of time to sit in there and putrefy and ferment. Which leads us to the fifth secret, digestion. We don’t want dysbiosis and putrefaction in the large intestine. So we shouldn’t eat more than we can digest and absorb. But what if you don’t digest well and even small amounts aren’t being digested, and you’re still getting it into the large intestine. Or let’s say you have really bad cardio, and so you don’t have the muscular strength to create contractions and stuff can back wash from the colon back into your small intestine, because you don’t have enough strength to tighten the sphincters properly. All right, if you’re not digesting well, we need to fix that first, and there’s three hacks for this. The first is chew your food well, and if you don’t have a good bite alignment, go see a good dentist.
SPENCER: The second is make sure your bile is flowing, and if not, you know, what’s going to happen is fat digestion’s going to get limited bile is going to back up into the pancreas giving it alkaline burns, ruining the rest of the pancreatic digestion. You could consider our Glytamins product, if you think you need some gallbladder support. So three, if you, the second one is deal with the gallbladder. The third is if you don’t digest well due to pancreatic insufficiency, take pancreatic and or plant-based enzymes with your meals. Now, if your stool, breath or body smells bad, you’re probably getting protein spill over and petrifying protein in the large intestine. If you have gas, you’re probably getting carbohydrates spill over and dysbiosis in the large intestine. And if you have gas that smells bad, you’ve probably got both protein and carbohydrates spill over and they’re all fermenting and putrefying.
SPENCER: So digest well, try some digestive enzymes. Secret number six, retrograde starch from Beta-glucans. There are two prebiotics that aren’t in the Panaceum formula that you should add in separately. And the reason is because they’re inexpensive to make for yourself, and there wouldn’t be enough room for the hard to get things if we put them in. These are retrograde starches and Beta-glucan. Retrograde or resistant starches are made by cooking starchy foods like grains or beans or potatoes, and then you put them in the refrigerator for four hours. And this causes a starch to take on a crystalline structure and turns it into a time released oligosaccharide. Also really great for people who are having issues with glycemic index the high glycemic index foods if they’re diabetic. Beta-glucan is a prebiotic found in high amounts in whole oats.
SPENCER: And that’s just yet another great prebiotic you can do. So you can get both of these, and all you have to do is get some organic whole grain oats, cook them, put ’em in the fridge for four hours and eat a little bit every day. Now don’t make a huge pot and let it sit there for days, because it’s going to build up histamine forming bacteria. Every couple of days you can get a new pot going and that’s a great prebiotic you can make yourself.
Now here comes the seventh secret, good attitude. Our microbiome affects our moods, but our moods also affect our microbiome. Our microbiome produces, consumes and regulates the same neurochemicals that create our emotions. Heck they’re the bacteria that invented these things. They were making serotonin before mammals even existed, right?
SPENCER: We’re learning the language that they wrote. We are using the biochemistry that they created. So again, the microbiome produces, consumes and regulates the neurochemicals that create our emotions. But our emotions also stimulate the growth of various bacteria. So it’s a closed loop, the emotions of fear, anger and stress, which would be adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol, stimulate the growth of pathogenic bacteria and increase the virulence of otherwise harmless bacteria. On the other hand, oxytocin the neurotransmitter released with feelings of love and compassion supports a growth of good bacteria and good bacteria also make oxytocin. So it’s a vicious or a virtuous cycle, it’s up to us to decide which ones we want to engage in.
So, in closing of part one, the microbiome is an ancient intelligence with a lineage going back 3.5 billion years. It’s a powerful ally, it’s the ultimate upgrade, and it’s been with you guiding you and protecting you and partnering with you since before you were born. And now that you know the secrets of how to take care of your microbiome, your microbiome can take care of you too. It’s pretty straightforward, feed it oligosaccharides, take a walk every day, add some beans to your diet. Don’t overeat or eat late and stay positive.
MARTIN: You make it sound like a fairy tale! Interesting story to add here is I know that the autonomic nervous system when triggered into the sympathetic side will shut down peristalsis, and shut down digestion. Whereas the parasympathetic is the only time when the peristalsis resumes and elimination continues, or digestion itself continues. And I also found that minerals do have a profound effect on this. Like you can slow the peristalsis down with calcium and speed it up with magnesium. Very, very efficiently.
SPENCER: Most specifically calcium and magnesium are affecting the sympathetic and parasympathetic. So there we have it.
MARTIN: Yeah, that’s right. That’s it, it’s like a seesaw. One is the brake, the other one is the gas, so to speak.
So if you are moving too quickly, you probably could use more calcium. If you’re moving too slowly, you probably could use more magnesium. In fact, I’d be interested in hearing a few sentences about what you think should be done for people whose transit time is too short. I have plenty of those.
SPENCER: So what you’ve got would be something’s going on with the microbiome. The microbiome is saying, get this out of me. Right? So my guess, without having done a deep dive into accelerator transit times is there are bacteria creating short chain fatty acids that are irritating the gut and causing it to go into a dump mode.
MARTIN: Okay. So too much butyric?
SPENCER: I would probably think too much of things like cadaverine, putrescine. Any of that.
MARTIN: Yeah. You’re talking about eating too much meat.
SPENCER: Or well, eating more meat than you can digest,
MARTIN: Right? Yes.
MARTIN: Okay. So Spencer, this is awesome. I think it’s a wonderful overview and I would like to perhaps have a few more words about what is in the Panaceum itself specifically, because this is an explanation of why the Panaceum does work. Right?
SPENCER: What I tried to do was recreate what a primitive diet would’ve been for the world’s most successful hunter-gatherer, right. Someone who lived in a place that was incredibly abundant and every time they went out to get food, they got what they wanted. We have eight different oligosaccharides in the mix, and some of them are ones you’ve heard of galacto-oligosaccharide or fructooligosaccharide. And then some are ones that you might never have heard of before, like Isomalto-oligosaccharide and xylo-oligosaccharide. And I put them in proportions that I thought would recreate a microbiome with the right ratios of bacteria, because you don’t want to throw the ratio of bacteria in your gut out of whack. You want for instance, more firmacuties than bacteroides. So there are a few other things in there. There are ellagitannins in there because that particular compound has the magical ability to kill bad bacteria, and yet be a food source for good bacteria.
SPENCER: There are other things that I could have put in, but then I would’ve had less room for the oligosaccharides, which I think are the most important part. And so what I can do is in part two, I can tell you some of the other ingredients that you can go and get and as well as some of the protocols for people who are in more difficult places that don’t necessarily want to wait for their gut to restart itself, that they need to move more quickly.
MARTIN: All right. So the product comes to us as a powder.
SPENCER: Yeah. So that’s what it looks like right there. Yeah. There we go.
MARTIN: It’s a jar of powder.
MARTIN: How much do you take?
SPENCER: Well you would long term take about a quarter of a teaspoon with a meal and it tastes kind of sweet. I mean, these are oligosaccharides, so they’re kinds of sugars. But they’re not the kind of sugars that are going to throw off your own blood sugar. So you can put them on your food or you can mix them with juice. You might do a little bit more in the beginning, if you really like a half a teaspoon, three times a day, if you’re really trying to push or recover a microbiome that’s in a bad way. But long term, a quarter of a teaspoon is more than enough. Like I said, that will give you oligosaccharides on par with the world’s most successful hunter-gatherers.
MARTIN: All right there, we have it. Panaceum, check it out. Link is not far from here. All right, Life enthusiast. This is Spencer Feldman and Martin Pytela, greeting you from the life-enthusiast.com. You can reach me at 1-866-543-3388, and I’ll answer your questions.