Creating Lasting Habits To Strengthen Immunity - Transcript

Speaker 1: Coming up on this episode of the Doctor's Pharmacy. Dr. Mark Hyman: And the other question is, what does your body need to thrive? It needs the right nutrients. It needs the right food. It needs the right balance of hormones. It needs sleep. It needs activity, exercise, sleep, restoration, movement, love, connection, meaning, purpose, all those are the ingredients for health. Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome to a special episode of the Doctor's Pharmacy. I recently sat down and talked to my good friend, the president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group, Ken cook, as part of their EWG's clean con conference. And in this conversation, Ken interviews me about establishing better habits for human and planetary health. Let's dive in. Ken Cook: Dr. Mark Hyman. How are you? My friend? It has been way too long. And I know you've probably been even busier during this time with your medical practice and all the other things you're up to with COVID then you probably would've been ordinarily and that's saying something. How are you? Dr. Mark Hyman: I'm doing okay. You're right. We have a thousand people on our waiting list for next year, but thank God because people are figuring out they need to get healthy. And part of the reason is that 63% of hospitalizations from COVID were because of poor diet in America. That should be a shocking statistic for people. Ken Cook: That's a great statistic. So let's say more about that. So first of all, we're at Clean Con 2021 and one of the themes of this whole three day conference doc is to talk to people about forming better habits of environmental health. And this is something you've pioneered, helping people get on the right track. And I want to get to that, but let's talk just a little bit first about the COVID environment and what you've experienced as a physician. If you don't mind, I'd just love to get your perspective. Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, I've been incredibly frustrated because the focus has been on very expensive, literally trillion dollar efforts, to address the economic impact, to develop new drugs, new vaccines, and almost nobody is talking about the reason why America is 5% of the population, but has 25% of the COVID cases and COVID deaths. Why is that? It might be because of what we're eating and because our toxic diet, and that is something that is changeable, fixable and addressable. Think about it, Ken, if 63% of hospitalizations could have been avoided, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in now. We'd be all back to work and having a good time and going to parties. And that's the problem and no one has named it. And it's the most frustrating thing for me. A study came out recently that showed that if your vitamin D level was over 50, now you could argue whether the study was good or bad or blah, blah, blah. But basically it was a pretty good robust study. If your vitamin level was over 50, your chance of death from COVID was zero. Ken Cook: Wow. Dr. Mark Hyman: Zero. Ken Cook: Wow. Dr. Mark Hyman: There's no zero from any other drug or vaccine or anything else. So I mean, these are the kinds of things that don't make it into the news. Don't make it into the headlines. And I've been super frustrated that no one's talking about immune health and what we need to be doing. I mean, environmental toxins are also immunotoxins, they're not just poisons for ourselves, which they are, but they're also immunotoxins and they drive screwed up immunity and autoimmune disease and allergic disorders and a whole bunch of other things. So I think we really have to come to terms with this blind spot we have around the fact that we can upgrade our own health by upgrading our lives. And it's not just a personal thing, right? It is personal, but what we do to our bodies, we do to ourselves, right? But we also do to the planet. What we do to our planet, we do to the bodies. What we do to the planet we do to our bodies. It's all connected, right? Ken Cook: Absolutely. We're constantly metabolizing our whole environment, but you have dedicated your life to trying to understand the role of diet in nutrition and health. And so let's just rewind for a few people. This didn't start for you with COVID. This started, it started with you a long time ago. You've written books about it. You've taught about it. You're at the Cleveland Clinic practicing it and in your private practice just generally, but where did the light bulb go on for you, Mark? When did you decide that the way we've been approaching medicine just isn't quite right? Dr. Mark Hyman: It was in college. I met a bunch of people and moved into a house with a wonderful group of people. And one of them was a PhD student in nutrition and he was very focused on understanding nutrition and health. And he gave me a book called Nutrition Against Disease by Roger Williams, this is back in the seventies. And I was like, whoa, a light bulb went off. And then he gave me a book by Ivan Illich called Medical Nemesis. And I began to start reading about ancient healing systems, about our environmental issues. And that was sort of an era where we worried about nuclear power and nuclear war. And we still should be worried about nuclear war, for sure. So I think we really, for me it was an awakening. And then I began to explore my own diet and nutrition living with them. Dr. Mark Hyman: And we cooked together and ate together. I began to explore yoga. I was a big runner and I became a yoga teacher. So I always sort of had this proclivity to understand health and wellness and wellbeing. And I've been like that my whole life, but it's gotten way more focused as I began to really understand the scope of the acceleration of the destruction of our species. Everybody's worried about the planet and the earth and the environment. Earth's going to be fine. We leave, it's going to reclaim itself, just like with COVID, people went inside and in a few weeks, all the animals are coming back and the fish were coming back and... We put humans on pause, the earth is going to be fine. It's a self cleaning oven. We are not. We are at high risk of extinction and I'm concerned because we are not addressing the root causes, which are both our food system and our toxic system. I don't know what to call it. Our environmental toxic system. Ken Cook: Absolutely. Dr. Mark Hyman: Is there a word for it? Ken Cook: Well, you did leave something out that you didn't mention as part of what turned the light bulb on, which was medical school. Not so much in medical school. Dr. Mark Hyman: Oh God, no. God, no. No, no, no. Ken, I went to medical school knowing I was going to be in a cult and I was going to be indoctrinated and I was going to be brainwashed and then I needed to make sure like a good Navy seal that I knew the techniques to resist the brain washing. I was the weird kid in the class doing yoga in the back and bringing his healthy food to school. And it was a very interesting experience. And I learned it. I did very well. I was able to master the traditional medical model, but I really knew it was just a footnote to what was really true about the way our bodies truly work, which is it's an ecosystem. And when you understand the environment, you understand ecosystems, but in terms of the human body, it's not a bunch of parts that are all stuck together randomly. There are a dynamic, adaptive, complex system that's constantly evolving changing in relation to its environment, to the diet, to environmental toxins, to stress, to our thoughts, our feelings, all of it is really transmuting our biology literally every second. Ken Cook: And that's functional medicine. That's the framework for it. Right? Dr. Mark Hyman: That's right. Ken Cook: And you've been a pioneer in that field. I do want to editorialize a little bit. If there happens to be a Dean of a medical school out there, I hope you're listening now and give them just maybe a semester of nutrition. Would that [crosstalk 00:08:14] to ask? Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, exactly. It's funny. You're right. There really isn't. I'm actually working with a group that's starting a new medical school on how do we develop the right curriculum? And I actually found out from somebody else that the Dean of Stanford medical school follows me on Instagram, but he only follows like 10 people. He doesn't follow a lot of people or something like that. I'm like, that's really interesting. That's really interesting. The light bulbs are going on for people. It's just, people don't know how to get to where they want to get to. Ken Cook: So when you're seeing a patient, what methods do you use? What have been successful techniques in your practice to actually get people to make those very hard changes? Was it Margaret [inaudible 00:09:02] who said, it's harder to get someone to change their diet than it is to change their religion. [crosstalk 00:09:10] I think so, but please don't check it. Dr. Mark Hyman: I'm going to check though. That's a good one. They're about the same, I think. Ken Cook: How do you teach that in the time that you're caring for a patient? Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, when the theory evolution was sort of described by Darwin, one of his contemporaries [inaudible 00:09:31] Huxley said how stupid not to have thought of that. And so I essentially sit down with people and I explain to them the new paradigm. I said, this is how your body works. This is how you can upgrade your health. This is why you are having these symptoms and why you're sick. I'm not like, oh, you have arthritis, take this pill. I'll see you in six months. Or have a migraine? Take this injection or take this, this. I don't do that. I explain to them how their bodies work and get them to be enrolled as a partner with me in their health. They're the CEO of their health. The other key lever for behavior change, and I do that through talking to them, I do that through lab diagnostics. Dr. Mark Hyman: I show them. And when you do a mercury test on someone, you see their mercury is off the chart and they're like, oh, okay. I got to... Or you look at their blood test and they see their insulin level's sky high, and they have all these risk factors for heart disease and stroke. It gets people's attention. But also the other piece of change is I call the love diet. It's essentially the power of community and connection to create change. So I know how to change people's biology. I can reverse diabetes like that. Getting people to not eat the food that's causing diabetes is the hard part. And so the power of our social networks, our community, our friends, that is what really drives behavior change. Dr. Mark Hyman: You're more likely to be overweight if your friends are overweight than if your family is overweight. The social threads that connect us are greater than the genetic threads. And so in that understanding, and we know this is true, this is not just a theory. This is true. And I've demonstrated the Saddleback church where we got 15,000 people to going small groups and lose a quarter of a million pounds together in a year and reverse all sorts of chronic health conditions simply by helping each other and supporting each other and loving each other through the changes that need to happen. Holding each other accountable. Rick Warren says, every body needs a buddy. Every body needs a buddy or getting healthy is a team sport is another way of saying it. Ken Cook: Well, I think that's a theme in the conference. We've heard that from some of our other speakers that the environment you create around you, the social environment you create around you is one of the most powerful drivers. And it's pretty important to success that you try and shape that environment. So do [crosstalk 00:11:55] Dr. Mark Hyman: Listen, if all your friends are smoking and alcoholics, well, guess what? What are you going to be? And if all your friends are drinking green juice and doing yoga well, what are you likely going to be doing? Ken Cook: Exactly right. Exactly right. And so that, it does make all the sense in the world to try and create that environment. So what changes, assuming diet is central to it, but in your practice, what have been some of the sort of keystone changes that patients can make that dramatically improve their health? I suppose everyone must be very different, but what are some of examples? Dr. Mark Hyman: I don't know. I don't know Ken. I just, I think people think it's mysterious and complicated and difficult, and then I'm going to come up with some great new secret, but the truth is actually quite simple. And I just did a group program in Spain with about 60 people and basically it was called Growing a New Body with a friend of mine, we run this program. And it's sort of a health immersion program, but essentially it's a group and food, and then they can do a little yoga and get a massage and like that. But it's basically the food and the group. And in one week we had people fill out a questionnaire of all their symptoms from all diseases. Arthritis, migraines, diarrhea, depression, insomnia, joint pain, whatever. And we had them score at zero to four. And at the end of the week, after six days... After six days, the average score collectively in the group went down by 70%. There's no drug on the planet that can do that. Ken Cook: That's right. Dr. Mark Hyman: So most people do not understand the power of food to create change. And so I'm really basically a cheerleader and a coach, an evangelist to try to convince people, hey, you can do anything for 10 days. Try this and see what happens for two weeks, 10 days, what happens. And then they don't need to listen to me and say, oh, if you do this and this and this you'll get better. [inaudible 00:13:58] oh my God, all these symptoms run away. Oh my God, I feel better. Oh my God, I... And then if they go back to eating the way they did eat, then it comes back and then they can make the connection. So their body is the smartest doctor in the room. Ken Cook: Yeah. Dr. Mark Hyman: So to answer your question, the most radical change comes from diet change. Ken Cook: Yeah. Dr. Mark Hyman: And what happens is that most people don't make enough of a radical change to see a difference. If you're drinking 12 Cokes and you only drink six, might be better for you, but it's not going to change your life. Ken Cook: Yeah, that's right. That makes all the sense in the world. And so a lot of these simple dietary changes are very difficult for people to make, but what do you see when someone feels successful about it? How do they maintain the habit to eat well. Surround themselves when they can with people who are likeminded it's very basic stuff. Right? It's cut back on- Dr. Mark Hyman: It's structural. Ken Cook: Yeah. Dr. Mark Hyman: It's structural. Ken Cook: [crosstalk 00:15:01] for them to follow. Right. [inaudible 00:15:03]. Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, yes. But it's also structural. There's many books written on habit change. Tiny Habits is written by professor at Stanford's, it's really great. Ken Cook: He at our conference. He's one [crosstalk 00:15:16]. ...made the connection. Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. And he's a professor. And I saw him in Hawaii when I was there. And basically he says, look, you have to have the desire. You have to have the ability and you have to have a trigger. So for example, I, this is early on many years ago, I wasn't doing any strength training. I couldn't do a pushup. And I just saw a study that came out that if you can't do 10 pushups, your risk of heart disease is very high. If you can do over 40, then it's a better predictive of your cardiovascular risk than a stress test. So I'm like, well every day I take a shower, I want to do pushups. So my trigger is, and I had the ability to pushups, the trigger is taking a shower. So every morning I turn the shower and it takes about three or four minutes for my shower to heat up. Dr. Mark Hyman: Because it's an old barn. And so I do my pushups and then I get in the shower. But I mean, it's building the structural things around you. So when I go downstairs in the morning, I have every ingredient I want for my smoothie on the counter. It looks a bit messy, but who cares? And that is basically a trigger for me to do the right thing. I make sure that I build into my calendar the things that are important to me. I plan a workout. I plan time with friends. I plan a walk. You have to build the structural things that make it easy. And if you want to go for run and you don't have running shoes, well, you can't go running. So it's that simple really is to build structures and the strategies around you so that it's automatic. But the easy choice is the best choice. Often in our society the easy choice is the worst choice. Ken Cook: Yeah. That makes [crosstalk 00:16:44] that makes a tremendous sense. And BJ did speak to this whole sequence of steps that really can help you embed better behavior, replace a not so healthy habit with a very healthy habit. And it's not magic. The system makes perfect sense. Have you... Go ahead. Dr. Mark Hyman: When you go on vacation, you plan where you're going, you plan your hotel, your flight, you know what you're going to bring, you pack your suitcase. We don't do that for our lives. Right? How do you organize your lives, so that... I knew today, I had a bunch of things. I had a board meeting. I have this thing with you and I knew I wasn't going to get a chance to cook dinner. So last night I cooked double and now I went down and was able to heat it up quickly and have dinner. I had a 15 minute break, which is not ideal, but I was able to actually take care of myself and not have to eat some crap that I couldn't get to or not eat at all or so I'm very focused on how do I build the structural components of my life so that what I need to do for myself that's good for me is automatic. Ken Cook: Makes sense. Dr. Mark Hyman: If you want to brush your teeth, you got to have a toothbrush in the bathroom. Ken Cook: That's right. That's right. So let me ask you the gender question. Why is that- Dr. Mark Hyman: I'm a male. Ken Cook: I know the answer to that, but why is it that men find it so much more difficult, it seems to me anyway, to form these habits of environmental health than women do, or is that not your [crosstalk 00:18:16] Dr. Mark Hyman: I think they're the inferior sex in the species. Ken Cook: Well, yes, there's that. We're starting way behind in the ballgame. That's right. Dr. Mark Hyman: I think women are much more tuned into their bodies, how they feel, what's going on. It's like that Monte Python movie, just a flesh wound, just a flesh wound, and his arm's cut off, and he's just like, oh, it's just a flesh wound. And I think we're... I've experienced, [inaudible 00:18:42] I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm good. I'm good. Unless you're having a heart attack on the floor or something, you're fine. And I think it's a male trait and to just push through and it's unfortunate because we don't actually take care of ourselves and we end up in terrible situations, which could have been easily prevented. Ken Cook: Well, I used to go to my doctor when I lived in DC, a wonderful guy. And if I was a little late for the checkup and I'm late right now for my checkup, by the way. So you can go ahead and wag your finger at me, he used to say, well, when was the last time you missed a checkup for your car? I'm like, I never missed that. I make sure that I get it to the dealer. Right within the window. And he had me right there. Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, yeah. Ken Cook: So tell me a little bit more about functional medicine and tell me a little bit more about what you're doing at the Cleveland Clinic because I think this audience would be super interested in hearing more from you. Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, I think when people think of the environment, they think of our planetary ecosystem and we are part of that ecosystem. We're not a separate organism outside of that ecosystem. We are also, inherently our own biology is an ecosystem. And so when you begin to understand that your body is one interconnected system and that everything you do impacts how it's functions, then you can begin to kind of change the way you live your life through [inaudible 00:20:18] and optimize function. That's what functional medicine's really about. It's about understanding how toxins, how food, how stress, how [inaudible 00:20:26] are microbes, allergens, all impact us. And it basically comes down to two simple questions. What is it that you need to get rid of that's upsetting your system. That's causing an ecosystem, imbalance? Toxin. And there's a list of them. Dr. Mark Hyman: And Environmental Working Group is the leader in the world and- Ken Cook: We got the list. Dr. Mark Hyman: You know way more about it than I do. You got the list. In fact, I just did something about a cleaning home cleaning product company that was talking about the environmental working groups, dirty dozen of household cleaning product toxins, right? So you guys do a great job with that. We have to sort of eliminate the toxins, eliminate the allergens, eliminate the microbes that are out of problem and figure out what's bugging us and get rid of it. And the other question is, what does your body need to thrive? It needs the right nutrients. It needs the right food. It needs the right balance of hormones. It needs sleep. It needs activity, exercise, sleep, restoration, movement, love, connection, meaning, purpose, all those are the ingredients for health. Dr. Mark Hyman: So you take out the bad stuff you put in the good stuff. The body naturally wants to heal. That's all we did in this 60/70 workshop. All we did was take out the bad stuff, put in the good stuff. Got sugar, alcohol, caffeine, processed food, get them eating real whole food. It wasn't that complicated. And it's profound what happens to... Because systems want to repair and heal. I don't know if you saw David Attenborough's latest film about his whole life story and how the environment's changed. At the end, he goes to Chernobyl and this is a place where basically a nuclear reactor went off and contaminating the entire area. And now it's the garden of Eden, right? The human body and the earth are self cleaning organisms that if you provide the right conditions will heal. I don't treat disease. I never do. I create health. As a side effect of creating health, disease and symptoms go away. That's functional medicine. Ken Cook: And so give me a... And we're about at the end of our time, but I just wanted to ask you again a little bit about how as a country we've approached COVID. I mean, I'm just so focused right now on returning to normal, but there's something about what's going on now that's very positive when it comes to getting people to really absorb the vital significance of living a healthy life. Would that it had happened in another way, but the fact is, I think a lot of people have absorbed that lesson. We have a lot of people who aren't taking care of themselves during COVID and we're reading about that all the time, but I also get a sense and we hear this through our channels at EWG, through our social media followers and through email and just contacts that some awakening has happened here as a result of this terrible pandemic. Is that your sense too? Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. I mean, I would say, nobody wants to return to the normal that we had. The normal we had was not good for us. It was a crazy frenetic driven world where nobody had time for anything. And I think people are resisting that. And I think people are resisting working in the same ways and being in the same places and I know I'm doing that for sure. But I do think people are having an incentive that they didn't have to consider their overall health and wellbeing and how they can protect themselves from COVID. And so the message I give people is, you can become COVID resistant. You can make your home, your host, your body, not a very friendly place for COVID. And I guarantee you I've been exposed probably many, many times because I've been out and about. I've not been sick even before a vaccine came on the market. I think it's because I'm very focused on doing all the things that need to do to upgrade my immune system. And I think everybody's thinking about that and asking about it and wanting to learn about it. Ken Cook: Yeah. And I think taking those lessons from a very bad time and holding onto them, if you're taking steps to ensure that you're as healthy as you can be during COVID, so many of those steps will carry over into the post COVID period. May it come as soon as possible, right? Dr. Mark Hyman: For sure. Yeah. I mean, just one simple thing people can do. I mean, a study came out recently that if you're vitamin D level was over 50, that you're of death from COVID was zero. Zero. Zero, you don't get from vaccines or any medication or anything, right? Zero. Now, why don't we have a vitamin D mandate? We should. They should be giving out free to everybody. Super cheap, very safe. Ken Cook: Makes sense. All the sense in the world. Well, doc, thank you for your incredibly generous gift of this time. I hope to see you soon at a board meeting. If we have one in person. We have several coming up on zoom, but I'm such a fan of the way you think about health, the way you think about the practice of medicine by helping people understand what's... That their greatest engine of their own health is their ability to take care of themselves, eat right in all the ways that functional medicine teaches you to live a whole life. Thank you so much for your life's work doing that. And I'm so thrilled you're on our board, buddy. So thanks. We'll see you really soon. Dr. Mark Hyman: Thanks, Ken. All right. Talk soon. Absolutely. Bye bye. Speaker 1: Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week's episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you're looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you're looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit and search their find a practitioner database. It's important that you have someone in your corner who's trained, who's a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.