If you’ve never heard of Dr. Steven R. Gundry, he was a successful heart surgeon for 30 years who, after working with a patient that he thought was a “hopeless case,” stepped up to the challenge. He worked with the patient to reverse negative health symptoms by combining natural dietary nutrients and, to make a long story short, felt his conclusions were so beneficial that he created Gundry MD.
Since 2004, Dr. Gundry has studied the body’s microbiome and developed Holobiotic principles to essentially help us avoid ending up on the operating table by simply eating the right thing at the right time. In 2008, the surgeon wrote Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution to give us the chance to learn his eating plan from afar because his patient waitlist is up to six months long.
Does Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution sound like a dream, or is it too good to be true? Let’s dig in.
Before I delve into the Holobiotic Principle, you’ll need a quick backstory on how bacteria work in your body. Whether we want to admit it or not, as human beings, we’re full of good and bad bacteria, both inside and out. Trillions of bacteria, in fact. And while I grew up thinking that all bacteria were harmful and the thought of trillions of bacteria all over me gave me a case of the willies, it turns out that we actually need bacteria in our bodies. But, it’s the good kind of bacteria we need to help our body systems thrive, and it’s these beneficial microbes that keep our gut in check.
When the beneficial microbes don’t get the nutrition they need due to environmental and dietary issues, the bad bacteria that are also in our gut can overload our system and cause inflammation. And according to Dr. Gundry, it’s that internal inflammation that is the underlier of diseases in the body.
The Holobiotic Principle is Dr. Gundry’s means to get people healthy without the aid of surgery. The principle includes both diet and lifestyle choices to support good body microbes. Essentially, by making the beneficial microbes dominate, we bring the ratio back into balance, keeping our inflammation down. According to Gundry, the easiest way to do it is by eliminating lectins, aka plant proteins.
Okay, now that our microbiology lesson is out of the way, let’s get into the diet itself.
Lectins are naturally found in dairy, grains, and nightshades, including:
Grains, Nuts, & Seeds: peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
Dairy: Milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream
Nightshades: Peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes
Additionally, the doctor advises against eating fruits that are out of season and conventionally-raised meats.
With the diet evolution, what can we eat? Food with low-lectin includes nuts, seeds, pasture-raised meat, leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower. Additionally, avocado, fish caught in the wild, and olive oil are still on the menu.
In a word, yes. Dr. Gundry is a huge proponent of a ketogenic diet in his most recent book, Unlocking the Keto Code: The Revolutionary New Science of Keto That Offers More Benefits Without Deprivation, or one that restricts carbohydrates, causing the body to burn fat for the fuel it needs. Ketosis makes the body naturally lose weight and increases energy, both good reasons to stay on this style of diet, especially for women who have trouble keeping the extra pounds off.
But Gundry feels we have a traditional keto diet wrong. I have to delve into a thing called “mitochondrial uncoupling” to tell you why. His take is that we do need some carbs to have enough ketones called polyphenols in our bodies to unlock the process of mitochondrial coupling. And once we have them, let the uncoupling and weight shedding begin.
While you can use the diet without buying anything special, Dr. Gundry has an entire line of supplements, most of which are not FDA-approved (note: that is very common for supplements) and food offerings.
One particularly of note, “Lectin Shield,” works to protect your body from a pile-up of lectins by neutralizing them and promoting full-body comfort, according to the official website. But the supplements are not cheap by any means: a bottle of Lectin Shield will cost you around $80.
While many seeds and nuts are off the table in this diet, here are my final takeaways. Many Diet Evolution users believe in the doctor’s way of systemically treating their bodies, both by what they eat and how their health is.
Personally, I feel that following a standard keto diet that doesn’t require expensive supplements is a better option for all of us. After all, eating in moderation, exercising, and drinking plenty of water is never a bad idea.