Discover Your Inner Ecosystem with Donna Gates
Jonathan: Hey everyone. Jonathan Bailor here with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. I’m very, very, very excited about today’s show. We have a guest – just a wonderful woman – who, in some ways, was a bit like she could see into the future because this woman was saying things which are “trendy” now. She was saying these things decades ago and actually explaining the science behind why they are true decades ago and has since helped to heal and treat the root biological causes rather than just throwing medication at symptoms for tens of thousands of people for decades.
She is the proprietor of BodyEcology.com. She is also the author of The Body Ecology Diet. She is also the author of a book called The Guide to Growing Younger, which is another wonderful resource. We have none other than the Donna Gates on the show today. Donna, welcome!
Donna: Thank you, Jonathan. I’m just really happy to be here and I want you to know I love your website and your name, The Science of Being Slim. It’s so cool.
Jonathan: Thank you so much, Donna. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show because core to your work is this distinction that the body is a hugely complicated and interconnected system and it doesn’t mean that health has to be complicated, but it does mean that a focus on root causes, a focus on treating the entire system rather than just throwing drugs at it is so critical and you’ve been doing this for decades. Can you tell us a little bit about your story?
Donna: Well, I was sick myself. I think a lot of people get into this field because they aren’t well and I wanted to find answers for myself. But I guess now looking back over all this time, there’s always a bit of destiny or fate to what we are doing and we don’t even know it maybe. I like to teach. That’s another kind of natural trait that I have is if I learn something, I want other people to know it if I think it’s useful. I’m much happier if I get a chance to teach people, so I’d learn and then I’d teach and then I’d learn and I’d teach.
Actually when I met Dr. William Crook, I learned that there was something called a yeast infection and I knew for sure that I was one of those millions of women that had this problem, but there were really no answers. I like to find answers, so I started this long intensive search that i’m still on today really, and finding answers for candidiasis. It’s such a huge problem and really everybody has it. Today babies are born with it and this has been going on for a couple of decades now, so we’ve got a couple of generations of people with systemic yeast infections from their whole life on.
Body Ecology was first put together for people with systemic yeast problems because I understood the condition and how serious it was and how critical it was to eat right. So you have to be in a gluten-free, casein-free, and sugar-free diet and every time I would look at other types, for example, when I started stepping into the raw food community and taking a look at what was going on there and trying to begin to teach people who were into raw food about the importance of fermented foods I could see there was so much sugar that people eat when they’re raw that they think it’s legal because it’s raw.
When I started working with autistic children years ago, I went to see the booths where we’d go to a conference and there would be all these booths with all these cookies and breads and pancake mixes and things like that that the parents could buy supposedly for their kids because they were gluten-free but they were loaded with sugar and bad fats and everything and I thought, “Oh my gosh, there is so much teaching to do!”
I do actually have the ability to see into the future. I appreciate your seeing that Jonathan. Even today of course I’m still looking way, way, way ahead and I know that we’re in big, big, big trouble. Our children are really a huge concern for me. The autism is just trying to be a wake-up call for us. It’s a sign that this generation is probably going to be the last generation where very few of them are going to be able to reproduce. We’re going to be looking at a time where having a healthy baby becomes rare and precious and we’re going to put a lot of care and attention into bringing children into the world that are healthy.
I think what’s going to happen then is we’ve made so many mistakes for so long and we’re in a time right now where we’re very clear about those mistakes. Now we have to start cleaning up the mess and creating a world here where we can finally be healthy again and where babies can be born. That’s always my vision. Every single day I wake up with that intention. That there will be a world – I’m going to help create it where babies are born and there’s only healthy available. We don’t even have bad junk anymore.
Jonathan: Well we share that vision for sure Donna. I want to spend the rest of our time together if you don’t mind, really in two parts because I love this. Truly, in 1994, you were talking about stevia. I’m like, “Oh, stevia’s the hot new thing today” – 20 years later.
Donna: Well, I bred stevia here. It’s here because of me. There was the green leaf that was available but nobody liked that. I knew you can’t say to people “Don’t have sugar” without giving them something that tastes good to replace it. So I had heard that the Japanese had stevia, this extract that they were using in Japan just commercially. It wasn’t really available in Japan. I got it and brought it in and started selling it when it was illegal to do that. So it was sort of like selling drugs I guess, except this one was a really, really good one. I had a lot of wonderful doctors – Robert Atkins, Julian Whitaker and Andy Weil also were onto it and they helped me get it out there into the world and then eventually the ban was lifted as a dietary supplement.
Now of course it’s fully approved as a sweetener but it’s very safe and there’s different quality of stevia out there. We’ve always had a very delicious-tasting one but some people unfortunately have bad stevia experiences. In those days we had NutraSweet and Equal – that was it. The world has now opened up to much better choices, so we’re on the right track now. That’s what I feel like I have my role a lot of times to be a catalyst just to help us get on the right track.
Jonathan: Speaking of getting on the right track, the other area that I wanted to get your take on because this was again, you were there decades before potentially even — it’s definitely not the mainstream but it’s becoming more mainstream – and that is the importance of gut health. With a lot of the Paleo and ancestral movement and a lot of people talk about Robb Wolf and, “Oh, its gut health.” You’ve been talking about gut health for literally decades. So the question I want to ask you Donna is what do you like about the modern discussion involving gut health and where do you think we may have veered off track?
Donna: Well it is the hot topic in functional medicine. By the way there are doctors called functional medicine doctors and they’re the only doctor you want to find your way to. They’re in a whole enlightened class and they study the gut all the time. There’re some specialists just among them and study the gut, so it’s amazing how much we know. Our old-timers – people of hundreds of years ago – said that disease begins in the gut so obviously health begins there too. Today we have the science behind that and it’s just more true than ever.
What comes through our body, this digestive tract that runs through the middle of our body is our interaction with the outside world and there’s literally a one-cell-thick layer between us and the outside world. We eat food from the outside world. We bring it into our body. It’s got to get into the inside of our body – into the blood and into the organs – and there is one little layer that’s there guiding and protecting us and all this bacteria are right there too to protect us. So we’re beginning to understand the importance of this gut bacteria and what it’s doing.
Years ago yes I started digging out of obscure research, at that time, to find out why these bacteria are inside of us and what they are doing. There are just so many absolutely essential things. Today there’s thousands and thousands and thousands of studies, sometimes just on one bacteria in particular. The drug companies can see that this is the future. Antibiotics don’t work. The way of the future is to have this healthy gut with all these good healthy bacteria in us and on us – on our skin and inside our body, inside the digestive tract. That’s going to be the new medicine of the future. It’s a really, really exciting thing.
That, and the fact that we have this amazing study now of understanding of our genes and the important genes. There are certain genes that are specifically related to diets it’s called nutritional genomics where we’re looking at our genes and the genes say, “Well can I handle saturated fat or not? Can I handle olive oil or not?” So I’m really, really excited that finally we have answers like this available to us so that we’ll stop arguing with each other about what’s the best diet. We’ll stop doing that completely and what we’ll start saying is, “Okay, I’m a very unique person. What is the right diet for me genetically?” That never changes. Once you get that done at some point in your life, for the rest of your life you know exactly what foods you can and cannot put into your body.
Of course you’ve got to digest those foods and that’s where the healthy gut comes in that’s so very, very critical and having fermented foods in your diet. You don’t have to be a scientist. You can just simply eat fermented foods and the most amazing thing happens because nature — looking at a head of cabbage, for example, there are these very sophisticated symbiotic relationships of these bacteria on this head of cabbage and some yeast too, good yeast. You shred that up and pack it in a jar and then wait a week and then start eating it.
You’re bringing all that wisdom of nature into your body to start protecting you and they make all kinds of vitamins for you, they help you digest your food, they help keep the inside of you clean so that the whole rest of your body stays clean, all your cells stay clean. It’s just awesome what some of the simplest things that we can do. Like just simply eating fermented cabbage for example, can do for our wellbeing. I’m really excited about – like you said in the very beginning, Jonathan, the science of the body is extraordinarily complex but as you study that, you find out that it always comes back to the exact same thing.
You can look at the complexity of our genes and then it comes right back down to what we put in our body, either expresses those genes or silences them. So you might even hear that there are genes for diabetes, like I have. I have never a fear in the world that I’ll ever, ever have that problem because I have control over that by what I put in my body. After a while I’ll never express those genes and then after a while, they’re not even passed on to the next generation, so we can get rid of those problems. That’s where we really need to go.
Jonathan: Donna that is such a profound distinction because so often again this is still in the mainstream, there’s this belief that a calorie is a calorie and it’s just about calorie minimization or reducing calories and that myth is this whole critical aspect of food quality. One of the things you talked about with genetic sensitivities is we all know people that may have a nut allergy and we tend to only think of there are people that have allergies and if they eat this, they die.
That’s maybe over-stating but we’re also beginning to realize and I think it is just so empowering for people is that while you may not have that level of intolerance for certain substances, it goes way beyond the calories. Certain “foods” are literally not tolerated by some people’s bodies in any quantity. That is such an empowering bit of information.
Donna: Well one of the things to, there are certain foods because we can look at hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of tests for example, gene tests and note that not a single person that anyone’s ever seen so far can do a high-carb diet. Not a high-carb diet. Another thing I inherited unfortunately is the inability to make enough GABA, so I actually take GABA. GABA is an amino acid that your brain makes some to use in the brain and your body makes some and it’s a really important amino acid.
Most people don’t realize this but new research shows that GABA is very important for regulating blood sugar, so you can become diabetic with low levels of GABA. So here I have two strikes against me. I have inherited the genes to be a diabetic and then this issue with not making enough GABA. So I take GABA as a supplement because we can do that now we have all these great supplements. The thing is I happen to be in a category of people that do need a small amount of carbohydrates every single day or I’ll stop sleeping. I started noticing this in myself and in other people because I do a lot of consultations and I see nobody’s sleeping anymore.
Then I start looking into why. Sometimes, very often it has a lot to do with women’s hormones, for women in particular. But this other issue is they were often on a really high-protein diet. They were on a high-protein diet because they were avoiding sugar because they were trying to bring their yeast infection under control. Which is a good thing to do in the beginning but the quinoa and millets – they are seeds and they’re high in protein but they are grain-like in the sense that they have the calming quality that grains have and rich in B vitamins and magnesium, for example.
So when you eat them particularly for your last meal of the day, what we recommend in Body Ecology is that you have your animal protein between 11 and 2 – that’s the best time through the day for the body. Some people need a couple of small animal-protein meals during the day, but then let dinner be a vegetarian meal with these grain-like seeds in them and you’ll notice that you’ll sleep better, you will make more GABA and more serotonin. You need these to make healthy levels of serotonin or brain chemicals and dopamine even and then you also need both the thyroid and the adrenals need a small amount of these to work properly.
But the same thing you can’t go the other way either and drop the protein altogether because those same organs, the thyroid and the adrenals they need a little bit of protein. They thrive best on a little bit of animal protein. Of course you can be 100% vegetarian. Let’s say that’s your religion and you have to be then you can compensate for that. But the ideal would be to have a small amount of animal protein even as a broth. It doesn’t have to be much but it has to be enough.
Animal protein has a grounding quality and when people give it up they will get weaker and more spacey, the brain needs the animal protein so you will get spacey and you can tell that in somebody who is a vegan for a long period of time. They’re so sweet and so loving and just their heart is full of love. But try to carry on a complex conversation with them, they can’t go there. Their brain is not going to make it.
Jonathan: Donna what I really love about what you’re bringing up here is again, I think some listeners may hear this and hopefully they don’t think this because they’ve heard other podcasts but they might think, “Oh my gosh! Donna just recommended quinoa and the Smarter Science of Slim does not recommend grains.” Actually I was speaking with Dr. Daniel Amen a few weeks back, whom I’m a big fan of and he made this wonderful point which was, there is a reason there’s eight thousand different diets out there because there’s eight thousand different types of people out there.
Again so much time on the internet is spent with this person saying, “No this one way of eating is right and perfect for everyone in all circumstances” and then this person says, “Well no it’s not. Here’s an example of where it’s not true.” We just go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Donna: You can keep pulling up the science to prove either point. The real science to pull up there is you, your genes.
Jonathan: Exactly. That is the bottom line. I recently got a question on Facebook where people were talking about this new — someone somewhere is making a scientific case that sugar is actually therapeutic and that you should avoid green vegetables. Rather than getting into a scientific debate which is, I don’t even think worth it for something as ludicrous as that but that’s my personal opinion. That if you think that might work try it.
If you have some weird genetic mutation where that actually works for you, that’s awesome. But if it doesn’t and it won’t for most people, then don’t and let yourself be the arbiter of what is or isn’t the right thing to put in your body.
Donna: Well Jonathan, you’re young and you’re handsome but as people get older, they still have this thing called a mirror that they have to look into. If you want to not like the way you look in the mirror, eat sugar and put yourself through a lot of stress and that is the best recipe I know out there for aging quickly and aging badly like you’ll look awful, you’ll feel awful. Then you see these other people that are fifty, sixty, seventy old and they have all this energy and they’re happy.
Nobody likes to see yourself aging but at least you look and say, “Okay I’m aging pretty well for somebody who’s sixty or seventy years old.” That’s really where we’re going right now. It’s really a potential for people and if they’re going to be stubborn like that and argue for sugar, then let them because obviously they don’t mind going down that track and experiencing life that way. I have no intention of living the rest of my life like that.
Jonathan: Donna the analogy I like to use which again really hits home to what we’re talking about here, is an– that’s not the right word. It’s maybe an analogy between happiness and between health, where to say that this is how to be happy. Like every single person should follow these steps and they will be happy. Certainly there’s guidelines and there are principles. If you’re mean to people and you’re ungrateful, you will probably be less happy than if you’re nice to people and you’re very grateful. In fact, that’s been demonstrated scientifically.
But there is no book, there is no program that will literally say for every person on the planet if you follow these steps exactly, you will be happy because our psychology is unique, our genes are unique. I believe the same thing applies to our health. Of course there’s principles, of course vegetables are better for you than processed garbage. Yeah, that’s true, without question. But we’ve got to customize, like you just said there, anyone who is following the Smarter Science of Slim, if for some reason your sleep is worse and you try this approach that Donna is recommending and you get better results, by all means do that because the key is pragmatism. Does it work in real life or not?
Donna: There’s not much science behind blood type. I met Dr. Peter D’Adamo, who wrote the book, Eat Right For Your Blood Type. I met his father thirty five years ago and learned about blood type and I was really intrigued by it for one thing, I was blood type A and James the father, was A and he knew a lot about As. So all that time, many years now, I’ve been asking people, “What’s your blood type?” They call me for a consultation and they call me because their child has autism and I say, “What’s your blood type? What’s your son’s blood type?”
So I have as you can imagine vast amount of experience getting answers from people and I’ll tell you I know there’s something to blood type when I started working with autistic children. I was the one who discovered that 8 out of 10 of them are blood type A. That tells me a lot right away about who I’m working with. The person who really thrives on a Paleo diet is somebody who is blood type O. They have more testosterone in their body naturally, they’re more muscular naturally and their bodies are simpler in a lot of ways. It’s easier to maintain a body if your blood type is O.
If you’re an A it’s a whole different story because As early in life begin to have trouble digesting protein so they become protein-malnourished. This is something I figured out by connecting a bunch of research dots but they had done research on these children in Africa and they were protein-malnourished. What they noticed is their cortisol levels went up. So when you’re protein-deficient or protein-malnourished and you might say, “Well, that’s not me because I eat protein every day.” That has nothing to do with it. You’re eating all this protein, but are you really digesting it? Is it really breaking down? Is it getting into your cells and giving your cells the amino acids that it needs?
So if you’re protein-malnourished your cortisol levels will always be high. What happens when cortisol goes up? Well, you’ll always have this kind of chattering, busy mind and you’re a little bit kind of, anxiety, I’d say is the right word and then when cortisol’s up your sugar’s always going to be much higher, you’re always going to be estrogen-dominant. So what happens is– very, very often, I can identify an A because they’re not as muscular because now they’re not absorbing protein so they’re more mushy and they’re more estrogen-dominant.
So the problem isn’t that they’re an A versus an O the problem really is they don’t digest protein well. They need very little of it, but they’ve got to digest it and they’ve got to find sources like we have a green drink called Vitality SuperGreen and another fermented strip, Super Spirulina, and they’re super-potent ways to get protein into your body immediately. So that’s what you’ve got to start looking for other ways to get protein other than animal protein because those people need the protein for sure but they need to get it in ways that are real easy for them to digest. Then what happens is they catch up on their protein.
You can tell somebody a lot of times, [Unintelligible 23:46]. I have ridges on my fingernails, longitudinal ridges that go from where your finger grows out to the tip. If you can feel your fingernails and they’re kind of rough then you know that you’re protein-malnourished. Even if you’re eating a lot of protein, you’re protein-malnourished. This whole issue of protein, no matter what I look at detoxification or whatever I look at I see people are looking at it in such a child-like, immature, naïve level.
We have to keep looking deeper, deeper, deeper to find the truth about something and the truth about protein is we all need it and animal protein is very strengthening and it does help raise testosterone levels. If I were the head of this country and I were going to build an army of soldiers I’d test them all and make sure they were blood type O and then I’d feed them a lot of animal protein and I would never give them any carbs and I’d send them off to war and I’d win the war. Hopefully there are no wars to fight if I were really in the role but anyway, we totally make ourselves by what we eat. The issue is always a little more complex, more interesting than we tend to be looking at it.
Jonathan: Absolutely, Donna. I think really, truly, folks if there’s one thing you take away from this podcast, even this morning, I was checking the Facebook page and we recently had a show where there was some talk about eggs and dairy and blah blah blah and someone was like, “I’m so confused.” One of the bits of good news is that if you feel confused about nutrition there’s a very easy way to ameliorate your confusion. If what you’re doing makes you feel bad and compromises your health it’s not the right way for you to eat.
If what you’re doing makes you feel good and furthers your health and important health markers, then it is good for you to eat. It does not matter what you read on the internet, it does not matter what you heard on the subway, what matters is how it actually works in your body. Right Donna?
Donna: So if you’re in a high-protein diet and that’s working for you that’s right for you. There are a couple of things I would add to that. One is a lot of times people don’t think they can eat something because they’re really not digesting it. So we’re really into teaching people how to prepare their food properly. Let’s take eggs, for example. I love for people to eat eggs because they’re really good for the brain, really good for the sexual organ system, and the thyroid especially. So if you make your eggs like a really simple recipe — Lately I’ve been giving people these little silicone PoachPods.
Opening up like three or four egg yolks – this is what I teach them to do – and get rid of most of the white and put the yolk into the pod and then put three or four yolks in there and then put it in a giant pot of water and put a lid on and just cook it so that it cooks over the top, but actually inside, the yolk is still runny. Those eggs are super, super easy to digest like that. The more you cook that protein, every one of those people that scramble your eggs and you scramble them until they’re done and then you leave them in this hot pan and you set them over to the side to get really, really overly super-done, then you’re not going to digest them.
So, how you prepare the food is really critical. I’ve heard this from people for years – some people say, “I can’t eat eggs unless I eat them with cultured vegetables but as soon as I eat them with the fermented vegetables I digest them just fine.” That’s another thing. Always try to eat something fermented with your meal because the fermented foods are fantastic digestive aids. Some people just don’t digest, they don’t have enough stomach acid and that’s where using digestive enzymes are really a must for those people.
They need the protein, they just aren’t digesting it and so now it hurts. When they eat it stays in their stomach and it makes them feel bad. Like don’t give up and say, “Oh, I can’t eat animal protein” when your body really does still need it. Just figure out why it’s not digesting it. Very often, it is the digestion and the way the food is prepared.
Jonathan: I love it Donna, I love it. Literally we are just scratching the surface with you here Donna because you’ve been doing this for a long, long time. Folks, we’ll definitely have Donna back on the show, but in the meantime there is again levels of what you should be eating, customized to you, how that interacts with your genes and how that interacts with your genetic expression, how that interacts with your gut. The good news is while that might seem complicated as Donna alluded to there is an element of simplicity there because once you figure that out and there’s great starting points, there’s actually some pretty key common denominators.
You might need to flick a few switches back and forth but this is something that once you’ve cracked, you’re good for the rest of your life. So it’s just like once you get your degree you’ve got your degree and you’re good so we’ll just put that investment in up-front. It’s the same kind of thing. So please check out Donna’s work. She’s got a wonderful website at BodyEcology.com. She’s of course got her wonderful book The Body Ecology Diet, and her other book, The Guide to Growing Younger. Donna, you have another book coming out pretty soon. Correct?
Donna: Yeah on detoxification. I can’t wait to get that one out there because I think, once again this is a subject that people are looking at from a very shallow, naïve point of view and it’s a really important topic to understand. We live in a very toxic time and our bodies are not very efficient. As a matter of fact the genes show 60% of Caucasians are quite poor at detoxification. Some people, 15% of us on the planet, 15% of us actually bind to heavy metals and toxins we don’t let them out at all. So it’s a fascinating subject. I can’t wait to have this book out for people.
Jonathan: Donna, I really, really appreciate you doing that and I would say for maybe the takeaway for this podcast is appreciate the complexity that is your body but understand that there’s a pretty simple path to achieving the right diet for you and that that right diet for you is so important. Please don’t be confused because if you’re confused I think the only reason you’re confused is because you’ve been fed this message which is a marketing message that there is the right answer.
There isn’t. There is only your right answer. That’s why it seems confusing because if you’re looking outside of yourself or for someone else to tell you the perfect thing for you that is going to be confusing. If you turn inward it becomes a lot simpler.
Donna: One of the things that I think all of us out there trying to change this whole paradigm so that we can have healthy available all the time – that I would say we all agree on – is carbs really aren’t good for you. The genes show that very clearly. No one can do a high-carb diet. The only thing too that I’m glad that is starting to come to light though is this issue around saturated fat. Some people can take saturated fat but it should be raw like, raw butter versus cooked or pasteurized milk and butter and so on and some people can’t take fat at all.
But one thing you’ve really got to watch out is for example, if you’re making nice broth, put the broth in the refrigerator, wait till the fat comes to the top and skim all that saturated fat off of there because that tears up the gut lining and there’s a lot of research that shows that. You might say we can prove anything with research, but that’s really clear what it’s doing to the gut lining. You can see it tearing up the gut lining and destroying the V line and everything like gluten does. The gluten that we eat today is not the original gluten that man had. If you feel like you have to have gluten, you go and order Einkorn. You can actually get Einkorn today, but it’s the ancient wheat.
All the wheat that’s available to us today has been genetically modified and it’s a very bad poison for the gut. So it’s all about protecting the gut. Growing this fantastic garden there by eating these great fermented foods and then digesting things while chewing well and so on. We always teach about food combining and I think food combining is really important too because our bodies are not meant to digest these super-complex meals with bacon and eggs and toast and orange juice and a bowl of cereal with milk on top. All that stuff is just horrible for the poor digestive tract to try to make its way through and digest. The simpler the meals are the better they are too. Simple, simple meals.
Jonathan: I love it. I love it, Donna, and it certainly sounds like a great aspect to these common denominators. If it’s this packaged, processed, unnatural, that which consists of 40-60% of the typical Western diet, you can take it to the bank that’s not helping you. So there you go. Start there and you’ll be making wonderful progress. Right Donna?
Donna: That’s a given.
Jonathan: Well Donna, thank you so much for joining us today. Folks like I said, please do check out Donna’s wonderful website at BodyEcology.com. Check out her book, The Body Ecology Diet, and also her book, The Guide to Growing Younger. Donna, thank you again for joining us.
Donna: Thank you, Jonathan. Thank you for the work you do in the world too. It’s great to have young people like you coming along changing this paradigm. So thank you.
Jonathan: My pleasure. Listeners thank you for joining us. Remember, this week and every week after – you can eat more and exercise less and actually feel and live a heck of a lot better as long as you do it smarter. Talk with you soon!
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