Episode 32: Start Balancing Your Mycobiome in 24 Hours
For the last 40+ years, our resident researcher, Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum, has been one of the leading scientists studying the microbiome. But what about the mycobiome? In his long career, he’s published over 400 papers and has been cited over 20,000 times by other scientists. Additionally, he was the scientist to name the mycobiome for the fungal communities in our bodies, and he's been funded by the NIH for over 20 years.
In 2016, following his groundbreaking research that showed bacteria and fungi work together in our gut’s microbiome, he discovered that within 24 hours, it's possible to remake your mycobiome, setting yourself on the fast track to weight loss, better digestion, improved health, and more energy.
On this show, he talks with Andrea about his new book, Total Gut Balance, and dives into the diet he’s developed that promises to balance the fungi in your gut, leading to a resolution of digestive issues, such as bloating, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome.
To learn more about Dr. Ghannoum, including how to pre-order his book with bonuses, head to https://drmicrobiome.com/order. The book releases December 24th.
On this show, you’ll learn:
- The Mycobiome Diet (1:54)
- How fungal communities can be shifted in hours, while bacterial can take years (3:39)
- The trial results seen in the lab (4:37)
- Dr. Ghannoum’s new upcoming book (8:33)
- How balancing your gut balances your body as a whole (13:02)
- What resistant starch is and why it’s so important (15:04)
- What inspired Dr. Ghannoum to publish this book now? (17:22)
- The impact of stress on your diet and wellbeing (21:23)
- Dr. Ghannoum’s new 8-week course (26:05)
- Some pre-order bonuses for his new book which comes out December 24th (28:50)
Andrea Wien: Welcome to a new episode of the Microbiome Report, powered by BIOHM Health. I'm Andrea Wien, and today we're talking to Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum. He was recently called the leading microbiome researcher in the world by the Washington Post, and you would know him as our resident scientist on the show. He's the creator of the mycobiome diet and the author of the new book, Total Gut Balance, which we're going to talk about today.
Dr. Ghannoum is also the leading researcher who discovered the mycobiome and named the mycobiome, standing for the fungal community in our bodies. He's the Professor and Director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. In his years of work, he's published over 450 peer-reviewed articles relating to the microbiome and has received over $25 million in NIH funding. He's also the creator of Biohm, the first probiotic that balances bacteria and fungi in the gut.
We're so excited to be able to share his newest project with you. On this show, we talk about some of the concepts in the book that people might not be familiar with. These are things like biofilms or resistant starches. We also talk about what inspired him to write this book and the clinical research he did to put this diet through the ringer, to make sure that it has proven results. This diet has been shown to help people lose weight, increase their energy, and overall just achieve better optimal health. If you're someone who's been struggling with digestive issues, looking to get a handle on your gut health, or just looking for better health in general, this is an episode you don't want to miss. Enjoy the show.
Dr. Ghannoum, welcome back to the show.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Oh, thank you, Andrea, for having me.
Andrea Wien: You recently came out with a new diet plan. It's called the mycobiome diet. Can you tell everyone what the diet is and how it is different from other diets that they may have seen?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Sure. The mycobiome diet, which we just came up with, is a new way of eating for gut health, that specifically targets fungi and its nature for rapid change. As well as the beneficial bacteria whose job is to keep the fungi under control. So basically, we look at the total microbial community. We focus on fungi, but we don't forget the bacteria community as well.
Really this microbiome diet when we designed it, we wanted to take the best elements from the paleo, low carb diet, vegetarian and Mediterranean diet, while leaving the elements in those diets that have been shown to have adverse activity or proven to increase pathogenic fungi, as well as decrease the bacteria which live in our gut.
This diet, the intention of it in addition is not just a best of all diets approach, but it's also specifically formulated to optimize the fungal population as well as the beneficial bacteria. Thereby, as I mentioned, improve our overall microbiome balance, and as a result of that, we are going to have a better overall health.
Andrea Wien: Now you mentioned rapid change is something that we can do with this diet in terms of the fungal colonies that are living in the gut. I don't think that this is something that many people understand that we can really shift the fungal communities pretty quickly within 24 hours, but the bacterial communities sometimes take years. Right?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Absolutely. What's really so interesting about this is that the fungal community, as you mentioned, it easily can change. There was a study published by Dr. Hoffman where they showed that we are able to change our fungal community on a short term diet, whereas the bacteria you need a long term diet. So anyway, we can shift your fungi in your gut to be better for your health [inaudible 00:00:04:10]. And by doing this, we are really aiding and helping the beneficial bacteria as well, as they take their time to become more optimized.
Andrea Wien: What I think is so exciting about this is because you have a science background and you are a researcher, you were able to put this diet through a clinical trial. So it's not just, you went out, this worked for you, maybe a couple of your friends, but you really saw results in the lab. Can you talk about those trials?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Sure. That's really what was exciting as you mentioned, because when we designed the trial, I always like to know, does this trial work because as you mentioned I am scientist, I need the proof, and to see whether this diet is going to help us balance our overall gut, both bacteria and fungi, as well as really what's the end product, which is important, is improve our digestive symptoms so that we feel better.
We designed a study where we had people enrolled in the study, a four week diet. The participant went into the participating, enjoying the food we described in the mycobiome diet. But before they started, we took a sample, fecal sample, from them or stool sample at baseline. And then when they finished, we also took a stool sample so that we can see number one, are we able, really scientifically, to change the microbiome, both bacteria and fungi, towards the better.
At the same time, we took questions from them at the very beginning about their gastrointestinal symptoms, their weight, what type of lifestyle they have, so that we will see whether at the end, sticking to this diet helped them with respect to other symptoms not directly related, for example, to their digestive system. And to our surprise, when we did this, we showed that at the end, we were able to change the both, bacteria and fungi, from the pathogenic ones. Like for example, we had higher levels of candida, at the end of the diet, it started to go down. Also, we started to see an increase in beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus, bifidobacterium, roseburia. And these are very important to have more of them, which that's what we saw at the end of the trial, because these will be able to control not only the pathogenic fungus, but also can create some compounds that can improve our mood, can also reduce other symptoms, which people have usually.
Andrea Wien: So even though these bacterial communities take longer, when we change the fungal communities, it started to influence those bacteria communities to shift towards a more positive balance, right?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Yes, absolutely. So what's so interesting about the cause, as we mentioned before, we are able to change the fungi very fast. By changing them, the profile of the fungal organisms living in us, we are reducing their number so that we have more beneficial one, which will help us. But at the same time, when you reduce the level or the abundance of the fungi which is pathogenic, what you are doing, you are giving the chance for the good bacteria, such as lactobacillus, to grow. The studies have shown that if you have too much candida, it keeps the good ones under control. So by reducing it rapidly, in other words, by reducing the level of the pathogenic fungi rapidly, we are giving the chance for the bacteria, the good ones, to start growing and really making a very good contribution to our gut health.
Andrea Wien: Now you've been studying this for over 40 years, the interactions of the microbiome, the mycobiome, the gut, gut health in general. And so you've put this diet into a book. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and what's in it? What's it called?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: We really were very excited to put all this information together and we titled Total Gut Balance. And this book, the significance of this book is that while everyone had been focused on the bacteria in their gut, they completely missed the fact that is a whole ecosystem of fungi that not only lives in the gut, it works intimately with bacteria to control your gut health in both positive and negative way. So in this book, what we wanted to do is that really address both bacteria and fungi. So it is the first total approach to balancing both of these communities. And what's important about this, by following the diet and successful management of this bacteria and fungi in your gut, it is very crucial because it's going to allow you to eradicate unwanted gut symptoms, including inflammation and indigestion and other symptoms, which really we don't want to have, such as boating for example.
So what we did in this book, we really wanted to do the following. Number one, we selected diet or foods that are able to limit the growth of the fungi, at the same time, supporting the growth of beneficial organisms, both bacteria, as well as there are some good fungus such as Saccharomyces, for example, we need to increase. The other aim also is to try to control what we call a digestive biofilm or digestive plaque. It's like the plaque in our teeth. Our studies have shown that the pathogen, they can, in our gut, they can come together and they form a plaque, but in our digestive track. And that is not really helpful to us because it's thought to cause damage to our gut lining. Because of this, we selected also certain food that we get rid of this digestive plaque and allow you to have better nutrient absorption, less inflammation, and also to recover the gut lining. Finally, in the diet, we also included food such as cruciferous vegetables that are high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidants, so that you will have a better immune system and less and less inflammation.
Andrea Wien: And cruciferous veggies of course, are things like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, so things that people can find at their grocery store. This diet certainly isn't meant to be restrictive, right? There's plenty of foods on this plan. People can feel like they're eating well, as well as feeding their gut.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: This is really very important point, and when we were designing the trial, because as you know, if we tried to be so restrictive any diet, people can stick with it one or two weeks and then they say "I had enough." We designed this diet to be flexible and customizable. You can change it so that it fits what type of food you eat, provided you select diet food elements, such as resistant starch, such as plant proteins and others like that, because then you will be able to stick to this diet and have it as way of lifestyle, rather than I'll start a diet and after two weeks, I had enough and I go back to eating what I shouldn't be eating.
Andrea Wien: Of course. And what I thought was so empowering was looking at the results and the testimonials from people who were in the clinical trial. They really one, felt like the diet was sustainable, like they could do it forever. And they got even some of their family and friends on board. That was some of the feedback that even my husband or my wife felt like this was able to be maintained. And then secondarily, it didn't really matter what people were dealing with in terms of GI issues, energy, skin issues, or even weight loss. But it also works across everything because when we're balancing our gut, we're balancing the body as a whole.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: That's absolutely true. And that really was one of the pleasing things when we finished the trial, we took exit questionnaire and comments of the people who participated in the trial. They specifically, like one person was talking about, after doing the diet, she craved sugar that really went away by the end of the four week period, which was very, very pleasing to us. Another person say she had the fourth week was when I really started to feel a difference. By then, she said that her gastrointestinal symptoms were improving, her energy levels were up and overall was feeling better than she had for few months. This was really very pleasing because she stated that she noticed a dramatic improvement in addition to what I mentioned in her fatigue symptoms, and she tended to have more energy. So such testimony made me very happy because clearly, not only we are able to change the microbiome diet to balance it, you are having better digestive issues, more energy, less cravings. And really, what another important factor was, we saw that within four week period of the diet, the participants lost up to four pounds of weight.
Andrea Wien: Wow. That's very impressive. Just in four weeks. So a pound a week just eating in a way that's really nourishing the body and helping with the gut. Now you mentioned biofilms, which people who have listened to the podcast are familiar with, because we've talked about them on the show before. But there are some other in the book and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. So I took a look through it. Something like resistant starch, that's not a term that many people have heard before. Can you talk about what resistant starch is and why it's so important in this?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Yes, certainly. First, resistant starch, I know people don't hear about, but we all eat when you eat [inaudible] towards unripe bananas. If you are eating barley. All of that has what we call resistant starch. So what is resistant starch? There are different carbohydrates, which are our body, when we eat, we consume. There are the simpler carbohydrate, like simple sugar. When you eat it, these break down in our intestine, we add some energy and some of it, if we eat too much of it, it starts to change into fats. And that's where obesity happens.
However, the resistant starch is what we call indigestible. In other words, our intestine does not break them down, but when they reach to the colon, where there are the microbes or the microbiota, they love this resistant starch. They can break it down and as a result, they can grow, but also it allows them to produce beneficial ingredients or small compounds, such as short chain fatty acids, which help not only our gut digestive health, but also it helps our immune system. So resistant starch are the carbohydrates that are not broken down by us as humans, but by the microbes that live in our gut. And these are very, very important to rebalancing our gut.
Andrea Wien: The Microbiome Report is brought to you by BIOHM Health. Want to take action to improve your gut, but don't know where to start? Take the first step with BIOHM's Gut Report. You'll receive a full measurement of the bacteria and fungi in your gut, as well as actionable recommendations on exactly how to optimize your gut health from BIOHM's team of microbiome trained nutritionists.
This book has really been a culmination of all of your years of research, your work throughout the years with different researchers on your team and outside of your team. But what inspired you to write this book? Why now? Why did you feel like this book needed to be written now?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: This is really very, very good question because a lot of the time, as a professor and a scientist, I live like a lot of academicians in my ivory tower, where we do experiments, we do discoveries. But these discoveries really does not go to the people. It is not translated. What really inspired me with this, when we published our work with Crohn's disease, people start reaching out to me, telling me, "What can I do to adjust the balance of the bacteria and fungi in our gut and my gut so that I will feel better again?" And that's where I said the way to do it is let's put a diet that have been shown to basically rebalance and maintain the microbiome structure.
The main thing about this is I thought this is, in a way, a practical way that if anybody, any ordinary person, can follow and they can start feeling better. So as a professor, I feel I was very lucky to take my discoveries, as I mentioned from the ivory tower where I'm starting to help people, and now make it so strong and so pleasing that people now contacting me and telling me, "Oh, I feel great on this diet." This is what I have noticed. And as I mentioned, some people who talk about their cravings for sugar, it became less. They slept better, their night sweat went. So all in all, this is what inspired me to really put this book together.
Andrea Wien: Yeah, and I think it would be helpful just to give one example of something so people realize how easy this can be. For example, what are some of the foods that are best for busting up these biofilms or digestive plaque as you talked about?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: We pointed a few types of food. For example, garlic is great. Apple cider vinegar is really fantastic also to break down the digestive plaque, as well as coconut oil and other essential oils like olive oil, for example, is fantastic to do a good job in breaking down these digestive biofilms. And as we mentioned, by breaking these digestive biofilms formed by the pathogens or those organisms that can cause damage to our gut, you are going to recover, have better also nutrient absorption. In fact, I published a paper recently where I showed, by breaking down this biofilm, we were able to have better absorption of vitamin C as well as the protein casein. So you can see how this is a critical step for us to have a better health by choosing the right food, as we mentioned. I love garlic. I would say again, even though I mentioned it, because it really proves to be a fantastic element, especially fresh garlic that's going to help you in many, many ways, including busting the biofilm.
Andrea Wien: Now we've talked a lot about the diet, but this book is also about lifestyle, right? And I think something that was so interesting when I was looking through the clinical results was that you had a woman that was on the diet. She was eating perfectly. All of her foods were ideal, but she was still experiencing GI issues. And when you went back and looked at that intake questionnaire that you did with everyone at the beginning of the trial, you saw that she had incredibly high levels of stress. So talk a bit about the impact of stress and these lifestyle choices that we're making and how they can really undermine a healthy diet, if that's what we're going for.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: I think this is really very critical because people think sometimes if I eat well, I'm going to be fine and all my issues is going to go. However, the studies have shown that in addition to diet, our lifestyle could also impact our microbiome, both bacteria and fungi. And that's why in the book, I wrote a chapter where I addressed lifestyles. And what I mean by lifestyles, one of them, the good example you mentioned about stress. This lady, as you mentioned, was eating perfectly well. And when we discovered that she has this high level of stress, which impacting her gut microbiome, we said, we recommended that, listen, you need to do some meditation. You need to do yoga because these are going to play a role in reducing the stress. And as you know, stress is really everywhere. We all work very hard. A lady work during the day, then she has to go home, take care of the kids and cook. And all of this brings stress to all of us. So that's why one of the lifestyle that I recommend is that we need to reduce the stress.
Another thing is about exercise. I know everybody talks about, "Oh, you should exercise, you should exercise." This is critical because studies have shown, if you don't exercise, you are going to have an imbalanced microbiota. Both bacteria and fungi are going to be out of whack. Okay? That's why it's very critical that you adopt a lifestyle that you do some exercise. You don't have to be extreme sportsman. No, just be moderate, maybe at least three times, or even better, five times a week, half an hour of exercise would be great. I tell you, I wake up in the morning. And even though sometimes I say, "Oh, I don't want to do it," by the way I push myself and I go, I have an elliptical machine and my basement and I do my half an hour after stretching, a little bit of yoga movements.
And it sets me up for the day. I am so happy because everything becomes very sharp. And your mind actually, you feel your mind, it becomes more active. So exercise, moderately is great. If you can't exercise, like elliptical or treadmill, then go for walks. It's very critical to go for walks because that's also exercise. So these are couple of things which are very important. The other thing which I also recommend is that we need to have a better sleep. These days, we are so distracted with our phones all the time, the phone with you. I see my son all the time, his phone with him. You cannot sleep. Now when I go home, I take my phone, at seven o'clock, I put it in my office. I don't want to see the phone. I don't want to respond to anybody. And believe it or not, this improves my ability to sleep better. So these are some of the recommendations that people should follow in addition to having a good mycobiome diet.
Andrea Wien: Yeah, I think it's so important to have this well-rounded approach because it really is not one aspect like we're talking about, it's the whole thing needs to be in line. And again, it's all about progress, not perfection. So no one's going to get this book and then the next day do everything perfectly. But as long as we're moving towards these goals, we'll start to see results.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Absolutely, absolutely. That's why in the book also, I recommend when we just ease into the diet. Sometimes you are eating all certain type of food and you want to change to a more healthier food. It may be difficult for your body, even if you take some fibers at the beginning. By increasing a lot of fiber, you may start to have bloating. So try to ease in, into the diet. After the one week, if you feel your body adjusted to it, then you can continue. If not, take another week to ease into it. But then you will be set to follow this for a very long time and feel much, much better, I hope.
Andrea Wien: Now, in addition to the book, you've also launched a course that helps people implement this diet and lifestyle and connect with a community who's going through all of this at the same time. Can you talk about that course?
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Yes. We have an eight week course, which really thought this will be an easy way for people to start to implement the new way of life, both with the diet, as well as with the lifestyle. And this will have, as you mentioned community, where if you have questions, you have dieticians, which will be available to you to help you. And a lot of the time, if you have questions you can reach out. And what's nice also that we have videos, we have different podcasts, which again, addresses certain important aspects to really give you a hand in implementing this new diet with ease. And hopefully, you become successfully balanced microbiome, both bacteria and fungi, and start to feel the benefit on a personal level.
Andrea Wien: Yeah. I think this is something that's so critical. So many of my clients come to me and they say, "I'm the only one in my family that is behind this change. I know I need to make a change," and they go home and their family doesn't want to change their diet, or they don't want to implement any of these lifestyle changes. So to have a community of people who are going through this with you, or even if you do have someone or a family member at home that is supportive of this, just having that community is invaluable. And then having, like you said, the nutritionists on staff to be able to answer questions as they arise, I know there's going to be a Facebook community. So all of these things are really setting someone up for success for the long-term.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: And really you can learn about this in Drmicrobiome.com, where you can see all the good stuff that we have that can allow you to follow good tips, good directions, as well as the most important thing, having a community that understand you and work with you and help each other. Because we all do better when we have our community interacting together and helping each other, because you feel you are not alone, I have people who are like me and people who will help me.
Andrea Wien: That's so great. Yeah. And I know your book drops in only a few days. It's December 19th when this show comes out and it's coming out in December 24th. So if people are listening today, they can go to totalgutbalancebook.com and pre-order the book, and they will get some bonuses, some pre-order bonuses for doing that. And then the book will ship to them on Christmas Eve. So that's so exciting. Total Gut Balance book. I think there's 15 of your favorite recipes on there is what I saw. And then also a gut healing plan for getting started on this before the book arrives.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Absolutely. That's really going to be, as you said, 15 different recipes, very nice instruction how to do them. At the same time, you will enjoy it. Why? Because you would have a background on why should I do this? And suddenly you have the tools also to do that.
Andrea Wien: Dr. Ghannoum, thank you so much. Congratulations on the launch of the book and the course. And we will, of course, talk to you soon.
Dr. Mahmoud Ghannoum: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me, Andrea. It's always a pleasure
Andrea Wien: As always. Thank you so much for tuning in. To check out Dr. Ghannoum's book, don't forget to go to totalgutbook.com. It drops December 24th. So if you're looking for some last minute holiday gifts, we've got you covered. Until next time, I'm Andrea Wien.
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