Nutrition and Lifestyle vs. Medicine – The Best Approach to Your Health Part 2 with Dr. James Chestnut

Content By: Ari Whitten & Dr. James Chestnut

In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. James Chestnut who is a doctor of chiropractic. He holds a bachelor of Physical Education and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology specializing in neuromuscular adaptation. He holds a postgraduate certification in evidence-based chiropractic and lifestyle protocols. He has authored five books including his latest book Live Right for Your Species Type.

In this part, we talk about the common misconceptions about the impact of nutrition and lifestyle on health and why it is much better than common drug treatment for long-term health.

Get 20% off of Dr. Chestnut’s Lifestyle Health Risk Assessment (LHRA) Questionnaire and Report. Use the code energy on checkout.

Table of Contents

In this podcast Dr. Chestnut and I discuss: 

  • How to live right for your species type
  • The illogical approach to human health
  • Are your genes really the main reason for poor health?
  • The role of toxins and nutrient deficiencies in health

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Ari: Okay. Dr. Chestnut, welcome back to part 2. Thank you so much for doing two episodes. I just love your work so much. It’s been a huge influence on me. I have to do at least two episodes, and I suspect hopefully there’ll be more in the future.

Dr. Chestnut: Yes, I’d love to hear a great interviewer.

Live right for your species type

Ari: Your latest book which I read in preparation for this podcast is Live Right for Your Species Type. I had read your four or five other books previously many years ago. Again, as I said before, they had a huge influence on my thinking. I’m deeply, forever grateful for your work because of that. Now I’ve read your new book, it’s much more accessible I think to the general public, and it’s great stuff as always. First of all, the title of your book is Live Right for Your Species Type. What does that mean and how does that mesh with what we were talking about in the first podcast around looking at humans from the perspective of a biologist?

Dr. Chestnut: In biology, that’s biological law is that every species has a certain requirements that are required for the health of that species. They have to eat certain foods, they have to exercise or move around in a certain way, and they have to socially interact or avoid social interaction, depending on the species, in certain ways. That’s all species-specific. Every species on earth, every member of that species has the same genome.

People have probably heard of the human genome. That means that all humans are so genetically similar to each other that you could take any human from today and take a sperm or egg from any human today and match it with a sperm or egg from any human over the last 20,000 years and produce a healthy human offspring. That’s how genetically similar we are.

When sperm and egg meet, the sperm has half the DNA and the egg has half the DNA, that’s what their haploid cells are called. They have half the DNA and they meet and join together. Literally, two half cells from two living things come together and they create a single cell. That is called zygote and that is literally all of the DNA that will ever exist in that human being. Every other cell and that’s one single cell. Human being will eventually have 100 trillion cells.

That’s 100 million, million cells, which, by the way, are dividing by the millions per second throughout the lifetime. You can imagine how many cells are actually produced in a human lifetime. All of the DNA and all of those cells are photocopies of that first cell. That first cell has a genome called the human genome. That human genome means that you are distinctly human.

You don’t come across another species and go, “I wonder if that was human.” Humans are very easily identified as the human species. You don’t come across a giraffe and go, “I wonder if that’s a giraffe.” Every member of every species has the same genome and genome is what determines species. Here’s what the genome has on it. Here’s what all the genes have is DNA. They have all the recipes and the ingredients lists and the cooking instructions for every bit of structure and function that will ever be expressed by any member of that species.

Some people call it the blueprint. I call it the recipe book because if we go further down this analogy, it makes it easier to understand than a blueprint in my opinion. That’s what the genome has on it. It has all of the blueprints for human structure and function. It has all the ingredients lists and that ingredients lists are the things that are required by the genes in your cells in order to make proper structure and function. If you’re missing any of those things or if you’re putting poisons or toxins in, then your cells cannot produce healthy cell function or healthy structure and function.

The reason why it’s so important to live right for your species type is because your species type is determined by your genome, and your genome is what determines what foods you need to eat, how much you need to exercise, and how you need to socially interact with other members of your species. That’s true of all species but especially true in this case of the human species. Once you get that, then what you realize is the reason people are sick is because they’re not living according to what their species requires.

They’re not providing the nutrients that are on the ingredients list of their genes. They’re not moving and providing the fitness or physical movement stimuli nutrients that are required from their genes. They’re not socially interacting or thinking in ways that are required by their genes in order to express a healthy happy life. In biology, if we’re going to save a species that’s endangered, what we know is we have to save the habitat that’s matched to that species, correct, and that’s true of the human species.

If we want to save the human species from all this chronic illness, what we have to do is we have to figure out what is required by that species in terms of eating and moving and thinking, and then we have to get people to match their lifestyle habits with what their genes require to express health.

The illogical approach to human health

Ari: You wrote something in your book that was a couple of sentences that I really liked. You said, “What’s happened to our common sense and logic? If a dog gets sick, we ask what it ate to make it sick. If a child gets sick, we ask what drug we should give the child.” What does that mean? I know this speaks to a lot of what we talked about in part 1, but what do you mean by that? What’s wrong with that?

Dr. Chestnut: Well, I think that because we’ve been brought up in a paradigm that is a health paradigm which is really a sickness paradigm which is all based on the idea that if humans are sick, it’s because they’re defective, and therefore, you need a pill or you need an expert to get you well. We are totally focused on what sickness do I have? What’s the treatment? When we look at animals or plants or like you talked about in the first one with the plant analogy, what we think about is what’s required for that thing to be healthy. See, we’re asking the wrong question. If you just ask a different question, what’s required for a human being to be healthy?

I often do this when I lecture to the lay public, I’ll say, “I would like everybody to write down–” and your audience can do this now, “Just write down five things that you know are required for a human being to be healthy.” What would most people write down, Ari? They’d write down water, they should exercise, they should eat healthy food. Probably some fruits and vegetables in there. They’d probably say they should love themselves and others, they should have some form of social connection. These are all things that I think most people would write down. Would you agree, Ari?

Ari: Absolutely.

Dr. Chestnut: How many people would write down drugs or chemotherapy or surgery? That’s my point. My point is is that if you just ask a different question, what do I need to be well and express health? The answer to those, it’s the same answer as if you’re saying, “What do I need to prevent sickness?” The things that you need to prevent sickness are the things that you need to produce health, because sickness is a lack of health. If your question is, “What am I sick with? How do I treat it?” it’s very hard to produce health from that. Whatever answer you give no matter how correct the answer is.

Whatever answer you give from that question is never going to produce health or prevent sickness, and that’s the paradigm that people operate in. By the way, they apply that almost uniquely to humans, animals – we’re animals, mammals – but they don’t seem to apply that to the rest of biology because humans have been taught from a very early age that they’re not part of biology. I took a lot of biology courses and a lot of physiology courses and I can tell you, you can study the biology– As I’ve said, I was in school a long time. You can study the biology of a single-cell amoeba in the same class as a primate.

If you want to study human physiology or human biology, you go to a different class. You’ll see things like “no animals allowed” in a restaurant and it’s full of humans. You’ll see things like, “This COVID virus jumped from an animal to a human.” Well, that’s jumping from an animal to an animal. By the way, it didn’t, but you get me right?

Ari: Yes.

Dr. Chestnut: We’ve been programmed to see ourselves as separate from nature. As being somehow, humans have a different set of physiological laws or biological laws that apply to the health and sickness of humans than any other species on earth. That’s a lie. Once you realize that if you get that, then what you would do is you would ask the right question. You go, “What do I need to be healthy?” If I’m sick, “What am I not doing that I should be?” or, “What am I doing that I shouldn’t be?”

Very simple questions because as I’ve said, all sickness in all living things is caused by only two things. Toxicities, something toxic is being put into that ecosystem, that’s what humans are, we’re ecosystems of cells, that’s what all living things are, or deficiency. You’re not putting something in that your genome or your cells or your genes require to genetically express healthy structure and function. There’s only two causes to all illnesses and all things. Something toxic is going in or something that you require isn’t going in at all, or not going in at a sufficient amount. That is it. I promise you. By the way, a thought can be negative, trauma can be toxic. When you apply it properly, that rule is a biological law.

Ari: It’s interesting, it’s such an aha moment for me to look at things from this perspective because I realized that I’ve been doing it my whole life since I was a little kid. There are two main reasons why, one is your work, and the other one was before I read your work, when I was a teenager, I got really into aquariums. Just my obsessive nature, I went very quickly from basic freshwater aquariums and then saltwater aquariums, and then I got into live coral reef aquariums, and then because I became so obsessed with it, I started working in a coral reef aquarium shop in San Diego, and basically just studied that stuff.

Those were my two passions, corals and coral reefs in marine biology and human physiology in fitness and bodybuilding. I wasn’t interested in school, I just wanted to study those two topics all the time. I had my own coral reef aquarium, and I could see when corals died, or when fish died, it was for very simple reasons. Those were easily identifiable reasons. Those fish didn’t die and those corals didn’t die when the environmental conditions were optimal. When the lighting was optimal, when the water quality was optimal, when they were being fed the proper diet. If one of those things was off, things would start dying.

I spent years and years and years just tinkering with a natural ecosystem or semi-natural ecosystem, and getting to see and measure how different changes and inputs and if I would be lazy and didn’t take care of changing the water at regular intervals, or if I wasn’t feeding the proper diet to fish, things would start to get sick and die. This for me, was a lesson and exactly what you’re talking about. I think this whole paradigm is actually very simple. Again, the analogy of a houseplant or the analogy you gave in part 1 of fish dying and birds dying in the lake. You don’t set up a hospital and start giving it all the fish and birds drugs.

You look at the environment and try to figure out what’s causing all this illness and correct it at that level. As you say, humans are really bad, circa 2023, at applying this very basic common sense logic to ourselves. That is the big problem.

Dr. Chestnut: Brilliant. What you knew in your aquarium, Ari, intuitively was that healthy meant as natural as possible, mimicking nature as closely as possible. What you were really doing was trying to set up environments that were equivalent to allowing whatever species were living in that aquarium to live right for the species type. You were doing that all your life. You just didn’t have that name to it.

Ari: Exactly.

Dr. Chestnut: Something just dawned on me on what you’re saying, which I think might be helpful to your audience. That is that, when we use the analogies of the plant, or the fish in the Great Lakes, or any species, one of the variables that biologists can remove in terms of the cause of illness in animals, other than human animals, is they don’t assume that they are engaging in suicidal behaviors. They’re not worried that the animals are going and eating hydrogenated fat or sugar or high fructose corn syrup or that they’re going to sit around all day instead of move.

In other words, what they can assume, just like we can assume of our ancestors, is that the animals are not faced, in a healthy environment, they’re not faced with a bunch of unhealthy choices. Their only options are the choices that are congruent with their genome, that represent living right for your species type. They are taught, mammals are taught from a very early age what to eat and what not to eat. Correct? The things not to eat either usually dangerous or they don’t taste good. You know what I mean? They don’t have PhD chemists trying to figure out how to make monkeys want to eat things that will kill them.

Ari: [laughs]

Dr. Chestnut: Right?

Ari: Yes.

Dr. Chestnut: Humans, what we’ve created is we’ve created an environment for ourselves that is absolutely so tempting, that is so far beyond the human genome’s ability of self-control, and to resist temptation, because that’s not how we genetically evolved. We didn’t require huge amounts of self-control when our genome became human because there wasn’t all of these other unhealthy temptations available to us. What we’ve done is based on the idea of profit is we’ve created agriculture and so-called food and so-called entertainment.

We’ve created all of these things in the name of profit that basically are predatory on other humans and rely on the fact that humans don’t have a genetic defense against these temptations. We only have a psychological defense, and that must be developed, we’re not born with it. The skills required to navigate life in the industrial world to live right for your species type are not innate, they’re learned. Even worse, as you’ve alluded to earlier, Ari, is that we are also brainwashed from an early age, and we are taught, and so most people learn the exact opposite of what’s required to be well. They learn to take the pill, they learn to rely on somebody else for their health, they learn that they’re defective.

If they’re sick, you should look inward, not outward to your choices. Imagine putting all that together. If you are an evil person and you wanted to create sickness in a species, and particularly the human species, what you would do is you would create an environment that was so full of unhealthy temptations, and so full of education, to make people make the wrong choice once they’re suffering the consequences of succumbing to those predatory temptations. Just next time you go into the grocery store, or the corner store, pay attention to where the candy is. It’s an eye level for kids, isn’t it? Just pay attention to what’s in the aisles and at the end of the aisle, and just think about how hard it is to find food.

What I consider to be one of my most insightful and perhaps humorous lines is I remember I was speaking to a very large audience in a theater one time and someone put up their hand and said, “Dr. Chestnut, how do you read labels? We’re supposed to read a label.” I simply said, “Well, I’ll tell you what, if it’s got a label on it, it ain’t food.” Everybody laughed for a second, and then everyone went, “You know what? That’s a pretty good rule.”

Ari: [laughs]

Dr. Chestnut: If you think about that, if you only ate things that didn’t have a label on it, I call it the label-free diet, TM, you know what I mean? I should probably write a book. I just don’t have time. Just imagine if you lived a label-free diet, if you ate a label-free diet, how much better would that be?

Ari: Enormously better.

Dr. Chestnut: Enormously. Why? Because it’s a predatory temptation, unhealthy temptation-free diet.

Ari: 100%. In Live Right for Your Species Type in your new book, you talk a lot about genes and genetic expression.

James: Yes.

The state of genetic expression determines the state of health or illness

Ari: One thing you say towards the beginning of the book is the state of genetic expression determines the state of health or illness. Define for people, what is the distinction between the genes that they have versus their genetic expression, and what do you mean by “the state of genetic expression determines the state of health or illness”?

James: Okay. State of health is state of structure and function. If you’re unhealthy, you have unhealthy cells. If you’re healthy, you have healthy cells. What does that mean? It means all the different cells that have– by the way, the cells in your body are all genetically identical, but have very different structure and functions based on which genes in those cells are being expressed, which I’ll get back to in a second. Basically, health is structure and function. If you have healthy structure and function, you’re healthy. If you have sick structure and function, you’re sick. The question is, what determines structure and function?

The thing that determines structure and function– now, what determines what kind of– in other words, the genes that you have determine that you can only express human structure and function. The quality of that structure and function isn’t determined by the genes that you possess, it’s determined by which genes you are expressing. For a long time, when people study genes, they used to wash off this protein coat on the outside so they could look at what they thought was the important part, which was the genes, that double helix, you know that famous double helix of Watson and Crick. What they realized later [chuckles] was what they were washing off was what’s called the epigenome.

The epigenome is this coating that goes around the genes. Now remember, the genes are a recipe book. What the epigenome does is it determines which pages are available to be copied and taken to the kitchen? What the epigenome does is it turns the pages, depending on the configuration of that epigenome, it determines which genes can be expressed. Maybe the best way to explain this very simply, Ari, is to say, we can all agree that all our cells are genetically identical because they’re all copies of that original cell that we had. Every cell in our body.

Imagine this, the cells that make up your teeth are genetically identical to the cells that make up your eyes, which are genetically identical to the cells that make up your heart, which spontaneously depolarize, which are genetically identical to the cells that are in your intestines, that are identical to the ones that are in your pancreas and produce insulin, that are identical to the ones in your bone marrow that produce red blood cells, that are genetically identical to your neurons that produce electricity. If you were to look at cells right under a microscope, and you look at a neuron, you remember, Ari, what a neuron looks like, it’s got that dendrite and all those things, or a heart cell that is depolarized.

If you looked at the different cells of the body under a microscope, not in a million years would you assume that those things are genetically identical because they have such different structure and function. Which proves that the genes that those cells possess do not determine the structure and function which they’re expressing. What determines the structure and function that they’re expressing is which genes they’re expressing at that moment. Eye cells are expressing eye cell function and structure genes. All the rest of those genes are in those cells, but they’re being covered up by that epigenome coat.

If they’re covered up, they cannot be transcribed or copied and taken to the kitchen, which is the ribosomes and the cytoplasm of the cell for people who follow it. If you go to a bone cell, the bone cell has all the genes in there for eye structure and function, but those ones are being covered up by the epigenome and what’s being expressed are the ones for bone cell structure and function. Easy enough to understand?

Ari: Yes.

Dr. Chestnut: What we now know is, what we’ve now proven and the study of epigenetics has now proven beyond any shadow of a doubt is that we know that it’s the genes that you’re expressing that determine your state of structure and function, whether it’s healthy or sick, not the genes you’re possessing. The genes you possess determine that you can only express human structure and function. Whether or not you’re expressing healthy or sick is based on which particular genes you’re expressing, and which particular genes you’re expressing isn’t controlled by which genes you have.

Which page the recipe book is turned to, and therefore, which recipe gets cooked up at the kitchen isn’t controlled by the recipe book. The recipe book is just a passive source of information, but has all the recipes and the ingredients lists in it, and that’s what your genome is. That genome, your genes that you possess have the recipe books, the ingredients lists, but who’s the master chef? The master chef is your organ of self-regulation, your subconscious brain. If you look at these variables that determine health, the genes you possess, obviously because you can’t express one you don’t have, the kitchen itself.

Do you have a good kitchen to bake up these recipes properly to create the proteins and the hormones and all these other things? Do you have a good master chef that knows which recipe to create based on environmental demand? All of those three things, Ari, have been perfected over millennia of natural selection. We don’t have faulty chefs, we don’t have bad recipes, and we don’t have faulty ingredients lists. Correct? All those things are basically constants, so they can’t be the thing that can determine whether you can be healthy and sick. We all know that our health can change throughout our lifetime.

The one thing that is plastic that is not constant is whether or not those ingredients are supplied. The shopper is the thing that determines which genes we express. Which habitat we shop for and which choices we make within that habitat is the only variable that determines health that’s not constant. Correct? Because all the other things are part of the genome. They’re constant. Your genome doesn’t change throughout your lifetime, but the shopper, what foods we eat, how we eat, how we move, how we think, how we socially interact, what environments we choose to live in, that’s the variable that determines our state of genetic expression.

It’s our state of genetic expression that determines our state of structure and function. That’s why I say our physiology, which is our state of structure and function, is the epigenetic expression of our habitat and lifestyle.

The truth about genetic disease

Ari: A couple of small points. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but just to make sense of this for people. There is such a thing as a true genetic disease, for example, down syndrome or something to that effect. It is also the case that certain genes, genetic variants of a particular gene relative to another variant that someone else might have, might increase one’s susceptibility to a particular disease more so than someone else, whether it’s diabetes, breast cancer with the BRCA Gene or the obesity gene or so on and so forth.

We’ve had many decades of media publications around the obesity gene or the breast cancer gene and various other genes that are linked with increased risk of getting a particular disease. Make sense of that piece of the story relative to what you were just talking about.

Dr. Chestnut: Anybody who tells you that you have a gene that makes you more susceptible to something is telling you that it’s not a genetic illness, by definition. A genetic illness, and they exist, there’s about 2%. By the way, that’s across all species. Genetic illnesses do exist, but a genetic illness is defined by very strict criteria. That is if you have the gene, you have the illness. There’s nobody with a genetic illness that doesn’t have the gene that determines that genetic illness. There’s no other variable. If you have down syndrome, if you have an extra 21st chromosome, you have down syndrome, period.

This idea of susceptibility, the only thing you’re genetically susceptible to is health. The way I describe that best, I think is with the hangover gene. The obesity gene is so absurd because who was obese in 1750? Because the human genome has not changed at all. It’s like say, “Well, Hispanic and Black people have more susceptibility to diabetes and obesity.” Well, really, how many people were obese in Africa? How many people were obese in Mexico or Spain? In fact, it’s absurd. Again, it’s just– but the best way to explain that is this. I will explain very downstream illness in a second, how there’s some individuality, but think of this. There’s a hangover gene, which they’ve identified. I always say I must have gotten too.

Ari: [laughs]

Dr. Chestnut: Anyway, if there’s a hangover gene, first of all, that hangover gene would have to be– think about it. Why would there be a hangover gene if human genes evolved before we were consuming alcohol? Put that aside for a second. Let’s say I have the hangover gene. Does that mean I have hangovers all the time?

Ari: Nope.

Dr. Chestnut: No. I would have to expose my ecosystem to alcohol in order to get a hangover. Is that true?

Ari: Yes.

Dr. Chestnut: Is it the gene or is it the alcohol?

Ari: It’s the alcohol.

Dr. Chestnut: Correct. That’s susceptibility argument refuted in two seconds. I will tell you this. First of all, even when they talk about alleles and things, if a particular illness that they are attributing to an allele like this methylation stuff that happens. Well, those alleles have been around for centuries, for actually millennia. The illnesses that people are associating with those things are exponentially increasing. The genetic stockpile the people that they say are to blame for this, those people never had the illnesses 100 years ago that they’re expressing now but they had the alleles. Is it the allele? No. It’s something else going on.

Now let’s go to downstream. Once you understand why people get sick, and if you understand it’s not bad genes or genetic defects or inability to self-regulate, it’s stressors, it’s unhealthy lifestyle, it’s stressors. Once stressors have been around a long time, it becomes very metabolically expensive to be in the stress response all the time and you start to get fatigue. Your pancreas gets tired, you can’t produce as much insulin, you get diabetes. All of these other things start to occur. The inflammation’s been around long time, you get arthritis, you get atherosclerotic changes. Your high blood sugar and your diet and you’ve been sedentary, you start to get obesity.

These things all come from chronic exposure to things that are toxic and deficient. Now, far downstream from all those toxicities and deficiencies that have been around long enough to actually create fatigue and chronic illness way downstream, you may have some individuality of what specific illness you develop. Some people might overeat and eat unhealthy food and do all these things, and they end up with cancer. The other person might end up with diabetes or heart disease, but the things that made them individuals way down the line there are not to blame for why they have heart disease or cancer any more than the person with the hangover should blame the hangover gene.

What’s to blame is all the chronic stress they’ve been under and the poor eating, moving and thinking and not living right for their species type that went on for decades before they develop that end-stage illness. Correct?

Ari: Yes.

Dr. Chestnut: Those end-stage illnesses are not genetically individual illnesses. They all had the common denominator of decades of toxicity and deficiency before you can get a chronic illness. You can’t get those chronic illnesses without that toxicity and deficiency. Therefore, those same people with those same genes, even if five years into their bad lifestyle that was leading to cancer or diabetes or whatever else, even if we changed their lifestyle at that point, them having the same genes, no changes, but if we change their lifestyle, what happens to their chance of those illnesses?

Ari: Goes way down.

Dr. Chestnut: Of course. It’s not the gene. It’s not the genes you’re born with. You’re not defective, ladies and gentlemen. Please understand that. You’re not born defective. What’s defective is your ability to cope with the predatory temptation that our industrial world has allowed to be legal. It’s legal to tempt kids with candy at the store and tell them it’s food. They sell it with the foodstuff. It’s legal to have slot machines and gambling and pornography. These are all legal things that we’ve decided. Drugs and all the other stuff.

The defects are in our behavior and the reasons our behaviors are defective is because we have defective knowledge or we have defective self-control to implement that knowledge into our lives, but knowledge can be overcome with education and defective self-control can be overcome with training and exercises. We all have all the potential we require genetically and even psychologically. We have all the potential we need to be psychologically fit and to make and identify good choices, but we need training because some of the things that we require, remember, we’re the shopper and becoming a good shopper requires education and self-control.

Key deficiencies and toxins

Ari: I have about a million things more that I want to talk to you about. I think we may have to do a part 3 and part 4 to cover them all. [laughter] I want to be selective about what I offer for discussion here in the remainder of time we have allotted, which you’ve generously given in your schedule. In your book you say the three most important variables for determining your health destiny are, number one, knowledge of the human genome determined essential ingredients that you’re responsible to supply. Number two, knowledge of the human genome determined toxins you’re responsible to avoid.

Number three, as you were just speaking to, the self-control and integrity needed to consistently behave according to this knowledge. What are these human genome-determined essential ingredients we have to supply and human genome-determined toxins we are responsible to avoid? How does this link up with your big paradigm, which I have loved for 15 plus years now since I first read your work around deficiencies and toxicities. What are these key deficiencies and toxicities? What is that story all about?

Dr. Chestnut: Our genome evolved, or was created, it doesn’t matter, or a combination of both. Doesn’t really matter to me, but I’m just saying we have this genome and our genome determines what foods we’re supposed to eat. Giraffes have a giraffe diet and if they vary from that diet, they get sick. Water buffalo have a water buffalo diet. If they go away from that diet, they get sick. Humans have the human diet, and if we move away from the human diet, we get sick. What is the human diet? The human diet means we have things that are called essential nutrients, and essential means that they’re required for healthy structure and function, but our bodies can’t make them.

Things like vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids, probiotics. That’s why I created my essential nutrient system. What I said was, there’s two things. One is, if our body requires it, that can’t make it, and two, that we can’t easily get it from a pretty easy dietary change. There are some things that require a lot of work to get, even though we could get them from a diet, but they’re are a lot of work and they’re not really available anymore. There’s some things that our bodies just make, so we shouldn’t take those. Then there are some things that are essential that we really, really require, but are harder to get. Those are worth supplementing. That’s why I created that.

Basically, humans, and again, it doesn’t matter where you live or we don’t all have to eat the same foods, Ari. We all have to get the same nutrients. When we lived in Africa as early humans, when we started moving out of Africa, we required the same nutrients when we were living in the Arctic, but we weren’t going to get our vitamin C from citrus fruit. In the Arctic, we were going to have to eat seal skin where we could take that collagen and make vitamin C out of it. We weren’t going to get our essential fatty acids from wild, big, large, wild game. We were going to get it from eating seal blubber.

What we had to do is humans, through trial and errors, wherever we moved into a new habitat, what we had to figure out was how could we extract the essential nutrients we require from that habitat? That’s what we did or we didn’t survive, period. We got sick. The other thing that’s very essential for humans, that’s eat well, is moving well. That’s eat well those nutrients, but moving well. Moving is an essential nutrient for human beings. Not just our physical bodies, but our brains require movement. Spark by Ratey is one of the best books you could ever read on this. It’s just a fantastic book explaining it.

I use it a lot to explain to chiropractors why they’re having such an impact when they’re getting these joints moving then teach people to go home and keep them moving. Movement is a required nutrient. It’s not just that it keeps you thin. It’s not just that it makes you fit and look good. It’s that literally, we know that if we remove daily exercise from a human being even who’s an Olympic athlete, they immediately start to move towards insulin resistance, bone loss, depression. It’s incredible. You have to see exercise as an essential nutrient to produce healthy structure and function.

It’s a genome requirement that we move a lot all day and we’re supposed to take all of our joints through full range of motion against resistance on a daily basis. That’s really what humans require to express healthy structure and function. Then the other one is think well, and there are essential nutrients that humans require. Humans, because we’re social mammals and we evolved in packs or tribes, we require other humans to be healthy. We require social interaction, we require social acknowledgment that we’re contributing and that we’re valuable.

We require self-esteem, we require gratitude and all of these things that– if you take any social mammal like a wolf or even a dog and you remove it from its ability to interact with other mammals of its species or tribe, it will get sick very quickly. Similarly, if you take a solitary mammal, like a grizzly bear, and make it live with other grizzly bears, it will literally go into this amazing stress response. It will froth at the mouth. It’s incredible. Even when they’re doing it just to catch salmon, they’re so freaked out. Genetically, as humans, we are social mammals and we require love and interaction and we require social acceptance, which is why bullying and hate and these things and division make people sick.

It makes them murderous and angry and depressed and anxious. Division does this. Not being accepted by your fellow humans or feeling like other humans are inferior or superior to you. If we live in a small tribe, you can think that the other tribe’s not as good, but we don’t live in small tribes anymore. We live in giant tribes. You need the acceptance of everyone you consider to be in your tribe, which is basically everybody. These are all essential nutrients that we require. Without those things or if we’re put– so those are the sufficiency, because if deficiency makes you sick, then sufficiency is what’s required to be well. If toxicity makes you sick, then purity is what you need to be well.

The toxins that we need to avoid are toxic foods, toxic movement patterns being sedentary or constant repetitive stress, trauma, toxic thoughts, negative thoughts about ourselves or others, hatred, division. These are all the toxicities that we live with. They could be a toxic thing like getting run over by a car. That’s literally would be described as toxic because it’s so toxic to your body. These are the things that we require, and we require the knowledge of what things our body and ourselves need to express healthy structure and function. We need to know what things we need to be sufficient in, and we need to know which things are toxic to us so we can avoid them.

Then after we have that knowledge, Ari, we have to have the ability and the self-control to apply that knowledge to our daily choices because habits are what determine her health. It’s our habits. Health is based on your habits. Your long-term habits determine your long-term health.

Ari: Elaborate a bit more on this paradigm of deficiencies and toxicities. Just build this out for people so people can really, really get it. Basically, the way that you explain how do we– if I ask you the question, “How do we improve our health and prevent disease and maximize our lifespan, maximize our health span?” what is your simple high-level overview of the answer to that question?

Dr. Chestnut: Eat, move, and think according to your species type. In other words, you have to eat the foods that supply the nutrients your cells need, and you need to avoid the toxic things like high-fructose corn syrup, food additives, the antibiotics they put in the meat, processed carbohydrates. All the things that are toxic to you, you have to avoid because they make you sick. By the way, going back to our discussion in part 1 about the side effects of drugs. The reason drugs have side effects is because they’re toxic. They represent a toxicity. You can never get healthy from a toxicity even if it changes a blood score number or a blood test number. You can’t.

That’s why drugs are by definition toxins, literally by definition. In terms of exercise, if you’re deficient in what your body needs, that’s a stressor. If you’re putting toxic movement stimulation in or not enough like toxic by sedentary or toxic by repetitive stress, that’s a stressor. Your brain literally will go into the stress response. Just like if you eat toxic foods, it causes a stress because your cells aren’t able to operate properly, and your brain detects that as a stressor.

Then it produces inflammation, it produces the high cortisol levels, all these things that are causing you down the road to end up with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, depression, anxiety, infertility, low sex drive, indigestion. All of these things come from chronic toxicity and deficiency that turn into the physiological stress response that turn into risk factors that turn into chronic disease that kill you.

Ari: Going to be careful with my last couple questions here because I know we got to go soon. I’m hoping you’ll do a part 3 with me.

Dr. Chestnut: Sure. I’d love to.

Ari: I’ll make your time worthwhile, I promise.

Dr. Chestnut: It’s always worthwhile. This is great. You’re like me, I’m sure, Ari, is that this is so important to you, and so part of who you are, that the idea of having a venue that more people who might not hear it could hear it, is not a burden. It’s a privilege. I do appreciate the interview. You never have to worry about the time, and if I have to reschedule because I had a certain slot, that’s fine, but I’m always grateful to be able to share what I am so passionate about as I’m sure you are.

Shifting the health paradigm

Ari: Beautiful. Yes, absolutely, 100%. If I can briefly summarize everything that we’ve talked about, it would be essentially, we’ve established that humans don’t get disease and illness as a result of drug deficiencies and having screwed up genetics, and instead, this is a result of toxicities and deficiencies at the lifestyle level. We are not living according to our species type and providing the optimal inputs at the environment and lifestyle level for our biology, for our genetics to express in a healthy way that naturally innately is designed to create health and ward off disease or prevent disease. Is that a good way of summarizing?

Dr. Chestnut: Brilliant. Yes, very, very good. [laughs]

Ari: In terms of the health care side of this, this is a fundamental shift away from a sickness care paradigm, of essentially waiting for people to get a disease that then we could diagnose them with and then using a drug or a surgical intervention, most often a drug intervention, to try to fix their disease, which, as you’ve explained so far, doesn’t work very well.

It’s a shift away from that paradigm towards a paradigm of health optimization, and working with the innate intelligence of the human organism in the way that a biologist would if they were examining our species, what does this species need to express optimal health, how do we create those conditions, which is an amazingly simple and obvious way of looking at things and yet is shockingly uncommon. I know a million people even in the natural health space, even extraordinarily high IQ doctors of various kinds in the natural health space, the functional medicine movement, who just don’t seem to look at things in this way, and it’s mind-blowing that they don’t.

Dr. Chestnut: It’s not an intelligence issue, it’s a paradigm issue. That’s the key. It’s the lens through which they’re seeing and some of their fundamental foundational beliefs are wrong, but that’s not because they’re not smart. It’s because they believe the wrong thing.

Ari: That’s right.

Dr. Chestnut: They’re members of the flat Earth society, but they got a PhD in flat Earth.

Ari: You just reminded me of a quote from Paul Chek.

Dr. Chestnut: You were talking about generalist.

Ari: He described what’s going on culturally in this increased tendency towards specialization in academia and among clinicians and in healthcare, and he said, “People know more and more about less and less until the point where they know absolutely everything about nothing.”

Dr. Chestnut: Yes, 100%.

Ari: I thought that’s just such a brilliant way to describe–

Dr. Chestnut: Well, they know everything about one thing.

Ari: Yes, exactly.

Dr. Chestnut: Life isn’t one thing. We’re incredibly complex ecosystems of 100 trillion cells with the most complex systems you can imagine, and so knowing one thing is almost useless. You might know a lot about one thing, but illness is never caused by one thing, unless you’re standing beside a nuclear bomb. You know what I mean? It’s just illnesses is very complicated because it’s so multifactorial, but health is really simple. Health is simple, sickness is complicated.

Ari: In your book, you describe a need for a transition in how we view healthcare, again, away from this sickness care towards health optimization, those are my words, not yours, and the types of practitioners we see. You use the analogy of fire departments versus maintenance contractors. Explain that for people.

Dr. Chestnut: It’s funny because as you were leading up to this, I’m thinking, “Man, I hope I have time to do my fire department analogy.” [laughter] We’re on the same page. Anyway, I always use the analogy of medicine is like the fire department. People like you and I, who are into wellness and lifestyle, we are the health maintenance contractors. You can imagine that if your house is on fire, who should you call? Well, you would call the fire department. When the fire department gets there, what tools do they have? They have axes and fire hoses, drugs, and surgery. What they’ll do, they’ll come. Your house is on fire.

They’ll smash into your walls, they’ll break down all your windows, they’ll kick down your door. They’ll come inside your house. They’ll axe and break into your walls where there’s any smoldering flames, and they’ll spray your house down, and they’ll completely put out the fire. Then they leave, and what’s left? What’s left is a house which is in disarray. It’s not a healthy house, but the fire is out, so you can be grateful for that. Now that your house is in this disarray, who would you call back to get your house back to health? Would you call back the fire department for more axes and fire hoses, drugs and surgeries? Of course not. You would have to call somebody who’s a specialist in getting the house well.

The problem we have is, the fire department has a monopoly of all the media, of all the health care spending, of all the research dollars and all they say is, “We need more axes and more fire hoses.” All the research has to be on to get better and more axes and fire hose. We need more fire departments. We need more fire men. We need more doctors, more nurses, more hospitals, more fire departments, more drugs, more surgeries, more accessible fire hoses because fires are deadly. We say, “Well yes, but axes and fire hoses can’t prevent a fire.” Well, that’s not relevant because your wellness and maintenance things can’t put out a fire. We will say, “We’re not trying to put out fires.”

What we’re trying to say is if you use our stuff first, you don’t get a fire at least at vastly reduced risk. We’re not claiming we put out fires. They’re saying, “Yes, but do you know how many fires there are? You know how dangerous fires are? We need more money to put out more fires. There’s fires all the time.” We’re saying, “Yes, but the reason there’s more fires is because people are unsafe in their houses. They’re cooking on campfires in the bloody kitchen the way they eat, move, and think. They’re living these incredibly dangerous lifestyles for their house or their body.”

They’re saying, “It doesn’t matter. Look how many fires are there. There’s this much heart disease, this much cancer, this much diabetes, we need more money to study fires.” We’re saying, “Stop treating fires.” By the way, why would anybody want to use a fire department to make a healthy house? The fire department basically says, “Well, we can make the wellness contractors look impotent. If they’re standing around and there’s a fire and we demand from them evidence that they can put out fires, we can show that they’re not real scientific healthcare practitioners.” Who looks impotent once the fire is out or when you’re trying to prevent a fire. If you are there with your contractor materials and you’re putting healthy boards in and you’re painting it like all the eat move think and all the purities and sufficiencies, and you’re doing all that kind of stuff who’s impotent now? If you’re standing around with an accident or fire hose? Who now feels useless about what they can contribute to wellness and prevention? The problem is what medicine does because of the pharmaceutical lobby and remember the people who sell all the access in fire hoses and build all the fire departments or the hospitals, the drugs and surgeries, are the richest corporations in the world, and they own the media.

They’re trying to convince everybody to be scared of fires and to think about how dangerous a fire is and how they want a treatment to put it out. Instead of thinking about wait a minute, how do I prevent fires? What do I do after the fire to get better? What they’re doing is they’re basically paying the fire department to come and spray their house down regularly. The truth is the fire department can show with randomized controlled trials that if you spray that house down once a week you’ll never get a fire. Problem is what’s the side effect? Your house rots. All of these drug studies prove that you’ll lower the cholesterol, you’ll lower everything else. The problem is you have side effects. What do we know?

You’re really sick, your chances of using more drugs later are greater. Your quality of life goes down and your lifespan is not improved. Why would you use that system? What we need is a fire department that’s around, just in case there’s a fire. We need to have a system that’s in place to make fires rare, exceedingly rare. That’s what lifestyle can do. We don’t get any of the funding, we don’t get any of the respect. There’s no shows on television about lifestyle. Maybe some of these shows like The Biggest Loser whatever, but they’re never seen as interventions. They’re seen as reality TV.

Then you look every– there’s how many shows are there sponsored by pharmaceutical companies that are about doctors or hospitals or emergency care, because they want the focus to be there. The reality is what we know for sure is that if you really want to make a difference in the quality of life, in the happiness quotient and the actual health status of a population, the answer is not more drugs and surgery. It’s better eating, moving, and thinking. That is unequivocally true

Ari: For everybody listening. I want to say just on a personal note as I emphasized in part 1, Dr. Chestnut is probably the single most important thinker as far as health teacher out there and in my own personal life. I want you to tag these two podcasts as two of the most important podcasts that I’ve ever done as far as you grasping the basic most essential paradigm to understand your own health from. Dr. Chestnut, I want to insist, not that I can insist, but I almost want to insist here that we do a part 3, a part 4, if you’re open to it what you have to teach is so important, and I would love to share this with as many people as possible and delve into much greater specifics.

I still have a long list of questions that we didn’t get to. In the meantime, are there any final words you want to leave people with and also tell people where they can follow your work and get your products, learn more from you?

Dr. Chestnut: Sure. They could go to I would recommend that at the very least they sign up for the free newsletters. They don’t have to buy anything, but all the supplements are there. The essential nutrient system is available there. At the very least this– I’m pumping out this information all the time, and I do highly recommend they get the book. It’s a great resource for the rest of their life.

Ari: Agreed.

Dr. Chestnut: Your genes aren’t going to change, so everything that’s in there isn’t going to change. [laughs] I guess to end I would, first of all, I’d like to thank you for I’ve done a lot of interviews, Ari, and I’d have to say these are the best questions, so thought out and led me in a really good direction so that we could ex– I think people to both these interviews and I’m very happy to do some more. I think they’ve got exactly what I would’ve wanted them to get. I thank you for your skillset and for your kind words. Thank you for that. That always makes me feel great.

Dr. Chestnut’s top three tools for leveling up health

Ari: The fact that I’m inviting you on for a part 3 and a part 4 is the highest compliment I could possibly–

Dr. Chestnut: Oh, thank you. Well, I accept that as a compliment and I appreciate it. If I could leave your audience with something, it would be this. Number one, just understand that you are a genetic superstar. That you would not be here unless you’re all of your ancestors survived. Meaning that your genes have been naturally selected over time. You’re not genetically defective or weak, that you live in a society that makes it hard to develop the knowledge and skills in terms of self-control and integrity required to know what the good choices are and to consistently make those choices. It’s really hard if you haven’t– It’s not hardened because you lack potential, it’s hard because you’ve lacked the education.

When you go down this road and I’m sure the people listening to your podcast are getting really good information all the time. Once you go down this road if you continue to maybe to get those newsletters from, what’s going to happen is your paradigm will shift like ours has, Ari. Once you get that, the light comes on and you start to make these better choices and learn the knowledge and skills you require, which you’re all capable of doing. This is grade 2 level stuff. Honestly, it’s not complicated. Maybe there’s a few fancy words here and there and how we explain it. Remember, our ancestors were way healthier than we were and they didn’t know what a cell was.

They didn’t know any of this. They just were taught how to eat, move, and think. The one thing that we have now that is not passed on from generation to generation, the reason why we see our elderly as almost obsolete rather than as the highest valued members of our culture, which was always the case with humans until recently, is because we have now been convinced, fraudulently convinced to look outside of our family as experts of how we should eat, move, and think, and how to live a good life. That knowledge was taken away from them, and it was put into the hands of people who wanted to sell it back to us.

The reality is the reason the elderly were so important in culture is because they had a lifetime of accumulation of teaching people how to live a great life. Those things don’t change with time. How to use a cell phone or whatever these things that rapidly change with culture. The thing that does not change with culture, that’s the same today as it was 20,000 years ago, is what humans need to eat, move, and think in order to express health and happiness. Become those parents to your kids and become those kids to your parents so that we can take this all back to ourselves where it belongs, and pass this very simple, easily acquired knowledge on and skillset on so that we can take our health back.

Ari: Beautiful. I love it. Dr. Chestnut, thank you so much for coming on. I look forward to our next conversation.

Dr. Chestnut: Thanks, Ari. Me too.

Show Notes

00:00 – Intro
00:29 – Guest Intro
02:52 – Live right for your species type
08:14 – The illogical approach to human health
21:10 – The state of genetic expression determines the state of health or illness
27:44 – The truth about genetic disease
35:04 – Key deficiencies and toxins
45:31 – Shifting the health paradigm
56:00 – Dr. Chestnut’s top three tools for leveling up health 


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