In this podcast, I am speaking with Roland Pankewich—the CEO of Health Optimization Practice in Canada—about how your gut may be behind your symptoms, and his top tips to restore gut health.
In this podcast, Roland will cover:
- The digestive process itself and how we ensure each step is optimal
- Why the gut is linked with brain health, obesity, autoimmune conditions, and chronic fatigue
- Why your symptoms (like fatigue, brain fog, sleep problems, fibromyalgia, etc.) may be caused by gut problems (Even if you have no gut symptoms)
- The gut-immune system (And what imbalances it)
- The critical role of short-chain fatty acids and their metabolic roles
- Roland’s thoughts on controversial gut-related topics like SIBO, food intolerance tests, candida, probiotics and more
- Why some probiotics may do more harm than good
- 5 tips to dramatically restore gut health
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How to Restore Gut Health To Boost Energy Levels and Eliminate Your Symptoms with Roland Pankewich – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten and today I have with me for the second time, my good friend, Roland Pankewich.
Roland is the CEO of Health Optimization Practice in Canada where he’s opened up the first Health Optimization Practice clinic. His background in clinical nutrition and functional medicine gives him a wide scope of theoretical understanding on the topics of biochemistry as well as practical applications relevant to client care for his clinical practice.
In addition to working with health-focused clients and athletes, he also consults for supplement companies like Microbiome labs and Designs for Health as an educator and content creator to support clinical practitioners all over the country who want to upgrade the caliber of their client care. I’ll also mention that he’s the protege of Dr. Ted Achacoso, who is an anti-aging and world-renowned endocrinology expert, who’s been on the podcast two times and has had a couple of extremely popular podcast episodes.
Roland has also been on previously where we discussed the gut-mitochondria link and that was one of the most popular episodes of all time. Hence why I’m having him on for the second time. So, welcome back to the show, my friend.
Roland Pankewich: Hey Man, thank you very much for having me back. I get to match Ted. We’re two for two now.
Ari Whitten: Yes.
Roland Pankewich: [inaudible] finally.
Ari Whitten: Exactly. It’s a race to who can get on my show for the third time.
Roland Pankewich: How much does it cost? What’s your price?
Ari Whitten: So, we’re going to be talking more about the gut here. We talked all about the Gut-Mitochondria link last time, which turned into a great conversation. People loved it. I got amazing feedback from my community and we wanted to dig a little deeper into gut-related topics on this one. I want to let you kind of give a broad overview of the gastrointestinal tract and what that system does for us and why it’s so, important. so, kind of give like the 30,000-foot view of that whole system of the body and why it’s so, significant and why we’re doing this podcast.
Roland Pankewich: Sure. I appreciate the opportunity and thank you to all the listeners and the viewers last time with all the positive feedback, I want to give them more of a deeper understanding. So, a couple things can happen.
One, they may be able to identify with some of their own conditions or experiences that they may be currently going through, but also give them a greater understanding of what needs to be known in order to try to optimize… Cause that’s my thing. Optimize their own GI health.
So, 30,000-foot view. What everyone knows is that’s where we eat, digest and process food and absorb nutrients. But to look inside the digestive system, I think an important perspective is to look at it as actually the last line of defense of the outside of our body. Reason being, is it’s the last physical structure between the inside of our body, our cells, our circulatory system, our lymphatic system, anything that gets inside the body, essentially if it can’t penetrate through the skin or through an opening somewhere in the body, it has to go through the gut.
So, every greatest opportunity to help optimize our health, maintain what’s meant to be there and to help, I guess carry out things that are not meant to get into general circulation or to enter cells and organs. We have a connection to our gut, a neurological axis. So, aspects of the GI system regulate brain function. We have the principle site of our immune system in all the numbers are theoretical, but some say between 65 and 75% of all immune cells exist within our GI system itself.
The gut is made up of different organs. We have; our mouth, our esophagus, our stomach, small intestine, large intestine, which all play independent but interconnected roles in terms of how they contribute to our health and wellbeing. And then we have what’s called a postnatal organ. We have trillions of gut microbes that live in there along with fungus, yeast, parasites, protozoa, things of that nature.
So, there’s an entire ecosystem within our gut that has its own characteristics. Its own behavioral patterns, its own Circadian Rhythm.
If you’re looking at this whole thing from a 30,000 foot, it’s the coordinated dance between all of those variables that regulate our health or contribute to the development of imbalances, syndromes, diseases. And sometimes disease is not even directly connected with the gut, which we’ll get into. Things like metabolic disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, which from a symptom perspective they show up elsewhere in the body. But the strongest connection would actually be what’s going on from that 30,000-foot view, like the satellite perspective. Then going down to the microscopic level of looking at individual strains of bacteria, inflammatory cytokines, things of that nature.
Symptoms of poor gut health – which are not shown as gut issues
Ari Whitten: I think that’s actually a good segue into maybe an interesting angle of how we can get into this topic. We can have all these symptoms and conditions that are non-gut related, right? Sorry, non-gut related is not the right way of expressing it, not localized in the gut. The symptoms aren’t being expressed as gut symptoms. They’re being expressed as brain symptoms or as physical pain in the periphery of your body and things like that. So, talk to me about what are some of the specific symptoms and syndromes or diseases that can be caused by poor gut health or gut dysfunction. And then I think we can like maybe dig into some of the mechanisms of how that takes place from there.
Roland Pankewich: Great idea. To answer the first question, what are some of the symptoms. Anything chronically degenerative or anything inflammatory? Autoimmune based has a very strong connection to the gut. The reason we have to start there is because the principal sight of something inflammatory. Case in point, you step on a nail, your foot swells up because there’s a localized inflammatory response there. That’s a normal thing that is very much acute and isolated to what it is you stepped on. However, if you have something in your GI system that could be a pathogen, it could be a bacterium that is chronically pruning inflammatory response and overgrowth of something, then those overgrowths or those imbalances drive the activity of the immune system to be responsive to whatever that condition may be.
So, let’s follow the pathway of pathogenic bacteria, which is called a dysbiotic state. If you have high levels of dysbiosis, the gut immune system and the family or the species of microbes that are living there are always driving metabolic responses via their activity just like us, they want to live.
And in some cases, it’s these chronic inflammatory responses that break down the body’s ability to keep them localized in the gut. And when we’ve lost that ability, it’s the chronic stimulus in the gut that can get past the physical and the chemical barriers that currently exist.
And like I said in the beginning when it’s no longer staying in the gut, it enters general circulation. So, an example would be if you are making a lot of inflammatory cytokines or you have a lot of gut endotoxemia, which is basically toxins inside the gut that are overgrown and they’re leaking out into the body. They’re called Lipopolysaccharides and may have discussed this on the last podcast, are very much pro-inflammatory. The mechanism by which they stimulate the body to respond is they can bind to the cells of immune cells, for example.
So, the white blood cells floating around in our bloodstream, and the minute they bind up, they initiate an inflammatory response because the immune system has to clear these things out. Because if they get into general circulation and the population is high enough, they can actually enter different tissues or different organs and induce an inflammatory response there.
A common example would be if someone has chronic brain fog, not necessarily that there’s something innately wrong with the brain. The brain is responding to a pro-inflammatory stimulus. Pro-inflammatory stimulus might be because they have a compromised gut barrier. They have leaky gut. So, the physical barrier of mucus isn’t strong enough or thick enough to keep the bacteria and their endotoxins away from entering general circulation. And because there’s already an inflammatory response going on, they’ve got an immune system that no longer has the energy resources actually attenuate the inflammatory response and help break down the overgrowth of bacteria.
So, what ends up happening is if it gets through the general circulation into your bloodstream, a leaky gut can result in a leaky brain. Because from a structural perspective, the tight junctions, the cells that are held together with proteins in our gut have a very similar structure to the cells that are held together with the blood-brain barrier.
So, floating around your bloodstream and they enter into general circulation and they cross the blood-brain barrier. Then you’re going to have a localized inflammatory response to it in the brain and the immune system, the astrocytes and the microglia are going to respond with a pro-inflammatory stimulus. You’ve tried to talk to quelch or to wipe away those pro-inflammatory stimuli, those lipopolysaccharides. And it may result in functional and structural brain changes momentarily within the brain.
And it could be something as simple as, you’ve eaten something, or you have a poor response to a specific food. You’re not digesting it well. And then the next day or the day after, you have unexplained brain fog and the only thing you know is you can’t sort through stimuli because it happens perpetually. So, that’s an example. If you want to go down the pathway of looking at it more specific disease state or the development, they’ve done bacterial studies of people with Metabolic Syndrome. They’re harboring a lot of body fat. That body fat itself is a metabolically active organ. So, it’s driving the expression and more pro-inflammatory cytokines. But the gut bacteria profile of people who have metabolic syndrome is very different from that of someone who is lean because the kinds of foods that are coming into your system or actually populating the same bacteria that drive the inflammatory response. It ends up driving, increased lipogenesis so, that it’s a way of basically saying the short-chain fatty acids made from the bacteria breaking down fibers and carbohydrates are contributing to the lipid problems in their bloodstream.
And as a result of that, they have a higher circulating load of endotoxins and inflammatory cytokines because the metabolic activity going on in the gut is actually a fractal version of what’s going on in the whole system. So, we can look at the patterns being expressed in someone’s state. Be It chronic degenerative, Alzheimer’s dementia. It could be something like metabolic syndrome, obesity, or in the case of autoimmunity, the immune system no longer able to distinguish self from not-self. And it very small, low level of inflammatory response might result in a massive outburst for someone or massive flareup of symptoms.
Ari Whitten: Let’s dig into the autoimmune side of things a little bit deeper. So, as far as the body’s immune system being able to distinguish self from not-self specifically, like what are the mechanisms by which that is related to gut health and how does poor gut health or gut dysfunction result in autoimmunity?
Roland Pankewich: So, from everything I’ve read, there are a multitude of different factors, but there are some common patterns. And my big thing is always looking at patterns to say, well what is it we can do for someone that, whether that autoimmune might be thyroid or it might be lupus or something of that nature, how can we calm the system? Typically, when someone has an autoimmune problem, the thing that the immune system is no longer able to do is to distinguish body proteins from maybe pro-inflammatory proteins that have come in from diet or from environment. The body has this way of being able to tag things. So, it’s able to distinguish a health-promoting substance from a harmful substance and it teaches and educates the immune system how to respond accordingly.
So that’s why, if you have a virus like chickenpox, generally speaking, you shouldn’t get chickenpox again because your body has developed an antibody or an immunity to that.
Ari Whitten: Let me, let me interrupt you said something is teaching the immune system.
Roland Pankewich: The gut bacteria itself is actually educating your immune system via, a [cross talk].
Ari Whitten: Explain that more.
Roland Pankewich: Sure. Your good bacteria have the ability to modulate its own local environment and they have to learn how to live within an environment that has cells that can destroy them. Case in point, they are the kinds of bacteria that should not be overgrown. So, the immune system in and of itself takes cues from the bacteria and takes cues from the actual cells at the epithelial layer to know when to engage or to know when to calm down. We have these things in our adaptive immune system called T regulatory cells and B cells. The thing that actually ties really nicely into the autoimmune comment or the autoimmune conversation is people typically have a dominant TH1 or TH2 or TH17 response that can be overly inflammatory given the circumstances going on within their digestive system.
Those circumstances could be a lack of bacterial diversity. So, you basically have an overgrowth of species that force the activity of the gut to respond in a specific way. Or it could be an overgrowth where there are too many bacteria within the system and the immune cells are overrun trying to control them because when there’s too much of an overgrowth of bacteria, there is a potential issue of breaking down the gut barrier, the physical barrier of mucus that’s supposed to house the bacteria and keep them separated from the epithelial cells themselves. And if you’re not balancing things like gut metabolite, production of short-chain fatty acids to calm inflammation if you have mitochondrial dysfunction, as we talked about last time if you have a high allergenic load, be it from a standard American diet from environmental toxins.
I recently was looking at a book by Dr. Alex Vasquez and he talked about the environment, like the microenvironment in the home. Like what are you inhaling on a regular basis? What is your inflammatory load from your environment? If all of those things, the beautiful mix of the perfect storm of those pro-inflammatory compounds get dysregulated and your body has a genetic susceptibility to something like autoimmunity, it’s an inherited genetic from a familial line, then it can result in your body having what’s called a molecular mimicry issue. Molecular mimicry issue is the body has a less vigilant ability to distinguish body proteins from already predetermined inflammatory proteins that may come in from food or environment.
So, if you have this autoimmune like reaction and the body starts to turn on your own tissues, it means that somewhere along the way. The immune system has lost the ability to regulate the distinguishing factors of self from not-self.
And then if you drive those variables on a regular basis via a pro-inflammatory lifestyle because that’s just a nice way of encompassing all the details that it could be. Then someone chronically has an autoimmune like flare-up or something that they’re always managing. And it’s really interesting. Ari, if I can actually go to a story.
Ari Whitten: Yeah.
Roland Pankewich: From our last podcast, one of your listeners actually reached out to me and she’s local. She’s in Canada. Which is awesome because it shows the kind of reach that you’re getting. And for her, we ran a whole panel of tests. We ran an organic acid test and we ran a comprehensive stool analysis and her results are actually really good. She was shocked. She’s been doing work for a while. She’s worked with a couple of different people a naturopath and possibly someone else.
And she was shocked to know that her results were good given the fact that her flare-ups were still being… they’re present. And one thing that I wanted to, I guess, communicate for autoimmune patients is there’s this concept of health called the barrel effect. Everyone has a different sized barrel and it can hold the different quantity of volume before it starts to spill over. So, if someone has an autoimmune flare-up, it means their immune system is hypervigilant. It’s always prime to attack, which means it’s drawing a lot of energy resources, so, it takes away energy from the body. So, they typically experience things like low energy state or easily fatigued. But one thing that came up in her test was an overgrowth of yeast fungus. It was a candida overgrowth and I had to tease it out based upon the variables and patterns that I saw.
So, knowing that Candida or overgrowth of fungus can increase metabolic activity of pro-inflammatory response via the metabolites, increasing oxalic acid production. That could be the very thing that overflows her barrel. Meaning that her barrel is a little bit smaller. So, if someone who has an autoimmune condition, it is degenerative, if it’s allowed to actually proliferate. They have to look at the concept of their environment and the considerations for maintaining their health are a little bit different than someone who is not autoimmune.
And I liked that we went down this conversation because there’s a ton of autoimmunity nowadays. And the body’s getting less and less able to distinguish self from not-self. And I truly do believe it ties back to the health and wellbeing of the digestive system overall. The factors of how you came into this world, the diets someone feeds themselves, the amount of stress and overall the lifestyle that these people exist.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I think one thing that it has always been a dominant factor in my thinking on this issue is, and I think you’ve done a great job of kind of explaining all these layers, is that there really are a lot of layers of possible dysfunction. And we know, for example, that gut dysbiosis is a factor, as you said, it helps educate the immune system. We know that leaky gut, metabolic endotoxemia from LPS leaking into the bloodstream is a factor that can cause all kinds of problems. It’s directly neurotoxic. It’s toxic to Mitochondria. It’s associated with heart disease and brain diseases and all kinds of different things. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome. We know that there’s this molecular mimicry component. We know that the gut microbiome is influenced by all these different factors, like not just our diet, but also our sleep, also our circadian rhythm habits, also sun exposure, and drinking, and many, many other lifestyle factors.
So, there’s so, many layers to this story that it’s always seemed to me like the only sane answer is to really optimize your entire lifestyle almost regardless of whatever your specific individual microbiome is. That’s like the answer for most people. Now, there’s also a subset of people who I think have such severe dysfunction that that’s not enough and the dysfunction has been going on for so, long that they do need to get some specific testing and figure out what’s what specific layers of dysfunction are going on there and then maybe do some kind of targeted intervention for a specific gut problem.
But I think there’s a lot of people whose thinking on this issue as like, “I’m going to go do biome tests and then they’re going to tell me that I should eat a little bit more of this or a little bit more of that and that’s going to optimize my unique gut microbiome.” And it’s like, no, there are also a dozen other factors. I mean, first of all, that one isn’t even based on sound science, but there are also a dozen other factors that are influencing your gut health and your gut microbiome that are just not even talked about from that kind of paradigm. It’s not as simple as just changing your diet a bit or taking a probiotic or two.
Roland Pankewich: No. And the nauseating thought is that theoretically there’s a perfect gut for every person that lives on this planet. And it was what to be 8 billion-plus people. So, theoretically, there should be 8 billion-plus different microbiomes that are perfect for that individual and no one else.
Ari Whitten: Why?
Roland Pankewich: We don’t know what the perfect gut… Because everyone’s born differently, right? Everyone has a different set of variables that make them up as a human. so, just like identical twins have 99.6% identical DNA are theoretically, everyone on this planet is a different beat. so, the perfect profile of bacteria for each human should technically be a little bit different. So, we don’t know what a perfect gut is, which is why I liked your comment about digging deep into not only optimizing your lifestyle but if someone’s going to go down the pathway of testing, it’s not looking to throw something at each individual bacterial species or try to find the perfect combination of probiotics is knowing how to read patterns of what that client is displaying.
When I work with people, I don’t address their disease state. It doesn’t mean that I don’t consider it. What I mean by I don’t address the disease state, that I don’t make it my focus because reverse engineering disease is very complicated and why someone developed out of immunity will not be wide. Person “B” or “C” developed autoimmunity. However, when I look at the variables of where the imbalances exist in like the framework that I’m sure Dr. Ted actually explained in detail, what I find it with people is when we remove the gas pedal on the inflammatory response in their system, everything seems to get better.
I’ve kind of teased out that if you have an inflammatory response, you have a mitochondrial problem. You have a mitochondrial problem; you have an energy problem that can lead back to further inflammatory response. So, if you look at these three things in celebratory response, energy production and the variables that take care of everything in that, it is very much apparent that you can move the needle in the right direction for someone by addressing these, how much it’s going to be different for everyone.
Some people you clear up what’s in their GI systems, everything goes away, their symptoms totally silent, and they get back to a state of being able to allow their body to demonstrate the variables of health because that’s all the body does. It doesn’t know how to disease itself and knows how to sustain itself, reproduce, and hopefully live in a disease state. It’s the signals that go into the system that ended up causing this dysfunction, which is an imbalance that I like to test because I can see the imbalance is on paper long before they manifest as a symptom.
Once they’ve manifested as a symptom, it’s that idea of the barrel effect. The barrel is starting to have little bits of spilloveage. Spilloverage is just a word. I just decided to say it. And then when it goes to a full-on syndrome or a disease state, there’s a constant overflow because I barrel has no more space to occupy volume. So, if someone is looking to better themselves… That same person, I actually told her that her test results were great, and she said, “you know, Roland, that’s the first time in my life someone said something that made me think I was actually healthy.” And as a result of that, she’s actually found her symptoms have gotten better. Just from a psychosomatic effect of saying I am not diseased, I am healthy.
Ari Whitten: Well that’s, I mean this is a whole other topic to now get into the placebo effect and to get into how ones, not just the placebo effect, cause I don’t want to brush that off as just that, but also how one’s narrative and identity of oneself influences their emotional state and their level of sort of baseline stress and ultimately their health in profound ways.
Roland Pankewich: Big Time. Yeah. I mean you can’t separate a stress response from a physical response. You don’t feel great when you’re stressed if you’re amped, tense. So, there’s looking at those things and I guess if there’s a takeaway message before we can get back into the GI stuff is for someone who is experiencing something degenerative or disease-specific, if you can think of yourself as marching back towards health and instead of looking at, “well, I need to reverse engineer and fix my disease”. If you can balance out the system and the body in its infinite wisdom, will know what to do if you put the right signals into the system. And then just time has to elapse in those signals in lifestyle variables have to be consistent.
Ari Whitten: So, what you just said is something I agree with 100%. I want to come back to something you said a minute ago, which I don’t fully agree with, which is the idea that everyone has their own like sort of unique optimal microbiome. I have to say that from my perspective, I feel we’re in an era where one’s individual uniqueness is being overblown a little bit. Like, we are kind of in an era where a lot of people, a lot of health gurus are out there trying to promote a narrative that every individual person has to figure out the optimal habits, unique to what makes them feel good and what makes their body feel good. Now I will say of course there is an element of truth there, but from my perspective, this is like the 5% of the 100%. This is the details. Once somebody is already doing all of the foundational stuff. And in my experience, 99% of people are nowhere even remotely close to doing all of the foundational stuff.
Ari Whitten: So, like it’s almost like we’re living in an era where it’s like we have to find the unique optimal exercise program for you. And should you be drinking spring water or reverse osmosis water or hydrogen water? Or should you be doing this kind of breathing practice or that kind of breathing practice? Should you be doing this kind of meditation or that kind of meditation? Should you like sleep eight hours a night and block out blue light for one hour or should you sleep seven and a half hours a night and block out blue light for 45 minutes like that?
The truth is here, everybody needs to drink pure water. Everybody needs to be eating a whole foods diet with lots of veggies and minimizing consumption of carbs and fats and hopefully adequate protein. And everybody needs to be doing adequate movement during the day. Everybody needs to honor Circadian Rhythm Habits and get enough sleep. Everybody needs to try to do things to combat stress. And the truth is, from my perspective, most people aren’t doing anywhere close to adequate amounts of just those basic things. I just see so many people that are not doing that very well, and then are obsessed with figuring out their individual uniqueness. And I’m like, do the basics first. And then once you’re doing that if you still have problems. And, to be honest, most the time doing the basics resolves the problems. Then we can address the details.
And I’ll just add one more point on that claim that I just made. I talked to a leading thinker in the functional medicine movement who works with the Cleveland Clinics Functional Medicine Program, which was kind of spearheaded by Dr. Mark Hyman and before they even allow a person to see a functional medicine doctor at that clinic, they require them to go through a 10 week course in basic nutrition and lifestyle habits, nothing particularly groundbreaking, just basic nutrition and lifestyle habits. And what they found is that at the end of those 10 weeks, something like over 60% of those people no longer even want the appointment with the doctor because their symptoms have completely resolved. And so, this is the kind of thing that, again, from my perspective, a huge portion of most people’s symptoms would be completely resolved by just focusing on the universal basics rather than trying to obsess over the details of finding out their individual uniqueness.
Roland Pankewich: Yeah, no, I should come back to something because I agree with what you’re saying. It’s almost like within my framework, I’m always after optimal. There’s good, there’s good enough, there’s great, there’s optimal, right? So, an example of where I totally understand and agree with what you’re saying is if I’ve measured your levels of magnesium and you need 300 milligrams of magnesium a day, but you’re eating like shit and I swear [inaudible].
Ari Whitten: Yeah.
Roland Pankewich: You’re eating terribly, you’re not sleeping well and you’re a ball of stress. That magnesium supplement is not going to do very much for you to get your magnesium status back. Because if you are stressed out. You’re not going to be absorbing that magnesium in the first place. The lifestyle variables of fundamentals are the momentum that carries people to where they need to be. Then the fundamental cherry on top.
That might be the last thing that they need to do to achieve the optimal status or the status in their mind that they want to see might be figuring out how do you personalize things to you because you wish to have the desired experience. 100% agree with you because the clients who get the best success that I work with are the ones who implement all the variables, lifestyle, sleep, exercise, meditate, whatever. The thing that they need is, it’s, I always explain it as we are the sum of our inputs. The input variables are the sums of what the outputs are. Meaning that crap in – crap out. If you have one good variable, but the rest suck. Then you know that the outcome is not going to be to what you desire and then like you’ve said, people latch onto the idealism of wanting to have this personalized perfect thing without understanding the realism of there’s a vast majority of habits that are gonna benefit 99.9% of people on this planet.
100% agree, but in terms of that as well, there is a place where people doing personalized stuff is, I see it because it gets you to a level that may be beyond what we might agree to be the status quo. And that’s where I like to be, is because there’s good, but there can always be better and optimal. The thing that we can do is we can test and measure individual variables within people, but there’s still a lot of limitations to what we can test and how much we can actually garner from some of those things because we can’t measure blue light exposure to someone and determine that 45 minutes or an hour is better. We can just assume, or someone can say, I feel better doing this, and that’s often good enough. But when it comes into the new wave of testing it, there’s probably a lot of ability to capitalize upon this fundamental framework and get people excited about the newest and greatest thing. But I agree with you, unless you take care of the variables and the basics, and I try to merge them together in the context as I measured people’s personalized biomarkers and metabolites. But it’s not without addressing the fundamental framework of diet, nutrition, activity, rest, sleep, nothing works without that. Like humans don’t function without those things being established.
The amazing discovery about gut flora in hunter gatherer tribes
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I completely agree. I just, one last thing I want to add to this, which is just if you go look at modern-day hunter gatherer tribes, not invoking any theories of tens and thousands of years ago based on anthropological evidence, but studying modern-day hunter gatherers, like you go to the South Pacific or South America and you look at the Kuna tribe or the Simani or the Hadza, whoever. In these tribes, assuming that they haven’t yet been modernized and, and their diet hasn’t been westernized, which is slowly happening to all of them. But the studies that have existed that have been done on a lot of these tribes show basically they have no heart disease. They have almost no cancer. They have no word in their language for insomnia. They don’t know what the hell that means that somebody would not be able to sleep.
Roland Pankewich: There’s no chronic fatigue. There’s no fibromyalgia. There’s no obesity. There’s no diabetes. The vast majority of the major chronic diseases that we have in the western world, don’t even exist in these people. And it’s not because they’re doing highly individualized interventions to optimize their lifestyle to their uniqueness. It’s because they’re doing the universal basics. And, to some extent, I think the highly individualized stuff is a necessary response to a screwed-up way of life. Like the more that we’ve deviated from doing the universal basics, the more we have to invent solutions to undo all the ways we’ve screwed ourselves up.
That ties back to something we discussed earlier is, if someone has a lower ability to physiologic stress, then the input signal of the basics might not be enough to restore them without them intervening on a personalized level to gather enough ability to benefit from the basics to carry the momentum forward.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I agree.
Roland Pankewich: Yeah. We’ve never been sicker as a population. That’s still the unfortunate realities. And I have clients as young as 20-24 years old who actually test much worse than some of my 50-60-year-old clients.
Ari Whitten: Wow.
Roland Pankewich: Because they’re not the robust hunter gatherer offspring that people of two generations back are, they’re c-section overly born, overly sanitized. Not to say there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s the sum of the experiences that have brought us here. And the commonality among all of them is they all have poor GI health.
And I will be happy to argue this to the day I die. If you have poor GI health, you have poor systemic health. Because the connection that the science is elucidating. The connection to all these things is only getting stronger. And the most hotly contested area and the hotly targeted area is modulation of the gut microbiome for what it can do. They’re even gonna do it in the research area so, they can probably start targeting drugs to specific bacterial species that people really don’t have to see how powerful it is.
I can modulate a whole host of potential benefits for people, but if left unregulated via modern lifestyle, like you said, we’re not the robust creatures that those hunter gatherers are who live in an environment where they can tolerate specific sunlight exposure or environmental interactions with pathogens and viruses. We’re zoo animals for a lack of better description. so, how do we actually get some of that leeway back in our physiology to get us back to that kind of robust state? I think being able to restore GI health and build up the immune system and the tolerance of what people experience is probably the best place to start.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Now with hunter gatherers in mind, there was some studies a while back where they looked at the Hadza tribe in Africa and they actually analyze their microbiome and what they expected to find was sort of like this optimal balance of good bacteria and very little of the “bad bacteria”, quote-unquote. And what they actually found, shocked them. They found this amazing, crazy diversity of all these different microbes and lots of things which they thought were pathogenic and bad organisms. And, even like things like parasites and just all this crazy diversity of all…
Roland Pankewich: …human in them, right? What would put the average person in the hospital?
Ari Whitten: Yeah. And yet they had all these bugs inside them, and they weren’t causing gut problems. So, it’s interesting just, I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts on that sort of aspect of the diversity. And I’ve also heard some speculation recently that there are species of bacteria that none of us in the Western world actually have in our guts anymore that are basically extinct and sort of nobody’s got them then they’re not in probiotics or anything like that. Just wondering if you have any thoughts on sort of microbial diversity.
Roland Pankewich: Yeah. Everything I’ve read promotes diversity typically being a better thing when it’s high versus when it’s low. So, the example I will correlate it with would be a rainforest. You know, that’s got species at every level of the food chain, but they all have an important function. Like for example, when an animal dies the scavengers that are maybe mammals will feed on that animal and then when there’s nothing left for them, maybe the bugs will feed on them. Then eventually the microbes in the soil will break it down and they return everything back to the earth. Where it came from. The likely scenario in the hunter gatherer example is that if you have enough bacterial diversity, it kind of becomes its own check and balance inside the gut. So, a pathogen is only labeled a pathogen, for example, on a stool test when it’s grown to a specific amount because the effects of that pathogen when overgrown are different than when the effects of that pathogen, if they’re at a low level.
Clostridium is a perfect example. It’s a normal part of our gut microbiome. But when you have drug-refractory-c-diff there are very few things, even antibiotics that can actually keep that in balance or get rid of that. so, the likely scenario is when it comes to bacterial diversity, the reason those people have such a great diversity is because of their lifestyle and their diet and what they do to themselves. They optimize their circadian rhythm. So, their gut is essentially cleaning itself and taking care of itself at a regular time. They’re not constipated. They probably have two to three bowel movements a day that are healthy and not splatter in the back of the wall. They eat a variety of different foods and they eat seasonally because just like we have the four seasons in Canada, It’s so, hot right now. The dog sled doesn’t, it’s not going anywhere. The huskies don’t know what to do with themselves… A Canadian joke. If we have a seasonality to the foods we eat, then our microbiome will shift with the seasonality because different species respond to different constituents of carbohydrates, fibers, and phytochemicals in the food. And it’s that cycle that’s essentially like death of birth, a renewal at a breakdown cycle that allows for the robustness and the diversity of the microbiome to be kept in balance.
What we do in North America is the average North American, I believe eats 11 to 13 different foods in a week. So, you’re feeding yourself only a limited amount of food that the specific microbes that you want to populate in a diverse context can sustain off of. So, then you have the ability or the inability rather for the bacteria that can be pathogenic to be kept in balance by those that are healthy commensals.
And then you also lose the ability of what’s called the mechanism of bacterial cross-feeding. So, an example is; if you take an inulin fiber. People are putting inulin fiber in every bar. Because it’s a good way to lower glycemic index. It helps to produce short-chain fatty acids. It’s prebiotic, what have you. If you don’t have the proper species of bacteria for then the bifidobacterial to benefit from… I believe their firmicutes, they’re gram-positive, like rod bacteria, they need to break down the Inulin for the first step so, that the large population of bifidobacteria can convert those fibers into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. If someone doesn’t have the diversity index that they need, then that Inulin is not going to get properly digested and a might result and gas, bloating, abdominal distension, greasy stools and you know the social pariah fart in an elevator or whatever happens as an outcome. So, if you don’t have the necessary diversity, the ecosystem can’t function as a complete whole. And then you start to see the breakdown of that interconnectedness, which will result in the breakdown of the physical structures and the overall function of our GI systems. And then we move further and further away from those hunter gatherers who have this robust microbiome that can keep these massive pathogens in check.
Ari Whitten: And this is where to some extent, the individual uniqueness comes in because once somebody has that dysfunction that’s so, severe that’s gone on for so long, you have an individual problem that can’t necessarily be corrected. And let me get specific and what I mean. There are studies that show, like the use of insulin. Sorry, not insulin, inulin, the consumption of this prebiotic fiber is associated with all kinds of health benefits and basically feeds beneficial bacteria and helps gut health in various ways and helps metabolic health and there’s all kinds of studies showing a variety of different benefits. And yet some individuals can consume it, and as you said, have terrible symptoms from it. And it can make them feel a whole lot worse.
And so, I fully agree 100% that in a scenario like that, you do have to invoke the individual uniqueness and figure out that specific problem. But again, it’s, it’s like to some extent it’s a solution that we’ve had to create to solve the way that we’ve screwed ourselves up by not deviating to the nutritional lifestyle habits that would have avoided that problem in the first place.
Roland Pankewich: Well, I’m going to come back to what you said to kind of do a little high five here, cause we both like boasting up each other’s comments. It’s intervening on that level. We’ll take care of an overgrowth or dysbiotic imbalance. But what’s going to regenerate the diversity of that Microbiota isn’t a probiotic. It’s going to be a wealth of plant-based foods and the right circadian rhythm adoption and the right lifestyle variables and making sure that you’re not overfeeding, making sure you have strategic periods of fasting because that’s what’s gonna build based upon the fact that every time eat, you shape your microbes. So, what you eat is a more important variable than what supplement you’re taking over the long term for success. But this, you see how it comes together, the little dance of individualism, but then adopting what probably every human on the planet would benefit from, this has been shown to be very beneficial for everyone, including you.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, 100%. Let’s talk a bit more about the short-chain fatty acids and what role those are playing in metabolic health.
Roland Pankewich: Yeah. Short-chain fatty acids are actually becoming very popular areas of research. The long and short of why short-chain fatty acids are important is they are the metabolic byproducts of what the microbes in our gut do when they are interacting with fiber and carbohydrates. We’ve always been told that fiber is to help us keep our bowels regular. It helps us true, but it’s actually the main source of fuel for different microbes. And there are three main short-chain fatty acids that are produced via fermentation of fibers. There’s Acetate, which is the most abundant. There’s Propionate. And there’s Butyrate. Not one is necessarily better than the other, but they all have different specific roles and they are able to help actually contribute to our overall metabolic load of calories.
Believe it or not, they are hypothesizing that short-chain fatty acids can contribute up to 10% of the energy that our body burns in a day to make ATP in the Mitochondria with butyrate being the preferred source of fuel, the colon cells, the reason short-chain fatty acids are getting a lot of attention right now is anything that modulates the metabolic axis, modulates the inflammatory response to a point. That being said, they also have a… I don’t want to call it a dark side, but from what I’ve read from a research perspective, people with metabolic syndrome, for example, have a dysregulated ability to produce short-chain fatty acids and that more optimal profile. So, what I’ll say is from what I’ve read, people who have overly high amounts of Butyrate and high amounts of Acetate that can actually cause dyslipidemia and the bloodstream because those that cannot be absorbed and metabolized in the gut via the cells of your colon can actually go into portal vein circulation and enter into the bloodstream and get transported to fat cells.
So, the thing that I was wondering, and this is just my, my I entirely, my own thought process is if someone has chronically high fasting insulin levels, you know that Beta oxidation, the process of making energy from stored fat isn’t happening. so, if they’re not able to effectively use these short-chain fatty acids in the gut, because there are some conditions where the gut actually defaults to more of a glycolytic metabolism, then it’s likely contributing to the dyslipidemia problem with these people are seeing with high triglycerides. The propionate, they say the pathway this goes down as to Gluconeogenesis, which again can be a problem because if your liver is spinning up glucose all the time, then you’re not actively regulating glycogen, insulin, glucagon responses. So, the negative side is if you have poor metabolic health, you have a poor profile of gut bacteria. Short-chain fatty acids could actually be contributing to a problem, which is like, I like to measure them on stool testing.
However, all the positive research shows that high levels of butyrate are anti-cancerous, they’re anti-inflammatory. We spoke very briefly about this last time, that butyrate can activate the NRF2 pathways within the gut. So, what that does, is it helps regulate the ability to, for the gut to maintain itself. We talked about the ecosystem. The cells need energy in order to be able to maintain tight junction proteins. The cells need energy to be able to secrete mucus to keep the bacteria separated from the immune cells and the epithelial cells. And butyrate is one of the most important factors that regulate this because the gut, the colon specifically is a fat burner. That’s its preferred source of fuel. so, if someone isn’t able to introduce enough different plant foods and variable fibers and phytonutrients in their diet, they’re likely deficient in short-chain fatty acids from an overall content. And being deficient and butyrate typically does not lend a lot of positive benefits for long-term GI health as a whole. Because on our last podcast we discussed that as a pattern. What’s going on with the mitochondria locally in the gut, will be happening potentially within the mitochondria locally within the system. So, we can likely lump in all those chronic degenerative diseases too, benefiting from higher levels of butyrate. Things like even obesity metabolic syndrome or people being diabetic, introducing supplemental butyrate into their diet for a short-term period of time. Lends benefits when you change no other variables.
Ari Whitten: Interesting. Okay. So, I want to talk a bit more about something you and I chatted about on the phone recently when we talked last week or the week before. You’ve developed somewhat of a theory around the gut and the immune system interaction and I believe specifically in the context of like food allergies and things like that.
Roland Pankewich: Yes. Something that I’ve pieced together. I mean, I didn’t create this idea, but it’s through research and meeting that it’s piqued my interest. Again, we’re talking about things like circulating immune complexes and stuff of that nature, right?
Ari Whitten: Yes.
Roland Pankewich: Yes.
Ari Whitten: Kind of explain this theory to everyone. You’ve already explained it to me, so now you’ve got to explain it to everybody else.
Roland Pankewich: The pressure’s on, all right, we’re talking about the gut, right? No. So, much like things getting through the gut barrier, the gut layer, lipopolysaccharides, and all those things. If they’re in general circulation, the immune system will instigate a breakdown or a clearing of these compounds. One common thing that you can measure, for example, is an IgG test. So, it is circulating levels [inaudible] compounds as they relate to very specific kinds of foods. So, anything that is a protein that gets into the bloodstream that is not optimally broken down or digested is an immune system [inaudible]. It’s technically not an allergen, but it is a pro-inflammatory stimulus. If someone has a lot of floating immune complexes, then a very important thing is giving the body the ability to break these things down. What I found from people who are immunocompromised is their immune systems typically are a little bit underpowered. So, you can be stuck in an innate state, you can be stuck in a more adaptive state and if you’ve defaulted into one or the other, you are typically lacking in one area of being able to regulate the body as a whole from an immune perspective.
Circulating immune complexes contribute to a high level of inflammatory load and it’s the responsibility of the white blood cells circulating in the immune system to break down these immune complexes so, they don’t arrive within tissues and cause a further inflammatory response. What I’d like to do with this, is pair strategic fasting with the use of proteolytic enzymes on an empty stomach. So, if you look at what most people use an enzyme for, it’s a digestive aid. They’re not making stomach acid, they’re not making pancreatic elastase, what have you. Then you’re supplying some endogenous enzymes to help the digestive process. I believe it’s an old theory, probably naturopathic medicine or just alternative medicine in general where they used plant-based proteolytic enzymes, things like Pepane, bromelain, even lipase, amylase, and they will use these other, an empty stomach to bypass the digestive system and get into general circulation to help break down the circulating immune complexes.
One thing that I like to do with patients who are immunocompromised is establishing the basis that we’ve done. Taking out the foods that are pro-inflammatory stimulants, foods high in gluten, dairy proteins could be Lectins, could be legume proteins, what have you. And then implement a fasting window which directs energy resources away from breaking food down to hopefully bolstering up the autophagy process and helping to clear out circulating immune complexes because they’re not cleared out instantaneously. It takes some time to do so.
And then the theory on top of that is using proteolytic enzymes strategically during either a long fasting day or on an empty stomach can aid the process because these proteolytic enzymes, once they get into the bloodstream, can actually help break down [inaudible] immune proteins as a result of being used not for digestion but rather as an immune support or an immune aid. So, this is something I remember is…
Ari Whitten: This is an interesting distinction because there’s obviously a lot of these enzymes, things like bromelain or propellane are used in the context of enzymes to be taken with meals. But there are also systemic enzyme supplements that have a lot of the same enzyme compounds that are meant to be taken in a fasted state and get absorbed into the bloodstream where they have different actions than just sort of helping you digest food better.
Roland Pankewich: Yeah, they can help break down from pro-inflammatory proteins. They can help heal injuries. Like there’s a very popular supplement from Germany called Wobenzyme that you’re supposed to take in high doses on an empty stomach. This is not as therapeutic in terms of larger quantity of enzymes. But the whole goal is to just aid the body’s natural ability to break down the circulating immune complexes. So, you’re giving it a little bit of a nudge in the right direction. And then in conjunction with the avoidance of specific foods, the adoption of healthy lifestyle habits and hopefully dealing with whatever imbalances the gut immune system and the inflammatory status of that individual as a whole, is going to help that person get out of the conditions that support a flare-up versus the conditions that actually silence a flare-up and move them further away from being able to get back in that state in the first place. That’s how I like to look at those kinds of things.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Have you experimented with this protocol with your clientele?
Roland Pankewich: I have one who’s willing to go through it. It’s the same person who we were talking about before. She’s done so, much work and it’s kind of a thing. We popped the hood, we looked under everything and the results of her tests look great. Other than a couple of different imbalances. So, with food, lifestyle this procedure as well as addressing the overgrowth of the specific candida fungal infestation is the proper term. Dr. Ted will correct me that infection is bacterial, and infestation is yeast/fungus. Correcting the infestation, my hope is that actually, she doesn’t have any more flare-ups that are visible on her skin.
Very cool. Yeah, I remember reading about Wobenzyme like 20 years ago and I think I bought it to experiment with when I was experimenting with all kinds of crazy stuff.
I’ve experimented with it too. I mean I used to work at a health food store many years ago when I just got out of school. You know, everyone cuts their teeth on something and I remember that the owner of the health food store, his brother was in an accident. I think he blew out his ACL or something. And he blew the doctors away by how fast he recovered because he was doing eight tablets of Wobenzyme a day for the course of a month. And it helped. It helps break down all the inflammatory proteins and scar tissue that builds up in the injury. But circulating immune complexes are always there in the bloodstream. And you have specific cells in the liver [inaudible] the immune cells in the liver that helped break down proteins for detoxification. And there are immune cells constantly floating around trying to address those things because you have what’s called an antigen-antibody complex and they link, and they build up and they can be quite large. So, if you utilize enzymes in a different context, they can be an aid to break these things down and clear them out of the bloodstream and usually results in silencing the pro-inflammatory response in the first place, or at least the speed at which it can be silenced.
So, we’ve covered a lot of theory and mechanisms around gut health and around how this links with specific conditions and symptoms. I want to get into a few practical take-home tips for people beyond that really cool one that you just shared with everyone, which is the enzymes at a fasted state and the circulating immune complexes. But I feel like one aspect of things that we didn’t address very thoroughly before we get into the practical things is, I’d love for you to address just what specific conditions and symptoms have been linked with gut dysfunction, I should say.
I mean, I think the list is getting longer every day. The thing that actually surprised me, the symptom or the condition with which that kind of blew me away was actually hypothalamic dysfunction. So, the poor signaling of hormone release as it relates to high amounts of circulating inflammatory complexes that may be derived from the gut. If you look at anything that can drive inflammation in an organ, I hate to say it and be very general, but you could probably correlate something there. But the things that are becoming areas of targets typically are in those chronic degenerative things. So, we’re looking at Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s for example, they’re finding that there’s a, a protein buildup in the gut 10 to 20 years before the manifestation of Parkinson’s as an actual condition is experienced by the end-user. I don’t know if “user” is the right term.
Ari Whitten: User of food…
Roland Pankewich: There you go, user of food, experiencing symptoms. Looking at something like I have a history of Alzheimer’s or something. my dad’s side of the family, my grandmother and I think four or five of their siblings had Alzheimer’s and it was eventually their demise. And I remember that they’re all sugar addicts. They always needed something sweet and they always had GI problems. My grandmother always had alterations in her bowel habits. So, you’re looking at these things as early warning signs of what can go on with your brain. We talked about autoimmunity. I do think that metabolic syndrome, dyslipidemia or chronic metabolic derangement, it’s going to be a stronger correlation with dysfunction in the gut because the thing that not many people talk about it anymore, it’s just that they just process on its own because it’s not sexy.
It’s not exciting, but if you can’t properly absorb and digest proteins, but you can very easily pull carbohydrates and glucose through your bloodstream, you can enter a very nutritional deficient state where you have high levels of blood glucose, you have poor amino acid absorption, which impacts not only structural regeneration but liver detoxification. The ability for the body to actually regulate the building of new cells, which is very protein intensive. So, that’s an area of important consideration. And then when you look at the inability to absorb fats, you can have misshapen cells like the bio lipid layer of every cell requires a very specific instruction of fatty acids and phospholipids. And you can look at on a GI test to see if someone has high amounts of fat or phospholipid breakdown in their stool. Which means if it’s high in their stool they’re likely not absorbing it.
Or you can assume that they’re not. So, anything from nutritional deficiencies to degenerative stuff to pro-inflammatory stuff and even cancerous stuff. They’re looking at Butyrate and Butyrate] concentrations and in conjunction with colorectal cancers. I know that there’s this, this general aspect of saying, well theoretically everything can, but I will come back to the same idea that if your gut is a fractal of what’s going on inside your body as it’s symptoms are being manifested, then you likely have the ability to say, well, if this, then that, and it could be whatever it is that that person has experienced.
Ari Whitten: Yeah.
Roland Pankewich: And that’s unfortunately, the realities of those things will likely go on for 10 to 20 years before the end manifestation of whatever that person’s condition or disease may be. But for everyone listening to this, if you have been suffering from GI problems at all, for any period of time. If you address those and make that your priority, it’s likely going to be a very wise decision when you look at it in a long-range forecasting perspective.
Ari Whitten: Well also, even if they don’t have any gut-related symptoms, oftentimes somebody just has, as you said earlier somebody who’s got brain symptoms, somebody got fibromyalgia symptoms. These neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes and obesity have all been linked to endotoxemia. And so, I mean there’s several of these key mechanisms as far as the LPS has been linked with so, many different conditions. The chronic inflammation has been linked with so, many different conditions. Mitochondrial damage has been linked with so, many different conditions and just those three mechanisms alone are key drivers of dozens of different diseases. So yeah, I agree with what you were saying earlier as far as you can have all kinds of symptoms that are without any gut symptoms, but the source may actually be predominantly the gut.
Roland Pankewich: That’s an interesting perspective. You know, we try to talk about feeling good or feeling optimal or all these words, they’re just words, right? Because the meaning is really individualized to the person. So, few people who struggle with something know what it feels like to feel well. So, what they might think is normal for them say, oh, I don’t have poor gut issues. They might have normal be inclusive of some kind of, oh, I fart a lot, or I have this transit bloating, or I have this like weird taste in my mouth after I eat. The body will always give off little clues of subtle imbalances is probably a better way to look at it. And if those things are going on perpetually, it’s just a little bit of a flashing light that you probably should investigate into those things or maybe look at what changes you can make to remediate those things from being present in your life.
Roland’s thoughts on SIBO
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Actually, you just made me think of something I wanted to ask you. There’s a few sort of controversial topics within this realm of gut health. SIBO is a controversial topic. There are some people who think SIBO doesn’t exist, other people who do think it exists. The whole breath testing is a controversial area as to whether it can actually accurately diagnose it. Candida and Candida Syndrome in particular as controversial. For example, Dr. Greger did an analysis of research on this where basically there’s almost no research at all on anything that could support sort of the claims behind Candida Syndrome, quote-unquote. And yet we also know that it is possible to have candida overgrowth and thrush and vaginal yeast infections. So, it kind of makes sense that it could also overgrow in the gut as well. But the science doesn’t really support the whole Candida Syndrome thing. There are IgG food intolerance tests, which are also extremely controversial as to whether they’re accurately detecting actual food intolerances. There’s probably something else I’m missing here, I’m just curious to get your thoughts on those few issues that I just mentioned. If you could kind of do like rapid-fire, a quick summary.
Roland Pankewich: Yeah, So let’s do SIBO. So, I look at what are the variables that can result of SIBO, right? The reality is you have a ton of bacteria in your colon relative to your small intestine because there is much more ability to populate space there. And that’s where most, if not all of the fermentation process goes on to make short-chain fatty acids. In the small intestine, you actually have a different way of mediating the bacteria as they relate to the cells of the immune system and the cells of the small intestine. So, you only have a single layer of mucus in the small intestine where you have a bi or a double layer in the large intestine. so, this basically means that the ability for the bacteria and the small intestine to interact with the immune system has a higher probability.
And if so, if there is an overgrowth or a poor profile, a dysbiotic state in the small intestine, it’s going to drive inflammatory responses that will likely result in the compromisation of the tight junctions and the over leakiness of the small intestine and relating to what the digestive contents are. So, that theoretically does give rise to SIBO being [inaudible] around. I mean, I don’t run the lecturer’s breath tests. I look at what I’m seeing in the stool and it gives me a relative abundance and if I see that in someone and I do my intervention and I see that come down and their symptoms get better, I could say, well, maybe you did have some evidence of overgrowth, but you’re right, you can’t actually go in and take a scoop of someone’s microbes while they’re alive to say, is this the optimal or the appropriate number that should be existing in the small intestine?
Can there be a dysfunction of the ileocecal valve and someone has bacteria migrate up to the colon under the small intestine? theoretically and if there is an overpopulation of the wrong species in the small intestine in conjunction within a weak function of the goblet cells, which is able to build the mucus and the hyper-vigilance of the immune system, then SIBO could be just a dysbiotic state of bacteria based upon a certain amount of being present there. In that same conversation, we can look at the results of IgG4 food testing. If you get a positive response, IgG4 isn’t technically an allergy. IgE is the true definition of medical allergy. IgG4 is a sensitivity. So, it’s the context of how sensitive for how long and how often are you eating these foods. Because what happens with the IgG4 response is your body builds up the immune complexes that have to be broken down.
And if they’re chronically circulating because you’re eating a food that is a known irritant to your immune system, it will cause an inflammatory response. And I’ve never seen someone get worse by removing those foods from their diet. So, I do believe that IgG4 has validity. But it’s like anything, you have to look at it in context because it’s one avenue of immune-mediated inflammation, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. And looking at the idea of Candida overgrowth. Candida is a normal resident of our GI tract. Candida Albicans is the most common and there are different species of Candida and fungus that actually live there in and amongst the bacteria. Candida typically exists in these little protective biofilms. So, Candida is actually able to evade the immune system when it’s highly overgrown. From everything that I’ve read, what Candida do is they throw off these proinflammatory metabolites that can cause high amounts of mitochondrial dysfunction.
And one of the main byproducts of Candida Albicans is the production of oxalic acid. So, here’s an interesting thing. There is a bacterial species in the gut called oxila bacteria that breaks down oxalic acid locally to the GI system. But if someone doesn’t have good diversity and they may have low, quantities of oxila bacteria in their gut, theoretically they might have a higher susceptibility to oxalic acid crystals, which can be deposited different areas in the body and induce a pro-inflammatory response then thus need to be broken down. I have had a lot of success and it’s anecdotal. I mean it gets client by client with when someone shows high amounts of fungal overgrowth, they typically do have the accompanied low energy state, GI symptoms. They do not respond well to drinking alcohol and high amounts of sugars do make them feel pretty crappy.
It could be nauseated; it could be a bunch of different symptoms. Typically, Candida and fungal overgrowth are as a result of high ph levels in the bowel. So, bowel alkalinity. So, short-chain fatty acids are actually also meant to help keep fungal overgrowth in check. And that typically comes after overuse of antibiotics. I see a lot of people who demonstrate overgrowth of fungal species, be it candida or Saccharomyces, whatever, have had a long history of antibiotics. So, it’s almost like looking at these things has to be more of an in-depth analysis of what the variables could be that drive these factors to induce a negative response in the body. It’s not as simple as saying SIBO exists in everyone who has gallbladder dysfunction, or Candida overgrowth is always a problem because someone could have candida overgrowth, bacterial dysbiosis, and the blastocystis hominis infection. So, then they have the Trifecta of gut dysfunction and all those things need to be remediated by that individualized aspect that we discussed while the basis still needs to be covered, so you don’t promote conditions that suit those overgrowths infections and infestations return it.
‘I’ve seen tremendous success working with people to deal with these things, but everyone will respond differently, and everyone has a different level of tolerance before a symptom becomes possible or symptom becomes obvious.
The best probiotics
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I have one more topic I want your opinion on that I thought of as you were talking, which is lactate overproduction as a result of probiotic supplementation. And this is something that I’ve only started to see research on maybe in just the last year, maybe last two years at the most. I think we’re still very early on in the process of the actual scientific community figuring this out and studies being conducted on it. But basically, the gist of it is there is some research hinting at the possibility of at least certain types of probiotic supplementation actually creating lactate overproduction that enters the bloodstream, can damage mitochondrial function and brain function and cause brain symptoms and things like that. It may be the case that some health-conscious people who are buying supplements and probiotics are actually doing more harm than good. And I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts on that or any specific information on what specific strains of probiotics may be more likely to cause that?
Roland Pankewich: That’s an interesting question because it was something that I just was reading about recently. So, lactate is a normal acid produced by bacterial metabolism in general. Lactate has a couple of different fates. it does contribute to lowering the Ph of the bowel because you want the colon to be a relatively acidic environment that is positive through anaerobic bacteria and like that in some cases. And it comes back to the patterns of knowing what the variables are to contribute to a healthy gut. If you have good diversity and the right species, lactate can be enzymatically converted to Butyrate or propionate. So, they can be converted to short-chain fatty acids because lactate itself cannot be utilized by the colonocytes effectively.
New Speaker: To answer your question about what bacterial species or probiotics, I believe that it’s the lactobacillus in the bifidum bacteria that are the biggest producers of lactate and that also happens to be the two most populated species we’re filing in the gut. But if you have the right balance, you likely can help offset that lactate overproduction by converting that lactate via a mechanism of cross-feeding. The issue of lactate, as I understand it…
Ari Whitten: Is there a mechanism of cross-feeding?
Roland Pankewich: Yes. so, with bacterial species will produce lactate and another species can convert that lactate into butyrate or a short-chain fatty acid, then you’re out of the woods with it being a negative problem.
Ari Whitten: Got It.
Roland Pankewich: The issue with lactate is contributing to metabolic lactate or metabolic acidosis for the individual. So have high amounts of lactate or going into the body and you don’t have the mitochondrial function that’s robust enough to convert that lactate into a [inaudible] and you can’t metabolize it than it does contribute to what, from what I understand an acid load for the individual.
So, in terms of what species of probiotics or what probiotic supplements, I’m confident in saying I don’t really have a ton of added value to say avoid this one or focus on this one. I do feel that probably the best thing to do in that context is to focus on, like we said, mastering the basics and focus on building up the health and the vitality and the diversity of that gut microbiome and the microbiome itself so, that if there’s a large amount of lactate that’s being produced, there is a contingency plan for converting it to something that is much more beneficial than harmful. I do not like the idea of someone taking a 100 billion probiotic supplement every day just because they think more is better. More is more, more is not always better. Because if you look at the research for the overgrowth of lactobacillus, and the occurrence of something like colitis, for example, there is strong research there.
So, when someone is taking a high dose probiotic, just because they’ve been told probiotics are good. Probiotics I look at as a way to modulate the gut, to hopefully push it in a direction that helps to restore the overall diversity and the function. I mean, that’s why I work with a company like microbiome labs is, Kieran, the chief science officer. He’s the first person to say that these massive high dose probiotics are unlike anything we would ever experience in our hunter gatherer days. Or it’s sometimes they do benefit as a result of what we’ve done to our life. But there are species of probiotics that I like to use as something that is a way to kind of restore the signaling to make the environment more hospitable and inhabitable to regenerate your own microbiome, be it as a result of antibiotic use, poor diet, high levels of stress, poor sleep patterns. So, that’s a long way of saying lactate needs to be dug into more. But the answer, as I currently know it, is if you have a more robust gut microbiota profile, it’s likely less of a concern than someone who does not. And the same rules still apply is what builds that robust gut microbiotic profile. Are those bases that it is that you want to establish. And then sometimes dealing with infection overgrowths, infestation overgrowth or parasites will also help bolster and supercharge those effects.
As you were talking about just how one more topic that popped into my head, which is probiotics and spore-forming bacteria. There’s some controversy around whether probiotics that have a soil-based organism in them are potentially harmful. There are other people who swear by them and say that those, those are the only kinds of probiotics that actually help them. And then there’s talk of the fact that a lot of probiotic species don’t actually colonize in the gut and they just, they stay there for maybe a day and then they pass through. Uh, do you have any thoughts on if you are going to supplement with probiotics, should you use probiotics with soil-based organisms or are there any specific ones that are going to colonize more effectively?
Yeah, so, the whole idea of probiotics is, I look at them as like vacationers. You know, they are like spring break, they go to a beach. It gets really busy for about a two-week period. But those people are there, they stimulate the local economy, businesses thrive and then they leave, and things are typically better until the next wave of vacations comes through. That’s my analogy for probiotics. They are not necessarily, commensals that are going to colonize and reside and exist forever because bacteria have a very short life span. They’re always essentially dying and being rebirthed I have had tremendous success with a product like Megaspore and spore-forming bacteria. But that’s not to say I haven’t had success with other species of probiotics for certain people who may have an abundance issue or a poor profile of bacterial growth in general. Because it’s almost like you’re introducing temporary vacationers to attract other people to go because it’s the new hotspot to visit trying to keep in with the vacationers and the Daytona beach analogy.
What I like about spore-forming probiotics is they’re essentially in suspended animation and once they interact with the local environment, they are brought back online. And it’s not that they populate in high numbers, cause bacillus species are not one of the dominant species in the gut. Lactobacillus are, but bacillus specifically like the ones you find in spore-forming probiotics, they’re not supplemented in high amounts. If you look at a product like Megaspore. They’re typically in like 4 billion per capsule, which most people go “Well, 4 billion I’m going to take this 50 billion because 50 has to be better than four and I’m spending less money on it”. It’s the modulation of the gut immune system and the lowering of Endotoxemia, clinically validated studies that I like to spore probiotics is if someone has a poor gut function, you can almost assure that they have high endotoxin load.
So, if you can help seal up those tight junctions, bind up endotoxins to keep them in the gut and move them out of the gut via bowel movements, that’s going to be much better for the person’s total endotoxin load long-term. As a species of bacteria that I go to, I typically do megaspore with most people because they help enrich the local environment to anchor your native probiotic microbiome or bacterial microbiome as you would experience it. I don’t give someone probiotics forever. I will pulse them. Sometimes I’ll use a higher strain species of lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in conjunction with dietary changes and regulating circadian rhythm because, given everything I’ve experienced, that’s what I’ve had most success with. There are probiotics that are used in high doses 450 billion, but those are typically acute care for specific conditions. I’m not the go-to for Crohn’s Colitis as critical care.
So, I don’t often address those because those people don’t come to see me. I’m more so, how do we regenerate your gut? How do we deal with the overgrowth, the infection, the endotoxin load, the inflammatory response, and how do we make your system work better? And that’s what I find to be the most effective strategy. And it’s not only probiotics. It’s probiotics in conjunction with digestive support in conjunction with maybe supplements from short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, to create the mix of variables that you’re trying to put in the gut so, that eventually, it can do that on its own. That’s the big takeaway.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful.
Roland Pankewich: Supplements are just in the name. They are supplemental to what you want the body to do. And then once the body’s there, you have some clinical validation based upon the results of testing and you can change that approach and strategy for that person because they may not need such a high supplemental intervention.
Roland’s top tips for restoring gut health
Ari Whitten: Yeah, 100%. Final question to you, and this can be sort of rapid-fire, but I want to end with just a few practical tips. You gave one there in your last answer when it comes to using megaspore and why you’re a fan of it. But can you add, just maybe just to wrap up maybe your top two or three practical gut health tips that we want to leave people with?
Roland Pankewich: Yes. Let’s try to do three minimum, five maximum because people stop caring.
Ari Whitten: I like your style. That speaks volumes about you that you want to go above and beyond
Roland Pankewich: Always Ari. Why else am I here? I’m really just trying to get on for the third time. I want to beat Dr. Ted.
Ari Whitten: You just earned it by just saying that you’re going to do three to five. You are my kind of guest.
Roland Pankewich: People may be sick with me soon. The first tip I would say is, implement a feeding window and a fasting window. You know, humans give themselves license to eat too often, too frequently, and too much. If you remove the amount of time that you can ingest food, it’s harder to intake a lot of calories in eight hours versus 13 hours. the off time or the fasting time is actually technically anti-inflammatory because you’re lowering the potential allergen or inflammatory load that may come in from diet and the internal chemical processes that might go on via digestion or if it’s compromised won’t happen if you’re not eating food. So, it could be something as simple as you fast for 12 to 16 hours a day and you eat for 12 to eight hours a day, or eight to 12. If we’re going by chronological, that would be the first thing.
The second thing is don’t eat in front of the TV. Don’t eat in front of a computer. Don’t watch YouTube on your phone. Don’t text people. Sit there and enjoy your food. Eat in a relaxed environment and chew. It’s not sexy. It’s not like the newest thing. It’s not a gadget where you can measure your efficiency of protein breakdown, but you know
Ari Whitten: Now what’s the scientific basis for that? I’m not trying to argue with it. I liked the recommendation but what’s the thinking behind it?
Roland Pankewich: I was in school and I remember one time I wolfed food down in front of my teacher. She looked at me, and was like; “Roland, your stomach doesn’t have teeth.” And I was like that is the most like slap upside, the head logical piece of information because when you start digesting food, it doesn’t start in the stomach like you have lipase and amylase enzymes in your saliva. so, if you don’t properly mix those enzymes with your saliva via chewing, not only do you compromise the ability to break those down, you don’t expose the same amount of surface area so, your stomach has to secrete more acid, your pancreas to secrete more enzymes to properly break that food down. If you have a compromised digestive system and you don’t break your food down mechanically, first and foremost, you’d likely not going to digest it down the process like the down the rest of the process.
On top of that, if you’re eating digestion is a parasympathetic activity. You should be in rest and digest like it’s in the name of the parasympathetic nervous system. If you’re watching TV or if you’re preoccupied with something that is taking your focus and stresses you out, it’s a mismatch between the two activities that you want to accomplish. I mean chewing your food thoroughly, eating slowly, putting your fork down. Admittedly, I’ve had to learn this over the last few years. And that’s an important thing.
Ari Whitten: I’m not very good at it either.
Roland Pankewich: Well, I mean type a personality, people are people who are achievers. Look, I just got to eat to get back to what it is I’m doing.
Ari Whitten: [inaudible] chewing 30 times.
Roland Pankewich: Oh Ari, then I have a good practitioner you can reach out to for your gut health.
Roland Pankewich: Yeah, that’s something. And the third thing I will say kind of ties into one and two is; Don’t do this eating every two to three hours to simulate your metabolism to increase fat burning. That doesn’t work. That is old science. That is a bodybuilding lifestyle adapted for every person. It takes energy to burn. Sorry, it takes energy to break food down. But if you put 500 calories in your face, you don’t burn 500 more calories burning that food down. You’re just adding more and more. So, it chronically dysregulates your glycemic control. So, if you’re always elevating your blood sugar, if you’re always ingesting food, your body never gets the ability to actually tap into its own energy stores of which… I mean, if you have 10% body fat, which is a very low body fat percentage, that’s still over 20,000 calories worth of potential energy that’s stored on your body.
So, this whole idea of metabolic flexibility, that’s why low carb and ketogenic dieting works. Rather than having to get so, strict, if you just extend your feeding windows to four or five hours between major meals, that’s a sign that your body’s metabolically healthy. That we can actually focus on regulating the energetic supply without necessarily needing an intake of energy all the time. So, we’re on three, I got to do two more cause I said five. Oh, Duh Duh Duh Duh. I would say an important thing is looking at the kind of foods you’re eating on a regular basis and looking at how they’re being combined. For example, there’s an old theory that food combination high amounts of proteins with high amounts of fruits or sugars is a bad thing.
New Speaker: When I work with clients, what I typically do is I remove the high allergen load of foods from their diet and I also try to structure their diet in a way that knowing the digestive process, like most of the protein digestion gets done in the stomach carbohydrate digestion gets done in the mouth and the small intestine. Fat digestion happens after bile is secreted.
So, when you’re combining foods, carbs and proteins can go well together, but sugars like high amounts of sweet sugars and proteins don’t go well together like a steak and an apple at the same time. If someone has compromised digestion protein and green vegetables and fibers are typically a good combination. so, looking at the food combination that you’re, you’re consuming and if you’re getting bloated after you’re eating wings, French fries, Coleslaw, and beer for example, there’s going to be a heavy load on your GI system whereas chicken, sautéed Greens, a salad with some avocado, and maybe some roasted sweet potato is a much better combination because your body is much more intense when needed is probably something that is a good idea for everyone considering we agreed that we’re not the robust humans that our hunter gatherer forefathers were. And if you already have compromised GI health, there are things that can bridge the gap to help remediate those symptoms until you can figure out what your path to optimal health is.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Roland, this has been awesome. I wasn’t talking. I wasn’t saying you’re beautiful. I mean you are a beautiful man, but I was commenting on your answers.
I’m so, happy that that is on camera. It’s the hair. It’s a, it’s this wig that I put on. It’s really glued down well.
Ari Whitten: That’ll be one of those quotes. You know how certain little snippets of those boats get taken out of context. They can appear to be saying all kinds of other things.
Roland Pankewich: Can I have your editor just cut that part out and just send it to me as a private video? Cause when I feel down about myself, I’m going to play that. The Great Ari Whitten from the Energy Blueprint called me a beautiful man.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, you put it on your testimonials page. It’ll be a 3o second long testimonial.
Roland Pankewich: Just say… No context, no context at all.
Ari Whitten: Roland, this has been awesome, my friend. We’re gonna have to have you back for number three soon.
Roland Pankewich: YES! The threepeat. Yes. You’re going to get in Canada they call it a hat trick. It’s a hockey reference.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, no, hat trick. We say hat trick too. When I played soccer, I used to get hat tricks all the time.
Roland Pankewich: Now you’re helping everyone figure out how does energy get produced better.
Ari Whitten: That’s right.
Roland Pankewich: Well you gave up your soccer career.
Ari Whitten: That’s right. We’re going to do the podcast hat trick now. So, where can people reach you to work with you? And I want to say on a personal note, as I said in the podcast last time that Roland is genuinely a personal friend of mine. I know him extremely well, we’ve had a dozen, two dozen conversations about health. And I can personally vouch for Roland that he really, really, really knows his stuff and I highly recommend working with them. So, and I have no vested financial interest. I get nothing if you go work with him, he doesn’t kick me back any commissions or anything like that.
Roland Pankewich: I just make enough money to fly down and visit you in California.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, that’d be nice. You’d come hang out with me. Okay. so, where can people work with you and what is your ideal client? Who would you like to work with?
Roland Pankewich: I mean the who is anyone who’s interested in being healthier? You know, after the last podcast I had a ton of inquiries and I very much appreciate that. And the person that I probably am not the best fit with is someone who is in need of massive critical care. It is not my area of specialty. The area that I focus on is measured wellness. The whole idea is, you don’t have to be sick to work with me. It’s let’s figure out if you’re healthy in the first place because that’s what health optimization does. It’s not that I don’t address illness, it’s more so, I don’t want to focus on the reverse engineering of that illness acutely in isolation. I measure all the variables inside of your system, figure out where your imbalances are. And I intervene only based upon the test results. I don’t guess I test everything. So, the ideal person is someone who wants to quantify and qualify their health and go through the process of making themselves healthier, function better, because they want to perform at a high level for years to come. so, that’s the who. I’m just…
Ari Whitten: If I can just interject one thing, I have to say that in my mind, this is the only intelligent approach to health. There’s a place for attacking illness. You know, for context… Like in some cases doing a surgery for a cancerous tumor is lifesaving and is incredible, is incredible medicine. Taking an anti-antibiotic for an acute infection can be lifesaving. So, that attacking illness model can sometimes be a really great model. But I would say 99% of the time a way smarter model is to focus on creating health. And in the process of creating optimal health, the symptoms tend to disappear. I’m just trying to add my, sort of, personal reiteration of what you were saying there.
Roland Pankewich: I appreciate that. I mean if you’re in a car accident, you’re not going to go to the herbalist. You go into the hospital. so, it’s a context, right. It’s not, I’m not a replacement for Western medicine. I don’t do something better than they do. My process is entirely different with a different scope, a different lens, and a different framework is actually meant to complement what it is they do because their specialty is very much their specialty and they do it better than anyone else does. So, yeah, thank you for adding that in. It is just kind of completes the perspective. and I’m just about to launch my website clinic stuff. So, what I will do this time is I will give the same information that I did last time, you know my business email is my name, [email protected] We can probably put that in the show notes.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, I will. I’ll have that on the show notes.
Roland Pankewich: Thank you. No problems. People who want to inquire. like last time I spent five days answering emails. So, I will appreciate the patience of anyone who does want to reach out. And I am up in Canada, so, it doesn’t mean that I can’t work with people in the US I just have to make sure that the state they’re in, I have the ability to send lab test kits to. Because everything is sent out to the client. so, they do a stool collection, a urine collection, and they have to go find, a place to do a blood draw to fill out the specific test requirements that I need. And everyone who I do work with, I do require that they go through the health optimization testing process because it gives me the whole picture of where to actually start with them. And we don’t focus on treating the illness, but if the happy side effect is whatever they’re suffering with gets better and they get healthier, then I’ve done my job and I love it. I love what I do.
Ari Whitten: Awesome, man. Well, this has been an absolute pleasure. I’ve loved this conversation. I’ve loved having you on. Again, you guys can reach out to him directly via his email. I’m, I’m also gonna set up a link to the show notes for this podcast. We’ll set it up at theenergyblueprint.com forward slash Roland, r o l a n d. So, if you guys can’t remember how to spell his last name, you could at least spell his first name and just combine that with theenergyblueprint.com. So, Roland, have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank you again, my friend. Such a pleasure.
Roland Pankewich: My pleasure. Thank you, Ari Talk to you soon.Thank you, everyone.
How to Restore Gut Health To Boost Energy Levels and Eliminate Your Symptoms with Roland Pankewich – Show Notes
Symptoms of poor gut health – which are not shown as gut issues (4:56)
The link between poor gut health and autoimmunity (11:00)
The amazing discovery about gut flora in hunter-gatherer tribes (30:51)
The link between the gut and immune system reaction (46:21)
Roland’s thoughts on SIBO (59:58)
The best probiotics (1:07:20)
Roland’s top tips for restoring gut health (1:17:22)
If you want to get in touch with Roland to work with him, you can email him at [email protected]