Ep 82. Plant Power: Mental and Physical Health with Dr Gemma Newman

Dec 2, 2019 | Blog, Podcast, Uncategorized

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We chat about:

  • Links between physical health, diet and mental health
  • How your sense of purpose impacts your mental and physical health
  • How environmental issues relate to our mental and physical health
  • Practical steps we can take to be happier and healthier

You can find Gemma on Instagram @plantpowerdoctor and find out more on her website: gemmasnewman@yahoo.co.uk

This episode is sponsored by Kloris CBD. BY Get 10% off Kloris CBD oil when you enter the code ‘calmeryou’ at www.kloriscbd.com

CBD oil and public speaking anxiety  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3079847/)

This episode is also sponsored by Dorset Cereals check out their range at www.dorsetcereals.co.uk

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Ep 82 Plant Power Mental and Physical Health with Dr Gemma Newman

Chloe: Hello and welcome to the ‘Calmer You’ podcast. This is your host Chloe Brotheridge. I’m a hypnotherapist and a coach. I’m the author of two books, ‘The anxiety solution’ and ‘Brave new girl’, which is all about confidence. Thanks so much for listening, this podcast is all about helping you to become your happiest and most confident, calm self. Today I am talking to Dr. Gemma Newman who is a GP, and she has a special interest in the links between our physical health and our mental health, and also in plant-based living.

So, some of the things that we will discuss in today’s episode is the link between physical health, diet and mental health. She shares so many interesting studies and tips for us all to be improving our mental health with what we eat and how we take care of ourselves. She shares something really interesting about how our sense of purpose impacts our mental and physical health. I think you’ll love this insight, which are about how environmental issues relate to our mental and physical health, and finally she shares practical steps that we can all do to be happier and healthier.

So, I want to invite you to come on over to my website calmeryou.com/free. Enter your details there and I will send you my free anxiety toolkit where you will receive free mp3’s, worksheets, loads of resources in there to help you to become your calmer self and I’ll also let you know about the latest podcasts there as well. So, head over to calmeryou.com/free and enter your details there. So, let’s get into the interview with Dr. Gemma Newman. So, welcome.

Gemma: Thank you.

Chloe: Thank you for joining me Gemma. How are you?

Gemma: I’m excellent, it’s pleasure to be here with you Chloe.

Chloe: Can you tell us what it is that you do and how you got to where you are today?

Gemma: Yes, so my name is Dr. Gemma Newman, I’m a GP. I’ve been doing that for quite some time, I’ve been a doctor now for 15 years. I am senior partner at a busy NHS medical practice, and I’ve seen everything from cradle to grave. I have always been passionate about helping patients to get to their best health, and that’s taken a variety of forms over the years.

So, I’ve been passionate about positive motivational interviewing, solution focused approaches, nutrition, and my passion about plant-based nutrition has also taken me on an exciting journey over the last few years. Really seeing some great health benefits for my patients. I basically do my best to incorporate all these different tools in my toolbox in the hopes that it’s going to help people onwards with their journey of health.

Chloe: Brilliant. So, you a GP, to people come and see with the-,

Gemma: Yes.

Chloe: Well, thank you. We are so lucky to have you.

Gemma: Thank you for that. I do love it; I love my job so much. A friend of mine said that being a GP is a bit like saving lives in slow motion, and that’s how it feels to me that you can really get to know people. It can take a nudge here or comment there to really help shift their perspective on what’s possible in their life, and where they see themselves going. It’s such a privilege, it really is to be able to have people let you into their lives like that.

These people that wouldn’t necessarily go for therapy or wouldn’t take the time out for themselves but they do need someone to talk to and being a GP. I think in the modern age is a bit like being not just a doctor but also sometimes a friend, sometimes a confidant, sometimes a counsellor, sometimes a vicar, sometimes everything in between. I don’t ever overstate that tremendous privilege because yeah, it’s a really special thing that people let you in like that.

Chloe: I suppose you got so much. I want to say, I don’t know if power as the right word but I suppose power to influence people and help people. Because when someone goes to the doctor, it’s like a single sentence, they say can stay with you. You know that stuff stays with us a lot.

Gemma: It does. Also, the amount of courage sometimes it takes to even book an appointment and even get one, you might have been waiting for a couple of weeks. Then to psych yourself up to saying something, like it is a big deal for a lot of people. So yes, I think that is a big privilege, and you’re right. The words that we say are powerful and I think also sometimes doctors underestimate the power that they have as well. That the difference they can make, and it’s easy to feel burnt out nowadays and because of all the extra work that we have. Yeah, it’s actually still such a vocation. I think people kind of sometimes get stuck in the mire of the day-to-day without realizing how much power they have to change and improve people’s lives, so here it’s fantastic. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Chloe: Amazing. I know we’ve got so much we’re gonna talk about. I only want to touch on this briefly because we didn’t actually discuss talking about this. But can you share with people what proportion of people that come and see for stress and anxiety, just for people that need that reassurance because it is quite a lot.

Gemma: It is a lot. Yes, you are right Chloe. It’s interesting because often people don’t necessarily even realize that that’s why they’ve come in deep down. Somatization is where people have physical symptoms sometimes, which are directly related to psychological issues and they are connected mind, body, soul, brain, whatever you want to call it. Has a lot very deep connection with the body. So, yes I’d say well an estimate of at least 80% of the things I see are in some way related to people’s mental health.

Chloe: Wow. I think that’s such a good message to remind people of if they’re scared to go to their doctor to speak about their mental health or they feel that they’re the only one or it’s really nerve-racking going to speak to a professional about your mental health. So, just know that the doctor would have seen a lot of other people that day with the similar type of issues.

Gemma: Yes, we have. Sometimes it’s important for us to keep our mental health in check. Because when you have someone new every 10 minutes coming with a genuine tale of woe or uncertainty or despair. You have to think of ways to help them feel better every 10 minutes throughout the day, it can be costing and it can be very draining. So, I always say to doctors you know in order to get the best that of your patients, you have to be in your best form. Take the time to yourself to really ensure that you are looking after your own mental health as well. Because mental health issues are actually quite big amongst healthcare professionals as well.

Chloe: Can we talk a bit about mental health and diet?

Gemma: Yes.

Chloe: I know you’ve got a special interest in this area. What are the important things that you notice about this topic?

Gemma: Well, what’s interesting is that people who are happier tend to actually have a reduced risk of dying prematurely. This is such an interesting area, there was a systematic review in the Journal of psychosomatic medicine, and they were looking over 70 studies. What they found was that people who had a positive mood or general life satisfaction or optimism or even just a good sense of humor tended to have boosted survival rates. Even in diseased populations, so even in people who were suffering from chronic diseases, they still had some advantage because of their sort of mental state of mind.

Other research also suggests that people who are happier tend to get less sick. There was a fantastic study done at Carnegie Mellon University. I don’t know if you do this Chloe, I think I might have done this perhaps when I was a student but they paid people the equivalent of about five hundred pounds each. So, there was quite a few hundred people, I think that got involved. They paid them this money in order to allow them to squirt, flew viruses up their nostrils to see if they got sick or not. I don’t know if you do that.  Because not everybody would get sick of course.

We have an immune system, an innate immune system that helps protect us against various things in the environment. What was interesting in this study was that one in three of the people who would class themselves as anxious or depressed or hostile in mood got sick, one in three. Whereas those who had a much happier disposition, it was only one in five of them that got sick. They even found these changes when they accounted for things like poor sleep and poor exercise patterns or stress. They still found the same association. So, it’s really powerful, our state of mind as to whether we actually get sick in the first place.

Chloe: Okay. It’s really interesting to hear that study because we might have heard that stress can impact your immune system but actually to hear it like that, it’s a real thing.

Gemma: It really can. What’s great is that we can make a start with food, if we’re feeling low, we’re feeling down. Obviously, we have to work on what the root cause of that is, whether it’s something to do with our self-confidence or self-perception or life circumstance. But taking a simple step and eating something healthy may actually have a tremendous benefit. There’re two fantastic randomized control trials that show us that there’s one called the ‘Smiles trial’ back in 2017. They wanted to look at whether diet interventions could have a role in improving mood, and they didn’t use anything else.

So, they got people one cohort had a modified Mediterranean diet, which was very high in vegetables and whole grains. The other cohort had social support. They wanted to see how they did, and whether their diet made any difference. What was interesting is that in the group that had mostly vegetables and whole grains and modified Mediterranean diet, there was a third of the group that went into remission from their depression, these are people with active depression. In the social support group, there were only an 8% remission rate in within three months of the trial.

So, there was a big difference in the amount of people who felt subjectively better and the diet was just changing what they ate, they didn’t have anything else as an intervention. It was just the food, which I thought was amazing.

Chloe: That was not taking fancy supplements or anything like that or Green powders, and it is literally Mediterranean diet.

Gemma: Yeah, that’s it. There’s another one that I love. There’s another randomized control trial, it was actually run by Geico, which is I don’t know if I said that right. It’s Geico. It’s an American insurance company and they used their employees to do another randomized control trial on diet. What they did, they recruit nearly 300 people across 10 different cities and they have an intervention group where these people were known to be overweight or diabetic. In the intervention group, they basically gave them a once a week one hour, I believe education session on diet and things to eat, and a plant-based diet. They also gave them an option in their staff canteen, if they wanted, they could pick a healthy plant-based meal.

So, there was no obligation to actually eat the food that they were talking about in the intervention. What I loved about this was that it you know people had their own choice; it was a very relaxed controlled trial. But in the intervention group, there was still a statistically significant improvement, not only in weight and lipids and the average blood Sugar’s hba1c as you might expect. If they did decide to go for the plant-based meal. But what was interesting to me was that they also had improved rates of depression, anxiety, and they had improved productivity scores as well. So, the effect on their mental health was as almost, I would say a surprise, was you know they’re getting the other benefits but they’re also getting the mental health benefits as well which is fantastic.

Chloe: Fascinating. Can you talk a little bit about why the fact that was plant-based might have an impact on mental health?

Gemma: Well, there’s so many different reasons why it could be. There are some studies on how increasing folate from green leafy vegetables boosts mood. There was a Taiwanese study of elderly people and they found that increasing their vegetable intake boosted their mood by up to 60% or so. Then we have the fiber content so for example, when you have a very high fiber diet, you get something called short chain fatty-acids produce, which are supposed to be really good for feeding the beneficial gut bugs that help to make precursors for our beneficial neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. It might also be the bioavailability of an amino acid called tryptophan as well, tryptophan is contained in many foods. It’s especially high in foods like chicken.

So, you’d think well why would it be more important for it to be potentially plant-based. Well, there is an argument to suggest that it may be more bioavailable from a plant source. There was one study in 2009; it was around a most controlled trial. They had 106 people losing weight, some had a high carb, some had a low carb. Both groups lost weight about the same amount statistically, but the ones who had the high carb diet from healthy sources improved their depression, anxiety, and mood state scores again. So, the hypothesis was made that it might be that the tryptophan which is a precursor for serotonin was more by available in these high carbohydrate diets.

So, foods like sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, butternut squash these are not only high in fiber but they’re also high in tryptophan. So, that’s another potential theory. But it’s complicated, we don’t know all the potential reasons. I think having whole foods in their most natural form is just good for the body and what’s good for the body is often good for the mind. We’ve got a lot of our immune cells down in the gut and we’ve got microbiome effects. In fact, there’s loads of new psychiatric research into so-called Psychobiotics, these are the bacteria in the gut that can actually potentially be useful for improving our mood as well.

It’s complicated but I’d say probably number one reasons would be it’s beneficial gut bacteria, fiber content and increase in micronutrients. Because if you think about it, all these fruits or vegetables are filled with micronutrients, that’s where we get most of our, well all of our phytonutrients from an antioxidant. So, it’s bound to have a good impact I think on the brain as well as the body.

Chloe: So, eat your broccoli.

Gemma: Oh yes, I’ve got a little bit of tip about broccoli as well.

Chloe: Have you heard of the hack and hold technique? Tell me more?

Gemma: When you have a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli or cauliflower or kale or Brussels sprouts, they are so good for you. One of the reasons why is they contain, sulforaphane which is really good for inducing the phase 2 liver detoxification pathways in the body. But it can’t be activated unless it’s been chopped up, unless the cell membranes have been disrupted. So, if you’re having it, wrong when you’re chewing it in your mouth. Then it goes into the stomach, you can activate the sulforaphane that way because there’s going to be a transit time between when you’ve chewed it and when it’s gone into the stomach.

But if you’re chopping up cruciferous, and you just chuckinto the pan.  The enzymes are in needed denatured with heat. [INAIUDIBLE 16:03] So, what you want to do is chop up your veggies, first leave them on the side for about 40 minutes, and then pop them in to cook. Then you get in all the Sephora fame which is going to help your liver to function and detoxify as it should.

Chloe: Oh, my goodness, broccoli hacks everyone.

Gemma: Literal of broccoli hacks. That was an aside. So, there are huge benefits to mental health from eating a predominantly plant-based diet, and we see it time and again in study after study.

Chloe: I love it. As someone has just gone plant-based, that’s good news for me.

Gemma: Congratulations.

Chloe: More vegetables, lots of beans.

Gemma: Beans are amazing. The part of the reason they’re amazing is that they’re so good for reducing insulin resistance as well, so but anyway. Well, what I love is that when we look at the blue zones. Have you heard of the blue zones?

Chloe: No.

Gemma: Okay. So, there’s this well-known researcher for National Geographic called Dan Buettner. He spent most of his career looking at the populations of the world with the highest longevity. The highest active longevity, people who actually are enjoying themselves living around, living their best lives for as long as possible. What they found is that there’s some small pockets of the world with the highest proportion of centenarian’s people living around the age of 100. These are places like Sardinia, an area in Greece. The Loma Linden’s of California, there’s an island off the coast of Costa Rica. These people, most of them live on Islands except the Loma Linden’s.

But what they’ve all got in common is that they have about a 90% plant-based diet, and they all have some form of bean in their diet. So, beans are very healthful. Not just kidney beans or baked beans, you’ve got all sorts of beans and that includes things like chickpeas and lentils as well. The reasons they’re so good is they’ve got soluble starches, they’ve got insoluble starches, they’ve got the protein. They’ve got everything that you could need including the micronutrients. So, you’re not just getting protein, you’re getting all sorts of things not only just to feed you but to feed your gut bugs as well.

They line the intestine which means that you’re going to have less of an insulin spike with your next meal. So, say for example you have a lentil bolognaise with brown pasta, and then when you have like a mango or something after that, it won’t give you such a big sugar spike.

Chloe: Really good news. A good excuse to eat more hummus.

Gemma: I love hummus.

Chloe: So, I mean there’s so much I want to ask you. What to ask you next? What about purpose, health and mental health? Can you talk about that?

Gemma: Yes, what I’ve seen in my clinical practice is that people have to have a reason to change. If I tell them to do something, it could last for a few days maybe. If they have a logical reason that they’ve told themselves to do something, it could maybe last a few weeks. But if they have a purpose or an identity or an aspiration that matches the intention then that’s when the changes can last a lifetime. I see that in my practice time and again. So, what I think is interesting is sometimes when you look at studies, you see that people who have, so, for example there’s this really interesting book which I really enjoyed reading called ‘Radical remissions’ by Dr. Kelly Turner.

She conducted interviews with over a thousand people who’d had radical remissions from cancer. Because she wanted to understand was there anything that these people had in common. She didn’t make any judgments on it; she didn’t try to find a cure because you know that’s something that could certainly create false hope in people. But she just wanted to understand more about what it was that helped them get through it. These are people who had quite a poor prognosis I think, around about 20, less than 20% chance of a five-year survival.

There were nine things that she pieced together that they all had in common. We’ve just been talking about the importance of diet and it’s true that the people she spoke to they had whole foods plant-based eating patterns that they had incorporated. They were having things like filter water and they were all taking various herbs and supplements. Interestingly, there wasn’t one particular herb or supplement that stood out but that they were all doing something. Eating organic, cutting sugar, meat, dairy, refined foods but what’s interesting to me was the element of purpose. These people had a reason for living, they had good social supports.

They were taking active control of their own health. They weren’t just letting doctors decide what was going to happen next and taking a back seat. They had deepened their spiritual connections or if they weren’t religious, they had a deepening understanding or an awareness of their highest self. They were releasing suppressed emotions, and they were increasing positive emotions. This is incredible to me, and this is I think really the heart of real medicine is to say we have to help people find their purpose. What it is that they want from their lives, who they want to be, and then all of the other health behaviors can come from that.

People are going to want to eat more healthfully and more vibrant foods when they love their bodies, people want to carry on with the meditation practice when they’re in love with their mind. People are going to want to start journaling or creating a gratitude practice when they are more in love with themselves as a person. So, that’s why I think that the root of it comes from, and I’ve seen that myself in clinical practice. I’ve seen it in my own life, I’ve seen it in the lives of my patients and my friends. So, yeah.

Chloe: That’s really interesting to me and it definitely aligns with what I do with my clients as a coach. The so-called Dilt’s triangle that we use in in coaching and at the top is identity and purpose.

Gemma: Wow.

Chloe: It affects everything else at the bottom of this triangle such as behaviors, habits and that sort of thing. If we can change our identity and chain into our purpose and the meaning behind things, changing habits, changing our routine. Changing all those things just becomes automatic and easy. Rather than what most of us are trying to do is working from the bottom, just trying to change our habits, trying to I know for example people that give up smoking. If they have a real reason for purpose behind it. I work with a client, he wanted to stay alive to do this bicycle ride with his son in 20 years’ time and his grandson. He held on to that image and he gave up smoking easily because he had that little purpose behind it. So, I love that, that is reflected in those findings with cancer patients.

Gemma: It’s so true and I see it in my practice too. Because I say to people, I’ve had some tremendous inspiring patients who have just wanted to feel different, they’ve created that positive future in their own mind if I ask them what’s important to them. Like you say your client wanted to give up smoking for that reason. Some other people might have a more immediate need like to get their driving license back or to be able to walk up the stairs again or to be able to look their best for their daughter’s wedding in two months’ time. It could be sort of small or big things but if you can create some form of aspiration that matches your identity, then that that will help it to last.

Sort of people tend to slip back into unhelpful habits if they haven’t done that, which I think is an important thing to say. So, yeah but it’s interesting, sometimes I get people to do this that there’s this technique in a solution focused approaches where you counsel someone to ask themselves the miracle question. So, the idea behind it is that they will start to imagine what their life could look like and start to incorporate positive health behaviors, and start to notice when they’re already incorporating positive health behaviors. Also, to help them realize that they are still the same person whatever their struggles have been, and that that same beautiful soul essentially exists.

Despite the problems and hopefully can rise above, and I think it’s a really powerful tool. It’s so simple, all you have to do is just get the person to suppose that when they sleep tonight, and when the entire house is quiet, a miracle happens. The miracle is that the problem that brought them to you is solved and this could be anything, this could be heart disease or cancer or low mood or anxiety or whatever it is. However, because you’re sleeping, you don’t yet know that the miracle has happened. So, when you wake up tomorrow morning, what will be different that will tell you that a miracle has happened and that your health problem is solved.

How would you get up out of bed? What would you make for breakfast? Who would you be surrounded by? What would the weather look like out of the window? Really try to visualize it as best that you can. Then sometimes I say to people I want you to really think about it. If you don’t know, imagine what you’d notice if you did know and how differently your day would look.

Chloe: Yeah.

Gemma: I found it, people’s faces if you give them the time to really do this, then their faces can sometimes light up. Because they’re starting to imagine something that they hadn’t really previously thought about. It can actually help them to align that feeling of sort of self-identity and create some positive change that they hadn’t considered before.

Chloe: So, it’s about almost visualizing things being better.

Gemma: Yes.

Chloe: It’s a really powerful technique, again it’s something that I often do with clients in fact always deal with clients. Because so much of hypnotherapy is about creating positive images in your mind and helping your subconscious to really absorb that and take that on board. Because whenever you visualize something that is the language of the subconscious. You can send a message to your subconscious by using your imagination. So, I hope people listening and gonna ask themselves the miracle question. I really start to tune into what will be different.

Gemma: Yeah, well that’s so interesting that you do that with your clients as well. I guess it makes sense that it can apply to everything, can’t it? I do think that often what we tell our subconscious can affect our entire lives and we don’t even know it. We’re sort of walking around half asleep a lot of the time. Yeah, I can’t myself in that too. Unconscious habits are so easy to do and so difficult to break. That’s the same even circling this back to food issues. There was research actually by, I think it was by Imperial that showed us that every day we’re making about I can’t remember the exact numbers but they were around 213 food decisions.

We are actually only conscious of about 15 of them and all the others are subconscious decisions. So, in a sense if we can at least understand that, it does help us to make better choices. But also I think it puts some onus on the food industry and society to making things easier for us in a sense. Because it’s not our fault often when we pick something that’s not right for us. Again, you know instinctively nobody reaches for a plate of steamed Broccoli when they’re feeling low. They want that glass of wine, ice-cream or the chocolate or whatever. we’re given that immediate, it sort of kick.

So, I do think that it’s important for industry and society to make things easier for us to make healthier choices.

Chloe: Yeah, I totally agree. Wouldn’t it be good, if we did crave Broccoli when we are feeling like probably a useful?

Gemma: Irony is of course, if we’re eating those kinds of foods habitually, we will have less need for the quick fix which is it’s hard for us to get. But once we do it can be things a lot easier.

Chloe: Yeah, totally. Can we talk about environmental issues and how they tie into our health?

Gemma: Yeah, I think I am very conscious of this and that’s partly why I’m so passionate about plant-based nutrition. Because I see it as being a way of life that is intrinsically healthy if done properly and is also intrinsically beneficial for our environment. Which is beneficial for human health long-term. Which is why I really like the fact that the conversation is moving on to that in general three nutrition. So, we have the planetary health guidelines that were created by the Atlantic Commission, headed up by Professor Walter Willett. Who is a world-renowned nutritional researcher.

Not just him, you know there was 37 experts in 16 countries that brought these planetary health guidelines together. That’s not an easy thing to do because you can imagine there’s 820 million people with not enough food to eat. Then there’s like 2.1 billion people that are overweight and obese and trying to create some form of general universally healthy reference diet for everyone. It’s hard but they did it. What they found was that they were really needing people to try to move more towards a sustainable plant-based way of eating. Not completely, because that’s not necessarily possible for certain communities but for most of us it is possible.

In the UK, the British Dietetic Association is starting to catch up with the research now. They’ve created the Blue Dot campaign which is again a way of helping people more toward sustainable diets and why is this important. Well, we know that the animal agriculture industry does have a huge role to play. Not just in terms of carbon emissions, but more to do with things like species extinctions and ocean dead zones.

For example, when you’re stripping land to create soy crops, those are not soy crops for most of us to be eating. They’re soy crops for the cows and the pigs to be eating which we have to raise. It’s just tremendously inefficient in terms of our water consumption. Then of course, you’ve got all the silage, silage from the cows and the pigs that’s destroying these ocean ecosystems.

Chloe: Can you just explain what silage is?

Gemma: Oh, it’s the poop, it’s the cow and the pig poop. It’s got to go somewhere. When we’re raising all of these cows and pigs for us to eat, where does all their poo go? Ended up going in the water system and it can really damage those ecosystems and just land mass degradation. We know that that’s happening in the Brazilian rainforest it’s happening in lots of other places. It’s even happening closer to home and it’s very inefficient. You could grow a lot more food for a lot more people if we didn’t have to use them as a halfway house for our protein basically.

Antibiotics are another thing. So, sort of talking specifically about human health. You think to yourself, well why is this important for me right now because I just want my steak? If I get it this ethically sourced, then what’s the big deal? Well, it still affects you in the long term. Because for example, like I said antibiotic use is prevalent in the animal agriculture industry especially for factory farmed animals it has to be. When they’re all closely sort of packed together in this way, infections are bound to ensue. Quite rightly they need to be given some antibiotics to minimize their infection risk and we’ll know treat them as well, if they’ve got an infection.

But that ends up going into our own mini ecosystems inside our bodies. We are all connected, the inside is connected to the outside. So, when we disrupt our inner microbes as we do through eating foods that of containing antibiotics over taking antibiotics that we don’t need. Eating foods that heavily pesticide containing which also strips our own inner microbes. That’s not good for us long term, that increases our long-term risk of things like cancer and dysbiosis and autoimmune diseases.

The same is happening on the outside as well. We’ve got degradation of the soil through conventional agriculture, which means that we’re stripping the topsoil. Which is much easier than to wash away, next time you have a big storm a lot of the topsoil just washes off into the ocean and what we left with we’re left with depleted soil. What do we eat from the soil or vegetables, but they can’t have the same micronutrient or mineral profile that they used to because they are depleted as well. So, it’s all connected.

I think that if we can aim to, if it’s possible for us personally to help no-till regenerative agriculture, help organic farming, aim to eat organic if we can afford to wherever possible. Having eating low in the food chain generally, these are all ways to improve our health and also the health of the soil and the health of the planet.

Chloe: So, there’s so many links between the health of the environment and our health.

Gemma: Yeah.

Chloe: I was saying this on the podcast I was recording just before this one, how we forget as human beings that we are nature. If we mess with nature, nature is going to mess with us.

Gemma: Unfortunately, we can’t escape it but this is. I mean just in terms of basic things I know that it was a bit of an esoteric chat I went on to help people understand sort of the macro and the micro and how it’s connected. But if we just look at basic statistics, I think the World Health Organization predicted that between 2030 and 2050 there be an additional 250 thousand deaths from malnutrition diarrhea and malaria and heat stress. Because of climate change.

So, this is a very real tangible human loss. Mass migrations because of climate change potentially. I think the UNIPCC reported last year we had 12 years left, now it’s 11 years who knows it might accelerate further unless we do something to change our current paradigm. So, these are sort of very real risk. In terms of even personal risks, we know that we’re becoming antibiotic resistant. It is a crisis that can hopefully be addressed by industry and by pharmaceuticals. Because we all want to be able to go into hospital and not die from an infection that was routinely treatable in the past.

We want to be able to have a cesarean section without worrying about a life limiting infection. But we’re looking into the abyss right now. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but we need to come up with solutions. I think that minimizing antibiotics exposure through animal agriculture industry is one of those solutions as well as hopefully finding new antibiotic agents that we can use to treat us in the future. Because antibiotics are a good invention.

Chloe: Oh my God.

Gemma: They’ve increased our lifespan by approximately 13 to 15 years on average. It’s amazing but they are overused and unfortunately that has negative health consequences. People don’t realize. They think I’ll just take antibiotics just in case. But what they don’t understand is that multiple courses of antibiotics over a lifetime that haven’t been necessary can disrupt our microbes so much. That we could potentially have an increased link there between microbiome depletion and future risk of things like autumn moon diseases and cancer. So, there is a link that people don’t necessarily understand.

Chloe: So, antibiotics kill bacteria and they kill the bad bacteria when you take them. So, it’s good but they also kill the good bacteria when they’re going through. So, it’s not good for our immune system. Because so much of our immune system starts in the gut.

Gemma: Yes.

Chloe: Not good for our mental health, because those bugs are really important for our mental health. A lot of the antibiotics are getting fed to animals, that we end up eating or having the milk from. More so to the animals than to humans. Is that right?

Gemma: Yeah, so there’s a phenomenon whereby you’d have biological accumulation in the largest mammal if you like. So, it’s the same with things like fish in the ocean. If they’ve had explicit exposure PCBs dioxins in the ocean, you’re eating the fish you’re gonna buy accumulate those toxins further than they have. So, again with 90% of fish stocks depleted what are we going to do, I mean no plastic stores that’s great. But also, I would say perhaps eating less fish would also be beneficial.

I mean if you do decide to eat fish, then go for the smaller ones and the ones that are wild court if you can. Because the smaller ones bioaccumulate less of these toxins that we’re talking about and it’s the same when you’re eating things like cows and pigs. They will still bio accumulate things that we then buy accumulate further.

Chloe: Right. So, the little fish get eaten by the bigger fish. If we eat the big fish, then we get all the toxins from all the fish.

Gemma: Yes, essentially that’s exactly it. You got it. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Chloe: Yeah, oh my God okay.

Gemma: But I mean it’s a very expansive topic. But the thing is, people sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed. They think I just I can’t do it and that’s okay. I think the most important thing is to just be aware of some of the issues that there are and to use that knowledge to inform your choices next time you go shopping or next time you pick something at a restaurant. It doesn’t have to be this massive sudden shift. It can just be a little you know steps here and there to put you in that kind of direction if you feel called to do so.

That’s actually how I believe Joseph Paul started his research. There was an interesting article that was published in science journal in June 2018. He wanted to try to establish some sustainable way of continuing with animal agriculture. So, he spent five years on this study at Oxford University. There were over 40,000 farms involved in over 120 countries. It was very extensive and what he found actually was that, there was just wasn’t a way to make it sustainable internationally. Didn’t matter how they tried to crunch the numbers they couldn’t do it.

So, I believe after a year of his five-year study he decided to go fully plant-based himself. Because he realized it wasn’t possible it wasn’t sustainable. Yes, you can argue again to just generally buy things that are more local over sort of a transported. But even with all of those confounding factors it was predominantly the animal industry that was the main thing that could be shifted.

Chloe: Yeah interesting. I was talking to someone today actually it said, it was Emily Lyons who is a previous guest on this podcast. Dr. Emily Lyons and she said that we put 20 times as much energy calories into a cow as we get out of it. Because the cow is giving off heat, it’s pulling it’s moving. So, it’s a very inefficient use of energy. If we were just to eat the plant that’s a lot more sustainable because I’m not losing all that energy through that cow being alive.

Gemma: Yes, I mean this is where people get a bit put off sometimes, you can go through all of these different calculations that think, should I buy this berry? Where’s this come from? Or has this been flown here or has this been shipped here and shipping is better than flying. You could get so confused, but I’d say if we just cut through all that and stick to low in the food chain and local for the most part, you can’t go wrong. If that helps.

Chloe: That sounds really good. Because yeah can definitely imagine people feeling overwhelmed and that sort of thing. I think you’re so right. Just educating ourselves because a lot of us don’t realize this. Once we educate ourselves, we can start to make some changes if we want to. But we can’t do that unless we actually face up to things and realize what’s happening.

Gemma: Yeah, that’s so true but it’s been a journey for me too, because I have to say I used to love steak. I used to love burgers; they were my favorite meal. I had such a refined palate. Every time I went to restaurant, I will have a burger please. But it’s amazing actually, how your desires shift over time and that might be to do with the microbes in your gut. There’s a lot of research around that actually which we could go into about, how our microbes can sometimes shift our desires and that sort of micro brain connection that we have

But that’s certainly true for me and I don’t fancy it anymore. Like I used to I just don’t and I think these things can change over time. I was an avid meat-eater myself in the past.

Chloe: So, to the microbes get a taste for Hmm, Corn burger.

Gemma: Well, it’s the different colonies that form really. So, you’re eating a lot of meat and dairy then the colonies of bacteria that you are supporting, would be different from the ones that you support with a Whole Foods plant-based diet. There are some studies to show actually that the microbial profile can shift with as this there’s one meal believe it or not. What’s great about having a predominantly plant-based diet is that, you’re not growing bacteria that can release a certain toxin. Which can increase your risk of heart, disease kidney disease and heart failure, TMAO is the toxin.

When you’re having a diet that’s high in animal-based choline and carnitine sources, then the bugs that are in your gut will digest those and produce something called TMA Trimethylamine. Then that gets sent to the liver, your body makes it into TMAO Trimethylamine oxide. That is pretty toxic to our blood vessels, to our kidneys and you know can increase our risk of heart disease in the future. So, it’s complicated but that’s one of the many mechanisms whereby having more predominant plant proteins is helpful.

Chloe: So, interesting. We were talking to when started recording about the game changes. Can you share what that is?

Gemma:  I think it’s fantastic. So, I believe in fact, what’s the date today? Is it the first of October?

Chloe: It is 1st whatever recording that.

Gemma: We’re recording, so whenever you hear this then it will be out already to purchase on iTunes I believe. Basically, it’s a fantastic documentary that was made by James Cameron who made Avatar.

Chloe: Oh really?

Gemma: Yes, and Titanic and he has got together. It’s a film for men actually. It’s a film that will help men to feel more connected to the idea that they can actually eat plants and be healthy and thrive, not just survive but actually thrive. They got a huge array of incredibly talented athletes on it. They’ve got Arnold Schwarzenegger on there. They’ve got Lewis Hamilton.

Chloe: Hang on, is Arnold Schwarzenegger a vegan?

Gemma: Yes, I think so. Don’t quote me on it, but if he’s not vegan he’s definitely Veggie.

Chloe: Ohwow.

Gemma: There was one scene in particular which I think will really resonate with men. It was these young college athletes and they were seeing this urologist Dr. Aaron Spitz. Because they wanted to see, whether diet made a difference to their sex lives. What they did was, the urologist used the specialized equipment to attach to the penis and monitor their erections overnight. Because it’s a normal physiological process that there are young men will occasionally have an erection through the night and they gave the men.

So, the first night they gave them grass-fed beef burrito, organic chicken burrito and a bean burrito. They chopped them all up, so that you know essentially looked like the same kind of burrito and they it gave them to eat before bed. Then they put this device on and then off to sleep they went. Then the next night they gave them all the bean burritos and then off to sleep they went. Then they got the results back and there’s this most hilarious scene in the movie, where he’s given them their results.

They all had improved erections overnight but one of them had 500% increase in firmness and frequency of erections over the course of the night. It was so funny.

Chloe: So, man on the beans.

Gemma: Yes exactly. It will definitely have potential to improve your sex life. But that’s one scene there are lots of different scenes to the film which I found enjoyable. It was just a very nice very well woven together piece talking about the personal stories of people who’ve been very successful with a plant-based diet. That was well planned and achieving great success.

Chloe: Because a lot of athletes are moving over to a plant-based diet. Like Serena Williams.

Gemma: Oh yes.

Chloe: Venus Williams.

Gemma: Yes.

Chloe: Lewis Hamilton.

Gemma: Yes. The only American Olympian who got through the heavy weight bodybuilding in the Olympics. We’ve got Patrick Butbumian, who is one of the strongest men in the world. Loads of bodybuilders are doing it now. Because they’re all beginning to understand that it gives you an edge over your competitors if you can have a boosted recovery time. What can happen with a healthy Whole Foods plant-based diet is that, you’re having so many more antioxidants, micro phytonutrients, micronutrients. That you are able to affect muscular recovery much more quickly.

So, when you’re not so depleted, you’re recovering faster you can get more training in. You can see that if you’ve got more training in without muscle, then you’re gonna outdo your competitors.

Chloe: Sounds good.

Gemma: Yes.

Chloe: Can you share, are there any practical steps that you can recommend to people to be doing?

Gemma: So, I would say that well, if you want to make it more of an identity choice you ask yourself. Who am I? What’s important to me? What patterns do I have day after day that bring me more towards this person who I really am? It’s not just about food by the way, it’s the films that you watch, it’s the people that you surround yourself by. Really think, what do I do every day that brings me into alignment with my deepest self? Write it down, just write it. When you start to even look at things like, what do I eat for breakfast, what to eat for lunch, what to wait for dinner. You begin to see a pattern emerging and the easiest way to make a healthy step is to just think of a new recipe for example.

Maybe try something new once a week, because most people have only got a repertoire of about five or six meals that they circulate between every week really, most of us. So, once you’ve become confident with one new meal each week, then by the end of just a couple of weeks three weeks you’ve got a whole repertoire. That you can use and use again and again. There’re so many resources now aren’t there. You’ve got the Physicians Committee; they’ve got a great kick starter. Then you’ve got delicious Liana, I love her stuff it’s brilliant.

It depends on the person, so for example if you’re someone that just loves spaghetti bolognaise, you can make a one-pot lentil bolognaise and it’s just really simple. If you’re somebody that likes a chicken curry, you could just make a chickpea curry and learn how to do that. It’s just these little shifts here and there. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s just about making progress. But pretty soon, once you’ve connected your identity to the ability to make these changes it becomes so much easier. It really does.

But it’s just about taking that first step and making sure that you align it with an emotion wherever you can.

Chloe: That’s such a good thing to chain into. I love the idea of just writing it down. Actually, spending that time to think about that and map that out a bit and could make such a difference.

Gemma: It really can. It really kind of people don’t usually do it. If you ask someone, have you in town whether your food aligns with who you are, they’ll say no. But it’s a very powerful tool because they’ll start to notice. Actually, that that junk food I ate didn’t feel so great really it didn’t make me feel like the person I want to be. When I had this food that, I made I really felt proud of myself and I really enjoyed it. It tasted so much better than I expected. So, I’m gonna do that again.

It’s about as I say making that connection and baby steps. Be kind to yourself.

Chloe: Be kind to yourself.

Gemma: Please be kind to yourself.

Chloe: Is there any other final practical step that you want to add?

Gemma: Well, I guess really it’s about understanding that we’re all connected. If we can tap into that interconnectedness, it will help us not only feel closer to others and more compassionate but also more compassionate to ourselves. That is the basis for any long-term life change. So, that would be my takeaway tip. But if you want to something practical that would be to put a time frame in place for yourself. So, for example, if you’re the kind of person that likes to suddenly make a decision and stick with it then that’s fine you can do that. But most people need a time frame and so you could say to yourself, okay this time next week I’m going to have learnt this recipe. This time the week after I’m going to have learned this recipe.

I’m going to have gone out for a 45-minute walk twice this week and plan which days you’re going to do it, whatever it is. This night I am going to go to bed an hour and a half earlier than I have every other night for the last month. Whatever your goal, I’m aiming to make it time-specific is also super helpful.

Chloe: Perfect, thank you for that. Thanks so much for everything that you shared.

Gemma: My pleasure.

Chloe: Where can people find out more about you and what you up to?

Gemma: Well, if they were on Instagram, they could go to Plant Power Doctor. I’m Dr. Gemma Newman, Plant Power Doctor on Instagram. I have a website drgemmanewman.com. So, there’s loads of information and resources on there. If people have got specific diseases that they’re wondering about, heart disease or diabetes or plant-based diets for pregnancy or children for example. Then there’s loads of resources on my website, podcast, interviews all sorts of stuff and where else.

Plant-based health professionals UK, I’ve got the Veg-Med conference coming up if anybody’s coming to that. It’d be lovely to see you there and you could always email me if you’ve got any specific questions.

Chloe: Amazing, thank you so much.

Gemma: It’s a pleasure. thank you, Chloe.

Chloe: Thank you so much for listening. I really hope that you gained a lot from this episode. Come on over to Instagram and let me know what are you taking from this episode. Find me @ChloeBrotheridge. I would love it if you would leave me a review in the podcast app or in iTunes. Subscribe to the podcast, leave me a rating. Is there someone in your life that would really benefit from this podcast you can let them know by sharing this podcast, I’d be so grateful. So, I’m just wishing you a wonderful week ahead, sending you loads of love. Hopefully, you’ll tune in again and I’ll see you soon.


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