John Brisson on how to regain health by fixing your gut.
photo by: Skeptiko
Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome John Brisson to Skeptiko. John is the author of Fix Your Gut: The Definitive Guide to Digestive Disorders and although that might not seem like a natural fit with some of the topics we cover here on Skeptiko, I can tell you that after listening to many hours of interviews with John, reading his excellent book and even hiring to do a consult with a member of my family… I can tell you you’re in for a treat.
John Brisson: Thank you for having me Alex. I’m a huge fan of the show, I love what you do at Skeptiko. I’ve enjoyed many of your interviews, especially when you ask the tough questions like asking Jim Marrs point blank if he was a Scientologist.
Alex Tsakiris: Dr. Andrew Weil… [taught] medical his students (paraphrasing), “Go to the library and look at any major study of a life-threatening illness, and look for cases of spontaneous healing… you’ll find them under the category of ‘placebo affect’ or whatever, but in every one of those studies you’ll find spontaneous healing.”
Well, what are we saying there? We don’t understand what the hell happened. These are people in the control group who didn’t get any treatment, who weren’t supposed to get any better, who got better. So, it’s holding these two things at the same time, because John… I’m doing all of this stuff to improve my chances for experiencing the best life I can, at the same time, I’m humbled by the thought of, “who am I really” and what is my larger connection to consciousness, what is my larger spirituality?
John Brisson: I agree, that’s why I’m not 100% for things that can be explained logically and I’m not 100% for things that are strictly spiritual either. I’m kind of a mixture in the middle and some people hate that. “With a lot of my beliefs I’m kind of thinking both sides are necessary.
John Brisson: I went to college, I kind of shifted a little bit. I thought about maybe going for biology at one point, maybe going for Nursing School at FTCC. Neither one of those things ended up panning out and I just worked odd jobs here and there. One time actually, you might find this interesting, I worked as a role player for the United States government, dressing up as an Arab, which was a very, very interesting job. But eventually I got sick. Even though I had asthma, I had a lot of health issues, my appendix burst when I was 14 and I ended up being in the hospital for a month and I’d almost failed eighth grade.
Alex Tsakiris: Andrew Weil has gone on to become one of the most famous complimentary medicine guys and has, kind of, turned that into a whole huge industry for himself and for other people and he seems like a good guy. But he says what he does consistently, all the time, with his medical students is he says, “Go to the library and I want you to just go to the medical journals and randomly pull-off a study, a major study where it was a life-threatening situation, and I want you to look for cases of spontaneous healing that aren’t explained.” He goes, “You’ll find them under the category of ‘placebo affect’ or whatever, but in every one of those studies you’ll find spontaneous healing.”
Well, what are saying there? We don’t understand what the hell happened. These are people in the control group who didn’t get any treatment, who weren’t supposed to get any better, who got better. So, it’s holding these two things at the same time, because John, I’m totally down, and I hope people get that. I’m taking the magnesium, I’m doing all of this other stuff to try and improve my chances for experiencing the best life I can, at the same time, I’m humbled by the thought of, who am I really and what is my larger connection to consciousness, what is my larger spirituality? I just think that’s the challenge, it’s to jump and over and squeeze this one as tight as you can and then jump over the other one and hold onto that as well, because it just seems to be what’s at play.
John Brisson: I agree, that’s why I’m not 100% for things that can be explained logically and I’m not 100% for things that are strictly spiritual either. I’m kind of a mixture in the middle and some people hate that. “With a lot of my beliefs I’m kind of thinking both sides are [unclear 01:01:08] to it.
But I do agree with you Alex, that a lot of people try to just discredit things that they can’t explain, just because they can’t explain them.
Alex Tsakiris: Okay, let me come back to the practical road, because I have a couple of other ones that I wanted to just throw on the table there. One is, fasting, intermittent fasting. Again, for me, this is something I just ran across, stumbled across and wound up trying it and found it to be really effective for me and there seems to be some good science behind it. It’s controlling all of your eating in, like a five or six hour window during the day and not so worried about portions or what you eat, but just keeping it inside that window to give your digestive system a chance to rest otherwise. Any thoughts on intermittent fasting?
John Brisson: When used in the right circumstances, for the right people, it can have huge benefits in their health just like you. But when used incorrectly, in the wrong person, let’s say someone has [unclear 01:02:12] adrenal glands, from severe adrenal fatigue, the intermittent fasting, the regulation need of cortisol, metadrenaline that’s produced because of fasting, could make them feel and make them much, much worse. So, it really just depends on the person.
For you, intermittent fasting works very well. For me, because of the state of health that I was in, it did not work for me at all and I couldn’t take it and it’s like that with some people I’ve coached. With some people, ketogenic diets or intermittent fasting or cyclic ketogenic diets, any of those, work very well and they thrive on them. Then, other people, it destroys them, or it makes them ill, they weren’t really too ill before going on them in the first place, and they go on them, sometimes in correctly, sometimes correctly, and it leads them to become ill.
So, that’s why I’ve always said, and that’s why there’s no “Fix Your Gut”, no one diet is perfect for every human being. We’re too different. We’re different genetically, we’re different epigenetically, our microbiomes are different. It’s just impossible.
Now, there are some diets that are probably better for some than others. I mentioned The Perfect Health Diet, but for some people it may be too many carbohydrates. I love the diet, but I hate the name, as far as being the perfect diet for health, but diet is such an individual thing, it really depends on the person.
Alex Tsakiris: Sure, I think that’s really good advice. I would just add, for what it’s worth, my experience is that The Fast-5, the five-hour window thing, and I don’t strictly hold to the five hours, I do about six hours or so, it just freed me up. It was like I had been brainwashed into this thing that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and as soon as you get up you have to eat, and I was never hungry in the morning, but I was like, “Okay, I guess that’s what I’m supposed to do.” Then, at night, the whole ritual around dinner and stuff like that, I so naturally fell into a diet that just felt better for me by someone saying, “Here’s some data you might want to take in about eating just inside of this window.”
So, I love the way you processed it though and I totally accept that, and you just know a lot more than I do about this stuff, but I wanted to throw that in.
John Brisson: I am a fan of fasting, it can help a lot for many medical conditions. There are a lot of studies that show that fasting can be very beneficial for the immune system and very beneficial for longevity, but there are possibly some studies that go around in the corner in the future that fasting, when done, in some people it may trigger a condition in the body where the body thinks it’s starving and that may be detrimental to healing. So, it just depends on the person.
If you want to learn about intermittent fasting and cyclic ketogenic diets, I wrote a good blog about ketogenic diets on Fix Your Gut. The Bulletproof Diet is a good example of a cyclic ketogenic diet, Dave Asprey. I’m not against them, I just think with diet it’s very personal and people should be well informed and try to figure out exactly what diet works for them.
Alex Tsakiris: I’ll tell you one thing I wanted to hit on and I don’t want to ruffle too many feathers and I certainly don’t want to ruffle your feathers, you’re such a great guy and you do such important work here, but I do feel like sometimes, there’s two parts of the free pass thing. It’s like, I don’t want to give a free pass to people who don’t deserve it. I heard you talk on weed, marijuana a bunch of times and I’m all about the benefits of cannabinoid oils and all of the rest of this stuff, but Jesus Christ, there are a lot of people who are now becoming addicted, dependent, a substance abuse problem with marijuana.
John Brisson: I don’t think it’s ever really increased. I would push back on that. I’d also push back, what’s the most common psychiatric drug consumed in the entire world?
Alex Tsakiris: I don’t know, alcohol?
John Brisson: No, caffeine.
Alex Tsakiris: Caffeine, okay. But, I’m not sure that caffeine really measures up in the same way.
John Brisson: Let’s talk about it. Why not? Let’s talk about why. Caffeine is psychoactive, it’s killed people, there have been people who have died from caffeine overdose. So, people who have died from marijuana use, it’s extremely rare. Some people have died from also being under the influence while driving, I do admit that. But caffeine, there are overdoses, a lot of them are not on purpose overdosing, there a lot of people who get arrythmia and conditions where they have to be treated from drinking too much caffeine and caffeine is addictive, is it not?
Alex Tsakiris: I don’t know. I never drink caffeine and I’ve just starting drinking, like one cup a day. But, taking that out of it, I just take a common-sense approach and it’s this. Most of us have smoked weed and we know the affects, just like we know the affects of alcohol, and we know the affects of smoking weed every day, of getting high every day. Hey man, it is not good.
John Brisson: No, it’s not.
Alex Tsakiris: If you’re getting high every day, if you’re getting high multiple times a day, you have a substance abuse problem. It’s like, we want to give people a free pass or say this or that, it’s like, no man, it’s like anything else that becomes a problem in your life, it’s measured by, can you just walk away from it or do you need it? And if you’re using it every day, multiple times a day, then it’s got more control on you that you have on it.
John Brisson: Would you say the same thing about caffeine or nicotine? There’re millions of people around the world who are dependent on it. Caffeine can product some form of drug dependence. It causes headaches on withdrawal, so for some people it’s very difficult for them to get off the caffeine.
I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. I agree with you, that there are a lot of people who use marijuana incorrectly and it leads them to not contribute as much to society as they should, just like other…
Alex Tsakiris: Not society. I don’t care about society.
John Brisson: Or their own personal life, betterment of themselves, is that better?
Alex Tsakiris: Maybe. I think back to the Joe Rogan episode with Graham Hancock, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it, but it’s like a classic. Graham Hancock, who is this incredible author and has produced unbelievable great work over the years and is just a brilliant guy, no doubt about it, and he’s there talking about his 20-year dependency on marijuana and he said how it really had gotten out of control for him. Then he had gone down, and he had done ayahuasca and the ayahuasca spirit had fought with the spirit of marijuana and people who are in the shamanistic kind of world say, “Yes, these two spirits have long known to be feuding,” and this and that. Anyways, the ayahuasca spirit says, “Hey, you’ve got to stop that, it’s interfering with your life.” So, he comes back, and he fires up the vaporizer and he can’t do it, he just can’t do it, and he walks away and he’s just like, “Wow, I really see that I have misused that substance and I had come out of alignment with it, from a spiritual perspective.”
I don’t know if all of that is bullshit, I don’t know about the spirits. I’m inclined to think there’s some reality to all of that. I believe that we are engaging with something more when we enter that extended consciousness realm that is associated with psychedelics like marijuana and psychedelics like ayahuasca, and we are in this, kind of, alternative world. I think people who don’t appreciate that and don’t come at it, at least with some respect of that, have a greater risk of becoming dependent, having an attachment that might not be the most positive thing in their life. I don’t know what you think about that.
John Brisson: I agree with you, but all I’m saying is, marijuana has a lot of medical benefits, CBD oil does. Trust me, I’ve used it in my own personal life and people who I coach. A good friend of my business partner, his sister who is alive today, I’m not going to shoot my own horn, I guess, but he says her seizures stopped dramatically because of CBD oil. And, don’t get me wrong, I understand what you’re saying completely, that there are people who will abuse marijuana or use it, “It’s natural man.” It’s the same with psilocybin mushrooms, alcohol, people use substances incorrectly and it’s destroying their lives.
I guess, maybe I didn’t talk about that with [Greg 01:11:32] per se, because it’s THC, but I do understand that marijuana has destroyed people’s lives and kept them from their own personal potential. I definitely agree with you on that, but I do think it has a very strong medicinal purpose too. Stuff like alcohol, alcohol has no medicinal purpose, really, whatsoever, except for, maybe, wine polyphenols, but you get other polyphenols from other sources. But hard liquor has none, other than it works very well as a good disinfectant and antiseptic.
The thing is, I get what you’re saying, and I will back you up on that and agree with you, but I also do think it has a strong medicinal purpose.
The thing is, it’s like ayahuasca. Most people don’t admit that ayahuasca, that they know anybody had that destroy their lives. People have got stories of LSD destroying lives and stuff. I’m not going to go into details, but I know someone personally who went on an ayahuasca trip and they weren’t really the same, in a positive sense, after that again and I know a lot of people have had many positive results with it too.
But, it’s with everything, there’s positives and negatives with every single thing that we come in contact with, with everything that we ingest, with everything that we do, and you’re right, marijuana is no different. For some, it could help them tremendously, for others it could destroy their life. I guess that’s what you’re trying to get at?
Alex Tsakiris: No, you’ve totally given your position in a really articulate way. I’m not trying to pick on people who smoke weed and I get the whole thing. Hey, there’s no comparison between weed and alcohol. If you just had to pick one to use in moderation, pick weed, there’s no question.
John Brisson: Yes.
Alex Tsakiris: But, I’m always a little bit bleary when I get at these discussions and people immediately want to, lesser of evil, kind of thing. It’s like, how about having a healthy approach to just consciousness and where you take it and what you do with it and what your purpose is? But, you’re all about that.
Are there any other vices out there that you feel like maybe…? Vaping is another one that’s really popular and vaping’s not good, right?
John Brisson: Nicotine does have some possible improvements to mitochondrial function on occasion, in memory and neurological function, but most of the chemicals in your standard vape, like, you wouldn’t want to breathe in polyethylene glycol, you probably don’t want to deal with “organic” vaping like glycerin, but there is some minor medicinal benefit to nicotine use when used in moderation. But, it’s like everything else, there’s medicinal benefits to the use of opioids if you’re in severe pain, that being said, you don’t want to go and inject heroin, but when used properly, even caffeine, even though I just harped on it for a while, it increases alertness and increases memory and cognitive functions, it does have some possible health benefits, especially when consumed in the form of coffee.
So, it’s each to their own. For some people marijuana can cause problems, like cannabis hyperemesis syndrome, where a person who smokes marijuana, some of the cannabinoids can cause him to vomit very violently and they should not ever smoke weed. So, there are instances where people should medically stay away from weed and there’s some people the medically should use it. It depends on whether you’re using it for creativity properly or exploration properly or if you’re just using it to escape the world and get high. If you’re using it for that, I don’t recommend anybody use anything for those types of methods. I, myself, I don’t ingest anything, the only thing I might ingest occasionally is a little bit of caffeine in the form of dark chocolate, but I haven’t done anything in years. I just drink water for the most part and sometimes juice. So, I don’t like the way most drugs make you lose your sense of control.
Alex Tsakiris: Fair enough. You’ve been very open and I want to, again, stress to people that this guy knows so darn much that we can’t possibly bring it all forward and I like the way that in this interview you’ve, kind of, brought it down I think, to more of a low-tech level, because you can get off on these things in a way that is necessary. You’ve mastered it and you have to share that knowledge, but it can be a little overwhelming for people, that’s why they need to go to the website, Fix Your Gut, where they can pick and choose and munch on this stuff and think about it.
The last topic I want to talk about, I really want to pull you in another direction and just something that’s personally interesting to me, and that’s the proposition of where medical technology might be taking us. Not just in the hokey, controlled, phony medical science that we see, but the promises that are being made for the quantum leaps we might make with strong AI, with biotech engineering, with gene manipulation and all of that stuff that is right on the cusp of being real, in a way that is exciting to a lot of people, but is also very, very scary and threatening to anyone that scratches below the surface and then looks back at where we’ve come from and says, “Where the hell are we heading?”
So, I was just saying you’re extremely well-versed in this stuff, but you’re taking, kind of a low-tech science approach, you’re saying, “Hey man, here’s some natural substances, a lot of times supplements, that you can get, they’re just right out of nature and you can take them and you can feel a lot better and you can fill the gap that medical science has created.” Can you jump over on the other side and say, what are we to make of these, just moonshot level advances that are being promised?
John Brisson: Well, the way I look at the world is probably a little bit negative, so I would assume that a lot of those technological advances, if you want to call it the genetic changes through CRISPR or transhumanism, they concern me. I’m afraid it’s going to turn into a future of, like I have no mouth and I want to scream, type thing. If we integrate with AI and we live forever, if something goes wrong, if it’s malevolent, how can we be free? As long as men can die, as long as tyrants can be defeated, men have the chance of freedom.
Alex Tsakiris: But doesn’t a lot of that stuff just seem kind of inevitable? It’s like, if you think back John, on the stuff that 15 years ago, and as soon as they role out some baby that’s going to be cured or some mother who has some lifesaving condition, they can sell just about anything, in terms of how it’s going to help somebody; a transplant or a biogenetic arm where we go, “Oh my god, that guy lost his arm and now he can do this, and not only that, but he can pick up a dumbbell three times his own weight.” There’s going to be a lot of that stuff that we’re going to embrace because, from a practical standpoint we’re going to measure the pluses versus the minuses and we’re going to jump onboard and don’t you worry that before long we’ll just be down that path and almost, you’re a compete luddite, you’re just not going to be able to…?
John Brisson: We already are down that path, if I hold something in my right hand now that emits a lot of EMF radiation that the majority of Americans have, that can track everywhere I go, can listen to me and possibly can analyze my brain thoughts, it’s called a cell phone and I accepted this, “mark of the beast” a long time ago, just because of the ease of use of being able to talk to people and send emails and look at the World Wide Web.
So yeah, you have a point. I’ve accepted it, a lot of people have, a lot of people are probably going to accept a lot of things in the future, but that necessarily doesn’t make them right. For example, you could ask me and it’s a tough question, so I’ll ask it myself. My son, he could have been fixed through CRISPR. Would I have had that done? I don’t know. A part of me wants to say yes, because he would have a better life, he wouldn’t have to deal with his ailment, he would still be here today. Another part of me says that it could cause some unforeseen incident and could trigger something that could cause problems. I don’t know, it’s a tough call, it’s a tough call.
Alex Tsakiris: It’s kind of playing God either way. I think a lot of people don’t really fully embrace both sides of that. Either side you pick, you’re playing God.
John Brisson: Yeah, but I think as human beings we are made in the creator’s image, so our minds, our souls, our bodies. So, if we look at it from that standpoint, then we play God, to some degree, through a lot of things that we do on daily basis.
Alex Tsakiris: But isn’t that problematic to say, in the creator’s image? We don’t know what creator is. We don’t know if creator is an ET. We don’t know if creator is an AI. We don’t know what creator is. I believe in the hierarchical order of consciousness. I believe, that to me is codeword for God, but it’s not like a God I the cloud, kind of thing.
John Brisson: I don’t either. I don’t either believe. I believe that the creator is unknowable.
Alex Tsakiris: So, unknowable leaves open the possibility of ET, a lair of ET, a lair of AI, a lair of us being genetically modified beings. We’re already playing in that middle ground anyway. I’m just not totally sure that I’m comfortable resting on the, “Oh, I just look at who came before me and that’s how I should look in the future.”
John Brisson: Oh no, I’m not either. I look to the future too, I’m just afraid of, how much soul are you willing to give?
Alex Tsakiris: I don’t know. I don’t know what that soul is.
John Brisson: And I can’t answer that question either. How much of what makes us human, what makes us us, what makes us individuals, are we willing to give up the good and the bad?
One of the questions I’m going to ask you Alex is, you said that this is a direction that we’re heading into, and it seems to be unstoppable, is there a possibility that this has happened before?
Alex Tsakiris: That’s where I’m going too, I think when we open up that possibility, or is it happening multiple times or an immeasurable number of times all over the universe already and is it some cycle that isn’t even a defined cycle, everyone’s out just, kind of doing their own thing and on the anthill going, “Oh my gosh, we just had the biggest natural disaster in history,” because somebody stepped on our anthill, and the person that stepped on it was just like, “Hey man, I had to mow the grass. Sorry.”
John Brisson: And I do talk about the use of technology too. For example, my grandfather used red light LEDs and low-level laser treatment therapy on his hip, both times he broke his hip, to recover and the doctors told him both times that he would never walk again, never be able to walk, even though the second time he had a full hip replacement, and he’s 92 and can still walk. So, I’m not going to say that I don’t recommend the use of some technology, and Jack Kruse talks a lot about this, that it will be a long time in the future before we can ever replicate the exact power of the sun and the different wavelengths it has available to us. Modern lighting does it very poorly through the use of florescent lighting or LED lights. They don’t work very well, as far as their ability to mimic actual degree shifts and UV shifts and IR shifts of the sun that happens naturally throughout the day and the different benefits of the exposure of each thing.
So, my thing is, is it ever going to be better than what’s out there? And I don’t have an answer to that, but I could tell you right now, it’s not. It’s not any better, and I can’t tell you whether or not, if we do have the technology to move worlds, if it would be used for benevolent purposes or malevolent purposes, I don’t know. All I know is that most technology now, whether ignorant or not, is used for malevolent purposes.
Alex Tsakiris: I think it does get back to this idea of being able to jump between these different worlds and that’s what I really like about your work.
John has a lot of well-researched opinions on some conspiratorial stuff that we haven’t even gotten into because his main thing, really, is this book, Fix Your But, and he’s helped so many people, so, so many people with his work and I think it’s great.
Our guest, again, has been John Brisson. The book is, Fix Your Gut. You’re going to check out his website as well at fixyourgut.com.
John, it’s been terrific having you on and we might have to have another session and talk about some of that other stuff and really freak people out.
John Brisson: Thank you for having me on Skeptiko Alex, it’s been a pleasure.