Bonus: Steve Wright on Leaky Guts and More


Jonathan: Hey, everybody. Jonathan Bailor back with another Calorie Myth show. And we have one of the most popular guests we’ve ever had, as judge by you and your comments in emails, none other than the man behind The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and Lifestyle, Steve Wright. Welcome back, brother!

Steve: Hey, what’s up, Jonathan. Thank you, man, I’m very excited to chat again.

Jonathan: Steve, you left a lasting legacy last time you were on the show, because you had the candor and the kindness to talk about some topics that not a lot of people talk about but affect a lot of people.

Steve: Yeah. Digestion. If you’re stomach is having a bad day, it’s kind of hard to just live life. It’s hard to be a good person when you feel like you have a gorilla in there banging around.

Jonathan: It’s true. And one of the things I like about what you do, Steve, is there is a lot of talk about indigestion and gas and flatulence and gut and leaky gut, but you wrap it up a little bit, and I think you also try to strip out some of the extraneous stuff. I think some of the diet-related conversations that take place around the gut, certainly there is a lot of stuff can you do. But I think you’ve done a pretty good job of isolating the things that really make the biggest difference. Because we’re all really super-busy. So, before we get into that, can you tell us a little bit about what you personally did to begin this journey?

Steve: Yeah. And kind of what you hit on there was my personal journey. So I started with an electrical engineering degree, was like 60 pounds heavier than where I am right now coming out of college. Had a lot of IBS issues and went to a lot of doctors. And they just kept saying it’s IBS, you’re going to have this forever, do fiber, eat whole grains, eat more toast, more oatmeal, and none of that stuff worked for me. It actually made my bloating and gas hurt more. And for a long time, I just thought you know what, I’m going to man it up. If this is the cards I got dealt, I can still live my life, and I can still be doing amazing things. But it really got to a point where, for instance, it got so bad that I actually got called into my boss’s office because the cube farm that I was in for this consulting job said that they had narrowed down this awful, smelly person to me. And so at that level, when it’s starting to impact your job and dating, you know, because you just don’t feel good, and it’s hard to smile. I wanted another answer. And so that’s where my good friend and business partner, Jordan, turned me on to The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which is essentially pretty close to the same food groups that you recommend. It’s starch-free as well, so it’s a little different, but it’s a digestive tool. And so just changing my diet overnight really got rid of the gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn in a week. And then I started losing weight, my skin got a little better, and things just kind of got better and better. But it was a longer process than that, because the initial symptoms, the pain that I was dealing with, the constipation, diarrhea, went away really fast and the weight and skin started to improve, but then I got this plateau. And I feel like most people, when they start on these journeys to get healthier, they see how much change they can impact on themselves. They don’t want to settle for a C grade. They want to go all the way to A, whatever A is for them. They want perfect skin, or they want the six-pack, or they just want to be able to be the same way they were a long time ago. And those are things that I wanted. I was sick of having low energy, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t lose the last 20 pounds.

And so that kind of launched me on this journey on functional medicine training, sneaking into doctor conferences, reading every paper and book I can get my hands on regarding hormones and the gut and detox and the brain, and how is this all connected, and why couldn’t I just get to that amazing, vibrant level of health, despite eating a really good diet for a long time, like two years.

Jonathan: So, Steve, what have you seen? Because I know, for example, the Paleo Diet. Obviously, we’re both big, big fans of that. But it’s a bit broader. It focuses on autoimmunity in general, whereas it seems like you’ve really specialized in one specific aspect. And what have you seen, I guess, maybe the divergence. If someone’s just really trying to focus in on gastrointestinal issues and maybe mention some of the most common ones, what they would do besides eat like a cavemen. Or, is that really it?

Steve: That’s a great place to start. Definitely a great place to start. So if you’re having heartburn, bloating, gas, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, if you’ve been diagnosed with IBS, IBB, any of these things, celiac disease, diverticulosis, Paleo could be your answer. But a lot of times, I found that it’s not. And so where a diet gaps or the specific carbohydrate taking that a step further is they cut out foods that are potentially more inflammatory and are harder to digest. Such as starch. While it’s great nutrient source, and the foods are really good for a lot of people, if you have certain level damage in your intestinal tract, or you have certain infections, you won’t be able to digest it, and it’s going to cause health issues. As well as I think Paleo, in general, allows things like chocolate, and they’re not too strict on additives. And there is a lot of good research that chocolate can really trigger GI issues for people whose GI tract is kind of ravaged or disrupted or not working properly. Additives like guar gum and carrageenan, while we try not to ingest those, they’re found in a lot of Paleo foods, and they are found in the real food groups that a lot of people talk about. But these additives can be a big issue for people with digestive problems.

And so that Bates template, sort of like Paleo minus starch, is kind of like The Specific Carbohydrate Diet. But what we found is that when you’re in that state of any autoimmune condition. If you are weight-loss resistant, like you’re doing the exercise right, you’ve got the basic diet right, but nothing’s happening. These are signs that you have issues at multiple levels, and your digestion is probably compromised at this point. So you can begin to become intolerant to eggs, to nuts, to almost any food. And some people but dairy, you know, butter inside Paleo, not inside Paleo. I’m very anti-dogmatic. I’m about what’s the custom diet that you can eat right now that makes you feel good. And then let’s look at, like you take the approach, Jonathan, which I love, which is let’s take a look at nutrition and inflammation for food groups. And over time, you might have to get restricted to feel good digestively, but then as you heal, let’s open it back up, and let’s bring in potatoes. And if dairy and you get along later in life, go for it. I think it’s all about the custom diet that’s related to where you’re at with your health.

Jonathan: Steve, that’s a really, really critical point. I can’t tell you how often you get asked. I’m sure you get asked as well because I know you do a lot of consulting as well. Is this good or bad. Like guar gum, you actually mentioned guar gum, which is great. We actually use that in a lot of recipes. So people might be like, Jonathan, uh oh. There might be some drama. Steve said he’s anti-guar gum. And I think the key thing here is what both you and I are saying is that refined sugar, probably not a good choice for anybody. Then there’s the category like guar gum where it’s how does it make you feel. The science is there. There are certain studies that have shown it has some amazing positive properties, but if it causes you to have negative effects, just like chocolate can make people have some negative effects, the answer is do what works for you. And that is so simplifying. Instead of looking to the next guru, try it. If it sucks, stop. And if it’s great, keep going.

Steve: Exactly, man. I think people forget that everything in life is on a continuum. And it’s things like nightshades. If you look at the research on cayenne pepper, you can find thousands of studies on how good it is for your health. And yet, people with autoimmune conditions who have a gut that’s messed up, have a leaky gut, they may not be able to handle any nightshades at all. Like you were saying with guar gum, there are a lot of these with chocolate. Again, super-potent antioxidant, ton of magnesium, very good food, as long as you’re eating the high-quality dark stuff, but for a lot of people, they can’t handle it.

Jonathan: It’s funny because there is so much “confusion” around nutrition. But if we look at nutrition almost like what do I need to do to be healthy. Let’s compare that to a question like what do I need to do to be happy. And we already kind of intrinsically know that it takes different things for different people to be happy. For example, Steve, if you were like how to be happy. And you’re like I really like playing the piano. And I’m like, I really like playing lacrosse, and then someone was like I’m so confused. Should I play the piano or should I play lacrosse? Well the answer is, maybe neither. You’ve got to find what makes you happy. Right?

Steve: Yeah. Totally. And I think that’s the approach that Jordan and I have taken on our site, as well as working with people individually one-on-one. Custom approaches that work for your lifestyle. Because, again, food is so interwoven in our lives. Societally. A lot of times it’s not just about health. It’s about more than that. And so I think people need to use your guidelines, sometimes test, removing other things when you have health complaints. Like if you’re still complaining about your health, and you haven’t tried removing eggs and dairy and nightshades and guar gum and things like that. I mean, give it a shot, like you’re saying. Just test and see what happens. At the end, if you’re already done that, start letting go, breathe a little, have a little fun.

Jonathan: And Steve, do you have a recommendation on how… Some folks, they have the personality type where it’s very easy for them to all or nothing. They’re like, look, I’m just going to eat vegetables and meat and fish, got it, check, I understand. Then for some people, they want to be a little bit more like I want to eat as many things as possible and then take away this and then take away this. So if I’m more in the latter camp, if I want to go as broad in the types of foods I’m going to eat as possible, what would be the first things, beyond the processed nonsense, that you would recommend folks one at a time, or in groups, eliminate?

Steve: That’s a great question. And we’re both speaking hoping a few people are already following your diet or the Paleo diet or some real food diet. But, yeah, definitely, you’ve removed the processed stuff at this point. So, Jonathan, I love that approach. I’ve got to say… My background’s engineering, and it’s actually in the manufacturing of cars. So when you design a door or a lock or a wheel, you design around this idea called failsafe. So if that mechanism fails, if that object fails, the door doesn’t fly off and we blow out of the car and die. Or the wheel just doesn’t break off and you’re doing 70 on the highway, and good luck now. So Jordan and I have carried this idea into health and say why aren’t we working from this idea of failsafe where we try to get everyone to get results, and then reintroduce the emotional feel-good love of diversity and having a more diverse diet. So I would actually recommend going very restrictive for a short period of time. Like commit maybe like 14 days at the minimum or maybe four to six weeks. I think four weeks is really kind of the good cutoff point where you get rid of almost everything down to meats, fruits, vegetables and spices and herbs. And then start adding in the food groups every three to four days and just test. You’re going to typically figure out faster and get faster results if you do it this way versus kind of just playing around with maybe eggs, maybe it’s dairy, maybe it’s guar gum. And that process takes such… you have to take so good notes to make sense of that, that I find most people fail. And so I like to take the approach let’s get results as fast as possible based on the research and based on how easy it is to digest the food, and then let’s get your diversity and your novelty in your diet back as fast as we can, which is like the four-week mark, it’s like let’s start hitting it.

Jonathan: Cool. I like that, Steve, because I think we also, mentally, if we can time-box things, even if it’s a challenge. For this four weeks, we’re going to make it happen, I’m going to be very focused. It’s going to be something that I dedicate my conscious effort to. And it starts to become a habit, it starts to become a little bit more flexible as time goes on, so you can direct your willpower to other things. And, Steve, one other question, not just in terms of the types of food, but just for me personally. You know I eat a lot of vegetables. And a lot of very fibrous vegetables can sometimes little gastrointestinal issues. Right? And I had the experience we talked about earlier of sometime we fall into these traps of listening to what the Internet says is good or bad, rather than what’s actually working for us. So I was experimenting for me personally because I have more of a background in bodybuilding. And in bodybuilding circles, six meals a day is just what you do to keep nitrogen levels up and to be in an anabolic state. And there’s very little ambiguity that if your goal is muscle development that you should be dosing protein every three to four hours. Anyway, but I stopped doing that. Because I was like, oh, interesting. Fasting, ya da, ya da, ya da. But I was still like I need to eat 12 servings of vegetables a day. If you try to eat 12 servings of vegetables per day two meals, you’re going to have some gastrointestinal problems. So if you eat a lot of vegetables, and you hear all this talk about intermittent fasting and meal frequency, how do you balance maximizing nutrient intake with not just bombarding your digestive system with a lot of fiber?

Steve: That’s a great question. And I think it’s going to get answered over the next five to ten years. Because as we talk about foods, some foods can be very healing or very harmful, and intermittent fasting, these things we’re stumbling on seem to be very good in one direction, but if your problems or your body is in a different direction, it might not be the right tool at the right time. And so, how you can get 12 servings in two meals is you can actually start, and I’m not a huge fan of it, but it’s one of the only ways to do it. Actually start doing like a green drink along with that meal. The other big thing is to reduce GI distress when you’re eating a lot of vegetables is to cook them. So everyone loves a salad, and I love a crunchy, nice salad, too. But there are a couple of foods out there that are in the real food category that people don’t think about their poor GI tract. So nuts and greens are just hard to digest. I mean they’re fibrous, they’re tough, and every plant has defence mechanisms. So our gut has to work really hard to digest those things. So I would reduce the amount of raw greens or raw vegetables in general. So cook them more and then maybe introduce like a green drink where you can maybe get two to four or five servings in that. And it should help with things.

Now the other thing to be cognizant of. I find this in people who are really trying to maximize their health. Yesterday they were eating salads, but today they’re having broccoli. And they have like a half plate of broccoli. And your gut responds to whatever type of fiber or whatever type of nutrient it’s getting. It’s like any colony outside in the real world. If you go drop some peanut butter on the sidewalk, bacteria, ants, everything is going to grow up because of the food source. So if we’re always changing the food source that we give our gut, it can be very hard because the gut’s just not ready. And so the ecology is such that, oh crap, now we have a half pound of broccoli. We don’t know what to do with this. But if you were eat broccoli every day for three days, you could handle a much larger amount of broccoli on day three because the ecology has already changed because you’re feeding this gut flora, and so it’s changing with everything you eat. So people who bounce between big servings of veggies every couple of days but they don’t eat the same things consistently can kind of cause their own issues with doing things like that as well.

Jonathan: Got you. So just to make sure the listeners and viewers don’t get confused, the message is not green vegetables are bad for you, eat fewer green vegetables. The message is if you are having severe gastrointestinal distress, there are some approaches to how you’re eating green vegetables that may ameliorate those. Some are cooking, blending them up so that it’s easier to digest. Eating the same type consistently. Anything else?

Steve: You hit the nail on the head. I think green vegetables are great. I think vegetables in general are very great, so I’m not advocating eating less. Other than if your biggest health challenge right now is GI problems and you seem to have narrowed it down to veggies, definitely go cooked, definitely try to… blending or pureeing is a way to essentially do the best job of chewing you could ever do. So, doing those types of things can make it easier to get those nutrients into the body.

Jonathan: Well, Steve, we’re running out of time here, but I wanted to see what you’ve got going on next. Because I know both you and I share an engineering background, so I’m always curious to know what you’re engineering back there in The Specific Carbohydrate Diet repertoire.

Steve: Thanks man. So I don’t know if you’ve heard about this idea called leaky gut. And I’ve kind of alluded to it a little bit during this podcast. But essentially leaky gut is where your gut gets hammered, and the holes that typically allow in small particles are now bigger, and so you’re getting toxins, undigested food particles that are going into your gut because of these holes being bigger. And so any time your guts damaged, this is going on. If you have any autoimmune condition, you have leaky gut. A lot of people who aren’t losing weight, they might probably have leaky gut. Skin issues, brain issues. If you search intestinal permeability in pub med plus whatever disorder or complaint you have, you will find papers leaking them together. And so Jordan and I got a little upset about the mount of progress people were making when they just switched to a real food diet. We wanted better. And what we’ve been doing for the last six months, we hired researchers, we worked with Dr. Tom O’Brien, who is one of the world’s leading gluten researchers and intestinal permeability teachers. And we tried to engineer a pleiotropic and engineering approach to solving leaky gut. Because a lot of people are talking about leaky gut. A lot of people are saying, hey, the gut’s really important for your health. That’s all true. But there are no good methodologies. How do you fix it? How do you get rid of it? How do you connect skin and brain and weight and autoimmunity? And so what we did is we broke it down into this big course where we walk you through. And this is designed for the non-scientist, the non-engineer. It’s designed for the layperson. What is leaky gut, how could you be affected? And then we used a custom quiz that kind of spits you out that’s based on lifestyle changes, supplement changes, and diet changes, based on where you’ve at and what you’ve been diagnosed with. So it’s a brand new approach to getting info that you might only get in a functional medicine practitioner’s office into your hands at your house to take the next steps, including the specific protocols that Dr. Tom’s using for over ten years with people who are severely, severely ill. So it’s a really cool thing, and if we can [inaudible – audio breakup 21:04] if you have leaky gut. What we’re doing is we’re trying to educate people about leaky gut and develop free resources. So what we’ve done is we’ve put together some new information, as well as we put together a quiz that kind of gives you a risk assessment to see might you have leaky gut or do one of your loved ones have leaky gut.

So if you go to caloriemythbook.com/leakygut. Go over to our new quiz that we’ve built that will give you specific feedback on yeses and nos that you give to it. And it will give also a first interview from one of these people. Potentially Dr. Tom or another expert. Because I’m an engineer, and so my approach, like you, Jonathan, probably, is let’s take everything out there that’s know scientifically and [inaudible – audio breakup 21:53] in the practitioner’s office, and let’s figure out what works. Let’s boil it down. Let’s get rid of the stuff that’s theory and what’s actually working right now. And so that’s where this quiz is going to help people. We really tried to narrow it down to what are steps people can take, right away, today, and how would they know leaky gut. It might be the reason they can’t get rid of the extra weight, or their asthma is still acting up, or their ADHD is going crazy.

Jonathan: I think that’s really useful, Steve, because I think this is a very identifiable problem, and it’s a very difficult problem. And I think a lot of people may sometimes turn to a SANE lifestyle or a Paleo approach, which really are very broad. It’s more like saying look, this is the new approach to healthy. Where what you’re saying and what you’re offering here is it’s like, look, if you’ve got this very specific condition, we are going to create for you a very specific and personalized template, and educate you on how to cure this. Hopefully. Like literally eliminate it. And you don’t need to get confused about cross-fit and eccentric exercise, and those are all wonderful things, but if you’ve got this problem, now, hopefully, there is a solution. And that quiz will get them started.

Steve: Yeah. So the quiz will get them started. And we’re going to be doing a few webinars where we’re going to go through how to heal a leaky gut. And there will be a lot of interviews from the top practitioners in the world about this. Yeah. You hit the nail on the head there, man. I want this to be simple. It should not be this hard to get healthy. That’s my opinion. And I am devoted to creating resources that I wish I would have had five years ago. So I wasted a ton of money, a ton of time with different practitioners who didn’t get the full picture, [inaudible – audio breakup 23:37] it didn’t matter. I’ve got CVS in my kitchen full of products that didn’t work for me. And so really what this is all about is educating people that, hey, if you have a health complaint that’s not going away, even thought you’ve changed your diet. It’s likely getting worse or is part of the gut. So the gut is the key linkage that every human has. I mean we’re all snowflakes. We all have our genetics and our epigenetics and differences and different lifestyles, cross-fit, walker, etc. But there is a part of the snowflake that’s called just water. It’s just the molecules that snowflake is. And that’s our gut for humans. We all have the same gut. It has to work correctly for us to get the nutrients to create the hormones to create the body we want. And so without that, I think that’s where we’ve got to start. And that’s what this program’s about.

Jonathan: Well I love it, Steve. And I really just personally appreciate your commitment to bring new information to the surface. As you know, there’s a lot of derivative stuff out there. But I had a chance to see the program. I dig it. You and Jordan have really put not only your head but your hearts into it, so I really appreciate that. And folks, again, check it out over at caloriemythbook.com/leakygut.

Our guest today is the always enjoyable Steve Wright. And Steve, what is just the general website for your and all the things you’ve got going on.

Steve: If you want to get more info on The Specific Carbohydrate Diet and the work that we’ve done in that area, go to scdlifestyle.com and then the new product you can get access to there. But go to the caloriemythbook.com/leaky gut. Take the quiz, get some free info. That’s what this really is about is giving people more tools to be healthier.

And, Jonathan, I’ve just got to say poop. I don’t know if I said that. And I want to be that guy that keeps making sure that poop is not as taboo as sex because right now, I think it is more. And that’s too bad.

Jonathan: Well, Steve. Kudos to you and everyone. Share the support for the engineers who are also dabbling in the health arena. So, Steve, as always, thank you. And listeners, thank you for joining us today. Again, check out caloriemythbook.com/leakygut. And remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. We’ll chat with you soon.

This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Steve Wright.

In his own words:

Who am I?

  • Currently living in Lansing, MI
  • Bachelor of Science from Kettering University
  • Always interested in looking good and feeling better
  • Fascinated by why we make and take the choices we do

Summary of problems leading to SCD?

  • Several doctors diagnosed me with IBS
  • Tried over the counter pills, high fiber, and different diets
  • Also dealt with fistula and L. Bifidus overgrowth

My first week on the diet (Intro diet experience)

My intro diet experience was successful and I saw results really fast:

  • No Dairy or Coffee
  • Major relief in 4 days
  • Removed Gelatin and saw a big improvement
  • Die off Symptoms: Brain Fog, Cravings, Tired

My first 6 months on SCD

A couple weeks into the diet I was feeling much better, after a few stumbles (SCD is a skill), around the 10 week mark I was really settling into a groove and feeling amazing!

  • Took me 3 months to get through all the phases
  • Saw major improvements when I added digestive enzymes and betaine HCL
  • Saw another major big jump when I added SCD legal yogurt
  • Supplements @ 6 months: Multivitamin, B-complex, B12, Probiotics, Digestive Enzymes, Betaine HCL, Vitamin D3, Iodine, and Zinc (specific to my situation)

My 1 year Update (How SCD has changed me)

After a year, I was at a whole new level of health I never knew I could achieve, I got bored and started playing with things.

  • Spent 3-4 months with perfect poops and amazing health
  • Got my smelling back after I cut out all dairy (except butter)
  • After a year small cheats didn’t affect me much
  • Unhappy that my stomach acid levels were not returning so I decided to start experimenting
  • Great first year, never pooped better, learned to cook, and doubled my energy levels

Where My Health Is Now(Periodically updated as of 2/14/10)