Today I’m interviewing Mike Mutzel and we get down into the nitty-gritty of how to lose fat and why gut health and gut bacteria and inflammation play a very important role.
So I want to tell you a little bit about how Mike and I met. I heard Mike’s name mentioned about three times or so in the last few weeks. So I just knew I had to get him on the show. We’ve followed similar paths – we both started out as personal trainers, and now we actually have the same job as Functional Medicine Consultants, but for different companies. And funny enough Mike just flew into San Diego today because he’s filming the Digestion Sessions talk with Sean Croxton from Underground Wellness tomorrow. It’s funny because right now Mike is actually at my house and we’re both doing this interview at my house, but we’re in different rooms. By the way, you should definitely check out the Underground Wellness Digestion Sessions.
Mike has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Western Washington University and he’s completing his Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport. He’s also a graduate of the Institute for Functional Medicine’s (IFM) Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice (AFMCP). He’s an independent consultant for one of the world’s leading professional nutrition companies, has worked as a nutritionist with Dr. Guillory in Denver Colorado, and has lectured alongside Dr. Guillory to large patient groups in the Denver area. He’s been featured on local TV programs discussing the power of nutrition and functional medicine. In April of this year, Mike launched his first book, Belly Fat Effect: The Real Secret about How Your Diet, Intestinal Health, and Gut Bacteria Help You Burn Fat.
To continue his quest for knowledge, Mike attends many continuing education seminars learning from the top researchers in fields through groups like ACAM, A4M, IFM – you might have heard of some of those. He has currently completed four of six Advanced Practice Modules to earn the only board certification in Functional Medicine through IFM. I have to say that’s really impressive because those are really hard and they take up a lot of time. So that’s awesome. You can go to Mike’s website to get his book and also to sign up for his video series. That’s at mikemutzel.com or bellyfateffect.com. I’ll let him share a little bit more about the resources that are available, so let’s get Mike on the show.
Mike: Hey there, Evelyne. Thanks so much for the opportunity. I’m really glad to be on your show and talk about belly fat and gut bacteria and all that fun stuff.
Evelyne: Absolutely. And I also forgot to add to your bio that you have a podcast as well. Do you just want to share that really quickly?
Mike: I do, yeah. It’s very similar in the sense that we cover some advanced concepts in functional, integrative medicine and fitness. It’s called High Intensity Health Radio. So like you, Evelyne, I’m just very passionate about this and want to spread the knowledge and awareness. So that’s on iTunes and Stitcher.
Evelyne: Awesome. Yeah, it’s funny because I feel like a lot of the other podcast aren’t specifically geared to women, but it sounds like both of ours actually are. So I thought I was the only one, but not anymore. [Chuckle]
So there’s kind of this outdated concept of weight and fat loss, that’s about calories and blood sugar balance. And we definitely debunked that on the show last week with Jonathan Bailor, but this new perspective is more about inflammation and gut bacteria. So I’d love for you to talk about that to set the stage for today’s show.
Mike: Yeah, well the big picture, we can get really down to the nitty-gritty and talk about short-chain fatty acids, and all these sorts of things, but really what it comes down to Evelyne – and this is what I really stress in my book, and anytime I do webinars or teach this – is that everything that we eat or drink first comes in contact with our intestinal epithelia – our gut barrier which, I know we’ll talk about today, releases a bunch of different hormones that affect our metabolism, affect our ability to burn or store fat, affect our ability to raise or lower blood sugar, affect appetite, and so forth.
And then the other major contact point that food or beverages or even chewing gum affect in our gut is our gut microflora. And there are many synonymous names for our gut bugs. Collectively there are a hundred trillion single cell bacteria that colonize our intestine, 80% of which are found in the large intestine, but there are still ample bugs in our mouth, in our esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. But these bugs outnumber the number of cells in our body 10 to 1. They outnumber the number of DNA or the amount of DNA that we have in our body between – depends on what you read – between 150 times and 350 times that of our own.
So they garner us a lot of metabolic activity. Actually, if we think about like a very metabolically active organ in our body we can think of something like the liver. It helps to detoxify things and it’s involved in hormone processing in blood sugar. Well guess what? Our gut microbiome has the metabolic activity greater than that of our liver, which is one of the most metabolically active organs. So these gut bacteria are so powerful they contribute 6,320 different metabolic functions for our body. But here’s the situation that a lot of people forget about when they’re counting calories – like you mentioned with Jonathan Bailor they’re focused on all these different diets and they get real myopic about it – is the big picture that everything you eat influences the composition of these bugs, which can be either for the better or for worse. If you eat a diet that’s rich in processed carbohydrates, rich in processed unsaturated fats like sunflower oil, corn oil and soy oil, you actually foster the growth of really nasty bacteria.
And these bacteria can then create short-chain fatty acids that that make you fat, or they can affect your metabolism, affect your blood sugar, and so on.
So that’s really where the science is going, and ample research has shown that when we eat these bad diets we affect our gut hormones and our gut bugs. And that’s really, in my opinion and based upon all the research, is that at the core, the foundation, of where cardiometabolic and also inflammatory diseases begin.
Evelyne: I think now there’s a study coming out or several studies coming out just about every week about our gut microflora and the microbiome, as they call it. Which is really exciting because finally it’s almost like mainstream medicine is maybe starting to pay attention to this. So when it comes to our own microbiome, is that something that people are born with or is it something that changes over time? And how do you have an optimal gut microbiome because I know everybody’s going to have a different one. Can you talk about that?
Mike: Perfect! Yeah, great question! I’m so glad you brought that up, that modern medicine is really acknowledging this. And no kidding, a study just came out by a very traditional journal, Nature Medicine, that found that synthetic sweeteners actually affect our gut microbiome, and in so doing they raise blood sugar. So it’s been taught for a long time that, “Oh well just have a Diet Coke instead of a sugar Coke or you know full-sugar Coke.” But really these synthetic sweeteners actually perturb your gut microbiome.
But to get back to your specific question – how can we? Well first of all, is our microbiome stable or not? And that’s a really good point. We’re actually born somewhat sterile. Now I say somewhat because research has shown that we’re not 100% sterile; the placenta does have bacteria in it. But the bottom line is that the early life environment is a huge developmental window for our gut bacteria and the microbes that colonize our body. And so what we see is individuals who have fallen to the modern medical trap of C-section, and antibiotics, and get on formula in their first years of life, that can perturb the gastrointestinal microbiome, and in so doing affect metabolic health, immune health, cardiovascular health, and neurologic health.
So those are very critical developmental windows because when you’re born you’re relatively sterile. If you’re not born naturally through the vagina, you’re not colonized by healthy bacteria. Instead you’re colonized by bacteria that are in the ambient air of hospitals, which is normally Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile – two relatively pathogenic and pro-inflammatory bacteria. And you’re educating the naïve neonatal immune system to be really hypervigilant to inflammatory stimuli. And that’s why C-section-delivered babies have a higher prevalence of obesity, cardiometabolic diseases, allergies, atopic skin disorders and so on. So their immune system is just hypervigilant. And then when we perturb the bacteria or the gut environment further with formula…
My daughter is two-and-a-half years old right now. My wife wasn’t really producing breast milk. This is just a story Evelyne, on the side, but I think our listeners might resonate with this. We couldn’t find a healthy infant formula. It was soy-meal with fructose and folic acid and pretty much just nothing that I would give to my daughter. So what we had to do is find breast milk donors, real humans, and we also supplemented with raw unpasteurized goat milk, to get these beneficial immunoglobulins to help train my daughter’s immune system, to help give the prebiotic… There are things called oligosaccharides or fuel for the good bacteria in raw human milk (or raw goat’s milk). And so that’s a critical developmental window.
So I think and what we’re seeing now is in the first six months after children are born a lot of mommies are not breast-feeding. They might do it for few weeks and then they peter out because their neighbor, family friend, and cousin are giving their babies formula. So it’s probably okay for them, they think, but it’s really problematic. I have a lot of friends with kids, and I’ve worked with clients who had children, and a lot of these kids that are on formula have skin issues, they have GI issues, they have loose stools; there’s a lot of challenges linked with that. So early-life nutrition is a big deal.
And then as we get into the adult years our microbiome somewhat stabilizes – back to your original question. We do have this, what they call in research an “enterotype”. It’s kind of like someone’s personality – you know, they’re generally nice and fun; can be a little bit quiet or whatever – that’s how researchers kind of look at the enterotype, which would be like categorizing our microbiome. It’s relatively stable, but certain things do perturb it, for example: excessive alcohol. If you go out and binge drink that’s going to perturb you got microbiome and fluctuate that enterotype. Antibiotics. And I know the medical community is acknowledging now that we shouldn’t give antibiotics for a toe ache or an earache. Researchers are highlighting that, “You know what? Let’s be more vigilant with how we prescribe antibiotics.” Thankfully!
And so the listeners understand there’s a great book out there by Martin Blasier in New York – and I quote a lot of his studies in my book Belly Fat Effect – it’s called Missing Microbes. So if you want more of an academic recount of how we’ve really gone wrong with bacteria – great book. He goes through antibiotics and food, antibiotics in our medical system, and how we’ve really gotten away from that. So antibiotics are a big no-no.
And then also, it’s actually over-the-counter now, but proton pump inhibitors – the #1 medication sold I think worldwide, Nexium, the purple pill, and so forth. These medications wreak havoc in the GI tract. And how they work is they shut down stomach acid production. Stomach acid by design doesn’t just help us break down protein but also helps us get rid of bad bacteria that we may eat. And it sets up a whole cascade of digestive dysfunction which ultimately culminates in leaky gut, which we can talk about, but also dysbiosis, or the imbalance of these healthy gut bacteria. So those are some of the ways that we’ve through the progression of why/how we’ve veered off the path of forming healthy gut bacteria.
Evelyne: So I have two follow up questions for you, but also one comment, because you mentioned the other book and how it’s very academic. I do have to say to the listeners that your book is awesome. You have over a 100 pages of references. So that alone must have taken a long time I imagine. [Chuckle]
Mike: Yes. Thanks, Evelyne. I tried to keep it very science-based. So many books out there, and there’s a lot of great books, I mean I’m an Amazon book freak. I have books delivered to my house three days a week. I love books, but when it comes to medical books I wanted it to not be subjective. I wanted this to be very objective, factual, based on research. And so I took a lot of time to make sure that all the references are really sound, and from credible journals, and for healthcare practitioners. Because I really introduced what I feel to be a new paradigm and wanted healthcare practitioners – if they have any doubts or questions or concerns – to go to the original studies, like you mentioned, those references and they can dig it up themselves. And so it’s not just one man’s opinion, this is a culmination of years of research in science.
Evelyne: Right. That’s awesome. So my follow-up question was: so for moms who maybe had C-sections, what suggestions do you have for their babies, or for moms who couldn’t breast-feed, besides what you said you did. In terms of probiotics, what would you give them?
Mike: Yeah. That’s a great question by the way. So what I recommend is getting prebiotics. Even if you do have a natural vaginal delivery and home birth and all that sort of stuff, I think it’s still in this day and age highly beneficial to supplement with both prebiotics and probiotics for mommies and young children. And so prebiotics are fuel for healthy bacteria first – say, Bifidobacterium and various Lactobacilli species and so forth. Those come supplementally, but one is inulin. That’s one you can buy over-the-counter. Another one is oligosaccharide. Galactooligosaccharide is actually the best one. Actually that’s the highest prebiotic fiber found in human breast milk. That’s hard to find, so you can also take probiotics, as well. I’m a huge fan of Bifidobacterium-based probiotics.
So it’s really common for the listeners to go to Whole Foods and just find a 27 strain or a 9 strain, or whatever it may be. But, what the science is showing, Evelyne, is probiotics really come down to strain specificity. And just like nutrition – what’s folate, for example – there’s folic acid, there’s 5-MTHF, there’s calcium folinate – so many different ways to go. And probiotics are going there as well. And so what I recommend is getting the GOS (galactooligosaccahaide) prebiotic, and Bifidobacterium-based probiotics, and supplementing with that. Again irrespective of whether the child was birthed via C-section or vaginal delivery.
Now as a follow-up, if moms can’t produce or they’re working – it’s so common now, moms get right back to work; which I can totally understand, we’re living in a fast-paced society – is to pump if you can. And one thing to help produce milk – and this has worked with my wife and people that I’ve worked with – is ashwagandha. It’s an adrenal adaptogen. It’s been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine forever and is a great way to help increase milk production and lactation. So that’s something you can do.
And the other thing I would recommend is… again, if you can find human milk donors – Google in your city “donors of human breast milk”, there are different websites and resources locally that you can find – I think that’s the best way to go. And then the third way if you can’t find a human donor for breast milk, I would suggest getting raw goat’s milk if you can. Some states have different rules and regulations. Where I live in Washington State, raw goat’s milk is not a problem. And we have this St. John’s creamery. It’s just amazing! I know the family and what’s really cool about that, Evelyne, is when we’d go to visit the farm and would literally pick up the milk and containers. And we would bring them glass bottles so we don’t have plastic which is really great. But these goats are crawling around in the dirt and bugs, and that’s kind of a nasty environment. But that’s really good education for my daughter’s immune system because she’s getting bugs from the farm.
And that’s a huge aspect that, if we want talk about autoimmune disease, these are old friends, so to speak – these tapeworms and parasites and just kind of nasty things. If you think about it, believe it or not, they’re really great for our immune system. And that’s why we see such a high prevalence of all these inflammatory diseases in the cities, because we’re not getting exposed to farm-like bacteria, and parasites, and viruses and so on.
Evelyne: Well I’m glad I grew up in a farm town then!
Mike: There you go.