Dr. Lipman is very passionate about the connection between food and healing - it’s a daily part of his practice working with patients. Seamus has been dealing with some serious health issues over the past 10 years, and food has been a huge part of his recovery. The two decided to team up and open a dialogue about how what we eat correlates to how we feel.
The talk was held at Seamus’ popular restaurant Tertulia in Manhattan.
7 years ago, Seamus was “not doing well, at all.” He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and was also dealing with a baseline infection in his body. His white blood cell count was “ridiculously high,” he was deficient in many vitamins, and hospitalized several times. “I adjusted to living with a certain amount of pain and discomfort. I was at a really uncomfortable base level. Some days I felt like crap and couldn’t even get out of bed.”
He knew he had to clear up the inflammation that was causing him so much illness and discomfort, and being a chef, he already knew food was a big part of health.
In January of this year, he met with Dr. Lipman, who said “we’re gonna get you better by June.”
“I had set my own expectations about how good I could feel,” Seamus said. After meeting with Dr. Lipman, “A lightbulb went off in my head. My gut was keeping me from being healthy. We should be treating the body as a system, not just symptoms,” Seamus realized. “When you pound your immune system with garbage like pesticides and antibiotics, it can’t do its job.”
Dr. Lipman explained that the microbiome, or the balance of bacteria in your gut, is the key to health. “There are 100 trillion bacteria in the gut. It’s a whole organ system we sort of ignore. Everyone thinks it’s normal to have digestive symptoms,” he said.
“If your microbiome is imbalanced, it can lead to IBS, constipation, arthritis, skin problems, anxiety, depression, ADD and more. Bacteria goes through the gut wall and into your body, which triggers inflammation and autoimmune problems. The microbiome is the frontier of medicine.”
According to Dr. Lipman, the causes of microbiome imbalances are often the food we’re eating and the antibiotics in the food. We’re killing the good bacteria in our guts, leading to all kinds of health problems. “Factory farmed meats and pesticides on fruits and vegetables are a huge part of the problem. So are GMOs, sugar and gluten. Our default choices are unhealthy foods that are making us sick.”
He continued, “Factory farmed animals are loaded with antibiotics and are creating major health issues. Eating grass-fed meat is not bad for you. Eating factory farmed meat, however, is terrible. We are damaging ourselves and the next generation. It’s criminal. It’s terrorism.”
Wow. So how do we treat this? Well, we balance the microbiome. “You treat it with the foods you eat every day,” said Dr. Lipman. You can also help by killing the bad bacteria in the gut with an herbal antibiotic and taking probiotics, he said. “You can eat a healthy diet, but if your microbiome is damaged you aren’t absorbing the nutrients and can develop food sensitivities.”
As a chef, and now knowing what he knew about gut health, Seamus had some serious work to do in the kitchen. How could he make good, health-supportive food that was also delicious and flavorful?
“People always say, ‘but I’m a foodie, how can I eat healthy?’ There’s a certain level of exclusion when it comes to eating healthy, but we really want to include more good foods. I want to change the stigma about health food,” Seamus said. “Health food can be incredibly exciting and belongs at the table with any high cuisine.” (YES!)
All of this really comes down to eating food that supports the gut. What does this mean?
“Intuitively, cultures have always known we needed to have a strong connection to our gut. Cultures around the world have always eaten fermented foods,” Seamus explained.
The “living foods” Seamus focuses on are probably different than the living foods you may be familiar with. According to Seamus, living food is any food that intentionally has cultured bacteria.
Aged ribeye steak, he says, is a living food. “When you age grass-fed beef, it helps populate your gut with beneficial bacteria. Conventionally raised, grain-fed steer is completely different than grass-fed in nutritional quality.” Grass fed meat is high in Omega 3s, which can help to heal inflammation, while grain-fed is high in Omega 6s and pro-inflammatory.
Grass harnesses the sun’s energy through photosynythesis, he said, and he quoted Michael Pollan — “Eating grass-fed beef is like eating sunshine.”
“We should eat less, better quality meat, and when we eat it, we should celebrate it,” Seamus said.
He talked about cultured, grass-fed butter as a living, beneficial food too. When butter is cultured, it develops lactobactilli, which are helpful bacteria for the gut. “Fat is a great source of energy with no insulin spike,” said Seamus. “You use far fewer resources to produce grass-fed butter. It’s a diet that nature intended – incredibly delicious and anti-inflammatory. Cultured butter helps populate your gut with good bacteria. The butter is darker, richer, and has a more golden color.”
Dr. Lipman chimed in — “It’s a myth that fat is evil. Sugar is evil. It’s also a myth that a calorie is a calorie. Food is information that speaks to our genes. Food can turn cancer genes off, and healthy genes on. The idea that butter is unhealthy is a myth that needs to be busted.”
He continued, “Fermentation means a healthier microbiome. I never thought of aged meat or cultured butter as fermented foods until I met Seamus!”
“The other day I woke up and said ‘I feel great.’ My wife said, ‘I’ve never heard you say that before!’ I can see the results in my bloodwork, but the most compelling reason is that I’ve felt awful for the past 10 years — and I’m happy to sit here and say I feel great.”
So what does Seamus do on a daily basis?
“Whenever I put something into my mouth, I ask if it’s helping me or harming me. I pause and think for a minute. We have choices about how our bodies are going to feel.”
Here’s the menu from the event:
Fermented foods included: kefir vinaigrette, miso-rubbed grass-fed aged rib-eye, grass-fed cultured butter.
A few more healthy cooking tips from Seamus:
Salt: “You need the electrolytes in salt for healthy muscle function. Use minimally processed sea salt and drink plenty of water to balance it.”
Temperature & oils: “Don’t cook at really high heat. Sautee veggies with olive oil, low and slow and gentle. This way the phytonutrients and antioxidants remain in tact.”
Eggs: “Know your farmer – get your eggs from the farmers market. Pasteured eggs, which means chickens have space to exercise, makes a huge difference in the taste and nutritional quality of the eggs. Organic eggs may still come from caged chickens even if they are being fed organic feed. With pasteured eggs, the color of the yolks and the flavor is completely different.”
Soy: “In traditional cultures, soy isn’t consumed unless its fermented (like tempeh and miso), with the exception of edamame. Fermentation begins the digestive process, and soy is notoriously difficult to digest.”
Get Seamus Mullen’s cookbook, HERO FOOD. (I can attest that it’s awesome…I literally read it from cover to cover the other day while waiting for my dead phone to charge at the Apple store).
Get Dr. Lipman’s book, REVIVE. (A priceless resource on holistic health and wellness).
Check out Dr. Lipman’s line of digestive supplements for healing the gut.
So what do you guys think? I know you have opinions on this! Let’s hear it!