The Alarming COVID-19 and Gut Health Connection, with Duke’s Dr Paul Wischmeyer

This one may come as a shock. According to Duke Health’s Dr Paul Wischmeyer, “We as a population in the US were the perfect setup and target for this [COVID], with our disturbed gut microbiomes, our Western diet.” So what does gut health have to do with COVID? Tune in to find out. Also, the study that Dr Paul discussed – PROTECT-EHC – if you want to be a part of it, visit

Visit our sponsor,, a gut healthy, effortless, food-as-medicine approach to whole person health . Try BetrHealth risk free at



[00:00:00] Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:00:00] Welcome to the quacks and hypochondriacs podcast. I am your host, Dr. Bill Ferro. I started my career as a chiropractor and health clubs turned into a gut health expert. So believe it or not, I’ve been called a quack a time or two in my life. On this podcast, we aim to give you the inside scoop on the so-called quacks of the world.

The quackery claims who you should and shouldn’t listen to. And why sometimes hypochondriacs have every right to be paranoid. About their health with me today is my lovely co-host with an amazing, beautiful hat and headphones too. She is an ABC news anchor, mom of three tequila drinker and fitness fanatic.

Erin, how are you doing up there in Philadelphia this week?

Erin O’Hearn: [00:00:39] I’m great. I have my tiger sweater on. I was going through old emails and I actually found one from you back in 2009. Do you know what the email was?

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:00:49] 2009. A baby was on the way.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:00:54] It was an ultrasound of Sienna, my oldest.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:00:57] Oh, can we tell the story of how you found [00:01:00] out you were pregnant with?

Erin O’Hearn: [00:01:03] It was the most lovely memory. I was on my with my husband to go visit Dr. Ferro and Amber,  and we had just gotten married a few months before and we were in the airport. And since I knew it would probably be a weekend of good times and heavy drinking. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t putting any potential child in danger.

So we are in the airport and I took a pregnancy test. And I came out of the bathroom crying and my husband said, what’s wrong? And I said, I’m pregnant. And he goes, geez. I thought somebody said something insulting to you in the bathroom. And then I sent Amber a text and I said, the first thing we need to do when I get off the plane is stop at Target and take another one.

So I bought six when we got there. And yeah. And now Sienna is a tween.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:01:58] And was there a [00:02:00] bit of I’m so happy, I’m pregnant. Damn. I can’t drink this week.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:02:03] Yes!

There was, I was like actually, my husband looked at me. He’s like, You couldn’t have just waited till Monday. So I just ate a lot.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:02:12] That’s my mom said your Aunt Mary Ellen, and I used to have martinis and cigarettes when we were pregnant with you guys. So.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:02:20] Actually I think it’s fine. It’s fine.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:02:22] Okay.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:02:23] Tequila would have been better anyways. So that’s how I am.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:02:25] Today I am ya know, this is like my geekdom moment. You know, obviously I always talk about gut health. They won’t actually shut up about it. So I’m incredibly excited today. We’re talking with Dr. Paul Wischmeyer from Duke about gut health and how it can impact COVID-19.

So obviously incredibly important topic. They have a new paper in the journal of guts suggests that the composition of the gut microbiome and the time of infection may impact whether someone will experiencing long COVID or prolonged symptoms. Plus the American society of microbiology says there’s a growing body of [00:03:00] evidence suggesting that poor gut health.

Adversely affects your COVID-19 prognosis as a gut health expert, I’m not surprised that there might be connection here. And so, Erin, I know you’re a gut health fanatic yourself. Do you think there is connection here?

Erin O’Hearn: [00:03:16] So it’s funny that you said that because I was actually talking to someone this morning and I’ve had this thought several times that there’s certain amount of people that I know who’ve either been exposed or have not been super conservative with socially distancing and mass growing and traveling. And even myself, I keep thinking like, how have I not gotten this yet? And so in my head, I was thinking, does it have something to do with just your overall health? You know, are some people more immune to it than others? And obviously the connection with gut health is relevant to a lot of different illnesses in our life and our mental wellbeing.

[00:04:00] But it’s just, I, this doesn’t, it fascinates me, but it doesn’t surprise me. And I’m very interested in learning more about it because there has to be some connection. If you look at the number of COVID cases that are severe and the health of those patients. Because I don’t buy into, well, they had no underlying health conditions.

Well, no underlying health conditions that we know of that are documented, but chances are, they probably had some underlying health condition and I don’t want to generalize, but I’ll yes. I think I am a true believer that there is likely a connection. And I am excited to learn the details about how they’re connected.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:04:38] Generalization is your superpower. So I do not want you to use that.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:04:42] Generalizations and talking in superlative.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:04:45] Okay. Okay. So without further ado, Dr. Paul, how are you? My friend.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:04:48] Great. Thank you. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be on the show and to talk about something that sounds like we all are very passionate about and its relationship to COVID-19.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:04:57] Absolutely. And interestingly enough, you and [00:05:00] Erin have a similar medical history, but we’d love to kind of hear your road to how you became an expert on this. And, you know, obviously you have a personal story attached with this. So we’d love to start from the beginning with your own personal history with gut health.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:05:13] Thanks Bill. Yeah, I do. It goes back to when I was a teenager when I was 15, actually never been sick a day in my life. And you know, was living my life as a high school student and playing basketball and living the life you do. And then suddenly I was diagnosed over Christmas break with strep throat and got put on an antibiotic clindamycin and had this GI symptoms that antibiotics like erythromycin cause and then ultimately started to bleed from my GI tract and have pain and never experienced anything like this. Never seen the inside of a hospital, much less the tests that they do in the hospital and started having to go to doctor’s visits. And, you know, they started doing all the terrible things that when our gut doesn’t act right, that [00:06:00] doctors do to you, putting scopes in places, no one should put tubes and scopes and asking you to lay on tables and putting various substances in places they shouldn’t go to evaluate that and I think that was the first time I realized that… hey doctors, weren’t very nice people most of the time. And they didn’t really notice that there was a patient on the other end of their torture device  that maybe they should be more concerned about. And it began to dawn on me that maybe I should go into medicine because maybe somebody should do this differently or better or at least teach people to do that. And so shortly thereafter I remember going back to the doctor for my follow-up appointment and he told me I was diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease.

Ulcerative colitis.

And I didn’t know what that was. And he said, yeah, you’re going to have to come into the hospital and you’re not going to eat anything for six weeks and we’re going to keep you and I said HA the hell, I am. I’m playing a basketball game next week. There’s no way I’m not

eating for that long and he said no, that’s what’s happening. He said your blood count,

your hemoglobin is like three and that is life-threatening for you to have a low blood count like this, and you’re [00:07:00] coming in and we’re gonna put these IVs in you, and we’re going to start you on Ivy nutrition and you’re not going to eat for weeks.

And so I spent the next actually three months like that. Getting Ivy nutrition which is where some of my nutrition and gut beginnings started it saved my life in many ways. But, you know, I also realized the treatments for these diseases like inflammatory bowel disease and other amount of new diseases are often worse than diseases themselves. You know, I was on steroids and a lot of these auto-immune drugs that people are on that have more side effects. I had panic attacks and stretch marks, and I have to this day and I mean, and I never got better. I never improved. I never was able to go home from the hospital. And ultimately my intestine perforated, I got really, really sick and septic. Ended up having emergency surgery when the surgeon came in and shook me and said, you’re going to have surgery tomorrow. You’re going to die the next night. And I think they thought I would try to say no, I was 15. And I think they thought I’d be a challenging teenager, but I said, look, do it now, get this over with, get this [00:08:00] out and had those surgeries and then spent some time in the ICU. And ultimately then through my life, I’ve had 23 more surgeries like that, you know, even in an IVD when they take out and also play to take the colon up until you’re cured. But you’re really not because you have these scarring and adhesions that come back and caused you to need further surgeries that no one really tells you about. But you know, at that point, I think I realized that medicine is the path I want to take. And I think I want to study the gut because I want to understand what happened to me and why, and figure out ways that maybe are a little more natural, a little more healthy to treat the illness so that the treatment’s not worse than the disease itself and perhaps more effective to work with the body.

And so my research began actually with the, I was a patient at university of Chicago. When I was a teenager, and they have a really outstanding GI department and research department. And I ended up volunteering the first summer after my college life. And I walked in the gastroenterologist care for me. I said, teach me to do research. I’ll volunteer. I’ll do whatever it takes to learn to do this. And so I volunteered in a GI health [00:09:00] laboratory that laboratory. And worked in the  research center. Couple of really well known GI physicians, Steve Hanauer and Eugene Chang, and began to learn about how you kept the gut healthy, what promoted gut health, what nutrients promoted gut health began to really develop an interest in nutrition.

And ultimately then as my career went on the microbiome and the role of bacteria and the role they played in the gut, because I was studying about nutrients and bacteria and make a lot of our gut nutrients suddenly became real science and the ability to assess. The microbiome and understand the bacteria, makeup of our gut and what our role it plays in health became a reality.

And so I joined forceswith a, with a really phenomenal microbiome expert named Rob Knight. He did the help do the human microbiome and gut microbiome project. And we did the first assessment in a multicenter way of critically ill. Patients in the ICU, looking at their microbiomes and the incredible changes that occur even within [00:10:00] 24 to 48 hours when we become sick.

And I think what I learned along the way is that, and I think you both are probably talking about this a lot is that we live in a modern society where we are bombarded by things that disturb the natural evolution of our trillions of friends that live inside of us that keep us healthy and keep us human. It disturbs them a great deal. Everything we face everyday, you know?

People always say what really makes us human. And I always say, well, you know, is it ourselves that make us human? Well, there’s we have more trillions, more bacterial cells and human cells in our body. And then we always say those are genes that make us human.

Well, there’s almost 99% of the genetic material in our body is bacteria, but only 1% is human. So we’re actually 99% bacterial. And so they affect huge arrays of how our life’s live. You’ve probably talked about it before. You know, if you go into the woods and a mosquito bites you. It’s not because you’re a sweeter it’s because the bacteria that live on your skin are different. And that’s why you get bit more than your wife, husband, or friend. [00:11:00] And, you know, even mate preference, sexual preference seems to be driven by the microbiome, at least in fruit flies. It is. And we know that fruit flies, mating preferences and who you might marry perhaps might be affected by your gut. And so it’s hugely influenced and you know, I be also begin to discover the immune disease I had, many of the people have probably a lot of tie-in to the sort of bad changes that we induce in our gut by the very unique diets or Western or unhealthy diets that we eat by the antibiotics were given us kids.

I’ve talked to many children with inflammatory bowel disease who tell me the same story that I experienced. They took an antibiotic as a teenager or as a young person, and suddenly they had a guy. Symptoms bleeding and problems that never went away. And so that is a common story I don’t see written much about in the literature, but it’s a common story I hear from kids like counsel, about surgery and about their disease. And so clearly we know that we have markedly disturbed our gut bacteria from this, the normal everyday things we do in the Western world. You know, I don’t mean [00:12:00] diseases like this don’t exist in other third world countries. You really don’t see it in Africa. You really don’t see it in an undeveloped Asia. But if those people moved to the US, they begin to get them. And so as we have crushed down infectious diseases, we have exponentially increased auto diseases like MS, like rheumatoid arthritis, like iBD. And you know, what we’ve really done is we’ve set ourself up for pandemics. Like this perfectly. We are, we are the perfect setup for COVID or another virus or another infectious pathogen to attack because our normal defenses that our body uses, which our gut microbiome really massively affects our immune system and its response to the ability to defend itself against us, especially respiratory pathogens, but also got pathogens is now perfectly disturbed for a pathogen like COVID-19 to come in and attack us. And that may be why, you know, the cases that we’re hearing about in the Western world are perhaps even more severe.

And the death rates we’re hearing about in the U S are perhaps even worse than either than other parts of the [00:13:00] world, perhaps. And of course, that data is yet to totally be understood. But the reality is my laboratory’s been able to show for years when we give a probiotic, for instance, a normal commensal probiotic, a healthy bacteria to an animal.

Before we give it pneumonia with a very pathogenic virus or bacteria, we can reduce mortality by more than half and even eliminate it sometimes just by giving a probiotic, to normalize the bacteria in the guts of the animals. And there’s huge clinical trials. Now there’s a paper in nature, which is the premier journal in the world, perhaps that showed that we could reduce respiratory infections in 4,000 subjects. They studied by 30 to 50%. And that includes sepsis pneumonias,  other infections by half. And so there isn’t a treatment we know of practically that can do that. Especially one that is safe, inexpensive, and easy to take without with the very minimal if any side effects. And so there’s actually quite a few studies like this.

That’s probably the premier study, but there is a wealth of [00:14:00] data that exists that says if we want to defend ourselves against infectious organisms, like this pathogens, pandemic pathogens, like this. Probiotics and changing how our gut responds to normalize it back to the way it’s supposed to work. Maybe one of our best avenues. And I think that’s where Anthony Songs in my research at Duke. It’s really taken us to the clinical trials. We’re doing Nat or COVID spread. And I think our gut health really is essential to us defending ourselves against these pathogens. And I think the trial we’re doing and you’ve got what you need, but I think we hope there’s more research like this soon.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:14:30] Before we get into the rest of the questions. I just want you to explain that study. First of all, phenomenal synopsis. You know, I feel like want to hug you. You’re like my brother from another mother, I do this every Tuesday night. And some of the anecdotes you said are just wonderful and phenomenal and also incredibly enlightening and empowering people with this knowledge, they can really empower themselves.

So please tell us about the study quickly. And then Erin and I are gonna go at you with some questions. I’m sure we got a lot brewing. So just talk about the study quick, please.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:14:59] Sure. [00:15:00] So this study was done there’s a researcher who used to be in Everest, Nebraska. Now he’s at Georgetown who took 4,000 full term, healthy infants in India. He’s from India himself. And he took the subjects and, you know, they did, they did it in India because to do a trial of this scope in the US would be immensely expensive, very cost about $10 million to do this trial. That it would be prohibitively expensive, unfortunately in the US to easily do a trial of this magnitude of this size and this way and follow for this long. And, but he took 4,000 of these infants, healthy infants, randomized them to a lactobacillus and prebiotic intervention or a control that was just a placebo basically. And then he followed them for months. Just see, did they acquire infections of any sore respiratory infections? Sepsis, did they die from any of these infections?

What happened to them and what he found was after following them for months, that there was [00:16:00] this massive reduction in infectious etiology and probably a 40% reduction of respiratory disease, but a reduction in death, sepsis, and overall infections. Overall, it was nearly 50%, but 30%, depending on which end point you looked at. And it was quite statistically significant. And so it was a huge finding and, you know, to get five pages in nature for any trial or any study is a huge compliment to the, to the real strength of this research and to the real quality of this research that he did. And so I think this trial is really one of the definitive, probably the definitive probiotic and gut health intervention trials that have been done in the world.

There are others, there’s been analyses of thousands of patients looking at multiple studies that are smaller than this. That show the same signal, almost all the meta analyses, where they’ve combined different studies, lots of different studies into one analysis to understand the effect of thousands of patients.

All of these show about the same effect, 30 to 50% reduction in [00:17:00] infections, respiratory infections. When you take a probiotic and we’ve done research on other groups have done research around the U S the United just funded one trial in particular, looked at patients that were in the ICU, like a COVID 19 patient in the ICU on a ventilator.

And the idea in this study was if you’re in the ICU on a ventilator, we want to prevent you getting a bacterial pneumonia. One of the complications that really devastates our COVID-19 patients, they get secondary infections. From other bacteria and other infectious agents, and that can really lead to significant complications or death.

This study was funded by the NIH and they gave again a lactobacillus GG probiotic to patients before they had any of those infections, discipline. They got intubated for whatever reasons, caused them to need a breathing tube. And they followed them for acquiring other infections, like bacterial infections and it reduced. Infectious risk by 50% in patients in the ICU who just got a simple, extra dose GGJ smear to capsule in the mouth, they gave one to the stomach. Do what did the feeding tube you have? They’re obviously not eating when they’re in the breathing tube [00:18:00] and again, 50% reduction. And that was the intention to treat group, which is the most rigorous analysis, which means whether the subject completed the treatment or not, no matter what, they counted the patient in the analysis. So it was a very rigorous analysis and Lee Mauro was the author’s name and 50% reduction in infection. So trials like that are being followed up. And that’s one of the reasons we chose the lack of social GG probiotic we chose for our COVID-19 study is this is one that’s been used in NH trials before. And it seems to have this profound effective it’s one we trust when we think is manufactured well.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:18:30] Got it. And you’re trying to get a thousand patients and what’s the criteria for the patients. You’re trying to recruit into this study.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:18:36] Sure. So anybody who has had anyone in their family in their home, it doesn’t have to be in their family. So when they live with diagnosed with COVID-19, if there’s anyone like that, and unfortunately we’re hearing, there are lots of people like that. Right now, they are eligible for the study. If they’re above age one. So your kids are eligible. Anyone in your family is eligible and we’ll enroll everyone in your house.

We’re thrilled to do that.  And so [00:19:00] anybody who has anyone in their household, who’s tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 72 hours, we want to help try to prevent the spread of this really. Awful pandemic disease that I, you know, I didn’t mention perhaps, but I’m a ICU physician, prenatal care physician.

I work in a COVID ICU now by training, by practice, um, trained in Nancy’s algebra, but I only practice critical care nutrition. And, uh, you know, we’re continuing to see this, the devastation. This is wreaking and our ICS are filling up with these patients around the country. And it’s a part of my everyday care life too. Unfortunately. And so we want to prevent that and we think we

have a real chance to do that.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:19:33] Well, first of all, we thank you for your service in there. I know it’s not easy. I lost my father-in-law in November. COVID complications. And you know, the nurses are sitting there holding up iPad so we can talk with them and, and you know, they’re doing it all day long and they’re gracious and the family’s upset and they’re taking the anxiety from the parent, you know, the patient’s family.

It’s like what very tough position to be in. [00:20:00] Just so thank you for that. In terms of qualifying for the study. So the criteria is within 72 hours. So if someone tested positive in your household and what happens in the last 72 hours, they, we will give them the link to enroll will enroll you’ll then send them a nose swab test, and a microbiome poop test centrally.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:20:20] And we’ll pay you to do that. We’ll pay the subjects to do that. We know it takes a minute to do.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:20:25] And so how long does it take for them to get that to their home? The kit.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:20:28] So we send it overnight. We also send you, we either send the probiotic or the control as well. Everything is done online.

It’s a really simple study everything’s online and we consent online. You can enroll online and we mail everything to your house, including the, the treatment for 30 days. Overnight and you get it the next day. And then you take your baseline sample from the stool and a quick, no swab that you then send back to us.

And we have all the return mailers in there. And then you start taking your, your [00:21:00] treatment for your gut and, and your gut health, and you take it for a month. And then we have you send us,  one set of samples then. About a week later, and then one at the end of the study and at the end of that 30 day period.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:21:12] Amazing. Awesome. Okay. So Erin, you go. Go ahead.


Erin O’Hearn: [00:21:15] So I have so many questions, but I, so I’m going to have to restrain myself a little bit because they’re all going to come out jumbled at once. So my first question would be my great aunt was diagnosed with COVID-19. She was in the hospital, I would say for about two and a half weeks.

She just got home. She’s still very weak and she’s almost 80 years old. She’s still on oxygen. Would it benefit her to start taking probiotics now, or are we past that point?

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:21:47] It’s a great question. You know, we don’t know, although I will tell you when people get sick, at least the people that are in our ICU is their microbiome gets incredibly deranged.

We published in M spirit, a [00:22:00] microbiome journal a few years back. And in fact, You know, normally our gut is made up of many different bacteria and then most common bacteria might make up 20% of our gut patients in the ICU after just even a day or two, like a COVID-19 patient, they can end up with one bacterial species, usually a pathogen making up 95% of their gut within a few days.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:22:19] Wow.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:22:20] So that there was a crash in the normal diversity, right? We always see a healthy gut as a diverse gut. It has lots of other bacteria doing their different, important jobs that is entirely lost and almost all of our six subjects, which leads to a breakdown in all kinds of things. How you digest food, how you process the nutrients you’re getting. How your immune system functions and fights off other infections and helps you recover. And so there’s a whole wealth of things that we believe, of course the gut does. It’s good for us virtually from what our data shows so far, and we’re learning more every day, but all of those diverse bacterial families go away when we get sick and get [00:23:00] antibiotics, perhaps as well, I’m in the hospital.

And so, you know, based on that concept, we do think that taking a probiotic, a commensal that allows the normal bacteria to return is helpful. And to actually tangent on that a little bit, a lot of times we get the question, well, why would taking one species of probiotic help versus taking a whole bunch?

Because we normally would have a whole different spread of different species in our gut. Well, One of the things we found about these bad bacteria is what happens when we get sick as the bad bacteria, since our stress. One of the people that I worked with at university of Chicago was named John Verdean. He discovered shortly after we actually while I was there think of quorum, sensing, which basically means bacteria talk to each other and you have pathogens like pseudomonas and other nasties that live in your gut all the time. All of us have them sitting here today. You have my, I have them and they just sit quietly and wait for the body to be stressed.

It’s a little bit, and this is the analogy be like dilute use it’s a little bit like in a place like new Orleans when a hurricane comes [00:24:00] right. Nobody’s looting when everyone’s around on the streets and the hurricanes are there. But as soon as the hurricane comes and people evacuate the city. The bad actors come and they bring their bad friends and they begin to loot and they tell all their other friends to come and loot and break things and steal things.

And they don’t go away until the normal population comes back to people that live there to start with. Your gut is the same way. You know, when, when you’re that sense of stress, those bad actors, since that stress, tell each other and tell each other, do attack and assault the body and they push out.

The good bacteria or the disease pushes out the good bacteria early the antibiotics push out the good bacteria and allows things. And even C diff C diff is a pathetic, weak little bacteria that is becoming one of the biggest nitrogenic challenges. It causes a death and causes of illness in the hospital, in the world.

When I was a resident, which wasn’t that long ago, nobody had C diff I saw once a year now I see it once a week. And it devastates people.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:24:55] That surprises me actually, because I thought it was more rare than that. I mean [00:25:00] I’ve heard about it, but

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:25:01] It used to be the fastest  growing disease most people think in the


Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:25:06] Doc, just,  you know,now that you told Erin that she has this lurking dark actor in her gut.

It’s been outworking in her brain. This is, remember I’m the quack, she’s the hypochondriac. I will now be getting nonstop texts for what? 48 to seven.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:25:23] I have to tell you something you’re wrong and I’ll place money on it. And I will tell you because when I’ve been listening to this, I’ve realized that. I. So doctor, I mean, I have a similar story, not as severe as yours, and now I’m sort of making connections with something that you said about strep throat, but now that it was explained to me in such an articulate way, giving great examples, I realized that I feel extremely confident with my gut health and I do not have.

CDF.  I probably would not get super sick with COVID and knock on wood. I have [00:26:00] not been sick the last, I mean, with anything even really a cold the last two years, which I have seen significant. Changes like in my sugar intake and diet. And I’m really, I’m a big believer in probiotics and I make sure I take one every morning, but so no. So no, Dr. Ferro, I am not going to call you. I will not be worried. I actually feel, I just want to tell everyone about this. I want to say, just go get a probiotic and start eating healthy. But I do have another question before Bill interrupts and says that I’m going to bother him for the next few weeks. When you’re talking about, when we’re talking about COVID in relation to gut health, how, do you think? Cause I know at the beginning of the podcast, I said that I have this hunch that some people aren’t not only just aren’t getting severely sick, but aren’t even contracting it. Is there any evidence in your [00:27:00] studies or suggestions that people whose gut health is functioning well, and there are, I always forget how it’s the microbiome. Right. So if that’s healthy then and balanced, is there evidence that you just don’t even contract it, that you may be exposed to it, but your body fights it off or the virus just can’t live inside.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:27:22] So I think that’s one of the study endpoints our study is trying to get at so that, you know, the baseline. Microbiome samples that we collect in our study will allow us to look at then and follow these high risk subjects, family members of people who have it, or who are at high risk to get it and say, look and obesity disturbs the microbiome, all the comorbidities. All comorbidities that puts you at high risk for COVID are all linked to highly disturbed gut microbiomes, too.

Right? So there’s probably inherent things, obviously about diabetes, compare immune system, being obese, being obese. It’s a very [00:28:00] interesting thing. And I, I’m definitely not. I’m going to caveat what I’m gonna say, but I’m not promoting anyone be obese, but you know, I teach the residents this the best BMI to be, to survive cancer, heart failure. Trauma surgery. Any illness is what? Do you guys know? What is the best BMI to survive? Any illness is?

Erin O’Hearn: [00:28:18] Mine

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:28:18] 32

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:28:20] 32

32 31. Depends on what study you read. It’s an obese BMI, right? Who survived the tiger attack in the caveman Europe? The big caveman, not the little caveman because when our body is stressed, it turns to its metabolic reserve and that’s our muscle mass. And. Some of our fat mass, but more I’m also mass. And so it probably isn’t so much BMI and we’re doing a lot of research at Duke was one of my areas of interest too, is what role does one’s inherent muscle mass play in your resistance to different acute and chronic illnesses. But nonetheless, the pieces of obesity that lead to risk are urging to try to tease out because there’s protective factors about being obese too, from acute lung [00:29:00] injury, being on a ventilator, being in the ICU.

You’ll have more complications, but you’re more likely to live up to about a BMI of 40 that said being obese, disturbs your microbiome pretty significantly in almost every case. In fact, we’ve been able to connect in some studies, microbiome changes from antibiotics as a kid, or even being born by C-section right.

To get to an even more disturbing thought. So kids that are born by C-section, don’t take on the normal microbiomes in their stool for two years, they look like mom’s skin. Where they’re supposed to look like mom’s vaginal secretions. So for instance, Rob Knight, who’s this researcher. I do research with microbiome samples as kids every day, by the way, he does crazy stuff like that when his baby was born by C-section, he kicked everybody out of the delivery room, any smeared, his wife’s vaginal secretions all over the baby.

And I think anyone out there is about to have a C-section to do the same thing. It’s probably the only thing you remember from the whole podcast, but we evolve as humans differently if we’re born by C-section or by vaginal delivery. And our microbiome is dramatically different from the first two years of [00:30:00] our life, which is where we develop immune tolerance.

Some of the things that lead us to be obese or not obese immune diseases, different in that setting. And then let’s add on the exposure to antibiotics. So. That increases risk. It will be city. We think too, when kids get those as a child. So the changes have happened in our microbiome. Early in life, actually promote obesity later.

In fact, you can take mice, you can take the stool from an obese rat or mouse mouse. In most cases, put it into a mouse. It’s never had any bacteria in it before. And the mouse gets obese. Hmm. They’re doing twin to twin studies where they take the stool from. They take twins once then once obese, they take the stool from the thin twin and they transplant it into the beast when, and the obese total lose weight.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:30:41] So let me just clarify something because I have a couple of questions about what you said with that correlation, but as far as obesity being helpful, or there are people who are of a certain BMI or higher, and there’s a threshold surviving COVID, but it

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:30:58] RIght, but getting COVID [00:31:00] the risks. And I don’t want anyone to go away with this idea.

Oh Yeah. I’m protecting it’s COVID if I

Erin O’Hearn: [00:31:06] You don’t want to get to that point is your point.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:31:08] Yeah.

Let’s say our data that I’ve seen, and I can tell you, our ICU populations too. Obesity is a huge risk factor. Sure. And so one of the thoughts we’ve had it’s hypothesis, of course, but that. Part of the reason obesity is such a huge risk factor is obese.

People have disturbed gut microbiomes that make them more susceptible. And we would love to believe that we can try to protect or correct against that by using probiotics and improving the diets of these individuals. Right. I mean, It is definitely a risk factor. And in fact, we’re doing a study right now to define the metabolic phenotype of the COVID patient in the ICU.

So we’re doing metabolic carts and muscle measurements and all these other sort of nutritional metabolic measures. And more than 50% of the patients on studying are obese BMI over 31. So half the patients of all the patients that come into the ICU, with COVID are obese. Their average BMI in [00:32:00] our studies is 31 32, which is exceptionally high. Right? I mean, that would not be the average. We don’t necessarily have the whole population. Yeah.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:32:06] Well, and in regards to COVID that presents, this presents another interesting connection, which, which you’re making for the first time, at least that I’ve, I haven’t read this in the major newspapers or publications, but the demographics that the people who are getting more severe cases of COVID or just COVID in general tends to be not only people who are obese, but minorities and poor populations, which don’t have access to healthy food. They have higher rates of smokers, alcohol abuse. And, but the food I think is so essential because you’re talking about people who live in food deserts and rely on their convenience stores. For breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:32:49] Which is devastating. The microbiome. Yeah. I hundred percent. I agree in all of those facts, you know, I always say to my kids, I have three boys. And I say, you know, if this was a disease of [00:33:00] middle-aged upper-class white men, We’d have a hundred thousand deaths in the us, not 400,000 deaths in the us, but it isn’t just a disease of underserved, underrepresented minority populations who don’t have financial social economic status  that others that make many decisions have. And so I think that, you know, it’s tragic. And I think a lot of it does come back to the exact things you’re saying. And, you know, these are the people that. Are at challenged in their diets, challenged in, they have a lot of the comorbidities, you know, diabetes and obesity. And a lot of these things are much higher rates oftentimes in these populations.

And so there, it’s sad and it’s a setup  for this disease to really devastate these populations. And that’s why, you know, things like probiotics and diet interventions that are. Safe inexpensive accessible to anyone. They’re not multi-million dollar drugs that not everyone can get Mayer, perhaps there’s things we could be giving and anyone in the U S and anyone in the world, really we can afford to use these third world countries there. So [00:34:00] inexpensive are really appealing. We think, and work with the body to try to, to really address this illness and other illnesses. You know, we fear this, this won’t be the last. Chase down we have with this pandemic as it mutates and changes or perhaps others. And again, you know, we all realize we need to be better at being ready. And again, I can’t say it enough. We as a population in the U S we’re the perfect setup and target for this disease, with our disturbed gut microbiomes, our Western diet, we do diversity plots of the U S you know, we, we may be here. A sick person may be here. But if you go to a place that hasn’t seen a Western diet on an Island in the Pacific it’s here, I mean, we say normal diversity that normally goes population. It’s not even close. It isn’t even close to what humans evolved on for millions of years. It’s enormously different because of our diet.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:34:49] Can I digress from the COVID conversation or Dr. Ferro, do you want to jump in for a second?

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:34:54] Sorry. I was hoping to be part of the podcast there and thanks.

[00:35:00] I can just go downstairs and make some probiotic kombucha right now. So doc that’s, it’s super fascinating. And obviously for me, this is like a really great moment because I’ve been called the quacks. I’ve been preaching this since 2003, talking about C-sections. My own son was a C-section and immediately had food, sensitivities analogies, and the time, you know, I, as much as I was trying to put it together, I was like, well, maybe just has these food allergies.

Andof course skin was erupting all the time and tons of issues on his face. And I was looking at my wife’s diet cause she was breastfeeding. And I said, what are you eating? That’s doing this. She goes, it’s not what a meeting. I said, Amber, I know that it is. And we went through all this testing and eventually.

She worked the morning show at the time she was getting up and having rice cakes with peanut butter on top of it every day. And it was through the system and my son was having all these issues. We cut it out within days, it was gone. And I see that, I see that his immune responses is weaker than my other son.

And had I known at that time, cause both of my sons were C-section. It [00:36:00] does make sense to do the slathering, to give them because the gut is neutral when it’s, when you’re born. And it only comes from the, from the mom to your point. Now I’ve helped over 30,000 people do this. So we give them the coach. We’ve highly focused on the food and the prebiotics, and then good high, high fiber foods because we want it to last. And oftentimes we said, yeah, we have a, when I first started this, I would just send people out to buy a probiotic. But then I realized not all probiotics are made equal. So experimented over time, we finally came up with our own probiotic blend with enzymes, but I always tell people on the phone. Or when we’re coaching them, the probiotic alone without the food is sometimes like sprinkling seeds on a debt, you know, seeds on a desert, right. It just can’t doesn’t have the makeup to do so. If it comes between you being able to afford healthy food and afford this to supplement you, go buy the healthy probiotic and prebiotic type type food. And with that, we’ve had patients coming to us and what’s great about the well covered by 40 different health plans. These health plans are [00:37:00] realizing. This food is medicine approach with this gut healthy approach is saving them. Paul Markovich of the CEO of Blue Shield of California said that we’re reversing type two diabetes in his population. And on average, saving him 150 per participant per month. And so they’ve gotten so excited to, to Erin’s point about, well, we have folks that maybe can’t afford the food. So what we’ve done is we’ve created a food nationwide food delivery service that Blue Shield of California is now piloting with that. They’re actually giving $750 voucher towards healthy food for a three month period to help those folks overcome it. So we hope to prove is food is medicine with the combination of the gut healthy science and the food is medicine part. You will be less likely to contract COVID. If you do get it, you’ll reduce the severity of the symptoms as well as while you’re going through this preventative nature, you’ll drop five to 7% of your body weight, which will reduce your risk for all the other comorbidities that predispose you to begin with.

So everything [00:38:00] you’re saying is psychic. Incredibly validating. I can’t wait for our members to hear, particularly because you back the studies, when I was doing this, I was so enamored with the results we were getting that I left academia behind. That was just like, no, just, just keep doing it, keep doing it.

And thanks to your work and your colleagues and everything you’ve done. And the last two decades really has shown such a positive light on this. And the last thing I’ll say about the probiotic part of it is, do you, you know, we don’t, I don’t see a lot of studies in this, but do you think that. The natural substances like Kiefer kombucha, sauerkraut kimchi will have a better deliverability than maybe let’s say the supplement.

Like obviously I always say supplements are great, cause that’s an insurance policy. You’re getting it. But what would you surmise as far as, you know, food versus the supplement form?

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:38:49] Great question. I’m going to address two points. Cause I think you said something really important when you were talking about. The dietary things that you really revolutionize, it sounds like, Oh, [00:39:00] insurers and patients are seeing their world. You know, I think I’ve been blown away at the data for IBD. When you start to do diet changes as diving stipulations and cleanup. IBD patients diets, even taking kids all the way back to elemental, sort of nutrition, supplement diets, and then adding on foods has done really impressive things to cure and create remission in patients with autoimmune diseases.

And like you said, I think it’s done wonders for people with diabetes. It’s funny, like you kind of talked about your history when I was a medical student that Jemena research program was a medical sway, rich Chicago as well. It was interesting to be a patient or physician, resident medical student where you were a patient.

I actually took care of patients who were in the room. I lived in for six months of my life, but the gym there didn’t have air conditioning. It was really hot in Chicago. And so I became a personal trainer at a professional bodybuilding gym to make money. So I could work out in a gym in air conditioning and because I was broke and you know, learned enormous amounts about what the integral role of diet was on people [00:40:00] functioning at the highest level. And I watched a lot of them. Some of them were bodybuilding. I think some of them were sprinting athletes. Some of them were running athletes and a lot of them make gluten free and they’d eliminate gluten from their diet altogether. And this is just one example. And then the Olympic center training center in Colorado came out with data that showed that when they randomized Olympic athletes to a gluten-free diet versus the ones that didn’t, they improved the performance 7% , in the event. Now 7% doesn’t sound like much, but 7% of that level is the difference between meddling and not even qualifying.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:40:28] Right.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:40:28] Right.

And so I’ve been blown away by the data in illness. Healthy folks of what cleaning up your diet, even taking out the I that’s what I tell one of my patients, you know, they say, how do I eat better? It’s so complicated. It’s too much. I think plans like yours, Bill are phenomenal because I think that’s what people need, because this is not easy to do. One of the things I say to them is right off the bat. If you cut gluten out, you’re going to cut out all the simple sugars you’re going to. I mean, you’re going to eliminate all the things that really devastate us and cause the glycemic index problems that lead to diabetes and [00:41:00] other things I said, try that one thing.

And almost every one of the loses at least. 10% of their body weight in the first three months. And they all feel better and they all exercise more. They tell them because they feel better, but I think it’s true. I think it was a simple changes. You can change your very life in so many ways.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:41:15] One way to position it to people. Because one thing that we’ve been able to do is understand where the person is mentally. Right? So it’s really important to understand how they’re, when they’re presenting to you for the first time. It’s yes, I have this problem. I want to fix it. You know, Erin actually, someone who was able to reverse her IBD issues going through the methadone, she was a different candidate, right.

She had this pain, this issue, she was desperate for change. So, you know, we were friends, she went through the program. Great. But then you have the others that maybe there’s not that pain pressure point right now. Yes. They’re overweight, the doctors telling them this and they may not be in the right motivated state.

And also they’ve been in a motivated state before they’ve tried every diet under the sun. They’ve tried the punishment routine of flipping tires and [00:42:00] parking lots and shakes and counting calories and all that stuff. And it’s always led them down the same path. They start off great. And they always fall off.

And our society has pounded into their head that there’s something wrong with their psychology. So what we need is a bunch of Tony Robbins running around, psyching them into doing this. Really the psych comes from the gut. And when I would tell him, I said, you know, the studies show within 24 hours and you just said this the opposite way.

If in 24 hours of COVID you get demolished in 24 hours of feeding it, right? It gets boosted within 24 hours. These changes start happening. I say, if you can just take three days, I said, just take three days, wake up in the morning, take pictures of your lunch and dinner. Mark your food, your, your sleep, your energy and your mood and drink 60 to 80 ounces of water.

Cut out the gluten cut out. Any processed food sugars, eat your Apple, eat your oranges, eat your strawberry. Blueberry. I know diabetes. We always say, don’t do that. Please eat those fibrous foods, [00:43:00] lean proteins. You give it three days and it will get easier because now your microbiome is working. The information will go down.

You’ll control that impulse of all of that stress because the poor microbiome and the emotional stress is putting you in fight or flight mode. Which now your adrenal glands are firing all the time. So that reptilian brain kicks in and is it, and now it has a physiological demand for sugar and salt. And control those cravings.

So the part of this, my soap box here is not, is to say, let people know, Hey, this is actually much easier than you think it is. Because in the past you were swimming upstream, you using a chaotic strategy and an old paradigm of punishment using paradigm and nourishment, and it should get easier every day.

So you won’t fall off of it. And after 30 days, what we’ve noticed, we first focused on resetting the microbiome. Then we bring back in foods one by one. So we combine an elimination, reintroduction approach so they can figure out, Hey, you know, I can actually tolerate some gluten or tolerate a [00:44:00] little dairy, or I thought broccoli was great for me.

Or I stopped eating tomatoes because of Tom Brady. But actually I like tomatoes very well. So to your right, the question that I would have for you is when people are. You know, doing this elimination reintroduction process. And I talk about how stress and the kind of running the internal marathon causes cravings.

Is there evidence to show that a microbiome that is depressed also causes cravings from the metabolites that it’s creating or the proteins that are creating. Is there some evidence that it also.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:44:32] Yeah, and I think the science goes back to the studies. I mentioned before, where if you transfer the stool or the microbiome from an obese animal or an obese human, actually you can do with obese human stool as well.

And put that into an animal that’s never seen bacteria. Germ-free animals are a problem. If you take us to open a museum. And, but those in that animal has never seen bacteria. It is triggered to eat more. And so literally within 24 hours or a few, a few, a few days of that transfer, [00:45:00] it changes the very fundamental makeup and craving and eating and metabolism of that animal they eat more. And when you transfer a thin microbiome to the animals, they eat less. And so the gut changes how the brain craves for short, and we can prove that scientific labels. And I think that’s a really compelling piece that what you’re saying is accurate. My wife and her earlier life was also a personal trainer for quite a while: abs are made in the kitchen, they’re made in the gym, right.  Diet is 70% of it. Exercise is good for you because exercise protects against, uh, early death and it protects against its cancer and I’m it’s tumorous rank. And it does all these beneficial things for you. But 75% of weight loss and really health is in the kitchen.

And so that is where it’s got to start. I mean, you can work at all. You want, you’ll never have ads. If you don’t change it. And the same is true in general, you can work all you want, honestly, and not, not make me want to exercise, but if you don’t eat right, you’re kind of diminished enormously any potential you’d ever get [00:46:00] from exercise.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:46:00] Well, exercise is the reward. I tell people when you start to actually get your body back in balance, your microbiomes work and your cravings go away, your sleep has improved. That’s what you’re converting. Most of your fats are energy while you’re sleeping, you’re breathing it out. You’re urinating your press barring it.

But then you get this energy and you’re like, what am I going to do with this? Well, that’s the reward there. There’s those people in life, like Aaron that you and yourself, doc, that you have to drag out of the gym. And then those, you have to drag into the gym. Those that you have to drag out of the gym are expressing this health and energy.

So it’s like, I can’t not do this. And that’s what we hope to get everybody to and say, don’t focus so much on the exercise. Initially, let’s focus on nutrition and then creating energy. You’re going to want it. I never have to tell my kids to run down the street. They have so much energy. They have to get it out. We’re going to do the same thing, get your metabolism back to that kind of kid, kid life experience. So Erin, jump in here with any questions.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:46:54] So I have a question about some research that I heard a lot about you years ago, and the analogy that you [00:47:00] made between or not analogy, but the research that you were talking about as far as the bacteria, the gut bacteria being transferred into animals who haven’t seen bacteria.

So I have Crohn’s disease, which I was diagnosed with when I was. 21, but I had been sick for a few years before that and had been misdiagnosed several times. And it’s funny that I never, I never knew the antibiotic. I mean, I knew antibiotics to serve your microbiome. Why did I just say

microbiome? Anyway? But I just realized that I growing up I had strep throat a lot. In fact, at one point they thought I was a carrier because I would. Get it so much. I mean, I was on antibiotics at least twice a year. For strep throat. And I started having symptoms with Crohn’s when I was 18 or 19 and was finally diagnosed when I was 21, I believe.

But back [00:48:00] to my, this is my question. I know that there was some research specifically. I’m not sure if it was Australia and New Zealand about, I guess, what could be considered a vaccine for crones, where they would, it was a fecal transplant. Yeah. So is that something I heard a lot about and then I really heard nothing about it, but when you were, I mean, I’ve heard that there were major risks with it, but when you were talking about transferring the bacteria, I’m just interested to hear your thoughts on.

What that looked like to you, what the research indicates, because for so many people that, you know, to, to just cure it, as opposed to just keep treating, it would be, you know, a godson.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:48:42] Yeah. There are studies like that going on now. And, you know, we don’t know the results. There are some encouraging signs from your social studies. You know, clearly the field, we do have a lot of data for fecal transplants being very successful as in. Resistant Clostridium, difficile or C diff infections, you know, about a stool transplant is [00:49:00] 95% plus effective. And somebody with resistance diff who was not even responding to the antibiotics after course after course.

And so it’s highly effective at that. I started reviewing some papers in prolonged recurrent sepsis in the ICU where they’re doing fecal transplants and having success. There’s some work going on here at Duke and IBD and other illnesses looking at fecal transplants. For that you, you know, the, the, the rest of them, there are some, there they’re actually small, there’s a few percent risk of introducing an odd new disease.

The reaction the body has to get some component of it. And so new autoimmune diseases in a small percentage of patients can occur. And that’s, that’s the risk, you know, we’re trying to get better at it. You know, we used to do family member related people that live in the same household as you transplants. A lot of countries now. And I think it’s actually happening here in the US too, are doing cool donors of fecal material, where they, they, mix them to try to create sort of a more neutral environment that some of the studies I reviewed have [00:50:00] done it that way. So they have sort of universal donors that they’re, they’re tested for everything and they’re available commercially and it’s actually much less expensive than putting a person through that. And then there’s ideas that we can mimic. A fecal transplant with certain bacteria and a mix of bacteria that actually would be like a probiotic installation, almost of a mixed bacterial flora. So these would be, you know, designer fecal transplants, perhaps that would target without perhaps the auto-immune phenomenon occurring. Some ways to do that. In fact, the kids at MIT for a while were selling school pills that you could take and they were claiming they would make you smarter. The FDA had some concerns about that, but who knows, right? It’s still there that a lot of avenues that have been pursued in this area and some of them very nicely scientifically done, and those studies continue to be done.

And IVD is clearly one of the target diseases where there is some hope and some initial data that say there’s potential for the fecal transplant. To [00:51:00] be a meaningful therapy for this and that research is good news.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:51:04] One Harvard student. Does those, those pills work? Yeah, man. They’re they’re shit.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:51:08] I almsot had the same joke.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:51:10] I think the fecal transplant studies, all of that is so promising because it’s showcasing that it has the outcome. My quack chiropractic route comes back to. Well, your body knows how to do this and manufacture this itself. And the diversity comes from our environment. So eliminating the chemicals and toxicities we’re putting in our skin, in our bodies.

Improving what we’re eating with the addition of some extra help from a, like you said, an non-invasive probiotic that has very little risk to taking a supplement form of a probiotic with the foods you can get to that quick diversity on your own almost quicker. You’re incubated. Now, if you’re already in the hospital and like you said, there’s, this is end stage sepsis.

Yeah. I think then we got to go to that, but w. Well, I want the listeners to realize that even for you, Aaron, you were able to turn this around with food and supplementation and basically not ha I mean, when was the last time you had IBD [00:52:00] symptoms?

Erin O’Hearn: [00:52:00] 12 over years ago.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:52:03] Wow. So my thing is, do you have Crohn’s or do you have signs and symptoms?

That led into a diagnosis, but you had an off microbiome that led to some, some damage, right? Make some scarring, but ultimately your microbiome is now back in balance and you’re not having the inflammatory pathologies that come along with that disease. You’re not expressing anything. You look great. You feel great.

You’re exercising. Like, you know.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:52:30] I’m drinking tequila.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:52:31] Do you really have Crohn’s. Is that, I mean, do we.

Erin O’Hearn: [00:52:34] I don’t know. I’ve asked that question to a lot of doctors because I’ve seen several and the, you know, the pictures say that I still have crones. And some pictures say that I still have mild to moderate Crohn’s, which that there’s still inflammation.

It’s seven centimeters. Of my, some of mysmall, alium my saying it correctly.  It’s never been in my colon. It’s never been [00:53:00] anywhere else. And I used to have extraordinary pain, so much pain and bloating when I would have these episodes that I would have to go to the hospital. And it’s changed so dramatically because I would have a hospital trip once a year and then, then flare up sort of in between where I just didn’t feel great.

I was anemic. All my blood work has shown that there’s no elevated. There’s no, there’s no inflammation going on in my body now. And I have asked that question. I’ve said, I don’t understand because there’s been some doctors gastroenterologists who have said. How do you feel? I feel great. Well, that’s not what the, the MRI is saying, or that’s not what the, you know, these pictures are showing us and we’d like to put you on a round of steroids.

And so my response would, would be well, how are you going to know if they’re working? If I feel okay. Okay. Yeah. If you don’t have symptoms hotter yet, right. Then the answer was always, well, we could take another [00:54:00] picture, but it doesn’t matter because I get it, but that picture hasn’t really changed. Since I was 21.

So. That sort of brings me to the next, my next question for you, which is how obviously you got into the medical field, Dr. Ferro’s in the medical field. But I understand how we talk to people about rethinking their health and rethinking what healthy means and what treatment means, but how do you get the medical community, which is so focused on.

Treating doing post treating after the problem develops because, like Dr. Farrow said, you know, our bodies know how to do this. There’s a reason why the body functions the way it does. There’s a reason why women, when they give birth, they pass on. Those secretions to the baby. So the baby is healthy.

How do you sort of restructure the medical system? So it’s like, we’re not, we’re not looking for cures. We’re [00:55:00] looking for how to educate people on how to regain what their body is supposed to do. And regain their body or, or repurpose their body to a state where it functions, how it’s supposed to. Cause it’s not that people are necessarily getting sick.

It’s just that their bodies have stopped functioning due to environmental circumstances, diet, circumstances, whatever. That was a long-winded question, but I’m really interested in how you do that.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:55:26] I mean, I think, you know, we have found there’s probably two answers and the second one’s probably unfortunately, more effective than the first, as much as we would like it not to be true. The first is science. Right? You do the, you do the clinical trials to show that.  Changes in diet changes in and gut health and probiotics and other things change outcomes for these patients over time. Now, for that to meaningfully move the needle that, you know, the Institute of medicine was shown as it takes about 17 years for a major clinical trial to actually show up in a textbook and change practice. So that is a unfortunately slow process. Sometimes it goes [00:56:00] faster. But not very often.

The second way. And I think the other way I really liked that you’re doing it is that probably is far more effective in the modern environment is you get insurers to pay for it and you get insurance to mandate it, to say, Hey, if you have obesity or you have diabetes or you have IBD, you know, we are going to pay for and recommend this course of action, like having a diet plan since food, your home and covers probiotics perhaps, or covers physicians that know how to prescribe that kind of thing. The second, even more effective piece at the hospital is if hospitals and health systems don’t participate in programs that provide better food and. And better interventions at this base level that is so fundamental to our health as humans. Yeah. Then they don’t get paid for the care they render and they lose reimbursement. That’s the most motivating way to change practice is if you, as a practice or you as a hospital, you as a health system, don’t do these fundamental things. We’re going to find another [00:57:00] hospital care for our patients, or we’re not going to reimburse you.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:57:02] You’re a hundred percent, right. Erin, when I was going to the health plans to begin with, they rolled their eyes. Like you want us to cover what ‘s your clinical deck or the clinical studies. Right. I said, let me reframe this. I’ll take them on at risk. And then you pay me when they hit outcomes and you know, the population health group, and then the chief medical officer was like, I still need to see outcomes. And the CFO said you for, once you are quiet, this guy’s willing to put his money where his mouth is. And if he gets those outcomes are our data scientists. You know, our actuaries algorithm said that you’re going to save us 1800 to $2,000 in the first three months. If you get their A1C down, just one percentage point.

So they’re like go and that’s what’s really pushing. Innovation is cost savings is being able to say these are outcomes based and actually risk contracting to Aaron. So Medicare has now come out and giving people large swabs of PI population saying, [00:58:00] here are these, you take care of these 60,000 folks.

We’ll pay you what we were going to pay. To take care of them for the year and anything you save is yours. So there’s some innovations that are speeding up. And now that the data particularly supports what Doc is bringing to the table with this health gut health first approach, I think you’re going to see.

And unfortunately, the pandemic has also had a positive outcome in the way that it is letting us look at this and say, Hey, we’ve been, like you said, doc, we were already predisposed to this. We didn’t know that this was the biggest threat to our national security and our poor health. And we were prime for this.

Let’s stop the red tape and let’s look for things that can make an immediate impact. And gut health is literally one of those things that within 30 days, 28 days, this person is markedly more healthy than they were 28 days prior. So it’s super exciting. I’m officially inviting you. I’ve been meaning to do this for forever is to create a scientific advisory board.

I am would love for you to be the first [00:59:00] person on that board and I’m putting you on the spot, but. Man, you just

Erin O’Hearn: [00:59:04] Gee now you have no choice.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [00:59:06] But this is the reason I went into medicine. I mean, it’s the idea that there are ways that we can treat people that aren’t these drugs that may cost to have a B are often worse than the disease and create risks. And honestly, aren’t always that effective. And you know, this is why I wanted the medicine that adults hopefully try to teach young doctors to take better care of patients. I think those two things are the essential drivers of the reason I chose this path in my life.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [00:59:30] Well, it makes me super excited about your study as well, is that,  so Erin, we’re going to try to recruit some of our members to actually, you know, anyone that comes up and hits the criteria.

I can’t wait to see those that are in the study that are also following our food plan, that some of them will be taking a probiotic and some will be taking the placebo. This is a double blind trial. So I can’t wait to see the difference in those that have, are eating the food and have the probiotic.

Those are eating the food [01:00:00] and have just the placebo. And then that subgroup versus the rest of the population, that’s not working with better health, just for my own edification, because I always want to bring the best to the, to the end user. And, and I’m always like, You know, less is more like, let’s just get to, let’s not, complicate this.

There’s some of my colleagues have created programs where they test the microbiome. They give you this super lengthy, you know, thing of all the foods you can eat or can eat. People always ask me, well, why aren’t you just sending them right away for blood testing? It’s like, because I want to just get at what I know is going to be the end result.

Right. And why spend all that extra money. But in this case, this will give us some of that data that I’ve been longing for to, to prove or disprove, you know, I. Surmise, but if, if I’m wrong, if some of those foods are unnecessary, then I can shift those dollars to the somewhere other food that they could eat.

So I’m super excited about this. Erin I’m going to let you finish, finish this off here. Cause doc’s got to go back to saving lives.

Erin O’Hearn: [01:00:56] No, I would just say thank you so much for all your information and, [01:01:00] and really having, being interested in the medical field. Not only because you’re interested in the science aspects of it, but just the patient care part of it and having an empathy for people who’ve had similar experiences to your own.

I think it’s, it’s an amazing story. It’s an inspiring story. And I wish, I, I really hope that we hear more from you and it becomes. Becomes front page news instead of how many people are being affected by COVID, because I know it’s been difficult for you and all your colleagues to deal with this pandemic for the last year. So just thank you. That’s how I’m going to end it.

Dr. Bill Ferro: [01:01:34] Awesome so listening to your story we will put links for people to, to see if they can get approved for the study super easy. Right? It’s great. They can do it from anywhere. Their whole family can do it. So we’ll have links within the podcast. And I just want to echo what Erin has just said.

Doc you’re the most genuine, warm individual, super intelligent what you’ve done today. I think that the education you’ve given some people today that listen to this is really going to [01:02:00] change lives and hopefully hundreds and thousand of those lives. So we appreciate you. And thank you so much for joining us, my friend. Dr. Ferro from Quacks and Hypochondriacs, I don’t really want to go into anything else, but just sign off and say that was amazing and awesome.  If you’re struggling with your gut health and want to try the better health method, just go to betr are mission driven. So if you start working with us and for some reason it just doesn’t workout, or it’s not right for you, you know that we just give you a high five and send you on your way.

This is a nudge to Blue Shield of North Carolina. We’re covered by every other state. Where are you guys step up to the plate and start . Yeah. So again, thanks very much. And Dr. Paul as always, thank you for what you’re doing at the ICU and thank you for your work.

Dr. Paul Wischmeyer: [01:02:45] Thanks Bill. Thanks Erin.

Erin O’Hearn: [01:02:46] Thank you.

Full Episode Transcript

Quacks and Hypochondriacs is hosted by Dr Bill Ferro and Erin O’Hearn, and is produced by Earfluence.

Podcast Production
About the Author
We believe in sharing amazing stories, providing knowledge to the world, and celebrating diverse voices. Through podcasting, our clients are amplifying their expertise, expanding their networks, building a content engine, and growing their influence. If you're interested in podcasting, we'd love to hear from you! Schedule your free 15 minute podcast consult today.