The Father of Functional Medicine Dr. Jeffery Bland on The Next Frontier of Health and Immunity

Elizabeth has the honor of sitting down with Dr. Jeffrey Bland, an internationally recognized thought leader who has spent more than 5 decades on the improvement of human health. Dr. Bland is known worldwide as the founder of the Functional Medicine movement and co-founded the Institute for Functional Medicine along with Metagenics and most recently, Big Bold Health. Dr. Bland shares some cutting-edge insight and information on the next frontier of health and his own favorite health bio-hacks. He and Elizabeth also discuss the interconnected nature of soil health and people, along with the exciting discovery of phytochemical-rich foods like Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat. It’s a nutrient-dense and packed episode, enjoy!


Try Big Bold Health for yourself here and use code livepurely20 for 20% off.

I’ve been speaking for 40+ years about how people can aspire and achieve high-level health by taking charge of things that are within their daily zone of control. -Dr. Jeffrey Bland

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Podcast transcript below:

Elizabeth Stein 00:00
Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey. This week's guest is Dr. Jeffrey Bland, an internationally recognized thought leader, who has spent more than five decades focused on the improvement of human health. He is known worldwide as the founder of the functional medicine movement, having co founded the Institute for Functional Medicine, along with metagenics personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute, and most recently, Big Bold Health. In this episode, Dr. Bland shares with us the roots of functional medicine, and why our medical system is still one of disease care instead of health care. He dives into the next frontier of health, our immune health, what factors affect our immune function and how we can rejuvenate our system with phytochemical rich foods like Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat, Dr. Bland also explains how the immunity of people, plants, and the planet are all interconnected through soil health. It was an absolute honor and privilege to have the father of functional medicine on this episode. He is truly a visionary and a legend. Keep listening to learn all about Dr. Bland. Oh, and head on over to to stock up on your own Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat and some omega-threes. You can get 20% off your order with code livepurely20. Onto the podcast. Jeff, a welcome to the podcast. It is an absolute pleasure to have you on, I am so honored. And as I just said, before we started this is the highlight of my week having you on today.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 01:53
Well, it's such a highlight for me as well, you're one of my champions. And I really feel what you've been doing and what you've dedicated your life to. And how it's seen in your activity through Purely Elizabeth is truly forward looking. So it's a it's a great privilege to have this conversation.
Elizabeth Stein 02:10
Well, thank you that that means so much coming from you and talking about dedicating your life and being forward looking you completely embody all of that, as the father of functional medicine, I would love to start with your personal journey and how you got to the idea of functional medicine, and what it is for anybody who doesn't know.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 02:34
Yeah so to kind of summarize what I would say in a soundbite function most represents it represents trying to really focus on how you got to a position where your health is not what you want it to be rather than what you call it. Because I think our medical system is really good at defining a name to what you have. But it's not as good at telling us how we got there. And the reason that that's important to me is if you look upstream, you then have opportunity to actually treat the cause and not the effect. And so that is really then asking the question, what kind of changes happen in a person upstream prior to them actually getting this downstream name that's attached to something like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, whatever it might be, as I examine that over the years, actually, over the decades, I came to the conclusion that what people are experiencing prior to getting a name for their condition is they're experiencing changes in function. And those function that can be really broken into four different areas, their physical function, their metabolic or physiological function, their cognitive function, and their behavioral function. And if you then kind of nest those four together, mash them up, that becomes our overall body function, which is then a reflection of our trajectory, I think, as a human being as to where we're going, Are we going into a path of enlightenment with 100 years of good living? Are we on a path, it's going to ultimately end up with something that we put a name to it and call itself disease? So that really was the foundation of the functional medicine concept.
Elizabeth Stein 04:15
And you obviously weren't practicing functional medicine to begin with. So what really take us a little bit behind the scenes of what you were doing in your medical world at the time, and really what made that shift?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 04:31
Yeah, thank you. So probably like you, great changes or great thoughts we have in our lives are catalyzed by some kind of an experience we had. It could be a personal experience, it could be meeting someone, it could be something that we were affected by. And that was certainly the case for me. I was a professor from 1970 on at university University in Washington, called Puget Sound, and I then had the opportunity to meet a two time Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Linus Pauling, who at the time, this was back in the 70s now was very well known for his book called Vitamin C, the Common Cold, and the Flu. And he had developed over many, many decades a reputation as being one of the great thought leaders in the world. In fact, Yoda in the Star Wars trilogy was really built on Linus Pauling's model. And he was and his wife Ava Helen were just these remarkable people that were thoughtful about so many things, not just chemistry or medicine, but about life in general. And if you really focused on what they were advocating, as two extraordinary opinion leaders, it was function because it was hit it was their belief that if you get the function right the structure will follow and and or if you get the structure, right, the function will follow, they're directly interrelated, one to the other. And so I was very flattered to say the least, when one day he and the President are always calling to do science and medicine and Dr. Dr. Emil Zuckerkandl arrived at our research labs at the University for a meeting with me, and asked if I would be interested in taking a sabbatical, sabbatical and coming down to Stanford, to run a research lab for Dr. Pauling and his collaborators at the Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine. You know, I had to think about it for about two minutes. And the reason I had to think about because I did have a young family at the time, I was heavily involved with my teaching work and research reponsibility at the university. But I recognized that this was a once in a lifetime chance to to really be with some of the great thinkers of the time. So I spent two years in the early 1980s 81, 83, running a research facility there at his institutes and that was a life changing experience, because I became acquainted not only having his office next to mine, we had many informal conversations about all sorts of interesting topics. But I also was introduced to all these thought leaders from around the world that were coming to visit, you know, people that were top of their fields, from all sorts of different fields, from authors, to artists, to musicians, to philosophers, to scientists. When I then left to come back to my teaching position, took my family back to the to Puget Sound in Washington State, I then recognized that I needed to really change my career, it was really kind of when I think back now kind of almost a completely, I don't know what you call it, irrational decision. Because I was a tenured faculty member, I had really a great research group, I was liked by the president of the university, I could take different courses in different departments, I pretty much was my own boss. And I made the decision, I was going to give up my tenured professorship and start a company to teach doctors how to do the Christian medicine in your practice. I had no business plan, I had no funding, I was just going to give up the security of my tenured faculty position, and started this company, which was going to take what I learned from the Paulings and advance it into healthcare somehow. Well, you know, it was not a linear path. But I have to say, alright, so that resulted in the formation of metagenics, which became quite a prominent company in the nutrition products area for physicians, for health practitioners. And then that lead to, my wife and I started the Institute for Functional Medicine and coining the term functional medicine in 1990. So it was all in all worked out, but it was not a linear path. And I think back how silly I was, I had kids, I had a mortgage, I had all the responsibilities, and I just kind of started from scratch and threw my credit to the wind, but it all worked out fine.
Elizabeth Stein 08:51
Well, I love that speaking to to my heart as far as sometimes when you feel what's right, and it might not be the rational thing, as you said, you have everything lined up, but really going for probably what felt right in your gut and what you were passionate about to make change. And you've now since created incredible impact on the world on our medical world on how so many people think and now live. And so, thank you for all of that and for making that irrational decision.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 09:27
Yeah, you know, as with you, I'm sure with your starting up Purely Elizabeth, you have all sorts of unexpected things. You know, people often say to me, what do you think Jeff about starting a company and I say, well, be aware that everything you think it's going to happen probably is not going to happen. Everything that you thought was not going to happen probably will happen. So you better be prepared for the unexpected. And if you love living in that, that limbo zone of jumping out of the plane, and then trying to figure out how to do your parachute on the way down, then that's probably the perfect thing for you but if your nervous system isn't really accommodating that kind of thing, it's probably not the best thing for you.
Elizabeth Stein 10:04
Absolutely, that's so true. You're definitely in cut cut for that or not, I think it's a hard thing to learn to wire yourself that way. So now so many years later, after starting the Institute for Functional Medicine and coining the term, here we are 20 will be have this will be out in 2023. So when this comes out, 2023 How do you feel about where functional medicine is today? And where the rest of the modern medicine world is? Is there anything that you're surprised at the time did you think, oh god by 2023, everybody will be practicing this or what did that look like for you?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 10:44
Well, thank you. That's a really great question. So I think it's a little bit of all shades of the rainbow from from from brilliant technicolor to still the dawn, with the elimination to starting it's a mixture of all of that, because when I first started, I say this facetiously but it's not too far from the truth. Actually, when I started in the 1970s, the middle night and 70s, giving courses or lectures for physicians around medical nutrition. If I could get enough people to fill a phone booth to listen, I was doing well. I mean, literally, I'm slightly exaggerating, but it was there were not many receptive nerds at that point. The impetuous for this change, I think, occurred stepwise, but it started to get into a hockey stick somewhere around the year 2000. And I think there are many reasons for that because around 2000, it became more well recognized that our medical system, which we call our health care system, was really our disease care system. It wasn't really a health care system. And, you know, that's not to overly criticize what was going on, I think that the disease care system that we evolved is extraordinarily talented, sophisticated, probably the best in the world. But you can only be really good at one thing, and to put health under the disease care system, starting to be recognized as a mistake, because you cannot manage health in the same system, you're managing disease. And so you people would say, but we do have a healthcare system that's called the public healthcare system. And I think what happened around the turn of the century is people started recognizing that hold up just a minute, each one of us are a unique facet on the diamond of life, no two people are identical. And this concept that we can deal with people's health in a community based public health system and get that to work at the individual level, just wasn't successful. There are certain principles that are good public health principles. But today, they've tried to design a individualized health system, out of a public health system that's designed for community based and population based health was just not going to work. So now around 2000, when we have the Human Genome Project, we had the whole concept of personalization starting to emerge, I think people are starting to say, we need something else. And that something else has to be connected into the understanding of who that individual is. And that that is connected to their function. There, as I said, their physical, cognitive, emotional, and metabolic function. So I think around 2000, the for at least for me, the theme starting to change, our audiences for our program started to increase, we started having more impact. And that was what, like 10 years into the functional medicine movement, where now we started to really get much more traction, and it's from 2000 to 2022, that's been kind of an exponential growing phase of the whole concept in the organization that now, well over 150,000 health practitioners have been through its courses, more than 60% of them are MDS and DOs. So I think we're starting and by the way, of those about two thirds are female physician, which I find very, because I think there's a lot of power in women bringing their energy into, into medicine. And you know, when I was a professor and I was in charge of the pre med programs and getting students prepared to go to medical school, we had very few women about thinness of the 70s that very few women going into medical school. Now, as you know, there are more women admitted to American medical schools than there are men. So we're seeing a very great change, I think as a whole culture that the languaging and the style underpins medical education.
Elizabeth Stein 14:49
That's great. Well, that that gives some hope. So how do you think I what changes have to happen as I think about the difference of you go and see your general practitioner and It's a five minute meeting that you have if that and they tap your knee, look at your eye. And that's about it. And if you were to see a functional doctor, certainly that would be much more elaborate in a whole conversation. So how does it start to evolve to really change? The regular GP system?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 15:21
Yeah, thank you. So if we again, go back to my basic, at least tenant, my belief is that our healthcare system is really a disease care system. And then you start saying, Well, how does that manifest through family practice or general practice in the way docs are trained? And the way they're reimbursed? By the way, right? There's a lot of how your practice is related to how you're reimbursed. It's all related to help the absence of disease. That's the general tenant. And how do you know if you have an absence of disease, you measure certain things that are principles of disease? And if they're not there, by their absence, you're healthy. So that's the general tenant. Now, is that completely wrong? No, no, it's not completely wrong. But the challenge, of course, is that if you look today, at expenditures, for healthcare, nearly two thirds of those expenditures are expended on things that don't fall into these tiny disease packages. There are chronic illnesses that go on for years, for which we don't have any clear way of treating them. This would be things like autoimmune disease, things like cognitive dysfunction, things like pre diabetes, things like chronic inflammatory disorders, things like digestive disorders, I could go down the list, you know, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia. Now we have post COVID syndrome, long haul syndrome, all of those don't fall nicely into a tiny diagnostic category for which you can give a name and create it with a specific drug. And so where does that land that lands somewhere, if it doesn't exist today, it's in the system that we're developing. It's in the health care system around these what I call syndromes, not diseases, of which there are so many of those that are apparent in our society for which we do not have adequate solutions that reside in our disease care system. So now that's where we have the opportunity, not to replace the disease care system, but to be equal in importance to the disease care system where the will the healthcare system is focused on function.
Elizabeth Stein 17:32
As you think about that, the systems and and I think some of the foundational underlining, I know that you were at the beginning of gut health and where that was going to be such an important part of our understanding of our overall health. And I know, the next frontier you're looking at is this has become immune health. So I'd love to get into immune health, why it's so important for overall health and kind of start with the basics, and then we'll build on that.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 18:03
Yes, so this was part of my actually evolution, I've had the privilege of now working with a number of people that have stayed with me, they get the endurance award, over 25 year.
Elizabeth Stein 18:16
Says a lot about you.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 18:17
Well, I think it says a lot about their tolerance, to manage, manage my personality, but the one of those people who have had a two and a half decade, professional relationship is Trisha. And Trisha is our Director of Communications. And I think working on a plan communications for all these decades. And so one day, about three years ago, I was railing on a Monday morning, I upgraded into a medical meeting. And I often do this and I come back, I started unloading. And she was just to take my, my kind of narrative. She got so very graciously. So after I finish, she says so Jeff, you know, you're talking about these things that for decades that I've known you, and you know, you're getting getting along in your career, you've done a number of different things. Have you thought about negatives, just one more shot at the at the goal for your one more bite at the apple, whatever you want to say because you know, you're a fairly big guy in stats here. You're really very bold. So maybe you ought to start Big Bold Health and start another company that really is focusing specifically on taking this message you got to the general consumer, not just a health professional. And and she said if you did that, what would be the gateway into getting people's attention about how they own their health, not just prevent their diseases, but own their health. And she really challenged me I thought it was a really great conversation. And I said well, of all the things that we've explored over the years, including the four basic therapeutic approaches that I am very proud of it someone asked me what what am I most proud of having done a principle for heavy developed in our field, there are four different therapeutic tools and I think I've been I wouldn't say I was the guy alone that developed but I was a principal with a group in developing them that include gastrointestinal restoration, which we call the Four R Program, which has remove, replace, reinoculate, and repair. It's something that virtually every provider of functional medicine now learns. I think it's now got more Rs in it, but it's a program that we developed in the 80s. Secondly, is metabolic detoxification, another program that we developed in the early 90s. Third is mitochondria resuscitation, talking about bioenergetics, and how you enhance the energetic machinery of your cells. And then more recently, is this immuno rejuvenation concept how you rejuvinate your immune system. Those four represent what I think therapeutically are my contributions to the field. And so when Trisha asked me, gow would you in your big bold health state, Jeff, what would you say is the gateway of victory? I said, if we could teach people how their immune system was connected to their nervous system, and how that was connected to their gut microbiome and their gut's immune system, and get them to own that system, so they became the owner of their immunity, not the victim of their immunity, that would be a huge step forward in healthcare. And she said, okay, why don't we start a company together in order to do that. So that that became then taking all that we've been discussing, since my first seminar in doctors on on gut restoration, which was 1985. On I developed, developed, I use the term endotoxicity, leaky gut, gut toxicity was a concept that we were talking about in 1985, with with practitioners, all those years of experience that we've had with that, and then connecting it to the immune system, because more than half of our immune system is clustered around our intenstinal tract. Nearly 60% 70% of the antibodies that float around in our blood came from the immune system that was in our gut. And so how do we connect all that together into a plan that people can actually implement in their lives and start owning their immune system, that was the basic basis of this big bold health concept.
Elizabeth Stein 21:59
Well, I also like the idea of that just the name, Big Bold Health, right as this next phase of your journey is, is really going for it in a big way. So let's get into more of the details on immuno rejuvenation, how we can how we can improve or and I know there's a difference between improving and boosting. So maybe getting into that and start there.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 22:23
Yeah, so I think that we have seen such tremendous advances made in understanding the immune system over really two epic periods over the last 30 years. The first period I, I was involved with bacteria, it's not coming up 40 years ago, it's hard to believe I was at the Pauling Institute when the first case of Kaposi sarcoma was diagnosed at the San Francisco hospital. And we started working with HIV patients and aids in the early eighties. And most people who were around at that time probably want to put in the back of their minds how horrible that period of time was with people that got infected, it was pretty much a death sentence, very few people escape from having that infection if they had it. And there were all sorts of things that people were saying could be useful, and most of which proved not to be correct. And the whole pathos of that condition and how it changed our culture, globally, was powerful. It was a viral infection, the HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, and then a period of time went by several decades. And you know, every sometimes they're short, and then we get reexposed, to this extraordinarily insidious SARS COVID two virus, which is if you think about it, really, remarkably dangerous, because it doesn't kill people immediately. Most people, it doesn't infect children, like normal viral infections, or normal kids get the first examples of virus infections like cold and flu and things. It doesn't produce serious symptoms when you're infected at first. So you become a transmitter without actually being sick. I mean, this is like the super design horrible bugs or horrible condition. And then to top it up, what did we learn that no matter how severe your infection was, you have a risk towards this what's now called longhold COVID. Because it's gotten into your system and it's marked your immune system and your nervous system in such a way that it carries in memory that now produces a state of dysfunction not too dissimilar from what we saw with post viral fatigue syndrome, called chronic fatigue, or not too dissimilar from Desert Storm or not too dissimilar from EPV. All of these conditions or fibromyalgia are associated with this fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, brain fog, low energy, chronic pain syndrome. But all that, which we have still not in medicine found a solution to because it's so complicated. But it's complicated nature relies or I think, sits in the complex alteration of our immune system that has been scarred by the memories from this infection. Now, the question is, and this is the important question of our time, is this a one way street? And once you ask that question, it opens up a door of extraordinary opportunity. Because it's not only exposure to viruses that we see now can scar your immune system, it's also exposure to trauma in your life. It could be a post traumatic stress, it could be violence, it could be abuse, it could be lack of love, and lack of acceptance. All of these things, we both psychological factors, and physical factors and chemical factors like xenobiotics, the things that are out there, like satellites, and, and plasticizers, and all these things, they all converge to influence our immune system to put marks on our immune system, which is called epigenetic marks, that mark our immune system as having had bad days that it remembers. And whenever it remembers those bad days, it sets up an alarm reaction. And that alarm reaction is one a kind of programmed inflammation, so people end up in a state of chronic inflammation. So alterations of our gut microbiome, alterations of our chemical processing centers, like detoxification, alterations in our immune systems, energy metabolism through mitochondrial dysfunction. Alterations in the way people are sending toxic experiences to their immune system. like hostility, like rejection, lack of love, lack of acceptance.
Elizabeth Stein 27:10
How about lack of sleep? Is that one?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 27:12
Yes, thank you. Lack of sleep. Exactly. All of these factors, it's like the total load effect, then aggregates together on our immune system to carry forward this feeling of being burdened. And now we ask the question, why is it that in the United States, a country with more advanced health care, and more things than most any other country in the world even developed countries do we find that we had the highest serious outcome from the SARS COVID two virus infection across all all ages, not just older age people, but across all ages, we had the most serious because we found that our immune health was not good. Our immune health was actually much more compromised than we had recognized. And we were giving ourselves a false assumption that we were this healthy nation, we were not a healthy nation. We were a nation that had a thin veneer of health laying over this immune dysfunction. So now, the question is, is this a one way street? And that's the exciting part of the story because everything I've said, this point is doom and gloom. Yeah, exactly. Who wants to talk to Jeff Bland. But the good news is that, thanks to all the work has been going on in the field, epidemiology. Now it has been discovered over the last 10 years, that this is a two way street, those marks that you put on those scars on the immune system can be taken off and rejuvenated to give another opportunity to send a different message to the immune system that becomes more flexible in terms of its are more resilient, in terms of its exposure to future events. So it's not like getting rid of all of your immunity, you don't want to do that. You want to keep your immunity but you want to get rid of these marks that were put on your immune system that are locking you into this inflammatory cycle that's associated with all these chronic diseases that we are aware of diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, heart disease, arthritis, all these things have this chronic inflammatory condition associated with them. So the good news is that we are discovering that within our capability is to rejuvenate this immune system. Now you ask the question, what about boosting? Well, my response is, what happens if you boost the raised immune system, if you boost an immune system that's already in a state of hyper vigilance, and in an inflammatory state that can aggravate the problem. We've seen this obviously, with COVID individuals that sometimes have a hyper state of vigilance in their immune system and boosting it actually creates more serious outcome. So I think that what we are starting to recognize boosting isn't always what you want to do, you may want to rejuvenate, reestablish the setpoint your immune system, increase its resilience, and then start moving forward with this new template for capabilities and your immune system versus foreign.
Elizabeth Stein 30:13
So if I'm understanding it correctly, then all these factors affect our immune system effect put these markers on our genes, which then we think, okay, these are the genes that I have. But the reality is, we can actually change those. And just because we are given a sentence to x isn't really so and so. So what are the key ways in which we can rejuvenate our immune system?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 30:42
So this is Back to the Future, isn't it? It's so fascinating for the things that you stood for with Purely Elizabeth, if we were to take all this, science developed that all these machinations Greekism, that probably I spend more time in my life doing it then it would be considered acceptable. They really translate into very important things about our daily living, are we being exposed to toxins? Are we engaged in consumption of foods that have the family or the portfolio of nutrients that have been demonstrated to be involved in this process of the immuno rejuvenation? Are we staying away from toxic relationship to the extent possible, are we limiting our exposure to things that we know are putting these marks on our genes that will then cause us to be in a chronic state of inflammation? Are we getting proper sleep, are we spending enough time each day to have some time for it? So for garbage collecting of the debris that occurs and accumulates from daily metabolic activity, that could be sleep, that could be exercise, that could be relaxation, that could be meditation, it could be listening to music, it could be reading poetry, any number of different approaches, all of these things that seems so commonplace, are actually not commonplace at all. They are powerful therapeutic tools that are designed historically to the evolution of the human species to be there in access for us to rejuvinate our immune system.
Elizabeth Stein 32:13
So let's get to the topic of food. And I know, one of the pillars of big bold health has a special ingredient, which I'd love if you would share this story because, as you alluded to, at the beginning of our conversation of meeting the right people, and being at the right time you share this story the other day, and this one I loved. So let's dive into your discovery of Himalayan tart, Tartary Buckwheat?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 32:41
Yeah, so So thank you very much. This, this again, is you know, life is never a straight line. It has all these interesting twists and turns. And as long as you have your eyes open, and you kind of are conscious of what's going on, sometimes you can have amazing discovery. So that happened for me. So as I, as I mentioned, tertiary, my colleague talked about this big bold health concept. And so we started this new company about three years ago, to try to help people discover how to own their immune systems. By the way, this is pre COVID. This was pre SARS. It turns out that as we were doing this I read, I'm kind of a bibliophile. I read a lot of journal articles in the medical nutrition, cellular biology journal kingdom. And I had seen this article, The Journal of Clinical Investigation work done at Vanderbilt University Medical School, on this new approach to managing blood pressure. And the way they were describing it to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, they were talking about the calming of your immune system that would then calm their blood vessels, and relax their blood vessels. And so it was an immune approach towards lowering blood pressure. And I had never thought about that as a mechanism. So when I read the paper very carefully, I found out that they had discovered a specific molecule a specific chemical called 2-Hydroxybenzylamine, I'll abbreviate it 2-HOBA, that was capable of speaking to Union sit down, that then spoke to the blood vessels to cause them to relax and to lower blood pressure. And I thought, wow, that is that is really cool. And as I read the article very closely, I found that I saw in there in the kind of small print that there was only one source in nature that they could find, for this compound 2-Hydroxybenzylamine. I mean, it was in the food called Tartary Buckwheat from the Himalayas. And I said, well, geez, I know a little about buckwheat. I have never heard about Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, and by the way, Tartary comes from the tartan district of China. That's where that word comes from. So I then, coincidentally, was just about to leave to go to China for a invitation to speak at this at the Chinese medical association meeting in Harbin, China, a very northernmost city, big city in China, between North Korea and Russia, about 20 million people live in the city. And I was going to speak about function medicine to about 10,000 Chinese medical doctors. So I said, as I was leaving, I said, Trish, you know, I just read this article on this stuff called Himalyan Tartary Buckwheat, what do you know about that? She said, well, I don't know anything about it. But while you're gone, I I'll see if I can do some research. So when I came back, she had done her research. And she found out that there was only one person she could identify in the United States that was growing this. He was a former Cornell University, a research professor that would retire her nurse by in Angelica, New York, upstate New York. And they were growing on a hobby farm this seeds that he got from the USDA, that turned out to be Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, that was the only place we could buy or grow in the United States. Well, ironically, as I was in China, my host there was a medical doctor from Shanghai, but he was also got a PhD from the United States universities. And he and I spent the better part of elite together and taking the bullet train from Harbin to Shanghai, which is about 2200 miles. So we had a good train ride. We're going 250 miles an hour, which is pretty amazing watching shiny pass by us like a motion picture. And halfway across China, we're in the all these agricultural areas. I said to him, I said, So Joe, have you ever heard about this stuff called Tartary Buckwheat Himalayn Tartary Buckwheat and his compound called two hydroxyl Denzil knee. And it was like, labor free strength. It's like the train stop, like time stood still. He looked at me with this, is it there? He says, I can't believe it. And I said, What, why is that he said, we have been looking for someone in the United States who has the background and the interest in talking to about this Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat, because my research group, which is in Wuhan, very interesting city, is the largest research group working on 2-HOBA. Wow, that's our area of specialty. And we've been looking for someone to try to collaborate with from the United States. So by the time I got back from China, we had identified Sam Beer and his wife they're in Angelica New York, we will have the linkage with Vanderbilt University. And now we have this very interesting linkage with research groups in China. So that then made us suddenly into a turn read buckwheat focus group, because it turned out that this plant is like a biochemical factory, manufacturing the levels of immune active flavonoids, polyphenols, some 50 to 100 times higher than any other plant foods that we could find. Not me 15 100% 50 to 100 times higher. And so we then started to become Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat aficionados, that led us into Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat cooperative with organic farmers, in Upstate New York thanks to Mr. Beer and his introduction, we then ultimately bought Angelica Mills as the part of our Big Bold Health business activity because we really wanted to focus on growing and exploring Himalayan Tartary buckwheat, so we're now we're the only producers of organic Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat, certainly in United States but in the world, I'm not sure about that. But we are fully invested in this, there is an immune active, I guess you call it super food.
Elizabeth Stein 38:38
Wow. What an amazing story. I mean, the moment that you were both looking at each other on the train must have just been I am such a firm believer and everything in life being meant to be and that is evidence of that, right? It's pure magic.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 38:59
Yeah, and it's led us into all sorts of things at this phase in my life. I've been so wonderful because when I started as a professor, my initial appointment as an assistant professor was a dual appointment in chemistry and environmental science because the university, this was the start of Earth year Earth Day was in 1970. And most universities were then trying to start an environmental studies program to respond to this birthday movement. So I was hired as a person to start in the environmental science program and with part of my joint appointment being in the chemistry department. So I have had this very, very strong joint interests between environmental related issues, global planetary issues, I taught graduate students did research on on environmental related issues, the ecology issues simultaneous to this human health and nutrition issues. So to go full circle now, to where we are now in doing regenerative organic agriculture farming. And I'm I got my hands in the soil with our food scientist Emily Reese. And with our farmers, our auctioneer and his farmers and with our first organic Miller, Greg Russo that we now are have this artisanal mill that we're using. I mean, it's it's like Back to the Future per man, it's it really kind of closes the circle for me.
Elizabeth Stein 40:22
Yeah, that must be so wonderful having all your passions really come together. On the topic of regenerative and soil, I'd love for you to touch on for a moment, really helping us understand the connection between our soil health, the soil microbiome, our health and how that all plays together?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 40:44
I'm so glad that you raised that question. Because it turns out that wasn't part of my education, I have to say that I was fairly naive to the concept of the mycorrhiza until recently, and the mycorrhiza is as we all know, fungal and microbiological living organisms that are in our soil that speak actually to the seeds, when they've been put in the soil to grow, they actually chemically communicate together. And as a consequence, they produce an outcome, which then becomes how that seed develops into its plant, and the plant ultimately into its roots or its seeds. And so this concept that there is a system of interrelationships between soil health, the plant health, and ultimately the health of the things that plant produces, which become part of human health when we eat them. It's a system that really ties in unit gate into a global perspective. So now it's planetary health, soil health, plant health, human health, they're all interconnected. And I really come to recognize this and I again, we have this soil scientists Emily Reese is working as part of our group, who is our soil steward is to call ourselves calls herself. And we actually get a very interesting study, it took a year to do obviously, where we did a field trial of inoculating a different field plots with different mycorrhiza to see if we could enhance the phytochemical content of the Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat by different ways in enriching the soil, the different microbiota, different fungi and bacteria might enhance the mycorrhiza. And low and behold, we just harvested those field plots, and then took the seed and did the chemical analysis. And we were able to demonstrate that with a proper mycorrhizal inoculation, we were able to enhance the production of phytochemicals, once again, demonstrating that this is a system it's not just the seed in isolation, it's the seed in its environment that can enhances the ultimate production of its full assembly, nutrition and phytochemical portfolio.
Elizabeth Stein 42:50
That's so interesting. And I think, one where just in general, the importance of regenerative agriculture is going to be I think the future in the next couple of years here, as we realize that the plants that we're eating are a lot of the plants, not all the plants, a lot of the plants that we're eating are so void of nutrition, that really getting back to that soil health is imperative for our future health, our immune health, and our overall health of...
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 43:22
Yeah so let me let me reinforce what you just said. It's, I think, a really important point to put exclamation points and underline it. So because we now have a group of organic farmers who have been doing this farming organically for more than 20 years, we have some really good farmers who love their soil love. Their land is really precious. One of our lead farmers, actually he is our lead farmer. When we first started farming, Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat, which is because we can't go and buy the seed from the store we have to make grow our own seed. So it took us a year to get the seed so we could plant more acres. And at that point in time with Sam Beer as the person that in his Angelica farm, Angelica Mills farm producing the seed for us, he said, Jeff, expect on a good year, you'll probably get around 10 bushels an acre production from the growing of Tartary Buckwheat, as we've now gotten into using farmers who are number he was a research professor doing a hobby farm so now we're your professional farmers have been organically farming for 20 years, and now we're really nourishing the soil and really building it up. Our yield now without any fertilizer without any kind of synthetic chemicals has gone from 10 bushels an acre to three five or so an acre.
Elizabeth Stein 44:41
Wow, that's incredible.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 44:42
And the phytochemical content has gone up in the process. So it just shows you the importance of systems of how if we think in a systematic way, it's not just producing new overload, it's producing nutrition quality yield that comes from a healthy soil a healthy environment.
Elizabeth Stein 45:02
That's great. So everyone can get your Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat on this site, they can incorporate into recipes anywhere that they would use a flour. But you can also take as a supplement as well correct?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 45:16
Now one of the things we recognize, is, and I know you know, this, as well as not everybody is a baker, or a cook. Most people want to aspire to have good nutrition that we deal with, but not everybody goes into the kitchen. And so we wanted to make this as accessible as possible. So we figured, okay, we need to put it into a superfood shake mix, which we did, we need to take concentrates of it and put it into supplements so they can get that portfolio of phytochemicals without having to do prepping. So we, we hopefully reduce the barrier of entry for people that could find different solutions to the problem. And so we're we're actually now working on a whole variety of new and I think very exciting ideas, we will be producing the first organically produced Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat sprouts and sprout powder. That will be our next adventure we've been developing for a year. We're also producing a development now of a Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat fermented product using probiotic organisms, that we can get into all sorts of interesting configurations, including even things like Tartary Buckwheat cheese. You can do all sorts of things with with this product by drying it once you've fermented it. And so lots of different ways of compounding using the natural nature of the fluid to produce different ingredients.
Elizabeth Stein 46:42
That sounds fantastic. Well, I can't wait to see what's next. So we're gonna move on to some rapid fire q&a to close things out. The best advice that you've gotten in the past six months.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 46:56
Oh, the best advice. I think the best advice really comes from conversations I've been having with my colleague, Dr. Joe Pizzorno and Dr. Pizzorno is founder of Bastyr University. I was one of the co-founders, he was the principal founder. He's a president for many years, he's a world leader in natural medicine has been a encyclopedia of natural medicine. And his focus for the last maybe 10 years has been on toxicity. I believe that the best advice that I have had recently, is Jeff make sure that you are really paying attention to what we're learning now, about these residual toxins in our environment and the adverse effects they're having on our health. It's understated, it's underserved. And it needs much more broadcast to the general public, because you probably saw this article that just appeared pretty staggering. A study that was done on sperm counts in males retrospectively over the last several decades. And what it found was that declining sperm count in males, it's going at such a rate that if it were to continue in 50 years, virtually all they babies born in this country will have to occur through artificial insemination. IVF
Elizabeth Stein 48:09
Oh my God.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 48:09
You will not have enough viable sperm in males for pregnancy. That's how scary and begs the question, why are we seeing dropping sperm count? There's probably many variables. But certainly one of these is the exposure to these general hormones and all the things that come through environmental toxicity. So I would just raise that as a very important feature for us to spend some time thinking about.
Elizabeth Stein 48:36
Wow. What do you wish more people knew about you?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 48:43
I think my most significant hope is that people can find their way through my geekism. To understand that I've really been speaking for 40 plus years, about how people can aspire and achieve high level health by taking charge of things that are within their daily zone of control. And that I have been giving practical language to that and my model of function has been consistent for forty years that if we can get people to own their function, they will own their health and they will aspire to have the outcome whatever their health means to them, they will be able to achieve it. So I I would like it to be seen that there is a common denominator in all this stuff I've been speaking about over the years, which is people owning your own health.
Elizabeth Stein 49:39
I know that you're a biohacker of sorts, what is a favorite wellness tool so to speak?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 49:46
Well, I definitely am a biohacker my wife kids me all the time that you know what new toy am I playing with. There was I think it was a time where I had 15 different wearables I was wearing just to test one against the other.
Elizabeth Stein 49:59
Alright, then I'm gonna give you what are your three favorite?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 50:01
Yeah, sorry, I cut it down. I think he just held up your hand and I think I saw your finger. Yes, I have one as well. And the reason that I have landed on Oura ring I have no, by the way commercial attachment to the company. But the reason I laid it out or is it, to me is an easily transportable thing. It's cosmetically easy to put on my body, it doesn't have a lot of radiation exposure. And it actually has the biometrics that I think most encompass surrogate markers where for immune system function, and I actually did a series of blogs on this, if you actually work to do it, search on search engine, immune assessment and Oura, my blogs come up because I were, I think the first person in early February of 2021, in which I showed what was happening to my Oura ring levels when I had my first immunization. And it really was quite interesting to me to see what influence it had, even though I was not really feeling sick, they had a very dramatic effect on my, on my Oura ring value my readiness score, and so forth. So I then took that and did a whole series of blogs that have been spreading that and now there are a whole series of, of articles in the literature in which people have studied scientifically the role of surrogate markers of your immune system with the biometrics that we get off the Oura ring. So that to me is, I think, are many other products that have also useful biometric similar to those that you'd find on the Oura. But I have just used that as kind of a continuous stream of data within within our own research project.
Elizabeth Stein 51:41
I love that I'm such a fan. It's fascinating. And I just got my booster and my flu shot last week. And I couldn't believe I woke up the next morning and my readiness score was 50. So it was It was wild how it changed my metrics.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 51:56
Yeah, I think thank you for saying that I feel when I first when I first put out on the blogs two things happened. One people criticized me for getting an immunization with this then unknown mRNA vaccine, which I think, by the way, was very intelligent. I recommend it to all people. But secondly, there was this criticism that how do we know this was really tied to the immune system. But now with not only our own work, but many, many other groups are doing this show how things like heart rate ability, body temperature, and sleeping, respiration rate, sleep, cycling, oxygen saturation, all of these things are surrogate markers for your immune system status. So when you roll them up together into an algorithm, you had a pretty good marker of immune system. And when I did it, like you, I normally run about, oh, between 85 and 90 and my readiness score, and it was down at 66. The next morning, I'd never seen it that long.
Elizabeth Stein 52:56
And it's terrifying.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 52:58
Really, it really was dramatic.
Elizabeth Stein 53:01
All right, and last question, what is your number one non negotiable to thrive on your wellness journey?
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 53:09
That's a tough one. But I would say time wasting time is our most precious and irreplaceable thing. There are only so many clicks on a the clock that we get. And of course over the lifetime, and I recognize it becomes more precious and 76 and a half and then probably when I was 30. But I think time wasting there's so much to do and there's so little time and I want it to be done in a way that then produces value now it's value. Because I feel like I'm in a pay forward situation. I've been so blessed with extraordinary friends and colleagues and experiences and, and the luxury of the 6 million miles of travel that I've done in my life, that I feel that there's a pay forward responsibility. And so it's using that time as as as well as I can. Now that doesn't mean I'm always busy. Because even in my time there should be rest. There should be reflection. But it's it's intentional time use it's not wasting time. So that I think would be my takeaway.
Elizabeth Stein 54:11
Jeff, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thank you so much for giving your precious time. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. It's been such a pleasure chatting with you.
Dr. Jeffrey Bland 54:22
Well, it was and you're a guide and a model. And as I've said, I think the world right now, as I was mentioning with medical school admissions, needs a lot of very insightful, high energy and focused female leaders. And you're certainly one of those. You know, I'm very privileged to have a lot of women of that type working with me that are really going to be helping to change the architecture of our future. And so I just want to champion all that you're doing.
Elizabeth Stein 54:50
Thank you so much. Thanks so much for joining me on live purely with Elizabeth. I hope you feel inspired to thrive on your wellness journey. If you enjoyed today's episode don't forget to rate subscribe and review you can follow us on Instagram at purely_elizabeth to catch up on all the latest See you next Wednesday on the podcast.