Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 16th 2016 Contents For much of his life, Dr Vincent
Pedre, an internist in New York City,
suffered from digestive problems that
left him feeling weak and sick to his
stomach. As an adult he learned he
had irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS,
a chronic gut disorder.
Through the process of elimination,
Dr Pedre discovered that his diet was
the source of many of his problems.
Cutting out dairy and gluten reversed
many of his symptoms. Replacing
processed foods with organic meats,
fresh vegetables and fermented foods
gave him more energy and settled his
Dr Pedre, a clinical instructor in med-
icine at the Mount Sinai School of Med-
icine, began to encourage many of his
patients who were struggling with diges-
tive disorders to do the same, helping
them to identify food allergens and food
sensitivities that could act as triggers.
He also urged his patients to try yoga
and meditation to alleviate chronic stress,
which can worsen digestive problems.
Dr Pedre now has a medical practice
specialising in gastrointestinal disorders
and is the author of a new book called
Happy Gut. In the book, Dr Pedre argues
that chronic health problems can in
some cases be traced to a dysfunctional
digestive system, which can be quelled
through a variety of lifestyle behaviours
that nurture the microbiota, the internal
garden of microbes that resides in the
Recently, the New York Times news-
paper caught up with Dr Pedre to talk
about what makes a "happy gut," how
you can avoid some common triggers
of digestive problems, and why fer-
mented foods should be part of your
diet. Here are edited excerpts.
Q: How did you end up focusing on
the treatment of digestive disor-
A: It starts from having grown up
with a sensitive digestive system, which
was very challenging my entire life. But
it wasn t until I went to medical school
and then ultimately learned functional
medicine that I really understood what
was going on inside the gut. I exper-
imented and changed my diet and tried
probiotics and started to resolve my
issues. At first I was just doing this
because the gut was one of those places
where you could make a big difference
for patients. I was seeing rapid results.
My patients started referring their friends
and before I knew it that part of my
practice had grown tremendously.
You say that functional medicine
informed your ideas about gut
health. What is functional medi-
Functional medicine is a branch of
medicine that looks at the body as a
system. It is patient-centered rather
than disease-focused. We spend more
time with our patients listening to their
histories to look for interactions between
genetic, environmental, mental and other
lifestyle factors that can influence the
course of their diseases. I think it s best
equipped to deal with the ever-increas-
ing complexity of conditions that
patients are going to their doctors for.
What is a "happy gut"?
do all of the work of digestion. It has
a healthy microbiome, it s able to extract
all the nutrients you need from your
food without causing any pain, discom-
fort, bloating or distress, and it creates
a bowel movement at least once a day.
Why did you write this book?
I wanted to be able to help more peo-
ple than I could possibly reach through
my practice. And as I was working with
people on gut issues, I also came to
realise what an essential role the gut
plays in so many other aspects of health.
How common are digestive issues
The estimate is that around 70 million
Americans suffer from some sort of gut
issue, including IBS And I think if you
broaden that out to people who suffer
intermittently from some sort of gut
distress, the number is much larger.
There are also many people who maybe
don t realise they have a gut issue but
are experiencing other related health
What are the most common gut
issues you see?
The biggest one would be irritable
bowel syndrome. Behind that there could
be something called dysbiosis. That s
basically an imbalance between the good
and the bad bugs in the gut. That
includes bacteria, yeast and parasites.
What are some of the more com-
mon causes of the gut problems
The majority of it comes down to
two main factors: diet and environment.
And within that, environment can be
defined broadly. The overprescribing of
antibiotics is a big problem. There was
a study recently that showed that just
one course of antibiotics will alter the
gut flora for up to 12 months. The study
looked at a very common antibiotic,
Cipro, which we commonly use to treat
urinary infections, traveler s diarrhoea
and food poisoning.
Can you elaborate on the diet as-
pect? What are some of the more
It s a variety of things. A lot of people
are sensitive to wheat, gluten, soy and
dairy products. It could be individual
dairy proteins like casein or whey.
Humans lack a certain enzyme that
breaks down the casein protein. Some
people are more susceptible than others.
And that can lead to food sensitivities.
For some people it could be food addi-
tives, or things like preservatives, artificial
sweeteners and food colourings. For
some people it can be enzyme deficien-
What's the diet you advocate in
I think that it should be individualised
for every person. But in general I tell
my patients to basically eat mostly
plants. My approach is a combination
of Paleo and vegan. I advocate eating a
lot of vegetables, complemented by
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Saturday, January 16, 2016
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
meat. You should try to choose meat that s organic,
hormone-free and grass-fed. I also believe in incor-
porating a healthy amount of fats like omega-3 s from
avocados, cold-water fatty fish, nuts and seeds.
You also advocate cultured foods, correct?
Yes. Cultured foods have a long tradition. If you go
back in history, culturing was a way to extend the life
of food and preserve it. But cultured foods also help
nurture the good flora in our guts. Whether it s through
a yogurt or kefir or fermented vegetables like kimchi,
or a fermented probiotic drink like kombucha, fer-
mented foods are going to help promote a healthy,
balanced gut flora. We know that the gut flora can
shift very quickly depending on your diet. And I think
it needs this continued support from cultured foods.
What is your diet like?
My diet is very similar to the Happy Gut diet that
I write about in the book. I try to make the majority
of my diet salads, greens and steamed vegetables. I
bring in healthy fats through nuts and seeds, ideally
sprouted. And I love kombucha, so that s a regular
part of my diet. I stay away from dairy and gluten,
and during the season when the farmers market is
near my home, I like to buy my produce there so I
can support the local farmers. I also try to minimise
my exposure to pesticides. (New York Times)
Seeking a 'happy gut' for better health
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