Thomas Carlyle said, “He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope has everything.” And Jim Rohn said, “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
Every day, we are faced with the decision of how to take care of ourselves. It can be a difficult choice, but it is important to remember that our body is all we have in this life. Whether you’re trying to get back into shape or maintain healthy habits like eating right and exercising.
My guest today is Dr. Emeran Mayer, one of the distinguished healthcare experts on the gut-brain connection. His 40 years of research provided groundbreaking evidence of the critical connection between the brain and the gut.
In this episode, we discuss what the mind actually is, the effects of religion and finding a higher purpose have on your mind, the biggest breakthroughs during Dr. Mayer’s 40 years of research, why Dr. Mayer wants the world to stop using the word “placebo,” the effects that stress has on your immune system, the key changes to make today to improve your health, and so much more!
Dr. Emeran Mayer is a highly respected neuroscientist and gastroenterologist with decades of experience in the study of neurobiological and clinical aspects of the interaction between the digestive system and the nervous system in disease and health. He has received numerous awards, including the 2017 Distinguished Mentor Award from the American Gastroenterological Association, and the Ismar Boas medal from the German Society for Gastroenterology and Metabolic Disease.
Dr. Mayer is a well-respected research professor in the Department of Medicine and in the Department of Physiology and Psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine. He is also the Executive Director of the G. Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress and Resilience, and co-director of CURE: Digestive Diseases Research Center at UCLA.
Dr. Emeran Mayer is one of the top gut-brain-connection experts in the world. His latest research shows the link between changes in our diet, the gut microbiome, gut health, and the increased prevalence of many chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and susceptibility to infectious diseases like Covid-19.
As if all that weren’t enough, Dr. Mayer is also an author of the book The Gut-Immune Connection, in which he proposed a more radical paradigm shift about the brain-gut microbiome system, being at the center of the majority of chronic diseases that define our 21st-century public health crisis. It also showed that we can effectively treat these diseases through a gut microbiome-targeted diet.
His other book, The Mind Gut Connection, was a bestseller in Gastroenterology and translated into 14 languages. It offered groundbreaking evidence of the critical role of the microbiome in cognitive and neurological health, proving once and for all the legitimacy and power of the “mind-body connection.”Considering the critical role of our mind, let’s talk about what the mind really is…
The mind is the one thing that holds everything together. It’s not just a physical part of your body. It contains every single memory and feeling you’ve ever experienced. At its core, it is something that connects us with our thoughts and memories. Our minds are what make us human beings, which means they’re an integral part of who we are.
The mind also governs all sorts of autonomic functions in the body like breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Keeping it healthy can have some pretty important benefits! Let’s dig deeper into this fascinating topic by asking our special guest for more insights about the mind.
“Every complex system ultimately develops a mind.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
We should stop looking at our brain as just an electrochemical organ with one hundred billion nerve cells called neurons, and understand it as a “mind-brain,” where the processes of the brain are somehow identical to the processes of the mind. Your brain is a part of you, but it’s also an extension of the world around you. The brain develops the mind. Likewise, the gut and the body develop the mind.
“It’s not all the same, but they have their minds. … There’s a hierarchy of these minds based on the complexity of these systems. … We are connected in some ways; our microbes in the gut connect with the microbes in the soil, microbes in the air and water. … So the universe has aligned to the mind.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
Our mind connects us with the world around us — with the environment and the universe. It also connects us with a higher being. Our brain can be stimulated neurologically, which in turn connects with a spiritual realm. This connection allows individuals to access different insights and guidance from this “higher being.”
There are individuals who are more spiritually connected than others, and they tend to live longer and happier lives. Does this mean, therefore, that our minds are connected with religion? Let’s find out what Dr. Mayer has to say about this.
There is a common misconception that our minds can operate independently of religion. The reality is that the two are intertwined and one cannot exist without the other. For instance, when we think about what it means to be human, we must acknowledge our limitations which are often made clearthrough religious teachings.
Our minds also rely on religion in order to understand abstract concepts like love, which have no physical manifestation but still affect us deeply. I wanted to explore how this connection between our minds and religion operates at different levels and how understanding this interconnectedness can help us come closer to a higher being.
“Religion is being connected and believing in some higher force, or believing in the harmony of the universe … that is health-promoting.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
You are religious the moment you believe that there is something greater than yourself, and you start connecting with the community, the environment, and the world around you.
“The original meaning of this term, religion, I think comes from Latin [word,] “ligare,” which means being connected. … So it has two sides to it.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
For Dr. Mayer, religion has two sides: hatred and love. The hatred side, including quarrels and killings, is not supportive since it disconnects you from the community. On the other hand, love connects you with others or with the people in your community. It also connects you with a superior being greater than yourself.
“I think a truly religious person … is being connected to your community, being connected to nature, being connected to some higher entity. I think that those are all health-promoting ideas.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
How about you? What is religion to you? Are you a religious person that promotes harmony, love, and care for the environment and for yourself?
Religion is the key to a healthy life. When truly religious people are connected to their community and to nature, they are connecting with the higher entity in some ways. Their interconnectedness also allows them to tap on the abundant source of happiness, harmony, and even healing and good health.
Some people experienced healing as a result of their beliefs in religion. But there are those who experienced healing through a shift in mindset, allowing the power of the mind to heal the body. Experts may call it “the placebo effect.” But the word “placebo” is something Dr. Mayer would want the world to stop using. Let’s find out why.
The placebo effect is fascinating. It’s that little voice in our head telling us, “You’ll be fine,” or “It will get better,” and we’re not entirely sure how it works, but somehow it does! The only thing we know for sure about this powerful force is that it isn’t magic. Dr. Emeran Mayer himself experienced this powerful force that isn’t magic that somehow resulted in healing.
“When I was a kid, I had these warts on my fingers and it got pretty bad. … I went to a surgeon, the surgeon dissected them — and I still had my scars on the middle finger — … and they came back. … And then somebody said, … ‘There’s this old farmer I know in the village who does this, you know, praying over your warts and they’ll go away.’ … I did not believe it but went anyway … to figure it out. So there was some hidden belief that this could work. And within two days, these warts were gone.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
I also have a similar story from back during my college days, while I was playing football. I had plantar warts on my foot. My athletic trainers tried to scalpel them out, but they kept on coming back and multiplied even more. I was worried because it was painful.
But during a Thanksgiving Day visit at my sister’s house, she put me through a healing process — a visualization technique. She asked me to lie down while she turned on soft and relaxing music in the background. She said, “We’re going to heal you right now.” And I was like, “No way,” but I wanted to figure out if it works.
My sister guided me through a visualization meditation process. She asked me to imagine lying in a river, and the water is flushing from the top of my head and through my body, flushing everything out and loosening up warts on my feet, as if they’re just falling away.
I practiced this routine every day for about a week and they were gone a week later. I was so amazed because I couldn’t get them out with a scalpel, but I was able to somehow get rid of them through a visualization technique.
“The only way that I can explain this is … it’s a self-healing system that’s built into our bodies. It’s a property of the complex ecosystem in our bodies. And, … it probably was there from the very beginning of evolution. … And I think it’s so deeply ingrained that even if you tell somebody and this person consciously hears that the system inside of you overcomes that conscious response, it doesn’t care if you go through this ritual that somebody gives you these pills and somehow deep inside your mind, you know, it triggers this system.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
This only shows how powerful our mind can be if we can only tap on its inner power. It can be as powerful as allowing us to heal, even without taking a pill.
“I think the best thing will be to get rid of the term “placebo” and to really change it to … belief, or just self-healing. But … it can [also] go in the opposite direction too.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
The opposite of placebo is no-cebo, which is the negative effects that manifest in the body because you believe they might happen.
“[No-cebo] means it’s a substance that you believe hurts you, or has a negative effect on your health. And, … [it comes from] the Latin word, ‘noceo,’ that says something about [harm] or damage, [or] no surrender. … I personally believe that talking about supplements and these recommendations, … I would say … maybe 75% is either placebo, with all the supplements, or nocebo with all the recommendations about what you can’t eat. … And once it’s ingrained in your mind, it’s very powerful.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
The power of our mind can bring positive effects, as well as negative. It’s our choice to make, and belief plays an important part in the process. If you believe it won’t work, you’ll experience the no-cebo effects and the negative consequences that come with it. But you also hold the power to make positive changes. In life, you are faced with many challenges, and it’s easy to lose hope. But if you just believe in yourself and keep your head up, everything will work out for the best!
Guys, this is such a powerful conversation with Dr. Emeran Mayer, and I’m sure you’ll find value in our conversation. Listen to the full episode for more wisdom from him, and don’t forget to share it with your friends! You could change someone’s life today.
This is the final episode of the two-part series, and I suggest you check out part one of our conversation where we discussed the biggest triggers for inflammation, why we’ve become so addicted to sugar, the foods we should eat and avoid to improve our gut health, whether our gut health or brain affects our body more, how our digestive system functions, and so much more.
To get more wisdom from Dr. Emeran Mayer, check out his website, or you can follow him on Instagram. If you enjoyed this conversation so much, please make sure to spread the message of greatness with your friends, or someone whom you know would greatly benefit from it. It would be great if you could also tag Dr. Mayer, @emeranmayer, and me, @lewis howes, on Instagram with a screenshot of this episode and your greatest takeaways.
I want to leave you all with our guest’s definition of greatness.
“[Greatness is] the things that you do to realize your potential to the fullest extent. … [It’s] the belief that you have the ability to do great things, and … you believe in yourself that no obstacle is big enough to prevent you from getting there and that you can take setbacks as temporary setbacks, and you’re resilient, … and [you] always bounce back and move to a higher level.” – Dr. Emeran Mayer
The pursuit of greatness is a process that anyone can pursue. The first step to embarking on this journey and unlocking your true potential as a human being is believing in yourself. You have what it takes! Don’t let those who doubt hold you back.
If no one’s told you lately, I want to remind you that you are loved, and you have what it takes to be great. So, it’s time to go out there and do something great.