PODCAST Irminne van Dyken: Avoiding the Surgeon’s Scalpel

Andrew Taylor - Spud Fit | March 15, 2017


Irminne van Dyken is one of a rare breed in this world, she’s actively trying to put herself out of business. It’s so refreshing to me to hear from a surgeon who does not promote surgery as the best option in most cases.


I’ve had the great privilege to hear her speak a couple of times now at different events and get to know her and her husband Russell too. As a result I thought I knew mostly how this conversation was going to go before we started, turns out I was very pleasantly surprised! Irminne is a wealth of information on all things health and wellbeing. We talked about their journey to the plant based lifestyle and how this has affected her practice as a surgeon, we talked about how to avoid the surgeon’s knife as well as one of my favourite topics, how to cultivate a healthy microbiome.


This conversation was refreshing and enlightening for me, I hope you enjoy it too!


Spud Up!



Stuff we talked about









IS ALCOHOL GOOD?….. (00:49:00)

IS COFFEE GOOD?….. (00:50:23)

IS CHOCOLATE GOOD?…..(00:51:30)



Irminne van Dyken: Avoiding the Surgeon’s Scalpel


G’day everyone and welcome to episode 7 of the Spud Fit podcast. I can’t believe I’ve done seven episodes already. It’s been a lot of fun and thank you for joining me on the ride. My name is Andrew Taylor. I’m your host. Uh, this episode is brought to you by me and my website If you go there you can also find my book The DIY challenge a how-to guide to doing your own Spud Fit Academy. The first half of that book is all about uh nutrition in potatoes as well as uh, the most important stuff which is the psychological Stuff how to deal with cravings and how to get the right mindset to get through your own Spud Fit Academy and uh, and the sort of tips I have for dealing with uh, the addiction side of things.

So you can find out at my website and you can also find it by searching for the the DIY Bud fit challenge by Andrew Taylor on Amazon. You can also at the website find uh, the Spud Fit Academy if you want to actually take this, but fit challenge you welcome to join up with a group that I run you can find information on that on my website under the take the challenge tab, uh, Above all that if you like what I’m doing, the best thing you can do is share it, share with your friends post Instagram photos or Facebook photos, um tag me in it if you like, uh, also subscribe on iTunes and uh and lever review is very very helpful for me.


If you can leave a five star review, I’d be most appreciative. All right today’s guest. Irmmine van Dyken is a surgeon. She’s from Hawaii and I’ve had the great pleasure of hearing her talk and uh, twice now and hanging out with her a little bit at a couple of different events and got to know her a little bit and it’s nice to be able to call a man a friend. We had a really interesting conversation. I was actually, surprised and learn things. I thought having heard her speak twice before that. I would have known all the answers that she was going to give me but uh, I didn’t and she surprised me and it was a really interesting and entertaining conversation for me and and importantly I learned something. It’s always good to learn new things. So, uh, yeah man is a really really interesting person really knowledgeable. And uh, we talked about lots of things to do with uh, health and surgery and her approach to avoiding the knife as well as uh, keeping our microbiome healthy, and and of course keeping happy.


Again, I really enjoyed the conversation. I hope you do too. Uh have a listen and let me know what you think. Oh when I keep forgetting to thank my wife Mandy for making the theme music that you’re about to hear right now.




Andrew: All right, Irmmine Van Dyken welcome to the Spud Fit podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Irmmine: My pleasure. Thank you for being here.

Andrew: No worries. So start off with uh, who is Irminne Van Dyken perhaps you could tell us a little bit about yourself just to get things going.

Irminne: Sure, that’s a complicated question. But ???

Andrew: It’s interesting how we have people answer it actually.

Irminne: Yeah. So, um, I am a general surgeon by trade. I cut, I operate on people but I would say my true passion is to help my patients find a Whole Food plant-based diet and healthy lifestyle. So I really, instead of focusing on the surgery aspect which I do of course, but I have to really Inspire patients to do lifestyle change and really changes their lives and for me, it’s awesome. Because when they come to me, it’s a big wake-up call for them. A lot of times. They’re in a situation where they’re a little vulnerable and they’re really open to change. So it’s a good time to talk to them.

Andrew: Yeah, I guess uh people come to you as a last resort. Really no one wants to be cut open. Yeah. It’s uh the reached the end of the road I guess when they when they arrive at you, so I guess you probably get people at a at a time of vulnerability when, situations are desperate for people. So it’s probably a pretty good time to start talkin to people about change.

Irminne: It is a good time. And you know, I would argue that it’s not really the end of the road. So I see people yes when they need surgery and yes, it’s unavoidable many times. But if I can catch them relatively early in the course of their health or their disease you can change things and really improve their life drastically.

Andrew: Yeah. Whoa, cool. I think yeah, the important thing is probably that you’re getting people who are vulnerable and ready to hear whatever. They need to hear rather than you know, if you just walk into McDonald’s and see someone who’s eating a double cheeseburger and his overweight and you try to talk to them about making change. They probably not interested in what you’ve got to say, but you see that same person. A couple of years down the track when they need that gall bladder removed. Maybe they’re ready to hear it then.

Irminne: Yeah, that’s exactly right. You can preach all you want and talk to people all you want. But if they’re not ready to listen or ready to change, you know, you might as well talk to a brick wall.

Andrew: Yeah, uh, so your YouTube channel and your Social Media stuff called out of the doldrums. I really like the name. Can you tell us a bit about of course?

Irminne: So, Out of the Doldrums, um is something that my husband and I came up with. So my husband Russell, he’s really my rock and my support he’s there for me and he um, he’s a yoga instructor. So in our work that we do together, especially with changing lives. We like to bring people out of a stagnant part in their lives people are comfortable with just not changing and doing nothing and it’s actually very dangerous. If you sit in this comfortability. So, um out of the doldrums is something that we came up with.

We are big Sailors. We love to get on a sailboat and sail and anybody sales knows that there’s an area in the world where there’s a dull. So the doldrums is this area kind of in between the tropics and the area north where you get really good winds. Uh, there’s really no wind there. And what happens is when you’re sitting in the doldrums, you don’t have wind you don’t move you’re in the stagnant state. So out of the doldrums, is very relieving to get out of the doldrums is a sailor’s best day when they’re sailing through that area. So when you translate that to life and you think about, moving forward with your life and really getting forward with change, lifestyle change, healthy habits, etc. We thought out of the doldrums fit perfectly.

So what we’ve done is we’ve had a YouTube channel and then online presence Facebook, Instagram under Out of the Doldrums.

Andrew: Yeah, I love watching, uh, your and following your Social Media stuff and then YouTube stuff. It’s really interesting, but. I really love the definition actually because the doldrums is, I’m not a sailor so I’ve never heard that definition and it’s uh, I’ve just thought of being in the doldrums is like being depressed, being like feeling down. That’s obviously, that’s another definition for it. But to that it comes from that sailing background is cool and I really relate to it because I feel like uh, I was like, I come from the doldrums myself, you know, I’ve talked about my depression and I feel like we have 20/20 hindsight. I feel like the doldrums is not necessarily a bad place to be it’s um, like I feel like I was born there, you know.

Irminne: Well, it’s a comfortable place to be, right?

Andrew: Yeah and um, as long as you don’t sit there and stay there for for a long time, like you said as long as you uh pay attention to what got you into the doldrums and figure out a way to get out but you know, Anyway, I just like that. I relate to it. It’s cool. So what what sort of things do you uh do in your life to keep yourself out of the doldrums?

Irminne: To keep myself out of the doldrums. I do quite a few things and I think it’s a multi-faceted approach. So first thing and I think it’s the most important thing is really finding purpose, right? I think it’s important that everybody has purpose and for me, my work is a lot of my purpose. I love changing lives. Even if it’s with surgery. I really enjoy doing that and also just having this love in your life, support in your life is huge. On top of that, you’ve got to add exercise. You’ve got to add a mindfulness aspect which is super important. And I think those are the main things to really keep me out of the doldrums. I really try to do what I love, do it often.

Andrew: Okay, so can we elaborate on what do you do for exercise then? How do you.

Irminne: Sure, Well, my husband being a yoga instructor. I love yoga. That’s probably the number one thing. To me, Yoga is moving meditation and it’s gorgeous. Its strength flexibility all combined in one. So for sure that, second on my list of favorites would be cycling. I just love to cycle I do it whenever I can, it’s my favorite.

Andrew: Yeah. I’m I’m really interested in yoga and I love anytime a talk to someone who’s into yoga. I love the sound of it. I’ve read about it and I’ve tried uh many yoga classes and I’ve just never found one that I’ve been. Uh, I’ve never found a teacher that I really connected with. So I’d like to come and try doing some yoga with Russell sometime.

Irminne: Yeah. So, uh Russell actually says, If you go to a yoga class for the first time ever you want to give it three times. So a lot of people will go once and they find that they really hate it or they don’t enjoy it and they don’t really see the benefit in it. If you go a couple more times you get a little more benefit out of it. And then again, there’s so many different types of Yoga. Not one fits all you know, it’s kind of you got to find the type that works best for you.

Andrew: Good call. I’ve got a I’ve got to give it more of a chance then. Looking at Russell over in the corner there. Uh, yeah, that’s that’s a problem then. I’ve done yoga, but I’ve only given them one chance and uh, and I felt like I didn’t really, it’s not my style of teacher. I guess it’s a lot like, uh, Like when you say a therapist or something then you know, if you don’t connect then maybe it’s not going to work.

But yeah, fair enough. I’ll give it a try. I’ll find someone and I’ll give him three tries and we’ll see how we go. Great. Yeah, so and that’s uh, that’s a yoga is obviously a good segue into uh, what you said about mindfulness as well as going to ask what you do for more specifically for your mindfulness. And is that just Yoga or are there, do you meditate as well?

Irminne: So there’s much more than yoga when it comes to mindfulness and you know at the risk of sounding very trite. There’s a couple things that I do, uh, first thing every morning is I have a gratitude practice. So I wake up and I’m lying in bed and I really try to be mindful about, what am I grateful for and really focus on those things. I think that’s really important. It helps with your attitude for the entire day gets you in the right mindset. So laying there realizing what I’m grateful for. Um, really conscientiously taking a log of what that is. I think that’s a very important. And then I do meditation as well. I enjoy it. It makes me feel very calm and I think all in all at the end of the day and improves my cognition and my performance.

Andrew: All right. Yeah meditation another thing that I really love the idea of and I’ve tried many times. And I continue to try, I did some meditating this morning when I woke up. So yeah, it’s just about building that habit though, isn’t it?

Irminne: And the thing about meditation to it’s kind of like yoga there’s so many different types, you know, one type of meditation may not work for everybody. And yeah, there’s so many varieties.

Andrew: A little bit like running, like when you when you first start running it’s pretty hard to drag yourself out of bed and go and get it done. But once you, and I haven’t got to this point we’ve meditation yet, but once you uh, with running anyway, once I get through six weeks of getting it done consistently, then it’s easy. I want to get up and get it done. And then there’s no problem.

Irminne: That’s absolutely, right. And then you find that you start craving it kind of like the running, you really just want to keep doing it.

Andrew: Yeah. So I’ve got a I’ve got to push through that six weeks and uh and get to that point and see how it goes. So you are this uh, surgeon. You’re sort of a rock star of the plant-based community. I’ve seen you talk a couple of times now. How did it come to be this way for you? But you know, were you always plant based? How did you arrive at that?

Irminne: So for me, it was really a journey. Um, it started when I was nine years old when I became vegetarian, I was a lacto-oval vegetarian. But um, I went that way for ethical reasons. It hit me pretty quickly that the chicken that I was eating was the same as the chicken that was running across the street type of thing and funny enough the last thing for me to give up as I was giving up meat the last thing for me to give up was hot dogs. Man, i love hotdogs. So 9 years old all the way through the rest of my life and college, I’d been vegetarian, etc. Now as far as making a transition to plant-based, that was done for health reasons and it was kind of by accident. It was pretty fortuitous how it happens. I was a little overweight and my husband was as well and we were trying to lose some weight because we were going to Hawaii on vacation and um, In our discussion about planning to lose the weight.

I had really wanted to get this book everybody at the hospital was talkin about it. It was Joel Fuhrman’s Fit for Life Book. And um, we were little broke at the time because I was training and my husband says. No. No, I’m too cheap to buy the book. Why don’t we use this book that we have which is a cookbook that my brother-in-law gave me. He had bought me a vegetarian cookbook for Christmas. It was Chef Hall’s cookbook. So Chef Hall is a pretty prominent Chef. Yeah and little did we know it was a vegan cookbook we knew it was vegetarian. And so we started making a few recipes from that. I remember the first recipe we made, I still remember it like yesterday. Russell and I ate it and we looked at each other and we said you know, what if this is what vegan is, we can do this.No problem. This is delicious and honestly every recipe in that book is amazing. So that’s how it started and then we decided, Well, let’s let’s do this for a little while see how we feel we never put a Time on it or will do it for 30 days and reevaluate. We just said, let’s just see how we feel. It was a gradual transition and along that, you know, I was researching the science behind it. And that’s when I realized wow. This is this is the real deal when I looked at the numbers and the data and it’s pretty impressive stuff.

Andrew: Yeah, definitely and so how did that then uh translate into your what you do for a living. How did that come across?

Irminne: Yeah. So when you see data as strong as the data is for a plant based diet. And you’re in the business of helping people. It’s almost completely irresponsible to not use that data to help the patients that you’re trying to make better, right? Yeah. So for me, you know having taken the Hippocratic oath and really making a priority of helping my patients as much as I can. I can’t ignore that. So my activism is in many different facets, right? So I have speaking engagements where I really try to speak to the public. I have of course the online presence, but also just my day-to-day interactions with patients is where I’m able to really make a huge change.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s uh interesting that you say that it’s irresponsible for uh for people to not use the information to try to help others. So. Is there something that you do or something that you can you think should be done to try to get this message spread amongst doctors and surgeons and dietitians and other people in the health industry?

Irminne: Well, yeah, I so I think the big problem is getting buy-in getting a lot of my colleagues to buy in. And the way to get them to believe in the data and really want to make a change is not by beating them over the head. I’ve noticed that doesn’t work very well get the opposite effect. So really staying cordial with colleagues, um, even joking banter that kind of stuff, eventually turns into them saying. Oh, well, maybe I’ll take a look at that. Yeah. I’ve had a lot of colleagues that you kind of went over so to speak and they say, oh actually there’s something to that. So it’s kind of a slow process but there’s change happening for sure.

Andrew: Yeah, I agree. I feel like it’s like the snowball effect is. Is happening. It’s just getting bigger and bigger and gaining momentum. And absolutely yeah and uh, you’re obviously part of that. So that’s cool. Um, well on to the next obvious thing, you’ve talking about changing changing the way doctors work and health professionals work out. How about patients? What sort of process do you go through if I walk in the door and say I’ve got diabetes and uh, You know, I’m maybe I’ll need some surgery on this gangrene on my foot, for example. What do you how do you approach that?

Irminne: How do I approach that? Well, you know as we talked about before unfortunately, these patients are in a vulnerable state they are very open to suggestions. A lot of times, they have been compliant with a lot of their diabetes medication and they’re still having issues with their blood sugars, etc. So at that point in time, you know, I have a list of resources that I give them. A plant-based resources a lot of the very good credible stuff like PCRM and the website and I have all these websites and documentaries like Forks Over Knives listed on a sheet of paper which I give them and usually I give it to them and I don’t give them too much pressure and I say, you know. This lifestyle is amazing. You really should check it out. Yeah, and um, most of these patients I end up seeing over and over again. So the beauty of that is just a little bit of reinforcement every time they come in, talk about it asking how it’s going. What are they doing to help gain control of their diabetes.

Yeah, and uh, usually we get a lot of good results from that. Of course you have the population of patients that don’t want to listen and they’re not receptive and you know, there’s nothing you can do about that unfortunately, but there’s a lot of patients that are willing to give it a try.

Andrew: Yeah, I liked what you said yesterday about uh, being a surgeon means that if you’ve operated on someone then you get a lot of follow-up appointments to see them.So I imagine that uh that helps with. Making change if someone’s coming back to see you every week or every two weeks then getting this constant reinforcement and imagine that uh, a helpful thing.

Irminne: Yeah. Yeah. So precisely the story that I was telling yesterday in my talk. I have a patient and I did get his permission to share the story, but he did come to me with gangrene. He had uncontrolled diabetes. He had some toes in his foot that were completely gangrenous. He was septic from the infection at that point in time. There’s there’s no salvaging. So it was going to the operating room. Unfortunately, we had to amputate those toes and um kind of take care of the infection that was in his foot but, on the flip side the beauty of that is I had to see him for quite some time and follow up and it was the same question, “How are you controlling your diabetes? What can we do?” And I gave him the resources and to heal his foot he was laying around all day because he couldn’t walk on it and uh, he kept coming in and one week, he said, “You know doc I uh checked out those websites. I think I’m going to give this plant-based thing a go.” And I kind of looked at him and said good luck, and kept seeing him every couple weeks and one day I said, so. “How’s the diabetes thing going? How’s your plant-based thing going?” And he said, “you know stopped all my diabetes meds. My blood sugars are great. My hemoglobin A1C is great. And uh, yeah, this wounds almost healed.” So it was pretty impressive.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s just so cool. It’s uh, one of the reasons I love what you do is that you’re a surgeon that’s trying to help people avoid surgery. That’s like it’s sort of uh, in a way it’s going against your profession which you know, imagine there’s a lot of Surgeons out there that just want to operate on people partly because they believe that that’s the best thing to do, of course. But also because you know, they say dollar signs when someone walks in the needs an operation. And it’s yeah, it’s really refreshing to see and hear from a surgeon who’s actively pushing against that so, yeah.

Irminne: So what I like to say the running joke is I want to put myself out of business. I’d like to eventually see so many people that don’t need surgery because they are on a healthy diet and lifestyle. Right now, the sad reality is there’s going to be so much business for me, you know, no matter how much my advocacy goes and all of our advocacy goes. So hopefully the momentum will keep going and that’ll change.





Yeah, hopefully, well you uh, you’re obviously doing what you can to make a change that’s really refreshing, uh your talk yesterday, which was a great talk by the way, uh, you talked about uh, 10 ways to avoid the knife and uh, I like that one so, uh, maybe we could go through a few of your favorites.

Irminne: We could totally do that. So the 10 ways, the first few ways, what I did that is I focused on the leading causes of death. Not only in the United States but in the developed world, so the richer countries number one cause of death is heart disease. So we spent a good amount of time talkin on the studies that. Prove that heart disease can be prevented and even reversed in many cases with the whole food plant-based diet. So, we talked a bit about Dean Ornish. We talked about Caldwell Esselstyn and all of their work and you know that evidence is actually undisputable. So, um, that was the first first way to avoid the scalpel. And then we took some time to talk about cardiac bypass surgery and how extreme it is, you know having to go through that. The cost of it, the rehab involved, and then the fact that about a third of all of the graphs from bypass surgery, they cluttered or, you know narrowed within a year.

Andrew: That’s scary.

Irminne: Yeah after going through all of that and then you have issues with your brand new blood vessels. That’s kind of depressing.

Andrew: That is something I didn’t know before that it can, that deterioration can happen so quickly when you get a brand new blood vessel, like your initial heart disease your initial, uh, Plaqueing is that the right word? Plaque development of uh, a arteries and blood vessels takes a long time. And then you get this new one and it happens so quickly again.That’s uh, that’s quite scary.

Irminne: Yeah, and the other thing that we talked about in the talk yesterday is the age at which you begin to develop, atherosclerosis or plaque or heart disease or any blood vessel disease. So I’ve shown a photo of an autopsy specimen of an aorta and it had changes of atherosclerosis already. It had fatty streaks and this unfortunate individual was 15 years old. Yeah, meaning from the age of like 10 to 15 on, you’re already starting to have changes consistent with heart disease.

Andrew: Yeah, and that was uh, really interesting for me as well. Obviously as a I’ve got a little boy Teddy. And really made me think that I’ve got to be, Uh, we do feed him. Well obviously, but I’ve got to be even more uh on top of things and make sure that I’m feeding him the right food so that he’s uh, he’s not going to be 15 years old with heart disease like probably like most of the population is I’m guessing if most of the population eats a high fat, high animal products diet. So is it fair to say that most people fifteen-year-olds probably have some form of heart disease?

Irminne: Exactly. I think most 15 year olds already have changes consistent with heart disease or blood vessel disease. So a lot of times when I’m talkin with patients, it’s not the discussion changes. It’s not how do I prevent heart disease? It’s how do I treat the disease that I already have. Because most of us do have changes already.

Andrew: Yeah. Well most of us were not plant-based Whole Foods. No oil no salt from from birth. So, uh, Yeah, it’s a scary thought that most of the population is walking around with heart disease. Most of them don’t know it.

Irmmine: Yeah, for sure. So a couple of other things that I really enjoyed talkin about are the cancers. I mean, I don’t enjoy talking about it, but I enjoy talking about the fact that they are preventable. People don’t really realize this but cancers, less than 10% of all the cancers are genetic meaning they’re predisposed and there’s not much we can do about them. Meaning the rest of the cancers. They’re all lifestyle or sporadic mutations etc. So, breast cancer, for example breast cancer has been strongly linked with obesity. Obesity is where women store their estrogen especially when they’re postmenopausal. and the thing about breast cancer cells is they feed off of estrogen most of the time. So the more estrogen we have in our body circulating the more chance that there’s food there for the cancer cells. So, long story short the less obese you are the skinnier you are, and the healthier you eat, the lower your chances of cancer.

Andrew: Okay, this is an interesting thing as well because we often hear about it shouldn’t eat soy products because of phytoestrogens and things like that. So do you have any information about that? Is that true?

Irmmine: So this is a theory, there’s not really much evidence that shows that eating soy products will increase your chance of cancer. There are different types of estrogen. The phytoestrogen that’s in soy and if you look at populations like the Japanese population that traditionally eats a lot of soy, and tofu, etc. They actually have some of the lowest breast cancer rates in the world. So I don’t think there’s much merit in that. I think it’s a lot of hype and a lot of theory.

Andrew: Yeah makes sense to me that if the estrogen is coming from a a uh, pregnant lactating, mammal. Such as a cow. That’s uh, it’s going to be a lot more relevant estrogen than something that comes from a plant. Like, given that we are mammals, you’re getting estrogen from another mammal must be different to the estrogen in the comes from a plant such as soil or whatever other kind of plants.





Andrew: Yeah. All right, uh my favorite part of your talk, as with last time I saw you talk, was about the gut microbiome. So, uh, why is that important? What’s what is it?

Irmmine: Okay. All right. This is my favorite part too. So the microbiome it’s this amazing fantastic thing that we’re learning more and more about every day. So the microbiome for those of you don’t know this is the part of our system. That is not. So for every one human cell that we have there’s ten of these microbiome cells that live on our body.

Andrew: That’s a mind blowing stat to me. It’s incredible.

Irmmine: Yeah. So if you think about that the microbiome is going to be bacteria, fungus, viruses, protozoa, things that live on our skin around us and in our bodies the majority of our microbiome lives in our gut. And what we’re finding out is that all of these organisms that live in our gut they really dictate our overall health. So it’s it’s actually mind-blowing to think about it. We’re seeing evidence that the bacteria in our gut can dictate our cravings.

Andrew: That is crazy to me that this thing, that these little creatures that live in us that are not really even actually part of us. Can somehow control our thoughts.

Irmmine: Yeah, it’s unreal. It controls everything, and it controls our overall inflammation in our body. It controls the amount of Serotonin that’s released and taken up and serotonin is important because of the whole depression issue, right?

Andrwe: Yeah, so it’s close to my heart.

Irmmine: Yeah, so it’s very very crazy stuff. The other thing I’ll bet you didn’t know, well you might know because you heard my talks, but two to five pounds of our body weight is our microbiome.

Andrew: It was the next thing I was gonna ask. That is insane.

Irmmine: That’s bacteria. I got 5 pounds of Little Critters living on me and in me and they are dictating my health.

Andrew: And when you put it that way, it really makes it seem so much more important two to five pounds is um, I’m like 220 pounds at the moment So that’s one percent of of my weight, which is quite a big number I think. Is made up of these little bugs. That are uh, you know, play a big part in my whole experience of life basically. Yeah, I gotta keep him happy.

Irmmine: So what we’re finding about our gut and our microbiome is that the ratio of bacteria that we have and the healthy bacteria in relation to the non healthy bacteria that ratio is super important in determining our health. And what’s awesome about this is that scientists have shown that we can manipulate our own microbiome. <eaning we can kind of like biohack. And get it to the perfect condition that we want. So yeah, studies have shown by changing what you eat or improving what you eat. You can adjust your microbiome in as little as two days, which is impressive.

Yeah, so they took a study and they had a group of people and they split them half of them. They gave a regular meat diet standard American diet, bacon, eggs, all that stuff and the other half they did a plant-based diet. They check their microbiome before and after um, this intervention and what they found is that people with a plant-based diet had a very very healthy microbiome just after 5 days and then they also showed that the people that were on the meat diet had unhealthy, you know, ratios of their microbiome and they also showed that they were starting to produce carcinogenic chemicals these bacteria actually when they ferment the meat, they create these chemicals that are direct carcinogens.

Andrew: Wow. That’s that’s amazing. So yeah. Yeah. I just I’m totally fascinated by this idea that we’ve got all these critters living in us that are like, how. how can I think of it like. like where, we are basically a big apartment building and there are we’ve got tenants that are

Irmmine: That’s so true. We’ve got tenants.

Andrew: And I, before I made my lifestyle change, I was a building full of bad tenants that were having parties and destroying the place. Yeah, and uh, it’s cool. I find it. So cool that we can just make simple changes and suddenly we’ve got good tenants that look after the place and uh, you know fix things when things go wrong and after some paint peeling on the walls, are painted for us soon.

Irmmine: Exactly, so there’s a couple other really important things when it comes to the microbiome. Um, the first one and this is an important tip for everybody is to avoid antibiotics if they’re not medically necessary. So, um, there’s a role for antibiotics. They save thousands of lives every year, but if they’re not necessary, please don’t take them. One course of broad-spectrum antibiotics, so what you would get maybe for a sinus infection, etc. Can kill off to a third of your microbiome. Can just kill off a lot of these bacteria. So a question to ask your doctor when they want to give you antibiotics is are these necessary? is this necessary? And if the answer is yes then yeah, maybe you should think about taking it, but always think twice about that.

Andrew: Yeah, and if it’s like you’ve got a cold or something, you know, maybe you’re avoiding feeling a little. Uh a little bit worse for wear for maybe one day or something, you know.

Irmmine: Right. Yeah. So and so the first point is cold most of the time are viral. So antibiotics don’t really help so much with that, but the other thing is if you take these antibiotics to feel better a day or two sooner, right? At the cost of your microbiome, which can take months even years. It may never even be the same after these antibiotics. It may not be worth it. And a couple other points that are not really dietary but things you can do to strengthen your microbiome. One of them and I know many people may have an issue with this but it’s, don’t shower every day.

If you can get away from showering and I’m talkin showering with soap and scrubbing and all that, you know, try to avoid that if at all possible. When you shower, especially when you use soap and especially like an antibacterial soap or soap that has a lot of chemicals in it, you wash away a lot of those healthy bacteria.

Andrew: So what if it’s like a natural soap made with some sort,

Irminne: That’s okay. Like a Castile soap? So you do want to wash of course your smelly bits, right? Your armpits. You’re going to that sort of stuff. That’s okay. But the rest of your body honestly, if you kind of let that water wash over you, you dont really need soap most of the time yeah.

Andrew: What about like washing your hands, should use antibacterial stuff on your hand?

Irminne: Awesome question. I wish I, it sounds like I would have paid you for that one. But um, no. So I actually advised against antibacterial soap against like the parallel little hand sanitizers, etc. Best thing is just regular soap and water now. Yeah, the Purell honestly. Yeah, it works. It kills a lot of bacteria, but it changes everything. it changes that balance and it’s not good.

Andrew: You’ve got me thinking now even about washing the dishes. And I-

Irminne: Well you gotta have a certain amount of cleanliness right? Because think about, you know, poor, homeless countries etc. And you know, they’re dealing with cholera and all sorts of stuff. You have to have some sanitation.

Andrew: Yeah. Yeah. I’m not saying we shouldn’t wash the dishes but I’m like, is there a kind of which should you avoid antibacterial dishwashing soap as well?

Irminne: Yeah, I would say make it a goal to avoid antibacterial anything. We went through this phase where bacteria was the enemy and everything came out antibacterial and you Lysol all the counters and all that and yeah, you don’t have to do that.

Andrew: Washing your clothes, everything, you would still avoid it for that to antibacterial too?

Irminne: Antibacterial? Yeah. I need, unless so we have a sanitizer function on our washer and I work in a hospital, right? So I have certain things that yeah, we definitely sanitize but regularly, no need.

Andrew: Yeah, you need to do the antibacterial sanitation when you’re doing surgery on. I’m guessing.

Irminne: Oh, yeah. Yeah. There’s absolutely a role for that. And kind of on that same note. Have you ever heard of the no poo movement? Meaning no shampoo. Oh, I know. I’m just thinking the same thing.

Andrew: Poo? I’m like, how am I going to avoid that?

Irminne: Yeah. So all the young kids are doing at these days. If you just look, it’s called No poo and basically they’re trying to avoid washing their hair. And you think about it your hair and your scalp actually harbors a lot of your microbiome to right? A lot of your bacteria and so yeah, you’ve got people with beautiful hair that are not really shampooing. They’re using you know, Natural Hair Rinses Etc. Uh, I’ve never gone that extreme but I will say that I do sparingly wash my hair and I think, most people should avoid washing their hair every day. That’s overkill.

Andrew: Yeah, right. This is, I thought I knew everything you were going to say from having seen you talk twice now. And uh, this is um, I love this.

Irminne: I got a couple more. Yeah. Okay. One of them is getting get a pet. So when you have a pet they actually carry a lot of Critters on them as well. Yeah, which are most of the time not harmful and they will help improve your microbiome and your immune system. So yeah a pet is useful.

Andrew: I don’t have a pet at the moment, but I grew up with dogs. And uh, yeah, I often see people like kissing their dogs and things like that and you think oh that’s disgusting but maybe they’re doing something healthy by swapping their bacteria a little bit. I guess.

Irminne: Well, don’t they always say a dog’s mouth has less germs than a human’s mouth. I heard that. I don’t know how scientifically sound that is, but I’ve definitely heard that.

Andrew: Yeah, Well. Cool. Say, if you got, let’s rescue some dogs and cats from the shelter and uh, they’ll help us get healthy too.

Irminne: Exactly, Get a pet. Yeah. Another one is to open your house up as much as you can. So open your windows, open your door. There’s a lot of bacteria that are healthy in spores that just float through the air and it’s good to get them in and around you.

Andrew: That’s definitely something we try to do, windows open. We even try to like, sleep with the windows open even on a cold night because we want the air to come in. But I didn’t, another thing I didn’t know about is because that’s going to help get healthy bacteria around the place.

Irminne: Yeah. So, do you know how traditional sourdough bread is made? No, so you basically make your dough. And you put it in a bowl and you let it sit under an open kitchen window. You don’t have, if you don’t have the sourdough starter, right? Yeah, and you let it sit and what happens is the bacteria, come in through the window and the natural yeast and they settle in on the dough and then the dough kind of ferments and that’s how you get your sourdough. So it’s it’s a proven thing.

Andrew: This is, Yeah. You’re blowing my mind here. What else, have you got anything else and I’ll just watch, sit back and keep learning here.

Irminne: Okay, so other things that are important are to eat fermented foods. So fermented foods have probiotics which are healthy bacteria. So we’re talkin about uh, kombucha, which is healthy. Yeah, the one caveat with kombucha is you want to make sure that the sugar content is not too high. Yeah, so kombucha traditionally is made right with your bacteria that ferment sugar. So by the end of a proper kombucha making, you should have really little to no sugar in it because it’s all fermented. But a lot of the commercial kombucha brands are going to add sugar back in, just to make it sweeter. And that’s dangerous.

Andrew: Yeah, I do always look for the original flavor. Mostly, you get a lot of flavors and mostly I didn’t understand about the sugar so out of things but. When I when I check the labels, uh, the original flavor is always much lower in calories than when you look at like the raspberry one or whatever. So yeah, I stick with the original one for that reason. But yeah, obviously not having sugar a good idea to yeah.

Irminne: So other fermented foods, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso is a really good one.

Andrew: Sauerkraut goes well with mashed potatoes too.

Irminne: Oh, yeah. Yeah, that’s pretty good stuff. So yeah, try to incorporate fermented foods into your diet. And then the other thing most people don’t know about are prebiotics.

Andrew: Yeah, this is something I learned from you talk too.

Irminne: Yeah, so we have the probiotics which are the fermented stuff and you can take probiotic capsules, etc. Prebiotics are actually foods that we eat not to feed us, but to feed the bacteria in our microbiome. So foods with prebiotics, the more of those you eat, technically the better and healthier your microbiome will be. Prebiotic foods are going to be insoluble fibers. High fiber diet you’re going to get prebiotics, no questions asked. So the probably the number one prebiotic is actually inulin which most people haven’t heard of and that comes from chicory root. So, yeah so chicory. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it. It’s a coffee substitute. It’s you can kind of make this cup with hot water and add a little chicory and drink it and it’s not too bad. But you can also get other sources of Inulin as well. But as far as Whole Foods go, eating ??? every day. Jerusalem artichokes are good, leeks, onions, are very good source of Prebiotic. Leafy greens have those. You just want to incorporate as much fiber as you can into your diet.

Andrew: So there’s not a lot of thought needs to go into what we ate to make sure that we’ve got a good healthy gut microbiome. We just eat Whole Foods in a variety of them and we’ll get what we need.

Irminne: Yeah. Yeah. So as long as you meet a whole food plant-based diet and you avoid the dangerous stuff like the dairies, and the meats, you’ll be doing pretty good.

Andrew: What about uh supplements, then you see go into any pharmacy or health food shop or whatever and you’ll see lots of supplements for probiotics and prebiotics.Uh, what did they have a role? Do you think they’re worth while?

Irminne: So my thinking on probiotics to start is that there are situations when you want to take them. I don’t think everybody needs to go out and buy a probiotic supplement, especially if you’re not having issues. So roles for probiotics would be, Um, let’s say, you know you have issues with your gut irritable bowel or something called dysbiosis, when you know, your bacterial ratios are off then you want to be taking them. Interestingly enough if you have a history of heart disease or high cholesterol. Probiotics are good, there’s studies that show that they lower your cholesterol.

The Canadian government is a matter fact, they pay for high blood pressure, high cholesterol patients to take probiotics. Because they know there’s a link to lower those.

Andrew: Canadians are so progressive.

Irminne: I know they are. Yeah, I know. Yeah. So um, and then the other big thing is if you are needing to take antibiotics, and they’re necessary absolutely want to take a probiotic supplement as well and the thing about probiotics to remember, Um is they take a while to work. So you want to give it 60 to 90 days before you even notice the difference. Yeah, so you got to remember that. And then the other thing is that probiotics are not equa,l not everyone is equal. So when you’re going to your supplement store and you want to buy them you want to look for a couple things. Number one is you want to make sure that there’s over 50 billion colony forming units. So a lot of them will have 10 billion, 20 billion, you want over 50 billion. And then the next important thing you want to make sure there’s multiple strains in there. Not just one, not just lactobacillus. You want to have a few different kinds, preferably more than three different varieties, if at all possible.

Andrew: And should you be getting the the ones you get some probiotics that are on the shelf and some that are in the fridge at the store. So does it matter?

Irminne: Technically they say it doesn’t matter but I recommend the refrigerated ones. There’s a simple test you can do at home. You can actually check your probiotics to see if they work. If you have, you can take any medium like say take some cashews or almonds blend it up into a nice pace. Open up your probiotic capsule sprinkle it on top and stir it up within about, 12 to 16 hours. You should be seeing fermentation. You should be smelling a little bit of that fermenting process. If so, you know that those are good probiotics now, I’ll tell you I’ve had some. I do this kind of her fun kind of take out and you do that and boy, they don’t work, you might as well throw your money away.

Andrew: That’s so interesting. I’m loving this, I’m learning so much. So while we’re on the on the topic of uh of supplementing probiotics and prebiotics, so there any other supplements that maybe we should think about taking?

Irminne: So, I’ll start by saying that there’s only a couple supplements we should be taking. I am a firm believer in getting your nutrition from Whole Foods. As a vegan or plant-based person you do need some B12. Unfortunately, that’s the one supplement everybody needs to take. I’ll tell you the ramifications of being B12 deficient, They’re not good. You don’t want to go through that. So yeah B12 for sure. Um, vitamin D is debatable. I do recommend that people get their vitamin D levels tested. It’s a very narrow sweet spot where you want to be with your vitamin D levels. If you’re too low, your chance of mortality goes up and if they’re too high your chance of mortality goes up.

Andrew: Too high as well? I didn’t realize that. I knew if it was too low it was a problem. But yeah, I didn’t know if it was too high.

Irminne: So that’s why you got to get it tested. You don’t just want to go out and buy us a vitamin D supplement. Yeah. So other than that, there’s really no supplements. Now. I will tell you there’s a few things that are awesome to add to your diet. They’re going to help with longevity, as well as preventing cancer and chronic disease.

One of those is turmeric. So putting that in your food fresh, you know, you can grate it. You can put it in smoothies. You can put it in a garlic press and just press it on whatever you’re cooking, Super good for you. We’re getting-

Andrew: There are a few cafes around Melbourne, hipster condo cafes that make tumeric eas and things like that. That’s a good idea then?

Irminne: Absolutely, you can make turmeric lattes with plant-based milk. You can do all sorts of stuff with turmeric. It’s amazing stuff.

Andrew: Yeah, cool. All right, what about drugs as well? Obviously, you don’t it’s not a good idea to take drugs. Are there situations where you think, it is a good idea or?

Irminne: So, you’re talkin about medication drugs, right? Not recreational. Got it.

Andrew: Prescription drugs. I’m not, I’m pretty sure you’re not gonna say cocaine’s a good idea.

Irminne: You got that right. Yeah. So, prescription drugs. I think there is definitely a role for them. Some of them are necessary. Some of them are miraculously life-saving for example, you know the hepatitis C drugs or the HIV drugs, some of that, those medications are good. While on that same line. Yeah. I think a lot of the medications are treating a symptom and a problem. For example, the diabetes medications. Yeah cholesterol medications, etc. And this is something that um, we can fix. We can fix these problems prevent these problems with lifestyle choices that are good for us with diet that’s good for us. Always better to do that than take a drug, then you’re dealing with side effects, etc. And a lot of these drugs, you know, you’re on for the rest of your life. How depressing is that?

Andrew: Absolutely. This is, I love that what you said about treating symptoms rather than causes. Yeah, if we focus more of our attention on treating the cause of whatever issue, we’ve got whether that’s bad nutrition or whatever. You know, it just makes sense. Doesn’t it? That we should be trying to fix the problem rather than just treat the symptoms. So, uh, well, I think we’ve probably covered the nutrition side of things and the drug side of things what other things do you recommend for the lifestyle? People have been talkin about lifestyle medicine, uh this weekend. So do you have any other recommendations for things we can do in our life that’s going to make us healthier.



Irminne: So for the most part, I think we really we talked about the majority of it. So you’ve got the lifestyle aspect as far as exercise. Exercise is huge. Yeah. The majority is food. Yeah over 95 98 percent of changing everything is going to be your food, but the exercise is additive. It really exponentiate the result. Yeah, um, you want to be exercising a minimum of 30 days, 30 minutes, 5 days a week. That’s. Yeah, that’s minimum.

Andrew: Any particular kind of exercise that you recommend or?

Irminne: Um, no, I think well, yeah, I think the type of exercise you should do is a type that you love. So it’s different for everybody but, something that really kind of gets your heart rate up just a little bit is good.

Andrew: All right, that’s pretty much what I say too. Yeah, I get people writing to me all the time asking me about what sort of exercise they should do and how much, and I say the same thing the best kind of exercise you can do is the one that you will want to repeat.

Irminne: Precisely. Yeah, and then we’ve touched on the mindfulness aspect of it all I think that’s huge and then of course the sense of community. So sense of community and support groups that sort of stuff is very very important. More important than we think.

Andrew: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s a huge one to uh to not feel like whatever lifestyle changes you making that you’re not doing it alone. I think is uh, it’s obviously it’s hugely important. Couple more questions and then we’ll go and watch, I can’t remember who the first speaker is today, but we’ll go and I’m sure it’s going to be good. What about alcohol? is that, you know, you read conflicting reports all the time about you know, alcohol is good, bit of wines good, and then other people say it’s not so, where do you sit?




Irminne: Yeah. So to me alcohol, I am fairly I would say moderate as far as my Approach. I believe that, small amount of alcohol. So one drink a day for women, and two for men or less is okay. I don’t think everybody should be doing that. But I do feel that if you would like to have that glass of wine with dinner. It’s okay, and it’s actually healthy, but I wouldn’t go past that the problem is, is when you go past that you start getting into problems, right? even with all the addiction aside and all those issues. You’ve got the issues of, well alcohol has to be metabolized and it’s usually metabolized into an asset. Aldehyde, which is a carcinogen. So yeah, alcohol has been linked to a few different kinds of cancer. But again, this is large amounts of alcohol and as we know a small amount of alcohol can help especially with preventing, plaque with heart disease that sort of stuff. So, um, yeah, you’ve got the Resveratrol as well in the wines, right?So that’s going to help with long-term, you know, lowering inflammation, antioxidant, etc.

Andrew: Okay, so if you’re on the, maybe can’t stop at one glass. You’re probably better off not having any. And uh, two more of these controversial sort of things is one of them coffee. Same thing you hear that coffee is good. And you hear that It’s bad. What do you think of that?




Irminne: So my personal opinion is that coffee is good. It is an antioxidant. It’s it’s been shown not to be harmful for you. There are a few studies that show that it slows down or prevents the progression of dementia. All right. So yeah, I think coffee’s okay. Again everything in moderation. So a little bit. Not 6 cups a day is okay my opinion. Yeah, but if you don’t drink coffee and you don’t like it, it’s not a reason to start drinking.

Andrew: Yeah, I don’t drink coffee and I don’t like it so I don’t have plans on starting but so my wife drinks one, maybe two a day. Last one, chocolate. Sorry, before we move on plant-based milk with your coffee there, right? Soy milk.

Irminne: Yes, or black.



Andrew: Okay, Chocolate then. So dark chocolate, People,I’ve not heard people argue that like milk chocolates a good idea. But, often you hear people saying dark chocolate is healthy.

Irminne: So yeah, so all chocolates are not created equal, like you were saying there’s the milk chocolate, the M&M type chocolate, bad. But the dark chocolates, that’s okay. It’s an antioxidant. There’s a lot of good properties in that, you just want to make sure that you get it from a reputable source, etcetera. Yeah, the dark chocolate, good for you.

Andrew: All right, but probably not a whole block I’m guessing.

Irminne: Moderation as with everything, right?

Andrew: Again, that’s something that I’m probably not going to.

Irminne: If you have issues with moderation, you may want to stay away.

Andrew: I’m not someone who can eat one or two little squares. If I start a block, I’m probably going to finish it. So, yeah, so but if you’re someone who can eat one or two squares then it’s a good idea.




Irminne: Yeah, so I have a couple questions for you. I heard your talk yesterday and of course we know each other pretty well, because we’ve kind of intersected at different talks before but um, I was fascinated just to hear the way that you were talkin and how approachable you are. Like it was very nice to have you talk about the fact that you are just like everybody else, like a regular guy and your struggles that you went through and I found it very touching. I really really, it hit a soft spot on me for sure. But how did it feel being up there sharing your story to all these people?

Andrew: It was really. It was one of the highlights of my life. Actually that doing that talk yesterday. Um, it was weird. I felt really good about it and I felt comfortable sharing all of that, which was nice. One thing about it was that when Tiffany held up the 10 minutes to go sign I was like, “What 10 minutes to go? I feel like I’ve only just started.”

Irminne: That happened to me too!

Andrew: Yeah, it was it was really it was nice. I really enjoyed it. And obviously I must have enjoyed it if the time went passed quickly doing that but yeah, I just felt really supported and loved while I was onstage. I felt like, I felt like people in the audience had my back, it was good.

Irminne: Totally, but what really cracked me up was when um, Well, I’ll start by saying I’m pretty sure Dr. McDougall has a big crush on you, that’s sort of a way. It was so funny. So when you are finishing and there was some comment about being over and he’s like, “It’s okay, he can go over. I’m the boss.” Whatever he said. But I think, I think it was so powerful the way that you kind of just opened up your heart up there.

Andrew: Yeah. Well, that’s all I’ve got really, like I’m not any kind of expert like you are and like Dr. Mcdougal is. I’m not, I don’t have any new information really to share with people. All I’ve got is what’s in my heart. So, I figured when I was thinking about the talk, I was thinking I should show all this science about potatoes and you know, all the, get deep into the nutrition and the reasons why this is good for your health and all of that sort of stuff but in the end I thought, “If people want to learn about potatoes, they really should be learning it from Dr. McDougall or someone like you.” And uh, yeah, so I thought, I’ve just got to just be real and share myself.

Irminne: Did you find it intimidating being up there giving a talk when you’re amongst all these medical experts.

Andrew: Absolutely. I did. Yeah, very intimidating. But yep, Dr. Mcdougal actually gave me some advice on that a little while ago that and he said, “That no one’s a better expert on you than you.” Yeah, so I tried to remind myself of that. It doesn’t matter. How many amazing people are in the crowd. They don’t know me better than I do.” Yeah, it was cool was a good bit of advice.

Irminne: Yeah, for sure. And then my next question for you is where do you see Spud Fit going in the next few years? What what’s your grand plan with all this?

Andrew: That’s a good question, and I’ve thought about that a lot but, It really are try not to think about it. Because if I, you know one year ago or one year ago was now was just after I went viral, but maybe, 13 months ago before things went viral. I could not have dreamed that this uh, like if I if I tried to come up with my wildest dream about what would happen. This wouldn’t have been part of it. So I’m not really I’m because of that. I try not to think about the future or try to predict the future. I just try to do what I’m doing now and just let it evolve, and one thing is I’m writing a book.

Uh, I’ve got a small book, but I’m writing a bigger book about my whole experience and Journey and i’m doing this podcast and I’m hoping to do more talks. And apart from that, I don’t I’m not even going to try to come up with a plan or whatever. I’m just gonna just just try to be in the moment and see what happens.

Irminne: That’s amazing. You’re really living in the now. And living it up, which is awesome.

Andrew: I’m having the time of my life and I get to talk to people like you one on one. That’s uh, that’s a bonus too. All right. Well, Yeah, let’s go and watch the last talk. Thanks so much for uh for sitting down with me. Like I said a few times I’ve learned so much from this conversation, which I didn’t expect too. I thought I thought I knew uh, what are your answers were going to be before I ask them so yeah, before I ask the question, sorry. So yeah, this is this has been great.

Irminne: Awesome and thank you for being so inspiring. Like I think I’m speaking for a lot of people here. But thank you. For the work you do, for sharing your story.

Andrew: Thank you. That’s really nice to hear. So. Again, uh, if people want to have people are enjoyed this conversation and want to learn more about you, where can they go?

Irminne: So, Out of the Doldrums, you can find us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram.

Andrew: Yeah. And do you have a website as well?

Irminne: Not yet, we’re gonna do that.

Andrew: All right cool. And when does Russell have anything else anything separate that it will then look up or are you just together.

Irminne: We’re pretty much together. He does have an Instagram account russellvyoga. Okay, uh, that would be a good place to follow him.

Andrew: All right. Cool. Thanks. Thanks again. And uh, yeah, let’s do it again sometime. I’ll hopefully I’ll come and visit you in Hawaii some time and we can, we can do it again.

Irminne: Please do.

All right. Thank you and Spud up!

All right. Thanks for listening. Isn’t She Lovely isn’t She fantastic. I had such a great time hanging out with a minute Van Dyken and it husband Russell. Also a great guy. Thanks Russell for your help with recording by the way, uh when my gear wasn’t quite working the way I wanted to Russell stepped up to the plate.

So, uh, thank you very much Russell. Uh, so again sign up for my newsletter. Www keep abreast of everything. I’m doing including being notified when new episodes of the Spud Fit of the Spud podcast, uh, uh uploaded and again, if you like what I’m doing, then please share it with your friends subscribe on iTunes and leave a review would be uh would be really helpful.

Uh, thanks again for listening. And uh, I hope you enjoy your week and I hope you make your life interesting as much as possible. And that’s that for this week. See you next week. Spud up.



Thanks to my wife Mandy van Zanen for the theme music.



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