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Episode 454
The Doctor's Farmacy

Foods And Habits To Boost Brain Health

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

If you’re using a different device, our show is available on the following platforms.

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At every meal, we make choices of what to feed our bodies—and our brains. Too much sugar and refined carbs, not enough good fats, inadequate intake of the right nutrients, and exposure to toxins can have a negative effect on our brains and even contribute to disorders ranging from brain fog to depression to Alzheimer’s. Nutrients are the fertilizer for the brain. When we get the right kinds, our brain can flourish and grow, even generating new cells in older age, long after science previously thought was possible.

In this episode of my new MasterClass series, I am interviewed by my good friend and podcast host, Dhru Purohit, about using diet and lifestyle to support brain health. We also talk about why it’s important to treat the body when it comes to treating brain issues, and I share my own experience using Functional Medicine to heal my own brain.

Dhru Purohit is a podcast host, serial entrepreneur, and investor in the health and wellness industry. His podcast, Dhru Purohit Podcast, is a top 50 global health podcast with over 30+ million unique downloads. His interviews focus on the inner workings of the brain and the body and feature the brightest minds in wellness, medicine, and mindset.

This episode is brought to you by Rupa Health and InsideTracker.

Rupa Health is a place for Functional Medicine practitioners to access more than 2,000 specialty lab tests from over 20 labs like DUTCH, Vibrant America, Genova, Great Plains, and more. Check out a free live demo with a Q&A or create an account here.

Save $200 on InsideTracker’s Ultimate Plan + Free InnerAge and enjoy 25% off as part of their Black Friday Sale here.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Dhru Purohit

Dhru Purohit is a podcast host, serial entrepreneur, and investor in the health and wellness industry. His podcast, Dhru Purohit Podcast, is a top 50 global health podcast with over 30+ million unique downloads. His interviews focus on the inner workings of the brain and the body and feature the brightest minds in wellness, medicine, and mindset.

Transcript

Speaker 1:
Coming up on his episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If you have chronic stress, it literally shrinks your brain. It shrinks the hippocampus in your brain which is the memory center. So we know that chronic stress causes dementia.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Hey everybody, it’s Dr. Mark Hyman. Welcome to a new series on The Doctor’s Farmacy called Master Class where we dive deep into popular health topics including inflammation, autoimmune disease, brain health, sleep and lots more. Today I’m joined by my guest host, my good friend, my business partner and host of the Dhru Purohit Podcast, Dhru Purohit and we are going to be talking about how to boost your brain health and reduce inflammation using food. Welcome, Dhru.

Dhru Purohit:
Mark, thanks for having me. I’m excited to jump into this podcast. As you know, I started with brain health in my podcast-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right.

Dhru Purohit:
… so I’m excited to jump in. I know it’s a topic that people care a lot about. Let’s start off with delivering some immediate value to people. Three things that people can eat or potentially not eat that’s directly tied into having a better brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Very important because one of the best ways to access brain health is through our diet, both what we eat and what we don’t eat. Let’s start with the don’ts. The most dangerous thing for your brain is suggested and starch. Those cause inflammation of the brain. They cause dementia. They cause depression. They cause behavior issues. They’re really nasty for the brain. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat them, but think about those things, those recreational drugs as I’ve said, starch and sugar.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The third thing you really want to get rid of is bad fats. So, trans fats are very dangerous. They’re still in our food supply though they’ve been regulated as not safe to eat. They’re still out there. And a lot of refined processed oils. Those would be the things that I would avoid, number one.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And of course processed food. That just goes without saying.

Dhru Purohit:
And what are some examples of those refined and processed oils that you were mentioning?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
My favorite is what they call vegetable oil. You go to the grocery store and it says “vegetable oil.” What is it? Broccoli oil? No. It comes from seeds. It comes from sometimes even cottonseed oil which is highly toxic. It’s canola oil, it’s soybean oil. Ten percent of our calories come from soybean oil. It’s increased a thousand percent in our diet. Didn’t even exist as a really food in our diet until probably early 1900’s.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We really entered an era where we are eating a diet that is so different than we had for almost all of our human evolution. And those fats tend to drive inflammation [inaudible 00:02:37]. They oxidize. They go rancid. They’re made with extraction processes that are hexane and they’re often causing significant inflammation and damage in the body.

Dhru Purohit:
And just so people are aware, it’s not that they’re necessarily going out there and buying these oils-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, they’re in everything.

Dhru Purohit:
… and cooking with them, they’re in everything.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They’re in everything.

Dhru Purohit:
You have to be student of ingredient labels and pay attention to all the processed foods that are out there because a lot of them are going to be fighting against your brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. The easiest trick is just don’t eat anything processed unless you know what’s in it. If you have to have a list of ingredients… Yes, there is some packaged food that is fine. But you have to know what’s in it. If it says some big chemical word, you can’t recognize it or you’ve got 14,000 things on the label, probably not what you should be eating anyway.

Dhru Purohit:
Right. Those are three things to avoid.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Three.

Dhru Purohit:
And you were going to go into the topic of three things that we can pay attention to.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Most people don’t know this, but your brain is mostly fat. We really are all fat heads. And about 60% of our brain is made of fat and most of that is what we call DHA or docosahexaenoic acid. Sounds like a big chemical name, but essentially it’s fish oil. Comes from algae too. You can get it from algae so if you’re plant based, you can get it from algae. But it is the main ingredient for a healthy brain. And so we need to be eating fatty fish that’s low in mercury. We need to be eating algae. We need to be doing things that actually help boost our DHA levels.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The second thing is good fats in general. Because our brain actually responds really well to fat. MCT oil, for example, is a derivative of coconut oil that’s really great for the brain’s energy system and can help improve cognitive function. Also improves athletic performance.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The third category of foods we should be focused on are phytochemicals. There’s 25,000 compounds in plants, maybe more. The Rockefeller Foundation is now doing the periodic table of phytochemicals. They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars to map out the medicinal properties in these foods. But it’s really easy when you think about it. Just eat the rainbow. If it’s colorful and it’s not Skittles, it’s okay to eat.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, all the dark colored vegetables. Greens, blues, purples, reds, yellows. Those foods that contain these pigments are full of these phytochemicals and they’re really extraordinarily helpful in regulating brain function in so many different ways.

Dhru Purohit:
As a bonus one, how about hydration. It seems like that’s one area that’s often overlooked.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
One of the things that often people forget about is the bottom of the matrix in Functional Medicine, which is the map we use to figure out what’s out of balance for people. And hydration is really, really important because most of us walk around dehydrated. Most of us don’t drink enough water. We have other fluids like sodas and juices and coffees and teas, but we don’t really have enough water. And often when we do, we’re not getting intracellular hydration which is so critical. So not only in your bloodstream, but inside your cells which is what makes you feel good. It gives you energy and performance.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
My favorite athletic performer is Tom Brady and he never drinks water without electrolytes. Maybe that explains his seven Super Bowl rings, I don’t know. But I agree. Using electrolytes in your water is so important. And not the kind with tons of sugar and all kinds of weird stuff. My favorite one, I have no affiliation with this brand. It’s called LyteShow L-Y-T-E Show. But it’s simply liquid drops you put in a glass of water and every time I drink I try to add those in and there’s a portable container you can take you little drops with you. Intracellular hydration is really, really important. And it’s important for your cognitive function. It’s important for energy. It’s important for everything.

Dhru Purohit:
One caveat on water. Naturally as the world and especially here in the United States unfortunately too has more and more infrastructure challenges, more of the water that’s out there is corrupted. Just another reason that people should really invest in a high quality filter. I heard somebody say one time, “Either you get a filter or you become the filter.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s a good one. You, I think it’s right. I remember reading a paper recently that showed that in the average tap water, there’s 38 wastewater contaminants. Pesticides, glyphosate, medications. Where do you think all the women taking birth control pill or hormones or Prozac or statins, those get metabolized. And they get excreted in the urine. Where do they go? It goes into our water supply that gets filtered clean and reused and we end up having all these wastewater contaminants. And people don’t have a clue about what they’re drinking. Forget about the chlorine and the fluoride and all the other stuff that’s added to the water. But there’s a lot focus inadvertent things in the water because of the level of toxicity in our society. So I think filtering water is so key.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Obviously if you’re drinking water, bottled water is a problem because one, it’s usually plastic which is nothing we need more of in the world. Glass bottles are okay. But getting a filter is really important.

Dhru Purohit:
Let’s zoom out really quickly. How big of a problem is poor brain health and inflammation of the brain, really?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That is a very important question because a lot of the diseases that we see that are causing disability, loss of productivity, loss of quality of life are brain disorders. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, the opioid epidemic, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and all the cognitive disorders like ADHD, autism. These are all diseases of inflammation of the brain. And they’re rampant.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If you look, for example, just at depression, our modern tools really suck at treating it. If you have severe depression, sometimes medications can help, but for most people, you look at the data, it may be 30% effective. Not much more than a placebo. And the question is what’s driving that problem? It’s all our inflammation lifestyle which we’ve talked about a lot on the podcast. And it’s one of the most important things. One in four people have a serious episode of depression in their life in the world. It accounts for the majority of the costs in our healthcare and all the collateral symptoms that we have from the externalities of depression like loss of productivity.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There’s [inaudible 00:08:32] economic analysis looking over the next 30 years what’s it going to cost for chronic disease. It’s 95 trillion dollars. With a T. Okay? That’s a lot of dough. That’s way more than the GDP of the top nations in the world combined and probably twice that of all the top six nations combined. That amount of money, the majority of that is for depression. Because of the loss of productivity, the effect on society and so forth.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
These are rampant conditions. One in 10 kids have ADD. Alzheimer’s, we probably have Alzheimer’s or pre-Alzheimer’s in 40 to 50 million Americans. Depression affects more than 60 million people, throughout people’s lifetime, it’s super common. We’re seeing rampant increases in autism, in neurodegenerative diseases. We have to grapple with this problem of brain health in a more focused way because it is the thing that we need to operate in our lives. To be happy. To have healthy relationships. To do the work we want to do in the world. To be a functioning member of society. To be engaged and not just be in a spiral of near vegetative states sitting on the couch watching TV because you feel like crap. There is enormous opportunity to pull the veil back and rethink our whole approach to brain health.

Dhru Purohit:
Now, one of your first books was The UltraMind Solution. And one of the core ideas in that book was what you do to the body, you do to the brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dhru Purohit:
Can you expand on that? What did you mean by that?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, the title of the book was The UltraMind Solution: How to Fix Your Broken Brain by Fixing Your Body First. Because unlike what we learned in medical school was that our head, brains are this disembodied thing on the top of our shoulders and it doesn’t connect with anything that’s going on below there. We’ve learned that that’s completely untrue. We’re learning that the brain responds to everything we do. What we think, what we feel, exercise, sleep, our diet, environmental toxins, stresses. All these things influence. Our microbiome, everything influences the brain. So we really have to think about how do we re-equilibrate to a different way of thinking about brain health based on all of the things that we can do to fix the imbalances in the body that affect the brain. Whether it’s thyroid. Whether it’s your microbiome. Whether it’s toxins. Whether it’s low nutritional levels of certain vitamins and minerals like fish oil omega-3’s or vitamin D or the B vitamins.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We know a lot about the things that make the brain healthy. We call these trophic factors. These are things that help the brain grow and improve and increase neuroplasticity and neuro connectivity. There’s so much that’s exciting that we know about how do to that and yet most of us are poisoning our brains and we think, “Oh, I know for my heart I need to exercise and I have to cut out saturated fat. I have to do all that and I can prevent heart disease.” But most of us have no clue how to take care of our brain or live a brain-healthy lifestyle. We just don’t learn it.

Dhru Purohit:
What are a couple examples of things that people are doing today, separate from the topic of foods, that are some of the biggest contributors to poor brain function or life overall?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, the low-hanging fruit is lack of exercise. Eight percent of Americans get adequate exercise. That leaves 92% who need some help. Exercise is really extraordinary because when you do cardiovascular exercise, when you do strength training, you do HIIT training, those specific kinds of exercise, it increases these incredible molecules in your brain called BDNF. BDNF stands for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Think of it like Miracle Gro for your brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
When you exercise, you’re literally increasing the number of brain cells, you’re increasing the connections between the brain cells, you’re increasing your cognitive power. Exercise is super critical. That alone can make a huge difference for so many people.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The second thing is sleep. If we don’t sleep, our brains don’t work. And I remember the study I read recently that looked at sharp shooters in the military, the snipers essentially, who were super accurate, 99% accurate when they have eight hours sleep. When they get seven hours, it drops off a little, maybe 90%. Less than six hours, starts to go to 60, 50%. Under six hours it’s basically hit or miss. It’s [inaudible 00:12:41]. And we really don’t understand how important sleep is to cleaning our brain. To repairing our brain. Getting rid of the garbage. The garbage man comes at night when we’re sleeping to clean out all the metabolic waste that our brain makes during the day. And if you don’t have adequate sleep, you’re not going to be able to do that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And a third thing, in addition to exercise and sleep, is stress. We know that chronic stress, now, we all have acute stresses. But the chronic, unmitigated stress of our modern life and whether it’s coming from the world we live and in all the chaos, whether it’s coming from inflammation and stress that our diet causes because our diet literally causes us to build more adrenalin and cortisol in our body, high-starch and sugar diets. Whether it’s our sedentary lifestyle, all these things drive our brains to not function properly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And the stress response is something we know how to deal with. We know how to actually reset the body by activating the part of your nervous system that is the relaxation response. We call that the parasympathetic system. As opposed to the fight or flight or freeze response, it’s playing possum basically. And it’s not just sitting on the couch watching TV drinking a beer, it’s actually a very active thing. It could be meditation. Could be yoga. Could be, my favorite are the more passive ones like massage, hot and cold plunges. There are a lot of ways to access the nervous system to help reset it to create a deep sense of profound relaxation that’s physiologic. And that helps you repair your brain. Because if you have chronic stress, it literally shrinks your brain. It shrinks the hippocampus in your brain which is the memory center. We know that chronic stress causes dementia. Just that alone can have a huge impact. Those three things.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then there’s a huge, long list that goes on and on. But [inaudible 00:14:27], one of my favorite people. He’s an incredible neurologist who studied Alzheimer’s and has used Functional Medicine to reverse, not just to stop or slow, but to reverse Alzheimer’s in patient after patient. And he talks about this idea called a cognoscopy. We got a colonoscopy, but how do we measure our brain function? Well, there are some really specific, simple, online tests, neurocognitive tests you can do, there are ways of looking at brain imaging, there are certain lab tests and things you look at to see what are the threats to the brain. How do you assess the threats?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it’s important because when you start to understand how the brain works, you can really play with it and see conditions reverse that you just never would see. I mean I only wrote UltraMind Solution because I was treating people’s physical problems and as a side effects, their brains would get better. And I’m like, “What happened?” Like someone, for example, would be having panic attacks and anxiety and depression and I would get their insulin under control and their microbiome under control and they’d go, “Well, I don’t have that anymore. I’m not depressed. I’m not anxious.” Or they had bipolar disease and “I did this, this, and this and got better.” Or they’d have ADHD or autism or Alzheimer’s and they’d start the really improve or completely recover. And I’m like, “How, what’s going on here? This is not what I learned in medical school.” And so I began to really, through the inquiry of my own patients and their data and their experiences and applying Functional Medicine, was able to map out how all this connects and all the things that affect the brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it’s not just the obvious things, but there’s a lot of things that we can dive into around infections and the microbiome and toxins and other things that affect brain health. The fundamental things are easily accessible to everybody and we all should think about not only how do we take care of our body and our weight and our heart risk, but also our brain health. And there are some very specific things you can do to do that.

Dhru Purohit:
This topic is near and dear to you because you write in your book that not only when you focus on helping your patients, but you were trying to help yourself.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dhru Purohit:
Your own brain broke. I’d love-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely.

Dhru Purohit:
… for you to take us down your story and also while you go through it, help us look at the whole topic of brain related disorders and how conventional medicine might see it and how Functional Medicine might see it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
First I’ll start with my story because it helped teach me so much about how the brain breaks and what to do to fix it. I was in college, A student, got into medical school, school was easy for me. I barely studied and my brain was just like a steel trap and I remembered everything, could focus, pay attention, was happy. My brain was good. I exercised, I ate healthy, I did all the right things. Did yoga. And then I went to China and got mercury poisoning which I didn’t know at the time. Came back and got some other insult that tripped my system into really being sick.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And all of a sudden I went from completely functional to completely dysfunctional. I couldn’t sleep even though I was exhausted and had chronic fatigue syndrome. I couldn’t focus. It was like I had ADHD. I couldn’t remember anything. I got depressed. It was like I had depression, ADD and demential all at once. And I would literally be reading my kids a story at bedtime and I couldn’t understand the sentence if I read it out loud. I literally would not be able to understand what I was saying. My brain didn’t work. Or when I was talking to somebody I would start a sentence and I didn’t really know where I was going, I couldn’t finish a sentence. I was really damaged.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And through understanding my own biology and reverse engineering my way to health, I began to understand all of the factors that affect brain health. And that’s really why I wrote The UltraMind Solution, because it’s what I learned on myself, but it’s also what I began to see on, really thousands of patients.

Dhru Purohit:
Talk to us about some of those root factors that were going on for you that might be beneficial for other people to hear. What was going on in your life that contributed you to being in that place in the first place?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, I had a bunch of stuff. I was in a crazy work schedule. I was working as ER doctor after I came back from China, not sleeping, I literally was doing 15 shifts a month which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a lot and I was staying up all night many, many nights. I was taking care of my two kids, my ex-wife was an alcoholic and it was really a tough moment and a lot of stress and a lot of work and a lot of sleep deprivation.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then I would go the emergency room and I would have an 11:00 to 7:00 a.m. shift at night and I would drink a quadruple espresso, a giant chocolate chip cookie and a half a pint of ice cream and I’d get in the car and I’d drive to work and I’d last probably till 5:00 in the morning and hopefully it was quiet and I could take a nap. And I did that for years. And between that stress, between the difficult stress in my life in terms of my marriage and also this underlying mercury toxicity that then got tripped into full expression when I had a severe intestinal infection. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it ended up just cascading into years and years of me trying to figure this out. And I got terrible diarrhea for years, SIBO, bacterial overgrowth. My muscles were getting damaged. My immune system was dysregulated and I started getting sores on my tongue, rash all over my body, autoimmune antibodies. My liver function when up. I mean my whole lab tests looked terrible and I was a mess.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And doctor after doctor was like, “Well, you’re depressed. Take Prozac.” Or, “You’re anxious, take Xanax.” Or “You can’t sleep, take Ambien.” It was that. And I started getting weird fasciculations and all kinds of weird symptoms and my muscles were twitching and my muscle enzymes were really high which means my muscles were being damaged.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I remember going to Columbia and seeing this top neurologist who was an expert in this type of thing. And they ordered a test called an EMG which is no fun. Essentially they stick giant needles in your muscles and they then send electrical currents down them to see what’s going on. And this guy was this old British doctor there who was running the test. And he says, “Oh, you have benign fasciculations.” Which means your muscles twitch, but it’s not serious. It’s not ALS. Which it could’ve been ALS. And he goes, “Off the record, this isn’t normal. There’s no such thing as benign fasciculations. You don’t have ALS, but it’s something else. I don’t know.” And that was even before I figured out the mercury thing. I just didn’t know was what going on. I was searching and searching and searching. It took a couple of years for me to actually figure out the mercury thing before I was able to get better.

Dhru Purohit:
What was part of that turn-around program which also was the introduction for you into the world of Functional Medicine? How did you begin to look at things differently and then start to treat yourself?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, I was always a little weird. I mean I always studied nutrition in college and was a yoga teacher before I was a doctor. I was interested in integrative health. They didn’t call it that then. And I was always exploring the edges of ancient healing systems, Chinese medicine. I always had a different framework that I was coming from when I went to medical school.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then when I got a job at Canyon Ranch, that’s right when I got sick. And I met a woman named Kathy Swift who was a nutritionist there and she was like, “You got to come to this lecture from Jeffery Bland.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And so I went to hear this guy speak and I listened to him and I thought, “Either this guy’s a genius or he’s a lunatic. And if what he’s saying is true, it means that everything I learned needs to be reexamined, questioned and reimagined.” And I need to prove that to myself and my patients. So I said, “I’m going to try it on because if he’s right, it’s a game changer. If he’s wrong, he’s just a nut who’s promoting a lot of stuff that’s kind of goofy.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it turned out he was right. And the rest is history. And that’s when I really started diving into Functional Medicine at Canyon Ranch. We had a great incubator where we could spend hours with patients. I could dig into all these things. I could learn everything. They were willing to do stuff. It was really a great incubator. And then I just kept going down that rabbit hole and healed myself and started healing thousands and thousands of patients.

Dhru Purohit:
What was one of the first things, and we’re going to touch on your story, but these are also things that people can walk away with when it comes to their own story too. What was one of the first things that you did when it came to your diet? You were eating chocolate chip cookie, double espresso, you had all this sugar in your diet. What was one of the first things you did when it came to your diet?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, I literally had to do an elimination diet. Because the mercury not only affected my brain, it affected my gut. Which, by the way, they’re totally connected, right? It’s called your second brain, there’s more neurotransmitters in your gut than in your brain. There’s more nerve endings in your gut than your brain. It’s really quite fascinating. And my gut was a mess. I developed leaky gut. I developed SIBO was wasn’t even a thing at the time. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Fungal overgrowth. I would eat anything and my stomach would just blow up like a balloon. I had gas that just wouldn’t come out and felt like I had a giant tire inflator that just blew up my intestines. And it was painful and difficult. And I had diarrhea and undigested food in my stool it was just a mess.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I literally had to dramatically change my diet to just be able to tolerate any food. I used turkey, broccoli and brown rice for a year just to calm my system down. It didn’t really help get rid of all my symptoms, but it just helped them not be so bad. Until I got rid of the mercury, my gut couldn’t heal.

Dhru Purohit:
And it’s not that you’re necessarily recommending the turkey, brown rice-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, no.

Dhru Purohit:
… diet-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, no, no.

Dhru Purohit:
… to all the folks.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, no, no.

Dhru Purohit:
You’re just talking about what you did.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’m just saying my system was so dysregulated, I couldn’t eat anything without causing a rash or my eyes turning like a raccoon black or swollen tongue. My whole system was just messed up and in order for me to just reduce my diet to the most simple foods that were not going to be triggering reactions, I had simplify my diet.

Dhru Purohit:
That’s what you did then. If you were your patient today, what would you do for that person in that same situation when it came to the topic of diet?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If I had me as a doctor when I first started this, I would’ve been better a lot faster. But I literally had to crawl my way through knowing. And by the way, it was really tough, Dhru, because not only was I sick, but it was very hard for my brain to work. So I literally had to, in spite of having my brain barely functional, still try to learn and focus enough to try things and I was really tough. It was really, really tough. It was like trying to get out of a very deep black hole. And it was tough because I didn’t have the full capacity of my mind.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I started to learn things and I started to incorporate things and it was very slow. And it took me a number of years before I even figured out that I had mercury poisoning and I ended up being at a Functional Medicine conference and I met a guy on a plane who was a naturopath and he was like, “Well, come to my office because maybe I can help you.” I told him what was going on and he did this machine, this electrodermal screening which sounds like total quackery, but it’s looking at the bioenergetics of different meridians and different electrodermal, electromagnetic frequencies in your skin which are there. And he said, “Well, it seems like you have metal toxicity.” I’m like, “Really? Okay.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then I went to my friend Mark David because I was staying at his house, I’m like, “Can you do my hair analysis and see what’s up?” And he took a little hair, we sent it off and it was really high. And then I did a challenge test and it kind of had level. I had probably done 20,000 of these tests over the last three years. And it was probably the top 10, 20 tests I’ve ever seen of the worst levels.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then that was when I started to detoxify. But it was really tough because I didn’t have a road map. I was just figuring things out. We didn’t even understand what SIBO was back then. We didn’t understand a lot of things that we do know now. And we didn’t have a lot of the tools we have now. I would probably be a lot better a lot faster.

Dhru Purohit:
You mentioned mercury. Mercury is part of these environmental toxins that are out there and it can come from a lot of different sources. We’ll touch on that in a second. But mercury is part of a ton of chemicals that are in the environment, like these PUFAs, forever chemicals that are there. We have mold that can be environmental toxins with all the flooding in the buildings that we have. Do you think that people are paying more attention to this topic than you’ve ever seen before about how environmental toxins can play a role in things like brain inflammation?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I think there’s more and more literature about the role of environmental toxins in neuro degenerative diseases and autism and ADD, in depression. There’s more and more science around this. I’m very hopeful, but I do think it’s still pretty much ignored. I think people aren’t really trained in medical school to understand toxins other than acute toxicity. Chronic, low level toxicity that eventually overwhelms your system is just not something that’s even in the field of view of traditional doctors.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For example, I had this patient recently who had an autoimmune disease, but she had very high levels of lead in her blood and the highest level of lead I’ve ever seen in any patient in 30 years. And it was causing all kinds of cognitive and also inflammatory symptoms and the traditional doctors don’t know how to look for that and test for that. They can take a blood test, but they rarely do that. But even if the blood test is normal, you can still have a lot of stored toxins if you don’t have current exposure. If you don’t, for example, you don’t eat any fish for three or six months, your blood levels will be good. But you could have tons of stored levels in your body.

Dhru Purohit:
I remember reading a New York Times article about a group of soldiers that made their way to the Cleveland Clinic-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dhru Purohit:
… and can you tell that story?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, the Special Forces guys are really not wimps. These guys are Navy Seals who stand in ice water for three hours and run a hundred mile, I mean these guys are just super human. It was a whole group of these guys who were really sick. And they were being kind of dismissed by the Defense Department and the VA and one of them came to Cleveland Clinic. And I said, “Well, let’s look at your story. What’s going on? You’re cognitively impaired. You can’t focus. You’re depressed. You’re overweight. Your metabolism is messed up. You have all these other symptoms. Let’s see what’s going on.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I said, “What do you do?” He says, “Well, I’m a blast expert. I blow stuff up. And I teach other people how to blow stuff up. And we do it in enclosed buildings.” And when you blow stuff up with bombs and guns, you release lead mercury into the air. And they’re in there in a closed space with poor filtration and they’re breathing it in. You do this long enough, you start to become poisoned. And they came in and they were poisoned and I was able to help these people get better. It was really pretty miraculous.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And the story in the New York Times was about this one soldier who went to, I think it was Mt. Sinai, where they have the lead expert who uses a very specific technique that only kind of been researched which looks at the bone lead levels which is the best measure of total body lead. And this science doctor and I think he was at Mt. Sinai, said, “Look, we see this, we can measure it. But we never see it go down. But when these patients came back to me after being treated, not only were they clinically better, but their levels of lead in the bone went down. I’ve never seen this before.” And of course you’ve never seen it before because most of us were never trained on how to detoxify patients from heavy metals. But when you know what to do, you can remove the metals and these people get better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Now we have a whole group of people working with us from the Department of Defense and Special Task Force Dagger to incorporate these ideas into the VA and the Department of Defense healthcare system.

Dhru Purohit:
Before we get back into neuro inflammation overall and brain health overall, let’s just put a button in the topic of mercury and lead. For most people, it may not necessarily be the first thing to look at unless if they’re working with a Functional Medicine doctor.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dhru Purohit:
Most people who are listening are wondering like, “Wow, do I have mercury? Do I have lead?” It’s an important topic to pay attention to. It’s probably something that you need to be guided down the path of working with a trained practitioner who knows-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

Dhru Purohit:
… about that area.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And I think it’s important to say look, with brain disorders whether it’s the mood disorder, whether it’s anxiety depression, whether it’s the attention cognitive disorders like ADD and autism or the spectrum, whether it’s the neuro degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, there are many factors that drive those problems. And you have to look at all of them. Mercury is just one, lead is just one. Those are final common pathways for multiple insults. If you take 10 people with depression, there may be 10 different causes. For some of them it might be metals. Another might be a low vitamin D level or the fact that they’ve taken antibiotics and screwed up their microbiome or maybe it’s because they were taking acid blocker and have low B12 or maybe they have gluten intolerance and have built antibodies against their thyroid which causes depression. There’s a lot of ways to get to the same end disease. I always say, “Just because you know the name of the disease, it doesn’t mean you know what’s wrong with you. Just because you have a label, it doesn’t mean you know the cause.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And the problem with modern medicine is what we call the name it, blame it and tame it game. We name the disease. “Oh, you have low mood, you’re crying all the time, you’re not interested in eating, you don’t want to have sex, you can’t sleep, you want to kill yourself. Oh, I know what’s wrong with you, you have depression.” But that is not the cause of your symptoms. Depression isn’t the cause of your symptoms, it’s the name of your symptoms. And then we blame the name for the problem. “Oh, the reason you have these symptoms is because you’re depressed. And the treatment is an antidepressant.” We name it, blame it and tame it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
As opposed to what I call thinking and linking which is where we start to begin to think about the cause, not just wait for people to get on medication and see what happens. It’s really a very important thing to understand for people that the same diseases can have many, many causes and the same causes can create many diseases. Mercury could cause autoimmune disease, it can cause gut issues, it can cause depression, it can cause Alzheimer’s, it can cause autism. But not all cases of autism are depression or Alzheimer’s are caused by mercury. So you have think about this framework of 1), just because you know the name of the disease doesn’t mean it’s wrong with you, 2), one cause can create many diseases and one disease can have many causes. It’s a really different framework for understanding human biology.

Dhru Purohit:
Let’s go back to one of the first things you talked about, which was sugar. Help us really understand how sugar is so deeply tied into this whole field of neuro inflammation and poor brain health. What is that sugar’s actually doing in the body?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Okay. You got a couple hours? I can spend my life studying this and I’m going to try to synthesize it. But sugar is not necessarily bad. If you have a cookie or if you have a little bit of this or that once in a while, it’s not going to kill you. It’s the dose that we have. We used to have historically 22 teaspoons a year as hunter-gatherers. That means if we got lucky, we’d find a honey hive and we can get the honey or we might find some berries in the summer and we’d get some sugar. But historically we really didn’t have sugar as part of our diet.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In 1800, we had 10 pounds of sugar per person which was still a lot. And now in 2020 we have about a 150 pounds of sugar per person per year. Sugar, when you have it at that pharmacologic dose, is a poison and it does a number of things. One, it screws up your microbiome. It fertilizes all the bad bugs that create inflammation. Then that creates a leaky gut and that creates neuro inflammation. It also drives a process in the body called insulin resistance. Which means your body’s resistance to the effects of insulin, it’s like the boy who cried wolf. You eat a lot of sugar and starch and your insulins go higher and higher and higher and the cells become resistant to the insulin so you need more and more insulin.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But the consequence of that increased insulin is that you get more fat storage in the abdominal fat, in the belly fat and those fat cells are not just there holding up your pants. They’re a very special kind of fat cells. They’re not like the fat in your butt or in your thighs or whatever. They’re highly active organs. They produce hormones. they produce cytokines. You’ve heard of the cytokine storm from COVID. They produce all kinds of inflammatory molecules like IL-6, IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor alpha. These are very powerful inflammation molecules that are coming from your fat cells. That drives systemic inflammation throughout the body and you get neuro inflammation.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Third, we now know that in Alzheimer’s disease that there’s a huge problem with glucose metabolism and it’s insulin resistance of the brain for many patients. Not all Alzheimer’s is insulin resistance of the brain, but they’re calling Alzheimer’s type 3 diabetes now because of this impact of insulin resistance in the brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There’s a lot of ways and pathways through which this causes a problem and I’m not saying never have sugar. Of course I have sugar. It’s just what is the overall balance of your diet? Is this a staple? Is this is daily commodity that you’re drinking for breakfast, lunch and dinner? In America we have sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s in our cereal, it’s in our salad dressings. It’s in tomato sauce. There’s more sugar per serving of tomato sauce than there is in two Oreo cookies. We got to get real and get all the hidden sugar out of our diet.

Dhru Purohit:
You were so kind to share your own testimony earlier and some of the things that worked for you. Let’s talk about a couple other case studies from your practice of people you’ve worked with. Let’s start first with the topic of depression. Any case study that comes to mind?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, I remember this one patient who was severely depressed. She was in her early 30’s, and executive coach and really struggling. And she had crippling depression. She also had sinus problems that were intractable. She was overweight. She was very inflamed. She had a lot of gut issues. She had tons of yeast overgrowth and it was miserable. And she came to see me and I took a look under the hood and found that she had a lot of inflammation in her body that was secondary to high levels of mercury. This patient had really high levels of mercury, like 300 which is, mine was 187. This was off the chart. And the mercury was causing the weight gain because it’s a metabolic toxin. It was causing her gut dysfunction because it poisons the gut. It caused the yeast overgrowth which is because the mercury causes yeast overgrowth and it caused her depression.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We systematically treated her by cleaning up her gut and the yeast by clearing up mercury. Her sinuses got better. The weight came off. Her depression went away and it took a number of years to get that much mercury out of her body, but I just saw her after 10 plus years and it’s amazing. She’s still doing great. The beauty is that you can take people with really intractable problems if you know how to navigate the the cause which is what Functional Medicine does. You really can make a huge difference with these patients.

Dhru Purohit:
How about a kid or children with a brain disorder? [inaudible 00:37:33] a case study that you worked with before.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, I have an autism case that’s a long story. But I’ve seen kids with autism get completely better using this approach because when you look at brains of autistic kids or people with ADD, they’re inflamed. There’s a whole immune system in the brain called the microglia. And they can create an inflammatory process in the brain and on MRI scans, you literally see large brains, swollen brains in these kids. When they do autopsy studies of kids with autism who have died in a car accident or something, they’ll see their brains are filled with these inflammatory cells. And they’re inflamed. The question is what’s causing that inflammation? And kids with autism are like the canaries in the coal mine.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This one kid I saw was 22 months old when he started getting symptoms. He had regressive autism and he had a lot of antibiotics early on. You hear the same stories; C-sections, lack of breast feeding, early antibiotics and then maybe getting vaccinated when they’re sick. I’m not saying vaccines cause autism, I’m just saying that it can be part of the mix that triggers a dysregulated gut and immune system to go haywire. And there’s a whole field of vaccinomics which is fascinating which is looking at how individuals respond differently to vaccines.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
This kid had terrible gut symptoms. Sticky, smelly poops, he was nonverbal at two and a half, he couldn’t look at you in the eye. He was just a mess. All the classic symptoms of autism. I was told by the doctors just give him some behavioral therapy, good luck, and eventually he’ll end up in an institution ’cause he had really severe autism. All I did was what I normally do, was I did my analysis of what are the factors that cause disease, what are the factors that are needed to help thriving and health, what is he missing, what does he need to get rid of? Basic Functional Medicine approach. We found he had terrible gut dyspepsia, three species of yeast, he had leaky gut, he had bacterial overgrowth, he had massive nutritional deficiencies in vitamin D and zinc and magnesium and B vitamins, B6, B12 and he had significant mercury in his system as well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We began to treat these things and we got rid of the metals in his system. We fixed his gut. We cleaned out the bad bugs with antibiotics and antifungals and we reset everything. We gave him all the nutrients he needed and B12 shots and this kid literally became normal. And I was like, “Whoa. This is crazy because I learned that autism is not reversible.” Now, that’s not to say that every kid will respond this way because there are many factors and I have seen kids with autism that have more fixed problems that, for example, genetic, and I look at all their lab tests, they’re normal. I’m like, “I don’t know what to do because they’re normal.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There is a way to navigate the brain health field by looking at all of these factors and I’ve had kids with ADD that completely normalized by simply getting them the thing that they need for their bodies and their brains to thrive.

Dhru Purohit:
Let’s do another one and that’s on the topic of you shared about Alzheimer’s earlier and Alzheimer’s dementia, all the neuro degenerative diseases that increasingly more and more people are suffering from. You had a patient that came to you and was a referral over who was a gentleman that was running a company and was thinking about retiring early-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, he did-

Dhru Purohit:
… because his brain was so messed up. Talk to us about that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, he was 70 years old and he was in the book UltraMind Solution. He was one of those cases that I had to rethink everything about. Mike brought him in and said, “Look, my husband is basically nonfunctional. He’s the CEO of our company, our family held business. He now sits in a room alone, depressed and demented. And the kids don’t want to be around him. The grandkids are scared of him. He’s just not the human here was. Can you do anything?” I’m like, “I don’t know. Let’s try.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
From the Functional Medicine perspective, the beautiful thing about it is that it doesn’t matter what disease you have. You treat the system. You normalize function, hence the word Functional Medicine and you see what happens. And usually the diseases get better. It turned out that this guy had a lifelong history of gut issues. He had irritable bowel, terrible bacterial overgrowth, he was on a drug called Stelazine for 30 years because his gut was such a mess. And it’s an antipsychotic tranquilizer drug that was calming his gut down. Which was kind of amazing. He also had the APOE44 gene so he had some genetic setup for this, which is the Alzheimer’s gene. He had also genes that affected his B vitamins called methylation. And he had very high homocystine which is an important nutrient marker of folate of B6 or B12 deficiency. And when you look at the data, if your level’s over 14, you have a 50% increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
He also had significant heavy metals. And I’m, I don’t mean to be harping on heavy metals, but they are a big thing in a lot of brain damage. And they’re one of those things that doctors don’t know how to look at. They don’t have tests. They don’t know how to diagnose. They don’t know how to treat so it’s really a problem. You need to see a Functional Medicine doctor.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And he lived in Pittsburgh and all my patients from Pittsburgh are mercury poisoned. Why? Because US Steel is there. All the steel plants use coal to actually make the steel. Coal ash is often used in Pittsburgh to cover the roads from ice in the winter, to put on fields, it’s in the air pollution and his level was just off the chart. Plus he had a mouth full of mercury.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We did an aggressive medical treatment on him that fixed his heavy metals, that fixed his gut, that optimized his nutrient status. And he also had pre-diabetes. So he was a skinny fat guy. He looked thin, but he actually had this little belly and he was pre-diabetic and we got him on a low starch and sugar diet, cured his insulin resistance. He had B vitamin issues. He had gut issues. He had metal issues. He had insulin resistance, pre-diabetes. And we fixed all that and he went from being completely nonfunctional to back running his business, engaging with his family and friends and reversed the cognitive symptoms that he had. It was really a miracle.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The neurologist that I sent him to at Harvard to do all the imaging and the brain scans and stuff that we couldn’t do was so impressed by the results that he then started a center for brain health at Harvard. It’s amazing what you see happen with these patients.

Dhru Purohit:
As you mentioned, sometimes a person might need to work with a Functional Medicine doctor. But a lot of times people can take steps and head in the right direction just even through a little bit of self-guided and in some cases, at home testing. I want to talk about testing and are there any tests that are out there? You mentioned genetics for example. You also mentioned omega-3’s and getting more of those in your diet. There’s a simple at home test that people can do. We have no affiliation with them, that they can see their omega-3’s. Give a few of these at-home tests and your thoughts in general about them and if they can be part of the puzzle pieces for people to figure out how to get to the root causes that are going on with them.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, it’s interesting, I see a lot of companies popping up that are focused on home health testing or focused on getting access to their data for people that are creating companies that are allowing people to start to do the diagnostics themselves and be part of a self-care process that often we surrender to our doctors. And there’s a lot we can do ourselves. I believe that people should be in power of their health information. They should be in power over their diagnostic tests. They should be just told “Your tests are okay and I’ll see you later and come back next year.” And they can actually start to look at some of these things.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
The current landscape of self testing is limited now, but there’s things you can do around food sensitivities, there’s things you can do around hormones. There’s things you can do around gut testing. There’s stuff that’s starting to come out. I don’t think we’re quite there yet for everybody. There’s genetic tests like 23 and Me. People can get a sense of what to do, but what would be more exciting for me is some of the companies that are coming out creating 360 solutions where they’re doing diagnostic questions, they’re guiding them on what they should do and how to fix these things. I think we’re not quite there yet, but we’ll get there.

Dhru Purohit:
And what do you think about continuous glucose monitors and their ability to get part of the process of people figuring out what diet is right for them?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Before to measure your blood sugar you had to go get a blood test with a regular needle or you’d have a finger stick test which is annoying and painful and you have to have a machine. They’ve developed these new technologies called continuous glucose monitors which are little patches you put on your skin with a tiny, tiny, little needle that goes into the skin and there’s even more advancements coming out that are just going to be going through your skin. You don’t even have to put a needle in. And they measure your sugar continuously. And you can see what’s affecting your blood sugar, what’s making it spike up and down and you can know “Oh gee, I’m eating this, if I eat this, if I eat a plum, my sugar goes crazy. But if I eat blueberry, it doesn’t.” Or “If I have this meal in this way or that way, it affects. When I have a glass of wine before my meal it’s way worse than if I have it with my meal.” You begin to learn about your own biology.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And what’s really interesting is that it’s not uniform. For example, there’s something called the glycemic index or glycemic load. But it really depends on the person, right? And if you look at a study, for example, out of Israel, they looked at the same foods on different people and depending on their microbiome, their blood sugar levels were quite different. That’s just one variable, the microbiome. But there’s many other variables; genetic variables, nutritional status variables, and so forth, that are going to affect your metabolism. Learning how your body works, getting the continuous glucose monitoring is a super helpful and personalized way to identify what works for you and what doesn’t. I’m a big fan.

Dhru Purohit:
Let’s talk about supplementation. There are a lot of companies that are out there that are advertising that this supplement is the best thing ever for brain health. What are actual supplements that have a strong evidence base for supporting brain health on top of all the basic lifestyle stuff and what are ones that are maybe we should be a little bit skeptical or maybe watch out for when it comes to a category?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They’re called supplements, not replacements and so if you’re eating a crappy diet, not exercising, under tons of stress, not sleeping, exposed to toxins and your microbiome’s a mess, you’re going to not really see huge impact. You have to really look at addressing the factors that are causing the imbalance that we talked about. And then when you start to put these ingredients in, the body can really respond, right? So the most important one is GHA for the brain which is docosahexaenoic acid. It’s an omega-3 fat, comes from fatty fish. You can get it from algae. That would be my number one.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There are really important cascades around B vitamins and detoxification that are important. These are genes that affect your metabolism of folate, B6 and B12 and also glutathione. Taking B6, B12 and folate super important for the brain. Magnesium also really important for the brain. It helps to go with anxiety. It helps to simulate a receptor called NMDA of the brain which calms down the over excitation that happens in the brain that leads to inflammation and oxidative stress. B vitamin, fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, these are staples for the brain.

Dhru Purohit:
Great. Let’s go into some questions from our community and starting with the first one, what are the top foods for brain health? You already mentioned a few, but maybe you can expand on this a little bit further and add in some additional ones you didn’t get a chance to talk about.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Sure. The categories and omega-3 fats, other good fats and polyphenols. And then there’s a whole category of other things that can be helpful. In terms of the omega-3 fats, the fatty fish is really important we talked about. Things like olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds great for the brain. Walnuts look like a brain. Kind of a brain food, they have good omega-3 fat levels. Also eggs are really amazing. Eggs have gotten a bad rap. You want to make sure you have pasture raised eggs because those yolks have far more nutrients and polyphenols and the reason they’re dark yellow as opposed to this pale yellow that we see in most modern eggs is because of all these plant compounds that give it its power. It also has choline which is super important for the brain because it’s one the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and you need choline to actually help your brain work properly. It’s really great in terms of the brain. I think eggs are a great brain food.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We also have all the berries. They’re great because they have this class of compounds called proanthocyanidins which are powerful antioxidants, anti-inflammatories. Dark green, leafy vegetables also really important because of things like vitamin K and folate, lutein, many other compounds that are great for the brain. And of course, turmeric which is a spice that we’ve used a lot in Indian cooking, but it’s a wonderful, powerful anti-inflammatory that has really been effective for the brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Those are just some of the top ones I think about. There’s some other ones that are maybe worth thinking about like green tea which has a lot of catechins, theanine which is calming for the brain. There’s a lot of benefits from those.

Dhru Purohit:
Next question from the community. What is the role of CoQ10 in the brain?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, this is a big rabbit hole. One of the things that people need to understand is that your brain is one of the biggest consumers of energy in the brain. We’ve heard the stats that it’s five percent of your body weight or something or maybe less, three pounds. So that’s a fraction of a percent I guess. But it consumes 25% of the energy in the body because it’s very busy. And in each brain cell there are tens of thousands of mitochondria which are energy factories in your cells that you need to actually run your brain. And if you have low energy in your brain, you have Alzheimer’s, you have autism, you have Parkinson’s, you have all these things that are really an energy deficit. So the question is how do you build energy in the brain? It’s [inaudible 00:51:16] talk about so far, but there are certain nutrients that are so critical for reviving and helping the mitochondria function better. CoQ10 is one of them, but there’s many more.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Carnitine, CoQ10, ribose, N-acetyl cysteine, NAD, there’s a whole cocktail of mitochondrial supplements, lipoic acid, B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin. They’re so critical to making energy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Think of your energy cells as having a production line where they take food and oxygen and they convert it to energy that your body uses. That production line has a lot of steps and each step requires nutrients. And if you’re deficient in any of those nutrients, you become dysfunctional in terms of making energy which has all these downstream consequences in terms of not just brain health, but every aspect of your health and aging. Taking a cocktail of mitochondrial supplements is really important.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There’s a woman names Suzanne Goh should presented at grand rounds at Cleveland Clinic who’s a pediatric neurologist trained at Harvard, Oxford, brilliant woman, published in the New England Journal, JAMA, all the top journals and she’s done fascinating functional MRI studies looking at imaging of mitochondria in autistic kids. And she found there’s a subset of kids who have really poor energy metabolism in their brains. No wonder they can’t connect, focus, pay attention, do anything. She gives them a cocktail of mitochondrial supplements and these kids get better. Now that’s not to say that all kids with autism get better with mitochondrial supplements. It’s those kids who have that particular pathway and deficit, right? Remember I said just because you know the name of what you got doesn’t mean you know what’s wrong with you. If you have autism it just means you have no social skills, you may not be talking, you have repetitive behaviors. There are certain descriptions we give to the behavior, but were not talking about the cause.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
When you see these studies, these are not even “Functional Medicine” studies, this is mainstream medical journals, but it’s using the principles of function medicine and how do you create energy. Right? The difference between Functional Medicine and conventional medicine often is conventional medicine’s about stopping, suppressing, inhibiting pathways, right? The anti drugs. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories. The blockers. The beta-blockers, the calcium channel blockers, right? Or we have the inhibitors. The ACE inhibitors. So we inhibit, block and anti everything as opposed to optimize and enhance function. Functional Medicine uses compounds that help the body do what it’s supposed to do naturally which is how you make energy naturally? Well, you have all these different compounds in your diet and the supplements that you can take that help these pathways. When you enhance function, there’s really no side effects. It’s actually using the nature pathways of the body to optimize your health.

Dhru Purohit:
What about the role of caffeine in the brain and the body? Good, bad? Thoughts.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Okay. Okay. Caffeine. Well, yes, caffeine give alertness, focus, attention, but often you get a crash. So it creates a temporary boost in focus and energy, but then it depletes adenosine in the cells which depletes energy. And often you’ll get a crash after. Depending on your genetics, your ability to metabolize caffeine, how fast you are or how slow you are, it’s going to affect you differently. There are in coffee and tea other compounds. I often say that coffee is sadly the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet because Americans have such a crappy diet that there’s no other antioxidants because 70%, 60% is processed food. That doesn’t mean that you should be drinking a lot of coffee for the antioxidants, but it is a source of antioxidants and polyphenols and they may have brain benefits.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Same with tea. Catechins and other polyphenols in green tea and other teas actually may have beneficial effects in inflammation, oxidative stress, detoxification. So they can be very helpful. But I think over caffeinating ourselves is probably not a good idea.

Dhru Purohit:
Let’s recap here. When it comes to improving our brain health and things that we can do today, starting today like step one, two and three, what do you want to share with our audience here as we start to wind down today’s Master Class?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think the first thing for people to understand is that they need to learn how their brain works, what makes it thrive and what damages their brain. And they need to systematically go through their life and reduce or eliminate the things that damage their brain and add in the things that help their brain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What are the worst things that damage your brain? Sugar and starch, processed food. Stress. Lack of exercise. Lack of sleep. Those things are fixable by anybody without seeing a doctor. Right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then there are things that the brain needs to function. You need a lot of good fats, a lot of omega-3’s. You need a diet that’s high in polyphenols, these colorful plant compounds. You need a diet that’s rick in certain nutrients like magnesium and vitamin D and the B vitamins, so leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds. You need to make sure you exercise because that’s one of the best things you can do for your brain. Meditate, do yoga. Make sure you get eight hours of sleep. These are just simple things you can do. And there’s much more depth about how you can even go down the rabbit hole of balancing your Circadian rhythms and light therapy and various kinds of we call hormetic therapies was are therapies that give your body a stress, but then it responds by creating a healing response. So it could be hot and cold plunges. It could be certain types of exercise. There’s ways of actually stimulating the body to repair and heal.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Then there’s even more therapies that people can think about for their brain whether it’s regenerative therapies like ozone, exosome, hyperbaric oxygen therapy. These are all things that are coming down the pike that can be really helpful in repairing and recovering brains. But for most people, the basics work so well and are really things that you don’t need a doctor for.

Dhru Purohit:
Well, you have an entire two-part series on brain health-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I do.

Dhru Purohit:
… that’s called-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
We do.

Dhru Purohit:
… Broken Brain 1-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You do.

Dhru Purohit:
… and Broken Brain 2. And people can sign up for it and watch it. It’s on your website at drhyman.com and if you sign up for Dr. Hyman+ you get access to that and your longevity docuseries and a ton of other really great stuff including premium episodes of your podcast. That’s a great recommendation for where people can go next.

Dhru Purohit:
Mark, this was a fantastic Master Class and a fantastic breakdown of a topic that so many people care about. I’ll pass it back to you to conclude us for today’s-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well-

Dhru Purohit:
… episode.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
… I think we just have to have hope because we’re seeing such an epidemic of brain disorders. The anxiety and depression is just rampant in our society. And a lot of it is driven by our diet. And we see dramatic increase in neuro degenerative diseases. We see skyrocketing levels of ADHD and autism. And often people think these are fixed and I just want people to go home thinking that these are solvable problems that if we understand how our bodies function, that if we take out the bad stuff, put in the good stuff, that people can recover from even the most challenging conditions. There are now survivors of Alzheimer’s. Survivors of autism. I never heard of that before. So I want people to leave with hope and to understand that they need to focus not only on their general health and wellbeing, but to understand how to create a brain healthy lifestyle. Which, by the way, also fixes everything else. It’s not like you have one diet for your brain and one for your heart and so forth.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Everybody who’s been listening and enjoy this Master Class, if you know anybody with brain issues which is pretty much likely or you have them, be sure you share this with everybody in your families, in your social media. Leave a comment if you’ve worked on your brain and you found a way out of brain damage or a broken brain. Tell us about it. We’d love to hear. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and we’ll see you next week on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Speaker 1:
Hi everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a Functional Medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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