Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Pharmacy.
Dr. Mark Hyman:
When your gut’s unhappy and inflamed, your brain’s going to be unhappy and inflamed. The key is optimizing your digestion, getting rid of food sensitivities, healing gut inflammation, getting rid of SIBO, SIFO bacterial and fungal overgrowth, and making sure you take a good probiotic.
Hey everyone and welcome to The Doctor’s Pharmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman, and this is a place for conversations that matter. And if you ever wondered how to optimize your brain health with nutrients, this is the podcast for you. And today we’re featuring a new little segment of The Doctor’s Pharmacy called Health Bites where I teach you how to upgrade your health in short little nuggets of wisdom. So what is going on with our brains today? We’re seeing an epidemic of depression, anxiety, PTSD, mental health issues and it’s really staggering. And what is causing all this? Well, we’re going to get into that a little bit, but we’re also going to talk about how do we optimize our brain through nutrients, both from food and through supplements.
Now the brain is one of the most important organs, because if that’s not working, nothing else is going to work and it’s what makes you so you don’t want to lose your brain. We see so much in our culture that damages our brain, our processed diet, sugary diet, starchy diet, lack of nutrients in our diet, environmental toxins. Also, we self-medicate all the time to keep our brains working with sugar, caffeine, alcohol and we often don’t connect how we’re feeling and how our brain works with what we’re doing or what we’re eating. So the key important thing to realize is your brain is connected to everything else in your body and if your body’s not working, your brain’s not working. And I wrote a book years ago called The Ultra Mind Solution about how to fix your broken brain by fixing your body first. A lot of times we misappropriate meaning to what’s going on in our brain with our thoughts and our feelings and our emotions, but it’s actually a biological problem.
Now, your thoughts and feelings can affect your biology, but your biology can also affect your thoughts and feelings. So it’s important to really look at how do we optimize our brain health. And first you got to take out the bad stuff, obviously, get rid of as many junk foods as you can, or all of them for that matter, get rid of processed food, starch, sugar, terrible for your brain, and if you want to scrip your brain, eat a lot of sugar and starch. Next one’s alcohol caffeine, so, so. I mean depends on the person, but it can be well tolerated. But for most people, get rid of all the junk and sugar and processed food, or reduce your exposure to toxins, exercise, get your sleep, deal with stress through meditation, yoga, all those are basic fundamental brain health practices.
Now what if you’ve done all that and you’re still not doing great? Well, there’s a lot of things we know about how nutrients affect the brain and you want to upgrade your brain function by optimizing your nutrient levels and the nutrient levels are so critical to making all the biochemical reactions work. Every second you have 37 billion, billion, chemical reactions happening in your body and they all require nutrients as co-factors to run everything. In fact, one third of all your DNA codes for enzymes. Enzymes basically are catalysts that convert one chemical to another chemical and every enzyme needs a co-enzyme or a helper enzyme or co-factor. And those, my friends are vitamins and minerals. So they’re not just making expensive urine, they are critically important and there’s variations in our genetics that determine different needs for different levels of nutrients. So not everybody needs the same amount, but we’re learning more about how to customize that.
So let’s go through what are the top things we need for brain help? What are the top nutrients and what do I do every day? First is a good multivitamin and mineral, because it contains everything you need, a lot of the B vitamins, all the minerals and you want to make sure you take a high quality product that has been manufactured properly, that doesn’t have weird fillers and ingredients, that is exactly what it says on the label, that it’s been third party tested for purity and potency so you’re not getting contaminants, you’re having actually the doses as on the label and that it’s pharmaceutical grade, that it’s bioavailable. There’s a whole set of criteria I use and on our website we kind of share a lot of the best products and the ones I use with my patients.
The second important category. other than the multivitamin is a basic foundation is Omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats are so critical for your brain. Why? Because your brain is made up of mostly Omega-3 fats. DHA is about 60% of your brain. And most of us evolved… well, pretty much all of us evolved eating a lot of Omega-3 fats from wild fatty fish, from wild animals, wild plants. These are the sources. Now we don’t eat much of the wild foods anymore, but that’s what we used to eat and that is what is full of Omega-3 fats and 90% of Americans are deficient in Omega-3 fats. And if your brain is 60%, Omega-3s, it’s so important.
And we’ve seen this playing a big role in many, many brain issues. We know that Omega-3 deficiencies contributing to Alzheimer’s, to autism, to ADD, to depression, bipolar disease. There’s actually studies using Omega-3 fats to treat these conditions and it improves those conditions. So really important to get the right Omega-3 fats, and obviously from food. A can sardines three times a week is great, although almost people don’t like that, taking the right supplements I think it’s really important. And it’s critical for supporting brain function and mood, for regulating your metabolism. It helps prevent diabetes, cools off inflammation, has many, many other functions than just a brain. So most of us should get an insurance policy of at least a gram or two a day of Omega-3 fats.
The next thing I recommend is something called magnesium. It’s a critical mineral. It’s very important in brain function. It calms the brain down. It’s great for sleep. It binds to an important receptor in the brain that it is calming for the brain, that helps to relax the brain and also everything else in your body. So about 45% of Americans are deficient. We see this mineral being involved in up to 600 different chemical reactions in the body. I encourage people to take this on a regular basis, because we’re doing a lot of things that make us deficient, stress, alcohol, caffeine, lack of it in our diet, all these things cause magnesium deficiency. So I would say take about two to 400 milligrams, maybe 600 milligrams, a day of magnesium glycinate or magnesium citrate if you tend to be constipated.
The next important category is vitamin D. Vitamin D plays a huge role in brain function. It’s involved in hundreds and hundreds of different gene expression enzymes and also it’s really important in regulating the function of your immune system, cognitive function and about 80% of us are low in vitamin D. So it’s important to make sure we get adequate levels of vitamin D, probably mostly through supplements. It’s hard to get it unless you’re out in the sun all the time or you’re eating tons of food with vitamin D, but it’s really… you’ve got maybe 400 units in, let’s say, some really high quality fish or maybe even less, and then you actually may need 10 times that. So make sure you get vitamin D tests, check your levels. It should be between 50 to 75 nanograms per deciliter. The levels that are “normal” are 20 or 30 on the test, I would not pay attention to that. You really want to be more than that.
The next category is a special group of nutrients we call methylation nutrients and these are so, so important for brain function. B12, folate, B6. They regulate neurotransmitters, cognitive function and this key process that’s involved in keeping your brain healthy, dealing with oxidative stress, building glutathione. And these methylation nutrients are often very low in our systems. And I see a lot of people with low methylation and you can check that by checking blood tests like homocystine in the blood, if you check folate and B12 it’s okay, but it’s better to check these really more sensitive tests. And so checking homocystine is important. If that’s high, for example, if you have a high homocystine, it can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s by 50% and increase risk of depression. It can be a big factor in autism, in ADD and bipolar disease and depression. So really, really important to get enough of these. So you need a good B complex or a special methylation formula with B6, folate, B12, but the right forms. We use methyl folate, pyridoxal-5-phosphate for B6, we use methylcobalamin for B12. So you want to make sure you’re getting the right nutrients.
The next thing is your gut. Most people don’t realize this, but your gut brain is really one thing, that your brain talks to your gut and your gut talks to your brain. There’s something called the gut brain or the second brain and it’s a nervous system with as many neurotransmitters or more than your brain, brain, and they’re in a bidirectional conversation. And so when your gut’s unhappy and inflamed, your brain’s going to be unhappy and inflamed. So keeping a healthy gut is important. I’ve talked a lot about that on different podcasts and in my books, but the key is optimizing your digestion, getting rid of food sensitivities, healing gut inflammation, getting rid of SIBO, SIFO bacterial and fungal overgrowth, and also making sure you take a good probiotic. So those are really important things. So multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D, magnesium, B vitamins, probiotic.
Now, what else can you do for your brain? What other nutrients may play a role and be used sometimes? Well, one of the things that we see a lot is people have low glutathione. Glutathione is an important detoxifier, antioxidant anti-inflammatory, and it is so critical to our body’s functioning that everybody needs to pay attention to what their glutathione levels are. And the best way to do this is by leveling the amount of cruciferous vegetables in your diet. Broccoli, collards, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, watercress, all these things boost glutathione levels. Now that’s important, but sometimes you need support and N-acetyl cystine is one of the most important precursors of glutathione, you can take that as a supplement, like lipoic acid, also a great booster of glutathione. And even grass fed whey, I use goat way, but these really help boost glutathione levels.
Also your mitochondria really important. You’ve got more mitochondria, these little energy factories in your brain cells, than almost any other cell. Heart cells I think a close second. So you’ve got 17 to 20,000 mitochondria per cell and they have to be working to produce energy to make your brain work and low energy in the brain is what we see in autism, in schizophrenia, in often Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease. A colleague of mine, Christopher Palmer, who we’ve had on the podcast from McClain’s at Harvard, a psychiatrist, wrote a book called Brain Energy about the deficit of brain energy. So getting your brain energy up is really important. And how do you do that? There’s mitochondrial nutrients that are involved in producing energy from food and oxygen and you need all these steps on the assembly line to make it work. CoQ10, carnitine, lipoic acid, NED, and many more that we use to help boost the mitochondrial function.
And then there’s things that the body needs to kind of calm the brain down. I use this product called 200 milligrams of Zen, which is kind of fun. I actually take it at night because I live a crazy life. So it’s essentially a GABA, which is basically the body’s Valium. The body actually makes this and the Valium binds to the GABA receptors, which is why it makes you calm. But GABA’s really important and it calms the brain down from too much stimulation, from adrenaline and so forth.
Also, theanine is also important. This is what’s in green tea, it’s an amino acid in green tea, it can help calm the nervous system down. 5-HTP also can be helpful, which is a precursor of serotonin and even herbs that I use to help balance the brain function like rhodiola. So this is really a kind of simple approach to helping your brain function, get the foundations, make sure you optimize your glutathione, make sure you optimize your mitochondria, try some calming nutrients if you’re over-activated and just to kind of think about what you should be doing. It’s really focusing on your lifestyle first, obviously your diet, exercise, stress reduction, sleep, and then we focus on what nutrients we can use to support that. They’re called supplements, not replacements, so remember, but the key ones for your brain are multivitamin, magnesium, vitamin D, Omega-3 fats, the methylation nutrients, B6, B12, folate, probiotics, maybe a little glutathione, mitochondrial support and your golden.
So that’s it for this week’s Health Bite. If you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends and family. Leave a comment how you use nutrients to help your brain health, we’d love to hear and we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Pharmacy.
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.