What Damages Your Brain And How To Reverse It - Transcript

Narrator: Coming up on this episode of The Doctor's Pharmacy. Dr. Mark Hyman: People don't connect how they feel with what they eat or how much they rest or sleep, how much they exercise, or how much time they take for friends and community in connection, and how much bad news and media they're exposed to. Welcome to Doctor's Pharmacy. I'm Dr. Mark Hyman. That's pharmacy when they have a place for conversations that matter. And today, if you have a brain, if you care about your brain, if you want to learn how to take care of your brain, you better listen up 'cause we're going to talk about how we can improve your brain health. And we're doing it as part of our Health Bite series, which are small little bits of information that can help you take small steps to live a healthier life over time. Now, do you ever feel like you can't focus for more than 50 minutes at a time, or you lose your thought, you're in the middle of a thought, or you feel like you're in a daze or a brain fog, or maybe you're just depressed or anxious or have ADD or worse, right? I know these feelings. I mean, I know. About 30 years ago almost, I developed chronic fatigue syndrome and it felt like I had dementia, depression, and ADD all at once. My brain was broken. I really couldn't focus. I couldn't pay attention. I used to be able to see 30 patients a day, remember all their medical history at the end of the day with no problem. I couldn't remember where I was at the end of a sentence from where I started. I couldn't read my kids a book out loud and actually understand at the same time. My brain really was broken and I couldn't sleep. I was exhausted. And I learned that I had mercury poisoning and that broke my brain. My brain was just a mess. I had terrible brain fog. I couldn't focus for much time. I was a physician trying to practice medicine. It was really tough. I couldn't even remember my patient names. And I knew I had to do something different. And that's when I discovered functional medicine almost 30 years ago. And when I reversed my chronic fatigue, when I detoxed from mercury, when I fixed all the other systems in my body, my mitochondria, my gut, my immune system, everything that was going wrong, I was able to reverse my chronic fatigue syndrome and my brain got better. And since then, I've written 18 books in 20 years. My brain is great. I feel good, and I'm sharper, faster and better than ever. And if you want to get that same transformation, you should listen up 'cause I'm going to tell you how I did it. And now everybody might be a little bit different, but we don't learn how to take care of our brains. We know how to prevent heart disease. Eat this, don't eat that, exercise. Don't smoke, control your blood pressure, your cholesterol. But most of us have no idea how to take care of our brain, which is, I would say a pretty important organ, maybe more important than our heart. You can always get a heart transplant. You can't get a brain transplant. And that's a problem. Maybe one day, but not quite yet. So I want you to experience what it feels like to clear your head, to have a sharp brain, to fix your broken brain if you have one. And most of us have some degree of that. So, today we're going to talk about what causes a broken brain and what are the top strategies for helping to improve brain health and optimize your brain. What causes a broken brain? Now, most of us never learn how to manage our own health. We don't get an instruction manual when we're born. We don't get a guidebook. We don't have help like we do with our apps, help section. And we basically fumble our way through and we try to use all sorts of practices we think might be helping us, but they're actually harming us. We eat too much sugar to get energy, we drink too much caffeine, we have too much alcohol, and we manage our emotions and our mental state through self-medication, sometimes even worse drugs. And we use it to manage our minds and our moods, but we don't connect these behaviors with how crappy we feel. So the key insight here is that your brain is not just this disembodied organ that is sitting in your skull connected from the rest of what's going on in your body. We learned about the blood-brain barrier in medical school, but that's ridiculous. The brain is constantly interacting and communicating with everything going on in your body. Yes, you have a blood-brain barrier, but it's not like it's something that's just inviable. It's permeable and things go across and impact it. So everything that's happening in your body impacts your brain. In fact, the title of my book, the UltraMind Solution, was how to fix your broken brain by fixing your body first. And then you can see, well, then maybe I have some issues with my thoughts and my emotions and my feelings and my trauma, whatever. But if you are eating a crappy diet, if you're drinking too much, if you're smoking, if you're not exercising, if you have mercury poisoning, if your vitamin D's low, if you're B12 deficient, if your thyroid's not working, your brain's not going to work. So, you just got to figure out how to get your brain healthy. So, fixing your brain starts with fixing your body and optimizing all the inputs into your system and minimizing the bad stuff, the bad inputs, whether it's stress, poor diet, toxins, allergens, bad bugs, drugs like caffeine, alcohol, sugar, whatever's causing your brain to not work. The brain is pretty resilient and it can recover and heal given the right conditions. And I've seen miracles. I've seen people reverse Alzheimer's, reverse autism, reverse ADD, reverse depression, things that... Bipolar disease, schizophrenia. I mean, you just wouldn't even imagine how powerful this is. In fact, Christopher Palmer, who's been on a podcast, talked about how he used a ketogenic diet to reverse Alzheimer's and optimize mitochondrial function as a key way to treating mental illness. There's departments of metabolic psychiatry at Stanford, of nutritional psychiatry at Harvard. So we now actually have an understanding that the stuff I was talking about 15 years ago, by the way, was way ahead of its time and also extremely important to understand if we're going to fix our brains. So what's the worst things we do for our brains? Well, we have too much sugar and refined starch carbs and not enough good fats and not enough intake of the right nutrients. A lot of nutrient deficiencies, omega threes, vitamin D, magnesium to name a few that are critical for brain health and may have affects over 50 to 90% of the population with deficiencies in those nutrients. Also, we're exposed to all kinds of weird things in our diet that are chemicals like artificial sweeteners like MSG, environmental toxins that actually cause damage to the brain, heavy metals, all these things damage our brain. So, a lot of things cause brain damage, not just what I mentioned, but things like lack of sleep, too much stress, not exercising, overuse of certain substances like alcohol or other drugs. Now, I found over the years, really fascinating to me, it's really quite amazing, that people don't connect how they feel with what they eat or how much they rest or sleep, how much they exercise, or how much time they take for friends and community and connection, or how much bad news and media they're exposed to. I had a patient said, "Geez, doctor, I'm so tired. I don't know what to do. I'm always tired. My brain's not working." I said, "Well, how much do you sleep at night?" He goes, "Well, five, six hours." And I'm like, "Well, get eight hours sleep and try and see what happens." So, you really don't connect the dots. Now, once you make those connections, you can start to change those simple habits that can have profound effects on your health long term and make a lot of little small changes that can make profound impact. Now, feeling fully focused, fully energized, having great brain health, it requires really following the principles of functional medicine, which is taking out the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff. It's taking out the bad food, toxins, allergens, micro stress, adding in the good stuff, the right whole foods, nutrients, bouncing hormones, light, air, water, sleep, relaxation, connection, meaning, love, purpose. All these things are necessary for our brain to function properly. And most of us don't get enough of the good stuff. We don't get whole real food. We often are deficient in nutrients. We're not exposed to enough natural light. We don't get enough fresh air. We don't drink clean water 'cause most of it's polluted. We don't have periods of deep rest and relaxation. We don't sleep enough. We don't live in rhythm. We don't exercise. We're too focused on being busy in our careers and all kinds of stuff to focus on community and meaning and purpose and love. And so we basically have to optimize those things in order for us to be healthy. One of the things that I really focus on, well, food is the number one thing that controls your brain. And we've seen miracles by simply people changing their diet, from treating depression to Alzheimer's to everything from ADD to even schizophrenia as I mentioned. So, eating real food is so important. When I say real food, I mean real food, not processed food or ultra processed food, whole organic, fresh, local, unprocessed food. Basically it has a barcode or a label, you might want to get rid of it. If your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it. Does she know what a Lunchable is or a Pop-Tart? Probably not. Junk food is just bad. Fast food is bad. Ultra processed food is bad. Some processed food's okay. A can of sardines is processed. It's in a can. It's got salt, may oil. Can of tomatoes is processed, it's tomatoes, water, and salt. That's okay. But if you can't recognize where it came from, like a Pop-Tart, you probably don't want to eat it. And some things that seem like real food are really not, like yogurt. Yogurt is often filled with high fructose corn syrup, colors, additives, gums, thickeners. All these things are pretty nasty for us. Also, you want to eat a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables. I know you heard me say this all the time, but these are full of phytochemicals. These are packed brain. They're deep dark reds, yellows, oranges, greens, blues are so important 'cause the color is where the phytochemicals are. It's where the medicine is. These are anti-inflammatory compounds. They're detoxifying compounds, antioxidants, they're mitochondrial boosting, energy producing compounds, brain powering molecules. We need to eat that. So get lots of cultural plant foods, blueberries, dark green, leafy vegetables. Also, go for the slow carbs, not the fast carbs. I'm not saying no carbs. I mean, basically broccoli is a carb, but it's quite different than white bread or from sugar. Cauliflower and ice cream are all carbs. But you know cauliflower is good for you, but an ice cream sundae is probably not. So, eating whole plant foods also with lots of fiber helps to reduce the surges of sugar that cause some of the problems. In fact, we call now Alzheimer's, type three diabetes. It's like diabetes with a brain from too much sugar. So eating lots of fiber helps slow the surge of sugar. Nuts, seeds, lots of veggies, whole grains, beans, all really can be very helpful and it also keeps your gut healthy. And by the way, your gut and your brain are connected. You need to maintain your healthy microbiome to actually protect your brain health and prevent Alzheimer's. Also, fat, the brain is made up of 60% omega-3 fat. It's mostly fat in your brain, so you need to be a fat head. And going on low fat diets are pretty bad for the brain. In my book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, I talk about fats a lot and what the good fats, what are the bad fats? And how to get the omega-3 fats from your diet, from algae or fish. My brain worked pretty good before, but I actually have gotten on a better fat diet, including things like MCTL, which is really powerful for the brain, and my focus and my clarity has just gone through the roof. Now, also, you want to optimize protein. We need protein because if you lose muscle because you don't eat enough protein, it leads to this cascade of problems with low muscle mass. That's fatty deposits in your muscle leads to prediabetes, lowers your testosterone, which you need for brain function, lowers growth hormone, which you need for brain repair, increases cortisol, which causes brain damage, literally causes the shrinking of your hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. So, you want to make sure that you're having enough protein, ideally animal protein, which is better able to build muscle. And when you age faster, your brain takes a hit, it shrinks. So, you can keep your brain good by giving good fats and the right amounts of protein, omega-3 eggs, protein shakes, I like regenerative based goat wafer, protein shake in the morning, nut butters, fish for breakfast. All that is great. Also, stop poisoning your brain. Get rid of all the bad stuff. Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, food additives, preservatives, environmental chemicals, all of which really are a problem. Supplements also very important for the brain, a good quality multi, magnesium is important for the brain, calms the brain. It reduces the stimulation of the NDMA receptors, which is actually producing Alzheimer's risk. Vitamin D is important for the brain, omega-3 Fats, probiotics, all the B vitamins, folate, B6, B12 are critical for your brain and your neurotransmitter function. And you can find all these versions, the best versions, the cleanest versions at my online store, at store.drhyman.com, along with other brain boosting supplements. So you need to design a plan for your life that includes your overall health, but you ought to incorporate some of these important practices for your brain. But the good news is what prevents brain problems, prevents heart disease, prevents cancer, prevents diabetes and everything else. So, not like you do a million different things, but these principles are really important for brain health. Now, if you've tried all these things and you're still struggling, you got to dig a little deeper. For me, it was mercury poisoning. I was exercising, I was trying to eat well, I was doing all the right things, taking my vitamins, but I still wasn't better. See, sometimes you got to figure things out. It might be Lyme disease, it might be mold, it might be food sensitivities, it might be some gut issues. You need to probably work with a functional medicine doctor to figure it out. And you can go to ifm.org and you can find a practitioner certified in your area. So taking care of your brain is important. Don't neglect it. It's an important organ. And if it starts to go bad, you can fix it, but don't wait too long. So that's it for today's Health Bite. Be sure to share with your friends and family on social media, that I'd really love to hear. How have you helped your own brain problems, whether there's mood disorders, attention disorders, memory disorders? What have you done to help optimize your brain? We'd love to learn from you, and we hope you see you next week on The Doctor's Pharmacy. Narrator: 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.