How To Reverse Memory Loss With Diet And Lifestyle - Transcript

Narrator: Coming up on this episode of the Doctor's Pharmacy, Dr. Mark Hyman: What the research is showing is that the brain actually is very sensitive to sugar and that too much insulin, too much sugar is actually what's driving this cascade, which causes this epidemic of alzheimer's we're seeing. Welcome to the Doctor's Pharmacy. I'm Dr. Mark Hyman. That's pharmacy, and then have a place for conversations that matter. If you're worried about your mind and your memory, if you know anybody with Alzheimer's or have anybody in your family with Alzheimer's, I think this podcast is going to be an important one for you because we're going to talk about how to help your brain and how to prevent alzheimer's, what causes it, and actually the reality about this disease, which is that it's not something that's just inevitable. It's going to happen that you can do nothing about that you're a victim. Actually, this is a preventable disease for many, many people. If you understand what's going on with your underlying biology, and I'm going to share a case with you that is a really profound case that woke up my understanding of the reality of how the brain can heal. We go to the doctor and we get our cholesterol checked, we get our heart checked, but do we get our brain checked? How do we check our brain? How do we design a preventive program for our brains? So that's what we're talking about today, and as part of our Health bite series, which was little bits of health information to take small steps daily to make a big, big difference over time. Alright, so let's get into it. The truth is dementia is a huge problem. It's getting bigger every single day, and the statistics are pretty grim. 10% of 65 year olds, 25% of 75 year olds and fifty-percent of our 85 year olds will develop dementia or alzheimer's disease. And the fastest growing segment of our population is 85 and over. So it's a little scary. And when you look at globally, it's frightening the number of adults who are over 40 living with dementia. Worldwide is expected to triple from an estimated 57 million in 2019 to 153 million in 2050 because of population growth in aging. And that's a staggering number, and it's the most expensive disease, more than cancer, heart disease, anything else because of the cost of taking care of people at the end of the life with this. So today we're going to talk about specifically why Alzheimer's has been so hard to treat and why the scientific community kind of has missed the boat. We spent over two plus billion dollars, maybe 3 billion by now, trying to find drugs to actually treat alzheimer's, and it's been a massive failure, over 400 studies and basically Nada, nothing, ria nothing. So what are we doing wrong? What are we looking at? We're looking at amyloid. We're looking at all these different pathways to interrupt and fix instead of addressing the root causes. It turns out that some scientists at Brown discovered that there's a problem of insulin resistance in the brain. It's almost like diabetes in the brain and they're calling alzheimer's type three diabetes. So I want to unpack that a little bit. Now, there are many, many causes of alzheimer's, but a lot of it has to do with our poor metabolic health because it affects everything. Ninety-three 0.2% of Americans are in poor metabolic health, meaning they have some level of insulin resistance, they have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, they're overweight, they've had a heart attack or a stroke, and usually that's because of this phenomenon of insulin resistance. Now, what the research is showing is that the brain actually is very sensitive to sugar and that too much insulin, too much sugar is actually what's driving this cascade which causes this epidemic of alzheimer's we're seeing. The truth is that when you look at the research on dementia, look at new mri scans that can actually measure inflammation in the brain. They can look at changes in blood flow and function. They can see amyloid in the brain. We're seeing the evidence of the beginning of alzheimer's up to 30 or 40 years before you actually have any symptoms, before you even get pre-dementia. There's pre-dementia, we call myocardial impairment, and then there's full blown dementia. But we see changes in the brain. So this is happening early and it's affecting us because of our poor metabolic health. So the bad news is that our diet is predominantly sugar and starch. Probably 60% of our diet is ultra processed food. We have huge amounts of flour and sugar in our diet, 152 pounds of sugar and 133 pounds of flour per person per year on average. In America, I'm not having that much. So some of eating a lot more and this enormous amount of sugar and carbs is driving insulin resistance. It's driving basically diabetes of the brain. And it's powerful to understand this concept because when you do, you can actually stop eating all this sugar and starch and actually heal your brain. Now there's some guys out there, I just heard a podcast with Brian Johnson, who's an interesting guy who's created a thing called Blueprint, which is he basically is basically don't die. I don't want to die. So he's basically creating this model of self-care, but talks about sugar being completely off the table if you want to live a long time. Now, I don't have that extreme view. I think you can enjoy it occasionally, but it is a recreational drug and it is powerful and it does cause poor metabolic health. Now, when you look at studies of diabetics, for example, they have four times, like 400% increased risk of developing alzheimer's. People have pre-diabetes, not even those with full-blown diabetes also have a higher risk of having pre-dementia or myocardial impairment. So when you look at our culture, 42% are obese, 75% overweight, 93% metabolic and healthy. A lot of those people, one and two is the actual statistic, but I think it's probably much more than that. It's probably 60 70%. If you're overweight, you'd likely have some degree of insulin resistance. So that's a lot of people, and you don't have to have full-blown type two diabetes to get brain damage. You can actually have memory loss and cognitive impairment because of just this high levels of insulin glucose and insulin resistance. So we often think of the mind-body effect, how the mind affects the body, but we don't realize that we also have a body-mind effect that our brain is connected to the rest of our body and we have to actually take care of it. We have to take care of our brain and we have to learn how to create a brain-healthy life, not just a heart-healthy life or the rest of our body, but our brain is something we actually know how to take care of. And everything that happens in your body impacts your brain. And we're going to show you with a case study, which I'm going to share in a minute, of how we can actually unpack the disturbances in your body that affect your brain. I wrote a book about this years ago called the Ultramind Solution about how the body affects the brain as well as the mind affecting the body. So what we know now is that cognitive loss can be reversed. Now, I mentioned that there are 400 studies, over 400 studies, $2 billion. None thing worked, right? Well, there actually, it's been a couple of trials that have worked. One of 'em is called the FINGER trial, which is really interesting because they basically used an aggressive lifestyle approach, diet, exercise, stress reduction, and they aggressively treated risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, and so forth. And they found not only did people who with cognitive impairment not progress, not only did they not just stay stable, but they also reversed cognitive decline. And this is the first trial ever to show that you can actually reverse cognitive time with aggressive lifestyle therapy. And they didn't even use a full functional medicine approach. They just kind of just got people tuned up basically and got them healthy. So that's really a shock because if that's true, why aren't we doing this? And this is really, I think one of the biggest tragedies in healthcare right now is that we're not taking advantage of the science. We're ignoring it. We're looking for this single bullet, the magic bullet drug to fix a problem that actually can be fixed a lot with other therapies. And I've seen the cognitive decline in memory loss can be reversed. I'll tell you some stories. One quick story and then I'll get into the case. I had a patient, for example, who was an 85-year-old woman and she was, or maybe she was late seventies, and she was starting to have real bad cognitive impairment. And the doctor told her she had pre dementia and she was going to get alzheimer's and just kind of get her affairs in order and there was nothing to do. So I said, gee, well let's look. And she ended up having significant deficiencies of B vitamins, very high homocysteine, which is a marker of B vitamin deficiency, particularly B six folate and B12. So I gave her a high dose of folate, I gave her B12 shots, B six, and a bunch of other stuff, basically just simple support diet and her cognitive decline completely reverse. And a bunch of years later, I got a call from her. I thought, oh, maybe she's declining. She needs some help. She goes, oh no, Dr. Hyman, I'm doing great. I just want to know. I'm going trekking Nepal and I want to know what I should bring with me. And I'm like, okay, great. So I think we see these people who just kind of are given up on, but there is often a way to unpack this. And Dale Bredesen has done a lot of work on this. I've had him on the podcast, he's written a book called The End of Alzheimer's, and he's gotten a lot of pushback from the traditional medical community. But I'm going to tell you that I personally in my practice over the last decades have seen many, many people with dementia, cognitive decline, who we've been able to actually help and either improve a little bit or dramatically reverse. So I talk about all this now when I put people on a healthy diet, want to get 'em, basically, here's the thing, there's no diet for the brain, diet for the heart, diet for diabetes, different diet for cancer, basically there's some tweaks, but basically it's eating the same stuff, which is whole real food, cutting out the crap, ultra processed food, cutting on the sugar, and eating all the good fats. And I've written a lot about this in my book. The Blood Sugar Solution tend detox diet, eat fat, get thin. And when I put people on these diets, we see dramatic improvements in their memory. So there are a lot of causes of alzheimer's. It can be toxins, it can be infections. I mean, Chris Christopherson had Lyme disease and that was the cause of his alzheimer's, and they've reversed it with antibiotics. So we have to dig deeper. We can't just say, okay, you have memory loss and just get your fears in order. So when we look at the majority, I think the majority is really a cardiometabolic problem in the brain, and it really has to do with insulin resistance. When we overconsume sugar, don't even eat the good fats and we get what'll call diabetes and diabetes is this phenomena, prediabetes diabetes that leads to systemic inflammation. It creates a vicious cycle. And when we look at alzheimer's brains, they're inflamed. They have something called the glymphatic system, which is like the immune system of the brain, and it basically, it's a brain on fire and we get this inflammation that then damages the brain. And the same thing with the heart. Heart diseases, diseases of inflammation. Obesity is a disease of inflammation. Diabetes is a disease of inflammation. So when you've got this phenomena going on, it creates inflammation in the brain and that's what leads to alzheimer's. By the way, also depression and many mental illnesses are caused by inflammation in the brain. So really it's a very similar approach. So let's talk about how we reverse memory loss. What can we do and is it possible? The good news is you actually can reverse cognitive decline. You can reverse memory loss, and in many cases we can reverse dementia. Now, it's not easy. It takes a lot of effort and by the time you get dementia, you're already down the road. And Benjamin Franklin said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So we're going to talk about the ounce of prevention so you don't have to do the pound of cure, which is a lot of work, but we can use that pound of cure when we need it. And so the good news is when you actually control your blood sugar control insulin, you get rid of diabetes, it'll help your mood, help your focus, help your energy, and of course it'll help fix the problems with your brain and help prevent all the age-related brain diseases, including alzheimer's. Now, one of my patients came to see me with a really pretty significant case of cognitive decline in dementia, and he didn't had Alzheimer's early Alzheimer's, his name is George. I'm just not making it up. But anyways, it's a pseudonym. And he came to see me with his wife and he couldn't really manage his affairs. He was less able to function at home. He had to withdraw from his family and social relationships. He had mood. He wasn't really, his grandkids didn't want to be around him anymore, and he was pretty desperate, and so was his wife because he felt himself slipping away. Now, we found a lot of different things. He had significant insulin resistance. He wasn't really that overweight, but he had a big belly, like a little pooch in there in the front, and that was really a sign of visceral fat, organ fat insulin resistance. So he had pretty significant insulin resistance, and that was a big factor for him. We also found he had high levels of mercury and he had a lot of fish in his diet. He had a mouth full of fillings, so we had to get the mercury out of him, and we helped him detoxify with foods using kale, watercress, cilantro, all the cruciferous vegetables. We use milk thistle. We use nutrients like selenium, zinc, and some medications because we needed to actually pull the metals out of the system. We used something called DMSA, so we got it Mercury way down. It was extremely high three-fifty, which is something that we never see on a urine challenge test. I mean, I think it might've been the worst I've ever seen. And then we kind of cleaned up his diet. We put him on a high-fat, low-glycemic diet with lots of phytochemicals. We actually also found he had methylation problems. So high homocysteine, low b-twelve, folate B six, we got 'em on the right dose of folate b-six, and we know that people have a high homocysteine of over 14 have a 50% higher risk of getting alzheimer's. So this is a well-known phenomena in the research. Again, doctors will check for b-twelve levels when they're checking for dementia, but that's kind of about it. After aggressive therapy for a year, which was matched to his genetics, we did his genetic profile. We found he had example problems with genes that affect his detoxification and affect his methylation, which is the B vitamins we talked about. We also found he had the apoe-four double four, which is a big risk for alzheimer's. But even if you have these high-risk genes, you can actually change therapy to modify your diet or take the right supplements or do different treatments that actually help to address the genetic deficiencies. So we had amazing recovery. I mean, I was sort of shocked. I basically did this early on in my practice and I was like, I don't really know if this is going to work, but I'm just going to get everything tuned up. We treat the system, we don't treat the disease, we help the body restore balance. That's what functional medicine is. It's helping people get to a healthy ecosystem. So before I saw him, he couldn't manage his business. His grandchildren didn't want to be around him. He was really weird. When we basically optimized his biology, he was able to function again, and his grandchildren loved being with him, and he got his life back. I mean, it was pretty amazing. He was able to manage his business again. And it was a shock for me because I was like, wow, if this is true with this one patient, what is possible and why aren't we focused on this and why aren't we spending billions of dollars on researching these types of interventions based on functional medicine to help these patients? I mean, even if one person can reverse dementia, it's worth asking why. Now people say that's an anecdote. Well, anecdotes become anic data, and enough of them become actually when done properly in a research study, proof of concept, and actually something we should be doing. So we thought we couldn't reverse heart disease. Now we know we can. We couldn't reverse diabetes. We now know we can. Same thing with dementia. We can actually reverse it if we get it early enough. And of course, it's really important to get it early. If you wait too late, it's pretty hard. But we can deal with all the factors that affect the brain. Diet, exercise, stress. I mean, stress causes dementia too. Lack of exercise. I mean, if you just take a walk every day, you reduce your risk. Bios have risk dramatically, right? A lot of nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, mold, lots of hormonal dysregulation happens as you get older, lots of inflammation, even the gut. We now know that the gut microbiome when it's off can cause cognitive decline. We know that even the oral microbiome can be bad if you have bad gum disease. So we know this stuff. I wrote this book 15 years ago, UltraMind Solution, and in it I talked about the microbiome and the brain, which at the time barely anybody was talking about. And now it's like, oh yeah, well, of course. So basically the basic principles of functional medicine are quite simple. It's basically take out the bad stuff, put in the good stuff, optimize your biological systems. It's the science of creating health so your body knows what to do when you basically unburden it from the things that are causing disturbances. For him, it was heavy metals, it was sugar, it was starch. It was problems with his microbiome that we had to fix. He had terrible irritable bowel for years as well. And so then we gave him the things he needed, the right B vitamins and so forth, and the nutrients, and he basically recovered. So let's talk about basically eight basic steps to help optimize your brain health and reverse memory loss. The first is make sure your blood sugar is balanced. It's not just true for alzheimer's, but for every age-related disease, including aging itself, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, we now know that one of the biggest drivers of early death and also accelerated aging is insulin resistance. So make sure you pick out the bad stuff, all the refined sugar starches, flowers, occasionally have some sugar is fine. Alcohol is a big problem for the brain as well. Get rid of processed foods, ultra-processed foods. Dairy can be inflammatory for a lot of people. Goat and sheep can be better. Get rid of all the refined inflammatory oils, seed oils put in the good stuff, avocados, nuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, grass-fed meats, pastries, chickens, olive oil, cooking oil, fish oil. Fish oil is so important. So make sure you get enough of the healthy fats to make your brain happy. 60% of your brain is dha, so you want to include the omega-three fats or in fatty fish like small. I would say the small fish are the better. Those sardines, anchovies, herring. People don't like that mackerel, but I love those, and I think if you can start to eat those, you're going to get a lot of really amazing nutrients with low levels of mercury and toxins. Also, coconut oil can be very helpful. Sometimes mct oil can be great for the brain. You have to be careful in who responds to saturated fat and who doesn't. So it's a little tricky. And also whole pasturase h, nuts and seeds, really important. Also, exercise critical for the brain. When you exercise, you activate something called bdnf. BDNF is like miracle growth for the brain. It's called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, meaning it's grows brain cells, increases neuroplasticity or neurogenesis, and it's really powerful. So the more exercise you do, the more benefits you get. But studies show that really can really actually prevent and slow down the progression and even maybe help reverse dimension brain dysfunction. Also take the right supplements. We need a multivitamin. We need all those B vitamins that I mentioned and folate for the brain, Omega-III fats, really important vitamin D, and hopefully even a good probiotic. And that is sort of a basic foundation for brain health. Also, check your hormones as we age. Our hormones change like sex hormones and thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, they can all be out of balance. You need to get those tuned up, and it can be subtle, but you want to make sure you're optimized, not just normal. You want to be optimal. Also, if you have exposure to toxins like heavy metals or mold, you want to check those levels. You want to find a doctor going to help you detoxify properly. Stress also is bad for the brain. You know that high levels of stress shrink the hippocampus. That's the memory center of the brain. So you want to really learn the tools to mitigate stress, right? So I always say you have to actively relax. It's not just sitting on the couch and eating popcorn watching a movie. It's basically meditating, doing yoga, breath work, massage. There's a lot of ways I like to do, for example, hot and cold therapy, which really reduces cortisol and helps your nervous system. So find something that works for you, but it's really important. Also, sleep. If you don't sleep, you definitely get cognitive decline, and it's a risk factor for dementia. So eight hours every night is important and get good quality sleep. And I have a lot of a blog. We have actually a sleep whole course on sleep we can share with you. It's going to be in the show notes. So I think that we have to understand that while alzheimer's and dementia is scary, that we now know enough about what's causing it. That by a detailed analysis and by careful lifestyle changes, and by working with an experienced physician, you can actually help to slow and reverse the disease and obviously prevent it. So I think very confidently that this is going to be a disease like many other diseases that we have that we can actually treat right now. There's just no treatment at all. The drugs are pathetic. If you see a positive effect, it's maybe, oh, you delayed nursing home admission by three months. Well, that's not a blockbuster drug. So I hope this has been a hopeful podcast for you. I hope you share it with your friends and family. Maybe someone in your family or someone has cognitive decline. It's something we're all concerned about. I certainly think about it myself. There's a lot of other therapies that could be helpful. We didn't talk about hyperbaric oxygen and have a podcast coming up on that as well. So these are just to start, and there's a lot more to do. Obviously, I wrote a whole book about this, but you can actually give your brain the right things to help it heal and to actually make yourself feel better. So I hope you've enjoyed this podcast. Leave a comment, what have you done to help your brain get better? And we'll see you next week on The Doctor's Pharmacy. Narrator: 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 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 and search their find a practitioner database. It's important 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.