About Datis Kharrazian
Author of Why Isn't My Brain Working?: A Revolutionary Understanding of Brain Decline and Effective Strategies to Recover Your Brain's Health and Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? when My Lab Tests Are Normal: a Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Hashimoto's Disease and Hypothyroidism, Dr. Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci, has spent more than a decade teaching several thousand hours of postgraduate education in non-pharmaceutical applications for chronic illnesses, autoimmune disorders, and complex neurological disorders all over the world to health care providers. He has trained thousands of health care professionals in an evidence- and physiological-based model of clinical practice. His reputation not only as an educator but also as a clinician has become renowned worldwide.
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Patients from all over the world fly to his practice in San Diego, California to understand his perspective regarding their condition and to apply natural medicine alternatives to help them improve their quality of life. Dr. Kharrazian has become the referral source for many doctors nationally and internationally for complex cases.
Dr. Kharrazian is one of the most sought-after educators and clinicians in natural medicine, laboratory analysis, and nutrition. His seminar schedule is booked years in advance. He lectures both nationally and internationally at major medical and scientific conferences worldwide.
He conducts several professional and scientific presentations a year in addition to giving radio and television interviews. Dr. Kharrazian has personally trained a group of more than a dozen exceptional doctors to lecture nationally to meet the demands by health care providers on how he clinically manages complex cases.
Connect with Dr. Datis Kharrazian
4:20 Dr. Kharrazian’s Focus on the Brain: Dr. Kharrazian always wanted to work with chronic patients. Many had endocrine issues that could not be addressed with replacement and many others had degenerative brain issues that could not be addressed with pharmaceutical intervention. He finds that diet, nutrition and lifestyle can has a profound impact on the brain.
6:15 The Neuro-Inflammatory Process: We have always been told that if you just rest after a brain injury, everything should be fine. Research now shows that when someone gets a traumatic brain injury, it begins an inflammatory cascade, a domino effect that goes on for years. In the literature, it is called Post Traumatic Encephalitis. It can lead to Post Traumatic Encephalomalacia, where the brain actually softens. Symptoms of this inflammatory cascade may not be felt until 3 years, 5 years, or maybe 10 years later. During the acute phase, immediate post injury, we want to reduce further injury. The later symptoms, like chronic depression, when one cannot remember words and brain fog, may not show up for years and we are unlikely to link it to the initial injury.
7:59 Neurons and Microglia: Glial cells outnumber neurons. More than half of the mass of the brain is glial cells. In the past 20 years, we have discovered that glial cells are the immune cells of the brain. They remove debris from the brain. As neurons normally die, glial cells chew off the dead portions so synaptic activity is not impaired.
8:43 Glial Cells and Inflammation: Every neurodegenerative process and every inflammatory process in the brain activates glial cells. Glial cells can then begin to destroy healthy cells in the brain. Traumatic brain injury causes damage to neurons, which activates glial cells, which activates more glial cells, and so on. This triggers an inflammatory cascade in the brain.
9:17 Brain Inflammation vs Inflammation Elsewhere: With glial cells, there is no OFF switch. This is unlike inflammation elsewhere in the body. Our bodies have mechanisms, such as regulatory T-cells which help suppress inflammation. Since there is no OFF switch for brain inflammation, events that we have throughout our lives, add to the inflammation and expedites the degeneration of our brains and the loss of brain function overall.
10:41 What Happens When Glial Cells are Activated? When glial cells become activated, they begin an inflammatory response. As neurons become inflamed, they first lose their nerve conduction, nerve speed. The biggest symptom of this is brain fog. It is the feeling of slowness, disconnection, or when one cannot get their thoughts together. Neurons are connecting more slowly. Eventually, these inflamed neurons can cause atrophy in the brain. Depending upon which area of the brain are involved, different symptoms will occur.
11:43 Increased Susceptibility to Other Triggers: Once glial cells have been activated, inflammation is more easily triggered by other things. Perhaps consuming an inflammatory food will now bring the symptom of brain fog. From the point of injury, it can cause a downward spiral in health.
12:36 Other Glial Cell Activation Triggers: If a neuron is not activated, glial cells believe the neuron is dead and consume it. If there are areas of your brain that you do not use, for example if you no longer do math, the glial cells eat those neurons. Blood sugar surges or imbalances trigger an inflammatory response in glial cells. It is a leading contributor to dementia. That is why the term Type 3 Diabetes is being used for dementia. Systemic inflammation elsewhere in the body can activate glial cells. People with irritable bowel syndrome have white matter lesions in the brain. Gastrointestinal inflammation creates inflammatory cytokines that cross the blood brain barrier and activate glial cells, causing brain inflammation. Smoking can turn on glial cells. People, who have poor circulation, cold hands and feet, usually have poor circulation to the brain as well.
14:31 Gluten and Glial Cell Activation: Gluten sensitivity is a major trigger for glial cell activation in many people. Celiac gluten exposure activates zonulin, which opens the blood brain barrier. Many other immune triggers can then turn on these glial cells.
15:00 Different Brain Responses to Head Injury: Someone who has had few priming events, their blood sugar was stable, they had healthy circulation, they had a healthy diet with no inflammation, will have a less severe response to a brain injury from glial cells. Someone who eats processed and fast food and has poor circulation will have a far more severe inflammatory cascade from the head trauma. We had previously thought that it was the intensity of the trauma itself that indicated the impact to the brain. This is why Dr. Kharrazian takes a full account of diet and lifestyle prior to the brain trauma.
16:56 Exercise to Optimize Brain Health: Physical exercise serves your brain in multiple ways. It can literally save your brain. Staying physically active, raising heart rate a few times per week has a major impact on the brain. It has a noticeable positive impact to brain function. Exercise causes a huge neurochemical shift in our brain, flooding it with dopamine and other healthy brain chemicals. BDNF(Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is released during exercise. BDNF is what allows neurons to connect to one another. We have the greatest number of neurons when we are first born. We lose neurons throughout our lives. The connections, through BDNF, between these neurons are how we maintain function. It is called positive plasticity and helps us maintain brain function throughout our lives. It is known that the greater the intensity of the exercise, the greater the increase in levels of BDNF. Research is showing that it only requires a few minutes of high intensity to raise BDNF. The more coordination that is required during physical exercise, the better it is for the brain.
19:57 Rehab the Brain: By doing what we are bad at, we rehab the brain. It is not easy to do, but it is an easy way to optimize brain function.
21:13 Risk to Athletes: In every athletic activity where there may be head trauma, one must weigh the risk neural degeneration and the benefit of neural activation. Dr. Kharrazian has athletes, whose sports can include trauma, take Vinpocetine. It is a natural botanical that has been shown to increase blood flow and circulation to the brain. You can buy it over the counter and take 10 to 30 mgs per day. It has been shown to help in the recovery of strokes. He also has them take EPA/DHA daily, as they have been shown to help with brain recovery.
23:34 Increasing Circulation in the Brain: Anything that raises heartrate, improves circulation. Gingko improves blood flow to the brain. Eliminating anemia, smoking cessation, addressing asthma, and addressing hypothyroidism also improve blood circulation in the brain.
25:41 Inflammation Indicators: Neurons have no pain fibers. We can have brain inflammation, yet have no pain as an indicator. A headache is a vascular event. The inner gut mucosa also has no pain receptors, so we do not necessarily feel pain when our guts are inflamed. If you get bloating/distention and then brain fog, a slowing of brain function, it is an indicator that you may have eaten an inflammatory food. People think it is normal, but it is not. Continued exposure to that reaction will potentially work to degenerate the brain.
27:01 You May Not Know That Your Brain Is Inflamed: Dr. Kharrazian and his associates looked at 400 healthy blood donors, who had normal blood chemistry and no chronic diseases. They were checked for milk and wheat antibodies. Twenty percent of the donors had reactions to either milk or wheat protein. The blood of the affected 20 percent of donors was tested for antibodies to mylan, mylan basic protein, and neurofilament, proteins in the brain, and found that half of these donors were reacting to their brains. They were experiencing a subtle neuroinflammatory autoimmune response taking place from milk and wheat.
28:52 Brain Trauma and the Blood Brain Barrier: Papers have been showing that within 2 to 3 hours after traumatic brain injury, the blood brain barrier is breached. The blood brain barrier is the brain’s protection from the triggers that can turn on glial cells.
29:26 Brain Trauma and Leaky Gut: Animal studies show that within 2 to 3 hours of traumatic brain injury, the intestinal gut barrier breaks down as well, creating a leaky gut/leaky brain phenomenon. This makes the brain even more vulnerable to dietary triggers. In addition, molecular mimicry is heightened. It is where the body cannot distinguish between foes to be vanquished and our body’s tissues, including brain tissue. Neurological autoimmune diseases can result from someone’s immune system attacking their brain.
31:22 Who Should Be Tested and How? Dr. Kharrazian uses Cyrex lab for testing. Array number 2 is an intestinal permeability screen, to check for leaky gut and array number 20, which is a blood brain barrier antibody test to check for a breach. He also checks for antibodies to brain tissue. Almost 80% of his patients with brain injuries that impact brain function have broken gut barriers, broken blood brain barriers, and glial activation.
33:02 The Strict Protocol: Those who suffer from leaky gut, leaky brain must avoid all inflammatory foods using something like a paleo diet or autoimmune paleo diet. They need to consume lots of antioxidants to raise glutathione levels for the brain. Also helping to reduce inflammation are high amounts of N-acetylcysteine, turmeric, and resveratrol.
Welcome back, everyone. It’s Mike Mutzel here with highintensityhealth.com. So fired up and grateful that you’re with us. We’re at episode #28 and today we’re live with Dr. Datis Kharrazian, and we’re going to talk about brain health and what we can do to maximize our brain function, prevent and hopefully perverse some traumatic brain injury, and much more. I’ve been bugging Dr. Kharrazian for quite some time to get on the show because it’s football season and there are kids running around playing football. We have on Monday night and Sunday and Thursday, and then we also have kids playing soccer, and let’s face it, people are banging their heads and I wanted to pick his brain and talk about strategies we can implement in our lives to maximize brain health and so forth. So with that, let me tell you a little bit more about Dr. Datis Kharrazian; he’s an expert in this field, functional integrative medicine. He’s the author of two best-selling books, “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal,” and the latest book we’re going to dive into today, “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” In addition to writing many books, Dr. Kharrazian is board-certified in many postgraduate specialty programs, including neurology, nutrition, and much more. He lectures all throughout the world teaching healthcare practitioners, postgraduate education and non-pharmaceutical applications for chronic illnesses, autoimmune disorders, and complex neurological disorders. As you'll soon see, he’s just a wealth of knowledge and really nice person. So Datis, thanks so much for being here. How are you doing today?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Very good. Thank you.
Mike Mutzel: Well, fantastic. Thanks again for being here. I really appreciate you coming on the show. So before we talk about the brain, let’s talk about your back story. I was living in Colorado when I got into this industry back in ’06, and I remember you doing a lot of endocrinology lectures. I remember these charts—cortisol, gut liver wind up—a lot of like immune and endocrine focus. So, what sort of life experiences or patient cases or something like that caused you to shift from a really endocrine-based focus to more of a brain-based focus?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: For me, basically, I’ve always wanted to work with chronic patients, and I just kind of in leverage with chronic patients faith, where the patients are going to a healthcare system and they go and get help and there’s not a strategy for them. We see a lot of them have endocrine issues that are not being addressed by a simple replacement, and we see really, really a lot of chronic sick people that have brain degeneration—and that gets ignored the most; they have full-blown neurological disease. So I think for me we just work with chronic patients, there is initially a goal to get information more about thyroid receptors, but they’re not being answered properly, to have some information that can help them. And then the other area where we just see a whole healthcare system is people that have brain impairment or early signs of neurodegeneration or those that suffer from brain injury and they really don’t know what to do, and part of the reason is there’s no pharmaceutical intervention for them to really make that much different, and that’s really is something where diet, nutrition and lifestyle can have a huge impact for. The goal of my second book is really trying to get information out to those that are suffering from brain-related issues.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah, that’s fantastic, and you did a great job. That book is amazing. So much great information on that, and I learned a ton about that. But for practitioners or people that are listening that want to learn more about your work, you’re part of many summits, but two excellent ones that are going on right now that I want to know people all about—I don’t think we’re going to talk about it today much, but the gut-brain axis, you dove a lot into at the Digestion Session, so people want to learn more about that, go to gutsummit.com. I know you did a video interview about thyroid and various autoimmune conditions with Dr. Amy Myers—immunesummit.com—you can see live interviews with Dr. Kharrazian, too, if you want to learn more about that. So right now, it’s football season, soccer season, there’s a lot of trauma, high-intensity sports going on, so let’s talk about the susceptibility of the brain and the damaged brain and kind of like how things begin in terms of the neuroinflammatory process.
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: You know, one of the things that brain injury is we’re always taught and told that if we get a brain injury, you may feel dizzy for a few days or feel off for a few days and then everything’s okay; and as long as you have a few days to rest, everything should be fine. But what the research is now showing is that once you get a traumatic brain injury, there’s an inflammatory cascade that continuous to happen for years and years, pretty much ongoing from that point of trauma. This has been referred to in the literature as posttraumatic encephalitis and eventually leads to what they call “posttraumatic encephalomalacia,” which is where the brain actually stops. I teach brain dissection at Bastyr University, and a lot of times we extract these brains and we can actually feel the encephalomalacia areas of the brain and you can feel this mushiness. So, what happens is that once you get a traumatic brain injury, you really get a domino effect, that the inflammation continues on—and the symptoms that people may suffer from a brain injury may not take place for three years, five years, 10 years later. And this window of just trying to get to the acute phase is really something that we need to really understand and not the only answer to look at. In the acute phase, we definitely want to decrease any further insult to the brain. But the problem is that sometimes patients start to get chronic depression or they get brain fog, can't remember their words, and they have had a traumatic brain injury several years ago—and they don’t associate that that could have been the initial trigger for the event.
Mike Mutzel: I love that. So, in your book, you talk about the microglia and why they have no off switch. I think for a lot of people, when they hear the word, “neuron,” they know what that is, but not too many people understand what the “microglia” are, and they actually outnumber, as you talk about in your book, the number of neurons. So, let’s talk about this balance between neurons and microglia.
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: So, we look at the brain. The brain is actually more microglia than it is neurons. So more than half of the mass of the brain are actually these cells called “glial cells,” and “glia” is the word for glue, and they initially thought that the function of these glial cells is to glue neurons together. Over the past 20 years, I’ve really realized that these glial cells are really the immune cells in the brain. What these glial cells normally do is they basically get rid of debris in the brain so as our neurons normally die off, these glial cells come in and chew off debris so we can help this synapsis. We don’t want any proteins or debris in the way of neuron synapsis. So, these glial cells have a really great function for us because they help clean up our brain and help synapsis conducted in a proper way, but they can also be primed towards an inflammatory state, and every neurodegenerative process—every inflammatory process—of the brain activates these glial cells involved, and these glial cells can not only get rid of debris in the brain but it can actually start destroy healthy cells of the brain. And one of the things that happens, for example, in a brain injury is that the trauma itself creates destruction to neuron, which then turn glial cells, then these glial cells act in a domino fashion where they turn another glial cells and those glial cells turn other glial cells, and that creates an inflammatory cascade in the brain; but there’s no off switch, and it’s one of the big differences between brain inflammation and inflammation throughout the rest of the body. Throughout the rest of the body, we have other cells; for example, regulatory T cells that once inflammation is dealt with, that the inflammation is addressed and suppressed. In the brain, we don’t really have an off switch for these glial cells and inflammatory cascade—so the more inflammation that we have throughout our lifespan and the more these inflammatory mechanisms add up, the sooner we degenerate our brain and lose brain function. So a traumatic brain injury could be a huge trigger for brain inflammation, and this is one of the areas of research right now and this seems to be an area of focus where we may be able to help a lot of people with brain injury if we could dampen the inflammation.
Mike Mutzel: So what I hear you saying—and this is kind of how we start the call off—an initial event, whether it be head trauma or a concussion or something like that can create just the activation or a little bit of the damage or the activation of these microglial cells, and they continue to fire and fire and fire, create this vicious cycle, and the end result is what like brain atrophy, reduced neuronal synaptic neurodegeneration as you call it, but what is the final product that causes these symptoms of memory issues and word retrieval, and depression or malaise?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: The glial cells can activate it. They actually create an inflammatory response to begin with, and when these neurons get inflamed, first thing that happens is neurons lose their what they call “neuroconduction,” so their nerve speed; and then most people have brain inflammation from glial activation. There will just be a brain fog; that’s really the biggest symptom. And then the brain fog is when they just can’t get their thoughts clear, their mental speed is low, they just don’t feel like they’re connecting—and actually, that’s what’s happening. These neurons are not connecting in the speed that they’re used to during an inflammatory state. Over time, these neurons that are inflamed—eventually they start to degenerate, and you actually do have atrophy in the brain. So depending on what area of the brain is involved, you may have specific symptoms, so the frontal cortex is involved—you may get depression, inability to focus, inability to double-task, and to motivate yourself to do things. If the temporal lobe’s involved, then sound may be an issue; you may be sound-sensitive. If your occipital lobe is involved, you may have flutters. So different areas of the brain can cause different symptoms; but for the most part, if the inflammatory cascade that triggers it and when people start to have these glial cells activated, other things can start to trigger them, so if they eat something that’s inflammatory, they get a brain fog. But that pre-existing inflammation could have initially really been triggered by a head trauma, so once people get brain traumatic injuries, they really do become susceptible to any other trigger that activates the glia, and then this is where they really see a downwards pattern on their health from that point of injury.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah, and I think it’s really important for people to understand that the microglia are really macrophages of the brain. There are three different types of macrophages, if you will, and so we can get this—correct me if I’m wrong, but we may not have head trauma, per se, to turn on these microglial cells that will cause neuroinflammatory insult. So let’s talk about the peripheral effects and how leaky gut, poor gut health, and blood sugar imbalances can activate these microglial cells.
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Sure. The other thing about glial cells is they’re also—if you have neurons that are not activated, the glial cells think these neurons are dead, so basically eat them up. So if there’s an area of the brain that you don’t use—for example, you don’t use math or calculations, and do task that require your left cortex; over time, since these neurons aren’t firing, glial cells see them as debris and they chew them up. So, lack of used cells activates glial cells. But if they’re already primed to hide state, then this becomes an issue because they’ll only turn on to start to create this major inflammatory response. So, here’s the thing—there are many things that turn on these glial cells. One of the biggest triggers for glial cells is dysglycemia or blood sugar balances. Insulin surges are a major driver of glial cells, and this is why they’re using the term “type 3 diabetes” for dementia at this point, because we know the insulin itself, that when people eat high amounts of carbohydrates and they get that crash and fatigue after meals and sugar cravings after meals; those things are related to endocrine insulin rush. Those insulin rushes turn on glial cells and actually turn on inflammation and brain degeneration, so this is a major contributing factor to dementia. We know that any systemic inflammation can turn on these glial cells. There are multiple papers coming right now out these past five years where they’re showing that people that have irritable bowel syndrome have light minor lesions in the brain, and that gastrointestinal inflammation creates these inflammatory cytokines; they cross the blood-brain barrier and they actually turn on glial cells in the brain and you get brain inflammation. In functional medicine, there’s always been the saying, “Gut on fire is brain on fire,” meaning that gastrointestinal inflammation can turn on brain inflammation. People that smoke—anything that causes hypoxia to the brain can turn on glial cells. Even poor circulation—people that have cold hands and feet usually have poor circulation to the brain as well, so people that have poor circulation have less oxygen to the brain; that turns on glial cells. There are direct mechanisms when glial cells are activated from some proteins. We know that gluten sensitivity is a major trigger for glial cell activation in a lot of individuals, and gluten sensitivity has also been shown to—especially the celiac version of the gluten sensitivity—has been shown to relate to zonulin, which opens up the blood-brain barrier. Now any other protein triggers or immune triggers can then turn on these glial cells. So a lot of things can bind to glial cells, and this is also important because not everyone, for example, that have a head injury, respond the same way. If you have two different people and one person didn’t really have many priming effects of their brain from these factors; for example, they didn’t have any blood sugar insulin surge, they have healthy circulation, their diet was really healthy, they didn’t have much inflammation—if they get a head trauma, then those glial cells are not already as primed for inflammatory cascade so their response is not as severe. In the other person, for example, that eats processed food, eats fast food all the time and has an inflammatory diet and has poor circulation—if they get a head trauma, they could have a severe inflammatory cascade from the head trauma. And a lot of times, we think the intensity of the trauma to the brain is the key factor, but it’s not really the only issue. The other issue is how well these glial cells are primed. So whenever we do a workup and health histories on people that have traumatic brain injuries, we really want to look at their diet and lifestyle and other triggering factors before their head trauma, and then we get a general idea of why some people that have a minor head trauma have severe consequences from their traumatic event, while others have severe brain trauma and they’ve recovered in a healthy, optimal way. So all these factors really matter—not only before the traumatic injury and after—as far as things that activate these glial cells.
Mike Mutzel: Gosh, there’s so much to take away from there. Let’s start out with great information. I love where this is going now. You started out with that last part with basically use it or lose it. So, we know that a lot of people are watching TV or they’re driving their car, not really engaging their brain. What are some of the best ways that we can globally incorporate all these different neurons and really incorporate that brain function and stuff like that? I know you read a lot, you teach, you’re constantly engaging your brain. It comes clear because you’re so well-spoken, but what are some of the best ways that you can recommend to the general public or your patients that they can optimize their brain health?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Well, the best and most evidenced to support brain function, without question, is something everyone already knows, but they may not have a connection, which is exercise. So physical exercise really serves your brain in multiple ways, and it can literally save your brain. So people that are physically inactive—they don’t have to be an athlete trying to get a six pack; just the fact that they raise their heart rate several times a week may have major impacts to the brain. I think most people can even notice the direct effects of that. I mean, you can have a person, for example, driving to the gym, they listen to music that doesn’t sound so great, and then they work out, they turn on the same song, and now the sound is fantastic, and they know the instruments, they can feel the pitches; that’s a change in brain function. So, whenever we exercise, we actually get a huge neurochemical shift in our brains, we just saturate our brain with dopamine and other chemicals that are really healthy for our brain, but the key thing that happens only in exercise is really something called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), and brain-derived neurotrophic factor is what allows your neurons to connect to each other. So throughout our life, we constantly lose neurons, and we actually have the most amount of neurons when we’re firstborn; all we do throughout life is we lose them. That allows us to maintain this function—how these neurons branch into each other or connect. So, each of these neurons have little arms and if they can attach to another neuron, then we can have function and we can have synapsis; so that connectivity happen. So, what exercise does is it activates this chemical in the brain called BDNF, and then BDNF allows these neurons to connect to each other and then we can maintain function. We’re always going to lose neurons, but if we keep that connectivity together which they call “positive plasticity,” then we can maintain highly functioning brain throughout our lifespan as we age. So, one of the single most impactful things that you can do to maintain your brain health is just to do physical exercise. The more coordination the exercise involves, the better it is for the brain. So, if you’re, for example, running in flat (and it’s different when you’re running in hills or running in sand), there’s much stimulation when you’re running in different terrain. If you’re playing sports that require high hand-reflex coordination, or you’re coordinated heavily, is the best impact for the brain. We also know that high-intensity exercise tends to have a direct impact on BDNF levels; so the more the intensity exercise is, the greater the BDNF levels are. Some of the research is showing that you only need to be at high intensity greater than 70 percent of your massive heart rate for few minutes to really get this surge of BDNF, and you don’t need to do it for hours. So for people that casually jog, doing a couple of splints in between it can have a huge impact in BDNF. This is what the research is doing. So the single easiest, most common thing that people can do to really maintain their brain health is to just get some physical activity every day and at least a couple of minutes of really high heart rate activity would be ideal. And then outside of that, just using your brain—wherever you’re bad at is really how we have the brain, so if you’re bad at something, you should probably do it; and that’s not always easy to do, but that’s really the easiest way to look at optimizing brain function.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah, that’s really great stuff. So, if we go back to football and we think about just the trauma and some of this headset we see on Sunday and Saturday with college and stuff, these are massive hits. The average show where to put on a football home and take it like that, they might be out; I mean, unconscious or something, but as you’re talking, I’m just thinking out loud. These athletes are doing burst training, they’re probably eating good diets, and so maybe their brain is more resilient. Do you want to speak to that?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Well, I think most athletes that I've worked with do not have good diets, and most athletes I’ve worked with feel they’re indestructible. I’m talking about professional level. Most professional athletes really think they’re indestructible and we really see high-inflammatory diet with them. But there’s the exception. There’s a spectrum of them. But for the most part, professional athletes—even children—that have been playing football, or any kind of sport that they can have a traumatic brain injury, this is a serious thing. I mean, you could have a brain trauma that forever changes the person’s life. One of the things we know about is that yes, they’re getting a heart rate. Those are all things that are really protective for the brain, so that the ultimate question is are they doing more things that are protective for the brain than things that are destructive to brain, or they’re doing more things that improve the health of the brain or are they having more things that create glial activation and neurodegeneration. At the end of the day, it’s the combination for those unique individuals that can determine how they do. Now, in my practice, I have individuals that are in sports, but I always have them take something called “vinpocetine.” Vinpocetine is a natural botanical, but it’s been shown to increase blood flow and circulation to brain; and vinpocetine—you can buy over the counter, you can take about 10-30 mg a day; and it’s spelled “vinpocetine.” Vinpocetine is one of these things they’ve done studies with. They’ve done some pretty amazingly cool animal studies where they give these animals vinpocetine and then they clamp a part of the arteries of the brain and basically reduce for the brain, which is one of the mechanisms of head trauma. The subjects that have been given vinpocetine have immediate recovery and they have less brain inflammation, and they live longer. It’s really amazing. There’s also a study done on vinpocetine where they gave it to stroke patients with head injury patients and they tend to recover in function more effectively right away. So for me, if I’m working with an athlete, I’m working with a patient that is involved in sports that can include trauma, I really like them to have vinpocetine as an ongoing thing daily. I also like them to have EPA/DHA in the fish oil; those have been shown to help with brain recovery. So even if they do get the trauma, they now use their physiology to live in such a way where they can heal faster and they can recover much faster, and these types of the trauma can potentially be a blast.
Mike Mutzel: I love that. We talked about hypoxia and circulation and you just hit on that with vinpocetine, but anything else in addition to the HIT training and regular exercise and movement? We know that the brain needs a lot of blood, needs a lot of fuel, a lot of glucose. Anything else to support the circulatory system that you found to be really beneficial to optimize brain health?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Anything that raises a person’s heart rate is a major impact to improve your circulation. So yeah, we talked about exercise. Other thing that we can use to improve circulation to brain is actually gingko. Gingko is very easy to buy over the counter and very inexpensive; that also improves circulation of blood to the brain. We can also look at clinical mechanisms that can impact the oxygen to the brain which is something you have to work with your practitioner about. But if you’re anemic in any kind, that can really impact blood circulation hypoxia to brain; a person smokes—that can impact hypoxia to brain; a person has, for example, hypothyroidism, they can impair the circulation and get blood flow to the brain. So, there are a lot of metabolic clinical factors that can impact oxygen delivery to the brain. Even mild asthma can impact oxygen to brain. So there’s a point where it gets to be a little more clinical outside of maybe what listeners can take away from. But for the most part, if your hands and feet are cold, that really indicates a poor circulation and you probably have poor circulation and all your distal tissues—not just hands and feet, but also brain. In my brain book, I have a whole chapter on the different nutrients that can impact blood flow to the brain, but the easiest ones to be used are gingko and vinpocetine.
Mike Mutzel: Perfect, great information there. Now, let’s go back. Something you’ve talked about many times and referenced in your book a lot is microglial priming. So, you mentioned gluten and various food antigens. Do you want to talk about some of the biggest ways that we can inadvertently, from poor lifestyle, prime our microglia, and then how could we prevent that from a dietary or nutritional standpoint?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Well, anything that’s inflammatory causes insulin surges, and insulin surges can turn on microglial cells. We also know there’s research that shows things like elevated homocysteine, which can be from methyl B12 depletion, can prime glial cells. It really truly is an inflammatory battle. Anything—any part that causes inflammation can turn on glial cells. The interesting thing the most common source that we understand and know about is dietary triggers. The interesting thing about the brain is that the brain has no pain fibers; there are no nociceptors in the brain. When people feel pressure in the head or headaches and head pain, that’s usually a vascular event, but actual neurons themselves don’t have any pain fibers. And because of that, when people have inflammation in the brain they don’t really notice it. The other area of the body that doesn’t have any pain fibers are nociceptors in the inner gut mucosa. So the inner gut mucosa also has no pain fibers; the outer layers do, which is when they expand, you can feel some pressure and pain, but the inner lining in the gut doesn’t, that’s why when you have an intestinal inflammation, we don’t usually feel pain, but we do sometimes get bloating. The very common we see in patients and individuals, they get bloating distension and at the same time, they get brain fog. So, if you ever get brain fog and bloating and distension and you notice your brain fog is going down whether it’s slow mental speed or just you can't find words, those are all signs that you probably have eaten food that’s causing some brain inflammation. For some people, they tend to ignore that and they think it’s normal, but it’s not. And continued exposure to that reaction is really going to potentially degenerate the brain. Some people have lots of food sensitivities they have that react that way. The most common food reaction is obviously gluten. Myself and Dr. Vojdani, we published a paper this year in the journal called “Nutrients,” where we put that 400 healthy blood donors, and these are blood donors that don’t have a diagnosed disease and they have a normal chemistry, 24 profile, and they don’t have things like HIV or hepatitis—they were all screened. So these are pretty much people that think for the most part that they’re healthy. We checked them for milk and wheat antibodies, and we found 20 percent of the population have normal healthy blood donors had reactions to either milk or wheat protein. And this is different, because they think celiac is less than 1 percent and gluten sensitivity could be maybe 5-6 percent. In the paper we’ll publish, we found that 20 percent of our findings have reaction to milk and wheat. But what we did is of those people that react to milk and wheat, we checked them for antibodies to myelin, myelin basic protein and neurofilament (these are different proteins in the brain), and we found half of those that reacted to milk and wheat reacted against their brain, that there was a several neuroinflammatory autoimmune reaction taking place from milk and wheat.
Mike Mutzel: Wow.
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: And this is pretty interesting information because when we look at dietary proteins, milk and wheat for a lot of people also don’t create any symptoms. This is why sometimes laboratory testing can be very useful. I think with the recent excitement or Dr. Perlmutter’s book, “Grain Brain,” being a New York Times Bestseller, people are getting more consciousness at how gluten and other grains can potentially impact the brain, but this is really a serious finding, and I think if anyone has any type of brain trauma, they should definitely avoid those two proteins first; and if they don’t have brain trauma, they should really look at how those food can really impact their brain function. The key thing with traumatic brain injury that really makes everything really serious is that papers that have been published now that show one of the immediate effects of having brain trauma is you actually break down your blood-brain barrier. So within the two to three hours after a traumatic brain injury, the blood-brain barrier is breached, and the blood-brain barrier is really the wall, the protection, from different triggers that can turn on glial cells. So if the person may become severely reactive from dietary foods after a traumatic brain injury. We also know, as published in multiple animal studies, that when they do traumatic brain injury in the animals, within the first two to three hours, the intestinal gut barrier gets broken down, too, so we get a leaky gut-leaky brain phenomenon. So, the combination of the leaky gut-leaky brain phenomenon then really makes the brain susceptible to series of foods that are very inflammatory for brain, and glial cells can be really activated by wheat and dairy proteins, but we also know that there’s molecular mimicry with, for example, gliadin and different parts of the brain especially the cerebellum, and myelin sheaths tend to be very reactive to milk. So, here’s the worst scenario, someone has pre-existing microglial factors—they have poor circulation, they have a diet of processed foods, they just turn American diet which is very inflammatory, they’re having milk and wheat in their diet, and they have a lot of intestinal permeability, they get a traumatic brain injury; now, their blood-brain barrier is open up, their gut barrier is open up, they tend to eat the same way, they have this inflammatory cascade intensified, amplified on the brain, and they wonder why they can't recover from their brain injury. And eventually, some of these turn into neurological autoimmune diseases where they’ll have continued autoimmune attacks against their own brain; I mean, their immune system attacking their own brain.
Mike Mutzel: Wow. That’s incredible. I think our listeners are going to hit the rewind button right there to listen to that five-minute segment again. Datis, that was amazing stuff. What I hear you saying is really that the gut and brain accesses a huge area of intervention that we all need to address and starting out with lab testing for our folks that don’t have symptoms, because like you said, there’s no pain receptors and so forth on the lining of the gut and the brain. So what testing do you recommend and who’s the candidate for this advanced testing?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Okay, the testing that I use in my office is I use testing from the lab called Cyrex Labs—and Cyrex Labs has Array 2, which is an intestinal permeability screen that checks for leaky gut; and then they have Array 20, which is the blood-brain barrier protein antibody. If a person has a blood-brain barrier breakage, we see high levels of blood-brain barrier protein antibodies. And the third thing that I could check is neurological antibodies—antibodies against brain tissue itself. When the combination goes freeze, you could see if someone is really stuck in this axis. I can tell you working with a lot of traumatic brain injury people—fortunately, almost 80 percent of them—once they have a traumatic brain injury that really impacts their function, you can see that they have broken down blood-brain barriers, broken down gut barriers, and glial activation. So we see that all the time, just like recent papers published. We really see that to be a true clinical phenomenon—so we have to get that under control. Other people that have been struggling with chronic food sensitivities and leaky gut, and then traumatically injured their brain, they could be stuck in the same vicious cycle of breached blood-brain barrier, gut barrier issues. And then, the question asked is how it has turned on an autoimmune inflammatory cascade in brain, and if they have antibodies to their own nerve proteins like vitamin B6 proteins, the sheath around the nerves or synapse in the neurofibromin, then this is now turned into a subtle neurological autoimmunity—and this really, really requires strict protocols, avoiding all the inflammatory foods—kind of like pretty much a Paleo diet or autoimmune Paleo diet, and then taking lots of antioxidants for the brain, things that can release glutathione (things like N-acetylcysteine, things like Centella, and then flavonoids to dampen brain inflammation). Most effective ones published so far are turmeric and resveratrol. So high amounts of those compounds, and then a really strict diet. And then, usually we’ll see if they start to function at a much higher level, and hopefully over time, we want to see those blood-brain markers, protein markers, and intestinal permeability markers normalize.
Mike Mutzel: That’s really great. Now for folks that don’t have a traumatic brain injury but just want to optimize their brain health and prevent later in life mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s—would you recommend one of these tests, like once a year is a baseline to make sure that we’re on the right track and not causing neuroinflammatory cascades?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: I don’t know if you need to go that far, but doing these tests on a routine basis, because they tend to require a blood draws; for some people, that could be expensive. It really depends on what your priority levels are. I know I don’t routinely test all the patients that walk into my office; however, if you do have brain decline and you notice brain fog—and you notice that certain food or chemical exposures incur your brain functions—you definitely should consider getting these tests done to your healthcare professional. What I try to do in my brain book, “Why Isn’t My Brain Working,” is that in the beginning of each chapter, I go into different symptoms; the purpose of that is for people to read the beginning of the chapter and relate to the symptoms they have—and if they have a lot of symptoms, then that chapter only applies to them. So it differs from chapters—everything from dopamine to serotonin, to acetylcholine, to circulation in the brain, to gluten sensitivity, to autoimmunity. And if any of those symptoms in the beginning of the chapter apply to you, then that could be really important and you’re free to focus on. At the end of the day, we all have this challenge to maintain our brain function, and for each of us it could be slightly different. For some people, blood sugar shifts and then blood sugar drop and become hypoglycemic is a major trigger; for other people, they suspect the gluten sensitivity and then they’ll take it to the next level by actually giving up gluten; for other people, they just don’t have essential fatty acids in their diet. So my attempt to try to help readers find strategies to support the brain is really the book I wrote, and each chapter is a specific major mechanism that can impair brain function.
Mike Mutzel: Yeah, the book—I have it open right now. It’s a great book I would recommend everyone. Again, “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” It’s on Amazon; you can get it on Barnes & Nobles—a really great book. And one thing that I pulled out of that, Dr. Kharrazian, is your intake that you recommend a lot of patients that something that you really look at is handwriting and how sloppy is the handwriting. Talk to us about that, because I think some people nowadays are on the computer. And I know—I rarely write things by hand; when I do, I look at my handwriting, “Oh my gosh, it’s so bad.” So, let’s talk about how that can be a barometer of our brain health.
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Well, handwriting is a fine motor control; it’s really dictated by areas of the motor cortex and the areas of the basal ganglia—direct and indirect pathway that gate it. So at the end of the day, handwriting is a really good expression of brain function. The key thing with handwriting, though, is that there are some characteristics in handwriting that can be correlated with certain diseases. So for example, Parkinson’s patients, they start to develop micrographia years before they get diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and a way you can check for that is you can repeat the same sentence over and over again—maybe like six times—and see if the actual font size of your handwriting gets smaller as you write. You’ve heard of the first one, so let’s say the seventh one—so the smaller seventh font size of your handwriting and the first one—that’s called micrographia; it’s one of the early signs of Parkinson’s disease and basal ganglia disease. We also know that for people, there are less specific types of handwriting findings; but for the most part, this sloppy handwriting could be a neuro-related brain function. The consistency of sloppy handwriting doesn’t mean you have impaired brain function. But if your handwriting has noticeably got worse, from one time period to the next; and even though you’re on the computer, you’re still using areas of your frontal cortex; there aren’t specific to handwriting—that should still maintain their integrity. So if you look at your handwriting, compare it to your handwriting years before or years later, you can really see if it got worse. With healthcare practitioners that teach seminars, they just kind of look back at patient’s bio five years ago and look at the SOAP notes compared to now, because that’s the timeline; they can kind of see their handwriting is getting worse. We can also be really, really specific and look at handwriting—whether they only write on one side. There’s a whole, actually, neurological diagnostic aspect of looking at handwriting—whether they’re dyslexic, whether they tend to write and turn the page up to the right or down to the left, different types of vestibular disorders. For the most part, the very specific things which may be too much to go into detail to readers that really aren’t into neurology. But the simple concept is—has your handwriting got worse? And if it has, that’s really not a good sign, and it doesn’t matter if you’re on the computer because the areas of the brain, like your frontal cortex and motor areas areas, you’ll still be using when you’re typing. So you should still maintain even though you may not be writing as much—and if it’s not, that’s a poor sign of brain function.
Mike Mutzel: Great, fantastic information. And again, the book is loaded with really practical tips and solutions and diagnostic things that people can implement. So do you want to give a plug for functional neurology? I know that may be new information for some listeners, but do you want to talk about that and some of the work they’re doing with football players?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Well, I think right now, the biggest movement that’s happening is the International Association of Functional Neurology. The International Association of Functional Neurology really is where people are coming in, but they’re doing more, for example, chiropractic neurology. They’re mixing these things together with functional medicine and different types of multispecialty applications for brain. So I think if people are really interested in learning more about traumatic brain injuries or just putting health from a malfunctional dietary nutritional lifestyle perspective, they should check out the International Association of Functional Neurology webpage and look at their conferences, and they’re going to be creating a lot of education in the near future. I know I’m going to be developing the 150-hour postgraduate course for them on brain and nutrition, and that will be available on their webpage in the near future.
Mike Mutzel: Fantastic. Yeah, there are a lot of good videos there and so forth. So we’ll also put these links and some of your YouTube videos, Dr. Kharrazian, at highintensityhealth.com/drk for “Dr. Kharrazian.” So, final two questions—if there was just one nutrient—that would be herb or botanical or supplement that you find to be most effective for brain health (and we’re talking about vinpocetine so maybe something a little bit different)—what would it be and why?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Well, I wouldn’t say vinpocetine, but I would say ginkgo. I’ll only say that because it’s so cheap. And ginkgo, without question, has level A evidence for dementia and brain impairment, and it’s one of the key things to get circulation to the brain and dampen glial cells; and it’s very inexpensive. So I think that would be my No. 1; but if we’re relating to a different mechanism, then high amounts of fish oils are really key things. That’s where anyone in the population can usually some benefit from it. Some of the other things we use can be expensive and can be condition-specific. But for me, I would say, if I could only recommend one thing for most listeners to just take and try on a daily basis, I would say start taking some ginkgo biloba, and I would say dose anywhere from 200-300 mg a day, because of its anti-inflammatory effects and because of its impacts on improving blood flow and circulation, and also because it has—if we look at the evidence-based model, it has grade A evidence for these things. So it’s the most published overall brain-preserving botanical in the entire food and nutrition, but we tend to think, “It’s popular years ago, we don’t really need it,” but it’s really inexpensive, cheap, very, very effective, and lots of evidence for it. Second to that, the next general thing that has high amount of evidence for or grade A evidence for many things related to the brain is obviously fish oil. So those are the things that are pretty general. I think most others, if they’re not taking, could definitely benefit—taking to support the brain health.
Mike Mutzel: Absolutely. You mentioned high-dose fish oil. So what would that look like?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: So high-dose fish oils, meaning from 1,000 to 10,000 mg per day. The only concern with that is those that can be taken with blood thinners like Coumadin; they really shouldn’t be taken high sources like that, and they should talk to the doctor before they do. And also, with ginkgo and EPA/DHA, they have a blood-thinning effect, so both of them are something you don’t want to do before any surgery or procedures, and if you have any health problems where you’re on blood thinners, both of those are probably contraindicated for you to use.
Mike Mutzel: Fantastic, really great information. So, last question here, Dr. Kharrazian—if you are in an elevator with Barrack Obama or a congressman and you just have 30 or 60 seconds to share with them one lifestyle or health or nutrition tip that you feel that if they were to show to America will improve the health of everyone and reduce healthcare expenditures and much more, what would you share with them and why?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Well, I think the biggest public health issue is how we process our food and especially the pesticides we’re using. So the research we’re doing in Immuno Sciences at Dr. Vojdani’s lab; they’re finding that many of these pesticides are actually binding to the actual food protein and we’re reacting against those chemicals. So I think we really need to take a critical look at the chemicals we use in our food industry, and there should be some guidelines that get developed. I really think, at this point, we really contaminated our food supply so much. We’ve actually done this in the lab where we check organic food and the organic food are loaded with chemicals, and we can’t even find sources of rice protein that doesn’t have lead in it throughout the country, throughout the world, actually, at this point through different distributors. All the stuff that we use in our industries end up in our rain water and they get into our soil. We know now that even organic compounds are impacted. This is why we constantly see on an ongoing basis people that are doing everything right, but they get sick—people that eat well and exercise and do yoga, and they have healthy stress management and sleep, and they’re suffering from chronic debilitating diseases. So I think we need to really focus on this public health concern, which is using chemicals and different compounds in our food supply.
Mike Mutzel: Really well said, so fantastic. Thanks so much for being here and sharing your excellent wisdom. Now, you have a couple of different websites; I want to make sure to post and ensure the audience the best source where people can learn more about you and follow your work. So what’s the best online resource there?
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: For the brain book, we have the website called “brainbookhealth.com,” and for those that are interested in my work on thyroid, we have a webpage called “thyroidbook.com.”
Mike Mutzel: Okay, fantastic, I’ll put those in the show notes, and you Facebook and Twitter there as well. Hope you have a fantastic day, and thanks again for being here.
Dr. Datis Kharrazian: Thanks, Mike.