I’m really excited to share my in-person video interview with Dr. Mark Hyman, MD. It’s an interview I arranged because I’m so excited about his Broken Brain docu-series which will start airing on January 17th. You may have seen it when they recently did a test launch but if you haven’t yet seen the series it is well-worth watching and is highly recommended! (Registration link here)
In this interview with Dr. Hyman we talk about root causes of anxiety, depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD: medication side-effects, diet, the microbiome, nutritional deficiencies, brain chemical imbalances, heavy metal toxicities and more; he shares his personal mercury toxicity story and the why behind the Broken Brain series; we cover off-label medications, trauma, labels and functional medicine.
I love the term he uses to describe body-mind medicine (which is different from mind-body medicine): somatopsychic = mental symptoms caused by bodily illness i.e. all of the above root causes.
One of the big reasons I’m supporting The Broken Brain docu-sersies is that it offers solutions and plenty of hope!
Here is the interview and transcript.
(there are captions on the video – if you don’t see them be sure to click the CC on the bottom right)
Trudy: – Welcome, it’s Trudy Scott here, food mood expert, certified nutritionist, author of The Antianxiety Food Solution, host of The Anxiety Summit, and today I’ve got the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Mark Hyman, who is the creator and host of the new Broken Brain series, and I’m just really excited to be here. I’ve been such a fan of yours for so many years. I know my community knows who you are, and they’re really excited about the Broken Brain series. I wanted to get together with you, and give some highlights, and talk about firstly why you created the Broken Brain series, and you’ve got a story behind your passion about it.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – I do. I do. Thank you for having me. Yeah, so about 20 years ago, I went from being a very healthy young doctor to having a broken brain, and a broken body, and it turned out it was from mercury poisoning that I got when I was in China, and I just developed severe chronic fatigue, where I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t remember, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t pay attention, I was depressed, I couldn’t sleep, I felt just completely not myself, and through that journey, was able to discover this world of functional medicine, which I thought was fairly developed at the time, but was really just in its infancy, and through discovering functional medicine, I was able to repair my own system, and fix my broken brain. I began to apply this with patients, seeing all kinds of things, without really knowing what I was doing, I was just treating people’s physical systems, fixing their gut, helping their immune system, cleaning up their diet, optimizing their nutritional status, balancing their hormones, and all their mental problems would get better. Their anxiety would get better, their depression would get better, and I wasn’t actually treating the depression or anxiety. Autism, ADD, memory issues, dementia, all these things would start to get better, and I began to realize that the body was driving a lot of this brain dysfunction, and that if you fix the body, a lot of the brain disorders would get better, that it wasn’t a primarily a mental problem, but it was a physical problem. Just as there’s a mind body effect, which is real, there’s also a body mind effect and that hadn’t been really talked about, so I wrote a book called The UltraMind Solution 10 years ago, which outlined this model, and then really this has been an incredible 10 years of brain research that I felt needed updating, and so we created a documentary series online looking at the new research, and how this applies, and the things that I noticed 10, 15, 20 years ago are now becoming more and more accepted and understood as real, and so we’re able to actually work with people in a very specific and direct way to help heal their broken brains, and to help people recover from things that we thought were really irreversible, not just anxiety, depression, but ADD, autism, dementia, Parkinson’s, all sort of issues that affect the brain that have a very different approach that can be used to repair and heal.
Trudy: – That’s so powerful, and I love that you talk about this effect that the body has on the brain, because we know about mind body medicine, you talk about that in the series, about how we can use our mind to affect our health, but you use this term. Tell me what the term is that you use that talks about how physical issues in our body, nutritional deficiencies, imbalances, can actually affect the brain.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – You mean the body mind effect?
Trudy: – Yes.
Dr. Mark Hyman – Yeah.
Trudy: – You’ve give it a term, and it was called?
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Oh, somatopsychic.
Trudy: – Somatopsychic, yes.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – We think of psychosomatic, but there’s also a somatopsychic phenomena. I would say if you have mercury poisoning, or you have a thyroid problem, or you have abnormal gut flora, or you’re vitamin D deficient, or B12 deficient, it’s very hard to have a proper functioning brain. You can’t just say someone’s got depression, that’s what’s causing their hopelessness, and helplessness, and sadness, and maybe many other things, it could be psychological, it could be a trauma, but it also could be so many other factors, and they often are overlooked and ignored, and when I start peeling back the layers of what’s happening with these people, and looking underneath the hood, and looking through the functional medicine lens at the body as a system, and correcting the imbalances, it’s shocking to me what happens. I always remember when I start applying this, I was like, wow, you got better? I can’t believe it. You shouldn’t really get better, according to Western medicine.
Trudy: – Amazing, and you mention trauma. Even if someone has experienced trauma, if their nutritional status is good, they’re able to deal with it better.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Right.
Trudy: – And maybe have less symptoms of post-traumatic stress.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – That’s right.
Trudy: – If they have a good nutritional status, and there’s a lot of good research supporting that.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Absolutely.
Trudy: – You talk about that in the series as well.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah, absolutely. Your brain has the ability to be resilient, but if you’re nutritionally depleted, and if you’re having all sorts of inflammatory problems, if you’re eating foods you’re reacting to, or allergic to, your brain can’t work properly, so your baseline is going be much lower, but if you fix all those things, then your capacity to deal with your psychological issues, it’s not that they don’t exist, it’s that your ability to cope with them, to work through them, to heal and repair the more difficult things, which are early life traumas, or abuse, or addiction, these are much easier to deal with once you fix the basic constitution of the person.
Trudy: – Right. Now one thing that you talk about a lot in the Broken Brain series, which I really appreciate, is the fact that there’s so much over-medication.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah.
Trudy: – Can you talk a little about it today? And I know with your story, you also had anxiety, depression, and you were prescribed medications as well.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah.
Trudy: – So this is common.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah.
Trudy: – You talk about antipsychotics. You shared some pretty scary stats on the increase that we see.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – When you look at it, it kind of goes up and down, but psychiatric medication as a whole, is the number two or three most prescribed category of drugs in America, and increasing across the globe, and it’s being used instead of dealing with the real issues, and they don’t really even work that well. I mean, anxiety medications can work, but antidepressants have been shown really not to work that well for mild to moderate depression. For severe depression, they can be helpful, and they can be life saving for some people, but they’re not a panacea, and when I was a kid, there was that one kid in the class, Patty Ainsworth, who was a troublemaker. Now it’s like 10% of the class is on ADD medication. That’s a problem.
Trudy: – It is.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – And when we see one in four people have depression in their lifetime, and if the knee jerk reaction is medication, it just sort of gives people a sense of numbness, but it doesn’t really deal with the issue. So I think we are way over-medicated, and on top of that, there’s pushing of medications for off-label use, which means that they’re not approved for those indications. So they’re doing this for kids with antipsychotics, and they’re actually been sued. So the pharma companies have been held liable for promoting these drugs for off-label uses, which they’re not allowed to do, for kids. They get fined billions of dollars, but they don’t care because they’ve made umpteen more billions, and they just see it as a marketing expense. So it’s really discouraging to see what happens to the pharmaceutical use in this space, because even for example, ADD is so fixable by dealing with the root causes, and most of us not are not even trained how to think that way.
Trudy: – That’s why I love the Broken Brian series, because it offers a message of hope, offers some practical solutions, and it empowers the person who’s suffering from the brain disorder, whatever it is, anxiety, depression, dementia, you name it, empowers them with solutions, and I think the other thing is it’s going to give curious practitioners who are not on board with this functional medicine approach some insights into what the future may hold, which I think is very promising.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah. It’s very powerful. I remember this guy who read my book, The UltraMind Solution, which is really what the Broken Brain series is based on, and he was a doctor, and he had a kid with autism, and he said, “We’re so desperate. Our kids was five, he wasn’t talking. We just started with the diet. We just got him off gluten, casein, and a few days later, all of a sudden, he started talking in full sentences,” and this is a skeptical physician who witnessed this, and I see this all the time. Patients, for example, have Alzheimer’s, or dementia, or diagnosed with dementia, and it turns out they have other issues. They have heavy metal poisoning, or they might have Lyme disease in the brain, or they might have severe nutritional deficiencies, or they might be insulin resistant with high levels of sugar in their diet that are affecting their brain, and you can fix those things. There may still be issues left over, but it’s going to be much easier to deal with those after.
Trudy: – Get to the root cause, and address those root causes.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – That’s right. That’s the purpose of functional medicine, which is a medicine of why, not what, and we have all these labels, but you know, if someone comes into my office, and they’re hopeless, and helpless, have no interest in life, can’t focus, can’t sleep, don’t want to have sex, I know what’s wrong with you. Depression, but depression isn’t the cause of those symptoms, it’s the name of the symptoms. It doesn’t tell you what’s really wrong with that person. It’s could be a host of things, from low thyroid, to gluten, to mercury poisoning, to vitamin D deficiency, to B12 deficiency, to insulin resistance. All these factors can lead to depression. Same syndrome, but different causes. So I’m much more interested in addressing the causes, then you don’t have to use the medication.
Trudy: – And some people have an issue with gluten, and have autism symptoms, and someone else can have depression or anxiety or dementia.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – That’s right.
Trudy: – So it can affect different people in a different way.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – That’s a very good point. So in functional medicine, we see that one disease can have many causes, but on the other hand, one causative factor can create many diseases. For example, heavy metals may cause dementia, or autism, or depression, or anxiety, or insomnia, or gut issues can cause all these various things that are not one disease, or for example gluten, like you mentioned, can cause autoimmune disease, can cause cancer, can cause diabetes, can cause osteoporosis, can cause anemia, can cause depression, can cause even dementia. So how do you begin to think about it? Our current naming of diseases doesn’t make any sense. So all the labeling, if you look at the diagnostic criteria, we have something called the DSM-5, which is the diagnostic and statistical manual that categorizes and catalogs all the psychiatric disorders, and they’re all categorized by symptoms. So it’s all descriptive. It’s says if you have these five symptoms, you have this, but it doesn’t tell you why, and it doesn’t really help you, other than giving you a label, which doesn’t mean anything about helping you understand what’s really going on.
Trudy: – And then you’re on a medication that’s going to give you side effects, and not actually get to the root cause of the problem.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Right.
Trudy: – And yeah, just make some nutritional changes, addressing the thyroid, getting off gluten, addressing the gut – big session in the Broken Brain series.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah, it’s huge.
Trudy: – The gut brain connection.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – I mean, we’re just learning about this. For example, for years one of the main ways I treated the brain was fixing the gut, and that means optimizing the flora, getting rid of bad bugs, helping heal leaky gut, and we just did it, we didn’t really have a deep understanding other than we knew the microbiome was important, but now we know, for example, that there are more bacterial molecules in your blood than your own molecules, that you have 10 times as many bacterial cells in you as your own cells, 100 times as much bacterial DNA, and that DNA is all producing proteins, and all those proteins, you have 20,000 genes, there’s two million genes of bacteria in you, and they’re all producing molecules that are entering your blood stream, and driving all sorts of biological reactions, that aren’t even human molecules. So we have to begin to sort of how do those affect the brain and what’s going on? And it’s very powerful.
Trudy: – And so much research in this area, it’s just growing and growing.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah.
Trudy: – So you mentioned earlier that you wanted to do this because of all the new research. There is so much research on the gut brain connection, nutritional psychiatry. Dr. Drew Ramsey talks about this recent study on depression, and just getting people onto a real whole foods diet, and how 30% saw remission of symptoms, just changing their diet.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Of course.
Trudy: – Not even going gluten free. So it’s powerful. These small changes can have powerful effects.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Profound, profound effects
Trudy: – Well, thank you so much.
Dr. Mark Hyman – Thank you.
Trudy: – For your wonderful work that you do. And for making time today. I highly recommend the Broken Brain series with Dr. Mark Hyman, all the wonderful experts.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Oh, so many. We’ve got 57 experts.
Trudy: – Amazing, some of our favorite functional medicine practitioners.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Yeah.
Trudy: – Thank you.
Dr. Mark Hyman: – Thank you.
(I’m a tad disappointed that there is the background noise of people talking – and apologize – but I am hoping the great content overrides this and it’s not too distracting.)
Save the date for the 8 -part Broken Brain docusersies, hosted by Dr. Mark Hyman – and register here. It airs January 17-25th
Here’s a list of ALL the episodes, to showcase just some of what you will have access to. Each episode will be available for 24 hours, at no-cost!
- The Broken Brain Epidemic / My Story (January 17)
- Gut Brain Connection: Getting to The Root of a Broken Brain (January 18)
- Losing Your Mind (Alzheimer’s, Dementia, MS, and More) (January 19)
- ADHD and Autism (January 20)
- Depression & Anxiety (January 21)
- Traumatic Brain Injury: Accidents, Sports, and More (January 22)
- 7 Steps to An UltraMind (Part 1) (January 23)
- 7 Steps to An UltraMind (Part 2) (January 24)
I hope you enjoy it and get as much out of it as I did!
I actually flew from Sydney to LA for this opportunity to meet and interview him, and share more about the Broken Brain series, and I’m so glad I did! It was the first time I’d met Dr. Hyman in person and it truly was an honor to be in the company of this great man who is doing so much in the functional medicine world! Again, here is that link to register
Please share if any of this resonates with you – what solutions you have found have helped you and/or what you are working on addressing now?
AN UPDATE: there has been some feedback on the term “broken brain” being too negative and even scary so I gathered some feedback and share it in this blog: Is the term ‘broken brain’ hopeful and real or too negative and scary? I really want to hear your thoughts if you are offended by the term broken brain. I also want to share Dr. Hyman’s apology.