Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry podcast, the weekly podcast where Dr G gives you the tools you need to boost your health and live your healthiest life.
Dr. Gundry (00:14):
Hey, everybody, its Dr. Gundry here and I’ve got some very exciting news. Right now you can sign up for Dr. Gundry’s newsletter. As a subscriber, you’ll get updates about new episodes of the Dr. Gundry Podcast, where we talk about all things health. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out. I’ll also keep you in the loop of all the things I’m up to, from news, to events, to special appearances. Visit www.drgundry.com to sign up.
Dr. Gundry (00:45):
Welcome to the Dr. Gundry podcast. It’s an exciting day today. The world has changed a bit since our days as hunter and gatherers and it’s left our brains in a state of despair. You might be feeling left today, so please stay tuned. According to the World Health Assembly, the burden of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions is on the rise. No joke. The good news is, we can turn things around. In a moment, I’m going to speak with the renowned health journalist podcaster and New York Times bestselling author, Max Lugavere, who I consider a colleague and friend. In his latest book, The Genius Life, Max says that we can heal our bodies and brains by changing our lifestyle, improving our cognitive function and emotional wellness as a result. Today we’re going to discuss how. Max Welcome back to the Dr. Gundry podcast.
Max Lugavere (01:46):
Thank you so much for having me. It’s always a treat to get to talk to you. I’ve learned a lot from you over the years and I value our friendship. Thanks for having me.
Dr. Gundry (01:53):
You have been an outspoken health and wellness advocate, actually for years now. I know, but tell our listeners how you got into this line of work.
Max Lugavere (02:05):
Yeah, absolutely. I began as a generalist journalist. That’s a bit of a mouthful. I consider myself having been a bit of a stem cell in my previous line of work and that I was undifferentiated. I used to work for Al Gore, who had a TV network called Current TV. It was not a political network, but I was there as an investigator to tell stories and convey stories that were not being told and to do so in a way that was engaging for younger people, that could draw younger people into the worlds of geopolitics, of technology of the environment, and science, and things like that.
Dr. Gundry (02:43):
Max Lugavere (02:44):
Climate change, but, that was a small part of it, actually. I did that for six years, and it was a great opportunity to cut my teeth as a storyteller, as an investigator. That was my first job out of college. Then when I left that to try to figure out where I was going to go with my career, it was then in my personal life that my mother got sick. As anybody who’s ever had a loved one gets sick knows that, once you get that first diagnosis, the world stops. That is indeed what happened to me. It was at the Cleveland Clinic in 2011, that my mother at the age of 68, very young, was diagnosed for the first time with a neurodegenerative condition. It was a rare form of dementia called Lewy body dementia, which I’m sure you’re familiar with. It was in the Zeitgeist a couple of years ago when it was revealed that, that’s what Robin Williams was diagnosed with just prior to his unfortunate suicide.
Max Lugavere (03:40):
For those who have never heard of Lewy body dementia, it’s essentially like having Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease at the same time. That’s what my mom had. It was awful. It was traumatic. At that time, when the initial trauma subsided, I decided to use every tool within my toolkit to try to understand why this would have happened to a woman that was so young. I had no prior family history of any kind of neurodegenerative disease and so it sent me down the rabbit hole to try to discover what it was about my mom’s diet, and lifestyle and the environment around her, over the years, that would have predisposed her to developing that condition. It was sad and ironic, that at the same time that my mom was succumbing to this condition, my mother’s mother, my maternal grandmother was actually 96 and she was cognitively healthy. She was actually in relatively good physical health.
Dr. Gundry (04:34):
You were going, “What the heck!”
Max Lugavere (04:37):
What the heck! It caused me to have this hypothesis that I’ve explored in all my work since then that, something had to have mutated in between my grandmother’s generation and my mother’s generation to the degree that something in my mom’s environment, whether it’s the food, whether it’s industrial chemicals that we’re all routinely exposed to, whether it was her lifestyle, something pulled the trigger on her having developed this condition. She passed away about a year ago, a little over a year ago. That was the worst experience I’ve ever gone through. It motivates me to this day. That’s what The Genius Life is really all about. It’s a book in which I look at all of the different aspects of our modern lives and what in each area might be tweaked so that we might feel better and have better health, both in the short-term as well as in the long-term.
Dr. Gundry (05:30):
How do you go about researching something like this? I know your first book, The Genius Foods is done very well. Where do you go from there? You obviously said it’s probably more than food.
Max Lugavere (05:47):
Yeah. Yeah, well said. I think food is a huge part of the equation. It’s something that people feel very emotionally invested in because our diets in a way become a part of our identity. It’s very funny actually, when you look at people’s social media profiles, they’re very often inclined to put their diets in their bios, in their social media profiles. Why do people do that? Because we tend to feel so strongly about our diets because everybody eats. Right? What we eat is so ingrained in our sense of self. Once we have that diet, when we find a diet that works for us, what do we want to do? Well, we want to evangelize it. We want to become prosthetists for our diet.
Max Lugavere (06:28):
That’s why I think diet gets most of the attention. Actually, diet is just one part of the pie. There are so many other aspects of the way that we live that are important when it comes to feeling good, having lots of energy, having a brain that works as well as it ought to, not just as well as we’d accepted it to, and, of course, procuring our long-term health. Every topic that I cover in my book, The Genius life, is certainly deserving of its own book. I tried to basically look at all of the breadth of research that’s out there in regard to nature immersion. Our relationship with the outdoors, with the external world, our relationship with light, our relationship with time. Many of these aspects basically become deranged and decoupled from our biology.
Max Lugavere (07:18):
That’s really where I began. I began with nutrition, because I’ve had a lifelong passion for nutrition, and that’s where my bias was initially. There were other aspects of my mom’s life that I think were probably not helping all that much in terms of her health. My mom, and not put any blame on her or anything like that science is evolving, and we know things now that we didn’t know five years ago, 10 years ago, and certainly not 30 years ago, but she never really exercised until her later years. We now know that exercise is crucial in so many ways. It’s one of the most powerful, actually disease modifying interventions that we have for a condition called mild cognitive impairment, which is a form of pre-dementia. It is super important for mental health.
Max Lugavere (08:16):
We’re now at a point where we have, in recent years, a number of meta analyses published showing us that whether you are anxious or depressed, exercise has a disease modifying role to play in terms of your mental health, which is a major problem. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide now, or it’s set to be. That’s something that when I look at previous generations, and the fact that leisure time, physical activity was not ingrained in the constitution of previous generations the way that it is now. It makes me sad. Then you read statistics like the fact that today, a third of people still do not engage in any leisure time physical activity, and it’s a major problem.
Max Lugavere (09:00):
If you look around and people are not well. Half of adults are either diabetic or pre-diabetic. Two thirds of adults are either overweight or obese, which we know infers problems on multiple organ systems in the body, and at least of which is the brain. Exercise is a big part of the problem. The Environmental Working Group estimates that your average adult now spends 93% of their time indoors, either in their cars or in their homes. What about our indoor environments? Are we getting what our biology needs from our indoor environment? Are we getting exposure to healthy full spectrum light? Certainly not.
Max Lugavere (09:39):
When you realize how widespread and pervasive circadian disruption is, so our bodies function on this 24-hour clock, and we need the light to help anchor our body’s internal clocks, which affects everything from how well we digest food, to our energy levels, to our mental acuity and alertness. I know that sounds like a lot, but I’ve looked at all of these different realms and I’ve tried to distill them and synthesize them in a way that’s accessible and approachable for readers in the book, to help them arrive at some sense of how they might live for better health.
Dr. Gundry (10:15):
You’re obviously interested in emotional aspects of anxiety and depression. What do you think in the modern world are the biggest triggers for that now? How is it different now?
Max Lugavere (10:26):
Yeah. I think that’s such a good question. The triggers are, they’re everywhere. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we do spend so much of our time indoors and just getting outside into nature is such a salad for the soul. Research out of Japan, and this research is incredibly increasingly being done around the world, but they’re looking at a form of therapy called forest bathing, where they find that the minimal effective dose is just 20 minutes. Just a 20-minute immersion into a natural environment as opposed to an urban environment can have a significant effect on levels of cortisol in the body that they were able to ascertain via a serology test. That’s crucial.
Max Lugavere (11:09):
We know that stress is related to cardiovascular disease. You know better than anybody, but it’s also related to worse brain health, which obviously has an impact on mental health. Chronic stress also affects your blood pressure in a negative way. One of the things that I look in the book, that I examine in the book, is the role of healthy blood pressure on brain function. Actually, having healthy blood pressure is essential for having a healthy brain. There was this great trial that I talked about, we’re getting a little bit off the topic of mental health, but the Sprint Mind Trial, which was recently published, published that found that when people with high blood pressure, were being treated for that with a pharmaceutical, to a more aggressive degree than what they would have normally been treated at, to reach an even lower systolic blood pressure, but still within the healthy range, obviously.
Max Lugavere (12:02):
They were significantly able to avert developing mild cognitive impairment. There’s no pharmaceutical drug on the market, specifically FDA approved to prevent MCI. Yeah. Getting out into nature, I think it’s a great way to boost your mental health as well as your brain health as well. I think-
Dr. Gundry (12:25):
Well wait. I’m from the Northern Midwest originally. Are you going to tell me that when it’s 10 degrees below zero and there’s a foot of snow out, then I need to go get my 20 minutes of mental health, do I go outside?
Max Lugavere (12:38):
I think it’s probably still worthwhile to be outside. It’s really funny. I have a podcast also. It’s also called The Genius Life. On it, I interviewed a brilliant neuroscientist from Stanford named Andrew Huberman. He was telling me that, literally, this is something that his lab studies and so he was sharing this information with me and I haven’t read what he’s published on it necessarily. Just by loosening your gaze to a more panoramic vision, you can have an effect on your body’s nervous system, you can actually engage your body’s parasympathetic nervous response, which is more associated with resting and digesting and basically being not stressed out. That’s easy to do when you’re outside, right, when you perceive the perceptual vastness of an outdoor weather, whether it’s snowing or whether you’re on a mountaintop in the summer, it doesn’t make a difference.
Max Lugavere (13:33):
Staying within the confines of our apartments, of our cars, of our offices, and keeping our eyes focused on what’s immediately in front of us, that’s a new access through which we might be getting stressed out. Noise exposure in the indoor environment can sometimes be noisy, whether we have the TV on or stereos or we’re dealing with screaming children, I don’t have to deal with that yet, thankfully, but yeah, getting outside and experiencing peace and calmness and allowing your gaze to broaden out to that panoramic vision, those could all be beneficial on your mental health no matter what time of year it is.
Dr. Gundry (14:14):
Yeah. As a kid, again, we would be out in sub-freezing temperatures bundled up, playing all day and we actually had three changes of mittens and gloves because they get soaking wet in the snow, and we come in and we change our jeans because they get soaking wet, and then we’d run back out. Maybe we weren’t that dumb after all and our mothers and fathers are like, “Get up. Get out of here. You’re going to freeze to death.” We like, “No, no, no. We’ve got to play.” We have to understand that kids instinctively understand that. It’s like our dogs, which, “Come on, let’s get out.” My dogs look at me twice a day and say, “Come on, moron. Let’s go.” It’s like, “What do you mean let’s go?” It’s time for your walk. I think we have to understand that kids and dogs understand this instinctively that we got to be out there.
Max Lugavere (15:05):
That’s where we came from.
Dr. Gundry (15:06):
Max Lugavere (15:06):
Dr. Gundry (15:06):
I think that’s what you say.
Max Lugavere (15:08):
Exactly. There’s so many things like that, that you reminded me to bring up. When you look at a kid, first of all, the whole movement pattern, all the movement patterns of a child, and the way that children breathe are so much healthier than the way that we do now. I’m into vocal health. Actually, it’s something that I think is really important. You want to be able to breathe with your diaphragm. It’s a lot easier to teach a kid to sing because they know how to naturally breathe than it is to teach an adult because we tend to breathe with our chests and you really want to practice breathing with your diaphragm. Also, if you ever watch a child squat, they squat and lift things off the floor with perfect form. You’re right. There’s a lot to be learned from our children.
Max Lugavere (15:50):
You also made me think about the fact that going outside in the cold, that might have mental health benefits completely independent of the fact that it’s a more natural environment than an indoor environment. Our bodies have these hardwired thermoregulatory mechanisms that basically gather dust when we spend the entirety of our time inside and in the comfort bubble of chronic climate control, which is what I like to call it. Just going outside, experiencing cooler temperatures, even mild, ambient, cool temperature can actually boost mental acuity, brain health and things like that. There have been a number of interesting case reports published about people actually self-treating their own depression with cold water swimming, so winter swimming, cryotherapy and things like that. The beautiful thing about these is whether or not they actually work for you. There really are no negative side effects, so yeah, I’m all about that more natural embrace of whether it’s variation in temperature or just getting out of your comfort zone or just being outside no matter what time of year it is.
Dr. Gundry (17:05):
Speaking of indoor air, it’s some of the worst air in the world. My wife’s mother always forced them to sleep with the window open and she grew up in Connecticut where it’s pretty cold in the winter. My mother always cracked a window even in the dead of winter in Omaha when we’re walking. We still do that. Actually, now, I curse my wife when the heat comes on. What about opening a window or unleashing the seals of our hermetically-sealed houses every now and then?
Max Lugavere (17:37):
That’s such a good question. That’s actually something that I talked about in the book, is a real medical diagnosis. It’s called sick building syndrome. A lot of people that have unexplained symptoms and they go to the doctor and the doctor sends you home and says, “You look your fine.” A lot of people can actually be suffering from the confluence of pollutants that we’re actually exposed to indoors, which is counterintuitive because we tend to think of pollutants being primarily outdoors, on the street, for example, or in our places of employment. Yeah, the home can actually be vastly more polluted than the outdoor environment and that’s because a lot of our, whether it’s our furniture, or our carpets, or the paint used to coat the walls in our homes, can actually be packed with pollutants ranging from plastic compounds, like BPA, to phthalates, which are used to create our furniture and even in fragrances that you’ll find in common household cleaning products.
Dr. Gundry (18:42):
What about the new car smell? I love the new car smell.
Max Lugavere (18:46):
Yeah. That new car smell is owed to a process called off-gassing. We’re inhaling all kinds of compounds, and I couldn’t possibly name them all, but formaldehyde and things like that, you definitely don’t want in your system to any significant degree. We have flame retardants in our furniture. Flame retardants are also used to in children’s clothing, in pajamas, and things like that, mattresses and the like. Originally, we thought that these compounds were inert, but actually, we know that they’re able to enter the environment, they’re able to enter the air, they’re able to form the dust in our homes. I think it’s really smart for a homeowner to have to wet dust frequently. If you’re using one of those dry dusters, like a feather duster, you want to get rid of that because what you’re doing is essentially you’re just redistributing dust.
Max Lugavere (19:36):
The primary components of dust aside from dead skin cells are these compounds like little plastic, nano particles that slough off from our furniture, from our carpets, and we breathe them in, they get into us and so you want to wet dust so that it actually grabs up the dust and then you want to throw that out the cloth. I think having plants in the home is also really essential. Plants actually can help clean the air and I talk about some of the plants that are most effective at doing that in the genius life. Yes-
Dr. Gundry (20:07):
What if you don’t have a green thumb? What if you kill everything that ever lived in your house? Not me. I’m thinking about someone else.
Max Lugavere (20:14):
I definitely don’t have a green thumb, but I have some plants. Just off the top of my head, there’s a plant called the rubber plant, which is very good at cleansing the air. They’re definitely a handful of others. You could also get an air purifier, you can vacuum. HVAC vacuum or air purifier is also very effective. You’re absolutely right. You should also have a well ventilated home. The irony is that, buildings and homes now are becoming less and less well ventilated, because it saves money. Right? A home that actually is more hermetically sealed, you’re going to have less cost in terms of the heating and air conditioning cost. Right? That might seem like it’s a good thing, but it actually might not be such a good thing from the standpoint of our biology. It is for our wallets, but not so good for our health.
Dr. Gundry (21:03):
All right. When we started this, you mentioned that dementia with your mother was the driving force that started you down this path? What are you going to tell us in The Genius Life you can do to forestall dementia, avoid dementia? What’s the trick?
Max Lugavere (21:25):
Yeah. Dementia is such a huge topic. In the United States alone, 50 million people suffer from dementia. 15 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease alone. Those numbers are expected to explode in the coming years. This is really a lifestyle guide, given the best available evidence, how one might live and eat to essentially avoid that condition. There’s a strong nutritional component to the book, but I do talk a lot about the role of the environment on brain health. As I mentioned, having a healthy blood pressure, that’s crucial. You really should make sure that you’ve got your blood pressure under control. I think that there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to how to maintain a healthy blood pressure. A lot of people go straight to salt, eat less salt. Right? Well, actually, I think the reality is a little bit more complex than what we’ve been led to believe.
Max Lugavere (22:22):
In fact, a very large meta analysis was recently published that found that, it wasn’t necessarily the salt per se that had the biggest impact on people’s cardiovascular health, but it was what they were consuming the salt with. Do people eat enough potassium? Right? When you consume enough potassium-containing foods, which where do you find potassium? You find potassium in unhealthy foods. Fruits, vegetables, salmon is actually a wonderful source of potassium, that any impact that sodium might have on your blood pressure for, I would say, the majority of people, is going to be moved.
Max Lugavere (22:55):
The other thing is that, most sodium is found in packaged processed foods, which we know are not good for us. ultra-processed foods that line our supermarket aisles and canned foods and the like, they’re all saturated with sodium. I think that it’s probably the foods, not the sodium that they contain, that are the problem.
Dr. Gundry (23:13):
Yeah, I agree with you completely. Speaking of blood pressure, I’m going to throw in a really nerdy study. A few years ago, I usually presented in the Microbiota Conference over in Europe. There was a phenomenal paper that discovered that there are smell olfactory nerves that not only live in our nose, but they live in our kidneys, and they live in our heart and you go, “What the heck do you have a nose in your kidney for, or a nose in your heart? What are they there for? What they propose and actually, I’ve seen it in my patients is, there actually smelling in your kidney, what I call bug farts, that the microbiome produces certain compounds that are smelled by the kidney and the heart. These compounds, in what I call bad bugs, are picked up by the kidney and the kidney senses impending danger and constricts blood vessels. The idea is to trap bacteria, which was once our mortal enemy, in the walls of the blood vessels where white blood cells could grab them and not let them out.
Dr. Gundry (24:29):
We can actually measure tension in blood vessels with blood tests and also with devices. We showed that changing the microbiome and getting rid of biofilms, which we talked about in recent podcasts, actually lowers blood pressure, and I think it’s because these olfactory sensors in your kidney, no longer smell these bad bacteria farts and they relax. That’s duh duh duh duh. There are ways that we’re so naive about all of this that, there’s nerves that smell in your kidneys and in your heart.
Max Lugavere (25:09):
It’s amazing. We have taste receptors in our gut. They’re on our tongue. It’s like biology is so amazing. You learn something new, or at least I feel like I do every single day about it. It’s just so all inspiring. I wonder, are you talking about nitric oxide because they’re in the bacteria in our mouth actually?
Dr. Gundry (25:27):
Oh, absolutely. In New York, there’s beautiful studies that if you use mouthwash, that kills off your oral microbiome, that you’re no longer able to convert nitrates into nitric oxide and your blood pressure goes up. Human studies show that blood pressure went up about five points systolic when you use mouthwash. Who cares about your fresh minty breath if your blood pressure goes up. No, this is actually a different effect. It’s not a nitric oxide effect. It’s a direct vasoconstriction effect.
Max Lugavere (25:58):
Dr. Gundry (25:59):
It’s actually based on the renin and angiotensin system. Your kidneys produce more renin to constrict your blood vessels.
Max Lugavere (26:07):
Dr. Gundry (26:08):
Yeah, just because of the bad bugs.
Max Lugavere (26:10):
Yeah. Well, the microbiome is crucially important for everything from cardiovascular health to brain health. It’s this burgeoning line of research and I’m so excited to learn more about it.
Dr. Gundry (26:27):
Let’s get back to brain health and exercise because I know you’re really excited about this in the book and your mom was not an exerciser. I, in my Longevity Paradox, I mentioned some very good studies, particularly with women, that exercise throughout their lifespan is very good at preventing dementia, and even in the people who were genetically predisposed to develop dementia, that dementia occurred 11 years later than if they didn’t exercise chronically. What’s going on with that?
Max Lugavere (27:07):
Exercise is medicine for the brain. It truly is. When we talk about the hierarchy of things that are important when it comes to procuring good brain health, I think exercise is probably at the very top of the pyramid. In fact, the evidence now is just overwhelming. There’s a new treatment guideline for physicians if you have mild cognitive impairment, which again is a pre-dementia, it can often and it often does convert to more severe forms of cognitive impairment. A physician should now turn out and should write exercise on a prescription pad. According to the American Academy of Neurology, it’s a treatment for MCI and there is no pharmaceutical drug that’s currently approved to treat MCI.
Max Lugavere (27:50):
Via a myriad of different pathways, exercise is crucial. It helps us to sweat. Right, so when we sweat, sweating is one of the primary detox modalities. When we sweat, we release a lot of the pollutants that we were talking about earlier. It boosts a miracle GRO protein in the brain called BDNF, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is decreased by as much as 50% in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but we can actually boost levels of BDNF in the brain with exercise. What form of exercise? Well, I think there’s a bias in the literature for aerobic exercise, but I think it’s starting to come to light that whatever the form of exercise you like to do, it seems that, whether it’s yoga, or resistance training, or high intensity interval training, they all work to have a very similar effect.
Max Lugavere (28:37):
In fact, I think that resistance training is probably the most important form of exercise because when you’re having a weight training workout, you actually do get a cardio workout. I think growing stronger muscles, and achieving a healthier body composition is crucially important. There’s a documented relationship between the strength of our muscles and the health of our brains. Having stronger muscles are important for homeostasis in the body, so basically making sure that your hormones are functioning the way that they ought to. Conditions like type 2 diabetes are characterized by insulin insensitivity. There’s no better way to make your body more insulin sensitive and to reverse insulin resistance than resistance training.
Max Lugavere (29:35):
In terms of your mood, exercise is crucial. It helps your brain create serotonin more easily, which is a neurotransmitter involved in mood, as you know, and it’s also involved in executive function, which is essentially how your brain gets stuff done. That’s crucially important. It reduces inflammation and exercise, when put head-to-head against pharmaceuticals that are prescribed to treat blood pressure. Exercise for people with high blood pressure works as effectively, according to a large meta analysis that came out over the past year.
Max Lugavere (30:07):
It works all of these different pathways. The problem with pharmaceutical drugs, and I’m not against pharmaceutical drugs, certainly, but-
Dr. Gundry (30:18):
I use them. Do I have to?
Max Lugavere (30:19):
Dr. Gundry (30:20):
You break a leg, I’m going to put a cast on you. You’re not going to work with a cast the rest of your life.
Max Lugavere (30:24):
If there was a drug that I could have given my mom that would have helped her, I would have, in a heartbeat, run to the pharmacy to fill that prescription. The problem with many of these drugs is that, they target single chemicals or single biological pathways. Exercise works the entirety of the system. There is no drug on the market as powerful in terms of its almost medicinal effect on the body as exercise. Exercise is medicine.
Dr. Gundry (30:51):
Okay, but it’s so much easier to swallow a pill. I think your point is really good. It’s, you got to find something that you enjoy doing. Again, just this week, I wrote a prescription to get a dog to one of my patients. I’ve had so many patients come back with that prescription filled and framed. Because they said, “This changed my life.” Because a dog makes you exercise twice a day and whether they want to or not. Walking, it turns out the old idea that you had to walk 10,000 steps a day for exercise. It turns out was actually fabricated by a Japanese company that sold pedometers. The more recent evidence says that 2,000 to 3,000 steps a day are effective. I think the other thing that’s interesting and studying Blue Zones, those places in the world with extreme longevity, and I’m the only nutritionist, I spent most of my career in a Blue Zone, in Loma Linda in California, they all live in hilly communities and they walk against gravity. Quite frankly, walking against gravity is some of the best strength training that ever existed.
Dr. Gundry (32:10):
Quick tip, there was a very famous Austrian study that wanted to see the effect of uphill hiking versus downhill hiking. Obviously, they expected that uphill was a whole lot better for we’re in downhill. They went to a mountain where there was a cable car and half the participants had to hike up and then ride the cable car down. The other half had to ride up and hike down. Guess what they found? Not only in cardiovascular fitness, but insulin sensitivity and muscle growth was exactly the same.
Max Lugavere (32:50):
Oh, wow. Whether you’re going uphill or downhill?
Dr. Gundry (32:52):
Yeah, because you’re braking against gravity on the downhill. It appears to be easier. You know, “I volunteer for the downhill.” “Huh. Take that.” Yeah. It was equally as effective. I tell my patients, “Look, I know you’re not going to climb the stairs in a building or to your apartment, but walk down and you’ll get a benefit.”
Max Lugavere (33:13):
Yeah. You bring up a great point and I detail this in the book. In the medical literature, walking, doing chores around the house chasing your kids or pets around, these all fall under a category of activity called non-exercise, physical activity and non-exercise physical activity, as the name implies, it’s not deliberate exercise, it’s anything other than sitting on your couch and watching reruns. It’s crucial actually. It burns a massive amount of calories. In a time when so many people are overweight, people tend to think that going to the gym and running on the treadmill is a great way to burn calories, actually, you burn vastly more calories, just doing things in your life other than sitting down and being sedentary.
Max Lugavere (33:58):
In terms of brain health, there’s very interesting research. First of all, being sedentary for an extended period of time, literally drains the blood from your brain. I feel this in terms of my mental health when I’m sitting for an extended period of time, but all it takes is every half an hour, two minutes of just doing a lap around the office or around your house to normalize cerebral blood flow.
Dr. Gundry (34:24):
Don’t stop at the M&M jar at your co-worker’s desk.
Max Lugavere (34:28):
Yes, maybe go for a drink of water or something. Yeah. Just simple movements create these micro vacillations in your blood pressure. It basically causes your blood to pump independent of what your heart is doing and it causes blood to basically shoot up to the brain. There was an interesting study that was performed on older adults that found that people with greater levels of non-exercise physical activity. Again, just these simple movements, spontaneous movements, whether it’s cooking or doing laundry or chores, as I mentioned, gardening, was able to help these people actually avert cognitive decline even when brain scans revealed that they had Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains, so like amyloid plaque. It seems like simple daily movements, if you’re able to continue doing that, it’s going to help potentially shield your brain against whatever is going on below the surface.
Dr. Gundry (35:26):
Got any, one or two workout tips that people can do quick and easy? Come on. Everybody wants a quick fix.
Max Lugavere (35:32):
Yeah, quick fix? Well, the quickest fix I think is going to be what’s called hit or high intensity interval training. They’ve found that, with basically 10 minutes of high intensity interval training, that people are able to achieve the same improvement in their cardiorespiratory fitness. Basically, fitness is the shorthand way of just saying that. As people who did, it was either a half an hour or 45 minutes of steady state cardio, which is amazing news. Right? I hate steady state cardio. In fact, I don’t do it very often. I’ve nothing against people who like to do it because it is still very good for you. I’m not the one to want to go to the gym and spend half an hour on the treadmill, but what this study found is that, by doing high intensity interval training, you’re able to actually boost your cardio respiratory fitness, your heart health, and that obviously has an effect on brain health, as much as steady state cardio.
Max Lugavere (36:24):
The difference between the two, steady state cardio is something that you can do for half an hour or 45 minutes on the treadmill. Right? You’re just plodding along on the treadmill. It’s sort of moderate intensity pace. You can hold a conversation with somebody if they’re jogging next to you on the treadmill. That, I don’t think it’s very much fun. High intensity interval training on the other hand, is taking an activity like riding on the stationary bike or doing sprints up a hill or even sprints downhill, but that’s probably a little bit more dangerous.
Max Lugavere (36:58):
Doing sprints up a hill or I like to go to my gym and they have these battle ropes, big heavy ropes that I like to swing around, and you do 10, to 20, to 30, to 40 seconds of all out reps, so giving it your all. Literally, the speed at which you do it doesn’t matter so much, it’s the effort that you put in it. You want to put in everything you’ve got. Then you do that and take-
Dr. Gundry (37:22):
Don’t do it on a full stomach.
Max Lugavere (37:23):
Don’t do it on a full stomach. Yeah, because it actually might make you nauseous. You give it everything that you’ve got and then you recuperate for a minute. You do that for 10, to 20, to 30 seconds and then you recuperate for a minute, and then you do it again. You do three, to four, to five reps of that and that’s only going to take about 10 minutes. You do that and it’s been shown that, that actually can boost your fitness to the degree of running for 30 minutes on a treadmill. That’s a way more efficient way. You’re going to get a lot more bang for your buck, I think, doing HIT. Doing HIT is not without risks, so you obviously want to check a physician before starting that, but I highly recommend using that as a tool in your toolkit.
Dr. Gundry (38:09):
Yeah, because if you’re doing it right, get your heart rate up and really get it up. Yeah, I do a spin and HIT class every week for 30 minutes. In the breathless zone, I track with a monitor and I go, “Whoa, I’m not supposed to be up here, but I’m okay.” It’s great stress test. Yeah, check with your physician if you’re going to do HIT training. Okay. Food, we talked about, number one food that person should avoid, I think you’ve mentioned this, if you want good brain health. What is it?
Max Lugavere (38:50):
Yeah. I would definitely say ultra-processed foods. I would have probably had a different answer if you would have asked me three years ago, but whether it’s refined industrial grain and seed oils like canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, you want to avoid those oils. Those oils are usually used to create processed foods, ultra-processed foods. Processed foods also contain refined grain flours and the like. I’m not a fan of those foods. One of the reasons really, for that, aside from the fact that we know that those oils are unhealthy and that those flowers shoot your blood sugar through the roof and can cause refractory hunger afterwards, as soon as you get the insulin drop, or the blood sugar drop, that often ensues, those are bad enough.
Max Lugavere (39:43):
The problem with these foods, which has been shown, actually, over the past year and a half in a study from the National Institute of Health was that, these foods actually drive their own consumption, essentially, to the tune of about 500 additional calories a day. If you’re building your diet, around ultra-processed foods, it’s going to be infinitely more difficult for you to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, because these foods perpetuate their own consumption. Whereas, if you try to base your diet instead around whole foods, whatever, we like to get into the nitty gritty of what whole foods do. They’re going to be better for you and what whole foods you’re probably better off avoiding. At the end of the day, I think-
Dr. Gundry (40:24):
Not whole grains, I hope.
Max Lugavere (40:26):
No, I’m not an advocate of grain consumption because I think grains are essentially cattle feed. They don’t offer any real nutritional value. It’s mostly just energy, which I think most people have too much of in their bodies as it is. I’m not talking about the sense of energy, I’m talking about stored energy on our waistlines. Yeah. Yeah, ultra-processed foods drive their own overconsumption. They basically short circuit your brain’s willpower. If you’ve ever cracked open a bag, or a pint of ice cream, or a bag of chips, or even dip into the breadbasket at your local Italian restaurant, you know that these foods are very difficult to moderate. I think it’s best to try to avoid them altogether.
Max Lugavere (41:08):
You know what? A snack here and there is not going to kill you, certainly, but we now have data that suggests that, the types of foods we eat, influence how much of them we eat. Even though you might be thinking to yourself, “It’s so difficult to eat less, I can’t possibly eat less.” Look at the kinds of foods that you’re eating, and you might be able to glean some insights there in terms of why you feel like your hunger is so insatiable.
Dr. Gundry (41:38):
Yeah. It really lights up pleasure centers in the brain and hunger centers in the brain. You can look at this with SPECT scans and PET scans and these foods, you’re right, they make you eat more and seek out more.
Max Lugavere (41:50):
They do. Yeah, this was a shown.
Dr. Gundry (41:52):
It’s like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers or something. Okay. Well, okay, so we don’t want to eat those things, so what are we going to eat instead? What are two or three foods that we should be eating?
Max Lugavere (42:04):
Yeah. I think a perfect brain food, if I had to pick one, is the avocado. Avocados are wonderful brain food. They are packed with potassium, which we talked about earlier, which is important for healthy blood pressure. They’re packed with dietary fiber, which we know is really good for the microbiota, the gut buddies as you like to call them. The gut buddies so that they can have their gut farts or whatever rude term that was, earlier, which I really appreciated.
Max Lugavere (42:38):
They’re packed with healthy fats like monounsaturated fat. I know you’ve interviewed David Sinclair, I believe. He recently posted a study that found that monounsaturated fats actually can activate some of our body’s sirtuin gene pathways which is amazing. Monounsaturated fats are the great for the heart, cardiovascular system, for the brain, might have an anti-aging effect. Avocados are are very concentrated in compounds called carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin, which I talked about in the book. I think that these are the unsung heroes of the produce section of the supermarket, in terms of having good brain health.
Max Lugavere (43:19):
We already know that that lutein and zeaxanthin are important to help prevent age related macular degeneration at about six milligrams per day combined. They have done studies where they found that 12 milligrams. If you’re able to increase your carotenoid consumption, that these carotenoids actually also are able to accumulate in the brain and enhance cognitive function. I eat a high carotenoid diet. I’m always trying to get more lutein and zeaxanthin in my diet and avocados are a very good source. In fact, there was a study that used an avocado. It was a randomized control trial where they gave subjects either avocados, or potatoes, or chickpeas and they found that avocado consumption, because of the carotenoids in them, these compounds actually led to an improvement in cognitive function in this older adult population. They’re an all-in-one brain food. I’m a huge fan of avocados.
Max Lugavere (44:16):
Then, if I had to pick one more, men I would say, well, I would have to say fatty fish, wild salmon, sardines. It’s really hard to talk about brain health without giving a hat tip to fatty fish just because they’re packed with DHA fat which is so important for healthy brain function. It’s one of the most important structural building blocks of the brain. If you’re growing up some wild salmon, throw some avocado on the side, you’ve got your perfect genius meal right there.
Dr. Gundry (44:46):
All right. I’m going to eat shellfish instead of fatty fish and you’ll find out in the next book why, for brain health.
Max Lugavere (44:53):
Oh, man. Oh, wait. I forgot to mention we also want to drizzle some extra virgin olive oil there.
Dr. Gundry (44:57):
Oh thanks goodness.
Max Lugavere (44:58):
All right, so we can agree there, that extra virgin oil. Yeah.
Dr. Gundry (45:01):
Yeah, which is also mostly a monounsaturated fat, but studies show that it’s a great way of producing BDNF and grow brain cells with the olive oil, so, okay. Yeah.
Max Lugavere (45:13):
Yeah, huge fan.
Dr. Gundry (45:14):
Okay. Also, good point in avocados. Studies show that the compounds in avocado will allow you to absorb more of the vitamins and minerals from the food you eat than if the avocado isn’t there. Plus a study in humans show that, an avocado a day produces weight loss compared to not eating an avocado. Everybody who’s fat phobic. “Oh, I can’t eat an avocado. I’ve gained weight.” Mm-mm (negative). It makes you lose weight.
Max Lugavere (45:40):
Yeah. Avocados, they’re a wonderful food. It’s like, well, who’s butter is natural. I was going to say nature’s butter, but they’re like a plant butter essentially, but not these fake, super unhealthy alternative butters that you’ll find in the supermarket. Yeah, those are bad.
Dr. Gundry (46:01):
Max Lugavere (46:02):
Yeah, scary stuff. Avocados are amazing.
Dr. Gundry (46:05):
All right. One more thing before we let you go. Sleep is really good for you. Everybody now agrees.
Max Lugavere (46:11):
Everybody now agrees.
Dr. Gundry (46:13):
Nobody’s getting enough sleep.
Max Lugavere (46:15):
Nobody’s getting enough sleep. I think a third of adults get fewer than six hours per night. This is unfortunate because sleep is the master regulator of our body’s hormones. If you’re trying to make a dietary adjustment with poor sleep, it’s going to be infinitely more difficult to do than when you’re well rested because when you’re well rested, your executive function is firing at full capacity. Executive function, again, it’s that cognitive domain that allows us to be in control of our lives. When you’re under-slept, you’re essentially not in control of your life. You’re allowing your brain to be operated by these more reptilian parts of the brain that are just all about survival. “I got to find the sugar. I got to find the fatty foods.” Those are those base level emotions. It becomes a lot more difficult to emotionally regulate when we’re under-slept as well, because of that disconnection between two parts of our brain, that prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, which is how we handle uncertainty and fear.
Max Lugavere (47:22):
In regards to brain health, now, I think the research is overwhelming that, sleep is crucial for an optimally-performing brain. On just one night of poor sleep, they can measure in cerebral spinal fluid, increases in the two proteins that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, so amyloid beta, which forms the backbone of the plaques, that aggregate and characterize Alzheimer’s disease and also tau protein, to the degree that on one night of poor sleep, there’s an increase of amyloid beta by about 30% and tau by about 50% in cerebral spinal fluid, which is a which is shocking.
Dr. Gundry (48:00):
Which is scary.
Max Lugavere (48:01):
Yeah. It’s so scary.
Dr. Gundry (48:01):
Okay. All right. Okay, you scared me. Give us one tip. How do we get better sleep? I know there’s lots of ways, but give us one that we can institute.
Max Lugavere (48:11):
One tip for better sleep.
Dr. Gundry (48:14):
There’s a lot in the book.
Max Lugavere (48:15):
There’s a lot in the book. Yeah. I would say, I think getting good sleep, really, it hinges on how we spend our days. I think a lot of your listeners are probably expecting me to have a one magical thing to do right before you go to sleep. Actually, what we do in the mornings, dictates how well we sleep at night to a significant degree. I would say that, making sure that you’re getting good, bright sunlight in through our eyes, whether it’s behind a window or even if it’s an overcast day, getting bright daylight, into our eyes for about a half an hour, every morning, or at least before noon, is going to have a major improvement in the way that we sleep, because people who do that tend to have earlier melatonin production.
Max Lugavere (49:04):
Melatonin is the hormone that makes us sleepy at night. It’s also involved in cancer protection and all that stuff. Melatonin is a wonderful hormone that we don’t want to suppress. Getting good, adequate light during the day, you could go outside, as we discussed earlier and spend the time in nature while you’re allowing your eyes to expand to that panoramic view while the sunlight is coming in, even if it’s an overcast day for half an hour and that’ll really help you sleep a lot better. In fact, and I talked about this in the book too, a lot of older adults, there’s this stereotype that the older you get, the less sleep you get.
Max Lugavere (49:45):
Older adults tend to not sleep as well. Why is that? Well, I think we don’t have an answer for certain as to why that is, but I think and a hypothesis that I advanced in the book, the lens of our eyes actually becomes more yellow as we get older. That can actually affect photoreceptors in our eyes or proteins in the eye called melanopsin proteins that are involved in the anchoring of our body’s circadian rhythm. You might actually need more time in the sun in the morning if you’re older. For example, if you’re in your 60s 70s or 80s, than a younger kid, than a kid might or teenager might, because of that discoloring of the lens that occurs. I think, getting out into the sun is crucial for a person for so many aspects of health, not least of which, sleep across the age spectrum, but it becomes probably exponentially more important as we get older.
Dr. Gundry (50:50):
How about if you live in Michigan or Seattle? What about a light box therapy?
Max Lugavere (50:55):
In the morning, I think light boxes can be great. In fact, really what you need is a light intensity of at least 1,000lx. Lux is a unit of how we measure light intensity, the light intensity that basically sets off those proteins in the eye. The melanopsin and proteins that set our body’s circadian rhythm, require about 1,000lx, which we know that if you are under the bright fluorescent lights of a supermarket or a drugstore, the light is able to reach that intensity. If you get a light box, you just want to make sure that it’s at least 1,000lx.
Dr. Gundry (51:31):
Does 1,000lx cost 1000 bucks?
Max Lugavere (51:33):
It doesn’t cost 1000 bucks, thankfully.
Dr. Gundry (51:35):
Max Lugavere (51:36):
There’s an app that you can get for your smartphone, I believe it’s actually called Lux. It’s not as accurate as some of these more professional devices, but you can get a good sense of the amount of light intensity that you’re exposed to, at any moment, with this app on your phone. You want to make sure that in the morning, you take out the app, whether it’s by an open window in your living room or even if you have a half an hour commute to work, just take your sunglasses off, and make sure that your eyes are getting that bright light and it’s at least 1,000lx. That’ll have a major effect on your sleep according to the best available evidence.
Dr. Gundry (52:13):
All right. Great tip. Well, Max, it’s always great to see you and thanks again for coming on the program. Where do people find you and The Genius Life?
Max Lugavere (52:23):
You can head to geniuslifebook.com, or you can pick up the book anywhere books are sold, so Amazon, Barnes and Noble and yeah, it’s-
Dr. Gundry (52:32):
And your local bookseller, please.
Max Lugavere (52:35):
Yeah, support local book shops.
Dr. Gundry (52:36):
And any cool websites, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter?
Max Lugavere (52:43):
Yeah. I’m very active on Instagram, so come and say hi. It’s @maxlugavere. My last name is L-U-G-A-V-E-R-E.
Dr. Gundry (52:52):
For those of you who are watching, there it is.
Max Lugavere (52:54):
Dr. Gundry (52:55):
Yeah. Alright. If you want to debate Max on Instagram, I guess he’s going at it today as we speak, but don’t go too far down those.
Max Lugavere (53:08):
No. Yeah. Social media is funny. We didn’t even talk about that, but you’re right. That’s another one of the areas of modern life that leads to this pervasive and insidious stress that we all have. I’ve kind of opened myself up to the public and sometimes I can’t help myself engage in little tips on Instagram. It’s all in good fun and I’m always open to having my ideas challenged and listening to other people. I’m very open minded, so I welcome it.
Dr. Gundry (53:43):
Great. All right. Well, thanks again. It’s now time for the audience question. Rochelle Glam6 on YouTube wrote in and asked, “Dr. Gundry. What say you about the bioidentical hormone therapy Suzanne Somers talks about in your podcasts with her? I’m very curious about your perspective.” That is a great question. I bet Max and I could go on for several hours about that. Actually, we were talking about this before the show and we’ve had some interesting responses, very positive to that show on Instagram and some very questioning responses on Facebook about Suzanne’s positions on bioidentical hormones. I’ll tell you what? We’re going to put together a podcast on that subject. I’ll give you my honest opinion of doing this, for now over 20 years. Quite frankly, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, are two of the epicenters of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. I’ll tell you the good, the bad and the ugly and hopefully you’ll get some information, but great question. Thank you for asking it. I’m not going to answer it today. Okay. Max again-
Max Lugavere (55:07):
Dr. Gundry, when is the interview again?
Dr. Gundry (55:09):
We’ll hopefully see you next time.
Max Lugavere (55:12):
Can’t wait. Yeah. We’ll have you back on my podcast and thank you for helping spread the word about The Genius Life.
Dr. Gundry (55:18):
Yeah, it’s really important Max goes far more than just genius food this time around. It’s the whole kitten caboodle as we used to say. All right. Review of the week. After the recent podcast on yes and no foods, Faith Rainwater on YouTube wrote, “This was the best Q&A video to date. My husband and I have been on the plant paradox lifestyle since September 2019, and I’ve noticed that when we go off the rails a bit, how the bad foods make us feel. We were just living with what seemed normal. You touched on almost all the questions I have been wondering about. We love living lectin-free and it has done wonders for us. Thank you so much for your research. We are like sponges soaking in all the nerdy science and information.”
Dr. Gundry (56:13):
Well, thank you very much Faith Rainwater. We’ve talked about this before and in an upcoming podcast with Dr. Terry Walls, we’ll talk about the effect of getting in tune with your body and you will actually get the proper signals back from your body, of what feeling good feels like and when you stray, let me tell you, your body will let you know. This is what I’ve learned from my patients. This is what I’ve learned, obviously from personal experience. We are so surrounded by feeling bad, that we forget what feeling good really feels like. Then when we go off, we get reminded, often with a jolt of what feeling bad used to feel like. Thanks very much. That’s why I do this for you.
Dr. Gundry (57:13):
Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you, that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you want to watch each episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/ drgundry, because I’m Dr. Gundry. And I’m always looking out for you.