Dr. Tom O’Bryan is considered a “Sherlock Holmes” for chronic disease and metabolic disorders. He regularly speaks to audiences on food sensitivities, environmental toxins, and inflammation, and his docuseries “Betrayal” is a thought-provoking exploration of autoimmune disorders. Parvati Magazine caught up with him to discuss his latest book, “You Can Fix Your Brain”, about steps everyone can take for greater vitality, clarity and energy.
Parvati Magazine: Please describe the link between inflammation and the brain.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Practically every degenerative disease, [including] Parkinson’s disease [or] multiple sclerosis, are diseases of inflammation. There may be genetic influences as well, but how we live our lives is also important. To do what we can to avoid exacerbating pre-existing genetic weak links is an empowering way to look at health.
Inflammation is almost always the trigger of degeneration. Various insults such as gluten, casein in dairy, [as well as] trauma and concussion, can compromise and breach the blood-brain barrier, thereby allowing larger materials or particles such as viruses to enter the brain. This then activates the immune system within the brain, creating inflammation. Inflammation is a protective response. However, the problem is that we keep tearing down the blood-brain barrier, repeatedly activating the immune response and causing collateral damage, degeneration through the inflammatory cascade.
Brain degeneration scares most people because it can be overwhelming and we think we are helpless. We can fix our brain, but it takes consistent practice and time. Set aside an hour every week to learn about and practice what is affecting our brain—it can make a real difference. There is no quick fix.
Parvati Magazine: What about other environmental factors such as pollution or toxins?
Dr. Tom O’Bryan: In the 1990s, dogs that were autopsied in Mexico City had evidence of pathology that we see in Alzheimer’s dementia. In the mid-2000s, children in Mexico City with a blood test were studied and found to have inflammation suggestive of Alzheimer’s. This was attributed to extreme air pollution in the city. The Journal of Pediatrics published a study that identified 250 pounds of toxic chemicals per person per day are being dumped in the United States. Every newborn in America being checked has on average 180 toxic chemicals in the placenta blood at birth, many of which are neurotoxins.
Another example is cumulative mold inhalation, from mold infestation in your house. You have to learn the baby steps to take, such as avoiding exposure to mold in hotel rooms or installing an air filter in your home to prevent this cumulative exposure. Or standing away, or upwind from the smell of gasoline while pumping gas, to avoid exposure to benzene. You can also support elected officials who believe in a cleaner planet for children.
We have to remember that we are well-designed to protect against parasites and fungus, as our ancestors have been exposed [to them]. We are not designed to be protected against chronic exposure to lead in the air, mercury in our food, BPA in beverages contained in plastic. The measures we take to prevent such chronic exposures reduces chronic inflammation in our brains and bodies.
Parvati Magazine: What are your top three dietary supplements or foods that most people would benefit from?
Dr. Tom O’Bryan: Fish oils, which are the raw materials for the membranes of our brain cells. Studies show that when we give children healthy fats, such as good fish oils, their IQ increases within three to six months. I also recommend smoothies made with fresh ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, seeds [like] freshly ground flax. Smoothies are such a great nutrient-dense way to enhance your health. Another one is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has a healing effect on breach of the blood-brain barrier. Finally, everyone needs to drink more water, because water is the medium that escorts materials, including toxins, out of your cells. Everyone should drink a half ounce of water per pound of body weight.
Parvati Magazine: What message would you like to leave us with?
Dr. Tom O’Bryan: You can fix your brain, but it takes a wake-up call. Get rid of your plastic food containers, learn about the toxins in our homes and work environments, and do what you can to minimize these. Be an advocate. I was recently in Germany, and they have coffee cups with compostable lids made from rice. Ask about it, and ask for them. Go to your grocery store and ask for organic produce. If enough people ask for it, it will come. Go out of your way, be a little bit different, and ask.
Dr. Tom O’Bryan is the founder of www.theDr.com and the visionary behind The Gluten Summit – A Grain of Truth. His groundbreaking 2016 book “The Autoimmune Fix” is the winner of the National Book Award. He holds teaching positions with the Institute for Functional Medicine and the National University of Health Sciences.