15 Lessons Learned From World Leaders in Brain Health

Recently I was in Chicago attending Walsh Research Institute’s Annual Symposium, Nutrient Power: Advanced Methods to Heal Brain Disorders, lead by Dr. William Walsh, PhD, my personal physicians Dr. Albert Mensah, MD and Dr. Judith Bowman, MD, and Dr. Elizabeth Mumper, MD.

As I sat there listening, a feeling of gratitude coursed throughout my body, mingled with moments of holding back tears.

Tears because I couldn’t believe how far I’d come in my own personal journey of overcoming depression, anxiety and disordered eating; and also how much I’ve learned from these gifted practitioners that has completely reshaped the way I work with my own clients.

Many folks think that good brain health is simply a mind over matter issue and that you can just snap out of it if you “really try hard enough.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

And despite pharmaceuticals designed to correct neurotransmitter imbalances, now more than ever our culture is in a brain health crisis. And sadly, the world has it all backwards when it comes to depression.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that cognitive impairments often involve a constellation of factors and in order to really get to the root cause, it’s important to address them all from a functional perspective.

So here are the top lessons I’ve learned for brain health:
  1. The 3 musketeers of antioxidant protection in the brain are:
    • Glutathione: First line of defense
    • Metallothionein: Nature’s back-up system
    • Selenium: Speeds up the process
  2. Broccoli sprouts are intense glutathione promoters.
  3. 90% of flu vaccines contain mercury, and mercury reduces the body’s master antioxidant glutathione, leading to oxidative stress.
  4. Many pharmaceuticals deplete glutathione and shrink the brain, especially acetaminophen and the drug Abilify used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, and autism.
  5. Food has a powerful gene regulating effect: the wrong foods for your biotype can turn on deviant genes, and the right ones can turn them off.
  6. The paradigm shift needed for understanding autism includes: genetic susceptibilities, environmental triggers, and timing and development.
  7. Of the 287 chemicals detected in umbilical cord blood:
    • 180 cause cancer in humans or animals
    • 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system
    • 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests
    • Nearly 200 have been banned from the market for years
  8. Any substance that is tolerated by one individual (or fetus) would not necessarily be tolerated by another, and neurological disorders appear to be expressions of the impact of environmental toxins on genetically susceptible individuals.
  9. What’s good for the body, isn’t necessarily good for the brain.
  10. Methylfolate is a suicidal nutrient (read more about this here).
  11. You may test positive for a genetic mutation (SNP), but genetic tests have no way of telling you whether that particular mutation will express itself in you or not.
  12. The brain is a chemical factory and the raw materials needed for neurotransmitter synthesis are nutrients: vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
  13. Humans exhibit great diversity in blood and brain chemistry.
  14. Because of genetics and epigenetics, most people are deficient in several nutrients and overloaded in others.
  15. For every drug that benefits a patient, there are natural substances that can produce the same effect.

As always, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below!

Love,
SamiSig

Comments 32

  1. Hi Samantha! Hope you enjoyed Chicago, my 2nd hometown & where I traveled from to get to Portland. Thanks for all of your information, I read it all & find it very interesting & helpful too. Happy life to you!

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      Hi Justin,
      Great question. Dr. Walsh calls methylfolate a suicidal nutrient because it “loses its identity very quickly” in the methylation cycle, plus it’s a serotonin reuptake promoter. If your body doesn’t make enough methyl (undermethylation) and you struggle with depression/cognitive impairments, it will strip more methyl than it provides and make you feel worse. Antidepressants (SSRI’s) are reuptake inhibitors and undermethylated persons respond well to these medications. You can read more about folate here.

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  2. I appreciate the succint, clear list. Gives lots of great info in quick easy read…and inspired me to look deeper when I have time. EXCITING stuff!!! I have found relief experimenting with food and supplements. SO great to find some science to back up my intuition and my own self research.

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  3. I was considering getting the genetic testing done from 23@me to see if I have a problem with methylation. From what I am understanding from your great research I would be better off discovering whether I am an under or over methylator. How does I figure out if I am either an under or over methylator?
    Thanks in advance for such great information

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      Hi Steve,
      Thank you, I’m glad my posts are beneficial for you. Simple blood tests are all that’s required to figure out methylation status. I’m happy to offer you a complimentary session to see how I can help.

  4. Hi Sami

    I have enloyed reading several of your articles and appreciate the information provided

    My wife has health issues with a auto immiunne disease called Crest (breakdown of the collagen in the joints) which causes the joints in her hands especially and feet to be severely inflamed and swollen and painful all of the time. She sees a rheumatologist as she is told she has RA along with reynauds but all her Dr. has prescribed are cortisone shots in her hands and prednisone. She take Advil for the pain daily.

    We have discussed changing her diet to gluten free to help with this auto immune disease but wanted to ask if you feel this would help and how could we het her tested to see what may be causing this Crest and what is a better holistic approach. Appreciate any help you can give us as she is getting to the point where she cannot do her job as a bookkeeper and tax advisor typing on the computer all day and taking care of our grandkids which she loves to do

    Help !
    her husband
    Ron

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      Hi Ron,
      Thank you, I’m so glad you are enjoying my posts. Diet is a key piece of the autoimmune puzzle. If you’d like a complimentary session to see how I can help, please email my assistant Shannon at info@samanthagilbert.com and she’ll get you scheduled.

  5. Hi Samantha!

    I was wondering if you could give me some words of encouragement? My health and methylation journey has been long and arduous. I went to Dr. Mensah back in 2011, tested very low for histamine and started he and Dr. Bowman’ protocol for overmethylators. After about 4 months, things started shifting in a good manner. Like so many people I stopped the protocol. I got on Facebook and other places and read about MTHFR and got a full genetic panel. I was found to have three of the MTHFR genetic abnormalities and they said I was under methylated. Needless to say, it has been confusing. All I know is, any little amount of methyl B 12 makes me very sick. After going back through and watching Dr. Mensah’s videos – I now realize that it’s the sum of methylation in your body, not snps you need to treat. I am set up with one of their associates here in Asheville, NC to get tested again – but it’s hard to pull the trigger. Being on methyl B12 and methyls nearly wrecked my life.

    I want to take a dive, but it’s hard. Any encouragement?

    Ben

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      Hi Ben,
      Thank you for sharing your story. I really appreciate the journey you’ve been on. Sharing your story is a great example of why genetic testing for individual SNPs leads to outcomes that create more negative results. This is why we don’t recommend them. Keep up your great work and please do keep me posted!

    2. Same here, Ben. I actually described it the same way you did, methylfolate/b12 wrecked my life. It’s been a few years, how are you now?

  6. Samantha,

    Just to add to that – SSRI’s drive me bonkers and make my anxiety go out the roof. This further justifies what Mensah told me about being an over methylator.

  7. My health has gradually been improving using a low amine, sulphur, salicylate, and oxalate GAPS diet so eat few foods and don’t use salicylates on my skin since I use guaifenesin for fibromyalgia per Dr. St. Amand’s protocol for fibromyalgia. I quit using a gas stove a few years ago and replaced the original furnace in my 1968 mobile home with an auto ignite model which made a big difference in my brain health.

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  8. Though I don’t go to Dr. Mensah, I go to a practitioner who has studied under Dr. Walsh and knows him well. She helped me to learn that I am undermethylated, pyroluric, and high copper/low zinc.

    Dr. Walsh’s research has helped me heal in ways I cannot fully explain. Methylation affects more than your mental status. Even though I am undermethylated, I don’t express as depression. My methylation affects me physically. I will be excited as this research grows to include more physical aspects.

    Bottom line, juicing green veggies on the Paleo diet ended up giving me ulcerative colitis. Too many folates!! Too much niacin! Too many salicylates. Too many oxalates. As an UM, our gut seems to get hit easily, and when it is damaged, we become toxic with these other things. We don’t detox them quickly, either — our genetic pathway is so slow.

    Once I put all of the pieces together, I realized that the damage done to my gut caused oxalate toxicity — and my undermethylation was a key point keeping me from dumping them. So, thanks to the research of Susan Owens and low oxalate, I am healing even further. There is always more than one piece of the puzzle.

    I just want to give hope to others out there that Dr. Walsh’s research and protocol saved my life. Between the ulcerative colitis and fibromyalgia symptoms — followed by the oxalate toxicity — understanding methylation has given me a new lease on life. It has taught me how to manage my diet — and my supplements. My old doctor told me I must take high doses of niacin for my heart — and high doses of folic acid. He had no clue he was contributing to my crash.

    Give me another 2 years s– and I’ll be running with the best of you 🙂 If Dr. Walsh reads this — THANK YOU. THANK YOU. There are no words to express my gratitude for your research. Thank you for training doctors like my doctor. She’s in another state, but it was worth the drive to go see her.

    1. I have many food sensitivities and recently was told the lead on my Doctor’s Data 8 hour urine element test provoked with 300 mg DMPS & 500MG DMSA was 38 and should be less than 2. A hair element test in 2006 showed I was very toxic with various heavy metals including lead but in 2013 showed I was within “acceptable” limits. Ironically, to help me detox by improving sulfate levels in my body, since 2008, I have taken epsom salt baths every few days in my 1968 mobile home so now suspect the tub is a source of some of my chronic health challenges. http://www.mommypotamus.com/lead-leaching-bathtubs-the-dirtiest-secret-in-your-bathroom/. I am now using a BPA free plastic foot size tub for my epsom salt soaks. I also started using a stainless steel mug for my steaming hot water instead of an old porcelain mug that may contain lead.

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      Hi Kathy,
      Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad you are doing well and understanding your body on a whole new level! Dr. Walsh is an amazing man. 🙂

  9. I like your site a lot. We we are trying to save up the money to get testing done for a daughter. She I had more anxiety than the normal four year old I first noticed it. By the age of 7 she developed selective mutism. It became progressive mutism which was complete silence for almost a year. She was put on fluoxetine which made no difference. That you started speaking again was a complete miracle for which we had prayed for in the name of Jesus. God has led me to find out about the book by dr. Walsh. I believe that that the healing knowledge contained in it is a blessing from God.

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  10. Hi Sami,

    I just came across your site and am looking at setting up a consult with your office in Jan (first available). I have been on the Mensah protocol for about 1 month for Pyrrole. I have seen some benefits but feel like I am still missing something as some days my anxiety comes back in full force. I have taken a SSRNI in the past and felt the medicine within 24 hours of working. I couldn’t stand the side effects though. Walsh mentions that people who are undermethylated respond well to SSRI’s. Would undermethylated people also respond well to SSRNI’s? Thank you for your time!!

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  11. Hi there,
    how do you test for under or over methylation? Is it the histamine blood test? My holistic Dr thinks I might swing between the 2, is this possible? My histamine appeared to be in the labs normal range. She says I have traits of both. I have always been a bit ADHD & suffer from mild anxiety, I have no problem getting to sleep & at times struggle to stay asleep. I am heterozygous for MTHFR C667T, MTRR A 664A CBS C699T, CBS A36oA & homozygous for all these COMT V158H, COMT H62H, VDR Bsm, MAO-A R297R, BHMT-08. I am on supplements for Pyroluria ( level was 37.5)
    Where to from here??
    Thank you
    Dawn

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      Hi Dawn,
      We use whole blood histamine and/or SAM/SAH ratio to check methylation status in addition to other functional labs such as copper and zinc. If you’d like to schedule a complimentary session to see how I can help, click here.

  12. Thank you for all you do to teach and shed light in the name of achieving peace in mind, body and spirit. So much Hope Sami! You helped me find my way. So much love to you!

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  13. My daughter was tested by Dr Mensah & her test results showed she had copper off the charts, was an under methylator and had a pyrrole disorder. Since both you, Sami & Dr. Mensah have been working with her, she has become a new person!! She is now back to school, (accelerating nursing program), & accomplishing every day things she never could before!!
    Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!

    P..S.
    Your Low Copper Cookbook has also been a great help too!!

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      You’re so welcome Anita! I’m so happy she is thriving and that my Low Copper Cookbook is a great tool for you! Keep up the great work! 🙂

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