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The Science Of Oxidative Stress, with Dr. Martin Katz

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

If we look beyond the symptom-focused approach of western medicine, we quickly see that the real focus should be on how the systems in our bodies are functioning. As Dr. Martin Katz states, “The absence of disease is not health.” In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Katz and the Amens discuss how oxidative stress triggers an unhealthy response in your body, and how certain molecules such as sulforaphane can counterattack that process.

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Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcasts, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Daniel Amen, MD:
The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools, like brain SPECT imaging, to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainmd.com.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Welcome back. We're here with our friend, Dr. Martin Katz, everything you want to know about sulforaphanes and how you can use them as one of the things to stay healthy. I always love natural ways to heal the brain, natural ways to heal the body. One of my grandbabies that we've talked about, Emmy, has had developmental challenges. And sulforaphanes is actually one of the strategies that her functional medicine doctor has used and has actually helped her with learning. And there's a number of studies with sulforaphanes and the brain.
But Martin, maybe you can review for us, what does the science say about how sulforaphanes work, and how might they help someone?
Martin Katz:
Yeah. The science is tremendous. Sulforaphane came about through Johns Hopkins. It was founded by [Yuchen 00:01:59] Zhang and Paul Talalay, back in 1992. And those guys were actually looking at inducers of cancer. And since that time, there's hundreds and hundreds of studies published on sulforaphane every year. It gradually ramped up. I think last year there was something like 250, or two years ago, there was something like 250 studies on sulforaphane. So the science is rich on sulforaphane. And it's a remarkable molecule, in that it's actually a little bit pro-oxidant. So it actually stresses the cell, to a certain degree, which people don't really understand. It's not in and of itself, the antioxidant. It's working on upstream problems. And so, we have again, this idea of treating symptoms and here's a med for this, and here's a med for this, but what would be great is if we could start focusing on something that has upstream capabilities.
A word that I absolutely love is something called pleiotropic. Because people come in with so many different things. I'm not sure exactly what they should or shouldn't be taking. And so if there's a molecule that creates a pleiotropic effect, I'm pretty excited about it. And pleiotropic means this one molecule, sulforaphane, has a big impact. And the way it has a big impact when you ingest it, and again, it's very bioavailable. So, it gets across the gut. It's getting into tissues. They found it in breast tissue. It gets across the blood-brain barrier. It's getting into brain, and as you pointed out, it helps people with a significant amount of brain issues, including depression and degenerative brain disorders. Great study on autism. But this molecule sulforaphane turns on something called NRF2. Now, NRF2 is yet another molecule that goes down to your nucleus and turns on something called the antioxidant response element, which is, some people have estimated at the very least 200 genes, but possibly as many as 500 genes, that are instrumental in decreasing your oxidative stress.
And we can talk a little bit about oxidative stress. It's very, very important to understand oxidative stress. It helps with detox. We know we are living in a very toxic world. Just getting out in LA and breathing is a risk factor. New York, Shanghai, all these big cities, lots of pollution problems. Great study on sulforaphane, as it happens, and decrease in benzene and acrolein, which are big in pollution.
But anyway, so this antioxidant response element turns on all these genes that have a lot to do, again, as I mentioned, antioxidation, detoxification, anti-inflammation. So, we know about inflammation and the brain, and joints, and the pancreas, and you name it. Also with immune modulation response, which is a huge thing now with this pandemic. And so there's some studies that suggest that sulforaphane has an impact on natural killer cells, helping not only what's called the innate immune system, which is there, it's not very specific, it's going to help you deal with things up front, but also the adaptive immune system. And so it's a molecule that is vastly studied and has just so much data behind it with regard to all these disease processes, which are making us sick.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
If I could ask you, one of the ways I was trying to explain to the kids, because they're like, "Why are vegetables good for me? Why do I have to eat them?" Especially the dark green leafy ones, which kids don't like. And I was trying to explain it to them. And one of the ways it was explained to me is... Okay, let me make this easy for you. And tell me if this is too simplified, or if you can add something this.
They're good for you because they're a little bit bad for you. Meaning that they do put that little bit of stress on the cell, which causes your immune system to kick in. It causes you to fight all these bad things. So that's way oversimplified, but it causes a stimulative process to start kicking in. And so, it's like this idea of hormesis almost. It's like when you ingest something that's a little bit, like greens have a little bit of that toxic effect, it causes your body to go, "Wait. Whoa. Let's be on alert." And it decreases inflammation and fights back. I know that's probably way oversimplified, but is that sort of the idea of what happens?
Martin Katz:
Yeah. I definitely think that there are molecules in plants that are hormetic and that's what you're describing hormesis. My favorite example of hormesis is exercise. So exercise, we all know doesn't feel great, right? It hurts, but we all feel better after doing it. Why? Because it's a hormetic stress. It brings out the best in our cells by stressing them. So it creates mitophagy. We all love or should love the mitochondria. And so exercising-
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Your energy.
Martin Katz:
Right. It's what creates energy, but so much more. And so this mitochondria with exercise can undergo changes. If there's a lot of oxidative stress, the mitochondria is not very healthy. And there are some studies showing sulforaphane supporting the health of the mitochondria. But if the mitochondria is not healthy, it's leaking oxygen. It's leaking things. That whole oxidative phosphorylation process, which gets you that energy, is being broken down because you're not able to hold those electrons in place.
Those electrons, escape, and guess who loves electrons? Oxygen. I talk to my kids and my patients even about the Hulk. Most people know who the Hulk is. And so it's like Dr. Banner and the Hulk. Oxygen as a compound is Dr. Banner. It's generally relaxed. It's not getting excited. But if it finds electrons, which it really likes, it becomes the Hulk. And what does the Hulk do?
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Destructive.
Martin Katz:
The Hulk smashes. It breaks down that cellular wall. It breaks down, God forbid, DNA. That very thing that drives cell processing. So, it's not good. And so, it's funny you mentioned this, and again, this is a selfless plug. I actually wrote a kid's book.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
How interesting.
Martin Katz:
I haven't gotten it published yet. I've put it out to publishers. I haven't got anybody interested.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Oh, that's fantastic. Okay.
Martin Katz:
Yeah. It's called, You Are Incredibly Awesome. Except I've left out the vowels. So it's Y, just the R, and then Incredibly, leave out the Is and the Es. And so as you go through the book, each of those vowels are vegetables and fruits, and they help fill in the words. And so by the end of the book, I think it's O or U, I can't remember what my last vowel is, you get the full sentence.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
I see.
Martin Katz:
Yeah. And the front cover, if you hold it different ways you see it's, You Are Incredibly Awesome. But if you're just looking at it, it makes no sense. Because it's just a Y, the next word, just an R, and then N-C-R.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Oh, you have to send it to us.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Yeah, that sounds really interesting.
Daniel Amen, MD:
We might help with some ideas here.
Martin Katz:
Yeah. I started talking to my kids about gardens and about composting and making sure that you're putting the best in. You're not going to put a Snickers bar in you're going to put... And I was trying to think of these ways to help explain to my kids why they want to eat healthy because telling them to eat vegetables and fruits, it doesn't work.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
No. It doesn't work.
Martin Katz:
So if you have a cool story. So, I am a part of this endurance team at the local school. Incredible endurance team. When they show up, people know it's for real. They're very, very good. They're very interested in all things nutrition, and these are teenagers in high school. And so they're a little ahead and they want to be the best. And so I go in there and talk to them and I'll ask one kid on one side of the room to tell a kid on the other side of the room something. But then he tells me, and I write it down without the vowels, and the guy on the other side of the room has to figure it out. And it has to do with communication.
Why that is so important is because our cells are communicating all the time. We are a system. And if there's a breakdown in that communication, if there's a breakdown in that system, it's not going to be as healthy. It's not going to be thriving as much. And so that's this important idea of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress, which comes from again, oxygen. And this oxidative phosphorylation, this mitochondrial production of energy, which is unbelievably important.
But the other thing that I did not get in medical school was that it's also creating these byproducts, these OH minuses, these oxygen radicals, these superoxide radicals, hydrogen peroxide. Which actually communicate and signal if there's a problem. Now within the cell, you have incredible antioxidants. Most of us probably have heard of glutathione. It's produced within the cell. There's others. There's lots of others. Heme oxygenase, NQO1, superoxide dismutase, catalase, these are all big words but suffice it to say, they help to normalize or help to decrease that oxidative stress if you don't need to signal that the cell's in trouble.
But if the cell's in trouble, if there's a virus or bacteria, or you just lacerated, you just caused a cut and now you're bleeding out and you need to say, "Hey, I need help out here." Or God forbid, you had a heart attack because you weren't that healthy. You need to signal your cells to come and repair. And that cell signaling happens because of oxidative stress. So it's very important, but it's also, you've got to understand that it's incredibly important that you balance it, because if you don't, you're going to land up with disease.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Sort of like inflammation. It's necessary but not all the time.
Martin Katz:
Exactly. And that's the difference between acute and chronic disease. Chronic disease is just letting this process go on and on. Lord, I have smokers who come into my office, this talking about the absence of disease is not health. I have smokers who come into my office and say, "Hey, I'm healthy." I'm like, "What? No, you're not."
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
I know. It's so funny when I hear people say that.
Daniel Amen, MD:
They are poisoned. Yeah. And that's why the scans we do are so helpful because you can see the damage they're doing to their brain. It's really hard to be healthy when you have a damaged brain. When we come back, I want us just to summarize sulforaphanes, and when someone would think about BrocElite and adding it to their regimen.
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Tana Amen, BSN RN:
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