Some of what he says are simple truisms: mental performance is affected by everything related to health such as sleep, food, vitamins, minerals, detoxification, nutrients, amino acids, hormone replacement, pharmaceuticals and herbs. Metabolism is the key to brain function: 3% of the body uses 20% of the energy. Macronutrients, micronutrients, exercise, water, and breathing are important too.
We knew that.
Which nutrients promote optimal brain function? All of them: any deficiency will affect the brain. Fowkes goes beyond the evidence to claim that some nutrients are needed at super-physiological levels; Mother Nature is not optimal. Some supplements appear to work but the effects are not sustainable. It’s not about parts, but about how things work together.
Energy production is essential. Anaerobic metabolism only produces 2 ATP molecules from a glucose molecule compared to up to 38 ATP from aerobic metabolism. He says this is inadequate. He says it’s enough to support unicellular life but not multicellular life (this is not true: there are multicellular organisms that are obligate anaerobes). He says it’s not enough to give you robust life, consciousness and a working brain. So aerobic metabolism is essential to preventing and treating Alzheimer’s.
He shows how a complex cascade of effects from an imbalance between mercury and glutathione affects a series of other processes and leads to Alzheimer’s, and he recapitulates some of the material from his Alzheimer’s video, but this presentation is not about Alzheimer’s: it’s about mental performance in everyone. What nutrients are commonly deficient enough to impair mental performance? The elderly are deficient in melatonin, B12, and pregnenolone. Teenage boys are deficient in zinc. Everyone is deficient in Vitamin D and magnesium. 30% of teenagers have a 10-point IQ increase just from RDA level supplements.
He says some hormones are neuroprotective, but estrogens have an anti-metabolic effect and impair energy production, which explains why women have more stamina than men. This is also why when men get inflammation they produce estrogen and start gaining weight and have more health problems. These statements are taken out of context from research that has little or no clinical significance. In contradiction to numerous published studies, he says estrogen has a profound adverse effect on the brain.
How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep
He has lots of advice for better sleep, from truisms to highly questionable recommendations:
- Pay attention.
- Use consistent background sound.
- Sleep with regularity.
- Sleep in the dark (melatonin).
- Wake up with red light to mimic sunrise and sunset.
- Try tryptophan for serotonin.
- Eliminate inflammation (from allergy, infection, gut).
- Balance A and D.
- Digestive enzymes.
- Zinc with every meal to tighten up your gut and prevent undigested food particles from passing in and producing inflammation.
- If a drug is needed, use Xyrem, which is a nutrient and enhances stages 3 and 4, which are decreased or absent in old age. This means you are not really asleep at night. Note: Xyrem is a brand name version of the date rape drug GHB and it has only been approved for the treatment of cataplexy associated with narcolepsy. It can have serious side effects. Ironically, one listed side effect is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. It is absurd and dangerous to recommend it as a sleeping pill.
- Do-it-yourself sleep studies with camcorder — wakenings, breathing, etc. Note: No home studies can replace sleep lab studies, which should be done on anyone suspected of sleep apnea because it can lead to life-threatening complications.
Alternatives to SSRIs (which he calls SRI’s): B vitamins, correcting mineral deficiencies, discovering unrecognized toxicities like lead toxicity. Most laboratories measure statistical norms, others look at functional needs. Rather than measuring the amount of a mineral, he recommends measuring the function of enzymes that use the mineral. Treat hypothyroidism. He’s had hundreds of clients come to him with thyroid test results and only one was done right. Patient with low normal tests take thyroid and their energy goes up, their depression resolves, they start sleeping better, and they lose weight. Load with neurotransmitter precursors: 5-htp, DLPA. Shift estrogen dominance with iodine therapy to increase estriol which improves infections, etc. Measure estrogen levels in men. Add 5htp or tryptophan to SSRIs to prevent habituation. Note: This is all non-standard advice not supported by evidence. Depression is a potentially life-threatening condition (suicide), and unproven “alternatives” to effective treatment could be dangerous.
Milk is Bad
Raw milk has good fat structure that is destroyed by homogenization; homogenized milk causes irritation of the vascular system. Raw milk is “way better,” but in terms of allergy it may not be better at all. (He doesn’t mention that in terms of infection risk, it is much worse!) Casein, whey, galactose are the problems with milk. Low fat doesn’t help because milk solids are added and they cause cataracts. Milk causes osteoporosis and it causes an inflammatory response in 95% of blacks and 50% of whites. Milk is not a good source of calcium; grain is better. (But he tells us to avoid grain too!)
He recommends a test for milk allergy that is positively bizarre: go off all dairy (including eggs!?) for 2 weeks and then re-challenge with one drop of milk under the tongue. If a metronome synchronized to your body slows down, or if you freak out, or if your pulse rate goes up dramatically, you’re allergic to milk.
Or gullible. The test doesn’t discriminate.
Bread is Bad
Gluten is extremely difficult to digest and undigested gluten protein has an inflammatory effect that causes all kinds of degenerative problems and stress to your gut, and leads to heart disease and probably cancer as well. Corn and red meat are also difficult to digest. And yeast, because we don’t have good enzymes to digest the cell wall.
Avoid grain. Eat a Paleolithic diet (what we are best adapted to): unlimited greens, fruit, nuts, meat when you can kill it. If you have to eat gluten or dairy at Aunt Mildred’s house at Thanksgiving, take digestive enzymes with you to ease the burden.
- Vaccines cause autism (false!)
- There is a conspiracy to cover up information about natural treatments.
- Doctors are ignorant.
- Monitoring urinary pH is a reliable way to monitor acid/base balance and health (Not!)
- “Subclinical hypothyroidism” is a common problem. (Here he doesn’t even get the terminology right. He attributes a variety of symptoms to a low level of hormone that doesn’t register on blood tests, whereas subclinical means abnormally low on blood tests without any symptoms.)
- Estrogen/testosterone ratio is a risk.
- Ketosis treats end-stage organ failure. (No, but ketosis is a result of end-stage kidney failure).
- If you’re insulin resistant, depending on glucose for energy, your energy is sabotaged: your brain is living on 90 or 70 volts instead of 100 volts. Ketosis puts you back up to 100 volts.
- Alcohol causes addiction through glucose addiction, serotonin addiction, and NADH addiction.
- Hangovers can be reliably prevented or cured with vitamin C and cysteine.
- Nutrasweet (aspartame) is an excitotoxin, an irritant to the brain, and can aggravate calcium toxicity in the brain.
- He blames epigenetic effects of generations of poor nutrition as the reason that “There’s a lot of falling apart going on around us: autism is way up, brain cancer is way up.” (They aren’t way up; and besides, he already blamed autism on vaccines.)
- Wheat has estrogens that make male animals infertile, for the buffalo. (!? I’m guessing he meant that plants produce toxins to try to defend themselves against herbivores. I’m pretty sure the male buffalos didn’t go infertile from eating estrogens in wheat. And I think he meant bison.)
- Mustards have mutagens (Did he confuse Grey Poupon with nitrogen mustard?)
- Alfalfa sprouts have an ingredient that produces autoimmune disease in humans and chimpanzees. (In fact, alfalfa sprouts have been used to treat autoimmune disease.)
- Plant toxins are not different from manmade ones, but we are adapted to eating phytotoxins. (If they’re not different, shouldn’t we be equally adapted to both?)
- If you have residual effects from anesthesia, tell your doctor you need T3 monotherapy.
Some of these are clearly false, some need qualifying, some are speculations mixed with a grain of truth that I didn’t have the time or inclination to untangle.
“Myths to Live By”
He calls his dietary advice “myths to live by” and prefaces it by saying:
I’m not going to say this is all quite scientific, because on some level it’s based on prejudice, philosophy…
- Low carb vegetables.
- Eat meat (insects OK) to supply B12 (tiny to moderate amounts, maybe just the bugs in your grain as in India).
- Cultivate ketosis (go in and out of ketosis weekly or monthly to exercise your metabolism).
- Consume tropical oils.
- Eat less carbs and calories than your peers.
- Assume industry ads are lies.
- Assume the food pyramid is upside down.
- Assume your doctor is profoundly ignorant (doctors will never say “I don’t know” – they’ll just make it up).
- Assume all experts are biased.
He recommends Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories. He favors low-carb and Paleolithic diets.
He recommends nonstandard and unreliable lab tests and do-it-yourself home trials.
- Ask your doctor for RBC trace mineral profile (30-40 nutrients), normative blood vitamin levels, Spectrocell functional medicine test for nutrients, urine chelation challenge for heavy metals.
- Try a nutrient and see if you notice a difference. (We all know how reliable “try-it-for-yourself” is!)
- Cultivate computer games (Tetris, etc.) to measure small differences that you might not notice otherwise.
- 1 week should be enough to see an effect of supplementing things like B12. (Not!)
He tells an anecdote about a patient who was supposedly almost killed by doctor who gave him potassium based on low blood levels even after the patient and his wife told him the patient was a potassium over-accumulator. The excess potassium needed to normalize his blood potassium test drove him into heart failure and even when he was on digoxin, the doctor wouldn’t admit that he was wrong. The patient had to leave AMA to save his life. Really? “Potassium over-accumulator” is not in my medical dictionary, and Googling for the phrase got only one hit: Fowkes’ video itself.
I’ll be polite and simply say I do not consider Steven Fowkes to be a reliable source of health information. Some of his facts are wrong, his speculations have not been tested with clinical studies, and some of his advice is frankly dangerous.
This article was originally published in the Science-Based Medicine Blog