On this week’s episode Kelly Brogan, MD, discusses holistic psychiatry. We will go over important topics such as why this psychiatrist stopped writing prescriptions 9 years ago, how childhood trauma influences mental and overall health and why a chemical imbalance isn’t to blame for depression.
Kelly Brogan, M.D., is a holistic health psychiatrist, author of the New York Times bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, and the children’s book, A Time for Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook, Integrative Therapies for Depression. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is board-certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine and is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. She is a certified KRI Kundalini Yoga teacher and a mother of two.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Happier and Healthier podcast. Today’s guest is holistic psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Brogan, M.D. She was trained traditionally at NYU, Cornell and M.I.T. But as we’ll discuss, after years of doing things the traditional way, she realized there was a better way. So now she practices a more holistic version of psychiatry in which she addresses the root cause of mental disorders through diet and lifestyle changes instead of medications. She’s written a number of books, including The New York Times best selling book, A Mind of Your Own. The children’s book A Time for Rain. And she was co-editor of the landmark textbook, Integrative Therapies for Depression. Today, she’s here to discuss her latest book, Own Yourself The Surprising Past Beyond Depression, Anxiety and Fatigue to Reclaiming Your Authenticity, Vitality and Freedom. Before we get started. Check out these brands that make the Happier and Healthier podcasts possible.
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Maria Marlowe: [00:03:52] Dr. Brogan, thanks for being here. Total pleasure. So in traditional psychiatry, one of the main tools in helping those with mental disorders is through medication. However, although that you’re traditionally trained, you decided to put down your prescription pad in 2010. So why? What happened and why do you prefer other methods for treating mental disorders?
Dr. Brogan: [00:04:18] Yeah, it’s not so much a preference as an evolution of my understanding. It’s an important bit of context that, as you said, I was very much a dyed in the wool believer in tool based management of not just psychiatric symptoms and syndromes, but also all illnesses. You know, I thought that it was kind of a war that needed to be won and that this was the most powerful arsenal we could access.
Dr. Brogan: [00:04:45] And I believed so much in this model that I specialized in prescribing to pregnant and breastfeeding women and was one of the first 300 so-called reproductive psychiatrists who were offering women a version of the scientific literature that would defend their continued prescription of all kinds of medications from Lithium to Zoloft to Klonopin, you name it. And so it really wasn’t until I had a lived experience of dissonance. And I think that’s the only way we ever change your mind. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Laryngitis about nine months after my first pregnancy, and I just had this strange. I don’t know, voice come up inside me that said, I don’t want to take a prescription for the rest of my life.
Dr. Brogan: [00:05:31] Somehow it was fine for my patients. But, when I was in the hot seat there, I was not interested. And I was so negligent around self-care at that time in my life. I don’t know if I was just worried I would never remember to take it or just would be kind of a pain. I don’t think that I had any bigger goals other than trying to weasel my way out of having to take a prescription for the rest of my life. And so I knew what conventional medicine had to offer. I could have written my own prescription, for that matter. And I went to a natural pass in downtown Manhattan and she recommended some. She was very intellectual. And, she wasn’t like wafting sage everywhere or chanting over me or anything like that. Not the natural PED’s typically do that these days. But in my world, in my mental escape, they did. And I was uncomfortable with the concept. But I knew that it was my only chance at an escape hatch. And so she was very academic. Very. She is Mikkel Eagleburger and very intellectual. And she really helped me to see that there is a scientific basis for this other way, for this other approach.
Dr. Brogan: [00:06:34] So because of that, that bridge is very important for me. And because of that, I did make these changes and I watched in black and white my antibodies and DSH come into the normal range in a matter of months. And not only that, but I also had, experiences of my body, I went from pooping once a month to having like totally normal digestive function, probably for the first time in my entire life. I didn’t even know. Doctors don’t know. We’re not trained about normative health. So I didn’t even know that was not normative. You know, if for the most part, if you’re asking a patient about their bowel movements, you’re like, are you having any? That’s pretty much like the conventional medicine question. And because I had that lived-felt experience that I couldn’t reconcile with the information I had accrued up until that point, which largely stated that, lifestyle change and specifically dietary change was like a nice window dressing, but had nothing to do with real treatment.
Dr. Brogan: [00:07:32] And certainly, you know, I had only ever understood that autoimmune conditions were chronic lifetime illnesses. You know, it was interesting because my first response was actually rage. I was really angry and righteously. So I felt betrayed. And that is a little window into the kind of parental relationship that I and so many have with the allopathic system.
Dr. Brogan: [00:07:58] It’s like the parent who’s going to unfailingly care for you in total honesty, clarity and purity and always be there when you need them to tell you exactly what you need to do. And I had dedicated the previous decade of my life blood, sweat, tears, two hundred thousand dollars of debt to learning. What I began to understand was just a very small sliver of the available science around health and healing. And so it was at that point that somebody gave me a book called Anatomy of an Epidemic by investigative journalist Robert Whitaker. Never would have cracked open this book had I not had that experience. You know, that fire ignited in my belly and I read it cover to cover. I still remember crying on the subway when I finished it because I knew that my heart is like a house of cards crumbling.I knew that everything had to change or I would never be able to sleep at night. And what that book helped me to understand was that if you go outside of industry published literature, you learn a very different story about psychiatric clinic patients. And it was because of that book that I never saw a patient on a prescription medication again and haven’t since. So I really had a lot of exposure, maybe more than, I maybe anyone. I’m not sure, at least with a public platform. The world over to watch the natural history of the resolution of quote unquote, mental illness. And I will put that in quotes and we can discuss why. If you’d like. But I’ve come to understand what it looks like to move beyond those labels, live beyond those medications.
Dr. Brogan: [00:09:32] And it really does require a fierce commitment to a new level of consciousness and a new paradigm of health. And I have to say that it’s one that feels so much better to inhabit.
Maria Marlowe: [00:09:46] Yeah. Well, let’s break that down a little bit. Why are you putting mental disorders, mental health in quotes?
Dr. Brogan: [00:09:53] So, you know, there’s the evidence based answer I’ll give you and then there’s the spiritual answer that I’ll also offer. You know, on an evidence basis, it’s very important to recognize that psychiatrists do not use any objective testing. Right. So we don’t have blood tests. We don’t have brain scans. We don’t have EEG’s. We don’t have a single physiologic or biologic metric that has been validated for the purposes of diagnosis. OK. So how do you get a disease label in psychiatry? You have something between a seven minute and a two hour conversation with a credentialed clinician who uses their own subjective discretion to choose one of these diagnoses. Now, these diagnoses live in an ever expanding Bible called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Who decides what’s in that book? Well, it’s a round table of individuals that has only recently included women, 70 percent of whom are industry-funded. That means that they take money directly from the pharmaceutical industry. And so if they’re human, then they’re going to be vulnerable to the incentives around the creation of illness in service of medication based treatment standards and ultimate profits. So if you know all of that, then you have a very different perspective about what’s going on.
Dr. Brogan: [00:11:17] But if you don’t know all of that, then you might think that these are, you know, disease entities that have been codified and verified and have genetic origins. Countless tax dollars have been fought towards trying to identify the genetic basis for every single one of these diagnoses that have come up completely and totally empty handed. And you know what I found to be the most penetrate meme, even among my colleagues, I have to say I can’t blame them, because if you haven’t dedicated your life to debunking some of these myths, then you might very easily fall into the land of the meme. But the most penetrate one is that depression is a chemical imbalance. Right. Because I think it’s like psychiatrists not even trying to explain the biological mechanism behind schizophrenia or OCD or, I don’t know, bipolar disorder. It’s like all sorts of hand-waving when it comes to depression. This idea is very penetrated that there is a serotonin deficiency and it’s a chemical imbalance broadly. And that’s what I thought. That’s what I told patients. And then I said, well, that’s how the medications work. They’re fixing this imbalance. Well, low and behold, when I went back to the books, I found, do we not have evidence of an imbalance in six decades of searching for it? But actually, what’s happening with these medications is they’re creating a new normal.
Dr. Brogan: [00:12:36] So they themselves are creating an imbalance. Now, that imbalance may be adaptive for you. You may like it in the same way that when you drink, you know, a pint of vodka, you may you may dig it. You know, it may have effects on you that are desirable for you at a given moment in your life. But we’re not pretending that in drinking that you’re resolving an alcohol deficiency or an alcohol imbalance. It’s a new chemical state that you may or may not classify as adaptive. And so it’s even embedded in the language. It’s called an antidepressant. Right. So engaging in that warfare against the disease state is already communicated through even the name of the category of medication. And so we’ve sort of been swept up in the tide of our desire for this magic pill because we’ve all participated in this. We cannot just point a finger at the pharmaceutical industry. And we’ve been swept up into this tide and we’ve forgotten to ask if there’s actually any valid science behind it or if this is just what the corporate database would call consensus medicine. So if we know that these are not valid biological states, they don’t follow the criteria for diseases in any meaningful way then we might ask what it is to receive a diagnosis. Why would anyone except one? If they do that?
Maria Marlowe: [00:13:52] Right. Well, I thought I could you just. I’d love your opinion on this, because I think this whole idea of depression being a chemical imbalance is so widely ingrained in popular culture and idea. Could you talk a little bit about why this is the case, if you’re saying you go back to the books? It’s not actually true that it hasn’t been validated. But why? Why is this happening?
Dr. Brogan: [00:14:16] Advertising. Marketing. It’s a very successful and penetrate marketing campaign. We are one of three countries in the entire world that allows pharmaceutical companies to speak directly to consumers about their biology without any controls for the veracity of those claims. And this is not my expertise. There have been many pioneering renegades before me whose work I have simply curated. People like Joanna Moncrieff, Joseph Lacoste, Peter Breggin and David Healy. So I just simply had to look at the science that they presented in order to convince myself, because I was pretty shocked. I’ve been, I paid attention in medical school. You know, I read the available literature. But when something is accepted to this extent, it’s not the kind of thing you’re going to be incentivized to go back and read about the origin story. Right. That’s just kind of like a human.
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:11] You had a quote in your book. Something about a man cannot understand something if his salary depends on him understanding it.
Dr. Brogan: [00:15:18] Yes it’s a famous quote. Yes. And that’s true across industries, right? True. It’s just human nature that we have allegiances and we have agendas and we have biases. And that’s why good science controls or makes an effort to control for those. But, you know, we’ve come a long way from good science, in part because there aren’t those checks and balances in place, because the foxes guarding the hen house, because the heads of the FDA, CDC and major pharmaceutical companies are all the same people.
Dr. Brogan: [00:15:51] You know, the FDA requires two positive studies to license a new drug with no stipulation as to how many other studies you can conduct until you get those two. Right. So it’s most people don’t know that even one of my very scholarly colleagues was like, even though I quote that in the book, she was like I don’t know if that’s accurate. I provide the evidence from the FDA website editors. So it’s almost unbelievable until you understand. They never said they’re here for our well-being. And maybe we’re at a point in our cultural evolution where it’s time for us to adult.It’s time for us to grow up, start thinking for ourselves, start making our own decisions and stop outsourcing them. Stop relying on these external power structures and authorities to do the research for us. And tell a tale that serves their reality because we’re all living in each our own reality.There is as many truths as there are individuals. But that’s far easier said than done because so many of us are Stockholm syndrome around this dependent relationship on the conventional allopathic structure. And that’s where I was heading in terms of like the spiritual relevance of these diagnoses, because my observation and listening to the numbers of individuals who’ve been captured by the Guild of Psychiatry, they all tell me that they carried this kind of secret shame around feeling sick and broken and that something was fundamentally wrong with them, like they had it from childhood.
Dr. Brogan: [00:17:29] And that when they were finally in that doctor’s office, whether it was an internist or a psychiatrist or even a therapist who who offered a diagnostic label, when they finally got that first label, they often described to me that they felt validated. They felt seen. It’s almost like confirmation of what they were hiding, which is that something is indeed wrong with them. Here’s the evidence. It even has an ICD 10 code, you know, and it’s a real problem that society recognizes. And in fact, there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re probably born with it and you can just go ahead and manage it with this medication, which is a means of actually conferring a sense of control, which confers a sense of safety that perhaps they never felt in their lives. So what is it to actually ask someone to leave that label behind? It’s a courageous journey of heroic proportions. And that’s in no small part why I wrote this book so that I could showcase these individuals who have walked this path, because the fact that they have walked it means that it is more possible, I believe, for the rest of us to consider doing so or at least to feel inside, whether that’s something that has a magnetism, whether that’s something that calls us toward it.
Maria Marlowe: [00:18:51] And I think that current generation is definitely more open to challenging this notion that the doctor is God. But I know my parents’ generation. And before, if a doctor says it, it must be true. And, of course, doctors play a very important role and can be very helpful. But we do have to be our own doctor and we do have to question things. I think just the idea of questioning things is sometimes very foreign to people. They’re just so used to taking whatever is told to them, you know, from even like me growing up in like a Catholic religious household. I just had to take, whatever they told me. You were talking about, thinking of like Allopathic medicine, like your parents, we all grew up thinking our parents were like gods and they’re perfect and everything is great about them. And then one day you realize actually they’re fallible humans, they’re not perfect. And it’s it’s just very earth shattering at that time. So I can imagine that people who have been diagnosed and who are using their diagnosis as a crutch, it can be scary even to think about, you know, just looking at in a different way. For example, in your book, you talk about the Nocebo effect, which was actually quite interesting. Can you explain what that is?
Dr. Brogan: [00:20:11] Yeah. And I’ll just make one comment, too, about what you were just referencing, because I found myself sort of reflecting on the almost reflexive statement that doctors play a role. I’ve come to wonder if in the psychiatric population there isn’t a way out necessarily through a doctor. And I don’t know if that’s because when you are diagnosed with diabetes, your understanding is, oh, something’s wrong with my pancreas, right? When you were diagnosed with a mental illness, the fundamental understanding is, again, that confirmation that something is wrong with me, that my emotional reality is at odds with what is acceptable, not only to me, but to others around me and perhaps society at large. So that’s why I’ve found that through. You know, I I’ve had a one on one practice for over a decade and I’ve come to now see that the outcomes through my one on one practice are actually the worst of any available to me. And the most powerful outcomes are through the doctor-less community, where I don’t interact with anyone, but I host it. So it’s the belief system that I endorse, certainly. And with my credentials and with whatever having been in the belly of the beast, I know that that’s a relevant bridge for many people. But nonetheless, the outcomes out of our online program, many of which are featured in the book, were doctor-less outcomes.
Dr. Brogan: [00:21:30] Right. And so I don’t know if these particular individuals doing it yourself is actually a part of the magic and it’s a part of shifting from the sort of like neurobiological signature of dependency, helplessness and ultimately fear and victimization into the signature on a nervous system level of personal power, personal authority, and a sense of deep cockiness and trust in a process that is inherently complex and cannot be micromanaged, can only be rededicated to through the belief that it is happening exactly as it’s meant to happen for you. That is the regenerative signature. And that’s why we’ve had outcomes that defy even my own ability to recognize that these are possible. You know, Graves’ disease and Lupus and Migraines and Asthma and Allergies, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and you name it up the psychiatric labels sometimes in months. You know, that’s not happened in my private practice. You know, the outcomes in my private practice took years and a lot of working with how to kind of help these women get out of the nest. Out of that dependent dynamic. So, you know, I wonder about that. I’m studying all of this now because it’s unfolding before our eyes. And I do think to your question that the role of belief. Sometimes I just refer to it loosely as mindset is really not to be overestimated.
Dr. Brogan: [00:22:59] It is not what I thought it was in my training, which is as characterized by the placebo effect. So it’s just kind of this like nuisance you have to control for and make sure that you’re not tricking people. And that’s why they think they’re getting better. Because literally how we’re trained to think about it. But there is some incredible literature, most of which has been pioneered by Irving Kirsch, who is arguably the placebo effect expert the world over and written books about it and published some very important psychiatric literature on the role of belief in antidepressant outcomes. But not just belief like oh, I’m so excited to take my Prozac. I know it’s going to work, but what he calls the active placebo effect, which is what happens again on psycho-neuro-immunologic level. When you start to have the side effects that you’ve been told are related to the treatment. Dry mouth, stomach ache, headache, constipation. When you start to have those side effects, even if they are from a cardiac medication, that has nothing to do with an antidepressant. But you have associated them with ineffective treatment. You will have the same level of outcome as if you took the antidepressant itself. So this active placebo effect helps us to understand the role of belief as perpetuated even by and through the physical experience of side effects in these medications.
Dr. Brogan: [00:24:27] Just really a very important nuance because most of these medications have been compared to sugar pills. So it’s very obvious when a patient is in the treatment arm because of those side effects. So when he controls for that, he found there was no difference. Anytime I talk about this, there’s, you know, in in a lecture hall or something, you know, seminar, there’s always somebody who’s like, well, I don’t care what you say. I know that Prozac saved my life or my aunt is only alive because of Zoloft. And that’s wonderful. Why are you at this lecture? But but that’s another question. But that’s wonderful. However, it’s important for us to understand that it may not be for the reasons that we are being told by our doctors. Why? Because that will help us engage informed consent. It will help us to weigh the seeming benefits and effort, our understanding of the efficacy against the adverse effects. Because if you can achieve this simply through personal choice, commitment and belief, then maybe a nice body of science to support it, then is there a safer, maybe even more effective way when it comes to the opposite of the placebo effect? It’s really interesting.
Dr. Brogan: [00:25:41] Her favorite studies are in that category and I’ll mention one of them is a Prozac study. So those individuals who might have raised their hand in one of my lectures and said, well this worked for me and I’m here. And they took a cohort of those individuals who were treated to remission on Prozac. Right. So the Prozac worked for them. Then they told them that they were going to be randomized to either their same dose of Prozac, same treatment continuing or a sugar pill. And at the randomization point, both groups began to become statistically significantly depressed. So Mary took her 40 milligrams on Monday. And does the study, she’s still taking her 40 milligrams. But her fear that she might be in the sugar pill group and might have lost her medication induces a relapse. She’s still taking the chemical. So that is the power of the story that you are telling yourself. It can literally co-opt the chemistry of what you are exposing your biology to and commandeer it. So this is important for us to bear in mind when we engage in treatment paradigms.
Maria Marlowe: [00:26:52] Yeah, that’s incredible. Just thinking about that, it’s kind of like, wow. I think there’s probably times in all of our lives where we’ve experienced something similar, where we thought something and we were so sure about something. And then we started acting as if it had already happened. We drove ourselves crazy. Got so stressed and anxious. And then, it wasn’t even true. It was just a story that we made up and it wasn’t actually the truth. So I think I know personally in my life, I’ve definitely experienced that multiple times. So I can see how this Placebo effect is very, very powerful.
Dr. Brogan: [00:27:32] Absolutely. I mean, the example that I use just to tie in the physiology is if you’re walking down an alleyway, let’s say in the Bronx or something in New York, you’re by yourself and your woman and you hear rapid footsteps coming up behind you. There’s going to be a whole biological cascade, racing heart and sweating and shortness of breath and stomach tightening and your, imaginations that feed you all sorts of images of catastrophic things that are about to happen.
Dr. Brogan: [00:28:03] And then if you from those footsteps here, your friend’s voice calling your name. Maybe even laughing. All of that is going to reverse. And the only thing that has happened. I mean, you might even laugh at yourself just to let off some of that, you know, fight-or-flight chemistry. The only thing that has happened is you’ve told yourself a different story about what’s going on. So that is how we have to shift out of the fight or flight state that the commensal medical system really keeps you arrested in.
Dr. Brogan: [00:28:37] It’s through your own story about what’s going on and cultivating a reflex of curiosity. It’s like a change in tone. So instead of saying, why is this happening to me? It becomes, why is this happening to me? You know, it’s like an inquiry. Right. It’s like, wow, this is interesting, because they’re there, if not for the psycho spiritual reasons, then consider the Neurological reasons to engage in that kind of a mindset.
Maria Marlowe: [00:29:08] Right. Well, this is a great time to bring up the subject of childhood trauma and how that fits in to our health problems, Mental disorders and even autoimmune disease.
Dr. Brogan: [00:29:20] So in my training, because I trained at NYU Bellevue, which is very biologically focused program, and I know not all of them are this way and there are analytic programs that are very interested in the childhood narrative. But, let’s be real. Nobody is recommending psychoanalysis as first line intervention for schizophrenia or suicidal major depression or psychotic bipolar disorder. So it’s still had its nice little compartments for the worried well. So in my training, the idea of childhood trauma was really only given a nod. But never really incorporated. Why? Because what are you gonna do about it? Like it is what it is. It already happened if it happened. And we’re dealing with the symptoms here now and how to manage and suppress them.
Dr. Brogan: [00:30:08] So it’s part of the you don’t really matter in your own health treatment paradigm under the allopathic umbrella. And it’s not out of malice. It’s just the nature of that system. The individual’s narrative is not relevant because you are part of a scaled system of slicing and dicing and enumerating, you know, elements of human biology. And it’s a mix and match from that point. So I really didn’t have an appreciation for the role of childhood trauma or adverse experience in adult health until I began to see that one hundred percent of the women that I work with have worked with in my practice over the years, identified as having had traumatic experiences, either chronic or acute in their childhood. And these ranged from like a very difficult, conversation with their mom to being shamed by a teacher to heinous experiences of violent incest. And so, I came to see, wow, this spectrum is important. But the person who had that difficult experience with their teacher, their nervous system, their Vegas impairment. So their parasympathetic nervous system may be on par with that person who experienced this these egregious acts of violence. And then I came to expand the spectrum even more to understand that, in fact, if you had a relationship with your parents, which I think includes, frankly, 100 percent of us, where you developed an understanding of what their ideal child’s looks like, what did that child do in school? What did they do extra? How did they behave at home? How did they speak? Right.
Dr. Brogan: [00:31:57] What kinds of things did they do to other children or not do to other children? If you had that understanding develop early on, probably as early as even two or three, for most of us, then you already were living in a state of contingent self-esteem. Right. So so valuing yourself based on your ability to approximate that ideal child and you’re living in an environment of conditional love. So could it be possible that the experience of incubating our nervous systems in settings that ranged from very basic conditional love all the way to acute violence, that we all have to find a way to heal from this, that it actually includes all of us? And of course, you know, we’re gonna manifest it differently. But I’ve had patients who have simply had verbal abuse experiences or neglect experiences who seem to have more soothing of their nervous system to do than those patients who I would have maybe in my inpatient unit days documented as having a significant child abuse history. So what that leaves us with is really the task of what many are calling re parenting or self parenting.
Dr. Brogan: [00:33:17] This transition from our childlike programming and associated defenses into an understanding of who we are. Our essential nature as adults who have the capacity finally to be the parent to ourselves that we never had that unconditionally present accepting, compassionate, forgiving, nurturing person. We have the opportunity to be that for ourselves. And actually, it’s the only way it works, because just talk to somebody who’s in an intense romantic relationship and they’ll let you know that it’s not going to come from a partner. It’s not going to come from your parents. So time to give up on that. Hopefully when you get into your 30s, if not sooner. And importantly, if you’re a parent yourself, it’s not ever meant to come from your kids, that’s just perpetuating the same problem. Sometimes I think that the most valuable yield of the work that I’ve done personally on myself, in these past couple of years is that I’m getting to a point of really engaging a practice as a mother of allowing my daughters to be who they are. Period. It’s the hardest work of my lifetime to simply allow them to have emotions, to have opinions and preferences. And for me to self-soothe when I don’t like it. And that seems simple, but it’s really advanced level psychology.
Maria Marlowe: [00:34:43] That brings up my next question. It sounds like it’s pretty much inevitable we’re all going to have some sort of childhood trauma. Because there is this wide spectrum. But as parents, for any parents listening, How do you minimize that trauma? as much as possible. So you mentioned a couple of things. Is there anything else as a parent people should be doing to help their kid grow up with minimal trauma?
Dr. Brogan: [00:35:09] So that’s where my bias because, there are a lot of people in this site, guys speaking to this issue. I’m so grateful for it. Like this is a normative conversation we’re having now.
Dr. Brogan: [00:35:17] People understand this. They’re getting it. And we’re understanding that there’s no way around engaging this level of healing, most of us. I mean, I’m sure politicians do for the most part or those, pulling triggers and pushing detonating buttons. But the rest of us are confronted with. I think this crossroads. Where we we recognize we have an awareness that we are wearing a mask, we understand we’ve curated a version of who we are so that we feel okay-ish at least in control, someone of the story of who we are and where we’re hiding, all sorts of other stuff. Some of that other stuff, by the way, could be how extraordinary you are. You know that you’ve put in a catacomb, some of it more commonly, like my experience is fearfulness, laziness, incompetence, manipulation. For me to recognize that I have all those traits would not have allowed me to keep my mask on. So I had to double down on that mask or I had to let it fall. And there was a point years ago at this stage where I decided, no, what I’m committed to dropping it, dropping the mask. And I knows that to be the hardest work of my lifetime and I’m going in.
Dr. Brogan: [00:36:28] So it’s like it’s a different kind of journey and it takes a lot a lot of vulnerability. But then the side effect, one of my best friends said the other day, the side effect of vulnerability is love. It’s so true. All you need is one experience of being real and owning your shit for somebody in your life who loves you to say, wow, I feel better knowing that you’ve experienced this and for you have shared it with me. So, this journey is is an epic one. It’s the hero’s journey. And my bias is that it starts with very basic, as the Zen say, like chopping wood, carrying water, that until and if you have healed your nervous system, brought yourself into autonomic balance in a very basic way. It can take one month. Please just give yourself this gift before you start navigating the realm of, you know, triggers and real time relationships and looking under stones. You know that you thought you’d never peer under the ways in which that is going to bring up emotions that are going to terrify you and literally make you imagine that they might kill you is so significant that why wouldn’t you drain your bucket first right before you start filling it up with all this stuff.
Dr. Brogan: [00:37:44] So I’m a big believer in physical healing coming first before the psycho spiritual journey. If you have that luxury, because there is a reality to weathering the storm of an emotional state. It’s energy, emotion. It’s emotion is real. It’s like something like a volcano or a tornado. And and all you actually have to do is let it turn, let it swirl. And it’s going to alchemize in and change and transform. But until you have your first experience of that, you’re not going to believe it. Then you’re gonna take the bait that actually is going to kill you and you need it to stop immediately. So if you can grow your nervous system and you can grow your witness consciousness. Right. So that adult I that’s always watching, no matter what’s going on down below that is saying, this fine is more than fine, it’s by design. Everything that’s happening here. You are firstly creating it. And second of all, you’re you’re going to make exquisite sense out of it very soon. So it’s all good. So that voice is what you can cultivate through meditation, through detox, through nutrition. I believe that, right?
Maria Marlowe: [00:38:53] Yeah. Let’s talk about that. What are some of the most impactful dietary and lifestyle changes that you think are the most helpful?
Dr. Brogan: [00:39:02] So in this realm I’m become very interested in neuro-inflammation, because if we’re trying to re-balance the autonomic nervous system, which is the part of your nervous system that you don’t have a direct conscious control over until you do. So the part that regulates your you know, your heart rate and your breathing, the minimization of the inflammatory response or re-balancing of it is actually quite easy to do. Sometimes you can do it in a matter of weeks. And so that involves controlling for what I call addictive foods and beverages. So including things like coffee and alcohol, processed sugar and also the ways in which processed flour can masquerade as sugar itself. Looking at the potential role of specifically wheat and dairy, and I’ve amassed a lot of the literature that suggests that these play a very particular role in mood, cognition and behavior. So obviously they’re yanking on your nervous system through the gut brain connection. And because so many of us who have strayed from our optimal health in this way are struggling with, gut dysfunction or gut imbalance or what’s often termed dysbiosis, which interestingly, etymologically means wrong living. That’s all that is going on. Doesn’t mean you are terminally sick or you have some gene that’s acting up. It just means you there’s a right way for you to live. You’re going to figure out what that is.
Dr. Brogan: [00:40:25] I also advocate for restricting what are called resistant starches, which are ultimately reintroduced, but which have a very powerful what’s called Prebiotic effects on the microbial ecosystem of the gut. So in my nutritional approach, it’s a basic ancestral diet. But that’s sort of like one of the twists, I guess, and that seems to help.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:47] Yeah. inflammation. It’s pretty well known now that inflammation is the root cause of so many chronic illnesses and disease, not just mental, not just the brain fog. And I know in my practice, one of the most common complaints a lot of women have is that they’re tired all the time and they have this brain fog. And often people don’t even realize how foggy their brain is and how much they’re forgetting things until they actually cut the gluten and cut the dairy out. And then they’re like, oh, my God, it’s like a veil has been lifted. And I can think again. I can. I have a memory again. Food is just really some of the most powerful medicine that we have. Now, what about lifestyle? Are there any lifestyle habits or techniques, things that you think people should be doing on a regular basis?
Dr. Brogan: [00:41:37] I mean, in my approach, the months-long protocol has very, very specific instructions in a couple of domains around diet, of course, as we mentioned, around contemplative practice. So cultivating and balancing that stress response in just a couple of minutes a day and then detox. Right. Which is obviously a huge category and includes everything ranging from the pesticides in your food to the Perchlorate from your dry cleaner to the fluoride in your water to, the Glyphosate raining down in your backyard. I mean, it’s a daunting list. And now we have growing awareness around E.M.S. and 5G networks. And it can really feel like the sky is falling. But there are these very basic steps. Of course, some of it’s just conscious consumerism. Like buy this detergent instead of that one next to it. You know, it’s just a cultivation of awareness. And the awareness always grows. You know, like just today before this interview, I wired, hard wired my laptop for the first time. So I’ve been in this world for 10 years. I finally got to the point where I was ready to no longer work with Wi-Fi. So when you’re ready, you’re ready. That’s an ongoing sort of practice and cultivation.
Maria Marlowe: [00:42:52] So is there no Wi-Fi in your office?
Dr. Brogan: [00:42:54] No.
Maria Marlowe: [00:42:55] That’s amazing.
Dr. Brogan: [00:42:56] Yeah. It’s so simple and it’s actually something I learned from my own membership. So talk about the value of community. We created a community called Vital Life Project for as a companion for this book. And it’s been in, you know, Beta iteration for the past couple of months. And we had a whole month where we talked about, Wi-Fi and EMF. And I brought in experts and all this stuff. And not only did I learn on myself more about because it’s an ever evolving right. Especially that topic, but I felt because other people were doing it, that it was more accessible to me to prioritize. So I’m a huge, huge believer that it’s our power of choice is really about prioritization. It’s about your loving attention on something. And so if I came at this thing, you know, thinking about the five G arrays, you know, down the street from me and how all this is going on and from fear, I probably wouldn’t have taken personal action because I myself been too involved on the the social activism layer of it. And I don’t know, I’ve seen that happen over and over and over again. But if it’s just kind of like fun and Interesting and like let me try this. Then it’s just another way to take back that little bit of power, and it feels good. It feels affirming.
Dr. Brogan: [00:44:13] I feel proud of myself that I took that step. And that’s ultimately how these steps should feel. They should induce, in you a sense of pride that doesn’t come from following the childhood programs of this is how to get love, right. So the wall of diplomas or the best selling book or the successful practice. Turns out, I don’t know if you’d agree, but for most of us, it actually is very fleeting. It’s the hungry ghost of the achievement program that we’re running that says, oh, that’s how I’ll finally feel love. Its not true. Self-care, turning towards the mystery of you is actually and really showing it acceptance and ultimately a kind of relational mastery. Like I am in control of this body. I know how it works. I know its language. And I can also spare other people from having to take that on. I’ve got it. I’ve got me. That actually is where these little points of pride come in. And it’s like surprising. But I think I’m not alone in observing that.
Maria Marlowe: [00:45:20] No. For sure. I have two more questions for you. One. You know, we’ve talked a lot about medication, specifically for mental disorders. But I know in your book you also said that you’re pretty much no medications across the board. Is that right?
Dr. Brogan: [00:45:35] So, listen, this is about fundamental beliefs and everyone has to find their own way. That’s why I am a big, big, big proponent first of informed consent. When you know, let’s say, the version of the story that the conventional paradigm tells you and then maybe the version I tell you or some one else is questioning whether that’s the whole story. When you know the potential for over promising in terms of benefits, you know, the untold story of adverse effects. And then you know that in lifestyle medicine or so-called alternative medical options, whether that’s homeopathy or shamanism or Ayurveda, Chinese medicine or whatever it might be, that there is a capacity for transforming illness into vitality that simply isn’t offered through the conventional model. Then and only then can you make a choice that’s right for you, because you may hear all that and you may still be like, not for me. Trust me, I’ve seen that happen many times over, especially after I published my first book. And I thought, well, obviously nobody’s ever going to take an antidepressant if they read this book. Not true, right? For some people, it still feels right. It still makes sense. That’s great. You know, that’s why we live hopefully continue to live in a world where each of our truths can coexist. Right.
Dr. Brogan: [00:46:49] For me personally, I live in non-pharmaceutical lifestyle and I raise my children that way. You know? Yes. Because of the adverse effects. But really, it’s more ontological. It’s more, you know, that I believe the body expresses purposefully.I believe that there is deep meaning in symptoms. And I find it actually I take great interest in exploring that and, you know, engaging in the investigative process of what could this be about, could this sore throat be about that argument I had, you know, with my friends last Tuesday in my rubric and there are models like German new medicine or even Louise Hay’s work that helped to really create a template for you to begin that exploration of what might be at the root. Like, how are my symptoms? How is my body, a transducing technology for my emotional and potentially even spiritual layers of consciousness that that I don’t yet have direct access to. And perhaps I will after I do that investigative work. So in that approach, sort of like orientation, taking a medication to manage since it just doesn’t make any sense. So it’s not that it’s like bad or good or whatever. It just doesn’t fit like it doesn’t have a role. And so that, I think is the most sustainable shift from the paradigm versus just kind of running from it, hoping for the best.
Maria Marlowe: [00:48:14] Yeah, I think that’s really well said. And I just want to share an experience I had because I’m definitely on the no medication as much as possible side. And really, I had stayed away from all pharmaceuticals like I won’t even take a Tylenol or an Advil. None of that. And about a year ago, I got a UTI and I was like, OK. No, I’m going to take, you know, the cranberry pills, a homeopathic medication. Gonna get rid of it. Fine. Took it. Didn’t go away. Took some other, you know, natural medications under, a naturopath – actually a couple different naturopaths and kept trying things, trying things, d-mannose, and all the natural UTI remedies. I kept checking it and it was not going away. I was so determined not to take antibiotics because I’ve also made myself, deathly afraid of them having taken so many.
Dr. Brogan: [00:49:01] Right. So talk about Nocebo effect.
Maria Marlowe: [00:49:03] Yeah. Exactly right. Growing up, I took so many antibiotics all the time, I was always sick and I had so many gut issues, after that as a result. And the past 10 years, I’ve avoided antibiotics like the plague. And so now, I find myself with this UTI. I’m going to conventional doctors who were scaring me that it was gonna go to my kidneys. I mean, the thing persisted. I’m not even lying. It was for a whole year. I just got rid of it a month ago because I finally broke down and decided I’m just going to take the antibiotic. And I really didn’t want to do it. I was so scared. I was prepared for it to ruin my gut. And then I thought, It’s not even gonna work because I left the infection too long. So I’m totally driving myself crazy. But I took them, and it went away and I took a bunch of probiotics and was fine. So I just want to hear that because, you know, I was feeling guilty for taking the antibiotic because I was like, how can I take this? This goes against everything that I believe in.
Dr. Brogan: [00:50:04] And that’s why in the book, I provided one of the appendices and natural medicine toolkit. And it’s basically the things that I recommend stocking, you know, supplement wise, many of which you mentioned. Honestly, so that you feel there’s something you can do.
Dr. Brogan: [00:50:19] But what I believe is is more effective. And I mentioned it already once, but it is an increase based template like German new medicine. So in German new medicine, not to get into too much of the detail, but until and if you resolve the emotional conflict, which is normally around a boundary violation, the symptoms can persist. Right. But they play a specific role. And in fact, German new medicine argues that it’s in the resolution phases of the conflict that your bacteria are helping to re-establish the integrity of the tissue. So it’s like pointing at the bacteria as the problem is not the first time we’ve done that in conventional medicine, like think about Statins and cholesterol, for example, as being, you know, the target versus just a bystander of inflammatory endothelium. So it just reframes everything and it helps you to guide your attention towards really supporting the resolution of this psychic injury because that’s the belief. So that’s sometimes where and how like the green pharmacy route, which trust me, I engage for many, many, many, many years before I discover things like German new medicine. I’m not sure it’s equipped to work because it’s like, you know, supporting the body. And I certainly don’t think it’s harmful. But the route, the psychic route like the emotional route, potentially hasn’t been addressed because who is aware of connecting those dots? Right. And so that’s why I really relish the recruitment of these other kinds of models. And listen, I’m not like a devotee of German new medicine. I certainly think it has its limitations, but it’s where I turn. I mean, I have a book behind me that’s like this big. That I look up all my friends symptoms in, you know, the first time they have something because it can point their attention in the direction of focus on emotional healing.
Dr. Brogan: [00:52:10] And my perspective is that that’s really at the root that these biological programs, these symptoms are actually for a reason. Because of what? Through our thoughts and feelings we’ve told our brain we need on a bodily level. And of course, the effacement of the urethra makes more room for urine to come out. And that is how anomalistically we mark territory. So it all begins to sort of make sense. And it also reframes, you know, bacteria and even fungi and other microbes as being helpers rather than part of the problem. But, you know, listen, I think we can do ourselves a great disservice through self judgment. And yes, it talks about a healing process. I mean, I think that that’s gonna be something I’m working on for the rest of my life. So you gave yourself an opportunity, if nothing else, to see that some of that’s still there, right? Like that you have still the capacity to, as Don Miguel Ruiz Junior would say, self domesticate, which is like to to punish yourself. No one else has to do it right. No one else had to say anything. You were the one you had. So if nothing else, that was a powerful opportunity to see like, you know, in the future, I can engage with more compassion and self forgiveness if I do make choices that seem right for me at the moment, that maybe some other part of me is saying, well, that’s not that’s not good. You’re doing it wrong, you know? And how can we interact with that voice? Because ultimately, that is a part of what keeps us trapped.
Maria Marlowe: [00:53:36] All right. Well, one last question that I like to ask everyone on the show. If you can leave our listeners with just one tip or piece of advice to live a happier and healthier life. What would that be?
Dr. Brogan: [00:53:50] I think it’s probably that. OK, so if you’ve listened this conversation thus far, there’s either going to be a yes or a no that you can feel in your body to this kind of discourse. Right. And so what I would say is.
Dr. Brogan: [00:54:03] If that little teeny fire is lit, like try to find a way to put a glass globe around it so that it can grow. I think a lot of us have concern about surrounding ourselves with like minded people and having our social media feeds all say the same thing and like something’s wrong with that. I actually think it’s a very important time in human history to create the conditions for the incubation and protection of these nascent little sparks that are very, very important indicator of what is to come for you in terms of authenticity. And that is important to really create almost something like an echo chamber. I didn’t used to think that because I was a good debater and I thought, well, let’s all have let’s all have it out. But I actually think even on a nervous system level, really surrounding yourself with like minds is important. And with material that affirms your intuition.
Maria Marlowe: [00:54:55] Very well said. Well, thank you so much for being on this show. For anyone interested. Definitely. Check out Dr. Brogan’s book, Own Yourself. It’s available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Thanks so much for being here. Thank you.