Nov. 8, 2021

E134 Neuroplasticity and the Impact of Positivity with Dr. Philippe Douyon | Mental Health Podcast

Today, we talk about the impact of creating neuroplasticity in our lives and the idea that the way we think today doesn't have to be the way we think tomorrow. Do you want to know what the framework is to be the leader of our own brain?
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Today, we talk about the impact of creating neuroplasticity in our lives and the idea that the way we think today doesn't have to be the way we think tomorrow.

Do you want to know what the framework is to be the leader of our own brain? How do you see the world and yourself? What does your life say about you? Take Charge of Your Brain Today! Come and join us as I speak with Dr. Philippe Douyon!

In this episode, I sit with my friend Dr. Philippe Douyon. Dr. Philippe is a board-certified neurologist who focuses on improving your health and life by teaching you how to become the leader your brains need you to be to overcome the challenges you face. Not only has Dr. Douyon's philosophy helped countless patients with medical, neurological, and mental health disorders, but it's the same philosophy that he used to overcome kidney failure, covid, dialysis, and undergo a successful kidney transplant. He is the author of the book, Neuroplasticity: Your Brain's Superpower, which teaches you how to use your brain's ability to adapt and learn to heal and move on from the struggles in your life.

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Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world. Super excited to be joined today by Dr. Philippe Douyon, who is a board-certified neurologist, who focuses on improving your health and life by teaching you how to become the leader of your brain, which I love and am fascinated by. My friend, how are you today? What is going on in your world?

Dr. Philippe: Oh! I'm good. Thank you for having me, I've been looking forward to this conversation.

Michael: Yeah. As have I am. I'm super excited because I am fascinated by the brain, I'm fascinated by the impact we have with creating neuroplasticity in our life. I'm fascinated by the idea that the way we think today doesn't have to be the way we think tomorrow and I'm excited to go deep with you but before we do, can you create a little context for as all and tells a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today?

Dr. Philippe: Yes. I'm a board-certified neurologist like you mentioned and I went into neurology because growing up, I had a cousin who had epilepsy and thankfully she grew out of it as she got older. And then, when I was in my teenage years, I had a grandmother who developed Alzheimer's disease and so even though those two disorders can be really devastating to witness and certainly devastating for the person to go through. It also fascinated me about how when our brains are working the way that they're designed to just how impactful our lives can be and how great our lives can be. And so, I was really fascinated with the brain, so that's why I went into neurology.

You know, throughout my own personal journey. When I was 18, I was diagnosed with kidney failure, I had my first kidney transplant at the age of 27, eight days after graduating from medical school at a second kidney transplant earlier this year and for me to be able to overcome that kind of challenges, I really had to become the leader that my brain needed me to be. And so that's really what I teach people that a lot of what they're looking for in terms of healing and improving their lives, it's not found in a pill bottle, it's really in the way that we think, and the way that we engage our brains.

Michael: That's so fascinating me, first off of incredible journey. Right? And I think that many times when we face these obstacles in life it's easy to like back down and go surrender and submit. And so, first and foremost, congratulations to you, too. Just be like, no, I'm going to go and make my life happen regardless. One of the things I'm curious about and that you mentioned is making your brain, the leader, and like – there's this weird thing that I don't think people understand that they actually have this huge amount of control over their brain. Can you talk about any kind of framework of what it actually means to be the leader of your own brain?

Dr. Philippe: Yes. I see people all the time where their brains are leading them and what I mean by that is to think about this. When you have, let's say a bad moment in the day like – your friend upset you for whatever reason, right? It's not just that you're upset now at your friend, then you start thinking about how rough your life is and you become upset with yourself then you start thinking about how bad the world is and you know really upset with the world. And it just takes you down this negative sort of spiral and so, the reason that the brain does that is, that first and foremost, its job is to help you to survive, it needs to protect you. And so, it's always looking out for those negative things. Right? Which is not always in our best interest, and so, being the leader that our brain needs mean that essentially using our experiences to influence the way that we think and the way that we act.

And so everything that we do every single day, influences our brain's evolution. Our thoughts influence, our brain's evolutions, the actions we take do so, the people that we surround ourselves with the experiences that we have, and it's really about teaching people to make really conscious decisions daily. So that their brains don't go down this negative route and instead focus on the positive because when we focus on the positive, that also has this tremendous healing impact, not just on our brains, but also on our bodies and as well as on our lives.

Michael: What causes that? Because you hear this all the time where people talk about having control over your thoughts, being positive thinking like this, but why does that actually work? Like – what is happening in that moment and in those processes that lead to this place where actually has impact?

Dr. Philippe: Yeah, so when you think about what's going on in your brain, so when you're having a lot of negative thoughts, right? So the brain, sort of goes into, you really turn on sort of your sympathetic nervous system, your brain goes into fight-flight or freeze mode, right? So, you're operating from a place of really chronic stress and trauma and so you get chemicals like cortisol, which are being secreted and over a long period of time, have a really negative impact, not just on your brain, but also on your body, right?

So a lot of people who are chronically stressed will come to me and say, look, you know, I can't make new memories, I'm having memory problems and that's because something like – cortisol actually causes the neurons, the cells in the part of the brain responsible for making new memories, it causes those cells to die off, right? So, that's a really negative consequence of having negative thoughts.

Now, when you have positive thoughts, right? That causes the release of endorphins, a lot of the feel-good sort of hormones. And so you start really thinking about your life in a completely different way, you start searching for the positive and things and those feel-good hormones not they don't just allow you to feel good, but they help reduce your blood pressure, they help reduce the levels of chronic stress, that way, you're not having that negative impact on your brain and body and it really promotes healing physically emotionally mentally as well as neurologically.

Michael: Can I challenge you on something? Because I'm really curious, I've worked with a lot of people throughout my career and even have these moments myself, where I go, there's absolutely nothing positive in my life right now, right? When and so my challenge to you in this is how if someone has that thought process. Do you navigate helping them find positivity in their life when it feels so not even necessarily only melancholic but depressive and painful, sad and hurtful? You know, how do you help someone navigate into this place where they can associate or even create something positive in their thought process?

Dr. Philippe: Yeah, so I'll give you a personal example. So for me, I was diagnosed with COVID back in January and I was hospitalized for two weeks, right? And as a doctor of watching your oxygen saturation, go down is not a fun thing at all, and there were certainly days where I thought that I was not going to make it but covid, took its toll on my kidneys, it just completely wrecked the kidney function that I had left and I needed to do dialysis. Dialysis was the thing that I feared the most, everything that I did was to avoid dialysis up until that point. And so when they told me that I needed to do, dialysis, I cried because that's not what I wanted to do. And so I allowed myself to feel those feelings, but then I told myself, okay, I can do dialysis, the way that I've seen patients, who do it before in the hospital, but it almost seems like they were waiting for death or I can decide to do dialysis in a completely different way. And so I went from feeling really depressed about my life like – this sucks, this is not what I wanted, I'm tired of having to face my mortality to be like, I've got to overcome this challenge, I've got to think about it very differently. And so when I was doing dialysis, there were times where I was working on a lot of personal development stuff, I was reading during dialysis, I was practicing French, I was doing interviews with news organizations and taking builds business meetings.

I remember one time, you know, I was playing basketball with my sons and my son said something about me being sick and I was like, what are you talking about? I'm not sick, I'm sitting here beating you in basketball, you know, so part of it, it's about changing the way that you think about things but to help you change the way that you think you also have to take completely different actions, you need new experiences, right? And I see people who every day do the same exact thing and somehow expect that their lives are going to change, they think the same thoughts, they have the same routines, and think that their lives are going to change. So sometimes you have to do things differently and you also have to be very mindful of who you're surrounding yourself with. So I didn't surround myself with, you know, I didn't hang out with other kidney disease patients, right? Because a lot of times when you're hanging out with other patients, everybody sorts of down and they just talked about all the negatives and that's where their focus is on. I hung around with people who saw that I was going through a difficult time in my life and acknowledge that and appreciated, but also who saw the greatness and the opportunity that I had the opportunity to connect with other people, right? To help people who are in similar situations and maybe who don't have the same kind of resources that I have and that when I say resources it's the mental and neurological resources that I have. So I think it's really about changing the way that you think about things, having completely new experiences, taking different actions, and making sure that you surround yourself with people that are going to help you through these tough moments.

Michael: Yeah, and so much of that is ADAPTATION, right? And starting to leverage and you didn't use the word but a part of that process is understanding neuroplasticity. And this is a word that I think especially right now in personal development in podcasting and everything that we're seeing in the world is stone around so much but I don't think anyone's really talked about what it means, what neuroplasticity like really is at the fundamental root of it. Can you talk through with us exactly what neuroplasticity is?

Dr. Philippe: Yeah. So neuroplasticity is about how our brains adapt, how they learn how they heal after injury. Neuroplasticity is really about our brain's ability to make new neurons and new connections. So, for a really long time, we thought that we were born with a certain amount of neurons, and the only things that could really happen were that as we age that we'd lose some neurons, do their aging, maybe we'd lose some neurons due to some degenerative process like – Alzheimer's disease, or maybe we get like some kind of brain injury and whose neurons as a result. What we now know differently, we now know that we have the ability to make new neurons and new connections every single day throughout our entire lives as long as we're giving our brains, what it means in order to do so.

And what's really powerful about that, is the idea that theory is that if our brains are capable of changing and evolving, it means that as individuals were capable of changing and evolving, that means that as a society was capable of changing and evolving, and so, our lives are not static, right? Our brains are not static both our lives in our brains are absolutely dynamic and capable of evolving into whatever we want our lives to be.

Michael: And in that, how much of that do we like truly have control over because the reason I asked that as I think about this idea of like applying neuroplasticity to our medical, mental and our neurological disorders like –is there actually level of control that we have in our own neural plasticity?

Dr. Philippe: We have absolute control over our neuroplasticity. So the biggest promoter of neuroplasticity is physical exercise, right? So, the brains that we have today as modern human beings are very different than the brains that human beings had 200,000 years ago. Our brains today are bigger than more complicated, they have a lot more neurons and connections.

And so then the question is well, why did modern humans develop these bigger more complicated brains? There was a study that was done at Harvard where they sort of looked at why human beings developed the way that they did and what they found was that our bodies and brains developed as they did because of our need to run long distances. And so when you think about humans from 200,000 years ago, right? They had to scavenge for food, they had to fight off jurors, they had to run away from predators, they had to navigate new lands, all of that caused their brains to make new neurons and new connections.

And so when you think about today, being physically active is a huge promoter of neuroplasticity, right? The other thing that people don't realize is that the kind of foods that we eat have a huge impact on our ability to make new neurons and new connections. They even have an impact on whether or not we're causing dysfunction in neurons and your connections.

And I'll give you an example, I had a patient who had epilepsy, bad epilepsy her entire life and she was now in her 30s, she had two epilepsy surgeries, she was on like five or six different, antiepileptic medications and still having seizures. And I finally got her to a place where she was seizure-free for six months and I did that by simply removing soda from her diet, right? And then all of a sudden she started coming back to the ER and I was like what's going on? You know, like – you're a seizure-free for six months and now you're having these seizures and she said to me; Well, you're never going to take soda out of my diet ever again, and she had these to one-liter bottles of Pepsi at the bedside, right?

So food has a huge impact, on our ability to heal and evolve our brains, right? Not getting enough sleep, getting into the deeper stages of sleep is crucial for neuroplasticity, that's when our brains release this chemical called a brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes neuroplasticity, right?

I mentioned already that chronic stress can cause neurons to degenerate and kill off neurons in certain places. So, minimizing stress is also crucial for allowing neuroplasticity to take place. So there are things that we can do every single day and I haven't even mentioned learning yet, right? Learning and developing ourselves is crucial for that.

Michael: Seems to me like – there are so many different aspects of starting to create neuroplasticity of our Lives that often maybe it could be overwhelming. If you were to narrow it down and just go, this is the singular thing you should do to start with what would that be?

 Dr. Philippe: So the singular thing I would be like you need to move your body, you need to exercise on a regular basis like and it doesn't mean that you have to go to the gym. If you're somebody who loves dancing, find a way to dance, three, four, five times a week for 30 to 40 minutes at a time, right? Because our bodies are designed to move and at the helm of that is our nervous system, it's our brain and spinal cord. And so when we're moving that promotes neuroplasticity.

And in fact, studies have shown that kids who are jogging or if they're exercising before the school day starts that they're more likely to retain information and do better on a Test than kids who are crammed into the very last minute. So we know that exercise is incredibly important for neuroplasticity.

Michael:I love that. And I think that I measure this in my own way too, if I go back in time at one point, I was over 350 pounds and I look at the mental structure of my life and it was like it was so bad that I put myself in this position of only ever doing things to sabotage myself. And that's because I think that there is and I'd love to know your thoughts on this. I think that there's a pivotal pendulum swing in this process that when you start to take care of your body, your mind and turn starts to take care of itself or vice versa,or maybe there's sink synchronicity there to it. I don't know. But what are your thoughts on that? Does that feel true?

Dr. Philippe: Absolutely. The best moments in my life in terms of, when I'm doing the best emotionally, mentally when I'm the most successful is when I'm taking care of my body. When I'm prioritizing my physical health, everything else seems to fall into place. So, even when I was doing dialysis and I had this catheter implanted in my chest, I made it a point to exercise, three or four times a week, right? To allow me to get stronger for the kidney transplant, but also for my own mental and emotional health. Alright, so the exercise is incredibly important.

Michael: And I would assume I'm just going to guess, people thought you were crazy, right?

Dr. Philippe: I mean, you know, the down, seems like – don't exercise too much, right? Even after my transplant, so I started exercising maybe like, two-three weeks later, you know, studied really really easy but yeah, my transplant team is like you should not exercise for like three months. If I don't exercise for three months, I'm gonna like – I'm gonna like off myself, like –there's no way after everything I've been through, like it needs to be my anchor, right? So it's incredibly important.

Michael: I love that. And I do think and I believe that for myself to it's become such a profound part of my experience, just to move my body because one of the things that I understand that I want to dive into you, here is the association of the impact of trauma on the brain and the way that that in crates, these huge huge ramifications in your life.

As someone who is in this area who sees this all the time on a daily basis. Talk to us a little bit more about what you found to be as far as the impact of trauma on the brain and neuroplasticity?

Dr. Philippe: Yes, I think, when people think about trauma, right? This experience that they have, that's really disturbing, really distressing, it could be something mental, physical, emotional sexual, right? They always think about it from the perspective of fight response or flight response. So, you know, something bad happens to you, you're either going to fight or you're going to run away.

One of the things that people do not realize is that there's a third response, there's a freeze response, right? So I don't know if you've ever seen a possum playing dead, that's an example of a freeze response. So when you have a predator that's going to attack you if you essentially freeze and play dead, it's less likely to attack you, right? If you're going to fight, then you trigger in that predator, they're sort of their response, their own response to fight if you're going to run away, you also may trigger in that predator, their response to fight.

And another example of this, a personal example is when I was about 11, 12 years old. I was walking back home with three of my friends, back home from school and some older teenager comes up to us put a gun to my head, and demands the book bags of my two friends and I froze, right? Can you imagine if, at that moment, I tried to fight? Like I would have been shot dead or potentially even if I tried to run, I might have been shot yet. And so these are some of the responses, the automatic responses that we have that our brain gives us to give us the best chance of survival. And one of the places that we see the freeze response often take place, and our legal system has not caught up to this yet, is when we're talking about victims of sexual assault, right? Often times you'll hear lawyers, say, well, they fight off their attacker and it's like – if they didn't, then it's used against them. But there's a freeze response that occurs, that enhances their ability to survive that attack.

So, I think we need to be aware of just how our brains respond to trauma at the moment, right? Acutely, and then how it responds to trauma over a long period of time.

Michael: And when you look at some of the research around the long-term impacts, can you talk about that a little bit more in-depth than what you've seen? And also how do you start to mitigate that long-term impact through neuroplasticity?

Dr. Philippe: Sure. So, as I said before that stress, one of the things that we see but stress, is that, there are neurons in different parts of the brain that start to die. Trauma is stressed taken to as the nth degree, it's a severe form of stress. And so one of the things you see with trauma victims is that they're constantly having flashbacks, they're constantly having memories of intrusive memories of whatever their trauma was regardless of what's going on in their life at the moment. Almost like they cannot make new memories and the reason being that they actually can't, because they're operating at such a high-stress level, that cortisol levels are so elevated that it's impacting the neurons in the head, hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for making new memories.

So there it's like they're constantly in that fight flight or freeze response and I'm an epileptologist, which means I specialize in people who have epilepsy people who have seizures 30 percent of people who have been diagnosed with epilepsy, don't actually have epilepsy. And so when somebody has epilepsy, it's because there's an abnormal firing in their brain, that's occurring almost like a short circuit in their brain and those people do that 30%, have what we call, non-epileptic events, meaning that their bodies look like they're having seizures, but they don't have an abnormal misfiring in their brain.

The time have experienced some kind of significant trauma in their life and this is their body's way of manifesting that trauma especially if they haven't worked through it. And so trauma has a way of sort of rearing, its ugly head even months and years later and sometimes it's about identifying what these triggers are for these events to really help the person.

Michael: It's fascinating to me that it's almost like – would phantom seizures be an appropriate way to phrase that I'm just thinking about the fact that, you know, I've had my own flashbacks, I've had these crazy moments where until I really started to step into this healing journey like – I couldn't make new memories and I was always in this fight or flight state and then, I started going through all these things like journaling, and meditation, therapy, and group therapy, and NLP, and CBT, and EMDR, well, all the acronyms, right?

And then now, feels like – I have some sort of semblance of control over the way that I'm able to really control the way I think. Do you think that I've run into this with people sometimes on occasion where I've had these conversations I say; I do believe that we are able to control what we think.

How do you like are there tools is there something in this process that you can give to someone listening right now? Who may be on the other side of this fence? We're going, I don't have control, I'm always having flashbacks and so chaotic. You know, we talked about this idea of being positive, trying other actions, things that nature but is there may be one thing where you're like – if you do this one thing you can start to create control?

Dr. Philippe: Yeah. So first I'll go back to when you mention phantom seizure. So we used to call them pseudoseizures, right? But it implied that people were faking it, so we don't call them that anymore. Essentially we call them now, psychogenic non-epileptic events, but there's also a movement to move away from that psychogenic portion of it, but essentially we call them these non-epileptic events, right? And then they're significant for somebody who's experienced trauma, they're certainly not doing it on purpose. Again their brain and body's way of manifesting, this traumatic event, and if we're talking about the way that we think, right? There are some studies out there that suggest that we have somewhere between 12,000, 60,000 thoughts per day. So we've got a lot of thoughts per day, right? But 90 to 95 percent of those thoughts are the same exact thoughts that we had yesterday.

So when people are wanting their lives to change, they really need to first start by changing the way that they think. Now, when I say that we've got 12,000, 60,000 thoughts, every single day, there are studies that suggest that 60 to 70% of those studies that those thoughts are negative, their defeatist at best. And so some people would tell you, look, every time you notice that you're having a negative thought you want to substitute three to five positive thoughts for that. And for some people that really works, for some people, what really works and one of the things that I do is that regardless of what's going on in my life that day I practice gratitude.

So I think about the things that I'm grateful for, the people that I'm grateful for even the hardships that I've been through, and that I've learned for because depending on your mindset and what you been through it. You can always find a gem in there even if that gem is it allows me to relate to other people who have been through this and I can help them as a result.

Michael: So, interesting and I found it as well in my life. When I started being of service, my life got better and I hear this happening all the time with people because I did change my thought process of it instead of being what was me and living in this victim mentality, which is very easy to do, especially if you come from a traumatic background, I said to myself, you know, what? What if I helped people. What if I just taught them something I've learned or understood and that way, I could create something positive in the world. I love that you said that because you're so right and I think gratitude plays a huge role in it. I'm thankful every day. I put my feet on the ground and go, I'm thankful I'm here, it might be a hard-ass day but maybe we'll do something impactful. I think about this idea about the evolution of our brains and the impact that it has on our lives. As we're talking about these thoughts, can you talk about how our thoughts impact the evolution of our brains and thus our lives?

Dr. Philippe: Yeah, absolutely. So every time you have a new thought you make new neurons, right? And every time you think the same thing, you essentially, strengthen those neurons and the connections associated with them. So, from an evolutionary perspective, our thoughts are incredibly powerful because they're either causing our brains to make new neurons and your connections of their strengthening the connections that are already there, right? One of the other things is, what's most important to us is what our brains focus on.

So, within our brains, we have the system called the reticular activating system, and it really is responsible for our awareness, and our level of consciousness and not just our awake and sleep cycle, but we're aware of in our environment, right? So there was one time when I had a red car before I had that red car, I never noticed that car. And then all of a sudden I got this car and it was literally like every other person was driving a red car, right? And it's not that people all said and bought red cars, it's just that now, this red car because it was mine, was important to me. And so I was noticing all the other red cars out there.

One of the things that I tell people is that your brain will always try to prove you, right? So what you focus on really, really matters because if you tell yourself, my life sucks, your brain is going to focus on all the negative things in your life to prove you, right. If you tell yourself, yeah, I've had tough moments, but I've got this wonderful life. Your brain is going to focus on that and look to prove you right in terms of that as well. So what you focus on is incredibly important. One of the things that people have asked me in the past is, how did you get through college and medical school in kidney failure and then have a kidney transplants eight days later? And the reality is, well, when I was going through college in Medical School, the focus wasn't on me, it wasn't on my kidney disease, and in fact, a lot of times the kidney disease was more like a nuisance. As a health care professional, I've got the sort of added benefit that my life is, spent focusing on others, on helping others, and that plays a huge role in our mental and physical health because it's releasing endorphins in our body as well.

Michael: I think about this concept and I remember shared ad nauseam. I know that the unbroken audience is like okay, dude, we get it but what you think becomes what you speak, what you speak becomes your actions and your actions ultimately become your reality. I mean, you're so spot on if you put that energy into creating something positive in your life then you will have something positive.I wish there were a better way to like – bottle, that up and pull it up, and give it to people in this way that they could understand the impact that it has because we're all going to have negativity, there's going to be stressed, there's going to be these things that happen in our lives, but we still have the opportunity, we all do to look for the positive, to have gratitude because if anyone, you could look at your life and go, man, this has been so hard, dialysis, kidney failure, got fucking covid like – it doesn't get any worse than that, then yet you still choose that. Do you think that's been a part of your experience? Or did you have to teach yourself positivity?

Dr. Philippe: Oh, no, I definitely know to teach myself positivity, right? Because the reality is I'm a medical doctor in the western philosophy of medicine. And for a lot of Western medicine, it's about the band-aid approach, it's about giving people a pill and hoping that that's going to fix whatever problem they have. And I tell people, often that look, a pill may help ameliorate the symptoms that you're having, but if you truly want to heal your life, you've got to do the real work.In the real work is in being physically active sometimes, it is in working through the trauma that you faced, it's in making sure you're getting enough sleep, it's in making sure that you're eating right, it's in making sure that you're, you know, drinking enough water every day, right? So oftentimes, I can't give you a pill, that's just going to make all the problems go away. You've got to do the work for that to happen.

Michael: And a lot of that is the taking charge of our brains, right? And I know that in your work, you talk about the pyramid of Neurological Health. Can you dive into that? Because I think that's going to be so important for people listening right now and I really want you to go deep here because it's going to help create an amazing context for people to understand this.

Dr. Philippe: Yeah. So the pyramid of neurological health is essential things that you can do that you are going to be great for the benefit of your brain, as well as your body, right? It's what allows you to be as healthy as possible, it's what allows you to take charge of your health as well as your life, right? And so, that pyramid, includes exercising on a regular basis, right? I've already said exercise is the biggest promoter of neuroplasticity, it is great for your body, it allows your body to make new blood vessels, it allows you to have a really strong heart, right?

One of the examples that I often give when it comes to exercise because if you look at professional athletes, look at somebody like Serena Williams. So Serena Williams, if she wins the tournament in Italy this week, she delivers her victory speech in Italian, she wins the tournament next week in France, she delivers her victory speech in French. Oftentimes professional athletes will be polyglots, meaning they speak multiple languages despite the fact that they're not spending a huge amount of time in any particular country, but their brains are working so efficiently because they're constantly being physically active. A lot of professional athletes are really successful in multiple endeavors, you look at athletes like LeBron James, right? Who's on his way to being a billionaire? He's not making that billion dollars from his basketball contract, it's in all the other realms that he's being really successful at. So, physical activity is really important. The way that we eat is incredibly important. I think we forget the real purpose of food; the real purpose of food is to give us the energy to carry out our daily lives, it is not true to emotionally eat, right? The reality is that the way we eat today is very different than the way early humans ate, you know, back then there was not this amount of sugar, it wasn't this amount of food readily available, they had to actually work to be able to get food, right? Now, you just have to reach in your closet for something, and most of the time the foods that we learn healthily, the reality is that when we eat it takes work to digest food. As part of that work toxins, build-up, so the more processed foods that we eat, the more toxins build up, the more calories, we take in the more toxins build up. And one of the things that are really important is not to eat to the point that you're cold. You want to eat to wear your 70 to 80% full. The reason being is that when you restrict your calories because your brain and body release brain, derived neurotrophic factors, and that allows your brain to make new neurons and new connections.

Another part of the Pyramid of neurological health is making sure you're getting six to eight hours of sleep per night, when you get into the deeper stages of sleep, that's when your brain takes what you've learned throughout the day, consolidates, it into memory, that's when the toxins that have built up throughout the day, from the work that you're doing gets cleared out, minimizing, your risk of dementia is like Alzheimer's disease. It's also when your brain releases, brain-derived neurotrophic factors to promote neuroplasticity, you want to constantly be learning as well, right? I tell people all the time, the secret to life is evolution and not necessarily evolution as a species but evolution as an individual. And in order for you to do that, you have to constantly be learning, you have to develop yourselfand so, those are some of the keys to the neurological pyramid.

Michael: I love that, and that fills all very practical, right? And I think that's important to note in this like – you got to be patient in this process like – there's no way you're going to adopt all these things in one day, right? And you see this all the time when people try to do a 180 on their life often times they fail. And so I think that it's about, finding that even that flow and creating momentum the headed down that pathway of creating this evolution, right? You're the arbiter for your life. You're the one who is going to decide what happens in it. One of the things I'm curious about them when I understand our psychological reward system, I'm looking at the way that you know, even though I hear this, you know what I'm going, yeah, man, I've heard this before, I know to eat, right? I noticed sleep, I know to exercise but there's just something about the dopamine release of all the other things that don't bring me immediate pleasure and value. How do you start to navigate that part of it when you understand or maybe for those who don't understand the neurological reward system? How do you move into creating these new healthy habits when we often satiate, the need and desire for immediate fulfillment in gratitude by doing things that don't make our lives better?

Dr. Philippe: Yeah. So the reality is that our brains are incredibly addictive. So we do have this dopamine motivation and reward system. So when we do something that causes dopamine levels to go up in our brain, that motivates us to continue to do that activity, right? And that's how all addiction forms whether it's drug addiction, sex addiction, addiction to shopping, right? It causes a spike in dopamine, so we constantly want to do it. Well, other things cause spikes in dopamine as well, exercise can do it, maybe certainly not as big as some illicit drug does, but sometimes it's about realizing what the triggers are for the thing, that's not so healthy for you, right? And moving away from those triggers. So, if we take something like alcoholism, sometimes the trigger for alcoholism is going to be your friends because those are the people that you drink with, right? And so maybe it's about spending less time with them, it might be that on the way, you know back from work, you pass a bar that you like to go drink at so take a different route from work.

So you have to know what your triggers are in order to avoid the things that are not healthy for you. And the things that are healthy for you will cause a spike in dopamine but certainly not as high but this is where it builds up resiliency, this is where you've got to be persistent, this is where you've got to really work hard to do, it's going to be best for you.

Michael: And in that, one of the things that I'm curious about is, do you think that there's ever a match in the dopamine level? Because, you know, they talk about, especially people who do hard illicit drugs, like heroin, there's always a thing about chasing the dragon and you find many of these people because, yes, I do understand and I believe that to an extent, I even have an addictive personality and brain as we know that you go and you chase that dragon but it becomes something else and so you see these people many of them become like these high-performance athletes, where they're doing these hundred K marathons in the chaos of these things, and I find myself also in like, okay, I'm going to train martial arts, really hard, I'm going to go and try to run 5Ks every day, all these things start happening is. How do you start to find the balance of it? Where instead of taking and even more so is it possible to find the balance of it whereas you're not chasing the dragon in what we would even deem a healthy way. Does that exist?

Dr. Philippe: So you're absolutely right. So people who are addicted to things that are not good for you, oftentimes, switch that addiction out for something that's a little healthier. So exercise is a great example of that or being a high-performance person is a great example of that and I've ever done that, I've got a bit of an addictive personality. Remember I was doing this Japanese martial art and in like 12 months, I somehow got my black belt because I was literally doing it all the time and when I wasn't doing it, I was thinking about it all the time, right?

And so what happens is though when you switch it for something, that's sort of healthier because you're not getting the same spikes in dopamine as you were getting but that thing, that's not good for you, that over time, you'll see that the addictive personality starts to decrease a little bit as a dopamine levels go up. So they don't necessarily chase the dragon in the same way.

Michael: Interested. I'm so fascinated by this and I mean we still don't know as much about the human brain as I think we would care to. And so, let me ask you this, what if anything do you think is the missing piece of this puzzle that we're not talking about enough?

Dr. Philippe: Well, the reality is that we've learned more about the human brain in the last 20 years, and we did it in the previous two hundred years and I'm somebody who believes that the more we learn about the brain, the more that neurology, psychology, psychiatry, we'll all come together because the reality is that we study the same organ, but we study it from different perspectives. And so I think you need to get all these people who look at the brain to start working together in order for us to really understand it. And then I think we also need to understand the brain from a spiritual context and so we really have to embrace all these different sorts of disciplines to get a full sense of what our brains are capable of but I think that's going to take years if not decades for us to really get a better sense of what we're truly capable of as human beings because of our brains.

Michael: Yeah, and I think about this all the time, I know this sounds odd, but I believe we live in the matrix and the matrix is created from our brain. And if we understand that, then we can bend the spoon for lack of a better term. So hopefully this has been an amazing conversation, my friend, let everybody know where they can find you before I ask you, my last question.

Dr. Philippe: Yeah, so people can find me on Instagram, they can find me on Facebook and Linkedin at Philippe Douyon, MD, they can find me on my website at the They can even email me at

Michael: Amazing, my friend and we'll put all those links in the notes for everyone to come and find you. My friend, my last question for you is, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Dr. Philippe: So I think being unbroken is really about accepting the challenges, in the hardships that you've been through and knowing that they're going to be hardships ahead, but having enough belief in yourself that you're able to fight through persevering and be resilient, right? I mean, we all have our moments where we're down and depressed, and kind of feeling out feeling like we're sort of out of it, but, you know, having that belief that we're able to rise through the that because we know that we've got the tools within ourselves in order for us to persist.

Michael: I love that. Beautifully said, my friend. Thank you so much for being here.

Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening, for watching.

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And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

-I'll see you.



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Dr. Philippe Douyon

Neurologist/Author/Online Course Creator/Motivational Speaker

Dr. Philippe Douyon is a Board Certified Neurologist who focuses on improving your health and life by teaching you how to become the leader your brains need you to be in order to overcome the challenges you face. Not only has Dr. Douyon's philosophy helped countless patients with medical, neurological and mental health disorders, but it's the same philosophy that he used to overcome kidney failure, covid, dialysis, and undergo a successful kidney transplant. He is the author of the book, Neuroplasticity: Your Brain's Superpower ( which teaches you how to use your brain's ability to adapt and learn, in order for you to heal and move on from the struggles in your life. Dr. Douyon is the creator of the online course, Take Charge of Your Brain: : A Guide to Making a Profound Difference in Your Health and Your Life ( ). This course has been called a godsend and transformational because it teaches you how to use your brain to create the life you've always dreamed.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.