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Ask Dr. Mike: Vitamins to Improve Cognition & More

Here you'll find the answers to a wealth of health and wellness questions posed by Healthy Talk fans. Listen in because what you know helps ensure healthy choices you can live with. Today on Healthy Talk, you wanted to know:

Hi Dr. Smith, how can I keep my microbes healthy?

Microbes are healthy bacteria and yeast species within your body. In order to keep your microbes healthy, Dr. Mike suggests adding a probiotic into your diet. Probiotics are extremely essential for maintaining healthy mibrobes. You may also want to replenish your microbes, change your lifestyle (quit smoking, drinking), and eat fresh food.

I'm a 55-year-old healthy male. I'm having a little problem focusing and concentrating. Are there any vitamins that can help?

One vitamin that can help cognition is omega-3 fatty acids, PS (Phosphatidylserine) Caps, American ginseng, blueberries, and B vitamins.

If you have a health question or concern, Dr. Mike encourages you to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call in, toll-free, to the LIVE radio show (1.844.305.7800) so he can provide you with support and helpful advice.

RadioMD Presents: Healthy Talk | Original Air Date: April 6, 2015
Host: Michael Smith, MD

RadioMD. It's time to ask Dr. Mike. Do you have a question about your health? Dr. Mike can answer your questions. Just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call now: 877-711-5211. The lines are open.

DR. MIKE: So, you can send me questions about medicine. You can send me questions about supplements, nutrition, diseases. If you want my opinion, if you want me to confirm something, if something you read on Google, a Google search confused you, send me your question. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Alright. My first question comes from Bart. He says:

"Hi Dr. Smith. How can we keep the microbes in our body healthy? I saw this recent TED Talk and was blown away at what has been revealed. In fact, I think it may have a lot to do with our health than we realize. I think it may also determine if one is obese or not."

So, Bart, yes, great question and you're saying a lot just in those couple sentences. You know, what we're talking about here when Bart writes the word "microbes" we're talking about is the healthy, what is referred to as flora. That's bacteria and yeast species, and we're covered in them. (laughing) And trust me, there's more bacteria in healthy yeast species than our cells. From your mouth to your anus, skin, I mean everywhere-we're covered in microbes. And they do play an extremely important role in our overall health. Again, what a great opportunity, Bart, for me to remind people, I'd consider a probiotic, which is a product that replenishes healthy gut bacteria, a foundational supplement for people.

In my book, Supplement Pyramid, let's review it: multivitamin, Omega-3 oils , CoQ10, probiotics, four foundational supplements. So, Bart, I think you're right on to this. I think you're right. You know, healthy gut bacteria play a much bigger role than we even realize today. So, and by the way, I did go to the TED Talk. Bart provided the link. The gentleman who presented this his name was Rob Knight he's published some papers on probiotics and stuff. It was watching that TED Talk that I learned that it might be the different types of healthy bacteria on our skin that determine whether mosquitoes like to bite us or not. It may not be related to CO2. I mean that it was they're attracted to, but what actually causes them to bite or not bite might be these compounds that the bacteria on my skin or your skin produce.

I might repel them. You might attract them, or what have you. And that's just one example. Rob Knight in this TED Talk. He went into how there may be even a link to our personalities. I mean he was taking it beyond just the physical health into the consciousness personalities what we call the personhood of people. And he did present some interesting research and data. I don't know if I'm going to go that far with it yet but maybe in the future we'll know more.

But to Bart's question "How do we keep the flora healthy?" And I think, you know, most of this is going to be referencing the gut flora because that's where we have the most control over these healthy bacteria and these species.

So first of all, Bart, number one you've got to replenish them. That's number one. The first way you keep your flora healthy is you replenish them, that's number one. It's pretty well known now that by the time you're at age 2 through breastfeeding and your environment, you have established your gut flora. So once you establish it, what you have from age 2 to whatever your age is--50, 60, 70--you're losing it.

You're not really gaining flora anymore unless you are specifically replacing it with a probiotic product, so I think that's the first thing to understand is you have to replenish these healthy gut bacteria which is why I put a probiotic as the fourth foundational product in my book, The Supplement Pyramid.

Okay, so that's the first step but if you're doing other things though that could harm the gut flora like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, maybe eating, there's some evidence that some of the pro-inflammatory foods, foods that are higher in Omega-6's, foods that are processed with the salts and the sulfites and the nitrites and the nitrates and all the –ates and the –ites, could actually diminish your efforts to replenish them.

So, first step in keeping them healthy is to replenish them. The second step is to eat fresh food. We need to eat more fruits and vegetables--fresh food. We need to shop on the outside aisles of the grocery store. I've said that several times on my show. If you're shopping on the middle aisle and you're buying things in boxes, you're probably not helping out your gut flora too much.

The other thing is, too, they are living organisms so you probably want to make sure you do a probiotic product when you are replenishing them which is step number one. Maybe make sure you're also getting some of their food. They feed off of sugars basically and so you want to make sure that you are providing those types of sugar sources, too, so that they can divide and stay healthy as well. So, I think this is a good topic it's making me think I might want to do a whole segment on probiotics in general.

Maybe kind of a nice probiotic review, Bart, and we can talk about all the benefits we're finding in research that these healthy gut bacteria are establishing in us in terms of longevity in terms of heart health, brain health, immune health, that kind of stuff. Yes. I think, number one, you've got to replenish them; number two, fresh food; number three, provide those types of sugars they use to grow. Limit antibiotics as much as possible and make sure if you do a round of antibiotics that you up your probiotic intake at least when you're finished with that antibiotics regimen. So, just some ideas there, Bart but I think what you're bringing to my mind is maybe some idea of a whole segment on probiotics.

Okay, let's go on to the next question. This is from Julio Nasta in Mexico City. Awesome! So people all over are listening to RadioMD.

"Good day! I enjoy your daily show and newsletter very much. (This person was actually responding to the RadioMD newsletter.) "A 55-year-old male, healthy exercise 3-4 times a week, walk everyday and then have a problem focusing and concentrating. Are there any vitamins or nutrients that I could suggest?"

So, this is a question about trying to improve cognition and focusing and memory. Yes. I mean, there's a lot here. If I were to just make a list, I would start with the Omega-3 fatty acids 2-4 grams a day. From there, I would move to something called "phosphatidylserine" in the industry, Julio. It's known as PS caps about 100 mg a day.

I would also do choline based fat products. Phosphorylcholine, for instance, is a great product for the brain. I might also talk about vinpocetine periwinkle which is good for increasing blood flow to the brain. Obviously, blueberry antioxidants have been shown to be important. The adaptogenic herbs like Rhodiola, American Ginseng; those can play a role in helping to decrease cortisol effect in the brain which definitely affects memory and concentration. You know, don't forget the B Vitamins. Make sure you're doing a good B-complex and if you really want to up one of those you might want to do a B-12 under the tongue about 5-10 milligrams of that everyday would really help. So, that's just a nice, simple list of things to help with cognition and memory.

This is Healthy Talk on RadioMD. I'm Dr. Mike. Stay well.