Building a Bigger Brain.

24 Dec

Dr. Michael F. Roizen

Co-Author of 4 #1 NY Times Bestsellers including: YOU Staying Young.

The Owner’s Manual For Extending Your Warranty (Free Press)

Our basic premise is that your body is amazing.  You get a do over. It doesn’t take that long, and it isn’t that hard if you know what to do.  In these notes, we give you a short course in what to do so it becomes easy for you, and for you to teach others. We want you to know how much control you have over both the  quality and length of your life.

What do your favorite wool sweater, your retirement savings account, and your brain have in common? They’re all better off if they don’t shrink! But the brains of the 79 million Americans (and millions more Canadians) are at risk of not only shrinking but not growing right from the start!

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” That proverb has been around since at least 1695, and it was a creepily obsessive phrase in the 1980 movie The Shining (and look what happened there!). Yet, this very simple and profound observation has somehow gotten lost in our modern scramble to make kids smarter. Recess, that time honored tradition that lets kids work off their restless energy and teaches them everything from being part of a team to negotiating conflicts with classmates, has virtually disappeared from many school districts. (In some school districts instituting recess is a challenge. In Chicago, for example, nearly 100 elementary and middle schools have no playgrounds.)

But people who make such policies are finally beginning to realize that it’s a huge mistake to eliminate  playtime. The benefits of recess include: stimulation of creativity and imagination, improved physical health and control of obesity, building friendships, and an improvement in classroom attention and learning. Kids who have an hour of play first thing in the day learn better. Social-emotional learning should be woven into academic learning because it enhances a child’s ability to learn and to thrive.

So if your child goes to an elementary school that does not have recess, or you have school administrators who do not think recess is important, then speak up and step in.  If you have no outdoor space for recess, then help school teachers find creative ways to make the gym or a classroom work. If you have to take the issue up at parent-teacher meetings or the PTA, then do it. Your child’s health, happiness, and school success depend on it.

On to another topic…

Intestinal bacteria are big news: Breast milk contains 700 varieties (that’s good because it seems to build an infant’s immune system and digestive health). We now know these bacteria break down and generate amino acids and neurotransmitters that affect mood (these are true gut reactions); and it seems disruption of a healthy balance of gut bacteria may cause (or be the result of) type 2 diabetes. But perhaps the most astounding news is that a fecal transplant (putting someone else’s, um, healthy mix of gut bacteria into the GI tract of a person suffering with Crohn’s disease or a C. difficile infection) can banish chronic diarrhea PDQ. But it sounds so… what’s the scientific word? Icky.

Well, now there’s an artificial mixture of gut bacteria that’s called, we kid you not, RePOOPulate.  In tests, people with “untreatable” C. difficile infections (that’s the bacteria that can thrive in the gut after treatment with antibiotics) saw their diarrhea clear up in three days after RePOOPulate-ing. Six months later, they were still free of the sinister bug. This not-quite-as-personal bacterial transplant successfully rebalanced their gut with a healthy bacterial mix.

If you have chronic intestinal problems, get onboard with a probiotic regimen (we recommend Culturelle and Sustinex) and make sure you eat plenty of apples. They’re loaded with pectin (it’s what’s called a prebiotic); it helps balance gut bacteria in favor of the good guys. Asparagus, chicory root, garlic, onions, and oats are other prebiotics. And if that doesn’t help, talk to your doc about repopulating your intestines with friendly bacteria.

Thanks for reading.

Young Dr Mike

NOTE: You should NOT take this as medical advice. 

This article is of the opinion of its author.

Before you do anything, please consult with your doctor.

You can follow Dr Roizen  (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories  of the week) on twitter @YoungDrMike. 

Feel free to continue to send questions to You can follow Dr Roizen on twitter @YoungDrMike (and get updates on the latest and most important medical stories of the week).  The YOU docs have a new web site:  and its companion the only site we know of where you can find skin products proven to meet the claims (opened for business on June 1st, 2012), and a new book: YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens.

Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. His radio show streams live on  Saturdays from 5-7 p.m . E-mail him questions at   He is the co-author of 4 #1 NY Times Best Sellers including : YOU Staying Young and YOU: The Owner’s Manual. He is Chief Medical Consultant to the two year running Emmy award winning Dr Oz show– The Dr Oz show is #2 nationally in daytime TV.  See what all the fun is about, and what he, The Enforcer, is up to. Check local listings or log onto for channel and time. And for more health info, log onto anytime.


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