Most problems that people seek neurologists for are functional problems like dizziness, headache, migraines, and all these different issues which are just symptoms. Neurologists are brilliant diagnosticians, but the challenge for neurologists is that their hands are tied when it comes to treatment. People are looking for answers. Internationally renowned clinician Dr. Michael Gruttadauria says we need to give them a different paradigm, a different perspective on what’s actually happening. Dr. Gruttadauria has been serving patients from around the world since 1992. He began his quest to be the best clinician he could be as Doctor of Chiropractic. He has blended his background in nutrition, neurology, and sports medicine with years of advanced post-doctorate training in Functional Medicine and lifestyle management. Dr. Gruttadauria discusses some chronic neurological issues and how advances in Functional Neurology are trying to address those.
Dr. Michael Gruttadauria is an internationally-renowned clinician who has been serving his profession and patients all around the world. He holds a board certification in chiropractic neurology through the American Chiropractic Neurology Board and is on the advisory board of the Functional Medicine University. He has participated in the post-doctoral program for traumatic brain injury and has completed advanced studies in the diagnosis and the treatment of vestibular disorders through the Carrick Institute for Postdoctoral Education. Dr. Mike is an amazing healer and specializes in chronic neurological conditions. Please welcome, Dr. Michael Gruttadauria.
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Chronic Neurological Issues: How To Heal with Dr. Michael Gruttadauria
Dr. Michael, how you doing?
I’m doing perfectly. How about you?
Dr. Michael, I’m excited to have you. You heal a lot of neurological conditions. You do functional medicine. You do blood testing, you do a lot of great stuff and you see a lot of extreme cases that you’re able to help out and get people better, and that’s what the podcast is all about. How did you get started? Where are you from?
I’m from Long Island and grew up here. I was always fascinated with sports medicine. I was into competitive bodybuilding and played football in high school and so on. I always thought I wanted to work with athletes and became a chiropractor after I hurt my neck.
How did you hurt your neck?
Way too heavy?
Trying to do more than I should, came up from a squat, couldn’t get up and then I felt this explosion in my neck. I went to an orthopedic surgeon who ran some x-rays and put me on three different medications. I was in college, I was taking painkillers, muscle relaxers, and anti-inflammatories. I wasn’t getting any better. I couldn’t work out, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t study. By chance, my mom met a woman who is a chiropractor. I haven’t been to a chiropractor before and she said, “Come to my office and let me check you out.” Literally two adjustments later, I was off all the meds and I was back in action. It was a natural fit for me and pursued chiropractic.
After you graduated college, you jumped right into chiropractic school?
Yes. I was very interested in sports injuries and stuff and was intrigued by the brain, how the system worked, the neurology and so on. I got involved with the Carrick Institute for Graduate Studies and started this Neurology Diplomate Program. I’ve been through the program several times. They keep evolving and growing. When I first got out of college, it has changed so dramatically. As an athlete and always working with athletes, I was always into nutrition. I was always working on diet plans and nutrition. When functional medicine started to come into its own, I started studying there and created a little niche for myself, which is looking at the body from three different perspectives. From a structural perspective, obviously from chiropractic and structural perspective, and that whole musculoskeletal piece but then looking at what’s going on neurologically and what’s happening biochemistry?
The interesting thing was when I was in school, I hated biochemistry. Those crazy classes that I thought, “I just need to study this to pass the boards.” Literally every day, all I do is read labs and look at the nuances in people’s chemistry to try to break down some of the reasons why they are the way they are. Create lifestyle modifications and all different kinds of things to help them go from where they are to where they need to be. The interesting thing is I see everything from children with autism to patients with Alzheimer’s and everything in between. A lot of people will say, “How do you specialize in all these different problems?” It’s not that I specialize in treating any of those problems, what I’m looking for is trying to figure out what’s wrong with this patient and how I can fix it. Trying to come up with a specific treatment for a label.
Dr. Michael, for those who are wondering, what is functional neurology and how do you help people in your office? What’s the consultation like? Is it a blood test right away? How does it work?
When people go to a neurologist, neurologists are brilliant diagnosticians. The challenge for neurologists is that their hands are tied when it comes to treatment. If you have a lesion in your brain, there’s nowhere on Earth you’d rather be than in New York City with one of the top neurologists. They use diagnostic imaging to look for the problems, electro diagnostics and so on. Most problems that people seek neurologists for are functional problems meaning like dizziness, headache, migraines, all these different issues. Those are symptoms. You can’t see a migraine on an MRI.
That’s the thing too, all these people come into our offices, “My CAT scan came back clear, blood works fine, MRI’s showing nothing,” and they’re in a world of pain.
It’s a huge challenge because they’re looking for answers. What we need to be able to do is to give them a different paradigm, a different perspective on what’s happening. To go through a consultation history and do a physical exam that’s looking at how the system works versus trying to see if it’s broken or not, is a different way of thinking. The brain is creating a way for us to deal with our environment. That’s what the brain does. We’re taking in information constantly from the environment through our senses. The brain processes that information and then it has an expression. The brain’s output is thought, movement and internal function. If you have an interference with what’s coming in, then you have a processing problem and then you have an output problem. Usually, that’s where people start developing symptoms. From a chiropractic perspective, it’s very similar. We’re taught in chiropractic college that we have a subluxation that’s creating nerve interference.
Bone out of place, pressure on the nervous system.
From this little shift in thinking, what I’m looking at is as all of our bones move, they drive one of two main brain pacemakers. Our brain has two pacemakers. The heart has a pacemaker. One of them is dependent on movement. Every time you move, you power up your brain to a certain degree. The brain’s an electrical system but we have no battery, no plug. Where does it get its electricity from? It gets it from this constant input. We have these different senses like sight, sound, taste all these different things. They’re called the special senses. Those are on and off throughout the day. If you close your eyes, your eyes don’t give the brain any information. Because gravity is working on us 24/7, our body has to be able to counter gravity. Standing up or sitting up against gravity will drive our muscular-skeletal system, which then gives feedback to the brain. When we move our body, our muscles and our joints, we’re constantly stimulating the brain through these receptors, joint receptors and muscle receptors like muscle spindles.
The other constant receptive system that’s always working is called a vestibular system, which is built into our inner ear. Your brain always wants to know where your head is. If you close your eyes and I flipped you upside down, you’d know you were upside down. You walk onto an elevator, you close your eyes and you’d know if it was going up or down because we have this built-in sense that tells us where we are because of gravity. Those two are very powerful drivers of the brain. When you have a problem in either or both of those systems, you have decreased brain integration and then you have decreased brain output. That’s why chiropractic works because you stimulate the system through a chiropractic adjustment. You power up the brain and the brain is able to get back on track. We take it a little bit further when we look at these neurological consequences and we’re looking at how the eyes are moving, how the balance system’s working, head position and all these different things. It’s full details on how things are working and what we could do to make it better.
Let’s say someone comes into your office with a migraine, you fix the structural component and you give them an adjustment. What is the functional neurology? Where does that come in at that point?
The first question I ask all my patients is, “Have you ever hit your head?” One of the biggest things that we see is the consequences of post-concussion. Since this whole NFL explosion in concussions and all the research and so on, we’ve learned so much about brain trauma and how it affects us. Even whiplash injuries can cause concussions. It doesn’t take much and the consequences long-term can be devastating. Many times, people have some previous history of head trauma that may have initiated dysfunction that then led to the Migraine Syndrome. The other side of a migraine is toxicity. This is where the functional medicine piece comes in because we’re living in a very toxic environment. It’s everywhere; food, water, air, we’re exposed to metals, pesticides, herbicides, and all these different things.
Our body has to have a very efficient detoxification capacity. When it doesn’t, toxins build up and it affects the brain. Your brain is exquisitely sensitive to toxins. If we were to do two shots of vodka on an empty stomach, your brain would be very different. It would slow down and you’d feel all these different things. That’s two ounces of liquid in your entire body and it still is able to change your brain. Imagine a lifetime of small exposures that build up because many of these things are fat soluble they stay inside of us and it changes. We need to look at all of these different parameters. We look at parasites. Parasites are much more common than you think because doctors are not testing for them. Even when they do, testing is 90% false negatives.
When somebody says, “I already got blood work, it came.” How detailed is your standard blood work?
I don’t want to ever knock any other doctors because we’re all a product of our training. We were trained a certain way and we do things the way we were trained because we trust the people who trained us. Traditional medical training is looking for a disease. Unless somebody has a very specific problem that we’re going to identify a test for, generally they’re doing a complete blood count, a CBC, a straight chemistry panel of Vitamin D and maybe they’re going to do a lipid profile and look at cholesterol. When patients come in and say, “Look at all this blood work I have.” This tells us you don’t have any disease but it doesn’t tell us what you do have. It doesn’t tell us any imbalances.
It’s ruling out all major pathologies.
It’s great information. We need that information but we need to dig a lot deeper.
How do you detox people from heavy metals and parasites and all that stuff?
We do blood, urine, stool in genetics. We’re covering all the bases. My goal and I tell all my patients, “Half of my job is to take care of you. The other half is to teach you. The more you understand how your body works, the more empowered you are to take care of it forever. I’m going to get all these labs back. I’m going to go through each one individually and teach you why I did it and what it means for you.” When we get all of these things back, we get a comprehensive view of what’s going on biochemically. Once we see this patient has nutritional imbalances, they could have something called MTHFR gene mutations, which is one of many potential epigenetic changes that we’re now testing for. Gastrointestinal dysfunction is rampant. Everybody’s got something going on with their gut. The microbiome is a big deal. We’re one-tenth human. For every one human cell, we have nine bacterial cells that live inside of us. The interplay between that bacteria in our immune system, in our vitamin production, in our brain and neurological systems is huge. All of this stuff needs to be assessed before you can make some decisions about what to do.
Dr. Michael, what kind of patients do you see in your office and what are the results you’re getting? I think you see some heavy stuff.
It goes through waves. It’s very often I’ll get several migraine patients and then those patients seemed to know a lot of other migraine patients; a whole bunch of people with a migraine. I see a lot of post-concussion syndromes, even kids all the way to professional athletes. What I probably see most is anxiety and depression. It’s unbelievably common and people either are not getting results from taking standard SSRI medications or they’re sick and tired of taking these drugs on.
If somebody does come into the office with depression and anxiety, the first thing they ask is, “I get what you do but how is a chiropractic adjustment, a lab test, my nervous system correlate with depression?”
When somebody comes in and they have anxiety and/or depression, the first thing I do is ask them, “Tell me about your past. Tell me about yourself. Tell me about your life. What’s happening? Do you have any emotional traumatic experiences? Are you’re working with a therapist? Are you working with a psychiatrist?” In order to help somebody who has these types of conditions, it’s a total team effort. You need to be working with other professionals. I work with amazing psychologists that are an integrative psychologist. I have a terrific holistic neurologist, a holistic psychiatrist. The doctor that I work with in Manhattan is one of the top internal medicine, functional medicine practitioners in the world. We have an amazing team. I might be the portal of entry but you’re probably going to be touched by several of these people. It’s taking a lot of many different angles.
When somebody is depressed, when you say depressed, what it means is squashed down. Their brain is squashed down and their emotionality is altered. When you think about it that way, the brain and the mind are one. You can’t separate them. Your brain is this glob of fat sitting in a soup of chemistry that interacts with your body. What’s going on in your body chemically-wise is affecting your brain like the alcohol analogy. There are genetic mutations that predispose people to have a reduced production of serotonin and dopamine for instance. We know that metal toxicity interferes with the production of neurotransmitters. We know that abnormal gastrointestinal function has a direct gut-brain connection. We also know that we’re living in a wired world and a Wi-Fi world, and the impact of that has yet to be discussed. What’s happening is we’re frying our brains very often. If you put a piece of steak in a microwave for three minutes, it dries out. What it does is it dehydrates the tissue.
Us sitting in front of the computer or using a cell phone, what’s happening is it’s having a profound negative impact on our brain. Our brain is an electrical system and these things are throwing out intense electromagnetic radiation, which has a negative impact on us. When you look at this as a whole, we’re seeing the chemistry is involved, the structures involved, the neurology is involved, their environments involved, and their thought processes involved. The mindset of getting well has been squashed. They come from a paradigm of sickness. When you get sick, you go to the doctor. When you’re not sick, you don’t go to the doctor. What we’re trying to say is you need to be aggressively proactive with your health. Otherwise, you’re probably going to be going backward and you’re waiting for a diagnosis.
How important is mindset when somebody is trying to heal?
It depends on the person. Everybody’s got a different perspective. I ask people right off the bat, “Do you feel you’ve been floundering for a long time? What do you think are the possibilities of you getting better? Do you think that this is an attainable goal?” When you hear, “I’m not so sure.” I saw a new patient and he said, “You’re the fifteenth doctor that I’ve seen.”
At that point, they’re saying, “I don’t want to get my hopes up. I came here for a reason but I’m a little shot at this point. I haven’t gotten any results.” When you talk about the mindset, what I try to do is say, “The first thing we need to do is help you understand how you got here in the first place.” I draw them a little picture and I say, “This is you. Here you are right now. This is you with all your problems, all your issues, all your stresses, all your successes. You got here because of your actions and your behavior. What you do got you here. Would you agree?” What we want to do is we want to change something about our lives. The first thing we do is say, “Let me change what I do.” We’ll use the diet example. Somebody says, “I need to lose 30 pounds. Let me go on a diet.” They changed the way they eat and they initially lose weight. What happens after a while?
The diet stops and they go back to their old habits.
It’s unsustainable because you’re out of energy. Energy is what drives behavior, mental and physical energy. I tell them right off the bat, “We’re going to figure out with all these tests and everything that I’m going to do with you, what’s happening with your physical energy. I’m going to help restore your physical energy.” The fatigue is going to go away so you will have the physical energy to take massive action to get these results. You also have a whole different side. You get mental energy. Where do you get mental energy from? I explain that we get mental energy from your attitude. When we talk about attitude, we usually say, “Your attitude is a good or bad attitude. That guy has got a good attitude.” To a certain degree, that’s true but attitude means a relative position. My attitude is where I think I fit in.
We break it down and say there are four basic attitudes. The first one is a plus-plus attitude. I’m okay with me and Kevin, I’m okay with you. I like me, I like you. I respect me, I respect you. That’s the only good attitude there is. Then you have plus-minus. I’m good, you are not. I’m better than you. I’m smarter than you. I’m all these different things. You develop a condescending personality and overbearing not a good guy. What happens is as a result of you having that attitude, you have less mental energy to be able to devote, to taking action to change your outcomes. The third attitude is minus plus. I’m not okay but you are. Kevin, you’re better looking than me. You’re smarter than me. You have more money than me. Everywhere I go, everybody’s better than me. I feel less than. People with low self-esteem. If I have low self-esteem, then I don’t have the energy to be able to devote to changing the actions, to do different things and have a different outcome.
The fourth one is a minus-minus, which is a pathology. I’m not okay, neither are you and we won’t even go there. There are four basic attitudes. The 80-10-10 rule. 80% of the people are going to end up with either one of the two middle ones, a plus-minus or minus-plus. 10% of the people end up with a plus-plus and 10% end up minus-minus. You have maybe a 10% chance of having a positive attitude. Your mental energy is probably going to be low. If you have low mental energy, you have a poor attitude, which leads to your inability to sustain more from the action so your life stays the same. There’s one more piece. We get our attitude from our beliefs. What I believe about myself is formed when I was a young kid. It’s given to me by mother, father, teacher, preacher, peers, and media. This group of influencers is constantly telling us. A lot of the psychological research says that by the time kids are seven or eight years old, they’ve been given 140,000 negative messages and 30,000 to 40,000 positive messages. Depending on how you grow up, there’s a good chance that you’ve been given a lot of negative messages, which then leads to a negative attitude.
It’s never too late to change that. You’ve got to snap out of it.
This is your software program. It’s never updated. You’re walking around as an adult with the beliefs of a seven-year-old. We need to work on this. We call the belief system, your self-concept. Your self-concept is your self-esteem and your self-image. Your self-image is how you see yourself and your self-esteem is how much you like what you see. If we work there and we help people to come up with ways that they might see themselves differently, how can we build confidence? What kind of personality traits do you think somebody who could easily achieve your goals? What would they have and how can we develop those things? This is where a psychologist could come in or a life coach. What we’re doing is expanding their brain. Personal growth, that’s what it is.
If you want to have a huge life and you want to be healthy, I always tell people health and happiness are the two goals. If you want those things, you need to have a life that’s built on a strong foundation. That’s what this whole self-concept is about. The mindset of health starts with feeling good about yourself. When somebody comes in and they have these “chronic illnesses,” what I’m realizing is, “I need to find out more about you.” From a functional doctor perspective, I’m looking to help you as a whole person. I’m not looking to just say, “I’m going to try to fix your migraines,” because your migraines are intertwined with the rest of your life. They build the mindset, “I’m a migraine patient.” They owned it.
They become the diagnosis and it’s sad.
Looking at these things gives you a totally different perspective when you’re looking at it from all of these different angles. You come up with a strategy and you start working on the strategy. You give them homework to do and not only they’re doing things exercise-wise, nutritionally, supplements, lifestyle, getting out in the sun, avoiding a non-native electromagnetic radiation. A lot of the different lifestyle modifications that we need to do and call them bio-hacks. We also have to help them upgrade their thinking so that they’re able to pull this off. If they don’t change the way they think, then this will be just another stop on their journey.
What are those glasses you’re wearing?
We’re constantly exposed to a lot of external radiation. When we look at the electromagnetic spectrum, we as human beings can only see a tiny piece of it. They call it the visible light spectrum, but there’s ultraviolet, infrared, gamma rays, X-rays, all these other things that we can’t see but they’re all there. In order for us to see a computer screen, a phone or a TV it has to be powerfully lit. These technology companies use blue light to powerfully light it up. When we’re living inside 98% of the time and we’re overexposed to all this technology, we become irradiated with so much blue light that it creates an imbalance in the way our brain is taking this light in. You have two brain pacemakers, which is in your thalamus that creates these thalamocortical oscillations that come from movement. The other one is in your hypothalamus in an area called the SCN that is light driven.
You’re a young guy but there used to be a show called Little House on The Prairie. It was about this family and they grew up on a farm. When the sun came up, they were all outside, working on the farm, going to school. Everybody was outside all the time. They would go inside when the sun went down. They would have candles and a fire. They didn’t have this insane exposure to indoor lighting that we have. They had this day-night cycle, we call it circadian rhythms. When you wake up in the morning and you get sunlight, you have this massive surge of cortisol that wakes your body and brain up. Then cortisol slowly comes down throughout the day. As cortisol is coming down, melatonin is coming up and then you go sleep. Everybody you talked to has a sleep problem. They have low energy because their adrenal system is shot because they’re stressed. They’re having all kinds of issues on that side and then they don’t sleep.
This is an imbalance in this brain pacemaker system and we need to recreate it. After dark, if I’m going to be on a computer, I’m doing a podcast with you, I want to reduce the amount of blue light exposure I get so I wear these glasses. These are from a company called BLUblox. It cuts blue light 100%. I can still see you and after a while, you don’t even see that it’s red, it looks normal. What it does is over the long-term, if you think about how many hours you’re on these technology devices, you can significantly reduce your exposure at night. You’ll be shocked at how much better you sleep and all the little things that go along with it.
Can you get those on Amazon or where?
You go on BLUblox.com. Several companies make them, look up blue light blocking glasses and you’ll see. It’s becoming a very popular thing especially in the functional medicine community and the bio-hacking community, they talk a lot about it. We need to avoid overexposure. We were never meant to be living the way we live. Technology has afforded us a lot of good things but also it’s killing us. The sickness, anxiety, depression, chronic neurological disorders are exploding. Cancers are off the chart. All of these different influences between diet, the lack of exercise, the exposure to these technology devices, it’s having a negative impact on our body. We need to help people understand how it’s working, where their body is that right now. We create a baseline and then help turn it around and then you’ll see all the symptoms go away, the migraines, depression and all this stuff. I’m very excited because I’m going to be part of a documentary that’s going to be coming out on depression.
What’s it called?
It’s called Food is Mood, and three other high-end doctors in the functional medicine community. It started with one of my patients who came in. A young man in his early twenties and his mom was a friend of one of my patients. My patient calls me up and says, “Can you see my friend’s son?” I said, “Sure.” She goes, “Can you see him today?” “Yes.” That night, this young guy comes in and he looked like a million bucks. I thought he was a GQ model. He was like, “I’m a bit through the mill. I’ve been on all these different meds and I’m depressed. I can’t get out of bed.” I said, “What’s going on in your life?” He said, “I’m a college graduate. I have a great job. I have a great girlfriend. I play guitar in a rock band. We just got signed to a record deal.” I was thinking, “This doesn’t sound emotional. It sounds physiological.” We ran this whole panel of tests and then started working with him. Several months later, he got better. He wrote an article about it because he wanted to spread the word. A producer read the article and said, “I want to do a documentary.”
What is one piece of advice that you have taken with you over the years that you would like to give and share with the people? It could be absolutely anything.
You have to go through life with an open mind. We tend to form opinions about things. Before we get all the information or from previous exposures, we pass judgment. Things could change and we still have a closed mind to a lot of things. Every single day I learn from my patients, I learn from the doctors that I work with. Open-mindedness is probably the biggest thing to keep. Being grateful, that’s the number one thing. Being grateful probably supersedes open-mindedness.
Dr. Michael, thank you so much for coming on. I enjoyed this episode. You’re a wealth of knowledge on many aspects of healing, I appreciate you coming on and sharing your story.
You can check out the website, TheOptimumU.com.
You’re on Facebook and Instagram?
Instagram is the same thing, @TheOptimumU. I really appreciate you having me on. You’re doing an awesome job. Thank you very much.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
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