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Optimizing Brain Health with Dr. Hokehe Eko



Dr. Hokehe Eko is a mom, board certified pediatrician, TEDx speaker, author and CEO of GLOW Pediatrics, LLC. She partners with parents and children of ADHD and autism to address the root causes of their children's behaviors so they glow with health from the inside out. She's also the CEO of Kids of Hope, a5013c organization sharing love, hope and dignity with children in foster care.

 

Listen to the interview here.


LINKS

 

ON THIS EPISODE

00:01:25:15                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on what she’s most passionate about

00:02:01:12                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on when she discovered her passion

00:03:05:02                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on her path to becoming a doctor

00:06:02:05                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on her journey to starting her own practice

00:09:30:01                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on what inspired her interest in brain health

00:11:04:06                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on what drinking water does for your brain

00:12:04:11                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on other things that are important for good brain health

00:14:29:01                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on founding Kids of Hope

00:19:20:12                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on the effects of trauma on the brain

00:23:56:08                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on ways to address trauma

00:27:14:18                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on foods to eat and avoid for good brain health

00:36:06:13                 Dr. Hokehe Eko and the Passionistas on how eating healthy makes them

feel

00:49:19:14                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on her podcast Brain Power with Dr. Eko

00:51:33:14                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on how to take the first step to good brian health

00:52:08:09                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on her female role models growing up

00:54:17:08                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on her book, “Children's Love Letters: A Pediatricians

Guide to How Your Child Spells Love”

00:55:28:17                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on the one thing she wishes all women knew

00:57:24:02                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on her dream for women

00:58:38:14                 Dr. Hokehe Eko on where people can find her

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Passionistas: Hi, everyone. We're sisters. Amy and Nancy Harrington, the founders of The Passionistas Project. We've created an inclusive sisterhood where passion driven women come to get support, find their purpose, and feel empowered to transform their lives and change the world. On every episode, we discuss the ways in which each woman is following her passions, talk about how she defines success, and explore her path to breaking down the barriers that women too often face.

 

Today, we're talking with Dr. Hokehe Eko, a mom, board certified pediatrician, TEDx speaker, author and CEO of GLOW Pediatrics, LLC. She partners with parents and children of ADHD and autism to address the root causes of their children's behaviors so they glow with health from the inside out. She's also the CEO of Kids of Hope, a5013c organization sharing love, hope and dignity with children in foster care.

 

If you're live with us here today, please feel free to drop any comment or question in the chat and we'll do our best to get them answered. And please welcome Dr. Eko. We're so excited to have you here.

 

Dr. Eko: Thank you. Such and such a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

 

Passionistas: Dr. Eko, what are you most passionate about and why?

 

Dr. Eko: That's a good question. How many do you want? Well, you know, so I'll stick to the most I'm most passionate about really helping children do well, like not just medicate them and maybe their will for a little bit, but really, really become well and become the.

 

The very best that best version of themselves. And because I know and I understand that when children do well, the entire family does well. And so my real passion is about helping families glow with health and do well in every aspect of their lives.

 

Passionistas: So where does that passion come from? When did you first discover that passion?

 

Dr. Eko: So I knew I first wanted to be a pediatrician when I was five. I don't know why I remember I was five, but. That's what's in my head.

 

I grew up in Nigeria and I had a friend, a childhood friend that died of an asthma attack because she a parents couldn't get. They didn't have the funds to get the medication she needed. And it happened at nighttime. And in Nigeria, you often have to pay for your meds before you get treated. So that's what happened. Then I decided I wanted to be a pediatrician.

 

But so funny, because even though I said that I was scared of hospital as I was that kid that would show up in your office and you would need five people to hold them down to get one shot. So go figure. I don't know. That's so. Yeah, that's. That's where it stems from. Yeah.

 

Passionistas: Well, that must make you more sensitive now, though, to the kids who come in nervous, right?

 

Dr. Eko: Is absolutely.

 

Passionistas: So what was your path like to becoming a doctor? What were the some of maybe the obstacles that's in your way?

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah. So I. I came to the U.S. at the age of 16 to start college as a junior in college. So everything was fine. As a junior, I had two car accidents. Exactly six months apart. I mean, I was discharged from the physical therapist office on Friday. On Saturday morning I had another one, and so I was right back to them on Monday.

 

And like, didn't we just discharge? Well, I'm back. So the unfortunate thing is that because I hit my head both times, I suffered concussions and I started not to do well in school.

 

So I got sent to see a neuropsychologist who examined me and told me asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to be a pediatrician since I was five. And he said to me, You will never go to medical school. You are less than average. And I suggest you go find something else to do. So that I was devastated was an understatement because this is all I've wanted to do all my life. And and so I believed him because he was a doctor. Right. And I proceeded to I completely fell out of college that semester.

 

I was, a junior, had to withdraw from college that semester. And I was really depressed, not doing well, had the headaches, could short term memory, all of that going on. But come fall semester my parents were like, you are going right back to college. It doesn't matter what he said. And who is he to determine who you're going to be anyways?

 

So I didn't quite believe them. Sort of. Kind of. But of course I if you know anything about Nigerian parents, you don't say no, you just do what they said. So I was right back in college and it was a difficult. Yes, I really had to relearn how to learn, relearned, memory, memory, skills and all of that. But I, I made it.

 

And slowly but surely, because I kept hearing my parents say over and over, You are a doctor. You are a doctor. Your doctor writes. That's all I kept hearing. And so over and slowly over time, I started to believe them too. And and time for some time to apply to medical school. I ran away from it and I was applying to everything. What medical school? I applied to PhD in nursing optometry school. One day my sister sat me down. I said, Listen, you need to put in your application to medical school. I stop messing around. So I listened again. Thankfully, one adult, I mean adults with a positive voice in my ear. So I listened and I applied.

 

And I'm a physician and I'm a Pediatrician now. So. Yes.

 

Passionistas: Wow. And when did you start your own practice and what was kind of your path to to that?

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah. So I started my practice in July of last year. So 2023 prior to that, I had been unemployed. Physician and I was getting harassed at work. And so I decided it was more important for me to be able to take care of myself and my kids than to do this. I, I, I had the thought of start your practice.

 

But of course, it was such a daunting task. And look, I have no business school. Well, no. Anything. I just know I to be employed and be really good at my job. Right. Also, I thought so. I like to say I jumped off the cliff. I put in a two week resignation and I had no backup job. I was like, okay, what now? So?

 

So I immediately put my skills to work working for a hospital that needed help part time. But then I decided I was going to stop my practice and at first I started my practice. I decided, okay, I'm going to go see kids at home because there's so much research that shows that what parents, the mommies, post-partum moms and babies do so much better if they get care delivered at home versus having to take their tired bodies as was if they just had a section and dragged themselves to the doctor's office the day after they have their baby. Right. And all of those visits. And so I decided I was going to be an in-home pediatrician. So I did this whole thing. I set it up and I had no patients.

 

I was like, What? What? What just happened? So again, another another pivot I had to do. And and so I was like thinking, what in the world am I going to do? I had in my head, I don't want to go start a full blown Pedes practice. I just felt like I'd done it for ten years. I didn't want to do exactly that. So I remembered that I had done a TedX on ADHD and I had all this training and I was like three.

 

And then, you know, to me, you know, like, I didn't know. But you know how you have light bulb moments that just show up? Like, it's not like you don't know this information, but for some reason it comes to you for when you really needed that. There was a two year waitlist for autism diagnosis in the state of Oklahoma.

 

And it's something I've known, right? And then I was like, Wait, what if I go train? How to do the diagnoses to help the kids? Because I understand the importance of kids getting diagnosed early. And so I did that, and that's how I started. Glo Pediatrics. I started the practice to do

Autism evaluations and ADHD evaluations because it's so critical for children to get diagnosed in the first five years of life so that we can get the services going because their brains have so much growth then. So if you're going to make changes, that's when you want to make the changes so that they can meet their full potential as as children.

 

And so that's what I started off doing. And then I was like, Well, I also have this integrative training I've done so I can actually help them actually feel really good instead of just saying, okay, here's your diagnosis now bye. So, I'm it's like as time went on, I just kept working out the different parts of my practice. And I think the key there is like just being willing to take the first step and everything else will evolve, right? And even though it's scary, just take the first step. So absolutely, absolutely, so important. So I want to I want to go back.

 

Passionistas: Where did your interest in brain health and autism and ADHD and stuff like that, where did that interest come from?

 

Dr. Eko: So again, I had another lightbulb moment I had well, after I had the accident and I had gotten treated and I got better and got into med school, I kind of sort of forgot, my brain buried that memory of having car accidents and brain injuries and all that. Right. Until I saw an ad on face, I think it was on Facebook was an ad for brain health training for clinicians.

 

And then it came back. I was like, Who I know about that had a brain injury and I'm going to learn about that. So it was from Dr. Amen. I don't know if you've heard of him. He's a really well known psychiatrist that does a lot of brain imaging. But yeah, so he had this training for clinicians to learn about brain health and I took it and that's when I was like, wait, if I address the things I talk about with kids and parents from the angle of the brain, then they're more likely to say yes to it.

 

So if I tell a kid you want your brain to feel better and they say yes, and I'm like, your brain loves water versus drink water. It's good for you, right? So everybody the kid wants, they're going to feel better. So they are more likely to have found to drink the water because I said it in that I came from that angle. And so that's where that's. That's where it came from. Yes.

 

Passionistas: And what does drinking water do for the brain?

 

Dr. Eko:  So the brain is the organ in the body that needs the most water to function. Actually, our bodies are made of 70% water, but the brain itself specifically needs the most water. So if you fall in love with the with your brain and you fall in love with health, your health actually, because if you fall in love with the with your brain, you'll fall in love with your health. Right? So if you look at it from that angle, then you're going to feed your brain what it needs, which is more water and less sodas and less of the other stuff and more water because you want your brain to function well, give it what it needs. 

 

Passionistas: That's fascinating. You never hear that. You hear that it's good for other things. It's good for your skin. It's good for whatever. You know, you never hear that it's good for your brain. Now I'm going to make sure I drink more water.

 

Dr. Eko:  So it's made it easier.

 

Passionistas: Are there other obvious things like that that are really easy, that are good for your brain?

 

Dr. Eko:  Yes. So oxygen. So your brain is the organ that needs the most oxygen in the body. And so that's why it's so important for you to move and to exercise and to be active, because the more you do that, the more oxygen is generated and the more your brain has what it needs to be its best self... to be the best version of itself is what I want to say. So yeah. So if you exercise more than your brain gets more oxygen and then you you feel much better.

 

Passionistas: Well, that's good to know too.

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah. Isn't that a good reason to go move in? Because what every so much and this engine of yours needs to function. So you're going to do what you need to do to help it. So it is amazing.

 

Passionistas: It's something that nobody talks about is brain health. You know, we talk about all the other aspects of our our physical well-being, but we never talk about it.

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah. We only talk about in the sense of mindfulness because I'm like, no, we got to talk about the health of the organ because if we look, if we tie everything to that and teach our kids that, then they are more likely to make good choices. Because I haven't met anybody that doesn't want their brain to feel better.

 

 

Passionistas: Yeah, and I feel like it's it becomes a topic when we get older and it's like, no, I'm starting to have memory issues, right? But I don't know if it's ever too late to start improving your brain health.

 

Dr. Eko: No, thankfully there's something called neuroplasticity, meaning the brain can repair itself, can heal itself. So if you're never too late, you're not stuck with the brain you have, thankfully. So we all can start making changes that will move our brains in the right direction.

 

Passionistas: Yes, well, that's good news. That's really good news.

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah, it was great news for me when I thought I was like I'm not stuck with my my brain that has gone under undergone some assaults. So. Yeah.

 

Passionistas: So now in 2019, you founded Kids of Hope. So tell us about the mission and why you started that.

 

Dr. Eko: So the one kid that got me on this path was a four year old. I saw he had been in ten homes in six months, if you can imagine anything like that. So ten strangers homes in the short span of six months and you're four years old. And so he was brought into my office. He came in with a diagnosis from who brought him in. They said he has ADHD. I need he needs meds. I'm like

really? Have you already have a diagnosis? Okay.

 

So I was talking to the the person who brought him in, but meanwhile I was watching him so he would bounce off. He would run up and down, like bounce off the walls, but come give me a hug. So I was there for about 15 minutes. I got like 15 hugs. And that made an impression on me because I don't yeah, I get hopeful. Kids are not that many, right?

 

So my brain took note of that and I said, I heard myself. I said, I don't think he has ADHD. Besides, he's four years old. We don't diagnose kids with ADHD at four because we have to make sure the behavior is the same at school, at home and all of that. But besides that, I had myself seen, I don't think he has ADHD. I think he needs a loving home. And the guy looked at me like I was crazy.

 

I was like, we did get back from a study that just came out of your mouth. But I said, Yeah. And I heard myself repeating that. I was like, Yeah, yeah. I think I think that's why he needs... because I think I slipped into mom mode and I was just like, What in the world that's too much for a little person to handle.

 

And so fast forward a few weeks, a few months later, I saw him again and this time there was a marked difference. I got one hug from him and he sat on the laps of this foster dad that was well known in my practice as being a really good father to the kids. He took care of, and he said he was no, not jumping all over the room. There was no running back and forth. He sat on the laps. He wasn't like fell down. He just sat there and was calling the gentleman poppa. And I was like, where did the hyperactivity go?

 

So does that mean trauma can show up as hyperactivity? And then I started to dig. I said, my gosh. How many kids have I seen? I didn't realize the connection. And so that made me I got some additional training and I started talking to the Foster parents that I saw in my practice and asking them like, what goes on with the kids? And I was just trying to make that connection still. And and so I kept hearing this one thing that they show up in our homes with nothing.

 

And I was like, Nothing. What do you mean? They're like, Yeah, they the Department of Health Services. We drop them off in our houses with nothing. So it hasn't been possible. In the middle of the night, the kid shows up in a stranger's house with nothing that's obvious. Or they come in with a trash bag. And so I said to myself, Well, I can do something about that.

 

So I got some moms, some foster moms in my practice together, and we created a hundred bags. And I decided everything had to be brand new just to give the kids a sense of their worth it. So we put in things like toys and blankets and teddies, so comfort items. But then we also heard that, okay, they don't have anything. So underwear, socks and hygiene products get them through the first few days until the foster parents had enough time to get things going for them. So we we did that and then we went and dropped them off at the DHS office so that that we when they go to pick up kids, they can hand them the bag so they have something that bears while they go into foster care because if you think about it, one of the first words of a child is mine. And now you just took away everything that's theirs. And so that's a whole nother layer of trauma. In addition to the fact that you just took the child away from everything they know, even if he was abusive, it's all they know, right? So all these multiple layers of trauma that happened with kids in foster care.

 

And so that's where we started. And then I remember coming out of the building and saying, okay, now what. I did was I let people hold that back. So what am I supposed to do next? So that's that's how I was like, okay, I'll just form a nonprofit. So I figured out learned about how to do that and did that. And then we continued doing that. So that's how that started.

 

Passionistas: And how how many do you know how many bags you handed out at this point?

 

Dr. Eko: Over a thousand At this point, yes. And counting. I've stopped counting.

 

Passionistas: That's incredible. Yeah, I think it's really interesting. The the science of trauma and the brain. I don't feel like that's something we talk a lot about. The emotional elements of trauma, but to actually get into the science of it is fascinating. What else have you learned about that in your studies?

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah, so I don't know if you've heard of something called ACES, so adverse childhood experiences. It's something that it's research that was done over the last few years and really, really came to the fore like, see, five years ago, basically they did research and found that there are very few things that if happened in a child's life, they actually constitute trauma.

 

So there are things like emotional neglect, physical neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, watching a parents watching your mom like violence being done to your mom and you watch it, a child, a parent. Being incarcerated is a form of trauma. Even going through a divorce for a child. And so so the ace. So those are called adverse childhood experiences, Right.

 

And so there's a score. So, for example, if you have an ACE score, each of those things counts as one score, right? So if you have an ACE score, for example, of six and above, you're at your three times a high risk for cardiovascular disease or high for diabetes, for high blood pressure, because what happens is the trauma literally makes changes in the way your brain works like it rewires your brain. So that's how that child's after facing the traumas of going to ten strangers homes and the last home he was in, he was abused in that home. And all of that made him so hyperactive right.

 

Because his brain literally, literally was on what we call fight or flight. Right. Like your brain is on alert. Like you are afraid that somebody is going to attack you at any time. Well, our bodies was that we weren't made to function like that. We were made to function in a state of emergency at all times. But that's how children have been experience.

 

Any of these things are always on alert. They're like very, very jittery and all of that. And so what happens over time is when your body is on such high alert, you have things like cortisol that at high levels. And so it starts to actually do the opposite of what it's meant to do because it's such high levels and it wasn't made to function like that.

 

Then it starts to break down like your muscles and, and, and cause the opposite wrong effects on your body. So something that was made for good now becomes bad because there's too much of it. So that's why. And then he makes changes in your brain as well, in like the architecture of your brain. So that's why it's so important to address trauma.

 

And even as a preventive measure to address these things if possible, as a child is growing up because of the impact it has on them. And then the more aces you have, the more likely you are to be homeless, not finished college. I mean, there's all these statistics. I mean, we more likely to die early. There's all sorts of things just from the trauma in childhood.

 

And so that's why you see a lot of now everybody's talking about killing your childhood trauma, that that's the science behind it. It is important to address that. And so when I realized that it especially with foster children and even with children with any child I see now, I ask this question that I tried to figure out. I asked, Mom, did you face any violence when you were pregnant with the child?

 

Because there's research to show that even when the mom is pregnant and she's violently treated, you'll make changes in the way the baby's brain functions. That's incredible. It's like, my gosh. So. So it's important for us to to know that and to address those things, especially as women. And it's not is not a we're not I'm not saying this for you to beat yourself up or feel like you caused harm to your child.

 

No, not at all. Because like I said, you're not stop with the brain. You have you can start where you are now and address it and address your child if your child has experienced any of these things. And so to make a turn around and that's possible.

 

Passionistas: So what are some of the ways that you address trauma? What do you have? You know, it seems like such a big thing to overcome it.

 

00:24:07:13 - 00:24:29:24

Dr. Eko: It is a big thing. But as with any big thing, you have to start somewhere small, right? Small building blocks. So the first thing I would say would be to even acknowledge it, right. That it happened because that's half the battle, because a lot of times like even like me, how I forgot, like my brain didn't even want to remember it.

 

And for years I never I didn't if you asked me, I've I've been in an accident, I would have been like.

 

How I think I forgot about it. But it's like, okay, being aware of it and then something that's really important. I always tell everyone. So therapy therapy does help as counselors are being trained with the trauma focus. And so it's important if you could find somebody that has the trauma expertise or training in how to handle trauma to help you walk through forgiving yourself, even if you know, how is the craziest thing, how something happens to us.

 

But we blame ourselves for it, Right? And we hold on to that. And all that does is only hurts us because we are our bodies are not meant to hold that kind of heaviness, that kind of guilt, guilt to actually manifest in physical in things like heart disease and high blood pressure and anxiety and all of that, just guilt.

 

So it's important to acknowledge it. Forgive yourself if that's if that's the thing for you and take steps like like something that's practical. I like to journal. I like to write down the thoughts and thinking. And it's a way to there's something about taking a pen to paper and getting those thoughts out of your head. We talked about your journal as well, so that helps.

 

Like when you're feeling particularly down about yourself and things you may have gone through in your past, Write them Down will also write down what's true about you right now. The truth is you are not your past, right? You are not what happened to you? All of those things that happened, they they happened for you, right? They happened.

 

They happen to mold into this person. You are. You are not stuck where you are, where you used to be or with what happened to you. And so that's something that's so important. Even I have to remind myself, I'm not stuck with I'm not whatever happened to me in the past, I can make new choices. I can learn to do things differently.

 

I can feed my brain. Yeah. So in addition to walking through it emotionally, it's important to also make the organ your brain healthier, right? By doing some of the things we talked about, the drinking of the water, eating the right, because whatever you put in your mouth goes in your tummy and for sure ends up here. So if you're eating things that are going to cause inflammation in your tummy, it's only a matter of time.

 

Your brain will be inflamed because there's so much research that the brain and the tummy are connected, the dots are connected. And so they talk to each other. So you want to make sure you're eating healthier. Meaning I mean, that's a whole other topic.

 

Passionistas: But I want to talk about that. Give us examples of things we should be eating and things we should not be eating. Because again, I think we think about weight loss and heart, you know, disease and things like that. But we don't think about it in terms of how it impacts the brain. So what are good foods to eat? What are things to avoid?

 

Dr. Eko: Okay, so I would say something. I've taught my kids that blueberries is God's candy and why they teach us how to buy candy anymore. But here is the swap and why. Blueberries. Good for you. berries or foods? Because they have antioxidants and whatever they are, things that help manage all of the toxic elements that may have may be in our brains. Right. It goes to work and it kills them off. So berries, fruits, those are important. Really. The concept is let's eat more real whole food, right? If and that's why you hear people saying shop on the outside of the grocery store, because that's where the vegetables and fruits are versus in the middle. That's what all the processed food is. And I'm not I mean, yes, we do need to eat some processed food, but the the key is the balance on the plate.

 

Right. So we're going to have more servings of the vegetable of foods than what you call it, the processed foods. Right. So, for example, for eating spaghetti, don't fill the whole plate with spaghetti. Eat some spaghetti a little and then a salad. Right. And please don't add another slice of bread because that's already the bread is the garlic bread that you like. It's already a carb and spaghetti is a carb.

 

So we're trying to tilt it more towards the fruits and vegetables, everything in moderation. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and say diet. And do this because I found that sometimes those things I had to keep up with. Right. So you lose the weight and then you gain your right back. It's more about a lifestyle. How can we make healthy eating a lifestyle? I need and I tell people, don't get overwhelmed. Just tell me one thing.

 

So what can we change today? We can swap out instead of snacking on chips, we can snack on an apple. We can try that and then keep buying the apples. Don't buy the chips anymore because again, for moms and who have kids, I've heard mom say don't eat the chips, but then. They see the chips, so they're going to eat the chips. Don't buy the chips. That's it. It's it's.

 

So it's just one thing at a time. Okay. Let's do a water challenge at home. Let's let all drink one more glass today than we have. And if everybody does it as a family, then it's more likely to stick. So eating moderation and the processed foods increase the whole foods your eating over time. That's really how you can stay healthy and your brain loves the freshest foods as fresh as possible.

 

But if you have to do frozen, that's fine as well. But the key is as minimally processed as possible so that your brain can get all the nutrients it needs. So things like avocados, really good fats and the brain loves that. So eat an avocado a day.

 

What else? The the protein. Right. Your brain needs protein to function really well in the morning. So it's better instead of loading yourself up on the pancakes and the waffles and all that, give it some protein instead. So what's what Examples of protein. So things like eggs or even making a smoothie with berries and you've got to hide some kale in there. Because the darker the vegetable, the more vitamins it has. Right. So to make it better with lots of that, a smoothie with lots of berries and you adding like so kale, you add in an avocado, you add in some flax seed for fiber, then that's that's actually a whole meal. Right. And that's how I get my kids when they decide they want to be picky on my here's a smoothie and I make sure they're not there when I'm not adding in the extra things that they may not like. And then I'm like.

 

You want that? this is great. So yeah. So that that's my approach to healthy eat healthier eating is it's just eating more whole foods and decreasing the amount of processed foods ready to eat.

 

And always look at the at the back of whatever you're buying because everything now says natural quote on clothes and you still have got to read the ingredients. So rule of thumb is if you see more than three ingredients, five max are you can't pronounce the name, you probably shouldn't put it in your mouth because your brain won't like it. Yeah, that means there's just a ton of chemicals in it. So and and brain doesn't do well with chemical overload.

 

Passionistas: Yeah, that's all excellent advice. I know. I spent the weekend. My husband just got diagnosed with some allergies, so we spent the weekend going through all of the cleaning products and stuff in our house and the, you know, the labels that you never look at. But the words on there, the doctors couldn't even pronounce what he's allergic to because they had so many letters and the words.

 

Dr. Eko: Yes. Experiments. Yeah, it's so true. The cleaning agents we use that are so important too, because there's so much chemicals you don't like all the stuff in, like, what is it called? The fertilizer. Like the they can use in cleaning agents as well. Which definitely if we read that in, I mean, you know, our skin is living, right. It's a living organ. So all of these things get into our bodies and they all find their way here. So you have to really be careful so maybe clean with vinegar and water. Soap vs. all the sprays and things. Yeah.


Passionistas: Well, it's so great that you're tackling it with these kids early on because Nancy and I say this all the time, like, you know, we grew up with a 1950s mom who it was there was red meat, there was sugar. I mean, I was 21 when I realized I had never gone a day in my life without sugar or chocolate.

 

It just was like always and not just like a snack, but like breakfast cereal in the morning, a snack, a chocolaty snack at recess, some kind of chocolaty snack at lunch, come home, have cereal, eat dinner that wasn't very nutritious, and then go to cabinet after dinner and get a bag of M&Ms and so that was just like, ah, that was the way we were taught to eat.

 

And so it's still hard. Yet even as an adult who consciously knows those things, like, Right, an orange would be a really good, sweet dessert after dinner, but I just want to have a cup of hot cocoa. But no, have the orange, have the orange. So the fact that you're teaching these kids at such an early age, the healthy habits is so critical. And teaching the parents to embrace... Because it is the parent kids because they want the chips.

 

Right. So it's the parents really I talk to because I can talk all I want to the kid. If the kid if the parent doesn't change how they the shop, then it's no no use. Yes, the struggle is real between choosing the cocoa for the weighing down. But then, you're like, really? Well, we have to talk ourselves into it. That's that's where it comes to talking to ourselves because our brains will help us out by offering of that. You know, it's just one cup of coffee. We're gonna make a difference. But we are charge of our brain, so we can't override that. 

 

Passionistas: The brain can be its own worst enemy, right? It's the organ that's the devil on our shoulders saying, like, Yeah, but you've had a long day. Just make it with low fat milk. You won't have that many calories in it

 

Dr. Eko: All right, So then I ask you a question. I know you're interviewing me, but what's happened since you started consciously trying to decrease the amount of sugar I have, you know, you feel different.

 

Passionistas: I mean, for one thing, Nancy and I both are migraine sufferers, so I was having horrible migraines for probably from I would say from like the age of 30 to like 45. They were really bad. And I would try like swapping out different things from my diet. And none of them would work, you know, like artificial sweeteners and things like that.

 

None of it was working. And then I finally I was really addicted to Diet Coke, and I would drink several Diet Cokes a day. And I finally stopped drinking Diet Coke. And it was like, all of those chemicals were so bad for me. I haven't had a Diet Coke in God. It's probably been eight, eight years. I only I only drink water and tea and mostly tea.

 

I need to drink more water. I've been trying to like, do more water. So the migraines, the the extreme that they were at really stopped. I find now that I get migraines still. And I've realized one interesting thing I've realized really recently is I get migraines lately, mild ones on Fridays, and I'm realizing it's this even if I'm not feeling stressed out during the week.

 

has to be tied to the stress of the week because by the end of the week, everything is stored up inside of me. And I feel I feel like I have a migraine every Friday or Saturday morning, like it's, you know, and but also when I eat anything that's too sugary like white, you know, processed sugar or unfortunately chocolate.

 

So I power through those moments because there's no way I'm giving up chocolate for the rest of my life. I just I can't do it. I love the taste of chocolate. I have more things that are cocoa powder than actual chocolate bars now. So I still get the flavor without all the extra sugar in it. And I sweeten it with, you know, a honey or maple sirup or something like that that doesn't have that effect on me that regular sugar has.

 

So my migraines are fewer and fewer and far between, but they're and they're less severe, like I was at the point with the migraines where I couldn't they were like blackout migraines where I just had to, like, close my eyes and curl up in a ball. So, yes, I definitely and when I don't eat a lot of pasta and stuff, which is my other big addiction, I just feel like I have more energy and I feel better when I'm eating salads and veggies and I always try and at least incorporate veggies into my pasta or have salad with that.

 

Passionistas: But yeah, it's yeah, I was actually very sick last year. I, I had what started as a gallbladder attack and turned into a five month ordeal with several surgeries. But during that time I was forced to give up all of my bad eating habits and eat very no fat whole foods, very bland diet. And I hated every second of it.

 

But it it made me much healthier and it certainly made me healthy enough to get through the trauma of what I went through. But also now on the other side of it, now that I'm healthy and I see myself, these little bad habits sneaking back in, I'm finding all of that stuff makes me feel really bad. And so I am.

 

I'm fighting that urge, that addiction to, like, grab the chips or the white bread or the pasta and stay with those healthy things, because otherwise I just feel crappy. So, you know, like Amy said, I can't give up chocolate, but I'm trying to just do a tiny little bit here and there and a little treat. And but I feel the same way if I have refined sugar now, I have instant migraine. Like, you know, my body is happy with me being eating healthier. So I am trying to maintain that.

 

Passionistas: And I think that the bland thing for you during the the gallbladder situation was like you couldn't even put sauce on it, like, or some kind seasoning on it. Like, I find I now try and use the vegetables as the vehicle for what I would have put on the pasta. So it's like, I can still have tomato sauce, but I'm just going to put it on zucchini instead of on pasta.

 

For me, part of it, the thing is just time. Like in my mind, it's really super easy and fast to just make a big pasta. It honestly, it takes less time to make a salad. But for me, I'm like, I have to chop, I have to do this. And it's like, I don't just throw everything in a bowl, slice a couple things up and you're done.

 

But that's adding another thing. Like you get in your habit of what you think is quick and easy to do and you have to think of a different way.

 

Dr. Eko: Yes, Yes. That point is so important because I think that makes the difference between going to drive by McDonald's versus I just spend 30 a whole bunch of the thing off for the week. But it is.

 

Dr. Eko: So, yes, you're absolutely right. We just have to rethink what we are doing and what we see is. But I'm so thankful that both of you have found relief from your migraine. That's so wonderful.

 

Passionistas: Yeah. It was getting really, really bad for her. I mean, you would you also, Nancy, if you don't mind me saying, you have a brain tumor, you have a benign brain tumor. Yeah. So you went through that whole brain.

 

I've suffered from migraines since I was in college. And for about 15 years, I didn't know that it was because I had a pituitary tumor. That finally got diagnosed and I had surgery to have it removed. And that helped with the migraines a lot, but it didn't completely eliminate them for these reasons that we were just talking about all the other things that were affecting my brain as well. So yeah, I suffered from migraines for probably, you know, for my whole adult life until I was in my fifties and realized some of these things that I needed to do to stop them.

 

Dr. Eko: Wow. You see, it's not too late. You've made the changes and you are on the other side of it. So wonderful.

 

Passionistas: Yeah. Yeah. And I do think it made one of the good things, I think for me and I feel this way too, and is it made me really pay attention to what how my brain was reacting to what I was putting in my body. And it made me, you know, like I said, I do love chocolate and I do find where I find weird things, like if I eat the chocolate earlier in the day, then I don't get a migraine.

 

If I eat it right before I go to bed, I get a migraine. So sure, there's some science to that, but or maybe I just convinced myself. But, but there are certain things where it's like I do not need to eat a sugar cookie that's been decorated to look like a purse. That's going to make me feel sick for three days. I don't even really like the taste of that. I don't need the calories and it's going to give me a migraine. Like I'm not going to eat that. But it's cute. It is cute and it's really cute when it's still intact and it still looks like a purse. Kind of ruins the mood. Don't bite into it.

 

Dr. Eko:  You're absolutely right. Yeah. Absolutely right. Well, if you think about it, you are an adult. And this is what you experience with sugar. Can you imagine the little brains that are still developing? And I need ten purses, you know. Yeah. To say.

 

Passionistas: Hey, I hope you don't mind me sharing this Aim

 

Go ahead. I was just going to.

 

Our sugar addiction as children was tough on me, but it ravaged Amy. I was five years older than her and I was taken out of class on a at least once a week on a weekly basis because Amy was down in the nurse's office crying and no one could figure out what was wrong with her. And we had a we had a wonderful, fabulous childhood.

 

We were lucky. We are so lucky there really wasn't a lot of trauma. You know, there was no reason for her to be unhappy. And we it wasn't until we were adults that we realized it was the chemical imbalance in our bodies from the sugar crashes. We were constantly on highs and lows from sugar crashes. And that's that was the explanation. That was the reason why she was in the nurse's office crying a couple of times a week.

 

Yeah, but at that time in 1970, whatever, nobody made that correlation again. But as an adult it was like, I was totally ravaged by sugar, you know, because I would I mean, that that diet I describe was literally what we would eat every single day. And my lunch, I all I would eat, I insisted on the one thing I would eat for lunch every day was a mustard sandwich.

 

So I would have a roll with mustard on it. That was my lunch. So I would have that. I would have chips and I would have some kind of like snack cake. You know, after my morning Kit Kat and my bowl of Cocoa Puffs and then at night, at night, our mom, God bless her, was the best Italian cook in the world.

 

But when it came to real, you know, dinner, like weekly dinner, she had five kids and a husband and, you know, middle class family, not like a huge budget. So she would make things like what she called hamburger Alla Harrington, which was just ground hamburger meat cooked in oil. I like boxed mashed potatoes and canned vegetables. You know. So that was like where was there was like not a whole lot of nutritional value going on in our family. So, yeah, I realized, you know, in pasta, tons of pasta.

 

You know, I could figure out why I was anemic.

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah, right. Okay. Yeah.

 

Passionistas: So, yeah, so yeah, Sugar. Sugar has not been my friend for my whole life, but I embraced her. I embraced her wholeheartedly. But now every time I go grocery store and I see that big box of Cocoa Krispies and I'm like, I really want that. It's like, Nope, because it's going to make you it's going to give you a migraine. It's really gross and bad for you. Don't do it. Just don't do it.

 

Dr. Eko: No, no, I'm so I'm so thankful both of you discovered the why, and now you have a big why. I don't want to have a migraine, and I want to feel good, and I want to be able to run my business with my head on intact.

 

Passionistas: So I want to live a long time. I right. And I want to be really mentally fit. You know, I'm obsessed with doing my, like, daily puzzles and stuff that they say keep your brain active and let alone all the work we do. But also just like, what can I do to keep my brain going? Because I want to have a long life with a good brain.

 

Dr. Eko: Yeah, that's so critical. Yes, the puzzles really help. So kudos to you for doing that. Yes, that's good.

 

Passionistas: Yeah. I'm sure learning Italian is is messing with my brain in a good way. That's what we're doing right now.

 

Dr. Eko: Really? yeah. I think I saw that in your newsletter. Yeah. Yeah, that's good. I don't want to put myself out there. How many years? Journey of learning Spanish, and I'm still at the Spanglish level, so I will do better.

 

Passionistas: And it's really hard. I mean, you've learned, obviously, at least one other language in your life but we're not good at it. We're not. We're not. It's not a skill we have. So. So. my goodness, we're getting close to the end. I don't want this to end. I love talking to you.

 

I think we would be remiss in not discussing your podcast, which we've just talked about and is going to get added to our Passionistas Podcast network. So tell everybody about your podcast.

 

Dr. Eko:  Okay. So thank you for that. Well, I didn't meet your network, I appreciate that. And the podcast is called Brain Power with Dr. Echo. Of course it had to be called that. But the reason I called it that, because I want I wanted a place where I could we could really discuss practical ways to help parents and children boost brain health, got help emotional health and environmental health.

 

Because those four areas really make up all of us, right? We can find ourselves in all of that, all of those four areas. So essentially, how can we practically boost our lives? And by way of improving the health of our brain? So that's what the podcast about. It's everywhere. You can listen to podcast on Apple, Spotify, all of those.

 

Passionistas: So and do you have guests every week or is it you talking about these things? How does it work?

 

Dr. Eko: So yeah, mostly I have guests I love to interview. I love the conversations and meeting new people. Well, I do have solo episodes like every other episode. I think it's a solo episode, but yes.

 

And it's also on YouTube as well. So I have a YouTube channel named the same thing, Brain Power with Dr. Eko. You can find me on. They prefer to watch the video.

 

Passionistas: I have to share with everybody. We were on Doctor Eko's podcast recently and at the end she asked us as interviewers if we had any tips and we couldn't think of anything. You're such a great person to talk to on a podcast. Your interviews are just they're really a conversation and so natural. On the time I looked up and it was like, my God, the time is almost over.

 

I feel like we've been talking to you for 5 minutes and that's how it felt to be a guest on your show and to listen to episodes they fly by. I think people sometimes think health and science and, you know, they they shy away from it. But these are really great conversations. They're fun, they're interesting, they're engaging. So I highly recommend that people listen to it. It's it's really great.

 

Passionistas: So what's the question we're not asking about brain health. What is one thing that you wish people ask you when you talk about this topic?

 

Dr. Eko: That's a good question. I wish people would ask me more often. Okay, I feel overwhelmed. Where should I start? Or how can I fall in love with the health of my brain? So yeah, because I think if we start asking ourselves that question before we open our mouth and put stuff in it and ask ourselves, Is my brain going to love this or not, then it's it helps us stop and make an intentional choice whether to do that or not.

 

Passionistas: So who are some of the important female figures in your life when you were growing up, and what did you learn from them and what would they think of where you're at in your journey now?

 

Dr. Eko: Another great question. So let's see my mother for sure, who told me I better get off and go to medical school because I'm a doctor and who didn't let me sit and be depressed and just sit and do nothing and didn't give up on me and my dream. And so I am forever thankful to her. And also my big sister for not giving up on me and always giving me tough talk when I was like mapping out. Just got to do something else. Not that the other. Things are bad, but yes, for always pushing me and let's see who else?

 

Doctor Una, who's my mentor right now. And I mean her program called Entry M.D., which stands for anti penile MDS like and super now doctors. So of course I started the practice and I had no idea how to start one. So I went and found somebody who has done excellently well. I did add and she's teaching me and I'm so thankful that to have her in my life. So word to the ladies out there listening, find people who have gone ahead of you to support you. You always need support that we're not we're not built to do things ourselves. And even if you find a mentor from a book, that's great, but find somebody that you can look up to and you can gain wisdom from.

 

And as to what they would think of me now, my mom is extremely proud of me for pushing through and becoming a pediatrician, and she's always like cheering me on. And when I wrote my book, she called me off to go meet people I like. My daughter just wrote a book. You have to buy her book. And I was like... So I am thankful for the women who have supported me in my life. Yeah.

 

Passionistas: Tell everybody about your book.

 

Dr. Eko: Thank you. So my book, here it is. It's called “Children's Love Letters: A Pediatricians Guide to How Your Child Spells Love.” So I wrote it because I have three kids and none of them are the same, obviously. And as now, none of our kids are ever the same. Right. And they didn't come with the manual. And yes, I'm a pediatrician, but no, they don't teach us how to parenting in medical school. So, yes, I too am on a journey to learning how to parents them. And so I've often heard what's the key to making out for how the children spell love, how the children consider love?

 

And I've often had this time that was like just thinking, Isn't there more to it than just time. There has to be more. So I kept playing with this idea in my head and I used the alphabets and so for each letter of the alphabet, I have one where each child spells love, and I also have space in there for parents to write their thoughts. So the hope is that you will it and it will make an impression on you and you write down something you're going to do to create that bond and make that bond stronger with your child as you go through the book.

 

Passionistas: So that's really great. I love that we will promote that in our Passionistas community as well. What's one thing that you wish all women knew?

 

Dr. Eko: I wish women knew, including myself, how powerful we really are, right, because of things that happened in the past and whatever your situation may be, you may look down on yourself or people have told you you're not good enough. That's a big one, because I too, for years I was I felt like I wasn't good enough. Somebody when I was growing up told me I was ugly.

 

So for the longest time I didn't smile. I was like... and then I wouldn't look people in the eye or talk to them because think I'll do ugly. I'm just going to turn my back and not talk to you. 

So it's just knowing how powerful you are and that you don't have to you don't to let anybody else do not not even you don't have to. Don't let anybody else define who you are on who you are, the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it you are. God doesn't make mistakes. We are made the way we are for a reason and we are not stuck where we are.

 

And we can definitely improve by making choices every day to get better. So when we know better, we do better. And so that's what I, I always tell parents you absolutely we all are on a journey and we should be of getting better, not staying the same of growth. Yes.

 

Passionistas: So funny because I've thought like ten times during this interview how infectious your smile. Every time I look and I see that smile, it just makes me smile. I'm glad that you abandoned that practice of not not smiling because it's a great feature. So one last question which is what is your dream for women?

 

Dr. Eko: My dream for women is that we will discover our purpose and who we really are. And just one step at a time, make our way. Are we there and and take ownership of it no matter how big it is because we all have big dreams inside of us. I wanted to be a pediatrician and after the accident, it looks like would never happen.

 

But it is possible. You just have to keep taking one step after the other. And I always tell women wherever you are to start where you are, one step forward, one step after another. Reach out to ask for help. I ask for help because I know I don't know everything. We'll never know everything. And I'm not ashamed to ask for help. So that's what I always tell the people I come in contact with. Don't be ashamed to ask for help. There's no such thing as a stupid question. It's always better to ask and receive help, but make sure it is positive help, good help. Right?

 

Passionistas: Right. You don't have to take every single piece of advice you're given, but you know.

 

Dr. Eko: You don't have to agree with every thought that comes your head either.

 

Passionistas: That's for sure.

 

So how can people find you?

 

Dr. Eko: So you can find me on all social media. I'm on Instagram as the Dr. Hokehe Eko. Same thing as Facebook. My website is called GlowPediatrics.com, which is which houses my practice and information about speaking and all of that those good things. My podcast is on Apple, Spotify anywhere you hear podcasts also on YouTube.

 

I'm also on Linkedin at Dr. Hokehe Eko. So yes.

 

Passionistas: Excellent. Well we cannot thank you enough for joining us today. This has been fabulous and really enlightening and really helpful and I hope that has helped everyone who's listening to so and we will be back in touch with you soon and welcoming you into our community. And we can't wait for everyone to meet you. So thank you all for joining us today.

 

Dr. Eko: Thank you. Such a pleasure.

 

Passionistas: 

Thanks for listening to The Passionistas Project. Be sure to visit ThePassionistasProject.com to sign up for your free membership. To join our worldwide sisterhood where passion driven women come to get support, find their purpose, and feel empowered to transform their lives and change the world.

 

We'll be back next week with another Passionista whose defining success on her own terms and breaking down the barriers for herself and women everywhere.

 

Until then, stay passionate.

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