ADD and ADHD Myth Busters & Questions – Answered

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Today’s episode is from our coaching calls where we’ve taken questions and here we’ll have them answered for you.

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Donny Osmond: Hi, I'm Donny Osmond and welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way hosted by my friends Daniel and Tana Amen. Now, in this podcast, you're going to learn that the war for your health is won between your ears. That's right. If you're ready to be sharper and have better memory, mood, energy and focus, well then stay with us. Here are Daniel and Tana Amen.
Dr Daniel Amen: How can Lyme disease mimic ADHD? Well, Lyme disease, not for everybody, but there's this thing called neuro Lyme where the Lyme begins to infect brain tissue and what we see initially will cause an inflammatory reaction. You may feel anxious, you may feel depressed, you may get this sort of emotional storm that over time it can actually decrease activity and be associated with brain fog, memory, and attentional problems. If you have been struggling with mental health issues, I just think it's a good idea to be screened for Lyme.
Another question from Jessica is marijuana and ADHD, "How does marijuana negatively affect ADHD versus narcotic pain medications?" Marijuana, in our experience, and we've studied thousands of people who smoke pot, it decreases brain function, it decreases activity in the cerebellum, the back, bottom part of your brain and can decrease activity both in your temporal lobes, so learning and memory, and in your frontal lobe, so focus. Narcotic pain medications can decrease activity in the brain as well, so over time I've just become not really a fan of either.
All right, the next one is from Mike. What happens when someone has a brain scan at our clinics? Well, almost always it occurs in the context of a thorough evaluation. When people come, we take really detailed histories, we do imaging generally twice, once at rest, once when you concentrate. We also do WebNeuro for people who come to the clinic often get the labs that we talked about and then the doctor puts all of the information together, so that we have a much more personalized specific diagnosis, and we can target your treatment. Without the imaging, in some ways we're flying blind.
Tana Amen: Right. I want to jump in here because I think it's really important to note. We always want to go with the most that we can do and obviously, we have our full evaluation, which is awesome, but not everyone can do that, and we understand that. I just think it's really important because there are a lot of people who really want and need these types of evaluations, but they just can't do the full evaluation, or they can't do it at that time. We do alter that. We can customize it; we can do a different package for people who need to... financially need to save money or just [crosstalk 00:03:05].
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and we also have access to Care Credit where you can pay over a year-
Tana Amen: There are options. That's all I want to say.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and at no interest. Sometimes we'll do single scan evaluations. Often, we'll do phone consults. You're really struggling and you want to talk to one of our doctors-
Tana Amen: Don't just let... If you can't do a full evaluation, don't let that be the reason you don't call us. That's my point because we have many options.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's absolutely correct.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: I fell in love with imaging 24 years ago because it just made me a better doctor. You can't change what you don't measure-
Tana Amen: No, there's no question.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and if you're not measuring brain function, and recently I've been saying a picture's worth a thousand words, but a map is worth a thousand images. A map tells you where you are and gives you direction on how to get to where you want to go. Today, I did a consult with somebody in our New York clinic and actually two brothers, and one of them, I mean it was just really clear yet he had effects from a concussion he had as a child, and it hurt a certain part of his brain. Without looking, you wouldn't know that that was part of the problem. His brother had ADD, but it was one of the subtypes you and I talk about called Anxious ADD and on the stimulant, it really helped him focus, but he was a different person. They would actually call him by a different name because he was much more irritable and-
Tana Amen: Not a nice name?
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and not a nice name. Yeah. The imaging just makes a big difference.
Tana Amen: My point is, is don't let that be the reason you don't call. We have many options.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, Mike has a follow up question, which, "Is there a program to follow and what are the costs?" A full evaluation at one of Amen Clinics is 3950. I think until the end of the week there's a $200 discount. Partial evaluations range anywhere from a consult for a half an hour for $200 to a partial evaluation is probably about $2,500. There are other things to do. In The Brain Warrior's Way and Brain Fit Life, I mean, we really try to put in a lot of the strategies we use at the clinics. Obviously, if you need therapy, there are therapists that we can recommend either at the clinics or perhaps closer to you. If you need a dietary consult, we have a nutritionist on staff, and so on. All right. The next question is yours.
Tana Amen: Okay. "My 24-year-old son has classic ADD and has thyroid problems. His TSH is around six," ouch, "and he is very interested in the treatment. Is there a way to treat low thyroid like this without hormones? We don't want him to take them, although his doctor recommended it." Okay, so I have a couple of things to say on this. Now, as a doctor and then obviously, you need to be... the physician needs to be the one to really give you that ultimate recommendation, but as someone who has suffered tremendously with thyroid problems for 25 years and bounced around from doctor to doctor and had many issues, I know a little bit about this.
The first thing I would say is that if he's not getting better by not using the medication, by all means it's one of those things where it's a simple drug and not taking it can make you feel like you want to die, but taking it can just be the difference between feeling miserable and feeling great. I mean, it's that dramatic. I would not withhold it if you can't do it naturally. Now, if you wanted to try and do it naturally, then there are some things you can understand. There are things that do affect thyroid that can deplete thyroid. For example, if your iodine is low, but you're eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables or things that contain sulfur-
Dr Daniel Amen: What's a cruciferous [crosstalk 00:06:45]?
Tana Amen: Okay, so broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, things like that, those types of vegetables or things that contain sulfur, so sulfur containing foods. You want to be thinking about that and looking into it.
Dr Daniel Amen: That's a good thing or a bad thing?
Tana Amen: Well, it's normally a good thing, but if you're eating a lot of them, and you're low in iodine, okay, what happens is you start depleting the building blocks for thyroid for the thyroid hormone. Yes, you can naturally deplete it, which means, but if it's you're naturally depleting it, now, I don't know if that's what your son's problem is, but if you're naturally depleting those building blocks, if your iodine is low, selenium, all these different things that you need for thyroid-
Dr Daniel Amen: Taking iodine sometimes can [crosstalk 00:07:23].
Tana Amen: ... you know you have to get a checked, so you need to get your thyroid, your iodine checked.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's a simple blood test.
Tana Amen: Right, but what you want to know is, look, am I depleting them, are they depleted, because if so, then maybe if I replenish them, maybe I can get away with not... I can fix this naturally. I don't know that to be fact because it may not work and if it doesn't work, I strongly recommend you take thyroid hormone because I can tell you right now it is miserable.
Dr Daniel Amen: A TSH of six is too high.
Tana Amen: It's too high.
Dr Daniel Amen: That means his brain is thinking there's not enough thyroid, and it's producing more thyroid stimulation.
Tana Amen: Your every single cell in your body. Every single cell in our body needs thyroid, so he's going to cognitively be affected, he's not going to have energy, he's going to gain weight, he's not going to be able to focus, function. Everything's going to be affected.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right, low thyroid... I think of thyroid sort of like a car engine idle. When it's healthy, it's idling really good. When it's too high, it's like it's rev too high. People are anxious, they have diarrhea, they can't sleep, their thoughts go too fast, but when it's too low, they can be constipated, have brain fog, their hair falls out, their skin is dry, and they can be depressed.
Tana Amen: One more thing. I would strongly, like, if you haven't done this, then I would highly recommended it. Likely, you got his antibodies checked if you had a full thyroid panel done, and if not, you probably should because you want to know if it's Hashimoto's. If it's Hashimoto's Disease, which will cause his thyroid to be affected as well, that's autoimmune disorder and that's a whole different thing. Yeah, you want to look into this whole thing, so I would get his antibodies checked if you haven't already, know if he's depleted in something that is naturally depleting his hormones, so you can fix it, and then go from there. If he needs thyroid, he needs thyroid.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right, next question. "Do I only need to take vitamin D if I have low levels?" Yes. "What is meant by low and how much sun do I need every day to get enough vitamin D?" Normal levels are between 30 and a hundred nanograms per milliliter and I really like my patients optimal between 50 and a hundred. Usually, it's about 20 minutes in the sun, like in a bathing suit, but if you're very pale, although Brazilian... I think you never want to be burned, you never want to get burned, so if it's between 10 and 20 minutes and you won't be burned in the sun, I think that's a really great place to start.
Tana Amen: Well, and here's an interesting fact that a lot of people don't understand. They actually think it's the other way around. The darker your skin, the harder it is for you to keep your vitamin D levels optimal with sun because you aren't absorbing the sunlight. It has to do with the melanin in your skin, so lighter people will tend to actually have more optimal vitamin D levels from going in the sun, then darker skinned people.
Dr Daniel Amen: Another question she has, "Do the germinated cereals also cause inflammation-
Tana Amen: Kill them.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and allergy? Are they high-glycemic, too, if not germinated?"
Tana Amen: I'd kill them.
Dr Daniel Amen: You want to talk about this?
Tana Amen: I'd kill them or get a grainless cereal? I am not a fan of cereal. I'm not a fan of the way they store them, the way they make them. I'm not a fan of grains. I'd kill it. It's too high-glycemic, it's too high in like the mycotoxins that collect when they're storing, the way they store them. I would kill it or get a grainless cereal or make your own. I actually have a recipe for making your own grainless cereal. It's not very hard. You used some nuts and seeds and some coconut and it's pretty easy.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. This is from Regina. "I don't like the huge fish oil capsules, so I prefer to take krill oil since the capsules are smaller. It doesn't appear that I'm getting the equivalent amount of EPA and DHA in the krill oil versus the fish oil, even with a thousand milligrams of krill oil." My thought on krill is the marketing has been great, there's virtually no research on it. The research is on fish oil and getting good amounts of EPA and DHA. When I look at the EPA and DHA of a thousand milligrams of krill oil, it's not very good. In Omega-3 Power, the one that we make for two capsules, it's 1600 milligrams and here for a thousand milligrams, it's only 188 milligrams. I'm a fan of the Omega-3 fatty acids. If you hate the huge capsules, there's a company called Core OMEGA that-
Tana Amen: Yeah, make the pudding packs.
Dr Daniel Amen: Make pudding packs.
Tana Amen: Yeah. That's what I give my daughter is orange flavored. You don't taste the... although now, she won't take that. She only wants the pills, so it just depends on your preference, but there's nothing wrong with taking the pudding packs. Kids tend to like it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Then there's something called the Omega swirl, which is by-
Tana Amen: Carlson's makes one that doesn't taste very fishy, so those are ones that... Those are options. They're oils that you give to kids, they're orange flavored or lemon flavored, and-
Dr Daniel Amen: Or if you're a kid yourself.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: I'm a child psychiatrist because I'm a child.
Tana Amen: Right. Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. Do you have any questions?
Tana Amen: Oh, so here's one for me. Yes. I take high doses of fish oil. I don't take as much anymore, so when I go through periods of inflammation or when I'm having certain health issues, I do increase my fish oil and I increase it dramatically. We will often do the same thing with our patients depending on what's going on with them.
There are times when I've taken 8,000 milligrams of fish oil for over a period of time. Currently, I probably take more like four to five and yes, I take the capsules. I am biased toward our fish oil for a good reason, because I think the quality is really good, but again, you can take the pudding packs, and it's not a problem. Does everyone need to take 8,000 milligrams? Probably not. If you're inflamed, if you've got certain health conditions, that's usually when we'll recommend that. Yeah, and if you're going in for surgery or you're having any sort of medical procedure, you want to let them know and you want to definitely either completely stop your fish oil or at least let your doctor know and cut way back on it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. Marilee has six questions for us, so let's tackle a couple of them. "My daughter loves reading books on my Kindle Fire because it reads the books to her. Does this count as screen time?" All screen time is not the same.
Tana Amen: Right. I agree.
Dr Daniel Amen: Sometimes it is a really thoughtful thing you're doing online, and I don't think that would count as screen time.
Tana Amen: Yeah. If it is working your brain, and you're actually really learning and pushing it, that's very different than if you're just vegging out and-
Dr Daniel Amen: Playing a thoughtless game.
Tana Amen: Thoughtless game where you're-
Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah.
Tana Amen: ... brain is mush.
Dr Daniel Amen: Another question is, "I live on an Island in the Pacific, Majuro, where it's hard to find-
Tana Amen: I'm jealous.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... affordable, fresh fruit and veggies and any unusual products. Can I do the elimination diet two items at a time? Example, dairy and wheat, once I figure out how we do without them, eliminate two more things. We are vegetarian for the most part, so that limits our options." What do you think?
Tana Amen: When I look at something like that, the first thing I want to know is what are the problems? When there's not a problem, don't fix what's not broken. If there's a problem, then you want to be looking at eliminating that. The first thing I would go for is the sugar. Absolutely kill the sugar. The next thing I would probably try is gluten. It's always best if you do it all at the same time, but in your case, I understand you probably can't do that. If you can't do that, I'd go for the biggest culprits first and that would be absolutely do what you can to get rid of the sugar, the gluten, no question, dairy tends to be one of the biggest culprits.
Dr Daniel Amen: Gluten is in what?
Tana Amen: Bread. It's in most grains. There are some grains that are gluten free.
Dr Daniel Amen: Most grains like wheat-
Tana Amen: Wheat, barley-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... barley-
Tana Amen: ... rye, those types of grains.
Dr Daniel Amen: Millet?
Tana Amen: Yes. I believe it's in millet. You're going to throw me now because I don't have my list in front of me, but I don't eat grains anymore, so I tend to forget the list. Definitely wheat, barley, rye. I know amaranth doesn't have it. I know there are definitely some that don't have it. There's still not a really... If you're a vegetarian, yes, you might want some of the sprouted grains that are gluten free, you can do that because vegetarians have to get some of their... We use sprout grains, they tend to have more protein, more nutritional value, so you can try that, but I would kill the gluten first.
Dr Daniel Amen: What are some of the surprising-
Tana Amen: Hold on, and probably dairy. If you have the ability to get almond milk or coconut milk, try those two first along with sugar.
Dr Daniel Amen: She is in an island on the Pacific.
Tana Amen: She should be able to get coconut milk, no problem.
Dr Daniel Amen: Coconut milk.
Tana Amen: Fresh coconut milk. I'm very jealous.
Dr Daniel Amen: I'm curious because I hear that gluten can be in things we would never expect.
Tana Amen: Oh it's in cosmetics. It's in the glue on envelopes. It's in postage stamps.
Dr Daniel Amen: You shouldn't be licking the envelope.
Tana Amen: Right. It's in so many things, which we think is part of the reason we're having trouble with it because it's just so overused. We're using, and our bread now has 40% more gluten in it than it did 50 years ago, and this dramatic increase in the amount of gluten that we're adding to things because it makes it sticky and thick and have a nice texture, and we're just adding so much gluten to so many things and people aren't ready to tolerate it. Our gut is just not-
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. I actually like her approach is you can't eliminate it all, let's do one or two for a few weeks, see how we feel and then-
Tana Amen: Well, and if you're telling me you're vegetarian-
Dr Daniel Amen: ... let's do another.
Tana Amen: Now, I want to clarify one thing, because sometimes people... it's misleading. They'll say, "Oh, I'm vegetarian," or, "I'm vegan," and that's supposed to be synonymous with health. It's not. Trust me, I've learned French fries are not.
Dr Daniel Amen: They're processed.
Tana Amen: They're vegan, they're not healthy, so we have to be very clear that just because you're vegetarian or vegan doesn't necessarily mean that it's healthy. If you're eating a ton of coconut milk ice cream, yeah, that's a great treat, but if you're eating that all the time, it's loaded with sugar.
Dr Daniel Amen: Coconut milk is great.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: You add sugar to it, not a [crosstalk 00:17:20].
Tana Amen: Right. I don't care if it's agave, don't get me on the agave kick. It's not only sugar, it's the worst kind of sugar. Yeah, agave is the worst kind of sugar.
Dr Daniel Amen: Tell them why.
Tana Amen: Okay.
Dr Daniel Amen: Don't just rant.
Tana Amen: Because agave is 80% to 90% fructose-
Dr Daniel Amen: Fruit sugar.
Tana Amen: ... and fructose, which actually goes to your liver to be detoxified, so that's why it doesn't jack up your blood sugar really quick.
Dr Daniel Amen: Fructose doesn't make you think you ate anything, so you're still hungry even though you got it. It's fascinating. What makes up sugar is glucose-
Tana Amen: It's half glucose.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... which affects your insulin levels and fructose, which doesn't, but it's insulin that actually drives sugar into cells and makes your mind think you had something to eat.
Tana Amen: Right. The fructose is going to your liver first, so that's why it doesn't do that. That's why it's considered a low-glycemic.
Dr Daniel Amen: Agave, which a lot of people think it is healthy, we actually think it's actually more toxic than sugar.
Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show, The Brain Warrior's Way. Why don't you head over to that's, where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you just for subscribing to the show. When you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visit to one of the Amen Clinics. I'm Donny Osmond, and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.