Can Diet Help Treat Chronic Illness?

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

There are people who suffer from chronic illnesses who take a handful of medicine every day. It’s like a common scenario that we’ve learned to accept as the norm. However, as people become more aware of using food as a medicine and not just as a way to nourish their body, diet as treatment has gained popularity.

The question now is, can diet help treat chronic illnesses? Listen to this episode and know the answer.


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Donna: Hi doctor. My name is Donna, and I have a prior history of breast cancer. I went through chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. A few years ago I developed an inflammatory disease or airline called Pyoderma gangrenosum, and went into respiratory failure from that. In the last couple years I just ... I haven't been feeling good, I did The Daniel Plan diet through Saddleback church and stuff, so I've been doing that. They're still treating me with fibromyalgia and thyroid problems, and now type 2 diabetes. All these pills are just kind of making me out there with with all this stuff. I don't exercise very much because I don't feel good enough to do that, but I'm trying to do the diet. Nobody seems familiar with the causes from Pyoderma gangrenosum and maybe that, they put me on 2,000 units of vitamin D, and then I had a cardiac enzyme, skyrocketed so they took me off of calcium and vitamin D completely. I'm kinda like, I don't know what to be doing.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay, so with a chronic illness, it's important for you to do all the things you can do, to try to help it get better. You have to make sure you don't have any food allergies. That you actually do an elimination diet. I don't know if anybody told you to do that, but it would be one of the first things that I would do. My friend Doris Rapp wrote a number of wonderful books, but one of them she said, Is This Your Child? and it's about environmental and food allergies that cause chronic illnesses.
I would completely eliminate, just like Tana told her sister to do. Sugar, bread, dairy, soy, alcohol, coffee, wheat. Now I'm dead serious, and for the first two months I would be eating vegetables, some fruit, nuts and seeds, and lean protein, and that's it. If you have one of those that you're allergic to, that's causing the inflammation in your body, it's totally worth doing it. I mean you'd do anything to be out of this chronic pain and dysfunction, right? Well we've seen many people just completely transform their bodies, just by getting on the right food, so using food as medicine.
Even though you don't feel like doing exercise, I'd do whatever you could do. Maybe it's even in the water, you know, that you're doing things in the water, because that will help buffer some of the pain. That you take high-dose fish oil. I mean what we did with our NFL players is we put them on six grams a day. Many of them said they decreased their pain meds. Another thing I didn't talk about, but I sort of alluded to it in the show, is environmental toxins can totally ruin your body, and ruin your brain. Do you have flood in the house? Is there any mold? Is there anything toxic in your neighborhood? Thinking about those things can be very important as well, but for you it sounds like it's an emergency, and you've already been very sick from this. That means you have to be even more of a warrior for the health of your brain, and make sure that you don't get discouraged and then have a banana split.
Donna: Yeah. Yeah. Been there, done that. Okay. Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: You're welcome.
Bev: My name is Bev, and I'm a concerned grandmother. I have a 21 year old granddaughter who is a senior at a university. She's been playing on the women's soccer team for four years. She's just had her fifth brain concussion, I don't understand why they've let her play up into this point, but at this level where she realizes she's done as far as playing competitive soccer, but how can I help her get started on a brain health program?
Dr Daniel Amen: Well I think you know, when the show comes out, share it with her for sure. Or get my book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, or some of the other programs I did. Magnificent Mind at Any Age. I'd give her brain scan for Christmas, because when people see their scans ... I mean the concussions may have not caused any lasting damage, or they may cause serious damage that is going to make her more emotional, less effective, and can affect school, relationships, money, her own health down the line.
Going, you're young, her brain is not even finished developing, it's sustained all of this damage, and now is the time to see how much of her reserve we can get back. That would be so exciting, but it's critical for her to get this message now. Once people have had brain trauma, sometimes they don't listen the first time, because they're inattentive, or they're distracted, or their memory is not good, or they're moody, and they're emotional. It's critical, but you can do her such good by giving her this message.
Bev: I will. Thank you very much.
Francis: Hi. My name is Francis. I'm one of those thousands of Americans that have brain injury from automobile collisions, multiple collisions. In two years of cognitive rehab, I never heard a diet nutrition discussed once, and we didn't talk about exercise either. I have a couple of questions. One is, do you have a relationship with the National Brain Injury Association? Is there any way that could be facilitated? Two, I wanted to ask you if the the VA is really paying any attention to you, because the brain injury is the signal injury of soldiers going back from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Dr Daniel Amen: You know I've actually spoken for the National Brain Injury Association at one of their meetings. I think they need to make this a much bigger part of what they recommended, and what they do. I have been harassing the military and the VA to pay more attention to this. I told you about Captain Caffrey who actually started his own nonprofit, you can go, called Brain Scans for Warriors, to raise money for soldiers. Because there are 300,000 soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan who come back with injuries, and often what happens in the military is they'll call them a personality disorder, and then send them out. If you never look, it's very easy to diagnose someone with a behavior disorder, rather than in fact that they have a brain disorder. Which I just think is wrong but you know I harass them regularly.
Francis: Okay. Last question. What about a training program, for those of us who are ... We were professionals before we were brain injured, and they're still capable of giving instruction and teaching. Is the clinic doing anything about training beside those bag lunches on Fridays that I used to attend?
Dr Daniel Amen: You know we have a master's level college course, that I taught over at Vanguard University. We filmed it, put it on DVD, so if you really want to like get into my work on a professional level, that would be a great place to start, and get 25 units of CD credits with it as well.
Francis: Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Hi.
Michelle: Hi Dr, Amen. My name is Michelle. I really enjoyed your program.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you.
Michelle: I had a stroke when I was 11 years old, caused from an AVM Arteriovenous Malformation on the left side of my brain. I underwent two treatments of the gamma knife radiation. Then in 2008, I had a massive cerebral hemorrhage followed by a craniotomy which successfully removed the AVM. My question is, how do I keep my brain as healthy as possible in spite of the significant brain hemorrhage I've endured.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. You've had two brain hemorrhages?
Michelle: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: Your brain is still vulnerable, so you are one of the ones that needs to be careful with high-dose fish oil, because you don't want to decrease your bleeding time. But a little bit is probably a good idea, but given that you've already sustained an injury to the left side of your brain, you don't want to be doing all of these things. No soccer, headers, probably you shouldn't be skiing even with a helmet, and probably you shouldn't date guys who love Harley-Davidson.
I mean seriously, you have to be thinking about, "Okay. I have to protect my head," your brain reserve, some of your reserve got stolen, right? No fault of yours, but it got stolen. You need to constantly be building your reserve. Protecting the food that you eat, the thoughts that you think, the sleep you have. It's like all of these things you're protecting yourself. Then if you make ... Remember just keep it really simple. I mean avoid bad things, and we listed them, right?
Michelle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr Daniel Amen: Drugs, alcohol, brain injuries, toxic thoughts, toxic environments, hypertension, heart disease, all these things, right? I have to be serious about my health. because remember the people that the longest are serious. The don't worry be happy people die early, right? You want to be moderately concerned. We'll leave it there. You want to then be exercising, but not crazy exercising. You want to be exercising, constantly engaged in new learning, only eating healthy food, and hanging out with the healthiest people you can find.
Michelle: Great. Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: You're welcome.