Can Hyperbaric Oxygen Heal My Brain?

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

When Dr. Daniel Amen was working on the largest ever NFL study on the brains of active and retired players, one of the biggest takeaways was how the subjects’ brains reacted to hyperbaric oxygen treatment. In short, they got much better. In this first episode of a series on healing with oxygen, the Amens discuss the benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and Tana shares her recent first-hand account of how it helped her recover from a surgery.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Hey everybody, we're going to talk about healing with oxygen, that oxygen is so important. But before we do, we have reviews. And this is from Glenda: "I love your and Dr. Amen's podcasts and the education you provide us. I'm so thankful for all that you do to engage the public in wellness, eating clean, and taking the right supplements." So that's from Glenda.
Tana Amen: Awesome.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Thank you so much. So why are we going to talk about healing with oxygen?
Tana Amen: Because it's important. You mean because ... Why are you looking at me like that? So I posted a picture on Facebook and on Instagram of me in the oxygen chamber, and it got way more interest than I would've thought. It was one of my highest engaging pictures. So it was really interesting.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But another video-
Tana Amen: Oh God.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That got posted got 25 million views.
Tana Amen: Yeah, so dumb.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's why you need oxygen-
Tana Amen: It's so stupid.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is we're going to talk about.
Tana Amen: It's so stupid. So I like to keep my community just involved in what I'm doing. Had no idea that it would go viral. It was so stupid.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Share.
Tana Amen: Well since you brought it up now I have to because it's so stupid. So I take, you all know because you've been following us, that I love self defense classes and I take these silly classes. I mean I take survival classes and all sorts of stuff.
So I took one class on counter custody and kidnapping and they taught you how to get out of handcuffs and zip ties and all this stuff. I didn't post the whole video because they didn't want me to. I only posted the part where I was actually at the end of getting out of the zip ties. And so I posted that part of it because they said I could.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So maybe they liked that you were tied up.
Tana Amen: Whatever. So I posted getting out of the zip ties and it went viral, which is so dumb. It was the dumbest thing. And you just thought it was hilarious. And so I just thought I was posting, keeping my few thousand women involved in my life and it went crazy. So it was so stupid. But that is not what we're talking about today. We are talking about hyperbaric oxygen.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh, hyperbaric oxygen.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That's awesome.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr. Daniel Amen: One of the reasons you're interested, again going back to your scan, is it was sleepy and one of the reasons I got interested in hyperbaric oxygen 20 years ago was that Mike Uszler from UCLA, he's a nuclear medicine doctor, he would show me these before and after SPECT scans showing significant increases in blood flow in people who underwent hyperbaric oxygen training.
Tana Amen: Well, when I was in the hospital working as a nurse, I worked in a trauma unit. We used to use hyperbaric oxygen for people who had wounds that wouldn't heal. So for necrotizing fasciitis, which is a flesh eating bacteria, for certain infections-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Why did you scare me? You just scared me.
Tana Amen: So certain infections. Also, one time I had an elderly lady, she was like in her late 80s, she got attacked by a pit bull. And this pit bull de-gloved her whole arm and it wouldn't heal. It was really sad. So we put on hyperbaric oxygen to help stimulate the healing process.
So I had never heard of it for what you do until I met you. And I was like, "Oh you use it for brain health? Oh that's so interesting.? I had seen it for healing, for bacterial infections and healing and stuff like that. So I thought it was so interesting.
So now I'm doing it and I posted this picture of me inside the chamber because I'm trying to stimulate blood flow and wake things up after anesthesia and a head injury. And so I've got a lot of interest. So I thought we would share with our community why we do it here, what it does, why it's good.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So we do it in all eight of our clinics because we often see low blood flow on the SPECT scans we do. So SPECT is a study of blood flow and activity in the brain. And I always am thinking in my head, first do no harm. Use the least toxic, most effective treatment. And -
Tana Amen: So why might you see-
Dr. Daniel Amen: So hyperbaric oxygen is one. And just as you said, it's approved by Medicare for 14 wound healing indications like diabetic ulcers, but it's not approved for brain indications. And so people don't think that if you have a stroke, well that's in fact a wound.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you have a head injury, that's a wound. If you have lower overall blood flow from general anesthesia, well that's sort of like a wound. And so there's been a sort of fight in the insurance industry. Should you cover it, should you not? I don't really like political fights so I stay out of them.
I published a study on soldiers who had blast injuries and also emotional trauma. And after 40 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen, after the first session we saw improvement, but after 40 sessions we saw persistent improvement. We published it in the Journal of Neurotrauma, and they had improved cognitive scores, improved emotional scores. I was just so excited.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Because clinically, we've seen that for a long time. That our patients who have traumatic brain injury, who have strokes, who have some sort of toxic exposure, that hyperbaric oxygen is one of those treatments that can make a significant difference.
Tana Amen: Yeah. So tell me, you touched on some of them, some of the things that could cause decreased blood flow to the brain, head injury, infection, right?
Dr. Daniel Amen: Toxin.
Tana Amen: Toxin.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Any form of heart disease, heart arrhythmia-
Tana Amen: Right, so anesthesia-
Dr. Daniel Amen: Anesthesia.
Tana Amen: Heart disease. So when you go under anesthesia, especially for bypass surgery, they bypass your heart. So that can, and the anesthesia itself can decrease blood flow.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Well and then mental illness. I actually I have a story. It's a bit similar to yours, but it was worse in that my assistant Karen had no idea that she had an aortic aneurysm, but they found it in her family. And so everybody got screened and Karen had a large aortic aneurism. And she had a five hour-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Heart surgery to replace it, to repair it. And afterwards she just wasn't the same.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Daniel Amen: That she was sadder, she was more disorganized.
Tana Amen: Right, yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: She wasn't getting things done. And I had her prior scan, and her prior scan she had a big fat brain, which helped her be happier and better work. And then after the general anesthesia, she had a damaged brain. I mean it was just really clear, you could see the damage-
Tana Amen: Right, I saw it. Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Really globally and repairing it, and hyperbaric oxygen is just so helpful to do that. Months later her brain was again much healthier.
Tana Amen: Good.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so-
Tana Amen: Well and my surgery was-
Dr. Daniel Amen: You are not stuck with a brain you have. You can make it better. We say that all the time, but this is one way to do it that can be really helpful.
Tana Amen: And the surgery that I went through was not heart surgery, but it was four, and a half hours, something like that, close to four hours. And I just didn't feel right. So between that and the head injury from the car accident, I think it just, you started to see it. So I'm hoping I have that same, it helps me the same way. That's the hope.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So in early on when I was doing the big NFL study, which we started ten years ago, is that we would use the supplements in Brain & Body Power Max. And 80 percent of our players showed improvement, but clearly not everybody.
So I then added hyperbaric oxygen as an adjunctive treatment and saw significant improvements. Joe Namath, the famous quarterback from the New York Jets, he was really struggling about ten years ago. And then it was in Jupiter, Florida, went and got a SPECT scan and it was not good.
He did 40 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen and it was better. So he did 40 more and then his scan was even better still. Then he did 40 more. So he did a total of 120 sessions. And I don't know, he's 77 or something like that, his brain was normal.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And obviously he got hit in the head thousands of times. And it's just so exciting to think you are not stuck with the brain you have.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Now when we come back, we'll talk more about some of the indications for hyperbaric oxygen. Should you use a soft chamber or a hard chamber?
Tana Amen: And I want to talk about why it works. What is it doing? Besides increasing blood flow, let's talk about what it's actually doing.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Yes Ma'am. So if you learned anything, maybe oxygen's really important to your brain. You brain is 2 percent of your body's weight but uses 20 percent of the oxygen in your body. If you learn-
Tana Amen: Or maybe you've had a surgery and you didn't realize, maybe you haven't felt right and people have said, "Oh no, you're fine," but you don't feel fine. Now you know, maybe there's a reason.
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