The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is currently on hiatus. We plan to be back soon!
Check out the third and final part of Dr Amen’s question and answer segment. To listen to the previous Q&A sessions go to:
Part 1: http://www.brainwarriorswaypodcast.com/index.php/dr-amen-qa-session-1/
Part 2: http://www.brainwarriorswaypodcast.com/index.php/dr-amens-qa-session-part-2/
Carla: Hi, Dr. Amen. My name is Carla. I'm very, very inspired to change my really awful, horrible diet. I'm very much madly in love with coffee with lot's of sugar and cream, it's like hot ice cream, that's how I like my coffee, and my diet is horrible, and you have so inspired me to change, and I'm a little confused.
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay, so let's get rid of the ant that "I am in love with coffee, sugar, and fat." See, if you keep that thought, you have just defeated yourself, because who would give up something that they love? It's really a good question for all of us, how can we fall in love with things that are great for us?
Carla: Okay, so let's say I break up with coffee. There's a good chance I might turn into someone who's not a very nice person for a while. I'm wondering if there's some kind of replacement to kind of lean into the life without coffee?
Dr Daniel Amen: Let me give you some suggestions.
Carla: Please, thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Start with decaf. If you can't do decaf, then the love really is not with coffee, it's with caffeine. You should just be honest with whatever you're in love with.
Carla: All right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right, okay. So, you can have decaf. Clearly coffee without the caffeine has 160 antioxidants in it and it's not bad for you.
Carla: That's good.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then, one of my favorites, if you can get almond milk. I love almond milk. You can get unsweetened vanilla, or original flavor almond milk, put that in and your coffee. It is so sweet. And then, you can sweeten it with stevia. I know a lot of people say that stevia can be bitter, it's actually 300 times sweeter than sugar. There's this one company that actually makes like nine different flavors of stevia. My favorite is cinnamon, of course, right? But it also comes in lemon and Valencia orange, and grape, and english toffee, and chocolate raspberry. There are so many healthy options. So you're in love with something that's going to kill you early, or why not, and it's the same thing as if you were on match.com. Do you tend to pick the bad boys, or do you tend to pick the ones that are good for you It's your choice! I just choose to really think about my food and put things in my body that serve me, rather than steal from me. Thank you.
Carla: Thank you.
Wendy: Hi, Dr. Amen, my name is Wendy. I have a three part question about gluten. How would you know if you are allergic to gluten, and what symptoms would you have, and is there such a thing as mildly allergic to gluten, or is it just are you allergic or are you not?
Dr Daniel Amen: No, there are degrees of allergies for people. Some people with certain allergies, if they get the food, it will kill them. There are other people it just irritates them ,or it irritates the people they love. Some of the symptoms of gluten allergies, people get tired after they get bread, or something with gluten in it. They could get mentally foggy, they could be irritable, more depressed, emotional, have trouble concentrating, get detracted easily, and I sense food allergies when people tell me, "His behavior is erratic." I don't consistently have these problems, I have them periodically and I can't figure out when they are.
Let me tell you about a very interesting study, it was from The Netherlands. They took 100 ADD children, so hyperactive, restless, impulsive, can't concentrate. They put them on an elimination diet. What that means, is they gave them fruit, vegetables, rice, turkey, lamb, pear juice, and water. That's it. 84% of them lost their ADD symptoms. It had the same effectiveness as giving them Ritalin , but no side effects! It is the food that we are feeding our children and ourselves, that is poisoning our brains and our bodies. We clean up the food, there's going to be dramatically less psychotropic medications. In my mind, when I see a new child at the Amen Clinics for ADD, my first thought is, "Clean up his diet, get his parents stacked rationally" Which means, I might have to get them on the right diet. Fish oil, multiple vitamins, do it for four months and see.
Somebody comes in suicidal, I'll deal with it. I'll do whatever degree I have to do, but more and more, I've been a psychiatrist almost 30 years, and more and more I stat with natural things first. Why? Because they work! If I can get it with that, why the heck not? I always have the big guns if I need them. Thank you.
Goshia: Hi Dr. Amen, my name is Goshia, and I have a question about eating disorders. Would you say that most people with a history of eating disorder are in the third brain category, or would you also talk a little bit about the way from brain damage to health?
Dr Daniel Amen: Okay, so let's talk about eating disorders. I think of obesity, it's an eating disorder. Let's just be honest. Too often psychiatrists are not involved in treating obesity, when it's clearly a food addiction. But, there are other eating disorders, like anorexia, and bulimia. Anorexia is more type one. People who have anorexic brains tend to be compulsive. When they decide to eat, they don't. It's not an issue of impulsivity, it's more their brain gets stuck, locked into these negative thoughts and negative behaviors. Bulimics clearly are type three. They have problems being over focused on things, things have to be just so or they get really upset. They have problems controlling their impulses. You find they interrupt more frequently, they're more easily distracted, they tend to be more disorganized. People who have bulimia are diagnosed with ADD like three times more than people who have anorexia.
But as I said, I think that really all eating disorders are, at least in part, thinking disorders. When you really help to get people to correct their ANTs, their automatic negative thought, their eating behavior becomes much more normal. But, scans can be just so helpful with eating disorder patients, because we see many people, especially with anorexia and bulimia , have had a car accident at some point, and they have actually damaged certain areas of their brain, that when we try to remediate, they get much better as well.
Goshia: Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you.
Gena: Hi Dr. Amen, my name is Gena. My question is I was wondering why I crave certain foods when I'm PMSing?
Dr Daniel Amen: Ah, what happens to PMS in the brain. I have five sisters, and three daughters. I know more about PMS than I want to know. I've done many scans of women in the healthy time of their cycle, and in the difficult time of their cycle, and what we find is the attention part of your brain goes up, so you get stuck on things. That's why people can be a little bit more irritable, things don't go a certain way they get upset, so they're going to crave simple carbohydrates, because simple carbohydrates like bread are mood foods. They boost serotonin in the brain. But, what also happens, so you get over focused on things, and your prefrontal cortex drops as well. You become like our type three person, the impulsive compulsive over-eater, where you get these cravings, and you don't have good control over your impulses. Little bit of Five HTP and green tea, with exercise can so help PMS and it can help those cravings during that difficult time.
Gena: Thank you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you.
Tori: Hi Dr. Amen, my name is Tori. I have a question about I have a family member who's kind of lived a very unhealthy kind of life, and made very poor choices. Watching that is very difficult, and of course we all want to help this person, but I'm just wondering what is it that we can do to help someone that's just basically living in denial? What influence can we have?
Dr Daniel Amen: It's a very good question. I think about that every single day of my life, because I have people in my life that are really, if you look at their behavior, their suicidal. It's like, "Come on!" But you can't change anybody, you can influence them. You can influence them by giving them books, by telling them about exiting things that you've learned. What I've learned is there's some people, especially the type ones, that are just resistant to change. It's their way, their way, they don't listen to anybody. For these people you plant seeds. It can be a book, it can be a program, it can be taking them to a lecture, it can be, "Oh, I've learned this very interesting thing." And, for me what I've found is that when my behavior is right, I'm such a good influence on them. When my behavior is not right, then I'm not a good influence, so getting your own life squared away, and people go, "I want that. I want what you have" and then they're going to be more open to sharing.
I've seen, there's this whole group of people. As soon as you push, they push back. That is not the time to then hit them over the head, it's the time to back up. You just figure out the dance that you can do with them.
Tori: Thank you.
Rob: Hello Dr. Amen, my name's Rob. I was wondering if you could tell me what supplements help with cravings?
Dr Daniel Amen: This is very important, and it's something that I've learned a lot about. Supplements that help cravings are things that help balance your blood sugar. Alpha lipoic acid, and chromium can help. One other very interesting supplement is something called inositol cysteine. Inositol cysteine, there are actually four studies now with inositol cysteine. It decreases cravings in cocaine addicts, it decreases cravings in alcoholics. It decreases compulsive behaviors like compulsive gambling, and, It's a brand new study, that it decreased compulsive hair pulling. There's a condition called trichotillomania, which is people who pull their own hair out, and it worked better than Prozac in decreasing that compulsive behavior. There's also supplements that increase endorphins in the brain, like diphenylamine, there's another supplement called phenylethylamine that increases the alerting response in your brain, that something fun is about to happen. It's the same thing that one of the reasons that chocolate, people get addicted to it and happy about it, so there're actually a number of different supplements that people can use to get that sort of craving monster under control.
Rob: Thank you very much.
Joel: Hello Dr. Amen, my name is Joel, and I've not been too bad at my eating habits, but I appreciate the information so that I can do better than I have been. One question I have is do you have any ideas or suggestions about how parents can teach their children how to be healthier?
Dr Daniel Amen: You know, this is so critical, and this is something that we need to focus a lot of energy on, because the incidence of obesity in children is just skyrocketing. I think of it, really as a scandal. We're at a disadvantage, because if you look at the food companies, and all the advertising that they're doing to children for unhealthy, addictive foods, it is just flat-out horrifying. Now, how do you compete with that? You compete with it with interventions. What are the interventions? You get rid of the crap at home, you don't think of cake as a celebratory food. What is the matter with us? I turned 50 and there's a big cake, and I'm like, "What? You don't want me to be 52?"
This is a very important point. Exposure equals preference. What you expose children to is what they're going to want. So at dinner Chloe and I, Chloe's our six year old, we often play this game, is this good for my brain or bad for my brain? So we're really working on the education part so one, she knows, and two, expose her to foods that are healthy for her, rather than immediately going for the licorice to soothe her. Her favorite snack is red bell peppers, raw red bell peppers with guacamole. She loves whole grain breads. She really understands, although we're having this issue now that Halloween is coming up. How much can I eat? Not much! Exposure equals preference. What you expose them to is what they're going to want.
Joel: Thank you.
Jack: Hi Dr. Amen, my name is Jack, and I'm curious are all sugars the same? I'm curious about the thing about milk chocolate, I am sure I have people in my life, if it came between me and their milk chocolate, I'd probably lose.
Dr Daniel Amen: Are all sugars the same? No, they're not all the same. Get rid of most of them in your diet.
Jack: [crosstalk 00:46:02] about milk chocolate?
Dr Daniel Amen: Chocolate is very interesting. Especially dark chocolate. Milk chocolate has too much sugar in it. Milk chocolate is something that you'll have trouble stopping eating, and crave more. But dark chocolate, without much sugar, so think of low-sugar dark chocolate, which is very tasty, increases blood flow to your brain, studies show that it decreases blood pressure, there's other studies that show it decreases your cravings for sweet, salty, or fatty foods. You just want to get it in your head, "Okay, less sugar. Sugar is not going to help me live longer and do the work that I love."
Jack: Thank you.
Aaron: Hi, Dr. Amen, my names Aaron. I'm a college student right now, and I have what I would describe as a pretty typical college diet. That's the reaction I was expecting. I'm wondering how completely do I have to take out the junk food?
Dr Daniel Amen: How completely do you want to be healthy?
Aaron: Pretty completely.
Dr Daniel Amen: It depends on what you want. What a lot of people don't understand is that you can go to a fast food restaurant, and actually order a fairly healthy meal if you're thoughtful. We have a high school course. It's in 40 states and seven countries, and we have this whole lesson on nutrition. We have the kids write down what they typically eat from their favorite fast food place, and then we look up the number of calories, and salt, and saturated fat, and sugars that they're getting. They, once they get a little bit of education, actually quite horrified by their own behavior. Then we teach them how to choose more wisely. You can get a great chicken salad, grilled chicken salad at some of these places, dressing on the side. Or, really count the calories in the dressing. It can make just huge difference and as a college student, don't you want to take this investment that you're making in yourself and really make it mean something long term, rather than not sleeping, eating terrible things, getting unhealthy, that's not really your goal. Your goal is, "I'm in college to make my life better." Not to where, "Okay, when I'm 30 I'm going to have to spend a year losing weight in order to get healthy."
Aaron: Thank you.