Foods That Reverse Brain Damage

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

In this episode, we discuss the foods that hurt your brain and foods that work like medicine to help heal the brain.

Read Full Transcript

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: Hey everybody. Today we're going to talk about a really important topic that actually got more views when I did a live Facebook chat on this than any other thing. It got over a half a million views when we talked about foods that reverse brain damage.
Tana Amen: So did you actually know that foods could reverse brain damage? But the flip is also true. There are foods that can actually be damaging to your brain because if they're damaging other organs, they're damaging your brain. So let's dig into this.
Dr Daniel Amen: So it's not like sort of being whacked by a big bunch of carrots that cause brain damage. There's this study out of UCLA where they took rats and they gave them a head injury, so that was not very nice. Before they gave him the head injury, they all knew how to run a certain maze. After the head injury they gave one group of rats their typical healthy diet and another group of rats, their typical healthy diet plus fructose, which is fruit sugar. After three weeks the rats who had the healthy diet could run the maze just fine. They were healing. The group that got fructose were confused and could not run the maze. I read that study and I think about all the kids who are playing contact sports, whether it's football or hockey or soccer, and when they get a head injury ... You know at the end of the games when one team wins, they take the big bucket of Gatorade-
Tana Amen: Right .
Dr Daniel Amen: And put it over the coach's head. If you're drinking that stuff, your concussions are not going to get better. In fact, they're going to get worse. So foods can accelerate brain damage or they can decelerate.
Tana Amen: Well, and speaking to that, let's talk for one second about the studies out of Holland. The two studies out of Holland where the kids with ADD, they put kids with ADD on an elimination diet. In two different studies, 70% of the kids, their symptoms got better with a simple elimination diet by getting rid of things like sugar and food dyes and gluten.
Dr Daniel Amen: Corn.
Tana Amen: And corn.
Dr Daniel Amen: And soy.
Tana Amen: Yup. So basically-
Dr Daniel Amen: Dairy.
Tana Amen: What we promote, but 70% of the kids improved their symptoms of ADD with just doing that.
Dr Daniel Amen: So let's talk about why. So sugar is pro-inflammatory. It increases erratic brain cell firing. It's addictive. It's the inflammation that's the trouble because inflammation is associated with damaging virtually every organ in your body. So that's why we think it's really important to limit or eliminate as much sugar as possible. Then we also want you to eliminate high-glycemic, low-fiber foods because we've actually discovered that certain forms of bread, for example, actually turn to sugar in your body faster than if you're eating table sugar.
Tana Amen: They actually call some of them super carbohydrates. So things like potato starch and certain types of starch, tapioca starch, they call them, which are in a lot of those foods, especially gluten-free foods. They call them super carbohydrates.
Dr Daniel Amen: Wait. You're causing trouble now?
Tana Amen: I am.
Dr Daniel Amen: So when it says on the box, gluten-free-
Tana Amen: Doesn't mean it's necessarily healthy.
Dr Daniel Amen: Wow. Read the food label. Read the food label. Read the food label.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: So it'd be a little mantra in your head. Teach your children to read food labels as well. And then artificial dyes and sweeteners. I've actually seen kids become aggressive, not only kids, adults. I had someone visit from the Midwest. We scanned them and his brain was not healthy. So I want you to do one more scan on MSG. And I'm like, "Well why?" He said, "Whenever I get MSG, I got aggressive." On MSG, his brain actually went into a more violent pattern and I said, "Okay, well you have two choices. I can give you some medication for that or you can just hold the MSG." In my mind I'm thinking, "Well, he'll just want to hold the MSG." He said, "You have to give me the medicine." And I'm like, "Why?" He said, "Because you don't always know what MSG is in.
Tana Amen: No, it's hidden.
Dr Daniel Amen: It's hidden. They don't have to label-
Tana Amen: Unless it is an individual ingredient that's added. If it's part of something like say soy protein isolate, if it's like part of another ingredient, they don't have to list it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. And whenever you see natural flavors that actually can mean MSG. We've talked about trans-fats before, but you know, one of the ones that always surprises people is corn. And you know, I often say that's how the Indians got us back is by introducing us to corn. Why is it a problem?
Tana Amen: So corn is, actually has the worst fatty acid profile of any grain. It's a grain, not a vegetable. Has the worst fatty acid profile. It's changed over the years. We have brought it to be very different. It is sprayed mostly with Roundup. So it's very little of it, about 90% of it is genetically modified and sprayed with Roundup, which is horrible. That's a hormone disruptor.
Dr Daniel Amen: So the pesticide-
Tana Amen: The pesticides are terrible.
Dr Daniel Amen: And when, when it dies.
Tana Amen: Yeah. When corn dies it's unlike any other plant. When corn dies and goes into the soil, when it drops into the soil, other plants act just fertilizers for other plants and act as a fertilizer as they decompose. Corn actually kills other plants and the pollen from corn, the pollen as it's blown into the wind actually kills Monarch butterflies. Very interesting. But there's also over 21 mycotoxins in corn and it's been shown to cause the same type of lesions, very similar type lesions in the gut that gluten causes in many people. So there's a type of protein on corn that can be very, very damaging to a lot of people's gut.
Dr Daniel Amen: So I'm bad for the butterflies. R
Tana Amen: Right, exactly.
Dr Daniel Amen: I'm having a moment-
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Here, we're mourning Monarchs.
Tana Amen: Right. So I want to back up for one second when you touched on the sweeteners and a lot of people don't know this, so when it comes to artificial sweeteners, when it comes to brain health, this is a really important point. Dr. Russell Blaylock has actually written a lot of books on this because he's a retired neurosurgeon and he dedicated the rest of his career to sort of terrorizing the artificial sweetener industry because of all the damage he saw from artificial sweeteners. One thing that I learned was, I believe it's about almost 80%, over 75% of complaints to the FDA are made about Aspartame. It's the reactions to the aspartame. So most of those complaints are made about aspartame-type reactions, but things like MS-type symptoms, migraines, people having the inability to focus, having neurological dysfunction because he says that they are completely neurotoxic.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, I think I've learned the most, not from textbooks, but from my patients.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: About 25 years ago, one of my patients told me she got rid of Aspartame and lost her arthritis.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: I was like 35 at the time and my joints hurt.
Tana Amen: Joint pain.
Dr Daniel Amen: I get on the floor with my kids, I'd have trouble getting up. I'm like, "Huh." I hadn't drank diet soda like I was addicted. I was addicted. So when I got rid of Aspartame, my pain went away. And I'm like, "Wow." And I'm like, ?No, not really." So I tried it again at lunch and had a diet soda. Almost immediately my hands started to hurt again. So I'm like, "Okay, I'm smarter than this. I can learn ."
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: And have literally avoided it ever since because-
Tana Amen: It's notorious for joint pain.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because it's not good for you. You'll also have dairy in the list of foods to avoid and it's just made the French so sad. All the cheese, you know that they have for dessert. Why is dairy on the list of foods to avoid?
Tana Amen: Okay, so, and it doesn't affect everyone the same way. So we always tell people to eliminate it for a few weeks and see how it affects you and then add it back in and see what happens. Most people will notice they feel better without it. So dairy, there's a lot of reasons. First of all, about 65% of the population does not have the enzyme necessary to digest dairy properly. So they're lactose intolerant. They may not even realize it because the symptoms aren't always just severe digestive reactions. It can be things like brain fog, joint pain, all sorts of things. And it's not just the lactose. Sometimes it's the milk proteins. So the Casein in it is actually, again according to Russell Blaylock who writes a lot of papers on this, they are excitotoxins in the brain.
Tana Amen: So Casein actually can increase certain symptoms of other neurological problems in the brain. So that's one of the reasons it's not just the lactose. That's why when we have people go off of dairy and a lot of times not only do their digestive issues clear up, their joint pain and their focus and energy will get better.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, and one of the most common things I do for the autistic children that we see is get rid of gluten, get rid of dairy. And their word count often rise up. They're-
Tana Amen: Because their focus and energy-
Dr Daniel Amen: And often is improved. And so I've come to the conclusion that the only animals that really should be having dairy are baby cows.
Tana Amen: So one interesting fact though, because a lot of people are like, "No, can't do that. My cheese. I can't do without my cheese." What about yogurt? Because yogurt has active enzymes, right? So live cultures. So a couple things. Goat milk and goat cheese, like goat products have not been shown to have exactly the same properties as cow milk and cow cheese. Interestingly enough, some studies done on children who had severe milk allergies, it was like 84% of them could tolerate goat milk and goat cheese just fine. So not everyone reacts the same to both of those. And one of the reasons is the Casein in... So the proteins, the Casein in goat cheese and goat milk is actually the closest to human milk. So it's very, very close, unlike cow's milk. So a lot of people are able to tolerate small amounts of goat products as opposed to cow products. So you can try small amounts of goat cheese if you really want that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Alcohol is not a health food. It's just not. there's a direct correlation between the amount of alcohol and about a dozen different cancers. So not only does it decrease blood flow to the brain and make you less thoughtful, it also activates your appetite and is associated with cancer. So for a long time I felt like I've been fighting the wine industry because many Americans think. well I should have two glasses of red wine a day. And according to a study from Johns Hopkins, people who drink everyday have smaller brains. And when it comes to your brain size matters. You don't want a smaller brain.
Tana Amen: Right? So the first thing people ask is, "Okay, so what is the safe amount to drink? Not a healthy amount. What's a safe amount to drink where I'm not going to be damaging my brain?" Now I know the first thing you're going to say is, "None." But if people are asking that question and they're at a social event or whatever, what is the safe amount of people can drink without really damaging their brain?
Dr Daniel Amen: So for me, I tell my patients two normal size glasses of alcohol. So that would be eight ounces of beer, six ounces of wine, one ounce of hard liquor a week. So two normal size glasses a week, probably, you're not getting into any trouble.
Tana Amen: Correct. So I'll have a glass of wine now and then. You don't drink at all. But we always want to know what is-
Dr Daniel Amen: Because I love my brain. See, I'm older than you. That's less-
Tana Amen: That's why I married a Geezer.
Dr Daniel Amen: I have less room for error. All right, so we've talked about foods that damage your brain. Let's talk about foods that reverse damage and they're going to surprise some people because it's fat, fat, fat, and more fat.
Tana Amen: Now we did say, we actually said not optimize. We actually said help to reverse damage. So that's surprising to people.
Dr Daniel Amen: That the food you eat-
Tana Amen: Is medicine.
Dr Daniel Amen: Clearly matters.
Tana Amen: It's medicine.
Dr Daniel Amen: So healthy fats, salmon, healthy oils. So coconut oil. [crosstalk 00:13:03]
Tana Amen: Coconut oil, the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil have been shown to actually help people with focus, to actually act as like when they're having trouble metabolizing sugar in the brain. The fat actually, they can metabolize that fat, right? Avocados, nuts, seeds, and even the fat in some green leafy vegetables.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now, people are confused about oils.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: So what's the difference in good cooking?
Tana Amen: So there's a difference in the oils that you cook with and the oils that you eat. For example, olive oil is great when you put it on a salad, not so much when you cook with it. So it's about the smoking points. I have a whole section on cooking oils and oils to eat, like which ones are the best to eat and which ones are the best to cook with and which ones you should avoid .
Dr Daniel Amen: In the Brain Warrior's Way.
Tana Amen: In the Brain warrior's Way. There's a whole section in there.
Dr Daniel Amen: In the cookbook.
Tana Amen: In the cookbook, so to really make that simple. But things like walnut, avocado, Macadamia nut oil and coconut oil are great for cooking with. Probably the more common ones to find that are easier are like Macadamia nut oil that doesn't have a strong flavor for cooking. And coconut oil does have a little bit of a flavor or some Ghee, like that would be like a clarified butter or even grass fed butter.
Dr Daniel Amen: So for people who get-
Tana Amen: People who are sensitive. Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now, because we just told them to avoid dairy.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: But you said clarified butter which is from dairy.
Tana Amen: So let me just talk about really quickly the one type of dairy in very small amounts, very small amounts that does have some health benefits is either Ghee, which is clarified butter. If you are allergic to the milk proteins, some clarified butter where they've removed those, most of those proteins can be okay. Or for people who aren't as sensitive, small amounts of butter from grass fed cows, they do have short-chain fatty acids that can be healing to the gut and they are good for cooking with because of the high smoke point.
Dr Daniel Amen: So healthy fats, colorful vegetables because of the antioxidants. So one of the reasons I was not a fan of the Atkins Diet because it's all basically fat and protein is it misses the phyto medicine. So the medicines that are found in plants, colorful plants especially. And so we think, take a plate. 70% of it should be plant-based foods. 30% high-quality protein with a lot of fat mixed in. Protein at every meal because it helps stabilize your blood sugar and when you're thinking of carbohydrates, low-glycemic, high-fiber carbohydrates because fiber helps to stabilize your blood sugar. It's actually been shown to decrease the incidents of colon cancer.
Tana Amen: Right? It's actually going into your colon and some types of fiber act as prebiotics, so food to the probiotics or the good bugs in your gut.
Dr Daniel Amen: And then the last thing to help reverse brain damage, my favorite thing is my grandfather was a candy maker. What is chocolate? Now sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate. That can be healing because it has a lot of, something ,has a lot of antioxidants. It has phenylethylamine in it that alerts your brain stem that something fun is about to happen and it has polyphenols that can help boost blood flow.
Tana Amen: So it's one of the reasons I put so many recipes in the new cookbook that have sugar-free, dairy-free chocolate, dark chocolate in it. And bonus, isn't green tea really good? I'm drinking green tea right now. So that made me think of it. Isn't in green tea, really good for your brain as well.
Dr Daniel Amen: Green tea has many healing properties for your brain. So foods that damage your brain, you want to avoid them if you love yourself and focus on foods that heal your brain because even aging is damaging to your brain. I hate that. Right, when I turned 40 no big deal, 50 no big deal. But when I turned 60 it was sort of a big deal because I've seen so many older scans that just look awful. So aging is clearly not your friend. So the older you are, the more serious you want to be about only putting things in your mouth that serve your health, not hurt your health.
Tana Amen: So I really want to quickly talk about, put this into perspective and talk about Angie. So one of my favorite Brain Warrior stories is Angie, who was really sick. I mean really sick and she had migraines. She was overweight pretty much most of her life. Her mom put her in Jenny Craig when she was eight years old. She used to binge eat in the pantry. She would close herself into the kitchen pantry, close the door and binge eat bags and bags of food and felt shame. She felt ridiculed most of her life, but her health suffered. So she was over a hundred pounds overweight. She had migraines. She had ovarian cysts, depression and anxiety ruled her life. Her social life was a disaster because she just had so much shame. When she did the program and she literally focused on the foods we just talked about for reversing, which is basically our program as we spell it out.
Dr Daniel Amen: So she avoided foods that hurt her, engaged in foods that helped her. Never felt deprived.
Tana Amen: But here was the part that was the key. Angie had tried, in her words, every quick fix, pill, diet, everything she could try. She was in Jenny Craig from the time she was eight years old and she was angry and bitter about it and she-
Dr Daniel Amen: She should have been.
Tana Amen: Right. She wrote in and she said she couldn't believe it was this simple. She said she actually didn't believe it at first that it could be as simple, and she said, "I couldn't believe it wasn't me. It was what the food I was eating was doing to me." So three years later, Angie is still down 103 pounds, does not have migraines.
Dr Daniel Amen: Wow.
Tana Amen: Her female problems have cleared up and she has learned how to not only forgive herself, but other people, and she is now mentoring others.
Dr Daniel Amen: She's a Brain Warrior. That's what we want or you.
Tana Amen: By focusing on these foods, she lost her addiction and her cravings and she no longer is a captive. She's no longer a prisoner of war. She's a warrior. That's what we love. That's what we want for you. Stay with us.
Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show, The Brain Warrior's Way. Why don't you head over to BrainWarrior' That's BrainWarrior' where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you just for subscribing to the shown and when you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visits to one of the Amen clinics. I'm Donnie Osmond and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.