How Dr. Josh Axe’s Mother Beat Cancer Holistically, with Dr. Josh Axe

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

Before Josh Axe became a successful doctor, author, and public figure, his life was turned upside-down after his mother was diagnosed with cancer. The silver lining, however, was that he realized the holistic treatment methods his mother was using were getting dramatic results and needed to be shared with others. In this first episode of a series with Dr. Josh Axe, he recounts to Dr. Daniel Amen how his mother’s experience (now cancer-free) helped bring purpose to his life.

Read Full Transcript

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 very excited about this week. We're going to spend the week with Dr. Josh Axe, who is the founder of Ancient Nutrition at He's a certified doctor of natural medicine, a doctor of chiropractic, a clinical nutritionist, a bestselling author of keto diet and eat dirt and the collagen diet. He and I have both been on public television together. Millions of people have read his books and you're really going to get a different look at how to stay healthy. So Dr. Axe, welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Dr. Josh Axe: Hey, thanks Dr. Amen. Excited to be here.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So tell us a little bit about your journey. I mean, really introduce yourself to our group of brain warriors. These are people who are armed, prepared, and aware really to win the fight of their lives, which is living in modern society.
Dr. Josh Axe: Yeah. So for me, my family growing up, we really didn't know much about nutrition. We knew a lot about fitness. So even growing up, my mom was my gym teacher in elementary school, my dad was a semi-pro water skier. We all worked out a lot. But when my mom turned 40 years old, I was in junior high at the time, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And so this was shocking to us. And during the time, we really lived in what I'll kind of call the conventional medical system. We didn't know about... Even at the time, there wasn't a lot of integrative and functional medical doctors at the time. And so she went through all those traditional medical treatments, and at the end was diagnosed as being cancer free and healthy. Kind of the shocking thing was though, after she had gone through all of those treatments, she really seemed like she was more unhealthy than ever before. And my mom was later diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. Eventually she got put on antidepressants and antianxiety drugs.
Dr. Josh Axe: She struggled with hypothyroidism. And she was really just... And then digestive issues, chronic constipation, she started having all of these numerous different conditions pile on top of one another and this went on for 10 years. And finally 10 years later, I was a year away from graduating and opening up my own clinic here in Nashville, I get a call from my mom and she said, "I've got bad news. I've just been diagnosed with cancer again. It's on my lungs and I met with my oncologist. They want to go in and do surgery and radiation." She said, "What do I do?" And I said, "Mom." No, I just... I've been really fortunate at the time to have some doctors of functional medicine who I was connected with. And I said, "Mom. Let's first talk about this. Let's pray about this." And we did that and we just felt led to take care of her all naturally.
Dr. Josh Axe: And we didn't say, we're not going to completely disregard the medical system and the doctor's advice. But they sort of agreed to give us three to four months of these following alternative treatments and that's what we did. So my mom at the time was not eating very healthy at all. We radically changed her diet. She started juicing vegetables every single day. She started doing a lot of herbs, specifically did a lot of turmeric root. She did a lot of reishi mushroom and different medicinal mushrooms. She also really focused on reducing stress. My mom, when she was a kid, loved horseback riding. So she went out and started horseback riding again and taking more time off and just really focusing on building joy and peace in her life. And we followed sort of this holistic health protocol for... And the other thing is just, I think you're going to appreciate this, Dr. Amen from a brain standpoint, the other thing is we really worked on her whole mindset.
Dr. Josh Axe: My mom had a lot of fear and a lot of anxiety and worry in her life. And so she really started focusing on building joy. Her and my dad stopped watching the dark movies on TV. They start watching only comedies. And she also... We did this recording, at the time, it was a tape recorder, but she recorded herself visualizing and saying out loud, "I'm healed. I'm running on the beach with my grandkids. I'm bringing them to Disney World." She started saying all this stuff out loud. And she would play this in the morning and at night. She also said these healing Bible verses, she'd say those with them. But we followed this protocol for four months. She went back to Columbus, Ohio. They redid a CT scan and we got a call the next day from her oncologist and she said, her exact words were, "This is highly unusual. We don't typically see this, but these tumors have shrunk. Largest tumor was 2.5 centimeters, it's down to 1.27 meters."
Dr. Josh Axe: They said, "Hey, keep doing what you're doing. We want to see you again." And in several months, went back again, they'd shrunk again. And it's been about 14 years since then, but my mom now is in the best shape of her life. Her and my dad retired from Ohio down to Florida. She's cancer free. She's really healthy. And I share that to say, and again, I want to be clear, I'm not saying, "Hey, doing natural things will cure cancer." I'll just say my mom followed a natural health protocol and she healed. And so again, for us, and my mom was a great patient. She followed everything 100%, making her veggie juice in the morning and everything else. But anyways, that's sort of how I got here and why I started and why I started the companies I've started is because I really was able to see the transformation in my own mom's health and on own family's health. Sort of using the term that I, that people have said many times before me, but food is medicine.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Wow. That is such a great story. When... And looking back, I might not have done this. When I started interviewing for medical school, goodness, it was 1977, '78, there was a book on using visualization to enhance your immune system to help with cancer. And I would talk about it during my interviews and the orthopedic doctors that were interviewing me just looked at me like I was from outer space. But the brain is such a powerful organ and if you give it direction, it can help you. But what I later learned is you also have to give it the right food. That food is medicine or it's poison. And unfortunately, we're poisoning our society.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Your show on public television that just did really well was on the ketogenic diet. And I have a fun story. Well, I don't know if fun's probably the wrong word, but I have a granddaughter that has a wicked seizure disorder, had 160 seizures one day when she was five months old. And on a ketogenic diet, she was basically seizure free for seven years. So I'm a huge fan and I had to fight like heck to get the doctors to do it because they initially told me there was no science behind it. And I had to say things like, "Do you read? Because there's a lot of science." But why did you get interested in the ketogenic diet?
Dr. Josh Axe: Well, originally, it was because of my mom. So I should have mentioned this. With her treatment program, we were doing no sugar. And it wasn't per se keto specific, but it was. I had started reading the research at the time on the keto diet, one of the things. And I started seeing this thing that, "Hey, maybe cancer cells may, in a way, feed off of fermentation sugar." And so we... The only carbohydrates she had were blueberries, beets, and carrots. She had no grains. She had no sugar of any kind. So that's really when I first stumbled across it. And then I opened up my practice that I used to run in Nashville, started working with patients. And then a few years later, I had people coming up to me saying, "Dr. Axe. I'm following the ketogenetic diet." And I said, "Hey, that could be really good. What are you eating?"
Dr. Josh Axe: And just horrified to hear bacon, butter and conventional burgers, it was all people were eating. And I was on Pinterest, the social media platform, and I saw this recipe. Somebody posted, they said, the ultimate keto recipe. And I thought, "This will be interesting." I went and pulled it up. Here's what the recipe was, Dr. Amen. It was, you take conventional shredded cheese, you fry it up and bake in butter. You put bacon in the middle, top it off with another fried shell of cheese and you have a keto quesadilla. So I wanted to write a book on how to do the keto diet the right way, which is 50% of the diet is vegetables, and then you're loading up on healthy fats, everything from avocado to coconut to olives to ghee to nut butters and so. But again, for me, it was, "Let's do a diet that's really high in vegetables and fiber, but you ain't getting a lot of the healthy fats." But again, I just read the research and was really impressed, especially with insulin resistance, PCOS and seizures of course.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So when we come back, let's dive into that more because it's such an important issue about sugar and foods that quickly turn to sugar, how they damage our bodies and our metabolism. And there's a recent study that was published in JAMA that 50% of the population is diabetic or pre-diabetic, which should just horrify you. I have a father-in-law who died with diabetes. When he was 55, he got diagnosed and I just begged him to give up the sugar, but he was addicted and basically ended up losing his legs, losing his eyesight, losing his heart, and losing his brain. Diabetes is not something people want to play with at all. So stay with us. We are here with bestselling author, Dr. Josh Axe. We'll be back.
Tana Amen: If you're enjoying The Brain Warrior's Way podcast, please don't forget to subscribe so you'll always know when there's a new episode. And while you're at it, feel free to give us a review or five star rating as that helps others find the podcast.
Dr. Daniel Amen: If you're considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast10 to get a 10% discount on a full evaluation at or a 10% discount on all supplements at, for more information, give us a call at (855)-978-1363.