How to Recover Quickly After a Medical Procedure

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

In today’s fast paced world, undergoing a medical procedure such as a surgery can put you on the sidelines and keep you out of action, causing you to get behind in your life. In the second part of a series focused on Surgery, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen give you the ultimate “BRIGHT MINDS” focused approach to get you back into the game quickly and with optimal recovery.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warriors Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warriors Way Podcast is also brought to you by Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit Welcome to The Brain Warriors Way podcast, and stay tuned for a special code for a discount to Amen Clinics for a full evaluation as well as any of our supplements at

Welcome back. It's so nice to be back. We're doing Surgery Week. Since this is my first day back after having surgery, I'm two weeks post-op and so happy to be here.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We missed you so much.

Tana Amen: I missed you guys. It's nice to be finally out of the house. Before we start on our Surgery Week, I want to read one of our testimonials. It's always fun for us. This is our candy. Just so you know, this is candy for us since we don't-

Dr. Daniel Amen: With no sugar.

Tana Amen: Right. It's kind of like our sugar. It's the sweetness we get. This is from Gimme a Break. That's their title. "Listening to these podcasts is giving me new hope for dealing with lifelong anxiety and depression. I had two concussions as a child and early drug use. I'm inspired to further investigate all that Amen Clinics has to offer." It's awesome.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That is ... and that's why we're here. We're here for you. And I can't tell you how many times for our patients lifelong depression, concussions and drug use go together, and so there is hope. There is healing for you through The Brain Warriors Way path. This is a path, a tribe, a community of people who want to have the best brains possible.

One more testimonial. "If you've ever just wondered, why do I do that, this podcast will answer that question and much more. As a teacher, I've always tried to focus on ways to help my students learn better, and focusing on what I can do to make my brain healthier will help my students also." Yes. "Getting well is about love. It's about love for yourself, love for the people in your life. I'm excited to teach my students how to get rid of the ANTs, the automatic negative thoughts, and also how they can protect their brains to become better students and people in this world. This podcast offers many topics about health and points to things you can do to help your brain."

Tana Amen: I love that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: One of the things you can do to help your brain is if you're sick and you need surgery, what are the things you can do to get ready for surgery and then what are some of the things you can do afterwards. Last year I wrote a book called Memory Rescue that I'm thrilled with it. It just went over 100000 copies, so I'm even happier-

Tana Amen: That's awesome.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That more people are reading it. In it, it has this super simple idea. If you want to keep your brain healthy or rescue it if it's headed for the dark place, you have to prevent or treat the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. I created a pneumonic, a memory device called Bright Minds. As I was thinking about Surgery Week, I'm like, "Well, these are still the same factors that are critical to take care of before surgery and afterwards." So let's talk about each of them as they relate to surgery and your overall health.

The B in Bright Minds is for blood flow. Low blood flow is the number one brain imaging predictor of Alzheimer's disease. How do you know if you have low blood flow? You have hypertension, any form of heart disease, if you don't exercise. Is that related to your overall physical condition before-

Tana Amen: Oh, dear Lord, yes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You go?

Tana Amen: Yes, so this really ... We're talking about Surgery Week. So my uncle, who just came in, I have an uncle who just came in to be scanned because he had open heart surgery, and that's a much bigger-

Dr. Daniel Amen: And subsequently had memory problem.

Tana Amen: That's a much bigger surgery than what I had, but this really, this Bright Minds really applies to him because with open heart surgery, you definitely have a higher risk of memory issues afterwards and depression. So, this really triggered me to think of that. He came in and one of the things he had was sleep apnea. And so-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is the S in Bright Minds.

Tana Amen: Yeah, so I won't jump ahead, but this really, since we're talking about Surgery Week, really made me think.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I think, Carol's just a great example.

Tana Amen: Bright Minds is perfect.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And R ... So, how do you help blood flow? It's really it's exercise. And it's a healthy diet.

Tana Amen: I don't want to jump over that because people listening need to hear that. As a nurse, I think it's frustrating. And as somebody who's had a loved one who's gone through open heart surgery, I want to mention that again. I don't know why more people don't tell patients that are going into open heart surgery that, oh by the way, you may get depressed and have memory issues because it scares the heck out of their families. It scares the heck out of them. That is one of the potential side effects. In fact, it's fairly common. So, just know it, but know that there's something you can do.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And do the things you can do.

Tana Amen: Right. Know there's something you can do.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Just in the last podcast, I mentioned hypnosis and how helpful it was after coronary surgery, decreased anxiety and depression. Hypnosis, I don't know if you know this, under a hypnotic trance, people have increased blood flow to the brain, especially to the focus and motivation parts of the brain. If you want to increase blood flow, it's exercise. Then it's a healthy anti-inflammatory diet that also includes beets and rosemary and cayenne pepper.

Tana Amen: You have to excuse me because I'm still post surgical, so I have to wear my baggy clothes and sit on my pillow. I'm adjusting myself. Sorry.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I have no words. No words. R in Bright Minds is retirement and aging. The older you get, the more serious you have to be about your health because it's harder to heal the older you get.

Tana Amen: Well, and there's this misconception that because I'm older it should be ... It's normal for my body to deteriorate and I shouldn't fight it. That's not true. Get that out of your head.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's just the older you are, the more serious you want to be.

Tana Amen: You should be really paying attention and taking care of yourself, and doing the things to fight that, to counter that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I is for inflammation, which is a universal risk factor for anxiety, for depression, for dementia. There's a blood test we do, two actually. C reactor protein and the Omega 3 index. If you have inflammation in your body, you want to make sure you take great care of your teeth. Periodontal disease is actually one of the major causes of inflammation. You want to be on an anti-inflammatory diet, so just look at The Brain Warriors Way cookbook. Tana, you know, that's how she cooks, which is basically lots of vegetables, healthy fat, and get rid of processed foods, sugar, and foods that turn to sugar.

Tana Amen: And high quality protein.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And high quality protein. The G is genetics. Stuff runs in families, but as we say, genes are not a death sentence. They should be a wake-up call.

Tana Amen: But let's just say, so okay, I had to have surgery. Yeah. What was going on with me is genetic. Every woman in my family's had the same thing. Now, I take care of myself. We don't want you thinking that because if you take care of yourself and you have something happen medically that you have to take care of, it's not your fault. Take care of it, but still, be sure you do all these things so that you recover better, so that you are less likely to get sick. But if you get sick, you can deal with it and handle it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's such an important point.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's not your fault.

Tana Amen: But do your part.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But your responsibility, and you are the one that taught me this, responsibility doesn't mean it's your fault.

Tana Amen: It doesn't mean blame.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It means your ability to respond.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's what we want you, as a Brain Warrior, to respond in a healthful, thoughtful, healing way.

Tana Amen: I always want 100% responsibility over what's going on with my health. It doesn't mean blame. But I don't want other people in control of it. I want to be able to ... I want help. I don't want them in control. So, I'm willing to take that responsibility. I've already been on the other side of that. It's not fun.

Dr. Daniel Amen: H is head trauma. You want to protect your brain, especially after surgery. We have a two story house. I'm watching this woman like a hawk.

Tana Amen: Oh my god, he got so mad at me. I didn't want to wake him up and I started to get out of bed. I was still a little wonky. I was more than a little wonky.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Drugged. We have to talk about-

Tana Amen: I was very drugged.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We'll do that in the next podcast.

Tana Amen: But I started to get ... I thought, "I've already woken him up. I have to let him sleep because if he doesn't sleep, then he's not going to be able to do anything." So I started to ... He's like, "Don't you dare."

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, because the last thing I want is you to have a head injury. You're temperamental enough as it is.

Tana Amen: Maybe it would make me nicer.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't want to take that chance. Yeah, maybe one out of 100 actually does make people nicer, but 99 times out of 100, they're not nicer.

Tana Amen: Well there you go.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But that is so important. How often have we heard ... I actually had a recent event where somebody we know fell and was on the ground for three days with a broken pelvis.

Tana Amen: Really sad.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It was really sad. So, be thoughtful. Be careful. Especially when you're under pain medicine, your, what was the word you used? Wonky.

Tana Amen: Wonky.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't think that's in the medical textbook.

Tana Amen: No. Well the other one we used-

Dr. Daniel Amen: But you sort of get the idea. You're not clear-headed.

Tana Amen: But the other one we used in the ICU where I work, we also use gorked. Gorked out a lot.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's not nice.

Tana Amen: But it's true.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But it's not nice. T is toxins. So, anesthesia's a toxin. Actually the reason I wanted to get her out of the hospital the same day is hospitals are toxic. We've talked about this app you can get for your phone. It changes everything. It's called Think Dirty. It's not what you think it is. It's an app that allows you to scan your personal products, and it'll tell you on a scale of one to 10 how toxic they are for you.

Tana Amen: Do you remember, they had, the craziest ... They didn't do this when I was in the hospital, when I used to work in the hospital. This time when I went in, this was so different. They had me do that twice. I had to do that crazy bacterial soap scrub. The same scrub they use for, the doctors scrub their hands with. I had to do that twice in the shower before I went. And then when we went, I had to use those crazy pads to wipe everything down to make sure you don't get these MRSA infections because the bugs are getting stronger now. So, they want to make sure that you're not going to get an infection in surgery. But those things are nasty. My skin itched and burned for like ... Remember that?

Dr. Daniel Amen: I do.

Tana Amen: It was terrible. So you've got to wonder what that-

Dr. Daniel Amen: And so it's probably toxic stuff in there, too.

Tana Amen: Right. It's very toxic.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Because-

Tana Amen: But you don't want to get an infection.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's funny, the hospitals, if you look at the food they serve and the kind of soap they have-

Tana Amen: They could do better.

Dr. Daniel Amen: They could do better.

Tana Amen: But they don't want you getting infections, so I understand.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Which is really important.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: M is mental health. Depression, as you said, is really common after some surgeries because the anesthesia can be, not for everybody-

Tana Amen: And the pain meds.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Toxic for the brain. And then the pain meds, which are generally downers.

Tana Amen: And let's not underestimate your not moving. I don't know about other people, but when I'm in bed for very long, I just, something happens.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, since you were a teenager, exercise has been your antidepressant.

Tana Amen: It is, but most people, I think, if they just lay in bed all day every day, it's terrible. It just makes your whole body begin, your whole system begins to just drop. Yeah. That doesn't help.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, starting every day with, "Today is going to be a great day. I'm going to give my uterus away. I'm going to donate it because it has not been helpful to me."

Tana Amen: Okay. You're a man. You don't get to say that. You just don't. You don't get away with it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And I lived with your uterus for a long time.

Tana Amen: You did.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And the trouble it was causing you.

Tana Amen: It was pretty hostile. It just decided to go hostile one day. I don't know why.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Today is going to be a great day. So, start every day with, "Today is going to be a great day." Finish every day with what went well today. So important to direct your mind in a helpful way. Where you bring your attention determines how you feel. If you think of all the things that went wrong in the healing process, it will actually delay your healing.

Tana Amen: Yeah. I want to talk about something. Probably we'll talk about it more in the next episode because I want to spend a little time on it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Do you want to preview it to keep people with us?

Tana Amen: Yeah, exactly. There is-

Dr. Daniel Amen: It'll be like the news. Stay with us.

Tana Amen: Well, there's one thing I think that can thwart a lot of this. I had an epiphany about it when I was going through my recovery process because I was so prepared. And then I got thrown a little off track because of one of the things.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So, hold that thought because they have to listen to the next one.

Tana Amen: Okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The second I is immunity and infections. So important for surgery that you want to strengthen your immune system. A super simple way to do that is probiotics. They help your gut. Your gut has got a lot of immune function tissue. Make sure your vitamin D level is high normal. I say that over and over and over and over again, but I keep my level at 80. I think that's about where your level is.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Because that's your immune system.

Tana Amen: Right. And one of the things, you talked about your gut. One of the big common problems, and this is a little sidetrack, but I'm a nurse and I can't help it because this is just a nursing thing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And after the anesthesia, your ADD's worse.

Tana Amen: Okay. Well anyway. This is a nursing thing and I can't help it. Post surgical, someone's just got to say it. Constipation is terrible. Okay. It's just terrible. Because the medicine, when they actually put you under anesthesia and then they put you on pain killers, it causes this terrible problem. One of the things that my doctor actually, I actually know a lot about probiotics, but I never thought about using them because they actually help your gut to move more. So to clear things out, she's like, "Make sure you're taking your probiotics." I'm like, "Well I do take them, but I didn't think about that for that reason." So, I learned something new about probiotics.

Dr. Daniel Amen: When you went, Chloe and I clapped.

Tana Amen: Okay, that was a little TMI.

Dr. Daniel Amen: All right.

Tana Amen: That's funny.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Vitamin D, probiotics, mushrooms, garlic, and onions also help to enhance your immunity. The N in Bright Minds is neuro hormone. Deficiencies in your hormones are low, like testosterone or growth hormone, DHEA, thyroid, you don't heal as fast. They're hugely important to healing. D is Diabesity. Oh my god. So important with 40% of the American population obese, 50% diabetic or pre-diabetic. This is so important to eat in a healthy way to get your blood sugar balanced to be super serious. Then the S is sleep. You're really good at trying to get eight or even nine hours of sleep before surgery, really trying to turn on health promoting genes. If you don't get seven hours of sleep at night, it actually turns off 700 health promoting genes.

Tana Amen: When I was working in the ICU, we often had to call psych down to help us with bugs because people would get ICU psychosis from not sleeping because in the ICU we have to wake you up sometimes every hour.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And we used to see that in the army all the time. They do war games, and people would be up for three days. Then they get goofy.

Tana Amen: If you come in with a head injury, we wake you up every hour and check your pupils. What do you think that does?

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's so mean.

Tana Amen: Well, we have to.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's so mean.

Tana Amen: But what do you think that does for your sleep? And before we know it, people have ICU psychosis and they're literally, you don't want to be taking care of them.

Dr. Daniel Amen: All right. When we come back, we are gonna conclude Surgery Week with more practical things you can do to heal better faster. Stay with us. Thank you for listening to The Brain Warriors Way podcast. Go to iTunes and leave a review and you'll automatically be entered into a drawing to get a free signed copy of The Brain Warriors Way and The Brain Warriors Way cookbook we give away every month.