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How Your Gut Runs Your Brain

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

Your gut is literally your second brain.  In this episode you will learn about the intricate connection between your brain and gut, and how to help both health. You will also hear the story of Larry Leaky and how stress disrupted his gut, caused him to be sick and how he healed.

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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 one between your ears.

Dr Daniel Amen: That's right.

Donny Osmond: 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: Welcome back. So in this podcast, we're going to do the gut brain connection. Something I affectionately call, friends with benefits.

Tana Amen: This is a great one.

Dr Daniel Amen: Your gut is your second brain. Your gut is loaded with nervous tissue. There's a direct connection between your gut and your brain. We feel emotional states in our gut, you get butterflies when you're excited, loose stools when you're upset, when you feel anxious, depressed, stressed, or grief, it's often felt in your gut.

Tana Amen: We know this intuitively, but now science is actually showing, there's a direct connection between your gut and your brain.

Dr Daniel Amen: And your gut lining is actually only a single cell layer thick. So that's the barrier between the outside world, and the inside world.

Tana Amen: Which is really important, I mean if it's a single cell layer, and it's easily damaged, you can see the problem. Your gut is your initial defense against outside invaders, so there's a lot of trouble when it breaks down, and it's easily damaged. That's what we call leaky gut.

Dr Daniel Amen: There are many causes of it.

Tana Amen: So poor diet, the things we've been talking about in the Brain Warrior's Way, sugar, gluten. Gluten actually damages your intestinal lining. Corn, processed foods, pesticides, many more things.

Dr Daniel Amen: Low stomach acid and enzymes, and all these people taking medicines to lower stomach acid, that actually can hurt their gut. Alcohol, another reason. So you're a nurse.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Before you gave someone a shot, why would you swab the area-

Tana Amen: We swab everything with alcohol. Why? Because it kills germs, it kills bacteria, right?

Dr Daniel Amen: Kills bugs.

Tana Amen: Kills bugs.

Dr Daniel Amen: And we're going to talk about the microbiome in a little bit. So your gut has 100 trillion bugs, bacteria and so on, and when you're drinking alcohol, is that really a good idea if it's going to be disrupting the bugs in your gut?

Tana Amen: Interesting fact, okay? So people who travel to third world countries, I take a lot of wilderness medicine courses, and this is just sort of a fact that people know, people who don't drink alcohol, sometimes are more prone to getting infections from, like getting food poisoning from the food, when compared to people who have a couple of beers or a drink with their dinner in a third world country, if they eat food that's not properly prepared, they're less likely to get as sick from the food, if they drink alcohol. Why? Because it's killing bacteria, it's killing those bad bugs.

Tana Amen: So now, that just proves my point that alcohol kills bad bugs, that does not mean you should go around drinking it because we're not in a third world country here, okay.

Dr Daniel Amen: And also kills good bugs.

Tana Amen: Kills your good bugs too.

Dr Daniel Amen: So chronic stress-

Tana Amen: So if you're in a third world country, maybe.

Dr Daniel Amen: Or having a microbiome, so it's your gut bugs that are not properly balanced, and leaky gut syndrome is associated with so many things from headaches, chronic pain, mood problems.

Tana Amen: IBS.

Dr Daniel Amen: Chronic fatigue, allergies, digestive problems, autoimmune, and so on, and we started talking about the microbiome, which is your gut has 100 trillion bacteria. 10,000 different unique species, 10 times the number of cells in your body, and the goal is to have about 85% of them to be good bugs versus about 15% to be troublemakers.

Tana Amen: Right, so your microbiome functions, what does it do? Your microbiome, your good bugs, they protect your gut lining, and they colonize resistance. So E.coli, CDIFF, things like that. So they help you to resist bad bugs, they aid in digestion and absorption, so if your bugs are not healthy, you're not going to digest your food properly, and you're not going to absorb certain nutrients. Also, you synthesize vitamin K, vitamin B12 and certain neurotransmitters, like serotonin, in your gut, but your bugs have to be healthy to do that. Also, detoxification.

Dr Daniel Amen: So you taught Chloe about this in a very interesting way.

Tana Amen: Yeah. So Chloe was eight years old, and she heard me lecturing one time, and I was talking about the bugs in your gut, and she was like, "What do you mean bugs in my gut?" And I said, "Well everybody's got bugs in their gut, honey." I started to explain and she just flipped out, because she was an eight year old, and she's like, "Ah! Bugs in my gut!" Whatever, and she got all upset, you know, little girl. Didn't want bugs in her gut, and so I tried to explain to her, I go, "No, no. These are very special bugs. Think of them like pets." And we had had a protection dog, and I said, "Think of them like a protection dog, or even your kitty, but in this case, more like the protection dog because it's a pet. You have to take care of your pet, but in this case, your pet takes care of you back." Okay, so.

Dr Daniel Amen: I love that.

Tana Amen: Right, so you take care of your pet, and the pet protects you. And that's why, and so then she named them. So she named her bugs, Biff and Lacey. So bifidobacteria, and lactobacillus, so we named them Biff and Lacey, and she started to feed them. We fed them with probiotics. So yeah, that's.

Dr Daniel Amen: And there are things you can do to hurt them, which we'll talk about.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: If your microbiome is not healthy, you're more likely to feel anxious, stressed, depressed, have ADHD, autism, fogginess, and you're more likely to get heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

Tana Amen: So I think that point surprises people, that they can have brain issues related to bad gut bugs. That's true.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's all connected, and what decreases healthy gut bacteria, lots of different medications. Antibiotics, oral-

Tana Amen: Because they kill all your good gut bugs.

Dr Daniel Amen: Because they kill the good ones, as well as the bad ones, just like alcohol. Oral contraceptives, so that could be one of the reasons that 23% of women between the ages of 20 and 60 are on antidepressant medications. Proton pump inhibitors, steroids, and non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs.

Tana Amen: Like Advil. They really do a number on gut bugs, and on your stomach lining.

Dr Daniel Amen: Stress decreases healthy gut bacteria, as does sugar, artificial sweeteners, insomnia.

Tana Amen: In fact, one study showed that sucralose decreased your good gut bacteria by 50%.

Dr Daniel Amen: Insomnia or having certain allergies. So those are the things that can decrease healthy gut bacteria. Other things like toxins, pesticides, that's why we don't want you to eat foods raised with pesticides, because what do pesticides kills? Bugs!

Tana Amen: Bugs!

Dr Daniel Amen: Including the ones in your gut. Certain infections, having low omega-3 fatty acids, which is why we recommend fish oil for everyone or if you're vegetarian, there's algae based forms of omega-3 fatty acids, lower vitamin D will do it, chemotherapy will do it, and even high intensity exercise. So everybody praises the marathon runners, and the triathletes, and I'm like, it's probably too much stress for them.

Tana Amen: When you increase stress hormones, it affects your gut bugs.

Dr Daniel Amen: The greatest dangers to your microbiome, is not from prescribed antibiotics, but the antibiotics found in your food.

Tana Amen: Isn't that interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: 70% of antibiotic use in the United States is for livestock, which is why we want you to focus eating on organic, no pesticides, antibiotic free, hormone free, grass fed, fed free range when possible.

Tana Amen: That's so interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: Fascinating study in 2016, that antibiotics obviously, we know that decreases gut bacteria, but it also stopped the growth of new cells in the hippocampus in the brain's major memory centers and people's memory were worse.

Tana Amen: That's so interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: But probiotics and exercise reversed that pattern. So if you can get-

Tana Amen: So probiotics can help your brain?

Dr Daniel Amen: Probiotics can help your brain. So what are the things that increase healthy gut bacteria.

Tana Amen: So a few things that increase healthy gut bacteria are prebiotics. So prebiotics, that is food for probiotics. So they're nondigestible fiber. So resistant starches, nondigestible fiber, things like apples, beans, cabbage, psyllium, artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, some root vegetables, we don't really like white potatoes, so sweet potatoes or yams, squash, jicama, beets, carrots and turnips. They all provide food for probiotics, for the good bugs.

Dr Daniel Amen: So they're prebiotics.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: You can increase healthy gut bacteria with probiotics, such as those found in fermented foods that contain live bacteria, kefir, kombucha, unsweetened yogurt, goat or coconut yogurt, kimchi, pickled vegetables, one of my favorite is sauerkraut, and probiotic supplements, and we actually make one that's specifically targeted to supporting mental health called ProBRAINbiotics.

Tana Amen: Right, they also now have a new yogurt for people who do want fermented foods, but not dairy, an almond milk yogurt, and be careful about kombucha and some of those products that are commercial, some of them have up to like 20 grams of sugar. They have them that are non-sweetened, make sure you're getting non-sweetened ones.

Dr Daniel Amen: So when we taught a class on this, you actually came up with a very creative story called Gut Wars, the Jedi Tale of Larry Leaky. [crosstalk] Why don't you walk us through the story.

Tana Amen: Just to give you a really quick overview of how this can happen, okay? So Larry goes to work one day, and he has a fight with his boss, he gets into an argument with someone, and he gets really angry. He's emotionally upset, okay? He gets fired. So what does he do? He goes out, he says, "I need a drink." So before he goes home, he goes out and he gets drunk. Alcohol kills gut bacteria, right? We just said that, so now he's got stress and alcohol, and he's killing all of his good gut bacteria, he goes home, and what does he walk into? A very angry redheaded wife, who, of course, just unleashes on him and increases his cortisol, she is screaming and yelling, because he's drunk and he comes home late, and now he not only increases his cortisol, but his digestion is completely disrupted, and she sends him out to the doghouse. So she kicks him out of the house, he's sleeping in the doghouse, and the whole thing's just getting worse for poor Larry Leaky.

Tana Amen: So he's all mad, he's feeling sorry for himself, and he says, "I'm not hurting anyone, it's only this one time. I'm going to go out and party. I deserve it." So he goes out, and he pigs out on a bunch of sugary desserts, cake, cupcakes, candy, cookies, and he also has a few cigarettes, just for good measure, and he has a few more drinks. But what he doesn't know is that sugar feeds those resistant bacteria, the bad bugs, that sugar's feeding those bad bugs in his gut. He's killed off a lot of the good ones, and the bad ones, but the ones that stayed, those resistant, icky, really ugly bugs, he just fed them, and then all of a sudden, a couple weeks later, he's not feeling good, and he's got autoimmune reactions, and pain.

Tana Amen: So he's starting to have like swollen joints, pain in his knees, his shoulders, his back, headaches, migraines and he doesn't know why. So what does he do? He goes and does what any normal person would do right? He goes and takes a bunch of NSAIDs, like Advil or Aleve, damages his gut further. Now his immunity is compromised. He's feeling really green and yucky, and he goes to the doctor, and doctor says, "Well what you really need to do, you don't really have a bacterial infection, go home and rest." But he's like, "I just paid you, are you kidding me? And you're telling me to go home and rest?" He starts yelling at his doctor, so his doctor says, "Okay, okay. I just want you out of my office, so sure thing buddy, I'll give you antibiotics for a common cold, if it'll get you out of my office." So doctor gives him some antibiotics, Larry Leaky goes home, kills off more of his good bugs, and now a couple weeks later, he's got depression, fatigue, digestive issues, way more symptoms. More pain, and his redheaded wife walks in, hands on hips, and says, "When will you listen to me?" And finally Larry Leaky listens to his very wise, redheaded wife, and says, "No more. I am going to be a brain warrior." And he starts to reverse all of that damage that he just did. And within about two weeks, he begins to feel better.

Dr Daniel Amen: You can too. Fall in love with your gut, if you care about your brain. Stay with us.

Donny Osmond: Thanks for listening to today's show, the Brain Warrior's Way. Why don't you head over to brainwarriorswaypodcast.com, that's brainwarrirorswaypodcast.com, where Daniel and Tana have a gift for you just for subscribing to the show, and when you post your review on iTunes, you'll be entered into a drawing where you can win a VIP visit to one of the Amen clinics. I'm Donny Osmond, and I invite you to step up your brain game by joining us in the next episode.