Is Inflammation Killing Your Brain?

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

In Part 4 of a 12-part Memory Rescue series, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss the damaging effects of inflammation on your brain and body. Find out how this constant low-level fire may be devastating to your health.


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Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's 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.

Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's 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 Warrior's 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 Warrior's Way Podcast.

Welcome back to the memory rescue series. We are on bright minds, and today we're talking about inflammation. We're on I.

Daniel Amen: B is for blood flow, R is for retirement and aging. In fact, I just saw someone who had very high ferritin levels. Ferritin is a measure of iron stores, and I had him go donate blood every month, for three months, to lower his ferritin, but you're right. Today, we're going to talk about inflammation.

Tana Amen: Inflammation, if you think about what it means, where the word comes from, it's basically flame, or to inflame, and that's like a low-level fire burning in your body constantly, just going through and destroying organs, making you sick. It's responsible for different diseases, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, all sorts of problems, joint issues, so you want to-

Daniel Amen: Now, some inflammation is good, right? I mean-

Tana Amen: A little.

Daniel Amen: Some inflammation is important. It's how we heal-

Tana Amen: Especially in an acute situation.

Daniel Amen: If we get a cut-

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: ... or, so you're a neurosurgical ICU nurse.

Tana Amen: Right, so you get cut or you get hurt in an acute setting, in an acute situation, you need that inflammation because what it's doing is, it's bringing all of those, that inflammation brings all of the-

Daniel Amen: The white cells.

Tana Amen: ... healing, right, all of the healing cells that you need, but when it goes on long term, now you get joint disease, and you get all these different problems, and pain. Pain, especially. When it goes on too long, we need to figure out what's causing it, and we need to fix it.

Daniel Amen: And you need to measure it, because it's a major risk factor for depression, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and we just had an experience at home-

Tana Amen: It's the second time with our dog. Aslin, our white shepherd, he's amazing, but he's crazy sensitive, just like some people we treat, including myself. He is super sensitive to food and to chemicals. I can't let the vet give him flea, you know those flea chemicals. He gets violently ill, so I can't let them do things that they normally want to do to animals, because he just reacts to everything, but when we bought him, the breeder had been giving him raw food, and then she weaned him onto a dry food, a really high quality dry food, that was supposedly grainless and top of the line, but dry foods compared to raw dog food ... Raw dog food is basically what a dog, pretty close to what they eat in nature, and so it's like raw meat, and so, with a few other things mixed in, but five ingredients.

Well, he went onto this dry food, and dry foods typically have, even the high quality ones, have 30 ingredients and a high ash content, and all these problems with them, that dogs don't get normally in the wild, naturally, their natural diet. When we got him home as a puppy, he started to not be well, very quickly. He started to have a lot of diarrhea, and ear infections, and he was vomiting all the time, and he never felt well, and we had, I mean, just like-

Daniel Amen: He was super anxious.

Tana Amen: All the time, and so just thousands of dollars in vet bills later, we're like, "What is going on with this dog?" Then, one day we came home. He was maybe eight months old. We came home, and he looked like a raccoon or some sort of an animal, a possum or something, had just destroyed, just raked his back, just attacked him and just taken all the skin off of his back. I thought that something had attacked him, so we took him to the emergency vet. It was the middle of the night, took him to an emergency vet, and this vet was pretty savvy.

He's what I would think of as more like a functional vet. We talk about functional doctors all the time, because this guy said, "Your dog has severe food allergies." He said, "We see this now and then. We're seeing it more and more, but your dog is more sensitive than most, and you've got to get him completely off the food he was eating until you figure out what he's sensitive to." It turns out my dog is, like me, he's sensitive to almost everything. I was like, the light bulb-

Daniel Amen: Except me. You're not-

Tana Amen: Right, no.

Daniel Amen: ... sensitive to me.

Tana Amen: Definitely not. Well, I'm sensitive to you, but not in that way. But the light bulb went off, and for both of us, we both looked at each other and went, "Hello. We do this for people all the time." So-

Daniel Amen: So we put him on an elimination diet.

Tana Amen: Right, we put him on raw food. Five ingredients. We got rid of everything else he was doing.

Daniel Amen: So it's blueberries, kale-

Tana Amen: Cranberries.

Daniel Amen: ... sweet potatoes, cranberries-

Tana Amen: And-

Daniel Amen: ... and meat.

Tana Amen: And it's got-

Daniel Amen: Lamb or duck.

Tana Amen: ... either lamb or duck, or rabbit. I hate to say that. I try not to buy the rabbit, but anyways. It just bothers me. I mean, although I guess in the wild, they eat-

Daniel Amen: The cute little bunnies, right?

Tana Amen: I know, but dogs and wolves eat rabbits, right? Anyways, within two weeks, within two weeks, his skin healed up, no more vet bills. We had no more visits to the vet at all for any medical reasons, for the next year and a half, almost two years.

They say that after about a year of doing that type of a diet, like an elimination diet, you can begin to wean them back on to really clean food, and they'll probably be able to tolerate it. It's like resetting their system, as long as you don't give them things like grains or corn or anything like that, so we found a food that we thought was going to be, had minimal ingredients in it, but it was dry. He did fine initially. Same thing. Within about eight months, it happened slowly, it was insidious. Slowly, these symptoms began to creep back in, so we didn't notice it at first, but then all of a sudden, he became more lethargic, then he started to throw up, then he, but then the big thing that happened was his knees.

All of a sudden, he couldn't stand up. He had to push himself up with his front legs. We thought he injured himself, and he likely did. He likely got an injury, but then it didn't heal. Took him to the vet, and the vet said, "Absolutely, he's got joint disease, and you have to have a double knee replacement." Both of us were like, "What are you talking about, a double knee replacement? That's terrible for a dog. Like-"

Daniel Amen: They actually shave the bone. It's, his-

Tana Amen: He's a big dog.

Daniel Amen: Whether it's femur or his fibula, and they actually shaved the bone-

Tana Amen: Well, and-

Daniel Amen: ... and I'm like, and I'm thinking, this is a brutal procedure.

Tana Amen: It's probably going to shorten his life.

Daniel Amen: They're not going to do this to my dog unless I really understand it-

Tana Amen: And believe it.

Daniel Amen: ... and so, I'm like, "We need three more opinions."

Tana Amen: We were looking to get another opinion. The second opinion came back the same, but we insisted on a blood test, and I'm so glad we did. We insisted on a blood test. They kept saying it's not systemic, it's not systemic. I'm like, "How do you know?" They took a blood test-

Daniel Amen: How do you know unless you look?

Tana Amen: How do you know unless you look? We insisted don a blood test. When the blood test came back, you kind of have to know what you're looking for, and it's different with dogs than with people, but I did see a couple of the markers that were elevated, the white blood cells and a couple of little markers that were elevated, and I'm like, "This looks like inflammation to me. It looks like he's reacting to something," and the vet's like, "Well, but it's probably not related." I'm like, "Look. I don't want to-"

Daniel Amen: We think everything is wrong.

Tana Amen: Right, we don't want to withhold treatment from the dog, if he really needs the surgery; however, even if he ends up getting the surgery, the last thing you want to do is surgery on a person, or a dog, or anything while they have inflammation. Why? Because they will not heal.

All of a sudden, thank God, that same week, it happened, just happened to, coincidentally, if you believe in coincidence, the dog started throwing up, had diarrhea, and started ripping his fur out, that same week. It all kind of came to a head. I'm like, "Bingo." Light went on. I'm like, "It's his food again."

We, once again, went back to the raw food diet. Within two weeks, the dog's running around like a puppy, throwing his ball. He wouldn't even get up before that. His skin healed, all of his symptoms healed up, and we are back to square one, and we're just going to keep him on the raw food diet. It's more expensive than the dry food.

Daniel Amen: What does this have to do with memory rescue?

Tana Amen: Inflammation. It's bad for your memory.

Daniel Amen: So that if you had inflammation in your body, it can damage your joints, it can damage your skin, and it can damage your brain. The risk factors for inflammation are leaky gut, so the diarrhea, the anxiety.

Tana Amen: People don't put together-

Daniel Amen: We have talked a lot about leaky gut in the podcast-

Tana Amen: But people don't put together their gut, and we started putting probiotics and actually our fish oil into the dog's food because he reacted to all the dog fish oil.

Daniel Amen: Omega-3 Power because it's just so pure, so clean-

Tana Amen: It's clean, he couldn't take-

Daniel Amen: ... highly concentrated.

Tana Amen: Right, so we used that in his food, but people don't put together leaky gut and anxiety. They don't put together the probiotics-

Daniel Amen: But they should.

Tana Amen: ... and anxiety.

Daniel Amen: People who had a lot of antibiotics as a-

Tana Amen: Like me.

Daniel Amen: ... child, like you, have significantly higher levels of anxiety and depression-

Tana Amen: Right, so when I got depressed-

Daniel Amen: ... as adults-

Tana Amen: ... someone should've thought of that.

Daniel Amen: ... and at nine, you had basically an anxiety disorder.

Tana Amen: Extreme anxiety.

Daniel Amen: You had separation anxiety disorder from your mom, and nobody's thinking that could have something to do with your gut, but you had a lot of antibiotics as a child.

Tana Amen: Massive amounts. Constant.

Daniel Amen: Low omega-3 intake. We did a study here at Amen Clinics, and we looked at 50 consecutive patients, and we found 49 of them had suboptimal levels of omega-3 fatty acids, unless they were taking fish oil.

Tana Amen: Just so you know, you can do the test. We do the test here, and it's not just low omega-3s, it's the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, so if you're eating a really lousy standard American diet, loaded with cheap oils and simple carbohydrates and you're not getting those omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, and some of the healthier foods, you're going to be out of balance, and we actually do that test. We can show you-

Daniel Amen: Which is, the diet is basically children's menu diets.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: Right, so I was just with-

Tana Amen: But my kid won't eat anything else.

Daniel Amen: We were just with our nieces and our grandchildren up in Oregon, and when you get the kid's menu, it's poison.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: It's like, don't they like-

Tana Amen: Chicken fingers, right.

Daniel Amen: ... children? Why don't they like children-

Tana Amen: Mac and cheese, right.

Daniel Amen: ... in this menu?

Tana Amen: Last time I checked, it takes 30 days for children to starve to death, so-

Daniel Amen: All right, so you have to explain that. That means you just don't give in to them-

Tana Amen: I'm a nurse.

Daniel Amen: ... whining and crying.

Leaky gut, having gut health problems, low omega-3 intakes. You don't like fish or you're not eating fish or you're not taking fish oil. Gum disease. There is a huge connection between systemic whole body inflammation and your mouth not being right. As far as blood test, high C-reactive protein-

Tana Amen: Right. It's called CRP. On the blood test, it says CRP, or C-reactive protein.

Daniel Amen: ... high homocysteine levels-

Tana Amen: Does not mean crap. It means CRP, so C-reactive protein.

Daniel Amen: We can actually measure the level of omega-3 fatty acids in your blood, and so the interventions are, you treat the leaky gut-

Tana Amen: Like what we do with-

Daniel Amen: ... so probiotics-

Tana Amen: Aslin. You get rid of the bad stuff, the bad foods like what we just talked about.

Daniel Amen: You get rid of the bad food.

Tana Amen: You add the good foods-

Daniel Amen: Good food.

Tana Amen: ... and we put probiotics in his diet. You need pre-biotics, which we had talked about-

Daniel Amen: Pre-biotics food.

Tana Amen: You have to use extensively in the-

Daniel Amen: In the Brain Warrior's Way. I talk about it in Memory Rescue.

Tana Amen: And in my cookbook, the Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook, it's all about that. Then we add the Omega-3 fatty acids, and the probiotics, and, yeah. It feels good.

Daniel Amen: Take care of your teeth, so see your dentist on a regular basis. Get your teeth cleaned. If you have periodontal disease, take it seriously, get it treated.

Tana Amen: This is really gross. I have to say this. This is really gross. You know those waterpiks, I'm always so excited. I'm like a little kid. I come over to you. So, he cracks up at me. But I brush my teeth really well, and I think I brush them really well, but then my dentist told me to start using one of those waterpiks, and I'm always astounded at how much stuff comes out of my teeth after using the waterpik. I know that's too much information, but seriously you gotta floss or use the waterpik, so it's amazing. I'm just saying.

Daniel Amen: It's better than talking about dental transplants.

Tana Amen: Yeah, we talk about really interesting things here, don't we?

Daniel Amen: All right, take care of your teeth, Omega-3, index. That's important to get, we believe. We do it here at Amen Clinics. Check your homocysteine level. If it's high, we give people B6, B12, and folate.

Tana Amen: That's actually a good indicator. See if I can say that right. For certain heart issues.

Daniel Amen: Heart issues and brain issues, and inflammation. Then you want to make sure you find or treat other causes of inflammation, which could be like mold exposure, or having an infection that's not properly treated. The supplements to reverse inflammation or to really help support healthy inflammation would be Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, B6, B12. But I want to spend time talking about the foods.

Tana Amen: That's a big deal.

Daniel Amen: It's a big deal. I mean we just talked about it with Aslin, and I thought that was really great leadin. Foods to lose, hydrogenated fats, or pro inflammatory, so when it says partially hydrogenated, or hydrogenated on the labels.

Tana Amen: Or any trans fats.

Daniel Amen: So any trans fats. But they don't always label trans fats, do they?

Tana Amen: They lie, because they say now...

Daniel Amen: Who's they?

Tana Amen: The food industry lies. Anyone doing processed foods, it's a lie, because even if it says trans fat free, or no zero trans fats. It's not true, because they don't have to claim all trans fats on the labeling, as long as it is under, or within 1/2 gram per serving. But you know the trick on this. It'll say one serving size, but it really takes five servings an actual, what you would normally eat. If it says it can be 1/2 gram per serving, but there's four servings to a package, and you normally would eat the whole package, that's two grams of trans fats. That is terrible.

Daniel Amen: And trans fats never go away.

Tana Amen: They never really go away. They're really hard to get out of your system.

Daniel Amen: It's horrifying, being 63, going through...

Tana Amen: Think about it, that whole generation, that all we did was eat processed foods. That's all I ate growing up. It's terrible. It's frightening.

Daniel Amen: Well the fat on your body looks good to me, so...

Tana Amen: Okay, on to the next thing.

Daniel Amen: Having a diet that's high in Omega-6 fatty acids. Now you need some Omega-6s, but when we do the ratio, it should be three to one. Omega-6s, three times more than Omega-3 fatty acids. When we actually study that in our patients, it's 40 to one, 30 to one. The ratio is completely out of control.

Tana Amen: We live in an area where people tend to be healthier. They say the American average is 20 to one.

Daniel Amen: And that's clearly what we see in our patients,

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: Other foods that are pro inflammatory, feed lot meats.

Tana Amen: Industrial raised animals.

Daniel Amen: So industrial raised, and they are raised with corn.

Tana Amen: Soy.

Daniel Amen: What's the difference? Because some people may know this. So, they go to Whole Foods or a place like that, and they'll say this is grass finished.

Tana Amen: Grass finished means, or sometimes it's the opposite. Sometimes it's grass fed, free range, and then it's corn finished. What that means is they need to fatten them up at the end, so a lot of times they're free range for most of their lives, but then the last six months or whatever, they will finish them off in a pen, eating corn, because they need that marbling.

If you want gras fed meat, you need to know that it's grass fed, truly grass fed, free range. But the other thins is, is you need to know something. You have to prepare it slightly differently, because it won't have that marbling. It's going to look like purple muscle. I mean it's like muscle, so you have to cook it slightly differently. It will cook faster and be a little tougher if you're not careful, but it's much healthier for you, because it's significantly lower. One looks like it's light pink and white color.

Daniel Amen: What would you recommend for people to buy?

Tana Amen: Well, you need to go free range. We actually a lot of times buy ours online. If you buy in bulk, it's less expensive. They ship it in dry ice, so there's a lot of places you can go to online and there are farms where they raise them completely naturally, like buffalo.

Daniel Amen: So they're not corn finished.

Tana Amen: No, they're not corn finished. You don't want them corn finished.

Daniel Amen: This is so important.

Tana Amen: They're also not given...

Daniel Amen: The patient I said had the high ferritin level, I said go donate blood, the other intervention is don't eat red meat, and the reason, I'm not opposed to red meat, except if your ferritin level is high, because red meat.

Tana Amen: Well, if you're like me...

Daniel Amen: ...has high blood levels, which has high iron content.

Tana Amen: But there are other people like me, or like a lot of women, who are still having cycles, their ferritin level is low. I have to tell you, if your ferritin level is low, you will feel like death warmed over, because you have no energy, so taking a little ferritin to boost your ferritin level.

Daniel Amen: So, you gotta measure.

Tana Amen: You gotta measure it.

Daniel Amen: So low is a problem. High is a problem.

Tana Amen: I hear people a lot of time say, they crave red meat, and usually what it is, is you need to get your iron levels checked.

Daniel Amen: Right, so you have to look. Corn and soy are both pro inflammatory.

Tana Amen: Very much so.

Daniel Amen: Because they're high in Omega-6s.

Tana Amen: Especially the way we raise them, yes.

Daniel Amen: Sugar. I'm sorry, I feel bad. The reason to avoid sugar, it is clearly pro-inflammatory, it's addictive, and it increases erratic brain cell firing. I was at the American Association of Christian Counselors on Saturday speaking, and after I got off stage, this woman runs up to me, and she said, "I watched you on TV with your beautiful wife, and I got your book, and I've lost 45 pounds."

Tana Amen: Oh my gosh, I love that.

Daniel Amen: I was so happy for her.

Tana Amen: It's my favorite thing.

Daniel Amen: Because she looked so much ... But she said, I'm still having problems with sugar. That's when I went into, "Did you date the bad boys in high school?" She goes, "No." I said, "Well clearly your in a bad relationship, I mean you love sugar but it doesn't love you back. It beats you up, it makes you more likely to be depressed and have dementia, it's sort of like someone who's in an abusive relationship." She got that. You know, both of us in the past have been in hard relationships, and we wouldn't do it again.

We're grateful we have each other and the love we share. I'm not gonna be in a bad relationship with food, that I have to pay for, that I have complete control over.

Tana Amen: Well then, if you've ever been that sick, you realize that the abundance is ... You know, what's abundant is a viral life of being able to be in service.

Daniel Amen: Right, and processed meats, so avoid those.

Tana Amen: Terrible.

Daniel Amen: So the things to eat to really help decrease inflammation, spinach, dark leafy greens, Omega-3 rich foods, like salmon, and walnuts, and avocados, and seeds. Then prebiotic foods. So prebiotic means it is food that feeds the gut bugs.

Tana Amen: Right.

Daniel Amen: Right, so we have a hundred trillion bugs in our gut, which when you first told Chloe that, she was...

Tana Amen: ...freaked out. I don't have bugs in my gut. I'm like yes, they're like your pets. You have to feed them.

Daniel Amen: Right, and so prebiotic foods, which are high in fiber, like asparagus, chia seeds, cabbage, psyllium, artichokes, root vegetables.

Tana Amen: Also, certain starches, like resistant starch. When we say starches, it's not the starch that turns ... It's like green bananas is a resistant starch. That's a good starch, or like you said sweet potatoes.

Daniel Amen: Then probiotics, so using them as a supplement, we make one here we make one here Probrain biotics, and the reason we chose that one was there were a couple of studies showed it decreased anxiety, and sad moods, and then there are probiotic rich foods like Kombucha tea, pickles.

Tana Amen: Just make sure it's not commercial, loaded with sugar. Most commercial Kombucha-

Daniel Amen: That's such an important point.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Daniel Amen: Kefir, sauerkraut. Sauerkraut's the only one I'm ... I like pickles.

Tana Amen: I don't like sauerkraut. I like kimchi.

Daniel Amen: No.

Tana Amen: So, I have to tell you this. This is really fun. We made our own coconut ... Because a lot of people are dairy free. We prefer the dairy free version of this, so we made our own. Because a lot of the commercially made coconut milk yogurts are just loaded with sugar.

Daniel Amen: Read the label, read the label.

Tana Amen: Listen, we figured out-

Daniel Amen: Sorry.

Tana Amen: You sound like you're like one of those zombie walking dead people.

Daniel Amen: Read the label.

Tana Amen: We figured out how to make our own coconut milk yogurt. It's the coolest thing ever. You literally take a can of full fat coconut milk, and you break open ... I just broke open two of our probiotic pills into it, you cover it, and you put it in the refrigerator for a couple days, and then you sift out the liquid. Oh my gosh, it tastes so good. It actually is amazing.

Daniel Amen: Then what you can do is you can put a little bit of stevia into it, and you can put some fresh blueberries, or frozen ... I like frozen blueberries.

Tana Amen: But the natural coconut milk yogurt, actually tasted pretty good.

Daniel Amen: All right, we've given you lots to do to decrease inflammation in your body. You want to rescue your memory, you have take a bright minds approach and support your blood flow, retirement and aging, decrease the inflammation in your body. Stay tuned. We're gonna talk about genetics next. Thank you for listening to the Brain Warrior's 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 Warrior's Way, and the Brain Warrior's Way cookbook we give away every month.