Is Your Sugar Addiction Stressing You Out? With Dr. Uma Naidoo

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

The last thing we need in our lives right now is more stress. The world has become full of uncertainties, and how we respond will play a big role in dictating our emotional health. But what if the stress is coming from within? In the fourth and final episode in a series with “This is Your Brain on Food” author Dr. Uma Naidoo, she and the Amens discuss how certain foods (especially sugar) are affecting your brain and leaving you feeling stressed out.

For more info on Dr. Naidoo’s new book “This is Your Brain on Food”, visit

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Daniel Amen, MD:

Welcome to the Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. I’m Dr. Daniel. Amen.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:

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.

Daniel Amen, MD:

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, BSN RN:

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

Welcome back. We are having so much fun with Dr. Uma Naidoo and her book, This Is Your Brain on Food. Of course we’re having fun with this one because it’s right up our alley. You can pre order her book, it comes out August 4th, at Dr. Uma, no, it’s Uma Naidoo MD. So So having so much fun, this is just so in tune with us. And as we get started, Dr. Naidoo, Naidoo, I’m saying it’s Naidoo, correct?

Uma Naidoo, MD:           It’s Naidoo, but I don’t mind either.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      So as we get started, I love what you said about the substitutions. Like we mentioned the Greek yogurt for dinner or for dessert. I switched it out for coconut yogurt.

Uma Naidoo, MD:           That’s a great one, yeah.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Because people who are totally dairy free or sheep’s milk yogurt.

Uma Naidoo, MD:           Absolutely, yes.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Those are other options. So we need you to be thinking outside the box. When you were trying to do this, people get really stuck on, Oh, I can’t do this program because it doesn’t fit whatever my issue is. If you can just be a little creative and switch things out for your needs, it’s still works, right?

Uma Naidoo, MD:           Absolutely. I really appreciate you saying that because in mental health, as both of you can attest to, when someone comes to you not feeling well, you’ve got to be able to meet them where they’re at. It’s sort of one of the principles that we work with. And so given that people eat a wide variety of diets, it doesn’t matter what I eat. It’s more important how I can work with you to use these principles to feel better.

So I love that you said that about the different types of yogurt, because it turns out that the non-dairy forms of yogurt are actually putting in probiotics now, which is a culture. So it’s actually super healthy that way. And I think people should just feel comfortable to switch out options, their version. Say it happens to say, yogurt and you don’t have that, but also the type of milk, it’s really only in technical baking recipes where the chemical interactions matter in that way. Most of the savory recipes, you can switch out a lot of good things.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Yep. I love that.

Daniel Amen, MD:          So in the few we have left, do you have a patient story that can sort of bring this together when you get them to really be thoughtful about their diet? What happens?

Uma Naidoo, MD:           So I think that one of the things I like to bring it back to with my patients is, so the first chapter of the book, which is the gut brain bromance, and the fact that the gut and brain are connected, and we don’t often realize that, but they are through the vagus nerve. And the fact that the chemicals and food impacts what travels back and forth to the brain. And a great example of this would be a patient who was an executive who got promoted at work. And over about 18 months, his work was highly successful, but he was eating fewer meals at home, traveling more, eating in airports, and sometimes getting a snack of their vending machine, because he was at work such long hours. And when he was home during the week he was eating a full dinner, because his wife would keep it for him, but he would then feel so hungry that he was getting into the snack cabinet which was actually meant for the kids.

He actually presented to me, believe it or not, not with weight problems or anything like that. He had definitely gained some weight, but he presented to me with severe anxiety and his gastroenterologist had sent him to me. And I was interested to understand why he was presenting with panic at this stage in his life. And I’m sharing the backstory, when I first met him, he presented with panic. And as I uncovered the history, it turns out his diet had changed dramatically in about 18 months. He was eating a lot of processed food, a lot of fast foods. You know, people don’t understand that, or don’t know that fast food, French fries have sugar in them because a lot of research has gone into making them delectable and delicious and wanting you to eat more. So we are actually consuming sugar when we don’t even know it.

And his stress was so high that it had disrupted his gut balance, just to break it down for people. And there was dysbiosis going on, inflammation in the gut. The reason he was seeing the gastroenterologist, he was presenting with these unusual gut symptoms. But what happened is then you got sent to me because he had panic. And when we sort of really cycled back and understood what was going on, by changing his diet over time slowly and steadily. And he was very good about really sticking with the plan and truly sincerely wanted to get better, adding back healthy whole foods, fiber rich foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, excluding the stuff that was irritating his gut and helping him sleep regularly, helping him cut back from the one to the three glasses of wine, cutting back on that. Adding back more things like simple hydration, fresh berries, all of those foods over a period of probably about eight weeks to ten weeks, he was starting to feel better.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was really a lot. Within a month, he was starting to feel the physical symptoms getting better, but over time, all of that abated to the point that he wasn’t so severely panicked that we had to start a medication, fortunately. And he really wanted to try the nutritional route. And what it did for me is it put together the combination of understanding the gut brain axis and the impact of diet changing that. And a person presenting with physical symptoms to one doctor, but being referred to me for mental health symptoms, but they were all related. It was really a learning kind of experience for me treating him as well and getting him back to a point of health. And naturally as this happened, the weight fell off as well. The weight that he had gained just, just fell away and he felt healthier.

Daniel Amen, MD:          Well, you feel less anxious…

Uma Naidoo, MD:           And less anxious, exactly!

Daniel Amen, MD:          You get into your clothes and you don’t have the self loathing.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Well if you’re sleeping…

Uma Naidoo, MD:           Yes, that’s right.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Yeah. It’s a cycle though.

Daniel Amen, MD:          Nobody wants to go shopping for a bigger pair of pants.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      No, but then it’s like this circle. Because when you sleep better, you’re going to make better decisions. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to lose weight, and as those things happen [crosstalk [00:07:35].

Uma Naidoo, MD:           It’s all related.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Yeah.

Daniel Amen, MD:          How can people find out more about your work? I mean, we know they can go get the book. This is Your Brain on Food, go to, N-A-I-D-O-O, but how can they learn more from you?

Uma Naidoo, MD:           Sure. So I work at Mass General at the hospital, and you can contact us through the website. My clinic is at the hospital. We actually are trying, we don’t have the details ironed out yet, but we’re trying to offer virtual nutritional psychiatry consultations…

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Oh, I’d love that.

Uma Naidoo, MD:           So that people who are… This virtual world has allowed for that, who are in different parts of the country could consult with us. And so, I can be reached at the hospital through the website, I’m on the Mass General Hospital website. I have a phone listed there and just look me up by my name. That would be one way to connect with us and see what we could do to either offer you a consultation. And if we can, we certainly will try our best to do.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Wonderful.

Daniel Amen, MD:          Wow. It has been such a joy to spend time with you and talk about what’s a passion for all three of us.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Yeah, we’re so happy for you. This is your first…

Uma Naidoo, MD:           It’s my first book, yeah.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Putting all your knowledge, it’s like having a baby.

Daniel Amen, MD:          Now the next one is This is Your Brain on Food cookbook, it’s coming.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      It’s a little like having a baby, when you do a book. I’ve had 10 children basically, or 11.

Daniel Amen, MD:          And you look so good.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Because it’s all this gross that goes into it. And you have these…

Uma Naidoo, MD:           That’s so true. They learn!

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      They get really big [crosstalk [00:09:17] and then you birth it. Now you have to grow it. Right. So you actually have to [inaudible [00:09:21].

Uma Naidoo, MD:           So true. And thank you for the help in doing that because it’s…

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      Well we’re excited for you.

Uma Naidoo, MD:           Thank you.

Daniel Amen, MD:          All right. If you learned anything, hopefully a lot. Write it down, take a picture of it. Post it on any of your social media sites. We would be grateful, tag Brain Warrior’s Way podcast. You can also go to the Leave us a comment, question or review, and we’ll enter you into a raffle for the Brain Warrior’s Way cookbook or my new book, The End of Mental Illness. Thanks for being here guys.

Tana Amen, BSN RN:      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.

Daniel Amen, MD: If you’re considering coming to Amen Clinics or trying some of the brain healthy supplements from BrainMD, you can use the code podcast 10 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.