Motherhood On The Brain with Dr. Darria Gillespie

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

As wonderful as becoming a mother can be, it often comes at the expense of our health in the form of weight gain, fatigue, and exhaustion. So what’s going on in the brain to cause these changes? In the first episode of a series on motherhood, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are joined by author and TV personality Dr. Darria Gillespie for a discussion on the ways motherhood can impact your health.

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Dr 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.
Dr 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 BrainMD, 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.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to Mom week. I am so excited about this.
Tana Amen: Yay, Moms.
Dr Daniel Amen: My friend, Dr. Darria Long Gillespie is going to spend the week with us. Couldn't be more excited. We first met together, when we both worked for Sharecare, and Sharecare's an awesome online platform for health, and Darria wrote to me and said, "Hey, I have a new book coming out February 19th. It's called, Mom Hacks: 100+ Science-Backed Shortcuts to Reclaim Your Body and Your Brain, Raise Awesome Kids, and Be Unstoppable."
Tana Amen: I wish that was out 15 and a half years ago.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Well, that's why I wrote it. It's what I needed.
Dr Daniel Amen: She's gonna give you some tips to help you survive. So, a little bit about Darria. She earned her medical degree from the University of Rochester, School of Medicine. Her residency in emergency medicine, actually fairly rare for a woman at Yale. Her MBA from Harvard Business School.
Tana Amen: Wow.
Dr Daniel Amen: After residency, she joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School, where she worked in the ER at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston. She's a practicing ER physician, currently works as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee, School of Medicine, formerly on the faculty at Harvard. She's on television a lot. She's a national spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians, and she's passionate about teaching other people, especially Moms, on how to be healthy.
Tana Amen: I have a question, Darria. Dr., I guess.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Yes.
Tana Amen: You're a serious superstar out there, and how much of that prepared you for being a Mom?
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Oh my. Well, that's a really good question. Does anything really prepare you for being a Mom?
Tana Amen: Except being a Mom.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Exactly. I think they say that the only perfect parents, are the ones who haven't had children yet.
Tana Amen: Right. Exactly.
Dr Daniel Amen: You know how we say, never trust a child psychiatrist, who doesn't have a child.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Who hasn't at least thought, of throwing them out the window.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now, if they actually threw them out the window, don't trust them either.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie There's boundaries there.
Dr Daniel Amen: There are boundaries. So, let's jump in, and talk about what motherhood does to the brain.
Tana Amen: Oh, dear.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Yes, absolutely, and both of you can speak to this, but I know all of us, when we have children, we feel differently, but it was really eye opening to know, our brains are changing. They're structurally, and functionally changing, as you both well know.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I remember feeling like I had pregnancy Dementia, but the problem was, it didn't feel like it got better, after I had [inaudible 00:03:58]. I would feel like I had it all together, I had this really cool job, and all of a sudden I just couldn't get it together in the morning, 'cause I would lose my keys, and I'm just like running around. I felt flustered all the time.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, what does progesterone do to the brain? Isn't that the big flood? You get this flood of progesterone during pregnancy, which we often say, is the brain's natural valium. It sort of settles people down.
Tana Amen: Yeah, I don't like being settled down.
Dr Daniel Amen: You don't do well.
Tana Amen: I don't [crosstalk 00:04:30] at all.
Dr Daniel Amen: When you're settled down.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie I love this. I love this dynamic here, but you're right. I should take it back even, just a step emotionally, as to why I wrote the book is, I had this feeling, as you said, Daniel, I'm an ER doctor. In the ER, I can stand there, and I can know that whatever comes through those double doors, I've got this. I can handle it, but then I became a patient myself. I developed Arthritis in residency, and then I became a Mom, and all of a sudden my own health. I was like, wait. Especially looking at my friends and my patients who are Moms. I felt like we all ... I don't got this. Well, how can I take the skills I've learned in the ER, and the resources I have access to, to take that mindset, and bring that in to my daily life. So, I have that, I've got this, feeling again, as a Mom, and I can share that with people.
Tana Amen: I love that. I'm so resonating with you right now. I was a nurse in a level A trauma center, and I didn't feel like I had it at all, when I first started there, but over time, you feel like, okay, I can handle whatever trauma comes through. Just 'cause you just know, even when you can't handle it, you can handle it, right? But then, I became a Mom. I just felt like I wanted to break down, every single day. So, I just am completely resonating with what you're saying right now. It's crazy.
Dr Daniel Amen: Darria, in this podcast. So, we are the Brain Warrior's Way podcast, because we believe, that you're in a war for the health of your brain, and your body, and you're in a war for the help of your children. When Pizza Hut can come to my niece's middle school every week, and deliver lunch, it's a war we're actually losing. So, talk to us about what Moms can do, to optimize the physical functioning of both their brains, and their minds.
Tana Amen: Yes, so it's changing, but what can we do to sort of interact that?
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Well, physically, as you know, and as you just said, we are what we eat, and we learn even more and more, about the nutrition and what we take in, and how that diet ... the Western American Diet, how it's at a much higher risk of depression, and other sort of psychiatric symptoms and conditions. So, we know that. We know that what we eat makes a difference. High processed foods. High sugar in foods. Things like that, and high saturated fats. One we also have to think about, especially for Moms is sleep, and I know that you all know the importance of that, for our mental health.
Tana Amen: It's so important though.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie I remember being in residency, and this is where I learned that the CIA will never hire me, because I would have given nuclear secrets away to get some sleep.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie I had been up for 36 hours, and at the end of it, something had happened. I think my coffee spilled or dropped. It was something minuscule, and I started balling. I was crying, and I was like, I don't know why I'm crying, and my residency director said, "Sleep deprivation is a form of torture."
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie "You are crying, because you are exhausted." So, I had to remember that. I started to crazy as a new Mom. I was like, Okay, it's not me that I'm going crazy. I am just exhausted, and that's why I tried to also share with Moms.
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr Daniel Amen: That is actually not just for women. It's also for men. I remember when I was a resident. It was earlier than you. They could keep us up for days. There were like no laws against that.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie No.
Dr Daniel Amen: And I'm up 36 hours, and I'm completely freaked out, I'm gonna kill somebody, and it's like, you do not want me in charge of anybody.
Tana Amen: We had two residents collapse on our floor. Collapse.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie I am not surprised.
Tana Amen: Yup.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie I am not surprised.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, you have your usual body, and then, you're pregnant, and I can't ... Again, I have five sisters, and three daughters, and 14 nieces. So, I can imagine a little bit, but just the changes that go on in your body. It must make sleeping, just really hard anyways, if somebody's kicking you from the inside. I mean, you know this and you sleep with me and I kick you from the outside.
Tana Amen: I have to say, I actually loved being pregnant. I actually felt really good when I was pregnant, which I know is unusual for a lot of people. I worked out every day when I was pregnant, and I had an autoimmune issue, that according to my doctor, sort of shuts off when you're pregnant. So, I didn't understand why I actually felt good, when I was pregnant, and apparently that's why.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie That can happen.
Tana Amen: Weird.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie That's rare.
Tana Amen: But I know, the sleep issue was hard, 'cause you're just so big, and you have to get up and go to the bathroom every hour, and it's like ...
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Yeah, you have to pee every three minutes.
Tana Amen: Oh, my God. It was just like, how am I gonna do this?
Dr Daniel Amen: So, are there any practical tips for pregnant women, on how to actually take really good care of themselves?
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Yeah.
Tana Amen: Yeah, and I think exercising every day for me, was really helpful. I didn't overdo it. You can't overdo it, but I mean for me that was helpful. You, speak as well.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Yeah, exercising is my little magic pill to keep me sane.
Tana Amen: Yeah.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie When people say, "How do you exercise and do all these other ... " Well, exercise is why I can do this.
Tana Amen: It's medicine. It's medicine.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Yeah, it really is. So, I think, especially when in pregnancy, when you're taking less medications, you don't want to be having to take sleeping pills, or things like that. So, exercise. Another thing I tell people, your circadian rhythm and melatonin, people are often taking melatonin supplements, but then they're up at 10:00p.m. looking at their iPhone. It's like, well, you're suppressing your melatonin right there. Why don't you just put away the device, or wear some Blue Blockers or dim the lights. Let your brain produce melatonin, like it's supposed to. People find a big difference.
The other flip side of that is, I decrease light at night, and I really did this when I was pregnant, 'cause I had trouble sleeping when I was pregnant. The first thing I do in the morning, I get that bright light, heavy dose of that. It softened my melatonin production, and it also kind of resets your clock. So, you can also fall asleep earlier that night, and wake up really early the next morning.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Daniel Amen: So, the two most important take-aways in this first podcast, are diet. We should dive in to that more, 'cause whatever you eat, the baby is getting nourished by, or poisoned by.
Tana Amen: You're not eating for you.
Dr Daniel Amen: Now we know about epigenetics. Our podcasters know we have a now seventh-month-old granddaughter, Haven, who's super cute, but when Haven was born, when actually both of you were born, you were born with all of the eggs you'll ever have, and so, it's not just about the baby. It's about generations of the baby.
Tana Amen: Yes. One thing that helped me. Actually, my doctor kept telling me to stop reading textbooks, 'cause it was making me a little morphotic, but understanding, sort of the developmental process, of what was going on inside my body, because for me, that really like, nailed and solidified why I needed to eat certain things, and take my vitamins, and why the nutrients were so important, because at this stage, the brain is developing, and this is happening. That's why, for me, it was so critical, 'cause I'm like, "Oh, I'm not eating for me right now. I'm eating so that I have a healthy baby. This is critical at this time to do this."
Dr Daniel Amen: Your cookbook, The Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook, there are incredibly nutritious recipes, that are also delicious. One of our messages is there is no suffering, in getting well.
Tana Amen: Do you have recipes as well, Darria, or is it more [crosstalk 00:12:23]?
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Absolutely, and I talk about, forget dieting, because dieting actually does increase your cortisol levels. It makes you miserable. Forget it.
Tana Amen: First two letters in the word diet are die.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Yeah, exactly. So, now when we talk, I really tell people I have a couple of favorite nutrition lifestyles, Mediterranean, Okinawan, Vegan, and mix those up as you like it. Fat is good. Whole foods are good. You don't have to count calories, and go crazy, and you can read it. So, I have a bunch of recipes. Mine are thins you can do, in seven minutes or less. So, there are easy ways.
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie But 10 different ways to cook vegetables in there, from blanching, to roasting, and some really easy things, like my favorite ways to make some salads, what I call my Longevity Salad, and other easy ways to [crosstalk 00:13:10].
Dr Daniel Amen: So, let's talk about practical things, when we come back. So, when we come back, we're gonna stick with mothers, and Mom hacks, and what I would love for us to do, is what are the little tiny habits, the quick things you can do to be healthy. Stay with us.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie Okay. Love it.
Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast.