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When Your Weight Goes Up, Your Brain Does This

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

One of the biggest risk factors for brain illness is a phenomenon called diabesity, which is when your weight and blood sugar levels get out of control. So what exactly does diabesity do to an otherwise healthy brain? In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen tackle this and another major contributor to brain health issues, neurohormone deficiencies. This episode features content from The End of Mental Illness live class event from earlier this year.

To take The End of Mental Illness Brain Health Revolution 6 Week Class and Challenge, visit https://endofmentalillness.com/brainhealthchallenge/

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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 amenclinics.com.

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 brainmd.com.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Hi, this is Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen:                      And I’m Tana amen.

Dr Daniel Amen:              We’re so excited you’re with us. For this week’s series, what we’re doing is we’re playing the live class from the end of mental illness.

Tana Amen:                      We wanted you to join us on this journey because we had such a good time in our class, and the people who joined us had just saw such incredible transformation that we wanted to share the challenge with our tribe. So we wanted to share this with you and we hope that you will join us in the challenge.

Dr Daniel Amen:              The N in BRIGHT MINDS is neurohormone deficiencies. When your hormones are low, you don’t feel right. Is that a mental illness or a brain health issue? You had thyroid cancer when you were 20…

Tana Amen:                      Three.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Twenty-three.

Tana Amen:                      Then 24, then 29.

Dr Daniel Amen:              You had it recurrently, and the first treatment was basically to kill your thyroid glands.

Tana Amen:                      Was to take it out, yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Was to take it out, to give you radioactive iodine because your thyroid cancer spread outside of your thyroid, and they didn’t replace your thyroid for awhile.

Tana Amen:                      Well back then they didn’t do that, but now it’s different.

Dr Daniel Amen:              How did that make you feel?

Tana Amen:                      Like I wanted to die, like I kept looking at the semi next to me and going, “Hmm, what would it be like to just not be here?” Seriously. It didn’t start off that way, but just over time I… and I didn’t put it together that it was because of the thyroid. That was terrible.

Dr Daniel Amen:              When they replaced your thyroid, did it help?

Tana Amen:                      Yeah, I eventually felt normal again. But unfortunately, because no one explained that to me and he told me to see a psychiatrist like it was my fault somehow.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Seeing a psychiatrist is not a punishment.

Tana Amen:                      It is the way when they tell you.

Dr Daniel Amen:              It’s not a punishment.

Tana Amen:                      No, no, no, the way that they said. Rather than telling me I should expect this, this is part of what’s going on with your health, it was almost like, “You’re not handling this well.” That’s more or less what the message, how it was relayed to me, “You’re not handling the situation well. You should go talk to someone.” That wasn’t the case. Now maybe I wasn’t handling it well, but I was also thyroid deficient, and that’s what upset me was when I really understood it later and when I really got my life back, I’m like, “He should’ve… someone should’ve walked me through this process a little bit better.”

Dr Daniel Amen:              A little bit better, without a question. Hormones are so important, and I’ve never seen it like I’m seeing now this epidemic of testosterone deficiency in teenage boys, in men and in women. Think of hormones as miracle grow for your brain. Testosterone is involved in mood, motivation, libido, strength. Thyroid, energy and mental clarity. DHEA helps to fight aging. Estrogen and progesterone boost blood flow. I just can’t tell you that when you optimize your hormones, you feel so much better.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:              One of the things people don’t know is that progesterone in women drops 10 years before-

Tana Amen:                      By 30s.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … they go into menopause.

Tana Amen:                      Yeah, I’m technically still not, and in my thirties I really noticed it and I would be on the six o’clock news without it. I’m convinced.

Dr Daniel Amen:              You want to share more about that?

Tana Amen:                      I’m telling you, progesterone is the best thing ever.

Dr Daniel Amen:              So when progesterone goes low, women become anxious, they become irritable-

Tana Amen:                      Don’t sleep.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … they can’t sleep. What happens typically? They go to their primary care doctor or to their OB GYN, and they put them on Ambien to help them sleep. They give them Xanax to decrease their anxiety, and they may give them Lexapro to help their mood. That’s sort of insane, when what they should have done is measure their progesterone level and supplemented it like 100 milligrams at night, and I’ve just seen it take care of all of it. Left untreated, left unoptimized, women started either taking medication or they start drinking-

Tana Amen:                      Drinking, yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … more.

Tana Amen:                      That’s what you hear a lot of people say, especially PMS, because you just get so agitated.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Then your husband is going to get the bottle of wine just so that he’s not being harassed when he gets home.

Tana Amen:                      Or chocolate, that’s the other one. Women are very drawn to chocolate because of that, because it settles you down, it increases serotonin, it settles you down. You either get fat or drunk, or both.

Dr Daniel Amen:              That’s not good. A little progesterone. Tana doesn’t end up on the six o’clock news.

Tana Amen:                      For me, I’m just going to end up on the six o’clock news.

Dr Daniel Amen:              For hormones, we want you to test them regularly like at least every year after the age of 40, and then avoid hormone disruptors like sugar, pesticides, BPA is found in plastics, phthalates and parabens found in cosmetics and a lot of personal products that we talked about under toxins. Carrie from [inaudible [00:06:44] radiation my thyroid about nine years ago was under control until the last six months with all my gut issues, I have to see a functional medicine doctor, says that it can grow back. A functional medicine doctor will tell you it can grow back.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Then D is diabesity, and I’ve been showing you the graphs this week that I’ve been working on. Diabesity, and it’s like this is the end of mental illness, why are we talking about weight? Because they are connected. Why are we talking about diabetes? Because they are connected. Diabesity is a term that means your blood sugar is going up and your weight is going up too, either one of them independently is a risk factor for brain health issues.

Dr Daniel Amen:              As blood sugar goes up, brain atrophies. Why? Because high blood sugar causes blood vessels to erode and become brittle and break, which means you’re not getting healthy blood flow to your brain. As your weight goes up, the actual physical size and function of the brain goes down. This week on my computer, I have our database and I have like almost a hundred thousand scans on the computer. I asked this question.

Dr Daniel Amen:              We looked at 127 regions of the brain, and so I looked at underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese, morbidly obese for each of these areas of the brain, and then I graphed it. What horrified me, what shocked me was as your weight went up, in every area of the brain, the blood flow and activity went down. Frontal lobes, temporal lobes, hippocampus, amygdala, everything, and it went down in a linear way, which means the bigger you were, the less activity and blood flow.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I’m horrified by that because that means it’s damaging your brain. The fat on your body is not innocuous. It disrupts your hormones, it stores toxins.

Tana Amen:                      This isn’t about body shaming, it’s just really about educating you about what’s best for your body, your health, and your brain.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Well, and know the truth. If you are overweight or obese, we’re talking about the 11 major risk factors that steal your mind. That’s one. It decreases blood flow to the brain. I clearly showed that in my studies on 20,000 patients. It increases inflammation because fat cells actually produce something called adipokines which are inflammatory hormones or inflammatory chemicals. It stores toxins and disrupts your hormones. You have five, if you just have that one it means you have narrowly half of the risk factors. The work you do in helping people get to a healthy weight is just so important.

Dr Daniel Amen:              One of my favorite stories of Mark and Debbie who had type I diabetes. He and I are at a conference six years ago. I watched him inject himself with insulin at the table, and then ordered chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn bread, and a souffle for dessert. I love Mark. If I don’t really like you, I’m not going to say anything, but if I love you, I’m going to say something.

Dr Daniel Amen:              I was cursing at him in my head, but I didn’t say anything because I have good frontal lobes. I just went, “How tall are you?” and he said, “Six feet.” I said, “How much do you weigh?”, and he gave me that look like why do you want to know, and then he said “244 pounds.” Underneath the table on my phone, I calculated his BMI, his body mass index.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Normal’s 18.5 to 25, 25 to 30 is overweight, 30 to 40 is obese, over 40 is morbidly obese. He’s 33. I looked at him and I’m like, “Dude, you’re obese.” He looked at me and he said, “Daniel, you’re so cold.” I said, “Not as cold as you’re going to be when you’re six feet under. What’s the matter with you? Why aren’t you taking your health more seriously?” When the food came, he didn’t eat anything. I felt terrible-

Tana Amen:                      No, you didn’t.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … sort of.

Tana Amen:                      I know you.

Dr Daniel Amen:              But a month later he told me he lost 10 pounds. Two years later we met at the same conference, he was down 53 pounds. He had cut his insulin dosage in half. I asked him if it was hard. He said, “Being sick is hard. Thank you for caring enough about me to have that hard conversation.” He’s sitting there with his wife and they’re telling me how great their sex life is. That’s what we see, get healthy, your blood vessels get healthy, your love life gets better. Being sick is hard.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Talk a little bit about an overview. We’re going to do a whole night on food and supplements, but what are the things people should know?

Tana Amen:                      Number one, there’s no suffering required and it really, you just have to know some of the basic rules. Think eat from the rainbow, I mean that’s one, you want to eat from the rainbow. So fruits and vegetables, many colors. Think of protein like medicine. Small doses throughout the day, not too much at one time.

Tana Amen:                      When I tell people that it’s like shake hands with protein several times a day. What do I mean by that? Like the size of the palm of your hand is what you want for protein. That’s an easy way to remember about how much to have several times a day. Why? Because protein helps to balance the hormones and metabolism, it balances your blood sugar, it helps to satisfy you so you’re not so hungry throughout the day.

Tana Amen:                      Whereas sugar, if you’re eating carbs and sugar all day, simple carbs, they’re going to spike your blood sugar and make you hungry. The more carbs you eat, the hungrier you’re going to be through the day. When you eat carbs, it’s not that we don’t want you eating carbs, we want you eating the right carbs, smart carbs. Smart carbs are high fiber, low-glycemic. That’s one of the rules is high fiber, low-glycemic carbs, which are things like we just said, the rainbow, so fruits and vegetables. But fruits have to be low-glycemic, things like berries, and then lots of grains. That’s going to be your high fiber type of rainbow foods.

Tana Amen:                      Cook with lots of herbs and spices, those should be kept in your medicine cabinet not your kitchen cabinet. They’re just so powerful. Herbs and spices are the way that when you’re eating really healthy, this is how you make everything fun, and tasty, and zesty is your herbs and spices, at the same time they’re just boosting your antioxidant level like crazy. That’s one of the things you’re going to do.

Tana Amen:                      Don’t forget the fat. We are not interested in low-fat programs, but we want you eating healthy fat. Cut the trans fat, cut the fried fat, focus on really healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil. Don’t cook with olive oil at high temperatures, but you want to add it to salads, things like that. Healthy fats, healthy protein.

Tana Amen:                      When we talk about protein, make it grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free. Even if you’re a vegan, you want to make sure you’re getting the right amount of protein, don’t just cut protein from your diet. Make sure you’re getting some organic tofu. We don’t want you getting too much estrogen, but we do want you getting enough protein. High quality protein powders are a good way to supplement, so just make sure you’re getting that throughout the day.

Tana Amen:                      Make sure you watch the amounts. The quality of your calories matters so much more than the quantity, but it doesn’t mean that the quality or the quantity doesn’t matter at all. Quality over quantity, but doesn’t mean quantity doesn’t matter. What do I mean by that? If you’re eating 800 calories of Oreos and Twinkies versus 1,600 calories of a really high quality diet, I mean like salmon, nuts, berries, avocados, lots of fruits and vegetables, the 800 calorie diet is not going to serve you well.

Tana Amen:                      You’re not going to get the nutrition out of it, and guess what? A lot of people are like, “Yeah, but you will lose weight.” You will only lose weight for a while, and here is why. You’re going to lose weight because of the calorie restriction, and then all of a sudden your inflammation is going to go up, because as your inflammation goes up and your blood sugar stays sustained at a high level, you’re releasing insulin. When you release a lot of insulin, you are now…

Tana Amen:                      Insulin is this hormone that tells your body, “Put that on, put that on, put that on” right? So that’s why for a while you’re going to drop because of the calories, and then pretty soon it’s going to start to do this, and you’re going to tank your metabolism. The higher calorie, higher quality diet is much better. Now, you can’t go crazy, you can’t eat 4,000 calories like that, but you get to eat more when you eat healthy. We don’t want you doing crazy, fad, crash, calorie diets, we want you to go healthy.

Dr Daniel Amen:              A lot of people ask questions about cleanses and detox, fine, and I think-

Tana Amen:                      We want you eating and cleanse all the time.

Dr Daniel Amen:              … our position is basically you want to get rid of the toxic food all the time if you like yourself.

Tana Amen:                      Right. Now that said, can you do a 24-hour fast? Of course, you can do a 24-hour fast, that’s okay. We not fans of like two-week fast where you’re not eating because it’s not good for your brain. You’ll start to lose focus and you can’t exercise.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Your brain will start to autophagy which is eat itself.

Tana Amen:                      Short-term fasting, yes. Long-term fasting, not so much. Just eat super clean, so do a short-term fast then eat super clean.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Intermittent fasting.

Tana Amen:                      Intermittent fasting is great.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Which is going 12 to 16 hours a day.

Tana Amen:                      I tend to go 12 hours anyways.

Dr Daniel Amen:              Intermittent fasting has actually been shown to help mimic the effects of calorie restriction, and it’s not hard. If you have dinner at six o’clock at night, don’t eat again until 10 o’clock the next morning.

Tana Amen:                      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. 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 amenclinics.com or a 10% discount on all supplements at brainmdhealth.com. For more information, give us a call at 855-978-1363.