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Why Chronic Illnesses Require A Different Approach, with Dr. Martin Katz

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

In a way, our bodies are like automobiles driving down the freeway. Despite what a car looks like on the outside, if there are problems under the hood there’s going to be trouble going up hills. This week’s podcast series features Dr. Martin Katz, a double board certified physician, for a full discussion on ways to get under the hood to the root of the chronic illnesses we face so we can treat the source of our problems, rather than just the symptoms.

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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 Brain MD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to brainMD.com.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Hey everybody, welcome. You are going to learn to love broccoli this week. We have a very special guest who I've had the honor of getting to know, Dr. Martin Katz, who's a medical doctor, a double board-certified physician in sports medicine and family medicine. He graduated from The Medical University of South Carolina, which is actually known for their brain imaging work, and did his residency at East Tennessee State University. He served the Charlottesville community for six years, but then went on to complete a sports medicine fellowship at the University of South Carolina. He's worked in a variety of settings, but he has become passionate about using supplements to help with gut health, but also your overall health. We often say, well, what are natural ways to boost the brain.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Right, and immunity. We would love if you would, at the end of this episode, tell us what you've learned. It's was fun for us to hear what you've learned. Maybe take a screenshot, repost it, tag all of us, but we just want to know what you've learned because you're going to learn a lot about broccoli. I remember how much I learned. I mean, we've all heard broccoli is so great for you, right? But when I took my metabolic medicine classes, I was really surprised. We eat a ton of broccoli in this house and we take supplements. We would love for you for you to tell us how this was surprising to you.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Great. Martin, welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Martin Katz:
Thank you. Thanks for having me. I'm certainly very honored to be here. You guys are doing awesome work with The Brain Warrior's Way and all the books you've written and all the extensive education you've done. I'm a huge fan of education. I'm certainly a huge believer in that's the way we're going to change this paradigm, because it's fairly broken so we to get out there and spread the news and get people doing something different because what we're doing doesn't seem to be working.
Daniel Amen, MD:
Yeah, it's broken and it's getting worse. The next pandemic that's coming is a mental health pandemic with people experiencing grief and loss and trauma. But before we get into all of that, tell The Brain Warrior's Way community who you are and how you fell in love with this part of medicine.
Martin Katz:
Yeah, love that story because I love to talk about health and how I got there. I joke with my patients that I see myself as Yoda. I've felt the benefits and the force of being healthy and putting a ton of effort into health and talk to my patients about being a padawan in learning about health and getting there. That's taken awhile. I was born in South Africa, moved over here and was granted the opportunity of getting into medical school, progressed through medical school, allopathic training, did my residency in family medicine, and again, a lot more allopathic training.
What you're struck by is a couple things. One is a lot of people get better regardless of what we do, nature is very powerful, but also there's this difference between acute and chronic going through medical school and going through residency. You realize that acute care, there's no better place than America. If you're acutely injured and you have acute symptoms, you're hurting, you're in pain, something's going on, you're going to do something to address that and you're going to get better, and this is a good place to be. You're likely going to get better.
Chronic disease, however, is a completely different thing. That doesn't have symptoms initially, oftentimes. In my years as a family physician, here I was adding medicines and another medicines. Now I'm confused as to the next symptom they come in with, is this a medication side effect? Do I need to give them yet another medicine to deal with that or is something else going on?
Speaking of mental health, one of the things that impacted me tremendously was this incredibly lovely lady who I would see probably every other week, once a month. She just had a lot of depression and she eventually actually committed suicide. It was heartbreaking for me be we had tried tons of different medicine, I always thought she was going to get better. I was pretty struck by that. I also had a lot of patients who had these chronic illnesses and just weren't getting better. Again, there was 80% were getting better seemingly regardless of what I did.
I was a little confused. Quite honestly, I was a little burnt out. I love sports so I decided to do a fellowship in sports medicine, thinking that that was going to give me a niche. I wasn't going to get to see these horribly chronic patients anymore, who I had no idea what to do with, confused by, burnt out by, et cetera, et cetera. I went and did a sports medicine fellowship and really enjoyed. It was very sports oriented, obviously, concussions and sprains and strains and injuries, acute injuries. We dealt with those.
Interestingly, coming out of it, it was around the time I'd had my first child and it seemed like a lot of the sports medicine fellowships wanted my entire life. I would be in the clinic then I'd go to sports, so I just decided to go out to Bozeman, Montana. I worked in a community clinic, and guess what? There was a lot of mental health. There was a lot of addiction and there was a lot of chronic disease. Here I am, just finishing my fellowship and trying to niche and I was able to offer them a lot of sports medicine. If their patients got injured, they didn't have to pay the $200 to go see the orthopedist, which they couldn't afford, they could see me, but there was still a lot of this chronic disease.
It just really got me interested more and more in how I could help these people. Thanks to my parents, I wasn't super worried about having to pay off medical school. They were very helpful in helping me afford medical school or pay for medical school. I was able to really sit with my patients and get to know them and try to figure this out. I would share these stories of people going to possibly naturopaths or going to possibly chiropractors or all of these others that were these woo-woo doctors. I'd always looked down at them and said, "Well, what do they know?" But here are these people going to see them and coming back feeling better, where me using my medicines or the tools that I had, which at that point was talking to them, sympathizing and then using a medication, wasn't really working.
I started realizing that there was a lot more. I started reading about nutrition and the benefits of nutrition. I started reading about exercise and the benefits of exercise and sleep and community and stress management, and really getting a much better understanding of the fact that the absence of disease is not health and trying to help my patients understand-
Daniel Amen, MD:
I love that.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Yeah.
Daniel Amen, MD:
We should say that again. The absence of disease-
Martin Katz:
Absence of disease is not health.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Yes, yes.
Daniel Amen, MD:
It's not health.
Martin Katz:
Yeah, I talk to my patients a lot about looking under the hood. I use a lot of ways to try and help my patients understand this. If you think about a bunch of old cars. They look beautiful, we all look at them as they pass us going in the other direction or as we pass them because we're driving these fast cars and they're putting along. We're like, "Isn't that beautiful, these old cars?" So there's a line of old cars and it's at the start of a hill and there's a hill downhill and it's got some curves and you're asked to get in a car and just start going. Because it's downhill, you just put the car in neutral. You don't use your brakes much because there's curves and you've just got to modulate your speed. Everybody's just cruising downhill, having fun. All the cars seem the same.
That's another thing that people don't understand, is in the absence of disease or as we're well, we all look the same. We don't look very different when we're healthy. But as we're cruising down, all the cars are staying neck and neck, maybe jostling around, but out in the distance, there's a hill, right? You're going to start climbing up again in this hill and you can't really see it let's say because of pollution, which by the way has gotten better as we've been driving less, but this hill you can't see because of pollution. But you're coming up and as you approach his hill, you go to start accelerating.
Now you've really got to understand what's under that hood. How healthy is that car? How are the struts? How's the engine mount? Is the car even have oil? Does it even have gas? You're only really going to understand how healthy you are when you hit that first uphill. That brings us to today because here we have this pandemic and we're seeing people who have a ton of oxidative stress, who have a ton of disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, not do as well because of all this disease. So you need to understand what's under that hood, because when you hit that appeal and now you're dealing with a problem or stress or what have you, you want to have the best engine. You want to have the best engine mounts, the best oil, the best gas and the best conditioned car.
That doesn't happen by neglect and it doesn't happen by prayer, even though prayer is helpful. I'm not bashing prayer, I love prayer, but we've got to be active in this role of understanding what's under the hood.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
[crosstalk 00:11:17].
Martin Katz:
We've got to understand what's happening inside so that we can make a difference. That changed my course in medicine and instead of using medicines ... Not to say that that medicines are bad, I'm a fan. There's a lot of phenomenal PhDs who are incredibly intelligent, figuring out how they can help people. I don't think they're out there to necessarily hurt people. I'm not so sure I can always say that about pharmaceutical companies, but the people, the PhDs, I think have the best of intentions. I have the absolute joy of working with one. He is an incredible individual, he only means the best for people. So my stance on medicine, my approach to medicine changed, and now I talk to people about all these things.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
If I could just validate what you're saying for a minute, because I'm a trauma nurse, I was a neurosurgical ICU nurse. I worked in a Level A trauma unit and I wanted nothing to do with what we called walkie talkies, okay? When they could walk and talk, they needed to go somewhere else. I saw people at the most acute phases. It's interesting. In fact, when I met Daniel and I found out he's a psychiatrist, I almost canceled our first date. I'm like, "Oh dear Lord, we're going get psychobabble thing and I just don't want to do it." I was hard charging until I became one of those people.
It was really interesting. My own health crashed and I was put on nine medications.
Martin Katz:
Wow.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Medications to manage the side effects of medications. I got sick when I was young initially and I somehow overcame that, probably because of my youth. What you were saying about the cars made so much sense. I somehow overcame it and I started to think that fitness equated to health, but as I became one of the patients that I'm talking about, I couldn't work in the units, the medical units, because they were so depressing for me. It wasn't because I didn't like the people, it's because I felt helpless. I couldn't do anything to make them better and I just felt terrible seeing ... When I worked in a dialysis unit and one of the patients ended up committing suicide, and like you're talking about, it was too much for me. So I chose this other unit because I felt useful. We saw people get better. What happened after that, I don't know.
Until I became that patient and then I went on this crazy mission to figure out, wait, I'm not doing this. I had to become my own health advocate. I'm not going to do this forever, this is crazy. I'm not going to be on nine medications. Very much like your journey, I ended up taking metabolic medicine classes, not anti-medicine, but very much a fan of what I can do to avoid as many medications as possible and only take the ones that are necessary so I cut my medications in half. But that's when I got interested in things like sulforaphane and supplements and that's when I wrote my book on nutrition and lifestyle.
It's so powerful, but sometimes until it affects you, you don't really understand it. Like you said, it wasn't until I hit that uphill slope, it's when I was in my 40s or when I hit about 40 that I went, "Oh wait, this isn't so easy anymore. I can't just overcome stuff."
Martin Katz:
Right, right. Yeah, and we can talk ... Sorry.
Daniel Amen, MD:
[crosstalk 00:14:27], causing us to go uphill-
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
Faster.
Daniel Amen, MD:
... way faster.
When we come back, I want to hear more, Martin, about how you went from, okay, this chronic disease thing is not satisfying and it causes burnout, to where you are now. Stay with us.
Tana Amen, BSN RN:
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Daniel Amen, MD:
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