Brain Health and Lifelong Wellness

Brain Health: A New Approach in Mental Health

In the past 15 years, our understanding of the brain has grown exponentially. One of the leaders of making this information relevant to the general public is Dan Amen, who is a pioneer in using brain imaging to help patients address the underlying issues behind common conditions such as ADD, anxiety, depression, substance use disorders, and obesity. His team's research, along with that with researchers around the world, is quickly changing not only how we diagnose mental health disorders but also how treat them. Specifically, Amen's approach emphasizes high-grade supplements before psychiatric medications, health eating, exercise, and stress management. I am certified through the Amen Clinic as a Brain Health Coach, better enabling me to help my clients achieve life-long brain and overall wellness.

More Precise and Useful Diagnosis

Until recently, virtually all mental health diagnoses were made based on client self-report with few if any biomarkers, measurable indication of disorder or disease. This diagnosis system is outlined in the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5" rel="external">Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently in the 5th edition (DSM-5). The DSM is one of the most poorly understood documents in mental health, with professionals as well as the general public often misusing the manual to incorrectly label others.

I have been fortunate to receive extraordinary training in the DSM. Selected by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) to represent family therapists, I was one of the two family therapists invited by the APA to their train-the-trainer for the launch of the DSM-5 in 2013. This training was lead by Dr. David Kupfer and Dr. Darrel Regier, who oversaw the 20-year, international effort of revising the manual. In this meeting, they referred to the DSM-5 as a "transition" document, as the field moves away from discrete categories and diagnoses and towards a more descriptions (mild, moderate, severe) of a patient's functioning in several key areas, such as depression, anxiety, anger, memory, sleep, substance use, etc. Thus, we are moving toward a professional informing a patient that "you have moderate depression with mild symptoms in the areas of anxiety, sleep, and memory" rather than "you have Major Depressive Disorder."

Just a few years later, I am discovering that our improved technology for measuring brain activity is rapidly transforming how we diagnose mental health issues, far faster than the DSM revisions can keep up with. Because, now we do have biomarkers through brain imaging, and it changes everything. At the broadest level, mental health issues are associated with one or more of these three issues in the brain:

Brain Function: The majority of clients have either areas of the brain that are under- or over-functioning in one or more area, resulting psychological and relational issues. Depending on the exact imbalance, this can be treated with supplements, exercise, diet, sleep, cognitive therapy, mindfulness, and a wide range of alternative treatments.

Toxicity: A wide variety of toxins can seriously damage brain tissue. Toxins include alcohol, recreational drugs, nicotine, brain infections, chemicals, chemotherapy, certain psychiatric medications, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc. To avoid brain toxicity, Dr. Amen recommends no more than 2 glasses of alcohol per week; no nicotine, marijuana or recreational drugs.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI): Dr. Amen's research has found that nearly 20% of people diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as ADD or depression actually have an underlying brain injury that is the primary source of mental health symptoms. Brain injuries can be caused by falls, bike/car accidents, contact sports, assaults, and often can be severe even if the person does not lose consciousness. They are more common in men.

For most of my clients, even without brain imaging, knowledge of the brain enables us to make much more accurate diagnoses and treatment recommendations.

Disclaimer

Disclaimer
You should consult with your physician prior to taking any vitamins or supplements. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I cannot prescribe medication or supplements, but I can provide education about known mental health treatments in the research literature. As a Brain Health Coach certified through the Amen Clinics, below I provide an overview of their brain-based supplements, which have been developed to address mental health issues specifically. This information is offered to help clients consider a full range of treatment options.

You can read more about these on his store at the Amen Clinic Store.

Supplements for General Brain Rehabilitation and Health

The Amen Clinics recommend a daily regimen of brain-healthy supplements that include Omega 3s, vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts that support brain and nerve function. These are particularly important when emotional and/or brain issues have been chronic or severe or if there is a history of toxicity or brain trauma/injury. These supplements support the entire nervous system and can be helpful in cases of nerve pain or injury.
Brain MD Brain and Body Power Max
Initially developed to rehabilitate NFL and other professional athletes who had experienced brain injuries, this set of supplements is designed to help rehabilitate and support the brain. This twice daily set of supplements includes Omega 3s, vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts that support brain and nerve function.

You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Amazon Dr. Amen Brain & Body Power Max
Brain MD Brain and Body Power (Basic)
This set of supplements is recommended for brain and body health and long-term wellness. This twice daily set of supplements includes the same Omega 3s, vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts that are in the Max formula but with lower doses for long-term maintenance.

You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Dr. Amen BrainMD Health Brain & Body Power Dietary Supplement packet combination to support healthy memory, cognition and focus, 30 day supply

Supplements for Specific Brain Issues

Serotonin Supplement
Dr. Amen developed this supplement to support serotonin, a neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants, such as Prozac and Lexapro.
Associated with certain subtypes of these disorders:
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • OCD
  • ADD
  • Irritability
  • Addictions
  • Eating disorders
Associated with these areas of the brain:
  • Cingulate gyrus: Involved in cognitive flexibility; when overactive may result in obsessive worry, compulsions, addictions, seeing too many errors/problems.
  • Deep limbic system: Sets emotional tone; when activity is too high here, may cause depression, cyclic mood changes, pain
  • Cerebellum: Involved in coordination, impulse control, and organization; problems may involve poor impulse control and slower thinking.
You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Dr. Amen Serotonin Mood Support Natural Supplement to Enhance Your Mind, Memory and Mood
GABA Supplement
Dr. Amen often uses these to treat certain forms of anxiety, ADD, and motivation issues.

Associated with certain subtypes of these disorders and concerns:
  • Anxiety disorders, especially without depression symptoms
  • ADD associated with temporal lobes, "ring of fire," and anxiousness
  • Bipolar and emotional stability
  • Mild paranoia

Associated with these regions of the brain:
  • Basal ganglia: Involved in movement, anxiety, and motivation; problems may anxiety, pain, apathy
  • Temporal lobes: Associated with memory, mood, and learning; problems include aggression, anxiety, panic, learning disorder, mild paranoia.
You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Dr. Amen BrainMD Health GABA Calming Support Dietary Supplement to Support Natural Relaxation and Calmness
SAMe
This supplement is believed to support production of dopamine and norepinephrine.

May be useful for subtypes of these disorders and concerns:
  • Depression (not bipolar)
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • ADD associated with limbic system

Associated with these regions of the brain:
  • Deep limbic system: Sets emotional tone; when activity is too high here, may cause depression, cyclic mood changes, pain
  • Cerebellum: Involved in coordination, impulse control, and organization; problems may involve poor impulse control and slower thinking.
You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Amazon Dr. Amen BrainMD SAMe Mood and Movement 400 Tablets for Positive Mood and Joint Comfort (30 count)
Sleep Aid
Dr. Amen has developed a natural sleep aid. Many mental health issues are associated with sleep problems and are helped by regular sleep.
You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Amazon Dr. Amen Restful Sleep Supplement - Natural Melatonin and Sleep Aid
Weight Loss and Cravings
Dr. Amen has developed a supplement to help with weight loss and managing cravings, both issues that associated with several mental health disorders.
You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Amazon Dr. Amen Craving Control Supports Weight Loss

Supplements to Support Children's Growing Brains

Neurovite for Kids
A chewable vitamin designed to support children's growing brains. Our brains are growing well into our 20s: female brains grow until 25 and males until 30.
You can purchase and learn more at www.brainmdhealth.com and Amazon Dr. Amen Kids' NeuroVite Orange Flavored Penguin Chewables

Suggested Readings

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
Provides an overview of the science behind Dr. Amen's approach to diagnosing and treating mental health issues and provides an overview for using the supplements listed on this page.
Healing ADD
Revolutionizing the treatment of ADD, this book provides a detailed and holistic approach to treating ADD in adults and children.
Healing Anxiety and Depression
Based on his 5 types of anxiety and depression, this book is an excellent resource for anyone struggling with depression, anxiety, or bipolar.
Power of the Female Brain
Written for women, this book addresses general brain health as well as hormones and creating a brain-healthy family.
Preventing Alzheimer's
A hopeful and essential book for anyone who has a family history of the disorder or other risk factors, such as diabetes, cancer, ADD, depression, alcohol abuse, obesity, sleep apnea, smoking, or brain injury. Early intervention is essential and can often dramatically reduce developing the disorder.
Captain Snout
Although written for children (and great for them too), adults wanting a quick and effective introduction to cognitive therapy to reduce depression and anxiety will enjoy this too.
Time for Bed, Sleepyhead
A wonderful children's book that uses hypnosis techniques to help your little ones fall asleep faster.