Alcohol: The Holiday Spirit(s) You’re Better Off Without

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

Many of us look for ways to cope with the holidays at the bottom of the bottle. Whether it’s dealing with your crazy aunt, masking your insecurities around successful siblings, or fighting off depression, it’s all too easy to turn to alcohol to help us survive the holiday season. But are we actually making things worse? Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen weigh in on why it’s a good idea to steer clear of booze during the holiday season.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Doctor Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And on 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 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 Brain MD Health where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information visit Brain MD
Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. Happy holidays to all of you and if you're listening to this sometime in April well happy holidays for next year.
Tana Amen: Or happy Easter.
Dr Daniel Amen: This is from WebPaws. We are so powerful yet most of us don't even begin to realize the incredible magic of our full potential. Daniel and Tana Amen are on the cutting edge, they offer anyone who chooses to elevate their lives to new heights and exciting way to engage life in a totally new and empowering way that will surely change their lives.
Tana Amen: These are some cool testimonials. I love this, it's like my favorite part.
Dr Daniel Amen: I'm so happy you're happy.
Tana Amen: No, it makes me happy.
Dr Daniel Amen: Because when you're happy, I'm happy.
Tana Amen: Like, it helps us start our day like really cool. I like it.
Dr Daniel Amen: All right, so we agreed in this podcast because it's the holiday to take on alcohol.
Tana Amen: So we are going to talk about the benefits of alcohol.
Dr Daniel Amen: Go ahead.
Tana Amen: So what are the benefits of alcohol? Let's be honest, are there any benefits, any at all?
Dr Daniel Amen: Kills bacteria.
Tana Amen: Right, kills bacteria.
Dr Daniel Amen: So as a nurse, you put it on people's skin, why? To disinfect it to kill the bugs.
Tana Amen: So there's some evidence-
Dr Daniel Amen: It's been used as an anesthetic in surgery, right? Get people so drunk that they-
Tana Amen: All right, like in battlefields when they don't have anesthesia, oh yeah, we get them sloshed, yeah, so you want them to pass out. So they don't try, and kill you. So that's one thing.
Small, very, very, very small amounts, there's studies being done, I think the jury still out on this, I think. But there are some studies that show that very small amounts, very occasionally, may have the effect of what is it, what's the word I'm thinking of, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?
Dr Daniel Amen: Hormesis.
Tana Amen: Hormesis. So, tiny, so a tiny amount, it's like a little bit of poison makes you stronger because it makes you almost immune to it. Same reason vegetables are good for you but when they say that they are talking about very small amounts, very occasionally and some people can't do that.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, some researchers and some not. Some are saying 14 drinks a week is fine.
Tana Amen: But most of the research shows that that leads to cancer so, yeah.
Dr Daniel Amen: So why am I not a fan? And it was very fashionable in the 90s to be a fan of drinking, in fact-
Tana Amen: Oh, I was a nurse and in the hospital it was like oh no, have a drink a day. Have a glass of wine a day.
Dr Daniel Amen: And you are going to Loma Linda?
Tana Amen: Well, they don't drink it all, but most ... A lot of the doctors that go there are not Seventh-day Adventist. But the research was have one glass of wine a day.
Dr Daniel Amen: And most people don't know that Loma Linda is in San Bernardino County.
Tana Amen: So they also don't drink coffee or eat meat or-
Dr Daniel Amen: And it's one of the blue zones, that people ... Even though it is a smog filled place.
Tana Amen: Full of drugs and gang-
Dr Daniel Amen: That Loma Linda and San ... Loma Linda specifically is one of the blue zones where people live longer than anywhere in the world.
Tana Amen: So I have to tell you it was so weird when I started working there I used to carry my own backpack with my coffee and my meat because there was like nowhere, you couldn't find it anywhere and I'm like okay, there's something a little weird about this place.
They were the nicest people ever, I loved my education but I hadn't quite gotten used to this whole like temperance idea, right? So I'm like, this is just a little odd, I can't get coffee or meat or anything anywhere and so I'm like okay, I have to figure this whole thing out. So I bring all my own stuff and my contraband.
So I started working in the hospital after I graduated and I began to really appreciate their lifestyle, what they're about, I'm not Seventh-day Adventist but I really do appreciate what they're about. And as a Christian I just love what they do.
So I started working in the hospital and all of a sudden I'd see these ... And I'm working in an ICU unit, I'm working in a level A trauma unit but we would get overflow, sometimes from the other units and so, some of the surgical patients would come in and some of these patients were coming in and I'm like, 99, 103, but that wasn't the most amazing part.
These patients had no medical history. Thereon like no medications, one medication. I'm like what? I'm on like three or four, like what is this? So I was like what is going on? And you would look at them and they had no lines, no lines in their face. They had just like little tiny smile lines and I'm like, I have more wrinkles than this person and I was like barely 30.
And so I was like what is going on here and I just started to put together this idea, this life of temperance might have something to it, like there just might be something to this idea.
Dr Daniel Amen: So in the 90s it was very popular that alcohol was a health-food and but we you know, starting in 1991, started looking at the brain through using brain SPECT imaging, we do here at Amen Clinics and it was so clear from the moment I ordered my first scan that alcohol was not a health-food. That it prematurely ages the brain. And if your brain's not right you're not right and then so I held onto this position because I have the scans, right? I mean, there's just nothing more powerful in my mind then getting a direct look at the organ that runs your life.
But you know, our first clinic was in Northern California near the Napa Valley, so there is always this conflict. But I held that position despite colleagues telling me I was wrong and then it turned out that the studies that showed alcohol was associated with longevity were flawed and-
Tana Amen: And sponsored by who?
Dr Daniel Amen: The wine industry. And then it turned out that alcohol is directly related to seven different kinds of cancer. So we know chemotherapy is not good for your brain, we know that chronic stress from having a diagnosis of cancer is not good for your brain. So it's associated with mouth cancer and esophageal cancer and stomach cancer and intestinal cancer and colon cancer and breast cancer and liver cancer, and I'm sorry, anything that's associated with cancer you should limit. And in addition, and I don't even know I'm saying this because I make more money if you drink, right?
I mean, you have more fights with your wife, you're more likely to get fired, you're more likely to be depressed, you're more likely to have trouble that you need us that if you're a drinker then if you are not. But I'm only kidding.
Tana Amen: So those are the physical reasoning and here-
Dr Daniel Amen: But you're more fun when you drink.
Tana Amen: All right, so let's clarify, so I am not a person who never drinks. So I have an occasional glass of wine, I might have three glasses of wine a month. So that's on average, I'll have two or three glasses a month. And I never have more than one at a time because I don't like losing control, so if we are socially out I may have a glass if I'm not driving.
Dr Daniel Amen: You like the taste of wine.
Tana Amen: I do.
Dr Daniel Amen: And I don't.
Tana Amen: I generally like the taste of wine. So if you're driving I may have a glass of wine or if I'm at home, whatever, but I want to say something about this because it took on new meaning for me, so well, I have an issue with drugs, obviously, I was what'd you call it? I had shock therapy as a child? So yeah, I had shock therapy as a child with drugs so I've always been-
Dr Daniel Amen: So what that means is you grow up with-
Tana Amen: Environment.
Dr Daniel Amen: Around a lot of drugs where you saw horrific things.
Tana Amen: And interestingly alcohol was never one of them. Alcohol was never one of the drugs. My mom didn't drink, my uncle did heroin, so that was just never one of the drugs. And so, alcohol was never a big thing in my house, so having a drink now and then was never a big thing and I don't like losing control but sadly enough, recently, it became a big thing in our house. Not because of us, because my nieces who we got out of foster care, there is a lot of addiction on that side of the family. My half-sister.
So on that side of the family there was a lot of addiction and alcohol was heavily abused. So when they came to stay with us and you know, they do holidays with us now. Now, I see alcohol very differently. It's not something you can just enjoy occasionally, it's something now, I have to really look at differently. There is zero alcohol during the holidays.
Dr Daniel Amen: So last year, even this year at Thanksgiving, what were some of the things they said?
Tana Amen: Well yeah, okay, that's what I wanted to bring up. So one of my nieces, this was really important and this is why I see, this is why I see the holidays so differently now and why we don't have, we don't have alcohol at all during the holidays because of the addiction okay, because yeah, I can have a glass of wine, but a lot of people can't do that and we would never, ever have alcohol in the house because of the people who can't.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right, but there are some people will go, well, why do I have to give up my fun because of the other person.
Tana Amen: You don't have to. It's about love. So for me it's about love. So it's about supporting my nieces and my ... And the rest of the people that have issues with it. Some people can have a drink and some people cannot so I just wouldn't ... And I want the rest of my family to enjoy the holidays so for me it's about family.
So one of my nieces-
Dr Daniel Amen: So you're giving the gift of comfort. By not drinking-
Tana Amen: And love. So one of my nieces though, this is when it became really clear to me. We were sitting around outside by the fire and she said, "Holidays are so different now." She goes "I still am getting use to it."
And I said, "What do you mean?"
And she said," I don't know they're so mellow, they are so like comfortable and quiet and they're just so relaxed."
And I said, "I don't understand."
She goes, "Well, there is no police being called, there is no screaming."
I'm like, "What?" Because we didn't do holidays together before, they lived in another state.
She's like, "Yeah, there is no police, there is no screaming, there is no one throwing stuff and like threatening each other and there's..."
And I'm like, I literally like my jaw hit ... Like almost hit the table and she ... We've never had a holiday like that. And she goes ... Well, not since I was little. But she said, she goes, "Yeah, there is no alcohol."
And I just ... So whether I can have a glass of wine or not is not the point. It's not worth it.
Dr Daniel Amen: So we talked about the benefits of alcohol on the other side, not only is it cancer but it's associated with premature aging in your brain and I don't know about you, I'm not okay with that. It also drops your frontal lobes, you're more likely to say something that will hurt people's feelings and the problem with the brain is it has memory.
When you say that terrible thing that person will remember it may be the rest of their life. In addition, alcohol drops your frontal lobes and it increases cravings for food. So you actually eat way more calories and you don't remember that you ate way more calories.
I saw one guy last year who was really headed toward Alzheimer's disease when you looked at his brain, it was really terrible and, like how much do you drink and he had three scotches a day and I just added up the calories from the 31 ounce shots of scotch a day and it was like 25 pounds of fat that he was putting on his body. And just cutting out scotch, his brain was better and his weight was better.
Tana Amen: And I want to throw one thing in, all of the studies, so there's still a lot of controversy over whether there is health benefits to small, and when I say small amounts I mean small amounts of alcohol. Not one of them are related to hard liquor. They are all related to small amounts of wine.
Dr Daniel Amen: Hard liquor is actually the most toxic. So we want you to love your brain and not pickle it, we want you to love your brain and not poison it.
Tana Amen: So how can people ... So I already talked about why I don't have alcohol in my family during the holidays. If people don't have the same issues we have because not everybody has the same issues we have. So let's just say they don't have the addiction issues, they don't have problems with police being called, they don't have problems with foster care and all of this other stuff, the drama that we've had in our family, my family. That's not their issue, okay, so how can they safely have a drink. What is the amount they can have, what is the way and then will also talk about what are the alternatives because there is no reason to have it if you don't need it.
Dr Daniel Amen: You know, I tell my patients 2 to 3 normal-sized glasses of alcohol a week, that that's probably okay. Except, the studies with cancer showed any alcohol showed an increased risk and so ...
Tana Amen: And that's why I stay to like two or three a month, like a couple of month for me is-
Dr Daniel Amen: I think two or three a month is probably more rational and then you have to go if this is potentially harmful for me why do I need it? What am I treating? And for a lot of people it's social anxiety that you know, they feel anxious in social situations and alcohol is the grease. It just helps them feel more comfortable. So what are some of the other things you could do to help you feel more comfortable and there are things you know, we talk about regularly on the Brain Warrior's Way, killing the ants, the automatic negative thoughts, the 18/40/60 rule.
You know, not thinking everybody's thinking about you because they are not. Meditation, hypnosis-
Tana Amen: And so when we have parties, company parties and we have family events, we don't have alcohol. So what are the things we do? I make a big giant thing of spot ... When you make things pretty it tends to draw people away from ... Because the mind is, the brain is so visual, right? So we make large jars, we get those really pretty large jars to serve waterways and make them beautiful. So I'll put cranberry in it, a big string of cranberries inside of it and some blueberries. You can even throw watermelon slices or something like that inside and just a few drops of Stevia and so it just flavors it just a tad.
Dr Daniel Amen: And sparkling water with Stevia, with a little bit of lime juice or lemon juice.
Tana Amen: In a wineglass. In a wineglass looks beautiful.
Dr Daniel Amen: Or cranberry juice, there are so many things-
Tana Amen: And tea-
Dr Daniel Amen: You can do.
Tana Amen: So one of the things I like it's hot tea with some shaved ginger and cayenne because it gives it a bite so you'll sip it slowly. Those are some nice things that-
Dr Daniel Amen: Or saffron because that'll help your mood.
Tana Amen: Yep.
Dr Daniel Amen: Happy holidays.
Tana Amen: So there's a whole section in the cookbook Brain Warrior's Way on how to do that if that's what you'd like to do.
Dr Daniel Amen: Great. Happy holidays.
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