Pain Relievers: Ones to Choose & Lose

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

A recent study has linked Acetaminophen (Tylenol) with autism in babies when taken during pregnancy. In this episode of The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss which pain relievers are the safest and have the least side effects, and which ones should be avoided.


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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. And stay tuned for a special code for a discount to Amen Clinics for a full evaluation as well as any of our supplements at

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We're so glad you're on this journey with us. We love being your guide on The Brain Warrior's Way. So many testimonials from people who are readers and listeners. One, "This is a great eye opener. I've taken down some notes that I feel that will help me. Thanks. This is an amazing podcast." Or this one, "I just discovered your work this past week. I have been consuming all your information and ordered your books. ADD runs so strong in my family with alcoholism and drug abuse. I only wish I had discovered you years before when my kids were younger. I am on my way to a healthier brain because of your work. Thanks so much for all of your work and sharing."

Tana Amen: I love that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: That's why we do this.

Tana Amen: Yeah.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We've just learned so much great information here at Amen Clinics, helping people have better brains and better lives, and we want you to be one of them. This podcast is going to be a little different, but it's based on a research study that came out recently on acetaminophen, or Tylenol, and autism. I've stayed away from acetaminophen for a number of years ...

Tana Amen: Yeah, you told me that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... because when I wrote my book Preventing Alzheimer's with Rod Shankle, we found that people who use Tylenol on a regular basis got Alzheimer's disease two and a half years earlier ...

Tana Amen: Interesting.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... than the general population. People who used Advil as their pain medication actually got Alzheimer's disease two and a half years later ...

Tana Amen: Why is that?

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... than the general population. Being a nurse who worked in a hospital, you know one of the most devastating kinds of overdoses ...

Tana Amen: Is Tylenol, because of the liver.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... is Tylenol, because it damages your liver. If you take something on a regular basis that damages your liver, what happens is your body doesn't properly detoxify itself.

Tana Amen: Oh, that makes sense.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Toxins build up. Let me read this study. It's the most commonly used pain and fever medication during pregnancy. Previously, a positive ecological correlation between acetaminophen use and autistic spectrum disorders was reported, but evidence from larger studies based on prospective data, that means looking at it in the future, not the past, was lacking. They followed 64,322 children and mothers enrolled in the Danish National Birth Cohort from 1996 to 2002. The Danes and the Fins are actually really great, Swedes too, at keeping health data on their populations. They checked for an average of 12.7 years to investigate whether acetaminophen use in pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of autistic spectrum disorders in the offspring. The information on acetaminophen use was collected prospectively from three computer-assisted telephone interviews. They used records from the Danish hospital and psychiatric registries to identify the diagnoses of autistic spectrum disorders. At the end of followup, of the 64,000 kids, 1,027 were diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders. They found that 31% of kids were also hyperactive.

Tana Amen: Interesting.

Dr. Daniel Amen: More than 50% of women reported ever using acetaminophen in pregnancy. What they found, the women who used acetaminophen had a significantly higher number of autistic spectrum kids.

Tana Amen: Oh, interesting. I'm going to push back for one second because that makes sense and is very interesting, but when you talked about Alzheimer's with acetaminophen versus Advil or ibuprofen, the only thing I wanted to point out there is that we also know that that decreases gut bacteria, which is bad for your brain, and can long-term increase inflammation, which is also bad for your brain. We've got to be paying attention to all of it and how much you use. We're all grateful for medication when you need it. Just be careful about chronic use of any of these because they have side effects. If you need to take it, take it when you need to take it, but just know that there are side effects to chronically using a lot of these.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We're not huge fans of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories because they can really affect your gut ...

Tana Amen: I just said that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... in a negative way. No, I heard that. But it's also an anti-inflammatory.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: If I had a choice, which one would I take? I'd take the non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. I saw a woman last week who has the periods from hell where she cramps, she bleeds, she's in a lot of pain, and she uses a fair amount of Advil. Would I rather, especially because she wants to get pregnant, would I rather have her take Advil or Tylenol? I'd rather have her take Advil.

Tana Amen: For sure.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And take probiotics along with it to help rebuild her gut, but then also find out why do you have heavy periods.

Tana Amen: Right, that's my point.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Maybe it's because she has estrogen dominance.

Tana Amen: Or fibroid tumors. Just be aware that long-term, it'll actually increase inflammation if you break down your gut barrier because that's what can happen.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I think it's just so important to be thinking about why the rise in autism. When I was a child psychiatry fellow from 1985 to 1987, we hardly talked about this issue. It was 1 in 10,000 kids. Even thought Asperger's Syndrome, which is one of the autistic spectrum disorders, was described in 1943, there just weren't that many. Beginning in the early '90s, it began to skyrocket.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Some people think it's associated with vaccines. The evidence is not clear on that at all. It's not clear that it's not, so that's important. I think it's a gene toxin epigenetic interaction so that there's some toxin ...

Tana Amen: That turns on.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... in the environment that is turning on these genes and make people vulnerable to autism. A number of my very learned friends think it's acetaminophen. You may not remember but in the '80s there was something called Reye's Syndrome ...

Tana Amen: No, I remember.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... that happened from aspirin.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: They stopped giving children aspirin, and they started giving them acetaminophen, and we saw this significant rise. I know it's more complicated than that, but according to some studies, this increases the risk by as much as 40% or 60%.

Tana Amen: Wow, that's huge.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's huge. I'm sure it's not the only answer. I think it's also kids how live around toxic dumps have a higher incidence of autism. You and I knew this when I was writing Memory Rescue, and I was doing the toxin chapter, and I had you download this app, Think Dirty, and had you scan all of your ...

Tana Amen: Not just because you liked the name.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... personal products. Think Dirty is an app that lets you scan your personal products to see what are the endocrine disruptors in it, the toxins in it.

Tana Amen: Is this primarily for pregnant women taking Advil, or could it also apply to young children taking Tylenol, sorry, or can it also apply to if you give your young children Tylenol, can it do something at that point?

Dr. Daniel Amen: I think it's mostly pregnant women ...

Tana Amen: When the fetus is developing, okay.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... is the study we're actually talking about.

Tana Amen: When the embryo and the fetus [inaudible 00:09:45].

Dr. Daniel Amen: Anything that disrupts liver function or gut health, we have to be thinking of other things to do.

Tana Amen: Right. One of the things I've never understood ever, especially when we've got a society of kids who have such terrible ADD and other problems, why are we putting red dye in all of their children's medicines? What is that?

Dr. Daniel Amen: So it's pretty.

Tana Amen: It's the dumbest thing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So it tastes like cherry, although the taste has nothing to do with the red dye.

Tana Amen: It is so dumb. That's a whole nother thing is the artificial flavoring.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We have to be serious about this, having treated so many children who have autism. It devastates families.

Tana Amen: Oh, it does.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It devastates families. There's a high incidence of divorce. I just finished reading a book. It was actually a novel so it's fictional, but she pegged what happens in an autistic family. The book is called House Rules by Jodi Picoult. It's a wonderful book if you want to learn about the emotional impact of autism.

Tana Amen: TACA is a great organization.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Talk About Curing Autism, TACA.

Tana Amen: She's amazing. Her story is amazing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: TACA, We want you to be thinking about if you're thinking of having babies, don't use Tylenol and make sure your body is as clean as possible. One of the things I said this week in a lecture that a number of people came up to me was about epigenetics and how your habits turn on or off certain genes that make illness more or less likely in you, but also they affect your eggs and your sperm, so in you but also in generations of you. My daughter, [Kaitlyn 00:11:49], our daughter, Kaitlyn, is pregnant with her third child. This time it's a girl, and everybody's excited, and we're getting ready for the shower. When [Haven 00:11:57] is born, Haven will be born with all of the eggs she's ever have, and so Kaitlyn's behavior is impacting Haven's health but also Haven's baby's health. Think about that.

Tana Amen: There's a whole area based on that of medicine that I think is just fantastic, and it's just growing like crazy. It's preconception medicine. Sadly, as you know, there should be a warning label on bottles of tequila, "May cause pregnancy." It's just the way it goes for so many women, they find out that they're pregnant after partying, or they've been partying, or they've been out on vacation and drinking. They find out they're pregnant, and they've been drinking. They've not been thinking about pregnancy, and then all of a sudden they clean up. That's good. We want you to clean up whatever you've been doing if you get pregnant all of a sudden, but really what a lot of people are beginning to realize is it's really a better idea if you really get clean before you actually think about getting pregnant. Clean your body up.

Dr. Daniel Amen: For six month.

Tana Amen: Or a year. What preconception medicine does-

Dr. Daniel Amen: So many babies are not planned.

Tana Amen: Right. What preconception medicine does, because infertility is just out of control now, it's out of control, what preconception medicine does is helps women start thinking about, "When do I really want to have a baby?" Or for women who really know they want to have a baby, "Let's actually plan this out." Then they also help women start thinking about this whole fertility issue but really cleaning up the body so that before you go on this whole road down infertility, let's get everything else cleaned up first because maybe there's other issues.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Before we stop, let's just give them our top five tips. Number one is avoid acetaminophen. It's likely disrupting your liver, and there is a possibility it could increase the risk of developmental disorders in children. That would be one. What's another one?

Tana Amen: Avoid alcohol, but like I said, I would actually find a preconception medicine doctor and really get your numbers checked. Make your body this beautiful, wonderful place for a baby to grow.

Dr. Daniel Amen: We actually have a new Smart Prenatal to help support many of the systems in your body. We're pretty excited about that. It's being very intentional with your body, so avoiding anything that hurts it, doing things that help it. I would also make sure the omega-3 fatty acid level in your body is really good. There's a number of research studies correlating omega-3s.

Tana Amen: That would be part of your prenatals though, right?

Dr. Daniel Amen: No, it's not part of a prenatal vitamin. You need a prenatal vitamin and omega-3 fatty acids.

Tana Amen: Oh, that's interesting.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Higher in DHA and EPA.

Tana Amen: It's not part of our prenatals either?

Dr. Daniel Amen: No, because it's hard to get the fish oil into capsules. That's just very hard to do.

Tana Amen: They're separate.

Dr. Daniel Amen: They are separate. Then put together a stress management practice for yourself.

Tana Amen: For use.

Dr. Daniel Amen: A simple one, whether it's meditation ...

Tana Amen: Yoga.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... hypnosis ...

Tana Amen: There's maternity yoga.

Dr. Daniel Amen: ... diaphragmatic breathing.

Tana Amen: There's actually maternity yoga, which is awesome for women to help learn how to breathe, and learn how to stretch, and just get your mind right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Because as we don't want you putting toxic substances in your body like alcohol and perhaps acetaminophen, we also don't want you having toxic thoughts because toxic thoughts actually will trigger a cascade of toxic chemicals in your brain, and it happens almost immediately.

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