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There’s a video floating around the internet—and it’s all about floaters. As in, those funky things you sometimes see in your vision. The TED talk video got a lot of attention, highlighting questions many people who experience floaters have.
Floaters are spots that you may see in your vision from time to time. They can look like strings or may appear as black and grey specks. When you try to focus on them, they may dart off. Sometimes, they just disappear off to the side of your field of vision.
For the most part, you shouldn’t be alarmed about floaters. At the same time, it’s good to know when they may signal a more complex health issue.
What Causes Floaters?
Typically, eye floaters are a result of changes that occur in your eye. According to the Mayo Clinic, they occur when tiny fibers in the vitreous (the jelly-like substance in our eyes) clump up. That can create shadows on your retina, and those shadows are what people see—the floaters.
“Most of us will develop floaters as we get older,” Dr. Chirag P. Shah, an eye doctor at Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston, told The Epoch Times. “They are evident as dark or gray specks in our vision that tend to float with eye movement.
“Floaters tend to be most noticeable when looking at a bright white screen or blue sky, and less noticeable when the lighting is dim or dark.”
Dr. Inder Paul Singh, an eye doctor at The Eye Centers of Racine and Kenosha, told The Epoch Times that floaters typically show up when there’s a plain bright background in front of you or if it’s bright outside.
“When there is a complex background, the brain has a harder time focusing on the floaters because it is interested in so much information from the background,” Singh said. “When the pupils are dilated, such as at night time, the floaters are harder to see.”
He said floaters aren’t always small little spots or “bugs,” as the TED video says.
“Typical floaters can also be larger clumps and ‘clouds’ of collagen,” he said. “If they are in the center of the visual axis (over the macula), they can decrease quality of vision.
“Since floaters can be caused by opacities in the vitreous that are small dots, strings, or large clouds, patients will often see defined darker black or gray spots or lines in their vision that will often move. Or if the opacities are large, there can be clouds or blur spots that often move in and out of the vision.”
There are different types of floaters, Shah said. Many people start developing small floaters in their 20s as the vitreous gel in their eyes starts to shrink. When we’re older, the vitreous gel often completely separates from the retina—a normal, acute process called posterior vitreous detachment.
This happens in about 60 percent of people by the age of 60. A ring-type opacity forms from where it was attached to the optic nerve, Singh said. This comes with a small risk of retinal tear or detachment.
It’s important to recognize that floaters, even if not serious, can affect daily functioning, Singh said.
“Although they do not cause structural damage to the eye if untreated, they can make it difficult to perform certain daily tasks,” he said.
For many years, the only treatment for floaters was having a surgery known as a vitrectomy. This removes the gel from the eyes. But due to high risks, the procedure is largely reserved for those with severe symptoms.
Over the past decade, laser YAG vitreolysis has gained popularity. The in-office procedure has no post-procedure restrictions.
“This can work very well for the smaller and more localized floaters,” Singh said.
The procedure can be helpful for some patients and some floater types, but it isn’t widely accepted or performed because of limited data, Shah said.
“Only a few clinical trials have evaluated this procedure,” he said. “Personally, I recommend most patients avoid vitrectomy due to the small risks, and try to adjust to their floaters.”
Seeing a ton of floaters seemingly all of a sudden? If that happens and/or if you lose peripheral vision or see flashes of light, that’s when it’s time to call your eye doctor.
“Most of the time, floaters are benign and do not reflect a serious eye health issue,” Singh said. “However, they can be a sign of a retinal tear or detachment or even inflammation.”
If floaters occur from a retinal tear or detachment, there often are multiple floaters that appear suddenly at one time, like a “shower of floaters,” he said.
“Also there may be flashing lights that are more constant and do not go away,” he said.
If the floaters are from the vitreous pulling away from the retina and not from a detachment or tear of the actual retina, then the flashes tend to last just a second or two and usually go away quickly after they start. If the floaters are from inflammation, then they usually have other symptoms, such as pain, redness, and light sensitivity.
Another time to call your doctor is if you notice a dark curtain across your visual field, Shah said.
Kristen Fischer is a writer living in New Jersey.
Our brain is subject to aging, just like the rest of our body. It is also subject to disease, which is unique in the sense that it can change the very essence of who we think we are.
Alzheimer’s can turn a loved one into a stranger. It can claim memories, personality, and relationships, leaving family members of the afflicted with a haunting echo of someone that once knew them.
Fortunately, even as the disease grows in prevalence, researchers are also learning more about factors that put us at risk, and habits we can cultivate to keep our brain healthy.
One recent example comes out of a collaboration between researchers1 from the University of Queensland and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. They discovered that a phytochemical in apple peels can stimulate the growth of new neurons (neurogenesis).
This phytochemical is called quercetin. While the researchers found this compound did not help the brain grow neurons when used at high concentrations, it was pro-neurogenic at low concentrations, which means it led to the creation of new neurons, specifically in the hippocampus region of the brain.
The brain has a hippocampus within each of the temporal lobes (which are just above the ears). The hippocampus is part of the limbic system.2 This is a part of the brain where behavioral and emotional responses are generated. These responses are central to survival and include reproduction, caring for babies, feeding, and the fight-or-flight response. Other parts of the limbic system include the thalamus, hypothalamus, basal ganglia, and amygdala.
The hippocampus is a well-studied part of the brain, which takes its name from the shape that resembles a seahorse. This area plays a crucial role in memory consolidation, coding, and learning.3 Another of its major functions is forming a cognitive map, which is related to your ability to acquire new knowledge, store it, and recall it later.
Your behavior is affected by this constant accumulation of knowledge and damage to the thalamus can produce maladaptive behaviors because of its broad effects on emotion and cognition.
The hippocampus is also the area that takes the initial damage when the plaques and tangled fibers of Alzheimer’s start to destroy brain function.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association,5 the number of people living in the U.S. who have Alzheimer’s disease is growing. There were an estimated 5.8 million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2020. Nearly two-thirds are women. Experts estimate that as the population of people over 65 continues to grow, the number of people with Alzheimer’s will also rapidly increase.
By 2050, it is projected 13.8 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease.
Quercetin Stimulates Proneurogenic Activity
The new study looked at how quercetin, a plant flavonol found in the apple peel, spurred neuron growth. Flavonols are a type of flavonoid, a compound with many functions in plants, including being an essential pigment for bright colors in fruit and vegetables.
Flavonoids are also powerful antioxidants, which help the immune system work better by neutralizing free radicals.
The study was published in Stem Cell Reports 6, and was built on past studies that have demonstrated the benefits of phytochemicals found in plant foods.
The researchers noted that plant compounds were vital for maintaining cognitive function by growing new neurons (neurogenesis). That’s what makes the new findings encouraging. This ability of the brain to reshape and grow itself is critical to our cognitive agility. The fact that a compound in apple peel—and another in its flesh—can help the brain do that is a testament to the benefits we receive from natural food.
The researchers said they chose apples as they are widely consumed across the globe resulting in a generalized exposure.7 The study began with an in vitro (within glass) examination of quercetin, which is the most abundant flavonoid in the apple’s peel.
The second half of the study was an in vivo (within the living) study using an animal model. After their data analysis, the researchers ultimately found that apples contained compounds in the peel and the flesh that helped promote neurogenesis. Quercetin from the peel and another active compound from the apple flesh, 3,5-Dihydroxybenzoic acid (DHBA), demonstrated the ability to increase precursor cell proliferation and neurogenesis.
The researchers measured the effect on neural precursor cells, which are stem cells that can generate neural cell types within the brain. They found the effect was like that reported in past studies for other plant compounds such as resveratrol and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is found in green tea.8
During the lab portion of the study, the researchers found that stem cells generated from a mouse brain were protected and exhibited more neurogenesis when quercetin and DHBA were added to the cell cultures.9 During the animal study, they found structures in the brain that were associated with learning and memory had more neurons when the mice were given doses of quercetin or DHBA.
Exercise Also Stimulates Brain Growth
Another thing we can do that promotes neurogenesis is exercise. One study10 from the University of British Columbia discovered that aerobic training could increase the volume of the hippocampus in older women who had mild cognitive impairment.
The scientists engaged 86 women ages 70 to 80 years and assigned them to a twice-weekly program over six months. The women engaged in aerobic activity, resistance training or balance and tone training. Those enrolled in the aerobic training showed significant improvement in hippocampal volume.
As reported in Science magazine,11 neurogenesis without exercise may not be enough to protect memory and learning. One animal model demonstrated that increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were required before the animals could outperform the control mice on testing.
BDNF is a key molecule produced in the brain with exercise and may help to explain the neuroprotective and cognitive benefits people experience with exercise.12 Much less is known about the interaction between exercise, BDNF, and neurogenesis in the human brain as it is all but impossible to study living human brain tissue.
More is known about the benefits from animal models, while indirect measurements of neurogenesis are used in human participants. Senior author of the paper published in Science, Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D., commented on the results of chemically induced neurogenesis with exercise:13
“In our study we showed that exercise is one of the best ways to turn on neurogenesis and then, by figuring out the molecular and genetic events involved, we determined how to mimic the beneficial effects of exercise through gene therapy and pharmacological agents.
“Although exercise-induced AHN [adult hippocampal neurogenesis] improved cognition in Alzheimer’s mice by turning on neurogenesis, trying to achieve that result by using gene therapy and drugs did not help.
“That was because newly born neurons, induced by drugs and gene therapy, were not able to survive in brain regions already ravaged by Alzheimer’s pathology, particularly neuroinflammation. So, we asked how neurogenesis induced by exercise differs.
“The lesson learned was that it is not enough just to turn on the birth of new nerve cells, you must simultaneously ‘clean up’ the neighborhood in which they are being born to make sure the new cells survive and thrive. Exercise can achieve that …”
More Strategies to Protect Brain Health
There are additional strategies you can use to help promote brain health. Astaxanthin is one. This powerful antioxidant is a naturally occurring carotenoid responsible for the pink or red color found in salmon, trout, lobster, and other seafood.14
It’s often referred to as the “king of antioxidants”15 and is derived from the microscopic algae haematococcus that produce it as a protective mechanism to shield it from ultraviolet light.16 In your body, it helps protect against reactive oxygen species and oxidation that play a role in heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and aging.
In one review of the literature,17 scientists identified several pathways astaxanthin may take to help slow brain aging. They also found it increases BDNF levels and reduces oxidative damage to DNA, lipids and proteins. Another nutrient found in fatty fish that helps protect your brain health is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that include EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
These nutrients are crucial for cell membranes and play an anti-inflammatory role in the body.18 DHA is especially crucial for brain health as it is an essential structural component that is found in high levels in the neurons.
As I have written before, and covered in my book “Superfuel,” co-written with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., when there is an inadequate amount of omega-3, the nerve cells become stiff and are prone to inflammation. This reduces proper neurotransmission from cell to cell and the cells become compromised.
Low levels of DHA have been linked to both memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, and some studies have suggested degenerative brain diseases may potentially be reversible when sufficient DHA is provided.19,20 However, it is important to choose wild-caught Alaskan salmon, krill oil or other sources of safe fish, such as sardines, to meet these nutritional requirements. There are also many benefits to nutritional ketosis, only one of which is providing adequate fuel to your brain for optimal functioning. That’s an article all on its own. Strategies to Slow Brain Aging
There are strategies you can use to improve brain function and others you should avoid as they can harm your brain.
Avoid Processed Food
To protect your brain, you should avoid processed foods and sugar.
Regular consumption of high-sugar foods is linked to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes21 and Type 2 diabetes is associated with a 60 percent higher risk for any type of dementia.22
One study23 found that even without a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, participants with higher blood sugar levels had lower hippocampal volume and people with higher hemoglobin A1c and glucose measurements had significantly lower scores on memory testing.
That memory finding could be significant.
In two separate studies, researchers at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic and the Center for Demographic and Aging Research, found poor memory performance predicted a higher risk of dementia.
Drink Less Alcohol
Chronic excessive alcohol consumption causes dysfunction of neuronal dysfunction and brain damage.24 Yet, even moderate alcohol consumption can reduce brain volume and is associated with neuronal changes.25
In a large study evaluating brain aging and alcohol,26 researchers from the University of Southern California examined 17,308 brain scans of cognitively normal participants.
They found that for every gram of alcohol consumed each day, the participants’ brain aged 0.02 years, which is equivalent to 7.3 days. To put this in perspective, 12 ounces of regular beer have approximately 14 grams of alcohol.27
Chronic sleep deprivation is another lifestyle component that can trigger poor brain health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain cannot do the necessary housekeeping.
One small 2018 study by the National Institutes of Health found even going one night without sleep increased the amount of beta-amyloid protein in the brain. This is the protein that creates the plaque linked to cognitive decline among Alzheimer’s patients.
Researchers from Marche Polytechnic University in Italy28 show that astrocytes, which are a type of glial cells in the brain that normally get rid of unnecessary nerve connections. Their study of sleep-deprived mice suggests that these astrocytes start to break down healthy nerve synapses when you are chronically sleep-deprived.
Quercetin’s Other Job
While the new study highlights quercetin’s role in neurogenesis, the medical literature has highlighted its capacity as a zinc ionophore, helping move zinc into the cells where it can halt viral replication. Research has also found it is a synergistic partner with vitamin C. On its own, quercetin acts as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory that can also lower your risk for viral illnesses.
The body is an ever-unfolding chain reaction and researchers have found that quercetin can improve one of them by inhibiting the expression of casein kinase II (CK2),34 which down-regulates the ability of the cell to generate type 1 interferon when it is attacked by a virus. This means that by inhibiting the expression of CK2, quercetin may help slow the replication of RNA viruses.
In addition to apple peel, you can find quercetin in foods such as plums, red grapes, green tea, elderflower, and onions.35 Considering its wide-ranging benefits, quercetin may also be a useful supplement, either acutely, for times you feel you’re coming down with something, or more long-term, for metabolic health and, potentially, brain health.
If you choose to supplement, I believe that quercetin is best taken at night (with zinc) before you go to bed, and you haven’t eaten for at least three to four hours. You will sleep for eight hours, and if you are metabolically flexible, this is the time that you will dive into nutritional ketosis.
Another benefit of taking quercetin at night is to take advantage of its senolytic action. This helps to remove senescent cells, which are similar to nonreplicating cancer cells that secrete powerful proinflammatory cytokines. You can optimize quercetin’s senolytic properties if you take it while you are fasting.
Dr. Joseph Mercola is the founder of Mercola.com. An osteopathic physician, best-selling author, and recipient of multiple awards in the field of natural health, his primary vision is to change the modern health paradigm by providing people with a valuable resource to help them take control of their health. This article was originally published on Mercola.com
Anywhere from 10 percent to 80 percent of people experience prolonged illness and symptoms after COVID-19 infection, which may last for months.
This means that anywhere from 5 to 40 million people around the world may be suffering from post-COVID syndrome or long-haul COVID.
Persistent symptoms have appeared in patients of all ages, even children who only had minor COVID-19 infections, regardless of whether or not hospitalization was required. Additionally, there is no firm consensus regarding which risk factors make patients more likely to acquire long-haul COVID, although a Mayo Clinic study found that three-quarters of those with long-haul COVID were women.
Symptoms of Long COVID
In a May 2021 review article in Infectious Diseases, author Shin J. Yong summarized the published literature to date on the symptomatology, pathophysiology, risk factors, and treatments for people experiencing persistent or unusual symptoms after being sick with COVID-19.
“While the precise definition of long COVID may be lacking, the most common symptoms reported in many studies are fatigue and dyspnea [shortness of breath] that last for months after acute COVID-19,” Yong said. Other less typical symptoms include problems with thinking and processing information, psychiatric symptoms, headache, muscle aches and pains, chest and joint pains, abnormalities of smell and taste, cough, hair loss, trouble sleeping, wheezing, runny nose, coughing up mucus from lungs, heart problems, and digestive issues.
Interestingly, COVID-19 isn’t the first coronavirus to result in long-term symptoms. Survivors of the viruses MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) also reported experiencing symptoms of fatigue, muscle pain, and psychiatric impairments for several years.
Given the experience gained since Yong’s paper was published, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC Alliance) and OneDayMD.com have provided a more complete list of long-haul COVID symptoms, which include even more body systems.
Pathophysiology of Long-Haul COVID
Long-haul COVID may result from direct tissue damage, persistent inflammation from spike protein particles, immune system dysregulation, or the development of autoimmunity.
The FLCCC Alliance describes post-COVID-19 syndrome as similar to chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), found in 25 percent of the population who have prolonged exposure to indoor toxic molds; to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which has toxic and infectious etiologies; as well as to mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), which often accompanies systemic inflammation from any number of causes.
Yong’s paper reviewed studies showing that pulmonary fibrosis (scarring of the lungs) which can be seen in long COVID sufferers may be due to the fact that SARS-CoV-2 triggers inflammatory mast cell responses alongside other immune cells in COVID-19 patients. Mast cells are immune cells that are mostly associated with allergic symptoms.
Yong also describes how gut microbiome disruption (i.e. gut dysbiosis) seen in patients with COVID-19 has been shown to persist after infection. Abnormalities in the microbiome in the intestines have been implicated in numerous diseases related to chronic inflammation. The influence of gut bacteria on brain chemistry may account for some of long-haul COVID’s neurological symptoms.
On pages 46–47 of the FLCCC Alliance’s protocols overview, four possible pathophysiological mechanisms, summarizing the current scientific knowledge, are proposed to explain post-COVID-19 syndrome. These include:
- Immune cells in the lungs called macrophages may remain active, fighting the enemy that is no longer there. This could account for the problems patients have with breathing, ongoing cough, inability to exercise due to feeling short of breath.
- Other immune cells called monocytes and microglia may also remain in fight mode activation due to the persistence of pieces of dead virus or debris such as the spike protein inside these cells that keeps the flames of inflammation burning. This could account for the overall feeling of fatigue, achiness, brain fog, and joint pains.
- Damage to both large and small blood vessels with the formation of blood clots and/or autoimmune attack by the immune system against brain proteins could cause the neurological symptoms that seem to be common in severe COVID-19 disease.
- Mast cells, which are present all over the body, including the brain, may get activated and result in mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). The brain fog, cognitive impairment, and general fatigue reported in long-haul COVID may be due to mast cell-related inflammation of the brain and its blood vessels.
As early as June 2020, former Stanford researcher Bruce Patterson M.D., reported that he had identified the cause of the ‘cytokine storm’ seen in COVID-19, profound elevations of the inflammatory molecules, plasma IL-6, and CCL5 (RANTES). A June 2021 paper describing his findings was published in Frontiers in Immunology.
A second paper by Patterson et al., published July 2021, also in Frontiers in Immunology, demonstrated that the SARS-CoV-2 S1 protein (a portion of the spike protein) persisted in the immune cells called nonclassical monocytes of patients with long-haul COVID for up to 15 months after initial infections. These monocytes, according to Patterson, are capable of causing inflammation throughout the entire body.
The article makes it clear that the S1 protein found in these patients appeared to be debris left over from initial infection with the virus and was not the result of ongoing, persistent viral growth and replication. Therefore, it is unlikely that long-haul COVID patients are infectious to others. Rather, the scientific evidence indicates that these patients’ immune systems are stuck on overdrive, pouring out inflammatory molecules in response to the persistence of the S1 spike protein fragment.
An article in Circulation Research published in March 2021 showed that the spike protein itself, in the absence of the rest of the virus, can cause inflammation and damage to the endothelium or the cell lining of the vascular system. This damage leads to the development of blood clots, which can cause heart attack and stroke.
In a July 2021 interview with News Voice, Dr. Robert Malone, inventor of mRNA technology, said the spike protein “is active in manipulating the biology of the cells that coat the inside of your blood vessels—vascular endothelial cells, in part through its interaction with ACE-2 [angiotensin-2 receptor], which controls contraction in the blood vessels, blood pressure, and other things.”
Dr. Peter McCullough, at the 78th Annual Meeting of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons on Oct. 2, 2021, described the spike protein as “a deadly protein.”
It may be, therefore, that the spike protein portion of the SAR-CoV-2 virus or its fragments, such as the S1 portion, are responsible for much of the pathological findings in long-haul COVID. The spike protein or its fragments can circulate in the body after infection and cause inflammation and blood clotting in any part of the body where it accumulates.
Diagnosis of Chronic COVID-19 Syndrome
Yong’s review article described how patients with post-COVID-19 syndrome had elevated levels of pro-inflammatory markers in the blood such as C-reactive protein; interleukin-6; ferritin; D-dimer as well as lowered levels of the white blood cells known as lymphocytes.
The overall goal of treatment should be to block the spike protein or its fragment from interacting with cells throughout the body, to reduce systemic inflammation and lower the thermostat (to turn down the heat so to speak), to balance the formation and degradation of clotting and remove excess fibrin or sludge-like debris in the blood vessels, and to eliminate symptoms.
German researchers have shown that dandelion and pomegranate peel (not the juice) inhibit the spike protein by preventing the S1 segment from binding to the ACE-2 receptors on cell surfaces.
Indian researchers have found that N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is able to produce a “threefold weakening in the binding affinity of spike protein with ACE-2 receptor.”
An article in Circulation Research described how the endothelium (cells lining blood vessels), if damaged by the spike protein, could be “rescued by treatment with N-acetyl-L-cysteine [NAC].”
The World Council for Health, an NGO made up of a “global coalition of health-focused organizations and civil society groups,” has published a comprehensive guide that includes sourcing and dosing information, on how to detox from the spike protein, reduce inflammation, and buffer clotting issues. Choices include ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, vitamin C, NAC, pine needles, neem, dandelion leaf extract, fennel tea, star anise tea, boswellia, black cumin, quercetin, nattokinase, and many others.
The FLCCC Alliance, in addition to its extensive COVID-19 treatment protocols, has a specific protocol for long-haul COVID patients. These therapies, which rely heavily on repurposed prescription medications, include ivermectin, prednisone, low dose naltrexone (LDN), omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, fluvoxamine, curcumin, melatonin, among others.
Dr. Patterson treats long-haul COVID patients with a 4–6 week course of three drugs. The first is Maraviroc (one of the drugs used to treat HIV), which stops monocytes from moving around the body causing damage. Second are statin drugs (cholesterol-lowering), which stop the monocytes from attaching to endothelial cells (lining of blood vessels). Third is ivermectin, which kills parasites and viruses, and modulates the immune system in a positive way.
Treating physicians may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or try pharmaceutical drugs (NSAIDS) repurposed from the treatment of chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS), chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). Most agree that personalized graded light aerobic exercises, physical rehabilitation programs, and breathing exercises can help post-COVID-19 patients recover.
In my own medical practice, I have been successful in treating long-haul COVID patients with a combination of enzymes that break up blood clots and debris, nutritional and herbal anti-inflammatories, herbal antibiotics, nutritional supplements, and pharmaceutical medications. These are the same modalities that I use to treat my chronically ill patients suffering from problems with tick-borne diseases, mold-induced illness, environmental toxicities, microscopic blood clotting or hypercoagulability, and genetic detoxification problems.
Mold is a big problem in many homes, but many people are unaware of the potential risks. There is some debate regarding how mold affects humans, but much research—and common sense—tells us that sharing a home with mold isn’t beneficial.
Everyone checks for mold on the shower curtain, under the sink, or in the basement, but mold can grow just about anywhere. Mold can be found in drywall, in the roof or ceiling (if leaks are present), and even in one’s Christmas tree. One study found that Christmas trees can breed mold, quietly releasing millions of spores into the room, potentially causing winter allergies and asthma attacks.
Many types of mold can be found growing in the modern American home. Scientists classify molds based on the effect they have on humans and other living things.
Different Types of Mold
Allergenic Molds: Allergenic molds are on the low end of the danger scale. They only cause problems for those with asthma and a predisposed allergy to the specific mold. Children are more likely to have mold allergies than adults.
Pathogenic Molds: Pathogenic molds can cause infection, and are a big problem for those with a suppressed immune system. An acute response resembling bacterial pneumonia commonly occurs among those exposed to these types of molds.
Toxigenic Molds: As the name implies, these molds produce mycotoxins that can cause serious health effects; they have been tied to immunosuppression and cancer. The toxic chemicals found in these types of molds can be absorbed into the body when one inhales them, eats them, or even touches them.
Five Common Indoor Molds:
Alternaria: Commonly found in your nose, mouth, and upper respiratory tract; can cause allergic responses.
Aspergillus: Usually found in warm, humid climates, and a common occupant of house dust; produces mycotoxins; can cause lung infections.
Cladosporium: This very common outdoor fungus can find its way indoors to grow on textiles, wood, and other damp, porous materials; triggers hay fever and asthma symptoms.
Penicillium: A very common species found on wallpaper, decaying fabrics, carpet, and fiberglass duct insulation; known for causing allergies and asthma; some species produce mycotoxins, one being the common antibiotic penicillin.
Stachybotrys: Extremely toxic “black mold” that produces mycotoxins that can cause serious breathing difficulties and bleeding of the lungs, among other health problems. Thankfully, less common in homes than the other four, but not rare; found on wood or paper (cellulose products), but not on concrete, linoleum, or tile.
“Mold illness” refers to the variety of health problems that can occur from mold exposure. Although mold allergy symptoms are the most common reaction caused by exposure to mold, mold can cause illness—such as infections, irritation, and toxic reactions—without an allergic reaction. Infections caused by mold can lead to a variety of problems, from flu-like symptoms to skin infections and even pneumonia.
Toxic mold can also cause a chronic inflammatory response. An acute and systemic inflammatory response can be acquired following exposure to, for example, the interior of a water-damaged building with resident toxigenic organisms including fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, and Mycobacterium, which are inflammagens that can keep your body in a state of inflammation.
11 Signs of Mold Illness
- Brain fog, memory problems, trouble focusing, headaches
- Fatigue and weakness
- Unexplained muscle cramping, aches and pains in the joints, persistent nerve pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Eye problems like red eyes or light sensitivity
- Asthma and sinus problems like cough or shortness of breath
- Tremors and vertigo
- Digestive issues like change in appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Temperature regulation or night sweats
- Excessive thirst and increased urination
The variety of symptoms is quite large, and they can overlap with other conditions. See a practitioner if you have the underlying conditions that may go along with mold toxicity. It’s not just the food we eat, but also the air that we breathe that can make us sick.
This article was first published in Radiant Life magazine.
Music, poetry, dance, and art have played an important part in our mental and physical well-being throughout history.
According to studies commissioned by the UK Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, “Participation in the arts leads to significant improvements in health, that not only boost self-esteem, but also reduce feelings of isolation and exclusion.”
Those benefits have led to a profoundly different type of prescription in the UK—social prescribing. People who are feeling lonely, depressed, or anxious may be prescribed an art class or community dance program, rather than a pharmaceutical.
The National Health Service (NHS), England’s publicly funded healthcare system, currently employs more than 1,000 link workers (somewhat similar to social workers in the United States). Social prescribing link workers help people to identify the source of their struggles and, using this knowledge, offer advice and guidance to fulfill their needs. They connect people with community groups, volunteer agencies, and other services that can provide practical and emotional support.
A Time-Tested Treatment
Social prescribing as a concept is hardly revolutionary. The therapeutic value of community support and the arts has been recorded as far back as 400 B.C., when the Greek theatre of Epidaurus was built as a place for pilgrims to honor Asclepius, the god of medicine. “They came to cleanse their souls with therapeutic waters and with theatre,” said one commentator of the time.
Music, poetry, and art have always offered solace during difficult times in our lives, and indeed, some of the most beloved poetry anthologies deal with topics such as emotional distress, loss, and bereavement. Many of humankind’s greatest artistic achievements were born from our struggle to express complex thoughts or feelings. As Georgia O’Keeffe, once said, “I found I could say things with colors and shapes which I couldn’t say in any other way—things I had no words for.”
The beauty of creative expression, used as a healing methodology, is that it does not rely on talent. Even those who think they don’t possess any natural artistic ability can benefit mentally, emotionally, and spiritually from the creative process. Indeed, these activities offer a lifeline for those who are facing acute difficulty: including the aging population who experience debilitating isolation and those suffering from dementia. Many participants say that activities and opportunities such as these help to lift them out of their darkest depression, keep their minds active, and regain a sense of purpose.
The benefits of programs such as social prescribing cannot be underestimated for their ability to not only increase positive outcomes, but more importantly, to prevent disease and enhance overall wellbeing.
An Investment in Community
NHS-England projects that over 900,000 people will be referred for social prescribing over the next two years. Its goal is to improve the lives of more than 2.5 million people by the end of 2024. This is the largest investment in social prescribing by any national health service.
It may not surprise you to hear that a large percentage of doctor visits are not related to health issues. Instead, they involve underlying social issues such as debt, loneliness, emotional distress, and isolation. The gulf between human need and social support has been growing for decades, as many national services and programs are cut due to shrinking social care budgets, while social isolation and shrinking personal networks become defining qualities of modern life. The NHS has been exploring ways to bridge the gap through social prescribing, allowing local agencies and general practitioners to refer patients to link workers.
Social prescribing is effective for a wide range of people, helping them to:
- cope with or prevent mental health issues
- live with one or more existing long-term conditions
- bridge the gulf of loneliness
- reduce stress and anxiety
- overcome complex social needs affecting their health
Social prescribing goes beyond art programs. In London, social prescribing is instrumental in building and supporting community resilience by linking those in need to support services that can help them with housing, employment, finance, and social welfare. This need has never been greater than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when large numbers of people found themselves displaced, unemployed, and completely isolated, literally overnight.
Currently, the majority of link workers are employed by community sector organizations, who are attempting to fill the numerous gaps in social care. They help people to find therapeutic outlets through gardening, befriending, cookery courses, arts classes, music therapy, healthy eating advice, sports, and volunteering opportunities.
Involvement in group activities such as these can have a profoundly positive effect on patients: particularly on those suffering from mental illness, or those identified as being at risk of developing mental health problems. An NHS review showed an average 28 percent reduction in demand for general practitioner services and a 24 percent fall in emergency room visits for patients who participated in a social prescribing scheme.
This is not to say that the arts are some kind of catchall medicinal panacea, but they do hold the promise of helping to elevate people from their personal struggles—giving them opportunities to connect with others who share and understand what they are going through. And though some researchers have downplayed the benefits of social prescribing—citing the low number of small-scale organizations from which to study, and a tendency towards reporting bias from participants—it is hard to ignore the NHS review, and the growing number of testimonies from those who have benefited from these interventions.
This article was first published in Radiant Life magazine.
When she was in her mid-50s, my mother had a dentist who told her that if she didn’t floss her teeth, they would fall out of her mouth and she would have to get dentures. After his warning, flossing became something of an obsession.
“Don’t forget to floss” is a reminder you’ve heard a thousand times.
It sounds like very good advice indeed. After all, flossing helps remove bits of food from between your teeth. In addition, it removes dental plaque. We all know that plaque is bad. That soft sticky film that makes you feel like your teeth are wearing socks is actually the acidic waste product of the bacteria that live in your mouth. The problem is that plaque can build up, harden, and lead to tooth decay and other oral health problems.
So you should floss your teeth every day, once or twice a day, or even after every meal. That’s what health-conscious people do, right?
Not so fast. It turns out that the conventional wisdom to floss daily may not be the best choice.
Flossing Can Hurt Your Gums
There are delicate connections between your gums and the teeth that you’re separating when you floss. Aggressive flossing disconnects the gums from the teeth, which can actually cause gum recession.
Flossing too roughly or too often can also cause excess gum irritation. Technique matters.
“A lot of patients don’t know the proper way of flossing,” Karla Solis, a holistic-minded biological dentist based in Los Angeles, California, wrote in a 2016 article in MindBodyGreen. “Even when I try to teach them in the chair, they tend to just insert the floss up and down instead of hugging the tooth with it.”
When you hug the tooth with the floss and floss gently, you cause less damage to your gums. In contrast, inserting the floss straight between each tooth—which is the way I learned to floss as a child—can cause gum irritation, gum recession, and even micro tears in your gums.
Conventional Floss Contains Toxins
Another problem with flossing is the floss itself. Even if you use only natural beauty products, avoid synthetic perfumes, and eat a healthy diet of whole foods and colorful, organically grown vegetables, you may not realize that conventional dental floss is full of toxins.
Some floss is made with non-stick chemicals. This non-stick surface helps the floss glide smoothly between your teeth. While non-stick floss makes flossing easier, Teflon dental flosses contain polytetrafluoroethylene. Polytetrafluoroethylene is a synthetic polymer. This common consumer plastic has been associated with a host of health problems, including endocrine disruption and obesity.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, found that women who flossed with Oral-B Glide had higher levels of problematic chemicals in their blood than women who didn’t use that brand of floss.
Other brands that tested positive for fluorine, which indicates that they contain PFAS compounds, included CVS Health EaseBetween SuperSlip Dental Floss Waxed, Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Mint, Glide Pro-Health Original, Crest Glide Deep Clean Cool Mint Floss, Safeway Signature Care Mint Waxed Comfort Floss, and Colgate Total Dental Floss Mint.
Using dental floss that contains these chemicals puts you at higher risk of health problems, including liver and kidney damage and immune disruption, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But what about other forms of dental floss? These may be problematic as well. Most nylon and silk flosses are coated with petroleum-derived so-called food-grade wax.
While many conventional consumer products contain petroleum-derived ingredients, petroleum-based products have been found to be contaminated with benzene, a dangerous carcinogen which can cause leukemia, central nervous system defects, and damage to reproductive organs, even at very low levels.
According to the CDC, both short- and long-term benzene exposure can compromise your health.
Some conventional dental floss is made with artificial colorants and either artificial or “natural” flavoring. The exact chemicals in these flavorings are considered proprietary and aren’t disclosed to consumers, so it’s impossible to be sure what they’re made of. That said, they likely include parabens and other potentially toxic ingredients.
You can look for non-toxic, eco-friendly, biodegradable dental floss that is unwaxed or is made with a non-petroleum-derived wax, or you can skip flossing altogether and care for your teeth in a different way.
One of the best alternatives to flossing is to orally irrigate your teeth. Oral irrigation is a fancy way of describing using pressurized water to clean in between your teeth. You can buy a standing unit for the sink or a hand-held water pick that you use like a toothbrush over the sink or in the shower. These cost more upfront than a roll of floss, but they save you money in the long run.
While conventional dental wisdom scowls at the idea that oral irrigation is as effective as flossing—and I’m sure the blood pressure is rising in a dentist reading this article right now—consider this: A study published in 2005 by a team of dentists in Nebraska concluded that both methods were equally effective for removing plaque and reducing gum inflammation and gum disease.
Another study, published in The Journal of Clinical Dentistry in 2013, found that water flossing was more effective at removing plaque than string flossing after just one session.
Neem and Licorice Sticks
I lived and worked in Niger in West Africa in the early 1990s and again from 2006 to 2007. Even though Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and dentists are few and far between, the people there have remarkably healthy teeth. Most Nigeriens use sticks of a plant called “neem” to clean their teeth. Neem is a tree in the mahogany family, native to India and West Africa.
You chew the stick until it shreds into bristles, and then rub it over your teeth, essentially using a natural toothbrush without toothpaste. I found the sticks to have a clean pine resin flavor that took a little getting used to. It’s my understanding that neem twigs are used in many countries in Africa, as well as in India and other countries in Southeast Asia.
There’s some interesting science that shows that the neem plant is helpful with oral hygiene. A 2017 study published in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice found that neem sticks are anti-bacterial. Chewing a stick for just 10 minutes per day greatly reduced harmful bacteria in the oral microbiome.
A 2020 double-blind placebo-controlled study, also conducted by Indian scientists, found that neem also had a positive effect on the insulin levels and systemic inflammation of the diabetics who took it.
You can also use licorice root sticks in a similar way. Cleaning your teeth with a dried licorice root stick is another way to dislodge food and keep your gums healthy.
And using licorice root may do even more than that. In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Natural Products, scientists found that licorice root, a staple in traditional Chinese medicine, helped inhibit the overgrowth of harmful mouth bacteria, which may in turn help prevent and treat gum disease and tooth decay.
Chewing on licorice root sticks can also help you quit smoking. Licorice root sticks can be purchased online or at a local health food store. People with high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disorders shouldn’t use licorice, however. If you’re pregnant or taking medication to treat hypertension, licorice isn’t recommended.