A recently published study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases says wild caught Alaskan salmon may harbor a species of tapeworm previously known to infect only Asian fish. Researchers warn that based on their findings, any salmon caught along the North American Pacific coast may have the parasite. The concern is that if you eat the fish undercooked or raw, you could become a host to this gruesome organism.
CNN reports that the tapeworm newly discovered in Alaskan salmon is named Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, also known as the Japanese broad tapeworm. This species accounts for the most infections in humans, in contradiction to the previous belief that the dubious distinction went to the most common fish tapeworm, Diphyllobothrium latum. A team of scientists found four species of Pacific salmon known to carry the Japanese tapeworm: chum salmon, masu salmon, pink salmon and sockeye salmon. These fish are caught and then shipped worldwide, so the infection may occur in humans anywhere on the planet. (RELATED: Stay informed about the health risks of food ingredients at Ingredients.news)
Tapeworms, including the Japanese version can grow to 30 feet inside a human digestive tract. Infestation often goes undetected, because symptoms may often be mild, with symptoms largely attributed to other conditions by medical practitioners. When fish are commercially caught worldwide, they are placed on ice for the journey to port. But this does not freeze the fish, it only refrigerates them. To kill the possibly present parasite worms, the fish need to be frozen. Salmon sushi at a restaurant or store can be assumed to be an unsafe commodity unless you know it has been frozen or you freeze it yourself. Additionally, the fish can be sufficiently cooked for assurance of safety against parasitic infection.
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Jayde Ferguson, a scientist at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game believes, “The tapeworm itself is probably not new — it’s just that more skilled parasitologist started looking for it. Identifying these parasites is challenging. This was simply a more detailed evaluation of the Diphyllobothrium that has occurred here for over a millennium.”
Professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Dr. William Schaffner stated, “Because we do things that we haven’t done before, now, we have these fresh caught fish that can be transported anywhere and eaten raw. … I am sure we will be on the lookout for this kind of tapeworm going forward.”
Parasitic worms – an under-recognized epidemic
Naturopath Marijah McCain is a widely experienced healer who apprenticed with a parasitologist and knows firsthand about these disgusting critters and how to rid the body of the menace. Though rare, various helminths (worms) such as the tapeworm can find a home in your brain with grave consequences. Quoting Marijah:
“Myself and a handful of others, like Dr. Hulda Clark, have spent years trying to bring the parasite issue to the forefront of preventative & curative medicine. The good news is the medical field is slowly training their doctors once again on the health risks of parasites… Most Americans carry parasites and this is currently a serious health issue. Parasites are not meant to kill you, they just sit inside you and steal your nutrition. But, when a person gets weakened from another ailment the parasites can take hold and become life threatening. This is why EVERYONE with any health disorder should do an anti-parasite program at least once a year. Twice a year if you live with animals. People interested in maintaining good health should also do routine parasite cleansing…”
Marijah says that symptoms caused by parasites include gas, diarrhea, chronic constipation, bloating, fatigue, skin rashes, mood swings, insomnia, nail biting, dry skin, weight gain, bad breath, brittle hair, hair loss, and muscle cramping. Because parasites can invade any tissue in the body, symptoms can occur anywhere. Dr. McCain states that parasites are a contributing factor in conditions such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, some heart disease, arthritis, asthma, as well as others. She points out that in the US, the medical system is in denial about the health risks of parasitic infections, and doctors make a huge blunder when they fail to recognize the role that parasites play in disease. “Parasites are the cause of hundreds of misdiagnosed ailments,” she claims, and recommends natural anti-parasite formulas in lieu of conventional toxic allopathic medications.
Having your blood tested regularly is the only true way of knowing if you’re at risk for developing certain diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It’s also the best way to stay proactive and keep on top of your health.
Let’s review some of the most common tests and discuss what these numbers mean for your health.
Blood sugar and insulin resistance
The HbA1C test
Hemoglobin A1C (or HbA1C) is a routine blood test to measure blood sugar levels, particularly in those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. This test tells you how well you’re managing your blood sugar and if changes to your medication, diet, or physical needs are necessary:1
HbA1C refers to hemoglobin or the oxygen-rich cells in your blood that carry glucose.
The HbA1C test measures average blood sugar levels over the past 8-12 weeks.
A normal range for HbA1C is less than 5.7%.
Diabetes is diagnosed at 6.5% or higher.
An HbA1C of 5.7-6.4% points to an increased risk of developing diabetes in the future (also known as prediabetes).
Fasting blood glucose test
This test requires you to fast overnight before giving blood the next morning. It tests for glucose levels in your blood that point to evidence of prediabetes or diabetes.
The measurement for this test is milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood or mg/dL:
Normal blood sugar levels = 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) or less
Prediabetes blood sugar levels = 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L)
Keeping up to date with your blood work and being aware of which tests and measurements you need to stay healthy is just as important as following a healthy diet and getting lots of exercise. Knowing your numbers will help you stay within the recommended parameters and recognize when it’s time to make adjustments to your lifestyle for your continued good health.
Over this past year, lifestyle blogger Aileen Xu has kept a monthly gratitude list.
Sometimes it was the big stuff: “I’m grateful that my family is so understanding. I’m grateful so many people care.”
And sometimes it was life’s little blessings: “July 2018: I’m grateful for good hair after I shower.”
Xu started making such lists when she was in college, “at a point when I was just not in a very good place in my life.” Now, the 28-year-old lifestyle blogger and YouTuber recommends the practice to her nearly 750,000 subscribers.
It wasn’t a hard sell.
“I think just over the last few years there’s been more of a trend to focus on gratitude,” says psychologist Laurie Santos, who teaches a course on the science of well-being and happiness at Yale.
Gratitude is being endorsed by wellness blogs and magazines. You can buy different kinds of specific gratitude journals, or download apps that remind you to jot down your blessings.
“Those types of products can remind us to take time to be grateful,” Santos says. “But it’s also important to remember that gratitude is free.”
And noting your gratitude seems to pay off: There’s a growing body of research on the benefits of gratitude. Studies have found that giving thanks and counting blessings can help people sleep better, lower stress and improve interpersonal relationships. Earlier this year, a study found that keeping a gratitude journal decreased materialism and bolstered generosity among adolescents.
That’s why gratitude features heavily in Santos’ happiness class. “It’s one of the practices that really wins out from the field of positive psychology,” she says, because it takes very little time, and “the benefits are so powerful.”
Making gratitude lists is one way of accessing those benefits. You could thank God or the universe. You could keep your gratitude private or share it with others. The best way of accessing and expressing gratitude may be different for each person.
Santos’ students, in addition to keeping gratitude journals, are asked to write a thank you letter and then read it out loud to the recipient. “I can show measurable improvements in well-being even a month after you’ve done this,” Santos says.
What works for some people may not work for others. To find your best method, “[r]eally think about what feels right and what feels natural or meaningful to you,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, who studies happiness and gratitude.
Some may find that a daily dose of gratitude in the morning can be transformative. “It helps me feel awake and abundantly joyful,” says Sam Khazai, a 38-year-old actor based in New York, who uses a journal that prompts him to list three things he’s grateful for each day.
“I know it sounds kind of meta,” he says. “But practicing gratitude, it brings me so much gratitude in and of itself.”
There have been times, however, when he has skipped a day or even several days when he’s felt especially down. “Or if I don’t skip those days, I’ve straight up lied to my own gratitude journal … I’ve filled it with things I hoped to be grateful for,” he says — but he didn’t feel grateful, and forcing it felt bad.
“Gratitude is a very rich emotion, but it’s also kind of a complicated one,” notes Lyubomirsky. “Sometimes when you express gratitude, you could also feel humbled or indebted or embarrassed. So it doesn’t always feel pleasant.”
In one study Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that counting blessings once a week boosted happiness, but doing so three times a week didn’t. “That suggests that for most people, at least on average, three times a week was too much,” she says. “And too much gratitude can sort of backfire.”
There’s also a lack of research on how gratitude exercises affect people with clinical depression, anxiety or suicidal tendencies, Lyubomirsky says. “If you’re depressed, and you’re asked to express gratitude … you might have trouble thinking of what you’re grateful for, or you may feel really guilty you haven’t paid back that person you’re grateful for.”
Indeed, for all the research on the broad benefits of expressing gratitude, there’s also evidence that it isn’t for everyone. And it isn’t a panacea — it can’t make injustice, loss, or pain disappear.
What gratitude can do is give us hope. “The research shows that focusing on the positive, in addition to the negative, can boost our mood more than we expect,” says Santos.
In Oakland, Calif., 31-year-old mental health counselor Zeyda Garcia agrees. During really tough times, like when she’d lost a job and was sleeping on her friend’s mom’s couch — she felt like she was reaching for reasons to be grateful.
But she still tried to find some. “Even if it’s just — I’m grateful for the sun that’s shining or being able to wake up,” she says. It felt hokey, and “kind of fake, a little bit.”
But ultimately, it helped. “It allowed me to ground myself,” she says. “It allowed me to remember what was going well, in a world full of chaos.”
high nicotine concentration, discreet shape, and flavors could be
particularly appealing to, and problematic for, youths.”
Science says vaping is cool. Okay, maybe science doesn’t directly say that, but evidence shows that more and more teens are using e-cigarettes, and teens are cool, so vaping must
be cool, right? Unfortunately, public health officials at the US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention disagree. And they’re placing
much of the blame for the rise in teen vaping on one company: the Silicon Valley e-cigarette startup JUUL Laboratories.
In a research letter published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association,
researchers at the CDC and nonprofit RTI International’s Centers for
Health Policy Science and Tobacco Research analyzed data from retailers
across the country and outlined how JUUL’s meteoric rise in popularity
may be accredited — at least in part — to its appeal among teenagers.
While all e-cigarette brands increased in popularity between 2013 and
2017 because of marketing suggesting that they help people quit smoking, JUUL has become the most in-demand manufacturer of all.
high nicotine concentration, discreet shape, and flavors could be
particularly appealing to, and problematic for, youths,” wrote the
study’s authors, led by Brian King, Ph.D., M.P.H., deputy director for research translation in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.
teens may initially try e-cigarettes, like those manufactured by JUUL,
because they’re seen as safer alternatives to traditional tobacco
cigarettes. And JUUL’s sleek, compact design makes the device look like
a USB drive, meaning it can easily be slipped into a pocket or
concealed in the palm of the hand. Several reports suggest teens easily
sneak it into classrooms. Its modular “pod” design also makes it easy
for users to refill the nicotine-containing liquid by simply switching
out a coin-sized cartridge. Compared to disposable devices with
integrated batteries, JUUL’s rechargeable device offers several
attractive qualities to many consumers, and the numbers bear this out.
to the study’s authors, JUUL Laboratories sales increased by a whopping
641 percent from 2016 to 2017. This growth translated to a 515 percent
increase in JUUL Laboratories’ share of the e-cigarette market, jumping
from just 2 percent of the vape market when the company started to 13
percent in early 2017. The company’s hold on the vape market exploded
after that, and as of December 2017, the company controlled 29 percent
of e-cigarette sales. This means that almost one out of every three
e-cigarettes purchased in the US is a JUUL.
the study only used purchasing data from retailers, so it was not
possible for researchers to determine how old buyers were. The study’s
authors did note, though, that previous research has suggested many of these purchases may have been made by consumers under the legal smoking age.
sales could reflect products purchased by adults to attempt smoking
cessation or products obtained directly or indirectly by youths; a
recent analysis found retail stores were the primary location where
youths reported obtaining the JUUL device and refill pods,” they wrote.
In response to Inverse’s
request for comment on the new paper, JUUL spokesperson Victoria Davis
did not address the assertion that JUUL products are popular among young
people. Davis did emphasize targeting “adult smokers” three times,
JUUL Labs is focused on
its mission to improve the lives of the world’s one billion adult
smokers. Like many Silicon Valley technology startups, our growth is the
result of a superior product disrupting an archaic industry — in this
case, one whose products are the number one cause of preventable death.
When adult smokers find a satisfying alternative to cigarettes, they
tell other adult smokers. JUUL Labs has helped more than 1 million
Americans switch from cigarettes, and we’re excited about our continued
expansion into markets outside of the United States such as the United
Kingdom, Canada, and Israel.
public relations tactic is becoming familiar territory for JUUL, whose
official Instagram page is dominated by images of full-on adult adults, including testimonials from people like 68-year-old Kathy, a gray-haired woman named Barbara, and the rapper/actress Awkwafina,
who, at 29 years old is young but no teen. The explicit focus on adults
may be coming a little too late for the company, though, as it’s
already in federal regulators’ crosshairs.
On September 13, Inverse reported that US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced
that vaping had become an “epidemic.” Gottlieb noted that the FDA had
issued 56 warning letters to retailers who illegally sold the devices to
kids under 18 years old, and JUUL was specifically mentioned in his
announcement. This week, the FDA also announced it had raided JUUL’s headquarters
on Friday, seizing thousands of pages of documents. The operation was
part of an investigation into whether JUUL has been marketing its
products to children.
This week, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced that, despite their potential to help adult smokers transition from combustible tobacco products, the current acceleration of e-cigarette use by teenagers is cause for alarm.
Essentially, teens aren’t vaping to quit cigarettes; instead they’ve “invented a new kind of bad habit,” according to a memorable recent assessment in The New Yorker.
Vaping: “An Epidemic”
The commissioner says that use of e-cigarettes by teenagers has now reached “nothing short of an epidemic proportion of growth.” In a briefing with reporters Gottlieb said that in 2017 more than two million middle and high school students were regular users of e-cigarettes.
In his statement, Gottlieb emphasized that calling the teenage use of e-cigarettes an epidemic was nothing something to be taken lightly, explaining:
I use the word epidemic with great care. E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous — and dangerous — trend among teens. The disturbing and accelerating trajectory of use we’re seeing in youth, and the resulting path to addiction, must end. It’s simply not tolerable. I’ll be clear. The FDA won’t tolerate a whole generation of young people becoming addicted to nicotine as a tradeoff for enabling adults to have unfettered access to these same products.
What’s the Definition of an “Epidemic”?
The CDC and the FDA define an epidemic as “the occurrence of more or more cases of disease than expected in a given area or among a specific group of people over a particular period of time.” An outbreak, meanwhile, would be an epidemic limited to localized increase in the incidence of the disease.
While the word “disease” is used here, the FDA has previously used the phrase ‘epidemic’ to describe situations where a massive amount of people are at risk because of a substance. The opioid epidemic and the tobacco epidemic are two instances in which the phrase was considered appropriate.
When Vaping Became So Popular
And the occurrence of e-cigarette smoking among teens has massively expanded in a short period of time: According to a 2016 Surgeon General report e-cigarette use grew by 900 percent among high school students from 2011 to 2015.
The CDC also states that in 2017 approximately 3.3 percent of middle school students reported they used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, an increase from just 0.6 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, among high school students in 2016, nearly 12 out of every 100 students did the same — an increase from 1.5 percent of high school students in 2011.
That’s a problem when the use of e-cigarettes is far from healthy. While they are less risky than regular cigarettes, almost all include nicotine, an addictive substance that can negatively affect adolescent brains. Scientists are also concerned that e-cigarette use can contribute to DNA damage associated with oral cancers.
How Does One Stop a Teen From Vaping?
How to combat teen access, and interest in, e-cigarettes is something that the FDA is currently attempting to figure out. The fact of the matter is that vaping is seen as cool; schools across the country have reported an increase of teens sneaking e-cigarettes onto campus with some schools even installing sensors to catch them in the act.
Vaping has a huge presence on Instagram; teens show off smoke tricks and Juuls are presented as status symbols.
The FDA says that device makers have 60 days to prove they can keep teens from buying their products and if they fail they’re at risk of being removed from the market entirely. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seven out of ten teens are exposed to e-cig ads.
Juul — the preferred brand of teens — spokeswoman Victoria Davis tells The New York Times that the company is having problems getting Instagram, Facebook, and Amazon to take down ads geared towards youths. Epidemic or not, e-cigarettes still sell.
It’s that week again. When the world’s corporate and political leaders gather in Davos for the World Economic Forum.
This year, the theme “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World,” captures a vital and challenging task. We only have one planet, so military conflict, economic crises, poverty, and climate change are everybody’s business.
We have both been involved in the running of large countries, as prime minister of Australia and as health and foreign minister of Ethiopia, respectively. Our two nations are very different in many respects, but we have both seen firsthand that what creates a shared future for a nation is to invest in its people. If you provide everyone with affordable health care and education, then you drive up economic growth and drive down inequity and poverty. In doing so, the damaging political and economic fractures in a society are reduced.
Both of us have left our governments to lead global efforts to invest in health and education because we strongly believe that such investments are essential to solving the enormous challenges the world is facing over the coming years.
Investing in education and health is not charity. If we did not know this already, a report released by the advocacy group Global Citizen and the bank Credit Suisse at Davos reminds us of two vital statistics. First, if all children were to leave school with the ability to read, there would be a 12 percent decrease in global poverty levels. Second, according to the Education Commission’s 2016 Learning Generation report, a dollar invested in an additional year of schooling, particularly for girls, generates earnings of $10 in low-income countries and nearly $4 in lower-middle income countries. For every $1 allocated to childhood immunizations, there is a $44 net return rate on investment. And the world’s top economists estimate that every $1 spent on health yields up to $20 in full-income growth within a generation.
The costs associated with inaction are as devastating as this return on investment is impressive. If anyone doubts that we stand to lose a great deal financially if we do not invest in global health security, just think back to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. The U.S. National Academy of Medicine estimates that “the annualized expected loss from potential pandemics is more than $60 billion,” compared to the costs of preparedness of around $4.5 billion. Yet, the World Health Organization’s Contingency Fund for Emergencies, which many countries rely on to contain deadly disease outbreaks, is woefully underfunded.
Even more troubling is that half the world’s people don’t have access to essential health services, and almost 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty every year because of out-of-pocket health spending.
Investing in prevention is also why health and global education, particularly the education of girls and children with disabilities, must be prioritized on the global agenda. Neglected tropical diseases can cause preventable blindness and disabilities that hold people back. Girls and children with disabilities are often the most marginalized and face additional barriers to accessing health care and well-being, to participating in schooling, and to fulfilling their full potential. The cost of not educating all of our children and youth and harnessing their potential is simply too great. We need to focus on education — not “sometime in the future,” but right now. Indeed, without radical progress, by 2030 over 825 million young people will not have the basic secondary school skills needed to get a job.
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In today’s world, the large majority of countries can actually afford to provide universal health coverage and universal access to quality education. It’s less a question of economics than of political will. For the few low-income or conflict-affected countries that can’t finance health and education from their own coffers, donor funding from multilateral organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Global Partnership for Education can help to strengthen health and education systems.
Bridging the financing gap starts with donors stepping up and supporting GPE’s Financing Conference this February to help reach over 800 million children in 89 countries by 2020 or with the anticipated launch of the new African Leaders Malaria Alliance scorecard on NTDs at next week’s African Union Summit. We trust that engaged leaders know that investing in areas such as health and education is not just the right thing to do; it is also the most practical, resulting in more stable, prosperous societies and economies.
Innovation is also key to this cycle, and we are pleased to see this is a core focus in the Credit Suisse report. As those in extreme poverty generally live in the most remote, vulnerable communities, progress will require new efforts to reach them. We need to mobilize new technologies and forms of capital to support the most marginalized, especially women and those with disabilities. We also need to remove discriminatory practices that prevent all individuals from unleashing their full talents and invest in their education, economic empowerment, and health.
Changes of mindset, real commitment, and action are needed. With the necessary political will, we can accomplish the seemingly impossible, whether it is eradicating a disease such as polio or ensuring that every child has a good, basic education to prepare for a rich, meaningful, healthy life.
Why do humans eat meat? If you ask the average Joe, they’ll tell you it’s because meat tastes good. If you ask Dr. Melanie Joy, however, who has been studying the psychological drive behind eating meat for decades, she’ll give you a much darker — albeit interesting — answer. As EducateInspireChangereports, Dr. Joy believes humans eat meat due to the long-engrained ideology of carnism, versus veganism.
“Carnism is a dominant ideology, which means it’s embedded deeply in society to the point that it’s considered ‘just the way things are,’” Joy explained. “But just because something isn’t recognized or is viewed as ‘how things are’ doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Racism wasn’t recognized as a problem or ideology at a point in history but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. It [carnism] has just been around for so long that it’s taken for granted.”
Referring to kids eating chicken wings in her example, she added: “When we’re born into a world with a dominant ideology, we can’t help but see the world through that lens. There are people in this world who absolutely need to eat meat because geographically or socially, that’s where they are. Most people, though, have a choice when it comes to eating animals, they’re just not aware of it because they’re blinded by the ideology.”
Watch the animated video below:
The psychologist explains that one of the methods which perpetuates carnism is keeping the process of slaughter and processing out of sight. When cows, chickens, pigs and other livestock are milked, butchered, or kept in tiny crates away from the public’s eye, it remains easy to keep the populace ignorant about what takes place in modern-day agricultural factories.
During her lesson, Joy presented a few examples that stamp out the notion that carnism is “right” or “intelligent.” For instance, she shared that an average pig has the intelligence of a 3-year-old human being. She also relayed that chickens are able to distinguish between 100 different faces of members of their species — they also have about 30 different calls to signal types of threats. Additionally, she explained that scientists have determined that certain fish have intelligence and pain receptors; this is why in some places in the world, it is illegal to keep fish in small bowls or to boil lobsters alive.
Joy added that agro-businesses go to great lengths to keep the public ignorant about how violent and cruel the process of making meat actually is. Like Paul McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” Joy’s ultimate goal is to prompt people to acknowledge that there is, in fact, an ideology. She elaborates on this in her TEDX Talk, “Beyond Carnism and Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices,” which has become one of the top one percent most viewed talks of all time.
More than 80,000 chemicals are put into American household products, food, and food packaging each year, a majority of which are not tested for safety beforehand
Common domestic sources of chemical exposure include food, personal care and feminine hygiene products, household cleaning agents, and items treated with flame retardants. Healthier alternatives are suggested
Factors such as light, temperature, and EMF emissions can also hamper your healthy lifestyle efforts by affecting your circadian rhythm, hampering sleep, and/or disrupting your biological functioningMore than 80,000 man-made chemicals are put into American household products, food, and food packaging each year, a majority of which are not tested for safety beforehand.
The typical American home contains an average of 3 to 10 gallons of toxic materials in the form of household cleaning products alone.1
In Europe, more than 1,300 chemicals are banned from use in lotions, soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics, and other personal care products. In the U.S., a mere 11 have been banned.2
Add to this toxic flame retardants, found in countless items from furniture to baby products and electronics, and it’s easy to see why some experts warn that many are likely to be exposed to dangerous levels of chemicals.
Many of these chemicals end up in household dust, and young children in particular may ingest about 50 milligrams of household dust a day, making house dust an important source of toxic exposure3 that can play a role in the development of both obesity4 and other serious health problems.
Toxic Exposure Has Gone ‘Too Far,’ Experts Warn
When asked whether we need to reduce the use of chemicals in our homes, Professor Stephen Holgate, an asthma expert at the University of Southampton and lead author of a new indoor air report5 by The Royal College of Physicians replied:6
“Yes, we should. It has gone too far. There are 15,000 chemicals circulating in an average human. Many are in tiny quantities, but we need to find out more about how these mixtures interact when they get inside the human body — especially the fetus, which is very sensitive.”
While it’s virtually impossible to avoid toxic chemicals entirely, you can significantly reduce your exposure by being vigilant about what you bring into your home and use on a daily basis. More often than not, there are safe, effective, and less expensive alternatives to the toxic products you use.
In this article, I’ll review seven areas of concern in the average home, where toxic chemicals or other hazards may be adversely impacting your health — including your weight.7
1. Processed Foods
Besides being loaded with empty calories courtesy of their high sugar content, processed foods are also a primary source of synthetic food additives, preservatives, colors, and flavor enhancers; many of which have never been properly tested for long-term safety.
Moreover, a recent assessment8 done by the Danish National Food Institute warns that even small amounts of chemicals can amplify each other’s adverse effects when combined, yet whatever risk assessment is done on these chemicals is typically done on individual chemicals in isolation.
Most notably, the researchers found that even non-carcinogenic chemicals may act synergistically and cause cancer when combined!
This is a significant concern, considering the fact that more than 10,000 additives are allowed in food and food packaging. The latter often contain bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, for example, which can migrate into your food.
Propyl paraben, used as a food preservative, is just one in a long list of hazardous food additives permitted in the U.S. It’s an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in about 50 brand name foods, including tortillas, muffins, cakes, and food dyes.9
Meanwhile, the European Union removed propyl paraben from its list of safe food additives in 2006 due to its potential health hazards, which includes estrogenic activity (making it relevant when it comes to estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer).
It’s also been shown to impair fertility in women, and reduce sperm counts and testosterone levels in men.10 The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has launched a social media campaign and petition aimed at getting the chemical out of the US food supply.
To avoid these kinds of chemicals, ditch processed and pre-packaged foods — including baked goods, condiments, and sweetened beverages — and eat REAL food, ideally organic and locally grown, to maximize freshness and avoid harmful pesticides as well.
2. Indoor Air Pollutants
According to the EPA, indoor air contains 2 to 5 times more contaminants than outdoor air, and on occasion, as much as 100 times more. The list of indoor air pollutants is long.11 A shocking 2009 study12 identified a whopping 586 chemicals in the air of 52 ordinary homes near the Arizona-Mexico border.
This included the pesticides diazinon, chlorpyrifos and DDT; high levels of phthalates; and 120 chemicals they couldn’t even identify.
Just about anything in your home can contribute to poor air quality, including chemicals in paints, flooring, and furnishings, as well as household cleaning products and air fresheners.
As a general rule, if a product is scented, it carries a health risk (unless the scent comes from a pure essential oil). According to the Royal College of Physicians air quality report,13 airing out your home for at least a few minutes every day can go a long way toward improving air quality.
One caveat would be if you live in an area of high pollution, such as next to a main road. In those cases, you may need to consider using an air purifier inside your home. Houseplants are also beneficial. The spider plant, for example, has been shown to reduce levels of formaldehyde in the air.14
NASA tests have shown that houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins in 24 hours. They recommend using 15 to 18 “good-sized” houseplants in 6- to 8-inch diameter containers for an 1,800 square-foot house.
Non-Toxic DIY Cleaning Recipes
While the sources of indoor air pollution are numerous, household cleaning products rank high on that list, including laundry detergentsand dryer sheets, which can release as many as 600 different volatile organic compounds (VOCs). You’re also likely to absorb toxins from these products via your skin during the act of cleaning, not to mention the fumes you inhale in the process.
While there are safer products on the market, including my Greener Cleaner Laundry Pouches, it’s easy to be tricked, as many chemicals are not required to be listed on the label. Fortunately, it’s both easy and inexpensive to make your own cleaning solutions.
Greatist.com has a list of recipes15 that is well worth printing out or bookmarking for future reference, as it covers virtually every cleaning situation you can think of. Here are a few of my favorite tips from that list. For the rest, please refer to the original article.
Deodorizing toilet scrub: Pour ½ cup of baking soda and about 10 drops of tea tree essential oil into the toilet bowl, followed by ¼ cup of vinegar. Scrub with toilet brush.
All-purpose countertop cleaner: Mix equal parts vinegar and water. Spray on and wipe off.
For stone counters, use rubbing alcohol or vodka with water instead, as the acidity may harm certain surfaces like marble and granite.
Homemade laundry detergent: My Healthy Green Family16 offers a borax-free laundry detergent recipe using just five non-toxic ingredients: glycerine soap, washing soda, baking soda, citric acid, and coarse salt.
For full instructions, please see the original source.17
Non-toxic tile floor cleaner: For tile floors, mix one part white vinegar with two parts warm water in a bucket.
Scrub as usual, using either a mop or rag. No need to rinse.
Beware that vinegar is not recommended for either varnished wood or other wood flooring.
Tub and shower scrub: Combat mildew by spraying straight white vinegar onto the area.
Let sit for 30 minutes. Scrub with sponge if needed, and rinse with warm water.
For more heavy-duty grime, mix baking soda with a small amount of liquid castile soap. Scrub and rinse.
Soap scum can also be cleaned using a small dollop of coconut oil on a damp cloth.
Spray the area with white vinegar and wipe dry with a lint-free cloth.
Cutting board sanitizer(wood or plastic): Cut a fresh lemon in half and rub it across the surface in question.
Let the juice sit for 10 minutes, then rinse.
You can also use coconut oilto clean, sanitize, and condition your wooden cutting board.
Use whenever the wood starts to look dry.
Homemade fabric softener: Add 20 to 30 drops of essential oil to a one-gallon jug of white vinegar.
Add 1/3 cup to each load of laundry. (Shake before use.)
All-purpose mirror and window cleaner: Mix one part white vinegar with four parts water.
Add lemon juice for a citrusy smell. Lemon juice will also provide extra grease-cutting power.
Spray onto the mirror or window, and scrub off with sponge or rag.
Antibacterial disinfectant:Bathrooms are breeding grounds for germs of all kinds, but antibacterial products such as those containing triclosan can do more harm than good.
For a homemade antibacterial solution, mix 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of castile soap and 20 to 30 drops of tea tree oil.
Spray onto the surface (such as toilet seat and sink), then wipe off.
Homemade dishwasher detergent: Mix equal parts of liquid castile soap and water. You can add lemon if you like.
Use about 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to mixture of 1 cup water and 1 cup soap. Store in a glass jar.
Pour the mixture into the detergent compartment in your dishwasher, and add plain white vinegar to the rinse compartment.
Non-toxic fabric freshener/dryer sheets: Stuff a sachet bag with dried herbs of your choice and use in lieu of commercial fabric fresheners sheets.
Another option is to dab a few drops of essential oil on a lint-free rag.
Both are, of course, reusable.
Simply add new herbs, or a few more drops of essential oil when you feel it’s losing its scent.
Conditioning furniture polish: Combine ¼ cup vinegar with ¾ cup olive oil.
Distribute onto the furniture using a soft, lint-free cloth, and wipe off.
For wood furniture, mix ¼ cup lemon juice with ½ cup olive oil, then follow the same procedure as above.
Alternatively, you can just use straight coconut oil in the same manner.
In all situations, test your mixture on a small area first.
3. Flame Retardants
Couch cushions, carpeting, mattresses, children’s items and electronics are common sources of toxic flame retardant chemicals, many of which have been linked to serious health risks, including infertility, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays,18 reduced IQ and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruptions,19 and cancer.
In fact, flame retardant chemicals have been identified as one of 17 “high priority” chemical groups that should be avoided to reduce breast cancer.20,21
There’s also research to suggest pets are adversely impacted. For example, hyperthyroidism in cats has been linked to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) exposure.22 These chemicals are also poisoning both pets and wildlife, according to recent tests.
The most comprehensive recommendation is to opt for organic or “green” alternatives no matter what product is under consideration — be it a piece of furniture, clothing, kids toys, cleaning product, or personal care item. This is by far the easiest route, as manufacturers are not required to disclose the chemicals they use to make their products comply with safety regulations, such as fire safety regulations.
Your mattress and bedding, for example, may be soaked in toxic flame retardants, but you will not find the chemicals listed on any of the labels. Wool and silk are two excellent alternatives, as they’re both naturally flame retardant. If you have trouble finding them locally, I have wool and silk comforters, pillows, mattresses, and mattress pads available in my online store.
4. Personal Care Products
The average American woman uses 12 personal care products and/or cosmetics a day, containing an average of 168 different chemicals. Items such as tampons, pads, and liners are also chockfull of toxic chemicals, including dioxin, chlorine disinfection byproducts, plus genetically engineered cotton and pesticides. Men, who tend to use fewer products, are still exposed to about 85 chemicals from their daily regimen.
Almost 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics, and only about 10 percent have been evaluated for safety. As recently reported by Reuters:23
“Some creams, shampoos, after-shaves and toothpastes made by groups such as L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble, may contain potentially harmful substances … French consumer protection group UFC-Que Choisir … published a list of 185 products it said contained substances that were legal, but could cause allergies, irritations or endocrinal disorders …
The study pointed, for example, to eight brands of baby wipes including L’Oreal’s Bebe Cadum and Mixa, Beiersdorf’s Nivea and Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Pampers that contain phenoxyethanol, which it said could be toxic for the blood and liver.”
To avoid potentially toxic ingredients, look for products bearing the USDA 100 percent Organic seal, and be sure to read the list of ingredients. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database24 can help you find personal care products that are free of questionable chemicals.
I’ve also created a personal line of skin care products with well-recognizable ingredients, such as organic coconut oil, orange oil, or rosemary extract, as well as a line of feminine hygiene products using 100 percent organic cotton.
Coconut Oil Can Replace a Slew of Personal Care Products
When it comes to personal care products, your safest, not to mention least expensive, bet is to simplify your beauty routine and make your own products using wholesome all-natural ingredients. For example, plain organic coconut oil can replace a long list of costly and potentially toxic products, including the following.25,26 If you want something scented, simply add a drop or two of your favorite high-quality essential oil.
Hair treatments: Coconut oil is well known for its hair benefits.27 Most women seem to prefer using it as a pre-shampoo conditioner. Simply massage the coconut oil onto dry hair and leave on for about an hour or longer. You could even leave it on overnight. Just wear a shower cap or use a towel to protect your pillow. Then, wash and style as usual.
Makeup remover: Swipe on with a moist cotton ball. Wipe off with clean cotton ball or wet washcloth.
Facial cleanser: Massage a dollop of coconut oil onto face and neck. Wash off with wet washcloth and pat dry.
Body scrub: Mix equal parts coconut oil with organic cane sugar in a glass jar. Use the scrub on dry skin prior to your shower or bath.
Facial scrub: Instead of sugar, mix coconut oil with baking soda, or oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon, for a gentle facial scrub.
Shaving lotion: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil on area to be shaved, and shave as usual. The lauric acid in the coconut oil will also serve as an antiseptic for cuts that result from shaving.
Face and body moisturizer: You can use it either by itself, or add your favorite essential oil. (Make sure you’re using a high-quality essential oil that is safe for topical application.) The featured article28 also suggests whipping the coconut oil with an electric mixer to produce a fluffy moisturizer that stays soft and spreadable even in cooler temperatures.
When applied topically, coconut oil helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by helping to keep your connective tissues strong and supple, and aids in exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells, making your skin smoother.
Eye cream: Apply a thin layer of coconut oil around your eyes to soften wrinkles and counteract thinning, sagging skin.
Cuticle cream: Simply rub a small amount of coconut oil around your cuticles to soften dry areas.
Deodorant: Applying a small amount of coconut oil directly onto your armpits can help keep odors at bay, courtesy of the oil’s antibacterial properties. If you prefer, you can add a small amount of baking soda, or make a homemade deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda and arrow root powder. For directions, see the second video above. DeliciousObsessions.com also lists additional deodorant recipes using coconut oil as the base.29
Bath soak: Adding coconut oil to your bath can help moisturize dry itchy skin. (Make sure to scrub your tub afterward to prevent slipping!). Make sure the water is warmer than 76 degrees Fahrenheit though; otherwise the oil will turn to a solid.
Soap: Coconut oil is one of the base ingredients in many homemade soap recipes, such as this one by NourishingJoy.com.30
Lip balm: You can either apply a small amount of coconut oil, as is, or make your own lip balm using coconut oil as one of the base ingredients. You can find all sorts of recipes online, but here’s one by The Liberated Kitchen.31
Toothpaste: Mixed with baking soda, coconut oil can replace your regular toothpaste. The baking soda will gently cleanse while the coconut oil’s antibacterial action may help keep harmful bacteria in check. For recipes using essential oils to spruce up your toothpaste, see DeliciousObsessions.com.32
Insect repellent: Mixing coconut oil with high-quality essential oils may help keep biting insects at bay when applied to exposed skin. Effective choices include: peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, tea tree oil, neem, citronella (Java Citronella), geraniol, catnip oil (according to one study,33 catnip oil is 10 times more effective than DEET), and/or clear vanilla extract
5. Inappropriate Lighting Conditions
Besides chemical exposures, your home and living conditions can also make or break your health in other ways. For example, to optimize sleep, you’ll want to optimize lighting conditions so that you get plenty of natural sunlight during the day and minimal artificial lighting at night.
Many allow too much light in their bedroom at night, which can make sleep more elusive, as light exposure prevents the release of melatonin — a hormone that helps regulate your waking and sleeping cycles. And once your sleep cycle is disrupted, most other health problems tend to be aggravated. As reported by Time Magazine:34
“According to a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, research participants who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms. That connection is tied to the main sleep hormone … melatonin.
Too little melatonin means that we don’t properly get into sleep mode, which you can also think of as slimming mode. Lose the night light and look into getting some blackout curtains for a darkness-induced boost to your weight loss goals.”
Poor sleep is also associated with overeating, due to the effect it has on the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, and the situation can be further aggravated by lack of bright light exposure first thing in the morning. Research35 shows that dim lighting in the early morning following a night of sleep deprivation results in reduced leptin levels and increased ghrelin. Those who got blue light exposure after a night of poor sleep had higher leptin levels.
So once you get up, be sure to open the blinds and greet the morning sun. If it’s still dark outside, such as in wintertime, use full spectrum light bulbs. Other research shows that spending at least 30 to 60 minutes in bright natural sunlight around noon will help “anchor” your circadian rhythm, thereby making it easier to fall asleep at night.
Once the sun sets, avoid bright artificial lighting and blue light-emitting items like TV’s, cell phones, computers and tablets, all of which inhibit melatonin production and impede sleep. As noted by Time Magazine:
“A study in the Pediatric Obesity journal found that kids who bask in the nighttime glow of a TV or computer tend to have poorer lifestyle habits and are less likely to get enough rest. Researchers found that students with access to one electronic device were 1.47 times as likely to be overweight as kids with no devices in the bedroom. That increased to 2.57 times for kids with three devices — so leave your iPad in the living room.”
6. Inappropriate Temperature
Many also keep their homes too warm at night, especially their bedrooms. Time Magazine cites a study in the journal Diabetes, which “suggests that simply blasting the air conditioner or turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep.” This has to do with your so-called brown fat, which helps keep your body warm by burning stored fat. Brown fat also plays a role in regulating blood sugar.
According to the article:
“Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: A neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means they were able to lose belly fat.)”
Moreover, keeping the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees Fahrenheit will help optimize your sleep. Research shows the optimal temperature for sleep is actually as low as 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will interfere with your sleep.36
7. Excessive EMF Exposure
Lasts but not least on my list of domestic factors that can aid or hamper your healthy lifestyle efforts is exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and dirty electricity. Your body is a complex communication device where cells, tissues, and organs “talk” to each other to perform basic functions. At each of these levels, the communication includes finely tuned bio-electrical transmitters and receivers, which are tuned like tuning into a radio station.
What happens when you expose a radio antenna to a significant amount of external noise? You get static from the noise — and that is what is happening to your body in today’s “electrosmog” environment. It’s not only cell phones that pose a problem; all form of dirty electricity has the potential to harm human health.
In his book, “Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization,” epidemiologist Dr. Sam Milham points out that the major diseases plaguing modern man — heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. — may be triggered by dirty electricity.37
EMF can also disrupt sleep, and if you do nothing else, I urge you to at least empty your bedroom of any and all electronic devices, especially cell phones and portable phone bases. Keep only battery-driven devices like alarm clocks by your bed. For more guidelines on how to reduce your EMF exposure at home, please see my previous article, “EMF Controversy Exposed.”
As you can see, there are many easily overlooked health hazards in your home, and addressing the most common ones, reviewed in this article, can help “sanitize” your home from a wide variety of health harming influences — from toxic chemicals in food and various household items, to the influences of light, temperature and electromagnetic emissions that can undermine all other efforts to improve your health.
Genes that influence people’s health also shape how effectively they think, a study shows.
Scientists found that genes associated with diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and autism also have an impact on some cognitive functions.
They say the study will help understanding of some of the links between low levels of cognitive function and poor health.
An international team, led by the University of Edinburgh, analysed data from around 100,000 people held in the UK Biobank.
This national resource of health data can help researchers discover why some people develop particular diseases and others do not.
When researchers compared each person’s mental test data with their genome, they found that some traits linked to disease and thinking skills shared the same genetic influences.
To test the findings, researchers gathered data from previous genetic studies of other mental and physical health factors—such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism.
Professor Ian Deary, Director of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE) at the University of Edinburgh, who led the research, said: “In addition to there being shared genetic influences between cognitive skills and some physical and mental health states, the study also found that cognitive skills share genetic influences with brain size, body shape and educational attainments.”
Researcher Saskia Hagenaars said: “The study supports an existing theory which says that those with better overall health are likely to have higher levels of intelligence.”
Her colleague Dr Sarah Harris said: “The research highlights the importance of investigating biological pathways that influence both cognitive function and health related traits.”
The study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, involved researchers in the UK, Germany and the US.
The analysis was carried out at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Epidemiology (CCACE). It was supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC) as part of the Lifelong Health and Wellbeing programme, a collaboration between the UK’s Research Councils.
For years now, NASA has been puzzled by a mysterious effect of extended space flight: vision damage. Many, though not all, astronauts who have been in space for months at a time experienced their vision slowly degrading, and post-flight inspection revealed that the back of their eyeballs had been squished down and flattened over the course of their trip.
But new research presented this week provides a partial answer to what’s causing this condition: pressurized spinal fluid. Noam Alperin, a researcher at the University of Miami’s Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, presented findings from research he and his peers conducted on 16 astronauts, measuring the volume of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in their heads before and after spaceflight. CSF floats around the brain and spine, cushioning it and protecting your brain as you move, such as when you stand up after lying down.
Alperin and his team found that astronauts who had been in space for extended trips (about six months) had much higher build up of CSF in the socket around the eye than astronauts who had only gone on short stints (about two weeks). They also designed a new imaging technique to measure exactly how “flat” the astronauts eyeballs had become after extended periods in space.
The idea is that, without the assistance of gravity, the fluid isn’t pulled down and evenly distributed, allowing it to pool in the eye cavity and build up pressure, which slowly starts to warp the eye and cause the vision damage, called visual impairment intracranial pressure syndrome (VIIP). It’s likely some people are more predisposed to this than others, perhaps due to the shape of their skulls, which would explain why some astronauts have not experienced VIIP. But Alperin said his findings suggest anybody could get VIIP if they’re in space for a long enough period of time.
“We saw structural changes in the eye globe only in the long-duration group,” Alperin told me over the phone. “And these changes were associated with increased volumes of the CSF. Our conclusion was that the CSF was playing a major role in the formation of the problem.”
The results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but Alperin told me the manuscript was recently accepted and will be published shortly. And these reported findings align with what scientists already suspected about the condition, according to Scott M. Smith, the manager of NASA’s Nutritional Biochemistry Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center, who’s been studying the vision loss issue for the last six years.
“I think this fits very well within what others seem to be thinking at the moment,” Smith told me.
Many astronauts—though, importantly, not all—have experienced this unexplained reduction in eyesight after spending months on the International Space Station, some dropping from perfect 20/20 vision to 20/100 in just six months. Researchers have been gravely concerned about this effect. With plans to send humans to Mars by the 2030s, a mission that would require nine months of space flight one way, we don’t really want to risk all of our astronauts going blind in the process.
“NASA ranks human health risks and the two top risks are radiation and vision issues,” Smith said. “Is it number one or two? Some people would say it’s number one, because we don’t really know what the long-term implications are.”
But the better we understand how VIIP occurs, the more likely we are to be able to create a solution. Smith’s team is currently conducting a clinical trial to investigate whether polycystic ovarian syndrome—which, despite its name, may indeed occur in men—could have similar effects on vision. This research could help explain who is more likely to experience VIIP, as research like Alperin’s explores the physical functions of the condition.
What a solution to the condition will look like depends what else we learn: it could be a medication, or a mechanical device to help redistribute fluid, or something else entirely. But each piece to the puzzle helps us get one step closer to sending humans to Mars, and not blinding them in the process.