add/adhd, adhd, hood river midwife, hood river naturopath, mental health, pediatrics

ADHD Not a Real Disease, Says Leading Neuroscientist


What do you think?

Alex Pietrowski, Waking Times One of the world’s leading pediatric neuroscientists, Dr. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, recently stated publicly that Attention Deficit/Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) is not ‘a real disease,’ and warned of the dangers of giving psycho-stimulant medications to children.Speaking to the Observer, Dr. Perry noted that the disorder known as ADHD should be considered a description of a wide range of symptoms that many children and adults exhibit, most of which are factors that everyone of us displays at some point during our lives.

“It is best thought of as a description. If you look at how you end up with that label, it is remarkable because any one of us at any given time would fit at least a couple of those criteria,” he said.

Dr. Perry is a senior fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston, Texas, a highly respected member of the pediatric community, and author of several books on child psychology including, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and HealingandBorn for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered.

His comments are quite refreshing at a time when diagnoses for ADHD in the UK and the US are sky-rocketing and prescriptions of stimulant medications to children are also rising rapidly, with many parents and concerned activists growing suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry’s motivations in promoting drugs to children. Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse and other mind-altering stimulant medications are increasingly prescribed to children between the ages of 4 and 17.

Dr. Perry noted that the use of medications like these may be dangerous to the overall physical and mental development of the child, remarking on studies where these medications were given to animals and were proven detrimental to health.

“If you give psychostimulants to animals when they are young, their rewards systems change. They require much more stimulation to get the same level of pleasure.

“So on a very concrete level they need to eat more food to get the same sensation of satiation. They need to do more high-risk things to get that little buzz from doing something. It is not a benign phenomenon.

“Taking a medication influences systems in ways we don’t always understand. I tend to be pretty cautious about this stuff, particularly when the research shows you that other interventions are equally effective and over time more effective and have none of the adverse effects. For me it’s a no-brainer.”

Given that the problem of ADHD is complex and the term is more of a blanket term used to describe a wide range of behavioral symptoms, it is important to consider what the root causes of many of the symptoms may be before pharmaceutical intervention should be considered. Citing potential remedies, Dr. Perry suggested an approach that focuses attention on the parents and the child’s environment, while also recommending natural remedies like Yoga, and improved diet.

“There are number of non-pharmacological therapies which have been pretty effective. A lot of them involve helping the adults that are around children,” he said.

“Part of what happens is if you have an anxious, overwhelmed parent, that is contagious. When a child is struggling, the adults around them are easily disregulated too. This negative feedback process between the frustrated teacher or parent and dis-regulated child can escalate out of control.

“You can teach the adults how to regulate themselves, how to have realistic expectations of the children, how to give them opportunities that are achievable and have success and coach them through the process of helping children who are struggling.

“There are a lot of therapeutic approaches. Some would use somato-sensory therapies like yoga, some use motor activity like drumming.

“All have some efficacy. If you can put together a package of those things: keep the adults more mannered, give the children achievable goals, give them opportunities to regulate themselves, then you are going to minimise a huge percentage of the problems I have seen with children who have the problem labelled as ADHD.”

Many people may disagree with the assertion that ADD/ADHD should not be considered a disease, however, the fact remains that the myriad symptoms that are associated with these increasingly common ‘disorders’ can often be addressed and relieved without creating an addiction and dependency on pharmaceutical medications, which disrupt the mind and body in ways that are not fully understood or even researched.

add/adhd, mental health, pediatrics

Can Attention Deficit Drugs ‘Normalize’ a Child’s Brain?

Recent research that says that A.D.H.D. pills like Adderall, above, can “normalize” a child’s brain over time has drawn criticism.

By KATHERINE ELLISON Credit Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times

Recent research says that A.D.H.D. pills like Adderall, can “normalize” a child’s brain over time has drawn criticism. What are your opinions and what has worked for you?  As a naturopathic physician, I believe by balancing neurotransmitters, and discovering the root, initial insult that led to any developmental imbalance is key to finding health.   Where can energies be channeled, how can brain’s truly be ‘normalized’?  Consult your local naturopath or learn more at


The Pleasantville, N.Y., developmental pediatrician won’t allow drug marketers in his office, and says he doesn’t always prescribe medication for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Yet Dr. Bertin has recently changed the way he talks about medication, offering parents a powerful argument. Recent research, he says, suggests the pills may “normalize” the child’s brain over time, rewiring neural connections so that a child would feel more focused and in control, long after the last pill was taken.

“There might be quite a profound neurological benefit,” he said in an interview.

A growing number of doctors who treat the estimated 6.4 million American children diagnosed with A.D.H.D. are hearing that stimulant medications not only help treat the disorder but may actually be good for their patients’ brains. In an interview last spring with Psych Congress Network, an Internet news site for mental health professionals, Dr. Timothy Wilens, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said “we have enough data to say they’re actually neuroprotective.” The pills, he said, help “normalize” the function and structure of brains in children with A.D.H.D., so that, “over years, they turn out to look more like non-A.D.H.D. kids.”

Medication is already by far the most common treatment for A.D.H.D., with roughly 4 million American children taking the pills — mostly stimulants, such as amphetamines and methylphenidate. Yet the decision can be anguishing for parents who worry about both short-term and long-term side effects. If the pills can truly produce long-lasting benefits, more parents might be encouraged to start their children on these medications early and continue them for longer.

Leading A.D.H.D. experts, however, warn the jury is still out.

“Sometimes wishful thinking gives us hope that the impressive short-term relative benefits of medication over other treatments will persist beyond childhood, but I haven’t seen it,” said James Swanson, director of the Child Development Center at the University of California at Irvine. Dr. Swanson, a co-author of a landmark federally funded study, the Multimodal Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, said that follow-up research found overall improvement but no greater long-term benefits after three years for children who were treated with medication compared to those who weren’t. One possible reason, as the report noted, was that many children refuse to continue taking medication after a year or so, something most parentsof such children well know.

Research has shown that the brains of people with A.D.H.D. on average look and function differently than those who don’t have the disorder, particularly when it comes to processing two important neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine. For most people with A.D.H.D., stimulants can temporarily boost focus, motivation and self-control by increasing the availability of these chemical messengers. The question is whether these effects can last once the drugs have left the bloodstream.

In arguing for “normalization,” Dr. Wilens cited a major review in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in late 2013, which looked at 29 brain-scan studies. Although the studies had different methods and goals, the authors said that, together, they suggested that stimulants “are associated with attenuation of abnormalities in brain structure, function, and biochemistry in subjects with A.D.H.D.”

But other A.D.H.D. experts challenge this conclusion. Dr. F. Xavier Castellanos, director of research at the New York University Child Study Center, called assertions that stimulants are neuroprotective “exaggerated,” adding: “The best inference is that there is no evidence of harm from medications – normalization is a possibility, but far from demonstrated.”

A.D.H.D. is an exceptionally controversial diagnosis, with particular controversy zeroing in on researchers, including Dr. Wilens himself and some of the authors of the 2013 report he cited who have received financial support from pharmaceutical firms. In an email, Dr. Wilens said he had not received “any personal income” from the pharmaceutical industry since 2009.

As several experts noted, a major impediment to determining the long-term impacts of A.D.H.D. medication is that a “gold-standard” study would require researchers to assign children randomly to groups that either received medication or didn’t. Such a practice has been deemed unethical due to the widespread belief that the medication can help struggling children, at least in the short-term.

And other research has raised new concerns. One peer-reviewed 2013 study co-authored by Dr. Swanson suggested that the stimulants may change the brain over time so as to undermine the long-term response to the medication and even exacerbate symptoms when people aren’t taking them.

Dr. Peter Jensen, the former associate director of child and adolescent research at the National Institute of Mental Health, cautioned that parents should not try to force children with A.D.H.D. to take medication when they don’t want to, adding that “most kids don’t want to.”

Dr. Jensen, who now heads the REACH Institute, a national nonprofit organization concerned with children’s mental health, once surveyed 100 parents of sons and daughters in their 20s who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D., asking what made the most difference.

“Eighty percent of them said ‘Love your child. Help him or her advocate for themselves, and find a doc who’ll work with you through thick or thin whether you medicate or not,” Dr. Jensen said. “Only a minority of these parents mentioned medication.”

Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent and author and co-author of seven books, including the forthcoming “What Everyone Needs to Know about A.D.H.D.” (Oxford University Press), co-authored with Stephen Hinshaw, Vice-Chair for Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco.

sleep, sunlight, vitamin d, well-being

The Meaning of Light

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 1.59.28 PM

Photographs by Uta Barth

Having trouble sleeping?  Have you been battling insomnia and other health concerns?  This article highlights some of the growing discoveries that are being made regarding the importance of our bodies natural rhythms and finding ways to sync with them.  For further support finding your balance consult with your local naturopath or make a visit today in Hood River with Dr. Katherine Walker.

  Words by Georgia Frances King

The daily rise and fall of the sun is one of the few reliable occurrence in our lives.  Despite this simple cycle controlling the happenings of our planet, we don’t pay much attention to sunlight’s effect on our physical and mental health.  And as some neuroscientists are beginning to discover, harnessing its radiant power could provide phenomenal benefits to our well-being. 

Every day presents us with all kinds of decisions to make about our lifestyles, and there are plenty of self-diagnosis websites, new age books and mothers-in-law ready to indisputably instruct us on the correct choices we should make. In an attempt to better ourselves, we try to obey their mantras: We sleep eight hours a night; we opt for whole grains instead of white flour; we drag our reluctant bodies on a quick jog; we choose not to open the second bottle of cabernet. But what if there was a more vital factor affecting our health? One that predates gluten alternatives and spin classes?

For the past few billion years, the sun has reliably risen every morning and set every evening. Our bodies have therefore come to expect its daily spiral through the sky, and most of our biological systems work on the assumption that we’ll follow along with its sunlight-based sequence. But now instead of waking with dawn, we have snooze buttons. Instead of dozing at dusk, we have Netflix.

Sunlight plays an intrinsic role in our lives and has a profound effect on the way we think and how our bodies function. Through its role guiding our circadian rhythms—the internal clocks that keep us regulated—sunlight can control everything from our sleeping habits to our wintertime melted cheese cravings. Regardless of the thought we put toward our well-being, it’s becoming apparent that the sun could actually be the ironically inconspicuous guru we should be following.

Despite the sun’s omnipresent nature, the effects of light on our mental and physical health are only just beginning to be examined. Two people who are working together to pioneer this exploration are an artist and a neuroscientist: Stephen Auger, a Santa Fe–based artist with an academic background in neuroscience who works at the intersection of science and art, and Dr. Benjamin Smarr, a doctor of neurobiology at UC Berkeley whose studies focus on the long-term effects of circadian rhythms on our physical and mental health. “A lot of people haven’t heard of light’s importance as ‘a thing,’ even though it seems very intuitive once you hear about it,” Benjamin says. “I’d love to see much more attention paid to it. It’s of absolutely central importance.”

But how did we lose our connection to sunlight in the first place? Were we complicit in our demise into dimness? When Thomas Edison popularized the lightbulb some 135 years ago, he was unwittingly ending our close relationship with natural light. “The part of our DNA that responds to light is so primal,” Stephen says. “It existed when we were a one-celled organism in the primordial ooze long before we became a human species.” But now, thanks to the humble lightbulb, we can work graveyard shifts and salsa until dawn. As Stephen puts it, “We’ve objectified light.” Convenience glowed brighter than our biological clocks, and we’ve been slowly letting them fall out of sync ever since.

In order to fathom light’s consequence on our well-being, we first need to understand circadian rhythms. Our bodies are hungry for sunlight and have come to trust it to tell us when we should eat, socialize and sleep. “Your circadian rhythm is the body’s anticipation of the 24-hour cycle of sunlight and darkness,” Benjamin explains. “The sun has arced through the sky every 24 hours for all of life, so life forms have evolved to assume it’s not just going to suddenly stop.”

“Every single cell in your body has a clock that’s trying to guess what time of day it is to get ahead of the game,” he continues. “If my body knows that I get up and eat breakfast at 8 a.m. every day, then my liver, stomach and pancreas don’t have to wait until there’s food in my stomach to go, ‘Oh shoot! We should be doing something about that.’” However, this preemptive response is only effective if we maintain a consistent routine based on the sun’s movement—one that isn’t influenced by impromptu midnight movie screenings and urgent deadlines. Technology and our desire to mingle have muted our biological reasoning, meaning our circadian rhythms’ pleas for predictable schedules are often ignored. “People are generally dissociated with their connection to the environment,” Stephen says. “And I wouldn’t be the only person to say that a great deal of that has to do with light.”

Thanks to everything from caffeine to night shifts, it’s pretty easy to confuse our bodies’ internal clocks, and this is especially common on the weekends. After five days of creating a semistructured morning routine, sometimes Saturday sleep-ins can leave us more tired than 6 a.m. starts. That feeling has a name: social jet lag. “It’s a real thing and has a real effect, as your body is dumbly anticipating you’ll get up at the same time as you did yesterday, because that’s how it worked for the past four billion years,” Benjamin says. This is also why Mondays can be such a drag—after two days of sleeping in, suddenly setting the alarm for dawn can shock our systems. “Your body’s network has no mechanism to deal with alarm clocks or wanting to stay up to watch a movie,” Benjamin says.

The act of taking care of ourselves via an awareness of sunlight’s patterns is part of what Stephen and Benjamin call “sensory well-being.” In addition to the other life choices we make to benefit our health, “Light is another piece of that puzzle we can now add to our lifestyles that’s going to make a huge difference,” Stephen says.

Improving our relationship with the sun could help both our personal well-being and society overall: If we learn how to look after ourselves through environmental adjustments, we’d free up the medical profession to concentrate on bigger problems. “Doctors shouldn’t have to focus on the maintenance work—you wouldn’t take your car to the mechanic every time it runs out of gas, right? That’s a part of your daily maintenance,” Benjamin explains. “But right now we don’t really know a lot about how to maintain our bodies. And because we lack that maintenance, we therefore run into problems and need to go to the mechanic more often, which becomes a burden on the mechanics.” By synchronizing ourselves with the sunlight’s quirks, we may be able to help tune ourselves up the natural way.

Here are some quick ways to fine-tune your light-related habits:

Set a routine
In order for our bodies to operate smoothly, all of our organs and systems are dependent on their clocks being wound to the same time. “They’re not all able to look at each other’s wristwatches though,” Benjamin says. “You have to give them a routine to let them line up and coordinate.” Getting up and going to bed at the same time every day allows our bodies to sync to a schedule, and we’d benefit even more by regulating the timing of meals too, like making oatmeal at the same time each morning.

Sleep with a mask
Sleeping eight hours per night is beneficial, but not if our bodies think it’s daytime. Switching on the bathroom light or checking emails in a bout of insomnia might not be the biggest problem: The most disruptive factor may be ambient light pollution drifting in through the curtains. “Most bedrooms aren’t well blacked-out, which often leaves them light enough that your brain registers the light all night long—especially in cities,” Benjamin says. “Something as simple as wearing a sleeping mask can have a profound effect.”

Observe dawn and dusk
While a lot is left to discover, it’s beginning to appear that these times might be the most important parts of the day to be out and about: The light quality is changing rapidly and the direction of that change serves as a biological cue for whether it’s early or late, thereby orienting our cells to wake up or wind down. “The subtle movement of light is an absolutely essential component to orient us to our circadian rhythms,” Stephen says. This could be as simple as getting up 20 minutes earlier to walk the dog at dawn or having an excuse to snack on charcuterie while watching the sunset.

Get some real rays
They say that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, but they should throw open a window: Just like sunscreen helpfully blocks our skin from certain harmful light frequencies, the glass in windows deflects some other frequencies our bodies need to trigger biological responses. It’s helpful that we don’t burn while sitting in a sunlit office all day, but the fact we don’t scorch is a clue that we’re not getting all that the sun has to offer. It’s best to bask during the times of day when dangerous ultraviolet wavelengths are less prevalent, such as the first and last couple hours of sunlight. “My doctor tells me I should lie out in the sun completely buck naked for 20 minutes a day. And I’m like, ‘I like that doctor!’ ” Stephen says, laughing. In order to trigger vitamin D production, direct sunlight needs to shine on our bare, unprotected skin.

Circadian rhythms aside, vitamin D can also play a vital role in our sensory well-being. Our bodies naturally produce this small molecule when our skin absorbs certain helpful frequencies of ultraviolet light, causing a whole series of enzymatic responses in our cellular structure that help support a healthy immune system and balance our mood. Without its presence in our bodies, our defenses to nasty bugs weaken and our happiness also seems to nosedive.

So why natural light, and not just more lightbulbs? It’s all to do with wavelengths: Just as we think of rainbows as color spectrums from violet to red, the same can be described in light wavelengths. The sun gives off white light made of all the wavelengths combined, but lightbulbs only give off a few (think of how a crystal swinging on someone’s porch produces a rainbow when hit at the right angle, or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album cover). Different wavelengths have different energies, so depending on the height of the sun in the sky, the rays that hit earth have different intensities—that’s why it’s a lot harder to get sunburned at 9 a.m. than at high noon. These wavelengths and intensities also have different effects on our bodies, from the tumor-causing overdoses of ultraviolet rays to the more positive ones that stimulate vitamin D production.

Experts are still trying to understand the complicated role vitamin D plays in our well-being, and mixed messages abound: A medical professional might tell us to wear 50+ sunscreen to protect us from cancer-triggering ultraviolet light and in the same breath instruct us to sit unprotected in the sun to kindle vitamin D production. “I don’t want people to think if they hose themselves with vitamin D that all of their problems will be solved,” Benjamin says. “It’s one piece in a complex system that we’re still understanding.” Now that many of us spend our days within enclosed walls instead of outside in the wild, vitamin D deficiency has become fairly common. This is especially true in the winter when there are fewer sunlit hours in the day and therefore even less time to absorb the correct wavelengths we need to stimulate its production.

In the darker months, the combination of vitamin D deficiency and our disrupted circadian rhythms play a crucial part in Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a. the aptly acronym-ed SAD. While some still consider this condition an imaginary excuse for not getting out of bed when it’s dark, it is an actual emotional disorder brought on by chemical reactions in your body. It’s often defined as when the natural traits that typify winter—the extra sleeping, the extra eating, the lack of desire to get out of the house and be social—are involuntarily taken to excess, which interferes with our ability to operate at our optimal level of mental health.

Our bodies anticipate seasons just like they do 24-hour days, so short instances of this stoic existence are a perfectly standard response to winter’s lower light levels and dipping temperatures. For example, we’re legitimately wired to crave carbs and fatty substances during the time leading up to the cold season to help us put on a nice layer of natural insulation—an evolved excuse for baking a second batch of mac and cheese. Except that where this was once a biological reaction that preempted a lack of winter produce, we now have all the food we hanker for available to us to consume year round.

“Historically it was great that my body craved cheese in October in anticipation of a cold snap,” Benjamin says. “But here I am in Berkeley, in summer, where I can go out and spend a hundred dollars on cheddar and wolf it down, but that’s probably not what my body intended.” This is another example of how we’ve lost touch with what our bodies are geared to crave, and cues from sunlight might be one of the best natural ways to resolidify those missed connections.

The best ways to ward off the winter blues and be kind to your sensory well-being are the same year round: Set a routine to keep your circadian rhythms ticking, try to be outside with your skin exposed during daylight hours for as long as your frosty epidermis can bear it, and don’t always reach for the wheel of Brie when the slightest cheese craving gurgles within you (only give in on some days).

But often the people most affected by SAD live in areas where they don’t have the choice to bask in the sun, even if they wanted to. For the residents of the world’s northernmost communities who don’t experience a sunrise for months during winter, or night-shift workers who have to be awake during nocturnal hours, no amount of positivity and goodwill can tilt the earth on its axis to grab some more rays. Without normal hours of natural light, how can these populations possibly set any semblance of a steady circadian rhythm or produce enough vitamin D to stay healthy?

That’s where artificial light starts to shine. Through a project that fuses art with science, Stephen has helped create an artificial light with the ability to replicate the movement of specific wavelengths of sunlight, potentially opening up a whole can of glowing worms for light-starved people around the world.

The technology was invented as part of The Twilight Array, an art exhibition that will take place at Gary Snyder Gallery in New York City this winter. For this project, Stephen collaborated with many esteemed experts (including neurobiologist Dr. Margaret Livingstone, founder of the Livingstone Lab at Harvard University and author of Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing) to create a series of works that explore the subtleties of twilight perception. His paintings will be illuminated by a light that replicates the movement and wavelengths of twilight, sending the viewer’s mind into an entirely simulated biological state akin to watching a sunset. “Something really critical in my work is engaging someone’s sense of wonder, and we have that when we’re looking at a sunset or sunrise,” he says. The interplay of his canvases and the specialized light will allow him to emulate what your body feels when watching a Tahitian sunset while standing in a windowless gallery high above the streets of Manhattan.

Working with a series of optical engineers, Stephen and Benjamin have developed a highly sensitive dimmer that can artificially imitate multitude wavelengths and the changes in sunlight’s movement. Instead of walking into a room and flipping a simple on/off switch, owners of the dimmer will be able to download many different light sequences so they can have a romantic twilit dinner in a Moroccan dusk or wake up to the same wavelengths seen in the Scottish Isles. His team is currently measuring the light wavelengths around the world everywhere from Alberta, Canada, to Tasmania, Australia.

Aside from the romanticism of your body thinking it’s waking up in the foothills of Nepal or the Italian Riviera, this artificial lamp could also be used to benefit those who don’t have the privilege of experiencing a normal pattern of sunlight. “If you work until 3 a.m. and wake up at 10 a.m., there’s no reason why you can’t push your circadian rhythm back and program a dawn sequence for 9 a.m. and then turn your twilight mode on at 11 p.m.,” Stephen explains. The same could be said for northern populations who never see the sun at all: By regulating their circadian rhythms and stimulating vitamin D production with these lights, it might help stave off SAD.

“It’s absolutely the case that sunlight can be mimicked with the right technology; it’s just that it hasn’t been up until now. Our grandchildren are going to say, ‘What do you mean the lights were either on or off? That’s crazy!’ ” Benjamin says, laughing. “Once the technology is in place to control your light environment, it’s going to be huge. It’s such a fundamental quality of life issue that it’s impossible to imagine a future where it’s not part of the technological milieu.”

As it turns out, our eyes don’t really mind if light comes from a halogen lamp or the sun, as long as it provides them with the wavelengths they want, when they want. “If you’re able to replicate a light spectrum, physiologically there will be no difference between the experience of that in nature or in a space with an artificial light source,” Stephen says.

Stephen is by no means suggesting that we can have a happy lifestyle sitting in a room with a lamp that mimics light curves, but artificial lights could help us in times when nature’s benefits aren’t easily accessible. “I’m humbled by our innate relationship to nature, so I’ve always been suspicious of a technology claiming to replace the magnificence that nature provides,” he says. “It took me some time to stop romanticizing, but I’ve begun to demystify light and look at it empirically: It’s a spectrum, it’s a curve.” The dimmer may be artificial, but it can bring us back to a baseline from which we can build a healthy emotional and physical state.

The irony of the artificial-versus-real-light dichotomy lies in the fact that we’ve become so hooked on the freedoms technology has afforded us that we might also need to use technology to set us right again. While it would be idealistic to suggest that we live by the light like we did for eons, rising and retiring with twilight and eating our granola at the same time every morning for the rest of eternity, what kind of existence would that be? Like most things in life, employing a little give and take will often lead us to optimal gratification (and will certainly be easier to uphold). Inventions such as Stephen’s may allow us to reap sunlight’s health benefits while still taking advantage of the joys that contemporary society allows us. We’re never going to beat our bodies’ yearning for routine and sunlight, but we can learn to work with them instead of against them. “We have trouble enough accepting that we turn into our parents, right?” Benjamin explains. “With circadian biology, we have four billion years of ancestry that we have to come to terms with.”

The most important factor to consider when it comes to sensory well-being is figuring out what works best for you. Whether it’s sleeping with a mask to help all your body’s clocks align or programming an artificial dimmer to simulate a 6 a.m. dawn sequence in the depths of winter, even the act of being conscious about sunlight is a step in the right direction. As time goes on and the sun continues to rise and set every day until it flickers out, humans will continue to learn how to have a better relationship with it. There is still so much to discover, but at least we’re beginning to see the light.

educate, learn, read

Weekly Roundup: What To Read This Weekend



Staying in and reading is the new going out. You heard it here first, and here are five links to prove it.

View original post 125 more words

birth, documentary, pregnancy


Have you heard of this? LSFF-2014-WinnerMicroBirth is a new feature-length documentary looking at birth in a whole new way; through the lens of a microscope. The film investigates the latest scientific research that is starting to link the way babies are born with health in later life, particularly the increased risk of children developing certain immune-related conditions, including asthma, type 1 diabetes, celiac (coeliac) disease, obesity, cardio-vascular diseases, mental health disorders and even some cancers.

The purpose of the documentary is to raise public awareness of the importance of “seeding the baby’s microbiome” at birth with the mother’s own bacteria – this bacteria helps train the immune system to recognise what is “friend” and what is “foe”. We believe “seeding of the baby’s microbiome” should be on every birth plan – for even if vaginal birth isn’t possible, immediate skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding can still help to provide bacteria crucial to the development of the baby’s immune system. In the scientists’ view, if we can get the seeding of the baby’s microbiome right at birth, this could make a massive difference to the baby’s health for the rest of its life.

Check out the trailer at:

BPA, pediatrics, plastic

BPA-Free and Plant-Based Plastics More Dangerous Than We Thought

Ugh!  Glass it is then.foods_bpa-free2In my house, we only permit BPA-free toys, sippy cups, and other plastics while trying to minimize our use of plastic altogether. Doing so is supposed to spare us from hormone-disrupting chemicals found in  bisphenol-A. But these plastic items still aren’t safe (if by safe we mean products that don’t leach other hormone-disrupting chemicals). Research now indicates that nearly every plastic product (including BPA-free) is made up of chemicals that stimulate estrogenic activity (EA) in human cells.

Estrogen made by our bodies in the right quantities at the right time is a good thing. But chemicals with EA have been linked to a whole slew of frightening problems like increased rates of  asthma, obesity, premature puberty in girls, infertility, reproductive cancers, and a number of neurodevelopmental disorders.

To perform the study, University of Texas researchers purchased 455 widely available plastic products. Although most were labeled “BPA-free” it wasn’t possible to determine exactly what chemicals they contained. Apparently this is proprietary information closely guarded by industry. To determine if the products had estrogenic effects, researchers exposed extracted versions to solvents meant to mimic food and beverage items these plastics were likely to contain. Then, they exposed these extracts to a type of human breast cancer cell that’s highly receptive to estrogen. Cells that multiplied in the presence of plastic extracts indicated that those particular chemicals were estrogenic.

The results? Nearly every plastic product they tested leached EA chemicals. Some BPA-free products actually released more EA than other plastics. That included eco-friendly plastics made from plant products, which apparently released EA due to the additives used.

A more recent study by University of Calgary scientists indicates that bisphenol-S, found in many products with the “BPA-free” label, might actually be more harmful than BPA itself. Researchers exposed zebra fish, a good model to study human brain development, to bisphenol-S (an ingredient found in many products deemed “BPA-free”). The results showed abnormally timed growth of neurons in the embryos, the same growth surges found when embryos are exposed to BPA. The disruption of prenatal cellular activity appeared to result in hyperactive behavior. In fact, early abnormal growth of brain cells was specific to male hormones, perhaps indicating why more boys than girls are diagnosed with certain neurodevelopmental disorders.

Researcher Deborah Kurrasch was surprised by the results, especially since the dose used was “a very, very, very low dose, so I didn’t think using a dose this low could have any effect.” Another researcher in the study, Hamid Habibi, said “Finding the mechanism linking low doses of BPA to adverse brain development and hyperactivity is almost like finding a smoking gun.” They recommend pregnant women limit their exposure to products containing bisphenols and say this and other studies support removing bisphenols and structurally similar chemicals from consumer products.

Ninety percent of Americans show trace amounts of BPA in urine, breast milk, and umbilical cord blood. Why are potentially dangerous plastics used in toys, food packaging, and beverage cups (as well as in healthcare)? The  Food and Drug Administration considers compounds safe until proven otherwise.

– See more at: