Category Archives: Health

Some of my Favorites

I’m swamped, overrun, and completely don’t have time to post. But I want to, because you know that if you stop doing something regularly, then you fall off the truck. Hence I bring to you this lazy post about my top ten personal care products.

Being anti-chemical is not easy, as those chemicals help get you smelling good and feeling clean. And I’ve done quite a bit of research to find the products that are not only safe, but also work well. Now, without further ado, the list:

1. Poofy Organics Baby Poof Body Wash/Shampoo. It’s vegan, it has 5 ingredients, and it keeps my oily hair clean. Plus they’re safe enough for a baby.

2. Burt’s Bees Herbal Deodorant – It’s a spray, and although it smells a little herby, it does the job well. Plus, it’s easy to reapply and, no need to worry about getting smelly bacteria on a stick or roll-on applicator.

3. Poofy Organics Dynamite Detangler & Leave In Conditioner – I used to have short hair. I never brushed it. Now that it’s long, the mass of tangles at the back of my head is the bane of my existence. So, this little guy helps keep my hair moisturized and my hair tangle-free, or at least close enough.

4. Poofy Organics Shower & Shaving Gel – Great wash, great shave, and super clean in terms of ingredients.

5. Ayur Medic Orange Blossom Exfoliating Cleansing Milk – This exfoliating wash is so gentle, I use it nightly. Helps keep my skin looking fresh and glowy.

6. Ayur Medic Enrichment Cream – I can’t say enough about how much I love this cream. My skin is dry, so I need all the help I can get. Not only does this go on smoothly, moisturize all day, but it also smells great!

7. Ecco Bella Black Mascara – You don’t need much of this mascara, in fact, the less you put on, the more natural it looks. Now if I would only stop rubbing my eyes and smearing it…

8. Pigment Relief Gel – All women eventually learn that a youthful appearance is based on keeping an even skin tone. That’s why we use foundation and concealer, duh. This guy, however, helps get scars, sun spots, and all that other crud, under control so that you can look perfect even without foundation.

9. Poofy Supernaturals Hand & Body Lotion – Goes on smooth, moisturizes well, and comes in a bunch of scents. Love it! Only negative is that it expires after about 6 months, so you can’t stockpile it.

10. Badger 30+ Lightly Scented Sunscreen – This guy protects your face like you wouldn’t believe. It’s a little smelly at first, but you get used to it. A little goes a long way, it’s super safe, and great for kids too.

So those are my day-to-day products that I love and feel good using about. Let me know if you try any of them and what you think, or if you have any other recommendations for natural products.


Leave a comment

Filed under Health

Not Eating: The Cure for Cancer?

How long do you think a human can live without any food? A week? A month? A year? The answer to all three is yes, depending on the person.

I’m being serious when I say it is possible to live without food for a year – water is needed, some vitamins are needed, but food is not. I know this because a few years ago, a 435 lb man did just that, until he ended up weight 180lbs. Then, he maintained that weight.

He wasn’t the first person to do a long fast, and he will not be the last. But the remarkable thing about fasting, or starving yourself, is that it may actually be good for you and really bad for cancer. At least breast cancer.

First, let me say that I got this idea from the latest issue of Harper’s (unless you are a digital subscriber, you will not be able to read the article). A piece entitled “Starving Your Way to Vigor” essentially made the assertion that not eating was good for you in various degrees, and that medical science has been down right lethargic in studying or adopting any of the findings of the remarkable studies it has done.

The author not only documents his own fast – a nearly 3 week ordeal that left him cranky, but otherwise not actually hungry and a lot thinner – but also those of various other men and mice.

Besides weight loss, which seems to be much easier to keep off once you know that the best diet is to just not to eat, fasting has been found to help with seizures, protecting the body from the side effects of chemotherapy, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and so forth. Most of the studies have been anecdotal – a man fasts and documents the changes to his body – or small-scale studies that resulted in promising but largely-ignored findings. (Please note, I am referring to a controlled, limited fast, not an eating disorder like anorexia.)

For instance, mice that were not fasted and then injected with 3 times the amount of chemotherapy were sick as dogs, while the majority of fasted mice showed no adverse reaction to the drugs. When those experiments were recreated with fasting and non-fasting mice and a particularly vile form of breast cancer, the mice that fasted remained healthy while their full friends died. The theory behind this is that while fasting, a body’s cells shut down their intake systems – they will not allow chemo or cancer to take hold in the body. Cancer has no such switch, as its apetite is voracious and insatiable. The idea would be simple: Starve the human, thus closing off the access to healthy cells, and let the chemo attack the cancer cells full force.

That, my friends, seems like a brilliant idea that might in fact work for other types of cancer as well. However, this research has not gone further. Why? Well, fasting is free, so why would a pharmaceutical company benefit from it? It wouldn’t, but it would benefit from round after round of toxic chemicals in your body. Such is capitalism.

However, there is at least one medically-implemented fasting treatment, the one for seizures in children. Children are fasted, and in that time, their seizures disappear. When they are reintroduced to food, they eat a high-fat diet, and eventually a normal one. This treatment has an astonishingly high success rate, and it was only made popular because a director was desperately looking for any way to help his son, and has shared his success with others.

I find it particularly interesting that doctors seem appalled at the idea of not eating while they nit-pick our diets. Like I pointed out last week, it appears that according to “experts” all over the internet, every piece of food out there has some negative consequence for our body. Whether it be too much fat, or too much acid, or too much sugar, every piece of food is suspect. For instance, tomatoes cause inflammation. They seem so delicious and innocent, and yet, they are certainly not perfect.

I also pointed out that starvation was our reality for a long time as a species. That is why we were so thin – we literally didn’t have enough to eat. Today, the thought of going without food horrifies the Western mind, but what we eat terrorizes our bodies.

Maybe our bodies aren’t rejecting the type of food we are eating, but rather the amount. Studies have shown that fewer calories mean longer life. They also mean better health. Most people would not extrapolate this to mean that we should stop eating completely, but maybe that is what we should be doing at least from time to time. We should certainly be eating less in general.

Maybe we should all fast once a month, or once a week, or for a week if you’ve got a lot of fat stores for your body to live off of. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend that Gwynyth Paltrow fast for a week, she might disappear. But New Jersey Governor Chris Christie might be able to survive for a month without food and not break a sweat.

I would like to add that  I am deeply skeptical of most convenient “cures” for anything. This is why fasting seems so alluring – almost no one is touting it as an answer. Fasting is no-cost. Fasting doesn’t require drugs, or prescriptions, or doctor visits (although I would consult with a fast-friendly doctor if undertaking a long-term fast, or at least a fasting website).

People report fasting for weeks, and returning to food without issue. They report having more energy, being more clear headed, and returning to a level of health they hadn’t seen since college. Perhaps fasting is a way to tell our bodies – hey, you need to start cleaning this mess up. Our bodies know, intrinsically, deep-down, what it means to starve, and they know what to do when that happens.

As far as science is concerned, our bodies go into lock down repair mode. They access deep stores of powerful energy to fuel our brains. They ravage fat cells to fuel our bodies. It seems like something we should study, in depth, to see how fasting can truly touch the state of disease in our world. Especially if those breast cancer studies on mice are true – if fasting makes chemo easier to handle, and kills cancer more quickly, while increasing our chance of survival, and it costs us nothing, why not?




Leave a comment

Filed under Health

Our Ancestors Didn’t Know Better, That’s Why They’re Dead

If you spend enough time researching nutritional advice on the internet, you will learn that processed grains are bad, dairy is bad, meat is bad, cooked vegetables are bad, corn is bad, soy is bad and vegetables that are acidic are bad (although no one actually agrees specifically which vegetables are acidic when consumed).

For every ailment, there is a diet-based “solution.” You have to eliminate meat, and dairy, and fruit, and grains and fats and pretty soon you are eating cabbage soup, wondering why you are doing this.

Then there are the counter-indications. Eat meat, but only grass-fed, free-range, hormone and anti-biotic free. Eat organic fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grains. Essentially: Eat this diet that I am telling you about and oh, also buy my book.

These diet advisors tend to make the same argument – we used to only eat X, so if you eat X now, you will be healthy and skinny like our ancestors were. We never ate grains 10,000 years ago, so you shouldn’t eat grains now, and you will be healthy and skinny. We almost never ate meat, and now we eat too much, so to be healthy and skinny, you must not eat meat.

I’m here to tell you that all of this is bull honkey. 10,000 years? That’s a long time to be eating something for it to be terrible for us. And if we’re going to measure the nutritional value of our food by how long we have been eating it, then we should immediately stop eating tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and peppers, among many others, because we have only been eating those for *gasp* 500 years! Well, by “we” I mean everyone who is not descendent from native American cultures, particularly those of South America. They ate that stuff for way longer.

I know, I know, tomatoes did not originate in Italy, it’s horrific, but we can move past it.

Basically, before 1492, the majority of the world was eating a pretty localized diet, and starving as a result. Grains, like rice and wheat, were staples, but they were not ideal in feeding large amounts of people. Then, thanks to our buddy Chris Columbus, the world started to share crops, and now no one really remembers what came from where. Clearly our bodies adapted pretty well to eating potatoes and tomatoes and peppers. Let’s not get me started on corn. Let’s just say, it’s easy to plant, easy to grow, and will feed lots of people, which is probably the only reason it’s around today. It’s not even remotely as nutritious as the potato, but I digress.

Furthermore, the other argument about ancestral eating really irritates me. “Our ancestors were thin, muscular, self-sustaining folks, which must mean their diet is superior to ours.” Of course our ancestors were thin, they were starving half the time. They also had to farm all of their own food, or scavenge for it. Poverty and thinness used to go hand in hand, now it is poverty and obesity.  Why? Because we have plenty of cheap food with almost no nutritional value that is readily available to anyone. These processed foods are also stuffed with corn by-products. Yes, corn is nutritionally worthless, but it’s been filling the bellies of the poor for hundreds of years. Moving on.

But what about all of the terrible diseases – diabetes, heart disease, cancer – that are killing hundreds of thousdands of people each year, and are “clearly” related to processed grains and sugar and meat? Think about it this way – we used to die really young. If you were 50, you were ancient. Some people made it longer than that, but for a very long time, no one lived long enough to have to worry about some of those diseases. Also, it’s not that they didn’t exist, it’s mostly that no one knew what they were. It wasn’t clear why dad had died suddenly. Or why mom fell asleep and never woke up. We weren’t healthier – we were just more ignorant and died more immediately of diseases we can now cure altogether or manage for decades.

As for cancer, it has always been around. Before meat became the enemy. Before cars. Before processed grains and low-fat food and anti-oxidants become everyday words in our vernacular. Cancer is us, mutated, evil, and bent on destruction. It can happen to someone who eats only vegetables, or someone who eats only sugar and fat. There are a few guarantees – like smoking- that cause cancer for sure. But the majority of causes are a result of living.

It’s true, living leads to death. Will being a vegan or gluten-free make us live longer? Will it make our quality of life better? My guess is no, unless you are allergic to gluten or animal products.

People love to write into the nutritionist who “changed their life.” One man lost 30 pounds in a few months, and is now full of life and vigor after cutting out grains. Well, if you read carefully, his new diet also reduced his calorie count (grains pack a pretty big calorie punch). If you were 30 pounds over weight, and lost it, you would feel great. That would be 30 pounds you were no longer carrying around. Plus, these diets almost always include exercise, which increases energy, helps sleep, and improves mood.

I assure you, I am ranting with a purpose.

Everyone is different. We all process food differently, and different foods make us feel different ways. I know that sugar is not my friend. Dairy and I have a strained relationship. Fat, veggies, meat and I are super duper best friends. I know this because I pay attention to how I feel after I eat. I have kept a food journal. I have taken the time to see what my body needs. And now my food decisions are easy. But that doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally eat the things that may make me feel crappy or are not nutritionally ideal. I mean, corn is a useless grain, but I love me some chips and salsa now and again.

The point is that no one has the answer for everyone. We are such a mix of cultures and food histories that saying in general, eat this, not that, is useless. The Irish once survived on potatoes and milk – a surprisingly nutritious combination. More nutritious than a fast-food hamburger. They did it because humans are resilitent, and they will eat almost anything in the face of starvation, and our bodies will figure it out. Our bodies are figuring it out, in fact, no matter what you eat. They will figure out it even if you don’t eat anything at all.

So all I get from the books on diets claiming to have the answer to preventing cancer or solving whatever ails you is that they’re just taking what works for them, and describing it in unnecessary detail. No one will sell a book by telling you, well, you’re just going to have to take the time and energy to figure out what foods make you feel good, and even then, there isn’t any guarantee it will do any good.

Because in essence, everyone is a little bit right – all food causes some type of issue – tomatoes cause inflammation, grains are hard to digest, alcohol is a neurotoxin. So what’s an omnivore to do? My initial response was, well, they’re asking us not to eat. Which sounds ridiculous, until you read the research on fasting. Not eating, something humans have had to do for thousands of years, can actually be good for you.

I’m out of time here, but next week (on Wednesday this time, I promise), I will go into the arguments for not eating and it’s health benefits. You read that correctly. Till next time.

1 Comment

Filed under Health

Time to Chuck The Scale

Our world grants us total access to other people’s lives. Not only can we see into strangers’ homes on television, but we can see them date, marry, give birth and lose weight. People do this to become famous, and some do it for free, for reasons I won’t try to ascertain.

Putting yourself out there invites scrutiny, and you can tell by the very thin people that populate TV and movies that the alleged obesity “epidemic” (as if being overweight were a communicable disease, pfft), we’re going through in this country isn’t being represented on screen. There are exceptions, but the rule is to keep it small.

No wonder people – who don’t look like celebritites because they’re not paid to do it and don’t have stylists or airbrushing – judge each other and their flaws harshly. We cannot live up to impossible standards. Would you really compare your home cooked meal to Anthony Bourdain’s? So why compare your body to Jessica Biel’s?

It is also in line with human nature to judge. Let’s face it, most people will not give you a hard time if you make a disparaging remark about someone’s eating habits or body weight. People say, well, they have no self-control. Lots of unpleasant stereotypes can be made, but frankly, most of them aren’t true.

There are all sorts of reasons people gain weight, especially large quantities of it, and then keep it on, but those reasons shouldn’t include lack of self-control or laziness. And now there’s this: A study shows that even if someone works hard to take weight off, their body changes. Some hormones drop, slowing their metabolism and others increase, upping their hunger. These changes don’t go away until they gain back the weight.

In plain English: Their bodies don’t want them to lose weight.

The study was limited to fifty people, so more rigorous research has to be done, but the findings themselves are remarkable. It says pretty clearly that weight loss can be nearly impossible for most people, particularly if those individuals prefer not to feel hungry all day long.

I do have a few qualms about the results of this research. The participants ran on less than 600 calories a day for 10 weeks. I’m fairly certain that that type of extreme diet would mess anyone’s hormones up. Most nutritionists don’t recommend anything lower than 1,200 calories a day if you are trying to be healthy about weight loss. I’d like to see a study of moderate dieters, not crash dieting, as I would categorize this particular approach.

However, if it’s true that weight loss isn’t sustainable for certain overweight individuals, or perhaps all overweight individuals, does that mean the weight itself causes the issue in the first place, or are people whose bodies prefer to be larger just following their genetic code? Is there a different path to weight loss that would eliminate these hormone fluctuations if someone was determined to lose weight and keep it off? These are the types of questions we need answered.

Either way, it seems unfair to judge people for a state of being that their body finds natural, whatever that state may be. The push should be on the quality of food consumed – you know, fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, blah blah blah – rather than weight loss. Encourage physical activity for it’s benefits to the brain, the circulatory system, and energy levels. Teach people that with a healthy lifestyle, your body will find its own balance – and that’s where you should be. Extreme dieting and extreme workouts equal extreme stress on your body, and will eventually wear thin until old habits return.

The goal is to be healthy for health’s sake, not to fit into society’s relentless and idiotic fetish for alleged perfection. Because even though we are all quick to judge, we treat ourselves the most harshly. We see our own lives unedited and unvarnished. We need to see entertainment for what it is – a diversion. It is not a guide, or an aspiration, but something to calm us after a long day of living real life.

We could all look amazing if looking amazing was our job. The trick is to recognize how amazing we already are, and pursue our own health and happiness, instead of measuring ourselves on a scale that doesn’t really exist.


Filed under Health

Slather it On

We are a vain culture. Lotions, creams, make up, shampoos, polishes, toners and scrubs all find their way onto our skin with hopes of youthful, glowing radiance.

But those same products seep into our skin, our bloodstream, our tissues and organs. Do we know what they do there when they arrive? How do they react on a cellular level? Does our liver really need anti-wrinkle cream?

The fact is, we are just beginning to study the hundreds of thousands (you read that correctly) chemicals found in personal care products. Now, I have covered this topic before, but a new study recently came out showing the presence of parabens in breast tumor tissue.

What are parabens? They are preservatives, added to keep your lotion lasting for years, your mascara from going bad, and your deodorant from turning rancid. We have known for a while that there are a lot of things found in breast cancer tissue – BPAs, aluminum, and so forth. Most scientists agree that consumers should not be applying parabens all over their body – like in body wash, lotion, or sunscreen. They seem to be a bit more laissez-faire about parabens in make up, face creams, and other area-specific products.

But the fact is – they just don’t really know what parabens do. Because they are classified as xenoestrogens, or agents that mimic estrogen in the body, it’s at least mentioned that they may be a risk factor in hormone-receptive breast cancer. Particularly with long term exposure. After all, fatty tissues love to store estrogen and excess toxens, and breasts are an ideal, ever-present location of fatty tissue.

To find paraben free products, I recommend using Skin Deep, a personal care products data base that rates the toxicity of various products. My recent personal favorite is Poofy Organics.  null Not only are they extremely low on the toxicity scale, they work. Many of their products are multi-functional as well – like shower gel/shaving cream in one. Their products do expire more quickly than those with parabens, but I typically find that I use them up before they go bad anyway. Oh, and my recommendations are based on years of searching and trying various skin care companies. I am not paid by or affiliated with either site.

So what happens when you keep putting parabens on various parts of your body for decades, and they get whisked away and stored in fatty tissues, where they mimic estrogen? The real question is, do you want to find out?

Leave a comment

Filed under Health

You are who you are, Until you Aren’t

There are people out there who cannot change and there are people who can.

The difference between them is their mindset.

Those who “can’t” actually can change, but they believe that they are who they are and that’s it. It’s about proving who you are. Over and over again. “I am smart. I am talented. I am funny. Watch me be smart, talented, funny.” You know those people, and they do have something to prove. Sometimes it is a bit painful to watch.

Then there are the folks who see life as a work in progress. If you don’t do well on something, you try harder until you can do it. “I could do better. I can work harder. What if I try it this way instead?” Failure is a signal that the approach they tried has not worked, and so they try a different approach. They are the people who just keep going, no matter what.

In fact, this comes down to a difference between people who think they can’t change and those that know they can. Essentially, people either hold the fixed mindset – I am who I am and that’s it – or the growth mindset – With work and effort, I can learn and develop the skills I need. Mindset, by Carol Dweck, discusses these two ways of looking at the world.

Frankly, the fixed mindset seems to not benefit anyone who possesses it. At least not in the long run.

Fixed folks believe that one test can tell you a lot about a person. They see humans as being either inherently smart or not smart, and that nothing can change that. However, some of our most brilliant minds – inventors, business leaders and artists – were mediocre students. And that is because they possess the growth mindset. They knew with enough tie and trial, they would get where they wanted to be. Those who don’t believe in change often end up losing steam – instead of taking challenges head on, they bow out when the going gets tough. After all, they don’t want to appear stupid.

However, this goes beyond just learning and careers, it affects personal relationships and personal setbacks. For instance, fixed mindset people think that if you have to work at a relationship, than it’s obviously not worth having. It should just magically happen. Growth mindset people realize that everyone comes with their own issues, and that in order to have a happy union, lots of effort will be expended. Most people are not innately compatible, and so for a relationship to work, to last and to be happy, both partners will have to sacrifice, change and adapt.

But the thing that struck me the other day was this article in the Huffington Post. It talks about how overweight people don’t lose weight not because they’re lazy or unmotivated, but because they’re perfectionists. They set lofty goals, and get discouraged when they are not met. That seems like a fixed mindset to me. They want the process to be easy and quick, because they came up with a great plan. But the reality of it is that they didn’t gain the weight in a short time, so why would they lose it in a short time?

Instead of setting more realistic goals, like the article suggests, it would benefit them to change their mindset. They can change, and that change will take time and effort. The goals can still be ambitious, the person just has to see the challenge as a hurdle they will overcome if they are dedicated to it.

On the same wave length, Mindset discusses parenting. Parents want to have smart, happy children. And they are often quick with praise for their child’s intelligence for any good result. However, Dweck points out that these children often internalize that they are smart, and eventually become afraid of disappointing their parents by failing at tasks. So they stop trying. They “play dumb” because it’s easier than being proven to be dumb. In one classroom lecture series where the researchers in the book taught children about the growth mindset and the brains plasticity, a little boy who was consistently falling behind looked up with tears in his eyes and asked, “So I don’t have to be dumb anymore?”

Dweck advises parents to praise their children on process and effort, not on results. Telling a child who gets an A that you noticed they studied hard, or effectively, shows them it is the work they put in that got the result, not their “innate” intelligence. Because as Dweck points out time and time again, growth minded children love a challenge. They consistently ask for harder puzzles, tougher math problems, and they don’t mind not being good at them. They see it as an opportunity to learn. The fixed mindset children not only eschew harder challenges, many will lie about their scores if given a chance.

All of this is logical when explained, and it makes even more sense when you teach children. There are some who will try and try and try without a complaint, because they are determined to succeed. While others will throw a fit the moment an answer is incorrect.

We have all heard, and perhaps even said, “people don’t change” or “people can’t change”. That is not true, not even a little. Not only do people change, they do it all day every day, they may just not realize it. Those who don’t change do it on purpose. They stick to their desire to stay the same. Maybe they’re perfect, who knows. But most likely, it’s just easier than facing the things about themselves they don’t like. If they smell even a hint of failure, they’d rather just do nothing.

Now think about the people in your life that consistently shoot themselves in the foot, the ones that don’t live up to their potential, the ones that complain copiously but never DO anything about their grievances. I wonder what they would do if they learned that it has been proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that people can change. It takes time, and effort and patience, but it is possible. Would they actually change? Or would they pretend they never heard this news so they could continue as they were?

1 Comment

Filed under Health

Your Child’s Brain on Your Drugs

We are a nation of drug users. Almost every single one of us has taken or will take some sort of drug. Whether it is illegal, coffee, Advil, anesthesia, or antidepressants, there is a drug to cure what ails us or at least improve our mood. Because of the inelegant way that current drugs are designed (this is changing, thankfully), often drugs bring side effects along with their curative, or at least stalling, powers. I’m sure we can all think of a prescription drug commercial where the happy woman with Herpes lists off the possible side effects of her wonder drug – one of them, inevitably, being death.

However, a new study points to a possible side effect of certain antidepressants that most mothers, or women who plan on becoming mothers, should know. Essentially, women who take antidepressants that are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, up to a year before their child is conceived show a two-fold increase in autism in their children. The occurence  is most pronounced if the drug is taken during the first trimester – up to three times as much.

The  author says that the study, which included identical and fraternal twins, shows a greater environmental impact on children in the womb than genetic factors. But he stops short of saying that there is any conclusive evidence that any one chemical is the trigger. But let’s just call a spade a spade.

Most women are taught that alcohol consumption during the first trimester is a no-no, but both the third and first are critical times for brain development. And alcohol is a neurotoxin. It’s simply dangerous for a quickly growing brain. Which is why women are given a long list of nos: too many things can cause problems.

In the first trimester, the brain begins to form. So one might assume that if the mother is taking antidepressants, a brain-altering drug, that it could affect the brain development of that child much in the same way that alcohol can.

The human brain is programmed to develop in a very specific way. It is a bit of a rubix cube that neuroscientists are just starting to figure out, because for years they were stuck on neurons, not focusing on the really important brain players – the glial cells. Glial cells come in many forms, and make up the bulk of the brain. They are really responsible for most of our brain function, while neurons send the messages along. Not to say that neurons are not important, but they are only one part of a very complex system.

Anyway, one type of glial cell, the myelinating glia, is wrapped around every axon – the thin tendrils that extend from each neuron to deliver information across the brain. The myelinating glia serve as a type of insulation, so to speak. The more of it you have, the faster the electrical impulses can travel through your axons. So when you say that someone is “slow”, it could be that they just don’t have that much myelinating glia around their axons, and information does literally travel more slowly through their brain.

Basically, having more glia makes you smarter. In examining Einstein’s brain, a Berkeley neuroscientist found that although he had the same amount of neurons as regular men, he had much more glia. However, there is always too much of a good thing. Scientists (most of the info I am referring to is in The Other Brain, by R. Douglas Fields) have found that children with Autism often have a lot of myelinating glia.

I equate this to an over-insulation. Essentially, their axons are so well covered, that they process much more than other people, and get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data they see. Someone with less myelinating glia can tune out this or that, mostly because their brain can’t process all of this information at once. For a person with Autism, they take it all in, and they can’t shut it out. It’s as if your car is set on driving 100 miles an hour, no matter what. It quickly becomes overwhelming to perform the simplest of tasks.

Now, I’m going to make a hypothesis, so bear with me while I speculate. If there is a genetic predisposition to Autism in a child, and that child’s mother takes antidepressants during the first trimester, perhaps something in those SSRIs triggers the developing brain to produce more myelinating glia. I say that a genetic predisposition has to exist, because the brain is a tightly controlled citadel. So there has to be a way in for things to go wrong. Just as alcohol can destroy neurons, perhaps taking away the ability to absorb serotonin into the fetal brain lets loose some other over-compensation.

serotonin is a neurotransmitter, meaning it is one of the chemicals in the brain used to send messages. If that serotonin isn’t sent, and myelinating glia have to work extra hard to glean what the neurons are sending (one function of myelinating glia is taking and storing information from neuronal transmissions and passing it on to the rest of the brain in a different fashion), then perhaps the brain to create more glia so that the brain functions properly in this serotonin-reduced environment. However, after the child is born, and they are no longer in a serotonin deprived environment, this extra glia is not needed, and in fact, can cause serious problems. This is of course, a very very amateur hypothesis. Either way, it makes sense that a drug targeted to the adult brain would also have an effect on the fetal brain.

Yet, in some women this will not have any impact. I would hope that scientists delve into the drugs we consume that affect the brain, because it is likely that there is more than one that can have a significant impact on fetal brain development. Like alcohol, which can be consumed in moderation with no ill effects, antidepressants are likely safe for most fetuses. But as our drug culture expands, and the incidence of Autism increases, its impossible not to wonder if in trying to cure one epidemic,  we are not simply creating another.

Leave a comment

Filed under Health