Monthly Archives: January 2016

Mud… Friend or Foe?

TinaDavidson-blog-feet-mud

Foot model: Thea Gavin

By: Tina Davidson

Book Review

Fuzzy Mud (2015) by Louis Sachar

When I was growing up, I don’t remember reading any good fiction on microscopic creatures.

Recently, when looking for quality reading material (anything that didn’t have Star Wars in the title) for my third grade son, I stumbled upon Fuzzy Mud. It had been placed on the top shelf by a kind librarian, making it easy for tall children (and short mothers) to spot. As any good mother would, I checked out the front and back cover to see if it was appropriate for my child. To my glee, this was no longer a book I was checking out for my son… I had stumbled on a book for me.

Louis Sachar had me at Fuzzy Mud because the Fuzzy Mud book cover mentioned his Newberry Medal Winner, Holes.

I remember Holes fondly because as an adult I got paid to read it. Technically, my supervisors had tasked me with the job of cataloging books to create a mobile library but I found time on my “breaks” to finish Holes in two days. Holes stood out among the other books for young readers that I had the chance to peruse while on the job.  I found Holes humorous and fun–a great escape from the reality of my job (creating the library was the highlight of that job).

When glancing at the cover of Fuzzy Mud, after noticing who the author was, the book did not give off the vibe of fun. The cover art of Fuzzy Mud depicts two children wandering into the woods with one child trailing behind them. The woods do not look inviting. The text on the back cover of the book reads, “Be careful. Your next step may be your last.” Yikes…

The book features Tamaya, Sachar’s 5th grade heroine, and two other main characters, Marshall and Chad,  7th grade boys. Fuzzy Mud features a silent villain, slime mold. This “fuzzy mud” contains “a single-celled, high-energy microorganism” referred to as an ergie or ergonym.  Although the ergie was invented for good it eventually becomes a “Frankengerm.” According to the book, an ergie can only be seen by an electron microscope.  When the characters come in contact with the contaminated mud scary things happen.

I read this book out loud to my son.  When I asked him about it later and if his younger brother would enjoy it, he said, “No. It is too scary.”

This is a good family read that sparks discussion, but there are elements of suspense and danger that might frighten some young children.

It will definitely make you think twice before stepping in a mud puddle.

TinaDavidson-Barefeet-mud

Disclaimer: No one was injured by ergies when stepping in this mud puddle.

What about you? Read any good books on slime mold or microorganisms lately?

 I’d love to hear about them.

 

**This is my personal blog. It is solely my opinion.**

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Filed under Barefoot, Book Review, Uncategorized, Writing

Microbes verse Microbeads

By: Tina Davidson

Microbes-vs-MicrobeadsMicrobes

Let’s start with the unsung heroes, the microbes in your gut.

Microbes may be small but they are up to mighty things. I’ll always be fascinated by them. No doubt they will gain more recognition in 2016.

I mentioned in a previous post that scientists are still figuring out the “Gut-Brain Axis,” so a recent Tweet by @HeartsatPlay caught my attention:

Exercise Alters Gut Microbes That Promote Brain Health / Psychology Today

I recommend you check out the article by Christopher Bergland in Psychology Today. Hopefully, after reading the online article, you’ll be so motivated by the preliminary findings on how early-age exercise promotes gut and brain health that you’ll take your kids (or grandchildren) out on a barefoot walk. Time for us all to invest in the next generation’s developing gut-brain axis (and perhaps college funds?).

Now that you’ve done your due diligence, are you still left wanting more on microbes?  Check out the October 2015 Nature article, “The Tantalizing Links Between Gut Microbes and the Brain,” by Peter Audrey Smith. (Thanks to Christopher Bergland for including this link in his article as well).

Microbeads

Next, on to something hideous: microbeads in your water!

(Side note: Microbes can be hideous as well, but for the intent of this post they will be cast in a rose-colored glow for all dramatic intents and purposes.)

The villainous plastic microbeads were recently banned by the U.S. government in the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015.

Not sure what a microbead is? Here’s how it is defined in the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015:

“(A) the term ‘plastic microbead’ means any solid plastic particle that is less than five millimeters in size and is intended to be used to exfoliate or cleanse the human body or any part thereof; and…”

They have been banned from rinse-off cosmetics (this includes toothpaste.)  After cosmetics containing microbeads get rinsed off in sinks and showers, the plastics end up where they shouldn’t (in the sea) since they are too small to be filtered by waste-water treatment plants.

The folks at BeatTheMicrobead.org really know their stuff on getting rid of plastic microbeads if you want to learn more.

I want to send a shout-out to everyone who supported the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. I’m glad it made sense to lawmakers that in order to get microplastics out of our plankton we shouldn’t allow plastic microbeads in rinse-off cosmetics. The bad news is that the ban on plastic microbeads doesn’t go into effect until 2018 (grumble, grumble). These microbeads, aka plastic pollution, are known environmental and human health hazards. I hope cosmetic companies and manufacturers use something other than plastic microbeads in their products sooner than later.

There are economically feasible alternatives to plastic microbeads used in personal care products, as evidenced by the current use of biodegradable, natural, abrasive materials in personal care products such as beeswax, shells, nuts, seeds, and sand. (Text from California Assembly Bill-888 Waste management: plastic microbeads. (2015-2016).

In the meantime (prior to the ban going into effect in 2018), support labels/companies that are 100% microplastic free.

Mighty Microbes to the Rescue?

I wouldn’t put it past the mighty microbes in playing some part in ridding our waters of pervasive plastic microbeads. Microbes have helped clean oil spills and scientists are researching microbes that eat and sink plastic at sea (probably best not to have plastic in the sea to begin with though).

What about you? Were you once an avid user of facial products containing plastic microbeads? What would you recommend as an alternative to plastic microbeads?

On a more random note… if you could be any microbe, what one would you be? Maybe bifidobacterium… 

Bifido-bacterium

There are approximately thirty species of bifidobacteria. They comprise approximately 90% of the healthy bacteria in the colon.

The quote above is from an article by Stuart Cantor. “Digestive dynamos: clinical studies support the multiple health benefits from probiotics, dietary fibers, botanicals and enzymes.” Prepared Foods Nov. 2015: 28+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.

Have you consumed your bifidobacteria today? Here’s to a healthy brain and gut! 

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Filed under Brain Health, Gut Brain Axis, Healthy Living, Uncategorized

Buck the Trends–Tips for Brain Health in 2016

By: Tina Davidson

Brain-2016

Perhaps you’re feeling a little stressed and fed up with your resolutions already?

Here’s some fun ways you can buck conventional trends and enough a happier/healthier brain in the new year. (Disclaimer:  My ideas on brain health and happiness may vary slightly than yours. Although this list may appear to be a five-step program on how to get yourself fired from your day job, I assure you it is not.)

  1. Eat more fat. Your brain needs healthy fat. Add some eggs, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, and nuts to your shopping list. (update: If you are interested in learning more about eating fat, check out The Fat Summit). 
  2. Monkey around. Your brain will enjoy the novelty of swinging on the monkey bars at the park while you strengthen your core muscles. I dare you to take the Monkey Bar challenge.
  3. Ditch your shoes and your daily showers. Despite the fact that many businesses state, “No shoes, No shirt, No service,” there are plenty of places that will always accept you sans footwear. The beach will never turn you away and it is a good place for barefoot beginners. Your brain’s sense of position, aka proprioception, will also get a work out.  Spray on some MotherDirt to take care of any unwanted odors (if only life were that simple, right?).
  4. Take a hike. To get the most health benefits out of your hike, I recommend you find a forest to hike in. According to the Los Angeles Times: “Shinrin-yoku is the name given to the Japanese art of “forest bathing,” contemplative walks through the woods that reconnect the individual with nature and can lead to decreased stress, natural mood elevation and even a stronger immune system.” Read more about forest bathing here.
  5. Leave your cell phone in the car and ignore your emails. Try to spend a day (or more) avoiding EMFs and see how you feel at the end of the day. You may piss a bunch of people off who wanted to get a hold of you, but you may also find that life is less stressful when you’re not “connected” every minute.

Basically, become a kid again in the new year.

 

Squish your toes in some mud.

Swing across monkey bars at a nearby playground.

Experience the wonder of a National Forest ( 2o16 is the National Park Service‘s 100 year anniversary).

Live on the wild side and even skip showering (children don’t need to be bathed every day–remember there’s a drought in California).

Spend more time moving and less time glued to your smart devices.

Do the things you enjoyed doing as a child.  It’s 2016 and the time is NOW.  According to Katy Bowman’s book, it’s time to “MOVE YOUR DNA!”

pathways w sig

What about you?

What National Park would you visit if you could go to any National Park in California? Take my poll and let me know. 

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