Microbes verse Microbeads

By: Tina Davidson


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).


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… 


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! 


Leave a comment

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

Buck the Trends–Tips for Brain Health in 2016

By: Tina Davidson


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. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Personal Hygiene and Your Brain

waterfall at Limekiln State Park

By: Tina Davidson

Should I Stop Showering?

You gotta love Yahoo news feeds. Thanks to a Yahoo article, I just found out about Mother Dirt (no, although some may think, it is not my barefoot mother’s moniker).

I read the article by Molly Shea and watched the interview by Katie Couric with chemical engineer, David Whitlock, and Mother Dirt President, Jasmina Aganovic.

Basically, a scientist, David Whitlock, chose to spray himself with a mist that contains ammonia oxidizing bacteria (he uses the AO + Mist product by Mother Dirt) instead of showering. It has been more than 12 years that he’s gone without a bath or shower. Apparently, he doesn’t smell because the mist contains bacteria that eat up the odors and convert it into something good (I believe it was nitric acid).

How would you feel about your partner or teenager not showering for 12 years?

Food for thought for another blog post: What if the State of California handed out bottles of AO + Mist to citizens in hopes to limit showering and promote water conservation during the drought?

Yes, this post raises some questions. The Mother Dirt products got rave reviews on its website (but who is going to put bad press on their site?) I also watched the Test/Friends video from Buzzfeed where the reviewers tried out the AO + Mist product themselves. The three testers gave it mixed reviews. This trial didn’t seem too conclusive of whether or not the product lived up to the hype (smell was still a factor).

What Does This Mean for Consumers?

Those bacteria friendly products certainly aren’t cheap. You can purchase the bundle of AO + Mist, Shampoo, and Conditioner for $69 (if you sign up for the newsletter, then you can get 10% off). I can buy a lot of Dr. Bronner’s organic pure castile soap for $69. Would it work to just go out and find some dirt with ammonia oxidizing (AO) bacteria in it? How easy is it to find this AO bacteria? Would it work to just put probiotic pills in your shampoo bottles? Obviously, there is a difference there. I’ve got so many questions to research. Any answers?

In 2013, I read a Chris Kresser article, “5 Uncommon Uses for Probiotics.” Some of the uncommon uses were a probiotic cleaning spray and probiotic skin lotions. So, it looks like this trend of using good bacteria is finally catching on in the form of skin care products.

As I mentioned before, most of my summer reading centered around the microbiome and the good gut bacteria that we need back in our lives. You can also benefit from putting these good guys directly on your skin. A quote from Chris’ Ebook on Nutrition for Healthy Skin:

The skin is naturally home to beneficial flora that protect the skin from pathogens and regulate inflammation, but these friendly populations of bacteria can be disturbed through harsh soaps and other environmental toxins. Restoring beneficial bacteria through probiotic lotions or spot treatments appears to reduce skin inflammation from the outside, thus improving acne.

Perhaps this, Mother Dirt, company will help take the good bacteria into the mainstream and revolutionize the skin care and cleaning product industry? I am done with Triclosan, an antibacterial product found in toothpaste and soaps, and I hope more people will start to stand up for a world with less antibacterial products–a world where microscopic bacteria do the work and we reap the benefits.

How Close is the World to Giving up Showers?

What would a world with no showering really look/smell like?

Would there be more kids getting parental consent to jump in the mud to get good bacteria in their system?

According to the dermatologist, Ted Lain, who is mentioned in the Yahoo article, we shouldn’t give up on showers yet and more clinical trials need to be done to show the effectiveness of the Mother Dirt products. He thinks that people in cities still need to wash off grime and bacteria on a daily basis. I guess country kids might have better luck convincing their parents they don’t need a shower every night.

Celebrity Showering Quiz

Our culture is a little bit weirdly obsessed with the showering habits of famous individuals. There is an article online that dishes the info (you determine the validity) on the celebs who bathe with their dogs (Mariah Carey), take luxurious baths (Oprah), or those who are out of the shower in three minutes (Jennifer Aniston). I wonder if any of them would start endorsing Mother Dirt?

Cleanliness is Inspiration for my Mind

Which raises yet another question: What about all the creative people who get their inspiration for work while in the shower? (Many ideas for this blog post popped into my head while I was showering. I was looking for a distraction from my NaNoWriMo novel).

If you’ve ever had a moment of clarity while in the shower, you’re not alone. In a 2012 study conducted at the University of California, Santa Barbara, participants who performed undemanding activities that allowed their mind to wander experienced a significant increase in creative problem-solving abilities.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/health/Healthy-Shower-Habits-Shower-Mistakes#ixzz3qgTBNXaf

It seems that it is the act of quieting one’s mind that helps with creative problem-solving abilities. In the New York Times #1 Best Seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo mentions this idea by writing about the time she went on a hike to a waterfall with one of her 74 year-old clients. The author experienced a meditative like state while standing under the waterfall. In her book, she examines the similarities between mediating under a waterfall and tidying one’s house.

“For this reason, it is essential to create a quiet space in which to evaluate the things in your life.” Pg. 57

For some people, this quiet space might be the shower.

Warning Signs of Not Showering

People may become less creative in problem-solving and smell foul if they haven’t showered in a while.  Poor hygiene can also be one of the first signs of cognitive decline.

Typically in Alzheimer’s disease but also in Lewy body dementia and vascular dementia, in the late mild to early moderate stages, the person you care for may need to be reminded to wash and groom themselves.

When it comes to dementia, more signs of what to look for in terms of personal care/hygiene can be found at dementiaguide.com.

Smarter Hygiene Products

None of the products I use for cleaning or personal hygiene include probiotics, yet.

I make my own deodorant (it is not an antiperspirant) out of coconut oil, tapioca starch, baking soda, lemon oil, and tea tree oil. I can count on it to keep the smell away for one day (don’t try to push 2 days without showering when using your own homemade stuff.)

I use Weleda toothpaste that contains salt. I used to use “dirt” toothpaste (a commercial product made with clay) but the company was forced to put a warning lable on the toothpaste that it may contain lead. This was too unsettling for me to look at every day.

What about you? Dare I ask when the last time you showered? Have any good hygiene tips or products to share? Need a good distraction from NaNoWriMo?

Here’s to keeping your brain happy by smelling good!


Filed under Uncategorized

The Dark Side of Sugar and Your Brain

sweet side

By: Tina Davidson

Halloween is almost here. For most kids, October 31 means costumes and CANDY!

This year my sons will be dressed as a father and son duo–Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader, and Luke Skywalker. I’m sure they’ll be wielding their lightsabers to commandeer treats while using the Force to try to persuade me to allow them to eat sugar and stay up past their bedtime.

Should I worry too much about them having trouble falling asleep after eating a bag full of candy in the evening? Apparently, a new study has found that sugar may help out with sleep:

Contrary to parental belief, sugar may actually cause drowsiness, not hyperactivity. Key brain cells awash in glucose put mice to sleep, scientists report in the July 8 Journal of Neuroscience. (1)

I’m going to allow my children to eat a reasonable amount of candy (not in excess) since this article just came out and their falling asleep quickly is not 100% guaranteed. The key words of the study are “may actually cause drowsiness” so my kids will have to present me with a few more studies (done on humans) before I change this policy.

And my kids can forget about eating any candy with artificial colors or chemical sweeteners. There are studies that link artificial food dyes to hyperactivity (sometimes sugar is not solely to blame for kid craziness–check out the blog “Die, Food Dye!” for testimonials from parents with dye sensitive kids). So, I plan on letting my kids collect candy, but I’ll swap this candy out later for “mother-approved” candy they can eat (stuff they pick out ahead of time from Trader Joe’s). This tradition seems to make everyone happy.

Have a safe and fun Halloween!  May the Force be with you!

Hanging with Yoda at LEGOLAND for the day. Photo courtesy of Thea Gavin.

Hanging out with Yoda at LEGOLAND.

Further Reading

Do You Let Sugar Master Your Attention Span?

Check out the article, “Energy drinks significantly increase hyperactivity in schoolchildren, study finds” posted on February 9, 2015, at Science Daily:

Middle-school children who consume heavily sweetened energy drinks are 66% more likely to be at risk for hyperactivity and inattention symptoms, a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health has found.

Do or Do not. There is no Try When it Comes to Substituting Real Sugar for NAS

You may want to think twice before you choose a non-caloric artificial sweetener (NAS) and find out how it may affect your intestinal microbiota. Check out the article, “It’s Never Nice to Fool Mother Nature,” posted on Dr. Perlmutter’s blog.

Chris Kresser’s blog also has a post, “The Unbiased Truth About Artificial Sweeteners” from May 30, 2014, that is worth checking out. You can also find a free ebook on sweeteners on his website.

Do you Underestimate the Power of Sugar?

Some people complain of nightmares after eating a lot of sugar and some gain weight after eating a diet high in sugar. There are others who experience no ill effects after consuming lots of sugar. Maybe they just don’t notice any effects because it puts them to sleep? Check out the article, “What Sugar Does to Your Brain” by Dr. Scott Olson.

Scientific studies on the effects of sugar on the brain are sparse at best and most medical professionals and organizations will say that sugar has nothing to do with mood or hyperactivity. If you are surprised by that stance, you are not alone.

“Your powers are weak” when it comes to fending off sugar cravings.

Should You Eat Chocolate Before a Lightsaber Battle or Tense Discussion?

According to the Wall Street Journal article posted on December 3, 2014, “How the Brain Uses Glucose to Fuel Self-Control,” by Robert M. Sapolsky, eating some chocolate to get your glucose levels up before entering into a tense discussion with a spouse may prove beneficial (taking glucose before a lightsaber battle was not mentioned in the article).

Going for the Padame Amidala look this Halloween?

Protect your brain from heavy metals found in some costume makeup and check out the article, “Beware of Halloween Makeup Hazards,” by Devon Kelley posted on October 20, 2015.

Help me Obi-Wan KALE-nobi–eating Fruits and Vegetables is my Only Hope!

I try to limit my consumption of foods with added sugars. I’ll stick to eating foods that are close to their most natural state and resist the power of the Dark Side of sugar this Halloween.

How about you? What’s your stance on sugar and how it affects your brain? Remember to seek your doctor’s advice and do your research when it comes to your health issues and  consuming sugar.

R2 D2

I found the droid, R2 D2, that I was looking for at LEGOLAND.

I'm not sure how many Lego bricks went into making the Death Star replica at LEGOLAND but it was pretty impressive.

I’m not sure how many Lego bricks went into making the Death Star replica at LEGOLAND but it was pretty impressive.


Photo of author, Tina Davidson, with Yoda courtesy of Thea Gavin.

(1)  Sanders, Laura. “Sugar may put you to sleep: glucose triggers nerve cells to spur drowsiness in mice.” Science News 8 Aug. 2015: 15. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Oct. 2015.

1 Comment

Filed under Brain Health, Healthy Living

Wi-Fi and Your Brain

wi-fi router

By: Tina Davidson

In my previous post, Books and Your Brain Continued… Paper or Plasma, I mentioned an article I found about the Ashland Public School District and how it was the first US Public School District to limit wi-fi radiation exposure to students and staff. The remarkable parent who raised the issue with the school district reached out to me via email after seeing my post. I’ve never had the honor of meeting her, but Cece Doucette, is one of my new heroes. I’ve included the email she sent me below so you don’t miss out on anything she has to share.

Thanks for the mention of wi-fi in schools, Tina. In addition to addressing wi-fi radiation in education, there is a lot parents can do at home. We have run Ethernet cables to our daughters’ laptops and turned off the multiple wi-fi antennas in each device. The cordless home phones are like having your own min-cell tower, they pulse radiation 24/7. We’ve replaced them with corded phones. We use a good toaster oven or cast iron pans to warm foods now instead of the microwave oven. We also unplugged the little router we’d bought, and contacted our internet service provider. They gave me the IP address for my Verizon router, and it’s very easy to go on-line and access the wireless settings to turn off the 2.4GH and 5GHz routers that came with our phone/internet/cable.

I also turned off both wi-fi antennas in my printer.

Hard-wired is the only way to ensure internet access without undue radiation exposure and it’s easy to do. We’ve cut down cell phone use and keep them in airplane mode when not in use so they can’t pulse constant radiation. I bought an Acoustimeter electromagnetic radiation meter to be sure I have eliminated all radiation in our home. I have a grant application in to put two of the Acoustimeters in the Ashland Public Library so all of our residents can measure and remediate the radiation in their homes too. The Friends of the Ashland Library are hosting a film series this fall to help educate the community on wi-fi’s potential harm, see pages 12-13 of our local monthly paper.

The only device we can’t control at home yet is the utility “smart” meter mounted on our house without our permission. The analog meters with the old dials are the safer choice. At least the digital meter we have is far away from our bedrooms–the radiation pulses 24/7 and interferes with sleep and cell repair.

For more information, feel free to peruse my research repository:

Understanding EMFs.

As a closing thought, I just read Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair’s book, “The Big Disconnect” which goes into scientific detail about what’s happening to children in the digital age, by each brain development stage. I highly recommend it to every parent. Children best learn how to be fully functioning people from caring adults who love them and give them their undivided attention. ~Cece Doucette

Thanks, Cece, for sharing the simple steps that people can take to make a difference and limit wi-fi radiation in their homes.

There are two more items that I thought of with wi-fi antennas that readers may also want to turn off: blue-ray players and DSLR cameras (check your user manual if you are unsure if your camera has wi-fi capabilities).

Another benefit of wiring your house instead of going with a wireless internet router, is that wires are better for maximum speed and security.

Need more Information?

Cece has compiled all her research online to share with those interested. Check out the section, Electrohypersensitivity (EHS), and find out how these environmentally induced symptoms manifest neurologically and immunologically in people exposed to electric and magnetic fields.  The good news is that over time these symptoms can disappear when the exposure to EMFs is eliminated.  

A final note from Cece:

Friends of the Ashland Library took an interest in this, and after doing their own due diligence, decided to dedicate their next Documentary Film and Discussion Series to educating the public on this.  See attached flyer.  This is something any community could do, or folks could watch most of the featured videos on-line or through their library networks.


How about you, readers? What other devices with wi-fi antennas have I missed that I need to turn off? I’d love to hear the steps you are taking to limit your wi-fi radiation exposure or how you’ve become an agent of change to help spread the word. Keep up the good work and here’s to a happy and healthy brain!


Email correspondence with Cece Doucette.  October 4, 2015.

Understanding EMFsOnline research repository.

Other Wi-Fi news

Gogo provides inflight wi-fi for more than 70 percent of the nation’s airlines and plans to launch a satellite-based wi-fi system to boost connectivity. Satellite wi-fi works on international flights and over a body of water. (Source: The Tribune, sanluisobispo.com, F4, 10.4.15)


Filed under Uncategorized

Books and Your Brain Continued… Paper or Plasma

old book

By: Tina Davidson

Reading and Your Brain

Did you know you can exercise the deep reading part of your brain quite simply? All you have to do is put down your Kindle (after you’re done reading my blog, of course) and spend some time reading a paperback book instead.

I found a great link to an article, based on a radio interview, that discusses our bi-lateral brain and why we shouldn’t only read from screens.

You can read about it here. I found the following quote interesting:

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards “non-linear” reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.

What about you? Did your brain just skim the quote I posted? Did you skip reading the full article?

Thanks to @movedtowrite for retweeting the link to this article on Twitter!

Writing and Your Brain

I guess we still need old-fashioned books and the experience of writing with pencil on paper. Here’s a quote from another interesting article that @tara_in_canada tweeted.

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

The article also mentions the benefits of students taking notes by hand rather than on a laptop.

I think technology has its benefits (I love being able to create graphics on my laptop) but there’s still a lot to figure out when it comes to the effects of technology on the brain.

Wi-Fi and Your Brain

I posted a link previously from the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) about Wi-Fi in the schools and how schools should proceed with caution in regards to devices that emit electromagnetic frequencies (stay wired for internet if possible). When I read the recent article: “First US Public School District Limits Wi-Fi Radiation Exposure to Students and Staff,” I found this to be good news.

Ashland, Massachusetts Public Schools have implemented Wi-Fi Device “Best Practices” which include turning the Wi-Fi off when not in use and keeping devices on a table.

Let’s use technology but limit the radiation exposure is basically what the school is implementing and promoting.

Hopefully, schools aren’t trading in all our kids’ textbooks and notebooks for Chromebooks too quickly (Sorry, Google, if you were hoping to take over the school market). Hopefully, we’ll find a happy balance with technology in our homes and schools. One day my children and perhaps grandchildren may write a handwritten note to thank me for keeping them safe.

Join me, @tinabrainblog, on Twitter and let me know what interesting brain facts you’ve stumbled upon lately.



“Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing.” The Takeaway. September 18, 2014. Editor T.J. Raphael.

“What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades.” http://www.nytimes.com. Maria Konnikova. June 2, 2014.

“First US Public School District Limits Wi-Fi Radiation Exposure to Students and Staff.” SBWire. September 25, 2015.


Filed under Uncategorized

Books for Your Brain Health

Happy Fall! Despite its beautiful red colors, poison oak seems to always be in season along CA's Central Coast.

Happy Fall! Despite its beautiful red colors, poison oak always seems to be in season along CA’s Central Coast.

Although the hot temperatures along California’s Central Coast make it seem more like summer, according to the calendar, it is the first day of Fall. Hooray!

Here’s a look back on my summer reading list:

  • The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healing Your Sinuses by Ralph B. Metson, M.D. with Steven Mardon (2005)–just skimmed this one in hopes of finding some nugget of wisdom to help me with my hearing loss from my ruptured ear drum.
  • Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior- The Groundbreaking Story of The Gut-Brain Connection edited by Teri Arranga, Claire I. Viadro, MPH, PhD, and Lauren Underwood, PhD (2013)–reads more like a scientific paper- you’ll learn all about helminths (aka parasitic worms) and fecal microbiota transplantation! The stuff that big pharma doesn’t want you to read.
  • The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine by Terry Wahls, M.D., with Eve Adamson (2014)–super fascinating–I don’t have MS but I am more conscious of eating for my mitochondria now.
  • Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain–for Life by David Perlmutter, M.D., with Kristin Loberg (2015)–great stuff–especially for those looking to heal your gut. Dr. Perlmutter’s book allows a few more foods in your diet that the Wahls Protocol suggests you take out.
  • Power Food for the Brain: an Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory by Neal D. Barnard, M.D., with recipes by Christine Waltermyer and Jason Wyrick (2013)–interesting–had a slightly different take than other books on the topic– recommends no meat in diet and no mention of probiotics.
  • The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: the Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch (2010)–some fascinating stuff I hadn’t read before–surprised she didn’t include any research about the importance of sleep and probiotics though–maybe she assumed that was a given? Or just too much material to fit in one book?

I’m currently reading, “The Ghost in My Brain: How a Concussion Stole my Life and How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Helped me get it Back” by Clark Elliott, Ph.D. (2015). I’m eager to keep reading this one because I’ve cheated and found out how it ends. Here’s a portion of the book’s synopsis quoted from Dr. Elliott’s website:

After eight years, the cognitive demands of his job, and of being a parent finally became more than he could manage. In one final effort to hold on to his life, Clark crossed paths with two brilliant Chicago-area research-clinicians—one an optometrist using neurodevelopmental techniques, the other a cognitive restructuring specialist—working on the leading edge of brain plasticity. Together, they targeted the visual centers of Clark’s brain, teaching him to use new neural pathways where others had been damaged. The impact was dramatic. Within weeks, the ghost of who he had been returned.

Concussions are so terrible. I love that Dr. Elliott’s story has a happy ending. 🙂

How about you? Do you like happy endings? Have a good book on brain health to share? I’d love to hear about it so I can add it to my Fall reading list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pain, Music, and Your Brain


By: Tina Davidson

I used to brag about how I never got sick and how I hadn’t been on antibiotics for over ten years. I should have known better–as the saying goes, “Pride goeth before the fall” (adapted from Proverbs 16:18).

About four months ago, over the course of a week, I desperately needed antibiotics to combat an infection. I’m not sure how I would have survived without antibiotics because the pain from the infection was so great. The first doctor I saw prescribed Amoxicillin. Unfortunately, this antibiotic couldn’t kick the infection, so four days later the next doctor prescribed the tenacious, Augmentin. This antibiotic combated the bad bacteria no problem and my pain was relieved. (Sadly, Augmentin probably killed off some of my good gut bacteria as well. I recommend the book, “Brain Maker,” by Dr. David Perlmutter on this topic)

My tale of woe began with a sore throat–the kind where I could barely swallow–and it lasted for a week. On the seventh day, with a little help from Vitamin I, aka ibuprofen, I thought I was on the mend. Then things got worse. That evening the pain in my head went from a level 1 (slightly-painful) to a level 10 (Old Faithful was gonna blow!). After a grueling night of no sleep and lots of prayer (2 Corinthians 12:9), I texted a friend in the morning and she urged me to see a doctor and offered to watch my children (I am forever in her debt!).  After my children were safely inside my friend’s house, I drove white-knuckled to the urgent care as the pressure in my head heightened like labor pains. It felt like my ear was trying to give birth to another ear.

Once in the waiting room I tried not to make eye contact with the other sufferers.  I handed the receptionist my insurance card and managed to choke out, “My head really hurts and I can no longer hear out of my left ear.” Despite her sympathy, she couldn’t change the estimated forty-five minute wait time.

I grabbed some tissue and writhed in a corner of the waiting room–doing my best to fill out the new patient form and not scare the other patients with my Gollum-like state. I wanted to pull out my hair and scream, “My precious!” (I recommend you watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy if you haven’t yet). I had lost something precious to me–my health! Luckily, I managed to not totally lose my mind and all my hair.

After what seemed like an eternity of corner writhing, I finally saw a doctor.  He diagnosed me with an upper respiratory infection and an ear infection in my left ear. I left with a prescription for antibiotics (Amoxicillin), some more Kleenex, and still lots of pain. Four days later the pressure in my head was hovering around level 9.5 (Calgon take me away!) and the fluid draining from my left ear had turned red (reminding me of the Nile in Exodus 7:14-25), so I made an appointment to see an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist).

The ENT informed me that my left ear drum had ruptured and prescribed more antibiotics (hence, Augmentin).  She gave me ear drops to combat the infection from the outside and pills to combat it from the inside. I was told it would take 10 to 20 days for all the fluid to drain. A week later I couldn’t hear out of my left ear and continued to experience ringing. It has been over four months and my ear is still not 100% better. I lost weight, sleep, and part of my sanity during this trial but I gained a whole new appreciation for those who are sick and in pain.

Distraction from Pain

When my head pain hovered near the 6-8 level (on my personal pain scale), I tried reading as a distraction. Surprisingly, I found a brain health reference in a book I had least expected it–in a book about Zumba. The book mentioned a study that had used drumming to help Parkinson’s patients (Zumba is type of dance workout that is all about rhythm). Of course, I was immediately intrigued by this rhythm/brain connection. I made a mental note to investigate this idea further–when I was feeling better–so, here’s what I found out.

Music Therapy

I found a 2006 article in the Saturday Evening Post that mentioned the music therapy research of Dr. Ron Tintner, co-director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston. Prior research showed that rhythm makes people move, but he was specifically interested in finding out if certain rhythms helped Parkinson’s patients move better. (Anyone know what the results were after the trials? I can’t find any new publications/articles following up with Dr. Tintner on the matter.)

More recently, the American Physical Theraphy Association released information in 2013 that trials in Canada were using iPods as the next tool to help improve freezing of gait, the inability to continue walking or start walking, in Parkinson’s patients.

The system is called Ambulosono, and it uses an app called Gait Reminder in conjunction with motion sensing technology in an iPod Touch. The iPod is strapped to an arm or leg, and the app controls music, which plays or stops based on the quality and synchronization of the patient’s stride length, arm swing, and other factors. The system was featured in a YouTube video posted by the University of Calgary in May. States News Service
This sounds similar to the device Dr. Tintner was looking for:
“Over the course of a year, we want to determine which acoustic stimuli will help Parkinson’s patients move and function better. Ultimately, the goal would be to create a device, perhaps similar to a personal music device that would be tailored to each Parkinson’s patient’s needs,” he said.

Whether you have Parkinson’s or not, listening to and/or playing music can help contribute to your overall health and well-being. Studies have shown that music can influence babies as well as boomers according to a TEDx talk by Jessica Grahn, a cognitive neuroscientist.

If you are pregnant and are considering special womb headphones for your baby, the kind of headphones that you stick on your belly so your baby can listen to classical music, aka smart music, you should watch Jessica’s TEDx talk.  It is nice to see her debunk some of the hype around such gadgets.

Spoiler alert: Playing classical music to your baby in the womb isn’t going to increase your baby’s brain function. She recommends you save your money and buy some calming mp3s instead.

The most important bit of information that I took away from Jessica’s talk is that music can help reduce pain! I like the sound of that and I’m sure those suffering from pain do as well.

Here’s some other great benefits of listening to music:

  • Aids in stroke rehabilitation
  • Improves endurance and perceived exertion during exercise
  • Helps Parkinson patients with walking (as mentioned previously)
  • Helps dementia patients with memory recall

This list of benefits is sure to grow as scientists continue their research on the effects of music on the brain. I was especially intrigued by the article, “A Brain for Rhythm.”  This article talked about Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart, and Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco.  They are working together to try to crack the “rhythm code” in regards to how it can help with diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

“We’re going after the rhythm code,” Hart says. “If we crack it, we may be able to use that information to diagnose and treat these brain diseases. That’s the big enchilada!”

Hart’s mother has Alzheimer’s so I understand why this research is important to him.  I recommend reading the whole article.  There is fascinating stuff going on in brain research with brain rhythms.

The Big Enchilada of my Health Issues

The following quote sums up my health issues nicely:

The nervous system controls the function and regenerative process of every cell in the body–including the sinus cavity and channels.  If the nervous system is not in a state of coherence, this means energy is not flowing from brain to body and the cells of the sinuses are not regenerating. This may also have an effect on the eustachian tubes, leading to chronic ear infections and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).  Its not a drainage problem.  Its a nervous system out of balance. Yonge Finch Health Team

So, maybe I just need to get my nervous system back in balance. Perhaps you do too? I hope to continue to share tips for a healthy brain and continue to apply what I’ve learned to my own life.

You had me at “Neuroscience”

Are you especially drawn to reading an article if it uses the word “neuroscience”? I recommend you check out: “Superfluous Neuroscience Information Makes Explanations of Psychological Phenomena More Appealing.” I read about it on the blog Mindhacks.

Medical Disclaimer: All information on http://www.tinadavidson.wordpress.com is the opinion of the author and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Please contact your physician if you need medical attention and do not delay seeking professional assistance/treatment because of something you have read on this blog. The information posted here is for general knowledge and entertainment.

For more information on music therapy, check out the following resources:

Sources & Resources

FCR – Endonasal Therapy. YoungFinchHealth.com

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV). Vestibular.org

Zumba: Ditch the Workout, Join the Party! the Zumba Weight Loss Program [With DVD] Perez, Beto ( Author ) ] { Hardcover } 2009.

Hearing Loss Tied to Brain Shrinkage. Blog.aarp.org

“Parkinson’s Patients Sing in Tune with Creative Arts Therapy.” PR Newswire 14 June 2011. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

 “Unique music therapy research is under way at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston.” Saturday Evening Post July-Aug. 2006: 51+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

“IPODS-THE NEXT TOOL IN PARKINSON DISEASE TREATMENT?” States News Service 17 Oct. 2013. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

“Music Therapy: One Key for People with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease.” Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter Feb. 2001: 3. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 9 May 2015.

A Brain for Rhythm. The-Scientist.com

Freezing of Gait. Encyclopedia of Movement Disorders. Bloem, B.R., Delval, A., Mahabier, S.W., Snijders, A.H.2010, Pages 486–491.

Fernandez-Duque, D., Evans, J., Christian, C., & Hodges, S. (2015). Superfluous Neuroscience Information Makes Explanations of Psychological Phenomena More Appealing Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27 (5), 926-944 DOI: 10.1162/jocn_a_00750

Music and the Brain. TEDx talk by Jessica Grahn posted on Inside the Brain

Music, Rhythm, and the Brain. BrainWorldMagazine.com

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Disclaimer to Protect Your Brain Health

Danger Stay on Trail

By: Tina Davidson

Disclaimer: I am not a neuroscientist or a doctor, so I suggest you consult one in regards to your brain’s health.

Basically, I’m a research enthusiast with a passion for brain health. I dream and pray for the day that there is a cure for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s (AD), multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s (PD) (just to name a few). If you’ve been following my blog, then you already know this about me. I rarely suggest my readers consult a doctor because I assume they already do this. Today I thought I’d give my new readers a reminder.  You can find more about me here.

Who Doesn’t Love Free Stuff?

My blog is a free one hosted by WordPress. Since its free, ads may show up on my blog (not my doing). I don’t support any product or company that WordPress may allow advertised here. I do not receive any compensation by mentioning products in my posts that I use or like (I love PYREX!).  I don’t pay health gurus/entrepreneurs to help me subsidize my income with blog posts/ads. I like to mention my favorite professionals just to share what is going on in their fields of expertise (clearly, everything my mom blogs about is worth mentioning here!).

I can’t guarantee the accuracy of what others report.  As you know, it can be dangerous to pick the link that shows up as #1 on a google search and run with the advice.

Danger Sign

Danger: Were you deceived by this picture? I did some editing to make it look like there was water by adding a reflection.

For the Love of the Brain

The goal of this blog is to inform and, hopefully, sometimes entertain. My brain needs a creative outlet and its nice to have an audience (thanks for stopping by!). Your brain health is way too important to ignore and I hope in some small way to contribute to your overall well-being by the information I provide here.

Some people might be more prone to listen me since I’m not a doctor– perhaps modern medicine has left them feeling disgruntled and uncured? (My grandfather was an amazing doctor who knew how to listen to his patients and get to the root of the problem.  Sometimes I wish I had followed in his footsteps and pursued a medical degree).

Who has all the Answers? Scientists Vs. Playwrights

If you’d like to voice your opinion about the faults in today’s medical system there are some good discussions going on over at Chris Kresser’s website regarding: Why Are Scientists and the Public So Often At Odds?  Scientists don’t have all the answers for a person’s health nor do I, but at least people are researching and sharing what works.

Does writing about science make you an expert on the topic? It caught my attention that Tom Stoppard has a new play out, The Hard Problem, being performed in London.  (In high school, I enjoyed playing the part of Felicity Cunningham in Stoppard’s play, The Real Inspector Hound, in a student directed performance. My favorite line to perform: “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, Simon!”)  I haven’t seen Stoppard’s most recent show at the National Theatre but I’ve read a couple of different reviews about it. I’m always intrigued when theatre embarks to bring neuroscience into the spotlight. The write-up on the National Theatre’s website states:

Is the day coming when the computer and the fMRI scanner will answer all the questions psychology can ask?

Meanwhile Hilary needs a miracle, and she is prepared to pray for one.

I can’t go into detail about the play because I haven’t seen it. From what I can surmise from the reviews, it seems like the character, Hilary, is a scientist who likes to bring up questions of morality and God. The play appears to be a smorgasbord of food for thought. (Would love to go to London and see it!)

Perhaps after many years of witnessing the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease on a loved one, you can relate to Stoppard’s character, Hilary, who needs a miracle (I don’t think the miracle Hilary expected was in regards to this disease though).

Miracles and Your Brain

I believe there are still miracles happening.  Recently, a teenager made headlines after he had been dead for 45 minutes (he didn’t stay dead!).  He fell through the ice at Lake Ste Louise in Missouri. The rescuers spent 15 minutes looking for him in the frigid water.  Then once they found him he received 27 minutes of CPR. Finally, his mom was brought into the room and she prayed out loud– her son, John, had a pulse within a few minutes. He’s left many baffled in regards to his speedy recovery. I’ve also had relatives/friends recover from strokes/traumatic brain injuries when improvement was deemed slim to impossible (and many people were praying for them).

Do you believe in miracles? Please share your stories.

Disclaimer: While I love to offer advice, I’m not an expert in miracles or brain health– just a blogger voicing her opinion and praying for cures. I will continue to remain optimistic.

Optimism: Focus on what can be done, rather than what can’t; entertain a hopeful view of the future; emphasize any positive aspects of a stressful event–for example, view a setback as a learning experience; encourage, rather than discourage, yourself when you are faced with a stressor.

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

“Building resilience helps you handle stress: calling on qualities such as optimism, flexibility and humor can help you improve your ability to deal with challenges.” Mind, Mood & Memory 3.10 (2007): 3. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

Leave a comment

Filed under Brain Health, Uncategorized

Snakes on My brain

Snakes copy

By: Tina Davidson

Say hello to my friend the ball python.  I met him at the reptile show at the Winter Bird Festival in Morro Bay, CA, last month.

Now you may be thinking, “Did she just write reptile show at the bird festival?”

You betcha.

Morro Bay is a bird sanctuary, a place that takes birding seriously, so it never makes much sense that every year reptiles are given a little spotlight during the Winter Bird Festival.  Don’t they know these slithery showmen, if given the opportunity, would consume the honoree’s and their offspring?

Surprisingly, if my group of friends and I hadn’t gotten in line early enough we would have missed out on the free tickets to the reptile show– only 2 sessions were offered with 25 participants allowed in at a time to pet and handle the snakes, bearded dragons, and blue-tongued skink.

bearded dragon blue tongued skink cuddly tiny snake

During my first year in attendance at the show (two years ago), I hid behind my camera– using it as an excuse that you can’t take pictures and hold snakes at the same time, but in fact I was really creeped out.

That memorable year I witnessed a snake pooping on an unsuspecting girl. This scene cured me from ever allowing my children to keep snakes as pets. That and the fact that snakes live a long time convinces me to say no. I don’t envision my future as an empty nester with only my children’s snakes to keep me company by the fire.

The girl I mentioned earlier, who endured the snake poop, was a champion and handled it better than I ever would have– had it been me, much more screaming and mayhem would have occurred! If a snake were expelling its waste on me, my first instinct (two years ago) would have been to launch that sucker.

This instinct, of wanting to fling a defecating snake, might once have been attributed to the “reptilian” brain.  Paul MacLean developed a theory in the 1960s that the brain had three levels and the reptilian part was the bottom most basic level in regards to survival and instinct.  MacLean’s triune brain theory has been replaced but you may still hear mention of the “reptilian” brain.

We now know much more about reptiles and turns out they are pretty smart (lizards can actually use their snout as tools according to one study). In fact, when scientists, Manuel Leal and Brian Powell at Duke University of North Carolina performed an experiment to test the wits between tits, a commonly studied bird, and Anolis Evermanni, aka anole lizards, their results suggested these lizards were just as smart as the birds.  So, I guess that makes reptiles an admirable addition to any bird festival.  What’s your take?

The Snake-away and Your Brain

This was my second year attending the show, but my first year to touch anything,  So, what changed? Why did I chill with the ball python for longer than just a photo opp?  I had reframed my attitude. I do not have herpetophobi, an extreme fear of reptiles, which would have been much harder to overcome.

What helped me the most was to have the proper behavior modeled. I had witnessed my friend, Janie, bravely handling creature after creature and nothing happened to her. We were warned this year that the snakes had breakfast before the show but I didn’t want to let that crap (literally) stop me– distorted fear was holding me back from embracing a tame snake.

Encountering a rattlesnake by surprise in the wild is a real threat to my survival… not a sweet pet ball python.

What distorted fears are preventing you from moving forward to try something new and enjoy life?

Would you be more likely to attend a bird festival or a reptile show? Perhaps you are dealing with orniphobia, or fear of birds, and not reptiles?

Orniphobia is one of the most debilitating phobias as birds are nearly impossible to avoid, says Lizzie Carver, who runs the bird phobia programme at Birdworld, Surrey. Employing a neurolinguistic process known as the “rewind technique”, Carver tries to re-establish a traumatic moment or episode in her client’s minds and then explore it in a safe space.

We all have things we need to overcome in life and s0me are more debilitating than others. It is never too late to change your brain thanks to neuroplasticity (nerd alert– neuroplasticity is one of my favorite words!)  Whether you apply the myelination technique I mentioned in my last post, or a nuerolinguistic process like the rewind technique mentioned above, there is help and support out there. I hope you find an option that works for you.

Did you know this Snake/Bird Fact?

King snakes are considered kings because they eat other snakes just like king cobras eat other cobras.

Check out a picture of a Cooper’s hawk— a bird who eats other birds. Sadly, it seems that there are cannibals in every bunch.

Special thanks to Dennis Sheridan and the Morro Bay Natural History Museum for allowing us to hang out with all the creepers and crawlers.

Source Citation  & Interesting Reads

“Cold-blooded cunning; Animal behaviour (I).” The Economist 16 July 2011: 83(US). General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.
“Do something: Tackle your fear: Three therapists who specialise in animal phobias.” Guardian [London, England] 11 Oct. 2014: 6. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.
Getting Rid of Distorted Fears, Part 1: Why Kids Have Distorted Fears
Why we Fear Snakes

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized