Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s Disease

Coloring Pages and Your Brain

coloring-page-icon-st-patricks-day-shamrock-luck

It was over three years ago when I created my first coloring page for my sons using the software, Adobe Illustrator. I stayed up late into the night learning the program and creating things for my children to color–a much needed creative outlet (confession–I worked on the pages more for myself then them).  After I had completed about ten pages, I had GRAND ideas of creating and marketing coloring books in my spare time.

I quickly realized this was not going to work out… unless I wanted to give up all forms of hygiene and many other time consuming necessities for survival. However, I did end up creating a website, with the help of my tech savvy older brother, where all my friends/family can download them for free (this includes you, so enjoy!).

Those were the glory days–where every coloring page I created was new and exciting. The possibilities seemed endless. (Just think about how many pages one could create on birds?)

Lately, I’ve been in a coloring page creative slump and have focused my creative energy on other “artistic” pursuits.

So, when some inspiration came to me to create a page for St. Patrick’s Day based off a green truck that my youngest son had perforated at school, you can imagine my excitement!!

The minute I saw the truck below, I had a silly vision of a leprechaun driving a green truck and spreading cheer with shamrocks instead of exhaust fumes.

When was the last time you were inspired?

Green-Truck-Montessori-work

Here’s some finished products below colored by my kids. They never cease to inspire me. Gotta love the pink road chosen by my oldest son because he wanted to make the colors more “exciting.” I get it! Think outside the box. 🙂

coloring-page-shamrock-truck.jpg

 

Can Coloring Help Your Brain?

What benefits does coloring provide? Did you know some people find that coloring books help them take their mind off of chronic pain?

I find it relaxing to create coloring pages and others find it relaxing to color them in. There were millions of copies of coloring books geared towards adults sold last year and it looks like the trend will continue for this year. Why not break out those markers and join the fun!

So, what’s the appeal?

According to Parade Magazine’s article, “50 Shades of Happy–The New Joy of Coloring:”

“It engages both sides of your brain in that it’s both creative and tactical,” says psychologist Alice Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Boston. The creativity comes with envisioning the color selection and how it will play throughout the piece, while the tactical involves applying your decisions to the artist’s design. Both keep your right brain from taking over and wandering where it wants, as it does when you just doodle.

Coloring books are also a good ways for people to enjoy life away from screens and electronic devices. All it takes is a coloring page and some coloring utensils–whether it be crayons, markers, or colored pencils. (Although there are plenty of coloring apps out there… remember there is an actual brain benefit by holding a pencil in your hand verses swiping a finger.)

For many, coloring books may be a good form of art therapy. Recently, it has been thought that the rise in adult coloring books has perhaps contributed to the rise of art therapy’s respect and global recognition.

“…United States is not alone in using art therapy as an effective approach to various physical and mental afflictions, including emotional distress, addiction, social development, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and more.” Art Business News, 2015.

For those with Alzheimer’s, art therapy may help improve cognitive skills. It doesn’t seem like it would hurt to try some form of art therapy out with Alzheimer’s patients?

Even the color you choose can have a calming and healing effect on your body. For example,

“The psychological effects from using the color green are similar to those of the color blue, and are perceived as being soothing:” PRWeb Newswire, 2013.

Why Color Alone?

I hope you’ll find some time to download a coloring page you like and share it with a friend.

Perhaps you can find some inspiration in the book, “Draw Your Big Idea: The Ultimate Creativity Tool for Turning Thoughts into Action and Dreams into Reality” by Heather Willems and Nora Herting. I’m interested in checking it out (the title seemed really good!).

For those on the Central Coast, check out slolibrary.org for more information on the Healing Power of Art for Adults taking place on Friday, March 18, 2016.

Healing Power of Art for Adults
Anne Kellogg will lead a workshop exploring the creative process of art and its use to give voice to your deepest self.  Space is limited.  Pre registration required.  Please call or stop by to sign up.

 

I feel like you’re never too old to color.

Keep on creating and pursuing your dreams! I hope this post contributed in some way to your brain health and happiness. 🙂

Sources

“KindaChic.com’s Tips for Selecting The Right Colors to Use in Every Room of The Home.”PRWeb Newswire 2 July 2013. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

 

Parade Magazine. http://parade.com/409702/hdowdle/50-shades-of-happy-the-new-joy-of-coloring/

Gross, Anisse. “Beyond coloring books: gifts & sidelines 2016: coloring books aren’t going away anytime soon, but publishers are already on the hunt for what’s next in gifts.” Publishers Weekly18 Jan. 2016: 24+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

Fard, Farah Joan. “The expanding reach of art therapy: though it’s a relatively new approach to mental health treatment, art therapy is gaining traction and making a difference in people’s lives.” Art Business News Winter 2015: 34+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

 

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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!

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Pain, Music, and Your Brain

Music-on-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

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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.

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Make-up, Myelin, and My Brain

high heels

By: Tina Davidson

Before my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, I paid more attention to fashion than myelination.  Now, Alzheimer’s prevention is always on my mind and fuels most of what I write about and research.

When I think of my grandmother, the word “beautiful” always comes to mind.  Not only do I consider her beautiful on the inside, with her generous, gentle, and joyful spirit, but she also always managed to look fabulous on the outside with her hair and make-up done.

I’m skeptical when it comes to applying the chemicals found in hair dyes and make-up to myself.  It hasn’t been completely proven that these items are a direct link to Alzheimer’s, but I know my grandmother probably had accumulated many chemicals since she was sitting in a chair at the hair salon on a weekly basis for decades. I don’t think her era was concerned about researching natural beauty products. It was pretty much whatever the department store marketed best.  I may never know for sure what brought about my grandmother’s disease or if her affinity for fashion contributed to her decline, but the questions remain: was her dementia due to genetics or environmental factors (including beauty regime).

I can’t do anything about my genetics, but I don’t want to take any chances on the things I have control over when it comes to my health.

Chemicals are Pain to my Brain

Not long ago, I had my hair done on a Sunday at a local salon. It wasn’t regular hours for them and it wasn’t a regular day for me. I was primping for a photo shoot to create my wedding photography work team’s holiday card.  I arrived around 10:30 a.m. and left the salon close to 2 p.m.

As I chatted and watched everyone get their hair beautified, I had a sip of a mimosa and inhaled way too much hair spray and dry shampoo (just think of a cloud of baby powderish substance hovering over my head like a word bubble ).  My brain began to hurt as I smelled dose after dose of sickly sweet hair spray, but I had no idea what chemicals were irritating my mucus membranes; this was not the best time to run anything thru the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep, as I blogged about previously.

Since it wasn’t the time to be too compulsive,  I pushed the thoughts of toxins aside.  After all, the dry shampoo was helping me achieve BIG hair.

Indeed, my hair was voluminous.

More tinges of guilt hit as I thought about what was still to come– the face paint, the sparkly dress, and the high-heels to match–  all foreign to me. I spend most of my days in jeans, minimalist shoes, and if I remember, I apply Dr. Bronner’s “Naked” organic lip balm.  I blend in quite well with the others who don this casual Central Coast style.  As the day of glamour went by, I started to have a greater appreciation for the many brides whose wedding day memories I help capture. It is hard work prepping to be in front of the camera all day.

Our lovely and youthful make-up artist advised me to continue my glamorous look and wear make-up every day. I formed a smile with my bright red lips and pushed away the remembrances of all the time I spent researching toxins and the cosmetic industry.  My look took on its final transformation with the fake eyelashes.

Who was this person?

Guilt and Your Brain

Throughout the day my brain kept sending me guilty reminders about the toxins linked to the beauty industry. I try to read labels, research, and avoid environmental toxins as much as possible. Sometimes I think my husband wishes I didn’t research food so much– he seems to like living in ignorance of what chemicals are added to his meals.

This year I epically ended See’s Candy and El Pollo Loco (those were just two of the big ones) for our household. And by “ended” I mean we can no longer partake of them because we steer clear of dyes, artificial colors/flavor, and preservatives. Some argue that if you don’t eat food containing these items all the time then you can splurge every once in a while– however, this is not the case with food and chemical sensitivities.  You don’t want to mess around with a little here or there.  There are some people who are so sensitive that just a little ingested brings on suicidal tendencies. Check out Dr. Doris Rapp’s book, “Is This Your Child? Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies in Children and Adults” for further reading on the subject.

Thankfully, I do not have extreme food/chemical sensitivities. I did justify sitting in poor indoor air quality and slathering my face with what I deemed toxins as it was “just one day” (not enough for bioaccumulation).

When the time came, I slipped into my high-heels shoes that I’d purchased for $5.95 from the Goodwill. I began to regret my frugal choice since I could barely walk without excruciating pain. I thought back to my days of tap dancing in high heels at Christine’s Dance Studio in Orange.  How did I do it? In my younger years, I danced and performed without any second thoughts of pain or future foot damage.

Now, thanks to my affinity for research and in particular Katy Bowman’s book, “Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet,” I experienced  guilt in my pretty shoes because I knew the damage I was doing to my feet. I felt like a hypocrite but at the same time, scarily, I loved being “glamorized.”

You are What Your Skin Eats

Most likely, I didn’t cause any lasting long term-health effects by putting on a ton of make-up, hair spray, and high-heels one day of the year. (Ok.. I have to admit I actually got dressed up (high-heels, hair, and make-up) twice this past year. Who knows what my record will be for 2015!

In the meantime, I find myself researching make-up companies that don’t use any harsh chemicals or synthetic dyes so I can put on lip-stick and not feel guilty (first world problems of women with brain blogs).

Did you know some natural products contain ground up insects, or carmine, for coloring? There is a whole wave of natural, do-it-yourself, and organic make-up products/sites (some are legit and some just want your money). You’ll have to decide for yourself if you want your products with chemicals, insect juice, or organic botanicals.

What will you be feeding your skin in the new year? Remember to take care of your body’s largest organ.

My initial interest in a smarter approach to beauty was inspired by Paula Begoun’s book, “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me” (2003, 6th edition).

lip tinty

Myelination in the New Year

Perhaps you are reading this and don’t share my struggle with guilt when it comes to wearing un-regulated make-up or shoes that are not recommended by a leading biomechanist.

Maybe you made a resolution for the new year to eat healthier, spend less, or exercise more? Maybe you make this resolution every year and fail.

Focusing on your brain’s process of myelination might be the key to your success this year.  Myelination is the process that contributes to the overall health of your central nervous system thanks to the myelin that is wrapped to insulate your brain’s cell networks so they can communicate more efficiently.

I’ve been following Christine Comaford on twitter and recently read her article on Forbes.com, The Truth about How Your Brain Gets Smarter.  She states:

Neuroscientists worldwide are increasingly studying myelin and its amazing impact on rapid learning, mastery, neuroplasticity.

Read her article to learn all the details on how to hard wire your brain to create smarter habits.  I liked her emphasis on the myelination process and plan to study it as a way to help increase my creativity in the new year.

On the flip side, there is also a process called demyelination where the axons in the central nervous system lose their myelin sheath. Interestingly, demyelination doesn’t cause the dementia in Alzheimer’s patients.  Scientists think the dementia is caused by amyloid [Beta] protein deposition and loss of neurons and synapses.  Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterized by demyelination.

Just like fashion trends, your brain can change– sometimes for the better and, sadly, sometimes for the worst.

I hope you’ll focus on ways to improve your brain, like the myelination process, and use your imagination in the new year!

Happy 2015 and here’s to a healthy central nervous system!

Let me know how you plan on helping your brain stay happy and healthy. Say hello on my facebook page or send me a tweet!

@tinabrainblog

Sources & Interesting Reads:

Friedland, Robert P., and Barbara Krosner. “Managing Alzheimer’s Patients.” Science 282.5397 (1998): 2194. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.

Helms, Kristen. “Improving patient outcomes in multiple sclerosis: considerations for medication therapy management.” Drug Topics Nov. 2013: 34+. General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.

New Studies Show Anxiety, Depression, Guilt Harm the Brain

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Don’t Let Your Brain Skip a Beet!

What vegetable tastes “earthy,” helps snow and ice operations maintain safer roads, lowers your blood pressure, can benefit diabetics, may help fend off Alzheimer’s and prevent dementia, and is used in make-up and food coloring?

It’s beets! Yes, all those benefits in one humble and often overlooked vegetable. Did you know beets are also high in vitamin C and folate?

The main reason I have overlooked beets in the past is because I think they taste a lot like dirt when juiced raw.  I prefer them cooked with lots of butter.  I don’t put cooked beets in my smoothies, so in order for me to enjoy beet juice it has to be mixed with other sweet ingredients.

Today I thought my brain could use a boost so I made the perfect beet juice smoothie combination.  I blended one ripe banana, about a cup of frozen red beet juice (I bought beets at a farmer’s market, juiced them, and then froze them for later), a handful of organic frozen peaches, a tablespoon of red maca powder, 2 teaspoons of chia seeds, and one juice box of fruit punch. (The juice box was Kirkland brand with no preservatives or artificial flavors/colors. I used what I had in my kitchen to help mask the “dirt” taste and it worked!).

Did you know beet juice smoothies can improve your brain function?

Did you know beet juice smoothies can improve your brain function?

Mind, Mood, and Memory lists beet juice as one of five super brain drinks.  According to a study published in 2010, one reason beet juice is so super is that it increases blood flow to your brain.

The study compared brain scans of older adults before and after they drank beet juice, which contains large concentrations of nitrates that are converted in the body into blood-vessel-expanding nitrites. Imaging showed that study participants who consumed beet juice experienced increased blood flow to the white matter in the frontal lobes of the brain, a region often affected by cognitive decline and dementia. Mind, Mood & Memory 7.3 (2011): 6.

The four other super brain drinks in the article were carrot juice, tea (green and black varieties), acai juice, and red wine.  (If you start adding in these liquids on a regular basis you are still supposed to drink six to eight glasses of water a day!)

Remember that moderation is key when it comes to juicing.  There can be unwanted side effects to “over juicing”– especially super brain drinks.  Juices add a lot of sugar/calories, but don’t always satisfy as much as solid foods.  An article in Environmental Nutrition stated: “In fact, a 2008 review published in Obesity Reviews suggests that fluid calories are not recognized by the body in the same way solid foods are. Consuming liquid calories does little to suppress ghrelin–the body’s hunger-stimulating hormone–as effectively as consuming solid foods.”

So, let’s not neglect the five super foods to eat (you might stay fuller longer!). These five foods are mentioned in Tracey Neithercott’s article,”Powerhouse Picks: five foods you should be eating– but probably aren’t.”

The list includes: beets, sardines, brussell sprouts, pumpkin seeds, and kale.  Her article was published in Diabetes Forecast and mentions that beets can help diabetics suffering from nerve damage.  However, another article I read cautioned those with kidney disease or diabetes when it came to consuming beet juice.  It advised them to limit their amounts of beet juice because it is high in potassium and sugar.  Ask a health professional if you are unsure.

Another fun fact about beets is that you can use them in your makeup instead of chemicals.  Remember my post about Makeup and Your Brain?  If you’d like to stay away from chemicals in your makeup, you might want to check out Kimball’s website, Heavy on Wholesome, for some instructions on using beets/beet powder to create your own custom lip stain, loose powder, eyeliner, and blush.

What fun things have you discovered about beets? Is your brain a fan? Hopefully, you’ll think twice before you skip the beets!

By: Tina Davidson

Sources

(I found my sources online at my library’s database: General Reference Center GOLD. Web. 12 Feb. 2014)

“Beet juice–a natural remedy for high blood pressure: beetroots and other vegetables contain high levels of nitrates associated with cardiovascular benefits.” Mind, Mood & Memory 9.7 (2013): 6.

“Beet juice for the road.” Public Management 95.3 (2013): 5.

“Drink to brain health with 5 nourishing beverages: nutrient-rich drinks promote brain fitness and function and are an important aspect of a healthy diet.” Mind, Mood & Memory 7.3 (2011): 6.

“Experimental antiskid ‘beets’ salt in extreme cold.” Erie Times-News [Erie, PA] 10 Jan. 2014.

Neithercott, Tracey. “Powerhouse Picks: five foods you should be eating–but probably aren’t.” Diabetes Forecast May 2010: 35+.

“Oil dressing, beet juice, giblets may reduce Alzheimer’s risk.” UPI NewsTrack 28 Dec. 2013.

“The problem with drinking your calories.” Environmental Nutrition June 2013: 3.

This Valentine's Day make sure you take care of your brain!

This Valentine’s Day make sure you take care of your brain! (I painted this sign with beet juice!)

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My Brain’s Resolution for 2014

Happy New Year!

I’m four days into the new year and have managed to stick to my ONE resolution for the year.  Yes, I have other plans and goals for 2014 but this is my “New Year’s Resolution.”

Can you guess what it is?

No, it is not to exercise more or eat healthier (although, both exercise and eating healthier can improve your cognition.)

My resolution is to stop using the MICROWAVE.microwave

Why this resolution?

I want to be more conscious about meal planning.  If I don’t have a microwave, I can’t wait until 10 minutes before dinner and heat up left-overs.

Secondly, I’ve had the same microwave for 11 years.  I feel a draft of air, almost like a fan blowing, when it is on and I’m standing near by.  I don’t think this is a good thing.  An article by Brain Clark Howard, “11 Surprising Facts and Myths About Microwave Ovens,” published on Good Housekeeping’s website states that microwaves can wear over time. Yikes, I’ve had mine a long time and never tested it for radiation leakage. Can anyone recommend a good electromagnetic field (EMF) detector? The scientist in me would like to conduct a few experiments before I e-cycle my microwave.

Also, by getting rid of my microwave I gain valuable counter space. I might even designate this area my new sprout growing center.  Did you know Mumm’s broccoli sprouts contain 50 times more nutrients than full-grown broccoli? Check out the Mumm’s website for a list of all the health benefits of eating sprouts.  Find a You-tube video tutorial on growing sprouts and purchase some seeds and glass jars to get started.  Your brain will enjoy the new novelty/hobby and will appreciate the added nutritional benefits of eating sprouts.

Lastly, there is conflicting information on whether a microwave “damages” nutrients in your food and whether possible effects contribute to neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, etc.

Thus, good-bye microwave. I don’t want to take my chances if I don’t need the convenience and it is something I can live quite happily without.

Recommended Further Reading:

When researching the topic of microwaves and radiation, I stumbled upon the World Heath Organization (WHO) and discovered they have a team designated to EMF research because according to their website, “Potential health effects of exposure to static and time varying electric and magnetic fields need scientific clarification.” There are some EMFs that are natural and some that are man-made.  Microwaves, cell phones, computer screens, anti-theft devices, security systems, radio, television, radar and cellular telephone antennas all emit EMFs at different frequencies and scientists aren’t 100% sure how they are affecting us.

Thankfully, groups like the WHO and the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) exist to provide more information about the effects of EMFs.  The AAEM website has two **New** documents in regards to EMFs.  Check out Wireless Radiofrequency Radiation in Schools: AAEM Calls for Wired Connections in Schools  and Smart Meter Case Series.

Dr. Doris Rapp has a post on her blog titled, “Microwaves are Bad, Bad, Bad.”

The food investigator, aka Food Babe, is adamantly against microwave use. She lists the top 5 reasons why you should get rid of your microwave on her website.

Are you going to keep your microwave or perhaps use it less? Let me know what you decide!

Cheers to a healthier brain in 2014!

By: Tina Davidson

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