Tag Archives: Dr. Doris Rapp

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!


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

Depression, overwhelming guilt in preschool years linked to brain changes

Make Your Work Resolutions Stick



Filed under Brain Health, Learning, Uncategorized

Allergies and the Brain

A foal, just 9 hours old, at the Cal Poly Equine Center and another “newborn”

Spring time on the Central Coast starts…. NOW!

Thankfully, we’ve had some rain and the hills are green from San Luis Obispo to Sonoma. I traveled north this past weekend to assistant with wedding photography in Sonoma. During the car trip, I had fun taking in the ambiance of some northern sites, like the Golden Gate Bridge.  Also, I navigated with a map! (Imagine that!) An easy way to exercise your brain is to leave your GPS at home when traveling to new places.

Since I took a Cal Poly orienteering class I rarely struggle with getting lost, but the toughest part about going new places for me used to be my allergies.  There is nothing more embarrassing than wiping your nose constantly or sneezing your head off when trying to venture out.  It gets trickier when you run out of Kleenex and there is none near.  My friends who have known me since childhood will tell you that I’ve always had a tissue on hand.  In fourth grade, my teacher once jumped and threw his books in the air after I let out a LOUD sneeze due to the aroma of freshly cut grass sneaking in the open window.

I’ve had allergic symptoms to all the main culprits: dust, mold, pollen, grass, trees, pet dander, etc.

I never wanted my allergies to “win” so I hated taking allergy medicine.  When my husband finally forced me to go see an allergist, the doctor informed me I was a prime candidate for allergy shots because I was basically allergic to almost everything.  After the allergist’s assistant performed the arm and back prick test, I was just one red irritated mess.

Luckily, I had good insurance because that trip to the allergist would have been pretty expensive otherwise (don’t let that deter you from seeking help though!).  At that visit, the doctor informed me of a helpful online site where I could purchase special bedding and pillow case covers to deal with my dust mite allergy (gross!).

There were no dust mites out on the trails but that did not stop my runny nose and itchy eyes.  I continued to walk outside during the spring among the wild mustard in the open spaces in SLO County around Highwy 1.  I refused allergy shots, never went back to the allergist, and continued to sneeze A LOT (which really annoyed my husband).

Now, I don’t know why or how, but I seem to have kicked my extreme allergic symptoms.  Maybe it is because I quite walking in the open spaces during spring? Or maybe my sneezing fits stopped because I got rid of any carpet in my house or I am keeping my environment cleaner? Or that I moved closer to the ocean where there is a breeze that keeps the offenders away? Perhaps it is because I changed what I ate? I consume a lot more healthy fruits and vegetables than I did in the past.  Sadly, the only thing orange in my lunch used to be cheese puffs!

I don’t know exactly what to attribute it to, but I made positive changes and I am loving life without the daily attack of sneezes! I am not totally free of my allergy symptoms but I have noticed a big improvement.

Perhaps you can relate to having allergies? In a quick search for allergy statistics, I found that the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology website states that, “Allergies are among the most common chronic conditions worldwide.”  According to WebMD, allergies rank 5th among other leading chronic diseases in the U.S and one in 5 people in the U.S. have either allergy or asthma symptoms.  WebMD listed one estimate of the annual cost of allergies to the health care system and businesses in the U.S. at $7.9 billion.

There are many environmental factors that are causing today’s allergies. I just read, “The biodiversity hypothesis and allergic disease: world allergy organization position statement.”  (See end of post for the full citation and article link.)  Here’s how it starts off:


Biodiversity loss and climate change secondary to human activities are now being associated with various adverse health effects. However, less attention is being paid to the effects of biodiversity loss on environmental and commensal (indigenous) microbiotas. Metagenomic and other studies of healthy and diseased individuals reveal that reduced biodiversity and alterations in the composition of the gut and skin microbiota are associated with various inflammatory conditions, including asthma, allergic and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), type1 diabetes, and obesity. Altered indigenous microbiota and the general microbial deprivation characterizing the lifestyle of urban people in affluent countries appear to be risk factors for immune dysregulation and impaired tolerance. The risk is further enhanced by physical inactivity and a western diet poor in fresh fruit and vegetables, which may act in synergy with dysbiosis of the gut flora. Studies of immigrants moving from non-affluent to affluent regions indicate that tolerance mechanisms can rapidly become impaired in microbe-poor environments.

I think if you take the tech talk out, the authors are trying to say there is less diversity in our good bacteria on our skin and stomachs, folks aren’t eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables, and aren’t exercising enough. When people move from a non-affluent area to a crowded city their immune systems suffer.  Hence, more allergies.  I was surprised at the mention of type 1 diabetes above. It is usually type 2 that would be mentioned along with obesity.

What also stood out to me from the article was the connection with nature and the natural environment and how it helps improves allergies.

An urban environment appears to lack elements that apparently are important for the proper development of immune tolerance. The recognition of the (absolute) dependence of humans on both the commensal and environmental microbiota is crucial to unravel the mechanisms involved. In recent years, concepts such as ‘ecotherapy’ [152], ‘green exercise’ [24] and ‘forest therapy’ [27] have been launched. Urbanization and densification policy continues globally, and within the next 30 years, it is estimated that two-thirds of the world’s population and 85% of the population in the developed countries will live in urban areas with little green space [153]. Prevalence of inflammatory diseases is likely to increase even more. The health effects of nature and green spaces (see ‘Biodiversity and human health’) should be recognized, and measures to limit excessive land use and fragmentation urgently undertaken.

As a biology enthusiast and graduate from California Polytechnic State University with a degree in Recreation Administration and a concentration in Natural Resource Management, the subject of forest therapy highly interests me.  It involves protecting natural resources, environmental medicine, and then you add in the brain component and you have all my favorite subjects tying together! (Nerd alert!)

A few years ago, I read the book, “Last Child in the Woods. Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” by Richard Louv.  It seems that, “More time in nature– combined with less television and more stimulating play and educational settings– may go a long way toward reducing attention deficits in children, and, just as important, increasing their joy in life” (pg. 107).   Enjoying time outdoors may diversify a child’s microbes, help them focus better, and limit their need for Ritalin. Sounds like an inexpensive way to improve your child’s brain function, right? Time in nature might even boost their immune system and limit their need for allergy medication.

One of my favorite books to help with allergies, “Is This Your Child? Discovering and Treating  Unrecognized Allergies  in Children and Adults,” was written by Dr. Doris Rapp.  She states that: “Specialists in environmental medicine believe it is possible that any area of the body can be affected by an allergy or a food or chemical sensitivity” (Rapp, pg. 35).  This means your brain, even an infant’s brain, can be affected by allergies (Rapp, pg. 114).

Here’s some signs to look for in your child if you think their brain might be affected by an allergy: expressionless look  associated with red earlobes, wiggly legs, and dark eye circles (Rapp, pg. 67). Some adults may feel tired, depressed, and unable to think or remember things because of allergic brain fatigue. On the flip side, there are also hyperactive adults who are workaholic with brain allergies. (Rapp, pg. 153).

It has been noted that the brain can be affected by a wide range of common allergic stubstances.  Observation dating back to the mid-1930s indicated that odors, foods, pollen, molds, and dust could cause a wide range or problems in the nervous system. Entire chapters in texts for physicians written between the thirties and fifties were devoted to the role of allergy in relation to headaches, fatigue, epilepsy, behavior problems, minimal brain dysfunction, psychological  problems, and a wide range of other neurological or learning problems in children. (Rapp, pg. 394).

It seems this valuable information mentioned above was not included in past or present medical training for physicians specializing in allergy or neurology (Rapp, pg. 394). I truly hope things have changed and brain allergies are more widely studied.  If this subject interests you, you can read more about it in Dr. Rapp’s book listed in the sources below.

Take some time to let your brain find joy outdoors and do your part to protect the environment!  Future generations seeking allergy relief may depend on it!

By: Tina Davidson


Congratulations to Cal Poly Men’s Basketball Team for making it to March Madness


Tari Haahtela, Stephen Holgate, Ruby Pawankar, Cezmi A Akdis, Suwat Benjaponpitak, Luis Caraballo, Jeffrey Demain, Jay Portnoy, Leena von Hertzen and WAO Special Committee on Climate Change and Biodiversity.  “The biodiversity hypothesis and allergic disease: world allergy organization position statement.” World Allergy Organization Journal 2013, 6:3  doi:10.1186/1939-4551-6-3. © 2013 Haahtela et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Here’s the link if you’d like to read the entire article.

American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies.aspx

Allergy Statistics and Facts. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-statistics

Louv, Richard. “Last Child in the Woods. Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” 2005

Rapp, Doris. “Is This Your Child?  Discovering and Treating  Unrecognized Allergies  in Children and Adults.” 1991

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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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