A walk in the woods may help the microbiome and our mood

The microbiome is our own inner forest of beneficial and harmful microbes. Bacteria, yeasts and other types of microscopic organisms live within our gastrointestinal tract and on our other body surfaces. Beneficial bacteria help protect us from less helpful bacteria and yeast and other fungi. The moisture rich air of a forest has been found to have a variety of beneficial nutrients and may even provide some beneficial bacteria. [1]

Moisture rich air also can provide a positive lift for the mood from negatively charged ions. The smell of ozone in the air may be noticeable after a thunder storm or on the beach of a large lake or ocean. In excess ozone can cause headaches but smaller amounts may have a positive affect on the mood. [1]

Forest greenery, healthy and soothing for the mind.

Other research has found that simply looking at images of nature helped reduce stress levels for the study participants. Walking through urban areas has not been found to have as much stress reduction benefits as a similar amount of time spent walking through a more natural setting. [2]

Decorating indoor and outdoor settings in urban areas with images of nature may provide health benefits for residents and workers and have a positive affect on their mood.  [2 ,8]

Some types of indoor plants may provide additional benefits besides stress reduction or lift the mood. Some species of common indoor houseplants also help clean the air of chemicals commonly found in modern environments which may have negative effects on health. Volatile chemicals are released over time from plastics such as vinyl. New carpets and vinyl flooring may release larger amounts of volatile chemicals when they are first installed and continue to release smaller amounts over the years. Formaldehyde is one of the volatile chemicals which has been associated with health risks for adults and children and neurological risks for a developing fetus.

A study by NASA regarding what types of plants might help remove the negative chemicals found in the air of enclosed buildings led to a list of 50 houseplants that are effective at cleaning the air of negative chemicals. The complete list is available in a book and the top ten are listed online. The book goes into more detail about which plants may be better for removing which types of chemicals from the air of enclosed spaces – such as NASA spaceship. [3]

Volatile chemicals that can make an indoor environment more hazardous to breathe and which led to the term “sick building syndrome” include “formaldehyde, Volatile Organic Compounds (benzene and trichloroethylene or TCE), airborne biological pollutants, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, pesticides and disinfectants (phenols), and radon.”  [3]

The book by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, the scientist who did the research for NASA, is called “How to Grow Fresh Air – 50 Houseplants that Purify Your Home or Office.” It includes more detail about which plants may be better for cleaning which types of chemicals from the air and includes basic guidance on the type of care and ease of care that each species of plant might require to keep it alive. [4]

Caution is needed to not over-water houseplants or to leave them in a poorly drained pot as it may lead to mold. Some types of mold can have negative health risks but the type common to a houseplant are more likely to simply smell musty which can have a negative impact on the air of an enclosed space.

Houseplants which require misting such as ferns may also be increasing the amount negatively charged ions of water in the air which may help promote positive moods for people in the room. Small electronic model waterfalls also can increase the amount of negatively charged water ions in the air. Some types of air purifiers include an ozone generator however they aren’t recommended by the EPA as too much ozone can have negative health consequences. [5]

An early indicator of too much ozone might be a headache. The ozone generating units may be useful for freshening the air of an enclosed space when there are no pets or humans in the room.  Levels of ozone necessary to kill “biological organisms” (such as mold spores perhaps) would also be irritating or harmful for humans to breath for very long however but can make a difference when used in an empty enclosed space at a higher setting, [5], and once the ozone generating machine is turned off the increased levels of ozone return to normal after a few hours in my personal experience and the room can be safely used again. Roughly — the ozone chemically clumps with other particles in the air, deodorizing and causing the heavy clusters to fall from the air and can be removed by vacuuming or mopping the floor.

I have used one of the ozone air cleaners in my home and it could cause obvious increases in ozone smell if turned up to full generating potential and that could lead to a headache for me. At lower power levels the ozone generation did seem to help freshen the air and it did seem to have a positive effect on my mood. * This information is provided not as a recommendation rather as a caution. The ozone generating air cleaners can be useful but can also be dangerous.

Electricity exists in many forms — in laptops and in a misty morning breeze.

For more time later – oxidative stress can be caused by lack of oxygen or too much, or emotional and other physical reasons [6] and it may be involved in how ozone could have positive effects at low levels and negative effects at increased levels. [7]

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. Kelly Tatera, “Scientists Reveal Why “Forest Bathing” or Going to the Beach Boosts Our Well-Being,” Feb. 3, 2016 [1]
  2.  Jared Green, “Research Shows Nature Helps with Stress,” 9/8/2011 [2]
  3. Greg Seaman, “The Top 10 Plants for Removing Indoor Toxins,” May 13, 2009 [3]
  4. B. C. Wolverton, “How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office Paperback,” April 1, 1997  [4]
  5.  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ),Ozone Generators that are Sold as Air Cleaners” [5]
  6. Samima Selim, Oxidative Stress and Psychological Disorders, Curr Neuropharmacol. 2014 Mar; 12(2): 140–147.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3964745/ [6]
  7. Masru Sagai, Velio Bocci, Mechanisms of Action Involved in Ozone Therapy: Is healing induced via a mild oxidative stress?, Med Gas Res. 2011; 1: 29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3298518/ [7]
  8. Byoung-Suk Kweon, Roger S. Ulrich, Verrick D. Walker and Louis G. Tassinary, Anger and Stress: The Role of Landscape Posters in an Office Setting, Environment and Behavior 2008 40: 355  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Louis_Tassinary/publication/258132363_Anger_and_Stress_The_Role_of_Landscape_Posters_in_an_Office_Setting/links/0a85e5304d07b6d045000000.pdf [8]

Increase in electromagnetic radiation may be associated with increased autism

A graph showing a similar rate of increase in electromagnetic radiation exposure and increased rates of autism can be seen around 42 minutes in the following video, Dr. Erica Mallery-Blythe – Electromagnetic Radiation, Health and Children 2014:

This type of radiation can be from wireless cell phones or laptops or from living very close, within a few miles, of high powered electric lines or power stations.

And even wirelessly connected toys might be harmful to children. [1, 2, 3] A computer or telephone that is not wireless, but is on an old-fashioned landline would not have the same level of electromagnetic radiation.

Tinfoil hats would only act as an antennae and possibly increase radiation absorption, however grounded metal foil might absorb the radiation rather than deflecting it and causing it simply to bounce around more. Water also absorbs this type of radiation which may be part of the reason electromagnetic radiation is dangerous to humans and other life forms – we are water based. [4]

A nonprofit organization of physicians who would like to increase awareness of electromagnetic hypersensitity has more information available on their website and an opportunity to join their group: http://phiremedical.org/tag/pdfs-for-electromagnetic-hypersensitivity/

I’ve filed this under both autism and calcium because EMF radiation can cause an increased flow of calcium into the interior of cells which can lead to overexcitement of the cell and may lead to cell death. People with hypersensitivity to electromagnetic radiation have measurable differences in their skin in response to exposure to EMF radiation compared to non hypersensitive people. An increase in mast cells may be part of the difference between the two groups.

See this video for more information, and/or a research article by the speaker regarding electrohypersensitivity, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17178584:

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Chronic itch, ion channels, magnesium and calcium

Genetic differences in more than 70 genes have been associated with increased itchiness. [1] Calcium and serotonin levels may be involved in increased itch or arthritis pain signals being sent/perceived. [2] See the excerpts below:

Summary: Too much or too little calcium and magnesium can affect pain, itching, and mood. The minerals are both electrically active, and provide energy for ion channels which control the transport of messenger chemicals like serotonin across cell membranes – such as nerve cell membranes.

“For neurons to become excited, you need a receptor to communicate with an ion channel,” said Dr. Bautista. “We tried a variety of experiments and found that HTR7 communicates with the TRPA1 ion channel. Both receptors seem to be working together to mediate chronic itch.” “The researchers found more than 70 genes whose expression was higher in the more itch-sensitive mice. Of these, the gene for the HTR7 receptor was the most closely linked to itch. In fact, the HTR7 gene was twice as active in the itchiest mice compared to the least sensitive mice. ”  [1]

  1. An Itch You Just Can’t Scratch; NIH-funded study identifies proteins that may cause chronic itch (Oct. 27, 2015) http://www.ninds.nih.gov/news_and_events/news_articles/pressrelease_chronic_itch_10272015.htm
  2. Adam Horvath, et al., Transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 (TRPA1) receptor is involved in chronic arthritis: in vivo study using TRPA1-deficient mice, Arthritis Res Ther. 2016; 18: 6http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4718022/          

    Excerpt: “TRPA1 is also directly stimulated by intracellular calcium [24] and a broad range of noxious endogenous oxidative products, such as 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal, hydrogen peroxide, hypochloride, hydrogen sulphide, 15-delta prostaglandin J2 [2528]. Furthermore, there are several exogenous irritants like mustard oil (allyl isothiocyanate: AITC) [29], cinnamaldehyde [30, 31], allicin [32, 33] and formalin [34] that are known to be potent agonists of TRPA1. Inflammatory mediators, such as bradykinin and serotonin, can sensitize this receptor and increase the responsiveness of the nerve endings [19, 35]. These findings suggest that TRPA1 may be involved in the development and maintenance of arthritic pain, but the precise mechanisms are still unknown.”

  3. Rs6295: The “Single” and “Self-Transcendent” Gene (5-HT1A Receptor) https://selfhacked.com/2015/07/23/rs6295-the-single-and-self-transcendent-gene-5-ht1a-receptor/Magnesium and Calcium increase the binding of serotonin to the 5HT1A receptors in the cortex (purkinje cells). (R)

  4. Bujalska M., et. al., Magnesium ions and opioid agonist activity in streptozotocin-induced hyperalgesia. Pharmacology. 2008;82(3):180-6.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18701828

  5. That Really Does Make It Worse

    Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

World Autism Awareness Day; “Please teacher” video

It is World Autism Awareness Day and a video (follow the link in the Tweet) was shared of students with autism addressing their teachers about their differences. The person who shared it describes it as heart breaking and it is but it is also hopeful.

 

Recently I was reading a poem by someone with autism and it reminded me of me. It was describing a feeling of not fitting in with the normal types of people but not wanting to be lumped in with the type of people who couldn’t communicate at all:

High functioning people with autism might understand and listen and be interested but not be comfortable or able to speak their thoughts well. They might enjoy going to a party and just listening and smiling on the outskirts rather than chatting much but they could still be enjoying themselves in their own ways. I liked to water plants during social gatherings at a church where I was a member. I was part of the group and enjoyed saying hi’s briefly to people and it helped the plants and gave me something to do so it wouldn’t seem odd to not get into longer chats with people. I’m much better at talking about nutrition then about social chit-chat.

Some families have found that smartphones allow instant texting as a modern solution to conversation. The family talks and the person with autism listens and texts back to them in response. It can also be common for people with autism to communicate in snippets of quoted lyrics or other phrases – using other’s words to say what’s also on their mind.

The Legoland article reminded me of my favorite “amusement” museum. The City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri is full of decorations made from recycled materials built into mosaics and patterned walls. The museum is built within and on the grounds of a large multi-storied building that was a shoelace factory. Shoelaces are still made there and can be purchased. There are numerous imaginative landscapes that can be physically explored and played on and in and under and above – the place is a jungle and cavern and a maze and amazing – truly. If I could live anywhere on the planet that I wanted to, then it might be here: http://www.citymuseum.org/

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.