Dr. Olisa Mak, ND, originally posted on www.thenatpath.com
Back to school is inadvertently a stressful time for parents. You’re rushing from place to place, getting your kids ready and hoping that it will be another happy and safe year for them. That despite all the changes and challenges they might go through, they’ll remain strong and happy. As parents, you do everything you can to keep your kids safe. But how do you protect them from what is hidden from you, like harmful chemicals?
Chemicals are everywhere and awareness and understanding of their adverse effects is significantly lacking. Collectively called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), parabens, Bisphenol A (BPA), triclosan, phthalates and 4NP alter the body’s own natural balance of hormones, especially estrogen, by 1) mimicking hormones, 2) blocking hormone receptor sites or 3) triggering inappropriate hormone activity.1 EDCs have been associated with allergies, cancers, reproductive difficulties and behavioural and learning disorders.2 Of particular concern is their ability to affect key developmental periods such as puberty.1
In a 2015 study, urine samples were obtained from 50 children and analyzed for 10 different chemical metabolites, including BPA, phthalates, and parabens.3 14% of children had all 10 chemicals present, 28% had measurable levels of 4NP and all 50 children had detectible levels of at least five chemicals in their urine and at least one chemical in each class.3 BPA has been found in 90% of the US population age six and over, with the highest concentrations in children ages 6-11.1 Although awareness regarding chemicals like BPA has increased, these chemicals stay in your body for prolonged periods of time due to long half-lives. It’s not whether your child has chemicals, but the amount that they have accumulated in their bodies. Chemicals are everywhere.
TYPES & SOURCES OF CHEMICALS
THE EVIDENCE FOR CHEMICALS CAUSING BEHAVIOURAL AND LEARNING DIFFICULTIES
Harmful chemicals have been shown to have numerous effects on the brain, suggesting a potential mechanism for behavioural and learning difficulties. Both BPA and phthalates are known neurotoxic agents4, with evidence that BPA affects brain development and gene expression. Animal studies show that BPA induces the loss of functional brain tissue in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.5 This loss of functional brain tissue has also been detected in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.6 BPA also affects development of the forebrain, where behavioural impulses and emotions are regulated.5 Children with prenatal exposure to BPA are at risk for poorer behavioural and cognitive outcomes later on.5
More recently, studies have focused on a potential association between EDCs and ASD. A case-control study of 48 cases of ASD and 41 controls found higher serum BPA concentrations in those with ASD.7Another study looked at phthalates and BPA levels along with oxidant/ antioxidant status in autistic children. Individuals with higher concentrations of phthalates and BPA had higher concentrations of antioxidants (selenium, superoxide dismutase, glutathione), indicating an increased oxidative load.4An increased oxidative load has been associated with several chronic health issues including cancer, diabetes and heart disease.4 Although evidence clearly shows that chemicals like phthalates and BPA are neurotoxic, the mechanism is unknown. Future research will explore increased oxidative demands as a potential mechanism for neurotoxicity.4BPA and phthalates also affect fetal and child development by altering thyroid hormone activity. Increased levels of thyroxine (T4) in the blood are suspected of stimulating receptors, leading to attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD) symptoms.4
THE EVIDENCE FOR CHEMICALS INTERFERING WITH HORMONES, CAUSING PRECOCIOUS PUBERTY
The appearance of secondary sexual characteristics in females before the age of 6 and in males, age 9, is considered precocious puberty.1 In the last few decades, the age of onset of puberty has decreased. Studies show that on average, the age of menarche (first menstrual cycle) has decreased by 0.3-0.6 years and females are developing glandular breast tissue 1-2 years earlier.1 Males, too, are reaching various genital stages much earlier. These changes have happened over a short period of time, suggesting an environmental cause, most likely chemicals.1
Two studies have linked phthalate exposure to precocious puberty in girls3 and another found a statistically significant association between urinary concentrations of high-molecular weight phthalate metabolites and later pubic hair development.3 Girls with higher concentrations of EDCs were also found to develop breast and start their menstrual cycles earlier.1 For boys, studies show an inverse relationship between urinary BPA levels and blood testosterone levels in boys ages 12-19 but a positive correlation in girls.2 In animal studies, rodents exposed to BPA before and after puberty showed decreased testosterone levels.2
Puberty marks a time of transition for your child – physically, emotional and mentally. Their bodies undergo changes according to a timeline and the timing of this timeline doesn’t only play a role in their current health but their future health as well. Premature or delayed puberty can be associated with health risks such as obesity and cancers in adulthood.
In the USA, cancer is the leading cause of disease-related deaths among children and adolescents.3Testicular and ovarian germ-cell cancers are on the rise3 and carcinogenic4 and endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA, phthalates, parabens, 4NP and triclosan should be of great concern.4
THE EVIDENCE FOR CHEMICALS CAUSING IMMUNE ISSUES – ALLERGIES, INFECTIONS
Even before your child is born, your child’s immune and respiratory system are susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals. It has been suggested that these chemicals have long-lasting effects on your child’s ability to fight infections and are associated with an increased risk of allergies. DEHP, a phthalate, is known to be associated with eczema-like lesions in mice.8
Higher urine concentrations of monobenzyl phthalate in mothers during pregnancy increased the risk of food allergy in children during the first 2 years of life.9 In a Spanish study, urine BPA and phthalate levels measured during pregnancy were found to be associated with an increased risk of respiratory issues such as wheezing and chest infections/bronchitis and allergies in children.10 Information was collected at 6, 14 months and 4 and 7 years of age.10
By mimicking estrogen, BPA and to a lesser extent phthalates affect the immune system although the exact mechanism is not yet known. It has been suggested that phthalates influence antibody production and that BPA affects the innate immune response rather than adaptive immunity. DEHP has also been described to alter airway cell differentiation and surfactant protein production which helps our lungs expand and shrink as we breathe.
MEP, another phthalate, has also been associated with lower lung capacities.8 In an Austrian school study, they found a strong inverse correlation between benzylbutyl phthalate and lung function in school children.8 High levels of urine MEP have also been significantly associated with headache, repeated coughing, diarrhea and hormonal problems.18
SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD’S ABILITY TO RID THEMSELVES OF CHEMICALS
On a daily basis, avoid plastic containers and canned food. Never put plastic containers into the microwave. Avoid eating burnt foods. Eat organic whenever possible, especially for the dirty dozen produce.
A large majority of chemicals within the body are absorbed through the skin. Avoid chemical- filled cleaning agents. Make your own home cleaning agents whenever possible. Even for the dirtiest places in your home, agents such as vinegar and baking soda can do the job, leaving you at ease, knowing that your home is clean and chemical-free. There are easy, do-it-yourself recipes for cleaning agents, toothpaste, shampoo, face cleansers, and even sunscreen.
Your kids touch and play with you and are exposed to whatever chemicals you might be putting on yourself. Use natural makeup and check your personal hygiene products such as hand lotions to make sure that they are chemical-free.
When you move into a new home, or renovate your home, use air filters to clear the air. Open the windows whenever possible to allow for the chemicals to exit the brand new carpets, the paints etc.
Last but not least, eating a well-balanced diet, with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, is key to providing your body with the nutrients it needs to cope with chemicals and stay healthy. Chemicals in the environment become a problem when they accumulate, or deplete the body of the nutrients it needs for other functions.
A child’s body is still developing and therefore, more susceptible to the adverse effects of chemicals. Unless something is 100% homemade, it’s impossible to know with absolute certainty if it has harmful chemicals. As a general rule, it’s simply best for both parents and children, to minimize chemical exposure as possible.
Dr. Olisa Mak, ND, originally posted on www.thenatpath.com
It’s one of those days when your brain just won’t work, you find yourself wishing for a pill or magical drink to alleviate the feeling, to get things back on track. We all know that feeling, when you just can’t get any work done, can’t focus, can’t remember anything that your boss has said to you, or anything that you’ve read, and your upcoming deadline does nothing to motivate you. For many of us, this is a daily occurrence. The good news is that there is something you can take – phosphatidylserine.
Naturally found in the cell membrane of every cell, phosphatidylserine is most concentrated in metabolically active organs like your brain, heart, and muscle.(1)
Originally animal-derived, phosphatidylserine supplements are now exclusively soy-derived due to the risk of Mad Cow Disease.(2) Although soy phosphatidylserine has been less researched and has shown some conflicting results, recent research is promising.
PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE FOR CHILDREN
For children, phosphatidylserine is especially useful for symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.(3) In a recent randomized, double-blind study of thirty-six children, aged 4-14 years of age, results show that 200mg of phosphatidylserine for two months significantly improved all categories of ADHD symptoms, including inattention, impulsivity and short-term auditory memory.(1)
PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE FOR ADULTS
Phosphatidylserine has been found to increase mental performance in college students writing exams.(1) Supplementation helps increase glucose metabolism in the brain,(4) providing the brain with the necessary fuel it needs to function properly.
Phosphatidylserine helps increase resistance to stress by significantly counteracting stress induced activation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, blunting increases in your stress hormone, cortisol.(1,3,4,5) Individuals treated for 42 days with 200mg of soy-based phosphatidylserine showed a more relaxed state before and after exposure to mental stress.(5)
PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE FOR OLDER ADULTS
Phosphatidylserine has been most recognized for its ability to improve cognitive function in the elderly. A 12-week pilot study with 30 elderly volunteers found that soy-lecithin derived phosphatidylserine helped improve memory.(4) Although the exact mechanism of action is unknown, we know that phosphatidylserine acts on a part of the brain called the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC).1 The PFC functions at a suboptimal level when it is exposed to even minor stressors.(1) To ensure optimal PFC function, phosphatidylserine alters the release and reuptake of neurotransmitters such as dopamine,(1,3) serotonin,(1) and acetylcholine.(1) Optimal PFC functioning is required for attention to tasks1, focus1 and proper motor responses1, important in individuals with ADHD and the aging population. In another double-blind, placebo controlled clinical trial, a large group of elderly subjects with memory complaints were treated with 300mg of PS along with DHA.(5) Research showed improved immediate recall.(5)
Phosphatidylserine also has the ability to delay the aging process by reducing the production of reactive oxygen species, and therefore oxidative stress.(4) This also protects the brain from chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In a study, chronic phosphatidylserine administration recovered dendritic cell loss in the hippocampus of aged rats.(3) As a result, phosphatidylserine might have clinical applications in depression where dendritic spines are lost.(3) The dendritic spine is a part of the dendritic cell that helps transmit electrical signals throughout the brain cell.
PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE FOR ATHLETES
For athletes, phosphatidylserine just might be the dream supplement. Phosphatidylserine improves recovery, and decreases the potential negative effects of overtraining, such as decreased performance, injury, depressed immunity as well as depression.(5) In one particular study, 10 healthy males participated in three exercise sessions over 21 days, one exercise session before supplementation or placebo and two exercise sessions after.(5) Blood samples were analyzed for testosterone, cortisol and growth hormone.(5) Results show that soy-derived phosphatidylserine significantly reduced plasma cortisol levels, but did not change testosterone or growth hormone levels.(5) By acting on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, phosphatidylserine promotes a hormonal balance that prevents the physiological deterioration associated with overtraining.(5)
Earlier studies that did not show a phosphatidylserine-induced decrease in cortisol used different doses as well as less intense levels of exercise. A review of multiple studies show that higher dosages are needed for an effect on cortisol, at least 800mg whereas lower doses such as 600mg and 300mg can help decrease muscle damage, lowering creatine kinase levels 24 hours after a 90 minute run.(5) Phosphatidylserine has the greatest effect when athletes perform at an exhaustive level.(5) By promoting cognitive abilities and promoting recovery from exhaustive exercise, phosphatidylserine is especially beneficial for athletes participating in endurance and strategic based sports such as cycling, endurance running and weight training.(5)
INCREASING PHOSPHATIDYLSERINE LEVELS
A diet abundant in omega-3 rich foods is crucial for phosphatidylserine synthesis:
In mice studies, alcohol has been found to has been found to disrupt the interaction between DHA and phosphatidylserine and can influence brain signaling.(6)
The research on phosphatidylserine thus far is extremely promising and it is without a doubt that it has positive effects on cognition. Phosphatidylserine is an extremely valuable supplement that can benefit everyone – children, athletes, young adults, and the elderly. Future research needs to focus on furthering our understand of how it acts as well as optimal dosages when supplementing since the necessary dosage is depending on the intensity level of the activity at hand. It seems higher doses are required for an effect on cortisol (>800mg) whereas smaller doses, as low was 300mg can improve memory and recall.