Cultivating Consciousness in an Unconscious World

In last week’s post, Dr. V explored some of the factors that can affect our decision-making and, ultimately, well-being. And it brought to mind David Foster Wallace’s famous speech “This Is Water,” which he originally delivered as a speech to Kenyon College’s 2005 graduating class.

The inability to recognize how distracted we are seems to be one of the biggest drivers of misery. Living mindfully can become a real challenge. Your emotional health, of course, is as crucial to your overall health as diet, physical activity, sleep, and the rest.

It’s easy, Wallace told the students, to stay caught in your own thoughts, to proceed unconsciously, to “think” without thinking. “Twenty years after my own graduation,” as he phrased it in the published version of this speech,

I have come gradually to understand that the liberal-arts cliché about “teaching you how to think” is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: “Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

Check out the whole thing:

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When It Comes to Your Health, Are You Deciding – or Letting a Movie Decide for You?: Some Thoughts on Health Choices After Seeing Root Cause

By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN

Diseases don’t read textbooks. A good detective never makes a conclusion until everything outside of the box is examined. – Dr. Jerry Bouquot, Oral Pathologist

hands showing rock paper scissors roshamboYou probably know the game, but you might not be familiar with the name we had for it when I was a kid: Roshambo, better known as Rock/Paper/Scissors. Yet while other decision-making games rely on chance, Roshambo “can be played with a degree of skill by recognizing and exploiting non-random behavior in opponents.”

Yet at the start of this year, I began to see what seemed a lot of decision-making being done by chance, emotion, or other non-rational factors. Like other dental offices, we were getting inundated with calls from people who had seen the documentary Root Cause on Netflix or Amazon Prime and were extremely concerned about the presence of root canal teeth and cavitations in their own mouths.

Several weeks later, Netflix succumbed to pressure from the American Association of Endodontists, the American Dental Association, and other defenders of dentistry-as-usual. They took the unprecedented step of removing the film from distribution. Amazon quickly followed (removing other controversial “alternative health” titles, as well).

The size of the content platform, as well as its ability to suggest new content to users based on their previous viewing activity, can help make inaccurate things go viral, said Paul Resnick, director of the Center for Social Media Responsibility at the University of Michigan.

One way to militate against fringe, potentially harmful content is to simply stop suggesting it to viewers, Resnick said. However, media platforms also have an additional responsibility to viewers, he said, which is to preserve a “healthy marketplace of ideas” as much as possible.

“I don’t want crap to get wide distribution, but I also want there to be some vehicle for new ideas and claims to get out there, even if it challenges the current orthodoxy.”

So, who do you believe? The filmmakers or the gatekeepers of conventional dentistry? Or is it that the truth lies somewhere in the middle? As Chris Cuomo says each night on CNN, “Let’s get after it!”

How We Know What We Know

series of human head silhouettesLet’s consider the possibility that a lot of the things you and I think of as “facts” today will change over time or even be disproven. Also consider that with the wealth of information available at our fingertips today, we can no longer know all facts or truths because we’ve not studied all the available research.

We must analyze just what our perception of the truth really is. Is it a personal mental construct based on our necessarily limited knowledge, influenced by our biases, and motivated by our subconscious?

This is a common idea today – that rather than a collection of immutable facts, what we know to be so is actually a set of evolving concepts. Much of this can be traced back to the work of Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, who studied how children assimilate knowledge into “knowledge structures” that can change over time. Minor changes to those structures he called “assimilation,” and major changes – paradigm shifts, really – he called “accommodation.”

Those changes aren’t restricted to childhood, however. We each experience them through our entire lives.

The Brain, Behavior, & Health

Most of our patients come to us with very little understanding of what dentistry is about and what it can do for them. They also come with fears and biases, as well as external influencers such as spouses, parents, insurance companies, social media, and the like. They often come expecting that this dental procedure or that will be an instant and permanent solution to all their problems.

If our true goal is to “treat the whole person” and to suss out both effects AND causes, then we need to understand not only how our patients think but why they think that way. How they think drives behavior. Behavior drives their health status and their attitude towards it.

Being both a biological dentist and certified traditional naturopath, I must pay attention to what my patients know, understand how they know it, even how they got to know it and why they feel about what they know. Is what they know apt to be helpful or harmful over time?

I see it as mandatory to understand this because it’s the only way to practice truly health-centered dental medicine. That can never happen during a 5-minute chat in an operatory once a hygienist is done scaling the patient’s teeth. It takes real conversation. It takes time. It’s a journey of discovery.

One of the things I’ve had to explore much more lately is how Root Cause has influenced their decision-making.

For Many, an Anxiety-Provoking Film

Here’s how the filmmakers describe the documentary on their website:

“You’re going to need a root canal.”

Root Cause movie posterThose seven little words rolled off the Dentist’s tongue so completely naturally, but trust me; there is nothing natural about a root canal.

After years of searching for cures to my chronic fatigue, panic attacks, anxiety and insomnia, I finally tracked down the root cause of the problem causing my health issues – A ROOT CANAL

A root canal is a so-called specialty procedure developed by dentists to save infected teeth. But as you’ll discover, it is so much more. 25 million are performed each year in the USA alone – and root canals are one of the root causes of cancer, heart disease, and chronic illness.

Root Cause is my extraordinary, personal journey of self-discovery set to send ripples through the dental profession and expose perhaps one of the world’s greatest medical industry cover-ups.

Root Cause is a movie length documentary featuring expert opinions from cutting edge doctors and dentists from around the world, that exposes the true health effects of the root canal procedure.

Variations of this description can be found on all sites where the film remains available for viewing.

And this is what the American Association of Endodontists (AAE) states:

The people in this movie are spreading misinformation and confusion about root canal treatment that is misleading and harmful to the consumer public. Their premise is based on junk science and faulty testing conducted more than 100 years ago that was debunked in the 1950s, continuously since then and is even more discredited today by physicians, dentists and academics. Mainstream medical and dental communities overwhelmingly agree that root canal treatment is safe, effective and eliminates pain.

Endodontists are root canal specialists, so naturally, they have a vested interest in believing that the treatment is both safe and effective. So they say things like,

Information you may find on the Internet or elsewhere, claiming that if you receive a root canal treatment you’re more likely to become ill or contract a disease in the future simply isn’t true. This false claim was based on long-debunked and poorly designed research conducted nearly a century ago, long before modern medicine understood the causes of many diseases. There is no valid, scientific evidence linking root canal treatment to disease elsewhere in the body.

They also direct users to their own video, touting root canal safety and again reiterating that “claims about root canal treatment causing disease are based on outdated theories.”

Individuals who have called our office after viewing Root Cause have usually been experiencing various degrees of anxiety and depression. Those are certainly consistent traits among people who have been suffering a variety of symptoms and diagnoses for years, often autoimmune disorders.

Research in neurobiology and neuroeconomics strongly suggest that anxiety and depression, along with fear, have stable neural substrates and may be an important factor driving decision-making, among other behaviors. I believe we need a more nuanced understanding of that relationship, though – between anxiety and decision-making.

The patients we see have often already consulted more than a dozen physicians, usually starting with an allopathic GP who treated them largely with drugs. If the symptoms persist, the doctor may tell them that it’s all in their head and offer yet another prescription – this time, for SSRIs, benzos, or other medication intended to quell negative emotions – or hand them off to a specialist.

After seeing a few more allopathic doctors, they start searching online for alternatives, just as Frazer Bailey did himself and documented in Root Cause, seeking the source of his fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety suffuses the experience. Experience drives the decision.

Note that this is different from fear.

Fear and anxiety share many common cognitive and physiological properties, however they may also be distinguished. Fear responses are elicited by specific stimuli, and tend to be short-lived, decreasing once a threat has dissipated. Anxiety may be experienced in the absence of a direct physical threat, and typically persists over a longer period of time. However, anxiety is commonly conceptualized as a state of sustained fear.

Your Limbic System’s Impact on Decision-Making

Now, when you’re stressed – whether suddenly or coping with it for a long time – at least 11 hormones are activated. One of these is cortisol, a glucocorticoid hormone which is produced by your adrenal glands and involved in many critical body functions. Like all glucocorticoids, it can raise blood sugar levels. It shuts off the parasympathetic nervous system and turns on the sympathetic, the “fight or flight” response.

stressed out womanNote that not all stress is bad. There’s an optimal level that motivates us to peak performance without totally stressing us out. It’s different for each of us. We have different appetites for stress – different levels of sensitivity based on our glucocorticoid receptors that affect how we react. It’s why people have different responses to their own insulin and the carbs they eat.

Why should our receptors be different? It goes back to when we’re in the womb. The fetus picks up the mother’s stress and fear hormones, which go into circulation and then into the placenta for the child and into the child’s brain and limbic system. All kinds of epigenetic factors can be at play here: financial insecurity, an unstable home, an abusive partner, and more. They don’t change the child’s DNA, but they do have the effect of turning on some glucocorticoid receptors and turning off others.

This, in turn, causes changes in the amygdala, an area of the brain involved with both fear and pleasure, as well as addictions. It’s what one psychologist calls “our brain’s emotional fireworks center.” It will be bigger and more excitable, so even some neutral-seeming situations may be perceived as threatening. The end result is an anxiety disorder, which can be passed on to the next generation and the next, up to 6 times.

Why is this problematic?

A person’s response to stress determines the effect of that stress on their health. If you’re stressed 24/7, then you are getting less oxygen to the hippocampus. This area of the brain creates emotional context and memory of new information, such as recent events. With less oxygen, you become more excitable because it blocks the neural synapses. Your capacity for memory is lessened. The brain gets older faster.

Unsurprisingly, the hippocampus is the major anatomical structure that’s damaged in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the most sensitive structure to excess cortisol because it has so many receptors and feedback loops. Cortisol crosses the blood-brain barrier. Norepinephrine and epinephrine have to work harder to reduce cortisol levels.

Other key players in your limbic system include the hypothalamus (a message receiver and transmitter relay station for short term memory), the prefrontal cortex (the center of thought and reason, open to change throughout your lifespan), and the orbital frontal cortex (the area of higher mental functions, dealing with perception, movement, and behavioral responses).

Latent chronic infections – “cavitations” – in the wisdom tooth sites have a negative effect on the subtle energy that flows through the body (Prana, Ch’i, Orgone) along the acupuncture meridians of the autonomic nervous system, as well as the heart and small intestine meridians.

The effects on the limbic system affect decision-making, as well.

How Oral Foci Can Affect Decision-Making

Dentists need to understand why their chronically ill patients are rashly deciding that having their root canal teeth removed is the solution to what ails them. How are anxieties and fear driving those decisions?

The true biological dentist, invested in their patient’s well-being, needs to help pump the brakes and take the patient’s foot off the accelerator. Removing the teeth before really understanding all the factors at play is like trying to remove a tire on a moving vehicle.

There are bodies of knowledge such a dentist should have at their command in order to properly diagnose the patient and help them understand that diagnosis so the patient can make an informed decision – one based on reason, not just emotion. An important one is the work of Dr. Jerry Bouquot, whose textbook Oral Pathology is standard reading in most dental schools here in the US. He has taught that both root canal teeth and cavitations are always infected and most often toxic, as well.

stack of booksOther textbooks are crucial, too, such as those on acupuncture in neurological conditions, which combine evidence-based clinical reasoning with aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These provide clinical reasoning from both TCM and Western medical perspectives, illustrated by real cases from clinical practice, forming a sound platform for true integrated medicine.

Any well-trained biological dentist or physician should also be deeply familiar with the work of 19th and 20th century researchers such as Enderlein, Reckeweg, Pischinger, Vincent, Kramer, and Voll. These microbiologists, histopathologists, acupuncturists, neural therapists, and quantum theorists together clarify the physiological basis for biological medicine.

With this extensive background, a biological dentist should know that at the third molar (wisdom tooth) sites, there’s a crossing of four acupuncture meridians: heart, small intestines, the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, sympathetic and parasympathetic.

When there’s a focus on a third molar extraction site – a cavitation, for instance – the individual’s dopamine reward system is considerably affected. A disease-free third molar site would encourage the brain to generate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. This happens in a couple regions of the midbrain: the substantia nigra and the ventral tegmental area. The substantia nigra is also one of the main brain structures that affects movement. When that area becomes degraded, you get symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, such as tremors and rigidity.

When that area is infected, however, that dopamine flow is disrupted. Mood/emotional problems can result – and affect the decision-making process. Decisions can come from a purely emotional place rather than one of combined emotion and reason.

It’s thus imperative to know if there are cavitational lesions remaining in the third molar extraction sites – or any other oral pathologies that may be interfering with the patient’s ability to make wise choices.

Helping Patients in the Decision-Making Process

One of the biggest problems I have with Root Cause is how it seems to encourage the jumping to inappropriate conclusions. A dozen dental and medical experts are interviewed, seeming to suggest that removing root canal teeth will surely alleviate long-standing symptoms. The film states that 75 to 80% of illnesses can be traced to root canal and jawbone infections, implying that simply addressing those “root causes” is enough to restore health.

It is not.

While Dr. Voll indeed taught that up to 90% of all illness may be linked to conditions in the mouth (not just root canals and cavitations), that doesn’t mean that oral conditions are the sole (or even the main) cause of the systemic illness. You have to look at the big picture.

This is why the film’s oversimplification concerns us. For one, you never want to plunge into dental or medical procedures of any kind without proper evaluation. In this case, are the root canal teeth the primary trouble? What other toxic burdens – dental and otherwise – is the individual carrying? How do the dental procedures fit into the patient’s whole health history?

Most importantly: What is the condition of the individual’s basic regulative system? What is the state of their biological terrain?

Above all, that will determine whether or how root canal teeth become a health burden.

If you simply extract root canal teeth (or address other oral foci) without first addressing the terrain, the procedure may not be all that helpful in the long run. First, you need to create an internal environment that supports detoxification and healing.

Vitruvian manThis is ultimately what I strive to teach new patients when they come in, worried about root canals, cavitations, or other oral foci such as mercury amalgam fillings. At the same time, I want to understand where they’re coming from – and why – so I can help them see that big picture and how a terrain-based approach to healing is the only way they can achieve the positive and lasting goals they have in mind.

Success of any oral surgery depends on first creating the proper conditions for a healthy, uneventful healing response. It is critical that the extracellular matrix (biological terrain), ground system regulation, and all immune functions have been optimized before surgery is pursued.

Ultimately, however, it’s each patient’s decision to make – whether to embrace a truly comprehensive approach to their health and well-being or find a dentist who will do what they want, no questions asked.

“Simply put,” writes dentist Paul Henny, “when patients need to make decisions regarding deeply personal and complex problems, they also need proper leadership to make those better choices.”

I try to develop patients toward better decision-making based on goal-oriented, collaboratively created, and desired outcomes. And due to the deeply personal and high-stakes nature of these decisions, a non-manipulative developmental leadership style is required, otherwise it will too often render out buyer’s-remorse and other negative sequela, such as denial, lack of problem ownership, and blame-shifting. Consequently, this type of leadership must be values-driven…and not driven by our values but theirs.

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Use Probiotics Wisely

One of the blessings of having access to as much health information as we have today is also its curse. On the one hand, you’re able to take charge of your health and well-being like never before. On the other, without an in-depth, big-picture understanding, you can wind up making things worse.

Case in point? Probiotics.

lactobacillusProbiotic foods and supplements are routinely touted as a great way to support good digestive, immune, and brain health, introducing healthy bacteria to the gut. So you load up on the sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and other fermented foods. You take probiotic supplements.

But it really is possible that you can get too much of a good thing.

Consider the recent study which looked at whether D-lactic acidosis might be the cause of brain fog and unexplained gas and bloating in patients with an intact gut. Its authors found that all those who were experiencing symptoms such as confusion and difficulty concentrating had one thing in common: They were “all taking probiotics, some several varieties.”

When investigators looked further, they found large colonies of bacteria breeding in the patients’ small intestines, and high levels of D-lactic acid being produced by the bacteria lactobacillus’ fermentation of sugars in their food, says Dr. Satish S.C. Rao, director of neurogastroenterology/motility and the Digestive Health Clinical Research Center at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

D-lactic acid is known to be temporarily toxic to brain cells, interfering with cognition, thinking and sense of time. They found some patients had two to three times the normal amount of D-lactic acid in their blood. Some said their brain fogginess – which lasted from a half hour to many hours after eating – was so severe that they had to quit their jobs.

Symptoms improved after a course of antibiotics and an end to probiotic use.

Yet another recent study

suggests that probiotics can evolve in the host gut after administration, becoming less effective and perhaps even harmful. In this study, researchers analyzed the evolution of probiotic organisms under different stressors in laboratory mice. They found that probiotics can evolve antibiotic resistance.

They also demonstrated that these microorganisms can adapt to grow on a larger number of available sugars, which, in turn, allows them to stay in the gut longer and grow unchecked.

Most recently, research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting earlier this spring suggests that use of probiotic supplements may interfere with cancer immunotherapy.

Taking over-the-counter probiotic supplements correlated with a 70 percent lower chance of responding to checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy. Almost half (42 percent) of the participants reported taking such supplements.

The researchers also noticed a relationship between probiotics and lower gut microbiome diversity. Scientists had already seen this in people with cancers that respond poorly to immunotherapy.

“The general perception is [that probiotics] make your gut microbiome healthier,” says first study author Christine Spencer, a research scientist at the Parker Institute. “While more research is needed, our data suggest that may not be the case for cancer patients.”

Something similar can be said from the perspective of biological medicine, as well, with respect to a wide range of chronic illnesses, not just cancer.

So many of our sickest patients come in with a probiotics habit, often part of a regimen they’ve devised for themselves in hopes of spurring healing. Yet that can’t happen until balance has been restored to their biological terrain. This generally involves correcting the acid-base balance by eliminating excess animal protein and sugars from the diet.

Where acid-base balance is lacking, excessive probiotics may act almost as a contaminant to the existing microbiome and can damage the delicate mucosal tissues that line the intestines. The greater defense system may become so overtaxed that it can no longer regulate the toxic waste products released from the gut flora.

bacteria iconThe result is a toxic surge that the patient can’t totally excrete via the organs of elimination.

Meanwhile, the normally benign, symbiotic microbes can come together and develop into larger, harmful forms within their life cycle, as German microbiologist Günther Enderlein showed back in the early 20th century. The flora becomes more hostile to the host, creating an ever more acidic terrain and attacking the host’s tissues, causing all kinds of disease symptoms.

Hyperacidity in the red blood cells also binds iron in the blood so that cellular respiration becomes increasingly compromised. This may explain why, for instance, cancer patients often lose weight and waste away, despite the size of their tumors being relatively small. Hungry microbes are wreaking havoc in the blood cells.

Add to that the fact that conventional therapies – chemo, antibiotics, synthetic drugs – often kill helpful microbes as well as harmful ones, again contributing to imbalance in the terrain. The problems just keep compounding.

These kinds of harmful, unintended consequences are why we advise that any natural healing regimen be done under the guidance of a skilled and knowledgeable naturopathic or integrative doctor. This is especially the case if you’re contending with chronic illness. Probiotics may play a role in your healing plan – or not. You’ve got to look at the individual case, individual challenges, and individual needs.

As ever, one size does not fit all.

Lactobacillus image by Bob Blaylock, via Wikimedia Commons

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Need Another Sign That “Healthcare”-as-Usual Isn’t Exactly Working?

We’re just going to leave this here:

chronic disease headline

Fitch Solutions highlighted how the six leading chronic illnesses — diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and cancer — are affecting healthcare costs and the added burden in the future….

These leading conditions cost more than $1 trillion annually through hospitalizations, doctor visits, prescription drugs, medical devices and home care — 6% of GDP in 2016.

Those costs aren’t contained only to patients or payers. Fitch Solutions said the spend is spread across society through medical treatments, less productivity, early retirement and premature death. Indirect costs through loss of income and reduced productivity cost $3.7 trillion, according to the report, and will double in 30 years due to the aging U.S. population and the resulting hike in non-communicable diseases.


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It’s Not Just Vaccines

There’s a certain type of meme we’ve been seeing a lot more of lately, as the conflict between vaccine proponents and those who favor vaccine choice keeps growing ever more heated:

vaccines and autism meme

While we certainly question the “wisdom” of current vaccine practices and believe it wiser to focus on building physical resilience naturally by nurturing the development of a clean, well-ordered biological terrain, we also have to shake our heads a bit when we see this kind of stuff. Such memes really aren’t all that helpful or illuminating. Often, they wind up just provide more fodder for those who push all vaccines at all costs.

Yes, the number of vaccines has shot up alarmingly through recent decades. Yes, autism rates have skyrocketed, as well.

child having a meltdownBut so have other toxic exposures that children are routinely exposed to via all the synthetic chemicals used in most consumer products and environmental pollution in general. There is the notoriously unhealthy standard American diet. There is ever-increasing exposure to EMFs from all our electronic gizmos. There is increased reliance on pharmaceuticals as the first line of medicine. There’s more time spent sitting than being active outdoors; less time in nature, more time cooped up inside.

And this is just scratching the surface of physical barriers to good health – barriers that challenge adults, as well, and thus also affect the health of our offspring even when they’re still in the womb.

Yes, specific vaccine injuries happen. But seen more broadly, vaccines are just one more insult to the human body, an additional burden that the body – and a still developing one, at that – must cope with in some way.

Here, we think of twin boys we’ve seen as patients in our office, both of whom are just starting college. One is majoring in math; the other, studying computers. Both were diagnosed early with autism. Neither had ever been vaccinated.

However, their mother has a chronic history of leaky gut and urinary conditions. This set the stage for their own troubles once they left the womb. Most likely, suggests Dr. V, their symptoms of autism were the result of an infection-induced automimmune condition known as PANS or PANDAS, depending on the actual pathogen involved.

PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder, which is triggered by strep. PANS stands for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, which may be triggered by other infections.

Both disrupt a child’s normal neurologic activity. It’s thought that antibodies are triggered to attack the basal ganglia in the brain, a part of the brain involved in movement and behavior.

When some patients are exposed to certain bacteria, viruses or germs, their immune system may go awry, producing autoantibodies that attack not only the invading germs but healthy “receptors” and other targets in the brain. This misguided reaction can result in inflammation in the brain, triggering an abrupt onset of symptoms.

Autistic behavior is one possible manifestation. Addressing it is thus a matter of treating the infection, which includes making the body’s inner environment inhospitable to the pathogen and restoring its ability to self-regulate.

“Kids today have a host of health issues,” says Dr. V, “from leaky gut to yeast overgrowths to food intolerances. It’s my belief that these conditions can produce neurological symptoms, such as sensory issues, anxiety, OCD, tics, and so on. More often than not, it’s PANS or PANDAs at the root.”

In fact, practitioners have found that up to 50% of children diagnosed with autism, ADHD, or sensory disorders in fact are grappling with the effects of PANS or PANDAS.

Ultimately, most illness is multifactorial, dictated by the state of an individual’s biological terrain. Each of us experiences different degrees of exposure, different traumas and other injuries. Each of us has our own specific genetic inheritance, as well. Each of us has our own unique constitution, consciousness, and spirit.

All of these affect how illness develops – what symptoms will manifest in what way.

To learn more about this, we encourage you to read Dr. V’s booklet “How Illness Happens,” which you can download for free here. In simple language, he explains this quantum approach to understanding health and what is needed to maintain it.

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Reason to Steer Clear of Chemical Cleaners

bucket of cleaning suppliesJust in time for spring cleaning comes a new study reminding us that how you clean and what you clean with matter. A lot.

Researchers looked at the long-term effects of cleaning chemicals among 6230 women and men. Lung function was measured. Frequency of exposure was documented.

They found that

Women cleaning at home or working as occupational cleaners had accelerated decline in lung function, suggesting that exposures related to cleaning activities constitute a risk to long-term respiratory health.

In fact, the damage over time was equivalent to a pack-a-day smoking habit.

Interestingly, the authors didn’t see the same kind of damage in men. Significantly fewer men, however, reported cleaning at home, and less than 2% reported cleaning as their occupation. It’s possible they simply had less overall exposure than women in the study. Women who worked as cleaners experienced the most decline.

One possible mechanism for the accelerated decline in cleaners is the repetitive exposure to low-grade irritative cleaning agents over time, thereby causing persistent changes in the airways. Also, some cleaning agents may have sensitizing properties through specific immunological mechanism; quaternary ammonium compounds are known to have sensitizing effects in the airways, as well as also having an irritative effect. Repeated exposure could lead to remodelling of the airways, thereby over time causing an accelerated decline in [lung function]. Also, one could hypothesize that long-term exposure to airway irritants such as ammonia and bleach used when cleaning at home could cause fibrotic or other interstitial changes in the lung tissue, thereby leading to accelerated decline….

The paper was published in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Fortunately, there are quite a few nontoxic options in stores these days. Even better: You can make your own simple, effective cleaners at home – and save a good bit of money in the process.

Below are a few good resources we found online for nontoxic cleaners you can make yourself. One note: Two of the four links below include cleaners that contain borax. This ingredient is at the center of some debate, as some animal studies have suggested it may be a hormone disruptor. Wellness Mama offers a great overview of the issue, so you can make an informed decision whether to use it or not. (She ultimately comes down in favor of its safety for cleaning.)


Image via Alpha Stock Images

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Vaping Is “Healthier” Than Smoking?: A Look at the Evidence

You hear lots about the damage that smoking can do to your health, but many people still don’t realize how brutal it can be on your teeth, as well. It’s the number one risk factor for gum disease. Ultimately, this makes it one of the leading causes of tooth loss, as well.

For gum disease is progressive, destroying both the soft tissues of the mouth, as well as the supporting bone. As bone loss occurs, the teeth loosen in their sockets. With not enough structure to hold them steady, they’ll eventually come out or be recommended for extraction in hopes of saving other teeth.

vape and e-cigaretteBut is vaping – often touted as safer and healthier than regular smoking – any better?

While the technology is still new enough that we’re just beginning to understand its effects on the human body, so far, the evidence is enough to give one pause.

Consider, for instance, the effects of common ingredients in the e-liquid or “juice” that’s heated in the devices:

Like cigarettes, the aerosol first contacts the oral cavity when at its hottest. Studies have shown e-liquids to contain such toxins as diethylene glycol, which is also used in antifreeze, lead, and chromium, among others. Studies also have shown the menthol additive in e-cigarette liquids have a negative effect, as conventional cigarettes do, on the epithelial cells as well as the fibroblasts within the periodontal ligament.

In addition to that tissue damage, a number of other dental problems have been associated with vaping. These include burns and ulcerations in the mouth, stomitis (inflammation of the lips and soft oral tissues), and chronic dry mouth – a condition which also raises the risk of caries (tooth decay) and gum disease.

Research has also shown that the chemicals in e-cigarette vapor may raise the risk of oral cancers. Other research has observed cell damage that may well lead to cancer.

Our study strongly suggests that electronic cigarettes are not as safe as their marketing makes them appear to the public. Our in vitro experiments employing two brands of e-cigs show that at biologically relevant doses, vapourised e-cig liquids induce increased DNA strand breaks and cell death, and decreased clonogenic survival in both normal epithelial and HNSCC cell lines independently of nicotine content.

Much of the research to date has focused on the effect of vaping on the heart and lungs – research well summarized in a recent overview at Vox, which we encourage you to check out.

Of course, the chemicals add to the toxic burden on the extracellular matrix or biological terrain, as well. As the terrain becomes overstressed, with the body less able to efficiently clear toxins, cellular communication and function break down. Conditions are ripe for dysfunction and illness to arise.

If only chemicals in the juice were the only issue. There’s also the matter of heavy metals that appear to be released from the devices themselves.

One early study found that although overall exposure to heavy metal particulate was lower with e-cigs compared to conventional cigarettes, the devices themselves appeared to be the source of exposure to several highly toxic heavy metals, including nickel, chromium, and lead.

metals in vape chart

More recent research has also found both e-liquids and the devices to be a source of heavy metals. The amounts varied greatly.

Across all analyzed brands, mean (SD) concentrations ranged from 4.89 (0.893) to 1970 (1540) μg/L for lead, 53.9 (6.95) to 2110 (5220) μg/L for chromium and 58.7 (22.4) to 22,600 (24,400) μg/L for nickel. Manganese concentrations ranged from 28.7 (9.79) to 6910.2 (12,200) μg/L. We found marked variability in nickel and chromium concentration within and between brands, which may come from heating elements.

A 2018 study in Environmental Health Perspectives reached similar conclusions.

Our findings indicate that e-cigarettes are a potential source of exposure to toxic metals (Cr, Ni, and Pb), and to metals that are toxic when inhaled (Mn and Zn). Markedly higher concentrations in the aerosol and tank samples versus the dispenser demonstrate that coil contact induced e-liquid contamination.

Clearly, in this way, vaping instead of smoking is really a matter of picking your poison.

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Originally from Gary M. Verigin, DDS, inc.

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