Monthly Archives: June 2015

‘Safe’ in the US While Banned Elsewhere

Updated 6/28/2015 & 5/15/2016.


This post is for those of you who believe the regulatory agencies in the US tasked with protecting our health and the health of us and our planet are actually fulfilling their mandates.
The US declares as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) the use of chemicals that other countries, notably the European Union, have classified as presenting unacceptable risks of harm to the environment or to human health. Co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Stacy Malkan, says, “The policy approach in the U.S. and Europe is dramatically different.” (Hemmingway, 2014)
The European Union bases its chemical management and environmental protection policy decisions on the Precautionary Principle.

The Precautionary Principle

A general definition: The precept that an action should not be taken if the consequences are uncertain and potentially dangerous.
As used in environmental matters: The theory that if the effects of a product or action are unknown, then the product should not be used or the action should not be taken. (, 2015)
“The precautionary principle enables rapid response in the face of a possible danger to human, animal or plant health, or to protect the environment. In particular, where scientific data do not permit a complete evaluation of the risk, recourse to this principle may, for example, be used to stop distribution or order withdrawal from the market of products likely to be hazardous.” (Europa, 2011)





Use of this  principle “covers cases where scientific evidence is insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and preliminary scientific evaluation indicates that there are reasonable grounds for concern that the potentially dangerous effects on the environment, human, animal or plant health may be inconsistent with the high level of protection chosen by the EU.” (European Commission, 2000)
The EU’s goal is to ensure a strict level of environmental protection through PREVENTATIVE decision-making. In other words, in the EU, when there is substantial, credible evidence that something poses a danger to humans or the environment, protective action must be taken even if there is continuing scientific uncertainty.
This is the EU’s Communication on Precautionary Principle in its entirety if you wish to read it for yourself.




Now compare the EU’s decision-making policy on risk of harm to the US’s  policy.


 Policy on Health & Environmental Safety: US vs EU 



The US government approaches food and chemical safety from exactly the opposite direction: In this country, a high level of proof that something is HARMFUL must be shown before any regulatory action will be taken.
This policy clearly puts the protection of companies over the safety of people, other animals, plants, the soil, water, and air.






The case of artificial food coloring and dyes provides an example of how it works in practice:

“Same Study, Different Conclusions

“In the case of Red Dye No. 40, Yellow Dye No. 5 and Yellow Dye No. 6, it means that after considering the same evidence — a 2007 double-blind study by U.K. researchers that found that eating artificially colored food appeared to increase children’s hyperactivity — European and U.S. authorities reached different conclusions. In the U.K., the study persuaded authorities to bar use of these dyes as food additives. The EU chose to require warning labels on products that contain them — greatly reducing their use, according to Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist with the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. In the U.S., the study prompted the CSPI to petition the Food and Drug Administration for a ban on a number of food colorings. But in its review of these dyes, presented in 2011, the FDA found the study inconclusive because it looked at effects of a mixture of additives rather than individual colorings — and so these colors remain in use.
“While FDA approval is required for food additives, the agency relies on studies performed by the companies seeking approval of chemicals they manufacture or want to use in making determinations about food additive safety, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Maricel Maffini and NRDC senior attorney Tom Neltner note in their April 2014 report, Generally Recognized as Secret. “No other developed country that we know of has a similar system in which companies can decide the safety of chemicals put directly into food,” says Maffini. The standing law that covers these substances — the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — “makes requiring testing [of chemicals] more cumbersome than under TSCA,” says Neltner.”
– Hemmingway, 2014


Did you notice the part about the FDA’s relying on studies done by the very company that manufactures the product to make their determination of the product’s safety? And this dangerous policy isn’t limited just to food dyes.





By the way, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 40, Blue 1, Caramel coloring, and others – all FDA-approved as GRAS – have also been linked to neurological problems, allergies, brain cancer, ADD, ADHD, and more. They’re banned in France, UK, Norway, Austria, Finland, and other countries but NOT in the USA. In the US, you’ll find them in most packaged products – for example, candies, cereals, sports drinks, fruit flavored drinks, baked goods, packaged cheeses, and boxed macaroni and cheese. (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)














The US FDA classifies GMOs as “GRAS” – in spite of a long list of research findings showing the opposite. The US government is even fighting labeling so consumers could be able to choose to avoid GMOs.
30 countries have banned all or some GMOs in their food supply. See the Organic Consumers Organization’s Countries & Regions With GE Food/Crop Bans.





BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and  BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene),  derived from petroleum,  are used as preservatives in processed meats, cereals, candies,  chewing gums, and other food products in the US. They’re also used as frying oils in many fast-food restaurants.
Both BHA and BHT have been linked to liver and kidney damage, fetal abnormalities, mental and physical retardation, cancer, baldness, increased appetite, loss of energy, and insomnia.
BHA and BHT are banned in European countries and Japan but NOT in the US. (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)






Proctor and Gamble created Olestra, a sucrose polyester, to be used for lowering the fat content in processed foods. Olestra (brand name Olean) is used as a frying oil and is found in 0 calorie/ 0 cholesterol/ 0 fat products such as fat-free fries and potato chips.
Olestra has been linked to GI problems, irritable bowel syndrome, weight gain, and cramps. It blocks the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and essential minerals.
The UK, Canada, and some other countries have banned olestra. The US FDA declares it GRAS as a food additive and replacement for unhealthy oils. (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)





Brominated vegetable oil (BVO) is derived from corn or soy and bonded with bromine for use as an emulsifier in fruit-flavored sodas and sports drinks (eg, Gatorade, Mountain Dew, Fanta, Powerade) to keep their flavor oils  in suspension and give them a uniform color.  BVO is also patented as a flame retardant.
It’s so poisonous that only two ounces of a 2% solution can poison a child.  Bromine absorbed by the body replaces iodine and causes iodine deficiency.  Brominated vegetable oil has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, thyroid problems, and infertility.
And, by the way, the vast majority of corn and soy crops grown in the US (the source of BVO) is genetically modified.


BVO is banned in 100 countries, including Japan and the European Union countries. The FDA has allowed its use as GRAS in the US. In May 2014, under pressure from consumer groups, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo announced they would work toward removing it from all their drinks. (USA Today, 2014) (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)








Potassium bromate is an oxidizing agent used in commercial baking to bleach and improve the elasticity of dough. It speeds up the baking process, makes it cheaper, and results in baked goods that are softer, fluffier, and whiter.
Potassium bromate has been linked to kidney damage, neurological disorders, thyroid problems, GI discomfort, and cancer.
Bromated flour has been banned  in many countries, including the European Union, Brazil, Canada – and even China. In the US, it has remained legal since it was first patented for use in bread making in 1914. (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015) (Yoquinto, 2012)







Most cows in the US are treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone  to increase their milk production. These hormones impair the animals’ immune systems so many of them get painful udder infections. The cows are then given antibiotics to control the infections. If you’re consuming milk from cows injected with rBGH or rBST, you too are getting dosed with growth hormones and antibiotics.
The US FDA approved multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto’s bovine growth hormones, rBGH and rBST, as GRAS.
Interesting tidbit: Margaret Miller, a scientist working on the development of rBGH at Monsanto, was later appointed as Deputy Director of the FDA. Soon after her appointment, the FDA gave approval to these bovine growth hormones.
rBGH and rBST growth hormones have been linked to breast and prostate  cancer, thyroid disease, diabetes, obesity, infertility, asthma, allergies, early onset of puberty, and breast growth in 5 year old girls and men in their 40s.
Bovine growth hormones are banned in many European countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, and France. The FDA allows their widespread use in the US. (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)




Earlier this year, the FDA admitted that 70% of the chickens grown in the US contain arsenic, a toxic chemical that causes death in high dosages and cancer at lower doses. It’s added to chicken feed to make store-bought chicken meat look pink and fresh.
EU countries have banned the use of arsenic in chicken feed. (DeCuir, 2015) (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)









Formaldehyde is a toxic flammable gas used in the production of fertilizers, bleaching agents, food preservatives, hair straightening products, and personal care products such as baby shampoos and soaps. Food companies also add formaldehyde to foods such as milk, noodles, and meats to extend their shelf life.
Formaldehyde is linked to human cell damage. Long term exposure can cause leukemia while short term exposure can cause watery or burning eyes, asthma, headaches, skin irritation, and nausea.
The FDA allows the use of formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents in cosmetics, personal care products,  poultry and food-fish feeds (as an antimicrobial to control salmonella). In the US, only Minnesota has banned in-state sales of children’s personal care products containing them. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents are banned in Japan, and many other countries, including the European Union. (Grossman, 2014), (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015), (Shook Hardy & Bacon, 2014)






Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of pesticides, chemically related to nicotine, that attack insects’ central nervous systems, causing paralysis and death. These neurotoxins have been linked to bee colony collapse. They enter plants’ tissues and can remain in the soil up to 500 days after spraying, causing other plants grown in the treated soil to produce toxic nectar and pollen.
Neonicotinoid pesticides can also cause neurological problems in humans. Children who are exposed to these neurotoxins and endocrine disruptors while in the womb have a higher risk of developing cancer, neurological problems, mental disorders, autism, ADD, and ADHD.
The European Union has put a two-year ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. The US  rejects banning this neurotoxin. (Beyond Pesticides, undated) (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)








Azodicarbonamide (ADA) is commonly used as a bleaching agent in commercially baked white breads, cakes, and pastries and is the chemical that keeps bread soft and fresh-seeming many days after you bought it.  Azodicarbonamide also improves flour’s strength and elasticity – and is a chemical used in the production of foamed plastics.
It has been linked to asthma, allergies, other respiratory problems – and much worse.
This chemical has been banned by most European countries and Australia. Some countries, including Singapore, have even instituted severe penalties for using it: 15 years in jail and $450,000 fine.
Here’s a 2014 list of 500 commercially baked products that contain Azodicarbonamide – bagels, muffins, pizzas, buns, breads, pastries, croissants, bread crumbs, pitas, croutons, stuffing mixes… You get the idea. (Montuori, 2014) (Seattle Organic Restaurants, 2015)









There are many more. In fact, the vast majority of packaged foods available in the US contain chemicals that are banned in other countries. The FDA allows over 3,000 food additives in US food production, including foods and products intended for infants and young children. Many of these additives are banned in other countries because of their health risks. (Mercola, 2015)










I want to close with one more example: A comparison of the French fries sold by McDonald’s in the US and in the UK.



While commercial French fries aren’t exactly known as healthy foods, McDonald’s fries sold in the US are much unhealthier than the version they sell in the UK.




For one thing, McDonald’s fries sold in the UK list four ingredients while their US version list seven, mostly chemical additives. But look at the ingredients lists for both countries carefully and you’ll see they’re a bit misleading. At the bottom of the US list, we learn that the vegetable oils contain other ingredients – eg, TBHQ and dimethylpolysiloxane. At the bottom of the UK list, we’re told non-hydrogenated vegetable oil is used to prepare the fries in the restaurants. Does this mean hydrogenated versions are used when the potatoes are fried the first time at McDonald’s factories, before they’re frozen and distributed to the various franchises?
In the US, McDonald’s fries are cooked in hydrogenated canola and/or soybean oil, two of the unhealthiest oil choices and both most likely made from genetically engineered plants. Their fries here also contain TBHQ, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Dimethylpolysiloxane , and “natural beef flavor” (made with wheat and milk derivatives). (Mercola, 2015)


In the US, McDonald’s cooks its fries in canola and soybean oils, plus hydrogenated soybean oil. Canola oil isn’t totally terrible for you since it’s low in saturated fats and fairly high in unsaturated fats, including Omega-3 fatty acids – but it’s most likely to be made from GMO plants. 90% of the world’s canola crop is genetically modified.
Hydrogenating soybean oil turns its unsaturated fat into saturated fat, making it easier to cook with and turning it into a preservative. This soybean fat has now become a trans fat and trans fats have been strongly linked to heart disease. And there’s also the fact that about 84% of the soy beans grown in the US are GMO.
McDonald’s French fries sold in the UK are fried in non-hydrogenated sunflower or rapeseed oil at the restaurants. Both these oils are high in Omega-6 fatty acids that oxidize to cyclic aldehydes. The rapeseed is also GMO.
And remember that McDonald’s fries its potatoes twice: Once during preparation at the factory before they’re frozen and shipped out to their franchise restaurants and again before they’re served.
Overall, while definitely not so good for you, the oils used in making the UK version are healthier than the US version. (Goyanes, 2015) (Gunnars, 2015) (Mercola, 2015)




Tertiary butylhydroquinone) is a form of butane used as an FDA approved as GRAS chemical preservative in foodstuffs to delay the onset of rancidness and extend the foodstuff’s storage life. You’ll find it in many products: from crackers, potato chips, pet foods, cosmetics, baby skincare products, varnish, lacquers, resins, to explosive compounds.
High doses of TBHQ can cause nausea, delirium, collapse, tinnitus, and vomiting. It’s also linked to hyperactivity in children as well as asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis, restlessness, and aggravation of  ADHD symptoms.
Long term high doses in lab animals are linked to the development of cancerous precursors in the stomach and DNA damage. It’s also linked to estrogen disruption in women. (Botes, 2011)



Sodium acid pyrophosphate (also referred to as disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate) is mined from phosphate rock and then processed with sodium and other molecules into a synthetic chemical used as a food additive classified as GRAS by the FDA.
It’s used as leavening agent to fluff up foods, in non-dairy creamers to reduce acidity, in processed lunch meats to keep them moist, in breads to retard molds, in cheeses to help them retain their shape, in potato products to retard blackening, in tuna and other seafood to keep it from discoloring or drying out.
Phosphates in general have been linked to renal failure and cardiovascular disease. Sodium phosphate in laxatives has been linked to severe dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, organ damage, bone and tooth decay. (Marshall, 2014)



Dimethylpolysiloxane is a silicone-based organic polymer. It’s FDA approved as GRAS in foods. It’s also used in silicone caulks, adhesives, aquarium sealants, mold release agents, polishes, cosmetics, hair conditioners, as a filler in breast implants, and Silly Putty.
The FDA also permits dimethylpolysiloxane to be preserved by a variety of chemicals that don’t have to be listed on the label – including formaldehyde, a toxic chemical linked to allergies, brain damage, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. (Food Babe, 2013)
No major studies have been conducted on the safety of dimethylpolysiloxane yet the FDA approves it as GRAS in our foods – in anything except milk.
McDonald’s uses it as an anti-foaming agent and to reduce oil spattering in its US franchises. While dimethylpolysiloxane isn’t banned in the UK, McDonald’s doesn’t use it in its French fries there.



The so called “natural beef flavor” McDonald’s uses in its French fries in the US for some reason is made with hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk so they have to carry a wheat and milk allergen warning. Hydrolysis is an industrial process of of digesting something with chemical agents. And the traces of highly processed  beef byproducts along with the milk definitely keep them from being vegetarian or vegan.
McDonald’s fries in the UK contain no “natural beef flavor” so apparently it’s not necessary to include it. (Mercola, 2015)



Citric acid is naturally found in fruits and vegetables. McDonald’s uses it in the US to preserve the freshness of their frying oils – no doubt in a highly processed form. Somehow it’s not a necessary ingredient in the UK.


Dextrose, also called glucose, is a simple form of sugar derived from starch. It can be refined from many kinds of starch, including wheat, rice, potato, cassava, and arrowroot. The cheapest and most common source is corn. I’ll remind you that the vast majority of corn grown in the US (about 88% is GMO). Genetically modified corn is also grown in the EU.
Dextrose is used in McDonald’s US and UK franchises to give their fries that uniform golden brown color.



While natural, unprocessed salt contains trace minerals we need, refined table salt (the kind used by McDonald’s and pretty much all other restaurants, fast food or otherwise) is quite unhealthy. But it’s cheap and makes us thirsty for those enormous Cokes.
Refined table salt is quite different from natural, unprocessed salts. It no longer has the ability to combine with our body fluids, so undermines necessary, basic chemical and metabolic processes. Water retention, kidney and blood pressure problems, gall stones, and many other serious health problems can result from refined salt consumption.
Unrefined salts contain trace minerals that support the proper functioning of all our bodily systems, including the immune system, glandular system and nervous system. These trace minerals have been processed out of refined table salt.
For more on processed vs unprocessed salt, see The Healing Properties of Unrefined Salts.
Processed salt is use on McDonald’s fries in both the US and the UK.
And we’re not even talking about what’s in the ketchup!




Doesn’t this comparison of the ingredients in McDonald’s French fries in the US and the UK make you wonder how concerned our governmental agencies actually are about our health?
As Robert Mercola says,
“Still if McDonald’s can make a tasty French fry without preservatives, antifoaming agents, color stabilizers, TBHQ, and added flavorings for its British restaurants, why do they refuse to make them without this junk for Americans? (Mercola, 2015)



I highly recommend watching this short Michael Pollan video: Watch This Video and You’ll Never Eat McDonald’s French Fries Again … in the US or anywhere else in the world.
Now ponder this:

Beyond Pesticides. (undated. Chemicals Implicated. See:

Botes, S. (2011). TBHQ – Why this preservative should be avoided. See:

Decuir, L. (2015). Finally! The FDA Admits That Nearly Over 70% of U.S. Chickens Contain Cancer-Causing Arsenic. See: (2015). Precautionary principle. See:

European Commission. (2000). EU’s Communication on Precautionary Principle. See:

Europa: Summaries of EU Legislation. (2011). The precautionary principle. See:

Food Babe. (2013). You Won’t Believe Where Silly Putty Is Hiding In Your Food. See:

Goyanes, C. (2015). What’s REALLY Inside Those McDonald’s French Fries? See:

Grossman, E. (2014). BANNED IN EUROPE, SAFE IN THE U.S.: Who determines whether chemicals are safe — and why do different governments come up with such different answers? See:

Gunnars, K. (2015). Canola Oil: Good or Bad? See:

Hardin, J.R. (2014). The Healing Properties of Unrefined Salts. See:

Hemmingway, S. (2014). Banned in Europe, Safe in the U.S. See:

Marshall, L. (2014).  Is disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (sodium acid pyrophosphate) natural? See:

Mercola, R. (2015). The Big Food Discrepancy: Why Are American Foods Routinely More Toxic Than European Versions? See:

Montuori, N. (2014). Yoga Mat Chemical “Azodicarbonamide” Found in Nearly 500 Foods. See:

Organic Consumers Organization. (undated).  Countries & Regions With GE Food/Crop Bans. See:

Polan, M. (2014). Video: Watch This Video and You’ll Never Eat McDonald’s French Fries Again. See:

Seattle Organic Restaurants. (2015).Top 10 foods, additives and preservatives that are banned in many countries except US. See:

Shook Hardy & Bacon. (2014). EFSA issues opinion on formaldehyde in animal feed. See:

USA Today. (2014). Coke, Pepsi dropping controversial ‘BVO’ from all drinks. See:

Yoquinto, L. (2012). The Truth About Potassium Bromate. See:



© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Giulia Enders Explains Digestion

Updated 6/23/2015.


Giulia Enders



This post is about something we’ve all needed: a charming Millennial named Giulia Enders’ entertaining and simple  explanation of how digestion works.  She’s a doctoral student at the Institute for Microbiology in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2012 her presentation about the gut won first prize at the Science Slam in Berlin – and then deservedly went viral on YouTube.
I highly recommend watching Darm mit Charme (Gut Charm). It’ll crack you up while you’re learning some very useful information about how your body works.
Winning the Science Slam prize led to an invitation to write a book. Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ has become, again deservedly, an international best seller. It’s now been published in 30 languages!





This Amazon review of the book says it all:

Best popular science writing EVER – a brilliant, witty treasure trove of insanely useful information

“I don’t believe I’ve ever learned more useful information per page than in “Gut” — and I’m trained as a doctor! The whole time I’m reading this, I’m shaking my head, thinking, “How come we weren’t taught that in med school?” A longer, more thorough review is forthcoming, but in the meantime, if you are a fan of eating or have ever eaten in your lifetime, ever had a “gut feeling” about anything, or happen to possess a digestive tract, you need to read this. Is there anything more fundamental than knowing how your body extracts energy and nutrients from food? Dr Giulia Enders covers all aspects of the gut and how it relates to your mind, mood, hormones, and health, and does it all in a style that’s accessible to the 10yr old and enjoyable to the seasoned professional.
Also, she’s freakin’ hilarious.”
— Ali Binazir, M.D., M.Phil.







Ms Enders is in the category of people who’ve found Western Medicine less than helpful for what ailed them and decided to search for better answers.
As a teenager, she developed a mysterious skin condition that covered her skin with sores. Treatments offered by her doctors were largely ineffective. She knew she’d been delivered by Caesarian Section, which doesn’t allow the mother’s probiotic bacteria to transfer properly to the infant so C. section babies start life at a microbial disadvantage.
At age 17,  Enders decided to experiment with treating what she realized was the underlying cause of her skin condition, a digestive disorder, rather than rely on treating only her symptoms, as her doctors had been doing. She read up on current gastroenterological research, took probiotic and mineral supplements to support her gut microbiota and improve her digestion, eliminated dairy products and almost all gluten, and continued fine tuning her diet. Her skin problems cleared up – and her fascination with the intestines began.
As she gained knowledge from her reading, experimented on herself, and got better, she was also struck by how little most lay people and doctors seemed to know about the workings of the gut and its important influence on the health of the rest of the body – including whether we develop cancers and other diseases; on our feelings, decision making processes, self-awareness, moods, weight, and even morality. Learning as much as she can about the gut and teaching people about it have become her life’s work. (Coburn, 2015)
And she’s very good at it.






Here’s a two-part TV interview with Giulia Enders from 13 February 2015, after her book had become a best seller. Watch both parts – you’ll be glad! They’re in English, delightful, and short. (, 2015) Among other interesting topics, she talks about why it’s much healthier to squat than sit while pooping.





A big thanks to Mike Robotti for sending the Coburn article about Giulia Enders my way.







Coburn, J. (2015). A German Writer Translates a Puzzling Illness Into a Best-Selling Book. New York Times. See:

Enders, G. (2012). Darm mit Charme (Gut Charm). Science Slam Berlin. See:

Enders, G. (2015). Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ. See: (2/13/2015). Interview with Giulia Enders, Parts 1 & 2. See:




© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Your Diet Can Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage





What do apples, green tea, dark chocolate, olive oil, tomato paste, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables have to do with today’s being the first official day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere?
Read this short, informative article by Britta Aragon on Functional Medicine doc Frank Lipman’s site to find out how these foods protect your skin from being damaged by harmful UV rays.

Naturally Shield Your Skin From the Sun With Food








Aragon, B. (2015). Naturally Shield Your Skin From the Sun With Food. See:



© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


What’s in the Human Microbiome






Since I write about the human microbiome, I found this information on what’s been discovered – so far – about its interactions with the rest of the body quite fascinating and think you will too. The information is mostly from an article charmingly entitled Friends with social benefits – subtitled Host-microbe interactions as a driver of brain evolution and development?  (Stilling et al, 2014)





Our long evolutionary history has resulted in the modern human body’s        being  home to trillions of colonizing microbes.






The microbiome is comprised of:




  •  Bacteria – at least 40,000 bacterial strains in 1,800 genera
  • Archaea (a group of single-celled organisms lacking a defined  nucleus) and eukaryotes (multi-celled organisms in which the genetic material is organized into a membrane-bound nucleus or nuclei),  such as  protozoa, fungi and nematodes
  • Many viruses, collectively termed the virome




The human microbiome collectively contains at least 9.9 million non-human genes.
These non-human microbes carry about 500 times the number of human protein-coding genes that have been annotated to date.


In an adult human body, these approximately 100 trillion non-human       associated cells weigh about 1-2 kg (2.2-4.4 lbs).
Note: I’ve seen a variety of estimates for how much the microbiome weighs. When a weight range is given, I’m often not sure if it refers to the microbes living in the gut or to the microbes living in all the body’s microbiomes. Here’s a representation of the various microbiomes – there are others. Eg, different microbes live on various areas of our skin:







The average weight of the adult human microbiome is about the same as the average weight of an adult human brain – about 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs).
Scientists think the comparable weights of our microbiomes and brains isn’t arbitrary but is instead “a window into the connections between neuroscience and microbiology. During human evolution, the primate brain underwent structural reconstructions of fast and dramatic increases in relative volume, leading to the brain as the most energy-demanding organ in the body.”





We’re still in the early stages of understanding how this symbiosis between the human microbiome and brain affects brain function and behavior. Stay tuned – this is a hot research area now.


 Microbes, RNA networks and brain development: A social triangle? An integrated model is proposed for the evolution of human social behavior.



Scientists have found evidence that the types of microbes in a given host influence a wide variety of physiological processes, such as post-natal development and immuno-modulation, as well as the host’s brain evolution and behavior.






The long-held belief that mammalian fetuses live in a sterile environment in the womb and first come in contact with bacteria during passage through the birth canal seems not to be true. There is increasing evidence that mothers transmit certain microbes to their babies in utero. “Moreover, the mother’s gut microbiota changes dramatically during pregnancy. After delivery through the birth canal, the microbiota becomes more complex and abundant, and these community-level changes continue via breast-feeding and uptake of new microbes from the environment. It is therefore not surprising that the microbiota critically influences pre-, peri- and postnatal development, and changes during early life stages will result in phenotypic alterations in adulthood.” (Stilling et al, 2014)
It is well-known that the composition of the microbiota changes during animal development and can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, and habitat.













The hologenome theory of evolution posits:
  • Natural selection occurs because individual animals and plants act symbiotically with their microbial communities.
  • This casts the microbiome as a central player on a par with an organism’s inherited genes.
  • This relationship between genes and microbes affects both the host and its microbiota.
  • The interaction between the host’s genes and the considerably greater number of  genes in the host’s microbiota affects all aspects of the host’s life: development, survival, growth, adaptation, and reproduction. (Rosenberg & Zilber-Rosenberg, 2011)
  • The genetic information encoded by microbes is able to change, in response to environmental demands, more rapidly and by more processes, than the genetic information encoded by the host organism.
  • The mutated characteristics resulting from interactions between an organism’s genes and its microbiome are heritable from generation to generation.
  • “By all accounts, this viewpoint blurs the differences between the genome and environment. It embraces a vibrant and more satisfying view of the nature of biology, namely that the microbiome is as essential as the genome in defining what an animal or plant is and is not.” (Stilling et al, 2014)



Person + Microbiota






Lest you read any of this to mean that you’re doomed by either your genetic inheritance or the current sorry state of your gut microbes, I just want to point out that the composition of your gut microbiome can be changed by improving your diet and taking helpful supplements:
” … changes in environmental parameters, for example, diet, can cause rapid changes in the diverse microbiota, which not only can benefit the holobiont (Note: = you + your microbiota) in the short term but also can be transmitted to offspring and lead to long lasting cooperations.” (Rosenberg & Zilber-Rosenberg, 2011)








Rosenberg, E. & Zilber-Rosenberg, I. (2011). Symbiosis and development: the hologenome concept. Birth Defects Research Part C: Embryo Today, 93:1, 56-66.  See:

Stilling, R.M. et al. (2014). Friends with social benefits: host-microbe interactions as a driver of brain evolution and development? Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. See:



© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Effects of Childhood Trauma on Lifetime Health









A partnership between Kaiser Permanente and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced one of the largest studies ever conducted to assess the connections between chronic, toxic stress caused by early adversity and health throughout the lifespan. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) looked at multiple categories of childhood physical and emotional abuse and neglect, along with measures of household dysfunction (such as domestic violence, parental mental illness, substance abuse), and separation/abandonment/divorce.
The study followed the medical status of 17,337 Kaiser Permanente HMO members who underwent a physical exam and also chose to provide information about their childhood experiences of abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction. These data were gathered between 1995-1997. Since that initial phase of the study, the results so far have been the basis of more than 50 scientific articles and more than 100 conferences and workshop presentations. The results of this landmark study have also spurred the collection of ACES data in other states.
The high prevalence of childhood emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; neglect; and household dysfunction – and their lasting effects – found in this study may surprise you:




                                                                                           Women         Men


  • Emotional abuse                                                13.1             7.6
  • Physical abuse                                                    27.0            29.9
  • Sexual abuse                                                       24.7            16.0



  • Emotional neglect                                             16.7            12.4
  • Physical neglect                                                    9.2            10.7



  • Mother treated violently                                13.7            11.5
  • Household substance abuse                         29.5            23.8
  • Household mental illness                               23.3            14.8
  • Parental separation or divorce                    24.5            21.8
  • Incarcerated household member                  5.2              4.1



  • 0                                                                                 34.5            38.0
  • 1                                                                                 24.5            27.9
  • 2                                                                                 15.5            16.4
  • 3                                                                                 10.3              8.6
  • 4 or more                                                               15.2              9.2





Below are the gender, racial, age, and education characteristics of the 17,337 San Diegans who participated in the ACE Study. I’ve included these demographics in case you thought that childhood abuse only happens in poor, non-white families. Most of the study’s participants were white, middle or upper-middle class, college-educated, with good jobs and comprehensive health care from Kaiser-Permanent’s HMO.




Demographic Categories Percent (N = 17,337)
Female 54%
Male 46%
White 74.8%
Hispanic/Latino 11.2%
Asian/Pacific Islander 7.2%
African-American 4.6%
Other 1.9%
Age (years)
19-29 5.3%
30-39 9.8%
40-49 18.6%
50-59 19.9%
60 and over 46.4%
Not High School Graduate 7.2%
High School Graduate 17.6%
Some College 35.9%
College Graduate or Higher 39.3%


See Prevalence of Individual Adverse Childhood Experiences for fuller data, statistics, demographics, and definitions of measures.












The Three Types of ACEs Studied: Abuse, Neglect and Household Dysfunction




“Childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to other traumatic stressors which we term adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are common. Almost two-thirds of our study participants reported at least one ACE, and more than one of five reported three or more ACE. The short- and long-term outcomes of these childhood exposures include a multitude of health and social problems.
“The ACE Study uses the ACE Score, which is a total count of the number of ACEs reported by respondents. The ACE Score is used to assess the total amount of stress during childhood and has demonstrated that as the number of ACE increase, the risk for the following health problems increases in a strong and graded fashion:”
  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Liver disease
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy





The ACE Study findings convincingly demonstrate that harsh childhood experiences negatively affect children into adulthood. The chronic, toxic stress resulting from these experiences is seen in their difficulties in school and life. Unlike manageable stress, toxic stress “refers to the long-term changes in brain architecture and organ systems that develop after extreme, prolonged and repeated stress goes untreated. Exposure to ACEs may put our children at higher risk for learning difficulties, emotional problems, developmental issues and long-term health problems.”  (emphasis added) (Center for Youth Wellness, 2015-A)



Levels & Consequences of Stress




The ACE Study results have focused attention on two very  important findings:
  • ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES ARE VERY COMMON. 67% (2 out of 3 people) of the study population had at least one ACE and 13% (1 out of 8 people) had four or more ACEs.
  • THERE IS A DOSE-RESPONSE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACES AND NUMEROUS HEALTH PROBLEMS. The more ACEs a child has, the higher the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, and cancer.
 – Center for Youth Wellness (2015-A)







(Source: www.centerforyouthwellness)
(Source: www.centerforyouthwellness)


Nadine Burke Harris, MD, MPH, FAAP is a Pediatrician and Founder/Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Youth Wellness in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. Dr Burke has earned international attention for her innovative approach to addressing the mental and physical health effects of toxic stress resulting from adverse childhood experiences.
From the Center for Youth Wellness website:
“The Center for Youth Wellness is part of a national effort to revolutionize pediatric medicine and transform the way society responds to kids exposed to significant adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress.
“Led by founder and CEO Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, we are a health organization within a pediatric home that serves children and families in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. We were created to respond to an urgent public health issue: early adversity harms the developing brains and bodies of children.
“We screen every young person we see for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that we know can lead to toxic stress and lifelong problems with health, wellness and learning. We heal children’s brains and bodies by piloting treatments for toxic stress and sharing our findings nationally. We prevent toxic stress by raising awareness among those who can make a difference: from parents and pediatricians to policy makers.
“Our Mission
Our mission is to improve the health of children and adolescents exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences.”
– Center for Youth Wellness (2015-B)




In September 2014, Dr Harris gave a TEDMed talk on the lifetime effects of toxic stress on children. This is from the description of her talk:
“Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.”




As childhood trauma expert Na’ama Yehuda eloquently puts it:
“What if there is an exposure that affects health and development dramatically and is more prevalent than HIV, cancer, and Hepatitis combined and yet most doctors do not screen for it? What if you knew of an exposure that increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, early death, inflammatory diseases, premature birth, metabolic syndrome, depression, anxiety, suicide, and more? What if that exposure was at the base of many learning disabilities, attention issues, and behavior issues and if there was a lot to do to help reduce this risk?
“Wouldn’t you want to know about it?
“Wouldn’t you want it to be treated as a priority in healthcare and public interest? I know I would, and do. Nadine Burke Harris is sure, too. Listen to her amazing Ted Talk–this is a brief talk that you’ll want to pass along!”
– Na’ama Yehuda, 2015





You can listen to Dr Harris’s excellent talk here.







In case you’re interested in calculating your own ACE score or are just interested in knowing more about the study, here are the questions (slightly modified) the ACE Study asked its 17,337 participants.

Prior to your 18th birthday:

  • Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often: Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?
                                             No__  If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Push, grab, slap, or throw something at you? or Ever hit you so hard that you had marks or were injured?
                                                                                         No__   If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Did an adult or person at least 5 years older than you ever: Touch or fondle you or have you touch their body in a sexual way? or Attempt or actually have oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse with you?
                                       No__ If Yes, enter 1__
  • Did you often or very often feel that: No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn’t look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?
                   No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Did you often or very often feel that: You didn’t have enough to eat, had to wear dirty clothes, and had no one to protect you? or Your parents were too drunk or high to take care of you or take you to the doctor if you needed it?   
                                                                                                                       No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment, or other reason ?
                                                                                        No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Was your mother or stepmother:
 Often or very often pushed, grabbed, slapped, or had something thrown at her? or Sometimes, often, or very often kicked, bitten, hit with a fist, or hit with something hard? or Ever repeatedly hit over at least a few minutes or threatened with a gun or knife?      
No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Did you live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?
                                                                                             No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Was a household member depressed or mentally ill, or did a household member attempt suicide?                                                                                        No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
  • Did a household member go to prison?
                                        No__ If Yes, enter 1 __
 Now add up your “Yes” answers:  ___. This is your ACE Score.









Information on the childhood trauma measures:
“There are 10 types of childhood trauma measured in the ACE Study. Five are personal — physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical neglect, and emotional neglect. Five are related to other family members: a parent who’s an alcoholic, a mother who’s a victim of domestic violence, a family member in jail, a family member diagnosed with a mental illness, and the disappearance of a parent through divorce, death or abandonment. Each type of trauma counts as one. So a person who’s been physically abused, with one alcoholic parent, and a mother who was beaten up has an ACE score of three.
“There are, of course, many other types of childhood trauma — watching a sibling being abused, losing a caregiver (grandmother, mother, grandfather, etc.), homelessness, surviving and recovering from a severe accident, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, witnessing a grandmother abusing a father, etc. The ACE Study included only those 10 childhood traumas because those were mentioned as most common by a group of about 300 Kaiser members; those traumas were also well studied individually in the research literature.
“The most important thing to remember is that the ACE score is meant as a guideline: If you experienced other types of toxic stress over months or years, then those would likely increase your risk of health consequences.”








See the Got Your ACE Score? page on ACEs Too High News for fuller information on the questions and the results from the study. There’s also an interesting RESILIENCE questionnaire there.







Many thanks to Rebeca Scherman, PsyD, & Na’ama Yehuda, MSC, SLP, for bringing Dr Nadine Burke Harris’s TEDMed talk to my attention.





CDC. (2014). Injury Prevention & Control : Division of Violence Prevention. See:

Center for Youth Wellness. (2015-A). Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES). See:

Center for Youth Wellness. (2015-B). About Us. See:

Harris, N.B. (2014). TEDMed Talk: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime.

Stevens, J.E. (Ed.) (2015). ACES Too High News. See:

Stevens, J.E. (Ed.) (2015). Got Your ACE Score? ACES Too High News. See:

Yehuda, N. (2015).  Nadine Burke Harris on: How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime. See:



© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Amy Myers on What To Do If You’ve Gotten Glutened

Updated 6/10/2015.





I can’t count the times I’ve been assured something is gluten free only to discover 20 minutes later that it wasn’t. This post is for those of  us who have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or gluten allergy … practical advice from Functional Medicine doc Amy Myers on what to do if you’ve accidentally consumed some gluten. These are Dr Myers’ recommendations for what to do when you realize you’ve been zapped:






If you are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease you know all too well about accidentally ingesting gluten — otherwise known as getting “glutened.”

The outward manifestation of getting glutened may be different for everyone, and can cause a variety of symptoms such as brain fog, diarrhea, constipation, headache, rash, weakness, joint pain, swelling, vomiting, and fatigue. However, inside your gut the effects are essentially the same; gluten is wreaking havoc. Gluten causes inflammation and damage to the intestines. Ridding yourself of this inflammatory protein, reducing inflammation and healing your gut from the damage are essential to recovering as quickly as possible.


3 Steps To Recover After Getting Glutened

1. The more quickly you can get the gluten out of your system, the better you’ll feel.

These three things will help you do that promptly and effectively:

Digestive Enzymes. Digestive enzymes help speed up the breakdown and absorption of macronutrients. Be sure to take an enzyme that includes dipeptidyl peptidase (DPP-IV), which helps break down gluten specifically. In fact, I recommend that those with celiac and gluten intolerance take enzymes with DPP-IV when dining out.

Binding agents. Activated charcoal and bentonite clay bind toxins and help reduce gas and bloating. It’s best to increase water intake when taking either of these to avoid constipation, which will only delay healing.

Hydration. Fluids will help flush your system and keep you hydrated if you’re vomiting or have diarrhea. In addition to regular water, you can try coconut water, which contains electrolytes that may have been lost through vomiting or diarrhea.


2. Decrease inflammation.

Inflammation occurs naturally in our body when there has been an insult or injury to it. Decreasing this inflammation is essential to healing your gut. These three things will help you reduce inflammation quickly:

Omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oils, flax and chia seeds are full of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. I recommend 1-2 grams of omega-3 oils daily. You can go up to 4 grams a day for a week after accidental gluten ingestion.

Ginger has high levels of gingerol, which gives it a natural spicy flavor and acts as an anti-inflammatory in the body. It also has potent anti-nausea properties and can ease stomach cramping. I like to drink warm ginger tea as a comforting, anti-inflammatory beverage.

Turmeric is a member of the ginger family that contains the active ingredient curcumin, which is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. My anti-inflammatory smoothie with turmeric is a great drink to help you quickly recover from getting glutened.


3. Heal your gut.

Nearly 70% of our immune system is in our gut. Having a healthy gut is crucial for optimal health. The six things below will help you heal your gut.

Probiotics. Routinely, I recommend taking a highly concentrated probiotic (25-100 billion units) a day. I advise my patients to “double-up” on their probiotic dose for a week after a gluten exposure.

L-Glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that is great for repairing damage to the gut, helping the gut lining to regrow and repair, undoing the damage caused by gluten. I recommend 3-5 grams a day for a week after exposure.

Slippery elm. Slippery elm contains mucilage, which stimulates nerve endings in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to increase its secretion of mucus. Mucus forms a barrier in the gut to protect it and promote healing.

Deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). DGL is an herb that’s been used for more than 3,000 years in the treatment of digestive issues, including ulcers and indigestion. DGL also supports the body’s natural processes for maintaining the mucosal lining of the GI tract.

Marshmallow root is a multipurpose supplement that can be used for respiratory or digestive relief. Like slippery elm, it contains mucilage, which eases the inflammation in the stomach lining, heals ulcers, and treats both diarrhea and constipation by creating a protective lining on the digestive tract.

Bone broth is very high in the anti-inflammatory amino acids glycine and proline. The gelatin in bone broth protects and heals the mucosal lining of the digestive tract that may get disrupted by being glutened.

Once you realize that you have been glutened, implement this three-step approach as soon as possible. If you are not seeing any improvement in your symptoms after three days or you’re getting worse. I would advise you to follow up with your physician.






See Dr Myers’ entire article here.
To learn more about Dr Myers and peruse her useful website go to .




Myers, A. (2014). 3 Steps to Recover After Getting Glutened. See:



© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.




Alzheimer’s & Factory Farmed Meat



Aerial View of a Factory Farm Where Animals Are Raised for Food




Here’s a list of the top 10 causes of death in the US. Alzheimer’s is in there at number 6 (Nichols, 2014):
  1. Heart disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Chronic lower respiratory disease
  4. Stroke
  5. Accidents
  6. Alzheimer’s disease
  7. Diabetes
  8. Influenza and pneumonia
  9. Kidney disease
  10. Suicide





In 2014, approximately 5.2 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease, including about 200,000 people under 65 with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
In 2013, 15.5 million family and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. If they’d been paid, the care they provided would be worth $220.2 billion – nearly eight times McDonald’s total revenue in 2012. (Nichols, 2014)
You’ll see in a minute how that particular comparison is especially apt.




Research shows a link between a pathologic protein called TDP-43 and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s (ALS). TDP-43 protein has the same effect on the brain as infectious, toxic proteins which cause the brain degeneration seen in Mad Cow and Chronic Wasting Diseases, two types of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Evidence of the connection between the pathologic TDP-43 protein and Alzheimer’s include (Mercola, 2015):
  • From 25-50% of Alzheimer’s patients have evidence of TDP-43 pathology in their brains.
  • Brain autopsies of Alzheimer’s patients with evidence of TDP-43 were 10 times more likely to have suffered cognitive impairment at death than those in whom TDP-43 wasn’t present.



Mad Cow Disease  (the human version is called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) is a form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy. It is transmissible,  progressive, degenerative, and fatal to cows and humans.



Mad Cow Disease (the human version is called variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, or vCJD)) is acquired from eating cattle raised in densely confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – also referred to as factory farms. Cattle are natural herbivores but on factory farms they’re fed a diet that includes bone meal and animal byproducts made from other cows and factory farmed animals.
Mad Cow can spread rapidly and broadly when bone meal and waste products from  diseased animals  contaminate feed that’s given to thousands of other animals in different locations. (Mercola, 2015)
Scientists now think Alzheimer’s may be a slower moving version of Mad Cow Disease and the consequence of the factory farm practice of adding cannibalized  animal parts  and byproducts to the herbivores’ feed.  When humans eat the meat of animals infected with TDP-43 protein, TDP-43 can infect and damage our brains too.


The vast majority of meat we consume in the US – from cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and turkeys – is grown on CAFOs. On these big farming operations, the animals live packed inside buildings and are fed a completely unnatural diet of genetically engineered grains (containing the pesticide glyphosate – a serious problem in its own right) mixed with antibiotics (to keep the animals from dying from the effects of the  unnatural diet they’re fed and the unsanitary conditions they live in), along with bone meal and other animal byproducts.










The Mayo Clinic recently conducted an important study which demonstrated a clear connection between TDP-43 in the brain and Alzheimer’s Disease.
A description of the methodology and findings:

Since the time of Dr. Alois Alzheimer himself, two proteins (beta-amyloid (Aβ) and tau) have become tantamount to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). But a Mayo Clinic study challenges the perception that these are the only important proteins accounting for the clinical features of the devastating disease.

In a large clinico-imaging pathological study, Mayo Clinic researchers demonstrated that a third protein (TDP-43) plays a major role in AD pathology. In fact, people whose brain was TDP positive were 10 times more likely to be cognitively impaired at death compared to those who didn’t have the protein, showing that TDP-43 has the potential to overpower what has been termed resilient brain aging. The study was published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica.

Mayo Clinic researchers studied brains of 342 patients who had died with pathologically confirmed AD and divided them into two groups based on the presence or absence of the protein TDP-43. The protein was found in 195 or 57 percent of the cases.

“We wanted to determine whether the TDP-43 protein has any independent effect on the clinical and neuroimaging features typically ascribed to AD and we found that TDP-43 had a strong effect on cognition, memory loss and medial temporal atrophy in AD,” says Mayo Clinic neurologist Keith Josephs, M.D., the study’s lead investigator and author. “In the early stages of the disease when AD pathology was less severe, the presence of TDP-43 was strongly associated with  cognitive impairment. Consequently, TDP-43 appears to play an important role in the cognitive and neuroimaging characteristics that have been linked to AD.”

The study also found that patients who suffered from greater cognitive impairment and medial temporal atrophy at the time of death had greater TDP-43 burden and had the protein in a greater number of brain regions.

“This is why we believe that TDP-43 pathology could help shed light on the phenomenon of resilient cognition in AD and explain why some patients remain clinically normal, while others do not, despite both having similar degrees of AD pathology,” says Dr. Josephs.  “Our findings suggest that in order to have AD and be cognitively resilient, TDP-43 must be absent, so it should be considered a potential therapeutic target for the future treatment of AD.

This study was funded by the US National Institute of Heath (NIA) Grants and supported by the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

– Anastasijevic, Mayo Clinic, 2014


Mayo Clinic Neurologist Keith Josephs, MD



Mayo Clinic neurologist Keith Josephs, MD,  the study’s lead investigator and author, describes the research and its results in this video posted to YouTube on 23 April 2014:





The Center for Food Safety, after the 2012 Mad Cow outbreak, noted:

Formally known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), “Mad Cow Disease” is a persistent food safety concern in the U.S. and abroad.  BSE occurs when cattle are fed rendered meat products made from other dead, disabled or diseased cattle or sheep as a feed supplement — or when chickens are fed rendered animals and their manure is mixed into cattle feed.

Tissue from infected cows’ central nervous systems (including brain or spinal cord) is the most infectious part of a cow.  Such tissue may be found in hot dogs, taco fillings, bologna and other products containing gelatin, as well as a variety of ground or chopped meats.  People who eat meat from infected animals can contract the human version of the disease, known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD).  The disease slowly eats holes in the brain over a matter of years, turning it sponge-like, and invariably results in dementia and death.  There is no known cure, treatment or vaccine for vCJD.

Center for Food Safety seeks to end dangerous animal feed practices that threaten human health and the safety of our meat supply, such as feeding rendered animals to other animals.  We urge the CDC to classify vCJD as a reportable disease so occurrences can be tracked and to work to plug the loopholes that still exist in FDA and USDA regulations.

– Center for Food Safety, 2015



Factory Farmed Cows Eating Medicated Grain Feed




Mad Cow Disease is a man-made plague created by factory farming. In cattle, the Mad Cow incubation period before the animal becomes visibly ill is thought to be about five years. In humans, it can be latent for a decade or longer before manifesting as vCJD. (Center for Food Safety, 4/25/2012).
It’s now illegal to feed beef-based products to cows. However – the beef industry is still allowed to use a feed called “chicken litter” consisting of  rendered dead chickens, feathers, chicken manure, and spilled chicken feed … and chicken feed contains cow meat and bone meal. So factory farmed cows are still eating parts of other sick cows – and Mad Cow Disease is still around.
Loophole number two: Cattle byproducts are also allowed in the feed of pigs, chickens, and turkeys.   And, under current laws, the byproducts of those pigs, chickens, and turkeys are allowed in the feed of cattle. (Mercola, 2015)



On left: A brain infected with vCDJ, riddled with holes due to tissue destruction.

On right: Normal brain tissue at a lower magnification.

The symptoms of vCJD (staggering, memory loss, impaired vision, and dementia) are quite similar to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s – and there’s no known cure.






TDP-43 can also lead to other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s or Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) instead of to Alzheimer’s. The particular disease which develops may depend on which area of the brain the proteins attack. (ALZFORUM, 2014)

“Pathological TDP-43 appears to follow a set route through the nervous system, and what that route is depends on the disease at hand. Two new papers in Acta Neuropathologica add TDP-43 itineraries for Alzheimer’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration [FTLD] to a previously published staging scheme for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“While the starting points and paths taken differ, the disease-specific routes suggest that TDP-43 travels from neuron to neuron along axonal highways… The TDP-43 stages fit with the ongoing theme in neurodegeneration research that these diseases are progressive not only over time, but also in space, as pathological proteins spread throughout the nervous system…

“Overall… the FTLD pathology progressed from the front of the brain to the back. This contrasted with the ALS staging system, which began in the motor cortex at the brain’s apex and moved downward and forward from there.”

– ALZFORUM, 2013










If meat is part of your diet, it’s wise – for many reasons – to eat pasture raised, grass-fed animals when you can.


(Source: www.cfandhealthy.com_



It’s good for the animals too. Wouldn’t you prefer walking around outside in the fresh air, feeling healthy, with the sun warming your back, eating food you can easily digest instead of being constrained inside in artificial light and filthy conditions, eating food and chemicals that makes you sick?



Almost all meat served in restaurants in the US is grown on factory farms.
From –
(Source: –


to –




This is what Functional Medical doc Frank Lipman has to say about eating grass-fed vs CAFO-raised cows:

To save money, factory-farmed cows are fed corn (which is cheap and often genetically modified) instead of the grasses they’re meant to graze on. Corn makes the cows sick, so they’re given antibiotics. These meds also fatten the cows – so the system “works” from a business perspective. If you eat factory-farmed meat, you’re ingesting sick animals, plus loads of antibiotics. Buy only grass-fed meat, and whenever possible, get it at a local farmers’ market from small farms.

– Lipman & Claro, 2014





“Dairy products aside, when past and present meat consumption are factored in, there is three times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in meat eaters as opposed to vegetarians.”

– Broxmeyer, 2005






For more information on Alzheimer’s, see Alzheimer’s, Gut Bacteria & Music.
For more information on glyphosate and genetically engineered foods, see Moms to EPA: Recall Monsanto’s Roundup.




ALZFORUM. (11/23/2013). The Four Stages of TDP-43 Proteinopathy. See:

ALZFORUM. (1/24/2014). TDP-43 Routes Mapped in Alzheimer’s, Frontotemporal Dementia. See:

Anastasijevic, D. (2014). Why Some With Alzheimer’s Die Without Cognitive Impairment, While Others Do? Mayo Clinic. See:

Broxmeyer, L. (2005). Thinking the unthinkable: Alzheimer’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob and Mad Cow disease: the age-related reemergence of virulent, foodborne, bovine tuberculosis or losing your mind for the sake of a shake or burger. Medical Hypotheses, 64:4,699-705. See:

Center For Food Safety. (4/25/2012). Press Release: California Cows Unhappy About Mad Cow Disease. See:

Center for Food Safety. (2015). About Mad Cow Disease. See:

Hardin, J.R. (11/30/2014). Alzheimer’s, Gut Bacteria and Music. See:

Hardin, J.R. (5/30/2014). Moms to EPA: Recall Monsanto’s Roundup. See

Lipman, F. & Claro, D. (2014). The New Health Rules: Simple Changes to Achieve Whole-Body Wellness.

Mayo Clinic. (2014). TDP-43 and Alzheimer’s. Video. See:

Mercola, R. (2015). Might Alzheimer’s Disease Be “Foodborne”? See:

Nichols, H. (2014). What are the top 10 leading causes of death in the US? Medical News Today.  See:
Walker, L.C. & Jucker, M. (2015).  Prionlike Disease Processes May Underlie Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s: A chain reaction of toxic proteins may help explain major neurodegenerative diseases—and could suggest new treatment options. Scientific American, 24:1. See preview at:

© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Updated 4/5/2016.





I’ve wanted to write about Functional Medicine, as compared to what has evolved into the practice of Western Medicine, for a while and was spurred into action over the weekend by reading Dr Frank Lipman’s description of his Philosophy.



Frank Lipman, MD
Frank Lipman, MD
This is part of how Lipman describes his approach to the practice of medicine:

I believe in true health care

I believe that health is more than merely the absence of disease. It is a total state of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well-being. Western medicine is excellent for crisis care; for instance, when you break a bone, cannot breathe or are having a heart attack. But Western medicine is poor at preventing and treating chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis or auto-immune diseases. It offers no tools to get and keep you healthy. We have the knowledge now to go beyond the current crisis care model and incorporate lifestyle medicine, nutrition, supplements and exercise to improve the functioning of organs as a means of preventing disease and creating vibrant, sustainable health.

– Lipman (2010)




I Look For The Root Causes Of Disease Rather Than Suppress Symptoms

In conventional medicine, doctors are trained to suppress (or eliminate) symptoms. Although treating symptoms makes patients feel better temporarily, looking for the underlying cause is preferable. When you’re driving your car and the oil light goes on, you don’t put a Band-Aid over the oil light and drive on. You go to the mechanic to see why the oil light went on. Symptoms should be seen the same way. When there is an imbalance in the system, your body sends you signals. Looking for the root cause, treating the underlying disturbance, and restoring balance are more important than simply treating the symptoms. When a plant is sick or not doing well, you don’t paint it green; you look at the soil, sun, water and nutrients. This is exactly how I see the body, and the new Functional Medicine model looks at disease and dysfunction the same way.

– Lipman (2010)











This is how the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) describes the focus of Functional Medicine:

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Functional medicine practitioners spend time with their patients, listening to their histories and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease. In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual.

Institute for Functional Medicine (undated – A)



Illness-Wellness Continuum © 1972, 1981, 1988, 2004 by John W. Travis, MD. Reproduced with permission, from Wellness Workbook: How to achieve enduring health and vitality, 3rd edition, by John W. Travis and Regina Sara Ryan, Celestial Arts, 2004. Thanks, John W. Travis, MD, MPH "The currency of wellness is connection" Author, Wellness Workbook | and Wellness Inventory Adjunct Prof., California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA Adjunct Prof., Master of Wellness Program, RMIT University, Melbourne, AU
Illness-Wellness Continuum © 1972, 1981, 1988, 2004 by John W. Travis, MD. Reproduced with permission. From Wellness Workbook: How to achieve enduring health and vitality, 3rd edition, by John W. Travis and Regina Sara Ryan, Celestial Arts, 2004.



The IFM lists six guiding principles of Functional Medicine:
  • An understanding of the biochemical individuality of each human being, based on the concepts of genetic and environmental uniqueness
  • Awareness of the evidence that supports a patient-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to treatment
  • Search for a dynamic balance among the internal and external body, mind, and spirit
  • Familiarity with the web-like interconnections of internal physiological factors;
  • Identification of health as a positive vitality not merely the absence of disease emphasizing those factors that encourage the enhancement of a vigorous physiology
  • Promotion of organ reserve as the means to enhance the health span, not just the life span, of each patient

A patient-centered approach refers to health care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and that ensures that patient values guide all clinical decisions. At IFM, patient-centered care is at the center of what we call the therapeutic partnership, the relationship that forms between a patient and clinician that empowers the patient to take ownership of their own healing. The power of the therapeutic partnership comes from the idea that patients who are active participants in the development of their therapeutic plan feel more in control of their own well-being and are more likely to make sustained lifestyle changes to improve their health.

– Institute for Functional Medicine (undated – B)


(Source: New-You-Me)







Western Medicine (also sometimes called Conventional, Allopathic, or Traditional Medicine) is what most of us are exposed to and its offerings are what’s considered ‘customary and usual’ treatment by our health insurance (if we’re lucky enough to have that).
In the Western Medical approach, in the form it has evolved into today, health care practitioners focus on symptoms of ill health and offer pharmaceutical drugs and/or surgery to try to alleviate these symptoms. This approach has proved to cost a great deal and hasn’t been very successful at helping us stay healthy.





Western Medicine, with its many and ever-increasing specialties and sub-specialties, has unfortunately come to resemble this:




In 2013, the Association of American Medical Colleges listed 120 medical specialties and sub-specialties.




It’s well known that the cost of health care in the US is the highest in the world (for health insurance, doctors’ visits, procedures, hospital stays, and prescription medicines) while our quality of health and average life expectancy is no better than – or is worse than – our counterparts in other countries.  For more information on this, see More Proof That American Health Care Prices Are Sky-High. (Young, 2014)
Americans spend 2.5 times more on health care as people living in other developed countries. The graphic below compares the 2014 costs of health care procedures and tests, along with life expectancy, in the US to four other developed nations. (Lyons, 2014)



(Source: Health Care Intelligence Network, 2014)
(Source: Health Care Intelligence Network, 2014)
This graph compares health care costs in 13 countries in 2011, showing percentages paid by private citizens and the various governments. Note that the price of health in the US was not only much higher than in any of the other 12 countries but Americans also had to spend a great deal more out of pocket:




Our approach to health care apparently isn’t working so well.










The World Health Organization (WHO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, was founded in 1948 to address international public health. In the Preamble to its Constitution, adopted in 1946 and signed by 61 countries, it defined health as:

A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

This definition has not been amended since 1948. (WHO, 2003)




Functional Medicine’s approach is clearly in alignment with WHO’s long term mission – while Western Medicine has taken an unfortunate turn away from being  concerned with health to focus instead on trying to eliminate symptoms.









Association of American Medical Colleges. (2013). Careers in Medicine. See:

Institute for Functional Medicine. (undated – A). What is Functional Medicine. See:

Institute for Functional Medicine. (undated -B). CORE PRINCIPLES OF FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE. See:

Lipman, F. (2010). Philosophy. See:

Lyons, J. (2014). Infographic: Healthcare Spending in America. Healthcare Intelligence Network. See:

World Health Organization. (2003). WHO Definition of Health. See:

Young, J. (2014). More Proof That American Health Care Prices Are Sky-High. Huff Post – Business.  See:




© Copyright 2015 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.