By Dr. Mercola

Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), an amino acid, is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in your central nervous system (CNS). That is, your body uses GABA to dampen nerve activity in your brain, which leads to feelings of calm and relaxation.

Many anti-anxiety medications and sleeping pills, including alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium), work by increasing the amount of GABA in your brain. Some natural sedative herbs, such as valerian, also work by increasing GABA.1

In the U.S., millions of Americans struggle to fall asleep each night, including about 10 percent who suffer from chronic insomnia. This latter condition involves difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, as well as waking up too early in the morning.

It’s thought that maintaining optimal GABA levels may be imperative for restful sleep and avoiding insomnia.

GABA Is Essential for Deep Sleep

In a healthy night’s sleep, you should progress through the following sleep stages (though not necessarily in this order):2

  • Stage One, when you’re preparing to drift off
  • Stage Two, during which your brainwave activity becomes rapid and rhythmic while your body temperature drops and heart rate slows
  • Stage Three, when deep slow brain waves emerge (this is a transition from light sleep to deep sleep)
  • Stage Four, also known as delta sleep, this is a deep sleep stage
  • Stage Five, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is when most dreaming occurs

Stages three and four, including slow-wave sleep (also known as deep sleep), are incredibly important. Slow-wave sleep is a sleep stage associated with reduced levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) and reduced inflammation.

Deep sleep plays a very special role in strengthening immunological memories of previously encountered pathogens in a way similar to psychological long-term memory retention.3

This means when you’re well rested with sufficient deep sleep, your immune system is able to mount a much faster and more effective response when an antigen is encountered a second time. The activation of GABA receptors (specifically GABA-A receptor) is known to favor sleep.

On the other hand, low levels of GABA are known to interfere with deep sleep,4 such that people with low levels may wake easily and often throughout the night, missing out on meaningful amounts of this crucial slow-wave sleep.

Insomniacs May Have Lower Levels of GABA

One reason why people with insomnia struggle to fall asleep may be low GABA levels. Research published in the journal Sleep found average brain GABA levels were nearly 30 percent lower in people with primary insomnia compared to controls.5

People with lower levels of GABA were also more likely to wake after falling asleep. According to the researchers, “Our study provides the first evidence of a neurochemical difference in the brains of those with PI [primary insomnia] compared to normal sleeping controls.”6

Other research has also shown favorable results using GABA supplementation. In one study, an amino acid preparation containing both GABA and 5-HTP, which your body produces from the amino acid tryptophan, reduced time to fall asleep, increased the duration of sleep and improved sleep quality.7

Another study, this one published in 2016, also found sleep-promoting benefits from a combination of GABA and 5-HTP, including improving the time to fall asleep, sleep duration and sleep quality.8

The chemical 5-HTP works in your brain and central nervous system by promoting the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, and thereby may help boost mood and enhance sleep. It seems to work in harmony with GABA.

Natural GABA Improves Sleep

There are different types of GABA in supplement form, including a synthetic variety produced from the industrial solvent pyrrolidinone and other chemicals and a natural form made via fermentation with Lactobacillus hilgardi, a beneficial bacteria also used to make the traditional Korean vegetable dish kimchi.

Recent research showed the natural GABA had various sleep-improving effects. The researchers measured brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG) after participants took 100 milligrams (mg) of natural GABA or placebo.

Those who took GABA fell asleep faster and had longer quality sleep time. They also reported feeling more energized in the morning.9

A 2015 study also found GABA produced by fermentation shortened the time it took to fall asleep and also increased non-REM sleep time by 5 percent when taken in combination with Apocynum venetum leaf extract (AVLE).10

Can You Increase Your GABA Levels Via Your Diet?

While foods don’t contain GABA, many do contain glutamate/glutamic acid. Your body produces GABA from glutamate, so eating foods rich in this substance may help to optimize your GABA levels.

Foods naturally high in glutamate/glutamic acid include protein-rich, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs and poultry, raw grass-fed cheese and wild-caught fish, along with sea vegetables, ripe tomatoes and mushrooms.

In addition, foods like fermented vegetables and kefir are rich in beneficial bacteria that have a marked impact on your GABA levels.

For instance, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to have a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.11

A deficiency in vitamin B6 can lead to diminished GABA synthesis,12 so be sure your diet includes B6-rich foods such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, organic grass-fed beef and pastured chicken and chickpeas.

Drinking green tea is another option, as it contains L-theanine, an amino acid that crosses your blood-brain barrier and has psychoactive properties.

Theanine increases levels of GABA (along with serotonin, dopamine and alpha brainwave activity) and may reduce mental and physical stress and produce feelings of relaxation.13 Oolong tea is also known for its ability to increase GABA.

Beyond diet, exercise is also important. Regular exercise is one of the best cures for insomnia, and one reason why this may be is because it increases GABA. In one study, when animals exercised their brains contained new neurons designed to release GABA.14

Try This First for Better Sleep Starting Tonight

If you need more sleep, GABA is only one component that should be addressed. Overall, I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for details on proper sleep hygiene, but to start, consider implementing the following changes.

If you’ve tried these steps and are still having trouble sleeping, you may want to consider natural GABA (as well as melatonin or 5-HTP).

Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime.

Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. Even the American Medical Association (AMA) now states:15

“… [N]ighttime electric light can disrupt circadian rhythms in humans and documents the rapidly advancing understanding from basic science of how disruption of circadian rhythmicity affects aspects of physiology with direct links to human health, such as cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, and metabolism.”

Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.

Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. The slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether.

Move all electrical devices at least 3 feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades. If this isn’t possible, wear an eye mask.

Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.

You can also download a free application called F.lux that automatically dims your monitor or screens16 or use blue-light-blocking glasses.

Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.

Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.

Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.

Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.

Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. Ideally, you should turn off any wireless router while you are sleeping. You don’t need the Internet on when you are asleep.



Sources:


Related Articles:

  America's Most Sleep-Deprived Cities

  Athletes Take Note: Sleeping More Can Give You a Competitive Edge

  Do You Suffer Widespread Pain? It May Be Time to Address Your Sleep

 Comments (25)

By Dr. Mercola

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million Americans suffer with Alzheimer’s disease and 1 of every 3 seniors dies with some form of dementia.1 Families may spend over $5,000 each year caring for a loved one, and it costs the U.S. $216 billion a year for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

However, feeding your brain the right food isn’t just about preventing a disease in the future. Giving your brain the fuel it needs to function optimally may also improve your current cognitive function and creativity, making you more productive at work and at home.

Your brain needs the right fuel to nourish neurons, boost production of neurotransmitters and protect against damage and degeneration.

Unfortunately, some popular nutritional fads may have placed you at greater risk for damage to your neurons, without the additional heart health benefits and proponents of these dietary changes promised.

You may make a significant difference in your overall health and reduce your risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease when you purposefully include the foods your brain needs to function and detoxify.

Fuel Important to Your Brain

There are two types of fuel your body and brain can use to convert into energy. Either metabolized carbohydrates or fats may supply your brain and body with the energy it requires to survive.

Although your brain can use both, there is evidence to suggest that the metabolic product of fats, or ketones, will help restore and renew neurons, even after damage has started.

A primary source of these ketones are medium chain triglycerides (MCT). These triglycerides are not processed by the body in the same way as long-chain triglycerides. Usually, a fat is mixed with bile from your gallbladder before it is broken down in your intestines.

MCTs are digested like carbohydrates, entering your bloodstream more quickly but without the release of insulin associated with carbohydrates. Besides MCT oil, which is my preference, coconut oil has the highest percentage of MCTs, followed by palm oil and grass-fed, organic dairy products.

While ketones from the breakdown of MCT may provide an excellent fuel for your brain, some areas of your brain require glucose for fuel. Fortunately, your body can turn amino acids, the building blocks of protein, into glucose through a process called gluconeogenesis.2 

Your liver can also create glucose from glycerol found in stored triglycerides.3 In this way the part of your brain that requires glucose receives a steady supply, even when your carbohydrate intake is low.

Fats and proteins are essential to your survival but your body could happily do without non-fiber carbohydrates. The only carbs you really need are fresh vegetables, which are a great source of gut- and health-promoting fiber.

Low Fat Fad May Have Contributed to a Dramatic Rise in Dementia

There have been few formal studies evaluating the efficacy of ketones on the prevention or treatment of Alzheimer’s. Since the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s becomes resistant to insulin and is unable to use glucose for energy, some scientists are calling the disease type 3 diabetes.4

Nutritional ketosis has had modest beneficial effects on cognitive outcomes in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.5

Researchers have found a shared mechanism of pathogenesis between people suffering from metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer’s.6 Individuals with metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and the reverse is also true.7  

Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s also share a characteristic trait of those with epilepsy, as their brains are more electrically excitable, leading to seizure activity.8

Emerging evidence reveals a co-morbidity with epilepsy — so much so, in fact, that researchers recommend more clinical investigation to improve early recognition when you suffer a seizure.

During one study, researchers found individuals with Alzheimer’s who were treated with an MCT supplement for 90 days experienced significant improvement in their cognitive function compared to those in the control group.9 One theory of how ketones are effective for brain fuel is how they affect reactive oxygen species (ROS).

A byproduct of cellular metabolism, ROS has a single electron. This makes them highly reactive and a contributor to aging, neurodegeneration and stroke. The theory is that ketones are able to reduce the number of ROS and the resulting inflammation in your brain, thus reducing the damage to your neurons.10,11

By reducing the number of healthy fats you eat, low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets can essentially starve your brain cells, prevent effective detoxification and diminish the structural components necessary for cognition, memory and learning.

Reduce Oxidative Stress With Blueberries

While ketones provide your brain cells with effective fuel and are neuroprotective, they aren’t the only nutrient that may help reduce ROS in your brain.

At the 251st Meeting and Exhibition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), research was presented that supported the use of blueberries in the prevention and potential treatment of cognitive deficits associated with Alzheimer’s.12

Two studies were performed following earlier clinical trials. In the first, researchers compared freeze-dried blueberry powder to a placebo. In the second, they compared blueberry powder, fish oil and a placebo.

Participants in the first study had measurable cognitive decline. However, those in the second study only felt they were experiencing cognitive issues.

In both studies, those taking the blueberry powder demonstrated improvements over those taking the placebo. In the second study, the participants taking the fish oil also experienced improvement. According to Robert Krikorian, Ph.D., lead author of the studies:13

"The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts."

The team also performed functional magnetic resonance imaging studies that demonstrated increased brain activity in the participants who took the blueberry powder. The strong antioxidant qualities of blueberries are just one of the reasons these little berries have been labeled a “superfood.”

Blueberries may reduce your potential from developing dementia as the antioxidants collect in greater concentration in areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning.14,15 

Human studies have had promising results suggesting blueberry supplementation may improve neurocognitive function, with lower symptoms of depression and better glucose control.16

More Benefits From Healthy Fats and Blueberries

In this 15-minute video I show you the healthy high-fat meal I eat for breakfast each morning. Rich in coconut oil and antioxidants, this prepares my body and brain for the day ahead.

While feeding your brain a healthy diet does provide protection against neurodegeneration and ROS, the clinical results you may experience encompass more than improvements in cognitive functioning or potential prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, functional benefits of nutritional interventions such as nutritional ketosis and blueberries include:

Improved Symptoms in Neurodegenerative Conditions

A pilot study using participants suffering from Parkinson’s disease found improvements in motor functioning after 28 days on a ketogenic diet.17 In another study, participants with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) experienced delayed motor neuron death and functional improvements, but did not extend their lifespan.18

Improved Memory

Nutritional ketosis improved the memory of participants who had mild cognitive impairment.19 Blueberry supplementation also improved the memory of older adults.20

Reduced Frequency and Intensity of Migraine Headaches

Low net carbohydrate or ketogenic diets had an influence on migraine headaches. One study demonstrated a reduction in frequency and in medication usage in the 52 participants in the experimental group, while there was no reduction in the group using a low calorie diet.21

Recovery After Severe Traumatic Brain Injury

Glucose can hinder the repair and recovery of neurons following a traumatic brain injury. In this study, researchers were able to severely reduce or eliminate carbohydrates from the diets of patients using a ketogenic diet and thus controlled blood glucose concentrations.22

Protection Against Aging and DNA Damage

High levels of antioxidants in blueberries may help reduce free radical damage, important in the development of diseases such as cancer. One study demonstrated a reduction in damage by 20 percent.23

Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Blueberries have demonstrated a unique ability to help control your blood glucose levels and improve your insulin sensitivity, both important in the protection of your neurons and in preventing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.24,25 In a study of obese participants with insulin resistance, drinking a blueberry smoothie demonstrated marked improvement in insulin sensitivity.26

Foods to Feed Your Brain and Improve Your Cognitive Function

The food you eat feeds your brain and significantly impacts your ability to think, learn and remember. Here are some of my favorite foods that not only are important to your brain but also to the rest of your body.27

Avocados

These little powerhouses are filled with healthy fat, energy and flavor. The nutrients in avocados are important to your brain and skin, and help stabilize your blood sugar. They are part of my diet every day.

Blueberries

High in antioxidants, they protect your brain from neurodegeneration. They are packed with flavor and vitamins. Balance the natural sugars in blueberries by increasing your fiber intake to reduce your net carbs (grams of carbohydrates minus grams of fiber equals net carbs).

Broccoli

High levels of vitamin K and choline in broccoli help protect your brain. Add florets raw to your salad, or steam your broccoli spears for a maximum of three to four minutes to optimize the sulforaphane content.

Celery

While extremely low in calories, celery is high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Clean a bunch and place in a bowl of clean, fresh water in your fridge to make them last for well over a week.

Bone Broth

Excellent to heal your gut and reduce your symptoms of leaky gut. This in turn protects your brain from the increased inflammatory process that results from bacteria and food leaking into your bloodstream.

Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil

Not all olive oil is created equally, and fraud is commonplace when it comes to olive oil. Look for third-party validated extra-virgin, cold pressed oils to boost your intake of polyphenols. These powerful antioxidants may improve your learning and memory as well as help to reverse the signs of aging and neuron damage in your brain. Olive oil degrades rapidly at high heat, so add the oil to your salads or vegetables after cooking.

Walnuts

These little gems are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. A handful each day may help improve your cognitive skills. Eat walnuts as a snack in the afternoon or as an addition to your salad.

Turmeric

This ancient root is one of the most powerful nutrients found in nature. Turmeric is one of the spices that gives curry a distinctive flavor and the chemical curcumin in turmeric has anti-oxidant effects on your body.

Rosemary

Carnosic acid found in rosemary protects your brain against free radical damage that triggers neurodegenerative changes. Add the herb to your favorite chicken recipe or spice up your salad with a few sprigs.

Organic, Pastured Egg Yolks

What was once heralded as the reason behind heart disease, now has been vindicated. Research demonstrates egg yolks not only aren’t bad for your health but actually are high in choline, necessary for fetal brain development.

Coconut

This MCT is one of the foundational foods you may use to feed your brain, reduce inflammation and prevent memory loss. It does wonders for your skin and is a natural antibacterial as well.

Beets

These are one of the most nutritious root vegetables you can include in your diet. Forget the beets from your childhood. Today beets may be incorporated into mustards and salads or combined into a very tasty beet, goat cheese and walnut tart. They are high in antioxidants and the natural nitrates boost blood supply to your brain and improve performance.





Related Articles:

  Brain Food: How to Eat Smart

  Coconut Oil: Four Tablespoons of This ‘Brain Food’ May Prevent Alzheimer's

  Alzheimer's Disease May Result From Past Brain Infections

 Comments (21)

By Dr. Mercola

According to research1 published in 2015, anxiety (characterized by constant and overwhelming worry and fear) is becoming increasingly prevalent in the U.S., now eclipsing all forms of cancer by 800 percent.

Data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggests the prevalence of anxiety disorders in the U.S. — which include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and panic disorder — may be as high as 40 million, or about 18 percent of the population over the age of 18, making it the most common mental illness in the nation.2,3

According to research by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State, anxiety has also surpassed depression as the most commonly diagnosed mental health problem among college students, with more than 50 percent of students visiting campus clinics reporting anxiety.4

Novel Treatments Aimed at Anxiety-Ridden Students Prove Successful

Fortunately, there are many treatment options available, and some of the most effective treatments are also among the safest and least expensive, and don't involve drugs.

For example, many colleges are tackling the problem with high-tech solutions. University of Central Florida (UCF) is testing a new online app5 called Tao Connect for treating anxiety. It includes a seven-module cognitive behavioral program, and allows the student to conduct videoconferences with a therapist.

The program, developed with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), claims it can offer "effective treatment with one-third the counselor time and half the overall cost of traditional face-to-face individual treatment."

Dietary interventions to correct nutritional deficiencies and/or poor gut health can also be part of the answer, along with strategies to subdue stress, such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and breathing exercises.

Too bad the UCF program didn't incorporate highly effecting tapping like EFT, which is typically far more effective than sessions with conventional therapists.

What Causes Anxiety?

The widespread prevalence of anxiety garnered headlines when popular actress Kristen Stewart confessed to severe anxiety and panic attacks following her rapid rise to stardom following the hit "Twilight" series.6

While genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events play a role in the development of anxiety disorders, stress is a common trigger. Public scrutiny is certainly cause for heightened stress, but just about any type of stress can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks.

Anxiety is a normal response to stress, but in some people the anxiety becomes overwhelming and difficult to cope with, to the point that it affects their day-to-day living. The brain is also actively involved. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains:7

"Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety … scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.

The amygdala … is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.

The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories."

A number of other situations and underlying issues can also contribute to the problem. This includes but is not limited to the following, and addressing these issues may be what's needed to resolve your anxiety disorder. For more information about each, please follow the hyperlinks:

Exposure to cell phones, and nonnative electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radiofrequencies (RF)

Food additives, food dyes, GMOs and glyphosate.

Food dyes of particular concern include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and the preservative sodium benzoate

Gut dysfunction caused by imbalanced microflora

Lack of magnesium, vitamin D8 and/or animal-based omega-3.

(Research has shown a 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3s9)

Use of artificial sweeteners

Excessive consumption of sugar and junk food

Improper breathing

Exposure to toxic mold

Understanding Panic Attacks

A panic attack can be terribly frightening, whether you're used to it or not. An attack typically comes on abruptly, producing intense fear and a sense of impending doom or even death that is typically severely disproportionate to the situation at hand.

Hyperventilation, heart palpitations, trembling, sweating, hot or cold flashes, nausea, dizziness or light-headedness, numbness and/or tingling sensations are all common physical symptoms. Panic attacks tend to peak within 10 minutes, and most subside within 30 minutes.

Few last more than one hour. It's not uncommon for people to seek medical help, thinking they're having a heart attack or are dying, when panic attacks first set in and they're unfamiliar with the symptoms.10

Familiarizing yourself with panic disorders and the function of your fight-or-flight response can be helpful to guide you toward self-help strategies that work for your unique situation.

For example, contrary to popular belief, taking deep breaths can actually make matters worse, as explained by Patrick McKeown, a leading Buteyko Breathing expert.

Breathing Exercise to Quell Panic Attacks and Anxiety

A breathing exercise that can help quell anxiety and panic attacks is summarized below. This sequence helps retain and gently accumulate CO2, leading to calmer breathing and reduced anxiety. In other words, the urge to breathe will decline as you go into a more relaxed state.

  • Take a small breath into your nose, a small breath out; hold your nose for five seconds in order to hold your breath, and then release to resume breathing.
  • Breathe normally for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat the sequence several more times: small breath in through your nose, small breath out; hold your breath for five seconds, then let go and breathe normally for 10 seconds.

McKeown has also written a book specifically aimed at the treatment of anxiety through optimal breathing, called "Anxiety Free: Stop Worrying and Quieten Your Mind — Featuring the Buteyko Breathing Method and Mindfulness," which can be found on Amazon.com.11

In addition to the book, ButeykoClinic.com also offers a one-hour online course and an audio version of the book, along with several free chapters12 and accompanying videos.13

Other Ways to Improve Your Coping Skills

In the featured video above, Marie Jacquemin of Soul Pancake illustrates what it's like to be in the midst of a panic attack. As a person suffering with anxiety disorder, she offers the following suggestions for tempering your anxiety when it strikes:14

  • Go for a brisk walk outside, rather than pacing indoors.
  • Listen to nature sound or calming music
  • Exercise, which helps drain excess energy from your fight-or-flight reflex. Indeed, some psychologists swear by exercise as a primary form of treatment for anxiety and other mood disorders. Exercise leads to the creation of new neurons, including those that release the calming neurotransmitter GABA, while boosting levels of potent brain chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress.
  • Call someone you trust, and "talk it out" until you feel more centered.

EFT — A Long-Term Solution to Anxiety That Can Produce Rapid Results

It's estimated that only one-third of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment,15 which is highly recommended if you're struggling with anxiety. That said, keep in mind that "treatment" doesn't necessarily mean drugs. Energy psychology techniques such as EFT can be very effective by helping you to actually reprogram your body's reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life.

This includes both realand imagined stressors, which can be significant sources of anxiety. EFT was developed in the 1990s by Gary Craig, a Stanford engineer specializing in healing and self-improvement. It's akin to acupuncture, which is based on the concept that a vital energy flows through your body along invisible pathways known as meridians. EFT stimulates different energy meridian points in your body by tapping them with your fingertips, while simultaneously using custom-made verbal affirmations.

This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist. By doing so, you reprogram the way your body responds to emotional stressors. Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including anxiety.

Following the publication of a 2012 review16,17 in the American Psychological Association's journal Review of General Psychology — which assessed 18 randomized controlled trials showing strong benefits — and a landmark study18 on EFT for war veterans suffering from traumatic stress in 2013, EFT is moving closer to meeting the criteria for an "evidence-based treatment."

EFT Is Particularly Well Suited for the Treatment of Anxiety

EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.19,20 If you recall NIMH's explanation about how your amygdala and hippocampus are involved in anxiety disorders, you can see why tapping is such a powerful tool. EFT has also been scientifically shown to lower cortisol levels,21 which are elevated when you're stressed or anxious.

In the video above, EFT therapist Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for panic attacks and anxiety relief. Please keep in mind that while anyone can learn to do EFT at home, self-treatment for serious issues like persistent anxiety is not recommended. For serious or complex issues, you need someone to guide you through the process. That said, the more you tap, the more skilled you'll become.

Just recognize that if you have a serious anxiety issue and don't receive any benefit from self-therapy, that it doesn't mean that EFT is useless. It means you need to seek an expert professional consultation that can customize the approach for your specific setting.

It takes many years of training to develop the skills to become an effective therapist, so if one doesn't work, seek out another, as it is without a doubt the most effective clinical strategy I have ever used for anxiety, and certainly better than any pharmaceutical drug option.

Why Anti-Anxiety Drugs Are Best Left as a Last Resort

The conventional treatment for most anxiety disorders typically involves some kind of prescription drug. What's worse, many times, that's the extent of the treatment options offered. This is why it's so important to educate yourself about the potential sources of your disorder, and investigate your options.

Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, or "benzos," which include Ativan, Xanax and Valium, are a poor solution and come with many potentially serious risks, including memory loss, hip fractures and addiction. Up to 43 percent of older adults use benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia, often chronically, even though their long-term effectiveness and safety remain unproven.

People who take these drugs are nearly four times more likely to die prematurely than people who don't, and also have a 35 percent greater risk of cancer. There is also evidence that benzodiazepine use by older adults results in a 50 percent higher risk for dementia.

Overdose Deaths From Anxiety Drugs Are on the Rise

Prescriptions for benzos tripled from 1996 to 2013, but this doesn't fully account for the uptick in overdoses from these drugs, which quadrupledduring that time period.22 The authors speculate that people may be using benzodiazepines in riskier ways, such as taking higher doses or taking them for longer periods of time, both of which increase your risk of overdosing.

Benzodiazepines exert a calming effect by boosting the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), in the same way as opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis). This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in your brain. Taking anti-anxiety medications over time can result in addiction or physical dependence, and getting off of them can be a major challenge.

"Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome" is characterized by panic, insomnia, sweating, vomiting, seizures, muscular pain and a plethora of other symptoms that can persist for up to two weeks.23 In the video above, people across the globe shared their stories about how benzodiazepine drugs, taken as prescribed, led to serious side effects and harm.

Remember, You Have Options

Considering the risks, I would urge you to look at drugs as a last resort rather than a first-line of treatment. Far safer strategies to explore include exercise, EFT, breathing exercises, optimizing your gut flora and correcting any nutritional imbalances, such as lack of magnesium, vitamin D or animal-based omega-3. You can also try acupuncture,24 which like EFT bridges the gap between your mind and body.

Also lower your sugar and processed food intake, be sure to get plenty of restorative sleep, and be mindful of your exposure to EMFs and use of wireless technologies. At bare minimum, avoid keeping any of these gadgets next to you while sleeping. Also evaluate whether you might be exposed to toxins. A common symptom of toxic mold exposure is anxiety, so ask yourself if there's any kind of pattern; do your symptoms improve when you spend time away from your home or office, for example?

You can also try out cognitive behavioral programs. A number of universities now offer Tao Connect25 to their students, but even if you're not a student, there are free online programs available that you can use. Some examples include MoodGYM,26 e-couch,27 Learn to Live28 and CBT Online.29 Anxiety and panic attacks can significantly reduce your quality of life, so it's well worth it to keep going until you find a lasting solution.





Related Articles:

  Don't Ignore These 10 Things If You Struggle With Anxiety

  Social Anxiety Disorder Linked to High Serotonin Levels, Throwing Treatment with SSRIs Into Serious Question

  Use Three Little Words to Reduce Your Anxiety

 Comments (88)

By Dr. Mercola

For years, we've been warned about the dangers of eating too much fat or salt, but health authorities and media have been relatively silent about sugar, despite rising obesity rates and failing health in just about every area that has adopted a Western processed food diet.

The sad truth is, there's copious amounts of research, spanning many decades, showing that excess sugar damages your health in many ways, yet the sugar industry managed to bury the evidence and cover it up with faux science that supports its own claims, which is that sugar has little or nothing to do with weight gain and ill health.

To this day, they want you to continue believing the outdated myth that saturated fat is to blame instead of sugar, and the calories-in, calories-out myth. Fortunately, the truth is finally starting to see the light of day, and many brave souls have stepped up to the plate to expose and dismantle the orchestrated deception.

Sugar Deceptions Exposed

One of them is science journalist and author Gary Taubes, who in 2012 partnered with Dr. Cristin Kearns, a dentist and fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, to write "Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies." In their exposé, featured in Mother Jones, they wrote:1

"For 40 years, the sugar industry's priority has been to shed doubt on studies suggesting its product makes people sick. On federal panels, industry-funded scientists cited industry-funded studies to dismiss sugar as a culprit."

His latest book, which will be released this fall, is "The Case Against Sugar." I have read this book and will be interviewing Taubes shortly. If you ever had any doubt about how corrupted and influential the sugar industry is, then you simply must read this book.

Taubes delves into the systematic cover-up of science showing sugar indeed causes disease, and is the most likely culprit in our current health crises of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Gary's book goes into far more detail than this or the featured New York Times article. 2

Dozens of scientists at three American universities have also banded together to create an educational website called SugarScience.org,3 aimed at making independent sugar research available to the public.

Kearns — interviewed by NPR above — is also making headlines with a new paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine,4 which details the sugar industry's influence on dietary recommendations.5,6,7,8,9,10

Historical Analysis Shows Sugar Industry Manipulated Nutritional Science

Kearns' historical analysis provides substantial proof that the sugar industry has spent decades manipulating, molding and guiding nutritional research to exonerate sugar and shift the blame to saturated fat instead. As reported by The New York Times:11

"The documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today's dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease.

The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article,12 which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine [NEJM], minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.

Even though the influence-peddling revealed in the documents dates back nearly 50 years, more recent reports show that the food industry has continued to influence nutrition science."

Obnoxious Research That Should Raise Your Suspicions

Some of the studies giving sugar a free pass has industry fingerprints clearly visible all over it. For example, one recent paper13 came to the unbelievable and highly unlikely conclusion that eating candy may help prevent weight gain, as children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who don't.

The source of the funding reveals the basis for such a bizarre conclusion: The National Confectioners Association (NCA), which represents candy makers like Butterfingers, Hershey and Skittles.

Last year, Coca-Cola Co. was exposed funneling millions of dollars to an anti-obesity front group, paid to downplay the links between soda and obesity14 — a link that has been firmly established by many previous studies.

Evidence has also emerged showing how the sugar industry influenced the scientific agenda of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, which back in 1971 created a national caries program — again downplaying any links between sugar consumption and dental caries.15

The role of sugar in the diet of diabetics is even downplayed, despite its obvious risks. As noted by Kearns in the NPR interview above, diabetic literature often doesn't even mention the need for restricting sugar.

Tragically, while type 2 diabetes can be successfully reversed with a proper low-sugar diet, the focus is placed on simply managing the condition through the use of insulin instead — a strategy that typically makes the condition worse.

Diabetics are also urged to use artificial sweeteners, even though studies have clearly shown that artificial sweeteners promote weight gain and worsen insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi-backed research, on the other hand, came to the disturbing and highly irresponsible conclusion that drinking diet soda was more helpful for weight loss than pure water.16

US Dietary Guidelines Were Tainted From the Start

According to Kearns' historical analysis, one of the Harvard scientists paid to produce research for the sugar industry back in 1967 was Mark Hegsted, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher who passed away in 2009.

In 1977, while heading up the nutrition department at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hegsted helped draft an early document that eventually became the U.S. dietary guidelines.

In the decades since, U.S. health officials have urged Americans to adopt a low-fat diet to prevent heart disease, and as a result, people switched to processed low-fat, high-sugar foods instead.

This, it turns out, is the REAL recipe for heart disease, yet by taking control of and shaping the scientific discussion, the sugar and processed food industries managed to keep these facts under wraps all these years. The end result is clearly visible in the health statistics of today.

In an accompanying editorial,17 Marion Nestle, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, writes:

"From a deep dive into archival documents from the 1950s and 1960s, they have produced compelling evidence that a sugar trade association not only paid for but also initiated and influenced research expressly to exonerate sugar as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD)."

Shaping Public Opinion Through Research and Legislative Programs

The records, which number around 1,500, include hundreds of pages of letters and correspondence between scientists, nutritionists and sugar executives. The documents were found in the archives of now-defunct sugar companies, as well as in the library records of deceased university researchers who played key roles in the industry's strategy.

The records reveal that as far back as 1964 — a time when researchers had begun suspecting a relationship between high-sugar diets and heart disease — John Hickson, a sugar industry executive, introduced a plan for how the sugar industry could influence public opinion "through our research and information and legislative programs."

As reported in the featured article:18 "Hickson proposed countering the alarming findings on sugar with industry-funded research. 'Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors,' he wrote."

This idea is what led to the hiring of Hegsted and two other Harvard scientists to review and debunk the studies linking sugary diets with heart disease. "I think it's appalling," Nestle told The New York Times.19 "You just never see examples that are this blatant."

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, also noted that the documents are a potent reminder of "why research should be supported by public funding rather than depending on industry funding." Unfortunately, it will take a lot to make such a shift. Even clamping down on conflicts of interest is turning out to be difficult. As Nestle told Bloomberg:20

"I, for example, have been told repeatedly that since I wrote 'Food Politics,' I am ineligible to serve on federal advisory committees because I am too biased. What this tells me is that people who on principle refuse to take food industry funding are excluded from the candidate pool. But people who do take industry funding are considered acceptable as long as they disclose their financial ties appropriately which, unfortunately, many do not."

Sugar Industry Responds

Meanwhile, the Sugar Association remains steadfast in its course, responding to Kearns' paper by saying:21 "We question this author's continued attempts to reframe historical occurrences to conveniently align with the currently trending anti-sugar narrative, particularly when the last several decades of research have concluded that sugar does not have a unique role in heart disease."

It's interesting to note that the sugar industry's primary defense is to lean on a "scientific foundation" of research tainted by their own conclusions! Take their response to British nutritionist John Yudkin's work for example. In 1972, Yudkin published the book, "Pure White and Deadly," in which he presented decades of research pointing at dietary sugar — rather than fat — as the underlying factor in obesity and diabetes.

In response, the Sugar Association secretly funded a white paper called "Sugar in the Diet of Man," which claimed sugar was not only safe and healthy, but an important "energy" food. "Scientists Dispel Sugar Fears," reads the headline of the Sugar Association's press release.22 And, while they funded the paper in question, they made it appear to be an independent study.

The Sugar Association's biggest apologist was Ancel Keys, Ph.D., who, with industry funding, helped destroy Yudkin's reputation by discrediting him and labeling him a quack. The smear campaign was a huge success, bringing sugar research to a screeching halt. Like the tobacco and chemical industries, those who profit from sugar have become very adept at crushing dissenting voices, including those in the halls of science.

By silencing sugar critics, the sugar industry was able to continue the promotion of saturated fat as the dietary villain, despite its lack of scientific support. The 21st century brought super-sized sodas along with super-sized health problems, and the food industry continues to look the other way — hoping you won't catch on to the truth.

Just as Big Tobacco angled to place the blame for cancer elsewhere, Big Sugar has scrambled for cover, borrowing Big Tobacco tactics such as undermining science, intimidating scientists and subverting public health policy.

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

According to a 2014 study,23 more than 7 out of 10 American adults get at least 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar; 1 in 10 get 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugars. It also found that:

  • People who consumed 21 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who got 7 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar
  • The risk nearly tripled among those who got 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar

More recent research shows that high-sugar diets are also a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease in children — and pose a significant risk even far below current levels of consumption. As noted in the latest scientific statement on children's sugar consumption from the American Heart Association (AHA):24

"Strong evidence supports the association of added sugars with increased cardiovascular disease risk in children through increased energy intake, increased adiposity, and dyslipidemia … [I]t is reasonable to recommend that children consume ≤25 g[rams] (100 cal[ories] or ≈ 6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day and to avoid added sugars for children <2 years of age."

According to the AHA, kids eat on average 19 teaspoons of added sugar a day — about three times more than recommended, and the evidence clearly indicates that this dietary trend goes hand-in-hand with our current epidemics of obesity and chronic disease. A single can of soda or fruit punch can contain about 40 grams of sugar, making sweetened drinks particularly risky for young children.

Breakfast cereals, cereal bars, bagels and pastries also tend to contain high amounts of added sugars. For the longest time, there was no real cutoff recommendation for sugar, aside from recommendations to eat sugar "in moderation" — something that is virtually impossible to do if you're eating processed foods. Thankfully, this is finally changing. The AHA now recommends limiting daily addedsugar intake to:25,26,27,28,29,30,31

  • 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men
  • 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women
  • 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for toddlers and teens between the ages of 2 and 18
  • Zero added sugars for kids under the age of 2

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has also issued sugar recommendations, suggesting kids between the ages of 4 and 8 limit their added sugar to a maximum of 3 teaspoons a day (12 grams), and children age 9 and older stay below 8 teaspoons. While I agree with the 25 gram max as a general recommendation for healthy people, in my view, virtually everyone would benefit from the under age 2 recommendation.

Tips for Reducing Your Added Sugar Intake

One of the easiest and most rapid ways to dramatically cut down on your added sugar and fructose consumption is to simply eat real food, as most of the added sugar you end up with comes from processed foods. Other ways to cut down on the sugar in your diet includes:

  • Cutting down, with the aim of eliminating, sugar you personally add to your food and drink or consume in the form of processed foods and sweetened beverages
  • Using Stevia or Luo Han instead of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. You can learn more about the best and worst of sugar substitutes in my previous article, "Sugar Substitutes — What's Safe and What's Not"
  • Using fresh fruit in lieu of canned fruit or sugar for meals or recipes calling for a bit of sweetness
  • Using spices instead of sugar to add flavor to your meal




Related Articles:

  Documentary Exposes How Sugar and Our Food System Fuels Obesity

  The Truth About Sugar

  Sugar Industry Has Subverted Public Health Policy for Decades, Study Finds

 Comments (136)

By Dr. Mercola

If you are like most Americans, you spend up to 90 percent of your day indoors. Whether you’re at home, in the car or at work, your hours are spent breathing indoor air.

Since your very life depends upon the air you breathe, it is vital you understand the risks associated with your indoor air quality and how to reduce the chemicals in your environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states the levels of indoor air pollution may be between two and five times higher inside your home or work than they are outside.1 Some indoor pollutants can be as much as 100 times more concentrated than outdoor levels.

The differences are related to the type of pollutants, the relative lack of air exchange in newer homes and the chemicals you may introduce to your home in your furniture, personal care, home and cleaning products. According to the EPA, poor air quality is one of the top public health risks today.2

While these factors are important to your health, dust plays another important role in your air quality. Recent research has identified chemical pollutants residing in the dust floating in the air and in the dust bunnies under your furniture.

Dust Is More Than Dirt

Dust is anything that breaks down into small enough particles that it can be moved by air currents outside or in your home. The dust in your home is actually a combination of dust and dirt from outside, combined with skin cells, pet dander and a number of other particles that vary from home to home.

Tiny fibers from your clothing, lint that flakes from your carpet and furniture, skin cells, fibers of human and pet hair and a number of other small particles may be found floating around your home or stuck under your furniture. The composition of dust may be complex and contain more than small particles of lint and dirt.

Paloma Beamer, Ph.D., associate professor in the school of Public Health at the University of Arizona, has spent years thinking about and studying dust. She calculates one-third of the dust in your home comes from indoor inorganic sources and two-thirds from soil and outdoor air particles tracked into your home.3

The composition of dust is complex, and so is the composition of one particle. According to Andrea Ferro, Ph.D., who teaches courses in air pollution at Clarkson University in New York, a dust particle can be a simple inorganic or organic compound, but others may have an inorganic center and an organic coating.

In other words, even those little specks of dust can be complicated. Without removal, dust can stick around for a very long time. In fact, quoted in NPR, Ferro says:4

"We're finding things like [the pesticide] DDT in many floor dust samples. We banned that decades ago, but it's still there."

There Is More Than You Think in Your Dust

You might find it hard to get really worked up about the dust in your home. After all, we do call those clumps under the furniture bunnies and not dust rats. You may have considered them more of a nuisance than a health problem.

However, recent research evaluating data from 25 prior studies finds there’s more in those little bunnies than meets the eye.5

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study adds to a growing body of research demonstrating the dangers you are exposed to in your own home and workplace.

The chemicals residing in your dust may come from a variety of different sources, from toys and cosmetics to your shower curtain, furniture and cookware.

This study found two classes of chemicals present in high concentrations in your dust. The first is phthalates. These chemicals are commonly found and released from personal care products, such as nail polish, skin creams and lotions, perfumes, hair products and deodorants.6

Exposure has been linked to endocrine system disruption, decreased IQ and respiratory problems.7 These are all health conditions that affect children more quickly, making the inclusion of phthalates in children’s products even more disturbing.

The second class of chemicals is highly fluorinated chemicals (HFCs). These have been associated with testicular and kidney cancers and found in everyday common objects from pizza boxes to cell phones.8 Your home keeps a history of chemicals and other pollutants collecting in your dust. Beamer, quoted in Time Magazine, said:9

"Dust in our homes, especially deep dust in our carpets and furniture, is a conglomerate of substances over the life of the home and can provide a historical record of chemicals that have entered it."

Breathing and Eating Tiny Dust Particles Increases Your Health Risk

If you live in a highly industrialized area, you may have something unique in your dust. In this short video, one researcher from Lancaster University explains the results of a study finding millions of magnetite nanoparticles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.10

Scientists believe since these nanoparticles are so small, they easily travel over the olfactory nerve to the brain as you breathe them in. These particles create chaos in your brain as they are bioreactive and directly associated with damage seen in the brains of people suffering from Alzheimer’s.

In the brain, magnetite nanoparticles create reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals. These free radicals create oxidative damage to brain cells, a hallmark feature in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. In this study, 37 brains of people aged 3 to 92 were studied.11

Researchers found millions of nanoparticles per gram of freeze-dried brain tissue, an amount lead researcher Barbara Maher, called “extraordinary.”12

Another study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology reviewed 26 past studies, finding a large quantity of phthalates, phenols and flame retardant chemicals in dust particles.13

The concentration in these studies were so high researchers believe you likely inadvertently breathe and eat the particles laden with chemicals.

In this study, 90 percent of the homes had the 10 most common chemicals, which suggests the chemicals originate from items commonly found in your home. The chemical found in most homes was phthalates, commonly found in flexible plastics, personal care products and cosmetics.14

But the Dust Doesn’t Stop There

Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University compiled information from past studies, government agencies and other expert bodies and identified 45 different chemicals commonly found in homes.

These chemicals were associated with health hazards such as cancer, reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption.15

The researchers pointed out that most studies evaluated the health hazards of a single toxic chemical, but finding these chemicals in combination in the dust of your home presents a potentially greater risk and needs further research.

The researchers acknowledged that the dust they studied was generally from the east and west coasts of the U.S. and therefore not nationally representative.

Dust in your home contains more than chemicals that are toxic to your body. Riding along on those dust bunnies are a variety of microbes. In one study evaluating dust in approximately 1,200 homes located across the U.S., indoor and outdoor dust samples demonstrated a broad range of different microbes. Differences appeared to be greater for bacteria than for fungi.16

The distribution of allergens were predictable across climates, but indoor bacterial communities appeared to be more significantly influenced by the occupants than the geography. Factors such as the male-to-female ratio and whether there were pets had a strong influence on the types of bacteria living in the dust.

However, while the variety of bacteria was different, each home had an average of more than 5,000 species of bacteria and 2,000 species of fungi.17 Although your dust may harbor thousands of different bacteria, this isn’t necessarily what makes you sick. Many of these bacteria are harmless, but the chemical and other pollutants that hitch a ride on dust particles decidedly are not.

Tips to Reduce Your Risk

One the best ways to reduce your risk of exposure is to reduce your risks at home where you spend the majority of your indoor time. Top tips to reduce chemical exposure and risk from dust accumulation include:

Eat Organic Meats and Raw Produce

As much as possible, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic meats to reduce your exposure to added hormones, pesticides and fertilizers. Also avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).

Eat mostly raw, fresh foods. Processed, prepackaged foods (of all kinds) are a common source of chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates.

Eat Wild-Caught Salmon or Purified Krill Oil

Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, eat smaller fish or fish that are wild-caught and lab tested for purity. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, herring and sardines are about the only fish I eat for these reasons.

Buy and Store Food in Glass Containers

Buy products that come in glass bottles or jars rather than plastic or cans, since chemicals can leach out of plastics and the linings of cans and into the contents. Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap. Use glass baby bottles and avoid plastic sippy cups for your little ones.

Cook With Ceramic or Glass

Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.

Use Clean Water

Filter your tap water — both for drinking and bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants. To remove the endocrine-disrupting herbicide Atrazine, make sure the filter is certified to remove it.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), perchlorate can be filtered out using a reverse osmosis filter.

Use Earth-Friendly Products, No Plastics

Look for products that are made by companies that are earth-friendly, animal-friendly, green, non-toxic and/or 100 percent organic. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, upholstery and more. Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric.

Vacuum and Dust Regularly

Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove house dust, which is often contaminated with traces of chemicals. Wet mop your hard floors regularly, which will prevent dust from accumulating. Wipe furniture with a wet or microfiber cloth.

The small fibers of a microfiber cloth cause the dust to cling to it, while a wet cloth will attract and hold dust better than a dry one. Avoid chemical dusting sprays, which will only add to your home’s chemical load.

Damp dust your electronics frequently; these are a common source of flame-retardant chemicals in your dust. Use high-quality filters in your forced-air heating or cooling system and change them frequently. Caulk and seal cracks and crevices where dust might otherwise accumulate. Wash your hands before eating to remove dust from your hands and reduce the potential of ingestion.

Use Furniture and Clothing Without Fire Retardants or Stain Resistance

When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses or carpet padding, ask what type of fire retardant they contain. Be mindful of and/or avoid items containing PBDEs, antimony, formaldehyde, boric acid and other brominated chemicals.

As you replace these toxic items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool and organic cotton. Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).

Protect Your Children

Minimize your use of plastic baby and child toys, opting for those made of natural wood or fabric instead. Pay special attention to dusting areas where young children crawl, sit and play.

Use Natural Cleaning Products

Only use natural cleaning products or make your own. Avoid products that contain 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can damage fertility and cause fetal harm.18

Use Safe Personal Care Products

Switch to organic brands of toiletries for shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. You can replace many different products with coconut oil and baking soda, for example. EWG has a great database19 to help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

I also offer one of the highest quality organic skin care lines, shampoo and conditioner, and body butter that are completely natural and safe. Replace feminine hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary pads with safer alternatives.

Go Fragrance-Free

Look for products that are fragrance-free. One artificial fragrance can contain a dozen or more potentially toxic chemicals. Avoid artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances.

Download a Helpful App

Milken Institute of Public Health recommends trying the Silent Spring Detox Me app available at silentspring.org. This free app shares simple tips to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals at home and at work.





Related Articles:

  What Dangers Are Lurking in Your Household Dust?

  1 in 4 Deaths Linked to Air Pollution

  Open Your Windows and Get More Plants

 Comments (42)

Next Page →