Archive for February, 2019

The community of bacteria or “microbiome” in a woman’s cervix might be a harbinger of her risk for cervical cancer, a new study suggests.

For the study, researchers used genetic analysis to identify bacteria present in samples from 144 Tanzanian women who had cervical cancer screenings between March 2015 and February 2016.

Of the women in the study, 126 had tested positive for human papillomavirus (HPV), 41 had tested positive for HIV, and 50 had been diagnosed with high-grade lesions likely to become cancerous.

Previous research has shown that HPV is responsible for 99 percent of cervical cancers, and that HIV infection is strongly associated with an increased risk of HPV infection.

Women with the high-grade pre-cancerous cervical lesions had a more abundant and diverse mix of bacteria in their cervical microbiomes than women who had no lesions or less serious lesions, according to the study published recently in the journal mBio.

“There are certain families of bacteria that appear to be associated with the higher grades of pre-cancerous lesions,” said lead study author Peter Angeletti. He is an associate professor at the Nebraska Center for Virology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“What we know so far is that there is a relationship between the virus commonly associated with cervical cancer and the microbiome,” he added in a university news release.

Mycoplasma bacteria, in particular, may help promote the growth of HPV-related cervical lesions, according to the researchers.

Mycoplasma is a group of bacteria that can cause pneumonia, pelvic inflammatory disease and urinary tract infections. Some forms of the bacteria can be sexually transmitted, according to background information in the news release.

Further research is needed, but the study findings suggest that it may be possible to use the cervical microbiome for cancer screening and diagnosis, or perhaps cancer could be treated or prevented with probiotics or antibiotics, the authors noted.



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Feeling trapped behind a desk, a counter or on the factory floor does no favors for the mind.

Now, research helps confirm that women with jobs that demand long hours may be more prone to depression.

Researchers found that compared with women who worked a standard 40-hour week, those who were on the clock 55 hours or more typically reported more depression symptoms.

The same was true of women and men who usually worked weekends as well as weekdays.

The findings, based on thousands of British adults, do not prove that long work hours were the culprit.

“Workers are complicated creatures,” said lead researcher Gillian Weston, of University College London. “And it’s not possible to [account for] every potential influence when looking for associations in an observational study.”

Still, she said, her team was able to factor out a number of factors that affect depression risk — such as income and education, and whether people were married or had children.

And still, long work weeks remained linked to a higher risk of depression symptoms.

The findings have implications in a world where people are increasingly expected to work outside the traditional 9-to-5 window, according to Weston’s team.

Theresa Nguyen is a licensed clinical social worker and vice president of policy and programs for the nonprofit Mental Health America.

She said that in recent years technology has sharply reduced workers’ “safe spaces” of personal time.

“Our smartphones have created an expectation that you’ll always be available. You’ll answer emails even when you’re on vacation,” said Nguyen, who was not involved in the study.

For women — who have always borne the stress of balancing work and family life — the added time demands can be especially daunting.

“There’s the pressure that society puts on us, and that we put on ourselves,” Nguyen said. “As women, we worry about being at work and away from family.”

In most countries, Weston said, women typically work less than men do, and those who are married with children often cut down their work hours.

So women who work long hours are essentially “bucking” the societal trend, Weston said — and that might create more conflicts.

Those women might “feel the strain of greater time pressures and responsibilities due to a double ‘burden’ of paid and unpaid work,” Weston said. They may also have to deal with less-than-supportive attitudes from the people around them, she added.

“That may exacerbate any feelings of conflict or distress,” Weston said.

The findings, published online Feb. 25 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, are based on more than 23,000 employed U.K. adults who took part in a national health survey.

They answered a standard questionnaire on depressive symptoms, which asked about issues such as self-confidence and self-worth, enjoyment of daily activities, sleep loss over “worries,” and the ability to concentrate and deal with life’s problems.

A score of 12 or higher may signal cases of depression, according to Weston. On average, the study found, women who worked 55 hours or more per week scored 11.8, versus 11 among women who worked a standard 35- to 40-hour week.

There was no difference between men who worked long or standard workweeks. But men who worked weekends tended to report more symptoms, versus those who worked only weekdays, once job satisfaction was taken into account.

In general, the study found, people with extra-long work weeks had high household incomes and the most freedom on the job.

Increasingly, Nguyen said, employers are letting people work “remotely” — which has clear upsides, but also downsides. There’s freedom, but there’s also isolation, she noted.

Plus, Nguyen said, “your work and your home aren’t separate anymore.” And people can find themselves working at all hours, weekends included.

So it’s important, Nguyen said, to set boundaries: Decide that you’re not going to answer emails after a certain hour, or on weekends, for example.

Nguyen also recommended dedicating time to things that recharge you, whether it’s taking a walk every afternoon or just getting some rest.

Some people, she said, may need to talk with their manager about logging fewer hours or making other adjustments at work.

In a recent survey of U.S. workers, Mental Health America found that certain workplace qualities boosted people’s job satisfaction — including flexible work arrangements and feeling supported and recognized by their employer.

Workers who are more satisfied and less stressed, Nguyen noted, will also be more productive — which serves everyone better.

More information

The RAND Corporation has more on workplace wellness.

SOURCES: Gillian Weston, Ph.D. student, research department, epidemiology and public health, University College London, U.K.; Theresa Nguyen, L.C.S.W., vice president, policy and programs, Mental Health America, Alexandria, Va.; Feb. 25, 2019, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, online


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Image by Zheng Long / Stocksy







Talk to most functional medicine providers, and the majority will tell you that health begins in the gut. Well, I disagree. Health begins in the environment. Allow me to explain.

In the early 1990s, researcher Dr. Bruce Lipton discovered that he could take a blank human cell and turn it into any type of cell he wanted: heart, liver, muscle, you name it. He found that there was one factor that determined the fate of these undifferentiated cells: their environment. Dr. Lipton discovered that by changing the type of media (cellular food) he grew the cells in, he could influence how they developed. This was a HUGE discovery.

What Dr. Lipton uncovered is what we refer to now as epigenetics, which is the study of how environmental factors influence the expression of genes. The implications of this discovery are profound.

For decades, doctors have told their patients that their medical conditions were a result of genetics and that there was nothing they could do except take medication. Well, we now know that only a small percentage of medical conditions are entirely genetic (roughly 5 percent, according to Dr. Lipton), while the rest are controlled by environmental factors.

When we refer to environment in this context, it means anything that can influence the expression of genes, including air, food, water, EMF (electromagnetic fields), light, heavy metals, stress, sleep, pesticides, medications, and heat and cold exposure.

When working with my clients, these are the first things we focus on—not the gut—because these factors are what contribute to the development of disease, and it doesn’t matter how clean your diet is or the quality of your supplements if your environment is breaking you down:

1. Make sure you’re breathing clean air.

The average human takes about 16 breaths per minute, which is roughly 23,000 breaths a day. The main purpose of breathing for humans is to supply the body with oxygen and to rid the body of carbon dioxide. Simple enough, right? Everyone is aware that certain chemicals in high enough concentrations can be harmful. (For instance, you probably know that at high enough concentrations carbon monoxide is deadly.) But do you ever stop to think about the chemicals you inhale if you live in the city or close to a highway? How about the chemicals in air fresheners or those found on most furniture and mattresses?

With few exceptions, every chemical we inhale makes its way into our bloodstreams and must be bio-transformed and detoxified. This processing requires a significant amount of energy, nutrients, and antioxidants. If you are struggling with a health condition, you need all the nutrients and antioxidants you can get and don’t want to be wasting them detoxifying your body because you live in a toxin-filled environment.

To improve your air quality and support your health, try replacing air fresheners, cleaning products, hygiene products, carpets, and mattresses with green alternatives. The Environmental Working Group has a comprehensive list of recommendations for all categories. Next, allow your house to breathe. Open the windows for a least 15 minutes a day to allow the air in your house to circulate. And finally, purchase a high-quality HEPA filter and run it for a few hours before bed, but not in the bedroom while you are sleeping, as it can disrupt restful sleep.

 2. Drink plenty of well-filtered water.

I think we all know how important water is or, at the very least, we hear about it often enough. It seems like every health expert is telling us to drink more water to detoxify, lose weight, or slow down the aging process.

But is what they say true, and do you really need to drink half your weight in ounces of water a day? We could go on for pages about this, but let’s start with the facts. Scientific data suggests the following recommendations for water consumption:

Men: 3.1 Liters or 100 ounces daily

Women: 2.8 Liters or 90 ounces daily

You should keep in mind, however, that a lot of water is found in a whole-foods diet. So if you are avoiding processed foods, you should be aiming for at least 64 ounces of water a day. And when I say water, I mean pure water. Not Gatorade, soda, fruit juices, or even coffee or tea.

I also recommend getting a high-quality water filter since municipal water providers don’t always do a great job of regulating water purity; for my clients, I suggest a reverse-osmosis (RO) water filter with a remineralizer. This is because RO filtration removes minerals as well as contaminants; you will want to make sure you are adding minerals back in. The best way to stay hydrated throughout the day is to start your day off on the right foot. Upon waking, drink at least 16 ounces of water with a pinch of sea salt for minerals. You can also add a squeeze of lemon for taste.

Image by Zheng Long / Stocksy

3. Make sure your light exposure supports your body’s natural rhythm.

There is little in this world that we take for granted more than light. Light from the sun is essential to the survival of all species on our planet.

For us humans, light not only keeps us warm but it directs ourcircadian rhythm, also known as our internal clock). And until recently in human history, it has been the sun that dictates when we rise in the morning and when we go to sleep at night. Not only does light affect our periods of wakefulness, it also strongly influences the production of hormones like melatonin and cortisol that regulate our body.

When we do not get adequate sun exposure throughout the day (or are exposed to artificial light at night), it can throw off our circadian rhythm. When this happens, we are at risk for a whole host of issuesincluding insomnia, fatigue, depression, anxiety, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more.

This is why it is imperative that we address our light exposure throughout the day. In the morning, within the first hour of waking up, you should go outside for 15 minutes to get adequate sun exposure. The light from the sun at this time of day is more on the blue end of the spectrum, which will help wake you up and set your circadian rhythm for the day.

In the afternoon, you should get at least 15 to 20 minutes of time outside. In the warmer months, I recommend exposing as much skin as possible for maximal vitamin D production but not exposing yourself so long that you burn.

In the evening, you should have no blue or green light exposure two to three hours before bed. This means no TV, cellphones, or computers. If you are going to use any of these devices at all, then you should be wearing blue-light-blocking glasses.

 4. Be aware and mindful of sound exposure throughout the day.

Along with light, sound is another under appreciated factor that affects our health. In fact, everyone has experienced the transformative power of sound when they listen to a certain song that immediately transports them back to a certain time period or event. We utilize music for motivation at the gym, as well as chants on the sports field. Certain tones are used in spas because they are known to be relaxing.

Depending on the source, sound can be either therapeutic or harmful. The World Health Organization has found that as ambient noise increases above 40 decibels, so too does the incidence of high blood pressure, heart attacks, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Those who live in a city or by trains and airports are more likely to be exposed to sounds consistently above 40 decibels and are at a greater risk of developing these adverse health outcomes.

My recommendations for sound start with getting outside in nature often. Recent research indicates that spending time in nature is associated with a decreased risk in many health ailments, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and asthma. It is believed that at least part of this benefit is due to the sounds and/or lack of sounds experienced in nature. You should aim to get outside in nature daily, even if it’s just to a local park.

I also recommend finding time for 20 minutes of silence every single day. You can do this at any time of day and couple it with a silent meditation. Making your bedroom a quiet place is another important factor in the sounds we experience every day. Your bedroom is for sleep and sex—that’s it! Not TV or cellphone use. I even advise against white noise machines, which have high decibel levels. Instead, I recommend the Pzizz app which produces isochronic tones that can promote deep sleep.

By following these tips and suggestions, you can create an environment that fosters healing, healthy hormone production, better sleep, and even reduces anxiety. Then, all your other healthy rituals—like exercising, eating well, and healing your gut—will go a whole lot further.


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