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To boost the immune system of young children, as well as improve their skin and gut microbiomes - send them out daily to play in a natural environment. That means outdoors in a natural park-like setting with grass, plants, soil, and trees. Yes, germs and dirt!

Finnish researchers found that replacing the gravel and pavement in urban daycare playground areas with natural forest-type vegetation (forest plants, shrubs, sod, mosses, and peat blocks for climbing) resulted in beneficial changes to young children's immune systems, and skin and gut microbiomes. This happened in just one month!

The researchers studied 75 children (3 to 5 years old) at 10 daycare centers in 2 Finnish cities (urban areas). Four of the daycare centers had their gravel/paved playgrounds turned into a forest-type natural area (where the children played), 3 daycare centers weren't changed (kept the gravel/pavement), and 3 daycare centers were already nature-oriented with children visiting forests daily. All children spent the same amount of time outside each day.

An important finding was that after 28 days the skin and gut microbiomes (microbial communities) of children playing in the transformed forest-type playgrounds had shifted to become more similar to children attending nature-oriented daycares. This change was also reflected in their immune systems: they developed a higher ratio of anti-inflammatory proteins to pro-inflammatory proteins in their blood (this is good).

The researchers point out that getting exposed to all the microbes in a natural forest-type setting (environmental microbial diversity) is beneficial. On the other hand, playing outside on man-made landscaping materials does not result in beneficial changes. Translation: playing outside in the dirt and plants is good for you.

From Medical Xpress: Replacing asphalt with forest-type plants at daycare centers found to strengthen immune defenses in children

A team of researchers affiliated with multiple institutions in Finland and one in the Czech Republic found that replacing asphalt in play areas at daycare centers with natural vegetation can lead to stronger immune defenses in the children at the centers. In their paper published in the journal Science Advances, the group describes removing asphalt from play areas at several daycare centers and replacing it with forest floor vegetation, and what they found when they tested the children who attended the centers.  ...continue reading "Playing Outside In Nature Is Healthy For Young Children"

A study looked at how long the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes COVID-19 lives on human skin. Researchers in Japan used human cadaver skin (because they didn't want to infect living humans) to compare influenza and the new coronavirus. They found that coronavirus lives up to 9 hours on undisturbed skin! And influenza A virus (a flu strain) less than 2 hours.

They also found that both viruses are easily washed away with soap and water or a hand sanitizer containing 80% alcohol.

Yes, it is thought that aerosol and droplets are the main ways to get the new coronavirus. But you do want to wash it off your hands after exposure. Proper hand hygiene!

From Medscape: New Coronavirus Survives Nine Hours on Human Skin

Left undisturbed, the new coronavirus can survive many hours on human skin, a new study has found.  ...continue reading "Wash Your Hands!"

Today while waiting in a line at the store, everyone wearing the required masks, the woman in front of me told me that the masks are useless and that there isn't good evidence that the coronavirus is spread through the air. Huh? Where did she get that idea? Of course there is airborne transmission of the virus!

It's true that some government agencies are hedging about airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which leads to COVID-19 infection) , but the scientific evidence for aerosol and droplet transmission of the virus is growing and very clear. [Aerosols are smaller than droplets, and both carry the virus.] Fortunately, the evidence just isn't there for getting this particular virus from touching surfaces (such as doorknobs or faucets) - which originally was a big worry.

The following are some articles that discuss how airborne transmission occurs, why wearing a mask protects us from others exhaling the virus, and also protects us from inhaling the virus and lowers how much virus we are exposed to (cloth and surgical masks protect us from most virus particles, but not all). In fact, some scientists are wondering whether wearing masks so lowers the amount of virus a person is exposed to (viral load), that if a person gets the infection, the body can deal with it much better and the infections may be asymptomatic or minor.

In case you're wondering: being outdoors dilutes and disperses the virus. If you are concerned about the virus spreading indoors - then open a window (to dilute and disperse the virus).

This is a really big deal - the possibility that up to 95% of infections could be asymptomatic! Excerpts from an interesting article by Dr. Monica Gandhi (Prof. of Medicine at Univ. of California) at The Conversation: Cloth masks do protect the wearer – breathing in less coronavirus means you get less sick

It seems people get less sick if they wear a mask.   ...continue reading "Masks Protect Us Several Ways From the Coronavirus"

The relationship between mold and sinuses is something I've been thinking about lately. Why do so many people after prolonged exposure to ordinary mold eventually develop sinusitis? What is going on?

This is a really interesting question because we are exposed to mold (which is actually fungi) every single day just from ordinary breathing. Fungi are all around us - in the wind, in the air, in the soil, and we always have a little in our homes. For example, in the bathroom tub or shower area, in moldy food, or around the kitchen sink. These are common molds. And we're normally just fine.

In addition, we all have some fungal species living in and on our bodies, and they are part of the normal human microbiome (the community of bacteria, fungi, and viruses living on and in us). In fact, different species of fungi live in different parts of our body, even some species that we tend to think of as harmful, such as yeast and aspergillis. In a healthy person, any potentially harmful microbes are kept in check by the other microbes in the microbiome so that they are living there harmlessly.

Yes, sometimes fungi can multiply to the point of doing harm (such as during a fungal skin infection, e.g. athlete's foot) or in an immunocompromised person, but normally fungal species live in a complex ecosystem in harmony with all our other millions of microbes.

Ordinary common molds can sometimes cause problems

But sometimes people get exposed to a lot of ordinary or common molds over a prolonged period of time. And this is where problems can develop if they breathe in a lot of the fungi.

The most important thing to know is that fungi (mold) grow in wet or moist conditions. Especially where it is not well ventilated. For example, when air conditioning systems that are not draining properly result in mold growing in the unit and the ducts. Or a water leak from the roof causes mold to grow on a wall or ceiling right in your bedroom. In both cases people are breathing it in for prolonged periods.

What kind of health problems can result? The health problems from common molds are generally of an inflammatory  or allergic nature, such as respiratory symptoms, respiratory illnesses (sinus infections), asthma, allergic responses, immunological, and other inflammatory responses. [This is according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), WHO, and other major associations.]

But here's another thing - responses to large mold exposure vary, with some people having big responses (respiratory infections or asthma), some minor (perhaps drippy nose), and some no effects at all.

The good news is that more extreme health effects from mold exposure are very rare according to the CDC, the World Health organization, and some other health groups, with only some individual cases reported. Whew.

Looking back on my own history of sinus infections, it all makes perfect sense! After developing non-stop sinus infections years ago, I went to an ENT specialist who, after careful examination of my nasal passages, said that I was showing a massive inflammatory response, an allergic response. And only when I figure out what was causing the allergic response would I start to improve. Which turned out to be true.

[NOTE: This post is not going into the issue of mycotoxins (of fungi that release toxins), and of molds that take over houses making them uninhabitable, for example after floods.]

Deal With A Mold Problem As Soon As Possible

The CDC says don't bother with blood tests for mold - there aren't any. There are only tests that look at allergic responses to mold. And don't worry about what type of mold is in the house. Just clean it up, replace what needs replacing, make repairs, fix whatever needs fixing, etc. as soon as possible.

Once the mold problem is fixed and mold removed, the mold exposure is gone. And any health symptoms related to too much mold exposure health can finally improve.

Final thoughts about mold and sinusitis: For a while in the 1990s it was thought that people with sinusitis all had fungal problems in the sinuses and sinusitis should be treated with antifungals. Nope. When genetic sequencing tests were developed, researchers discovered hundreds of microbial species in healthy and sick people - and they realized that we all had fungi as part of our microbiome.

Which is why physicians now generally view sinusitis as an "inflammatory process", maybe due to an allergic response. Fungal sinusitis is considered one type of sinusitis, and only in a small minority of sinusitis cases.

Indoor mold by window Credit: Wikipedia

Are human papilloma viruses (HPV) causing some prostate cancers? And could getting the HPV vaccine help in preventing some cases of prostate cancer? Sure sounds like it according to a recent study published by Australian researchers.

The researchers reviewed 26 studies and came to the conclusion that while prostate cancer likely has many causes, it appears to also have an infectious viral cause - specifically certain human papilloma viruses (HPVs). They point out that HPV vaccines protect against the high risk HPV types 16 and 18, which cause the majority of cervical cancers, and also appear to be implicated in some prostate cancers.

From Medical Xpress: Potential causal role of human papilloma viruses (HPVs) in prostate cancers

Human papilloma viruses (HPVs) - a common group of viruses known to cause cervical cancers—may also have a causal role in prostate cancer, according to a literature review published in the open access journal Infectious Agents and Cancer, supporting the case for universal HPV vaccination. 

James Lawson and Wendy Glenn, at the University of New South Wales, Australia reviewed results from 26 previous studies on HPVs and their links to prostate cancer. They assessed the existing evidence using a common set of nine causal criteria, including the strength and consistency with which HPVs were associated with prostate cancers and whether HPVs were detected in prostate tissues that later went on to develop cancer.  ...continue reading "Prostate Cancer and Human Papilloma Viruses"

The number of people who have Crohn's disease has been rising steadily over the years. Crohn's disease is a debilitating intestinal bowel disease (IBD) which causes severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. A number of studies have focused on gut bacteria in those with Crohn's disease and found dysbiosis (microbial community out of whack), but there is disagreement over the cause of Crohn's and the dysbiosis.

Up to this point no treatments (drugs, surgery, diet, etc.) have had long-term success, and so patients have to take medications throughout life. This is why a small study (10 patients) finding long-term remissions (3 to 23 years) with medicines no longer required is exciting.

According to the Australian researchers success was achieved by having the individuals take a variety of antibiotics over a long period (about 3 years!), and for some also a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in the form of a "crap" or "poop" pill  (freeze-dried donor fecal microbiota).

The researchers felt that Crohn's disease is caused by an infection, perhaps  Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP), and they chose courses of various antibiotics that they thought would work against MAP.

Symptoms of Crohn's disease totally cleared up, intestines (including fistulas) healed, and patients discontinued all medications and treatments. The authors called it a "prolonged remission" in the study. But they did point out that this group was special, and that others treated that same way also achieved remission, but were unable to totally go off all medications.

So we'll see. It needs to be duplicated in more people first.

Excerpts from Medical Xpress: Study: Antibiotic and 'crapsule' therapy eliminate need for further treatment of Crohn's disease

The Centre for Digestive Disease (CDD) headed by Professor Thomas Borody has cured Crohn's disease as reported today by Dr. Gaurav Agrawal in Gut Pathogens.  ...continue reading "Successful Treatment for Crohn’s Disease?"

Two big risk factors are emerging over who will develop severe COVID-19 infections that lead to hospitalizations and needing intensive care. A number of studies throughout the world are reporting that the main risk factor in persons under 60 years is being significantly overweight, especially obesity, and the other risk factor is being over 65 years of age.

What is significantly overweight? A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is considered obese - probably 40 pounds or more overweight. For example, a 5 ft 5 inch person weighing 181 pounds or more, or a 5 ft 10 inch person 210 pounds or more. [see BMI chart]

Two studies of New York City hospital patients had similar findings. Doctors at NYU Langone Health (Lighter et al) found that overweight patients who were under age 60 were twice as likely to be hospitalized as their thinner peers, while those who were obese were three times as likely to need intensive care, the study found. And this is in patients who didn't have any other diseases or conditions - they were healthy, but overweight. The medical thinking is that this may because obesity is a state of chronic inflammation.

The scary part is that the US has a very high obesity rate - with the NYU researcher Jennifer Lighter pointing out that nearly 40% of adults in the US are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more!

A French study found that a key finding was that those with a BMI of greater than 35 had more than sevenfold increased risk of requiring mechanical ventilation (compared to those with a BMI of less than 25). Studies are also finding that disease severity increased with increasing BMI.

Interestingly, obesity wasn't a predictor of severe disease leading to hospital admission or the ICU (intensive care unit) in those over the age of 60 years. But in those younger than 60 years, it was.

Excerpts from Medscape: Obesity Link to Severe COVID-19, Especially in the Under 60s

It is becoming increasingly clear that obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for severe COVID-19 disease, particularly among younger patients ...continue reading "Being Overweight Is Higher Risk For Severe Coronavirus Infections"

Is male hair loss a risk factor for having a severe infection with COVID-19? An international group of researchers (in a joint letter in Dermatologic Therapy) hypothesize that the reason some people have severe infections of COVID-19 and others only mild symptoms, may be related to the male hormones (androgens) linked to hair loss.

"Male pattern baldness" is considered androgen-dependent hair loss and is known as androgenetic alopecia. Androgens increase in boys at puberty.

As support for their hypothesis of androgen involvement, the researchers point out that a greater proportion of men get severe COVID-19 and also die from it. They propose this possibility as an additional risk factor to consider besides the known ones of older age (over 60) and underlying conditions.

And of course they say that research is now needed to look into this possibility. In a nutshell, their hypothesis is "...the scientific evidence gives us reason to believe that beardy, bald men may be more vulnerable to COVID-19 than other individuals." At this point, who knows?

From Futurity: Hypothesis: Is COVID-19 Severity Tied to Hair Loss?

Researchers hypothesize that the same male hormones that cause hair loss may be linked to the vulnerability of patients to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.  ...continue reading "Is There A Link Between Severe COVID-19 and Male Hair Loss?"

Infected with COVID-19 during pregnancy and worried about the pregnancy and baby? A national registry has just been established that is tracking the effects of coronavirus COVID-19 on the pregnancy and on newborns. This is because the virus is so new that we don't know what, if any, effects it has on pregnancy and on the baby. Does it harm the developing baby during the first 2 trimesters or cause problems during pregnancy? We just don't know.

Normally something like this takes a long time to set up and implement, but this has just started and already over 400 pregnant women have signed up. Women can sign up through their health care provider or on their own at the registry website. The registry is called the Pregnancy Coronavirus Outcomes Registry (PRIORITY).

So far the one small study out of China that was done was reassuring, but it only looked at the last trimester of pregnancy. So please consider signing up for the national PRIORITY registry. The more women sign up, the more we will learn.

On a related note, people are pushing back at the  CDC guidelines suggesting that newborns born to women with COVID-19 infections should be removed and put into isolation. And if breastfeeding, to pump the breast milk and have a healthy caregiver feed the baby. That guideline is absolutely NOT supported by evidence. Also, the virus has not been detected in breastmilk.

An excerpt from Medscape (the medical professional site) on the CDC guidelines: "Some experts say the recommendation to separate mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 from their infants after delivery is not supported by evidence and could cause lasting harm."  Absolutely.

From Medscape: COVID-19 Registry Tracks Pregnant Women, Newborns

A multidisciplinary team of researchers has created a national registry to study how COVID-19 affects pregnant women and their newborns.  ...continue reading "Sign Up For Registry Tracking Effects of COVID-19 On Pregnancy and Newborns"

Good news today! I am happy to report that I (and family members) are now in our 8th year of successfully using probiotics to treat and conquer sinusitis. This includes both chronic sinusitis and regular sinus infections. Yes! This means no antibiotics or any other antibacterial has been used in more than 7 years.

We  have accomplished this by using the amazing probiotic (beneficial bacteria) Lactobacillus sakeiI started with using kimchi back in 2013 after I read interesting research. But in the last few years I've used the refrigerated product Lanto Sinus, which contains a kimchi-derived strain of Lactobacillus sakei. 

Since this blog started in 2013, I have heard from hundreds of people and the majority agree with me - Lactobacillus sakei works great as a sinusitis treatment! [See Best Probiotics For Sinusitis for details on results and products used.]

Important things I've learned about Lactobacillus sakei over the years:

  1. Only use it when needed, when there are some sinus symptoms or you're sliding towards sinusitis. Just like with antibiotics, you shouldn't take it daily and routinely.
  2. Swishing a product like Lanto Sinus in the mouth alone is a gentle and cautious way to use the product. Using it in the nostrils is a stronger way to use the product.
  3. Don't overdo it. This means don't use too damn much, such as shooting it in the nostrils in a nasal rinse (e.g., 1 gram in a bottle full of water). Using a little bit in the nostrils (as described in Sinusitis Treatment Summary methods) is sufficient. Let the little buggers travel on their own throughout the sinuses - and they do!
  4. Use for a few days and reevaluate if that was enough. Many times the sinuses keep improving even after stopping Lactoabcillus sakei. One can always use more if needed.
  5. If Lactobacillus sakei works for a person, it can feel miraculous as sinusitis symptoms disappear, frequently within a few days. On the other hand, it doesn't work for everyone and only self-experimentation determines whether it does - after all, everyone's sinus microbiome is different.
  6. Lactobacillus sakei alone is enough to treat sinusitis. Don't need fancy concoctions or fancy protocols. When I use it, it takes me under 1 minute a day!
  7. The sinus microbiome slowly improves over the years, so we are using less and less of Lanto Sinus over time. At the same time, we noticed that we are getting fewer and fewer upper respiratory infections. Amazing!

That's it. Hopefully this offers hope to those who have suffered for years with repeated sinus infections.

I also want to mention that I'm a consultant for Lanto Health, but that's because I really like the Lactobacillus sakei strain used in Lanto Sinus.

Good health!