Pica: It’s OK, Eating Playdough is Non-Toxic

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If you ever have the urge to chew ice you may have an iron deficiency. If this is the case you’re lucky – other mineral deficiencies create far more bizarre urges.

 

Mineral deficiencies often create uncontrollable urges to eat dirt, wood, drywall, chalk, styrofoam, clay, and many other materials.

 

Pica is the adorable name for this condition.

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People who experience it cannot explain it. They know how ridiculous it is, but the biological urge is uncontrollable, like a reflex. Biologically this is an adaptive behavior. These flavorless and nutritionally empty objects contain loads of minerals.

 

We like to think that as humans we are in ultimate control of our actions, but how do you decide what to do for the day, what to eat, or what movies you like? We control our actions, but the desires that compel us to action, the motivations that lead to our actions and behaviors, like and dislikes, are completely unconscious.

 

One day I may have the urge to go golfing, and I may choose to give in, but where did that urge originate?

 

We may control thoughts once they’re in our head, but where do they pop up from to begin with? Our actions and behaviors are dependent on whether our brain tells us something will feel good or bad. We control the action itself, but not the underlying desire.

 

If I choose to buy a new shirt I may choose the action, but I have no control over what led my brain to desire that shirt in the first place.

 

Likewise, when these mineral deficient individuals reach for a lump of clay to chew on they voluntarily choose that action, but are compelled by an underlying desire that says “You will enjoy this, so do it! Do it now!”.

 

This is a relatively new field of study, but there is growing consensus that mineral deficiencies are a contributing factor to the development of many behavioral disorders like autism. Toxic substances like lead, cadmium, and mercury can displace mineral distribution and then cause pica, and eventually permanent behavioral disorders.

 

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Infrasound: Lions, And Volcanoes, And Tsunamis Oh My!

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If you blast a person with infrasound (sound just below our hearing threshold) they will become fearful, anxious, uneasy, nervous, feel chills in their spine, pressure in the chest, and extreme sorrow.

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Sound waves in this range also resonate with our eyes natural vibrations creating undistinguishable and imaginary shapes in our peripheral vision. Most major scientific discoveries are complete accidents, and the story behind this discovery is no different.

In a lab, experimenters kept experiencing a gray shape sitting next to their desk in a specific area of the room. They also consistently felt feelings of dread, depression, anxiety, and feelings of someone watching them in that area.

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They eventually discovered that a “silent” exhaust fan was emitting sound waves of 18.9Hz (infrasound). The fan was fixed and the mysterious gray shape and strange emotional experiences ended.

Stunned by the implications, this clever scientist went to a well regarded haunted cellar in a local home. People who entered the cellar often reported feelings of fear, nausea, nervousness, chills, seeing apparitions, and feeling apparitions watching them. It was found that the cellar had a particular resonant structure that created infrasound waves at, you guessed it, 18.9Hz.

Why do humans feel these sensations when these “silent” sound waves hit our ears?

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Lions, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, large ocean waves, elephants, and other dangerous things produce sounds in the infrasound range. It is the hypothesized reason that many animals know ahead of time about tsunamis and earthquakes. In fact, if humans weren’t so caught up in our own thoughts (detached from our bodily intuition), we’d probably be able to sense these events too. The sensations created are an evolutionary adaptation that intuitively says “Don’t be here! Get somewhere else NOW!”.

 

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The Oyster – Nature’s Ugly, Edible Water Filter

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An oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day, and a single acre of oysters filters 150 million gallons of water a day.

   

Put a single oyster in a fish tank of dirty water, and the water will become crystal clear before your eyes. Oysters act as a natural and free filter for pollutants, algae, dirt, and nitrogen in waterways.

 Closeup of up-ended oysters surrounded by sponges and anemones.

People of this generation complain that the Chesapeake Bay is murky and dirty, but in the past the Chesapeake was known for its pristine, clear water. It should come as no surprise – the Chesapeake Bay has less than 1% of its original oyster population due to overharvesting.

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It isn’t all bleak though. The problem is well known, and significant restoration efforts will soon come a long way to restoring the crystal clear beauty that the Chesapeake once symbolized.

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Oysters use those murky bits they filter out to build their tissue. Mmmmm tasty!

 

Mystery of the Dog Poop Dance Solved?

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Dogs seem to have an awful lot of ritual before hunkering down and soiling the sidewalk. It’s not uncommon to see a dog owner—plastic bag in hand—rolling his eyes as his furry companion sniffs and spins, getting just so before hunkering down to do the least considerate thing possible.

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But for whatever its worth, all that spinning is far from arbitrary. What dog owners witness is a small and furry version of the aurora borealis and a link between species and environment that’s as holistic and beautiful as a dog pooping can be. A team of Czech and German researchers found that dogs actually align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field when they poop.

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Proving at least that they’re really devoted to their work, the researchers measured the direction of the body axis of 70 dogs from 37 breeds during 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over the course of two years, and found that dogs “prefer to excrete with the body being aligned along the North-south axis under calm magnetic field conditions.” They fittingly published their results in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

 

You might wonder why dogs bother to do this, and uh, so do the researchers.

It is still enigmatic why the dogs do align at all, whether they do it ‘consciously’ (i.e., whether the magnetic field is sensorial perceived (the dogs ‘see,’ ‘hear’ or ‘smell’ the compass direction or perceive it as a haptic stimulus) or whether its reception is controlled on the vegetative level (they ‘feel better/more comfortable or worse/less comfortable’ in a certain direction). Our analysis of the raw data (not shown here) indicates that dogs not only prefer N-S direction, but at the same time they also avoid E-W direction.

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This isn’t the only example of animals seemingly sensing the Earth’s magnetic field. Birds, turtles, and fish are known to use magnetic guidance while migrating. Cattle and deer are known to graze on a north-south axis—as with defecating dogs, this is magnetic north, not the geographic one. Some bats navigate using a magnetic compass and given the large ranges of the dog’s closest relatives in the wild, wolves, scientists suspected that canines might also sense the magnetic field.

But this was perhaps the first time that magnetic sensitivity was proven in dogs, and it was also the first time that a predictable behavioral reaction to the fluctuations in the magnetic field—magnetic storms, often as resulting from solar flares—was proven in a mammal.

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If you’re out walking your dog later, and he sidles up and pees on a tree facing east-west, don’t be terribly surprised. The magnetic consciousness was observed only in dogs off leash, in the middle of a field. All things considered, the owner matters more to the dog than the Earth’s magnetic field; a nice little ego-booster that you’ll need as you bend over to pick up warm dog droppings.

(I copy pasted this article because it was perfection. It said everything I wanted to say, in logical order, AND with a touch of good fun. Great job Vice!)

Low-Cost Miracle Drink Burns Fat, Adds Muscle

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A mysterious, new, low-cost miracle drink called “milk” burns fat and adds gains.

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Seriously, don’t pay $4 for a glass of a GNC “Ultimate MAX Gains Bio-Elite Whey Formula” unless you’re competing in this years Mr. Universe.

New studies this year confirm that if you’re an average Joe looking to have a healthy body and a healthy bank account, then plain old milk is ideal for cutting fat, adding muscle, and bulking the size of your checking account.

Here’s the Study For the Curious

Mammals produce milk for the growth and development of their young.

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It makes perfect sense that a blend of nutritional goodness specifically for growth and development would be a great “workout recovery drink”.

For 40 cents we can drink 12 oz. of milk. The fact that it is cheap obscures its hidden power – it is a substance with tens of millions of years of evolutionary selection backing it.

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With milk we let nature do the work for us over millions of years, and we reap the rewards for free.

Is milk perfect? Of course not, but studies now confirm what makes intuitive sense – milk has a great nutrient profile for post-workout recovery.

Camel Capital of the World Lies In the Outback

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Saudi Arabia imports its camels from Australia.

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It’s reasonable to think of camels roaming the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa, but the only country on Earth with wild camels is Australia.

It was not always this way; camels were introduced to Australia in 1840, and have become an incredibly successful invasive species with over 1,000,000 feral camels wandering the Australian Outback less than 2 centuries after the first mating pair was introduced.

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It seems that camels were a natural fit to the Dr. Suess’ Zoo that is Australian wildlife. An animal that looks like it badly needs a chiropractor is a perfect addition to a world of koalas, kangaroos, seadragons, duck-billed platypus, thorny devils, the flying fox, wombats, emus, and a host of creatures straight out of Monsters Inc.

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The feral camels of Australia are considered a major pest, and the export industry exists as a profitable way of culling their population.

It’s a Bacterial World, and I Feel Fine

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There are 10 times more bacterial cells living in you than human cells. Put more bluntly, you are more bacteria than you are human.

Freaky? Not really. Oddly enough it should be comforting! These beneficial bacteria are like the fortress walls around a castle – if they weren’t there then the real bad guys would just waltz on in, and ruin your day, every day.

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This rabbit hole goes much, much deeper though. It turns out that each of us has a unique bacterial ecosystem called an “enterotype”, which can have profound implications for susceptibility to various diseases, and proper, individualized nutrition.

We are all unique snowflakes in more ways than we could have imagined just 10 years ago – this is truly the frontier of science.

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Like Alice’s adventure, it gets intensely interesting and odd.

Babies born by Cesarean Section have higher incidences of asthma and allergies as compared to natural birth.

A natural birth coats the babies skin and GI tract in the mothers microflora where C-Section birth leaves the newborn devoid of these microorganisms.

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The Bronx Zoo in New York City is among the largest zoos in the U.S. It houses ~650 species on 265 acres, but inside the 27 feet of intestines tucked neatly in your abdomen there are ~900 different species of microorganism. Just as most zoo patrons come for a few main exhibits, there are just 3 species that dominate your gut community.

Because of this each person is said to have one of 3 enterotypes. The enterotype is determined by which species of the 3 (Prevotella, Bacteroides or Ruminococcus) is pre-dominant, even though all, and many more, are present.

Prevotella digests carbohydrates and simple sugars and is often pre-dominant in agrarian societies; Bacteroides enterotypes are associated with animal proteins, aminoacids and saturated fats, components typical of a Western diet.

Enterotypes are very fluid, and change with diet over time. If a person has eaten a mostly carb based diet for an extended period, and abruptly shifts to an animal protein based diet they will experience negative side effects. If dietary change happens gradually, then the guts microbiome can smoothly adjust its population.

An abrupt change in diet, like the crash diets so popular in the U.S., can leave the body starved of several beneficial metabolic “waste” products produced by the these bacterial communities.

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This science is in its infancy, but it is likely that different enterotypes are suited for different lifestyles – an olympic athlete may want to develop one enterotype while training, and adjust to another before competition.

Recent findings strongly indicate that certain diets and medications can disrupt the flora of your gut causing increased susceptibility to Type II Diabetes, Celiac’s Disease, allergies, immune deficiencies, asthma, and potentially a host of other disease states.

The study of enterotype specific disease states is currently more speculation than science. Over the next decade many startling revelations will surely emerge, but for now conclusive evidence is a dream, not a reality.

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