Archive for the ‘Psychological Aspects’ Category

The Moral Matrix: Why We Are So Divided Over COVID-19

If you find yourself getting really upset and stressed out with others who have a different stance on issues surrounding COVID-19 than you do, this will really help. ZDoggMD talks about psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s work presented in his book, “Elephant and Rider.”  In it, there are four moral taste buds that depending upon your inner leaning will direct your decision making.  They are:

  • Care vs Harm
  • Fairness vs Cheating
  • Loyalty vs Betrayal
  • Liberty vs Oppression
  • Authority vs Subversion
  • Sanctity vs Degradation

Understanding these taste buds is the first step in rising above conflict. This does not mean you won’t have strong opinions on subjects.  It doesn’t mean you are even going to change your mind on an issue.  What it means is it will help you understand others better to be able to have civilized discussions about important topics and not take it personally.  He particularly points out that the media, including social media, is geared to weaponize our differences and purposely stir them up. Our goals need to change from “getting points” or “likes” to having meaningful dialogue and relationships.

BTW: I disagree with him on the best way to get immunity.  Considering there are serious side-effects to vaccines that can cause serious harm, I fully believe that acquiring immunity naturally by being exposed to germs and viruses is best.

 Approx. 40 Min.

May 13, 2020

The Moral Matrix: Why We Are So Divided Over COVID-19


So, how many of you guys have just fricking had it with the amount of conflict that is going on because of COVID-19?

So, recall: COVID-19 becomes a thing. The next thing you know, within seconds it’s deeply politicized. So, family members are at each other’s throats. Everyone online is hating everyone else. Are masks good or are they the devil? Is lockdown good? Is it a disaster? Does the economy matter? Do people matter? Is there a difference? All these questions we see all the time, it’s polarized across the cable news networks, which are designed to polarize us, and in social media, which is designed to polarize us.

And so what I wanna talk about today is — why is it that good people on different sides of these issues can continue to be good people doing what they think is right while hating the other side and villainizing them? And how we can transcend this to actually be better citizens, more productive, less angry, and actually have debates instead of shutting down debates saying, OK, let’s actually talk about this. Because we’re all gonna assume that we’re coming from a place where we wanna do good in the world.

Now, there are always exceptions on the fringes to that. So, I’ll just put that out there right now that you’ll have psychopaths, you’ll have extremists who are so entrenched that you cannot reach them.

But in general, most Americans just really want what’s best for their families, their communities, and their country, right? Can we agree on that?

So, if we believe that, let’s start with a basic premise.

Jonathan Haidt, who’s a psychologist, quite a famous guy, recently did another Sam Harris podcast episode. I cite his work of “Elephant and Rider,” elephant being our unconscious emotional mind and rider being our conscious strategizing, planning mind that’s much smaller and newer to the scene.

Well, it turns out humans are not rational creatures. We are emotional, moralizing creatures. What that means is there’s lots of evidence, and he lays this out in his book, “The Righteous Mind,” that humans are actually born with a kind of moral sense, a moral matrix. And he posits that actually all humans pretty much have a similar palette or taste buds for morality that are like five or six different things. And I’m just going to pull up your comments here and on my laptop so I have them while we’re talking. Excellent, there we go.

And these are the following, so, one sense of morality that we have is around care versus harm. So, do we care and show compassion for fellow people? And how far does that compassion extend? Is it just me? Is it my family? Is it my tribe? Is it my state? Is it my community? Is it the globe? Is it all conscious creatures? So, that’s one particular taste bud, care versus harm. And that’s very, very important. And when you look at how people think about this pandemic, it really kind of stratifies a lot on care versus harm.

So, on the left, people who tend to have a more left-leaning elephant tend to really value care versus harm in a certain way. Like how compassionate can we be to immigrants, to the poor, to people who are disadvantaged, other races, others, in general, right? So, that’s a particular thing.

When you look at what’s happening with COVID-19, when you look at masks for example, or lockdowns for example, you really weaponize care versus harm and you really jazz it up because people start, their moral sense gets really outraged if they feel that people are behaving in a way that is gonna harm others.

So, we can talk about masks in a second because we wanna fill in the moral palette so that we can understand why it is people go so nuts about the whole mask thing.

So, the second moral taste bud that we’ll talk about is fairness versus cheating. So this is another sense that everybody’s born with and everybody has different flavors of these taste buds. Like some people like sweet, some people like salt, we can taste all the flavors, but we value some more than others. Savory versus … you know, that’s the analogy you make. But in morality and in how our elephant works, our unconscious mind, right — that is conditioned and somewhat genetic, but can be trained with a lot of work and it’s a lot of work. We have this sort of matrix of morality.

So, fairness versus cheating is one that is very acutely felt both on the left and the right. The left sees fairness versus cheating in the terms of how a rich guy like Trump not wear a mask and everyone else has to wear a mask? Or how is it that the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poor? This isn’t fair. How is it the rich can cut in line at Disneyland, whatever it is, fairness versus cheating.

But on the right, that same moral sense is valued quite highly, but it’s seen as, how is it that someone doesn’t work and gets welfare? How is it that someone who hasn’t built a business and isn’t employing people can tell us what to do with jobs? You see what I’m saying?

So, how you sort of interpret that is kind of your own personal spin on how you taste that morality. Now each of these, each of these senses, none is more right than the other in an absolute sense. They’re different emphases and different flavors of morality.

So, we have a care versus harm, fairness versus cheating. So what’s next? If you think about… Sorry, I’m just making sure your comments are coming. Here we go. Ashley Stewart’s here, “I really need to listen “to that podcast with John Haidt. “I keep getting distracted.” Exactly, it’s great. He’s fantastic. I’ve invited him on the podcast multiple times. He has directly blown me off because he goes on much bigger podcasts and good for him because he does such a great job. He’s a personal intellectual hero of mine. If anyone knows him, tell him he needs to come on my show.

The third moral taste bud I wanna talk about, and then we’re gonna tie this into COVID-19, okay is… And again, this is a way you can understand that crazy uncle that you disagree with his politics. Understand that this comes from a sense of his moral matrix, his moral taste buds and how he values them. So, the third one is loyalty versus betrayal. Now this is a fascinating one because a lot of times we think of loyalty as in-group versus out-group. So, a more right leaning version of that is, Hey, it’s our community versus immigrants and others who would come in and disrupt our tradition and that sort of thing, right? On the left it’s more, hey, are you loyal to these sort of the ideology and the dogma of the left? And this is where dogma comes into it.

It’s true on the right too. Are you a party line person? And if you’re not, what happens to you now on Twitter? You get canceled. So, social media has weaponized loyalty versus subversion. If you say something out of sync, you are gonna get sunk by your own people. It’s happened to me, it’s happened to Sam Harris, it’s happened to John Haidt. They all get attacked for saying things that are outside of the orthodoxy of whatever their sub-group they’re supposed to be in. And generally with intellectual elites, it’s often on the left.

And that’s where I lived for a long time until I escaped from the matrix and was able to see all of it and go, “Wait, there’s validity everywhere.” And not only that, but now I can speak a language and connect with people that otherwise I had villainized out of ignorance, right? So, this idea of loyalty versus subversion is gonna come back because now if you’re talking about COVID, when we talk about anything that deviates from the orthodoxy of your side. Like if you’re in healthcare, if you say, “You know what? “I think masks don’t have a lot of evidence behind them. “I’m not sure why we’re pushing them so hard.” Oh, good luck to you. You are gonna get devastated, right? Or if you’re on the right and you say, “I think aggressive lockdowns are gonna probably “save a lot of lives. “Maybe will do those and we should mask up.” The right’s gonna be like, “What’s wrong with you?”

Right, and I’ll turn and say, and I’ll tell you why, because of the next taste bud, Liberty versus oppression. This is one of my favorites because this is very, it’s a very strong sense in me. And it’s something that I value. So, I always see the world slightly biased through Liberty versus oppression. So, this idea that we’re free to make decisions. That people aren’t telling us what to do versus whether it’s a state, whether it’s a family member, whether it’s part of your own tribe pushing back on you and telling you how to live your life, or how to think. People rebel against that, who value this particular thing. Now, this is where the mask controversy really lights up because if you talk about masks, right?

Okay, let’s assume that there’s good science for masks, which there isn’t. Let’s assume that there is, in other words, the science hasn’t been decided yet. It’s still evolving as is all of this. There’s some data supporting it, and then there’s a lot of absence of data so we don’t really know. And there’s some data saying people touch their face more if you wear a mask. Now, which data you pick depends on where your moral matrix sit. You will pick data to support what your elephant already believes morally. So, if Liberty versus oppression is an important one for you, what that says is, “I am not gonna let anyone tell me that I have “to wear a mask on a outdoor trail system or in a store.” Forget the fact that if it’s a store’s policy, they’re a private business, and they have the Liberty to behave how they like.

But the point is people will really, really push back against masks if they have a strong Liberty versus oppression. And this goes for guns and this goes for anti-vaxxers. You can’t tell me what to put in my body, right? Now, I’m not painting this as a negative. I’m saying this is a moral palette. So, with masks, and this tends to… again, it’s across the political spectrum, but on the right there’s more of this, “Hey, you don’t tell me how to behave. “This is a free country. “I’m gonna do what I want to do.” But then you have the left really valuing this care versus harm and looking at that and going, “But you’re harming people “because you’re not wearing a mask. “You’re getting up in people’s face. You’re protesting in a state Capitol “and getting in people’s face without a mask. “You’re harming others, and that’s where your Liberty ends.”

Now, this is where everybody… If you think of it like a one of those little graphic equalizers, these different moral flavors are bouncing up and down and people are feeling them in different ways. And you have to understand that the way that Joe feels that moral palette is gonna be very different than the way Jane over here feels that moral palette. And the fact is, since they’re not thinking about the other person’s moral palette, by default they’re in battle mode. This person is immoral in my mind, therefore an enemy and other, and they need to be demonized. Loyalty versus betrayal.

Now, when we’re thinking about this, let’s think about another moral taste bud, authority versus subversion. So authority, meaning you listen to the law, you respect the hierarchy, right? And people who don’t respect the hierarchy are subverting it. Well , so this is interesting. So both political sides have hierarchies. The left likes to say that they’re subversive and they do this, but the right has its own conspiratorial subversion arm. So, conspiracy theorists are trying to subvert the authority structure. They find that moral taste bud to swing towards subversion. It’s more important to fear authority and subvert it because Liberty versus oppression is higher, right?

So, now you start to see, okay, how could it be that really people who are trying to be good, who are conditioned a certain way, have a different moral matrix than you could see the same piece of news and the same newscast completely differently, and entirely differently based on what their moral palette is. By the way, the last moral taste bud per se, is sanctity versus degradation. Now, this is an interesting one. Sanctity meaning it can mean many different things, but it’s a kind of a disgust reaction to certain behaviors. Uncleanliness, certain beliefs, certain foods, right? And that disgust reaction is built into us because it keeps us safe from poison and things that are harmful. But it can be applied to other aspects.

So, a sanctity versus degradation may be a religious thing. It could be that people who really don’t like masks could have this feeling that, “The mask is gross. “I don’t like it on my face. “I’m breathing in my own CO2.” Whereas someone who feels masks are very helpful, there’s a disgust reaction to breathing in someone else’s germs or accidentally harming someone else with their own germs. And that disgust reaction causes them to wear a mask. So, you can actually have different actions, different beliefs based on the same moral taste bud, but how you value it and how you interpret it. And this is why people are so politically divided because they don’t realize that the other side is just as moral. They just have a different taste palette, different matrix than you do.

And the problem is when we wall ourselves off into our own moral matrix and ignore the other side, don’t listen to them and then start to treat them as others, start to demonize them and then weaponize what we’ve evolved to do, which is attacks on our beliefs or those of our tribe are felt, verbal attacks are felt as physical. If you look at fMRI, the same parts of the brain that light up if you’re physically attacked, light up if your beliefs are attacked. Well, now you weaponize that with social media which creates echo chambers. Facebook is the worst for this by the way. But Twitter, YouTube , it doesn’t matter, it will send you down your own echo chamber and the other side is villainized.

And look, I learned this myself when I was in the echo chamber. I was in the liberal echo chamber coming from the Bay Area, moved to Las Vegas, started doing a lot of ZDoggMD stuff and would say things that I thought everyone must agree with because I’m in this bubble. And people would push back and be like, “What do you mean? “That’s completely stupid? “Why would you say that you’re an a-hole?” And I’m like, “What?” And I started to realize because my own moral bubble was not challenged by outside belief, even though I grew up in a very conservative part of the country, central Valley of California, and my parents are quite conservative. And so it took me understanding John Haidt sort of premise to wake up and go, “Oh, wait.”

And you know what happens, something magical, you listen to the other side and you go, “You know what? “They have good points on a lot of things.” “They’re coming from a good place “and these are good people. “How was I villainizing them? You would judge someone based on their politics or whatever they post on Facebook or whatever, and that’s the normal default reaction. But we’re better than that, It’s the 21st century. We can’t get beyond this. We’ve gotten worse because of social media. We’ve gotten worse because the game on social media is not to find truth, is to score points against the enemy. So you, your own tribe, loyalty versus betrayal, your own tribe rallies around and you score points. You get more followers of your own kind. I’m guilty of this, every time I attack the anti-vaccine people, I’m growing my own tribe and outraging the other side. Now, I’ve gave reasons for why I do that and we do plenty of stuff where we’re talking to people who are more on the fence and we’re trying to rationally discuss it.

And I’ve always made the statement that I actually understand the average anti-vaxxers moral palette, Liberty versus oppression, sanctity versus degradation. “My body is a temple. “How dare you inject toxins in it?” Right? Care versus harm. The pro-vaxxers will say, “You’re harming people “that have nothing to do with you through your actions.” Whereas the anti-vaxxers will take care versus harm and say, “You’re harming my child with your “one size fits all.” So, if you can understand the other side, then you can more effectively actually accept them as human beings and then persuade. If you think you’re right, we’ll then persuade them in a way that’s respectful. It’s very hard to do, but it’s not impossible.

Now, let’s tie this back in to COVID. Since, this thing began, it’s been politically polarized and let’s just look at masks, and you guys know that my elephant is like very high on the Liberty versus oppression, but also high on care versus harm. And I’ve actually done personality tests where I’ve looked at this. I’m extremely disagreeable, but also very high in compassion. So, these things stress me out when they’re in tension, right?

So, with masks it’s interesting like I think if everyone had a surgical mask, even though we don’t have great data that it helps, there’s some anecdote, there’s some correlation. There’s not a lot of, if people are using them correctly and they’re good masks. Okay, compassion says, “You’re gonna harm less people.” Liberty versus oppression says, “Okay, but now you’re “gonna ask me to wear a dumb bandana “that I have no idea how to use. I could potentially harm myself from using it wrong, “touching myself, having false sense of security, “not great data showing that works.” “Well, now you’re infringing on my ability “to go out in the world.” I’m not talking about going into a grocery store. I’m talking about like on public trails and not have to wear a constricting mask when I think the risk is low. But if I even discuss it online, I’m villainized as some kind of anti-science person. Why? Because the majority of healthcare professionals have that care versus harm as a very powerful thing. And they don’t see the Liberty, their Liberty versus oppression is secondary to that.

So, you can’t even have a conversation without being villainized. Loyalty versus betrayal, right? And if you question the dogma, authority versus subversion, you’re branded as an outlier or a renegade or whatever. And actually the conspiracy guys will say, “Well, this is what you’re doing to us. “You’re not letting us speak, “and you’re branding us as some outlier, “but we’re just challenging the dogma.” Well, okay, that’s great. That’s why I think they should have free speech. I don’t think you should censor them, but I think you should counter with good rational, critical thinking, which we’ve talked about. And when you do that…

See, critical thinking should transcend all of this. That’s what we’re trying to grow. Understand we’re humans and we have these values, they’re different across different humans. But you can actually overcome that by growing the rider, the part of your neocortex and frontal cortex that does rational thinking, can appreciate all sides of the story, can weigh the evidence, can recognize its own biases, and can make decisions. So with masks, let’s not shut down good scientific debate. I know really smart scientists who are being shouted down for questioning that dogma. And it’s the same with lockdown stuff, right? So you can say, okay the lockdowns work, they didn’t work. Listen, let’s be honest, we don’t know entirely. Anybody who says they know is trying to sell you something and you shouldn’t trust them. We don’t know. What we do know is we’ve thrown out a lot of critical thinking here and we’re thinking with our elephants. That’s what’s really happening in this COVID crisis. Our elephants have run a muck on both sides of the aisle and down the center, and the critical rational thinking has disappeared.

So this video today is a way of trying to create a structure in our mind of how we can love our fellow Americans who don’t agree with us. How, if you’re a Biden supporter, how can you love a Trump supporter and go, “man, I see their moral matrix. “This is how they feel about the world. “I see it totally differently.” I mean, and that, that’s the thing. You can have the same piece of evidence, the same news cast, the same show, and people with different moral matrices will pull out of them completely different conclusions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each could sit down and go, “Hey Bob, Hey Joe. “Hey Bob, I know my moral palette really values “this and this and this. And when I see this, I just get so outraged that people “are dying because these individuals aren’t willing “to wear a mask or to stay at home or whatever.’` And then Bob can say, “I totally get it. “I can understand why you’d feel that way. ”

As someone who really values liberty versus oppression “and authority versus subversion “and sanctity versus degradation. “I feel like we’ve degraded our sense of tradition, “our culture in America of open freedom and our economy, “which is going to harm lives. “And I feel like that’s why lockdowns aren’t a good idea. “And that’s why I resonate with whatever “Trump is saying right now or “whatever who is ever saying right now?” And they could go, “Oh, I totally get that. “So, I wonder if there’s either a comfortable middle “or there’s any data that we can see that might persuade us “one way or the other regardless “of what our emotion is telling us.” I mean, this is real. Is it a pipe dream?

No, because this is how we used to have conversations on college campuses and in our civil discourse. We don’t have it anymore because that’s not the game anymore. The game now is to score points against an enemy. We are our own worst enemy here in the U.S. we really are. Could you imagine if we could just sit down and have that conversation? This is something that many people don’t… They think I’m crazy when I say this. I love to sit at a dinner table or meet a new person, and immediately talk about religion and politics but those are the two taboos. Why? It’s because I’ve really gotten decent at understanding moral matrices and whatever they say to me, I can actually respond with compassion instead of reactively and with emotion. And it took a lot of practice to do that.

I’m overjoyed when people tell me their stories. Even if I disagree, I pull some wisdom out of it, and I understand who they are from a moral matrix standpoint, a lot of which is beyond their control, by the way. We often don’t choose our moral matrix. It’s conditioned or genetic. There’s a lot of it that is beyond our control. So, we have to love people for who they are. Now, if they’re causing harm in the world, then you push back and you argue, but you do it from a place of love. It’s a huge challenge. I struggle with it a lot. You guys have seen me lose my ish on this show, but in a way, sometimes you have to let your elephant rage and then rein it back in, and talk about why you let it rage, how you let it rage, what was wrong with letting it rage and why you feel better for letting it rage.

We’re human beings in the end, guys. That’s really the bottom line. I hope this was useful. I don’t know. Let’s read some comments. “Preach it,” says Doug Wilson. “Me too, Oh my God, you’re amazing. “Thank you,” Jonny Edwards. I know, right? Talking about religion and politics and that’s the thing, religion is a fascinating one because if you really get to the heart of why people have that, whatever belief they have, you really have to love them. You really do, because they are coming from a place… It took me years to come to this. I used to really look down on people with religious beliefs because again, I was in that same bubble, that atheistic scientific coastal elite bubble. And which by the way is a great bubble to be in. I highly recommended it as your first bubble, but then I think we should transcend whatever bubble we’re in. Having grown up in a very different bubble early on, and chafing against it because my inborn moral palette was a little more care versus harm, fairness versus cheating. And so it was really interesting to just from my own journey to kind of now look back on it and go, “Oh, this is interesting “how this moral palette, “this moral matrix has influenced who I am.” Let’s read some more comments.

Pinned comment, Jesse Truvia, “I watched a man ride his motorcycle down the highway “with his mask on, shaking my head, but no helmet. “So, I guess the possibility “of a crushed skull, not that important.” Right, so what does he value? Right, what does he value? He’s wearing a mask, so he values some degree of care versus harm for others, some degree of maybe for himself, maybe he’s obeying the law about the masks but not the helmet. So, and there can be cognitive and emotional dissonance within an individual for any given thing. It’s really, really interesting. ”

Pinned me some more, Logan, these are great. “Maybe you should go to Washington “and teach them how to work together.” Oh, good luck, Sherry. Washington derives on polarity. We have to transcend it. It’s how are we going to get anything done? It’s it’s not gonna be possible. “What masks studies been well-designed,” Mary Laparod. Not many. And people will share a lot of articles depending on what their biases on masks. And every time I read them, I’m like, I’m not convinced one way or the other. What convinces me about masks more is a more communitarian argument because I do tend to understand that a little bit. I say, okay, let’s say we don’t know, and the precautionary principle says, but it’s safer to use the masks than not. Now we don’t a hundred percent know that’s true because mask can cause harm if done incorrectly. False sense of security, get too close to people, don’t wash your hands, touch the mask, touch your eyes. But let’s say it doesn’t, if that’s true, if we had the resources, everyone should have a couple surgical masks and when they go out to crowded places where social distancing is impossible, if they wore masks, we would bend the reproductive number down and we could really control the virus. So I understand that theoretically, we don’t really have a lot of great data beyond correlation data, looking at what Asia does, and some, you know, little bit of dah, dah, dah, looking at how droplets are spread and that sort of thing. So again, I have to check my own bias, which is, I think the cloth mask thing is a real oppressively bad idea. Now again, and I’ve said some of that may be irrational based on my own elephant, but some of it is just talking to very smart people who understand this stuff and they’re not… Again, if you’re going to do masks, we should’ve done it very early with real masks. We didn’t have real masks, and that’s I think part of the problem. I think the powers that be would have said everybody should wear a mask if we had enough PPE, but they did not want to deprive frontline healthcare professionals, which absolutely is appropriate not to do. So again, you can imagine the difficult situations these public health officials are in. And that’s another thing we should have compassion for these guys. It’s easy to take a dump on them, right? Because we get to hear different things all the time. This is a brand new thing, we don’t understand what’s going on.

And you know, when John Haidt was talking with Sam Harris, Sam Harris has a moral palette that is very, “I need to be right.” I’ve noticed this. And John Haidt’s moral palette is more, “Hey, I kind of understand moral palettes.” And so they were talking about this and Sam said, “Well, you know, if people just realize that if you stay home.” And John said, “But Sam, the thing is we don’t really know. “Let’s be honest, the data is still forthcoming. “We’re not sure how to handle this.” And that’s why people will look at, well, is it Sweden? Is it Denmark? Is it the U.S? Is the great Britain? Is it Taiwan? Who’s got the right model? And we just don’t know, and so we have to admit that and understand, okay, let’s try to get more data. Good, quality evidence that is agnostic to moral palette.

Okay, Donna Wofford has a pin comment. “Are we missing acquired immunity by isolating?” Okay, so this is a great question. And again, this is a question that you should be able to ask no matter what side your elephant is on. acquired immunity or herd immunity or community immunity means that you’ve been exposed naturally to something, have developed immunity in the form of antibodies typically and are now resistant to that re-infection. Which means you’re not gonna pass it to somebody who’s vulnerable. Now this is the mechanism to develop an end of a pandemic because people end up becoming immune, and the virus has no hosts and it just peters out.

So this could happen one of two ways. You can naturally be exposed to the pathogen, say measles, or you can be vaccinated against it. Well, if given a choice, vaccination, which is safe and effective if you do the trials correctly, which we have for the existing vaccines, but we hope to do for a new vaccine, if they’re safe and effective, it’s much better to have it community immunity obtained through vaccines because you don’t suffer the downside of natural immunity, which is getting the disease potentially being injured or dying. And with COVID-19 the vulnerable population, particularly older people, although younger people can get it and people with comorbidities, although healthy people can get it, can die or be very, very sick from this. So, just letting it run through the population. We should be able to ask that question, should we do that? But then you have to then weigh care versus harm. You’re gonna kill a lot of older people. And the early models were really saying that something like 5% of everyone over 65 would die if we let this thing run. While now we have no idea if that was a true model because we changed our behavior, and so we don’t know. There’s a lot of unknowns. These are all guesses and predictions based on maps that may not represent the actual territory they’re trying to map. But that’s a good question to ask.

With this disease we don’t know, and that’s why this whole Stanford seroprevalence study was so controversial because if what they were saying was true, then it was 80 times more prevalent in the community, it means people are already developing herd immunity. We ought to just let it go because it’s not as fatal as we thought. Well, it turns out there are a lot of problems with that trial including who was funding it, which was, one of the CEOs of JetBlue I think. And so there’s controversy there, which we talked about in the original video, but it’s come out even more lately. And again, even that controversy, if you look who’s pushing it, it’s always the more liberal leaning news outlets. Because again, moral palette, wealthy entrepreneur wants to fudge data so that economy will reopen, right? So, that’s that care versus harm. Whereas the rights like, Hey, wealthy entrepreneur makes jobs, saves lives by keeping people from dying by suicide because they don’t have jobs, we should let him go. Understand both sides instead of villainizing them. And you can question the data and you can also question when people are behaving purely elephant and go, “Hey, I see what’s happening there. “That’s not good. “Please don’t do that. “And I can’t take you seriously “when you’re that lost in your elephant, “you’re not being mindful of what’s going on.” And that’s why I think the best communicators of this stuff are very rational. And they put their biases out on the table and they say, “Oh, this is what I feel. “But the data seems to suggest.” it’s very, very important to be able to recognize that.

Okay, Jessie Yang in a pinned comment. “How do you generate compassion for those who are racist or sexist and cause harm based on those beliefs?” What a great question, Jess. So, we talk about seeing another side. Now, racism and sexism are really fascinating because, and this is another reason this is another thing I talk about with people the minute I meet them often, and people are just like, “Huh.” is race. So, I will try to figure out what’s your background? I may even take a guess, and when I’m wrong I’ll go see what an idiot I am. So, tell me, you know what? And you get into someone’s sort of a little bit more about who they are. It’s such a taboo thing to talk about. It helps that I’m a little off white. So, for some reason people give me a license to just ask anything. Whereas I have friends who are white, they’re like, “I would never ask that, people think I was a racist.” And that’s part of it. So, short of Frank, open racism and sexism, a lot of people have implicit bias that comes out in ways that people who are sensitive to it will recognize.

But people who are not will not. And again, it will be perceived through your own moral palette if you’re talking about care versus harm, Fairness versus cheating, race is an important part of that. Like it’s not fair that African Americans were enslaved in this country. But then the right will say, but now it’s not fair that a Caucasian person is discriminated against just for being Caucasian because they have privileged or whatever. So there’s different ways of looking at this. Now racist and sexist in a open way where it’s just clear that it’s happening, at that point, the only way to deal with that is to disengage or to say, “Listen what happened to you?” Not what’s wrong with you? “What happened to you that made you this way?”` Because this is not a productive way to be in the world. And so something happened to you. Was it your upbringing? Were your parents racist? What is it? It’s very rare that someone was just born a racist. There’s a lot that goes into it. And so you can have some compassion for them even in the setting of that while not condoning for a second what they’re saying, what their belief structure is or the harm that they’re doing. Let’s read some more. It’s a great question. Tom Erickson, “People need to be educated “on research designs and limitations.” That’s so important because people, and you got to understand not only that people, people share articles to back what their moral matrix says or their elephant says, but they don’t have the ability to critically look at that article. And whether it’s anti-vaccine people or pro mask people or pro whatever people, it doesn’t matter, the antilock down people will pull articles out and say, Hey, this is what it shows pro locked down people. You have to be able to look at, okay, what’s a case control trial? What’s a retrospective trial? What’s a prospective trial? What’s a randomized control trial?

And we need to have that understanding. Also, what are the biases in this study? Who’s funding this study? What journal does it appear in? Because there are predatory journals that will publish you that have no scruples. The peer review is a sham and peer review is imperfect. And this is why science has to be grown, not feared or shunned, it needs to be grown so that we can have better tools in the public to understand this. Now, not everyone’s capable of this. It’s kind of tough, critical thinking sometimes, and not everybody’s has that gift to do that, but most people do and you can train them. And the ones that don’t, you can at least make them an emotional argument and say, “Okay, well I understand what your palate is, “your moral matrix. “Let’s speak in the same language about it.” Let’s read some more. Oh, here’s a good one. Amanda Johnson, “How do you balance care versus harm “when it comes to kids returning to school?” What a tremendous conflict that is, right? Really, really feel that for a second. Okay, kids are stuck at home. They may not be getting as good an education. If they’re disadvantaged or poor, they are potentially living with a single parent who is getting very frustrated. There could be people living in abusive households where now they’re with the abuser all day. These kids are not getting their regular vaccinations because the parents are afraid to take them to the doctor. So, they could get sick from a measles outbreak or mumps, whooping cough. The harm of not going to school is tremendous. But then you look at do kids get really sick from COVID? Mostly not. There are these cases of this auto-immune, Kawasaki-like multi-system inflammatory syndrome of children MIS-C, but they’re very rare still. So the danger directly to children isn’t great.

But then if the children get infected and come home and infect grandpa, that’s a problem. So you can see how there isn’t a black or white. So what do? You have to weigh all of this and different, good people have good intent, will have different solutions. Is it social distancing at school? Is it let it run through the child age population, and protect older people from them? So continue to distance with older people. And that’s easy for rich people to say, but hard for multi-generational families living in a small space who are economically impoverished to do. And that’s where you get into care versus harm. Fairness versus cheating. It’s really tough. Sanctity versus degradation. Really, really tough. Great questions. And Joe Scavo is sending 200 stars for a Doc Vader rant. We have a goal. If we make our a hundred thousand star goal, Doc Vader we’ll do a crazy rant. So thanks for the stars, everybody who sent them. All right, I think we did a thing here today. This is what I want you guys to do, I want you to think about your moral matrix around COVID and why it might influence how you’re seeing this, what news you watch, what stations you tuned to, what echo chambers you’re in. And I want you to try to reach out and look at some other echo chambers from a standpoint of pretending that you have a different moral matrix that values slightly different things. And, and you’ll start to understand and have compassion for people that you thought were beyond hope. Now again, there will always be people on the extremes where it’s just tough and you have to disengage because it’s too exhausting for anyone’s elephant. And that’s okay. They’re rare, you guys. I know it doesn’t feel that way because social media amps it up, but those people are rare.

It’s more likely that people wanna do good in the world, wanna be good citizens and help each other and help themselves in their families. They just have different ways of doing it, different ways of feeling it. So share this episode, leave a comment. Thank you to all the supporters who make all this show possible. I couldn’t do this stuff without you, especially during these difficult economic times. I’m so happy that you choose to spend 499 supporting us when I know it’s hard. And if you can’t do it, please unsubscribe. It’s actually very easy to do. I keep forgetting to tell you how to do this “cause it’s not in my best interest. I have to override my elephant going, “Don’t tell them.” If you need to unsubscribe from the show, go to Manage Supporter Benefits on my Facebook page and click that. And then you can click Manage Subscription and you can unsubscribe. So I don’t want to take your support if you’re having trouble or you’re unemployed or you’ve been furloughed, okay, that would not be good. So, we will all survive this, but it’s gonna have to be working together. All right, share this video. I’ll put it up on YouTube as well. And I love you guys. We are out. Listen to that elephant, listen to it, but don’t get lost in the sauce.

A Tale of Two Pandemics: Lyme & COVID-19. Dr. Bransfield

 Approx. 1 Hour

A Tale of Two Pandemics: Lyme and COVID-19

Dr. Bransfield discusses the similarities and differences between the two pandemics of Lyme Disease and COVID-19, with a particular emphasis on their neuropsychiatric manifestations. Viral infections have been associated with mood changes, psychosis, changes in neuromuscular function and even demyelinating processes, as has Lyme Disease, particularly neuroborreliosis. He examins the connections, such as they are known to date, and answers questions live during the webinar.



If you are unfamiliar with Dr. Bransfield, you are in for a treat.  He is one of the few psychiatrists who studies the psychiatric effects of Lyme/MSIDS.

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How To Survive When Your Entire Family Has Lyme

 Approx. 1 Hour

#245: Stephanie Silverberg, IMFT/ART – How to Survive When Your Entire Family Has Lyme

In this episode you will learn three main things:

1) Why you should consider a functional medicine doctor for your Lyme Journey
2) Why you should never accept a psychiatric diagnosis from an endocrinologist
3) How allowing “the bottom to fall out” gives you the opportunity to find out what is important in your life

Stephanie Silverberg got acutely sick about three years ago. Neurological symptoms progressed to the point where she was bed bound for three months. Consultations with specialists didn’t yield any results, and it wasn’t until she visited a functional medicine doctor that she was able to start to regain her health and begin her lyme journey. She works as a marriage counselor in Ohio.


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Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Kris Kristofferson Was Misdiagnosed With Alzheimer’s, Memory Loss Was Due to Ticks

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Kris Kristofferson was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s, memory loss was due to ticks

Kris had been complaining to doctors about memory loss said his wife Lisa Meyers in 2016, ‘That was a big clue to me that maybe it was not really Alzheimer’s’

                            Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Kris Kristofferson was misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's, memory loss was due to ticksKris Kristofferson (Getty Images)


The tick-borne illness affects many people but isn’t easily or efficiently diagnosed, with its array of symptoms, it can also be misdiagnosed.

Renowned songwriter and actor and country legend Kris Kristofferson contracted the disease and it went undiagnosed for years. Kristofferson is known for his roles as Rudy Martin in ‘Fast Food Nation’ and songs like ‘Me and Bobby McGee,’ and his suffering shocked many people. (See link for article)



Kristofferson had a laundry-list of symptoms indicative of tick-borne illness.

What’s truly unfortunate is that there are plenty more out there suffering from the exact same thing to this day who could get better but doctors are woefully ignorant.

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Sex & Chronic Illness Podcast

When you suffer from a chronic illness, your sexual life can involve a complicated mix of emotions and feelings. A lot of people who are diagnosed with chronic illness can feel loss and grief. In this episode of Sex, Love, and SuperPowers, host Tatiana Berindei is joined by Cindy Kennedy. Cindy is a Nurse Practitioner and has worked in women’s health for over 21 years. She practiced gynecology and has cared for thousands of patients ranging in age from 15-99. Listen in as Tatiana and Cindy find an integrative approach to health and treatment modalities to assist in cellular support, detoxification, and chronic diseases to improve your sexual life.


Hello everyone and welcome to the Sex, Love and SuperPowers podcast show. I am your host, Tatiana Berindei. and today my guest is Cindy Kennedy, and we are going to be talking about sex and chronic illness.

Let me tell you a little bit about Cindy before we dive into our conversation today. Cindy Kennedy is a Nurse Practitioner and has worked in women’s health for over 21 years. She practiced gynecology and has cared for thousands of patients ranging in age from 15 all the way to 99. Unbeknownst to her several years ago, she contracted Lyme’s disease. Her symptoms were subtle at first and then in 2011 her disease struck with a vengeance. Even as a knowledgeable healthcare professional struggles to find a cause became overwhelming. She came to feel the same sinking feeling that other Lyme sufferers must bear. The endless walk down the frightening path of misdiagnoses, shattered hope, and disappointment. With the love and support of her husband and three daughters, Cindy has made great strides in improving her health. Though she’s still reminded that she has lasting effects from the illness.

She’s passionate about providing education about Lyme disease, co-infections, treatment options, and most importantly Living with Lyme. Her podcast, Living with Lyme has offered expert advice from many sought after practitioners and researchers. Her compassionate education has given her the opportunity to open her own practice to find upstream reasons for chronic issues. She works alongside of her daughter, “Kerah”, who is a functional registered dietician with the same focus on care.

The Pursue Wellness Center is slated to open spring of 2020. It will offer an integrative approach to health and treatment modalities to assist in detoxification, cellular support, meditation, parasympathetic support, and the therapeutic yoga center.

Welcome to the show Cindy.

Well, thank you. Thank you for having me and that was a great introduction. I can’t wait to go to the center.

Yeah, it sounds great. Before we jump in here, will you tell our listeners what your superpowers are?

I had to think about this. I think that I’m fortunate enough that I just go about… It’s myself. My superpower is definitely humor. It takes out a lot of different forms. It’s also part of being compassionate. Sometimes just making the situation light when that person across the table from you is struggling. And just breaking that up a little bit with some silly face or some silly little words. I really feel that that is the biggest gift that God has given me and it’s just that giggle. It’s wonderful.

I think humor really is a power and is greatly healing. I remember hearing a story years ago about a man who was diagnosed with cancer and decided that he was just going to… He was given like three months or something. He decided he was just going to rent the funniest movies that he could find and just spend the rest of his days on the couch with his family laughing. And he ended up curing himself from cancer with just laughter.

Great. Great. It’s that positive. Yeah.

I don’t know that everyone would have the same outcome, and that wasn’t what he was necessarily going for. He thought he was dying, but there was something in the surrender and in the joy. I think it’s a really health-giving thing that laughter.

It is. It is. And you know, trying to use it appropriately. I’ve put my foot in my mouth a couple of times.

I’m sure. That’s part of… Well I think humor is really a skill, and I think we do have to shove our foot in there a few times to get what’s going to land well.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, especially when someone looks at you and all you want to go and say is, “Oh, bada boom, bada bang.”

Yeah. So, I was really intrigued to have you on the show because this is a topic that I haven’t covered at all. Most of this show is for people who either have an engaging sex life or who are struggling but more for emotional or communication reasons. And so, I was really curious to talk about what living with chronic illness and having a sexual life was like.

So, I guess I would just love to hear… We only have a few minutes before we have to go to a break. So, I’m trying to figure out like what’s the best way to dive into this conversation because I know it’s going to be deep and I don’t want to just like cut us off in the middle of something really important.

Maybe you could start out by telling us a little bit about your journey with Lyme’s and what were some of the most surprising elements to you in contracting this chronic illness?

Well, I guess I’m half the problem is finding that diagnosis because the whole time you feeling awful. And it’s kind of like Groundhog Day where you wake up and you think, “Oh, maybe tomorrow will be better.” And it’s exactly the same as the day before. And so there’s always that struggle personally and it really does change your personality. And for some people it’s a struggle neurologically and it’s a disconnect because Lyme can certainly affect the brain. And when you have that disconnect, it’s hard. You can’t even figure out sometimes if you’re coming or going and then you’re looking at your partner or your spouse. I mean, some people can hold their own for quite a while and then there are others that are like well when are you going to feel better? Because your crabby and your distant and things like that because you’re constantly focusing on how awful you feel. So, when you have somebody that has a cold or a belly bug or something, you know that they’re going to get better.

Right. You know there’s an end point.

… period of time. But when you’re struggling and the fatigue is incredible and you’re sleeping so much, it’s very difficult for your sex partner to kind of figure out like when to approach you for this. And I will tell you there’s a huge loss for people who suffer from Lyme for their own personal wellbeing as well as their support systems. People just kind of walk away, and they walk away because they probably don’t know what to do. They also walk away because they think you’re crazy. We’re all just like one insect bite away from a psychiatric diagnosis because we pretty much look well, but we aren’t well.

Yeah, I’ve heard about especially… I mean, this is kind of going in a different direction, but I know I’ve read some articles about, especially when women go into a doctor’s office complaining of symptoms, it can be really hard to even get the testing done because there’s more assumption that women are creating things psychosomatically and kind of in the medical field that there’s this like the hysteria of time’s gone by is still present in the medical psyche in terms of how we treat patients. And I’ve definitely seen that with Lyme’s. I mean, Lyme is huge in New England where you live and where I used to live. It’s almost like an epidemic issue at this point.

It’s a pandemic, but here it’s incredible. And mainstream medicine does not get it. They’re narrow-minded. They think it is a bacteria that a round of antibiotics will take care of. And they also think that the standard two tier testing is perfect, but it is not. It’s not specific enough. It’s sensitive enough. So people will go along their path after their doctor has said, “Well, your tests are negative.” And they’re unaware. Both these physicians, medical providers as well as these poor patients that these tests are not accurate. And so that’s where that big gap is.

Mm-hmm. Like I said, we do need to go to a quick break, but I really do want to dive into sort of navigating sexuality and romantic and intimate partnership while living with chronic illness when we get back.

Before we go to break, will you tell our listeners where they can go to find out more about you and your wellness center and your podcast and all that?

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. You can find us at The wellness center is slated to open in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts come spring of 2020. My own podcast is located on every place you get your podcasts, but the website is Lots of resources. How to test a tick, not yourself, but where to send it. And it’s valuable because people who are looking for information can go to one place.

Awesome. Thank you so much. So, we’re talking with Cindy Kennedy about sex and chronic illness. More when we get back. Stay tuned.

To listen to the entire show click on the player above or go to the SuperPower Up! podcast on iTunes.

Music Credit: All instruments played by Amanda Turk. Engineered and produced by Tatiana Berindei and Daniel Plane


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Top 5 Herbs to Fight Free Radicals and Boost Your Immunity

Top 5 Herbs to Fight Free Radicals and Boost Your Immunity

By Dr. Bill Rawls Posted 04-24-2020

A strong immune system has always been essential for good health, and it’s even more vital in these uncertain times. Not only do we need solid internal defenses to fight viruses and other illnesses, they also help keep us healthy while we manage the increasing amounts of psychological stress we’re all dealing with — from a bleak news cycle, worry about our loved ones or ourselves, disrupted routines, close quarters, and a number of other things out of our control.

While there are many ways to bolster your immune system, one approach is through controlling or balancing free radicals. You probably have a general sense of what free radicals are — as well as their “opposite,” antioxidants. At least, perhaps, you understand that free radicals are usually “bad” and antioxidants are “good.”

But the story is much more nuanced, and it’s worth understanding the details in order to take a strategic approach to improving immunity.

Free Radicals: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Here, five must-know facts about free radicals:

1. Your Body Needs Free Radicals to Live.

The human body uses oxygen to make a specialized type of free radical called reactive oxygen species. These act as a sort of catalyst, plucking electrons off carbohydrate and fat molecules to destabilize them, which allows your body to more easily convert those nutrients into usable fuel for energy. Without them, you’d die.

2. Free Radicals Indiscriminately Break Down Molecules.

The problem is that mitochondria — the power plants of cells — and every other part of the body are made of similarly high-energy organic molecules like fats and carbohydrates. And so they’re equally susceptible to being destabilized by free radicals.

In other words, the free radicals the body produces to help it more easily generate energy can destabilize whatever other molecules are in the vicinity. That means they also end up breaking down mitochondria and affecting DNA — it’s the price of generating energy.

3. The Immune System Employs Free Radicals for Its “Cleanup Crew.”

Free radicals are deployed by your immune system to break down old cells and other cellular “debris.” That makes it easier for your body to clear them from your system.

Similarly, the immune system uses free radicals to help attack, destabilize, and dispose of harmful microbes in your system. In short, we have to put up with a certain amount of free radical damage in order to both produce energy and keep our bodies from becoming a sludge pile of cellular waste and harmful microbes.

That residual damage is essentially what ages us over time or contributes to illness. It’s why older adults are often more vulnerable when they get sick: More of their mitochondria and DNA have burned out from free radical damage, and more cells have died.

As for the cells that remain, they don’t produce as much energy, and DNA doesn’t reproduce as healthy of cells — including cells of our immune system. So, in older folks, immune systems don’t hum along at quite the same pace as they do in younger people.

4. Antioxidants Help Maintain Balance.

Antioxidants that the body produces and that you get from plants like fruit, vegetables, and herbs help control free radicals by neutralizing their activity; they donate an electron so that the free radical can’t pluck it off a cell. They essentially help police the free radicals so that there’s enough activity to do their job of breaking down fuel and debris while minimizing the damage to healthy tissue, mitochondria, and DNA.

5. Damaging Free Radicals Are All Around Us.

Along with the free radicals your body naturally produces, there are a number of other sources and types we’re exposed to. For example, the refined fats in many processed foods are very brittle and break apart easily, and those pieces then turn into damaging free radicals.

city view hidden my smog

Other aspects of processed foods, as well as pollutants and toxins in the air and pesticides in food, likewise act as free radicals in our system. Psychological stress can also set off a chain of events that trigger excess free radicals and damage.

The Free Radical-Inflammation Cycle

When cells are under stress from free radicals, they must work harder and produce more energy to try to keep up. But the harder cells have to work and the more energy they produce, the more free radicals they produce. That then also leads to more waste byproducts.

What’s more, because it’s the job of the immune system to clear up that waste — which it uses free radicals to do — more free radicals flood your system, creating a vicious cycle. All together, it puts an enormous amount of strain and pressure on your body’s systems, and particularly your immune system.

What starts happening: The immune system can’t keep up with the buildup of cellular debris and other waste. And, it’s so preoccupied, it can’t manage the waste and byproducts generated by your body’s microbes, either. All of that waste builds up around cells, creating what we think of as harmful inflammation — it’s as if your body’s sewer system gets clogged and starts backing up.

Conversely, under more normal circumstances, the healthy action of free radicals leads to some inflammation. When it’s kept in check, it’s a controlled burn. Think of how forest rangers might set small fires under safe conditions to help maintain the health of a forest and reduce the risk of larger fires down the road. The same is true in your body: A normal inflammatory response is not only good, it’s necessary for life.

fire growing in dark image

But just as with forest fires, problems occur when the flames rage uncontrolled. When free radicals overwhelm your antioxidant defenses and waste builds up, it triggers chronic or uncontrolled inflammation.

And that can ravage your system over time, contributing to a whole host of problems. For example, it can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, chronic illness, and more, as well as accelerating the breakdown of cells — including immune cells.

Maintaining Balance is Key.

The goal, then, is to limit external sources of free radicals and maintain a careful balance of internal sources of free radicals. You can’t stop those produced from cells as they generate energy, and you need those produced by the immune system to clean up our body’s waste byproducts.

But you can reduce the influx of free radicals from external sources, and you can take other actions to protect your cells from becoming stressed and keep your microbiome in balance, which curbs runaway inflammation. Here’s how:

Freshen Up Your Diet

Minimize your intake of processed and high-carb foods, which increase free radical activity and inflammation. Instead, load up on more fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods.

Iridescent food. Creative composition made of fruits and vegetables in rainbow colors on white background, flat lay

Brightly colored fruits and veggies, especially, like berries and leafy greens, as well as certain spices and herbs are loaded with antioxidants shown to fight free radical stress and inflammation. One review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition specifically found that higher intakes of fruits and veggies both reduce harmful inflammation and enhance immune cells.

Avoid Toxins.

Try to spend as little time as possible in highly polluted areas, which are known to trigger inflammation and cell death. In addition, use gentle, naturally sourced cleaning products, and eat organic foods whenever possible to minimize toxin intake.

Stay Active.

Moderate exercise helps reduce inflammation, as well as helps control inflammation-stoking stress. One study, for example, found that even just 20 minutes of activity could reduce inflammation and strengthen your immune system.

Mind Your Microbes.

An impressive 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. The more you can feed your good gut bacteria foods that are fresh, fiber-rich, and plant-based, the better. The microbes will be less stressed, and better able to help send and receive messages, enabling your immune system to more effectively respond to threats and control unnecessary inflammation.

Taking herbs known to balance the good microbes in your gut and support your immune system is also a great strategy. Three of my favorite herbs for balancing the microbiome are andrographis, cat’s claw, and berberine.

The Power of Herbs

In addition to consuming antioxidant-rich produce, nuts, and other plant foods, herbs offer an excellent line of defense against free radicals and extra support for your immune system. Here’s why.

Over the centuries, all plants developed antioxidant defenses to protect themselves from various environmental stressors. And that’s especially true of herbs, many of which are still cultivated in the wild, where they’ve been able to retain naturally high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. Or, they’ve been specifically cultivated for potency, not for taste.

Herbs with alternative medicine herbal supplements and pills

So, which herbs are best for fighting free radicals? All of them do, to some extent, but there are two smart strategies you can use when picking herbs to optimize your benefits.

First, combine synergistic herbs that come from different environments. If the environment in which an herb evolved and the stress factors it deals with informs its defenses system, it makes sense to consume herbs that come from both high and low altitudes, warm and cool climates, for example. That will give you the broadest action and support possible.

Second, consider herbs’ other properties beyond being effective antioxidants. For example, look for herbs that also help balance hormones or your microbes, or that shore up communication between parts of the immune system. That way, you not only address the damage done by free radicals, but you get the additional supportive benefits as well.

5 Antioxidant, Immune-Supporting Herbs

While many different herbs could be on this list, these five provide potent and broad benefits, not only in terms of their antioxidant power, but in their overall ability to support your immune system, health, and longevity.

1. Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea blossom by springtime at solar day.Beautiful green background

An adaptogen that grows primarily in harsh, Northern climates including Siberia, rhodiola helps the body manage and become more resistant to stress — both physical and emotional. It also supports and protects immune function and cells, helps balance hormones, and may enhance energy and stamina. One review, for example, noted that the herbal extract has been found to have both anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties.

2. Reishi Mushroom

reishi mushrooms growing on wood

Although a fungi, reishi is often referred to as an herb because of its range of benefits. As a fungi, though, it naturally confronts excess stress from microbes, which gives it specialized powers to help rev up our own immune system against pathogenic microbes. That helps keep our microbiome — and, by extension, our immune system — balanced and healthy.

Research also suggests reishi may help increase the activity of immune cells and boost production of cytokines, cells in the immune system that act as messengers or effectors of other cells. Other studies have found reishi extract bolsters the activity of two of our body’s natural antioxidant enzymes — superoxide dismutase and catalase — which help fight damaging reactive oxygen species.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric powder in white cup.

This spice, which gives curry its bright yellow color, is loaded with antioxidants called polyphenols. While these antioxidants are effective at controlling free radicals, researchshows what traditional medicine practitioners have known for centuries: That turmeric is also a potent anti-inflammatory. That means, while it controls inflammation through its effect on free radicals, it’s also helping to regulate the messaging systems of the immune system and your body’s inflammatory response.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, for example, do this by blocking an enzyme called COX-2, which “turns on” inflammation. But these drugs don’t do anything to stop the source of the inflammation, and they also block COX-1, a beneficial enzyme that helps protect our stomach.

Turmeric, on the other hand, decreases the formation of COX-2 in the long term, while its antioxidants help address the cause of inflammation. It also doesn’t impact COX-1. So, in the long run, turmeric helps better regulate and normalize the body’s inflammatory response.

4. Shilajit

black shilajit powder pile in front of mountain view

Another example of an “herb-adjacent” compound — meaning not technically a herb but often discussed with other herbs or referred to as one — shilajit is actually a herbomineral substance. Found in the Himalayan, Ural, and Caucasus Mountains, it seeps out from between rocks as a gummy substance (before it’s processed and purified into a useable form), the result of plant materials being compressed into the earth and decomposing.

Because of that, shilajit is concentrated with antioxidants from a variety of different plant sources. Much of its antioxidant properties comes from fulvic acid, which is produced from organisms in the soil.

In addition to its antioxidant powers, the acid may help regulate immune function and improve gastrointestinal function, according to research. It’s also known to help improve resistance to stress and guard against inflammatory conditions.

5. Gotu Kola

green Got Kola leaves

Unlike many of the other herbs and substances mentioned here, gotu kola grows primarily in tropical and subtropical locations, including the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and India. The herb itself is a member of the carrot family, although it’s closely related to and resembles parsley. In India, it’s even eaten as a leafy green, and it’s known for its content of antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C and carotenoids.

However gotu kola contains other powerful antioxidant phytochemicals, too, including triterpenes. It’s also a natural mood stabilizer that may help balance and manage the stress response by revitalizing the central nervous system and promoting production of GABA, a neurotransmitter linked to calm and relaxation, suggests a paper the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. For those and other reasons, it’s traditionally been used as a general longevity and brain tonic.

While there are a lot about these times we can’t control, one thing you can do is take care of your immune system. Support it, so that it can better support you and keep you healthy now and for the long-term.

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How T. Gondii Infection Causes Seizures, and Psychiatric Illness For Some

How T. gondii infection causes seizures, and psychiatric illness for some


Summary: Study shows how Toxoplasma parasitic infections promote the loss of inhibitory signaling in the brain by altering the behavior of microglia.

Source: Virginia Tech

Think about traffic flow in a city – there are stop signs, one-way streets, and traffic lights to organize movement across a widespread network. Now, imagine what would happen if you removed some of the traffic signals.

Among your brain’s 86 billion neurons are the brain’s own version of stop signals: inhibitory neurons that emit chemicals to help regulate the flow of ions traveling down one cell’s axon to the next neuron. Just as a city without traffic signals would experience a spike in vehicle accidents, when the brain’s inhibitory signals are weakened, activity can become unchecked, leading to a variety of disorders.

In a new study published in GLIA on March 11, Virginia Tech neuroscientists at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC describe how the common Toxoplasma gondii parasite prompts the loss of inhibitory signaling in the brain by altering the behavior of nearby cells called microglia.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 40 million Americans have varying levels of Toxoplasma infection, although most cases are asymptomatic. Commonly passed to humans via exposure to farm animals, infected cat litter, or undercooked meat, the parasitic infection causes unnoticeable or mild, to flu-like symptoms in most healthy people. But for a small number of patients, these microscopic parasites hunker down inside of neurons, causing signaling errors that can result in seizures, personality and mood disorders, vision changes, and even schizophrenia.

“After the initial infection, humans will enter a phase of chronic infection. We wanted to examine how the brain circuitry changes in these later stages of parasitic cyst infection,” said Michael Fox, a professor at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and the study’s lead author.

The parasite forms microscopic cysts tucked inside of individual neurons.

“The theory is that neurons are a great place to hide because they fail to produce some molecules that could attract cells of the immune system,” said Fox, who is also director of the research institute’s Center for Neurobiology Research.

Fox and his collaborator, Ira Blader, recently reported that long-term Toxoplasma infections redistribute levels of a key enzyme needed in inhibitory neurons to generate GABA, a neurotransmitter released at the specialized connection between two neurons, called a synapse.

Building on that discovery, the scientists revealed that persistent parasitic infection causes a loss of inhibitory synapses, and they also observed that cell bodies of neurons became ensheathed by other brain cells, microglia. These microglia appear to prevent inhibitory interneurons from signaling to the ensheathed neurons.

“In neuropsychiatric disorders, similar patterns of inhibitory synapse loss have been reported, therefore these results could explain why some people develop these disorders post-infection,” Fox said.

Fox said the inspiration for this study started years ago when he met Blader, a collaborating author and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, after he delivered a seminar at Virginia Tech. Blader studied Toxoplasma gondii and wanted to understand how specific strands of the parasite impacted the retina in mouse models.

Working together, the two labs found that while the retina showed no remarkable changes, inhibitory interneurons in the brain were clearly impacted by the infection. Mice – similar to humans – exhibit unusual behavioral changes after Toxoplasma infection. One hallmark symptom in infected mice is their tendency to approach known predators, such as cats, displaying a lack of fear, survival instincts, or situational processing.

“Even though a lot of neuroscientists study Toxoplasma infection as a model for immune response in the brain, we want to understand what this parasite does to rewire the brain, leading to these dramatic shifts in behavior,” Fox said.

This shows a head
The parasite forms microscopic cysts tucked inside of individual neurons. The image is in the public domain.

Future studies will focus on further describing how microglia are involved in the brain’s response to the parasite.

Among the research collaborators is Gabriela Carrillo, the study’s first author and a graduate student in the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health Program. Previously trained as an architect before pursuing a career in science, Carrillo chose this topic for her doctorate dissertation because it involves an interdisciplinary approach.

“By combining multiple tools to study infectious disease and neuroscience, we’re able to approach this complex mechanistic response from multiple perspectives to ask entirely new questions,” Carrillo said. “This research is fascinating to me because we are exposing activated microglial response and fundamental aspects of brain biology through a microbiological lens.”

The study’s other contributing authors include Valerie Ballard, a Roanoke Valley Governor’s School high school student; Taylor Glausen, a graduate student working in Blader’s laboratory at the University at Buffalo; Zack Boone, a Virginia Tech undergraduate student; Cyrus Hinkson, a fourth-year Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine student; and Elizabeth Wohlfert, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at the University at Buffalo.

Virginia Tech
Media Contacts:
Whitney Slightham – Virginia Tech
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Closed access
“Toxoplasma infection induces microglia‐neuron contact and the loss of perisomatic inhibitory synapses”. Gabriela L. Carrillo, Valerie A. Ballard, Taylor Glausen, Zack Boone, Joseph Teamer, Cyrus L. Hinkson, Elizabeth A. Wohlfert, Ira J. Blader, Michael A. Fox.
GLIA doi:10.1002/glia.23816.


Toxoplasma infection induces microglia‐neuron contact and the loss of perisomatic inhibitory synapses

Infection and inflammation within the brain induces changes in neuronal connectivity and function. The intracellular protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is one pathogen that infects the brain and can cause encephalitis and seizures. Persistent infection by this parasite is also associated with behavioral alterations and an increased risk for developing psychiatric illness, including schizophrenia. Current evidence from studies in humans and mouse models suggest that both seizures and schizophrenia result from a loss or dysfunction of inhibitory synapses. In line with this, we recently reported that persistent T. gondii infection alters the distribution of glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67), an enzyme that catalyzes GABA synthesis in inhibitory synapses. These changes could reflect a redistribution of presynaptic machinery in inhibitory neurons or a loss of inhibitory nerve terminals. To directly assess the latter possibility, we employed serial block face scanning electron microscopy (SBFSEM) and quantified inhibitory perisomatic synapses in neocortex and hippocampus following parasitic infection. Not only did persistent infection lead to a significant loss of perisomatic synapses, it induced the ensheathment of neuronal somata by myeloid‐derived cells. Immunohistochemical, genetic, and ultrastructural analyses revealed that these myeloid‐derived cells included activated microglia. Finally, ultrastructural analysis identified myeloid‐derived cells enveloping perisomatic nerve terminals, suggesting they may actively displace or phagocytose synaptic elements. Thus, these results suggest that activated microglia contribute to perisomatic inhibitory synapse loss following parasitic infection and offer a novel mechanism as to how persistent T. gondii infection may contribute to both seizures and psychiatric illness.

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For more: T. gondii is responsible for about 1/5 of schizophrenia cases.

Toxoplasmosis causes many mental issues and psychiatrist E. Fuller Torry believes that 75% of schizophrenia is associated with infections, with Toxo a significant portion.