AI needs a human touch to function at its highest level

There is an old saying that speaks to the current state of AI: “To someone holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” As companies, governments, and organizations scramble to be in the vanguard of this new generation of artificial intelligence, they are trying their best to persuade everyone that all of our human shortcomings will be absolved by this technological evolution. But what exactly will it solve? Machine learning is an incredibly powerful tool, but, like any other tool, it requires a clear understanding of the problems to be solved in the first place — especially when those problems involve real humans.

Human versus machine intelligence

There is an oft-cited bit from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series in which an omniscient computer is asked for the ultimate answer to life and the universe. After 7.5 million years, it provides its answer: the number 42. The computer explains to the discombobulated beings who built it that the answer appears meaningless only because they never understood the question they wanted answered.

What is important is identifying the questions machine learning is well-tailored to answer, the questions it struggles with, and perhaps most importantly, how the paradigmatic shift in AI frameworks is impacting the relationship between humans, their data, and the world it describes. Using neural nets has allowed machines to become uncannily accurate at distinguishing idiosyncrasies in massive datasets — but at the cost of truly understanding what they know.

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, Douglas Hofstadter explores the themes of intelligence. He contemplates the idea that intelligence is built upon tangled layers of “strange loops,” a Möbius strip of hierarchical, abstracted levels that paradoxically wind up where they started out. He believes that intelligence is an emergent property built on self-referential layers of logic and abstractions.

This is the wonder that neural nets have achieved — a multi-layered mesh of nodes and weights that pass information from one tier to the next in a digital reflection of the human brain. However, there is one important rule of thumb in artificial intelligence: The more difficult it is for a human to interpret and process something, the easier it is for a machine, and vice versa.

Calculating digits of π, encrypting messages using unimaginably huge prime numbers, and remembering a bottomless Tartarean abyss of information can occur within the blink of an eye using a computer, which manages to outperform millennia of human calculations. And yet humans can recognize their friend’s face in an embarrassing baby photo, identify painters based on brush strokes, and make sense of overly verbose and ruminating blog entries. These are domains that machine learning has made vast improvements in, but it is no wonder that as the human brain-inspired architecture of neural nets brings machines up to parity, and in some cases beyond, in areas of human cognition, machines are beginning to suffer some of the same problems humans do.

Nature or nurture?

By design, we are unable to know what neural nets have learned, and instead we often keep feeding the system more data until we like what we see. Worse yet, the knowledge it has “learned” is not discrete principles and theories, but rather contained in a vast network that is incomprehensible to humans. While Hofstadter might have contemplated artificial intelligence as a reflection of human intelligence, modern AI architects have no tendency to share the same preoccupation. Consequently, modern neural nets, while highly accurate, do not elucidate any understanding of the world for us. In fact, there are several well-publicized instances where AI went afoul, manifesting in a socially unacceptable reality. Within a day of Microsoft’s AI chatbot Tay being active, it learned from Twitter users how to craft misogynistic, racist, and transphobic tweets. Did Tay learn a conceptual sociohistorical theory of gender or race? I would argue not.

Why AI can’t be left unattended

Paradoxically, even if we assume that the purpose of an AI isn’t to understand human concepts at all, these concepts often materialize anyway. As another example of misguided AI, an algorithm was used to predict the likelihood of someone committing future crimes. Statistically based software models learned racial biases, assigning higher risks to black defendants with virtually no criminal records, if any, than to white defendants with extensive histories of violent crime. Facial recognition software is also known to have its biases, to the point that a Nikon camera was unable to determine if a Taiwanese-American woman had her eyes open or not. Machine learning is only as good as the data it is built upon, and when that data is subject to human biases, AI systems inherit these biases. Machines are effective at learning from data, but unlike humans, have little to no proficiency when it comes to taking into account all the things they don’t know, the things missing from the data. This is why even Facebook, which is able to devote massive AI resources to its efforts to eliminate terroristic posts, concedes that the cleanup process ultimately depends on human moderators. We should be rightfully anxious about firing up an AI, whose knowledge is unknowable to us, and leaving it to simmer unattended.

The AI community cannot be haphazard about throwing open the AI gates. Machine learning works best when the stakeholders’ problems and goals are clearly identified, allowing us to chart an appropriate course of action. Treating everything as a nail is likely to waste resources, erode users’ trust, and ultimately lead to ethical dilemmas in AI development.

Mike Pham is a technical product manager at Narrative Science, a company that makes advanced natural language generation (Advanced NLG) for the enterprise.

Body’s ‘bad fat’ could be altered to combat obesity, say scientists

“Bad fat” could be made to turn over a new leaf and combat obesity by blocking a specific protein, scientists have discovered.

Most fat in the body is unhealthy “white” tissue deposited around the waist, hips and thighs. But smaller amounts of energy-hungry “brown” fat are also found around the neck and shoulders. Brown fat generates heat by burning up excess calories.

Now scientists experimenting on lab mice have found a way to transform white fat into “beige” fat – a healthier halfway stage also capable of reducing weight gain.

Dr Irfan Lodhi, from Washington University School of Medicine in the US, said: “Our goal is to find a way to treat or prevent obesity. “Our research suggests that by targeting a protein in white fat, we can convert bad fat into a type of fat that fights obesity.”

Beige fat was discovered in adults in 2015 and shown to function in a similar way to brown fat. Lodhi’s team found that blocking a protein called PexRAP caused white fat in mice to be converted to beige fat that burned calories.

The discovery, published in the journal Cell Reports, raises the prospect of more effective treatments for obesity and diabetes. The next step will be to find a safe way of blocking PexRAP in white fat cells in humans.

Lodhi said: “The challenge will be finding safe ways to do that without causing a person to overheat or develop a fever, but drug developers now have a good target.”

10 Incredible Health Benefits of Blueberries

Though the roster of “superfoods” is filled with names that many people outside of nutritional circles are probably not too familiar with, most of us know and love the common blueberry. This popular, sweet little berry is packed with important nutrients, and can be a great contribution to overall good health.

Blueberries are full of the micronutrients that our bodies require for healthy functioning. They are also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, and important dietary fiber. Another great thing about blueberries is that they have a low glycemic load. What this means is that they do not substantially raise blood glucose levels after being eaten. There is promising evidence that blueberries are good for:

1. Improve memory function
A 12 week study out of the University of Cincinna found that older adults benefited from improved memory after consuming wild blueberry juice on a daily basis. The researchers concluded that this was likely due to antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds known as anthocyanins that are found in blueberries.

2. Support heart health
The antioxidant effect of blueberries may also help to prevent cardiovascular disease. Though more research needs to be done, especially in humans, researchers at the University of Arkansas discovered that mice fed with blueberry powder showed healthier heart vessels.

3. Prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Blueberries may be helpful for preventing UTIs because they contain compounds known as flavonoids. Flavonoids are good for helping the body fight off and get rid of bacterial infections.

4. Reduce inflammation
Along with the already noted anti-inflammatory effect of anthocyanins, flavonoids are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties. This can make blueberries helpful for inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Of course, such conditions require a healthy lifestyle of a good diet and regular exercise in order to be managed properly, but consistent blueberry intake may help to reduce some of the pain.

5. Help to prevent cancer
One of the most exciting and hopeful new paths coming from research into the health effects of blueberries is the possibility that they may prevent and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. These studies are tentative and have so far only been done on animals or on human cells in a laboratory setting. Nonetheless, researchers have had promising results that are sure to lead to more studies in the future.

6. Slow down visual loss
High in anthocyanosides, blueberries help to slow down visual loss. Due to their antioxidant properties, these tiny berries can delay or prevent age-related ocular problems, including cataract, macular degeneration, myopia and hypermetropia. The thing is, blueberries contain a special group of powerful antioxidants such as carotenoids (zeaxanthin, lutein), flavonoids (resveritrol, rutin, quercetin), as well as vitamins A, C, and E, selenium, phosphorus and zinc, which are all essential and beneficial for the ocular health.

7. Reduce belly fat
Eating blueberries regularly can also help you get rid of belly fat. A handful of blueberries is a healthy and nutritious snack, so why not eat it right now to boost your health and reduce belly fat? You can add blueberries to your smoothies, yogurt, pancakes, waffles and sprinkle them on your cereal.

8. Good for your skin and hair
Ever wondered how you can get healthy skin and hair naturally? Eating a cup of blueberries can provide fantastic benefits such as a glowing skin and a healthy and shiny hair. Blueberries help to fight free radical damage, and the antioxidants in these berries protect you from premature aging. I think it’s a great reason to eat blueberries daily.

9. Keep away constipation
Blueberries are high in fiber that can help relieve constipation. Just make sure you don’t eat too much of them. A big handful of blueberries will be enough to keep away constipation. If you have constipation frequently, you need to consult your doctor to find out the reason.

10. Improve digestion
Last but not least health benefit of blueberries is that they help to keep your digestive system healthy. Vitamins, copper, sodium, fiber, fructose and acids in blueberries improve digestion and can help you feel fuller longer. Both fresh and frozen blueberries make great additions to smoothies and baked goods. It’s an excellent way to reap the benefits of blueberries.

Even if you aren’t worried about any particular disease you should consider snacking on blueberries more often instead of reaching for a bag of chips. Eat them by the handful or throw them into your favorite smoothie for an easy way to give your body some important nutrients. What’s your favorite way to eat blueberries?

10 Fabulous Reasons to Fall in Love with Mangoes

Sweet and delicious mangoes are an incredibly healthy fruit worth eating every day. Mangoes are packed with essential nutrients and vitamins, and provide a great number of health benefits. You can add this fruit to numerous dishes, including smoothies, stir-fry, salads, or simply eat it as a healthy snack. Include those ripe and juicy mangoes in your everyday diet and enjoy their fantastic taste and incredible health benefits. Here are a few reasons why I eat mangoes every day.

1. Boost your immune system
Do you want to boost your immune system? Consider adding mangoes to your daily diet. Mangoes are high in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that converts to vitamin A, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect the body against free radical damage. Mangoes are also rich in vitamin C, which is effective in increasing immune system functioning.

2. Reduce your risk of cancer
Due to high antioxidant vitamin content, mangoes have shown to lower the risk of cancer. A study has shown that the compounds such as astragalin, quercetin, gallic acid, isoquercitrin, methylgallat, and fisetin, protect the body against breast cancer, colon, leukemia and prostate. Consuming mangoes is one of the most delicious ways to reduce your risk of cancer.

3. Improve your brain function
Mangoes are high in vitamin B6, which is essential for proper nervous system and brain functioning. Moreover, vitamin B6 aids in the formation of several brain neurotransmitters which are responsible for healthy sleep patterns and mood regulation. Mangoes also contain glutamine, an important amino acid, which helps enhance concentration and improve memory.

4. Protect your liver
Eating mangoes can also help you protect your liver. The thing is, mangoes are high in powerful antioxidants and they help cleanse your liver of harmful toxins. Incorporating mangoes into your diet is one of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy liver.

5. Reduce cholesterol
Mangoes have a great variety of health benefits. Reducing cholesterol levels is one of them. Mangoes are high in fiber and pectin that help to reduce serum cholesterol levels. Mangoes can also help reduce high blood pressure due to high potassium content. Add them to your fruit salad, smoothies or eat them raw and you will feel their benefits.

6. Keep your weight under control
If you are trying to shed a few unwanted pounds and keep your weight under control, you should definitely consider including mangoes to your healthy diet. Numerous studies have found that consuming mangoes with the skin on can help control weight gain. Extracts found in the mango’s skin can inhibit the development of human fat cells and can help keep your weight off.

7. Improve your digestive system
One of the reasons to eat mangoes is because this delicious fruit helps improve your digestive system. Mango is an excellent source of fiber that helps eliminate toxic and harmful body wastes from the body. One mango supplies about 20% of the daily required fiber intake.

Another helpful nutrient for digestion is potassium that can also be found in mangoes. Potassium deficiency can cause imbalances of fluid in the body and constipation. One mango supplies about 560 mg of potassium and it’s 16% of the daily required potassium intake.

8. They are good for your eyes
Eating mangoes regularly can improve your eye health as well. A cup of sliced mangoes contains 25 percent of your recommended daily amount of vitamin A. I spend a lot of time in front of my laptop and think it’s crucial to support my eye health on a daily basis. I do eye exercises and drink one eye-friendly smoothie a day (I love to add mangoes, carrots and berries to my smoothies.

9. They are good for your skin
Incorporating mangoes into your eating plan and beauty routine can make your skin look healthier and clearer. Mangoes help to unclog your pores, prevent acne and hydrate your skin. Place a few slices of mango on your face and leave for about 12 minutes. Rinse it off with warm water.

You can also combine mango, yogurt and honey to make a facial mask for a glowing skin. Apply the mixture to your face, leave it for 10 minutes and rinse it off. If you have severe acne, it’s best to avoid using mangoes in beauty routines. Consider adding them to your daily diet instead.

10. Boost your intake of calcium and iron
Mango is an excellent source of iron and calcium, which are good for pregnant and menopausal women. A serving of fresh mango contains 18 milligrams of calcium and 0.26 milligrams of iron. Due to its nutritional content, mangoes are also beneficial for people suffering from anemia.

Mangoes are not only tasty, but they’re healthy and loaded with essential vitamins and nutrients, which are necessary for keeping good health. When you buy mangoes opt for organic ones. It’s always better to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables, especially if you buy them for kids. Do you eat mangoes every day? What is your favorite way to eat them? Share your ideas and recipes with us.

7 Surprising Health Benefits of Dandelion

Many people think dandelion is only a humble garden weed, because they don’t know about these important health benefits of dandelion. Its leaves and flowers have healing and nutritional properties. Dandelion is found all over the world, so everybody can enjoy the beauty and health benefits of dandelion leaves. Dandelion is often used in salads and has more protein per serving than spinach. Its leaves are rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese and vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2, and B6. Its root contains calcium, iron, potassium, sulphur, silicon, magnesium, chlorophyll and phosphorus. Read on to learn some of the most wonderful health benefits of dandelion.

1. Helps to treat skin conditions
Skin diseases caused by fungal or microbial infections can be treated with dandelion sap (dandelion milk). The sap has germicidal, insecticidal, and fungicidal properties and it’s also highly alkaline. All these make dandelion a good treat for ringworm, eczema and other itchy complaints.

2. Good for diabetes
Another great health benefit of dandelion is that it stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. Since dandelion is a natural diuretic it causes more frequent urination, which helps remove excess sugar from the body and lower sugar build up in the kidneys, preventing renal disease that most diabetics are susceptible to.

3. Helps to fight cancer
The world’s ancient traditional medicine systems, including the Native American, Arabian and Chinese, have long known about the health benefits of dandelion. One of the most important benefits is that dandelion has anti-cancer effects; it helps to fight breast and prostate cancers. Studies show that its root has a great impact on cancer cells (melanoma) that are resistant to chemotherapy, without harming the healthy cells.

4. Good for your bone health
Dandelion is rich in calcium, which is essential for the growth and strength of bones. It also has a high concentration of antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Luteolin, which protect bones from toxic free radicals that can cause general bone weakening, loss of density and premature aging.

5. Improves the function of the liver
Dandelion improves the function of the liver by stimulating the liver naturally and promoting digestion. The chemicals in dandelion eliminate toxins from the body and help to rebalance electrolytes and reestablish hydration. You don’t need to eat dandelion flowers or leaves, though. You can add some leaves to your green smoothie or vegetable salad. This way, you won’t notice its taste, but will reap all its benefits.

6. Improves your overall digestive health
Dandelion is a mild appetite stimulant, so if you are trying to lose weight, perhaps, it’s better to avoid it. But if you want to improve your digestive health, dandelion is something you need! The inulin and mucilage in the plant have soothing effects on the digestive tract and powerful antioxidants help with the absorption of the toxins from food and encourage the growth of friendly gut bacteria, and inhibit and discourage unfriendly gut bacteria and flora.

7. Promotes good urinary health
Due to its diuretic properties, dandelion promotes good urinary health. Yes, that’s true! The detoxification cleanses your kidneys as well as urinary tract, while microbiological growths in the entire urinary system are inhibited by the disinfectant properties of dandelion.

If you’re going to take advantage of these amazing properties, be sure to make a small research and learn how to use it. There are many different dandelion products available in drug stores and health food stores, but it’s better to harvest your own. Ask your doctor if you can incorporate dandelion into your diet to make sure you can eat it. Do you use dandelion in your diet? Do you know any other important health benefits of this fantastic plant? Please comment below and thanks for reading!

8 Health Benefits of Cherries + Dairy-Free Cherry Smoothie Recipe

Cherries are among the best antioxidant-rich foods you should be eating more right now. Besides having powerful antioxidants, cherries are chock-full of fiber, potassium, copper, magnesium, as well as manganese, iron, calcium, zinc and phosphorus.

Be they frozen, dry or canned, you can enjoy cherries and their health benefits all year long. But now that the cherry season is here, it’s hard (particularly for me) to find an excuse not to munch on a handful of cherries today. Check out some of the best health benefits of cherries and try out my favorite dairy-free cherry smoothie recipe.

1. Prevent heart disease
Since I have some heart problems, I’m always on the lookout for new foods that help support my heart health. I did a lot of research on heart-healthy foods and read plenty of studies so I know what to eat to improve my heart health.

A few days ago I had my heart checkup and my doctor recommended me to eat more cherries. I did one more research and found out that cherries are a wonderful source of anthocyanins and potassium, which help regulate blood pressure and heart rate and lower the risk of hypertension and stroke.

Cherries are also rich in phytosterols that help lower bad cholesterol levels. Heart disease is still a number one killer of Americans and other people worldwide so adding some cherries to your desserts, salads and drinks can help you feel a bit healthier.

2. Ward off diabetes
If you watch your blood-sugar levels, it may be hard for you to find a healthy snack that has a low glycemic index. Cherries are perfect for snack time as they have a lower glycemic index (22) than blueberries, apricots, grapes, and peaches. Add a handful of cherries to a plain yogurt and voila – you have a healthy and tasty snack in a jiffy.

3. Improve sleep
No worries, eating cherries during the day won’t make you sleepy. If you have trouble falling asleep or getting quality sleep, however, I recommend you to include some cherries in your bedtime snacks. Cherries are high in melatonin that helps regulate sleep cycle and prevents insomnia.

Many doctors recommend drinking cherry juice too. Moreover, if you are trying to cope with jet lag, cherries may become your little best friends. Eating cherries won’t help people suffering from chronic insomnia – you should visit your doctor as soon as possible if you are one of them.

4. Boost your brain function and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
As many other fruit, cherries contain powerful antioxidants that can save your brain from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Cherries boast fantastic memory boosting properties, which makes them perfect snack for students and super busy people. Next time you can’t accomplish that difficult project, sip your favorite cherry smoothie to give your brain a boost.

5. Relieve muscle and menstrual cramps
While you’re always better off eating bananas, cherries can also help you relieve muscle or menstrual cramps. Cherries have a lower potassium content than bananas, but they also have lower calorie content, which is why many dietitians recommends eating cherries before or after workout to relieve muscle cramps and burn more calories. If you need to relieve menstrual cramps, cherry juice may help.

6. Keep your digestive system healthy
In a fast-food-rich world, it’s almost impossible to keep the digestive system healthy. Many people often say that it’s hard to overcome those annoying sugar cravings and stick to a healthy diet.

They often end up eating french fries and high calorie desserts only to satisfy their cravings. The result is a poor digestion. Luckily, you can improve your digestion and tickle your sweet tooth with some healthy cherry recipes (I’m sure you have plenty of them!)

7. Prevent premature aging
Every woman is afraid of premature aging yet many do nothing to prevent it. There are two tried and true ways to look and feel young for longer. The first one is to cultivate a positive attitude and smile more, and the second one is to eat more age-fighting foods like cherries. Due to high antioxidant content, cherries help your body combat the free radicals that cause premature aging.

8. Reduce your risk of cancer
There’s no cure for cancer but eating antioxidant-rich fruit and berries, including cherries, can significantly reduce your risk of cancer. Several studies show that eating cherries or drinking cherry juice regularly can prevent colon cancer. Sure, it doesn’t mean you should munch on cherries all day and night long to stay healthier and live longer – a handful will be enough to feel all the health benefits cherries offer.

Cherries are low in calories and high in nutrients. They are delis, versatile and healthy. Whether you love these tiny berries or not, there are many ways you can incorporate cherries into your spring or summer diet to reap all their health benefits and ward off a number of serious diseases. Are you one of those cherry fans who enjoy cherries daily? Let me know what you think of this refreshing smoothie recipe.
Now that cherries are in season, I love experimenting with different cherry smoothies. Here’s one of my favorite one that I enjoy every other day in the morning:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cherries
1/2 cup strawberries
1 cup coconut water (or plain water)
1 apple (or banana)
1 tsp hemp seeds or chia seeds
Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. If your smoothie is too thick, you can add a bit more coconut water. Enjoy!

5 Reasons You Should Be Eating Protein + How Much

Protein is one of the key and powerful nutrients. It is an excellent source of energy for the body. Protein deficiency has recently become a widespread problem, which is why it is important to learn why your should be eating protein and how much of it.

The reason why many young people suffer from protein deficiency is because they try different diet plans and often eliminate foods that are rich in protein. Consuming too little protein can lead to a sluggish metabolism, headaches, low energy levels, fatigue, muscle, bone and joint pain, and many other health issues. So here is why it is best to boost your protein intake.

Reasons You Should Be Eating Protein
1. Boost your brain function
If you have trouble learning, you have poor focus and memory, this may be a sign of protein deficiency. Consider incorporating more protein-rich foods such as cacao, seeds, spinach, broccoli, and oats. They will keep your brain healthy and happy.

More: 9 Brain Foods that Help you Concentrate Better

2. Control blood pressure
If you suffer from hypertension, your doctor has probably recommended you to include more high-protein foods into your daily meal plan. This is because protein helps to keep blood pressure in check. It does not mean, though, that the more you eat protein, the lower your blood pressure. Do not forget about moderation.

3. Increase longevity
We all will die one day, but why not live a bit longer? A high-protein diet may increase your longevity and keep you healthy as you age. Whey protein, in particular, boosts your glutathione level, which is the most powerful antioxidant that is produced by the body. The high glutathione level wards off disease and keeps you young longer.

4. Reduce your risk of osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a serious bone disease that increases your risk of weak bones, bone loss, and fractures. Protein-rich foods help to improve your bone density and decrease your risk of osteoporosis. When combined with vegetables, protein-rich foods improve your overall health.

5. Improve sleep
If you wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble falling asleep again, consider making a few diet changes. For instance, add more foods that are high in protein to your meal plan and reduce your carb intake. Protein improves chemical transmitter balance, making you energized and productive during the day and sleepy at night.

What are the best protein-rich foods?
Some of the best sources of protein are eggs, yogurt, milk, cheese, fish, seafood, soy, pistachio nuts, chicken, and turkey, among the others. Whey protein and casein found in most protein powders and shakes are also good options. However, I recommend getting protein from natural sources.

How much?
According to the USDA, the recommended daily protein intake based on an average weight and activity level is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams per day for men. According to the Dietary Reference Intake, the average adult should be eating about 0.36 grams per pound daily.

The best way to figure out how much protein you need is to ask your doctor. Because consuming too much of protein is harmful too. It can lead to chronic hydration and kidney damage.

Sticking to a high-protein meal plan will help you manage your cravings and keep your weight under control. Protein boosts satiety and helps satisfy your appetite, making you feel fuller for longer. But the main thing is that protein is essential for your body to work properly. Watch your protein intake and change your eating habits when needed.

How to Boost Thyroid Function Naturally

I was recently diagnosed with Hashimotos Thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition where the body attacks the thyroid. (The picture above is a “happy thyroid” stuffed cushion from my doctor).

I suspected that I had thyroid problems for years and finally found a doctor who specializes in the autoimmune version of the disease (which presents much differently than traditional thyroid problems). Unlike basic hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, Hashimotos patients can waver between having an overactive thyroid and having an under-active one.

I was diagnosed through a series of blood tests and a thyroid ultrasound. I have several nodules on my thyroid which will be monitored to make sure they don’t get any bigger.

I’ve made some health changes since finding out about Hashimotos and while I am also taking a low-dose thyroid medication (temporarily) I’ve also made some diet and lifestyle changes that were really helpful even before I started the medication and I wanted to share these.

I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on the internet. This post is sharing my personal experience for information purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice.

No Iodine

One change I made immediately once I found out about my Hashimotos was to stop taking iodine. Iodine can be helpful for those with regular hypothyroidism but it can be fuel on a fire for those with autoimmune thyroid problems. Chris Kresser explains why:

“Because increased iodine intake, especially in supplement form, can increase the autoimmune attack on the thyroid. Iodine reduces the activity of an enzyme called thyroid peroxidase (TPO). TPO is required for proper thyroid hormone production.

On the other hand, restricting intake of iodine can reverse hypothyroidism. In one study, 78% of patients with Hashimoto’s regained normal thyroid function with iodine restriction alone.”

As I talked about in this past post, there is some evidence that iodine may not be as harmful in the presence of enough selenium. Since there is still a lot of evidence on the negative effects of iodine with Hashimotos, I’m still avoiding it and consuming selenium rich foods.

Some research suggests that simply lowering iodine alone may help put autoimmune thyroid problems in to remission.

Autoimmune Diet

I was already eating a healthy diet before finding out about Hashimotos: I avoid grains, vegetable oils, soy, sugar and all processed foods.

I found that some additional dietary changes were incredibly helpful in reducing my thyroid symptoms:

  • I removed other foods that can be inflammatory, including nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc), eggs, nuts and seeds,  dairy, natural sweeteners, and the obvious ones like grains and soy. Gluten and soy are completely out for me now since they can both make Hashimotos much worse.
  • I focus on eating quality meats and fish, lots of green leafy vegetables cooked in coconut oil, some fruits (mainly berries) and bone broth at every meal (for the minerals and the gelatin.
  • I consume at LEAST 4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day. Coconut oil can be helpful to the thyroid because of its high content of medium chain fatty acids and lauric acid. (I didn’t gain weight doing this and actually lost weight)
  • I make sure that even with the additional dietary restrictions, I’m consuming enough carbs from starchy vegetables and fruit as a really low-carb diet can be hard on the thyroid.

Supplements

I believe it is best to get nutrients from food whenever possible, but I had depleted levels of some nutrients and needed specific supplements to help improve my levels. Diet changes and adding these supplements made a tremendous difference in reducing my symptoms (skin issues, fatigue, etc) and I notice when I don’t take it. Here’s what worked for me:

  • Glutathione each morning (I use this one) under my tongue. Glutathione is a strong antioxidant that helps balance hormones and boost the immune system . I definitely notice a difference when I don’t take it.
  • Vitamin D – Even though I spend a lot of time in the sun during the summer and take Vitamin D during the winter, I was deficient in Vitamin D. This is relatively common with thyroid problems and I’m using a Vitamin D Serum to help bring my levels up. Vitamin D is also necessary to help transport thyroid hormone in to cells.
  • Vitamin C – My cortisol was high at night, indicating adrenal stress so I added a quality Vitamin C with each meal since Vitamin C is helpful in reducing adrenal stress.
  • Probiotics- I was already consuming probiotic rich foods and taking a probiotic supplement, I started consuming even more probiotics as gut health is important for dealing with any autoimmune disease. I take these now daily.

Lifestyle

I was already trying to do these things but I made them an absolute priority once I found out about my thyroid condition:

  • Sleeping by 10 PM every night – In all honesty, this still doesn’t happen all the time with kids, but I’m definitely trying.
  • Active relaxation – Making a point to do things that are relaxing and stress-reducing to me.
  • Rebounding – I talked before about this, but I spend a few minutes a day jumping on a mini-trampoline to get my blood flowing and increase lymph drainage.
  • Exercise – I’m also making exercise a priority, but concentrating on low-impact exercise like walking and weight training rather than extended cardio.

These are factors that have been incredibly helpful to me in reducing the symptoms of my Hashimotos autoimmune disease. It was such a long road to get a diagnosis and I saw several doctors before finally getting answers.

These changes made a big difference for me even before I started taking the thyroid medication, and many of these factors are helpful to those with autoimmune disease.

Have you tried any of these things to help boost your thyroid? What other changes have you made that has helped? Share below!

Heat-Activated Penile Implant Might Restore Sexual Function In Men With E.D.

The basic technology for penile implants hasn’t improved much in 40 years.

But Brian Le, a new faculty member in the Department of Urology with a background in materials science, is hoping that a heat-activated memory metal called Nitinol (a nickel-titanium alloy) will create a better implant for men with erectile dysfunction.

His recent paper in the journal Urology, with colleagues Alberto Colombo and Kevin McKenna at Northwestern University and Kevin McVary at Southern Illinois University, drew strong interest from the English tabloids, which dubbed it “the bionic penis.”

But restoring erectile function to men who have lost it due to cancer or other injury is no locker-room joke.

Le says his patients seek to have their sexual function restored for similar reasons as women who choose to have their breasts restored after breast cancer surgery.

The nitinol implant remains flaccid at body temperature.

… but it can “remember” an expanded shape and return to that shape when heated.
“It’s a survivorship issue – restoring function can help people feel whole in their bodies again,” he says.

And there are plenty of men who need help. About 40 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 have some level of erectile dysfunction and about a third of them don’t respond to drugs like Viagra.

It’s a potentially large market, and one of the reasons Boston Scientific is supporting this research.

The current gold standard is an inflatable pump, but the surgery to implant it can be tricky, involving a reservoir of water and a pump. It can be awkward to use and have complications. A simpler solution is a malleable device, more popular in developing countries because the operation is simple and cheaper. The downside is a permanently erect penis and potential tissue damage.

Le’s solution is a heat-activated exoskeleton of nitinol, a metal known for its superelastic properties and already in use in medical devices used for endovascular surgery.

In this case, the urologist could do a simplified operation to insert the nitinol implant, which remains flaccid at body temperature but can “remember” an expanded shape and return to that shape when heated. Le and collaborators at Southern Illinois University are currently working on a remote-control device that can be waved over the penis, using induction to heat the NiTi a few degrees above body temperature and ratcheting open the alloy prosthesis to expand the penis in length and girth.

The most recent study tested the prosthesis’s strength and ability to expand heated and contract when cooled back to body temperature. The memory metal did well on mechanical testing. Le estimates that if this research continues to meet its milestones it could come to market in five to 10 years.

“We’re hoping that, with a better device, a better patient experience, and a simpler surgery, more urologists would perform this operation, and more patients would want to try the device,” Le says.

Walking linked to improved brain function

Aerobic exercise may also benefit the brain by increasing growth factors.  (iStock)

A moderate-intensity walking regimen may reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment that are linked to poor blood vessel health in the brain, a small study suggests.

Participants with vascular cognitive impairment, sometimes called vascular dementia, who walked three hours per week for six months had improved reaction times and other signs of improved brain function, the Canadian team reports in British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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Vascular cognitive impairment, or VCI, refers to mildly impaired thinking or more advanced dementia that’s due to the same kinds of blood vessel damage seen with heart disease elsewhere in the body. It is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.

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“It is well established that regular aerobic exercise improves cardiovascular health and cerebrovascular health,” the study’s senior author Teresa Liu-Ambrose told Reuters Health in an email.

“More specifically, it reduces one’s risk of developing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes (type II), and high cholesterol. These chronic conditions have a negative impact on the brain – likely through compromised blood flow to the brain,” said Liu-Ambrose, a researcher with the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The brain is a highly metabolic organ and to keep it healthy, it requires good blood flow to deliver the necessary nutrients and oxygen to its tissues, she added.

“It is worth noting that in our study, reduced blood pressure (secondary to exercise) was associated with improved cognitive function,” Liu-Ambrose said.

Aerobic exercise may also benefit the brain by increasing growth factors, which are substances made by the body that promote cell growth, differentiation and survival, she said.

Liu-Ambrose and colleagues randomly assigned 38 older adults with mild VCI to one of two groups. One group followed an aerobic training program consisting of three one-hour walking classes each week for six months, while the other group continued with their usual care. In addition, both groups were given information about vascular cognitive impairment and tips for eating a healthier diet.

Before the exercise program began and at the end of six months, all the participants also had functional MRI brain scans and other tests that measured neural activity and cognitive ability.

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People in the aerobic training group had significant improvements in their reaction times on the cognitive tests, and showed changes in their brain activity that made them resemble healthy brains more. The comparison group showed no changes.

Overall, exercise appears to be a promising strategy for promoting cognitive health in older adults, Liu-Ambrose said.

“While more research is needed to better understand how it brings about its benefits and what factors may impact the degree of benefit observed, there is minimal negative consequence of exercising,” she said.

Liu-Ambrose said she doesn’t know if exercise can actually prevent VCI because there have been no studies to determine that. “However, population based studies do suggest that physical activity does reduce the risk of developing VCI. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, aerobic exercise is very effective in reducing vascular risk factors associated with VCI, such as high blood pressure.”

The study was small, and because participants had to be able to walk for up to an hour, it’s possible they were physically healthier than average, the authors note. The socializing involved in the walking classes might have also had some effect, they add.

“Given the small sample size, one needs to be cautious about interpreting the results of this pilot study. However, it is encouraging to see that the six-month aerobic exercise program improved certain aspects of cognition and showed changes on functional brain imaging,” said Dr. Joe Verghese, director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for the Aging Brain at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

“The effect of exercise in this, and other studies seems to be on improving executive functions, which are required for planning, thinking and judgment,” Verghese, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“The findings, if confirmed in larger studies, may have implications in advising exercise in older patients with vascular risk factors for brain protection,” Verghese said.