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Immune system disorders cause abnormally low activity or over activity of the immune system. In cases of immune system over activity, the body attacks and damages its own tissues (autoimmune diseases). Immune deficiency diseases decrease the body’s ability to fight invaders, causing vulnerability to infections.
In response to an unknown trigger, the immune system may begin producing antibodies that instead of fighting infections, attack the body’s own tissues. Treatment for autoimmune diseases generally focuses on reducing immune system activity. Examples of autoimmune diseases include:
Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus). People with lupus develop autoimmune antibodies that can attach to tissues throughout the body. The joints, lungs, blood cells, nerves, and kidneys are commonly affected in lupus. Treatment often requires daily oral prednisone, a steroid that reduces immune system function.
Guillain-Barre syndrome. The immune system attacks the nerves controlling muscles in the legs and sometimes the arms and upper body. Weakness results, which can sometimes be severe. Filtering the blood with a procedure called plasmapheresis is the main treatment for Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. Similar to Guillian-Barre, the immune system also attacks the nerves in CIDP, but symptoms last much longer. About 30% of patients can become confined to a wheelchair if not diagnosed and treated early. Treatment for CIDP and GBS are essentially the same.
Psoriasis. In psoriasis, overactive immune system blood cells called T-cells collect in the skin. The immune system activity stimulates skin cells to reproduce rapidly, producing silvery, scaly plaques on the skin.
Graves’ disease. The immune system produces antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to release excess amounts of thyroid hormone into the blood (hyperthyroidism). Symptoms of Graves’ disease can include bulging eyes as well as weight loss, nervousness, irritability, rapid heart rate, weakness, and brittle hair. Destruction or removal of the thyroid gland, using medicines or surgery, is usually required to treat Graves’ disease.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Antibodies produced by the immune system attack the thyroid gland, slowly destroying the cells that produce thyroid hormone. Low levels of thyroid hormone develop (hypothyroidism), usually over months to years. Symptoms include fatigue, constipation, weight gain, depression, dry skin, and sensitivity to cold. Taking a daily oral synthetic thyroid hormone pill restores normal body functions.
Myasthenia gravis. Antibodies bind to nerves and make them unable to stimulate muscles properly. Weakness that gets worse with activity is the main symptom of myasthenia gravis. Mestinon (pyridostigmine) is the main medicine used to treat myasthenia gravis.
Vasculitis. The immune system attacks and damages blood vessels in this group of autoimmune diseases. Vasculitis can affect any organ, so symptoms vary widely and can occur almost anywhere in the body. Treatment includes reducing immune system activity, usually with prednisone or another corticosteroid.
If you’ve been around the natural health world very long, you’ve probably heard of a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. It sounds pretty gross, but it’s an important enough problem to consider. There are several leaky gut symptoms to be aware of, which is particularly important since leaky gut is associated with dozens of related conditions and diseases.As more Americans are affected by poor diet choices, chronic stress, toxic overload and bacterial imbalance, it appears that the prevalence of leaky gut has reached epidemic proportions. The medical profession is just now agreeing this condition may even exist, which is especially shocking to me because “intestinal permeability” (another name for leaky gut) has been discussed in the medical literature for over 100 years!
Why should leaky gut syndrome concern you? Recently leaky gut has been called a “danger signal for autoimmune disease.” (1) If you’re wondering if you may be experiencing leaky gut, the first thing to do is access your symptoms. Keep in mind that it’s very common for people on a Standard American Diet to struggle with poor gut function and high levels of inflammation — but just because digestive issues and autoimmune conditions are common doesn’t make them “normal”!
In this article, I’ve outlined a brief description of common leaky gut syndrome seen in people struggling with this condition. Can you heal leaky gut syndrome? As you’ll learn about below, there are four steps I recommend taking in order to repair leaky gut, which includes removing trigger foods from your diet, taking beneficial supplements and rebalancing your microflora with probiotics.
What Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, said, “All disease begins in the gut.” More than two millennia after his death, scientific research has now proven he was onto something all those years ago. For over three decades, study after study has been published (several thousand articles exist to date) discussing our growing understanding of immunity, gut function and how modern diets and lifestyles negatively contribute to overall health by damaging our digestive system.
I (and many others in the medical field) refer to this particular phenomenon as leaky gut syndrome. In the medical literature, leaky gut is also referred to as “intestinal hyperpermeability.”
What Causes Leaky Gut?
The intestines are protected by a single layer of specialized epithelial cells that are linked together by tight junction (or TJ) proteins. Leaky gut symptoms are a consequence of intestinal tight-junction malfunction.
These tight junctionsare the gateway between your intestines and your bloodstream. They control what is allowed to pass into the bloodstream from your digestive system. More than 40 different TJ proteins have now been recognized to play a role in gut health. Tight junctions have a very precise job — they have to maintain the delicate balance between allowing vital nutrients to enter your bloodstream, while remaining small enough to prevent xenobiotics (disease-causing compounds from your diet or lifestyle) from passing out of your digestive system into the rest of your body. (1)
Here’s how a report published in the journal Frontiers in Immunologydescribes the pathology of leaky gut: (2)
The intestinal epithelial lining, together with factors secreted from it, forms a barrier that separates the host from the environment. In pathologic conditions, the permeability of the epithelial lining may be compromised allowing the passage of toxins, antigens, and bacteria in the lumen to enter the bloodstream creating a ‘leaky gut.’
When you have leaky gut, certain tiny particles that should never be able to enter your bloodstream start to make their way through. There’s also commonly abnormalities in the gut stemming from antimicrobial molecules, immunoglobulins and cytokine activities. This presents a major problem, as the vast majority of your immune system is found inside the gut.
The result? A disruption of acute inflammation, and sometimes autoimmune reactions. A normal part of your immune response that serves to fight infections and diseases winds up over-performing, leading to chronic inflammation, which is at the root of most diseases.
Some of the underlying causes of leaky gut include:
Genetic predisposition — certain people may be more predisposed to developing leaky gut because they are sensitive to environmental factors that “trigger” their bodies into initiating autoimmune responses.
Poor diet — especially a diet that includes allergens and inflammatory foods such as un-sprouted grains, added sugar, GMOs, refined oils, synthetic food additives and conventional dairy products.
Toxin overload — including high drug and alcohol consumption. We come into contact with over 80,000 chemicals and toxins every single year, but the worst offenders for causing leaky gut include antibiotics, pesticides, tap water, aspirin and NSAIDS. I recommend buying a high-quality water filter to eliminate chlorine and fluoride and look to natural plant-based herbs to reduce inflammation in your body.
Bacterial imbalance — also called dysbiosis, which means an imbalance between beneficial and harmful species of bacteria in your gut. A large body of evidence now shows that gut microbiota is important in supporting the epithelial barrier and preventing autoimmune reactions. At least 10 percent of all gene transcriptions found in intestinal epithelial cells that are related to immunity, cell proliferation and metabolism are regulated by gut microbiota.
How Serious Is Leaky Gut Syndrome?
Well, according to a 2014 review of the facts and research about intestinal permeability (among other sources), the chronic condition of hyperpermeability is linked to numerous symptoms and health conditions.
What are the symptoms of leaky gut? Some of the most prominent signs you may have leaky gut include: (3)
Acute inflammation conditions (sepsis, SIRS, multiple organ failure)
Chronic inflammatory conditions (such as arthritis)
Obesity-related metabolic diseases (fatty liver, Type II diabetes, heart disease)
Autoimmune disease (lupus, multiple sclerosis, Type I diabetes, Hashimoto’s, and more) (4)
Parkinson’s disease (5)
Chronic fatigue syndrome (6)
Propensity towards weight gain or obesity (7)
While these diseases are linked to leaky gut syndrome, it hasn’t been proven that there is a causal relationship; in other words, it’s not yet established that leaky gut causes any of these conditions, just that people who have leaky gut are more likely to have a number of other health problems. So while the scientific evidence has not yet proven that intestinal hyperpermiability (leaky gut syndrome) is actually responsible for these conditions, it strongly suggests that leaky gut and other dysfunctions tend to occur simultaneously. (8)
7 Leaky Gut Symptoms and Signs
How do you know if you have leaky gut? Below you’ll find seven leaky gut symptoms and early occurring conditions that may point to an issue with your gut health.
1. Food Sensitivities
Because of the onslaught of toxins that enter the bloodstream, the immune systems of people with intestinal hyperpermeability are on overdrive mass-producing various antibodies, which may make their bodies more susceptible to antigens in certain foods (especially gluten and dairy). In studies involving rats and human children, leaky gut and food allergies have been linked. (9, 10) Allergies are believed to be one of the most common leaky gut symptoms.
2. Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Researchers from Hungary uncovered in 2012 that elevated gut permeability is oftentimes localized to the colon in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis. (11) As far back as 1988, scientists suggested that Crohn’s disease may be more of a risk for people with leaky gut. (12)
A small study (observing 12 patients) discovered that zinc supplementation may help resolve the tight junction dysfunction in these cases, although more research is required on a larger scale to confirm these results. (13)
3. Autoimmune Disease
Zonulin is the only physiological modulator of intercellular tight junctions described so far that is involved in trafficking of macromolecules and, therefore, in tolerance/immune response balance. When the finely tuned zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune, inflammatory, and neoplastic disorders can occur.
Eating gluten may trigger this dangerous cascade. University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers have uncovered that gluten “activates zonulin signaling irrespective of the genetic expression of autoimmunity, leading to increased intestinal permeability to macromolecules.” (15)
The good news is that, at least as far as leaky gut plays a role in autoimmune conditions, it is reversible and could potentially alleviate some of these problematic immune responses. (16)
4. Thyroid Problems
One of the autoimmune diseases that leaky gut syndrome may directly affect is Hashimoto’s disease. (17) Also known as “chronic thyroiditis,” this disorder is displayed with hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), impaired metabolism, fatigue, depression, weight gain and a host of other concerns.
5. Nutrient Malabsorption
In my own patients, I’ve observed various nutritional deficiencies resulting from leaky gut, including vitamin B12, magnesium and digestive enzymes. Those common nutrient deficiencies are one reason why many functional medicine practitioners prescribe a whole-food multivitamin in addition to probiotics for people suffering leaky gut problems.
6. Inflammatory Skin Conditions
First described over 70 years ago, the gut-skin connection theory has described how intestinal hyperpermeability can cause a slew of skin conditions, particularly acne and psoriasis. (18) Creams and drugs with endless lists of (sometimes dangerous) side effects are often prescribed for these skin disorders, yet there has been evidence for several decades that part of the root cause might exist in the gut.
7. Mood Issues and Autism
According to a study published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters, leaky gut has been shown to cause various neurocognitive disorders. For example, the inflammatory response characteristic of intestinal hyperpermeability triggers the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and other chemicals that are thought to induce depression. (19)
A study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience described the “vicious circle between immune system impairment and increasing dysbiosis that leads to leaky gut and neurochemical compounds and/or neurotoxic xenobiotics production and absorption.”
The authors go on to describe findings from a number of studies that point to their theory thatautism may be connected to problems in the gut microbiome, particularly within the first year of life. (20) It is actually a common hypothesis in modern science that leaky gut is strongly related to autism. (21)
What the Medical Community Has to Say About Leaky Gut Syndrome
Do most conventional doctors support the idea that leaky gut is real?
WebMD refers to leaky gut as “something of a medical mystery.”(22) This isn’t surprising, since it’s not a diagnosis that most doctors have been taught in medical school. “From an MD’s standpoint, it’s a very gray area,” says gastroenterologist Donald Kirby, MD – Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Cleveland Clinic. In his opinion, “Physicians don’t know enough about the gut, which is our biggest immune system organ.” (21)
To make matters worse, government agencies have also contributed to the confusion. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), “There is currently little evidence to support the theory that a porous bowel is the direct cause of any significant, widespread problems.” (23)
Yet, not everyone agrees. A roundtable review quotes the researchers at seven different European universities in 2014 agreeing upon the following: (24)
Alteration of the gut barrier seems to have multiple consequences facilitating the onset of a variety of diseases depending on other hits and on genetic or epigenetic constellations, respectively. The growing significance of the gut barrier and bacterial translocation raises the questions of how we can improve gut barrier functions and gut microbiota.
So while it’s encouraging that science is coming around to leaky gut syndrome being a real problem, we are by no means at a point where there are standard diagnostic tools for testing and treating leaky gut.
In the Western/conventional medical world, if there are no standard diagnostic criteria for a disease, then there are no specific therapies or treatments available. Moreover, if there are no “proven” treatment models, then most MD’s are left with no other choice than to follow what they believe to be the “safe path” and prescribe drugs that only treat leaky gut symptoms. For example, medications (like proton pump inhibitors or antacids) can be used to manage symptoms like acid reflux medications but these drugs don’t solve the root problem.
Because much of the medical community denies leaky gut’s very existence, it’s critical that you understand what leaky gut is and what to look out for in case you or a loved one is affected by it. The good news is that many functional and integrative medicine practitioners have a greater understanding of this condition than they did even a decade ago. They are much more likely to help you determine if you are suffering from leaky gut syndrome and to give you tools to help repair your gut.
How Do You Get Rid of Leaky Gut?
Now that we’ve been talked about leaky gut symptoms, causes and opinions, let’s talk about how to test for and repair leaky gut.
How do you test for leaky gut?
Several leaky gut syndrome tests are available that can help confirm a diagnosis and point you in the right treatment direction. Tests are helpful for identifying specific sensitivities and uncovering which types of toxins or deficiencies are contributing to your symptoms. Leaky gut tests include:
Zonulin or Lactulose Tests
IgG Food Intolerance Test
Organic Acid Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies Tests
Lactulose Mannitol Test
What leaky gut treatments are available?
After years of research and patient care, Avisae has developed a gut protocol process for helping to heal leaky gut. . If you’re concerned that you or a loved one may have leaky gut symptoms, I encourage you to read the detailed instructions, food suggestions and recommended leaky gut supplements listed in this article.
The basic steps to healing leaky gut are as follows:
REMOVE foods and factors that damage the gut.
REPLACE these with healing foods as you follow an anti-inflammatory leaky gut diet.
REPAIR the gut with specific leaky gut supplements like butyric acid.
REBALANCE your microbiome with probiotics (beneficial bacteria). This is key because bacteria in your gut are a major component of the intestinal barrier. They help promote resistance to the colonization of harmful or pathogenic bacteria species by competing for nutrients. Gut microbiota also regulate the digestion and absorption of nutrients and help supply epithelial cells with energy.
Two of the most commons questions people ask are: “What can I eat if I have leaky gut syndrome? And what should I NOT eat when I have leaky gut?”
If you’re struggling with leaky gut or other GI issues, remove processed foods— including un-sprouted grains, added sugar, GMO’s, refined oils, synthetic additives and conventional dairy products. A healing leaky gut syndrome diet includes foods like:
Raw cultured dairy (like kefir, yogurt, amasai, butter and raw cheeses)
Fermented vegetables and other probiotics foods. Probiotics may help reverse leaky gut by enhancing the production of tight junction proteins that defend against intestinal permeability.
Sprouted seeds (like chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds)
Foods with omega-3 fatty acids, especially salmon and other wild-caught fish
Herbs and spices
Other nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods like grass-fed beef, lamb, other fresh veggies and most fruits, apple cider vinegar, sea veggies, and other superfoods
Final Thoughts on Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut syndrome is classified by malfunction in the intestinal tight junctions in the digestive tract, allowing larger-than-usual particles to pass from the digestive system into the bloodstream. When this occurs, the balance of inflammatory immune responses is disrupted, leading to chronic inflammation and poor immunity.
Although no causal relationships have yet been officially established, leaky gut is correlated with a large number of issues and diseases, including digestive disorders, depression, autism, celiac disease, autoimmune disease and more.
Common leaky gut symptoms include: food sensitivities, digestive issues, autoimmune disease, thyroid dysfunction, nutrient malabsorption, inflammatory skin conditions and brain-related issues such as depression and autism.
Leaky gut syndrome is not a recognized diagnosis in the medical community yet — but I’m confident it will be recognized someday, due to the vast body of research that has already been conducted.
If you suffer from any leaky gut symptoms, I encourage you to consult with your naturopathic doctor about options for treatment. Many of my patients have seen improvements when adjusting to a healing diet, rather than a disease and inflammation-causing one. In addition, there are helpful dietary supplements many people implement to support better gut health.
“Depression is a serious medical condition that may be due to a chemical imbalance, and Bliss adaptogen mist works to correct this imbalance.”
Herein lies the Serotonin Myth
As one of only two countries in the world that permits direct to consumer advertising, you have undoubtedly been subjected to promotion of the “cause of depression.” A cause that is not your fault, but rather, a matter of too few little bubbles passing between the hubs in your brain! Don’t add that to your list of worries, though, because there is a convenient solution awaiting you at your doctor’s office.
What if I told you that, in six decades of research, the serotonin (or norepinephrine, or dopamine) theory of depression and anxiety has not achieved scientific credibility.
You’d want some supporting arguments for this shocking claim, so here you go:
The Science of Psychiatry?
Rather than some embarrassingly reductionist, one-deficiency-one-illness-one-pill model of mental illness, contemporary exploration of human behavior has demonstrated that we may know less than we ever thought we did. And that what we do know about root causes of mental illness seems to have more to do with the concept of evolutionary mismatch than with genes and chemical deficiencies.
In fact, a meta-analysis of over 14,000 patients and Dr. Insel, head of the NIMH, had this to say:
“Despite high expectations, neither genomics nor imaging has yet impacted the diagnosis or treatment of the 45 million Americans with serious or moderate mental illness each year.”
To understand what imbalance is, we must know what balance looks like, and neuroscience, to date, has not characterized the optimal brain state, nor how to even assess for it. In a review of serotonin theories of depression, Andrews et al. turn the paradigm on its head and conclude:
we propose that depressed states are high serotonin phenomena, which challenges the prominent role the low serotonin hypothesis continues to have in depression research (Albert et al., 2012). We also propose that the direct serotonin-enhancing effects of antidepressants disturb energy homeostasis and worsen symptoms. We argue that symptom reduction, which only occurs over chronic treatment, is attributable to the compensatory responses of the brain attempting to restore energy homeostasis.
In this paper, they work to deconstruct our indoctrination around serotonin as a “happy chemical”, and elucidate its complex role in redirecting energy production when a creature is under duress. It is only when we perturb the system with medication that the body’s response can sometimes result in a chemically adaptive state, that is temporary, at best (accounting for relapse rates, while on medication, of up to 60%). Even this analysis is a theoretical offering in the service of challenging the dominant paradigm.
A New England Journal of Medicinereview on Major Depression, stated:
” … numerous studies of norepinephrine and serotonin metabolites in plasma, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid as well as postmortem studies of the brains of patients with depression, have yet to identify the purported deficiency reliably.”
The data has poked holes in the theory and even the field of psychiatry itself is putting down it’s sword. One of my favorite essays by Lacasse and Leo has compiled sentiments from influential thinkers in the field – mind you, these are conventional clinicians and researchers in mainstream practice – who have broken rank, casting doubt on the entirety of what psychiatry has to offer around antidepressants:
Depression is Not About Low Serotonin
In the 1950s, reserpine, initially introduced to the US market as an anti-seizure medication, was noted to deplete brain serotonin stores in subjects, with resultant lethargy and sedation. These observations colluded with the clinical note that an anti-tuberculosis medication, iproniazid, invoked mood changes after five months of treatment in 70% of a 17 patient cohort. Finally, Dr. Joseph Schildkraut threw fairy dust on these mumbles and grumbles in 1965 with his hypothetical manifesto entitled “The Catecholamine Hypothesis of Affective Disorders” stating:
“At best, drug-induced affective disturbances can only be considered models of the natural disorders, while it remains to be demonstrated that the behavioral changes produced by these drugs have any relation to naturally occurring biochemical abnormalities which might be associated with the illness.”
Contextualized by the ripeness of a field struggling to establish biomedical legitimacy (beyond the therapeutic lobotomy!), psychiatry was ready for a rebranding, and the pharmaceutical industry was all too happy to partner in the effort.
Of course, the risk inherent in “working backwards” in this way (noting effects and presuming mechanisms) is that we tell ourselves that we have learned something about the body, when in fact, all we have learned is that patented synthesized chemicals have effects on our behavior. This is referred to as the drug-based model by Dr. Joanna Moncrieff. In this model, we acknowledge that antidepressants have effects, but that these effects, in no way are curative or reparative.
The most applicable analogy is that of the woman with social phobia who finds that drinking two cocktails eases her symptoms. One could imagine, how, in a 6 week randomized trial, this “treatment” could be found efficacious and recommended for daily use and even prevention of symptoms. How her withdrawal symptoms after 10 years of daily compliance could lead those around her to believe that she “needed” the alcohol to correct an imbalance. This analogy is all too close to the truth.
No Intervention Creates Better Outcomes
Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Carlat has said: “And where there is a scientific vacuum, drug companies are happy to insert a marketing message and call it science. As a result, psychiatry has become a proving ground for outrageous manipulations of science in the service of profit.”
So, what happens when we let drug companies tell doctors what science is? We have an industry and a profession working together to maintain a house of cards theory in the face of contradictory evidence.
We have a global situation in which increases in prescribing are resulting in increases in severity of illness (including numbers and length of episodes) relative to those who have never been treated with medication.
To truly appreciate the breadth of evidence that states antidepressants are ineffective and unsafe, we have to get behind the walls that the pharmaceutical companies erect. We have to unearth unpublished data, data that they were hoping to keep in the dusty catacombs.
A now famous 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine by Turner et al sought to expose the extent of this data manipulation. They demonstrated that, from 1987 to 2004, 12 antidepressants were approved based on 74 studies. Thirty-eight were positive, and 37 of these were published. Thirty-six were negative (showing no benefit), and 3 of these were published as such while 11 were published with a positive spin (always read the data not the author’s conclusion!), and 22 were unpublished.
In 1998 tour de force, Dr. Irving Kirsch, an expert on the placebo effect, published a meta–analysis of 3,000 patients who were treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy, placebo, or no treatment and found that only 27% of the therapeutic response was attributable to the drug’s action.
This was followed up by a 2008 review, which invoked the Freedom of Information Act to obtain access to unpublished studies, finding that, when these were included, antidepressants outperformed placebo in only 20 of 46 trials (less than half!), and that the overall difference between drugs and placebos was 1.7 points on the 52 point Hamilton Scale. This small increment is clinically insignificant, and likely accounted for by medication side effects strategically employed (sedation or activation).
When active placebos were used, the Cochrane database found that differences between drugs and placebos disappeared, given credence to the assertion that inert placebos inflate perceived drug effects.
The finding of tremendous placebo effect in the treatment groups was also echoed in two different meta-analysis by Khan et al who found a 10% difference between placebo and antidepressant efficacy, and comparable suicide rates. The most recent trial examining the role of “expectancy” or belief in antidepressant effect, found that patients lost their perceived benefit if they believed that they might be getting a sugar pill even if they were continued on their formerly effective treatment dose of Prozac.
The largest, non-industry funded study, costing the public $35 million dollars, followed 4000 patients treated with Celexa (not blinded, so they knew what they were getting), and found that half of them improved at 8 weeks. Those that didn’t were switched to Wellbutrin, Effexor, or Zoloft OR “augmented” with Buspar or Wellbutrin.
Guess what? It didn’t matter what was done, because they remitted at the same unimpressive rate of 18-30% regardless with only 3% of patients were in remission at 12 months.
How could it be that medications like Wellbutrin, which purportedly primarily disrupt dopamine signaling, and medications like Stablon which theoretically enhances the reuptake of serotonin both work to resolve this underlying imbalance? Why would thyroid, benzodiazepines, beta blockers, and opiates also “work”? And what does depression have in common with panic disorder, phobias, OCD, eating disorders, and social anxiety that all of these diagnoses would warrant the same exact chemical fix?
Are There Alternative Options?
As a holistic clinician, one of my bigger pet peeves is the use of amino acids and other nutraceuticals with “serotonin-boosting” claims. These integrative practitioners have taken a page from the allopathic playbook and are seeking to copy-cat what they perceive antidepressants to be doing.
The foundational “data” for the modern serotonin theory of mood utilizes tryptophan depletion methods which involve feeding volunteers amino acid mixtures without tryptophan and are rife with complicated interpretations.
Simply put, there has never been a study that demonstrates that this intervention causes mood changes in any patients who have not been treated with antidepressants.
In general, several findings support the fact that depression may not be caused solely by an abnormality of 5-HT function, but more likely by a dysfunction of other systems or brain regions modulated by 5-HT or interacting with its dietary precursor. Similarly, the ATD method does not seem to challenge the 5-HT system per se, but rather triggers 5HT-mediated adverse events.
Andrews goes further to include this interpretation in a long list of arguments against the role of low serotonin in depression (Box 1).
So if we cannot confirm the role of serotonin in mood and we have good reason to believe that antidepressant effect is largely based on belief, then why are we trying to “boost serotonin”?
Why Your Prescription Never Expires
All you have to do is spend a few minutes on http://survivingantidepressants.org/ or http://beyondmeds.com/ to appreciate that we have created a monster. Millions of men, women, and children, the world over are suffering, without clinical guidance (because this is NOT a part of medical training) to discontinue psychiatric meds. I have been humbled, as a clinician who seeks to help these patients, by what these medications are capable of. Psychotropic withdrawal can make alcohol and heroin detox look like a breeze.
An important analysis by the former director of the NIMH makes claims that antidepressants “create perturbations in neurotransmitter functions” causing the body to compensate through a series of adaptations which occur after “chronic administration” leading to brains that function, after a few weeks, in a way that is “qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the normal state.”
Changes in beta-adrenergic receptor density, serotonin autoreceptor sensitivity, and serotonin turnover all struggle to compensate for the assault of the medication.
Andrews calls this “oppositional tolerance,” and demonstrate through a careful meta-analysis of 46 studies demonstrating that patient’s risk of relapse is directly proportionate to how “perturbing” the medication is, and is always higher than placebo (44.6% vs 24.7%). They challenge the notion that findings of decreased relapse on continued medication represent anything other than drug-induced response to discontinuation of a substance to which the body has developed tolerance. They go a step further to add:
“For instance, in naturalistic studies, unmedicated patients have much shorter episodes, and better long-term prospects, than medicated patients. Several of these studies have found that the average duration of an untreated episode of major depression is 12–13 weeks.”
Harvardresearchers also concluded that at least fifty percent of drug-withdrawn patients relapsed within 14 months. In fact:
“Long-term antidepressant use may bedepressogenic . . . it is possible that antidepressant agents modify the hardwiring of neuronal synapses (which) not only render antidepressants ineffective but also induce a resident, refractory depressive state.”
So, when your doctor says, “You see, look how sick you are, you shouldn’t have stopped that medication,” you should know that the data suggests that your symptoms are withdrawal, not relapse.
Longitudinal studies demonstrate poor functional outcomes for those treated with 60% of patients still meeting diagnostic criteria at one year (despite transient improvement within the first 3 months). When baseline severity is controlled for, two prospective studies support a worse outcome in those prescribed medication:
One in which the never-medicated group experienced a 62% improvement by six months, whereas the drug-treated patients experienced only a 33% reduction in symptoms, and another WHO study of depressed patients in 15 cities which found that, at the end of one year, those who weren’t exposed to psychotropic medications enjoyed much better “general health;” that their depressive symptoms were much milder;” and that they were less likely to still be “mentally ill.”
I’m not done yet.
In a retrospective 10-year study in the Netherlands, 76% of those with unmedicated depression recovered without relapse relative to 50% of those treated.
Unlike the mess of contradictory studies around short-term effects, there are no comparable studies that show a better outcome in those prescribed antidepressants long term.
First Do No Harm
So, we have a half-baked theory in a vacuum of science that that pharmaceutical industry raced to fill. We have the illusion of short-term efficacy and assumptions about long-term safety. But are these medications actually killing people?
The answer is yes.
Unequivocally, antidepressants cause suicidal and homicidal behavior. The Russian Roulette of patients vulnerable to these “side effects” is only beginning to be elucidated and may have something to do with genetic variants around metabolism of these chemicals. Dr. David Healy has worked tirelessly to expose the data that implicates antidepressants in suicidality and violence, maintaining a database for reporting, writing, and lecturing about cases of medication-induced death that could make your soul wince.
What about our most vulnerable?
I have countless patients in my practice who report new onset of suicidal ideation within weeks of starting an antidepressant. In a population where there are only 2 randomized trials, I have grave concerns about postpartum women who are treated with antidepressants before more benign and effective interventions such as dietary modification and thyroid treatment. Hold your heart as you read through thesereports of women who took their own and their children’s’ lives while treated with medications.
Then there is the use of these medications in children as young as 2 years old. How did we ever get the idea that this was a safe and effective treatment for this demographic? Look no further than data like Study 329, which cost Glaxo Smith Klein 3 billion dollars for their efforts to promote antidepressants to children. These efforts required ghost-written and manipulated data that suppressed a signal of suicidality, falsely represented Paxil as outperforming placebo, and contributes to an irrepressible mountainofharm done to our children by the field of psychiatry.
“Our analysis indicates that there are no specific antidepressant drugs, that most of the short-term effects of antidepressants are shared by many other drugs, and that long-term drug treatment with antidepressants or any other drugs has not been shown to lead to long-term elevation of mood. We suggest that the term “antidepressant” should be abandoned.”
So, where do we turn?
The field of psychoneuroimmunology dominates the research as an iconic example of how medicine must surpass its own simplistic boundaries if we are going to begin to chip away at the some 50% of Americans who will struggle with mood symptoms, and 11% of whom will be medicated for it.
There are times in our evolution as a cultural species that we need to unlearn what we think we know. We have to move out of the comfort of certainty and into the freeing light of uncertainty. It is from this space of acknowledged unknowing that we can truly grow. From my vantage point, this growth will encompass a sense of wonder – both a curiosity about what symptoms of mental illness may be telling us about our physiology and spirit, as well as a sense of humbled awe at all that we do not yet have the tools to appreciate. For this reason, honoring our co-evolution with the natural world, and sending the body a signal of safety through movement, diet, meditation, and environmental detoxification represents our most primal and most powerful tool for healing.
New insights from neutron analysis of glaucoma drugs and their enzyme target may help scientists design drugs that more effectively target aggressive cancers.
A team of researchers led by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory used neutron macromolecular crystallography to investigate the different states of three glaucoma drugs as they interact with the targeted enzyme, human carbonic anhydrase II (hCA II).
“Our goal was to observe differences in the presentation of three clinically used glaucoma drugs while they are bound to the hCA II enzyme,” said Andrey Kovalevsky, an instrument scientist at ORNL and a senior co-author of the study. “By looking at how well these drugs target hCA II in protonated, neutral and deprotonated states, we hoped to obtain insights that would make it possible to improve these medicines so they can better target enzymes linked to cancer.”
Protonation refers to the presence, addition or loss of a proton, which gives the drug a neutral, positive or negative charge, respectively. Altering a drug’s charge could change its ability to recognize and bind with its target protein and consequently, its effectiveness.
The study, published in the journal Structure, found that temperature, pH, and the electrical charge of the three glaucoma drugs affected their ability to target and bind with the hCA II enzyme.
“This discovery was really a proof of principle for us,” said Robert McKenna, a professor at the University of Florida and a senior co-author of the study. “It opened our eyes to how changes in temperature and pH can impact the protonation state of the drug, which in turn makes it more or less effective.”
New information about the hydrogen-bonding networks that make up the active site of hCA II may help other scientists develop new and better drugs for cancer treatment. The family of hCA enzymes contains similar proteins, such as hCA IX and XII, that are associated with aggressive breast cancers, such as triple negative breast cancer.
“We want to exploit the difference in charge, pH and temperature to see if we can design drugs that are more effective at targeting these enzymes,” said Kovalevsky. “If we can understand binding at the atomic level, we can redesign drugs and turn them into stronger and more selective ‘magnets’ that will be attracted to cancer-associated enzymes. Such drugs would be much more effective at killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unhurt, which significantly reduces side effects for patients.”
Many scientists have used X-ray crystallography to analyze the structures of hCA enymes, but these studies lack complete atomic information on drug binding because of X-rays’ inability to visualize hydrogen atoms abundant in proteins and enzymes.
Neutrons are sensitive to lighter elements, so they provide much more detailed information on the location of hydrogen atoms. Seeing hydrogen is critical to studying protonation states of an enzyme and ligand–a molecule that binds to a biological macromolecule–and to analyzing the architecture of hydrogen-bonding networks. Neutrons also offer other experimental advantages.
“When you use neutron diffraction you don’t have radiation damage, so you can do your study at room temperature,” said McKenna. “In addition, freezing crystals may alter the drug and enzyme, introducing a false view into the study, while room temperature studies more closely resemble the environment the drug will be used in.”
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So, you want to get outside, take a break, enjoy nature, and walk a bit without worrying about your Wi-Fi? You’ve already won, because often the hardest part is just getting out the door. And hiking is one of the most accessible ways of enjoying the outdoors without going full hunter-gatherer. Here are a few tips to get you on your way.
FIND YOUR PATH
One of the main differences between hiking and just walking is doing it on a route intended to take you beyond the ordinary. Word-of-mouth recommendations can provide some of the best boots-on-the-ground intel so don’t be shy about asking friends, colleagues, and the staff at your local outdoor store about their favorites. You can also use the AllTrails app or the American Hiking Society’s “Hikes Near You” feature to scout out potential trails.
Be realistic about your ambitions, whether you’re searching for a nice pre-brunch hike in the city or looking to go off-road and off the grid—if only for a day.
SUNDAY STROLL (EASY): On average, this hike will take between 30 minutes to 2 hours while covering around 1-5 miles with light elevation gain/decline on groomed trails.
FEEL THE BURN (INTERMEDIATE): This hike will take around 2-4 hours while covering about 5-10 miles of moderate elevation gain/decline across varied terrain with some obstacles.
WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS ANYWAY? (DIFFICULT): Half-day to full-day hikes, covering longer distances and/or routes with higher elevation gain/decline, rough terrain, and numerous potential obstacles.
Whether you’re planning your hike well in advance or hitting the trail on a whim, be sure to check weather conditions and routes so you can pack accordingly. Here are some essentials:
Boots or Shoes. A mid-high trail shoe provides support with the lightweight flexibility to cover more ground faster. A classic hiking boot has a taller silhouette for added support and protection against ankle-grabbers like rocks, roots, and ruts.
Navigation. A compass is a timeless tool for general bearings, but using a physical trail map, the AllTrails app, or a GPS-equipped device is also recommended. Whenever possible, scout out your route online beforehand.
Water. Bring more than you think you will need, especially on warm days. Insulated bottles (like Hydro Flask®) can keep liquids cooler—and warmer—longer while backpack hydration systems can be a convenient way to carry multiple liters on longer excursions.
Food. The amount depends on hike length and difficulty, but it’s always a good idea to have lightweight snacks like granola bars or homemade trail mix at the ready to keep energy levels up.
Layers. Conditions can change dramatically in a short amount of time, regardless of season. Having at least one extra lightweight layer handy will help you adapt to whatever the weather—or the trail—dishes out.
Emergency supplies. Even on shorter hikes, it’s wise to carry at least a small first aid kit (bandages, waterproof tape, gauze, antiseptic wipes, ibuprofen, etc.) and a pocket multi-tool, just in case.
Illumination. For early morning or evening excursions, a headlamp can provide convenient hands-free lighting, while a flashlight and waterproof matches are a nice-to-have for longer or more remote outings.
Garbage bag. If you pack it in, pack it out.
Daypack/backpack. For carrying some or all of the above, a durable, lightweight pack is one of the most useful pieces of equipment you can take with you.
IN A POST-QUARANTINE WORLD, NATURE IS THE NEW GYM!
During lockdown, gym rats discovered hiking as exercise. Now they say they’re never going back.
“I’ve always loved being out in nature but I didn’t realize how little I was making an effort to visit amazing outdoor spots. My perspective has changed. Since coming out of lockdown, I have visited mountain peaks, wild swimming locations, and walked 25 miles in less than 12 hours at three mountain peaks. This is now my main form of exercise.” ~Katy Jane Woodroffe
Walter Meyer was a regular gym-goer for more than 40 years. Prior to the pandemic, the 58-year-old San Diego resident never missed a workout. In fact, he had a faithful regimen: 30 minutes of cardio; 60 minutes of weights; and a 20-minute cool-down stretch.
Yet when COVID hit, the fitness fanatic was forced to stop his gym workouts. Confined to the house, he tried things like push-ups and resistance bands but it wasn’t quite the same. Desperate for exercise, Meyer began exploring nearby hiking trails.
As he frequented them more and more, a funny thing happened: He discovered he loved it. Not only that, it was a better form of exercise than he’d imagined.
“(My hiking partner and I) keep up a fast enough pace to sweat a lot,” he said. “It’s a better workout than I got in the gym.”
Jim Regnier, 76, crosses a log as he hikes through the Pecos Wilderness area in New Mexico.Meyer isn’t the only gym rat who’s taken his fitness routine outside since COVID struck. Across the pond, Katy Jane Woodroffe, a 32-year-old dive instructor from Britain, said she used to hit her local gym five days a week. She’d combine heavy compound lifting with tabata and gym classes. However, once lockdown went into effect, she found it difficult to stay disciplined.
“I struggled to maintain consistency from home,” the Birmingham resident said. “It’s important for me as a scuba diver to keep a good level of fitness. I tried bodyweight sessions from home but ultimately, I started getting out in nature and walking.”
Similarly to Meyer, she found that she liked hiking more than she ever would have thought. Soon, what began as simple strolls in nature became a broader passion for the outdoors.
“I’ve always loved being out in nature but I didn’t realize how little I was making an effort to visit amazing outdoor spots,” she said. “My perspective has changed. Since coming out of lockdown, I have visited mountain peaks, wild swimming locations, and walked 25 miles in less than 12 hours at three mountain peaks.”
“This is now my main form of exercise. Although I revisit the gym from time to time, it’s no longer the same with the stringent measures and face masks.”
The gym no longer holds the same appeal, she said, with such strict social distancing measures in place. Working out in masks is no fun and there are long waits for the machines. Instead of returning to the gym, Woodroffe has developed a four-point workout plan for the coming year that integrates hiking, running, scuba diving, and cold-water swimming.
“The lockdown really altered my mindset and I now think of the gym in a different capacity,” she said. “Why stay in a building to exercise?”
“Not having a gym to go to has made me remember there are other ways to get a workout that don’t involve being cooped up inside,” he said.
Jamie Hickey, a personal trainer and owner of Truism Fitness, said there are tons of health benefits to hiking. First of all, the combination of altitude and cardiovascular activity increases your lung capacity, which, over time, makes it easier for you to perform physical activities without falling short of breath.
It also lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, ultimately reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Hiking downhill, he explained, is actually effective at decreasing blood sugars and increasing your tolerance for glucose. Hiking also strengthens your heart, he added.
“Hiking is a great aerobic activity and when done at a moderate or high intensity, it will make your heart stronger, allowing it to increase its blood flow (and) oxygen output,” he said. “It will also decrease the chance of heart disease, making you experience overall healthy benefits to your lifestyle.”“Not having a gym to go to has made me remember there are other ways to get a workout that don’t involve being cooped up inside.” ~Walter MeyerHiking is also a great weight-loss recipe, he said, noting that one hour of hiking can burn up to 500 calories, depending on the terrain and how much weight you carry.
“The increase in altitude also puts you into a state of oxygen deprivation, which has a direct effect on your metabolism,” he added.
Hickey said that when the lockdown began, he started taking his clients outside for workouts. After a bit of trial and error, he found that hiking was the most effective solution.
“When the gyms closed, I realized that a large part of my clients didn’t have any workout equipment at home so I started to try and figure out ways to safely work out with a group of people,” he said. “Hiking trails ended up being the best form of exercise due to the changes in elevation, footing, and types of ground. Not to mention the scenery made it fun and enjoyable.”
“The response from my clients during the last few months has been so positive that even after the gyms open back up we will still be making these outings twice a week,” he said. “Nature provides mental and physical benefits that you can never replicate inside a gym. I have noticed that I don’t need to motivate people nearly as much when we’re outdoors hiking as when we’re in the gym.”
Woodroffe said she’s experienced similar benefits.
“It’s certainly hard work,” she said. “(But) the great thing about hiking is that you set the difficulty beforehand. I sometimes go to easy spots that simply burn calories and make for a beautiful day. Other times I walk 18 to 25 miles up three mountain peaks.
“I sweat and my heart races during the harder hikes—it’s no easy feat.”
However, she has noticed tangible benefits.
“My resting heart rate has improved since regularly hiking and I still do some high-intensity exercises,” she said. “I’ve noticed that walking has helped me maintain a great level of fitness. Plus, it’s more of a steady-state cardio, allowing you to really push on, in everything you do.”“Nature provides mental and physical benefits that you can never replicate inside a gym. I have noticed that I don’t need to motivate people nearly as much when we’re outdoors hiking as when we’re in the gym.” ~Jamie HickeyHickey said that if you’re really intent on getting a good workout during your hikes, there are things you can do to make it tougher. First of all, hike on uneven terrain. (Just be sure to have a good pair of hiking shoes.) This can increase the amount of energy your body uses by 28 percent compared to walking on flat ground, he explained. Another strategy is to add weight, either via a heavy backpack or a weighted vest, Hickey said. The latter can increase your heart rate from 3 to 5 percent, making an already efficient cardiovascular workout even more effective. It’s so effective, in fact, that there’s a whole fitness movement rooted in it called “rucking.”
In addition to all of the physical health benefits, both Meyer and Woodroffe pointed to a number of intangible perks.
“Hiking allows me to keep my sanity,” Woodroffe said. “I can rationalize my thoughts and day-to-day stresses. I also love the fresh air, smell of the greenery, and the sound of the wind through the trees. Many of my hikes are in locations with beautiful views too. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing all of your hard work at the top of a mountain.”
Meyer said that there are also benefits you don’t get in a gym.
“Constantly having to plan which machine or weights to do around the other people working out, it is hard to turn my brain off,” he said. “There was a zen to (outdoor workouts) that I never found in the gym. Just letting my mind turn off and stop thinking too much. In addition to the improvement in heart rate and lung capacity. I can now storm right up hills that used to make me pause and wheeze.“I am too hyper to be good at meditation or tai chi or yoga so hiking lets my body be active while my brain sort of checks out and relaxes. I never take my pulse but I am sure my resting heart rate has improved not only from the exercise, but from letting myself relax.” ~Walt Meyer“Hiking makes me feel complete,” Woodroffe said. “I live in a city center, thus not being able to connect with nature as much as I’d like to. It gives me a liberating feeling to start with and emotions change throughout just one hike, really showing you what a journey it is. By the end, there’s a huge sense of accomplishment and you sleep well that night. Hiking to the top of a mountain allows you to sit and enjoy your hard work with a view.”Ready to get out there and sweat? Here’s a complete 5-minute guide to getting started:
Grab your hiking workout (screenshot the exercise plan above)
One of the simplest ways to reduce your income tax bill is to ensure you’re claiming all of the tax deductions available to your small business.
What exactly is a tax deduction?
A tax deduction (or “tax write-off”) is an expense that you can deduct from your taxable income. You take the amount of the expense and subtract that from your taxable income. Essentially, tax write-offs allow you to pay a smaller tax bill. But the expense has to fit the IRS criteria of a tax deduction.
Below you’ll find a comprehensive list of write-offs commonly available to sole proprietors, and businesses that are organized as partnerships or limited liability companies (LLCs). Some of these are directly related to running a business, and some are more personal deductions that a small business owner should be aware of.
Tax deduction savings
Making the most of all your available tax deductions can save you hundreds—even thousands—of dollars at tax time.
Let’s look an at example.
Joe is a self-employed writer and had $60,000 in self employment income in 2020. He has to pay 15.3% self employment (SE) tax plus income tax based on his individual tax rate. The SE tax on $60,000 is $9,180 and the income tax is $4,865, for a total of $14,045.
(For simplicity, we assumed Joe is single with no children and no other types of taxable income to consider.)
In early 2021, Joe joined Bench and his bookkeeper located $6,000 worth of contractor expenses that he was not aware of. These expenses count as tax deductions and reduce his net self employment income to $54,000.
Now, with $54,000 in taxable self employment income, he pays $8,262 in SE tax and $4,200 in income tax, for a total of $12,462.
That’s $1,583 in savings after including the contractor tax deduction.
By locating the $6,000 in contractor expenses, Bench was able to reduce Joe’s tax liability by over $1,500 dollars. A nice saving he can use to upgrade his laptop this year.
Repeat this for all the available deductions Joe had expenses for, and he can significantly reduce the income he has to pay taxes on—saving him thousands of dollars.
Staying on top of your deductions
As a small business owner, it can be difficult to know what deductions are relevant to you.
Many people struggle to stay on top of their deductions year round and instead try to piece things together at year end and run in to difficulties. Remember that restaurant expense you incurred in January last year? Most people don’t, and therefore they miss this tax write off. Add them all up and you’re missing out on a lot of tax savings.
That’s where bookkeeping comes in.
To claim these deductions, you’ll need to keep accurate records and stay on top of your monthly bookkeeping.
The top 16 small business tax deductions
Each of these expenses are tax deductible. Consider this a checklist of small business tax write-offs.
And remember, some of the deductions in this list may not be available to your small business. Consult with your tax advisor or CPA before claiming a deduction on your tax return.
Pop quiz: how much money did you leave on the table this tax season?
Try our free expense finder, and get your industry’s top deductible expenses in 60 seconds or less.Get Started Click the links below to skip ahead to a specific deduction, or keep scrolling to learn about them all.
The cost of advertising and promotion is 100 percent deductible. This can include things like:
Hiring someone to design a business logo
The cost of printing business cards or brochures
Purchasing ad space in print or online media
Sending cards to clients
Launching a new website
Running a social media marketing campaign
Sponsoring an event
However, you cannot deduct amounts paid to influence legislation (i.e., lobbying) or sponsor political campaigns or events.
You can generally deduct 50% of qualifying food and beverage costs. To be eligible for the deduction:
The expense must be an ordinary and necessary part of carrying on your business
The meal cannot be lavish or extravagant under the circumstances
The business owner or an employee must be present at the meal
You can also deduct 50% of the cost of providing meals to employees, such as buying pizza for dinner when your team is working late. Meals provided at office parties and picnics are 100% deductible.
Be sure to keep documentation for the outing that includes the amount of each expense, the date and place of the meal, and the business relationship of the person you dined with. A good way to do this is to record the purpose of the meal and what you discussed on the back of the receipt.
Property coverage for your furniture, equipment, and buildings
Group health, dental and vision insurance for employees
Professional liability or malpractice insurance
Workers compensation coverage
Auto insurance for business vehicles
Life insurance that covers employees, as long as the business or business owner is not a beneficiary on the policy
Business interruption insurance that covers lost profits if your business is shut down due to fire or another cause
Having separate bank accounts and credit cards for your business is always a good idea. If your bank or credit card company charges annual or monthly service charges, transfer fees, or overdraft fees, these are deductible. You can also deduct merchant or transaction fees paid to a third-party payment processor, such as PayPal or Stripe.
You cannot deduct fees related to your personal bank accounts or credit cards.
Business use of your car
Do you use your vehicle for business? If you use your vehicle solely for business purposes, then you can deduct the entire cost of operating the vehicle. If you use it for both business and personal trips, you can only deduct the costs associated with business-related usage.
There are two methods for deducting vehicle expenses, and you can choose whichever one gives you a greater tax benefit.
Standard mileage rate. Multiply the miles driven for business during the year by a standard mileage rate. For miles driven in 2020, the standard mileage deduction is $0.57½ per mile. In 2021, it is $0.56 per mile.
Actual expense method. Track all of the costs of operating the vehicle for the year, including gas, oil, repairs, tires, insurance, registration fees, and lease payments. Multiply those expenses by the percentage of miles driven for business.
Both methods require that you track your business miles for the year. You can keep a detailed log of your business miles, use an app to track your trips, or reconstruct a mileage log using other documents, such as calendars or appointment books. If you keep a mileage log, clearly document the miles driven, time and place, and business purpose of your trip.
Note that you cannot count the miles driven while commuting between your home and your regular place of business. These costs are considered personal commuting expenses.
If you hire freelancers or independent contractors to help in your business, you can deduct their fees as a business expense.
Just remember, if you pay a contractor $600 or more during the tax year, you’re required to send them a Form 1099-NEC by January 31st of the following year.
When you purchase furniture, equipment, and other business assets, depreciation rules require you to spread the costs of those assets over the years you’ll use them rather than deducting the full cost in a single hit.
Expensing these items upfront is more attractive because of the quicker tax benefit. Fortunately, the IRS gives business owners several ways to write off the full cost in one year.
De minimis safe harbor election. Small businesses can elect to expense assets that cost less than $2,500 per item in the year they are purchased. You can read more about the de minimis safe harbor election in this IRS FAQ.
Section 179 deduction. The Section 179 deduction allows business owners to deduct up to $1,040,000 of property placed in service during the tax year. This includes new and used business property and “off-the-shelf” software. The Section 179 deduction is limited to the business’s taxable income, so claiming it cannot create a net loss on your return. However, any unused Section 179 deduction can be carried forward and deducted on next year’s return.
Bonus depreciation. Businesses can take advantage of bonus depreciation to deduct 100% of the cost of machinery, equipment, computers, appliances, and furniture.
If you purchased a new vehicle during the tax year, the IRS limits write-offs for passenger vehicles. In the first year, if you don’t claim bonus depreciation, the maximum depreciation deduction is $10,000. If you do claim bonus depreciation, the maximum write off is $18,000.
Education costs are fully deductible when they add value to your business and increase your expertise. In order to decide if your class or workshop qualifies, the IRS will look at whether the expense maintains or improves skills that are required in your current business.
The following list contains examples of valid business education expenses:
Classes to improve skills in your field
Seminars and webinars
Subscriptions to trade or professional publications
Books tailored to your industry
Workshops to increase your expertise and skills
Transportation expenses to and from classes
Keep in mind that any education costs that would qualify you for a new career, or costs related to education outside of the realm of your business, don’t qualify as business tax deductions.
Home office expenses
If you use a home office for your business, you may be able to deduct a portion of your housing expenses against business income. There are two ways to deduct home office expenses.
Simplified method. You can deduct $5 per square foot of your home that is used for business, up to a maximum of 300 square feet.
Standard method. Track all actual expenses of maintaining your home, such as mortgage interest or rent, utilities, real estate taxes, housekeeping and landscaping service, homeowners association fees, and repairs. Multiply these expenses by the percentage of your home devoted to business use.
To qualify for the home office deduction, you need to measure up in two areas:
Regular and exclusive use. To pass the regularly and exclusively requirement, you must regularly use your home office exclusively for conducting business activities. A desk that doubles as your kitchen table won’t work. You don’t need to dedicate an entire room to your business, but your work area should have clearly identifiable boundaries. You may want to keep photos of your home office workspace with your tax documentation as evidence in case the IRS selects your return for audit.
Principal place of business. Your home office must be your principal place of business. This means you spend the most time and conduct important business activities here.
If you use the standard method for calculating your home office deduction, you’ll need to file Form 8829 along with your Schedule C. Learn more about the home office deduction.
If you take out a loan or use a credit card to cover business expenses, you can deduct the interest paid to your lender or credit card company as long as you meet the following requirements:
You are legally liable for the debt. For example, if your parents take a second mortgage on their home to help you start a business, you are not legally liable for the debt. In that case, interest on the loan is not deductible, even if you make all of the payments on the mortgage.
Both you and the lender intend for the debt to be repaid. A loan that doesn’t have to be repaid is a gift.
You and the lender have a true debtor/creditor relationship. The IRS tends to scrutinize loans between related parties, such as family members. If you use the accrual method of accounting, you cannot deduct interest owed to a related person until the payment is made.
Keep in mind that if a loan is part business and part personal, you need to divide the interest between the business and personal parts of the loan.
Legal and professional fees
Legal and professional fees that are necessary and directly related to running your business are deductible. These include fees charged by lawyers, accountants, bookkeepers, tax preparers, and online bookkeeping services such as Bench.
If the fees include payments for work of a personal nature (for example, making a will), you can only deduct the part of the fee that’s related to the business.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the deduction for moving expenses for all nonmilitary individuals, but businesses can still deduct the cost of moving business equipment, supplies and inventory from one business location to another.
Be sure to keep good records to substantiate all costs associated with your business move.
If you rent a business location or equipment for your business, you can deduct the rental payments as a business expense.
Keep in mind, rent paid on your home should not be deducted as a business expense, even if you have a home office. That rent can be deducted as a part of home office expenses.
Salaries and benefits
Salaries, benefits and even vacation time paid to employees are generally tax-deductible, as long as they meet a few criteria:
The “employee” is not the sole proprietor, a partner, or an LLC member
The salary is reasonable, ordinary, and necessary
The services were actually provided
Taxes and licenses
You can deduct various taxes and licenses related to your business. This may include:
State income taxes
Personal property taxes
Real estate taxes paid on business property
Telephone and internet expenses
If telephone and internet services are integral to your business, they can be deductible business expenses.
Keep in mind, if you use a landline at home, you cannot deduct the cost of your first line, even if you use it solely for work. However, if you have a second landline devoted to the business, the cost of that line is deductible.
If you use your cell phone and internet connection for both personal and business reasons, you can only deduct the percentage allocable to business use. Keep an itemized bill or other detailed records to prove the amount of business use in case your return is audited.
For a trip to qualify as business travel, it has to be ordinary, necessary, and away from your tax home. Your tax home is the entire city or area in which you conduct business, regardless of where you live. You need to travel away from your tax home for longer than a normal day’s work, requiring you to sleep or rest en route.
Deductible, IRS approved business travel expenses include:
Travel to and from your destination by plane, train, bus, or car
Using your car while at a business location
Parking and toll fees
The cost of taxis and other methods of transportation used on a business trip
Meals and lodging
Dry cleaning while on a business trip
Shipping of baggage and sample or display materials to your destination
Other similar ordinary and necessary expenses related to your business travel
Remember to keep records that include the amount of each expense, as well as dates of return/departure, details of the trip (whom you met with), a mileage log if you drove your own vehicle, and the business reason for the trip.
Starting with 2020 returns, taxpayers can claim up to $300 of cash contributions as an “above-the-line” deduction on Form 1040. To deduct more than that, the business owner has to itemize deductions on Schedule A attached to Form 1040.
Child and dependent care expenses
If you pay someone to care for a child or another dependent while you work, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit. To qualify, the person receiving the card must be a child (under age 13) or a spouse or other dependent who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.
The credit is worth between 20% and 35% of your allowable expenses, depending on your income. Allowable expenses are limited to $3,000 for the care of one dependent and $6,000 if you paid for the care of two or more dependents. IRS Publication 503 provides more information on the Child and Dependent Care Credit. You’ll need to attach Form 2441 to your Form 1040 to claim the credit.
You can deduct contributions to employee retirement accounts as a business expense, but business owners who contribute only to their own retirement funds claim the deduction on Schedule 1 attached to their Form 1040.
In addition to insurance premiums, you can deduct other out-of-pocket medical costs, such as office co-pays and the cost of prescriptions. These costs are included on itemized deductions on Schedule A.
Self-employed business owners can also deduct health insurance premiums for themselves, their spouse, and dependents on Schedule 1 attached to their Form 1040. However, if you are eligible to participate in a plan through your spouse’s employer, then you can’t deduct those premiums.
The bottom line
Tax deductions are an essential way to minimize the amount of tax you have to pay, and good record keeping will ensure you get to keep those deductions if the IRS ever comes knocking.
Have your team of dedicated bookkeepers at Bench track all of the expenses related to running your business to ensure you’re taking advantage of every legitimate deduction. Send Bench’s books to your accountant at year end, or let us take the tax filing off your plate for good! Learn more.
First, spinach had its heyday in the early aughts. Then kale became trendy (remember when people would throw kale in the oven and have the audacity to call it chips?!), and now cauliflower is having a moment.
The next type of produce that’s poised for fad-dom? Bok choy.
“Like other leafy green vegetables, bok choy is a rich source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin A,” explains nutritionist Jennifer McDaniel, RDN. She notes that bok choy contains a trove of heart-healthy and potentially cancer-preventing and bone-building benefits. The list really goes on, making it an all-around veggie powerhouse.
And while McDaniel adds that bok choy is in the cabbage family, don’t let that categorization fool you. Unlike cabbage’s semi-bland, watery taste and texture (no shade to cabbage, but it had to be said), bok choy contains two very unique different bites in a single plant.
“The dark, velvety leafy greens have an earthy flavor, while the white stalks, while less flavorful, have a crisp, crunchy bite when eaten raw,” McDaniel explains. “Both pair well with a variety of vegetables, as well as oyster sauce, soy sauce, and sesame oil.”
New to the bok choy bandwagon? We’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about this multi-use vegetable—and how best to prepare it.
Where Bok Choy Comes From
Hailing from China originally, bok choy falls under the Brassica cabbage family, which also includes kale, turnips, mustard, and broccoli. As far as its connection to the United States and other western countries, you have immigrants to thank for that. When Chinese populations settled in California in the 1800s, they brought their crops (including bok choy) with them, according to the Real Food Encyclopedia.
As McDaniel notes, bok choy likely became a staple in Chinese cooking due to its versatility. The green is quick-cooking (making it a key part of a busy weeknight dinner) and can be cooked with a variety of methods, like grilling, stir-frying, baking, stewing.
Bok Choy’s Nutrition, Broken Down
Although boasting a ton of flavor, bok choy is fairly minimal as far as calories, fat, sodium, and sugar go. Here’s what a 1-cup serving of the veggie looks like:
Fat: 0.1 grams
Carbohydrates: 1.5 grams
Protein: 1.1 grams
Sodium: 45.5 milligrams
Sugar: 0.8 grams
Fiber: 0.7 gram
Despite its low stats, bok choy is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. A single cup contains vitamins C, K, A, and B6, as well as folate, calcium, and beta-carotene.
5 Ways Bok Choy Boosts Your Health
With a measly 9 calories and 1.5 grams of carbs, a single serving of bok choy isn’t going to fuel your next workout—let alone qualify as a super-filling snack. But what it lacks in sustenance it makes up for in other benefits:
1. You could be less likely to develop cancer.
Studies from the National Cancer Institute have found a tie between leafy green (including bok choy) consumption and a lower risk of developing lung, prostate, and colon cancer. “Like other members of the cruciferous vegetable family, bok choy contains sulfur-containing compounds that may reduce the risk of certain cancers and ward off carcinogens,” McDaniel notes.
Another cancer-fighting property contained in bok choy? Selenium. Studies show it can boost your immunity and cognitive function, too.
2. Your heart will thank you.
“Bok choy is rich in folate and B vitamins that help protect the heart,” explains McDaniel. She says that a single cup of shredded bok choy contains 11 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for both folate and vitamins B6.
The likelihood that you’ll get heart disease may also dip. One study found that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables could reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 15 percent.
3. You might see clearer.
According to McDaniel, when it comes to eye health, there are two major carotenoids to watch for: lutein and zeaxanthin. She notes that, in addition to being responsible for boosting eye health in general, a diet rich in both can help ward off macular degeneration.
4. Your bones will get the nutrients they need.
“Build better bones with bok choy,” McDaniel says, noting that the vegetable is ideal for vegans who refrain from eating dairy when it comes to getting their fill of bone health-bulking nutrients. “A single cup of shredded bok choy contains 3 percent of your RDA for magnesium, 7 percent for calcium, and 26 for vitamin K.”
5. Your thyroid function might improve.
Think of your thyroid—the little butterfly-shaped gland in your neck—as your body’s project manager. It’s responsible for producing hormones that tell your body how to grow, metabolize, sleep, and eat.
One vitamin that can help it function more smoothly, according to studies? Selenium. Another study found a connection between low levels of selenium and certain thyroid conditions, like hypothyroidism, autoimmune thyroiditis and enlarged thyroid.
How to Select And Store Fresh Bok Choy
Although it’s available year-round at your local supermarket or farmer’s market, bok choy is a cold weather crop, meaning that you’ll find its freshest varieties in the winter.
When shopping for bok choy, McDaniel says that it’s important to look for firm, smooth white stalks and dark, crisp greens—minus any mush or wilting. She adds that baby bok choy will typically have lighter green stalks and smaller leaves (because it was picked earlier in harvest). Expect a slightly sweeter flavor than the full-sized type.
The greens last a decent amount of time in your fridge, too. “Store bok choy in a plastic bag or in your vegetable bins for up to a week,” McDaniel says. “Wash them immediately before using instead of washing ahead of time and then storing,” she adds.
How To Enjoy Your Bok Choy: 3 Recipes to Try
Bok choy preparation techniques will depend on the type you’ve purchased: adult or baby, according to McDaniel. “If you’re working with large bok choy, start by cutting off the leafy green portions, then slice thinly,” she explains. “These slices can then be added to salads or soups, much like lettuce.”
Similar to asparagus, you’ll want to discard the root portion at the bottom of the stalk (roughly 1 inch), McDaniel adds. “The rest of the stalk can be used in dishes like stir-fry or soup.”
Got baby bok choy? You can eat the veggie in its entirety.
A few preparation pitfalls to watch out for: “Make sure you fully rinse and dry the plant before using. It’s relatively easy to overcook bok choy using wet cooking methods,” McDaniel says. Instead, try pan-frying or roasting, she suggests. “This will give you a nice, brown look without overcooking or becoming soggy.”
Ready to whip up your perfect helping of bok choy? Try these recipes:
On its own: Sesame Ginger Seared Baby Bok Choy (Killing Thyme). “This is one if my favorite bok choy recipes,” says McDaniel. “They incorporate anti-inflammatory ginger and sear the baby bok choy to get a beautiful brown look with lots of flavor.”
As part of a soup: Spicy Feel-Good Chicken Soup (Epicurious). Think of it like your traditional hearty, comforting chicken soup–but a million times more interesting.
We’ve been told time and time again that exposing our bodies to a little bit of sunshine is good for us. (As long as we don’t bake under those UVA and UVB rays for too long without shade and sunscreen, that is—doing that is basically asking for skin damage.) After all, responsible sun exposure is touted for its ability to boost our mood and increase our physical health.
But what about fall and winter when our days are much darker and colder? Come January and February, our sun exposure is often pretty limited (especially for those of us living on the East Coast and in the Midwest, where winter is three straight months of swirling snow and cloudy skies), leading to vastly diminished vitamin D levels.
And according to Dana Kofsky of Wellness Styled, the consequences of vitamin D deficiency are major, and can include things as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and muscle pain. To learn more about the way vitamin D effects the body, along with the foods and supplements that can keep your levels steady, keep reading.
“Vitamin D has several very important functions,” Kofsky tells us. “Perhaps the most vital are regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, building a healthy immune system, fighting disease, and regulating moods.” That’s why being deficient in the nutrient can have such far-reaching consequences, result in everything from depression and anxiety to back pain, blood sugar issues, and weight gain.
Research supports vitamin D’s effect on mental health, especially where depression is concerned. One study conducted in the Netherlands found that low levels of vitamin D were linked to symptoms of both major and minor depression in research participants. Another study found that supplementation of vitamin D improved participants’ symptoms, resulting in better health and overall well-being.
It’s not just depression either. Some research indicates low levels of vitamin D play a role in heightening levels of anxiety. In fact, one study showed that children who were vitamin D deficient experienced significantly more anxiety and stress than their peers. In this way, lack of vitamin D and sun exposure could be seriously messing with your mental health. Story continues
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