WITS GUTS GRIT – Library Journal Review

Posted in Uncategorized by jenapincott on April 1, 2018

Wits Guts GritPincott, Jena. Wits Guts Grit: All-Natural Biohacks for Raising Smart, Resilient Kids. Chicago Review. Apr. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781613736883. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781613736913. CHILD REARING

Science writer Pincott (Do Chocolate ­Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?) looks at natural biohacks to help kids adapt to a changing world. She takes on the concept of grit, the ability to keep pursuing one’s goals even after setbacks and against all odds, popularized by psychologist Angela ­Duckworth in her book of the same name and one of two traits said to be more predictive of success than IQ (the other is self-control). Drawing on existing research and her own experimentation, Pincott asks, what if memory and learning could be improved after eating certain foods, what if we use nature itself to shape the minds and health of our children by harnessing products available in the natural world? In addition to citing numerous scientific journal studies on subjects such as getting fresh air to increase focus and creativity and consuming more dietary fiber to help with childhood anxiety, ­Pincott discusses experiments incorporated into her own household. Whether allowing her daughters’ poop to be swabbed for American Gut, an initiative that sequences and compares microbiota of people across the country, or eating homemade yogurt twice a day and monitoring their cortisol levels, personal accounts leaven this fascinating glimpse into how the natural world can bolster children’s growth. VERDICT A compelling read that solidly makes the ­nature to ­nurture connection.

In suspense

Posted in Uncategorized by jenapincott on March 13, 2018

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Posted in Uncategorized by jenapincott on February 26, 2018

IMG_3069Hack your kid’s nervous system with microbes? Why not, for, as Ross Douthat expressed so beautifully in this past weekend’s New York Times op-ed: “Every human life is…a science experiment, and how we choose to react when our assumptions are tested defines the real scope of our curiosity. When people and societies are genuinely curious they are very reasonably curious about everything, including things happening in their bodies and their consciousness and more speculative realms.”
In this sprit, Chapter 1 of Wits Guts Grit, experimenting with the #microbiome and species of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli

Preorder your copy of WITS, GUTS, GRIT

Posted in psychology, science, Uncategorized, WitsGutsGrit by jenapincott on January 17, 2018

Wits Guts Grit

Wits, Guts, Grit will be officially published by Earth Day 2018 (April), but rumor has it that copies will be available before then.  Preorder now!

Kind words about the book:

“A must-read for every parent, teacher, psychologist, social worker, pediatrician, and
childcare provider. Five stars.”
—Louann Brizendine, MD, neuropsychiatrist and author of the
New York Times bestsellers The Female Brain and The Male Brain

“If you are the kind of parent who reads the latest studies on resilience and achievement
and wonder how they might really apply to your own kids, this is the book for you.”
—Kayt Sukel, author of The Art of Risk and This Is Your Brain on Sex

“This book will no doubt influence many lives for the better. It’s a fantastic example of
what I call ‘science-help’ in its truest form.”
—David DiSalvo, author of What Makes Your Brain Happy and
Why You Should Do the Opposite

WITS, GUTS, GRIT giveaway!

Posted in Uncategorized, WitsGutsGrit by jenapincott on January 10, 2018

Wits Guts GritI’d love for one of my readers to get a free advance copy of my latest book, Wits Guts Grit, parenting book on natural “biohacks” that underlie resilience. The book is out this spring (by 4/1) but enter to win one now in a Goodreads book giveaway!  (Please reach out to me if you’re a reviewer and would like a copy. I might be able to persuade the publisher to spare some more.)

Now in Romanian!

Posted in Blondes Left Column by jenapincott on February 27, 2017

Do hormones in breast milk help prepare babies for a tough world?

Posted in magazine articles by jenapincott on December 8, 2015

nautilusimageI’ve long been fascinated by the idea of “messages” in the milk. Check out my article published this week in Nautilus. Illustration by the talented Vahram Muradyan.

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Benadryl and Baby Brains

Posted in Uncategorized by jenapincott on January 29, 2015

diphenhydramine_capsule__i2013e0076_dispYou’re pregnant and can’t sleep. Miserable, you ask your doctor what to take. “Diphenhydramine,” you’re told. It’s the active ingredient in sleep aids such as Benadryl, Unisom, Sominex, Exedrin PM and Tylenol PM. An antihistamine, it’s also an over-the-counter drug that pregnant women take when they have a cold or allergies.

“Why not? The FDA classified diphenhydramine as a “Category “B” drug in pregnancy, meaning that there’s no evidence of risk in humans.

Here’s why not. A study published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the cumulative use of Benadryl and other similar nonprescription medications is linked with dementia and cognitive impairment in older people. This study is not the first to find a connection, but it’s the largest one to date. The researchers tracked nearly 3,500 people for seven years. Around 800 of them developed dementia by the end of the study, and those who used Benadryl were likelier to have cognitive impairment than those who did not.

In particular, the study estimated that people taking at least 4 mg/day of diphenhydramine for more than three years are at a greater risk of developing dementia. (The average dose of Benadryl for use as a sleep aid is 50 mg.)

The reason: this drug is an anticholinergic, which works by blocking the action of the neurotransmitter acetycholine. In the brain, acetylcholine is necessary for learning and memory.

Wait!, you might think. The study participants were seniors. The causal link isn’t proven. And the risk, if real, appears to be accumulative.

On the other hand, science has not studied the effects of these drugs on fetuses, infants, or children. Couldn’t the same anticholinergic effects disrupt a baby’s developing nervous system? What might it be doing to a fetus’s brain; the infrastructure of its neural pathways? Even a minor decrease in cognitive function would be alarming.

This study warrants a good, hard look at the effects of common anticholinergic drugs on the developing brains of fetuses, babies, and children. If I were a doctor, I would urge my pregnant and pediatric patients to seriously consider alternatives. Or take it only in emergencies. After all, we now know there’s a lot that we don’t know.

And if were pregnant again, I’d never take Benadryl or anything else with diphenhydramine. Not even if I were struck with insomnia and a killer cold, as I was last November and December in third trimester of my pregnancy. The fact that we now know that this drug may impair the elder brain but haven’t yet explored its effect on the young brain…. If I took it, I’d never be able to sleep.

Do breastfed kids grow up to be more fertile?

Posted in breastfeeding, parenting, Uncategorized by jenapincott on January 28, 2015

squirtNow that I’m nursing a newborn again, I’ve renewed my fascination with the science of breast milk. In particular, “lactocrine programming;” the idea that hormonal signals in Mama’s milk can “program” Baby’s body and behavior. So many new developments in the last few years since UJ was born!

Today’s question: Does breastfeeding make kids more fertile later in life?

Theories abound with evidence accumulating from various studies on humans and other mammals. Researchers Katie Hinde and Danielle LeMay, at Harvard and UC David respectively, offer some intriguing insights in their SPLASH! Milk Genomics blog.

The upshot: The first few days after birth are a crucial window for the development of reproductive tissues that will become part of the cervix, uterus, endometrium, and other parts. These tissues start growing when they receive signals from a hormone called relaxin (a multipurpose hormone, it also relaxes blood vessels and ligaments during pregnancy, opens the cervix, and much more).

There’s relaxin in the milk! report Hinde and LeMay, referring to a study on pig milk:

Here’s the crazy part: relaxin is delivered by the mother via her milk. Piglets that are allowed to suckle have relaxin in their blood stream, but not piglets fed a milk-replacer . Relaxin activity in pig milk is highest in the first few days of lactation, and is similar to findings from dogs and humans. Experimental manipulations have shown that as little as one colostrum feeding in the first 12 hours after birth can make a difference. For example, just a single colostrum feeding bout in the first hours after birth allows for typical cervical cell proliferation and development—an important predictor of future litter size.

But does access to milk really predict future fertility? It did in a recent pig study involving over 1,500 litters, say Hinde and LeMay:

Female pigs with limited access to maternal-origin hormones via milk as piglets had reduced litter size as adults. So, it is safe to conclude, at least in pigs, that the number of babies born in any generation was partly programmed by their grandmothers via milk hormones.

It’s mind-boggling, the possibility that access to breast milk in infancy — or at least colostrum (the thick milky fluid produced in the first days after birth, which also contains relaxin) may have an impact on our kids’ reproductive development.

Not that these preliminary (porcine) studies say anything conclusive about humans. For that, we’d need to address many more questions: Do women whose mothers never attempted breastfeeding have more fertility problems — or fewer kids — than their breastfed peers? Do they have a different growth trajectory in puberty? How does relaxin affect reproductive development in sons? Can breastfeed girls bear children later in life than those who weren’t breastfed? How long does a kid need to nurse to receive reproductive benefits — the first day after birth, a few days, the first week? More?

Further research is warranted. Even if turns out that fertility is only slightly enhanced among breastfed kids (that’s my bet, anyway), it’s more fuel for the breastfeeding movement.

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Now in Croatian!

Posted in Uncategorized by jenapincott on June 25, 2014


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