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Attention All! Improve Mental Focus And Avoid EDD!

by Mark Cammack    August 21, 2019

There are two images of the same scene. The one on the left is out of focus. The one on the right is clear. It reveals a caution sign that the upcoming boardwalk may be slippery. The walkway has a yellow banana peel, strawberry ice cream cone, and a container of OK Oil Company's JED'S SLICK motor oil spilling on it.

The Importance Of Focus: As we walk through life, maintaining clarity and focus is best for many reasons. The image on the left is unfocused. The photo to the right clearly reveals what is ahead. It is good to be aware of signs.

"What can I do to improve attention?" asked the fellow in the grocery. We had begun a conversation while he demonstrated food product samples in an unpopulated store. He was knowledgeable of the items there. The man carried on a pleasant talk as I intermittently read ingredient listings. "Most people don't even bother to read them. They just eat what tastes good. Why do you read them?" he queried. When I explained how foods and chemicals can affect the brain and body, he glowed with enthusiasm. He then expressed concern over mental focus, food quality and additives, and wondered about attention deficit.

His interest regarding what we eat, brain ability, and environment had been sparked by his visiting sister. He said she was health conscious and lived in California. She seemed to be doing well and was smart regarding food choices. While his sister was mentally sharp, he wondered about himself. A key difference was in their environments and what they ate. He then continued with inquiries like,"Why do so many products have additives and chemicals? There has to be a reason because they aren't always needed. Could it be that we are being kept dumb by what goes into our foods?"

His last question struck a chord. I was reminded of a recent talk with a retired medical doctor who is a friend of the family. His father was also a physician who knew my dad. He mentioned concerns over fluorine lowering intelligence and affecting the central nervous system. We had a conversation that included omitting sugar to avoid tooth decay and obesity, and staying away from fluorine to avoid mental dullness.

The grocery store fellow sincerely thanked me for our conversation and shook my hand. I promised him an article. Here are some thoughts to consider that may help...

1. Nutrition

The first thing to do is keep a journal of everything eaten when looking for clues. Read the ingredient listings if products have them. Simpler is better. Each person can respond differently to specific foods.

We must think of presence, absence, and combination. Does the item eaten have adequate nutrients? Are there ingredients in it that may create undesirable brain effects? Are there combinations of foods that either help or hinder functioning?

Examples of this include both natural and processed foods. Grapefruit has long been a staple of some dieters. There is research showing merit for it reversing metabolic issues and lowering body fat. It can also prevent the breakdown of specific drugs while affecting detoxification systems. There are over 85 oral drugs that can potentially interact with it. Did you know that pharmaceutical companies considered adding a grapefruit extract to some medicines? It can increase potency. The ability for grapefruit and grapefruit juice to increase drug effects has dangerous potential. If a person unknowingly combines specific medicines with it, they may be in for an unexpected surprise. This can certainly affect attention.

Cranberries and their hopefully pure unsweetened juice can alter the effects of certain drug actions or accelerate detoxification. The fruit and juice may assist with eliminating unwanted bacteria in the stomach, bladder, and urinary tract. Cranberries and Vitamin C act as antioxidants. They have the potential to help with clearing some environmental chemicals from the body. It is a favorite of people who want to stay mentally alert. Ladies or persons desiring a degree of protection against specific hypnotic or sedative drugs will sip cranberry juice in uncertain public places. They do not go for grapefruit.

Sulfites have been associated with hyperactivity, loss of attention, and allergy. They are used to prevent the browning or oxidation of foods such as dried fruit. If you look at two packs of dried pineapple, with and without the sulfites, they are easy to tell apart. The bright golden yellow one often has it while the brown rings are natural. Sulfites occur naturally in wines although additional amounts can be added. Some people's ears or ear lobes may turn reddish, others can experience headaches or skin conditions if consumed. Other artificial preservatives are also of concern.

Arsenic in rice has been under discussion recently. Fluorine is also a growing concern regarding toxicity. Both have the potential to affect brain and nervous system functioning. Fluorine has been shown to lower intelligence in children who drank water that was highly fluoridated. Perhaps considering natural non-fluoridated toothpastes, pure water, and alternative grains would be a good idea.

Mercury is in some seafoods, dental amalgams, vaccines, and medicines. It tends to bioaccumulate and increase with the size of the fish in the food chain. Mercury can turn an otherwise healthy person's life into a nightmare. It can affect the brain, heart, kidneys, induce dementia-like states, raise blood pressure, and eliminate energy. It can be lethal. This is a toxic element with many forms that is best kept away from people.

High quality foods do not contain so-called flavor enhancing MSG (monosodium glutamate - a neurostimulant), inosinates, or guanylates. MSG can fire glutamate receptors leading to reactions. I sat in on a talk by Dr. Boyd Haley who is known for mercury research and health matters. He went into detail regarding MSG also. In a study by Akiko Shimada and others, they found that one dose of MSG could lead to headaches. Apparently 57% of subjects experienced reactions. Another study indicates oxidative kidney damage with MSG along with inflammation. One more research paper links it with testicular toxicity and male reproductive organ damage in lab animals. Papers indicate that antioxidants such as Vitamin E and selenium offer some protection. The list goes on. If you have a headache, affected kidneys, inflammation, or are otherwise impacted, your attention may also be altered.

There are people who claim MSG is harmless and does not cause any effects. They wave debatable studies around. My questions are: Who provided funding for the study? Is the manufacturer influencing it in any way? If it has no effect, why is it added to foods?

The package may even say the chemicals are from natural sources. This can be true as seaweed may be a source. If it is high glutamate seaweed, it might also cause a reaction in some persons. Nature did not intentionally concentrate the items from one source and place them in other foods. Man did. Why?

"If man makes it, don't eat it." - Jack LaLanne

There is an abundance of flavor from nature if foods are fresh and of good quality. Organic foods tend to be delightfully delicious. Throughout most of human history we ate organic. That was what the earth provided and our bodies are accustomed to. Only more recently have we seen man-made GMO's, pesticides, food additives, and excess sugar become a concern.

Regarding nutrient density, the idea is to have each calorie carry as many healthy factors as possible. A bowl of vegetables or natural grains has more good in it than a bowl of sugar laden cereal. The effects are different.

There is no replacement for replacement. A processed food that may have a few vitamins added back to it is no substitute for a natural complete food. By replacing the processed with whole grains such as organic oats or buckwheat, colorful vegetables, high antioxidant fruits in moderation, and first-rate protein sources without chemical additives, we can have high quality nutrition.

The brain needs fats and cholesterol to function. Real butter and whole eggs can provide this. Refined vegetable oils will not have the same effect. Heated oils can contain transfats and may be oxidized, not what we need. A steam-fry using water is better than a stir-fry with overheated oil.

Are there enough B and C Vitamins being taken in? Both are crucial for stress, adrenal and nervous system functioning.

Is choline in the diet? Choline is a nutrient that is a precursor to the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine. If this is in scarce supply, our attention and memory may come up short. Top sources for choline include lecithin, egg yolk, whole eggs, beef, and pork.

2. Brain training

We are all entrained, having habitual patterns of thought and responses and performance in some way. This often starts in childhood as parents, schools, and culture attempts to train the child on what type of person to be. While the message is sometimes to succeed and fully develop, the reality is that what is done is often the teaching of conformity. Not all conformity is bad. If good sense is taught, it might save us. Don't touch the hot stove is good advice. When conformity kills creativity, we begin losing functionality. This happens by being told repeatedly to not think, question, or wonder. It happens with ongoing mundane tasks at some jobs. Packing widgets and gadgets in box A or B loses its excitement soon. The mind rebels, and people can become physically sick from the monotony. It goes beyond repetitive stress, or overuse of the body in certain movements. Specific physical and neural paths are repeatedly fired, while the overall brain is underused. The brighter a person is, the worse it seems to be.

What the late Dr. Diamond of the University of California at Berkeley recommended was enriching the environment. An enriched environment leads to an enriched mind. It may be as simple as learning a few vocabulary words daily or another language. The key is to learn something new and fun regularly. This associates happiness with learning and brain neuronal growth. Read a book, watch an educational video, learn a skill, and just make sure to do something that is stimulating. By all means turn off most TV and radio. Watching or listening to the same droning stuff can gradually condition us to become passive while lowering IQ. A few educational programs may be helpful and useful. These can often be selectively viewed via computer online. Organizations including PBS and universities may offer media for all ages.

For many children, the TV set has become a babysitter from big broadcasting. They can continue the same watchful habit as adults. It is too expensive to own a television or at least keep one turned on for hours. Many people can afford the dollar price. Can we afford the lost hours and days that turn into years that could have been used for better things? Consider family, learning, and exercise time instead of TV time. Our brains can function better if we are fully human rather than half-baked couch potatoes.

One technique that can help to positively restore our abilities is meditation. By focusing on breathing or simply not actively thinking for a few minutes a day can make a lot of difference.

3. Environment

The immediate environment has a substantial effect on us and our minds. Here are some ideas to consider:

Is it noisy or peaceful? Excess noise is associated with stress and health conditions. Noise pollution comes to us in the form of sound waves bombarding our brain. This can disrupt not only our thoughts, but physiology as well.

Is quality sleep possible? Sleep deprivation can lead to grogginess and a lack of mental focus. Cool, dark, quiet, and regular are the keywords for deeper slumber.

How is the air quality? Are chemicals present that are being inhaled? Our lungs function well with clean air. What we breathe can get into our blood stream, brain, liver, kidneys, and more. It can unbalance us when things show up that do not belong in our bodies. It makes sense to have pure air without artificial fragrances, pesticides, or chemical vapors.

Is the environment safe or not? Unsafe areas raise our stress level and can rewire our brains to be threat based. This takes away focus from important tasks and goals. It can be distracting immediately if there is a threat, and long-term due to conditioning. Even if a person is out of the unsafe place, they may still be wired in a way to be heedful of harm.

What are the messages in the environs? Is what we see and hear positive or negative? Negative messages can lower health and performance while the positive ones may enhance it.

Is there a natural tendency for aptitude, brightness, curiosity, or talent in a person? If this is the case, it could be that the tasks are too low key and the individual needs something more challenging. They may be distracted easily because they are bored.

If we are desiring to increase attention, we must pay attention to the complete environment. It may not be that the individual has a deficit, it can be that the environment is lacking. We might need a new term - Environmental Deficit Disorder. Does your workplace, school, grocery, or neighborhood have EDD?

Works Consulted

Bailey, David G, et al. “Grapefruit-medication interactions: forbidden fruit or avoidable consequences?.” CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal = Journal de l'Association medicale canadienne. Vol. 185,4. 2013. 309-16.

Bodet, et al. "Potential Oral Health Benefits of Cranberry." Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Vol. 48. 2008. 672-80.

Broncel, et al. "Aronia melanocarpa extract reduces blood pressure, serum endothelin, lipid, and oxidative stress marker levels in patients with metabolic syndrome." Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research. Vol. 16. 2010. CR28-34.

Cammack, Mark.  "Mercury Toxicity: A Cause for Concern In Sports & Health." 2004. Retrieved from

Choi, Anna L, et al. “Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Environmental Health Perspectives. Vol. 120,10. 2012. 1362-8.

Dec, K, et al. “The Influence of Fluorine on the Disturbances of Homeostasis in the Central Nervous System.” Biological Trace Element Research. Vol. 177,2. 2017. 224-234.

Hamza, Reham Z, and Mohammad S Al-Harbi. “Monosodium glutamate induced testicular toxicity and the possible ameliorative role of vitamin E or selenium in male rats.” Toxicology Reports. Vol. 1. 22 Oct. 2014. 1037-1045.

Jensen, Martin. Seniorforsker. "Bioactive compounds in fruit and berries – effects on human health." Institut for Fødevarer, Science and Technology, Aarhus Universitet, Aarhus, Denmark. 2011.

Kim, Eunkyung, et al. “Isolation and identification of intestinal CYP3A inhibitors from cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) using human intestinal microsomes.” Planta Medica. Vol. 77,3. 2011. 265-70.

Paine, Mary F, et al. “The human intestinal cytochrome P450 "pie".” Drug Metabolism and Disposition: the biological fate of chemicals. Vol. 34,5. 2006. 880-6.

Rocha-Amador, Diana, et al. "Decreased intelligence in children and exposure to fluoride and arsenic in drinking water." Cad. Saúde Pública. Rio de Janeiro. Vol. 23, supl. 4.  2007. S579-S587.

Sharma, Amod. “Monosodium glutamate-induced oxidative kidney damage and possible mechanisms: a mini-review.” Journal of Biomedical Science. Vol. 22,93. 22 Oct. 2015.

Shimada, Aikiko, et al. "Headache and mechanical sensitization of human pericranial muscles after repeated intake of monosodium glutamate (MSG)." The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2013. 14:2.

Watkins, et al. “Identification of glucocorticoid-inducible cytochromes P-450 in the intestinal mucosa of rats and man.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Vol. 80,4. 1987. 1029-36.


The Importance Of Focus is a derived work © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved. It is based on the following public domain works:

Slippery Boardwalk: Joakant of Fellbach, Germany

Banana Peel: Efraimstochter aus Ulm, Deutschland

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone: Ian Dooley

Gulf Oil Can: Lostmind Mitch Wright

© Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.