How To Avoid GMOs and the Health Risks That They Pose

Robyn Benson

Published on January 22, 2015

One of the most important health care messages I give my family, friends and patients is to avoid genetically modified foods. As hard as we try to eat a healthy diet, it’s hard to know whether the food you buy and feed your family is free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It’s estimated that in the U.S., 80% of our food contains GMOs, as genetically modified corn, soybeans, sugar beets, canola oil and other ingredients.

How can we avoid GMOs and the health risks, both known and unknown, that they pose?

Jeffrey Smith, anti-GMO advocate and filmmaker, gives us some answers in his two-minute video, created for the Self Care Revolution. He’s also created an app that you can download that will tell you what foods to buy.

As a Doctor of Oriental Medicine for 23 years, I work with patients to get them to stop eating GMO foods and when they do, they feel 100% better.

The best way to avoid having GMOs end up on your dinner plate is to shop the periphery of the grocery store, where all the fresh produce, dairy and meats are. As you work your way towards the center of the grocery store, that’s where you’ll begin to find the processed, canned and frozen foods, most of which contain GMOs.

It’s also important that you buy organic milk, because non-organic milk contains the rGBH growth hormone, a steroid that increases milk production.

GMOs pose great risk to our health. If you’re allergic to soybeans and don’t realize they are in the corn that you eat, you could have a life-threatening reaction. If you eat a tomato that’s been sliced with a fish gene to make it cold-resistant, and you have an allergy to seafood, you could also have a serious reaction.

According to a new study cited by my dear friend and mentor Dr. Norman Shealy, genetically engineered corn, soy and other crops and the widespread use of glyphosate, found in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide have caused disease and death in humans around the globe. The FDA now permits glyphosate residues in food and livestock feed from 3 to 300 parts per million, with the highest levels found in grass, fodder, hay and peppermint. Roundup destroys endocrine function and also can cause hyptertension, strokes, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s’, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and other health issues.

Monsanto, the main manufacturer of GMO foods, has resisted all efforts to require labeling of GMO ingredients, threatening to sue states that pass mandatory GMO labeling laws.Until we have an official way of ascertaining whether GMO ingredients are the in the foods we buy, we have to stay informed. Jeffrey Smith’s app will help you avoid GMO foods in the grocery store, and Join the Self-Care Revolution will post news as it comes up, too! Keep informed with the links below!

Download the Non-GMO Shopping Guide

Join the Self-Care Revolution

Sign up to receive concise self-care messages on Self-Care Rockin’ Fridays.

Listen to Jeffrey Smith’s 2- minute video about GMOs.

Feel free to leave a message in the comments box below. We’d love to hear from you.

Why Work Stress Keeps Us in a Constant Fight or Flight Mode

Robyn Benson

Published on August 4, 2014

We either live to work or work to live. Either way there are some frightening side effects no matter which side we land on, and it is affecting our day-to-day health in ways we have yet to understand.

Let’s take a look at why work stress keep our bodies in a constant “fight or flight” mode:

You get sick a lot

Do you get sick a lot? It’s sad to say, but 26% of you will still go to the office even when you’re sick, and another 34% of you continue to go until you feel the full effects of your symptoms. The problem increases exponentially in an office environment because you’re not the only one sick.  Studies show that there are over 500 types of bacteria found in offices because people wait until the last symptom strikes before heading home.

There is also another very real factor: “Sick Building Syndrome” which the EPA warns against. If you have consistent symptoms such as headaches, sore throats, fatigue, dizziness and nausea and your physician cannot pinpoint the cause – you might be suffering from sick building syndrome.

You are putting on more fat

Studies now show that when you sit for hours on end, your metabolic functions significantly decrease. What that means is, you are burning much less calories. The consequences of this are obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and the list goes on.

Special note to women: For those of you who sit more than six hours a day, you have a 40% higher chance of dying younger than those who sit less than three hours a day.

You have back, shoulder and neck pain

New findings show that standing all day is bad for your health too but sitting over a computer with your shoulders hunched all day can lead to chronic back, shoulder, neck and wrist problems. Talk about confusing! So what do you do? There are best practices to follow when sitting at your desk to help minimize these issues and find maximum comfort:

First, when you are sitting comfortably, pull up to the edge of your work surface and look straight ahead. What you see is your optimal viewing zone, and things that you look at during work (computer screen, documents etc.) should be in or close to this zone.

Next, reach each arm out to the side of your body and move them from this position until the hands meet at the center of your body in front of you. The semi-circular area covered by the sweep of your arms is called your normal reach zone, and everything that you frequently use should be placed inside of or close to this area. You should not have to bend or stretch to reach things that you frequently use.

Then, relax your upper arms down to the side of your body. Using your elbows as pivot points, swing your forearms out to each side and then move them together until your hands touch in the center of your body in front of you. The area covered by the sweep of your forearms looks like that area covered by your windshield wipers, and it is called your normal working area. Things that you operate with your hands, such as your keyboard and mouse, should be placed in this area and positioned for optimum comfort.

You are ruining your eyes

Do you constantly stare at your monitor without looking elsewhere? Has it affected your vision? You may be suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome. Yep, this is a real disorder and is associated with a number of vision problems of varying nature such as dry eyes, blurred vision and the like. Headaches, aching shoulders and neck pain are included in the symptoms.  You can help ease these symptoms by looking away from your computer screen at least once an hour.

You are feeling the stress

For most of you, it is stressing you out big time! Work is listed as a main source of stress by three-quarters of Americans – that’s a lot! They suffer from physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, nausea and emotional outbursts of anger as well as lowering their productivity.

It’s a fact, the more work stress you have, the higher your risk for illness and injury.  The American Institute of Stress shows even more startling facts about the affects of stress.

Stress has also been a known damaging factor in our relationships. Sixty-one percent of women have stated that their jobs have a negative impact on their relationships.  The average for men is much higher – seventy-nine percent state that work stress is a major factor in destroyed relationships.

So what do we do about it? I’ll discuss that in my next blog…


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Want a Healthy Brain? Eat an Apple!

Robyn Benson

Published on July 25, 2014

We all want to be healthy, but at times we’re just not sure how to get there because all of the health “noise” we hear on TV or read about on Facebook. It can all be confusing and overwhelming. One day something is good for you and the next day it’s bad for you. No wonder I have so many people asking me to help them decipher the confusion. The bottom line is; eating healthy is probably the best, fastest and most nutritious way to get there.  Even the simplest fruits can help you maintain a healthier lifestyle. Let’s take a closer look:

Your brain can do so much better with a red, juicy apple

Want a healthy brain? Eat an apple! Studies have shown that the apple isn’t just the healthiest fruit, but the healthiest food as well. You might not be surprised to hear this but the fact is, the apple contains an antioxidant that is called quercetin, which reduces the number of neurons dying in your brain. Oxidation and inflammation lead to neuron death, but with more apples added to your diet, you can prevent this.  As a result, your neurological health improves and the power of your brain increases. It also helps stave off Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia according to studies. Note: Always choose organic fruits and vegetables.

Reduce heart disease with bananas

The most significant dietary change an individual should make is to reduce their intake of sodium and add more potassium to their diet. Rich in B6, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber, bananas can keep your heart functioning properly and effectively.

Studies claim that consuming higher potassium amounts reduces the chances of death due to ischemic heart disease by 49%.

Burn fat with grapes

Grapes contain resveratrol which has a number of health benefits such as protecting your blood vessels from being damaged, reducing bad cholesterol and preventing the formation of blood clots.

Another interesting fact about resveratrol and is that it can reduce the ability of a cell to store fat by as much as 130%. And that’s not all; it will cause disintegration of your fat cells at a rate of 246% higher than average.

Reduce wrinkles with oranges

We all know the benefits of oranges when it comes to Vitamin C but what few know is that when applied topically, oranges have the ability to improve the appearance and overall health of our skin. It can even help reverse skin damage caused by pollution and the sun – and – it helps reduce wrinkles by improving overall skin texture. This all comes about because Vitamin C plays a vital role in our skins ability to produce collagen, which is a firming component of our skin. Vitamin C in oranges also helps our skin absorb vitamin E and iron, producing a glowing complexion!

Prevent Cancer with Pears

More than any other fruit, pears contain the most fiber which helps our bodies pass food much easier through the digestive tract. The beauty of the pear though is that this gritty fiber also helps remove cancer-causing chemicals in the colon. In turn, this helps in reducing the risk of developing colon cancer. Pears also contain flavonoid phloretin which has been found to induce and inhibit growth in colon cancer cells, human melanoma, as well as liver and leukemia cancer cells in lab studies. The consumption of pears has also been associated with lowering the risk of breast cancer.

So sink your teeth into these luscious fruits and reap these amazing health benefits.


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Why You Can’t Lose that Belly Fat

Robyn Benson

Published on July 17, 2014

Have you been working out all spring and into the summer months but you’re just not seeing the results you hoped for especially around the mid-section? This is something I hear a lot from women who are getting older; despite their efforts, they still have fat around the belly.

There are a lot of factors at play here, for instance, hormones have a major impact on belly fat. So how do you banish the blubber around your belly? Let’s take a look at a few reasons why your body might be holding onto it despite your hard work.

You are growing older

As we grow older, our bodies undergo a number of changes and this includes the manner in which it gains and loses weight. Whether you are a male or female, your metabolic rates decline and the calories which your body needs also decreases. Females have to go through menopause, which may add more fat to their bellies.  These hormonal changes prevent you from reducing your fat.

Your workout routine is not specific

If you want to decrease your belly fat, you need to do specific exercises. Every type of workout program will not help you. As an example, cardio workouts are a great choice for your heart, but not for your waist.

However, strength training can increase muscle mass, which may allow your body to burn more fat. Try adding 60 minutes of moderate intensity or 30 minutes of high intensity strength training to your workout routine four times a week and you will soon see some of that fat disappear.

You consume processed food in significant quantities

Refined grains and even refined sugar can increase inflammation, which may lead to more belly fat or at least prevent you from losing it. If you are trying to lose fat, you should avoid processed food as much as you can.

Also try to include as many natural foods as you can in your diet. Fruits, veggies and whole grains have anti-oxidizing properties which reduce inflammation and may prevent you from accumulating fat in your belly.

You are not eating the right fats

Your body does not respond the same to different types of fat. Saturated fat is limited to an increase in visceral fat, whereas mono saturated fat can reduce inflammation and help your body lose that stubborn belly fat. Examples of foods which contain these fats are walnuts, avocados, olive oil and sunflower seeds.

Do you have any great tips for losing belly fat? Share them in the comments section!

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Do You Have Vitamin D Deficiency?

Robyn Benson

Published on June 26, 2014

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for your overall health, particularly for your bones, skin and brain.  The beauty of it is that over 90% of the vitamin D that we need is produced by the sun. Many people assume they are getting enough sun and consuming enough nutrients to cover the amount needed but what they fail to realize is that most of us do not get even the minimum amount of sunlight daily and we definitely do not get the required nutrients through the foods we eat.

As far as vitamin D is concerned, your daily recommended value is 600 IUs for children and those under seventy. If you are older than seventy, the dosage should increase to 800 IUs.  Research has also stated that children can consume additional quantities up to 1,000 IUs and adults can increase to 1,500 IUs.

Another thing that most of us fail to realize is that if you are not consuming enough vitamin D, you are at risk for osteoporosis and other bone diseases. It may also increase your blood pressure and you could suffer from diabetes.

So, how do we know if we have vitamin D deficiency? If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, you probably aren’t getting enough vitamin D on a daily basis.

You have aching bones

When winter blows through, do your bones and muscles ache? Those with vitamin D deficiency will have achy bones and muscles come winter and their joints will also be stiff when they get up after sitting too long.

You feel melancholy

Do you find yourself feeling more melancholy than normal – especially during the winter? Vitamin D can increase the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in your body, which can elevate your spirits. Vitamin D supplements improve positivity in a person when compared to those who do not take any supplements. As for women, those over seventy do not see any impact on their mental health by taking vitamin D in increased quantities.

You are 50 or older

As we grow older, our skin no longer produces vitamin D in the required quantities. Our kidneys become less productive and sluggish when converting vitamin D into a form that our bodies can put to use. Another issue with older adults is that they spend most of their days inside; depriving their bodies of healthy vitamin D.

Note: As electronics have become more of a focal point in our lives, even younger adults and children are suffering from lack of vitamin D.

You are obese

Although you suffer from being obese, your body still produces vitamin D in the same quantities – however – the presence of fat definitely impacts the levels in the bloodstream.  Since vitamin D is fat soluble, this implies that the more fat you have, the more diluted the vitamin D in your body.

Your skin is darker

Did you know that our skin pigment is a natural sun screen? What that means for those with darker colored skin is that they need up to ten times the amount of sun exposure than those with light skin to produce the same amount of vitamin D.

You have a very sweaty head

Okay, this one is a little strange but this is one of the first, classic symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

You have a gastrointestinal condition

Because of the way gastrointestinal conditions affect fat absorption, those with inflammatory bowel disease, celiac or Chrohn’s may be at a greater risk for vitamin D deficiency.

So the question is; how do we get enough vitamin D?

Since vitamin D production can only occur on unprotected skin, sensible sun exposure is the key. Please note that I’m saying sensible here. If you are one of those that gets a mild sunburn after spending just 30 minutes outdoors without sunscreen then you can safely stay outside for 10 to 15 minutes before applying. For maximum absorption, expose your legs, arms and abdomen if possible.

Of course it all depends on where you live as to how much outdoor vitamin D we are exposed to. Those who live in the colder northern states might only get sunlight from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, depending on the angle of the sun and time of year. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of the outdoors even if it’s for 30 minutes a day.

How do you make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D every day? Share in the comments.


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Happiness Helps with Weight Loss

Robyn Benson

Published on May 13, 2014

Do you want to lose weight? Great, are you motivated enough to do this? I know so many people who badly want to lose weight, but they face just one problem. They cannot follow a strict diet, and when they are expected to be on one, they feel hungrier and end up eating more. Obviously, if you want to lose weight, you still have to control your diet, but it does not mean that you start depriving yourself of food and feeling hungry most of the day. How is this possible? Here are a few suggestions:

Be happy

Sounds easy? It is. How does this affect your diet? New research has shown that when your spirits are high and your emotions are positive, you prefer to eat nutritious food. On the other hand, if you are down, you gobble unhealthy food.

If a person is happy, they can see the bigger picture and figure out all things that are good for them in the long run. In contrast to this, when a person is in a bad mood, they just want immediate gratification and will welcome all the doughnuts and bad food offered to them.

So cheer up! Happiness just might be the key to weight loss and keeping that weight off this year.

Eat slowly

How fast do you eat? If your answer is too fast, then learn to slow your pace. There are so many nutritional experts who advise against gobbling down your food quickly – myself included.  Why? Because your brain needs some time before it can notify you that you are full.

Have you ever tried eating slowly? If you have and haven’t had much luck at it, there is fork with an electronic sensor in it called HAPIfork. If you try eating too fast, the device will light up and vibrate. Sound a little extreme? Maybe but if it helps to slow your eating habits down, it might be worth it.

Consume more fruits

Fruits are sweet (controls your sweet tooth) and provide nutritional benefits as well. Include them in plentiful quantities in your diet and you may be able to shed some of those calories. Lingonberries, which have been known for preventing weight gain can also regulate your blood sugar levels.

Track your progress with a text message

I know this part is difficult; no one likes to keep a journal but people who are actively trying to lose weight need accountability. One fun way of keeping track is by simply reporting – through a text message – some basic info, such as the number of steps you walked daily and whether or not you consumed fast food.  Ask a friend, family member or even your trainer to text you a daily question about your diet or exercise goals. It’s amazing how helpful having that accountability can be.


There are more and more studies that show a profound connection between insufficient sleep and obesity and studies now show that lack of sleep can have a serious effect on your waistline. Not getting enough shut eye interferes with your metabolism which prompts you to eat more. It becomes a vicious cycle as we sit mindlessly in front of the TV or computer screen long after we should be in bed.

The takeaway here is this; don’t dread starting a “diet.” Just make healthier choices and watch the weight come off without depriving yourself.

Connect with me on Social Media: Facebook – Twitter – Google+ – LinkedIn – YouTube – Pinterest

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