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It's hard to know what's in your food these days, particularly if you eat anything that's heavily processed. You turn over the can, the jar or the box, and you're greeted with an eye-glazing list of things with long chemical names.
But thanks to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), we have a list of a dirty dozen you should be looking out for. There's more on why they're bad for you and how to avoid them at EWGs website, including their downloadable Food Scores app you can take to the grocery with you to tell you which of this group of musts to avoid are in that cereal or sausage you're putting in your cart. Here's what you'll be looking for as you read those labels.
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1. Nitrites and nitrates are added to processed meat to give it a longer shelf life and an attractive pink color. Sausages, hotdogs and bacon may be yummy, but these chemicals have been linked to stomach cancer, with possible links to other types of cancers.
2. Potassium bromide is another substance linked to cancer as well as kidney and DNA damage. It's banned in the UK and Canada but in the U.S. it's found in flour that's used in baking bread and crackers to strengthen the dough and help it rise.
3. Propyl Paraben is an endocrine disruptor, which can encourage the growth of breast cancer cells. It's used as a preservative in tortillas, muffins and food dyes and can contaminate other types of foods prepared or packaged in close proximity.
4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) sound unappealing—their names alone are a turnoff. The fact that they cause tumors in animals is a bigger one. They're also an endocrine disruptors, and they're found, often together, in many foods, including potato chips and preserved meats.
5. Propyl gallate is a preservative used in foods that contain edible fats, such as sausages. Again, it's been find to cause tumors in rats, although no link has been established to cancers in humans. Is it safe? Who knows.
6. Diacetyl is found in that "butter-flavored" ... stuff ... they put on popcorn in movie theaters. You've probably guessed it's not exactly a health food. But did you know it's associated with several clusters of respiratory diseases? And that it's found in yogurt and cheese and products with maple and butterscotch flavoring as well?
7. Phosphates are one of the most common food additives, used in thousands of products to leaven baked goods, reduce acid and make processed meats tender. Highly processed foods and fast foods tend to be loaded with them. They've been linked to heart disease—and why were you eating that fast food anyway?
8. Aluminum is everywhere, but a surfeit of the metal, used as a stabilizer in many foods, has been linked to neurological disorders starting in the womb and possibly even extending to end of life as a contributor to Alzheimer's disease. It's probably best to avoid getting too much of it as a food additive.
9. Artificial colors aren't always identified, but certain types must be. Synthetic colors called FD&C colors (Food, Drug and Cosmetics) must be listed by type. Studies on whether they cause hyperactivity in children have been mixed.
10. "Flavor" is a mysterious ingredient found on many food labels. Whether "natural flavor" or "artificial flavor," there's no way of knowing what chemicals go into making up this particular substance. The term "natural" is meaningless, because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn't defined it. You're on your own, kid.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.