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Dr. Mercola

Obesity Takes Greater Than Ever Toll on Global Health

19 hours 15 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

According to research published in 2013, 1 in 5 American deaths is associated with obesity,1 and the younger you are, the greater obesity's influence on your mortality. Considering one-third of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are now overweight or obese, chronic disease and mortality rates will likely climb dramatically in coming decades as the health of these youths begins to fail.

Since 1980, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., the rate of obese teens has quadrupled from 5 to 20.5 percent, and nearly 9 percent of 2- to 5-year-olds are now obese.2 As of 2014, the obesity rate among adults over 20 was just shy of 38 percent, costing the U.S. medical system $147 million annually.3

In December 2011, severe obesity was included as a qualifying disability under the American With Disabilities Act, further raising the cost of obesity on society as a whole. Being overweight during pregnancy also increases the risk of birth defects, recent research warns, and the more obese the mother, the greater the risk.4,5

More than half of all Americans also struggle with chronic illness6 — a truly shocking statistic when you consider modern health care is supposed to be the best mankind has ever been privy to. It really says a lot about the influence lifestyle wields on your health, and the price we pay for convenience.

Obesity — A Greater Health Threat Than Smoking

Data collected from tens of thousands of Canadians confirms obesity surpasses smoking in terms of creating ill health, and Dutch researchers recently predicted obesity and inactivity will overtake smoking as a leading cause of cancer deaths specifically.7 Processed foods shoulder the greatest blame for this trend. Many children are raised on fast food from the time they're able to eat solid foods, and are given sugary sodas and juices at even younger ages. As recently noted by Bruce Y. Lee in a Forbes op-ed:8

"The human population is in desperate need of an intervention … the kind organized by your friends when you don't realize how bad your problem has gotten and need to be confronted about it … How much more convincing do people really need? Continuing to gather more evidence without taking much more action is like continuing to check the water level while your toilet is overflowing without even reaching for the plunger.

In both cases, the result will be messy. The latest additions to what has become a growing mound of scientific evidence are the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Obesity Update 2017 report9 and a just published study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)."

1 in 10 Adults Worldwide Is Obese

According to the OECD, the global obesity rate among adults is now 1 in 10, or 10 percent.10,11,12 In 2015, excess weight accounted for 4 million deaths worldwide (just over 7 percent). Thirty-nine percent of people who died from cardiovascular disease were overweight but not obese, prompting a warning that health problems are not relegated to obesity. Carrying even a modest amount of excess weight can have a significant impact on your health.

The NEJM study13 reviewed over 1,000 published studies and data from more than 170 countries, looking to extrapolate and measure health effects associated with different body mass indexes (BMI). This study presents an even grimmer picture, showing a total of 12 percent of adults, globally, are obese, and 5 percent of all children.

When you factor in those who are overweight but not obese, the global rate is about 30 percent. Echoing previous studies, these results suggest there are now more overweight people in the world than there are underweight ones.14 No less than 73 countries have seen obesity rates double since 1980. Disturbingly, but not surprisingly, obesity rates are increasing much faster among children than adults. Lee continues:15

"The study also quantified the high amount of suffering caused by obesity using a measure called disability-adjusted life-years … which is the number of years lost to impaired function. All of this is not simply because people have gotten lazier or are making worse decisions.

With such 'big' numbers, something greater is amiss. Too many countries now have broken systems (e.g., too much garbage in food, too much garbage everywhere maybe affecting our metabolism, too much garbage on the internet, television, in our jobs and in our daily lives to keep us from eating well, exercising and sleeping) with the U.S. leading the way.

And not enough people are doing anything to change these systems … [T]he Trump administration has proposed massive cuts to scientific and public health funding and rolling back [Michelle Obama's] healthy school lunch initiatives, which may be like throwing more toilet paper into an overflowing toilet …"

BMI Is a Poor Metric of Health

Most studies, including those above, use BMI to determine whether an individual is of normal or excessive weight. A BMI of 25 to 30 is considered overweight; anything over 30 is obese. Your BMI is arrived at by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. The problem is, this method fails to differentiate between muscle and fat tissue. It also doesn't take into account the actual distribution of body fat on your physical frame.

As noted in a recent Popular Science article,16 "… [B]elly fat might be hidden on your 6-foot, 2-inch frame, but it could still contribute to problems that kill you." We now know that excess visceral fat — the fat that accumulates around your internal organs — is far more hazardous to your health than subcutaneous fat (the more noticeable fat found just under your skin).

The danger of visceral fat is related to the release of proteins and hormones that can cause inflammation, which in turn can damage arteries and enter your liver, and affect how your body breaks down sugars and fats. Two tests that give you a far better idea of your body composition and health risk are your waist-to-hip ratio and your height-to-waist ratio.17

Either one will be far more accurate than BMI. As noted in a 2015 study,18 men with normal BMI but central obesity (fat centralized around the midsection) had TWICE the mortality risk of men considered obese according to their BMI but who had no central obesity.

Two Tests to Evaluate Your Health Risks

To determine your height-to-waist ratio,19 measure your height and your waist circumference with a measuring tape. Your waist circumference should be less than half of your height. Having a height-to-waist ratio of at least 2-to-1 is associated with longer life expectancy and a lower risk of inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.20

Your waist-to-hip ratio has the added benefit of giving you a better idea of the actual distribution of fat on your body. Having an apple shaped body is indicative of carrying more harmful visceral fat, which is associated with an increased risk for heart disease and diabetes. Carrying more fat around your hips and buttocks, on the other hand, is associated with lower health risks as this subcutaneous fat is not nearly as harmful as the fat around your internal organs.

That said, some body types may render this technique less than perfect as well. For example, women who are very thin and "straight" (i.e., don't have an hourglass figure) may end up in a higher risk category than is warranted. In such cases, you may want to measure both your height-to-waist and your waist-to-hip ratio to get a better idea of your overall risk.

To determine your waist-to-hip ratio, get a tape measure and record your waist and hip circumference. Then divide your waist circumference by your hip circumference. For a more thorough demonstration, please see the video above.

Waist to Hip Ratio Men Women

Waist to Hip Ratio: Ideal

Men: 0.8

Women: 0.7

Waist to Hip Ratio: Low Risk

Men: <0.95

Women: <0.8

Waist to Hip Ratio: Moderate Risk

Men: 0.96-0.99

Women: 0.81 - 0.84

Waist to Hip Ratio: High Risk

Men: >1.0

Women: >0.85

Food Policies Have Worsened Obesity Epidemic

Government policies have contributed to the growing obesity epidemic in a number of different ways, starting with the issuing of flawed dietary guidelines. Hand in hand with that you have agricultural subsidies promoting the growing of junk food ingredients rather than healthy fruits and vegetables, and the subsidizing of factory farms rather than smaller family-run farms. The U.S. government is even funding consumer outreach and education programs to promote acceptance of genetically engineered foods.21

Government policies have also made it far easier for minorities to open fast-food franchises rather than grocery stores, thereby contributing to the growing problem of "food deserts" — areas where all you can find are fast-food joints and gas station fare.

One of the reasons why fast-food franchises are given preference for Small Business Administration (SBA) Equal Opportunity Loans is because they have a far greater profit margin; a fast-food restaurant can have a profit margin as high as 6 percent, whereas a grocery store typically only has a profit margin of 1 percent, so loans are more likely to be repaid.

As noted in a recent NPR article reviewing professor Chin Jou's book, "Super Sizing Urban America: How Inner Cities Got Fast Food With Government Help":22

"'African-American consumption of fast food today is not a function of any longstanding preferences for fast food,' Jou told NPR … She says that it's a consequence of 'targeted relentless marketing,' as well as historic developments like the [SBA] loan program and high unemployment rates among African-Americans …

Fast-food companies, which had saturated their original markets of roadside stops and suburbs, needed expansion in order to grow profits. Reaching out to potential African-American franchisees was their roadmap to success. In fact, fast-food companies couldn't open restaurants in many urban areas without them …

Jou quotes Brady Keys, former NFL football player turned franchisee, who put it more bluntly: 'They [fast-food corporations] know that doing business in my area is hell. There's cutting, shooting, killing. So they say, we really don't want to do this ourselves, so why don't we get this black cat over here and franchise him?'"

Fried Potatoes Double Risk of Early Death

There's simply no doubt that processed foods are at the very heart of the obesity problem. The risks of a processed food diet, high in added sugars, harmful fats and synthetic ingredients have been demonstrated in numerous studies. Most recently, a study23,24 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that eating fried potatoes more than twice a week can double your risk of an early death, compared to not eating fried potatoes at all.

The researchers believe this is due to the cooking oil, which is high in trans fat. As noted by author Nicola Veronese, trans fat raises LDL cholesterol, a risk factor in cardiovascular disease. Vegetable oils also degrade into toxic oxidation products when heated, including aldehydes, which are highly inflammatory and have been implicated in heart disease and Alzheimer's.

Cooking oils are also a source of damaged omega-6 fats, and a lopsided ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 is yet another contributing factor to obesity. Studies show a connection between the consumption of omega-3 fats and a decrease in fatty tissue development, along with increases in beneficial brown fat and weight loss, while eating too many omega-6s promotes fatty white tissue and chronic inflammation, two of the biggest red flags indicating obesity.

Omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, when taken in large amounts, also cannot be burned for fuel. Instead, they're incorporated into cellular and mitochondrial membranes. Here, they become highly susceptible to oxidative damage, which ultimately damages your metabolic machinery. Not surprisingly, the National Potato Council has rebuffed the findings, saying that "it is very much a stretch to brand fried potatoes, or any other form of potato, as unhealthy."25

Metabolic Mitochondrial Therapy to the Rescue

Modern food manufacturing processes have failed to improve health or increase longevity. It's time for a radical U-turn. Compelling evidence shows your net carbohydrate intake is a primary factor that determines your body's fat ratio, and processed grains and sugars (particularly fructose) are the primary culprits behind our skyrocketing obesity, diabetes and chronic disease rates.

In short, most people eat far too many processed foods, net carbs, unhealthy fats and protein — and too few healthy fats. The result is weight gain and insulin resistance. Exercise cannot compensate for the damage done by a high-carb, low-fat diet, and most do not get enough physical movement to boot. These factors set in motion metabolic and biological cascades that deteriorate your health.

In the video above, Dr. David Perlmutter26 and I discuss my No. 1 best-seller, "Fat for Fuel," released on May 16. In this book, I explain the principles of metabolic mitochondrial therapy (MMT), and the metabolic advantages you gain once your body regains the ability to burn fat for fuel. As explained in the interview, and in my book, a foundational cause of most degenerative diseases is the fact that your mitochondria, the little powerhouses located in most of your body's cells, are not receiving sufficient amounts of proper fuel.

As a result, your mitochondria start to deteriorate. Mitochondrial dysfunction lays the groundwork for subsequent breakdowns of various bodily systems. Your mitochondria are nourished by some nutrients and harmed by others. So, a healthy diet is a diet that supports mitochondrial function, and having the metabolic flexibility to burn fat is the key.

The vast majority of people on the planet who eat a primarily processed food diet are burning carbohydrates as their primary fuel, which has the devastating effect of shutting down your body's ability to burn fat.

This is why obesity is so prevalent, and why so many find it nearly impossible to lose weight and keep it off. When your body burns primarily carbs for fuel, excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals are also created, which damage cellular mitochondrial membranes and DNA.

Healthy dietary fats, which are a cleaner-burning fuel, create far fewer ROS and free radicals. This lays the groundwork for many of the metabolic benefits of this program. Fats are also critical for the health of cellular membranes and many other biological functions.

Dietary Keys to Health

The initial strategy of my MMT program involves restricting net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) to 20 to 50 grams per day until you start burning fat for fuel. To replace the lost carbs, you increase healthy fats, so that you're getting anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your daily calories from fat. Examples of high-quality healthy fats include:


✓ Coconuts and coconut oil (excellent for cooking as it can withstand higher temperatures without oxidizing)

✓ Animal-based omega-3 fat from fatty fish low in mercury like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and/or krill oil

✓ Butter made from raw grass fed organic milk

✓ Raw nuts (macadamia and pecans are ideal as they're high in healthy fat while being low in protein)

✓ Seeds like black sesame, cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds

✓ Olives and olive oil (make sure it's third party certified, as 80 percent of olive oils are adulterated with vegetable oils)

✓ Grass fed (pastured) preferably organic and humanely raised meats. Avoid CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) animal products

MCT oil

✓ Ghee (clarified butter), lard and tallow (excellent for cooking)

✓ Raw cacao butter

✓ Organic, pastured egg yolks

Fats to avoid include trans fats and highly refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils.27 I also recommend limiting protein to just what your body needs. I've previously given out the details on how to calculate your protein requirement, so for a refresher, see "Are You Sabotaging Your Health and Longevity by Eating Too Much Protein?"

It's important to emphasize that MMT is not merely adding more healthy fat to your current diet or eating as much fat as you want. It is absolutely crucial to restrict net carbs, or else you're merely increasing the number of calories you consume. Raising the amount of fat and decreasing net carbs is what pushes your body into burning fat for fuel. Eating high amounts of both fat and net carbs will NOT allow your body to make this shift, as your body will use whatever sugar is available first.

Another crucial tenet of MMT is something called feast-famine cycling. The ketogenic cycling is implemented once you're out of the initial stage and your body has regained the ability to burn fat. At that point, you begin cycling in and out of nutritional ketosis by upping your carb and protein intake once or twice a week (ideally on the days you're doing strength training).

Getting Started

To be successful on this program, precision is important. You cannot guess when it comes to the amount of fat, net carbs and protein you eat. In the beginning, you have to measure and track them. To do this you need:

• A digital kitchen scale to weigh food items

• Measuring cups to measure food amounts

• A nutrient tracker. I recommend using, as it is the most accurate nutrient tracker available, it's free, and it's already set up for nutritional ketosis.

Based on the personal base parameters you enter, such as height, weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference, it will automatically calculate the ideal ratios of net carbs, protein and healthy fats (including your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio) to put you into nutritional ketosis

Opportunities to Learn More

To learn more, consider joining me at one of the following live events. August 3 through 6, I will lecture at the Low Carb USA event in San Diego, along with Gary Taubes, Stephen Phinney and several other experts. You can see the entire list of invited speakers lower on the page.

I am also speaking in Florida in November. If you are a physician and are interested in learning about how you can use the ketogenic diet and other therapies for cancer, heart disease, Lyme and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, please be sure and come to our ACIM conference in Orlando, Florida, November 2 through 4 at the Florida Conference and Hotel Center. Early Bird price for all three days ends July 1.

If you are a patient, there will be a separate and less expensive track on the same date and location. However, you will need to come back to this page at a later date, as the registration page for the event is still unavailable.

If You Eat French Fries or Potato Chips, This Will Stop You

19 hours 15 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

The potato has had a long history. The Incan tribe from the highlands of Peru worshipped the potato and people from Ireland blamed the potato for the Great Famine when a blight destroyed potato crops across Europe.1 Today, the potato is the fourth largest food crop in the world.

The potato is a perennial plant that is high in starch and has more potassium than bananas.2 The vegetable is also source of vitamin C and B-6, and is sodium and fat free. However, while there are benefits to the vegetable, it is also high in carbohydrates; one medium potato contains 37 grams of carbohydrates. I recommend you limit your net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) to between 50 and 80 grams per day, depending upon your metabolism.

This means a single potato can be 45 percent to 75 percent of your daily net carb amount. The consumption of fresh potatoes has declined in the past 50 years, dropping from 61 pounds per year per person in 1970 to 36 pounds per year per person in 2008.3 However, consumption of processed potatoes, such as french fries or potato chips, has increased over the same period.

Processed potatoes cooked at high heat contain byproducts that are known carcinogens and trans fats linked to a number of health conditions. Recent research has now found a potential link between fried potato consumption and increased risk of death.

The Lowly Potato

In 1536, the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Peru and discovered potatoes. They brought them back to Europe, and before the end of the 16th century sailors were planting them along the northern coast of Spain.4 By 1589, they reached Ireland and over the next 40 years spread across the rest of Europe.

In the mid-1840s a blight on potatoes wiped out most of the crop in many countries across Europe, especially in Ireland where the potato had become a staple. Over the course of the blight, nearly 1 million people died from starvation or disease, and another 1 million people emigrated from Ireland to Canada and the U.S.5

Some believe Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France before the revolution, enjoyed the flower blossoms from the potato plant so much she put them in her hair and her husband, King Louis XVI, wore them in his buttonhole.6 Historians think this was an attempt to encourage farmers to plant more potatoes.

As Europe and North America adopted the potato, it initiated a template for an agriculture industrial complex, eventually leading to the use of intensive fertilizer and of arsenic as the first artificial pesticide to eradicate the Colorado potato beetle.7 Competition to manufacture potent arsenic blends opened the modern pesticide industry.

Fried Potatoes May Increase Your Risk of Death

McDonald's has sold millions more fries each year with the simple question, "Would you like fries with that?"8 Also known as an upsell, this simple technique has contributed to ever increasing waistlines for their customers. Now, researchers have found those who eat fried potatoes two or more times each week may double their risk of death from all causes.9

Eating potatoes that were not fried was not linked to an increase in mortality risk according to the researchers.10 The authors had been tracking nearly 4,400 people over eight years to study the effects of osteoarthritis when they decided to include an evaluation of the participants' intake of potatoes and the impact it had on their lives.

In analyzing the data from the study, the researchers found that people who ate fried potatoes had double the risk of death during the study. Fried potatoes included french fries, hash browns and potato chips. Any preparation of potatoes that required frying was included in the fried potato category in the study.

The data from the study was observational, which presents challenges to extrapolating the results. The gold standard for medical research is randomly controlled experimental studies. These are often costly, while observational studies can be completed more economically.11 However, observational studies may not enable researchers to accurately link cause and effect.

The study could correlate french fries with an increased risk of death, but the researchers could not assume that french fries caused the death. The researchers tried to control for variables, but as this was an observational study, other factors that may have been involved could have been missed.12

However, while this type of study precluded the ability to establish a link between an increased intake of french fries and death, performing a controlled study would be unethical as the researchers would have to ask participants to increase their consumption and then measure risk of death.

In 2014, Americans ate an average of 112 pounds of potatoes each year; 33 pounds were fresh potatoes and 78 pounds were processed.13 The potential danger of eating pounds of fried potatoes is generated by acrylamide, a chemical produced when the starchy potato is fried at high temperatures.

How Acrylamide Affects Your Health

Acrylamide, a byproduct of processing, is one of the most hazardous ingredients found in potato chips, hash browns and french fries. The browning process is what produces the chemical, so boiling and steaming doesn't create it. Beginning in 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended Americans reduce the amount of browned and overcooked foods that may be high in acrylamide.14

The FDA continues to recommend people cut back on the amount of foods high in acrylamide, as the chemical has been shown to cause cancer in animals and may also be responsible for causing cancer in humans.15 Acrylamide is also found in coffee, cereals, crackers, breads and dried fruit, to name a few. In fact, it may be found in up to 40 percent of calories eaten each day.16

In a study evaluating the amount of acrylamide found in chips, researchers found levels over the upper limit set by the European Union (EU) in 16 of the 92 brands tested.17 Currently, the EU set the upper limit at 1,000 micrograms per kilogram (mcg/kg) for crisps and they are considering lowering that benchmark to 750 mcg/kg, as acrylamide has been demonstrated and identified by the World Health Organization as a cancer risk.18

Although scientists knew the chemical was present in plastics and water treatment facilities, it wasn't until 2002 that scientists discovered it was present in foods. While acrylamide is a known carcinogen, links have been found between acrylamide-hemoglobin levels and estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.19 Higher levels of dietary acrylamide have also been linked to an increased risk of postmenopausal endometrial and ovarian cancer.20

Storing starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, in the refrigerator increases the amount of acrylamide produced if you do cook them at high heat or brown them.21 The process of increasing the amount of sugar in the potato that then produces more acrylamide during cooking is called "cold sweetening." Instead, raw potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark place above 42 F (6 C).

Trans Fat Found in More Than Potatoes

Acrylamide exposure is not the only risk associated with fried potatoes. Trans fat products are often used to fry the potatoes and chips, adding another layer of risk. This short video shows you some of the foods where trans fat may hide. There are two types of trans fats; one is made by hydrogenating vegetable oil in a chemical process and the other is found in natural meat products and has no harmful effects on your health.

Processed trans fats have been linked to heart disease,22 insulin sensitivity23 with type 2 diabetes,24 inflammation,25 damage to the lining of your blood vessels26 and cancer.27 Aside from french fries and potato chips, harmful trans fats may also be found in:28,29,30

✓ Pie crust

✓ Cakes and cookies

✓ Biscuits

✓ Breakfast sandwiches

✓ Margarine

✓ Crackers

✓ Microwave popcorn

✓ Cream filled candy

✓ Fast food

✓ Doughnuts

✓ Frozen pizza

✓ Cake mixes

✓ Frostings

✓ Pancakes and waffles

✓ Nondairy creamer

✓ Ice cream

✓  Meat sticks

✓ Frozen dinner

✓ Packaged pudding

✓ Creamy frozen drinks

✓ Asian crunchy noodles

Eating Potatoes Linked With Negative Health Conditions

Steaming or boiling potatoes may reduce your exposure to acrylamide and trans fat, but the potato itself may still increase your risk for other health conditions. They are high in carbohydrates, creating a blood glucose spike and resulting release of insulin. One cup of potatoes has a similar effect on your blood sugar as a can of Coke.31 This roller coaster effect of rising and crashing blood sugar often leaves you feeling hungry within hours, leading to overeating, weight gain and an increasing risk of type 2 diabetes.32

In 2010, more than 2 in 3 adults were considered either overweight or obese33 and in 2014, 9.3 percent of the population had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.34 These numbers are continuing to rise each year, and both of these conditions contribute to heart disease, stroke and a higher risk of death.

A recent study published in The BMJ found that those who ate four servings per week of baked, boiled or mashed potatoes had an 11 percent increased risk of high blood pressure.

Those who ate french fries or potato chips four times a week raised their risk by 17 percent.35 High blood pressure in turn increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and is linked to kidney disease and peripheral vascular disease. In other words, while potatoes carry some health benefits, they are best eaten baked or boiled in moderation.

Some French Fries Are Worse Than Others

Although all french fries are unhealthy, some are worse than others. In this short video, American journalist, author and activist Michael Pollan explains how "the desire for a certain kind of [french fry] leads to a certain kind of agriculture." McDonald's french fries are made with Russett Burbank potatoes, a particularly difficult potato to grow.

They must also be free of blemishes, so to eliminate the aphids that cause net necrosis in the potato, farmers will use an exceptionally toxic pesticide. It is so toxic they cannot venture into the fields for five days after spraying, and harvested potatoes have to off-gas in atmospheric-controlled sheds for six weeks before they're even safe to eat.

Your best potato choice are sweet potatoes. While they share the same name, they don't come from the same family of plants and have many more health benefits than the standard white potato you find in french fries, hash browns and mashed potatoes. Both white and sweet potatoes have the same number of grams of carbohydrates, but sweet potatoes have more than double the amount of fiber, thereby reducing the glycemic load on your body.

This fiber content may be referred to as digestive resistant fiber, an important prebiotic necessary for the nourishment of beneficial bacterial colonies in your gut. A large number of studies have linked an imbalanced gut microbiome with a number of diseases, including obesity, depression, anxiety and inflammatory diseases.36

Minimize Your Acrylamide and Trans Fat Exposure

Thus far, acrylamide has been found in foods heated to 250 F (120 C), which includes most processed foods. Basing your diet on whole foods, with a significant amount eaten raw, slightly cooked or steamed, is one of the best ways to avoid this cancer-causing byproduct. Raw foods are also recommended for general good health as it helps to optimize your nutrition.

For a step-by-step guide to making the transition to a healthier diet as simple as possible, see my optimized nutrition plan. For the times you would like to cook your food, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Frying, baking and broiling appear to be the worst offenders, while boiling or steaming appear to be safer
  • Longer cooking times increase acrylamide, so the shorter the duration of cooking, the better
  • Soaking raw potatoes in water for 15 to 30 minutes prior to roasting may help reduce acrylamide formation during cooking. Chilling the potatoes after cooking (and other starch-rich foods such as rice and pasta) will make it healthier by turning much of that starch into digestive-resistant starch that helps optimize your gut health. Potato salad is perhaps one of the healthiest ways to eat your potatoes
  • The darker brown or blackened the food, the more acrylamide it contains, so avoid overcooking your food
  • Acrylamide is found primarily in plant-based carb-rich foods such as potatoes and grain products (not typically in meat, dairy or seafood)
Healthier Potato Recipes

Sweet potatoes are a deliciously sweet and satisfying potato option you may eat baked or in a tasty potato salad.

Sweet Potato Fries


  • One sweet potato
  • Sea salt, coarse
  • Black pepper, ground
  • Olive oil (coconut oil can serve as an even healthier option as it withstands heat better)


  1. Heat the oven to 450 F. You may or may not peel the potato. If you don't peel the potato, clean the skin.
  2. Cut the potato into large chunks about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick.
  3. Place the sweet potato fries onto a baking sheet and sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and ground black pepper. Next, drizzle the fries with about 1/8 cup of oil. You may add more if you wish.
  4. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Afterward, take them out and flip and return to oven for 10 minutes.
  5. May take 1.5 hours to make and can serve 2 to 3 people.

Sweet Potato Salad courtesy of BBC Good Food:37


  • 2 1/2 pounds. sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

For the dressing

  • 2 shallots (or half a small red onion), finely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • small bunch chives, snipped into quarters or use mini ones
  • 5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey


  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Toss the sweet potato chunks with coconut oil and salt and pepper; spread on a baking parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes until tender and golden. Cool at room temperature.
  2. When just about cool, whisk together the dressing ingredients and gently toss through the potato chunks — use your hands to avoid breaking the potatoes.

How to Get Rid of a Stye in Your Eye

19 hours 15 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Your eyelids protect your eye from injury, help regulate how much light is admitted to your retina and maintain a film of tears by distributing tears over your eye and pumping tears from the conjunctival and lacrimal sacs. You have Meibomian glands at the base of your eyelids, near your eye lashes.

These glands secrete an oil that combines with your watery tears to lubricate and protect your eye from drying.1 Without enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye, the orb can become irritated and you may develop an inflammation of the cornea, leading to blurry vision, redness and a burning and scratchy sensation, if left untreated.2

A stye may develop on your eyelid in the Meibomian gland duct. These irritations present as red lumps along the edge of the eyelid. While they can be annoying or painful, they are rarely serious. Styes can often be successfully treated at home, but before determining your course of treatment, you’ll want to make sure you’re not dealing with chalazion or cellulitis, which may require other or additional medical treatment.

What Is a Stye?

A stye is also known as a hordeolum. It is an infection, often involving the bacteria staphylococcus3 that grows along the edge of your eyelid. The infection creates a small painful bump that may take on the appearance of a small pimple or boil. It’s common for it to be filled with pus. More often than not, styes appear one at a time, as they are not contagious and don’t spread along the lid in the way other infections may.

However, it is possible to have more than one stye at a time. A stye is formed when dead skin, dirt or oil builds up in the oil glands along the edge of your eyelids and bacteria begins to grow inside, causing the stye to develop.4 A stye may also occur under the eyelid, as there are oil gland openings there as well. When this happens it is called an internal hordeolum.5 These styes are treated in the same way as those you find along the edge of your eyelid.

How to Identify a Stye

As a stye grows, your eyelid may become swollen, red and inflamed. The growth period often lasts three days before the stye naturally breaks open and begins to drain.6 Your eyelid may become painful and it may feel like there is something in your eye that doesn’t come out.

A stye may be itchy, but refrain from scratching it. The area may also have crust along the edges of the stye and your eye may water.7 The infected gland triggers these symptoms but, while irritating, they do not threaten your eyesight and are not serious. It is important to differentiate between a stye and another infection of your eyelid that is far more serious and may threaten your eyesight, such as cellulitis.

Cellulitis is also an infection and may occur on the eyelid tissue, but it is an infection that affects a larger area and doesn’t appear similar to a pimple or boil. This infection is often triggered by a trauma to the eyelid, such as an insect bite, or from a sinus infection.8 Although both a stye and cellulitis may cause redness and swelling of the eyelid, cellulitis often causes a greater amount of swelling, including the tissue around your eye.

Complications from cellulitis may include spread of the infection to the eye socket and the eyeball, causing eye pain, vision problems and even blindness. Confusing a stye with cellulitis may lead to serious permanent problems. Take care to fully evaluate your eye swelling and infection before deciding to treat your eye at home.

How to Treat Your Stye at Home

A stye infection typically responds relatively quickly to the treatments you use at home. If you notice the infection getting worse, spreading or becoming more painful, seek medical care for evaluation and treatment. These strategies help reduce the swelling from the stye and help it to mature and heal more quickly.9,10,11

Wash hands frequently

Keep your hands away from your eyes and your face as much as possible. Your hands carry small particles of dust, dirt and grime that may easily clog your oil glands, triggering a stye, or may irritate a stye you already have. Washing your hands frequently helps to reduce the irritation to your eyelid and speed healing.

Warm compress

The most effective means of treating a stye and reducing your discomfort are warm wet compresses over the eyelid. You may make these with a wash cloth and warm water from the sink. Never warm the washcloth in the microwave with the intent of placing it over the delicate skin of your eye as it may burn your skin. Test your warm compress against the skin of your wrist to ensure it’s not too hot.

Keep the compress over your eye for 15 minutes, three to four times each day. When the wet compress becomes cold, run it under warm water again. If it doesn’t cause too much discomfort, you may massage the area while the compress is in place.

Keep your eyelids clean

Styes may be triggered when the glands on your eyelids become clogged, so keeping them clean helps to prevent a new stye and will help to heal the one you already have. Use a mild, chemical-free soap to gently wash your face and eye area.

Refrain from using makeup or contact lenses

The stye is filled with bacteria, so you may infect your makeup and contact lenses with the bacteria and reinfect yourself later.

This includes any makeup that is applied near your eye, such as mascara, eye shadow or concealer. Contact lenses may not only carry the bacteria but may also increase the risk of damage to your eye or your contact lens from the stye. Be sure to throw away any items used near your eye right before the stye developed to avoid reinfection.

Let the stye open naturally

Squeezing the stye can release pus filled with bacteria, and thus spread the infection to other oil glands or to your other eye.

Coriander seed wash

Coriander has antibacterial qualities that may help your stye to heal. Brew a coriander tea from the seeds and then use the fluid to clean your eyes after the fluid has cooled.

Warm tea bags

Typically black or green tea bags work well for warm compresses over your eye. Naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, tea will help reduce the irritating inflammation around your eye and help heal the infection in the stye. Steep a cup of tea and let the bag cool so it doesn’t burn your skin when you apply it. Keep it over your closed eye for 10 minutes and discard the tea bag after one use.

Discomfort relief

Cool moisture helps to bring relief from the discomfort of the stye and reduce the inflammation. Cold cucumber slices are a simple and effective method of reducing the irritation from a stye. Slice a cucumber from the refrigerator and place a slice on your eye for 10 minutes.

Avoid painkillers

A stye is uncomfortable and irritating, but over-the-counter painkillers do nothing to reduce the inflammation or treat the infection. A better option is to frequently use warm compresses and intersperse these with cool moisture to help alleviate the discomfort.

When to Call the Doctor

An infection on your eyelid has the potential for reaching your eye socket or your eye, increasing your risk of vision loss. These are some of the symptoms that may indicate it’s time to seek medical attention:12,13

✓ The stye gets worse quickly

✓ The stye bleeds

✓ Your vision is affected

✓ The stye spreads to your eyeball

✓ The skin around your eye or cheeks becomes red and swollen

✓ Your eye, not just the eyelid, hurts

✓ You can’t open your eye from the swelling

✓ You get recurring styes

✓ Your eyelid turns red

✓ Your stye gets very large

What May Trigger a Stye?

Once you’ve had a stye or eye infection, it’s important to replace your eye makeup, including your mascara and eye shadow, to prevent recurrence of an infection. Eye makeup should also be replaced every six months as it may become a breeding ground for bacterial growth, increasing your risk of infection. Wearing too much eye makeup, eye liner or sharing eye makeup with other women may increase your risk of developing a stye.

Wearing makeup overnight increases the risk of plugging your glands with mascara or eye liner and developing an environment for bacterial growth.14 Men and women who are under a significant amount of stress may also find they experience an increased risk of developing a stye.15 If you touch your eyes frequently, or insert your contact lenses without disinfecting them, you may increase your risk of depositing dust or dirt near the Meibomian gland duct.16

A stye may be triggered when the oil glands are blocked by dirt, grime and dust, so keeping your eyelashes clean helps to prevent styes from developing. A lack of essential fatty acids in your diet may result in flaky skin, which may also block your oil glands. Essential fatty acids are not produced by your body and must be consumed in your diet.

Essential fatty acids help the formation of healthy cell membranes, thyroid and adrenal activity, and support healthy skin and hair and hormone production.17 Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid and a-linolenic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid, both of which are needed in your diet since you cannot synthesize them in your body. A lack of these fatty acids increases the risk of your skin becoming flaky, and thus increases the risk dead skin may plug your Meibomian glands and develop into a stye.

You might be at higher risk of developing a stye if you suffer from blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids when the oil glands are blocked. This may occur more frequently when you suffer from environmental allergies, such as allergies to pollen.18 The condition triggers the formation of dandruff-type scales along the eyelid and eyelashes. In many cases, a regular cleaning routine to your eyelashes will help control the condition.

Stye or Chalazion?

A stye is very similar to a chalazion. In the case of a stye, the inflammation and swelling is the result of a bacterial infection. A chalazion is triggered from some of the same risk factors discussed above, but the swelling does not include a bacterial infection. A stye often resolves within a week with simple home treatments, while a chalazion will present with swelling and redness but not discomfort or pain.

A chalazion is often larger than a stye and will be located under the upper lid and not along the eyelid. The formation of a chalazion occurs when your oil glands are blocked and the oil forms a swelling. The lump is painless, often on the upper lid, and less frequently on the lower lid.19 The fluid in the oil gland thickens and is unable to be excreted. You may experience tearing, mild irritation and blurred vision if the lump is large enough to press against the eyeball.

A chalazion is more common in adults than children, while styes are more commonly found in children. Although many chalazions will disappear without treatment, they often recur if you don’t address the trigger that caused the chalazion in the first place. These triggers are the same as those for styes and also include acne rosacea, seborrhea, viral infections and tuberculosis.20

Sunless Tanning Drug Sure to Increase Skin Cancer

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Melanin is the pigment that gives skin (as well as hair and eyes) its color. Dark-skinned people have more melanin in their skin, and the presence of dark melanin, known as eumelanin, is associated with a low skin cancer risk.1 It would seem plausible, then, that creating an artificial way to stimulate pigmentation in human skin could lower the risks of damage from excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

There is a natural way to do this — get regular exposure to the sun in short increments, gradually building up your time spent in the sun to create a natural tan. As part of my healthy sunbathing tips, I recommend building up your tolerance by starting early in the spring, with as few as five minutes of exposure time, and gradually increasing the time you spend in the sun to avoid getting burned.

Once your tolerance has been built up, aim for 15 to 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure two to four times per week, around midday, to maximize vitamin D production and other benefits of sun exposure. Health officials, on the other hand, would generally have you believe that virtually all sun exposure should be avoided (or only chanced after the application of copious amounts of sunscreen); hence, the creation of a sunless tanner “drug” that artificially boosts melanin in human skin.2

Topical Drug Created to Boost Skin’s Melanin, Provide Sunless Tanning

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital created a topical small-molecule salt-inducible kinase (SIK) inhibitor that, when applied to samples of human skin in the lab, led to tanning without UV exposure. SIK is known to regulate MITF, “the master regulator of pigment genes,” and the topically applied drug created by the researchers proved to upregulate MITF, inducing pigment production.3

The drug was first tested on mice and then on human skin in a lab dish. As Time reported, “[T]he lab-tanned skin cells looked indistinguishable from skin cells that were tanned by the sun, meaning they benefited from the protection provided by the darker pigment without the need for exposure to UV rays.”4 The study’s lead author, Dr. David Fisher, said the drug is triggering the production of “real melanin … in a UV-independent fashion,”5 and further said in a news release:6

"The activation of the tanning/pigmentation pathway by this new class of small molecules is physiologically identical to UV-induced pigmentation without the DNA-damaging effects of UV … We need to conduct safety studies, which are always essential with potential new treatment compounds, and better understand the actions of these agents. But it's possible they may lead to new ways of protecting against UV-induced skin damage and cancer formation.

… We are excited about the possibility of inducing dark pigment production in human skin without a need for either systemic exposure to a drug or UV exposure to the skin."

Sun Avoidance Is a Recipe for Cancer

The researchers are pinning their hopes on consumers using the topical drug in combination with sunscreen to shield skin from the sun, but in so doing this inadvertently could be increasing an individual’s cancer risk. As I’ve written about for some time, when you apply sunscreen to your skin, you block your body’s ability to produce vitamin D. Many people are already deficient in vitamin D, which actually increases your risk of cancer.

In fact, a large number of studies have shown raising your vitamin D level can significantly reduce your risk of cancer. Having a serum vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/mL reduces your risk for cancer by 67 percent compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less; most cancers occur in people with a vitamin D level between 10 and 40 ng/mL.7 Vitamin D also increases your chances of surviving cancer if you do get it, and this includes melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.8

Beyond this, the use of a topical drug to induce tanning that can be gleaned from safe, sensible sun exposure once again propagates the idea that humans are not meant to be in the sun. This is misguided at best and dangerous at worst, as there are a number of benefits to sunlight exposure, many that we’re only beginning to understand. When you're exposed to sunlight, many important biological processes occur in your skin, not just vitamin D production.

Unfortunately, the entire focus of most dermatologists is preventing skin damage, which means ignoring the other side — the benefits — of the sun exposure equation. Take, for instance, the fact that research has shown that when sunlight strikes your skin, nitric oxide is released into your bloodstream,9 and nitric oxide is a powerful blood-pressure-lowering compound.

This has led researchers to conclude that sun exposure may prolong your life by significantly cutting your heart attack/stroke risk.10 The carbon monoxide your hemoglobin molecules release in response to UV radiation also acts as a neurotransmitter, and has beneficial effects on your nervous system. Like nitric oxide, it causes relaxation and has anti-inflammatory activity.

Melanoma Myths Are Widespread

Your skin is designed to be in the sun. It’s the burning as a result of intermittent overexposure that primarily impacts your skin cancer risk and, while Americans have dutifully followed sun avoidance advice in recent decades, the melanoma rate in the U.S. has actually risen rather than declined.11 Rates of melanoma have been rising for at least the last three decades, and research published in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests the sun is likely nothing more than a scapegoat.12

According to this study, the rise in melanoma appears to be “an artifact caused by diagnostic drift,” which refers to a hefty increase in disease diagnoses fueled by detection and misclassification of benign lesions as stage 1 melanoma. “The distribution of the lesions reported did not correspond to the sites of lesions caused by solar exposure,” the researchers noted, adding:13

“These findings should lead to a reconsideration of the treatment of 'early' lesions, a search for better diagnostic methods to distinguish them from truly malignant melanomas, re-evaluation of the role of ultraviolet radiation and recommendations for protection from it, as well as the need for a new direction in the search for the cause of melanoma.”

Applying Sunscreen, Avoiding the Sun Aren’t Cancer-Free Guarantees

The one-size-fits-all recommendation to apply sunscreen every time you go outside is also misguided. In addition to exposing people to dangerous chemicals in sunscreen, an analysis by epidemiologist Marianne Berwick, Ph.D., shows there’s very little evidence to suggest that sunscreen use will prevent skin cancer.14 After analyzing a dozen studies on basal cell carcinoma (which is typically non-lethal) and melanoma, Berwick found that people who use sunscreen are more likely to develop both of these conditions.

Only two of 10 melanoma studies found that sunscreen was protective against this condition; three found no association either way. None found sunscreen use protected against basal cell carcinoma. It’s also worth mentioning that you can get melanoma even if you’re not a frequent sunbather.

One study, which followed more than 100,000 women for more than eight years, found that melanoma affected less than three-tenths of 1 percent of those who tanned frequently, and less than two-tenths of 1 percent of those who didn't tan.15 Not only is your risk of developing melanoma from sun exposure exceedingly small — well below 1 percent — but your risk of developing melanoma does not disappear by avoiding sun exposure. It's just one-tenth of 1 percent lower than if you did get frequent exposure.

Sun Exposure Is Good for Your Heart

Research by dermatologist Dr. Richard Weller and colleagues suggest sun exposure has cardiovascular benefits independent of vitamin D, and cardiovascular disease is a far greater public health problem than skin cancer.

There are two primary reasons why sun exposure is good for your heart. As mentioned, exposure to the sun increases nitric oxide production, which will relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure and decrease platelet activation, making your blood thinner and less likely to clot and form a stroke or heart attack. Nitric oxide will also improve your immune function.

Recent research has also shown that exposure to red at 660 nm and near infrared at 830 nm rays from the sun both have powerful benefits on improving mitochondrial function. This is because cytochrome c oxidase, which is one of the electron transport chains in the mitochondria, are chromophores for those wavelengths and when they absorb that energy the efficiency of ATP and mitochondrial cellular energy is increased.

Research even shows that women with active sun-exposure habits ended up having a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and non-cancer death compared to those who avoided the sun, and the study authors even concluded that “avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.”16

How to Improve Your Health Via Sensible Sun Exposure

The featured study’s topical sunless tanning drug is still a long way from hitting the market, if it does at all, but it’s shortsighted to suggest that artificially darkening your skin could improve your health or prevent cancer. It’s far more complex than that, and by encouraging people to once again avoid the sun, use a drug to get a fake “tan” and then apply sunscreen, cancer risk could be increased instead of decreased.

Tanning via sun exposure is your body's natural protection against sunburn; it's what your body was created to do. Some physicians falsely refer to tanning as "skin damage," but calling a tan "damage" isn't telling the whole story. Calling a tan "damaged skin" is much like saying that exercise "damages muscles." When you exercise, you are actually tearing tiny muscle fibers in your body.

At first glance, when examined at the micro-level, this tearing could be called "damage." But this tissue breakdown is your body's natural way of building stronger muscle tissue.

Similarly, tanning is your skin's natural way of protecting you from the dangers of sunburn and further exposure. Again, it is the burning of your skin and chronic excessive exposures — not the limited, sensible exposure to sunlight — that increases your risk for skin cancer. Following are more general guidelines that may help you maximize benefits from sun exposure while mitigating the risks:

✓ The lighter your skin, the less exposure to UV light is necessary. Lighter skin is also more vulnerable to damage from overexposure.

✓ Always avoid sunburn. Be particularly careful if you have not been in the sun for some time. Your first exposures of the year are the most sensitive, so limit your initial time in the sun.

✓ Once your tolerance has been built up, aim for enough sun exposure to keep your vitamin D level around 40 to 60 ng/mL.

✓ Expose as much skin as you can, not just your arms and face. As soon as your skin starts to turn pink, discontinue exposure and cover up your skin to avoid burning.

✓ Boost your “internal sunscreen” by eating antioxidant-rich foods and healthy fats. Astaxanthin can be a helpful supplement.

✓ When you'll be in the sun for longer periods, cover up with clothing, a hat or shade. A safe sunscreen can be applied after you've optimized your skin's daily vitamin D production, although clothing is your safest option to prevent burning and skin damage.

Many Veterans Are Denied Benefits for Vaccine Injuries

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Children and adults injured or killed by vaccines face a long uphill battle when filing for compensation with the U.S. vaccine injury compensation program (VICP), better known as “vaccine court.”

American war veterans injured by vaccines face even grimmer prospects, as veterans appear to be routinely denied benefits for vaccine-related injuries. Part of the problem is that proving a vaccine caused the illness can be difficult, and it’s even more difficult when side effects are not carefully tracked and documented.

Remarkably, the U.S. military does not track any vaccine-related side effects or injuries, even though military personnel receive a number of mandatory vaccines, and despite the fact that concerns over vaccine-related injuries led to the creation of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) Vaccine Healthcare Centers (VHC) Network in September 2001.1,2

Military Personnel Blame Health Problems on Controversial Smallpox Vaccine

Fox News Boston3 recently highlighted the cases of Sean Kelly and Mark Bailey, two Marine veterans who developed chronic pericarditis (inflammation of the pericardium, the protective lining around the heart), which is a known possible side effect of the smallpox vaccine.4,5

Unable to work due to the chronic chest pain, Kelly filed for benefits with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) but was denied. He was also unable to file a claim with VICP, as the smallpox vaccine is not a covered vaccine. Other programs dedicated to compensating people injured by the smallpox vaccine were also unavailable, as too much time had lapsed. Suing the government for damages for injury that occurs during military service is also out of the question (Feres Doctrine).

Dr. Bradley Bender, chief of staff for the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, agreed it can be “quite difficult” to receive VA benefits for a vaccine injury, “especially if you don't have the records that reflect it. There is no blood test that you can do to say this is myocarditis related to smallpox vaccine.”6 Barbara Loe Fisher, director of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), told Fox News 25:

"That’s just ridiculous, the smallpox vaccine is the most reactive vaccine that has ever been used … They do not want to acknowledge that when these vaccines are given, there are far more people being hurt than they’re willing to admit.”

Is Smallpox Vaccine Wreaking Havoc on US Service Personnel?

Between December 2002 and May 2014, more than 2.4 million service members received the smallpox vaccine.7 This, despite the fact that smallpox (variola) was eradicated in the early 1970s, and routine smallpox vaccination of the American public ceased in 1972.8 The U.S. government began inoculating service members against smallpox in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, ostensibly to protect them against potential biowarfare using the variola virus.

In the last decade (2007 through April 2017), 898 veterans were granted VA benefits for pericarditis; 2,896 were denied. Another 5,703 veterans were granted benefits for myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle itself, while 12,067 were denied benefits for the same.9 Since no one appears to be monitoring,  tracking and reporting vaccine side effects in military personnel, there’s no telling how many of these cases of myocarditis and pericarditis might have been related to the smallpox vaccine.

While the DOD does not track vaccine injuries, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has stated that up to 2 percent of vaccinated individuals may experience side effects that “could result in disability or death,” adding that:

“Some service members who received [anthrax and smallpox] vaccines experienced severe reactions such as migraines, heart problems and the onset of diseases including diabetes and multiple sclerosis … Some of these events may occur coincidentally following immunization, while others may truly be caused by immunization.10

DOD’s VHC Network Is Clearly Failing in Its Mission

According to the GAO, the purpose of the VHC Network is to “meet the health care needs of service members receiving mandatory immunizations. This includes educating service members about how to prevent adverse events and diagnosing and treating those with severe reactions.”11 Yet that does not appear to be happening, at least not routinely or as a matter of course.

Dr. Frank Fisher, Lt. Col. in the Air Force Reserve Medical Corps, claims the technician who gave him the anthrax vaccine refused to answer any of his questions about the shot he’d been given.12 She wouldn’t even disclose the type of vaccine he’d received. Following this injection, Fisher developed bone marrow loss, Tourette’s syndrome and a breathing disorder. His and other vaccine-injured service members’ firsthand accounts are included in the Democracy Now! report above.

Anthrax Vaccine Linked to Gulf War Sickness Download Interview Transcript

In 1997, the DOD announced it would vaccinate all military personnel against anthrax. As noted by Dr. Meryl Nass13 — a leading expert on the anthrax vaccine — there were significant questions about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness from the very start. In a 2002 paper14 published in the American Journal of Public Health, Nass notes that, “The anthrax vaccine was never proved to be safe and effective. It is one cause of Gulf War illnesses, and recent vaccinees report symptoms resembling Gulf War illnesses.”

In her paper, she also pointed out the DOD has acknowledged the systemic reaction rate for the anthrax vaccine is as high as 35 percent, not the 0.2 percent listed on the package insert. Vaccine studies conducted by the military have reported even higher rates of systemic reactions — as high as 48 percent. An unpublished survey at the Dover Air Force Base found the rate of “chronic, unresolved reactions” associated with the anthrax vaccine was 29 percent.

Gulf War Syndrome is a blanket term for “a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms that can include fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders and memory problems.”15

Not surprisingly, there were financial conflicts of interest at play when this vaccine was added to the military’s list of mandatory vaccines, which Nass detailed in her interview. Hundreds of military personnel began falling ill once the anthrax vaccine became routine, and many within the military began fighting the mandate. The movement culminated in no less than 13 congressional hearings on the various aspects of the anthrax vaccine program. Yet it continues.

Anthrax Threat May Be Overblown

To this day, the VA downplays the possible side effects of the anthrax vaccine,16 limiting descriptions of signs of serious reactions to things like wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness and dizziness, making no mention of its possible link to the “cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms” associated with Gulf War Syndrome.

The justification for the continued use of the anthrax vaccine is that the risk of side effects is better than contracting the disease, which is usually contracted through the skin by direct exposure to an infected animal, or animal waste and by-products, or contaminated soil. Veterinarians, farmers and researchers working with animals are at higher risk of being infected with anthrax, which can enter the bloodstream from a cut in the skin, inhaling anthrax spores into the lungs or by swallowing anthrax spores.

Indeed, anthrax disease is a very serious bacterial infection that can kill within days as lethal toxins from the anthrax bacteria multiply in the body if antibiotics are not given immediately. The mortality rate for skin-acquired anthrax left untreated is 10 to 20 percent, but the mortality rate for anthrax that is inhaled into the lungs or through the gastrointestinal tract it much higher.

Unlike most other bacteria, the anthrax bacterium forms potent spores that can remain alive under harsh conditions for 100 years or longer. Once the ideal conditions are present once again, the spores can open up and start reproducing. If the spores germinate, they reproduce and create additional spores that can again survive for a century or more.

The rugged survivability of the anthrax spore is what makes anthrax a potentially effective threat if weaponized and dropped from an airplane or exploded in a bomb, for example, effectively contaminating an area forever. Once the spores are inhaled they can cause overwhelming infection, and can be lethal in as little as two to seven days.

However, that doesn’t mean an anthrax vaccine given to every soldier is necessary. The anthrax bacterium is very responsive to antibiotics and, if administered before symptoms develop, antibiotics tend to be 100 percent effective, according to Nass. The only type of antibiotic that does not work is the cephalosporins, as anthrax is naturally cephalosporin-resistant. As noted by the NVIC, anthrax bacteria are also destroyed by hydrogen peroxide and diluted formaldehyde.17

Granted, there may be genetically engineered strains of anthrax out there somewhere, designed to resist modern antibiotics. But even then, the threat may not be as great as they make it out to be, because anthrax is not contagious. You must be directly exposed to the spores to get sick, and you cannot spread it to others, which means the vaccine itself is probably a far greater health threat to military personnel than the threat of anthrax infection.

Oral Polio Vaccine Also Linked to Gulf War Syndrome

In 1996, researchers also suggested that the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) contaminated with animal retroviruses may be playing a role in Gulf War Syndrome, prompting the NVIC to call for an investigation into that vaccine, as well as the multiple other vaccines, experimental drugs and environmental toxins that were given simultaneously to soldiers deploying for the Gulf War. At the time, NVIC wrote:18

“The Pentagon directed that military personnel heading for the Gulf receive as many as 17 different live viral and killed bacterial vaccines simultaneously, including polio, cholera, hepatitis B, adenovirus, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcus, plague, rabies, tetanus, diphtheria, typhoid, yellow fever, anthrax and the experimental botulinium toxoid. In addition, they were given the experimental drug pyridostigmine bromide, a nerve agent.

NVIC … has been a vocal critic of the lack of credible scientific studies supporting the safety of simultaneous administration of multiple viral and bacterial vaccines and the lack of scientific studies to identify high risk populations.

‘The question that must be answered immediately,’ said NVIC co-founder and president Barbara Loe Fisher, ‘is whether a significant minority of Gulf War veterans responded with immune suppression to the potpourri of live viral and killed bacterial vaccines given to them and were subsequently vulnerable to further immune and neurological damage when they were given drugs and came into contact with environmental toxins in the Gulf.’”

Indeed, a decade-old VHC Network PowerPoint presentation19,20 claims the smallpox and anthrax vaccines are quite safe, blaming the high rate of injury instead on the practice of giving multiple vaccines simultaneously and/or drug-vaccine interactions. According to that presentation, of 2.4 million vaccinated service members, up to 48,000 of them (2 percent) sustained disability requiring them to be taught new skills and/or died as a result of serious side effects of the vaccines given.

This presentation, dating back to 2007, also touches on myo/pericarditis as a side effect of not only the smallpox vaccine but also the anthrax vaccine. For the smallpox vaccine, the risk of myo/pericarditis is listed as 1 per 6,000 to 7,000 vaccinated, but notes that the “actual risk may be higher.” Slide 12 also notes that “other new adverse events case definitions” are “in progress,” such as “new onset acute urticaria,” and “angioedema evolving to chronic disease after live virus vaccines.”

Vaccine News Around the Globe — The Insanity Spreads

Barring financial motives, it’s near-impossible to understand the current vaccine hysteria sweeping the globe. Italy recently passed a law mandating 12 vaccines for children attending state schools,21,22 and as of June 1, German child care centers and kindergartens are required — by law — to inform health authorities if parents have not submitted proof that they have received counseling about vaccination from pediatricians.

Fines for failing to receive vaccine counseling from a doctor could result in fines of up to $2800 (2500 euros).23 The mandatory reporting by schools of parents who have not received vaccine counseling is because of a spike in measles in Germany; 410 measles cases had been reported by mid-April, compared to 325 for all of 2016.24

Meanwhile, in the U.S., congressional members from Florida are urging the Army to hold public hearings before awarding exclusive rights to Sanofi to develop a Zika vaccine — rights that would give them a monopoly on the vaccine until 2036, without preset conditions on pricing.25

The question no one seems to care about is whether a Zika vaccine is needed at all. Why is the U.S. military partnering with a private drug company over a virus of such low to no concern?26 Puerto Rico recently declared an end to its outbreak, and transmission has evaporated in Brazil, American Samoa, New Caledonia and Saint Barthelemy, as well.27

While the birth defect microcephaly is one of the primary risks allegedly associated with Zika infection, outcome statistics reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control suggest the risk is quite low. In the U.S., of 1,579 pregnant women with lab confirmed Zika infection in 2016 until May 23, 2017, 72 delivered babies with some form of birth defect, and eight women who lost their child to miscarriage or stillbirth had a child with some form of birth defect.28

But is Zika-induced microcephaly really a cause for concern? As far back as 2009, the average annual number of microcephaly cases reported in the U.S. was 25,000 — without a Zika virus in sight.29

Clearly, Zika virus is NOT the only, nor a major, contributor to microcephaly. Also, recall this: In January 2016, models predicted 60 percent of the U.S. population would become infected with the dreaded Zika by that summer30 — 60 percent! Clearly, that did not happen, but there were no mass announcements declaring the doomsday prediction null and void.

Military Abuse: Secret Shots

In my view, the hysterics calling for mandatory inoculations with this-that-or-the-other vaccine are driven by something other than desire to protect public health. If that were their aim, they would not be eager to sacrifice people so wantonly. Even if "only" 2 percent of the U.S. population is predisposed to vaccine injury, we are talking about nearly 6.2 MILLION men, women and children! That’s no small price tag.

That military personnel are used as guinea pigs for experimental vaccines is also morally reprehensible. The video above is a Target 5 News report from 2007, questioning whether our servicemen and women are being recruited into secret medical experiments without their knowledge or consent.

By all appearances, that’s exactly what’s happening. The question is how long will our leaders allow these violations of human rights to go on? If recent legislation is any indication, it appears secret medical experimentation is being weaseled into law, making the American public fair game as well.

The 21st Century Cures Act, which was quickly pushed through Congress and became law in December 2016, allows the waiving of the requirement of informed consent for participants in clinical trials if researchers believe an experimental medical device, drug or vaccine being tested poses no more than minimal risk to the patient's health, or if the product being tested is deemed by researchers to be in the best interest of trial participants.

The Act also lowers FDA standards for the quality of evidence that drug companies have to provide to the FDA before drugs and vaccines are licensed and sold in the U.S. When you consider the big picture, you’d have to be sticking your head in the sand to not care about vaccine safety these days.

With forced vaccinations spreading like wildfire around the globe, we must all fight back and insist on informed consent to medical risk taking, and the right to say no to any vaccine we deem not in our best interest or the best interest of our child.

Toxic Clothing Affects Everyone

Tue, 06/27/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In September 2016, American Airlines rolled out new uniforms for more than 70,000 employees — the first uniform overhaul in 30 years. Soon after, reports started coming in from about 100 pilots and 3,000 flight attendants that the uniforms were making them sick. A variety of symptoms were reported (some occurring only while the personnel were wearing the uniforms), such as rashes, itching, eye swelling and a general feeling of malaise.1

Twin Hill, a unit of Tailored Brands Inc., which supplied the uniforms, has conducted testing, with nothing suspicious showing up that may cause the symptoms, and so far American Airlines has not recalled the uniforms, although they've given some employees alternative pieces and allowed them to wear their old uniforms while the matter is sorted out.2 While this may seem like an unusual story, it's not unheard of for clothing to make people sick.

In fact, the average piece of clothing not only may be made from potentially allergenic materials (like latex, Lycra or spandex) but also may be contaminated with a variety of chemicals used during the manufacturing process.

The clothing industry is actually one of the most polluting industries on the planet, and the textiles they produce may be laced with irritants and disease-causing chemicals, which is one of the reasons why it's so important to wash new clothes before wearing them. Even then, however, it may not make the clothing entirely safe.

What Kinds of Chemicals Are in Your Clothes?

Depending on where your new clothes were manufactured, they may contain multiple chemicals of concern. Among them are azo-aniline dyes, which may cause skin reactions ranging from mild to severe. If you're sensitive, such dyes may leave your skin red, itchy and dry, especially where the fabric rubs on your skin, such as at your waist, neck, armpits and thighs. The irritants can be mostly washed out, but it might take multiple washings to do so.

Formaldehyde resins are also used in clothing to cut down on wrinkling and mildew. Not only is formaldehyde a known carcinogen, but the resins have been linked to eczema and may cause your skin to become flaky or erupt in a rash.3 Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), meanwhile, is a toxic endocrine-disrupting surfactant used to manufacture clothing.

You certainly don't want to be exposed to NPE if you can help it, but when consumers wash their clothes, NPEs are released into local water supplies where wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove them. When NPEs enter the environment, they break down into nonylphenol (NP), a toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemical that accumulates in sediments and builds up in fish and wildlife. In an interview with "clean-fashion pioneer" Marci Zaroff, Goop outlined some of the common chemicals likely to be found in your clothing:4

Glyphosate, the most-used agricultural chemical, is an herbicide used to grow cotton. It's linked to cancer and found in cotton textiles.

Chlorine bleach, used for whitening and stain removal, may cause asthma and respiratory problems and is found in fiber/cotton processing, including in denim.

Formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic, is used to create wrinkle-free clothing as well as for shrinkage and as a carrier for dyes and prints. It's common in cotton and other natural fabrics, including anything that's been dyed or printed.

VOCs, solvents used for printing and other purposes, are common in finished textiles, especially those with prints. VOCs may off-gas from clothing, posing risks such as developmental and reproductive damage, liver problems and in some cases cancer, particularly to workers.

PFCs, used widely in uniforms and outdoor clothing to create stain-repellant and water-resistant fabrics, are carcinogenic, build up in your body and are toxic to the environment.

Brominated flame retardants, used to stop clothes from burning (although this is questionable), may be found in children's clothing. These chemicals are neurotoxic endocrine disrupters that may also cause cancer.

Ammonia, used to provide shrink resistance, is found in natural fabrics. It may be absorbed into your lungs and cause burning in your eyes, nose or throat.

Heavy metals, including lead, cadmium, chromium and others, may be used for leather tanning and dyeing. They're highly toxic and may be found in finished textiles, especially those that are dyed or printed.

Phthalates/Plastisol, used in printing inks and other processes, are known endocrine disrupters.

Clothing Chemicals Are Largely Unregulated

You may assume that if you're purchasing clothing in the U.S., it's safe and free from toxins, but this isn't typically the case. Zaroff told Goop:5

"The magnitude and multitude of toxic chemicals in the fashion and textile industries is out of control. Even though some carcinogens are regulated (for example, formaldehyde, linked to cancer, is regulated in the U.S.), most brands are still manufactured overseas, where regulation is far behind. And only the most toxic chemicals are regulated in the U.S., which means there are a huge number that are unregulated but likely to cause allergic reactions."

This is an issue both for the people who wear the clothes as well as the environment. Textile dyeing facilities, for example, tend to be located in developing countries where regulations are lax and labor costs are low. Untreated or minimally treated wastewater is typically discharged into nearby rivers, from where it spreads into seas and oceans, traveling across the globe with the currents.

An estimated 40 percent of textile chemicals are discharged by China.6 According to Ecowatch, Indonesia is also struggling with the chemical fallout of the garment industry. The Citarum River is now one of the most heavily polluted rivers in the world, thanks to the congregation of hundreds of textile factories along its shorelines. Clothing designer Eileen Fisher even called the clothing industry the "second largest polluter in the world ... second only to oil."7

Leading Clothing Companies Commit to Using Sustainable Cotton by 2025

Genetically engineered (GE) cotton is widely used in the clothing industry, but while it maintains a natural image, it's among the dirtiest crops in the world because of heavy use of toxic pesticides. It also takes a heavy toll on local water supplies, as hundreds of liters of water may be necessary to produce enough cotton to make one T-shirt.8

Prince Charles is among those who has voiced his support for more sustainable cotton production, noting that cotton production is "all too often associated with the depletion of local water supplies and the widespread, and sometimes indiscriminate, use of harmful pesticides [that] can take a heavy toll on human health."9

Fortunately, earlier this year 13 clothing and textile companies, including Levi Strauss & Co., Eileen Fisher, Nike, Woolworths Holdings and Sainsbury's, signed the Sustainable Cotton Communiqué, which commits to using 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025. Worldwide, more than 20 million tons of cotton are produced annually in more than 100 countries.10 The 13 companies that signed the sustainable cotton initiative account for 300,000 tons of cotton each year.11

Microfiber Pollution Is Another Major Problem

In a study commissioned by sustainable apparel maker Patagonia, it was found that a synthetic jacket (such as a fleece) may release up to 2.7 grams (0.09 ounces) of microfibers with each washing (that's up to 250,000 microfibers). On average, such a garment releases 1.7 grams of microfibers, although older jackets released fibers at twice the rate.12 While wastewater treatment plants may filter out some of this debris, some (anywhere from 6,500 to 28,000) inevitably sneak through and end up in waterways.

A number of variables affect how much of the debris is released. Jackets washed in top-load washers shed five times more microfibers than those washed in front-loaders, for instance, while in a comparison of acrylic, polyester and a polyester-cotton blend, acrylic was the worst, shedding microfibers up to four times faster than the polyester-cotton blend.13

Ironically, the practice of recycling plastic bottles into clothing items, which is done by Patagonia and other outdoor companies as a way to reduce waste, may ultimately end up being environmentally destructive.

It's unknown what the environmental effects of microfiber pollution may be, but their irregular shape may make them harder for marine life to excrete than other microplastics (like microbeads). It could be that the longer the particles stay inside the fish, the more chemicals may leach into its body.

So the microfibers may be harming marine life via two mechanisms: physical blockage and chemical poisoning. One solution to the microfiber pollution problem would be to install filters in washing machines — similar to lint traps in dryers — that could catch the fibers before they're released with the wastewater.

However, according to the Mermaids (Mitigation of Microplastics Impact Caused by Textile Washing Processes) project, whose goal is to cut microfiber shedding during washing by 70 percent, the apparel industry has been slow to respond in taking steps to stop microfiber pollution.14 A Mermaids report suggested special coatings may help to stop the loss of microfibers during washing, and recommended laundry detergents be reformulated to minimize fiber shedding.

Partnering With Care What You Wear

The "Care What You Wear" campaign's purpose is to educate consumers about why and how to buy clothing that supports organic and regenerative farming, responsible production and fair labor practices — and to "expose today's fast-fashion industry, which perpetuates ethically and environmentally unsound practices with its 'buy more, cheaper clothes' message." As for the "why," consider these Care What You Wear facts:15

  • It takes 5,000 gallons of water to manufacture one pair of jeans
  • Cotton crops use 24 percent of all insecticides and 11 percent of all pesticides globally
  • 25 percent of the chemicals produced in the world are used in textiles

Further, as noted by the campaign:

"Every time you buy a new article of clothing your purchase has a ripple effect on the environment. The global apparel industry is the second-largest industrial polluter.

From the growing of GMO cotton, to the production of wool and synthetic fibers, to the dyes used on those fibers, to the factories where clothes are assembled — each step of the way, soil is degraded, water is polluted, laborers are exploited. Can consumers help drive the fashion industry away from this toxic model, toward a more ethical, regenerative model? Yes, if we buy wisely."16

Looking for clothing made from organic cotton is an excellent start to finding safe, nontoxic clothing (for you and the environment). Natural fiber clothing may also minimize the shedding of microfibers common to synthetic fibers.

You can also look for brands that have committed to chemical reduction (Target plans to remove PFCs and flame retardants from their products by 2022, for instance17) along with the Cradle to Cradle, GOTS-certified textiles or OEKO-TEX Standard 100 label, which is indicative that it has been tested by an independent laboratory and found to be free of harmful levels of more than 100 substances, including:

Ultimately, the best choice for the environment is to purchase natural, organic, high-quality clothing and less clothing overall. You can also opt for vintage clothing or that found in thrift stores, as Zaroff explained:18

"In many ways, buying vintage is the best way to attack the problem of waste in fashion — the most sustainable piece is one that doesn't have to be made in the first place. Additionally, most older clothes are much less toxic than what's being produced today — chemical use in textile manufacturing wasn't as ubiquitous until the last 50 years or so.

That said, germs and bacteria (including mold) can collect on old clothing, so stick to vintage that's well-preserved, and clean it before you wear it, like everything else."

Broccoli Compound Lowers Risk of Obesity and Helps Treat Diabetes

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have potent anticancer activity courtesy of sulforaphane, a naturally occurring organic sulfur, and other chemoprotective compounds. Studies have shown sulforaphane:

• Supports normal cell function and division and acts as an immune stimulant1

• Causes apoptosis (programmed cell death) in colon,2 prostate,3 breast4 and tobacco-induced lung cancer5 cells; three servings of broccoli per week may reduce your risk of prostate cancer by more than 60 percent6

• Activates nuclear factor-like 2 (Nrf2), a transcription factor that regulates cellular oxidation and reduction and aids in detoxification,7 as well as other phase 2 detoxification enzymes.

Broccoli sprouts, in particular, have been shown to help detox environmental pollutants such as benzene.8,9,10 In another study, sulforaphane was found to increase excretion of airborne pollutants by 61 percent.11 The phytonutrients glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin and glucobrassicin also aid detoxification12

• Reduces damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) by as much as 73 percent, thereby lowering your risk of inflammation,13 which is a hallmark of cancer. It also lowers C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation14

• Reduces the expression of long noncoding RNA in prostate cancer cells, thereby influencing the micro RNA and reducing the cancer cells’ ability to form colonies by as much as 400 percent15,16,17,18,19

However, the health benefits of this cruciferous veggie do not end there. Research shows it may reduce your risk for a number of common diseases, including but not limited to arthritis, heart disease and kidney disease. Most recently, its beneficial effects on obesity and type 2 diabetes have been highlighted.

Sulforaphane Helps Slash Obesity Risk

Animal research20,21,22,23 suggests sulforaphane may be used as a weight management aid. Mice fed a high-fat diet with sulforaphane gained weight at a rate that was 15 percent slower than those receiving the same diet without sulforaphane supplementation. They also gained 20 percent less visceral fat, the fat that collects around your internal organs, which is particularly hazardous to health. Two different mechanisms behind these effects were discovered

  • First, sulforaphane was found to speed up tissue browning. Brown fat is a beneficial type of body fat that actually helps you stay slim. It’s a heat-generating type of fat that burns energy rather than storing it
  • Sulforaphane also decreased gut bacteria in the Desulfobivrionaceae family. These bacteria are known to produce toxins that contribute to metabolic endotoxemia and obesity 
Broccoli in the Treatment of Diabetes

Results from a Swedish study24,25 suggests sulforaphane may be helpful in the treatment of diabetes as well, lowering blood glucose levels and improving gene expression in your liver. Medical News Today reports:26

“While there are medications, such as metformin, that can help people with type 2 diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels, [doctoral student Annika] Axelsson and team note that some patients are unable to use them due to their severe side effects, which include kidney damage.

As such, there is a need for safer alternatives. Could sulforaphane meet this need? To answer this question, Axelsson and colleagues created a genetic signature for type 2 diabetes, based on 50 genes associated with the condition. The researchers then applied this signature to public gene expression data.

This allowed them to assess the effects of more than 3,800 compounds on gene expression changes in liver cells that are associated with type 2 diabetes. The team found that sulforaphane — a chemical compound present in cruciferous vegetables including broccoli sprouts, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and watercress — demonstrated the strongest effects.”

Sulforaphane Lowers Glucose Levels in Obese Diabetics With Poor Glucose Control

In tests using cultured liver cells, sulforaphane was shown to reduce glucose production. In diabetic rats, the compound improved gene expression in the liver. Next, they tested a broccoli sprout extract on 97 adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. All except three were also taking metformin.

After 12 weeks, patients with dysregulated diabetes who received a daily dose of broccoli sprout extract — containing an amount of sulforaphane equivalent to about 11 pounds (5 kilos) of broccoli — in addition to metformin had 10 percent lower fasting blood glucose levels than the placebo group. This is a significant enough improvement to reduce your risk of health complications, according to the authors, who described sulforaphane’s effects as follows:27

“Sulforaphane suppressed glucose production from hepatic cells by nuclear translocation of [Nrf2] and decreased expression of key enzymes in gluconeogenesis.

Moreover, sulforaphane reversed the disease signature in the livers from diabetic animals and attenuated exaggerated glucose production and glucose intolerance by a magnitude similar to that of metformin. Finally, sulforaphane, provided as a concentrated broccoli sprout extract, reduced fasting blood glucose and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) in obese patients with dysregulated type 2 diabetes.”

No effect was seen in patients whose diabetes was already well-regulated. According to the authors, broccoli extract may be a good complement to metformin, as the two compounds reduce blood glucose in very different ways. While metformin sensitizes your cells to insulin, thereby increasing cellular uptake of glucose (which reduces blood levels), sulforaphane acts by suppressing liver enzymes that stimulate glucose production.

For patients who cannot tolerate metformin, the supplement may be “an ideal substitute.”28 In future tests, the researchers will evaluate the effects of sulforaphane on people with prediabetes to see whether it might help prevent type 2 diabetes from developing in the first place.

Sulforaphane Also Combats Fatty Liver

As discussed in a recent Bulletproof blog post, the protein Nrf2 binds to antioxidant response element (ARE), a “master switch” that regulates antioxidant and glutathione production in your body. This helps explain why sulforaphane appears to offer such potent protection against chronic disease, as sulforaphane activates Nrf2.

In addition to combating diabetes and cancer, broccoli may also be an important dietary intervention for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects up to 25 percent of Americans,29 including children. NAFLD is defined as an excessive accumulation of fats in your liver in the absence of significant alcohol consumption.

The overconsumption of net carbs, especially fructose from processed foods, soda and juices, is strongly associated with NAFLD which, if left untreated, can raise your risk of liver cancer. Research30 suggests the fat-forming and pro-inflammatory effects of fructose may be due to transient ATP (the chemical storage form of energy) depletion.

This in turn leads to uric acid formation, which at excessively high levels acts as a pro-oxidant inside your cells. According to an animal study published in 2016, long-term consumption of broccoli may reduce your chances of developing fatty liver caused by the standard American diet by lowering triglyceride levels in your liver.31,32

Other Health-Promoting Compounds in Broccoli

Aside from sulforaphane, broccoli contains several other health-promoting nutrients and compounds, including:

Fiber, which helps nourish your gut microbiome to strengthen your immune function and reduce your risk of inflammatory diseases.33 Fiber also activates a gene called T-bet, which is essential for producing immune cells in the lining of your digestive tract.34

These immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells (ILCs), help maintain balance between immunity and inflammation in your body and produce interleukin-22, a hormone that helps protect your body from pathogenic bacteria. ILCs even help resolve cancerous lesions and prevent the development of bowel cancers and other inflammatory diseases

Glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate precursor of sulforaphane that influences carcinogenesis and mutagenesis.35,36 Compared to mature broccoli, broccoli sprouts can contain up to 20 times more glucoraphanin

Phenolic compounds, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, which have a potent ability to eliminate damaging free radicals and quell inflammation,37,38,39 resulting in a lower risk for diseases such as asthma, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.40 One of the ways phenolic compounds slow the encroachment of disease is by defending against infection, most dramatically by zapping ROS linked to atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

Diindolylmethane (DIM). Your body produces DIM when it breaks down cruciferous vegetables. Like many other broccoli compounds, DIM has shown multiple potential benefits, including boosting your immune system and helping to prevent or treat cancer41,42

Nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), an enzyme involved in the production of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a compound involved in mitochondrial health and energy metabolism. NAD may slow age-related decline in health by restoring your metabolism to more youthful levels.43,44,45

Previous research has shown that, with age, your body loses its capacity to create NAD — an effect thought to be related to, or the result of, chronic inflammation. Studies have also shown that taking NAD directly is ineffective. Instead, you’re better off taking its precursor, NMN, found in broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, avocado and other green vegetables. Once in your system, NMN is quickly converted into NAD

Lightly Steam Your Broccoli to Boost Sulforaphane Content

When you eat raw mature broccoli, you only get about 12 percent of the total sulforaphane content theoretically available based on the parent compound. You can increase this amount and really maximize the cancer-fighting power of broccoli by preparing it properly.

In the video above, Professor Emerita Elizabeth Jeffery, a former researcher in the dietary mechanisms of cancer prevention at the University of Illinois, delves into this,46 which shows that steaming your broccoli for three to four minutes is ideal. Do not go past five minutes.

Steaming your broccoli spears for three to four minutes will optimize the sulforaphane content by eliminating epithiospecifier protein — a heat-sensitive sulfur-grabbing protein that inactivates sulforaphane — while still retaining the enzyme myrosinase, which converts glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. Without it, you cannot get any sulforaphane.

Boiling or microwaving your broccoli past the one-minute mark is NOT recommended, as it will destroy a majority of the myrosinase. If you want to boil your broccoli, blanch it in boiling water for no more than 20 to 30 seconds, then immerse it in cold water to stop the cooking process.

Adding Mustard Seed Can Maximize Sulforaphane Content Even Further

The sulforaphane content can be further optimized by adding a myrosinase-containing food to it.47 Foods containing this important enzyme include:

Adding a myrosinase-rich food is particularly important if you do not steam or flash-blanche raw broccoli. For example, frozen broccoli typically has a reduced amount of myrosinase as it’s already been blanched as part of the processing. Boiling or microwaving it further can easily lead to it being more or less devoid of sulforaphane. So, if you’re using frozen broccoli, be sure to add a food that contains myrosinase (see list above).

If you prefer raw food, you’d be better off eating raw broccoli sprouts instead of mature broccoli, as they’re a far more potent source of sulforaphane. Tests show three-day-old broccoli sprouts consistently contain up to 50 times the amount of anticancer compounds found in mature broccoli, including sulforaphane.49,50,51 This super-charged nutrient density means you can eat far less of them while still maximizing your benefits.

Why You Should Always Use Organic Red Onions

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and smelled the tantalizing sizzle of sautéed onions moving past to another table? You may wonder why you didn't order the same thing, and resolve to get out some onions and other veggies for your next evening's meal.

But did you know there's a difference between all the onion varieties in the way they impact your health? Besides the fact that both red and white onions are a low glycemic food,1 a new study has determined that red onions are superior in many ways, one of the most important being the dramatic influence they had on study participants' cancer risk. It also turns out that, among five onion varieties, red onions kill between three and four times more cancer cells than the yellow and white ones.

The Canadian study, no doubt prompted at least in part because cancer is that country's leading cause of death, noted that the high levels of flavonoids, specifically quercetin, myricetin and kaempferol, in the five onion types were shown to "exert potential anticancer activities." Further:

"All onion varieties exhibited antiproliferative activity similar to purified flavonoids. The cytotoxic effects of the Stanley and Fortress onion varieties were strongest among the selected cultivars."2

What other nutritional benefits do red onions have compared to white onions? Besides being milder, one advantage is antioxidant activity, which is one reason they have a greater ability to protect against cancer. Health Extremist3 lists stomach, colorectal, oral, laryngeal, esophageal and ovarian cancers as being types the properties in red onions help reduce. In fact, stomach cancer risk was cut in half. While both red and white onions help to thin your blood, red onions are better at it due to their rich flavonoid presence.

One more bit of wisdom: The outside skins of onions contain the highest nutrients. If you should remove the two outermost layers, you'd also be removing 75 percent of the anthocyanin content, which you do not want to do. Scientists suggest eating at least one red onion per week to get the most nutritional benefit. There are numerous delicious ways to do this: Cut them up in cold salads, slice them for a colorful, zippy layer on a cheeseburger, and toss them into your sautéed veggies.

More From the Canadian Onion Study

To test the capabilities of the different onion cultivars, the researchers utilized a newly developed technique to extract quercetin and other compounds, then placed them in direct contact with human colorectal cancer cells.

All five onion species were deemed "excellent" at exterminating the cells, according to co-author Suresh Neethirajan, Ph.D., associate professor of bioengineering. However, it was the Ruby Ring, a red onion variety, that contained the highest total phenolic content, natural compounds produced by plants.

The onions used in the study that had the highest concentrations of quercetin compared to other onion varieties from around the world happened to be grown in Ontario, but the authors of the study say it's likely that the same findings would take place if the same type of red onions were grown elsewhere. Funding for the study came from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

The scientists who used the quercetin-extraction technique, involving heated water in a pressurized container, say they hope their work will soon lead other scientists to use this or similar methods for quercetin extraction. Stressing that the technique did not utilize toxic solvents or chemicals like other methods use for this purpose, they also hope quercetin from red onions "will one day be added to a variety of fortified foods and even medicines."

However, rather than waiting for that day, you can extract the same healing compounds by eating them whole. Studies like this one are helpful because, when you're getting ready to make a large green salad with all the good greens and other veggies, you'll know which type to put in your shopping cart, or better yet, which onion seeds or bulbs to plant in your garden.

Quercitin, Anthocyanins and Other Disease-Fighting Compounds

A plethora of studies have already determined that quercetin helps lower heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure risks. It also helps reduce the rate at which cancer cells grow, particularly ovarian, prostate, endometrial, breast, colon and lung tumors. If you're an onion lover, you'll be happy to know that red onions provide 25 percent of the flavonols you need per day, according to a chart produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).4

Onions contain about 25 different anthocyanins, Health Extremist5 reports. This is the plant pigment that supports the onion's free radical scavenging activities. Free radicals are partial molecules responsible for inflammation leading to other health damaging conditions, as they steal electrons from many of your body's proteins, damage your DNA and cause numerous aspects of other serious disease.

Anthocyanins are the compounds responsible for the dark red, purple and blue colors in fruits and vegetables. In fact, they are so powerful that many scientists recommend eating dark-hued vegetables — red cabbage, purple grapes, blackberries, kale, strawberries, blueberries and beets, for example — for this very reason; they contain more of this compound. As explains:

"The researchers recently found that onions are effective at killing breast cancer cells, as well. They say that onions appear to disrupt communication between cancer cells and promote an unfavorable environment for their growth, encouraging them to die. The next step, they add, will be testing these theories in human trials."6

Allicin is another compound found in members of the allium family, which includes onions, leeks, shallots, scallions and the herbs garlic and chives. When they're cut or crushed, the allicin produced has also been found to be heart protective, to lower blood pressure and both prevent and treat cancer.

Organically-Grown Onions: Are They More Nutritious?

In 2013, a huge group of studies — more than 200, actually — were scrutinized to see if organically grown foods had any more to offer compared to those produced conventionally. Many scientists ultimately concluded they were not. Others begged to differ.

Since then, further reviews have determined just the opposite. In the longest-running study ever on the issue, organic foods were found to contain more health-benefiting phytochemicals, and that flavonoid levels and antioxidant activity in organic onions are higher than in conventional onions. According to Science Daily:

"The authors propose that the conflicting results from previous research on organic and conventional crops' phytochemical content could be a function of short study periods and the exclusion of variables such as weather … Over the six-year study, measurements confirmed that weather could be a factor in flavonoid content, regardless of whether they were grown under organic conditions."7

Experts determined that flavonols from the Red Baron onion decreased in 2010 when temperatures were lowest, and increased in both 2011 and 2014 when the climate had both higher temperatures and lower moisture. Researchers reported that antioxidant activity was higher in Red Baron and Hyskin organic onion varieties, and the flavonols were as much as 20 percent higher in the organic veggies.

Naturally, it's good to know what other nutritional benefits come from red onions. Heal With Food8 says that just half of a red onion has antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent several disorders and diseases, many of them related, such as:

  • Prevention and control of  intestinal polyp formation
  • Inhibiting the rhinoviruses that cause the common cold
  • Treating psoriasis
  • Slowing the replication of such viruses as the herpes simplex virus that leads to cold sores
  • Reducing the risk of stomach cancer by 50 percent
In Case You're Looking for More

Chromium, a trace mineral, is yet another compound contained in onions that is able to control glucose levels, Heal With Food says.

"This is great news for those who suffer from insulin resistance as chromium is an essential for insulin activity in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism. A lack of chromium-rich foods, such as onions, in diet may lead to insulin resistance and impaired blood sugar control and may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, there is some evidence suggesting that severe chromium deficiency may make weight loss more difficult or even cause weight gain."9

Fiber is a very important component to your diet, and onions don't disappoint. While you need both soluble and insoluble fiber, and most foods provide both, red (or purple) onions contain more soluble than insoluble fiber. Healthy Eating has a good explanation for why it's so important:

"Soluble fiber attracts fluid in your gut, creating a slow-moving gel. This slows digestion, which allows vitamins and minerals to absorb through intestinal walls. Insoluble fiber from the skins of onions sweeps out your gut like a broom and helps you have regular bowel movements.

According to the Colorado State University Extension, you need 14 grams of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories you consume. Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, you need 28 grams of daily fiber. Purple onions offer about 1.5 grams per 1/2-cup raw serving."10

Minimal heating keeps most of the healthy compounds in onions, but the more they're heated, the more of the nutrition they lose. The George Mateljan Foundation,11 dedicated to the healthiest ways to cook and eat, says that sautéing or steaming onions, the most recommended methods, follow three basic guidelines from the annals of food science research in terms of retaining the most nutrients possible, and they're very simple and straightforward:

  • Minimal heat exposure
  • Minimal cooking duration
  • Minimal contact with cooking liquid

One more thing: Vitamin C, another abundant nutrient in raw red onions, does several important jobs throughout your body. It helps wounds heal and allows for greater elasticity, helps to build collagen, and has antioxidant capabilities that expand the free radical-fighting job done by flavonoids. Women need 75 milligrams (mg) per day, but men require 90 mg a day. Luckily, it's not a difficult task, no matter how you prepare your onions, as you get about 12 mg in a single half-cup serving.

Health Benefits of Artichokes

Mon, 06/26/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

You've probably tasted artichokes and enjoy them in soups and on pizza for their zesty, unique flavor. But you may not be aware there are artichoke supplements, which are helpful as a powerful probiotic and antioxidant. The probiotic part helps your gut regain equilibrium, while the antioxidants are instrumental in fighting free radicals that cause many diseases, including cancer, heart attack and Alzheimer's. A plethora of nutrients simultaneously benefit your health in many other ways.

For a little background on this interesting plant, there are two botanical varieties: the globe artichoke, suggested for culinary use, is Cynara scolymus and the cardoon is Cynara cardunculus. They're beautiful plants, depicted by artists for their interesting construction and vibrant colors: pale gold on the inside; thick rubbery "petals" in shades of pale green, sometimes tinged with purple, on the outside.

If the plant reminds you of a thistle, it's because it belongs to the same perennial family. Artichoke history springs from the Mediterranean, with a surge in popularity in the 1500s after having waned following the fall of Rome. Today, California has the perfect climate to produce most of the artichokes grown in the U.S. Organic Facts explains how the edible part of artichokes are the buds that form within the flower head, before it fully blooms:

"Timing is key in cultivating them, as they turn hard and nearly inedible once the flower has fully bloomed. Also, one of the most sought after parts of the thistle is the "heart," which is the base from which the other buds spring. It is often considered a delicacy, or at least the most delicious part of the plant, and is typically more expensive."1

Artichoke — A Most Versatile Plant

One of the most sought-after aspects of this unique food is its amazing versatility. Cooked artichoke leaves can be used individually as "artichips" for dipping salsa or any creamy concoction you love instead of tortilla chips. Use them as an edible bowl, serving cold or hot soups or chicken salad. The hearts are great sliced up as a pizza topping or in stir-fries. You can pickle or ferment artichokes with other veggies, and they're also good roasted, or chopped up and added to soups, casseroles or quiche.

The fact that artichoke supplements are available hints at a little-known fact: They contain silymarin (also contained in milk thistle), which provides even more antioxidants than blueberries, dark chocolate and red wine, per serving,2 and artichoke ranks No. 7 on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list. Depending on which list you look at, artichokes are nearly always in the top 10 most antioxidant-rich foods.3

You've heard about artichoke hearts, which are very healthy on their own, but Self Hacked notes that artichoke leaf extracts contain more health benefits than eating the artichoke heart alone.4 Speaking of hearts, one study shows that the globe artichoke variety has a better balance between potassium and sodium than many foods, which is important for optimal health.

Artichokes and Blood Pressure, Brain Benefits and More

While the luteolin in artichokes reduce cholesterol, which can contribute to plaque formation in your arteries, it also increases eNOS activity, the enzyme responsible for producing nitric oxide, which acts to widen your blood vessels for decreased blood pressure (although in 2009, researchers weren't sure how it worked).5 Enzymes known as metalloproteinases are major contributors to heart disease. Self Hacked explains:

"These enzymes play a key role in plaque accumulation and rupture in the arteries, which can trigger heart attacks. MMP-9, a metalloproteinase, is involved in the body's natural process of tissue repair and breakdown. It breaks down proteins, which can contribute to disease progression. High levels of metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9) are also correlated with heart attack and stroke. Artichoke (cardoon) extract inhibits the MMP-9 activity in rats, likely due to its antioxidant properties."6

Ocean Mist,7 the California farm called the "artichoke capital of the world," notes a study on elderly individuals who were given artichoke supplements, after which researchers determined that the vitamin K they contain — 12 percent of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) — has important functions in the brain, such as sulfotransferase activity, as well as the activity of a growth factor/tyrosine kinase receptor. Additionally:

"The hypothesis is now proposed that vitamin K deficiency contributes to the pathogenesis of AD [Alzheimer's disease] and that vitamin K supplementation may have a beneficial effect in preventing or treating the disease. Vitamin K may also reduce neuronal damage associated with cardiovascular disease."8

Artichokes contain 107 micrograms of folic acid in every serving, which is more than a quarter of the DRI, serving to protect pregnant women from neural tube defects in their unborn fetuses and other problems related to pregnancy and childbirth, including pre-eclampsia and congenital heart defects.9

Beneficial Compounds in Artichokes

A myriad of factors (such as optimal and consistent hours of sleep, low sugar intake, and regular consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables) can make or break your body's ability to fight disease. When you eat antioxidant-rich foods like artichoke, your potential for better health is improved. A number of artichoke benefits are listed below:

Improved gut health10

✓ Lowered blood pressure

✓ Stronger bones

✓ Enhanced immunity

✓ Reduced cholesterol

RNA and DNA health

✓ Protection against lead toxicity11

✓ Weight loss12

✓ Heart protection13

✓ Improved skin health

✓ Indigestion relief

✓ Protection against pain reliever overdose14

Some of the star players, when it comes to antioxidants, are the polyphenols, which have chemopreventive properties, meaning they can stop, slow and even reverse cancer. One study showed that properties in artichoke can cause programmed cell death in cancer cells, called apoptosis, halt the formation of new cancer cells and in breast cancer cells, may inhibit their ability to divide without harming normal cells.15 Further:

"Artichoke leaf extract also has antitumor effects in mesothelioma (a type of cancer caused by asbestos in tissues that line the lungs, stomach or heart) cancer cells. It reduced cell growth and migration."16

The polyphenols in artichokes come largely from quercetin and rutin, two specific antioxidant types that studies have revealed can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Of the multiple clinical findings reporting on the presence of rutin and quercetin in artichokes, one noted their ability to exhibit "mitigating radiation-induced mortality and cytogenetic damage, which may be attributed to the scavenging of radiation-induced free radicals."17

Liver function is important for anyone wanting a healthy body, and artichoke helps by boosting the production of bile, which eliminates dangerous toxins and digestive fats due to their cynarin content. Additionally, the aforementioned silymarin which Health Fitness Revolution18 explains "hinders the process of lipid peroxidation from occurring in the cell membranes of liver tissues."

Still another study19 showed rutin to be an antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-allergic agent;20 another indicated its capacity to "exhibit significant anti-diabetic activity, presumably by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines, improving antioxidant and plasma lipid profiles."21

Rutin was found to also have potential for neurodegenerative disorders, improve endothelial function, increase thyroid iodide uptake without greatly affecting thyroid function, induce bone formation, improve renal function and show therapeutic potential for cognitive deficits, and that's only part of the benefits scientists have uncovered.22

Gut Health: An Important Advantage of Artichoke Intake

One comprehensive review on artichokes began by saying that artichoke leaf extract was one of the few herbal remedies where both "clinical and experimental trials have complemented each other." While deemed inconclusive in 2015, the study asserted that mentioning the artichoke's digestive and bowel advantages were justified, and that eating it helped to accelerate "gut movement," and supported both fat digestion and vitamin absorption.23

Self Hacked24 notes several studies explaining different nuances regarding stomach troubles and the ways eating artichokes can help. Indigestion, bloating, nausea and heartburn are the symptoms which, collectively, define dyspepsia. Even irritable bowel syndrome, which seems much more prevalent in recent years, is alleviated by artichoke consumption. Additionally, both globe and cardoon varieties have been used to treat gout, stomach distress and diabetes.25

Compounds in artichoke include luteolin, caffeoylquinic acid, chlorogenic acid, apigenin, sterols and inulin, as well as multiple hydroxybenzoic acids, hydroxycinnamic acids, lignans, flavones and flavonols, according to a study at the University of Granada, Spain's, department of analytical chemistry. Minerals include potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium, zinc, copper and manganese.26

Numerous other compounds and phytonutrients that contribute to artichokes' ability to decrease inflammation and promote gut health have been cited in studies, which in turn relates to cancer prevention, in part by binding toxins for removal from your body. The inulin, in particular, is a sweet-tasting substance that can increase the number of beneficial microorganisms in your intestines. Then there's the fiber, about which Health Fitness Revolution notes:

"Oats, step aside. Prunes? Yeah right. Artichoke wears the crown for highest natural fiber content of any vegetable and over most grains. Many people are absolutely shocked to learn that a mere 120 grams of artichoke has over 10 grams of fiber, or nearly half of your daily requirement. Hail to the fiber king!"27

Fiber is great, but it's only beneficial if it's actually ingested. As it stands now, the average American consumes only half of the 30 grams (just over an ounce) of dietary fiber recommended by the USDA for men, and the 38 grams recommended for women.28 A single artichoke (about 120 grams) can have a huge impact, as it provides 10.3 grams of fiber.

How to Select and Prepare Artichokes

When selecting to eat, choose the heaviest and most firm, just as you would when choosing a cabbage; however, there are four sizes, ranging from baby (golf ball sized) to jumbo (softball sized). They should appear fresh rather than dried-out looking. At home, before refrigeration, carve a thin slice off the stem, sprinkle the leaves with water and store in an airtight plastic bag to use within the week.

The methods for cooking artichokes vary, and every one of them has an impressive presentation, whether they're stuffed, grilled, steamed or baked. Depending on the way you want to serve them, you may want to cook them first (or not), but first, use a soft vegetable brush under cold water to remove the invisible film produced as the vegetable grows. Use a sharp knife to "top and tail," or slice the stem off (straight if you want them to sit up) as well as the top inch of the leaves so the layers of petals are exposed.

If you want, you can use sharp kitchen shears to cut off the "thorns" on the outside of the lower leaves, although they do soften with cooking. However you cook them, cool them completely before refrigeration.

• Steamed — You can steam artichokes, stems up, in a double boiler, one of the best ways to retain the most nutrients as they're lost to the water if you boiled them. Boil the water in the bottom pan and allow them to steam, covered, for about 30 minutes if they're small and 45 to 60 minutes for the jumbo variety. Check for doneness with a sharp knife inserted through the base (sort of like a baked potato).

• Baked or grilled — Break off the tough outer leaves and, after cutting that inch off the top, spread the petals apart somewhat and drizzle on a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt.

Next, double wrap them in heavy-duty foil (with the shiny part touching the artichokes) and twist the top to keep heat from escaping, and inserting them into a preheated 425-degree (Fahrenheit) oven. Again, the size determines the baking time, with the smallest ones baking at around 45 minutes and the jumbos for an hour and 15 minutes.

• Raw — To use artichokes in the raw, cut the top inch off the petals, then use a spoon to carefully scoop out the "fuzzy" choke without removing the artichoke heart. What's left is a pretty bowl-shaped vegetable, ready for stuffing or adding a dip.

Dietary Fats — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Fats are an essential part of your diet. However, not all fats are created equal. So, how do you know you're eating healthy, high-quality fat? In this interview, Dr. Cate Shanahan answers this important question.

Shanahan is a family physician and author of "Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food," originally published in 2008. A revised and updated version was issued this year. Herself an avid athlete, having competed in the Olympic Trials, she has also done consulting work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Shanahan's journey into nutrition started when she got sick. She ended up doing a deep dive into biochemistry and molecular biology, looking for a connection between her health problem and her diet, and found it didn't reconcile with what she'd been taught in medical school.

"I was practicing family medicine in Hawaii at that time. I had gone to medical school with this fantasy that I would get to the underlying cause of diseases, particularly the ones that I tended to get as an athlete, which were connected to tissue.

I had bursitis and every '–itis' … I was a runner … I actually had a scholarship [and] qualified for the Olympic trials [in] the 1,500-meter race …  In 2001 … I developed this problem in my knee where I ended up not being able to walk more than just a few steps without getting pain, swelling and fevers.

Going from being a high-level athlete, exercising an hour or two a day, to being couch-bound, I felt like my life was over … I didn't know what was wrong. I'd had surgery. I'd gone to so many specialists and nothing helped."

The Dietary Roots of Pain and Inflammation

Then, her husband suggested her sugar habit might have something to do with it. She would add a special concoction of caramel sauce and a quarter cup of sugar to her coffee every day. After running for 10 miles, she'd polish off a bag of M&M's, thinking nothing of it since she wasn't overweight and exercised.

"He physically handed me a book so that I could start reading it, because I was so stubborn," she says. "The book he gave me was Andrew Weil's 'Spontaneous Healing: How to Discover and Embrace Your Body's Natural Ability to Maintain and Heal Itself.'

The phrase that got me was [how] omega-3 fatty acids are like vitamins. That completely blew my mind because I thought fats were bad for you. They were all the same. I didn't know there were essential fats the body needed for anything in particular that we couldn't make …

I was like, 'What? There are fats that are good for you? What is this?' Even though I couldn't walk, I flew to Oahu. I had to get a wheelchair through the airport so I could go to the medical library … This was 2001-ish. We didn't have Google. Amazon didn't deliver to Hawaii at that time …

I got three textbooks about fatty acids and biochemistry. I read them cover to cover. By the time I was done, I realized there was so much more to the science of nutrition than what we had learned."

Surprise! Saturated Fats Are Good for You Download Interview Transcript

As like so many other conventional doctors, Shanahan was convinced saturated fats were bad — very bad — and cholesterol should be avoided at all costs. Polyunsaturated fats like vegetable oils and margarine, on the other hand, were good for you. At that time, trans fats were largely unknown. Omega-3s also did not get much public recognition.

"I couldn't believe it," Shanahan says. "I was like, 'How could all of medicine be so wrong?'" A key principle that made her realize the importance of dietary fats for health was the understanding of how fats oxidize.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in vegetable oils) have highly perishable bonds that react with oxygen, creating a free radical cascade that turns normal fatty acids in your body into dangerous high-energy molecules that zip around, wreaking havoc in a way similar to that of radiation.

"I started listening more to my patients who were really into cooking … I realized that, really, the key thing as their connection to nature. They were in touch with everything … [They would] use every single part of the animal … they would eat everything … The fish, they would actually save the fish guts and start fermenting them under the counter for six months," Shanahan says.

Considering the high amounts of sugar Shanahan used to eat, it's quite obvious she was — like most people eating a modern, Americanized diet — burning sugar as her primary fuel. This caused mitochondrial dysfunction that, in her case, surfaced as inflammation in her knees. This is the premise of my new book, "Fat for Fuel: A Revolutionary Diet to Combat Cancer, Boost Brain Power, and Increase Your Energy."

Like I did, Shanahan concluded that you actually need 60 to 85 percent of your daily calories in the form of fat. But not all fats qualify, and this is why Shanahan's book is such a gold mine. She really gets into the details of the different kinds of fats, and explains why vegetable oils, such as soy, canola and corn oil, are so toxic to the human body.

This understanding is shared by only a tiny handful of lipid scientists in the world because it's so technical, which is why we've not heard it brought into the forefront of nutrition science where it belongs, because it changes everything.

Vegetable Oils Decimate Health in More Ways Than One 

The sad reality is that industrially processed vegetable oils are pervasive in the average American's diet. Statistics show the average American gets somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of their calories from these oils — not because they cook with them, but because they're in so many processed foods.

Refined processed vegetable oils are in salad dressings and in restaurant meals; they can even be labeled organic. The reason vegetable oils are bad for you have to do with their molecular structure.

"Vegetable oils are polyunsaturated. That means they have two double bonds [in close proximity]… That chemical structure has very important consequences for how these oils change when we manipulate them for processing and refining … and then again when they're cooked with," Shanahan says.

Polyunsaturated fat found in processed vegetable oils is not harmful in and of itself, but becomes so if and when you eat too much of it, and/or when the oils degrade, which occurs during refining, processing and heating (cooking). Not only can they form trans fats if heated high enough, but they can also form cyclic aldehydes, which are even more harmful.

If you regularly eat processed foods, you are virtually guaranteed to get too much of these oils — upward of 10 times more than your body can safely handle — and due to the intense refining and processing that goes into processed foods, the oils are going to be highly degraded and therefore toxic.

Oxidative Stress Is the Great Disease Maker

In Chapter 7 of "Deep Nutrition," Shanahan details how polyunsaturated fats consumed in excess affect your liver proteins to cause arteriosclerosis, for example. This is why avoiding processed foods of all kinds is so important if you value your health.

"Oxidative stress is what happens when your body has all these free radicals deteriorating in your body. Oxidative stress is the great disease maker. Every chronic disease we now know is associated with oxidative stress. There's not a disease you can name that isn't … When there's a lot of oxidative stress, your immune system doesn't work as well."

Ultimately, that oxidative stress impacts your mitochondria, which is why it produces so many symptoms. The mitochondria, of course, have cell membranes, and those membranes are made of fat, especially in your brain, and Shanahan does a great job explaining how damaged fats impact your brain health.

Your Brain Needs Healthy Fats

Your brain is about 50 percent fat by dry weight, and about 30 percent of that are the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. Both are equally important, Shanahan notes. The problem is, most people get very little omega-3 and far too much omega-6, most of which is badly damaged by oxidation due to processing.

One of the reasons your brain is so susceptible to aging and age-related diseases is because you have high quantities of these highly reactive, easily oxidized fatty acids in your brain. To maintain optimal brain function, you need high quality, undamaged omega-3s and omega-6 along with antioxidants to protect them from oxidation. In summary, processed vegetable oils are bad for your brain health for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • They are loaded with damaged omega-6 fatty acids without protective antioxidants
  • They strip your liver of glutathione, which produces antioxidant enzymes, which further lowers your antioxidant defenses
  • Most vegetable oils are made with genetically engineered (GE) crops designed to resist herbicides like glyphosate. As such, they're typically far more contaminated with glyphosate than non-GE crops, and glyphosate has been shown to disrupt the tight junctions in your gut and increase penetration of foreign invaders, especially heated proteins, which can cause allergies

Toxic breakdown products found in vegetable oils inhibit an enzyme called delta-6 desaturase (delta-6). Perhaps the most important fat you need for brain and physical health is the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is absolutely critical because your body does not actually burn it for fuel; rather, the DHA gets integrated into your cellular membranes. DHA is also essential for the conversion of photons from the sun into electric current to energize your mitochondria.

Research shows that restricting omega-6 in the diet enables your liver to function better, allowing it to elongate short-chain omega-3s more efficiently. This process involves delta-6, and this enzyme is inhibited by toxic breakdown products in vegetables oils. High insulin levels will also inhibit this enzyme.

Cooking From Scratch Is Key

A key strategy for avoiding these pernicious toxins is to eat real food, and that means cooking most of your meals at home.

"The first step I recommend to my patients … is to start with a healthy breakfast … Have good quality pastured [grass fed, organic raw] milk or cream, if you can get it, or at least organic, in your coffee. That's going to help you burn fat. No carbs, but plenty of healthy natural fat.

You could also have eggs with cheese, butter and maybe whatever vegetables you like for flavor — not the starchy vegetables obviously. Those are two examples of a really healthy breakfast … If you have a very high-fat breakfast … then you don't have that hunger drive anywhere near as strong by lunch. You don't have to snack … You can concentrate better …"

In the transition phase, when you're initially teaching your body to burn fat as its primary fuel, you may be better off putting grass fed butter into your coffee instead, as milk has sugar in the form of galactose. Another important strategy is to avoid added oils and just eat the whole food that the oils are derived from. If you want avocado oil, use avocados. If you want flaxseed oil, use flax seeds. If you want sesame seed oil, use sesame seeds.

Olive oil is an exception as it's not a processed oil. It's actually pressed, although there's the issue of adulteration. The vast majority of olive oil on the market is adulterated with other low-quality vegetables oils. Coconut oil is another exception from the above rule. As noted by Shanahan, "This is why when people go on the Esselstyn or the Ornish diet and avoid all added oils, they do experience benefits. [They're] getting these toxic oils out of their diet."

4HNE — A Little-Known Toxin in Polyunsaturated Fats

Another important piece of information relates to 4-hydroxynonenal (4HNE), which forms during the processing of most vegetable oils. 4HNE is highly toxic, especially to your gut bacteria, and consumption of 4HNE has been correlated with having an obesogenic balance of gut flora.

"They've actually done studies where they create fat mice and then take that gut flora from the fat mice and give it to skinny mice. It changes the way the mice behave. They get more anxious. Some of the mice will actually eat more. When I looked at this study, I said, 'Well, how did they make these mice fat?'

What they were doing was feeding them a high-fat diet. Here's where it gets really complicated … [M]ost of the studies on high-fat diets that use lard are using lard from animals fed corn and soy. [It's] high in polyunsaturated fatty acids — nearly as [high] as if they were fed corn and soy oil.

So, these so-called high saturated fat diets are far from it. That means we have to rewind hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of research into the so-called health harms of high saturated fat diets that were done in animal studies."

4HNE causes cytotoxicity and DNA damage, and instigates free radical cascades that damage the mitochondrial membrane. According to Shanahan, "You can't design a better delivery vehicle for a toxin that's going to destroy your health slowly over the course of maybe 10, 20 years, depending on the genetics of your antioxidant system capacity."

Shanahan also notes that organic vegetable oil is not the answer here, as 4HNE occurs even if the oil is obtained from organic crops. It's an intrinsic byproduct of the refining and processing of the oil, no matter how healthy the oil initially was.

"As much as 5 percent of [a quart of vegetable oil] can be toxic types of trans fat. That is 50 grams. That's almost 2 ounces. We're talking about 2 ounces of a highly toxic compound versus parts per million, which you can't even measure," Shanahan notes.

Your Body Needs Real Foods

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of "Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food." As noted by Shanahan, "You've got to eat, so you might as well do it right."

While the devil's in the details, and the details may be complicated, the simplest way to understand what a healthy diet consists of is to think back 100 years or so and consider what food was back then, and how it was prepared. What you're aiming for is real food — whole food that is as close to its natural state as possible.

This may be particularly important when it comes to fats. If you're unsure, the easiest way to bypass potential hazards is to eat the whole food rather than the oil from the food, as some of the most dangerous toxins — such as 4HNE — are a byproduct of processing.

"My husband likes to remind me that food should taste good, so you should enjoy what you're eating. You will enjoy what you're eating when you get these vegetable oils and too much sugar out of your diet. You will enjoy the healthy food a lot more. You'll really appreciate it," Shanahan says.

How to Make Thick and Creamy Labneh at Home

Sun, 06/25/2017 - 02:00
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When it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s one particular fermented food you should not miss out on: labneh. Also called yogurt cheese or strained yogurt, this is a spreadable type of cheese that is made by draining out the whey from fresh yogurt.[1]


However, because of its foreign origins, labneh is usually elusive — chances are your only hopes of finding it and tasting its creamy goodness is by dining in Middle Eastern restaurants or scouring ethnic food stores. But did you know that you can make fresh labneh at home? All you need is some homemade yogurt. Try this easy labneh recipe below.



1 1/2  quarts of fresh yogurt

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped dill

1 teaspoon chopped chives



1.       Set the sieve above your bowl.

2.       Fold the cheesecloth into quarters and set it inside the sieve.

3.       Mix the yogurt with unrefined salt.

4.       Pour the yogurt and salt mixture into the sieve lined with cheesecloth.

5.       Tie the cheesecloth and set it in the strainer. Make sure there’s enough space between the strainer and the bowl to ensure the whey will never reach the sieve during the straining process.

6.       After the yogurt has strained for about 24 hours, gently remove the cheesecloth.

7.       Roll the labneh into small walnut-sized balls and gently place into a Mason jar with fresh dill and chives, then cover with the oil.


The Benefits of Eating Fermented Foods


Regularly eating fermented foods is among the top dietary strategies that any person can implement, and is in fact one of the cornerstones of optimal health. I believe that most people would benefit from adding more fermented foods to their meals, as addressing your gut flora can positively impact most health conditions, whether chronic or acute.


Here are just some of the ways that consuming fermented foods can boost your well-being:


Helps reduce risk of infection from pathogenic microorganisms

Improves digestive function, leading in reduced constipation or diarrhea


Helps improve and reduce the risk for atopic dermatitis (eczema) and acne


May help manage weight (certain fermented foods like kimchi are found to have anti-obesity effects in animals)


Helps improve inflammatory bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and necrotizing enterocolitis


Reduces risk of urinary and female genital tract infections


May reduce the risk of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's disease

Lowers the risk for type 1 and 2 diabetes

Improves mental health, mood control and behavior



Remember that different fermented foods contain varying strains of bacteria, which is why you should add a wide arsenal of cultured foods to your meals in order to optimize microbial diversity — and labneh is one of the best types out there.


You’ll Never Run Out of Uses for Labneh


Labneh, also pronounced labne, lebnah or labaneh, is loved by many for its creamy and tangy flavor. It can be consumed as a dip or spread, topped with a dash of za’atar spice or fresh herbs, plus a drizzle of olive oil, or added to various recipes.


Labneh is also sometimes called Greek yogurt, although there is a slight difference between the two. The former is usually more strained, resulting in an ultra-thick, cream cheese-like consistency. What’s more, labneh is more popular in savory applications, while Greek yogurt is usually mixed in sweet recipes.[2]


But this doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself when it comes to using labneh in your meals. This cheese-like food is extremely versatile, and can be enjoyed both cooked and raw.


Labneh works as a replacement for sour cream and cream cheese, and can be added to pastries and baked goods. Try making a healthier cheesecake using this delicious yogurt cheese. One boon of using labneh instead of the usual yogurt is that it does not curdle at high temperatures, mainly because of its high fat content.[3]


One tip: the consistency of the end product depends on how long you strain the yogurt. The longer it’s allowed to strain, the thicker the labneh will be.


Reminder: Don’t Discard the Whey!


Whey, the cloudy and yellowish liquid byproduct of making labneh (and other types of cheese), seems like it doesn’t have a lot of uses, but don’t throw it out — it actually packs a nutritional punch.


Whey is loaded with phosphorus, calcium and B vitamins such as pantothenic acid, B12 and riboflavin. In fact, adding it to your recipes can actually boost the vitamin, mineral and protein content of other foods.[iv] Try these ideas on using the whey from labneh:[v], [vi],[vii]


1.       Add it to your morning smoothies and shakes to boost their nutrition content.

2.       Use it as a substitute for buttermilk in baked goods. You may need to use slightly less whey than the amount of buttermilk the recipe requires. For example, if the recipe needs a cup of buttermilk, use only 3/4 cup of whey.

3.       Use whey instead of water when making lemonade, or try adding it to your tea.

4.       Make lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut using whey — it can help with the fermentation process.

5.       Use it to thin out homemade hummus or pesto sauce.

6.       Cook your quinoa in whey for added flavor.

7.       Add it to your soups and stews (Remember that this will not work for all recipes, though).

8.       Keep feta cheese fresh by submerging it in whey.

9.       Use it to water your plants for extra nourishment. Just remember to dilute the whey with water so it will not “burn” your plants.

10.   Add it to your pet’s food. Whey can also be fed to farm animals.


If you don’t have any immediate need for the whey, don’t worry — you can easily freeze it for future use. Simply pour it into ice cube trays or small cups and place them in the freezer. When you’re ready to use, just pop out the cubes and defrost.[viii]

Homemade Ant Bait — Less Toxic and More Effective

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The tiny ant is a unique marvel of nature. However, after invading your home, you may not find ants so fascinating. It has become convenient to run to the local hardware store for bug killer to rid your home of the pests, but you may be swapping one problem for another, more toxic, one.

Your next option may be to reach for the nontoxic, green product advertised as safe for home and family. Unfortunately, finding a safer option may not be as straightforward as it seems since you can’t judge a book by its cover. Some of these “green” options may not be as harmless as advertised.

Thankfully, there are truly safe options to rid your home of these insects and most of the necessary items can be found at your local grocery or health food store. In order to understand how the products should work, it helps to understand how the ant functions.

The Mighty Ant

In the short video above, you’ll discover five interesting facts about ants that may help you understand how to keep them out of your home and how to stop them from returning. Ants are social insects, living in large groups. They communicate with each other through pheromones. When one ant from a colony finds a food source, it lays out a pheromone trail that other ants from the colony can follow. This is why if one ant from the colony found a way inside your home, others will follow.1

Ants play a vital role in the ecosystem as both engineers and predators.2 They have a positive influence on the density and diversity of other species in their environment, including those further up the food chain. Although frustrating when they’ve accessed your home, these small creatures are actually one of the strongest creatures in relationship to their size.3 They can lift 50 times their own body weight.4 To put this in perspective, if a second-grader were as strong as an ant, she would be able to lift a car!

There are over 12,000 different species of ants living all over the world, except in Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland and parts of Polynesia.5 By sheer number they make up 15 percent of terrestrial animal biomass. Ants are also some of the longest living insects, with the queen of one species living up to 30 years.6

The queen ant is an essential part of the colony. Her responsibility is to mate and lay eggs, sometimes several millions before she dies.7 However, once dead, the remainder of the colony often survives for only another couple of months. The queen of a colony is rarely replaced and worker ants cannot reproduce.

Many ants don’t bite humans but two species are famous for the pain of their sting and the medical costs they incur. The Bullet ant, from the jungles of the Amazon, has a bite that has been compared to being hit by a bullet. While not as painful, the zing of the sting of a fire ant may still send you to the doctor.8

Ants Are as Varied as the Environments Where They’re Found

Red imported fire ants of North America cause a burning sensation; hence, their name. These ants cost Americans millions in doctor and veterinary bills each year, and have been known to damage farmers’ crops. They are known for their distinctive red color and large mounds of dirt that mark their nests. They usually enter homes through cracks and holes.9

Unlike other ants, fire ants are able to adapt to the weather and the environment. The presence of water in their surroundings does not necessarily kill these ants, as they can form rafts with their bodies in order to float.

Fire ants are just one of the common species you may find in North America. Some entomologists believe the sheer number of species could mean there are others that have not yet been identified. However, the four most common in North America include the fire ant, odorous house ant, pavement ants and carpenter ants.

• Odorous house ants

The types of ants typically found in a home are odorous house ants. They emit a rotten coconut smell when crushed, and they nest in houses and emerge through cracks or holes in the walls. They eat dead insects and sweets, and especially enjoy melon.10

• Pavement ants

Pavement ants usually live and breed under pavement and inside cracks, tending to eat just about anything. Their diet consists of insects, grease, seeds, meat, bread, nuts and other food items. Usually, they don’t pose a health threat, but may contaminate food with the waste they leave behind. They are typically found in the eastern half of the U.S.

• Carpenter ants

Carpenter ants get their name as they typically build their homes in wood, and may cause significant damage to your home. There are many different types of carpenter ants. Most colonies are built around one queen, who nests in the wood where she raises her workers. They don’t eat the wood from the nest. Instead their diet consists of other insects, meat, fat and sugary foods.11

Unwanted Indoor Migrations

Ants may take up residence in your home or apartment, but more often they come in to forage and then take food back to the nest.12 Ants may choose to stay in your home for a while if the weather outside becomes inhospitable, such as during a drought, hot weather or during seasons where there are more than normal amounts of water in the ground.

Once ants have discovered a food supply, they leave a trail of pheromones for others in the nest to follow. The kitchen is a favorite place as they may find crumbs of food and a water source.13 Bathrooms are also another place ants may find a water source. Ants may find hiding places inside your walls, bedrooms, basement and air conditioning and heating units.

They also get inside manufacturing plants, so chances are you may be unintentionally eating insects in some of your packaged foods. Parts of the ant may also end up on leaves of lettuce or inside your broccoli. This may happen in the field before the crop is picked, during storage or during processing. For this reason the U.S. Food and Drug Administration makes allowances for a specific amount of bug or bug parts you may find in your food. For instance:14,15

  • Ground cinnamon can contain up to 400 insect fragments per 50 grams
  • Ground marjoram can contain up to 1,175 insect fragments per 10 grams
  • Crushed oregano can contain up to 300 insect fragments per 10 grams
  • Canned tomato juice can contain two whole maggots and not more than 15 fruit fly eggs per 100 grams

It’s certainly unsavory to think about insect parts in your food, but the truth is it probably isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, depending on the species, it may actually add some nutrition. Eating insects is common in many parts of the world, as they offer a unique and sustainable source of protein and calories. Many insects are a good source of fiber, omega-3 fats and nutrients such as zinc, selenium, iron and calcium.

Commercial Ant Bait Is Dangerous to You and Your Pets

Before you run screaming to the hardware store for ant bait after finding a few of these tiny insects crawling on your floors, consider the toxins you may be bringing into your home and exposing to your children and pets. To date, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not mandate the disclosure of inert ingredients in pesticides, which make up nearly 99 percent of the ingredients found in any given pesticide, even though many are known to be toxic.16

Some states would like these ingredients to be disclosed to protect the health of their residents, while manufacturers would like these ingredients to remain hidden to protect their proprietary formulas and increase the distance between their products and any links to significant health conditions. At one time, the EPA considered mandating the release of this information, but as late as 2016 they defended the right of manufacturers to maintain secrecy.17

The EPA defended the decision to keep these inert ingredients secret, stating they didn’t have the time or resources to develop rules and that public comments made in response to the proposal were not sufficient to support proceeding.18 Household products that are classified as pesticides and fall under this rule include insect repellants, flea and tick collars and sprays for your pets.19

Pesticides are linked to a number of health conditions. Some pesticides are linked with cancer, birth defects and nervous system problems, while others are endocrine disruptors. The amount you are exposed to may be as important as the specific toxin itself, as low-level exposure to a highly-toxic chemical may pose the same danger as a high-level exposure to a low-level toxin.20

Infants, children and pets may be especially sensitive as they may absorb more toxins while traveling along the floor, and may be exposed to higher amounts of toxins relative to their body weight.

You may find helpful information on the safety data sheets (SDS), documents providing employees with health and safety information about products and chemicals and mandated by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).21 For instance, information about Combat MAX ant killing bait classifies the product as hazardous and damaging to fertility and unborn children, and comes with warnings that it should be used only with personal protective equipment.22

Defend Your Castle Against Tiny Invaders

Ants make their way into your home through small cracks and crevices in the foundation of your house, around windows or doorframes. Look for where the ants are coming and going. For instance, if you see ants coming in and out of doors and windows, it’s likely the ants are living outside and coming in to forage for food.23

On the other hand, if the ants are moving in and out of cabinets, electrical outlets or the floor, they may have taken up residence inside your home. Here are several strategies to reduce the number of ants that find your home and decide to stay:

• Keep it clean

Keep your kitchen and food preparation areas clean. Once ants find a food source, they tell all their friends, who come to feast on your leftovers. Cover any sweets, cakes or cookies in airtight containers or store them in the refrigerator. Take out the garbage frequently, wipe up food spills and get rid of dirty dish rags. While your home may look clean, if the ants smell the food they will come and keep on coming.

• Cover the holes

Find and seal the entry points the ants are using to access your home. Caulk around windows and doorframes. Pipes, faucets, flooring cracks and sinks give ants access to your home. You may need to have your foundation inspected and holes sealed.

• Landscape changes

Keep tree limbs pruned away from your home and roof as this gives ants easy access to the building. It’s best to keep timbers and mulch at least 1 foot from your foundation and thin your ground cover plants near your foundation.24

• Remove debris and don’t store it near your home

Move debris far from your home, patio or deck.25 Rock piles or boards help retain moisture and draw ants to your home. Inspect under the splash blocks around your foundation, remove any tree stumps and fallen logs or limbs. Do not store firewood close to the house.

When They Get Past Your Defense, Go On the Offense

If these measures don’t stop an invasion of tiny ants into your home, you may have to go on the offensive. These are natural and nontoxic means that will address the issue without creating a human health problem.

• Scent them out

The common ant may be attracted to certain scents, like sweets, but they are repelled by others. Peppermint and mint essential oils top the list of scents they dislike, but that are likely not offensive to you. Try planting mint plants (in pots as they spread rapidly) around the outside of your home. Use mint oil to wipe down the areas where you see the ants trailing around your home. This will stop them from using this trail.

Cayenne pepper, lemon water and cinnamon will not only stop them from entering but will disrupt their sense of smell so they don’t follow the pheromone trail of the ants that came before them.26,27 Coffee grounds is another scent they don’t like. Placing the grounds in areas around your home where they are entering will help to keep them at bay.28 Bay leaves, apple cider vinegar and whole cloves are still more scents that ants won’t cross.29

• Diatomaceous Earth

This functional and effective garden supply is made of ground, fossilized sea phytoplankton. It is both a weapon and a deterrent against a number of pests in your garden and home. Since you’ll likely be adding this to the interior of your home, I recommend you get food grade diatomaceous earth as your children and pets will also have access.

There are both wet and dry applications of the product. It is important you don’t inhale the powder, so take care to wear a mask as you apply. Determine where the ants are coming into your home and sprinkle a thin layer where you’ve seen ants.30 Watch carefully for other areas the ants may use to enter your home and treat those as well. After a month, wipe up the product with a wet cloth.

Four to 6 tablespoons can be added to an 8-ounce spray bottle, fill with water and shake. Gently spray the product one time in the area you’ve identified and wipe away after a month.31

• Borax ant trap

Borax is a versatile cleaning supply made from a naturally occurring mineral that is nontoxic to humans.32 The directions for this homemade ant trap are courtesy of The Healthy Home Economist:33


  • Sugar or aspartame
  • Borax
  • Paper towel or cotton balls
  • Water
  • Saucepan


  1. Warm 1 cup of water slightly in a saucepan; mix in one-half cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons of borax.
  2. Soak the mixture into the cotton balls or paper towels.
  3. Place these in shallow dishes near where you’ve seen the ants.
  4. Do NOT kill the ants you do see. The objective is for the ants to eat from the cotton ball or paper towel and carry the product back to the nest where the borax will disrupt the entire colony.

While the original recipe calls for sugar, it is important to note that the addition of aspartame may also help rid you home of an ant problem. Asparctic acid contained in this toxic product is a well-documented excitotoxin that causes specific brain cells to become excessively excited to the point they quickly die.

Documentary Investigates the Causes and Ramifications of Stress-Related Burnout

Sat, 06/24/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Unless kept in check, stress can wreak absolute havoc on your life, undercutting your health and depressing your very will to live. Around the world, "burnout" is becoming an increasingly pervasive problem, affecting people from all walks of life. Being successful per se will not insulate you from burnout. On the contrary, it may actually raise your risk.

"The Day I Snapped" is a mental health documentary featuring five professionals who walked into the proverbial wall one day, "suddenly" unable to cope any longer. However, as noted in the film, while the crisis may appear sudden, that moment when a person "snaps" is really the culmination of an untenable situation that has been going on for a long time.

Why the Modern Workplace Promotes Burnout

The five individuals in the film suffered burnout due to work-related stress, which is the most typical scenario. But what is it about the modern workplace that pressures people beyond their limits? Key factors highlighted in the film include:

1. People are expected to work at a much faster pace than previously, while frequently having to put in longer hours and/or being closely monitored and evaluated based on a variety of performance metrics. In some workplaces, the pace is so high, they cannot even take a proper lunch break. As noted by one of the individuals in the film, it is the "having no choice in what you do" on any given day that "makes the stress unbearable"

2. Job duties are changing (and expanding) more frequently than before, and when combined with poor direction or guidance from management, it can cause a great deal of uncertainty and performance anxiety

3. Many jobs for which people are trained are being eliminated, thereby preventing many from fulfilling their skill-potential. This in turn can breed unhappiness and feelings of worthlessness

4. Deteriorating social support at home and at work

Are You Headed Toward Burnout?

In the U.K., work is the third leading cause of stress, trailing right behind bereavement and financial woes. In the U.S., work ranks second on the list of sources of significant stress.1

According to the film, nearly 7 million working days are lost each year in the U.K. to stress-related illnesses2 such as skin conditions, insomnia, heart disease, memory impairment, digestive problems, autoimmune disorders and depression, just to name a few. In reality, just about any ailment or disease can be triggered or worsened by stress. Symptoms of burnout include but are not limited to:3

  • Physical exhaustion, signaled by chronic fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, impaired concentration, inattentiveness, physical illness and loss of appetite
  • Emotional exhaustion, a "feeling of internal collapse," loss of perspective, detachment, irritability, frequent anger, loss of enjoyment, pessimism, increasing isolation, apathy and hopelessness
  • Reduced performance and productivity despite best efforts, loss of self-esteem, feeling like a failure
  • Depression

Frequently, people on the road toward burnout will turn to alcohol or other addictive substances in an effort to prop themselves up to avoid the inevitable. Sadly, one of the most serious side effects of burnout is suicide. If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number: (800) 273-TALK (8255). Alternatively, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

Preventing Burnout Is Easier Than Recovering From It

If you recognize the warning signs of burnout in yourself or someone you care about, remember this: Preventing burnout is a lot easier than recovering from it. Recovery usually takes time — six months or more is not uncommon. The five professionals in the film all eventually recovered, through a variety of different means, which highlights the need to be flexible enough to identify your unique needs.

Just as the circumstances that brought you to a crisis point will be unique, so will your recovery. That said, some basic guidelines can be given (see below). A key point that may initially be difficult to accept is that you need to change how you live. The way you've been living so far does not work, and merely taking a few weeks off, only to return right back to it, is rarely going to suffice.

For the featured professionals in the film, all of whom suffered "executive burnout" or burnout brought on by chronic work stress, part of the answer was a change in profession. For three of them, this involved going into business for themselves and doing more physically demanding work, as opposed to working in an office.

How to Reduce Work Stress and Prevent Burnout

If you feel you might be headed toward the proverbial wall, please consider addressing the situation before you break down completely. Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter offers the following advice for those struggling with work stress.4 I've also added some of my own suggestions.

Take inventory. Write down all of the situations that trigger stress in your life: situations that make you feel worried, anxious, frustrated or helpless. Keep adding to this list as you go along. Next to each item on the list, write down what you can do to reduce the stress it's generating, and implement those solutions whenever possible

Just say no. Saying no is one of the best ways to protect your energy reserves. Avoid taking on new responsibilities or commitments while you're in recovery. If something must be done, see if you can delegate the task to someone else. Avoid the trap of thinking no one else will be able to do it as well as you. Sometimes "good enough" really is enough

Schedule breaks and take time to socialize. Make sure you take breaks between projects, to give your mind and body time to recover. Also, be sure to schedule breaks on a daily basis, and do not take work home with you. Cultivating a social life is an important aspect of a well-balanced life, so avoid the temptation to make work your sole focus

Manage your electronic devices wisely. Smartphones, iPads and computers can be an enormous time drain if you don't manage their use well. The constant barrage of message notifications can be a major source of stress in and of itself. Turn down the stress by turning off all notifications on your devices; batch process your emails, at most four times a day, and restrict social media to a specific time or place rather than trying to "keep up" on an hour-by-hour basis

Stop multitasking. Paradoxically, giving up multitasking is one of the key strategies of highly productive people. Focusing on one thing at a time will also make you calmer and less stressed out.

To learn more about why multitasking doesn't work, and how to increase your productivity by doing one thing at a time, please see my previous interview with Dr. Theo Compernolle, author of "Brain Chains: Discover Your Brain, to Unleash Its Full Potential in a Hyperconnected, Multitasking World"

The Importance of Maintaining Balance in Your Life Download Interview Transcript

I recently interviewed Dr. Joseph Maroon on the topic of burnout. He is a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and author of "Square One: A Simple Guide to a Balanced Life," a book that grew out of his own struggles with burnout.

I've included a condensed version here for your convenience. To listen to the full interview, please see "How to Recover From Burnout By Rebalancing Your Life." The recovery plan detailed in "Square One" is based on William H. Danforth's work, which emphasizes that you have not one but four lives to live, a:

  • Physical life
  • Spiritual life
  • Work life
  • Relationship life

Maintaining balance between each of these four life segments is key. Each of these needs to be actively pursued and nourished on a daily basis.

"We all know that you can't avoid stress in this world — divorce, our jobs; 40 percent of people have difficulty with job relationships," Maroon says. "What happens [is], you get an elevated cortisol level in your blood. What does [excess] cortisol do to the brain? It kills brain cells. What does it do to your memory? It reduces memory, our tissues and everything else.

That's what excess chronic unremitting stress [causes], which is what I personally went through. It's incredible depression. Most doctors think depression is [treatable] with antidepressants. I have no doubt that physical activity is the most effective antidepressant we can use …

[It] gets all the neurotransmitters back into order — your dopamine, your serotonin and your acetylcholine. The point is we can't escape adversity. We can't escape stress. But what happened to me is I didn't recognize how bad off I was in a unidimensional life."

How to Regain Balance and Heal Burnout

Based on these four life segments, you can see that to prevent or recover from burnout, you need:

  • Exercise and a healthy diet that optimizes mitochondrial function and limits inflammation (physical nourishment)
  • Mindfulness or some form of spiritual practice (spiritual nourishment)
  • Ideally, work that suits your personality and gives you meaning and purpose; at bare minimum, strategies to control your day-to-day work stress (work-related pursuits)
  • Family time and social contacts, and/or a hobby or volunteer work (relationship-related pursuits)

In a nutshell, recovering from burnout (or avoiding it in the first place) boils down to finding and maintaining a balance between your work life, physical activities, relationships and spirituality or mindfulness. As noted by Maroon:

"You need exercise. You need a degree of meditation and spirituality … If you look at people who live to be centenarians … They all have in common a healthy diet and work. They work hard, which is their physical activity … They control stress with, usually, a very strong family unit, spirituality, religion or church. All those things are mindfulness. All reduce stress, the excess cortisol, and try to keep our bodies in balance."

To this, I would add a fifth life category that needs balance, and that is sleep. Sleep deprivation dramatically impairs your body's ability to handle stress, and has absolutely no redeeming consequences. Working rather than sleeping will not allow you to get ahead or accomplish more. It's only going to make matters worse. Treating your sleep as "sacred time" that cannot be infringed upon can go a long way toward managing your overall stress and maintaining balance in your life.

Finding Work-Life Balance Is Worth Every Effort

On the whole, leading a balanced life is not rocket science, but it can still be difficult to do. It's much easier, actually, to focus on work to the exclusion of everything else. Finding balance takes a bit of work. It may require finding and setting new boundaries, which may feel unfamiliar and maybe even a bit frightening at first. The alternative, however, is far worse than any discomfort you might experience as you strive for balance.

Arianna Huffington is perhaps one of the most well-known public personas who suffered burnout — and wrote a book about it. In "Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder," Huffington, who is the chairman, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, details her downward spiral, and her journey back to health.

Her self-reflection resulted in a new definition of success, which includes a "third metric" besides the two conventional ones: money and power. This third metric consists of four pillars:

  • Health and well-being. If you sacrifice your health and well-being in the pursuit of success, you're really paying an insanely high price. The result of this sacrifice includes everything from diabetes to heart disease, and other stress-related afflictions like depression, alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Wisdom. As Huffington says: "We have a lot of very smart leaders around making terrible decisions. The problem is not that they don't have a high IQ; the problem is that they are not connected with their inner wisdom. Taking time to connect with the source of our inner wisdom and strength is essential"
  • Joy and childlike wonder. It's also important to bring joy into your everyday life and to connect with the sense that you are part of "something larger." This includes appreciating ordinary beauty and small everyday miracles
  • Giving. No complete life is ever lived just for oneself.

When you integrate giving, wonder, wisdom and well-being together with the first two metrics of money and power, you can really have a complete life, filled with meaning and purpose.

Malabar Spinach — An Easy-Grow Summer Green That Loves the Heat

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Malabar spinach 1,2,3,4 is an interesting alternative to regular spinach. It grows like a perennial jungle vine, and thrives in the summer heat when most other greens tend to turn bitter and dry, easily reaching heights of 10 to 35 feet in a season. Trained on a trellis, with frequent pruning, you can turn it into a decorative edible hedge. Also known under the names Indian, creeping, Asian, Vietnamese, Surinam, Ceylonese and Chinese spinach, Malabar spinach comes in two varieties:5

  • Basella rubra, which has purple-red vines and pink flowers
  • Basella alba, which has white to pale green stems and white flowers

The red variety is more visually dramatic, but other than that, it grows and tastes nearly identical to its white counterpart. Full-grown leaves are about the size of your palm, with a slight crunchiness and a hint of lemon-pepper flavor that take on a more characteristic spinach flavor when cooked, although it’s less bitter than regular spinach, thanks to it being lower in oxalic acid. Beware of overcooking, however, as heated leaves will eventually turn into unappetizing slime.

Young, immature leaves can also be harvested and used fresh in salads or added to a stir-fry. Toward the end of summer, the plant will bloom, at which time the taste of the leaves starts to degrade. So, be sure to harvest leaves continually before blooming.

When you break the leaves off, you may notice a gooey substance at the cut site. This is due to the high mucilage content of the leaves and stems. Mucilage is high in fiber, resembling apple pectin in that regard. Malabar spinach is also a good source of the following nutrients. The rubra (red) variety tends to be a bit higher in the antioxidants beta-carotene and lutein, courtesy of its red and purple colors.

Vitamin A

✓ Vitamin C

✓ Iron


✓ Protein

✓ Magnesium

✓ Phosphorous


✓ Beta carotene

✓ Lutein

How to Grow Malabar Spinach

Perhaps one of the most appealing characteristics of Malabar spinach is that it thrives in the high heat of summer. If you live at an elevation of 1,500 feet or higher, all the better still, as it prefers higher elevations. Another boon is the fact that few pests seem interested in Malabar spinach, so pest maintenance is minimal. A light spray of neem oil will usually be sufficient.

Since it’s a perennial plant, you only need to plant it once. If you allow the seeds to drop toward the end of summer, the plant will regrow the following year. The exception is if you live in temperate climates. Here, you’ll have to grow it as an annual as the cold will kill it.

I typically don’t get freezes where I live, so I planted Malabar spinach a few years ago and now it pops up all over my property. So, you won’t ever have to worry about purchasing new seeds but will need to control it from growing in places where you don’t want it.

  • To encourage germination, soak your seeds overnight, then plant in well-draining soil in full sunlight, and be sure to keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated. Alternatively, start the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost date, then transplant into your garden once nighttime temperatures remain steadily above 50 degrees F (10 degrees C)
  • Add a generous amount of organic soil conditioner into your soil before planting, along with a slow-release 10-10-10 fertilizer
  • Sow your seeds at a depth of one-fourth inch, approximately 18 inches apart. If planting rows, you need at least a 9-inch row gap
  • Once the seeds have germinated, pour liquid fertilizer over the seedlings, thoroughly wetting the leaves. Add a layer of straw or mulch to retain moisture in the soil
  • The plant prefers high humidity, so if you live in a dry climate, you may need to invest in a mister, or keep it in a greenhouse. Since it grows like a vine, you’ll also need some sort of trellis for it to climb on

Harvesting is easy. Simply cut the stems of the leaves with a pair of scissors. Aggressive harvesting will encourage the plant to get bushier, so the more you eat, the more it will provide. Pruning the length of the vine will also encourage bushiness, so if you prefer a hedge-style bush rather than a long vine, just keep pruning it.

You can harvest leaves continuously through the summer and fall, until it starts to bloom. Many prefer young, tender leaves over more mature ones, as the flavor tends to be milder. Mature leaves are also higher in mucilage, the sliminess of which some might find unappetizing. The flowers are followed by purple berries that can be crushed and used as a natural food coloring.

Cooking Suggestions

You can use Malabar spinach in the same way you use regular spinach — raw in salads, lightly steamed or cooked, or used in stews, soups and stir-fries. The following buttery Malabar spinach recipe is from DIY Natural.6


  • 3 to 4 cups washed Malabar spinach
  • 2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
  • Pinch of Himalayan pink salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Juice from one lime, to taste


  1. Heat a small amount of water in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the Malabar spinach and steam until leaves are tender and wilted.
  2. Drain off the liquid and add the butter or coconut oil. Lightly toss to coat the leaves evenly, and braise for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add the lime, salt and pepper to taste. Best served warm.

How to Grow Basil

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Savory green pesto sauce, tomato and mozzarella salad, nearly any egg dish, wild-caught Alaskan salmon — these and many more meal options take on a fresh tweak of flavor when basil is part of the equation.

If you've ever headed for the produce section of your grocery store to pick up a small package of basil, though, you know how expensive it can be. Growing your own is super easy, even if all you have in the way of a garden spot is a balcony, deck or patio. Basil (ocimum basilicum, a member of the mint family) grows beautifully in pots or in your backyard garden, offering a pretty pop of greenery that you can snip off and pop into any number of delicious recipes.

Gardener's World features a video clip of horticulturalist Monty Don, who says no other herb goes quite as well with tomatoes as basil, as the basil cuts through the acidity of the tomato to create a perfect flavor balance. Further, tomatoes and basil share the same growing standards and conditions:

"It's worth remembering that basil is not a Mediterranean herb. It comes from tropical Asia. It likes heat, and it likes a certain amount of moisture, too (it doesn't like to be sodden), and the harsher it is, the more water it can take. If you're watering your tomatoes right, you'll guarantee you're watering your basil right."1

Another key point he stresses is that basil, as a "sub shrub," requires a lot of space to grow — perhaps more than it may appear to require. "It's a generous plant," he adds. "It wants to grow strongly and vigorously, especially if given enough heat."

Dried basil will do in a pinch, but once you try fresh, green basil leaves, you learn the flavor is much more intense. Used in combination with other herbs, such as thyme and savory, meats and soups take on a deeper, more complex essence. Interestingly, cold dishes with chopped basil in the mix lend a fresh, spring-like quality. While fresh basil is the most fragrant and flavorful, you can dry basil leaves quickly by following these simple directions:


  1. Warm your oven to 140 degrees F
  2. Place a single layer of basil leaves on a baking sheet
  3. Place your pan in the oven and turn the oven off
  4. Let the basil leaves set for 20 minutes, then remove and allow to cool
  5. Store immediately in airtight jars or zip-close bags, away from sunlight
Reasons to Grow Basil: Incredible Health Benefits

Medical News Today2 notes that the pronounced clove scent of the most common variety, sweet basil, is due to its high concentration of the phytochemical and essential oil eugenol. Lime and lemon basil emit a strong citrus scent because of their high concentration of limonene. A Purdue University study3 showed that the essential oils in basil are "rich in phenolic compounds and a wide array of other natural products including polyphenols such as flavonoids and anthocyanins."

The highest antioxidant levels were found in sweet basil. Holy (or sacred) basil (ocimum sanctum, known as "tulsi" in Hindi) is mentioned in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for "pain, fever, vomiting, bronchitis, earache and diseases of the heart and blood," but its use for treating diabetes, arthritis and asthma4 is supported by scores of pharmacological studies.5

Between the high amounts of vitamins A, C and K and manganese, and several less common essential oils such as cinnamate, geraniol, citronellol, linalool, terpineol and pinene (which may support its purported ability to act as an aphrodisiac in Ayurvedic circles), studies show basil yields a wide array of impressive health benefits:6

✓ Immune boosting

✓ Anti-inflammatory

✓ Blood-vessel protecting

Diabetes preventing7

✓ Pain-reducing (analgesic)

Adaptogen (stress fighting)8

✓ Liver protective (hepatoprotective)

✓ Fever reducing (antipyretic)

✓ Cancer fighting9


✓ Age fighting

✓ Antibiotic/ Antimicrobial10

Basil Growing Tips and Tricks

Choosing the variety (or varieties) of basil you want to grow depends on what you'd like to use it for. According to Rodale's Organic Life, you can start plants from seed in a south-facing window because, again, it prefers a warm, sunny spot. Basil is considered a tropical plant, so it doesn't do well in cool conditions. Because basil plants are light lovers, grow lights or heating mats to simulate the warmth of sunlight — 70 degrees Fahrenheit is about right — really helps until it gets warm enough for them to be transplanted outside.

Planting seeds directly in the soil is another option after the last frost (granted, a tricky thing to determine), making sure the plants will be in full sun and based in soil that drains easily. You can also buy basil "starts," or seedlings, which usually come in a small pot, but they're not intended to stay there for long because the roots like room to grow, among other things.

You could say harvesting frequently is like a shot in the arm to a basil plant. Snipping the right leaves at the right time is key for encouraging bushier growth. One hint for ensuring the freshest taste is to make sure the plant doesn't flower, which triggers an end to the plant's life cycle, called bolting. Once it starts that process, there's not a lot you can do to halt it. Natural Living Ideas explains:

"If you keep your basil in the tiny pot it came in, you are not going to have a large, luxurious plant, even if you provide water and fertilizers regularly. The roots need space to stretch out, so transplant it into a larger pot or plant it out in the garden. Most gardening advice regarding basil supports keeping the plant compact and bushy. But large plants provide more leaves … Even a small quantity of pesto requires quite a large amount of leaves.

If you want a large basil plant, refrain from pinching the tip when the plant is 6 inches tall, as most gardeners advise. Allow the plant to grow fast and furious until it is between 12 [and] 15 inches tall … Remove around 2 inches of the stem tip. This promotes branching from lower nodes. The side branches can be allowed to grow and fill out before their tips are pinched."11

To reiterate, here are some basics basil needs to thrive:


  • Full sun
  • Well-drained soil that's not packed too hard
  • Adequate space between plants encourages roots to spread and helps prevent fungal diseases
  • Use of compost, aged manure and/or other organic material
  • Plenty of water, but not swimming in it
Once Your Basil Is Growing Outside

Once your seeds have sprouted, or the bedding plants you've purchased are in the ground (following the aforementioned directions) a few things are necessary to make sure your basil plants keep producing:

  • Mulch around the plants to retain moisture, especially in warmer weather
  • Harvest leaves to encourage bushier growth
  • Pinch off flower buds frequently so plant energy is expended on the leaves

Rodale's Organic Life notes that to keep fresh basil at the ready all year-round:

"Grow a few basil plants in containers so you can bring them indoors before fall frost. Or make a second sowing outdoors in June in order to have small plants to pot up and bring indoors for winter. As frost nears, you can also cut off some end shoots in the garden and root them in water to be potted later."12

Basil Varieties From Cinnamon to Lime

You'll discover several different types of basil, some with distinctive flavors or colors compared to sweet basil, the most common variety. Some are more purple or burgundy than green, such as dark opal, which is very aromatic, or the red rubin. Exotic Thai sweet basil cultivars, such as Siam queen with its hint of licorice or anise, can be heated to higher temperatures for certain dishes. Here are a few more basil offerings to consider:

  • The lettuce leaf variety of basil has larger-than-average leaves, so they require a bit more space in the garden
  • Green ruffles basil looks just as one might expect, looks as lovely in salads as it does in the garden, and grows 20 to 24 inches high in comparison with most other basils, which reach a top height of 12 to 18 inches
  • Lemon basil, easily identified when you crush a leaf between your fingers and smell its lemony scent, is wonderful for chicken dishes and grilled vegetables
  • Holy basil, which Hindus consider to be sacred, is another variety with a sweet, musky fragrance, often cooked into Indian dishes, as eating it raw it's slightly bitter

Cinnamon basil is one variation that can be used in fruit dishes, such as stewed pears, or in stir-fries and grilled veggies. You’ll also note basil varieties featuring hints of cinnamon, clove and lime.

What to Do About Pests or Fungal Diseases Attacking Your Basil

It may seem a little archaic, but to keep pests like Japanese beetles at bay, picking them off by hand is easiest. Other pests include slugs and aphids. The three represent the incredible diversity of pests that can make lace out of your basil leaves. While you want to deal with those smaller critters with haste, you also want to do the job naturally. Chemical pesticides can be much more damaging to the environment, including water, soil and air, than you may realize.

There are safer, more natural options. According to Beyond Pesticides, boric acid formulated from a natural mineral is "an effective insect stomach poison" that, when properly applied, has low toxicity in comparison. Boric acid is another solution:

"While boric acid is somewhat slower acting than other materials, it is highly effective over a long period of time. But remember, all pesticides are poisons designed to kill, and should be handled carefully.

Boric acid should be applied only in areas where it will not come in contact with people … Applicators should wear protective clothing, gloves and a filter mask. Other least toxic pesticides include diatomaceous earth, vinegar, oil of lemon eucalyptus, Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt), neem and horticultural soaps."13

Fungal diseases such as fusarium wilt, black spot or powdery mildew can be treated with a simple, natural solution, Gardening Know How14 advises, containing:


  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon liquid dish soap (not for dishwashers)
  • 1 quart warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar


Mix the ingredients and spray affected plants (or those that likely will be) thoroughly on the tops, bottoms and stems of plants using a spray bottle. Watch the weather to avoid treating if rain is imminent, and avoid spraying blossoms that bees, hummingbirds or other desirable critters enjoy.

Probiotics Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

When it comes to mental health, most assume the brain is in charge. In reality, your gut may be calling the shots. Interestingly enough, in the 1800s and early 1900s, it was thought that waste in your colon could produce infections that lead to depression. As it turns out, they weren't too far off the mark.

Scientific advances now suggest your state of mind is influenced, if not largely directed, by the microflora in your gut, and probiotics (beneficial bacteria) are being thought of as "the new antidepressants." However, while it may be tempting to trade one pill for another, I urge you to consider taking a more comprehensive approach.

Taking a probiotic supplement may be helpful, but if you're still eating the same junk as before, it's not likely to make a significant difference. The key, really, is to eat a healthy diet. Limiting or eliminating sugar is absolutely essential, as adding healthy fats will provide your brain with much-needed fuel, while fermented foods will give you the beneficial bacteria you need.

Add to that daily movement and regular exercise, good sleep and sensible sun exposure, and you're really giving your body the basic building blocks it needs for optimal performance — both physically and mentally. A probiotic supplement cannot achieve this all on its own. That said, studies have demonstrated just how important healthy gut bacteria are when it comes to treating depression.

Probiotics Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Most recently, a small, randomized, placebo-controlled study1,2,3,4 involving 44 adults diagnosed with both irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and mild to moderate depression or anxiety found that the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 provided depression relief. Half of the participants received the probiotic while the other half received a placebo. At six weeks, 64 percent of the treatment group had reduced depression scores compared to 32 percent of the control group.

Those receiving the probiotic also reported fewer symptoms of IBS and improved overall quality of life. At the end of 10 weeks, approximately twice as many in the treatment group were still reporting lower levels of depression.

Interestingly, functional MRI scans revealed a link between reductions in depression score and actual changes in brain activity, specifically in areas involved in mood regulation, such as the amygdala. As noted by Dr. Roger McIntyre, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, who was not involved in the study:5

"We know that one part of the brain, the amygdala, tends to be red-hot in people with depression, and it seemed to cool down with this intervention. It provides more scientific believability that something in the brain, at a very biological level, seems to be affected by this probiotic."

Co-author Dr. Premysl Bercik, gastroenterologist for Hamilton Health Sciences, added:

"This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS. This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases …6

[T]he patients on probiotics also reported improvement in their IBS symptoms … at the end of the probiotic treatment, but not four weeks later when the beneficial effect on depression was still present.

So one can argue that the primary effect of this probiotic is on depression. Also, the amygdala is one of the important centers in processing abdominal pain so if the probiotic altered the function of this brain region, it could also improve the gut symptoms of IBS (the pain is the hallmark symptom of IBS)."7

Compelling Links Between Depression and Gut Inflammation

A number of studies have confirmed that gastrointestinal inflammation can play a critical role in the development of depression, and that healthy bacteria may be an important part of the treatment. For example, a Hungarian scientific review8 published in 2011 made the following observations:

1. Depression is often found alongside gastrointestinal inflammation, as well as autoimmune, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, and chronic low-grade inflammation is a significant contributing factor in all of these. Thus, "depression may be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammatory syndrome"

2. A number of clinical studies have shown that treating gastrointestinal inflammation with probiotics, omega-3 fats and vitamins B and D also improves symptoms of depression by attenuating proinflammatory stimuli to your brain9

3. Research suggests the primary cause of inflammation may be dysfunction of the "gut-brain axis."10 The gut-brain connection is well-recognized as a basic tenet of physiology and medicine, so this isn't all that surprising. Your gut acts as a second brain, and is in fact created from the identical tissue as your brain during gestation.

If you consume loads of processed foods and sugars, your gut bacteria will be severely compromised because processed foods tend to decimate healthy microflora. This leaves a void that is filled by disease-causing pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi that instead promote inflammation

Previous research has also demonstrated that probiotics have the power to alter your brain function,11 so the featured study is not alone in that regard. And, while Bercik and his team failed to find a reduction in anxiety, a study done on mice12 found that Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 — the same strain used in Bercik's study — normalized anxiety-like behavior in animals that had infectious colitis. Here, the antianxiety effect was attributed to modulation of the vagal pathways within the gut-brain axis.

Other research13 has shown the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus has a marked effect on GABA levels — an inhibitory neurotransmitter involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes — in certain brain regions, lowering the stress-induced hormone corticosterone. As a result, anxiety- and depression-related behavior was lessened. Strong connections between the gut microbiome and schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have also been found.14

How Sugar Influences Your Risk of Depression

A high-sugar diet can trigger or contribute to depression in a number of ways, including by:

  • Distorting your microflora by nourishing microbes that are detrimental to health
  • Triggering a cascade of chemical reactions in your body known to promote chronic inflammation
  • Elevating your insulin level, which can have a detrimental impact on your mood and mental health by causing higher levels of glutamate to be secreted in your brain. Glutamate has been linked to agitation, depression, anger, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Suppressing activity of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth hormone that promotes healthy neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, which animal models suggest might actually be causative

There's a great book on this subject written in 1986, "Sugar Blues," by William Duffy, that delves into the sugar-depression link in great detail. He even advocated eliminating sugar from the diet of the mentally ill, stating it could be an effective treatment in and of itself for some people.

I too believe the dietary answer for treating depression starts with limiting or eliminating refined sugars (especially processed fructose) and grains, as all forms of sugar feed bad bacteria in your gut and promote systemic-wide inflammation. As a standard recommendation, I suggest limiting your daily fructose consumption from all sources to 25 grams per day or less.

Gluten has also been implicated in depression and other, more serious, mental health problems such as schizophrenia. Bear in mind that if you're sensitive to gluten, it's not enough to cut down. You need to remove it from your diet entirely. The easiest way to eliminate most sugars (and gluten, if need be) is to avoid processed foods and cook from scratch using whole ingredients.

Cutting out processed foods will also significantly reduce your exposure to genetically engineered ingredients, which have also been implicated in chronic inflammation and the destruction of healthy gut bacteria, as well as pesticides such as glyphosate — another culprit in both microbiome disruption and inflammation. Keep in mind that conventionally-grown foods may also be contaminated with pesticide residues so, ideally, aim for as organic a diet as you can.

Dietary Keys to Overcoming Depression

Aside from cutting out sugars and gluten, make sure you're getting sufficient amounts of healthy fats in your diet. Examples of healthy saturated fats include avocados, butter made from raw, grass fed organic milk, organic pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, raw nuts and grass fed meats. You may need as much as 50 to 80 percent of your daily calories in the form of healthy fats such as these.

Beyond that, animal-based omega-3 fat may be the single most important nutrient to battle depression.15,16 It's particularly important when combating more serious problems such as psychosis and schizophrenia.17,18,19,20 Good sources of animal-based omega-3 include fatty fish that are also low in mercury, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines and anchovies.

If you don't eat these types of fish on a regular basis, it would be advisable to take a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil, which has a number of benefits over fish oil, including better absorption. Lastly, to rebalance your gut flora, be sure to eat plenty of:

• Fiber-rich foods. This means more vegetables, nuts and seeds (notgrains). Recent research confirms that in order to work, the fiber must be unprocessed.21,22 Processed supplement fiber such as inulin powder does not provide gut bacteria with what they need.

Organic whole husk psyllium is a great fiber source, as are sunflower sprouts and fermented vegetables, the latter of which are essentially fiber preloaded with beneficial bacteria. Flax, hemp, and chia seeds are other excellent fiber sources.

• Fermented foods. By eating a variety of fermented and cultured foods such as fermented vegetables (all kinds), kombucha, kefir or raw yogurt, natto, kimchi and others, you will get a wide assortment of beneficial bacteria into your system. If you, for whatever reason, will not eat fermented foods, then a high-quality probiotic supplement is certainly recommended. Just understand you probably will not reap as great a benefit as if you were actually eating fermented foods.

Specific Nutrients for Brain Health

Over the years, I've interviewed a number of doctors and scientists about the treatment of mental health problems using nutrition, including Dr. Hyla Cass, a practicing psychiatrist who uses integrative medicine in her practice, Dr. Andrew Saul, co-author of a book about the use of niacin (vitamin B-3) for psychiatric disorders, and William Walsh, Ph.D., author of "Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain," who specializes in nutrient-based psychiatry.

My interview with Walsh has not yet been published, but is of particular interest here. For this reason, I've included a condensed version of that interview above. According to Walsh, there's compelling evidence to suggest nutrients involved in the synthesis or functioning of neurotransmitters dictate mental function. Hence certain nutritional deficiencies can significantly raise your risk of mental health problems. Nutrients that have a powerful influence on mental health include:

✓ Zinc

✓ Copper

✓ Selenium

✓ Niacin (B-3)

✓ Vitamin B-6

✓ Vitamin B-1223,24,25

✓ Folates

✓ Vitamin D26 (Having a level below 20 ng/mL can raise your risk of depression by 85 percent compared to having a level greater than 30 ng/mL27)

✓ S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

Walsh is convinced the use of psychiatric medication will eventually fade away as we learn more about normalizing brain function through nutritional interventions. "These powerful drugs … they do not normalize the brain. They cause an abnormal condition," he warns. "They might correct depression or anxiety, but you wind up with something that's not normal."

Cass also stresses that one of the first steps in treating any mental health problem is to clean up your diet and address your gut health. Otherwise, you'll have virtually no chance of getting emotionally and mentally well. On her website,, you can find a free report called "Reclaim Your Brain," which details nutritional substances you can use to address conditions like anxiety and depression.

21st Century Reason for Depression

The pervasive use of microwave radiation in the form of cellphones, cellphone towers, Wi-Fi, computers, smart meters, baby monitors and the expected trillion internet things all invade our cells with energy exposure they were never designed for.

It turns out that the mechanism of how they cause harm was revealed about five years ago by Professor Emeritus Martin Pall, whom I hope to interview soon. He found out that the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) trigger voltage gated calcium channels (VGCC) in the cell membranes that will release a million calcium ions per second from the extracellular space into the intracellular space.

The tissues with the highest density of these VGCCs are the brain and the pacemaker cells in the heart. When the sensors in the brain are activated, they will release hormones and neurotransmitters that have been shown to be associated with depression and anxiety, and there is fairly strong evidence they are a major factor in autism. They can also lead to cardiac arrhythmias.

So, if you suffer with depression, anxiety, autism or arrhythmias, it would be wise to be obsessive about limiting your EMF exposure. I will be discussing far more about this in the future but there are many online resources that can guide you until then, one of them being my recent video below.

Holistic Mental Health Suggestions

Regardless of the nature or severity of your mental health problem, to successfully treat it, you need to take a holistic approach. Rarely will medication be the sole answer. So, in addition to all of the dietary guidelines already offered, here are some other suggestions — presented in no particular order — to keep in mind.

Withdraw from antidepressants and other drugs under medical supervision

If you're currently on an antidepressant and want to get off it, ideally, you'll want to have the cooperation of your prescribing physician. Some are happy to help you to withdraw if they know you're going to be responsible about it. Others may not want to bother, or they don't believe you can get off the medication. You may need to do some reading in order to be better prepared.

Dr. Joseph Glennmullen from Harvard wrote a very helpful book on how to withdraw called "The Antidepressant Solution." You can also turn to an organization with a referral list of doctors who practice more biologically or naturally, such as the American College for Advancement in Medicine at Once you have the cooperation of your prescribing physician, start lowering the dosage of the medication you're taking.

There are protocols for gradually reducing the dose that your doctor should be well aware of. At the same time, start taking a low-dose multivitamin.

If you're quitting an SSRI under doctor supervision, Cass suggests going on a low dose of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). For bipolar patients, holistic psychiatrists may prescribe nutritional supplements such as fish oil (omega-3 fats), inositol, niacin, tryptophan and others, depending on your individual needs.

Address Lyme disease

Bipolar symptoms can be related to Lyme disease, so if Lyme infection is present, that needs to be addressed, also by a more functionally oriented doctor.

Combat inflammation

Keeping inflammation in check is an important part of any effective treatment plan. If you're gluten sensitive, you will need to remove all gluten from your diet. A food sensitivity test can help ascertain this. Switching to a whole food diet as described in my optimal nutrition plan can go a long way toward lowering the inflammation level in your body and brain.

Optimize your vitamin D level

Vitamin D deficiency is another important biological factor that can play a significant role in mental health, especially depression. A double-blind randomized trial28 published in 2008 concluded that supplementing with high doses of vitamin D "seems to ameliorate these symptoms indicating a possible causal relationship." Recent research29 also claims that low vitamin D levels appear to be associated with suicide attempts.

Ideally, maintain your vitamin D level between 40 and 60 ng/mL year-round. If you cannot get sufficient sun exposure to maintain this level, taking an oral vitamin D3 supplement would be advisable. Just remember to also take vitamin K2 and magnesium, as these all work together.

Clean up your sleep hygiene

Make sure you're getting enough high quality sleep, as sleep is essential for optimal mood and mental health. A fitness tracker that tracks your sleep can be a useful tool. The inability to fall asleep and stay asleep can be due to elevated cortisol levels, so if you have trouble sleeping, you may want to get your saliva cortisol level tested with an Adrenal Stress Index test.

If you're already taking hormones, you can try applying a small dab of progesterone cream on your neck or face when you awaken during the night and can't fall back to sleep. Another alternative is to take adaptogens, herbal products that help lower cortisol and adjust your body to stress. There are also other excellent herbs and amino acids that help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. Meditation can also help.

Add to your self-help tool bag

Slowing your breathing using the Butyeko breathing technique increases your partial pressure of carbon dioxide (CO2), which has enormous psychological benefits and can quickly reduce anxiety.

Other helpful tools include Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT is well-studied, and research shows it can significantly increase positive emotions and decrease negative emotional states. One scientific review found statistically significant benefits in using EFT for anxiety, depression, PTSD and phobias.

EFT is particularly effective for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.30,31 For serious or complex issues, seek out a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT32 to help guide you through the process.

Beneficial herbs and supplements: SAMe, 5-HTP and St. John's Wort

SAMe is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. It plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. Several scientific studies indicate that SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression. 5-HTP is another natural alternative to traditional antidepressants.

When your body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. Taking 5-HTP as a supplement may raise serotonin levels. The evidence suggests 5-HTP outperforms a placebo when it comes to alleviating depression33 — more than can be said about antidepressants.

One caveat: Anxiety and social phobias can worsen with higher levels of serotonin, so it may be contraindicated if your anxiety is already high. St. John's Wort has also been shown to provide relief from mild depressive symptoms.

Get adequate daily movement and regular exercise

Studies show there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. There's also a growing acceptance that the mind-body connection is very real, and that maintaining good physical health can significantly lower your risk of developing depression in the first place.

Exercising creates new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm. It also boosts your levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress.

What to Do if Someone You Know Is Depressed

Perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do if you have a friend or family member who struggles with depression is to help guide them toward healthier eating and lifestyle habits, as making changes can be particularly difficult when you're feeling blue — or worse, suicidal.

If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number: (800) 273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest hospital emergency department. You cannot make long-term plans for lifestyle changes when you are in the middle of a crisis.

Too Many Children Taking Melatonin

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Melatonin is an important hormone produced by your body's pineal gland. One of its primary roles is regulating your body's circadian rhythm. When it gets dark, your brain starts secreting melatonin (typically around 9 or 10 p.m.), which makes you sleepy. Levels typically stay elevated for about 12 hours, then, as the sun rises, your pineal gland reduces your production, and the levels in your blood decrease until they're hardly measurable at all.

When your circadian rhythms are disrupted, such as from shift work, jet lag or nighttime light exposure, your body produces less melatonin. It's these instances when supplementing with small amounts of melatonin can be most useful, as it may help to reset your internal clock.1 However, a growing number of children are reportedly now taking the supplement to help them sleep, which could be associated with long-term risks.

Melatonin May Help Children With Certain Sleep Disorders

If your child has a unique medical need that makes nighttime sleep difficult, melatonin may be helpful and is likely safer than prescription sleep aids. One example would be children with autism, for whom sleep disorders are common and may intensify autistic symptoms. Melatonin has been found to help synchronize circadian rhythms and improve sleep quality and behavior in individuals with autism.2

Among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and chronic sleep onset insomnia, melatonin was also found to be an effective therapy in 88 percent of cases even when used long-term, with no serious adverse events reported.3 Further, behavior and mood also improved in 71 percent and 61 percent of the cases, respectively.

Most Children Should Be Able to Get a Sound Night's Sleep Without Melatonin

For children who are otherwise healthy but struggle with bedtime on occasion, however, melatonin should be used with caution, if at all. "Most pediatricians know little about sleep or melatonin. For non-autistic children it is a fashionable treatment for parents wanting 'perfect' children," Dr. Neil Stanley, former director of sleep research at the University of Surrey, told The Guardian.4

While melatonin is thought to be relatively safe when used for short or even medium periods (up to 18 months), some children are taking the supplement for six or seven years. The long-term effects of melatonin on children are largely unknown, but there is some research that suggests it could interfere with the production of hormones related to puberty. According to one study, caution is warranted even in children with ADHD and chronic insomnia:5

"Very little systematic research has been done into the possible impact of melatonin intake on puberty and the endocrine system. Therefore, treatment with melatonin in children with ADHD and (C)SOI [chronic sleep-onset insomnia] is best reserved for children with persistent insomnia which is having a severe impact on daily functioning, particularly in cases where [there] is an obvious phase-shift of the endogenous circadian rhythm."

There are, however, those who support its use, even among healthy children — 25 percent of whom are said to suffer from insomnia (this rises to 75 percent in children with neurodevelopmental or psychiatric conditions).6 According to a review published in the journal Canadian Family Physician, "For children with otherwise undiagnosed insomnia and healthy sleep hygiene, melatonin use should be considered. While melatonin seems to be safe, there is a lack of evidence for its routine use among healthy children."7

Proper Sleep Hygiene Should Be Addressed First

There are concerns that a synthetic form of melatonin is being overprescribed to children who could improve their sleep using other methods, like adopting a regular bedtime routine. This may be as simple as pulling down your window shades, putting your child in pajamas, reading a story and turning on some white noise, followed by a hug and kiss.8

Behavioral modifications and attention to proper sleep hygiene should always be the first line of treatment if your child is having trouble sleeping, even before trying a natural supplement like melatonin. In particular, Canadian Family Physician suggested: 9

✓ Napping during the day should be avoided

✓ Dinnertime should be at least two hours before bedtime

✓ Screen time (watching television, playing computer or video games) should be discontinued at least one hour before bedtime

✓ Regular bedtime routine including routine sleep and wake-up times should be maintained

✓ Children should sleep in their own beds

✓ Sleep environment should be dark and quiet; room should not be too hot

Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol should be avoided

Attention to light and darkness, at the appropriate times of day, is also important. Your body requires exposure to bright daylight, especially in the early morning, to produce healthy amounts of melatonin each night. Getting sunlight in the morning is one way to help reset your circadian clock daily. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight sends a strong message that it's time to rise and shine. In this way, your body is less likely to be confused by weaker light signals later in the day.

My rule of thumb is, if there is enough light in your bedroom at night to see your hand in front of your face, then there is too much light. Your body requires light during the day to produce healthy amounts of melatonin, but at night light inhibits production. So, it's difficult to get too much light during the day and easy to get too much at night. In addition to installing blackout drapes in your child's bedroom, avoid exposure to blue light at night and have your child wear blue-light blocking glasses after the sun sets.

At What Age Should Your Children Sleep in Their Own Room?

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released their newest sleep guidelines for infants, intended to reduce the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths.

In addition to putting babies to sleep on their back until 1 year of age, they also recommend both a firm sleep surface with no other bedding or soft objects and breast-feeding. In addition, AAP recommends that infants sleep in their parents' room, close to the parents' bed (such as in a bedside portable crib) for at least the first six months and ideally for the first year.10

In contrast, a study published in Pediatrics in June 2017 found that room-sharing at ages 4 months and 9 months was associated with worse sleep outcomes.11 Instead, babies who slept in their own rooms at prior to 4 months of age slept 40 minutes more a night than babies still room-sharing at 9 months.12 There's much controversy in this area, however, and how long your infant stays in your bedroom may depend on practical matters and personal preferences as well.

Further, while health officials typically advise against bed-sharing with infants, some experts believe the practice of bed-sharing, when done safely and with a breast-feeding mother, may actually reduce the risk of SIDS and provide a safe sleeping environment.13 In case you're wondering how much sleep your child actually needs, here are the latest guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF):

Newborns (0-3 months): 14 to 17 hours

Infants (4-11 months): 12 to 15 hours

Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours

Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours

School age children (6-13 years): 9 to 11 hours

Teenagers (14-17 years): 8 to 10 hours

Sleep Tips From Fellow Parents

Sometimes fellow parents have insightful tips to help children get to sleep. In an article posted on Growing Slower, one mom shared what finally helped her toddler get a good night's sleep, and it involved a long process of trial-and-error to find the right combination of "tricks" that worked for their family. Among them:14

✓ Organic cotton sleepwear in lieu of synthetic and possibly irritating fabrics

✓ Immune-system support in the form of vitamin D, vitamins and omega-3 fats

✓ A teaspoon of coconut oil before bed, to curb hunger pains during the night

✓ Epsom salt baths prior to bed

Magnesium oil, massaged onto the belly before bedtime

✓ A breast-feeding elimination diet as well as addressing food allergies and sensitivities in the child

✓ White noise (in the form of a fan)

✓ A predictable bedtime routine

It's important to remember, too, that children sleep better when parents take an active role in creating a positive sleep environment. According to NSF, "When parents set and enforce sleep rules, children sleep longer."15

For instance, setting and enforcing a set bedtime and limit on how late your child can watch TV or use the computer may boost sleep by more than one hour a night. Being a good role model is also important, including limiting your own exposure to electronic devices and blue light at night and wrapping up your work prior to bedtime.

Even doing homework too late at night may make it difficult for your child to fall asleep. "Make sleep a healthy priority in your family's busy schedule," NSF states. "Set appropriate and consistent bedtimes for yourself and your children and stick to them, and talk to your child about the importance of sleep for health and well-being."16

Boost Your Child's Natural Melatonin

Before considering melatonin supplementation for your child, it makes sense to engage in habits that will increase your child's natural melatonin production and improve overall health. The tips that follow apply to both children and adults.

Sunshine during the morning

Melatonin is affected by your exposure to light and dark. When it is light, production of melatonin naturally drops. Getting at least 15 minutes of sunlight in the morning hours helps to regulate the production of melatonin, dropping it to normal daytime levels, so you feel awake during the day and sleep better at night.

Sleep in the dark

Your body produces and secretes melatonin in the dark, helping you to go to sleep and stay asleep. Sleeping in a completely darkened room, without lights from alarm clocks, televisions or other sources will improve your sleep quality. If you get up during the night to use the bathroom, it's important to keep the lights off so you don't shut off your production of melatonin. Also, wear blue-light blocking glasses after sunset to avoid blue-light exposure.

Turn off your computer and hand-held electronics

Although these are light sources, they deserve special mention as the type of light source from digital equipment may also reduce your body's production of melatonin in the evening when you need it most.

Brightness and exposure to light in the blue and white wavelengths appear to affect the production of melatonin, exactly the wavelengths of light emitted from tablets, laptops and computers.17 To protect your sleep, put your computers and digital equipment away at least one hour before bed.

Reduce your caffeine intake

Caffeine, found in coffee, dark chocolate, cola and other drinks, has a half-life of five hours. This means 25 percent remains in your system 10 hours later. For a better night's sleep, cut out your caffeinated foods and drinks after lunch.

Lower your stress level and your cortisol level

The release of melatonin is dependent on the release of another hormone, norepinephrine. Excess stress, and the resulting release of cortisol, will inhibit the release of norepinephrine and therefore the release of melatonin.18 Stress-reducing strategies you may find helpful before bed include yoga, stretching, meditation and prayer.

Increase foods high in magnesium

Magnesium plays a role in reducing brain activity at night, helping you to relax and fall asleep more easily. It works in tandem with melatonin. Foods containing higher levels of magnesium include almonds, avocados, pumpkin seeds and green leafy vegetables.19

Jump-Start Your Health With Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 02:00

Lemon eucalyptus oil, the common name for one of the natural oils obtained from the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant, has gained popularity as an insect repellant. This use is important when you consider the dangers of DEET and other toxic solutions and want to steer clear of them. Learn more about the benefits, composition and proper therapeutic and practical applications of this plant oil.

What Is Lemon Eucalyptus Oil?

Lemon eucalyptus oil is extracted from the leaves and twigs of the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant, also known as Eucalyptus citriodora or Corymbia citriodora.

The lemon eucalyptus is a tall tree that grows up to 50 meters (164 feet) tall and comes from the temperate and tropical northeastern Australia.1 Its name is derived from the Latin term citriodorus meaning "lemon-scented," and is in demand for structural timber and for honey production. It is also popular in horticulture both in and outside of Australia.

The oil — particularly p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD), its synthetic version with pesticidal properties — is used as an alternative to toxic mosquito repellents and most likely works by masking the environmental cues that mosquitoes use to locate their target.2 While the term "PMD" is often used interchangeably with lemon eucalyptus oil, know that it is different from the "pure" unrefined oil, which is typically used in making fragrances.

The refined lemon eucalyptus oil, which comprises related compounds from the plant, is known by its registered tradename "Citriodiol." However, it also has generic names varying by area, such as oil of lemon eucalyptus oil (OLE) in the United States and PMD rich botanic oil (PMDRBO) in Europe.

Uses of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Usually extracted through steam distillation, the essential oil3 has a pale yellow color and a thin consistency. It smells sweet, lemony and fresh, with a woody hint. Note, however, that this pure oil is not registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an insect repellant.

PMD, or the refined version, on the other hand, has a long history of use but only recently became important as a commercial repellent in the country. For many years, it has been used in China as a product called Quwenling, meaning "effective repellent of mosquitoes." American researchers initiated product investigation in the early 1990s and identified PMD as the active ingredient.

In 2000, the EPA registered oil of lemon eucalyptus or PMD as a "biopesticide repellent," meaning it is derived from natural materials. The resulting products can be applied to human skin and clothing for repelling insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. They are formulated as a spray or a lotion.

Composition of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

The essential oil of the lemon-scented gum mainly consists of citronellal (80 percent), produced mostly in Brazil and China.4 The refined oil's citronellal is converted into cis- and trans-isomers of PMD, a process that naturally occurs as the leaves of the plant age. Pure PMD is synthesized for commercial production from synthetic citronellal. Many other compounds have been identified and extracted from the lemon eucalyptus, including limonene and linalool.

Benefits of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Julia Lawless's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils identifies a number of health benefits of lemon eucalyptus oil, which may help against arthritis, bronchitis, catarrh, cold sores, colds, coughing, fever, flu, poor circulation and sinusitis. Lemon eucalyptus or PMD can be a safe alternative to DEET, the most popular synthetic commercial insect repellent today. DEET has been documented to cause serious adverse effects, especially in children.

When it was tested on humans in Tanzania, PMD gave complete protection from biting for between six and 7.75 hours. Compared to DEET, there was no significant difference in efficacy and duration of protection when used against the Anopheles mosquito, the chief malaria vector in Africa. Other studies have also demonstrated its protection against the biting midge, deer tick and the stable fly.

Burning the leaves of the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus tree has therefore been shown as a cost-effective means of household protection, alongside the use of mosquito nets, in sub-Sahara Africa.

How to Make Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

You can make a homemade mosquito repellent if you want to stay safe from DEET and other strong, toxic chemicals in most commercial repellents in the U.S. Lemon eucalyptus oil is considered key in making one, although you may also use citronella oil or cinnamon oil. Here is a recipe from Backpacking Spirit:5

Make your own mosquito repellent consisting of around 10 percent lemon eucalyptus oil. If you are using the essential ("pure") oil, note that it does not mix with water and will therefore require a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil.


  1. Obtain an appropriately sized bottle for travel; a 100 to 200 ml (3.3 to 6.76 ounces) bottle will be a good choice. You may also go for a bottle that has a spritzer nozzle for easy application.
  2. Choose your carrier oil or alcohol.
  3. Use a measuring jug for more precise measurements.
  4. For the 10 percent essential oil, if you are using a 100 ml bottle, mix 90 ml of your chosen liquid and 10 ml of lemon eucalyptus oil. If you are using a 200 ml bottle, mix 180 ml of liquid and 20 ml of essential oil.
  5. Shake the bottle thoroughly before use.
  6. Spritz onto skin and rub in.


  1. Store in a dark, cool place wherever possible and keep out of direct sunlight.
  2. Avoid the eye area.
  3. Reapply after exercise, swimming and from time to time throughout the day if you are outside.
  4. Get medical advice from your doctor about the best mosquito repellent for you. I advise not using eucalyptus lemon oil if you are pregnant.
How Does Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Work?

Lemon eucalyptus oil is applied topically on your skin for preventing mosquito and deer tick bites and may help with treating muscle spasms, toenail fungus (onychomycosis) and osteoarthritis and other joint pain. It is also added as an ingredient in chest rubs, which may help with congestion. Slate recommends6 this oil for repelling bugs:

"For full-on chemophobes who seek a registered product, there is lemon eucalyptus oil, which works as well as low concentrations of DEET and may last for up to six hours. For adventurous chemophobes, there is PMD, the synthetic version of lemon eucalyptus. Both are generally safe, although neither should be used on children under the age of 3 (just another example of the fact that natural doesn't always equal benign)."

Is Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Safe?

Lemon eucalyptus oil is generally safe for most adults when applied to skin as a mosquito repellent. Note, though, that some individuals might have a skin reaction to it. On the other hand, I strongly discourage internal applications of lemon eucalyptus oil as it is unsafe. Chest rubs for congestion contain lemon eucalyptus oil and can cause seizures and death if eaten.7

I advise pregnant and breast-feeding women to avoid using this oil, as not enough is known about the safety of using it while pregnant or breast-feeding.

Side Effects of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

In EPA studies using laboratory animals, PMD showed no adverse effects, except for eye irritation. The technical material is categorized as an eye irritant, while the diluted end use products are estimated to be milder. Although rare, skin irritations can occur. As with any herbal oil, I suggest doing a skin patch test first to check if you're allergic to it.

As in using other plant or herbal oils, I recommend consulting a qualified natural healthcare practitioner if you are looking for therapeutic effects and benefits.

The Worst Kind of Meat

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The first large-scale animal farm factories appeared in the early 1970s,1 designed for egg-laying hens. However, it wasn't long before beef and pork producers followed suit with the aim to reduce overhead and increase profits, which also reduced the quality of the meat produced.

Today, most meat sold in the U.S. is raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). In a corporate-controlled environment characterized by large-scale, centralized production, companies — not farmers — have identified means of production, processing and distribution that produce more meat for less money.

The repercussions associated with these farms have included a rise in antibiotic-resistant disease claiming the lives of nearly 23,000 Americans each year,2 and a significant impact on local water supply from waste water runoff from these farms.3,4 Both of these concerns are driving significant global issues with water quality and antibiotic-resistant bacterial disease.

Although these farms have created monstrous environmental problems, the companies that run them are not only violating the environment, they are also plundering the American farmer, driving the farmer deeper into debt as the corporation enjoys growing profits.

Moved From Field to Confinement

Harold Steele, a hog-farming pioneer in central Illinois, helped develop new methods of raising pigs in automated confinement operations that boosted productivity.5 Family farmers were optimistic these new production methods would help improve sustainable agriculture on the family farm. Initially, wooden barns and then galvanized metal sheds, were built to protect the animals from predators, cold snaps and summer heat.

Farmers shared their secrets for breeding, shed construction and ventilation systems. The farmers started with wooden slat floors that allowed manure and waste to collect below, but soon moved to concrete floors when the wood swelled and twisted from moisture. The farmers built earthen lagoons to stockpile the manure and then used it to fertilize their nearby crop fields where they grew corn and grain to feed the livestock.

These farmers used secret additives to the hog feed, such as cinnamon and honey to improve production and reduce illness. However, by the 1990s, low-dose, government-approved growth hormones and antibiotics were introduced, making the animals grow faster, and sometimes changing their personality. Steele said:6

"The animals changed from what we had created to a kind of animal that was being fed things that they shouldn't have been fed. They are no longer animals that we've known. They are animals that we can't even handle."

As the animals are packed in tight quarters and fed diets that endanger the animal's immune system, the spread of disease occurs quickly and easily. Low dose antibiotics are added to the feed to slow infectious disease and to encourage growth of the animal on less food; both factors that increase the profit margin for the producers and increase the health risks for the end user.

These antibiotics may kill most of the bacteria in the animal, but often leave enough bacteria resistant to the drugs that survive and multiply in the meat.7 This is the meat that ends up on your dinner table.

Resistance to Antibiotic of Last Resort Found on Hog Farm

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is fast becoming a global crisis,8 fueled by large amounts of antibiotic use on CAFO farms, needed to protect the health of animals kept in an unhealthy and inhumane environment. One such antibiotic-resistant bacteria recently detected on a U.S. hog farm9 was carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE).

CRE has been labeled a "nightmare bacteria" by the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, since they are nearly impossible to kill with conventional antibiotics.10 These organisms may transfer their virility to other bacteria, have a fatality rate as high as 50 percent and are resistant to nearly all antibiotics.

Researchers suggested finding CRE on the hog farm may have been the result of an introduction from the outside. The consistent use of low-dose antibiotics in the animal feed on the farm may subsequently have contributed to the maintenance and spread of the bacteria.11

Some Contract Growers Lose Out

The system of pork production initiated by Steele continued until the mid-1990s when prices collapsed and large producers, such as Smithfield and Cargill, entered the picture, enticing farmers to become "contract growers," providing the labor without actually owning the pigs.12 Some farmers saw this as a way of being able to keep the family farm without absorbing the fluctuating meat market prices.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, while farmers are insulated from shifting prices, they face unique challenges, such as increasing production losses or corruption in the sponsoring company, especially allocating quotas the farmers must meet.13 Large meat producers, like Cargill, are continuing to solicit contract growers, giving the farmer the opportunity to get bank loans for new confinement buildings and stay in business.

But while a contract from a large corporation promising business may help the farmer garner a bank loan, the reality of a 365-day business without rest and consistent payment per pig has driven some farmers out of business. According to Professor Emeritus Ronald Plain, a specialist in livestock marketing at the University of Missouri, the cost per pig:14

"[It] sounds fairly typical. What you are describing is a very common arrangement. You want to make a lot of money in pigs, you got to own the pigs and deal with a lot of risk."

Without the risk, farmers are making less but continue to have the same overhead costs. Some have taken out multimillion-dollar loans to build confinement facilities15 while netting between $20,000 and $60,000 each year for their efforts. According to Illinois hog farmer Greg Giertz:

"It used to be, the farmer raised the corn that fed his pigs here in Illinois, they got harvested by a packing plant here in Illinois and they probably got consumed here in Illinois. Now the hogs might be owned by someone in Iowa, raised in Illinois, slaughtered in Indiana and shipped to China."

Smithfield Profits and Farmers Can Barely Pay the Mortgage

Solicitation of a greater number of contract farmers has resulted in nearly 700 construction applications for new or expanded operations in Iowa alone.16 This follows the loss of nearly 8 million piglets between 2013 and 2015 from a viral infection of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv).17 Multiple strains of PEDv have been identified in the U.S., as the virus easily mutates in response to herd immunity.

The enteric virus was reported in the 1970s18 in Europe and found periodically in Italy since the 1990s.19 Severe outbreaks occurred predominantly in swine-producing Asian countries, before destroying nearly 10 percent of the hog population in the U.S. between 2013 and 2014. The virus then spread to Canada and Mexico.20 Confinement and stressed immune systems in the hogs increased the opportunity for the virus to spread quickly.

Lack of supply drove pork prices high, reducing consumer demand. With an increasing number of contract farmers taking the initiative to develop pork CAFOs to meet the demand, the market has been flooded with "the other white meat," making pork more competitive in the grocery store. Throughout the ups and downs of the pork market, contract farmers are paid the same for each pig delivered to market, while their overhead costs continue to grow.

This combination has resulted in a $143 million net income for Smithfield in 2016, compared to $83 million for the same time period in 2015.21 Pig farmers are facing declining margins and potential farm loss, while the companies that own their contracts are raking in the profits.

The fall in prices comes at a time when export to China has fallen dramatically, in part as China bans the use of a growth stimulant U.S. producers use to add weight on the animal before slaughter. Ractopamine is a drug that increases protein development and reduces the amount of fat on the animal. However, while it sounds good for producers, the drug is banned in most countries, except the U.S., due to health concerns.

Animal research links the drug to a reduction in reproductive function, birth defects, mastitis in dairy animals and an increase in death. In fact, the Center for Food Safety includes toxicity risks as behavioral changes, cardiovascular and endocrine problems and high stress leading to broken limbs, hyperactivity and death.22 The drug is banned in nearly 160 countries, but acceptable to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for your consumption.23

What Does Health Have to Do With It?

In a marketing maneuver to brand Smithfield CAFO pork as healthy, the company partnered with Skinnygirl brand to launch a new line of cold cut meats.24 These new prepackaged, portion controlled servings are purposefully aimed at "health conscious, weight-watching, young women," according to Smithfield.25

Skinnygirl brand was started by one of the reality television actresses on the Real Housewives of New York, Bethenny Frankel, who endorses the new portion-controlled packages of pork, saying,26 "Protein is the key to feeling full and satisfied, which helps us avoid bad investment foods."

However, while protein is necessary for good health in small portions, it is healthy fats that increase your satiety and feeling of satisfaction and fullness after eating a healthy meal, and not bits of protein, especially not antibiotic and growth hormone-laden CAFO pork.

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Reminiscent of President Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy to "speak softly and carry a big stick," Smithfield appears to be taking up a position of intelligent marketing and decisive action to advance a global impact on the meat market. Slowly and quietly the company is targeting markets across the globe using popular branding, such as Skinnygirl, and collaborating with major league sports teams, such as the Chicago Fire Soccer Club.

Krakus, a polish subsidiary of Smithfield, recently announced they would team up with the Chicago soccer team to provide the official deli meat for the season.27 The irony of pairing of a sports team, intent on physical fitness, with a company providing CAFO pork products is a clever marketing strategy to push you to associate healthy life choices with prepackaged deli meat.

Smithfield foods is also applying for permission to acquire more meat processing plants in Poland,28 to grow their ever-expanding meat empire across the globe. The proposal involves the purchase of 100 percent of company shares of three meat processing plants. The proposed acquisition will add the ability of Smithfield to process poultry meat in Poland, boosting meat processing capacity in that country. Smithfield said in a statement to Global Meat News:29

"The acquisition will strengthen the integrated supply chain within Smithfield group in Poland. It will also allow [the group] to raise its production capacities in the field of meat processing to satisfy the increasing demand of Polish and foreign customers for … processed meat products."

If the proposed merger with Smithfield and these four plants takes place, the plants in Poland will likely post annual revenues of nearly $270 million. Although consolidation of meat processing and packing is lucrative for Smithfield, it places contract farmers and consumers in the untenable position of being at the mercy of one provider.

Political Bribes Release Tainted Meat and May Topple Brazilian President

The meat business, much like other large industries, has connections at various levels of government. In the case of meat exports from Brazil, those connections have reached all the way to the country's president. Recently, authorities in Brazil suspended 33 government employees and closed three slaughterhouses after finding factory managers had bribed politicians and inspectors to obtain meat export certificates for meat that had never been inspected.30

This was the largest organized federal police effort in Brazil, which police used to dismantle a "criminal organization" that had used kickbacks to aid the production and exportation of adulterated meat by meat producer JBS.

Brazil is one of the world's largest meat exporters, generating nearly $14 billion in the global meat trade in 2016. Located in Brazil, JBS is a global organization, having acquired U.S. Swift and Company in 2007 and Smithfield's beef business in 2008. In 2009 JBS became a majority stockholder in Pilgrim's Pride.

As a result of corruption charges, Brazilian prosecutors fined JBS $3.1 billion, which will be paid by their holding company J&F. This assessment came on the heels of another plea agreement between the Brazilian government and JBS that included reduced sentences for seven executives from the company.31

Although JBS did not disclose the corruption charges, investigations into President Michael Temer were launched following a leaked recording of Temer condoning a JBS executive to bribe politician Eduardo Cunha,32 now serving 15 years after being found guilty of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.33

In the recording, Temer appears to discuss payments to Cunha. The allegations, and ensuing economic turmoil, have resulted in the country's Supreme Court approving an inquiry into these accusations against President Temer and has ousted the chairman of JBS, Joesley Batista, who reportedly fled to New York aboard his yacht, before returning to Brazil June 11.34 JBS is now in the process of selling its beef concerns in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.35

Sustainable Farming Combats Antibiotic-Resistant Disease

Each year the importance to combating antibiotic-resistant disease grows stronger. You may do your part to protect your health by carefully choosing your foods and using antibiotics for yourself responsibly. Seek out antibiotic-free meat raised by organic grass fed and regenerative farmers. If you live in the U.S., the following organizations may help you locate healthy farm-fresh foods:

American Grassfed Association

The goal of the American Grassfed Association is to promote the grass fed industry through government relations, research, concept marketing and public education.

Their website also allows you to search for AGA approved producers certified according to strict standards that include being raised on a diet of 100 percent forage; raised on pasture and never confined to a feedlot; never treated with antibiotics or hormones; born and raised on American family farms. provides lists of farmers known to produce raw dairy products as well as grass fed beef and other farm-fresh produce (although not all are certified organic). Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation

Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange

The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest

This website will help you find farmers markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass fed meats and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets

A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food From Healthy Animals

The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, hotels and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.


The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs and markets near you.

The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.

If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out and They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area. The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund36 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.37 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at

The Heroes Who Sunk Lead

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Lead has a cumulative effect on multiple organ systems in your body and is particularly harmful to young children. After it enters the body, it is distributed through the brain, kidney, liver and bones, and is often stored in the bones and teeth.1 There is no known safe exposure to lead, which often affects young children and lower socioeconomic groups the hardest.

However, humans have a long and intimate relationship with lead, dating back to 3000 B.C. when the Roman Empire used it to create pipes for their plumbing and to sweeten wine that they then shipped all over Europe.2 Documents from that period report symptoms of colic, anemia and gout attributed to overexposure to lead.

Some historians even believe lead poisoning hastened the fall of the Roman Empire. The oldest known piece made of lead is a figurine from 4000 B.C., found in Egypt.3 In more recent years, the durability of the heavy metal made it an excellent additive to paint, and the chemical properties made it an attractive gasoline enhancer to curb knocking caused by the premature firing of gas in the cylinder.4

However, while manufacturers may have been enamored by the properties of the heavy metal, it has placed a heavy burden on human health and the environment. The dangers of lead have been documented since the second century B.C., but it has taken nearly 4,000 years to fully understand the consequences to human health.

While those consequences are significant, and may even represent one of the biggest health risks in human history, manufacturers removed it only after years of fighting and litigation, insisting the product is completely safe despite hundreds of research documents to the contrary. Today we have several heroes to thank for the significant drop in lead levels we enjoy. But, while several battles have been won, the war continues.

Lead and Calcium Thick as Thieves

Lead levels in the average American have dropped by more than 75 percent since the 1970s, but remnants of pollution from past decades continue to endanger your health. Lead can still be found in pipes, in the soil and in older paint. It is a problem that is possible, but expensive, to fix. To make things more difficult and dangerous, federal funding to remove lead has been slashed, and local governments don’t have the resources to pick up the slack.5

Lead and calcium are chemically very similar, making lead a competitor at the cellular level and disrupting many different bodily systems.6 In your neurological system, it may disrupt neurons that use calcium to transmit information.7 This is why lead has a particularly devastating effect on the developing neurological systems and brains of children.

The presence of lead will cause some neurons to fire more and decrease the signals in others. This may alter neurological development in the brains of children who have absorbed lead from their environment. In the past, researchers noted behavioral and cognitive changes in children who were brought to the physician for testing and treatment.8

Researchers found children, and those living in poverty, have a higher incidence of lead poisoning and have higher lead levels. Symptoms of chronic exposure or lead poisoning don’t usually appear until years later. Virginia Rauh, an environmental health scientist at Columbia University, explains that the neurological poisoning in children becomes more apparent as they mature and must use more fine-tuned skills.9

Epidemiological studies have revealed African-American children have a higher incidence of lead poisoning, potentially from a slightly different way of metabolizing the heavy metal. Research has demonstrated that people of African-American descent absorb calcium at higher rates,10 sometimes as much as 50 percent more efficiently.11 While this may be advantageous for calcium levels, it is a disadvantage when children are exposed to lead.

Research Scientist and Pediatrician Herbert Needleman Provided the Foundation

Dr. Herbert Needleman began his medical career in the 1950s and quickly began his crusade for better lead safety standards after treating a long parade of children with lead poisoning as a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.12 After years of treating children and observing the long-term effects of exposure, he maintained that a slow buildup of lead in the system could trigger symptoms even in the absence of overt poisoning.

To test the hypothesis that long-term exposure at low levels may affect cognitive skills and behavior, Needleman required a method of testing lead levels. Blood tests only revealed the current exposure, but would not capture the amount of lead the children were exposed to over time. As he transitioned from treating pediatrician to research scientist, he turned to testing baby teeth that absorbed lead at the same rate as bone.13

Needleman found teeth would reveal long-term lead exposure and absorption, and found inner city African-American children had levels five times higher than their suburban counterparts.14 Next, he gathered data from nearly 2,500 children in Boston and demonstrated the higher the levels of lead the children absorbed, the greater their neurological deficits.

As lead-based paint and gasoline were the biggest contributors to lead poisoning in children, Needleman and public health expert and colleague Dr. Philip Landrigan began lobbying to remove lead from these products. However, fearful of monetary loss, the industry fought back. Using an army of paid experts to pick apart the research, the industry criticized the data collection and analysis, leading to a formal investigation of scientific misconduct by the University of Pittsburgh where Needleman was employed.15

The industry not only attacked the science, but also personally went after the scientist. Today, Needleman suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, but his son reports that the investigation led by the university only signaled to his father the university’s distrust of a scientist who had given decades of service to his employers. After years of fighting, the science and the scientist were exonerated.16

Geochemist Clair Patterson’s Persistence Pays Off

As Needleman was fighting the University of Pittsburgh, geochemist Clair Patterson, Ph.D., was fighting the oil companies to have lead removed from gasoline. Even when it was added to gas in the 1920s it was known to cause neurological damage. Still, the process was pursued as it enabled the oil companies to net greater profits. Ironically, the researcher from General Motors suffered lead poisoning, but continued to marvel at the profits the company would make.17

Patterson was a geochemist working to establish the age of the earth by measuring lead isotopes. He was confounded by results he thought may have been tainted.18 This led him to use core samples from ice layers in Greenland. He was able to identify ice that had been formed during the Roman Empire and Industrial Revolution, and then discovered the ice that formed since 1920 had a major spike in lead concentration.

In 1965, Patterson published the book, “Contaminated and Natural Lead Environments of Man,”19 in an attempt to bring the dangers of lead gasoline on health and environment to light. Again, the industry brought to bear its influence to discredit the science and the man in an effort to maintain inordinate profits at the cost of human health.

Although an acknowledged world expert in atmospheric lead contamination, Patterson was excluded from panels at the U.S. Public Health Service and the National Research Council as a result of pressure from the oil industry.

Despite the overwhelming odds of one man fighting the oil industry, Patterson was instrumental in bringing forth the 1975 U.S. mandated option of unleaded gas at the pumps. It took substantial persistence, but finally in 1986 Patterson’s persistence triggered the removal of lead from all gasoline in the U.S. As a result, blood lead levels dropped nearly 80 percent by the late 1990s. In my view, he is one of the greatest unrecognized public health heroes of the 20th century.

Decadeslong Lawsuit Illustrates Lead-Based Destruction

Gary Gambel, a New Orleans attorney, took up the fight in 1994 when he met young single mother, Casey Billieson. Gambel was part of a team of lawyers in the New Orleans Lafitte area doing soil testing for lead. On the advice of Gambel, Billieson had her two young sons tested and found they had been poisoned, and likely had been for years. In this short video, another mother tells a recent story of how a home renovation during her pregnancy affected her unborn son.

What began in 1994 did not conclude until 2016.20 Gambel’s interest in lead poisoning began when an associate uncovered several positive lead poisoning tests while working on another case. The original plan was to help several families pro bono to move into housing not contaminated by lead paint. However, all the families he had contact with had children who tested positive for lead, and the housing authority hadn’t done anything to rectify the situation.

The housing authority of New Orleans (HANO) was doing nothing to keep their units up to code where thousands of families and children were living. In 1985, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set a standard of 25 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) for children to be treated. At that time children in the New Orleans area regularly tested higher, and those who lived in the projects administered by HANO tested highest of all.

Lead levels in the plaintiffs who worked with Gambel regularly tested between 20 mcg/dL and 40 mcg/dL. To put this in perspective, lead levels just over the current 5 mcg/dL triggered the investigation into the water contamination in Flint, Michigan.21 Unfortunately, many of the plaintiffs in the New Orleans case did not receive a settlement as they were either killed or have since been incarcerated.

Howard Mielke, Ph.D., a research professor in the department of pharmacology at Tulane University, and his colleague examined crime in six cities, including New Orleans, and how it related to lead emissions from gasoline.22 They found what the mothers of these children had long been claiming: Increases in lead were strongly associated with increases in crime. In other words, exposure to lead had permanently altered the ability of these children to even enjoy the stability of a job.

The Case Continued

After a private company was appointed to administer the project renovations and abatement in New Orleans, Gambel and his partner saw an opportunity to file a class action suit, representing all the families and children who lived in the HANO projects, claiming the children were exposed to lead from paint and the metal that settled in the soil from lead gasoline.23

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit were scattered across the U.S. after being forced to relocate when Hurricane Katrina flooded their neighborhoods in 2005. Unfortunately, Katrina not only forced relocation of families, but also destroyed medical records of children so that parents were unable to prove their children had lead levels high enough to qualify for the class action suit at the time of the settlement.

Some families had one child awarded compensation but not others, as those medical records were lost. Today, Gambel closely guards the documents gathered during their 22-year-long court case.

The court fight was long and protracted, requiring thousands of hours from the attorneys on both sides. Gambel’s work attracted the interest of another lawyer who had taken on big companies after large disasters had struck. This was fortuitous for Gambel, as he was a relatively new lawyer working in a small firm. Gambel commented:24

"When I filed that lawsuit, in hindsight I was just naïve. As a young lawyer and a startup firm, there were a lot of people asking me, ‘How are you going to do this?’”

Lead Continues to Threaten Children

Although health risks associated with lead are recognized and well publicized, it hasn’t removed the risk to children. Pediatricians in Oregon take a different approach to testing children for lead levels. Some use the Oregon Health Authority’s recommendations that direct parent questions about exposure when children appear asymptomatic, while other pediatricians take a more aggressive approach, doing blood tests on all 1- to 2-year-old children.25

A recent study indicates performing blood tests on all children may be warranted.26 The researchers found a significant gap in numbers between those estimated to have elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) and those reported to the health departments. The authors of the study wrote:

“While we find no evidence of under-ascertainment in a number of states, the majority appear to successfully identify fewer than half of their children with EBLL.”

Based on their data, the authors estimated there were 1.2 million children with EBLL in the U.S. between 1999 and 2010, which represents a number significantly higher than the number reported. They concluded that under-testing was “endemic” in many states.27 Although the problems with lead-polluted water in Flint, Michigan, raised awareness, many physicians continue to underestimate the number of their patients who may suffer from high lead levels.

To compound this issue, a recent statement was issued warning that all blood lead levels tested using tests by Meridian Bioscience Inc. may underestimate the amount of lead in the blood.28 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration learned about problems with the Meridian Bioscience tests after a number of complaints surfaced.

Although the problem with the test is unclear, pediatricians are being advised to retest all patients whose blood test returned with a level less than 10 mcg/dL. It is unclear how many people may need retesting, but it is known this test is used in nearly 50 percent of all blood lead level tests.

Strategies to Avoid Lead Poisoning

The issue of preventing lead poisoning is a pressing matter, whether you have young children in your home or not. Adults are certainly adversely affected by lead contamination, including neurological dysfunction. Harvard Medical School offers the following suggestions to protect yourself and your family against lead exposure:29

  • Was your home built before 1978? If so, get it inspected to determine whether it has any lead paint
  • Lead paint removal should be done by a certified professional to ensure safety. The dust is highly toxic. For more information on this, see the EPA’s “Lead-Based Paint Activities Professionals” page30
  • Get your water tested for lead
  • Be mindful of the fact that certain household objects may also contain lead. For information about lead-containing products and recalls, see the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s website31
  • Get your child tested for lead. Ideally, all children should be tested at ages 1 and 2, and again at ages 3 and 4 if you live in an older home. It’s also recommended to test your child’s level whenever there’s concern about exposure. A level of 5 mcg/dL or higher is considered dangerous


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