By Dr. Mercola
Daylight Saving Time (DST), the practice of moving clocks ahead one hour in the summer months and returning them back an hour in the winter, was first implemented by Germany during World War I, as a way to conserve electricity.
The idea, however, dates back to William Willett, an Englishman who campaigned for “summer time” in the early 1900s so that people would have more time to be out in the sunlight – though the British government was not interested.
It wasn’t until 1918 that Daylight Saving came to the US, although it was repealed a short time later, in 1919 (largely due to lobbying from the agricultural industry, whose schedules were unproductively disrupted). As reported by History:1
“Rather than rural interests, it has been urban entities such as retail outlets and recreational businesses that have championed daylight saving over the decades.”
After the 1919 repeal, there was chaos in the US, with some cities and states continuing to shift their clocks while others did not. In 1966, the Uniform Time Act was passed, which put into place the DST standard used in the US today (although certain states, namely Hawaii and Arizona, opt out).
Since the beginning, DST has been surrounded by controversy, with many arguing against it even to this day. There is reason to believe that not only does DST not conserve energy, but it may actually be putting the health of modern-day humans at risk.Daylight Saving Time Linked to Increased Risk of Heart Attacks
The first Monday after Daylight Saving Time begins each March is met with grumbles across the US, as most lose one precious hour of sleep. This might seem inconsequential, but research is mounting showing that even slight changes to your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) can be detrimental to your health… yes, even tweaking it by just one hour.
Recent research presented at the annual scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology revealed that the risk of having a heart attack on the Monday following DST rose by 25 percent compared to other Mondays.
At the end of the summer, when clocks are turned back one hour so that people get an extra hour of sleep, the risk of heart attack fell by 21 percent.2 Past research has similarly shown that the disruption to sleep schedules triggered by DST may pose a risk to your heart:
- Research published in the March 2013 edition of the American Journal of Cardiology showed a small rise in heart attack rates the Sunday following the shift to DST, along with a small tick downward the Sunday following the change back to standard time.3
- A 2012 University of Alabama study found that heart attacks increased by 10 percent on the Monday and Tuesday following the time change to DST. Heart attacks again decreased by 10 percent on the first Monday and Tuesday after clocks are switched back in the fall.4
- A 2008 Swedish study found your chances of having a heart attack increase in the first three weekdays after the switch to DST, and decrease after you set your clock back to standard time in the fall. Heart attacks increase by five percent the first Monday after the time change, and 10 percent on Tuesday.5
DST actually leads to a host of issues for health and personal safety. One Washington University neuroscientist told CBS News that adjusting clocks forward one hour corresponds with a significant increase in traffic accidents and heart attacks6 over the next two to three days.7
One study also found that the spring transition, which causes a phase advance, is particularly hard on the average person’s sleep-wake cycle,8 and while it’s generally thought that the loss of one hour of sleep on the night of the change is inconsequential, research suggests otherwise. According to a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews:9
“…data suggests that increased sleep fragmentation and sleep latency present a cumulative effect of sleep loss [following the spring transition], at least across the following week, perhaps longer.
The autumn transition is often popularized as a gain of 1 h[our] of sleep but there is little evidence of extra sleep on that night. The cumulative effect of five consecutive days of earlier rise times following the autumn change again suggests a net loss of sleep across the week.
Indirect evidence of an increase in traffic accident rates, and change in health and regulatory behaviors which may be related to sleep disruption suggest that adjustment to daylight saving time is neither immediate nor without consequence.”
Case in point, research also shows that daylight saving time leads to increases in workplace injuries (frequency and severity)10 as well as delays in reaction time that affect performance.11 Additionally:
- Suicides: Suicide rates for males rise in the weeks following the start of DST.12
- Automobile Accidents: Traffic accidents increase by eight percent on the Monday following the changeover to DST.13 And fatal alcohol-related traffic accidents increase for the first week after setting the clocks ahead.14 Workplace accidents and injuries increase by 5.7 percent, and 67.6 percent more workdays are lost as a result of injuries following the change to DST.15
- Productivity and Quality of Life: People are less productive once DST is implemented. Till Roenneberg, a Russian chronobiologist, reports that most people show “drastically decreased productivity,” decreased quality of life, increased illness, and are “just plain tired” following the switch to DST.16
Disruptions to sleep tend to cascade outward throughout your entire body. There’s a lot we still don’t know, but increasingly more that we do – and one hour really does make a difference.
Research has shown, for instance, that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night there were increases in the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.17 In other words, getting just one hour less sleep a night may raise your risk of multiple chronic diseases. Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
- Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
- Contribute to a pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
- Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
- Increase your risk of dying from any cause
The health risks might be worth it if you could prove that Daylight Saving Time was resulting in major gains elsewhere, such as energy conservation. But the truth is, the energy conservation touted when DST became a national standard likely no longer apply because, in the 21st century, most people are not spending that extra daylight hour outside in the sunshine – they’re spending it indoors where it’s cool.
The irony is that the air conditioner costs far more energy to run than do the lights…The fact is, Daylight Saving Time is not actually saving anything… more accurately, we are sacrificing our health and safety due to this outdated and impractical time change. As reported by History:18
“Dating back to Willett, daylight saving advocates have touted energy conservation as an economic benefit. A U.S. Department of Transportation study in the 1970s concluded that total electricity savings associated with daylight saving time amounted to about 1 percent in the spring and fall months.
As air conditioning has become more widespread, however, more recent studies have found that cost savings on lighting are more than offset by greater cooling expenses. University of California Santa Barbara economists calculated that Indiana’s move to statewide daylight saving time in 2006 led to a 1-percent rise in residential electricity use through additional demand for air conditioning on summer evenings and heating in early spring and late fall mornings. Some also argue that increased recreational activity during daylight saving results in greater gasoline consumption.”How to Counteract the Effects of Daylight Saving Time (And Other Disruptions to Your Circadian Rhythm)
Small shifts in circadian timing occur all the time, not only due to Daylight Saving Time. In the 21st century, many people ignore their body's internal clocks, either by necessity (working the night shift or remotely with co-workers across the globe) or choice (staying up late surfing the Web or watching TV).
People are increasingly pushing the limits of their body clocks, getting up early and staying up late for a myriad of reasons. These reasons, it turns out, may not be worth it when it comes to your long-term health. Making small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. Even the American Medical Association now states:19
- Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees.
- Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.
- Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.
- Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home.
By Dr. Kelly Brogan
Psychoneuroimmunology. This is what I aim to practice. Medical terms of this length command our respect for the interconnectedness of different subspecialties, for the futile segmentation and compartmentalization of the body into different organ systems.
As discussed in this previous article I wrote for Dr. Mercola, deconstructing the serotonin model of depression, psychiatry is in a crisis. It can no longer stand on its own, throwing more and more medications at its perceived target.
It seems, therefore, fitting that psychiatry would follow the investigative path of other lifestyle-triggered chronic diseases such as cancer, autoimmunity, and heart disease. There already exists a bidirectional relationship between all of the major chronic diseases and psychiatric diagnoses (patients who struggle with chronic diseases are more likely to be depressed and vice versa).
The role of inflammation, across these disease states, is better elucidated each day. Let's deconstruct what is known as it applies to mental health.Inflammation and Depression
In this model, depression is a non-specific fever that tells us little about what is actually causing the body to react and protect itself in this way. The body is "hot" and we need to understand why. Depressive symptoms are the manifestation of many downstream effects on hormones and neurotransmitters, but if we swim up to the source, we will find a river of inflammatory markers coursing by.
The source itself may be singularly or multiply-focused as stress, dietary, and toxic exposures, and infection, as we will discuss here. As explored in the medical literature,1 inflammation appears to be a highly relevant determinant of depressive symptoms such as flat mood, slowed thinking, avoidance, alterations in perception, and metabolic changes. We understand this relationship based on:
Psychiatrists have longed to be legitimized in their role as science-based physicians. Despite this, there are no diagnostic tests that are validated for the assessment of psychiatric pathology. In the practice of functional medicine, however, the diagnosis becomes secondary to the individual's personalized interplay of factors and the "biomarkers" that can light the way toward healing.
Cytokines in the blood, or inflammatory messengers, such as CRP, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-alpha have taken the stage as predictive2 and linearly3 correlative with depression.
Researchers have validated4 that, in melancholic depression, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression, white blood cells called monocytes express pro-inflammatory genes leading to secretion of cytokines, while simultaneously leading to decreased cortisol sensitivity, the body's stress hormone and inflammatory buffer – a feedforward cycle.
Once triggered in the body, these inflammatory agents transfer information to the nervous system, typically through stimulation of major nerves such as the vagus, which connects5 the gut and brain. Specialized cells called microglia in the brain represent the brain's immune hubs and are activated in inflammatory states.
In activated microglia, an enzyme called IDO (indoleamine 2 3-dioxygenase) has been shown6 to direct tryptophan away from the production of serotonin and melatonin and towards the production of an NMDA agonist called quinolinic acid that may be responsible for symptoms of anxiety and agitation.
These are just some of the changes that may conspire to let your brain in on what your body may know is wrong.
While an animal model of depression may seem like an absurd idea, currently, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an endotoxin produced by gram-negative bacteria, is used to induce these clinical models in rodents.
Mice that lack IL1-B7 (a cytokine that mediates inflammatory response), however, are protected against these LPS-mediated "depressive symptoms" (i.e., as demonstrated by loss of interest in sugar water), supporting the critical role of inflammatory messengers in the depressogenic cascade.
One of the most predictable side effects of interferon therapy for Hepatitis C is depression. In fact, 45 percent of patients develop depression8 with interferon treatment, which appears to be related to elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF.
A number of trials have examined the role of anti-inflammatory agents in the treatment of depression. In one recent trial,9 a subset of patients resistant to antidepressant treatment and identified by serum markers of inflammation, most notably C-reactive protein >3mg/L, were responsive to treatment with the TNF-alpha antagonist (anti-inflammatory) infliximab (Remicade).
The pain-killer celecoxib (Celebrex) has been found in randomized, placebo-controlled trials10 to be superior to placebo in antidepressant augmentation. In the setting of psoriasis treatment with etanercept (Enbrel), mood was improved11 independent of psoriatic relief.
There has even been suggestion that the mechanism of action of antidepressants is through an anti-inflammatory effect, particularly on IL6. However, these observational studies have been largely inconclusive.12The Gut-Brain Dance
What is driving this inflammation? How does it get kicked off? And how does it induce depression? With the limited clinical applications and revelations that came with the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2002, we have begun to focus on where we have outsourced our physiologic functions.
The microbiome has become an important consideration, and particularly, the gut, which houses at least 10 times as many human cells as there are in our bodies, and 150 times as many genes as are in our genome. These microbes control many vital operations and are responsible for synthesis of neuroactive and nutritional compounds, for immune modulation, and for inflammatory signaling.
Our greatest interface with the environment is the 70+ percent of your immune system housed in your gut wall. Disturbances in gut microbiota, autoimmunity, head injury, childbirth, and infection can all trigger systemic inflammation. This immune activity takes the form of a TH1 dominant cellular response in which macrophages produce ILI, IL6, and TNFalpha, all of which have been shown to be elevated in the setting of depression.
The communication between our guts and brains appears to rely, in part, on the vagus nerve, and is bidirectional in nature as reported in this 12-year prospective study13 that looked at relationships between gut problems like irritable bowel disease, anxiety, and depression.
The stage is set for the microbiome when we descend the vaginal canal and are breastfed. Unfortunately, the rate of cesarean sections doubled from 1990-2008, comprising one-third of US births. Maternal inflammatory states and diseases such as type 1 diabetes can increase risk of surgical birth, as can interventions such as ultrasound, 14 monitoring, and the epidural.15 Without vaginal transfer of mom's flora, the baby misses out on the most important inoculation.
A study16 of 24 Canadian babies at four months demonstrated that elective section resulted in the most diminished bacterial diversity. Surgically born babies had significantly less Bacteroides and Escherichia-Shigella species. In this cohort, formula-fed babies had overrepresentation of Clostridium difficile, Peptostreptococcaceae, and Verrucomicrobiaceae. Excitingly, research is being done on "vaginal swabs" for inoculation in the setting of C-section.17The Importance of Breast Milk
In our nationwide departure from physiologic birth and breastfeeding, less than one-quarter of women can be expected to be nursing by 12 months postpartum. Breast milk18 contains unique nutrients for beneficial bacteria called oligosaccharides, but importantly, it is the vital follow up to the mother's vaginal flora, designed to support the baby's immune system during its infancy marked by an "anti-inflammatory" phenotype. During these first few months, the baby relies on the mother's breast milk to help inform its immune system of what is dangerous.
Over the course of lactation beginning with colostrum, the makeup of these bacteria and growth factors changes.19 A recent study20 confirms that mom's gut bacteria are vertically transferred through breast milk and that this "entero-mammary" connection is what helps to develop the baby's immune system. This is the beginning of natural immunity, which is so much more complex than vaccinologists would have you believe.
One of the many problems with formula is the glaring omission of these microbes leaving the baby susceptible to colonization by inappropriate strains, suboptimal diversity, and stimulation of the immune system by many of the toxic compounds in this synthetic food. In fact, infants fed breast milk had an anti-inflammatory cytokine milieu throughout infancy.21 Here22 is a stunning analysis of formula shortcomings.
Interestingly, this rat study23 demonstrated that the types of bacteria in the guts of these rat pups determined their response to stress on a physiologic level, and that it was more difficult to correct later in their rat-infancy. The gut bacteria influenced behavior and brain growth in these animals. I speak about some of the impediments to adequate milk supply here,24 but formula feeding25 in the hospital and "supplementation" is a major offender.Gluten Promotes Depression
Often processed with genetically modified oils in high glycemic foods, gluten is a brain and body poison. Its havoc begins in the gut, where it promotes intestinal permeability by upregulating a compound called zonulin. Local gut inflammation (often lectin-induced) precedes more systemic inflammatory responses accompanied by antibodies to the different components of gluten (gliadin and glutenin), complexes with enzymes called transglutaminase, and to tissue in the brain, gut, and thyroid through a process called molecular mimicry.
The neurologic effects of gluten intolerance include depression, seizures, headaches, multiple sclerosis/demyelination, anxiety, ADHD, ataxia, neuropathy as discussed here and here. Independent of the brain effects already discussed, gliadin peptides may travel through the blood stream and can stimulate opiate receptors in the brain, resulting in their being termed gliadorphins, accounting for temporary withdrawal symptoms! Get the full scoop in my anti-gluten missive.The Impact of Unnatural Foods: GMOs
In the past year, there has been an explosion of terrifying information on the impact of herbicides like Monsanto's Roundup (glyphosate) on our gut microbiome. As it turns out, this chemical is very active in slaughtering beneficial bugs in your intestines via its impact on the "shikimate pathway" previously assumed not to exist in humans.
By imbalancing this flora, pesticides/herbicides also disrupt the production of essential amino acids like tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and promote production of p-cresol, a compound that interferes with metabolism of other "xenobiotics" or environmental chemicals, making the individual more vulnerable to their toxic effects. Even vitamin D3 activation in the liver may be negatively impacted by glyphosate's effect on liver enzymes, potentially explaining epidemic levels of deficiency.
We also have evidence26 that insecticidal toxins such as “Bt” are transferred into the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses, and that glyphosate herbicide transfers to breast milk. Delve27 into this fascinating analysis of what we are learning about these chemicals in our food supply. Genetic modification of foods, in addition to guaranteeing exposure to pest and herbicides, confer risks of gene transference to human gut bacteria, even after a singular exposure.The Hazards of NSAIDs
Most people think of ibuprofen as an innocuous, over–the-counter comfort for aches and pains. Some are so lulled into a sense of safety and efficacy, that they keep these pills in their purses and nightstands for even daily use. In addition to other known risks, its effects on the small and large intestine may be best summarized by this statement:28
"The initial biochemical local sub-cellular damage is due to the entrance of the usually acidic NSAID into the cell via damage of the brush border cell membrane and disruption of the mitochondrial process of oxidative phosphorylation, with consequent ATP deficiency"
For anyone who recognizes the role of brush border integrity and energy production in health, this is quite a damning assertion. We need the gut lining to keep the gut contents away from the blood stream. Resulting increases in permeability allow for luminal factors (intestinal contents) to access the immune system and to set off autoimmune and inflammatory processes. More recent evidence29 suggests that unbalanced gut bacteria set the stage for NSAID-induced permeability through neutrophil stimulation. These changes occur within three to six months. There are no ways to mitigate these negative effects, which argues for getting to the root of why one is experiencing pain and resolving it through lifestyle change rather than suppressing it with medications that will whack-a-mole their way to new, chronic, and potentially more debilitating symptoms.The Role of Stress
The monoamine hypothesis of depression has very little to say about brain/hormone interplay. The majority of studies30suggest that depression is associated with high cortisol states, and potentially from responses of this stress-system that were ingrained at birth or before. In the context of inflammation, however, cortisol, prolactin, and sex hormones are often dysregulated; in this model, depression is thought to represent a hypercortisolemic state which may result from elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines.
Peripheral glucocorticoid resistance may exacerbate this elevation in cortisol (by interfering with feedback mechanisms) and immune response, simultaneously, which would also drive changes in sex hormones progesterone, insulin, and androgens31 ultimately affecting mood states. Sleep is often compromised in states of stress, and sleep difficulties can also beget stress. The inflammatory effects of insufficient sleep were quantified in a study32 that deprived participants of sleep (just under six hours) for one week resulting in expression of genes associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.How to Resolve It—You Feel What You Eat
Restoring optimal gut flora requires a variety of interventions, but beginning with a grain- and dairy-free diet, eliminating sugar, and genetically modified foods is a good place to start. Remember the role of LPS in depression? How depressive patients are more likely to have intestinal permeability allowing for toxic intestinal agents to circulate in their bodies? A traditional/ancestral diet may be an important modulator, according to Selhub et al. who state:33
"Traditional dietary practices have completely divergent effects of blood LPS levels; significant reductions (38%) have been noted after a one-month adherence to a prudent (traditional) diet, while the Western diet provokes LPS elevations."
For some, a FODMAPs diet may be indicated, and for others, a GAPs or Specific Carbohydrate Diet. This dietary approach will also confer the insulin stabilizing benefits of a high-fat, slower burning metabolic shift which protects cortisol, thyroid, and sex hormones. Increasing natural fats may also serve to protect the 60 percent lipid content of the central nervous system, precursors to hormones, and cell membrane composition while stabilizing blood sugar. I discuss three changes to make here.34
Herbs and spices may also play a palliative role in depression through their anti-inflammatory effects. Curcumin, a polyphenol in the Indian spice turmeric with elaborate anti-inflammatory mechanisms was recently found to be as effective as Prozac in small a randomized study I discuss here.35 Fermented foods, a part of traditional cultural diets, would also play a beneficial role, in this paradigm of microbiome-oriented, diet-supported mental health in ways stated here:36
"'This could manifest, behaviorally, via magnified antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity, reduction of intestinal permeability and the detrimental effects of LPS, improved glycemic control, positive influence on nutritional status (and therefore neurotransmission and neuropeptide production), direct production of GABA, and other bioactive chemicals, as well as a direct role in gut-to-brain communication via a beneficial shift in the intestinal microbiota itself.' In this way, we use bacteria to modify our own bacteria and subsequently dampen inflammatory signals."
In a brilliant review entitled "Psychobiotics: A Novel Class of Psychotropic," Dinan et al tour us through the role of probiotics (therapeutic live organisms ingested as a supplement or as part of a fermented food) in mental health. Acknowledging the data for inflammatory cytokines influencing mood states, and the role of gut bacteria in triggering these cytokines, they review the available literature supporting antidepressant effects of probiotics. There is speculation that anti-inflammatory signaling through IL-10 may underpin probiotic efficacy.
For example, "germ-free" mice exposed to stress experienced normalization of their cortisol response after inoculation with Bifidus infantis. In a related experiment testing the stress of maternal separation, adult rodent behavior was normalized with this inoculation despite persistent cortisol changes. Lactobacilli, on the other hand, improved both parameters. In human adults with irritable bowel syndrome, depression and anxiety symptoms improved with administration of Bifidus, and in the setting of chronic fatigue, subjects experienced improvement in anxiety with Lactobacillus casei, relative to placebo.
In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized study, subjects receiving B. longum and L. helveticus for 30 days experienced improvement on the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, with decrease in urinary free cortisol. A probiotic-containing yogurt was also found to improve mood within 20 days in elderly volunteers. Intriguingly, a three-arm study39 looked at women consuming a fermented milk beverage three times a day vs milk vs nothing, found that those in the probiotic group had MRI-based changes related to midbrain emotional processing.The Benefits of Meditation
Activating the relaxation nervous system – the one that allows us to "rest and digest" – is an effective means of easing symptoms and restoring an anti-inflammatory state. You can start with something as simple as listening to a guided meditation for several minutes a day and working up to 20 minutes twice a day for a therapeutic effect.
The interconnectedness of your gut, brain, immune, and hormonal systems is impossible to unwind. Until we begin to appreciate this complex relationship, we will not be able to prevent or intervene effectively in depression, slated to become the second-leading cause of disability in this country, within the decade. For true healing, and meaningful prevention, take steps every day toward sending your body the message that it is not being attacked, it is not in danger, and it is well nourished, well supported, and calm.
As a society, we can begin to think about protecting the microbiome by demedicalizing birth and infant nutrition, and as individuls, by avoiding antibiotics, NSAIDs, grains, genetically modified and non-organic food. Promising interventions for depression from a gut-brain perspective include probiotics, fermented foods as part of a high natural fat diet, and relaxation response for optimal digestion, anti-inflammatory and insulin sensitizing effects. No antidepressant medication required!
By Dr. Mercola
Another nail has been driven into the coffin of the low-fat diet. Three articles have recently appeared in prominent medical journals elucidating the fallacy of the saturated fat myth.
For nearly four decades, you've been urged to replace your dietary saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats in order to improve your metabolic profile and lower your cardiovascular risk.
Yet scientific evidence clearly shows that this advice has raised your heart attack risk, as well as your chance of developing a number of other life-threatening chronic diseases.
Studies have consistently failed to support any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. In fact, saturated fat has been found to be cardioprotective if you are consuming the right kind.
Still, the government continues its mission to vilify cholesterol, largely fueled by the pharmaceutical industry for which statins have been among the most profitable drugs ever made.
Never mind what the research actually says about what's beneficial for your health. The real culprit behind cardiovascular disease is not saturated fat, but rather excess dietary sugar, and omega-6 fats, mostly from vegetable oils.British Cardiologists Do Some Saturated Fat Myth-Busting
Interventional Cardiology Specialist Registrar in London Aseem Malhotra wrote an excellent scientific review in the British Medical Journal about what is known to date about saturated fat intake and heart disease, explaining how recent studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat and cardiovascular risk.1
Malhotra reports that two-thirds of people admitted to hospitals with acute myocardial infarction have completely normal cholesterol levels. He also mentions a recently published randomly controlled trial that was stopped early after it showed that, in high risk people, the Mediterranean diet achieved a 30 percent improvement over a low-fat diet in terms of cardiovascular events. He concludes:
"The greatest improvements in morbidity and mortality have been due not to personal responsibility but rather to public health. It is time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease and wind back the harms of dietary advice that have contributed to obesity."
These findings were further crystallized by an international research team headed by University of Cambridge, which analyzed data from 72 separate studies about heart risk and fatty acid intake. This massive meta-analysis included data from 600,000 participants in 18 different countries.
The team concluded that saturated fat is NOT linked to coronary disease risk.2 They pointedly state that the science does not support the common nutritional guidelines for heart health, the mantra heard far and wide—a diet rich in polyunsaturated fats but low in saturated fats will reduce your risk for heart disease. This is a myth—and a deadly one.Replacing Your Saturated Fats with Carbohydrates and Vegetable Oils May Be a Death Sentence
In an excellent editorial in the journal Open Heart, research scientist and doctor of pharmacy James J. DiNicolantonio reviews the cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats.3 His points are summarized in the table below.Potential Harms of Replacing Saturated Fat with Carbohydrates Shift to overall atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL, increased triglycerides and increased ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio) Increased small, high-density LDL particles Increased oxidized LDL Reduced HDL Impaired glucose tolerance, higher body fat, weight gain, obesity, and diabetes The potential harms associated with replacing saturated fat with omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which include increased risk of coronary disease and death4 Increased inflammation Increased thrombogenic markers Increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, and death from heart disease and increased overall mortality (all causes) Increased risk for cancer Two Essential Fats That Must Be in Balance: Omega-3 and Omega-6
In January 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a "scientific advisory" recommending that you consume more omega-6 fats (mostly refined vegetable oils) and fewer saturated fats, as part of the "heart healthy" low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. In spite of ALL scientific data to the contrary, this is the rubbish still being recommended.
The AHA and other health authorities continue to ignore the fact that the standard American diet is overloaded with omega-6 fats (and poor-quality ones at that), while being severely deficient in critical omega-3s.
One of the primary problems with all oils derived from vegetable seeds is that they are major sources of omega-6 fats. Omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory and contribute to insulin, leptin, and resistance, altering your mood and impairing learning and cell repair.
The science is loud and clear: the correct balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fats is essential if you want to be the healthiest you can be. There are actually two problems related to how these fats are being consumed by most Westerners today.
Omega-3 fats are the ones that are present in fish and krill oil and some seeds like flax, chia, and hemp. These are the essential fats that have EPA, DHA, and ALA fats that are present in your brain and cell membranes. Omega-6s are oils are high in other plants like corn, soy, safflower, and sunflower oils. All of these oils are required to be healthy, but largely due to processed foods and the use of industrialized oils most of us are consuming far too many omega-6 fats compared to omega-3 fats. The ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats likely ranges from 1:1 to 1:5, but the typical Western diet is between 1:20 and 1:50.
Most of us consume far too many omega-6 fats — AND the wrong ratio of these fats. Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are PUFAs and they are essential to your health, but when omega-6 is consumed in excess, it becomes problematic — and even more so if it's damaged through processing. One of the problems with PUFAs is that they are very chemically unstable, and highly susceptible to being altered and denatured by what's around them. When you eat too many PUFAs, they are increasingly incorporated into your cell membranes.
Because these fats are unstable, your cells become fragile and prone to oxidation, which leads to all sorts of health problems, such as atherosclerosis. I believe a lack of omega-3 combined with an excess of industrialized omega-6 oils is a profoundly important and simple shift in diet that you need to address. High omega-6:3 ratios have also been associated with an increase in cancers, like melanoma. Bear in mind that you need both plant-derived and animal-derived fats for optimal health. For a complete discussion of the differences between types of dietary fat, omega-3 versus omega-6, DHA, EPA, etc., please refer to our comprehensive fatty acids overview.The Magic of the Omega-3s
The benefits of omega-3 fats are truly far-reaching. If you go to the omega-3 fat page on GreenMedInfo.com,5 you will see a long list of scientific studies supporting the benefits of omega-3 fats for hundreds of diseases, including drug-resistant cancer, bipolar disorder, autism, cystic fibrosis, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation—and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Omega-3 fats have powerful anti-inflammatory effects, proving extremely beneficial for inflammation-based disorders such as arthritis and bronchial asthma. Chronic inflammation is a major driver of so many of the diseases we see today, and omega-3 deficiency is a significant factor. Omega-3 deficiencies are associated with the following (which is far from an all-inclusive list):
- Inflammatory conditions: arthritis, stiff or painful joints, asthma, etc.
- Cognitive and emotional problems: depression, psychosis, learning disabilities, memory loss, poor concentration, etc.
- Metabolic dysfunction: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, food cravings
- Skin problems: allergies, acne, eczema, psoriasis, hives; dry, bumpy or flaky skin
- Heart or kidney problems, high blood pressure, or immune dysregulation
Of all the processed oils, canola has probably done the most damage to America's health. Canola consumption has skyrocketed over the past few decades, representing an enormous source of excess omega-6 fat. Unlike olive oil, which comes from olives, and avocado oil, which comes from avocados, canola doesn't come from the "canola plant"—there is no such thing. The word "canola" comes from "Canadian oil low acid," and is a genetically altered product of the rapeseed plant, part of the mustard family.
As discussed in a previous article by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD, a genetic manipulation technique involving seed splitting was used to create this variety of rapeseed, which is low in erucic acid and high in oleic acid. This invention initially became known as LEAR oil, which stands for Low Erucic Acid Rapeseed.
Despite its GRAS status, no long term human safety studies have been done on canola oil. Meanwhile, animal studies on LEAR oil, "challenge not only the health claims made for canola oil, but also the theoretical underpinnings of the diet-heart hypothesis." In 1997, Canadian research showed that piglets fed milk replacement containing canola oil had signs of vitamin E deficiency, even though the milk replacement contained adequate amounts of vitamin E. Vitamin E protects cell membranes against free radical damage and is important for cardiovascular health.
A year later, the same research team found that piglets fed canola oil had decreased platelet count and an increase in platelet size. These results were reconfirmed in another study a year after that. Rats bred to have high blood pressure and being prone to stroke also had shortened life-spans when fed canola oil as the sole source of fat. Later research suggested the cause for this effect is the sterol compounds in the oil, which "make the cell membrane more rigid" and contribute to the shortened life-span of the animals. According to Fallon and Enig in "The Great Con-ola:"
"These studies all point in the same direction -- that canola oil is definitely not healthy for the cardiovascular system. Like rapeseed oil, its predecessor, canola oil is associated with fibrotic lesions of the heart. It also causes vitamin E deficiency, undesirable changes in the blood platelets and shortened life-span in stroke-prone rats when it was the only oil in the animals' diet. Furthermore, it seems to retard growth, which is why the FDA does not allow the use of canola oil in infant formula... Most interesting of all is the fact that many studies show that the problems with canola oil are not related to the content of erucic acid, but more with the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of saturated fats...
There are indications that monounsaturated fats in excess and as the major type of fat can be a problem. Overabundance of oleic acid (the type of monounsaturated fatty acid in olive and canola oil) creates imbalances on the cellular level that can inhibit prostaglandin production. In one study, higher monounsaturated fat consumption was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Even the dogma that monounsaturated fatty acids are good for the heart is at risk. According to a 1998 report, mice fed a diet containing monounsaturated fats were more likely to develop atherosclerosis than mice fed a diet containing saturated fat. In fact, the mice fed monounsaturated fats were even more prone to heart disease than those fed polyunsaturated fatty acids.
This means that the type of diet recommended in books like The Omega Diet -- low in protective saturates, bolstered with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and relying on monounsaturated fatty acids, whether from olive or canola oil, for the majority of fat calories -- may actually contribute to heart disease. Such diets have been presented with great marketing finesse, but we need to recognize them for what they are -- payola for the food companies and con-ola for the public."
The important point to remember about this is that the timing of the above events occurred BEFORE the widespread adoption of GMO canola oil. Now virtually all of the canola oil produced is glyphosate resistant and sprayed with one of the most toxic herbicides known to man. So now, not only do you have the concerns addressed above, but you have the additional health challenge of glyphosate residues to content with.Best Food Sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats
The best way to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio and improve your heart health is to eat the following types of high-quality foods:
- Unprocessed organic oils such as extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocados and avocado oil, and organic butter—or better yet, raw butter from grass-pastured cows.
- Raw nuts and seeds, such as fresh organic flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and English walnuts, which are also high in omega-3s (ALA). Spirulina is an excellent source of GLA (gamma linolenic acid, a beneficial omega-6).6
- Meat from animals that are free-ranging and/or grass-fed, which are higher in beneficial omega-6s, such as natural CLA. If you have access to them, game meats such as venison are also high in beneficial fats. The article "Better Beef," written by California rancher Dave Evans, gives a great in-depth view of the many benefits of grass-fed beef.
- My favorite omega-3 fat supplement is krill oil. Egg yolks from pastured hens are also rich in beneficial omega-3s.
- Coconut oil, while not an omega-3 or omega-6 fat, is an extremely beneficial dietary fat with an "embarrassment of riches" for your heart, metabolism, immune system, skin and thyroid. Coconut oil's health benefits derive from its special medium-chain fatty acids.
By Dr. Mercola
For the last 17 years, I've warned that artificial sweeteners can wreck your health. Aspartame is among the worst of the bunch, and in general, people who consume aspartame tend to be in poorer health. They also tend to develop more of a sweet tooth.
I found the evidence against artificial sweeteners to be so compelling, and the hazards so disconcerting, I wrote an entire book on the subject called Sweet Deception, published in 2006. Now, years later, the research I presented in that book has been confirmed many times over, and the tide is finally beginning to turn against this toxic food additive.
Soda consumption is now in "freefall," having dropped to its lowest point since 1995, according to Time Magazine,1 with diet sodas taking the greatest hit.
Sales of carbonated beverages in general fell three percent in 2013, while diet Coke and diet Pepsi both dropped by nearly seven percent. Sales of Diet Mountain Dew also fell more sharply than regular Mountain Dew.2 As reported by Time Magazine:3
"One reason for the decline could be a growing awareness of the obesity epidemic in the US and growing health concerns surrounding sugar-sweetened beverages. According to Reuters, industry experts say the beverage industry is shrinking under the scrutiny. Even diet-branded drinks have suffered a loss of sales with concerns over artificial sweeteners."
It is very gratifying to see this turn of events, knowing we're making a difference. Also, quite frankly, I'm tired of writing about something this obviously harmful. I'll be happy to move on to other challenges that threaten your health.Drinking Two Diet Sodas Per Week Are 50 Percent More Likely to Die from Heart Disease
Most recently, one of the largest studies of its kind, which included nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women who were followed for about 10 years, found that drinking just two diet drinks a day can dramatically increase your risk of an early death from heart disease.4, 5 The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual Scientific Session in Washington, DC.6 As reported by the University of Iowa:7
"...[C]ompared to women who never or only rarely consume diet drinks, those who consume two or more a day are 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event [heart attack or stroke] and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease.
'This is one of the largest studies on this topic, and our findings are consistent with some previous data, especially those linking diet drinks to the metabolic syndrome,' says Dr. Ankur Vyas... the lead investigator of the study.
...The association persisted even after researchers adjusted the data to account for demographic characteristics and other cardiovascular risk factors, including body mass index, smoking, hormone therapy use, physical activity, energy intake, salt intake, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sugar-sweetened beverage intake.
On average, women who consumed two or more diet drinks a day were younger, more likely to be smokers, and had a higher prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure, and higher body mass index."
Granted, there are limitations to this study. The nutritional data was gathered using questionnaires, and people are notorious for not remembering exactly what they eat and drink each week. So while there's an association, the study cannot prove causation.
Still, other studies have come to the same conclusion, so these findings simply add to an already voluminous pile of evidence showing an association between artificial sweeteners and poor health outcomes.
According to Susie Swithers, a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University who studies the effects of artificial sweeteners in animals, the featured findings are not at all surprising. Her animal research also shows that diet drinks promote heart problems, and that animals fed artificial sweeteners develop a disrupted metabolic response to real sugar. She recently told MedicineNet.com:8
"[Like diabetics], they become hyperglycemic. Their blood sugars go up higher than they should. They also make less of a heart-protective protein. If drinking diet soda interferes with this system, then over the long term you're taking something away that protects your cardiovascular health, and that could be what's contributing to these effects."
Regular soda drinking is also strongly associated with obesity and poor health. This link is easier to grasp however, since more people understand the health hazards of excessive sugar consumption nowadays.
The fact that low- or no-calorie sweeteners do as much harm (or more!) than sugar, on the other hand, has seemed, and still seems, counterintuitive to many. Fortunately, this confusion is beginning to lessen. In fact, we may finally have reached the tipping point where enough people understand the hazards, which means the end of aspartame and other artificial sweeteners is near.Why Artificial Sweeteners Are NOT a Dieter's (or Diabetic's) Best Friend
Despite being promoted for weight loss, foods and beverages with artificial sweeteners have never actually been proven to help weight loss. On the contrary, studies that look at this actually find artificial sweeteners promote weight gain. Part of the reason why artificial sweeteners don't work as advertised (such as help you lose weight and manage your insulin) relates to the fact that your body is not fooled by sweet taste without accompanying calories.9
Scientific American10 previously ran an article explaining the science behind this phenomenon. In a nutshell, when you eat something sweet, your brain releases dopamine, which supplies you with a jolt of pleasure. Your brain's reward center is activated.
The appetite-regulating hormone leptin is also released, which eventually informs your brain that you are "full" once a certain amount of calories have been ingested. In contrast, when you consume something sweet but non-caloric (i.e. an artificial sweetener), your brain's pleasure pathway is still activated by the sweet taste, but there's nothing to deactivate it, since your body is still waiting for the calories. As a result, you may end up overeating.
Another recent report published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism11 found that diet soda drinkers suffer the same exact health problems as those who opt for regular soda, including excessive weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.12, 13 The sad fact is, Americans in particular are addicted to sweet flavors, which appears to trigger a complex set of biological systems, pathways, and mechanisms that in the end leads to excess weight gain—whether that flavor comes loaded with calories or not.Artificial Sweeteners Actually INCREASE Weight Gain
The connection between sweet taste alone and increased hunger can be found in the medical literature going back at least two decades. These two studies, for example, dating back to the late 80s and early 90s, both showed this link between artificial sweeteners and increased hunger:
- Physiology & Behavior, 198814 – In this study, they determined that intense (no- or low-calorie) sweeteners can produce significant changes in appetite. Of the three sweeteners tested, aspartame produced the most pronounced effects.
- Physiology & Behavior, 199015 – Here, they again evaluated whether or not the mere taste of "sweet" increases hunger, by having human subjects chew gum for 15 minutes containing various levels of aspartame (0.05%, 0.3%, 0.5%, or 1.0%).
Interestingly, although those who chewed artificially sweetened gum reported increased hunger compared to the control group who were given nothing or unsweetened gum base to chew, the increase did not directly correlate with the aspartame concentration in the gum.
Women experienced the greatest increase in hunger after chewing gum containing 0.3 percent aspartame (the second lowest concentration amount), while men were the hungriest after chewing on gum containing 0.5 percent aspartame. The authors stated:
"The highest aspartame concentrations had a time-dependent, biphasic effect on appetite, producing a transient decrease followed by a sustained increase in hunger ratings. Thus, the concentration of the sweetener, the sex of the subject, and the time after chewing, were all important determinants of whether 'sweetness' increased hunger."How Aspartame Can Wreak Havoc with Your Health
Aspartame is primarily made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. The phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness. That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.
You may have heard the claim that aspartame is harmless because methanol is also found in fruits and vegetables. However, in fruits and vegetables, the methanol is firmly bonded to pectin, allowing it to be safely passed through your digestive tract. Not so with the methanol created by aspartame; there it's not bonded to anything that can help eliminate it from your body. That's problem number one.
Problem number two relates to the fact that humans are the only mammals who are NOT equipped with a protective biological mechanism that breaks down methanol into harmless formic acid. This is why animal testing of aspartame does not fully apply to humans. According to Dr. Woody Monte, a toxicology expert and professor emeritus at Arizona State University in food and chemistry:
"There is a major biochemical problem here. Methyl alcohol is known now, and has been known since 1940, to be metabolized differently by humans from every other animal."
As explained by Dr. Monte, in humans, the methanol ends up acting as a Trojan horse, and here's how. Both animals and humans have small structures called peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a variety of chemicals. Peroxisome contains catalase, which help detoxify methanol. Other chemicals in the peroxisome convert the formaldehyde to formic acid, which is harmless, but, again, this last step occurs only in animals. Human peroxisomes cannot convert the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid.
So to recap: in humans, the methyl alcohol travels through your blood vessels into sensitive areas, such as your brain, that are loaded with ADH, which converts methanol to formaldehyde. And since there's no catalase present, the formaldehyde is free to cause enormous damage in your tissues. Symptoms from methanol poisoning are many, and include headaches, ear buzzing, dizziness, nausea, gastrointestinal disturbances, weakness, vertigo, chills, memory lapses, numbness and shooting pains in the extremities, behavioral disturbances, and neuritis.
The most well known problems from methanol poisoning are vision problems including misty vision, progressive contraction of visual fields, blurring of vision, obscuration of vision, retinal damage, and blindness. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and may cause birth defects. Not surprisingly, the most comprehensive and longest human study looking at aspartame toxicity found a clear association between aspartame consumption and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and leukemia.Beware of New Generation of Artificial Sweeteners
As consumers increasingly avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame, Splenda, and others, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are trying to save their sinking business by developing the next generation of artificial sweeteners. In my opinion, it's doubtful that these newer sweeteners will be any safer than previous versions, but it may fool many, because these newer additives won't be listed on the label.
As reported by The Motley Fool,16 PepsiCo now has worldwide exclusive rights to use Sweetmyx (S617) in non-alcoholic beverages. The sweetener, developed by Senomyx—a biotech company that specializes in novel flavor modifiers and flavor enhancing food additives—was recently granted Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status,17, 18 which opens the door for commercial use. (Firmenich has lifetime rights to commercialize Sweetmyx for alcoholic beverages and food products.)
The crux here is that Sweetmyx is considered a flavor additive, which allows it to slip beneath the radar. It will simply be lumped together under the "artificial flavors" listing on the label, and doesn't have to go through the FDA approval process.
The reason for this is because it's not actually a sweetener per say. Rather, it is a flavor modifier; a chemical substance (protected as a trade secret) that tricks the taste receptors on your tongue to send the message to your brain that what you're tasting is sweeter than it really is. Hence, less fructose or sugar can be used in the product, while still providing the same sweet taste. But as discussed earlier, such tricks tend to backfire, and could create unsuspected metabolic havoc. At present, no one knows exactly what the ramifications might be.Choose Your Beverages Wisely
Sweetened beverages, whether it's sweetened with sugar, HFCS, naturally-occurring fructose, or artificial sweeteners, are among the worst culprits causing obesity and related health problems, including diabetes and heart and liver disease, just to name a few. Remember that sweetened beverages also include flavored milk products, bottled teas, and "enhanced" water products. I'd be leery of anything listing "artificial flavors" as well—especially if the products boasts being low in sugar.
Ditching ALL of these types of beverages can go a long way toward reducing your risk for chronic health problems and weight gain. Your best, most cost effective choice of beverage is filtered tap water. I strongly recommend using a high-quality water filtration system unless you can verify the purity of your water. You can read more about water filtration in this previous article to help you make a decision about what type of water filtration system will suit you best. Since most water sources are now severely polluted, the issue of water filtration and purification couldn't be more important.
Besides purification, I also believe it's critical to drink living water. Last year, I interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack about his book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor. This fourth phase of water is referred to as "structured water" and is the type of water found in all of your cells. This water has healing properties, and is naturally created in a variety of ways.
Water from a deep spring is one excellent source of structured water, and there's a great website called FindaSpring.com19 where you can find a natural spring in your area. You can also promote structured water through vortexing, i.e. stirring your water, creating a vortex in the glass or pitcher.Addicted to Sweets? There's Help!
If you're having a hard time giving up artificial sweeteners (they can be just as addictive as other sugars), I suggest trying the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT works to overcome food cravings. If diet soda is the culprit for you, be sure to check out Turbo Tapping, which is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time. If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make additional changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion.
As for a safer sweetener option, you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. Remember, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners, including stevia and Luo Han.
Last but not least, if you experience side effects from aspartame or any other artificial sweetener, please report it to the FDA (if you live in the United States) without delay. It's easy to make a report — just go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number for your state, and make a call reporting your reaction. As Terri LaPoint writes in her Inquisitr article:20
"Ironically, the manufacturer of aspartame, Searle, started working on finding a drug to combat memory loss shortly after FDA approval for aspartame to be used in carbonated drinks.
Aspartame is a neurotoxin. Even ants have sense enough to avoid it. Yet, diet drinks add this neurotoxic chemical as its sweetener, and they promote it as a heath food to a public that naively puts its trust in the experts. Then the manufacturers stand ready to offer you drugs to help you with your symptoms that they don't tell you are directly related to your diet sodas. It's a win-win situation for them, with the consumer as the loser. You don't lose weight. You lose health. Drink water. Drink tea. Drink regular soda – anything but the diet sodas. You just might live longer."
I couldn't agree more.
By Dr. Mercola
Fish has always been the best source for the animal-based omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
However, as the understanding of mercury's toxic effects has grown, it has become even more critical to ensure you are choosing the right fish so you can receive the benefits of the healthful fats that many low mercury fish provide, as explained recently by a leading expert from Harvard Medical School.1
The question of which fish you should eat and avoid is receiving renewed attention, as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stand poised to update the national advisory for fish consumption for pregnant women, nursing mothers, women of childbearing age, and young children.2
While the Agencies have yet to announce what the new advice will say, or when the updated advisory might be made public, the prospect of new recommendations have already unleashed a public relations fight.40 Tons of Mercury Are Released Into the Air in the US Every Year
Let's first understand how mercury winds up in our fish and seafood. It all circles back primarily to how most energy in the world is generated. Sadly, even in the 21st century the majority of U.S. man-made emissions are released from burning coal laced with mercury.
Combustion in power plants of coal containing mercury is a major source of environmental pollution. Mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources moves through the air and is deposited in water and finds its way into fish, accumulating especially in fish that are higher up the food chain.
The good news is that about 70 percent of tested wild caught fish consumed in the US contain relatively low levels of mercury.3 However, fish like tuna, marlin, shark, barracuda, and swordfish have some of the highest levels of contamination.
This is due to the fact that the oceans and thousands of water bodies have been seriously polluted. As a result, pregnant women who should be especially careful to consume the right types of fish. It is quite certain that consuming fish is a crucial part of your diet, but you should be sure to optimize with the right kinds of fish - to receive maximum benefits with minimal mercury exposure.
That's because the toxic heavy metal can cross the placenta to harm the rapidly developing nervous system, including the brain. Studies have associated prenatal methylmercury exposure with impaired development of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, resulting in learning difficulties, poor coordination, and inability to concentrate.
About 10 percent of the US population—including many children, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age, in particular—have mercury levels above the levels currently recommended for fetal and child health.Seafood Industry Pressures FDA
The seafood industry is suggesting that the updated advisory will relax warnings against consuming certain fish containing high mercury levels. Industry executives, speaking last month at a trade show in Boston, said they expected the FDA to change the advisory in a way to get people to eat more tuna and other seafood. For example, John Connelly, president of the trade organization National Fisheries Institute has said:4
"Whether it be pregnant women, nursing moms, or guys [in their 50s], you're better off eating seafood, your risk is not eating enough seafood. I think the government is understanding that now."
Christopher Lischewski, chief executive of Bumble Bee Foods LLC, one of the largest canned tuna companies in North America, recently made a similar statement:5
"Based on the accurate science they've looked at since , FDA recognizes they made an error in 2004 in putting out a mercury advisory that had no scientific merit."
No scientific merit? That may be a stretch, as the industry appears to have overlooked more than a dozen epidemiology studies over the past decade that have reported adverse effects of mercury on brain development at levels as low as one-tenth of what was thought to be harmful ten years ago when the advisory was written.6 These studies found no threshold level below which prenatal methylmercury exposure has no adverse effects
The new Minamata Convention on Mercury,7 named after the fishing village in Japan where a severe poisoning incident occurred, has as its symbol a fish. That's because the treaty's main objective is to reduce human exposure to mercury through a range of provisions designed to reduce uses and emissions of mercury from major sources, like coal-fired power plants.
Time is of the essence when it comes to reducing mercury emissions. That's because mercury can circulate in the global environment for decades, making it "...likely to be several years or decades before reductions in mercury emissions have a demonstrable effect on mercury levels in nature and the food chain," according to the United Nations Environment Program.
In the meantime, sufficiently health protective mercury advisories are necessary to inform women of child bearing age about fish consumption both before and during pregnancy. Such advisories should try to balance two objectives:
- Promoting fish consumption for its nutritional benefits (including important benefits to the developing fetus)
- Protecting the exquisitely sensitive fetal nervous system from the toxic effects of methylmercury exposure
The 2004 EPA/FDA guidance instructs women of childbearing age, pregnant women, young children, and nursing mothers to limit their consumption of albacore tuna to a maximum of six ounces per week and abstain completely from swordfish, tilefish, shark, and king mackerel.
This is due to high mercury levels in these larger fish. According to the EPA/FDA advisory, some fish and shellfish "contain higher levels of mercury that may harm an unborn baby or young child's developing nervous system."
Unfortunately, while most consumers understand that (a) fish have significant health benefits, and (b) that fish contain mercury, most do not know which fish are high and low in mercury.
Rather than encouraging pregnant women to eat, say less tuna and more salmon, the industry insists (against the weight of scientific evidence) that all fish are beneficial, regardless of the mercury content, even though only a relatively small percentage of fish species have higher mercury levels.8
Which is why some of the fishing industry is now trying to "psych out" the FDA by predicting that the agency's new fish advisory will lean in their favor. This, however, may be little more than wishful thinking, as suggested in the Wall Street Journal:9, 10
"'It's 'wishful thinking' on the part of the seafood industry to think the updated advisory will tell those in the at-risk groups to eat more tuna,' said Carl Safina, president and founder of the environmental group Blue Ocean Institute. 'The FDA is considering changes to its advice,' he said. 'No one apparently knows what they are considering… so it's fantasy for fishermen to think the advice on tuna will be relaxed.'"
I've previously addressed the issue of what fish to safely eat during and before pregnancy, noting that while eating fish certainly has important health benefits, it's really critical to use discernment.
The challenge is to find and choose the 25 varieties of fish and shellfish that qualify as low or very low in mercury.11 Several of them are quite high in omega-3s. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, for example, is one very low mercury fish. Tuna is by far the largest source of mercury exposure in our diet, and anyone who wants to reduce their mercury intake needs to eat less tuna. The tuna population has also been decimated due to over-fishing, I believe it is best to avoid tuna and make better choices when consuming seafood.Advocacy Groups Sue FDA for Failure to Warn About Mercury Levels
Last month, on behalf of the Mercury Policy Project (MPP) and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Earth Justice filed a lawsuit12, 13 against the FDA. The groups are suing FDA for failing to respond to a July 2011 petition in which the groups asked the Agency to give consumers clear, accurate and accessible information about toxic mercury in the seafood they eat.
According to Michael Bender, MPP's director, the FDA's recommendations are both out-of-date, and do not reach the people who need them most—pregnant women, parents of young children, and heavy fish eaters. A package label would rectify that problem. As reported by Bloomberg Business Week:14
"The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Mercury Policy Project filed a lawsuit... against the Food and Drug Administration requesting regulations to label fish containing high levels of mercury and include information on what levels of consumption are safe. They also want the government to require supermarkets to display this information on signs at the fish counter...
According to the complaint, hundreds of thousands of children in the US. are born every year with elevated blood mercury levels caused by their mothers' consumption of fish and shellfish contaminated with methylmercury, a neurotoxin that has been linked to learning disabilities, lowered IQ, and impaired cognitive and nervous system functioning."
Despite the fact that the FDA is charged with consumer safety and protecting the public from harmful contaminants, it repeatedly falls short of this task. Thirteen years ago, the CSPI filed a petition with the FDA requesting warning labels on high-mercury fish,15 but the agency never responded. It was legally required to do so within 180 days. The current lawsuit seeks a court ordered deadline for the FDA to make a final decision on the issue.Mercury Levels in Fish
Your total mercury exposure depends on two factors: which fish you eat and the amount of fish you eat. As noted by Bender, "this critical fact is often obscured by industry exhortations to 'eat more fish,' without regard to mercury content."
Mercury content can vary 100-fold from one species to another, so it certainly makes sense to pay close attention to which fish are on the high side and which are on the low end. For example, research16 published in 2010, which quantified the contributions to total mercury in the US seafood supply by 51 different varieties of fish and shellfish, found that tuna was responsible for more than one-third of Americans' total exposure to methylmercury.17 According to the author:
"The analysis performed here identifies the relative importance of different fish and shellfish as sources of mercury in the US seafood supply and proposes improved consumer advice, so that the public can benefit from fish consumption while minimizing mercury exposure. Except for swordfish, most fish with the highest mercury levels are relatively minor contributors to total inputs.
Tuna (canned light, canned albacore and fresh/frozen varieties) accounts for 37.4 percent of total mercury inputs, while two-thirds of the seafood supply and nine of the 11 most heavily consumed fish and shellfish are low or very low in mercury. Substantial improvement in risk communication about mercury in fish and seafood is needed; in particular, several population subsets need better guidance to base their seafood choices more explicitly on mercury content."
For a handy list that you can print out for reference, please see the Mercury Policy Project's guide to mercury levels in different varieties of fish and shellfish.18 Among the safest are shrimp and salmon. Canned tuna, mackerel, swordfish, grouper, marlin, and orange roughy have some of the highest levels of mercury levels. For even more information about mercury in fish, I recommend reviewing MPP's website, Mercury and Fish: The Facts.Parents: Beware of Feeding Your Child Too Much Canned Tuna
A 2012 report19 by the Mercury Policy Project offers risk management advice for schools and parents, and warns that canned tuna is a major source of mercury exposure in children. Based on average contamination levels in tested samples, small children should eat light tuna no more than twice a month, and albacore tuna should be avoided entirely. The report also recommends that if your child eats tuna once per week or more, you should have their blood tested for mercury. If the result is over 5 micrograms per liter (ug/L), his or her consumption should be restricted.
Keep in mind that methylmercury harms a person's nervous system to differing degrees, depending on how much mercury you've accumulated. At above average doses, brain functions such as reaction time, judgment, and language can be impaired. At very high exposures, mercury can affect your ability to walk, speak, think, and see clearly. Another 2012 study20 that evaluated the effects of mercury on cognition in otherwise healthy adults found that those with blood mercury levels below 5 µg/L had the best cognitive functions. Mild impairment was evident at blood mercury levels of 5 to 15 µg/L and above 15 µg/L, cognition was significantly impaired.Tell the FDA Where You Stand on Mercury Warnings
Given the above facts, let the FDA know where you stand! To make your voice heard, email or call FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, either via email or a telephone call.
To contact FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg directly, you can call her at (301) 796-5000, or send her an email: Margaret.Hamburg@fda.hhs.gov.
You can also contact your representatives by visiting the US Congress Members page.Please Eat Fish, Just Make Sure It's Low in Mercury
Remember, you don't need to quit eating fish altogether. But you DO need to be aware of which fish are safer to eat, and which you'll want to eat only rarely, if at all. As stated by Edward Groth,21 an independent food safety consultant and author of the report titled: "An Overview of Epidemiological Evidence on the Effects of Methylmercury on Brain Development, and a Rationale for a Lower Definition of Tolerable Exposure:"22
"If women are eating less fish because they're confused, and there's some evidence that's the case, then we're not getting the result we want. The secret is to get women to eat more low-mercury fish."
To take advantage of the health benefits of fish, avoid eating large predatory fish that are high on the food chain. An excellent choice is wild-caught Alaskan salmon. The reason for this is that it contains some of the highest amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats, in combination with being among the least contaminated. Yet there are many other good choices as well, that you can find on the FDA23 and MPP24 websites.
By Dr. Mercola
Increasing exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, may be at least partially to blame for rising rates of numerous chronic diseases in Westernized societies, according to recent research.
The finding, published in Entropy,1 has ramifications for virtually every man, woman and child in developed nations, as this pesticide is widely used on both conventional and, especially, genetically modified (GM) crops (to the tune of more than one billion pounds sprayed in the US alone).
If you eat processed foods, most of which are made with GM corn and soy ingredients, you’re consuming glyphosate residues, probably in each and every bite. Knowing this, and the fact that tests show people in 18 countries across Europe already have glyphosate in their bodies,2 the following news should leave you very, very concerned… if not compelled to take action against this health-endangering chemical.Glyphosate May Be a Key Factor in the Development of Chronic Disease
While Monsanto insists that Roundup is safe, a peer-reviewed report authored by Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant, and a long time contributor to the Mercola.com Vital Votes Forum, and Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), reveals how glyphosate wrecks human health.
They argue that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GM sugar, corn, soy, and wheat, “enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease.” Interestingly, your gut bacteria are a key component of glyphosate’s primary mechanism of harm.
Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway IS present in bacteria, and that’s the key to understanding how it causes such widespread systemic harm in both humans and animals.
The bacteria in your body outnumber your cells by 10 to one. For every cell in your body, you have 10 microbes of various kinds, and all of them have the shikimate pathway, so they will all respond to the presence of glyphosate!
Glyphosate causes extreme disruption of the microbe’s function and lifecycle. What’s worse, glyphosate preferentially affects beneficial bacteria, allowing pathogens to overgrow and take over, including the highly toxic Clostridium botulinum.
It has been estimated that only 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) would be enough to kill the entire human population.3 At that point, your body also has to contend with the toxins produced by the pathogens. Once the chronic inflammation sets in, you’re well on your way toward chronic and potentially debilitating disease.
In the interview above, Dr. Seneff reviews a variety of chronic diseases, explaining how glyphosate contributes to each condition. So to learn more, I urge you to listen to it in its entirety. It’s quite eye opening. According to Dr. Seneff, glyphosate is possibly "the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies,” including but not limited to:
Glyphosate May Cause Cancer at Extremely Low Doses
To get a bit more in depth on just one of the chronic diseases highlighted by Dr. Seneff, consider the reports showing that glyphosate may stimulate hormone-dependent cancers even at extremely low “environmentally relevant” amounts.
In a study published last year, researchers concluded that glyphosate is a xenoestrogen that is functionally similar to estradiol, the most potent human estrogen, and concentrations in the parts-per-trillion range had carcinogenic effects.4
Adding insult to injury—in light of the fact that more than 90 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified—they also found that the phytoestrogen genistein, naturally found in soybeans, heightened the estrogenic effects when combined with glyphosate. According to the authors:
“This study implied that the additive effect of glyphosate and genistein in postmenopausal women may induce cancer cell growth.In this present in vitro study, we showed an estrogenicity of pure glyphosate...
Furthermore, this study demonstrated the additive estrogenic effects of glyphosate and genistein which implied that the use of glyphosate-contaminated soybean products as dietary supplements may pose a risk of breast cancer because of their potential additive estrogenicity."Shocking GM Food Feeding Study Retracted -- for Small Sample Size!
This wasn’t the first time this pesticide has been linked to cancer. In 2012, the first-ever lifetime feeding study evaluating the health risks of GM foods was published. It found that rats fed a type of GM corn that is prevalent in the US food supply for two years developed massive mammary tumors, kidney, and liver damage, and other serious health problems.5 According to the authors:
"The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize (from 11% in the diet), cultivated with or without Roundup, and Roundup alone (from 0.1ppb in water), were studied 2 years in rats. [Editors note: this level of Roundup is permitted in drinking water and GE crops in the US]
In females, all treated groups died 2-3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. All results were hormone and sex dependent, and the pathological profiles were comparable. Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, the pituitary was the second most disabled organ; the sex hormonal balance was modified by GMO and Roundup treatments.
In treated males, liver congestions and necrosis were 2.5-5.5 times higher... Marked and severe kidney nephropathies were also generally 1.3-2.3 greater. Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls, which occurred up to 600 days earlier.
Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related. These results can be explained by the non linear endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup, but also by the overexpression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic consequences."
They really are not exaggerating when they say it caused massive tumors… some of the tumors weighed in at 25 percent of the rat's total body weight. In fact, the researchers had to euthanize some of them due to the profound pain and suffering these tumorous animals were observed to be experiencing. You can see the pictures for yourself here.
The research was considered so "hot" that the work was done under strict secrecy. According to a French article in Le Nouvel Observateur,6 the researchers used encrypted emails, phone conversations were banned, and they even launched a decoy study to prevent sabotage. The findings were a nail in the coffin for the pesticide/biotech industry, but then the journal began to receive Letters to the Editor alleging fraud and calling upon the editors to retract the paper.
After what the journal described as a “thorough and time-consuming analysis” of the study, they said they found “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data.”7 All they could find “wrong” with the research was that it used a low number of animals for the study, even though it was the same number of animals Monsanto used in their study… so they, quite outrageously, retracted this important paper. Even the retraction statement admits that the results presented are “not incorrect” but rather may be “inconclusive”! If every paper that could be considered inconclusive were retracted, there would scarcely be a published paper left!
As reported by the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS): “…the unsettling results of the Séralini study… almost certainly lie behind its notorious retraction by the journal editor a year after it was published.” The most damning revelation of this debacle was that a former Monsanto employee, Richard E. Goodman, early in 2013, was appointed “Associate Editor for biotechnology” for the journal that retracted the study.8 The obvious question is: was Monsanto behind the retraction?Warning: Eat Glyphosate-Laced GM Foods at Your Own Risk
You may be wondering why, if GM foods are so potentially toxic, Americans aren’t dropping like flies. Well, this is a debatable statement, as with rates of chronic diseases climbing exponentially, many Americans are dying before their time. Furthermore, rats only live a few years, which is why you’re able to see tumors develop rapidly in response to dietary changes. Humans live around 80 years, so we will notice these effects in animals long before we see them in humans. The gigantic human lab experiment of eating GM foods is only about 10 years old, so we are likely decades away from tabulating the human casualties.
As discussed above, glyphosate contamination is but one route by which GM foods are poisonous. It has a number of devastating biological effects. So much so that it may very well be one of the most important factors in the development of a wide variety of modern diseases and conditions. In summary, these detrimental effects include:
Vote with Your Pocketbook, Every Day
The food companies on the left of this graphic spent tens of millions of dollars in the last two labeling campaigns—in California and Washington State—to prevent you from knowing what's in your food. You can even the score by switching to the brands on the right, all of whom stood behind the I-522 Right to Know campaign. Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference.
As always, I encourage you to continue educating yourself about genetically modified foods, and to share what you've learned with family and friends. Remember, unless a food is certified organic, you can assume it contains GMO ingredients if it contains sugar from sugar beet, soy, or corn, or any of their derivatives.
If you buy processed food, opt for products bearing the USDA 100% Organic label, as organics do not permit GMOs. You can also print out and use the Non-GMO Shopping Guide, created by the Institute for Responsible Technology. Share it with your friends and family, and post it to your social networks. Alternatively, download their free iPhone application, available in the iTunes store. You can find it by searching for ShopNoGMO in the applications. For more in-depth information, I highly recommend reading the following two books, authored by Jeffrey Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology:
- Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
- Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.
For timely updates, join the Non-GMO Project on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter. Please, do your homework. Together, we have the power to stop the chemical technology industry from destroying our food supply, the future of our children, and the earth as a whole. All we need is about five percent of American shoppers to simply stop buying genetically engineered foods, and the food industry would have to reconsider their source of ingredients—regardless of whether the products bear an actual GMO label or not.
By Dr. Mercola
Despite the fact that vegetables have been proven to help lower your risk of chronic disease and support longevity, most Americans are not eating nearly enough of these natural, relatively inexpensive superfoods.
The latest data shows that nearly 23 percent of Americans report consuming vegetables and fruits less than one time daily, with a median vegetable intake of just 1.6 times per day overall.1
Adding in more vegetables to your diet is a simple and powerful step to dramatically improve your health. Vegetables are quick to prepare and come in so many different varieties that they should suit virtually everyone’s tastes.
If you want even more motivation to eat more veggies, check out these newly unveiled health benefits (which are so dramatic the researchers called them “staggering.”)Eating Veggies Lowers Your Risk of Dying Prematurely by 42 Percent
People who eat seven or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day have a 42 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared to those who eat less than one portion. They also enjoy a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 25 percent lower risk of cancer.2
The research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, is among the first to quantify the health benefits of eating different amounts of fresh produce. As you might suspect, eating any amount of vegetables was better than none at all, but the benefits increased with more servings:
- Those who ate five to seven servings of vegetables and fruits per day had a 36 percent lower risk of dying from any cause
- Three to five servings was associated with a 29 percent lower risk
- One to three servings was associated with a 14 percent lower risk
So what counts as a vegetable serving? According to the US government,3 one cup of raw or cooked vegetables or fresh vegetable juice, or two cups of raw leafy greens can be considered as one cup from the Vegetable Group.
Also, the study importantly highlighted what I have been saying for some time, which is that vegetables had a larger protective effect than fruits. So while consuming small amounts of whole fruit is fine (and even beneficial) if you’re healthy, your focus should be on vegetables.
When broken down by vegetables only, each additional daily portion of fresh veggies lowered participants’ risk of death by 16 percent compared to four percent for fresh fruit.Optimal Health Depends on Eating Large Amounts of Fresh Vegetables
I firmly believe we all need to eat large amounts of fresh, high-quality vegetables every day to achieve high-level health. Most vegetables are not very calorie dense and as a result they probably should constitute the bulk of your diet by volume. Even though my diet is 70 percent fat by calories, if you were to spread out all the food I eat in a day, the largest volume of food would be vegetables.
Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else. Plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells, and maintain DNA. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have:
Vegetables have an impressive way of offering widespread benefits to your health. When you eat them, you're getting dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands, of super-nutrients that support optimal, body-wide health.
We've compiled an extensive review of the health benefits of vegetables in our Mercola Food Facts Library. If you want to know more, that’s an excellent place to start. Following is a sampling of recent research showing the profound health benefits you can gain just by eating more vegetables:
- Sulforaphane in broccoli has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby striking to the root of tumor growth, and the broccoli compound glucoraphanin -- a precursor to sulforaphane – boosts cell enzymes that protect against molecular damage from cancer-causing chemicals.4, 5
- A gene that is essential for producing critical immune cells in your gut, responds to the food you eat—specifically leafy green vegetables.
- Cauliflower contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check, including indole-3-carbinol or I3C, an anti-inflammatory compound that may operate at the genetic level to help prevent the inflammatory responses at its foundational level.6
- Beets are a unique source of betaine, a nutrient that helps protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. It's also known to help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent numerous chronic diseases.7
Unless you regularly eat whole fruits and vegetables (along with nuts and seeds), you may be missing out on the healthiest forms of fiber available – and that could be a problem. It is actually because your body can’t digest fiber that it plays such an important part in digestion. Soluble fiber, like that found in cucumbers and blueberries, dissolves into a gel-like texture, helping to slow down your digestion.
This helps you to feel full longer and is one reason why fiber may help with weight control. Insoluble fiber, found in foods like dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, celery, and carrots, does not dissolve at all and helps add bulk to your stool.
This helps food to move through your digestive tract more quickly for healthy elimination. Many whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables, naturally contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
One of the signs that a food is a natural source of fiber is that you must chew it a good number of times before swallowing. Processed foods, which basically melt in your mouth, are not going to give you the fiber your body needs.
Vegetables, on the other hand, will, and this is yet another one of their virtues. My main meal of the day is at 3 PM and is a half-gallon bowl of salad that takes me at least a half hour to chew. There’s no shortage of research showing how a high-fiber diet may boost your health. Some of its top potential benefits include:
- Blood sugar control: Soluble fiber may help to slow your body’s breakdown of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar, helping with blood sugar control.
- Heart health: An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.8
- Stroke: Researchers have found that for every seven-grams more fiber you consume on a daily basis, your stroke risk is decreased by seven percent.9
- Weight loss and management: Fiber supplements have been shown to enhance weight loss among obese people,10 likely because fiber increases feelings of fullness.
- Skin health: Fiber, particularly psyllium husk, may help move yeast and fungus out of your body, preventing them from being excreted through your skin where they could trigger acne or rashes.11
- Diverticulitis: Dietary fiber (especially insoluble) may reduce your risk of diverticulitis – an inflammation of polyps in your intestine – by 40 percent.12
- Hemorrhoids: A high-fiber diet may lower your risk of hemorrhoids.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fiber may provide some relief from IBS.
- Gallstones and kidney stones: A high-fiber diet may reduce the risk of gallstones and kidney stones, likely because of its ability to help regulate blood sugar.
Your gut is much more than a food processing tube — it houses about 85 percent of your immune system. This is in large part due to the 100 trillion bacteria that live there, both good and potentially harmful, that can stimulate your immune response. When your GI tract is not working well, a wide range of health problems can appear, including allergies and autoimmune diseases. If you suffer from any major illness, you simply will NOT be able to fully recuperate without healing and sealing your gut.
Balancing the menagerie of microorganisms that occupy your GI tract is a key part of maintaining your immune health, and one of the best ways to do this is by consuming fermented vegetables. Fermented vegetables are potent chelators (detoxifiers) and contain much higher levels of probiotics than probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora.
Beneficial gut bacteria play important roles in vitamin production, mineral absorption, and helping prevent diabetes, digestive issues, neurological problems, cardiovascular disease, and even acne. For a very small investment (five or six medium-sized cabbages and other veggies to taste, celery juice for brine and, if you like, starter culture), you can easily make up to 14 quart jars of fermented vegetables, which I believe are the ultimate superfood. You can use these six steps to make fermented vegetables at home.Creative Ways to Get More Veggie Superpowers Into Your Diet
Keeping veggies on hand is the first step to eating more of them. Fresh, non-genetically-modified and organic is best, but even frozen will work in a pinch. Make it a point to include vegetables with every meal – a salad, a side dish, or a pre-meal snack – or make veggies the main focus of your meals. You’ll easily work your way up to seven or more servings a day.
When preparing your veggies, use quick, gentle cooking methods (only cooking to a tender-crisp, not mushy texture) to preserve the most nutrients. Also try to eat a good portion of them raw, which will allow you to receive beneficial biophotons. Two of the best ways to get more raw vegetables into your diet include:
- Juicing: Juicing allows you to absorb all the nutrients from vegetables, allows you to consume an optimal amount of vegetables in an efficient manner, and makes it easy to add a variety of vegetables to your diet.
- Sprouts: The sprouting process tends to increase nutrient content and bioavailability of nutrients. Sprouts also contain valuable enzymes that allow your body to absorb and use the nutrients of all other foods you eat. They’re very easy to grow at home.
Now that it’s springtime in the US, consider growing some of your own veggies at home. You can plant an organic veggie garden even in small spaces, and this will provide you with a readily available source of the freshest, most health-boosting foods around.
By Dr. Mercola
The video above is a nice confirmation from the traditional media of the importance of vitamin D. However, they still get it wrong by stating that you can get the vitamin D you need from foods. Appropriate sun exposure can easily provide over 20,000 units per day, while food rarely provides over 400 units.
Back in 2011, I published a series of interviews with Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior MIT research scientist who, more recently, rocked the world with her discovery of glyphosate's mechanism of harm.
Three years ago, however, she was one of the first to point out the links between cholesterol and vitamin D, presenting a hypothesis that made me even more convinced that raising your vitamin D levels through sun exposure may be far more critical than previously thought.
Now, research published in the journal Menopause1, 2 appears to offer support for Dr. Seneff's theories on the cholesterol-vitamin D link. But first, a quick review of cholesterol, and why your body actually needs it.What Is Cholesterol, and Why Do You Need It?
That's right, you do need cholesterol. This soft, waxy substance is found not only in your bloodstream but also in every cell in your body, where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help you digest fat.
Cholesterol also helps in the formation of your memories and is vital for neurological function. Your liver makes about three-quarters or more of your body's cholesterol, and according to conventional medicine, there are two types:
- High-density lipoprotein or HDL: This is the "good" cholesterol that helps keep cholesterol away from your arteries and remove any excess from arterial plaque, which may help to prevent heart disease.
- Low-density lipoprotein or LDL: This "bad" cholesterol circulates in your blood and, according to conventional thinking, may build up in your arteries, forming plaque that makes your arteries narrow and less flexible (a condition called atherosclerosis). If a clot forms in one of these narrowed arteries leading to your heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke may result.
Also making up your total cholesterol count are:
- Triglycerides: Elevated levels of this dangerous fat have been linked to heart disease and diabetes. Triglyceride levels are known to rise from eating too many grains and sugars, being physically inactive, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively, and being overweight or obese.
- Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a): Lp(a) is a substance that is made up of an LDL "bad cholesterol" part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated Lp(a) levels are a very strong risk factor for heart disease. This has been well established, yet very few physicians check for it in their patients. (Lp(a) also was not assessed in the featured study.)
The featured study sought to evaluate whether increased serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25OHD3) concentrations are associated with improved lipid profiles in postmenopausal women.
The study had over one million people so it was a big deal. The test group received a daily dose of 1,000 mg of elemental calcium along with 400 IUs of vitamin D3. Please note that this dose of vitamin D is ridiculously low and will not provide help for most people. The control group received a placebo.
Blood levels of vitamin D, fasting plasma triglycerides, HDL, and LDL cholesterol levels were assessed at the beginning and end of the trial. After two years, women who received the vitamin D and calcium supplements had a 38 percent increased mean vitamin D level compared to the placebo group.
They also had a 4.46-mg/dL mean decrease in LDL. Furthermore, higher vitamin D concentrations were associated with higher HDL combined with lower LDL and triglyceride levels. According to the authors:
"These results support the hypothesis that higher concentrations of 25OHD3, in response to [calcium/vitamin D3] supplementation, are associated with improved LDL cholesterol."
After discussing the link between vitamin D and cholesterol with Dr. Seneff, I became convinced that raising your vitamin D levels through sun exposure may have far greater benefits than taking a supplement. I've even warned that vitamin D supplementation might not achieve optimal health results, the reason for which I'll discuss in just a moment.
Remember that this study used a virtually insignificant dose of vitamin D that will not increase levels to optimum in anyone. Yet despite this nearly homeopathic dose, it still led to small, yet noticeable, improvements in lipid profile (i.e. increased HDL, in combination with reduced LDL and triglycerides).
Imagine what they would have found had they given doses 10 to 20 times higher that we know will put people into optimum ranges? In my view, this strengthens the hypothesis that naturally-acquired vitamin D, created by your skin in response to UV exposure, would likely have an even greater effect, and here's why.Cardiovascular Disease—A Compensatory Mechanism for Cholesterol Sulfate Deficiency?
Through her research, Dr. Seneff has developed a theory in which the mechanism we call "cardiovascular disease" (of which arterial plaque is a hallmark) is actually your body's way to compensate for not having enough cholesterol sulfate. To understand how this works, you have to understand the interrelated workings of cholesterol, sulfur, and vitamin D from sun exposure.
Cholesterol sulfate is produced in large amounts in your skin when it is exposed to sunshine. When you are deficient in cholesterol sulfate from lack of sun exposure, your body employs another mechanism to increase it, as it is essential for optimal heart and brain function. It does this by taking damaged LDL and turning it into plaque.
Within the plaque, your blood platelets separate out the beneficial HDL cholesterol, and through a process involving homocysteine as a source of sulfate, the platelets go on to produce the cholesterol sulfate your heart and brain needs. However, this plaque also causes the unfortunate side effect of increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. So how do you get out of this detrimental cycle?
Dr. Seneff believes that high serum cholesterol and low serum cholesterol sulfate go hand-in-hand, and that the ideal way to bring down your LDL (so-called "bad" cholesterol, which is associated with cardiovascular disease) is to get appropriate amounts of sunlight exposure on your skin. She explains:
"In this way, your skin will produce cholesterol sulfate, which will then flow freely through the blood—not packaged up inside LDL—and therefore your liver doesn't have to make so much LDL. So the LDL goes down. In fact... there is a complete inverse relationship between sunlight and cardiovascular disease – the more sunlight, the less cardiovascular disease."
What this also means is that when you artificially lower your cholesterol with a statin drug, which effectively reduces the bioavailability of cholesterol to that plaque but doesn't address the root problem, your body is not able to create the cholesterol sulfate your heart needs anymore, and as a result you end up with acute heart failure.
Heart Disease Is the Number One Killer Worldwide
Total Video Length: 1:29:57
Download Interview Transcript
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease was the leading cause of death, globally, in 2011 and 2012. Even children are becoming increasingly at risk.3, 4 Recent research suggests as many as one-third of children have or are at risk for high cholesterol, which conventional medicine views as a risk factor for heart disease.
Bear in mind that, contrary to the conventional ideology, your total cholesterol level—which includes HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and Lp(a)—is just about worthless in determining your risk for heart disease, unless it is above 300. Still, high total cholesterol can in some instances indicate a problem, provided it's your LDL and triglycerides that are elevated and you have a low HDL. I have seen a number of people with total cholesterol levels over 250 who actually were at low heart disease risk due to their high HDL levels. Conversely, I have seen even more who had cholesterol levels under 200 that were at a very high risk of heart disease based on the following additional tests:
- HDL/Cholesterol ratio. This is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. That ratio should ideally be above 24 percent
- Triglyceride/HDL ratio. Here, you divide your triglyceride level by your HDL. This ratio should ideally be below 2
That said, these are still simply guidelines, and there's a lot more that goes into your risk of heart disease than any one of these numbers. In fact, it was only after word got out that total cholesterol is a poor predictor of heart disease that HDL and LDL cholesterol were brought into the picture. They give you a closer idea of what's going on, but they still do not show you everything. Additional risk factors for heart disease include:
- Your fasting insulin level: Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose and then insulin to compensate for the rise in blood sugar. The insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat accumulation and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight. Excess fat, particularly around your belly, is one of the major contributors to heart disease
- Your fasting blood sugar level: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl had a nearly 300 percent increase higher risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl
- Your iron level: Iron can be a very potent cause of oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron levels you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your ferritin levels and make sure they are not much above 80 ng/ml. The simplest way to lower them if they are elevated is to donate your blood. If that is not possible, you can have a therapeutic phlebotomy and that will effectively eliminate the excess iron from your body
Getting back to the study in question,5 a research team at Texas Children's Hospital examined the medical records of more than 12,000 children between the ages of nine and 11, and found that 30 percent of them were at risk of elevated cholesterol levels. Elevated LDL and triglyceride levels were found to be more common among boys. Not surprisingly, obesity and lifestyle were deemed to be significant factors.
Universal cholesterol screening guidelines6 were issued in 2011, which strongly recommend all children be screened between the ages of nine and 11, and again between 17 and 21. The authors of the featured study say they hope their findings will give added weight to these guidelines. However, there are serious concerns that universal screening will simply place children on cholesterol-lowering medications, which do absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem... As reported by Eurekalert:7
"'There is concern by some in the medical community that children will be started on medication unnecessarily,' [lead investigator, Dr. Thomas] Seery said, emphasizing that adopting a healthy diet and engaging in routine physical activity are first-line therapies for children with abnormal cholesterol levels.
He adds that cholesterol-lowering medications are typically needed in one to two percent of children with dyslipidemia, primarily in those with very high cholesterol resulting from a genetic lipoprotein disorder. Genetic lipoprotein disorders, such as familial hypercholesterolemia, result in very high cholesterol levels that can be detected in childhood but are felt to be underdiagnosed, he said. 'Kids need to have their cholesterol panel checked at some point during this timeframe [9 to 11 years old],' Seery said. 'In doing so, it presents the perfect opportunity for clinicians and parents to discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle choices on cardiovascular health.'"To Save Our Kids, We Must Address Their Lifestyle
It is indisputable that childhood obesity is placing an increasing number of people at risk of an early death. I address this topic in my book Generation XL. If the childhood obesity epidemic is not reversed, we will, for the first time in history, see children living shorter lives than their parents! Clearly, something must be done about escalating childhood obesity and "adult" diseases showing up in our children. But placing kids on statins8 is certainly NOT the answer. The cause of the problem is unhealthy lifestyle choices—and drugs do nothing to address this. On the contrary, statins have been linked to a wide range of devastating side effects, including but not limited to:Muscle problems and muscle damage (including the heart muscle) Neurological problems, including memory loss and Lou Gehrig's disease Nerve damage Liver enzyme derangement Kidney failure Elevated blood glucose Tendon problems Anemia Sexual dysfunction
Recent research,9, 10 which followed subjects for 25 years, suggests there's a very important relationship between your heart health and your brain function, and that this relationship starts much earlier in life than previously thought. The study links late-teen to early adulthood blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels with mental acuity in your mid-life years:
- People with higher blood pressure and/or higher blood glucose early in life scored lower on all tests devised to assess memory and learning, brain aging, and decision processing speed
- People with higher cholesterol early in life scored lower on the learning and memory tests
Now, when you consider the negative effects statins have on your heart muscle, combined with their detrimental neurological impact and their tendency to elevate blood glucose, it would seem like these drugs might actually significantly speed up the onset of dementia when given to young children, thereby doing more damage than simply living with health risk factors such as high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.Vitamin D Also Plays a Role in Alzheimer's Prevention
Your brain function, as your heart health, is also dependent on both appropriate amounts of cholesterol and healthy vitamin D levels — a fact that again ties heart and brain health together. A recent article in the Daily Herald,11 written by Dr. Patrick B. Massey, MD, Ph.D., medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network, discusses the importance of vitamin D for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
"'Not by coincidence, vitamin D deficiency exists in 70-90 percent of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease,' he writes. 'Medical studies have demonstrated that increased vitamin D levels either through sun exposure or supplementation improves cognitive function in the elderly. These positive results have been seen in those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease as well as those who do not have this illness.
The benefits of vitamin D supplementation may appear in four weeks resulting in enhanced processing speed as well as cognitive abilities. Indeed, one recent medical trial demonstrated that taking vitamin D and the Alzheimer's medication memantine resulted in better outcomes than either memantine or vitamin D alone. Vitamin D supplementation is a simple and effective way of treating and preventing Alzheimer's disease and may be the best option at this time.'"
As you can see, vitamin D and cholesterol are integral players in both heart disease and Alzheimer's disease, and that while statins can dramatically reduce your cholesterol, these drugs tend to have a detrimental effect on both your heart and brain. According to Dr. Seneff, insufficient fat and cholesterol in your brain play a critical role in the disease process, and she makes a compelling case for how statin drugs promote the disease. For more in-depth information about this, please refer to Dr. Seneff's MIT paper, "APOE-4: The Clue to Why Low Fat Diet and Statins May Cause Alzheimer's."12Tying It All Together
All in all, Dr. Seneff's research makes a very compelling case for getting appropriate sun exposure in order to normalize your cholesterol levels, thereby promoting both heart and brain health. While you can take oral vitamin D pills, there is virtually no doubt in my mind that future research (likely 20-30 years from now) will show that increasing your vitamin D levels through sensible sun exposure or a safe tanning bed is far superior to swallowing vitamin D. To summarize Dr. Seneff's research into layman's terms the two inter-related disease processes described earlier would look something like this:Lack of sun exposure → cholesterol sulfate deficiency → plaque formation (to produce cholesterol sulfate that protects your heart) → cardiovascular disease (which places you at greater risk for decreased brain function)
Furthermore, Dr. Seneff and many others also stress the importance of reducing your refined sugar and processed fructose consumption to prevent heart disease. While not specifically addressed in this article, as I chose to focus on cholesterol and vitamin D, fructose consumption also significantly contributes to cardiovascular disease in the following manner:High fructose consumption → over-taxed liver → impaired cholesterol formation → cholesterol deficiency → plaque formation to compensate for cholesterol sulfate deficiency → cardiovascular disease
The reversal of these disease processes would then look like this:Appropriate sun exposure + low-sugar diet = optimal cholesterol production in your liver + optimal cholesterol sulfate production in your skin → healthy cholesterol levels and absence of arterial plaque
Naturally, while sun exposure and a low-sugar diet are important, if not critical, for optimizing your heart health, there are many other lifestyle factors that can make or break your cardiovascular health. For more suggestions on how to optimize your cholesterol levels without drugs, please see my previous article, "Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-Up."
New Studies Show Optimizing Vitamin D Levels May Double Chances of Surviving Breast Cancer, Lower LDL Cholesterol, and Helps Prevent Autism
By Dr. Mercola
For many of you, the hint of spring is on the horizon and the opportunity to finally expose your skin to healthy doses of sunshine is very close. Remember that this is a far better choice than using oral vitamin D, as that is how your body was designed to get healthy vitamin D levels.
There are many reasons to be conscious of vitamin D, but today's featured study will focus on breast health. A robust and rapidly growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for good health and disease prevention, in part due to the fact that it influences about 10 percent of all your genes.
Just one example of an important gene that vitamin D up-regulates is your ability to fight infections and chronic inflammation. It also produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic.
Recent studies demonstrate how optimizing your vitamin D levels may lower your LDL cholesterol levels and double your chances of surviving breast cancer. Researchers also claim to have discovered a causal link between vitamin D deficiency and autism spectrum disorder.Vitamin D for Breast Cancer
Since the early 2000s, scientific investigations into the effects of vitamin D have ballooned. By the end of 2012, there were nearly 34,000 published studies on the effects of vitamin D, and there are well over 800 references in the medical literature showing vitamin D's effectiveness against cancer alone.
According to Carole Baggerly, founder of GrassrootsHealth, as much as 90 percent of ordinary breast cancer may in fact be related to vitamin D deficiency.
Most recently, a meta-analysis of five studies published in the March 2014 issue of Anticancer Research1 found that patients diagnosed with breast cancer who had high vitamin D levels were twice as likely to survive compared to women with low levels.2, 3, 4
The analysis included more than 4,500 breast cancer patients over a nine-year period. The high serum group had an average vitamin D level of 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Women in the low serum group averaged 17 ng/ml, which is the average vitamin D level found in American breast cancer patients.5
The study was co-authored by Professor Cedric F. Garland—featured in the 2011 video above—along with other researchers at the San Diego School of Medicine. Funding for the research6 was in part provided by a Congressional allocation to the Penn State Cancer Institute of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
Vitamin D has a number of anticancer effects, including the promotion of cancer cell death, known as apoptosis, and the inhibition of angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor). According to Dr. Garland:
"As long as vitamin D receptors were present, tumor growth was prevented and kept from expanding its blood supply. Vitamin D receptors are not lost until a tumor is very advanced. This is the reason for better survival in patients whose vitamin D blood levels are high."
The researchers urge physicians to make vitamin D monitoring and optimization part of standard breast cancer care, and recommend that breast cancer patients should restore their vitamin D levels to a normal range of 30-80 ng/ml. According to the featured findings, you need at least 30 ng/ml of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) to prevent cancer from spreading. That said, other research suggests you'd be better off with levels as high as 80 ng/ml.How Much Vitamin D Is Required for Breast Cancer Prevention?
In 2011, Dr. Garland's team found that a vitamin D level of 50 ng/ml is associated with a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer.7, 8 (Similarly, a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine9 concluded that a vitamin D level of more than 33 ng/mL was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer.)
In the featured video above, GrassrootsHealth founder Carole Baggerly interviews Dr. Garland about those 2011 findings.
At that time, they discovered that in order to achieve protective levels, you have to take far more supplemental vitamin D than previously thought. To reach a minimum protective level of 40 ng/ml of vitamin D, study participants had to take anywhere from 1,000 IUs to as much as 8,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day—a far cry from the recommended daily allowance of 600 IUs of vitamin D for adults.
The supplemental dose ensuring that 97.5 percent of the study population achieved a serum 25(OH)D of at least 40 ng/mL was 9,600 IU/day. This study also concluded that intake of up to 40,000 IUs per day is unlikely to result in vitamin D toxicity.
It's important to note, however, that it's virtually impossible to make a general recommendation on how much vitamin D to take as the amount needed can vary significantly from one individual to another. In essence, you need to regularly monitor your levels, and take whatever amount of vitamin D3 you need to maintain a clinically relevant level.
Sources Vitamin D May Also Benefit Your Cholesterol Level
"Researchers randomly assigned 576 postmenopausal women to either a daily dose of 400 units of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams of calcium, or a placebo. They followed them for three years. By the end of the study, published in Menopause,12 the vitamin D group had significantly higher serum levels of vitamin D, and a small but notable drop in LDL."
Women taking a combination of vitamin D and calcium had a 4.46 mg/dL mean decrease in LDL cholesterol. Previous research by Dr. Stephanie Seneff also suggests that healthy cholesterol and sulfur levels are highly dependent on your vitamin D levels. Through her research, she believes that the mechanism we call "cardiovascular disease," of which arterial plaque is a hallmark, is actually your body's way to compensate for not having enough cholesterol sulfate.Sun Exposure Is Likely the IDEAL Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels
To summarize Dr. Seneff's findings, high LDL appears to be a sign of cholesterol sulfate deficiency. According to Dr. Seneff, your body's way of trying to maintain the correct balance is to take damaged LDL and turn it into plaque. Within this plaque, your blood platelets produce cholesterol sulfate, which your heart and brain needs for optimal function.
Her research also suggests that in order to truly optimize your cholesterol levels, you really need to get your vitamin D from sun exposure, and here's why: when you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water-soluble, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements, which is unsulfated. The water-soluble form can travel freely in your blood stream, whereas the unsulfated form needs LDL (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. Dr. Seneff suspects that the simple oral non-sulfated form of vitamin D likely will not provide the same benefits as the vitamin D created in your skin from sun exposure, as it cannot be converted to vitamin D sulfate.
If you're still under the mistaken impression that sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer, the following explanation may be of great help. Dr. Seneff states that:
"Both cholesterol and sulfur afford protection in the skin from radiation damage to the cell's DNA, the kind of damage that can lead to skin cancer. Cholesterol and sulfur become oxidized upon exposure to the high frequency rays in sunlight, thus acting as antioxidants to 'take the heat,' so to speak. Oxidation of cholesterol is the first step in the process by which cholesterol transforms itself into vitamin D3."
Additionally, distorted omega-3 to omega-6 ratios play a major role in the development of skin cancers too. In 2001, the National Academy of Sciences published a comprehensive review13 showing that the omega 6:3 ratio was the key to preventing skin cancer development. An Australian study14 published in 1993 showed a 40 percent reduction in melanoma for those who were eating fish, which is rich in omega-3s. And this was without any attention to lowering omega-6 fats. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats are both essential for human health. However, the typical American consumes far too many omega-6 fats in their diet while consuming very low levels of omega-3. While the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is 1:1, our ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 averages from 20:1 to 50:1.Evidence of Causal Link Between Vitamin D, Serotonin Synthesis, and Autism Emerges
Vitamin D may also be critical in the fight against autism spectrum disorder (ASD). According to a study15, 16 by the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, vitamin D may affect autistic behavior by activating a gene responsible for the production of tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2), an enzyme that converts tryptophan to serotonin in your brain. The research also shows that two other brain hormones associated with social behavior, oxytocin and vasopressin, are activated by vitamin D. As reported by Newswise:17
"This suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D may be required to produce serotonin in the brain where it shapes the structure and wiring of the brain, acts as a neurotransmitter, and affects social behavior. They also found evidence that the gene that makes the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase 1 (TPH1) is inhibited by vitamin D hormone, which subsequently halts the production of serotonin in the gut and other tissues, where when found in excess it promotes inflammation.
This mechanism explains many of the known, but previously not understood, facts about autism including: 1) the 'serotonin anomaly' low levels of serotonin in the brain and high levels in the blood of autistic children; 2) the preponderance of male over female autistic children: estrogen, a similar steroid hormone, can also boost the brain levels of serotonin in girls; 3) the presence of autoimmune antibodies to the fetal brain in the mothers of autistic children: vitamin D regulates the production of regulatory T-cells via repression of TPH1"
The researchers propose treating ASD with a combination of vitamin D, tryptophan, and omega-3 fats in order to naturally elevate the concentration of brain serotonin without side effects. This isn't the first time vitamin D has been implicated as a contributing factor to rising autism rates. According to previous research,18 there is indeed a link between rampant vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women and the proportionate jump in autism. The reason for this is because vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue early in the fetal development, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain.
It is my personal belief that this may be one of the largest contributing factors to autism and that it is a deficiency of sun exposure to the pregnant mom, and subsequently to the fetus, that puts the child at a massively increased risk for abnormal brain development. I believe one of the most important changes that could radically reduce autism is to make sure ALL pregnant women have their vitamin D levels normalized to 50-70 ng/ml.Have You Tested Your Vitamin D Level Yet?
Right now, after several months of winter and minimal sun exposure, is an ideal time to test your vitamin D levels to get an idea of what your levels are at their lowest. If you're low, take proactive measures to raise your levels, and then retest in mid-summer.
The D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth is a very cost effective solution. To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)
As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."
As for HOW to optimize your vitamin D levels, I firmly believe that appropriate sun exposure is the best way. In fact, I personally have not taken a vitamin D supplement for three or four years, yet my levels are in the 70 ng/ml range. There's a handy smartphone app called DMinder (dminder.info) that will tell you how much UV radiation you're getting and how many IUs of vitamin D you're making based on your local weather conditions (reported from the weather service) and other individual parameters such as your skin tone and age. It will also tell you when to get out of the sun, to protect yourself from sunburn.
If you can't get enough sunshine, then a safe tanning bed would be your next best option. Most tanning equipment use magnetic ballasts to generate light. These magnetic ballasts are well known sources of EMF fields that can contribute to cancer. If you hear a loud buzzing noise while in a tanning bed, it has a magnetic ballast system. I strongly recommend you avoid these types of beds and restrict your use of tanning beds to those that use electronic ballasts.
If your circumstances don't allow you to access the sun or a safe tanning bed, then you really only have one option if you want to raise your vitamin D, and that is to take a vitamin D supplement. GrassrootsHealth has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. Many experts agree that 35 IUs of vitamin D per pound of body weight could be used as an estimate for your ideal dose.If You Opt for Oral Vitamin D, Remember Vitamin K2
Last but not least, if you do opt for a vitamin D supplement, you also need to take vitamin K2. The biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, such as your bones and teeth. It also helps remove calcium from areas where it shouldn't be, such as in your arteries and soft tissues.
Vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the consequences similar to vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries. The reason for this is because when you take vitamin D, your body creates more vitamin K2-dependent proteins that move calcium around in your body. Without vitamin K2, those proteins remain inactivated, so the benefits of those proteins remain unrealized. So remember, if you take supplemental vitamin D, you're creating an increased demand for K2. Together, these two nutrients help strengthen your bones and improve your heart health.
By Dr. Mercola
If you’ve been eating an apple a day to keep the doctor away, you would be wise to add an onion a day to that regimen. This humble vegetable is a member of the Allium genus, making it closely related to other superfoods like garlic, leeks, scallions, and chives.
This means onions are rich in sulfur-containing compounds that give them both their characteristic odor and much of their health-boosting potential.
As one of the oldest cultivated plants, onions do not disappoint in terms of nutrition. They’re a very good source of vitamins C and B6, iron, folate, and potassium. But it’s their phytochemicals – including the flavonoid quercetin and allyl disulphide – that are most exciting to researchers.
To date, onions have shown a wealth of beneficial properties; they’re anti-allergic, anti-histaminic, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant,1 all rolled into one. And if you take even a quick glance at the available research, you’ll quickly understand why onions deserve to make a very frequent appearance at your dinner table.Onions Are Polyphenol Superstars
Polyphenols are plant compounds recognized for their disease prevention, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties. Onions have a particularly high concentration, with more polyphenols than garlic, leeks, tomatoes, carrots, and red bell peppers.2
In particular, onions are especially rich in polyphenol flavonoids called quercetin. Quercetin is an antioxidant that many believe prevent histamine release—making quercetin-rich foods “natural antihistamines.” As reported by The World’s Healthiest Foods:3
“…on an ounce-for-ounce basis, onions rank in the top 10 of commonly eaten vegetables in their quercetin content. The flavonoid content of onions can vary widely, depending on the exact variety and growing conditions.
Although the average onion is likely to contain less than 100 milligrams of quercetin per 3-1/2 ounces, some onions do provide this amount. And while 100 milligrams may not sound like a lot, in the United States, moderate vegetable eaters average only twice this amount for all flavonoids (not just quercetin) from all vegetables per day.”
Quercetin is available in supplement form, but there are a couple of reasons why getting this flavonoid naturally from onions makes more sense:4
- One animal study found that animals received greater protection against oxidative stress when they consumed yellow onion in their diet, as opposed to consuming quercetin extracts.
- Quercetin is not degraded by low-heat cooking, such as simmering. When preparing a soup with onions, the quercetin will be transferred into the broth of the soup, making onion soup an easy-to-make superfood.
If you’re interested in using food to lower your risk of cancer, eat onions. People who eat more onions, as well as other allium vegetables, have a lower risk of many types of cancer, including:5
- Prostate and breast
- Ovarian and endometrial
- Colorectal and gastric
- Esophageal and laryngeal
- Renal cell
Onions contain numerous anti-cancer compounds, including quercetin, which has been shown to decrease cancer tumor initiation as well as inhibit the proliferation of cultured ovarian, breast, and colon cancer cells.6 As reported by the National Onion Association, onions are considered a dietary anti-carcinogen:7
“The inhibitory effects of onion consumption on human carcinoma have been widely researched… In a review on the effects of quercetin… persons in the highest consumption category versus the lowest had a 50% reduced risk of cancers of the stomach and alimentary and respiratory tracts.
Organosulfur compounds [in onions] such as diallyl disulfide (DDS), S-allylcysteine (SAC), and S-methylcysteine (SMC) have been shown to inhibit colon and renal carcinogenesis… Mechanisms of protection ranged from induced cancer cell apoptosis and gene transcription inhibition to protection against UV-induced immunosuppression.”
It’s unclear exactly how much onion consumption is necessary for cancer protection, but research shows benefit from even moderate consumption. Even one to seven servings of onions a week may be protective, although some research suggests a daily serving of onion (one-half cup) is best.Heart Health: Are Onions Responsible for the French Paradox?
The so-called “French Paradox” -- the low incidence of heart disease among the French, despite their relatively high-calorie diet – has often been credited to the antioxidants in the red wine they often consume.
But onions, which are very popular in French cuisine, may be another contributing factor to their good health, particularly heart health. The sulfur compounds in onions, for instance, are thought to have anti-clotting properties, as well as, improve blood lipid profiles. The allium and allyl disulphide in onions have also been found to decrease blood vessel stiffness by enhancing nitric oxide release.
This may reduce blood pressure, inhibit platelet clot formation, and help decrease the risk of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular diseases, and stroke. The quercetin in onions is also beneficial, offering both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may boost heart health.Onions Are Beneficial for Your Bones, Digestive Tract, Diabetes Prevention, and More
The more we learn about onions, the more it becomes clear that they offer whole body benefits. That is the beauty of eating whole foods, after all, because they typically contain many beneficial phytochemicals that enhance your health in numerous synergistic ways. As for onions, research has shown that including onions in your diet may offer the following benefits:8Prevent inflammatory processes associated with asthma Reduce symptoms associated with diabetes Lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides Reduce symptoms associated with osteoporosis and improve bone health Maintain gastrointestinal health by sustaining beneficial bacteria Diminish replication of HIV Reduce risk of neurodegenerative disorders Lower your risk of cataract formation Antimicrobial properties that may help reduce the rate of food-borne illness Improvement of intestinal flora, improved absorption of calcium and magnesium due to the fructans they contain Antibacterial and antifungal properties Lower risk of certain cancers Onions Were a Prehistoric Staple Food
If there were any doubt as to how valuable onions have been through the ages, it’s thought that wild onions have been enjoyed since the very early ages, and were likely a staple in the prehistoric diet. The National Onion Association stated:9
“Most researchers agree the onion has been cultivated for 5,000 years or more. Since onions grew wild in various regions, they were probably consumed for thousands of years and domesticated simultaneously all over the world. Onions may be one of the earliest cultivated crops because they were less perishable than other foods of the time, were transportable, were easy to grow, and could be grown in a variety of soils and climates.
In addition, the onion was useful for sustaining human life. Onions prevented thirst and could be dried and preserved for later consumption when food might be scarce. While the place and time of the onion’s origin is still a mystery, many documents from very early times describe its importance as a food and its use in art, medicine, and mummification.”
Since ancient times, onions have been enjoyed around the world for many uses:10
- The onion symbolized “eternity” to Egyptians, who would bury them along with their Pharaohs
- In India, onions were valued as a diuretic and good for digestion, the heart, the eyes, and the joints
- During the Middle Ages in Europe, onions were widely consumed and prescribed medicinally for headaches, snakebites, and hair loss
- Native American Indians used wild onions in cooking as well as in poultices, dyes, and even as toys
The average American eats about 20 pounds of onions a year, which may sound like a lot until you learn that in Libya, which has the highest onion consumption rate in the world, the average person eats nearly 67 pounds a year.11 If learning about their health benefits has inspired you to eat more onions, you’re in luck as they are incredibly versatile and come in a variety of colors and flavors. The chart below, from the National Onion Association,12 provides an excellent breakdown of which type of onion to use in your cooking.Color Variety or Type Availability Raw Flavor/Texture Best Usage Yellow Onion:
All-purpose and most popular, approximately 87 percent of the U.S. onion crop is comprised of yellow varieties. The most well-known sweet onions are yellow. The best type of onion for caramelizing is a yellow storage variety. Cooking brings out this variety's nutty, mellow, often sweet, quality when caramelized. Sweet March-September Crisp, juicy, mild flavor with a slightly sweet ending with little to no after-taste Raw, lightly cooked, sautéed, or grilled Fresh, Mild March - August Crisp, juicy, mild to slightly pungent with a faint after-taste Raw, lightly cooked, sautéed, or grilled Storage August-May Strong onion flavor, mild after-taste Grilled, sautéed, caramelized, baked, or roasted Red Onion:
About eight percent of the U.S. onion crop is red. They have gained popularity in the past decade, especially in foodservice on salads and sandwiches because of their color. Sweet March-September Crisp, very mild onion flavor Raw, grilled, or roasted Fresh, Mild March-September Bright tones, slightly less water content than yellow with a slightly pungent ending Raw, grilled, or roasted Storage August-May Sharp, spicy, and moderate to very pungent Raw, grilled, or roasted White Onion:
Approximately five percent of U.S. onion production is dedicated to white onions. They are commonly used in white sauces, potato and pasta salads, and in Mexican or Southwest cuisine. Due to the compact nature of their cell structure, white onions do not store quite as long as other varieties. Fresh, Mild March-August Moderately pungent and clean finish, very little after-taste Raw, grilled, sautéed, or lightly cooked Storage August-May Moderately pungent to very pungent and full flavored, but finishes with a cleaner and crisper flavor in comparison to yellow and red storage varieties Raw, grilled, sautéed, or lightly cooked
Onions release a gas called lachrymatory factor (LF), which causes tearing. Japanese researchers developed an onion that lacked the enzyme necessary to produce LF, and therefore wouldn’t cause tearing, but it also altered the beneficial sulfur-containing compounds in the onion. So while the fact that onions make you tear up is a bit inconvenient, it’s also a reminder of the many potent health compounds they contain. That being said, the World’s Healthiest Foods shared a few tips to cutting onions that should help lessen eye irritation and tearing. If this is an issue for you, don’t give up on onions. Try these tips instead:13
“If cutting onions irritates your eyes, there are a few tricks that you can employ. Use a very sharp knife and always cut the onions while standing; that way your eyes will be as far away as possible. Consider cutting onions by an open window. If cutting onions really makes you cry, consider wearing glasses or goggles.
Chill the onions for an hour or so before cutting; this practice can slow down the onion's metabolism and thereby lessen the rate of LF gas production. Cutting onions under cold, running water is a method that is often used to cut back on eye irritation, but it's a method we view as a second-best choice since some of the nutrients found in onion can be lost into the flow of water.”Visit Our Food Facts Library for Empowering Nutrition Information
If you want to learn even more about what's in the food you're eating, visit our Food Facts library. Most people are not aware of the wealth of nutrients available in healthful foods, particularly organic fruits and vegetables. By getting to know your food, you can make informed decisions about how to eat healthier and thereby boost your brain function, lower your risk of chronic disease, lose weight, and much more.
Food Facts is a directory of the most highly recommended health foods to add to your wholesome diet. Its purpose is to provide you with valuable information about various types of foods including recipes to help you maximize these benefits. You'll learn about nutrition facts, scientific studies, and even interesting trivia about each food in the Food Facts library. Remember, knowing what's in your food is the first step to choosing and preparing nutritious meals each and every day. So visit Mercola Food Facts today to get started.
By Dr. Mercola
In 1950, the number of starving individuals on Earth was estimated to be around 700 million. At the time, obesity affected approximately 100 million people around the globe, primarily in rich countries.
These statistics have changed dramatically over the past six decades. As stated in today’s featured documentary, Globesity: Fat's New Frontier, no low- to middle-income country has successfully managed to reduce hunger without shifting over into obesity, and very rapidly at that.
By 2010, the world’s hungry had marginally grown to 800 million, while the number of obese citizens of the world had ballooned to 500 million. The rate of "extreme obesity" (people with a BMI above 40) rose by 350 percent over the past few years alone in the US.
Estimates suggest that by 2030, more than one billion people, worldwide, will fall into the obese category. As stated on the Top Documentary Films’ site:1
“In India, it's anticipated that 100 million people will have diabetes in the near future and in Mexico, the largest consumer of carbonated beverage in the world, where diabetes is already a headline killer and where the weight problem is so acute, special programs have been made available offering free fitness classes and bariatric surgery.
If you thought obesity was just an issue in the first world economies, like the US, UK, and Australia, this documentary will set you straight.”
Carb-rich highly processed foods, along with rarely ever fasting, are primary drivers of these statistics. Wherever a highly processed food diet becomes the norm, obesity inevitably follows.
In the 1950s, the food available was mostly fresh and grown locally. Today, the majority of foods consumed—even in the developing world—are highly processed foods, filled with sugars, harmful processed fats, and chemical additives.
Perhaps one of the strongest links can be seen with soda consumption. As sweetened beverages have become more common in developing countries, obesity rates have started climbing right along with beverage sales.
This is likely why Mexico has become so obese. They consume enormous quantities of soda, which is largely a result of lack of access to clean and inexpensive water alternatives that will not get them sick.Obesity as a Harbinger of Death
Along with excess body weight come a wide range of other health problems. In the US, eight obesity-related diseases account for a staggering 75 percent of healthcare costs. These diseases include:Type 2 diabetes Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) Hypertension Polycystic ovarian syndrome Lipid problems Cancer (especially breast, endometrial, colon, gallbladder, prostate and kidney2) Heart disease Alzheimer's disease
According to research published last year, one in five American deaths is now associated with obesity.3 And while the effect varies somewhat by your gender, race, and age, the younger you are, the greater obesity's influence on your mortality.
Considering the dramatic rise in childhood obesity (one-third of American children aged two to 19 are now overweight or obese), these facts spell serious trouble for the future of our health care system, not to mention the overall quality of life for vast numbers of people.
As previously reported in the Guardian Express,4 kids are 40 percent heavier today compared to just 25 years ago, and a growing number of studies have linked rising childhood obesity rates to increased consumption of sugary beverages (including those sweetened with no- or low-cal sweeteners).
Most parents go to great lengths to keep their children safe from physical dangers. Yet, the majority of parents feed their children harmful foods without a thought for future consequences. It's not the occasional treat here and there that I'm referring to.
It's the fact that many children around the world are raised on processed foods, pizza, French fries, and fast-food hamburgers these days. And the outcome is identical regardless of which nation you live in.
As stated in the featured film, processed food products are just as dangerous to your health as tobacco and alcohol. Data collected from over 60,000 Canadians has confirmed this, showing that obesity now surpasses smoking in terms of creating ill health.To Normalize Your Weight, You MUST Address Your Diet
Leading a common-sense, healthy lifestyle is your best bet to achieve health and longevity, and it really starts with your food choices. For a comprehensive guide on which foods to eat and which to avoid, please see my nutrition plan. Generally speaking, you should be looking to focus your diet on whole, ideally organic, unprocessed foods. For the best nutrition and health benefits, eat a good portion of your food raw.
I believe the two primary keys for successful weight management are severely restricting carbohydrates (sugars, fructose, and grains) in your diet, and increasing healthy fat consumption. This will optimize your insulin and leptin levels, which is key for maintaining a healthy weight and optimal health. The other part of the equation that is rarely addressed is the amount of protein consumed.
When it comes to meat, two key factors that will determine the healthfulness of your diet are the quality of the meat and the amount. Many eat too much protein, especially poor-quality, factory-farmed meats. Nutrition experts like Dr. Ron Rosedale believe most adults need about one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight per day. (To calculate this, if your body fat mass is 20 percent, then your lean mass is 80 percent of your total body weight.)
There are a number of reasons why I believe it's best to limit your protein intake. The first is that if you eat large amounts of protein your body doesn't need, it will convert most of the excess calories to sugar. Additionally, it will need to remove the nitrogen waste products from your blood, which stresses your kidneys. Excessive protein can also have a stimulatory effect on mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)—a pathway that seems to be largely responsible for the pathology seen in cancer growth. When you reduce protein to just what your body needs, mTOR remains inhibited, which helps minimize your chances of cancer growth.
Last but not least, mankind also needs to return to traditional fare such as fermented foods. Virtually every country has a history of fermenting or culturing foods, and these are critical for gut health.
About 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut, and research is stacking up showing that probiotics—beneficial bacteria—affect your health in a myriad of ways; it can even influence your ability to lose weight. A healthy diet is the ideal way to maintain a healthy gut, and regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods is the easiest, most cost effective way to ensure optimal gut flora. As for beverages, clean, pure water is your best bet. It’s really the only liquid your body truly needs.The Importance of Exercise and Intermittently Fasting
Getting sufficient amounts of exercise is also critical. Even if you're eating right, you still need to exercise to reach the highest levels of health, and you need to be exercising effectively, which means including high-intensity activities into your rotation.
High-intensity interval-type training boosts human growth hormone (HGH) production, which is essential for optimal health, strength, and vigor. HGH also helps boost weight loss. So along with core-strengthening exercises, strength training, and stretching, I highly recommend that twice a week you do Peak Fitness exercises, which raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, followed by a 90-second recovery period.
Additionally, a growing body of evidence shows that intermittent fasting is really effective for losing weight, improving your insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity, and can go a long way toward improving your overall health. This makes logical sense when you consider that our ancestors never had access to food 24/7. Our bodies are indeed “programmed” to not eat for periods of time.
One of the mechanisms that make intermittent fasting so effective for weight loss is the fact that it provokes the natural secretion of human growth hormone (HGH), which is a fat-burning hormone. Fasting also increases catecholamines, which increases resting energy expenditure, while decreasing insulin levels, which allows stored fat to be burned for fuel.
Together, these and other factors will turn you into an effective fat-burning machine. Hence, if like many tens of millions of people, your goal is to shed excess fat, fasting can be both effective and beneficial for improving many disease markers. To learn more about the ins and outs of intermittent fasting, or scheduled eating, please see my previous article, “What the Science Says About Intermittent Fasting.”Take Control of Your Health
It’s important to realize that sugar is a primary dietary factor driving obesity and chronic disease development.5 Many also eat far too little healthy fat, and the combination of too much sugar and too little fat is driving disease rates through the roof. Understanding this formula puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to prevention.
Again, a diet that promotes health is high in healthful fats and very, very low in sugar and non-vegetable carbohydrates, with a moderate amount of high-quality (organic, pastured) protein.
If you and your kids are hooked on fast food and other processed foods, you may need some help to kick the junk-food lifestyle. My optimized nutrition plan offers a step-by-step guide to feed your family right, and I encourage you to read through it now. You can find even more help in the book I wrote on the subject, called Generation XL: Raising Healthy, Intelligent Kids in a High-Tech, Junk-Food World.
By Dr. Mercola
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that stress costs American businesses $300 billion a year; and a Workplace Survey done by the American Psychological Association reported that many Americans suffer from chronic work-related stress.1
The effects of our increasingly 24/7 work environments have gotten so bad that 38 percent of employees in one survey said they can’t stop thinking about problems related to emotional, health, financial, and job concerns.2
If you ask those around you – your co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family – what they’ve been up to lately, there’s a good chance you’ll get a chorus of “busy” responses, a rattled off list of obligations and to-dos that we all scarcely have time for.
Yet, such busyness is valued in many cultures, including in the US where workers are increasingly expected to be on call both day and night. The implications this has on family life, leisure time, and personal health is immense, a topic that was recently explored in an intriguing Atlantic interview.3Why Are US Workers So Overwhelmed?
In an interview with the Atlantic, writer Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, explained that birth rates are actually declining in the US, as young people simply don’t see how they can juggle both work and family life, with the latter being ultimately sacrificed.
Busyness and “living a fast-paced life” are increasingly being viewed as signs of status. The more e-mails you have to check in a day, the more important you are. The more meetings you attend, phone calls you receive, and lessons your child attends, the better. On the work front, especially, extreme hours are valued and overwork has become the norm.
This has a tremendous impact on your quality of life outside of work, of course, as many are unable to fully disconnect from work, unwind and pursue valuable leisure pursuits. As Schulte explained:
“…overwork has really become pervasive. I’m not talking about hard work. I’m all for hard work that we find meaning in. But overwork leaves us burned out and disengaged butts in chairs at work and fried at home without the energy to do much more than flop down in front of the boob tube.
Not quite the leisure the ancient Greek philosophers had in mind when they said pure leisure was that place where we both refreshed the soul and become most fully human.
…Against that backdrop comes technology and the ability to be connected 24/7 – which leads to a feeling of constantly being ‘on call,’ that you can never quite get away from work, that the boundaries that used to keep work more contained have bled and spilled over into the hours of the day that used to be for family, for self, for leisure, for sleep.”Workplace Expectations and Laws Are Stuck in the 1950s – and Earlier
Workplace policies in the US still overwhelmingly favor a “breadwinner-homemaker” family model, with the man still typically viewed as the primary earner. Working mothers, in particular, are bearing the brunt of this often-unconscious bias, as there are no national policies in place (nor many supportive workplace cultures) to help women juggle both work and home.
This isn’t to say that fathers aren’t overwhelmed, too. They are, particularly since many have abandoned the 1950s idea of the “absent father” and are taking on larger roles at home and in child-raising. In fact, in 40 percent of US households with children under 18, women are the single or primary breadwinners. The workforce is changing, as are the needs of modern families, but few workplaces have followed suit. According to Schulte:
“All you have to do is look at some fascinating work done by consulting companies, when they ask CEOs and top managers at companies around the world who they think the best employees are, more than three-fourths have said: the worker without any family or caregiving responsibilities. In other words, the distant father provider of the 1950s.
I say father because social science has found that married men with kids actually earn more money—what they call a ‘fatherhood bonus’—because the workplace culture assumes this man will now work harder because he has a family to support.
…That same social science finds a motherhood penalty—a pay gap that can’t be explained by anything other than the fact that the woman has children, another sign of the consequences of our society’s ambivalence about working mothers… Even the way we pose our questions is stuck in the 1950s.
Our family lives, family structures and the workforce has changed utterly in the last half century, and yet our workplaces, the policies everyone knows look nice on the books but are the kiss of death to take, our laws, and our attitudes have yet to catch up with our reality. That’s where the swirl of ‘the overwhelm’ begins.”
The issue goes beyond juggling work and home to the antiquated 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which only protects hourly workers (who must be paid overtime once they hit 40 hours a week). There is no such protection for salaried workers, who presumably can be worked until they drop. Even the 40-hour workweek is in drastic need of a 21st century overhaul…
“…the 40-hour workweek is an artifact of the manufacturing age; it was the amount of time Henry Ford discovered he could push his manual laborers on his assembly lines before they’d get so tired they’d make costly mistakes,” Schulte said.Bright Spots on the Horizon
Is there hope that the US culture of overwork and overwhelm will change? There are some bright spots on the horizon, according to Schulte, who pointed out that Millennials – the generation who by definition believes they’re entitled to have it all – are increasingly entering the workforce, forcing some changes among old-fashioned cultures.
Baby Boomers are staying on longer in the workforce as well, but many are growing tired with 90-hour workweeks, which means “there’s pressure from the top end to change as well.” There are other potential changes as well that are far more human-friendly:
- Some states, including California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, now have state-paid parental leave policies
- Certain cities are passing tax incentives to companies that promote telework and flexible work hours
- Other cities are exploring “right to request” flexible work laws, a program that has already been successfully implemented in the UK (it gives employees the right to put together a plan to get their work done in a flexible way that an employer must accept as long as it won’t hurt the business)
It should be noted that as far as work-life balance goes, the US lags far behind most other developed countries. The European Union, for instance, limits work hours by laws, while others require paid leave when children are born, fostered, or adopted. Denmark gives “nurture days” to workers with younger children so they can take time off to go to school plays, doctor appointments, and parent-teacher conferences – events that often get missed by US workers.Wellness in the Workplace Matters
This overwork comes at a price to US companies as workers suffer from increasing stress- and overwork-related health problems. Private companies spend close to $45 billion a year in employee-related medical expenses.4 It’s a financial burden many companies can no longer bear. Chronically sick employees can be crippling to businesses, both large and small, and can even lead to layoffs, company closures, and bankruptcy. In the end, everybody suffers. Establishing flexible work hours helps, but so too does establishing company wellness programs that encourage and support healthy lifestyle choices among employees. They can help to empower employees by offering simple tools that focus on preventative health. Below is an example of the type of benefits that we offer our employees at Mercola.com.
- Fitness Programs
- Onsite gym with a variety of workout equipment and free-weights
- Classes in Yoga, Dance, Aerobics, Tai Chi, etc.
- Onsite trainers and class instructors to help employees customize their workouts
- Paid off-site gym memberships
- Organized office team sports and activities: bowling, softball, group walks during breaks, bicycling, weekend hikes, etc.
- Encourage staff to use the stairs instead of taking the elevator
- Provide a secure site for bicycles to encourage cycling commuters
- Cater office lunches by local health food stores providing organic foods
- Offer gift certificates to local organic restaurants and/or health food stores
- Provide organic tea and coffee
- Replace processed food and soda vending machine choices with sparkling/mineral water, nuts, dried fruits, and other healthier choices
- Offer classes by local chefs on how to prepare healthy meals, preparing proper food portions, and how to create healthy snacks
- Offer educational courses by local experts and/or authors on specific related topics, such as:
Comprehensive weight loss program leading to sustainable lifestyle changes How healthy foods improve hormonal balance How to avoid and reverse diabetes How healthy foods and natural hygiene improve dental health Risks of a fast food diet Foods associated with allergies and migraines What are the best types of dairy products? Stress management strategies How fluoride in water affects health Infant and child wellness, including risks vs. benefits of vaccines
- Onsite health clinics offering chiropractic, physical therapy, chair massage, nutritionists, etc.
- Discounts or free services provided by an alliance of off-site specialist
- Employee Assistant Program providing confidential access for employees and their immediate family members to professional counseling services for short-term help in confronting such personal challenges as: alcohol and other substance abuse, marital and family difficulties, financial or legal issues, and emotional distress
- Also provide appropriate referrals to community and private services for long-term challenges
If you feel your job has you trapped and unable to come up for air, you have a couple of options. One, consider looking for another job, or at least taking the steps necessary (ongoing classes, licenses, training, etc.) to prepare yourself for a career change. If that’s not practical, consider asking for flexible hours, telecommuting, or other adaptations to make your work more manageable (even small changes, like a more ergonomic workstation, can make a difference).
As far as managing your day-to-day stress goes (and this is the kind that can quickly lead to burnout), after you’ve gone to work, finished your errands or household chores and gotten your kids to bed, many are simply too tired to think about stress relief, so they zone out to mindless entertainment or social media and go to bed feeling frazzled and anxious… and not surprisingly start off the next day feeling much the same. It’s a vicious cycle, but one that’s easily broken by turning stress management into a habit. You needn’t devote hours to stress relief every day. Instead, you’ll find that activities you already do can work wonders for calming your nerves, especially if you make a commitment to doing them on most days of the week. Try…
Exercise affects a neurotransmitter that has an antidepressant-like effect on your brain while helping to decrease muscle tension.5 Exercise also guards against the adverse physical effects of stress. During periods of high stress, those who exercised less frequently had 37 percent more physical symptoms than those who exercised more often.6
2. Spend More Time in Nature
Going outdoors helps to relieve your stress naturally, with research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower in those who live in areas with the most green space, as are their self-reported feelings of stress.7 Even five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.
3. Focus on Your Breathing
Learning to breathe mindfully can modify and accelerate your body's inherent self-regulating physiological and bioenergetic mechanisms. These changes are in large part due to the fact that you’re oxygenating your body properly as well as correcting your internal and energetic balance, and it has a direct impact on your nervous system. Ideally, you should be breathing primarily through your nose. Learning a simple technique called Buteyko breathing can help you restore normal and beneficial breathing patterns.
4. Participate in Activities You Enjoy
Engaging in a hobby gives you crucial time to play and simply enjoy yourself. A hobby can take your mind off of stress and adds more much-needed fun to your life.
5. Eat Right
Schedule time to eat without rushing, and make sure to maintain optimal gut health by regularly consuming fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. Plenty of scientific evidence now shows that nourishing your gut flora with the friendly bacteria within fermented foods or probiotics is extremely important for proper brain function, including psychological well-being and mood control.
6. Stay Positive
This is a learned technique that can lead to a more joyful life and likely much better health, as those who are optimistic have an easier time dealing with stress, and are more inclined to open themselves up for opportunities to have positive, regenerative experiences. Try keeping a list of all that you’re grateful for and make a commitment to stop any negative self-talk.
7. Stay Connected
Loneliness can be a major source of stress, so make a point to connect with those around you – even a quick chat while in line at the grocery store. Work your way up to volunteering, attending community events, meeting acquaintances for coffee, or taking a class to meet others with like interests.
8. Take a Break or Meditate
Taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can trigger your relaxation response.8 Meditating during your breaks can help you to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety even more.
By Dr. Mercola
A majority of Americans are not getting enough sleep, and modern technology is in large part to blame. According to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll,1 53 percent of respondents who turn electronics off while sleeping rate their sleep as excellent, compared to just 27 percent of those who leave their devices on.
Even children are becoming sleep deprived. The poll shows that 58 percent of teens aged 15-17 get only seven hours of sleep or less per night. Between 7 and 8 hours may be optimal for the average adult, but children are known to need more sleep than adults.
If your child is overweight and/or exhausted much of the time, chances are high that poor sleep patterns—perhaps resulting from too many light-emitting gadgets—are at play.
The exposure to excessive amounts of light at night, courtesy of electric light bulbs and electronic gadgets of all kinds, makes it exceedingly difficult for your body and brain to wind down for sleep. And this lack of sleep, in turn, can have far ranging health consequences, regardless of your age.Poor Sleep Worsens Metabolic Disorders
According to recent research2, 3 poor sleep could have a significant bearing on metabolic disorders such as obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. The authors suggest that addressing your sleeping habits may be key for both the prevention and treatment of these disorders. As reported by Medical News Today:4
"The reason why metabolic disorders are so influenced by sleep patterns seems to be due to sleep influencing the body's ability to control food intake, metabolize glucose and maintain energy balance.
The new study reviews this existing evidence and makes recommendations for new targets and strategies in the prevention and treatment of these sleep-related forms of metabolic disease.
Among the findings, the review found that disruption of the body's natural sleep cycle—as experienced by shift workers—has a pronounced link with suffering metabolic health, as well as rates of chronic illness and early death."
These authors also blame our declining sleep hygiene on the use of electronic devices such as tablets, portable video games, TVs, and smart phones in the evening.
Another study published in the International Journal of Obesity5 found that infants who sleep less eat more, which places them at increased risk of future obesity and related health problems. Infants who, at the age of 16 months, slept less than 10 hours per day ate an average of 10 percent more calories than those who slept for at least 13 hours daily. According to Dr. Abi Fisher of the Health Behavior Research Centre at UCL:6
"Previous studies in adults and older children have shown that sleep loss causes people to eat more, but in early life parents make most of the decisions about when and how much their children eat, so young children cannot be assumed to show the same patterns.
The key message here is that shorter sleeping children may be prone to consume too many calories. Although more research is needed to understand why this might be, it is something parents should be made aware of."To Successfully Lose Weight, You May Need to Sleep More
A number of studies have linked poor sleep and/or sleep deprivation with a higher risk of obesity and difficulty in losing weight. A recent article by Timesleader.com7 also discusses the findings from a University of Chicago study, which found that people who slept well lost more fat when dieting, while sleep deprived participants lost more muscle.
On average, both groups lost about the same amount of weight, but clearly, losing fat rather than muscle is definitely to be preferred! The article also notes that:
"[O]ne study found that those who slept five hours per night were 73 percent more likely to become obese than those who spent nine hours with their favorite pillow – I'll repeat: 73 percent!
The reason for this hasn't been pinpointed yet, but some say that lack of sleep lowers the levels of the hormone leptin, which reduces hunger. There's another link between sleep deprivation and weight: diabetes.
The underlying problem with type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance, in which the body does not make proper use of this sugar-processing hormone. And go figure, when you're sleep deprived, your body almost immediately develops conditions that resemble diabetes.
A study of people in their late 20s and early 30s who slept fewer than six and a half hours per night showed they essentially had the insulin sensitivity of someone over 60."The Persistent Link Between Poor Sleep and Insulin Resistance
Impaired insulin sensitivity, also known as insulin resistance, occurs when your body cannot use insulin properly, allowing your blood sugar levels to get too high. The same applies to leptin, the hormone that tells your brain there is no need for more food. Both insulin and leptin resistance are precursors to type 2 diabetes.
They're also risk factors in many other chronic diseases. In fact, controlling your insulin/leptin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer.
The increase in insulin-related diseases we're now seeing is largely due to lack of exercise combined with the excessive consumption of refined fructose and processed carbohydrates… but it also appears that lack of sleep plays an important part in the equation.
Besides deteriorating your insulin and leptin sensitivity, sleep deprivation also increases levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger.8 This too can easily result in overeating and/or indulging in the wrong foods. Too little sleep also impacts your levels of thyroid and stress hormones, which in turn can affect your memory, immune system, heart and metabolism, and much more.
By altering the balance of all of these various hormones, lack of sleep can lead to a wide array of health problems, from accelerated aging and earlier onset of Alzheimer's,9 to depression, and increased risk for cancer. In fact, tumors have been shown to grow two to three times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions.To Sleep Better, Skip the Drugs and Treat Yourself to Bright Daylight During the Day
If you or your child has trouble sleeping, how can you most effectively reverse that trend? For starters, please do NOT make the mistake of turning to sleeping pills—prescription or otherwise. Unfortunately, this is what many end up doing. According to one 2007 study, more than 80 percent of children's doctor visits for sleep problems included a prescription for a sleep drug! Most prescribed for kids' sleep troubles were antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and sleeping pills like Ambien and Sonata.
You certainly do not need to go to medical school to understand that using drugs to help kids sleep is not their best option, as it in no way, shape or form addresses the underlying cause of poor sleep patterns and instead exposes kids to potentially serious medication side effects. The same goes for adults. Instead, I strongly recommend addressing truly foundational issues—such as maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night—first. In a recent interview, researcher Dan Pardi revealed why this is so critical for sleep and overall health.
Unfortunately, most people in Western societies spend the larger portion of each day indoors, which essentially puts you in a state of "light deficiency." Meanwhile, most people expose themselves to too much light in the evening, at a time when the natural rhythm calls for light to fade. Research shows that exposure to bright room light before bedtime suppresses melatonin production in 99 percent of individuals. This can effectively rob you of sleep by masking sleepiness, as this hormone influences what time of day or night your body thinks it is—regardless of what time the clock displays.
To correct the situation and return your body to a normal rhythm of waking and sleeping, Pardi recommends getting at least 30-60 minutes of bright outdoor light exposure during daylight hours. This will help "anchor" your biological rhythm. Then, in the evening, you'll want to dim environmental lights and avoid the blue light wavelength to prevent the suppression of melatonin, as this will make it difficult to fall asleep. To do this, you can use blue-blocking light bulbs, dim your lights with dimmer switches and turn off unneeded lights, and if using a computer, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux10 (Also keep in mind that digital alarm clocks with blue light displays could have a detrimental effect.)Sleeping Well Is Part of a Healthy Lifestyle Plan
There's compelling research indicating that sleeping too little may increase your insulin and leptin resistance, thereby raising your risk of obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases. To address your sleep problems, I recommend beginning by realigning your circadian rhythms to the natural rhythm of daylight and nightfall. Without this synchronization, aspects of your waking/sleeping system will be working at the wrong time, making it difficult to sleep at night, while increasing daytime sleepiness. Again, the three factors to keep in mind are as follows:
- Get daylight exposure, ideally around solar noon, for at least half an hour or more each day
- In the evening, dim environmental lights and avoid the blue light wavelength
- When it's time to go to sleep, make sure your bedroom is dark. I recommend installing blackout shades for this purpose, or use a sleep mask to avoid disrupting your melatonin production
Besides maintaining a natural circadian rhythm, there are a number of additional ways to help improve your sleep if you're still having trouble. For a comprehensive sleep guide, please see my article "33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep." Here are 10 often-overlooked factors that might be interfering with your sleep. My previous interview with Dr. Rubin Naiman also delves into some of the most common causes of insomnia, and how to address them.
By Dr. Mercola
According to the 2011 Health Grades Hospital Quality in America Study,1 the incidence of medical harm occurring in the United States is estimated to be over 40,000 harmful and/or lethal errors each and every day.
Hospitals have become particularly notorious for spreading lethal infections. According to the most recent report2, 3 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hospital-acquired infections now affect one in 25 patients.
In 2011, an estimated 722,000 patients contracted an infection during a stay in an acute care hospital in the US, and about 75,000 of them died as a result of it.
That amounts to just over 205 deaths from hospital-acquired infections every day of the year! More than half of all hospital-acquired infections were contracted outside of the intensive care unit. The most common hospital-acquired infections include:
- Central line-associated bloodstream infections
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections
- Surgical site infections after surgery
- Clostridium difficile infections
Other infectious diseases can also easily spread in medical settings, where those who are actively ill mingle with others who have compromised immune systems. For example, in early February, a measles outbreak suddenly cropped up in the northern Manhattan area of New York City.
A New York epidemiologist blames the outbreak on medical workers' failure to control the contagion within their facilities. According to a recent New York Times4 report:
"Dr. Jay Varma, the health department's deputy commissioner for disease control, said the department's investigators were looking at whether some of the 20 confirmed cases, which are concentrated in northern Manhattan, might have resulted from exposure in medical facilities.
Measles is one of the most contagious diseases and can be spread through airborne respiratory droplets even two hours after an infected person has left the room.
'We know a number of people were exposed and possibly got their infection either at a doctor's office or at an emergency room where they went and it took more time than it should have for them to be put in an isolation area where they couldn't possibly infect anyone else,' Dr. Varma said."Low-Rated Hospitals Place Patients at Even Greater Risk
While rates of hospital-acquired infections appear to have declined—estimates from the 1970s through the 1990s hovered around two million each year, with an estimated 100,000 annual deaths—the idea that you have "only" a one in 25 chance of ending up with a potentially lethal infection any time you enter a hospital is certainly not a cause for celebration... As reported by Reuters:5
"'The trend, in magnitude, seems to be going in the right direction,' Dr. Mike Bell, deputy director of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the CDC, told Reuters Health. Despite continuing concern about hospital-acquired infections, especially ones that are resistant to antibiotics, the US does not have a national system for collecting information on the problem."
It's also important to realize that some hospitals are far riskier than others, and larger patient samples tend to reveal a greater magnitude of a problem. The featured CDC study analyzed just over 11,280 patient records from 183 hospitals in 10 states. (It's also worth noting that nursing homes, emergency departments, rehabilitation hospitals, and outpatient treatment centers were excluded.)
Meanwhile, HealthGrades, which provides quality ratings on nearly 5,000 American hospitals, analyzed approximately 40 million Medicare patients' records from 2007 through 2009 for its 2011 report,6 which found that one in nine patients developed a hospital-acquired infection!
According to this report, more than 164,470 inhospital complications could potentially have been avoided had all Medicare recipients from 2008 through 2010 gone to top rated hospitals for their procedures. On the average, you have a 54 percent lower risk of dying in a five-star rated hospital compared to the national average.
Clearly, it's quite possible to prevent a large portion of inhospital infections. Simple things like doctors and nurses washing their hands between each patient, for example, can go a long way toward controlling the spread of potentially lethal infections.
Another factor that can influence your relative safety risk is when you go into the hospital. As a general rule, avoid elective surgeries and procedures during the month of July because this is when brand new residents begin their training. According to a 2010 report in the Journal of General Internal Medicine,7 lethal medication errors consistently spike by about 10 percent each July, particularly in teaching hospitals, due to the inexperience of new residents. Also be cautious of weekends.The Age of Antibiotics Is Coming to an End
Believing an antibiotic will cure your illness is taken for granted by most people nowadays, but that is rapidly changing, as evidenced by current statistics. Antibiotic overuse and inappropriate use bear a heavy responsibility for creating the superbug crisis we are facing today.
The pervasive misuse of antibiotics by the agriculture industry also plays a very significant role. Agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US.
Tens of millions of pounds of antibiotics are administered to American livestock each year for purposes other than treating disease, such as making the animals grow bigger faster. The antibiotic residues in meat and dairy, as well as the resistant bacteria, are then passed on to you in the foods you eat. As just one example, no less than 80 different antibiotics are allowed in cows' milk.
The CDC has previously concluded that as much as 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is in fact linked to food. According to a landmark "Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report" published by the CDC8 last year, a staggering two million American adults and children become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections. Unfortunately, hospital settings are undoubtedly among the most dangerous of places when it comes to contracting an antibiotic-resistant infection.
According to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), just one organism—methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA—kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, and homicide.9 The real death toll could be much higher, however, because as mentioned earlier, no one is tracking the full extent of antibiotic-resistant infections in the US. Fortunately, there are some effective non-toxic therapies, like honey, that work for topical MRSA infections.The 18 Most-Dangerous Pathogens
In the CDC's report Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013, the following 18 superbugs are identified as "urgent, serious and concerning threats" to humankind.10 The majority of these dangerous bacteria are in the Gram-negative category, because that variety has body armor that makes it extremely resistant to the immune response. Most disturbing of all, some forms are now exhibiting "panresistance"—meaning, resistance to absolutely every antibiotic in existence!
From my perspective, checking yourself into a hospital should be an option of last resort, when you have exhausted all others (barring an actual life-threatening emergency). Not only do you risk developing a potentially life-threatening infection, but they also all-too-frequently give you the wrong solution for your problem. Surgery, for example, is a widely overused option that can cause far more problems than it solves. One of the reasons I'm so passionate about sharing the information on this site about healthy eating, exercise, and stress management is because it can help keep you OUT of the hospital. But, if a hospital stay is necessary, you would do well to heed the advice of Dr. Andrew Saul, co-author of the book Hospitals and Health: Your Orthomolecular Guide to a Shorter Hospital Stay.11 He suggests making sure you bring a personal advocate with you—a relative or friend who can speak up for you and ensure you're given proper care if you too incapacitated to do so yourself.Knowing How to Play the 'Hospital Game' Could Save Your Life
Knowing how to prevent disease so you can avoid hospitals in the first place is clearly your best bet. But knowing what to do to make your hospital stay as safe and healing as possible is equally important. As Dr. Saul explains:
"[People] need to understand that when they are faced with hospitalization, the most powerful person in the most entire hospital system is the patient. The system works on the assumption that the patient will not claim that power...A patient can say, 'No. Do not touch me.' And they can't. If they do, it's assault, and you can call the police. Now, they might say, 'Well, on your way in, you signed this form.' You can revoke your permission. Just because somebody has permission to do one thing, it doesn't mean that they have the permission to do everything.
There's no such thing as a situation that you cannot reverse... You don't want to cry wolf for no reason, but the patient has the potential to put a stop to absolutely anything. If the patient doesn't know that, if they're not conscious, or if they just don't have the moxie to do it, the next most powerful person is the spouse... If there is no spouse present, the next most powerful people in the system are the children of the patient...
You'll notice that I haven't noticed doctors or hospital administrators once. That's because they don't have the power. They really don't. They just want you to think that you do. It is an illusion that they run the place. The answer is – you do. They're offering you products and services, and they're trying to get you to accept them without question.
...[W]hen you go to the hospital, bring along a black Sharpie pen, and cross out anything that you don't like in the contract. Put big giant X's through entire clauses and pages, and do not sign it. And when they say, 'We're not going to admit you,' you say, 'Please put it in writing that you refuse to admit me.' What do you think your lawyers are going to do with that? They have to [admit you]. They absolutely have to... It's a game, and you can win it. But you can't win it if you don't know the rules. And basically, they don't tell you the rules. In [the book] Hospitals and Health, we do."
Medicine has very few options when the antibiotic pipeline completely dries up, and when that happens, common illnesses such as bronchitis or strep throat may turn into deadly sepsis. Surgeries previously considered low risk or "routine," such as hip replacements, might suddenly be too risky without antibiotics. And complex surgeries like organ transplants would essentially not be survivable.
Again, while there appears to be few options, I would stress the importance of prevention, prevention, prevention. And that includes avoiding unnecessary hospital visits. The basic key to keeping your immune system healthy is making good lifestyle choices such as proper diet, stress management, and exercise. Remember, opt for clean, whole foods (animal and plant based), organically raised without antibiotics and preferably locally sourced. By taking control of your own health and building a strong immune system, you'll minimize your risk of acquiring an antibiotic-resistant infection, or becoming hospital-bound due to severe illness.
By Dr. Mercola
It’s estimated that 30-40 percent of people around the globe experience a lack of interest in sex for at least several months in any given year.1 The reasons for low libido are complex and run the gamut from stress and other emotional difficulties to physical problems, including erectile dysfunction.
Most people do not seek help for chronic low libido, which is unfortunate because regular sex with a committed partner cannot be underestimated as a factor for reducing stress, bolstering self-esteem, and fostering feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners.
A healthy sex life can provide for a longer, healthier and, most would agree, more enjoyable life, but many are missing out on this very primal pleasure.11 Drugs That May Cause Low Libido
Oftentimes low libido is related to your lifestyle, and that includes any medications you are taking. Many medications can interfere with your sex drive, including the 11 that follow. Considering the widespread use of many of these, it’s likely that medication use is a leading cause of low libido among both men and women.
If you’re taking one of these and have experienced a drop in your libido, talk with a natural health care practitioner about drug-free alternatives. Many of the drugs below are used for conditions that are better treated using non-drug methods.
1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Antidepressants
Sexual dysfunction is a frequent side effect of antidepressants, including the SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.) that are often used as a first-line treatment option for depression. According to a report in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience:2
“Sexual dysfunction occurs through several brain pathways involving increases in serotonin (5-HT), decreases in dopamine (DA) and inhibition of nitric oxide synthase. Increases in cortico-limbic 5-HT result in decreased sexual desire, ejaculation and orgasm.
Consequently, it is not surprising that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-induced sexual dysfunction occurs in 30%–80% of patients and is a main cause of treatment discontinuation.”
2. Tricyclic Antidepressants
Tricyclic antidepressants are much less widely used than the newer SSRIs, but they are still prescribed for both depression and nerve pain. Like SSRIs, tricyclic antidepressants are also associated with decreased libido.
3. Birth Control Pills
About 15 percent of women taking oral contraceptives report a decrease in libido, likely because they lower levels of sex hormones, including testosterone.3 One study also found seven times the amount of the libido-killing sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) was present in women who took oral contraceptives compared to women who never used the pill.
Even though SHBG levels declined in women who had stopped taking the pill, they still remained three to four times higher than they were in women with no history of using oral contraceptives, which suggests oral contraceptives may kill a woman’s libido for the long-term. Researchers concluded:4
“Long-term sexual, metabolic, and mental health consequences might result as a consequence of chronic SHBG elevation [in women who take, or have taken, oral contraceptives.”
Proscar belongs to a class of drugs called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which are used to treat enlarged prostate. Your prostate gland contains an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which converts the male hormone testosterone to another androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This class of drugs inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, thereby blocking the conversion of testosterone DHT.
As a result, they may help to actually shrink your prostate, but they come with significant risks, one of which is a lower libido from the lower testosterone. You can find natural tips for prostate health here.
5. Baldness Drug Propecia
Propecia is a similar drug to Proscar, but typically used at a lower dose to prevent hair loss in men. The drug works by reducing DHT, the most potent male hormone that is linked to shrinking hair, by blocking the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. It has been linked to not only a decreased interest in sex but also to full blown impotence.
BBC News followed one story of a 26-year-old who took Propecia for male pattern baldness. He stopped taking the drug when he noticed a decreased interest in sex, then a few weeks later became impotent. Even after six months of testosterone therapy his sexual health had not been restored, and his physician suggested a penile implant as a solution.5 Many men have found that the sexual side effects do not go away once the drug is stopped.
Antihistamines, particularly Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton, are also linked to a temporary loss of libido. Once the medication is cleared from your body your sex drive should go back to normal, but if you take these medications often, such as for allergy treatment, it could pose a longer-term problem for your sex life.
7. Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states, where it is commonly used to treat pain, nausea, and other conditions. It may dampen your libido and ability to perform in men.
8. Anti-Seizure Drugs
Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is commonly used to prevent seizures, which it does by preventing impulses from traveling along nerve cells. Because it dampens nerve impulses, it may also reduce pleasurable sensations derived from sexual contact. Reduced sexual desire is common among Tegretol users. One study found, for instance, that epileptic men taking carbamazepine had changes in hormonal levels, altered semen quality, increased erectile dysfunction, and reduced frequency of sexual intercourse.6
Widely prescribed opioid painkillers (Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, etc.) have been making headlines for their addictive potential, but they also lower testosterone levels, which may in turn lower your libido.
10. Beta Blockers
Tens of millions of Americans take beta blockers to lower their blood pressure, and these medications, too, may decrease libido. Even eye drops containing the beta blocker Timolol (for the treatment of glaucoma) may impact your sex drive. In the vast majority of cases, drugs are not needed to reverse hypertension.
There is evidence to suggest that anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax negatively affect sexual functioning,7 including lowering your sex drive.There Are Better Ways to Treat Low Libido Than a Pill
If you’re taking any of the medications above, you may be tempted to add another to your regimen to treat your low libido, or bypass it altogether with a drug to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) (i.e. Viagra). For starters, Viagra does nothing directly to enhance your libido or the fact that many cases of ED are undoubtedly emotionally based. Your brain and nervous system control your sex glands and genitals, and this is why they also control your sexual desire, as well as orgasms.
There are many similarities between men and women in regard to desire; contrary to popular belief, for example, visual images trigger sexual desire in both sexes. Likewise, anxiety, defensiveness, fear, and failure of communication are destructive psychological forces that can take a heavy toll on your libido, whether you’re a man or a woman, by acting as roadblocks to desire. In case you were wondering, Viagra does carry a risk of potentially serious side effects, as well including:Headache Upset stomach Flushing of the face Blue/green color blindness Blurred vision Vision sensitivity to light Sudden decrease or loss of vision in one or both eyes An abnormally long-lasting erection that may cause permanent damage to your penis Sudden loss or decrease in hearing, sometimes with ringing in the ears or dizziness Heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, and death have occurred in men taking Viagra A Natural Alternative for Sexual Dysfunction
As far as natural alternatives go, there are many options to consider including L-arginine, an amino acid that is the precursor to nitric oxide, a natural compound that helps relax your blood vessels. Nitric oxide signals the smooth muscle cells in your blood vessels to relax, so that your vessels dilate and your blood flows more freely. This helps your arteries to regain their elasticity and stay free of plaque. L-arginine may also lead to increased microcirculation in genital tissues, which results in stronger erections and better sexual responsiveness, via this nitric oxide mechanism.
In fact, this is how a leading ED drug treats erectile problems — it increases nitric oxide production, relaxing your blood vessels, which increases penile blood flow. However, the price you might pay for these ED drugs is a slew of potentially dangerous side effects, including reducing blood pressure too low. L-arginine increases the action of nitric oxide — similar to ED drugs, but without the side effects.
Scientific studies have shown that L-arginine can be particularly effective when used in combination with another natural agent, pycnogenol, which resulted in significant improvement in sexual function in men with ED, according to a Bulgarian study.8 Similarly, a pilot study published in the journal European Urology found six grams of L-arginine combined with six mg of yohimbine, a compound found in the herb yohimbe, was successful in treating men with ED.9Strategies for Boosting Your Sex Drive
The natural protocol above may help with ED, but if you want to increase your libido, a more comprehensive program is recommended. For starters, you’ll want to ensure that your hormone levels (including testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH)) are balanced and optimized. I’ve discussed many strategies for optimizing these hormones before, including high-intensity exercise. When it comes to an exercise plan that will complement testosterone function and production (along with overall health), I recommend including both high-intensity interval training and strength training.
Another effective strategy for enhancing both testosterone and HGH release is daily intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting helps boost testosterone by improving the expression of satiety hormones, like insulin, leptin, adiponectin, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), cholecystokinin (CKK), and melanocortins, which are linked to healthy testosterone function, increased libido, and the prevention of age-induced testosterone decline. Vitamin D also increases levels of testosterone, which may boost libido. In one study, overweight men who were given vitamin D supplements had a significant increase in testosterone levels after one year.108 Steps to a Healthy Sex Life (for Men and Women)
If you’re in a committed relationship and find that your sex life leaves much to be desired, it’s likely that your lifestyle is getting in the way. To boost your libido naturally and help restore harmony to your intimate life, use the strategies that follow.
- Reduce, with the plan of eliminating, grains and sugars in your diet. It is vitally important to eliminate sugars, especially fructose. High levels of sugar in your bloodstream can actually turn off the gene that controls your sex hormones.11
- Eat a healthy diet, like the one described in my nutrition plan, which will help to normalize your insulin levels. This simple measure has a profound influence on every area of your health, including your sex life.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels, ideally through appropriate sun exposure as this will allow your body to also create vitamin D sulfate — a factor that may play a crucial role in preventing the formation of arterial plaque that is linked to erectile dysfunction.
- Exercise regularly. Make sure you incorporate high-intensity interval training exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production.
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively.
- Be sure to get plenty of high-quality, restorative sleep.
- Consider choline and vitamin B5 supplements.The neurotransmitter that triggers the sexual message, in both men and women, is acetylcholine (ACH). With too little ACH, sexual activity goes down. One way to safely and effectively enhance ACH levels in your body is to take choline supplements (1,000-3,000 mg) and vitamin B5 (500-1,500 mg).
- Stress, too, can dampen your libido and make sex the last thing on your mind (a catch-22, since sex will help to reduce your stress levels significantly). Taking control of your emotions by learning the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can really help in this area to re-ignite your sex life. EFT is a psychological acupressure technique that can help you effectively address your stress-related thoughts and leave you feeling calmer and more able to face your challenges, whatever they may be, so you’re able to focus on more enjoyable pursuits.
By Dr. Mercola
The public's appreciation of the toxicity of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto's broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup—is still limited, despite highly damning research being published.
The fact that Monsanto marketed Roundup as "environmentally friendly" and "biodegradable" probably has a lot to do with this general lack of insight.
More people are apt to remember the Roundup commercial than recall the fact that Monsanto was twice found guilty of false advertising of this herbicide. In 2009, a French court again upheld these earlier convictions.
Mounting evidence shows that glyphosate is FAR more toxic than anyone previously suspected, both alone and in combination with other additives (as in the case of Roundup), or in combination with other agricultural chemicals and/or heavy metals.
Dr. Donald Huber, one of the premier plant pathologists in the US, views it far more toxic than DDT. They are spraying nearly ONE BILLION pounds every year on our food crops. That is enough glyphosate to fill 4,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.
Most recently, what's being referred to as "an epidemic" of chronic kidney disease—a mysterious form of toxic nephropathy—striking down farmers in Sri Lanka, India, and Central America's Pacific coastline (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica), has now been traced back to Roundup in combination with contaminated fertilizer.
As reported by Lanka Business Online1: “Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) first appeared in Sri Lanka's rice growing areas in the north central province in the 1990s and has been spreading into other areas including the South, with over 20,000 estimated deaths so far.” According to estimates by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some 20,000 American farm workers are also being poisoned on the job each year2.Lethal Kidney Disease Linked to Roundup and Phosphate Fertilizer Combo
According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,3 glyphosate may carry heavy metals and minerals, whether naturally-occurring or originating from agricultural chemicals, into your kidneys, courtesy of its chelating properties.
A unique feature of this kidney disease (chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology/CKDu) is that none of the commonly known risk factors apply, such as diabetes or hypertension, but there's a strong association between this mysterious kidney disease and consumption of hard water, i.e. water that contains higher amounts of calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron.
Ninety-six percent of patients with chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology had consumed hard or very hard water for at least five years. Meanwhile, the disease is not found among those who get their drinking water straight from natural springs. Kidney toxicity is not known to be associated with hard water consumption, and this surprising finding added to the initial mystery. Furthermore, the disease seemed to have cropped out of nowhere. There were no reported cases of this kind of kidney disease in Sri Lanka prior to the 1990s.
The researchers note that the original use of glyphosate was as a de-scaling agent, used to clean out calcium and other mineral deposits in hot water systems. De-scaling agents attach to minerals such as calcium and magnesium, rendering them water soluble. According to the authors:
"[T]he totality of scientific evidence gathered so far has highlighted the fact that an unknown factor (Compound X) originating from agrochemicals, when combined with hardness/Ca/Mg can cause significant kidney damage; thus explaining many current observations including the unique geographical distribution of the disease.
If we assume that the 'Compound X' is derived from the agrochemicals and is easily bound to Ca/Mg/Sr/Fe to ultimately cause damage to the kidneys, then this hypothesis can explain the geographical distribution of chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) as well as the occurrence of the disease only after the 1990s...
Although glyphosate alone does not cause an epidemic of chronic kidney disease, it seems to have acquired the ability to destroy the renal tissues of thousands of farmers when it forms complexes with a localized geo-environmental factor (hardness) and nephrotoxic metals."A 'Perfect Storm' of Environmental Factors and Chemical Contamination
Arsenic also plays a role. Previous research has shown victims of chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology have arsenic in their hair and nails, and arsenic along with heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, nickel, and lead are also found in the triple-super-phosphate (TSP) fertilizer used by Sri Lankan farmers.
Triple superphosphate4 (TSP), also known as calcium dihydrogen phosphate and as monocalcium phosphate, became widely used in the 20th century. In Sri Lanka, it's applied within a couple of weeks of spraying the rice fields with glyphosate.
According to the featured study, Sri Lankan farmers do not use protective gear when applying agricultural chemicals, which would explain why glyphosate has been found in farmers' urine post-application. The matter may be further compounded by the fact that:
- The affected farmers dissolve the glyphosate in hard water before spraying
- They eat rice contaminated with glyphosate and heavy metals
- Many chew locally grown tobacco, which has also been found to be contaminated with cadmium and arsenic
"The phosphorus atom in the phosphonic group in the glyphosate/AMPA molecule can possibly be replaced by As (Arsenic). Following dermal and respiratory absorption of glyphosate, it can form complexes with nephrotoxic metals and arsenic derived from rice, vegetables and tobacco within the circulation," the researchers say.Chemical Agriculture Has Replaced Sustainable Agriculture Around the Globe
Chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology has also become commonplace among Central American sugarcane farmers. The two crops, rice and sugarcane, both require higher amounts of agricultural chemicals when grown on a large scale, and glyphosate is the most widely used pesticide in areas affected by this chronic kidney disease.
Shockingly, considering its majestic natural beauty, the island country of Sri Lanka has some of the highest use of agricultural chemicals in the world! According to the featured article:5
"The Island newspaper... quoted WHO/UN data which said Sri Lanka used 471 units of agro-chemicals, the highest in the world, made up of 187 Units of pesticides, which was also the highest in the world and 284 units of fertilizer, which was the 8th highest in the world.
Others were; Bangladesh (431U), Jamaica (397U), Dominican Republic (358U), Costa Rica (357U) and El Salvador (355U)... The state also subsidizes chemical fertilizer in an unprecedented scale."The Many Health Hazards of Glyphosate
It seems quite clear that we've radically altered our farming methods, embracing the "marvels" of chemical agriculture, without having a clear understanding of what all of these products actually do, alone and in combination, beyond their obvious benefits of killing pests. It appears as though, long-term, certain chemicals such as glyphosate also have the ability to kill the human population, along with other portions of the natural world.
Glyphosate is actually, in many ways, similar to DDT, which is now known to cause reproductive problems and birth defects6 among other things. The most recent research into DDT effects found that exposure appears to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, decades later.
This is undoubtedly unwelcome news to those who, in their youth, used to run out and frolic in the fumes from the DDT truck! Remember, DDT was advertised7 as completely harmless, and sold to an unsuspecting public with catchy slogans like "DDT is Good for Me-e-e!" Heck, they even sold DDT-laced wallpaper8 specifically designed for children's rooms! And it was "certified to be absolutely safe for home use."
Today, we have glyphosate which, just like DDT, has been falsely advertised, and falsely "certified" and "guaranteed" as safe. Besides being identified as a likely causative factor in fertility problems and birth defects, research also shows that glyphosate:Decimates beneficial microorganisms in the soil essential for proper plant function and high quality nutrition Causes extreme disruption of your gut microbes' function and lifecycle; preferentially affecting beneficial bacteria, while promoting the growth of pathogens in your intestines Chelates critical microminerals, preventing them from being utilized by the plant (leading to nutrient-deficient food) Inhibits enzymes that catalyze the oxidation of organic substances, which appears to be an overlooked component of glyphosate's toxicity to mammals. By limiting the ability of these enzymes to detoxify foreign chemical compounds, glyphosate enhances the damaging effects of those chemicals and environmental toxins you may be exposed to Promotes the proliferation of disease-causing pathogens in soil Is toxic to water fleas at extraordinarily low levels, well within the levels expected to be found in the environment. These findings throw serious doubt on glyphosate's safety Predisposes cattle to lethal botulism Is toxic to human DNA even when diluted to concentrations 450-fold lower than used in agricultural applications Other Hidden Health Hazards Associated with Phosphate Fertilizers
Polonium-210 is a highly radioactive element9 that releases alpha particles as it decays. It's also chemically toxic.10 While alpha particles cannot penetrate deeply into your body, they can cause serious damage to cells they do come into contact with. While naturally present in small amounts in the environment, one of the primary sources of exposure is via calcium phosphate fertilizers, commonly used on tobacco fields and food crops.
Researchers have gone so far as to suggest that it's the radiation from these fertilizers that are the primary cause of cancer in smokers.11, 12, 13 According to a report in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research,14 radioactivity in tobacco comes from two sources: the atmosphere and uptake through soil rich in calcium phosphate fertilizer contaminated with polonium phosphates.
You can also consume polonium by drinking fluoridated water, courtesy of the fluorosilicic acid used. This chemical byproduct, created during the phosphate fertilizer manufacturing process, is what is typically used to fluoridate municipal water supplies. Uranium and radium are two known carcinogens found in fluorosilicic acid used for water fluoridation, and polonium-210 is one of two decay products of uranium. Furthermore, polonium decays into stable lead-206, which also has significant health risks—especially in children—and research has indeed shown that drinking fluoridated water increases lead absorption in your body.Phosphate Fertilizers Also Used in GMO Agriculture
Phosphate fertilizers are also used on food crops. And while food-borne polonium may be absorbed and react differently in your body than being inhaled, you could potentially be exposed to greater levels of this (and other) radioactive elements than previously thought, through the aggressive use of phosphate fertilizers in food production. Besides the risk of radioactive contamination, research has shown that dietary calcium phosphate has a detrimental effect on your gut health—an effect shared by glyphosate, which also decimates your gut flora. According to a 2002 study in the Journal of Nutrition:15
"Most Gram-positive bacteria are susceptible to the bactericidal action of fatty acids and bile acids. Because dietary calcium phosphate (CaP(i)) lowers the intestinal concentration of these antimicrobial agents, high CaP(i) intake may enhance intestinal colonization of Gram-positive pathogens and the subsequent pathogenesis."
Taken together, modern agricultural methods may at first glance appear to be the most cost effective and efficient strategy, but it quickly becomes one of the most costly ways to produce food once you take into account the environmental and human health consequences.
Moreover, processed food manufacturers, represented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America (GMA), is working hand-in-hand with the chemical technology industry to force this food model on the world, with tax payers subsidizing the very food that will promotes disease and wreaks havoc on the environment. The GMA is spearheading the efforts of these industries to prevent you from knowing the truth about what you're really eating, and control the food system at virtually any cost, it seems.Greatest Purveyors of Disease Fight to Maintain Control of the Food System
As you may recall, during last year's I-522 ballot campaign to label GMOs in Washington State, the GMA came up with an ingenious, and illegal, money laundering scheme to protect the identity of members who donated funds to the opposing campaign.16
This illegal move helped them defeat I-522 by a mere one percent margin. The scheme fell apart however, and the GMA was sued by Attorney General Bob Ferguson,17 who accused them of intentional money laundering and violating state campaign disclosure laws. As a result, the identities of the companies paying to defeat I-522 were released.18 Not surprisingly it contained the usual suspects: Pepsi, Coke, General Mills and Nestle – all primary purveyors of chronic disease.
But that's not the end of the story.
On January 13, the Washington State Office of the Attorney General announced that the GMA has countersued the state, challenging its campaign finance laws.19 Essentially, the Association is suing for the right to hide corporate campaign funds—a move that threatens the transparency of the state's elections on every issue! What's more, the GMA has also filed a civil rights complaint against the Attorney General himself, claiming that he acted unconstitutionally when he enforced the state's laws! It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. This is bullying at its finest. As recently reported by TakePart.com:20
"If you don't live in Washington state and are wondering why you should care, A. Bryan Enders, associate professor of agricultural law at the University of Illinois, has food for thought. 'This is part of a larger narrative involving increased consumer awareness,' he says. 'The GMA countersuit can be viewed as not pro- or anti-consumer but about maintaining control over the messaging of our food system. As various states respond to consumer demand for heightened food labels, this shifts control away from GMA and its members and places it within the hands of diffuse consumer interests.'
The latest countersuit isn't GMA's only stick in the fire. According to Reuters, the trade group is working with a coalition including biotech crop developers and unnamed lawmakers to introduce federal GMO labeling legislation—legislation that would have the power to nullify individual state laws, a tactic public health lawyer Michele Simon spoke with us about in September. 'The devil is in the details,' Simon said. 'Industry will agree to federal labeling, but in exchange, they say, 'we want to preempt or stop any states from going further.'"Biological Farming Is the Way Out of This Mess
Last year, I interviewed Dr. Elaine Ingham, an internationally recognized expert on the benefits of sustainable soil science. According to Dr. Ingham and other soil experts, a key component of successful agriculture lies in having the right helper organisms in the soil; beneficial species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, beneficial nematodes (not the weedfeeders), microarthropods, and earthworms—all of which contribute to plant growth in a number of different ways.
Nutrient cycling is another major issue. Dr. Ingham believes the concept that your soil is deficient and needs added phosphorus or nitrogen, etc. in order to grow plants is seriously flawed, and largely orchestrated by the chemical companies, because it's based on looking at the soluble, inorganic nutrients that are partly present in your soil. The real nutrition plants require is actually derived from microorganisms in the soil. These organisms take the mineral material in the soil and convert it into a plant-available form. Without these bioorganisms, plants cannot get the nutrients they need.
So what you need is not more chemical soil additives, what you need is the proper balance of beneficial soil organisms. You can actually use a starter culture to boost the fermentation and generation of beneficial bacteria much in the same way you can boost the probiotics in your fermented vegetables.
For compost, this strategy is used if you want to compost very rapidly. In that case, you can use a starter to inoculate the specific sets of organisms for your garden's particular needs. Dr. Ingham has written several books on this topic, including The Field Guide for Actively Aerated Compost Tea, and The Compost Tea Brewing Manual. You can also greatly enhance the benefits of compost or compost tea by adding biochar, as it serves as residence where the bacteria can live and thrive; otherwise they tend to die out relatively rapidly after adding them to the soil.Eat Well and Help Save Farmers by Supporting Sustainable Agriculture
With everything we now know about the benefits of organically grown foods, and the health and environmental hazards of chemical farming, there's no doubt that HOW your food is grown is of utmost importance to your health. This is why I encourage you to support small family farms, and to buy organic whenever possible.
Another alternative is to grow some of your own vegetables. Sprouts are an excellent choice if you're just getting started, or if you want to grow the most nutritious food for the least amount of time and money. Frequenting farmer's markets and joining a community-supported agriculture program are other options. Below are several resources to obtain wholesome food that supports not only you but also the environment and the farmers who grow your food.
- Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Local Harvest -- This Web site 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.
- 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, and 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.
- FoodRoutes -- 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.
By Dr. Mercola
Medical marijuana, or cannabis, is legal in 20 US states, where it is used for a variety of medical conditions such as mood disorders, pain disorders, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer.
Medical marijuana is not a miracle cure for everyone… but it has been known to prompt some pretty miraculous recoveries. Unfortunately, whether or not you have access to this potentially life-changing natural remedy depends on your zip code – a fact that is raising growing protest in the US.
Despite the fact that 85 percent to 95 percent of Americans are in favor of medical cannabis, and nearly 60 percent are in favor of legalizing marijuana, many people are still unable, legally or otherwise, to get ahold of this natural treatment.
This is perhaps never more upsetting than in the case of children, especially when their parents are desperate to find a safe remedy that might give their child a chance.Minnesota Governor Dayton Refuses to Legalize Medical Marijuana, Despite Parents' Pleas
The issue recently came to a head in Minnesota, where parents of children with epilepsy met at a news conference to share their dismay that Governor Mark Dayton refuses to legalize medical marijuana.
Parents took turns describing the seizures their children are suffering, but instead of considering legalization the governor suggested the families consider a $2-million trial on the substance that would allow children to get the "relief they need as quickly as possible."
This response reminds me of a poignant comment made by Dr. Allan Frankel, a board-certified internist in California, who has treated patients with medical cannabis for the past seven years. When the government wants to get rid of all medical use of marijuana, or refuses to legalize it, it begs the question: Why?
According to Dr. Frankel, the answer is simple. "They want it. This is a huge market," he said. Medical cannabis is clearly competition to the pharmaceutical industry, but by keeping it restricted to a pharmaceutical trial, they can maintain control and profits.
It is a remarkable shame, especially for a condition like epilepsy, for which medical marijuana has shown such promise. Even the Epilepsy Foundation has called for increased medical marijuana access and research. Their president and CEO stated:
"Some individuals, specifically families of children with uncontrolled seizures, are using what is called cannabidiol oil, or CBD oil, and anecdotally a few are seeing remarkable results. This is truly spectacular -- anytime someone finds a treatment that stops seizures, there is cause for celebration because seizure freedom for one person means hope of seizure freedom for others.
…We are advocating for the rights of patients and families to determine with their doctor if this is an appropriate therapy for them, but we recognize the unknowns and the difficulty of this decision for an individual patient.
…As fathers, we know the pain of watching our children experience uncontrolled seizures. We know how epilepsy impacts development in children for whom no available current treatment has been successful. We know about the dangers that can occur when families are forced to leave medical systems and physicians they know to move to other states.
…We know the difference between having recurring seizures and not having seizures can mean the difference between life and death… If an epilepsy patient and their doctor feel that marijuana is their best treatment option then they need to have safe, legal access to medical marijuana and they need that access now."Cannabidiol (CBD): The Medicinal Properties of Marijuana
Marijuana was a popular botanical medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries, common in US pharmacies of the time. Yet, in 1970, the herb was declared a Schedule 1 controlled substance and labeled as a drug with a "high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use."
Three years later the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was formed to enforce the newly created drug schedules, and the fight against marijuana use began. Even in states where medical marijuana use is legal, such as California, the DEA has raided medical marijuana suppliers and even arrested patients, because on a federal level, possessing or distributing marijuana is still considered a criminal offense.
As is often the case, the US government has not kept up with or, more likely, intentionally turned a blind eye on the potential role of marijuana for medicinal uses, at least until it can take on full control. The federal war on marijuana is indeed a strange one, considering the legality of cigarettes and alcohol -- products that have vastly greater potential to harm public health, without any of the medicinal benefits. Not to mention that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves drugs, prescribed by doctors every day, that kill over 100,000 Americans a year.
In order to really comprehend the movement behind medical marijuana, you must first understand that this herb truly does show outstanding promise as a medicinal plant, largely due to its cannabidiol (CBD) content. Cannabinoids interact with your body by way of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body. There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system, and more. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor.
In his medical practice, Dr. Frankel treats a wide variety of patients with medical cannabis, which has become his specialty. Occasionally, patients will experience very dramatic results. For example, he has seen tumors virtually disappear in some patients using no other therapy except taking 40 to 60 milligrams of cannabinoids a day. The most common thing he sees in cancer patients, however, are tumors shrinking, or a metastasis disappearing. Sometimes tumors will shrink or vanish, only to reemerge in other areas, months later, and then shrink or vanish again... Other common ailments being treated with cannabis include:Mood disorders Pain disorders Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia Multiple sclerosis Parkinson's disease Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Seizure disorders Medical Marijuana Has Been Extensively Studied, with Positive Results
Even a quick review of the data suggests that cannabis deserves more than a passing glance as a potential treatment for various diseases. There is a wealth of research linking marijuana with pain relief and improved sleep. In one study, just three puffs of marijuana a day for five days helped those with chronic nerve pain to relieve pain and sleep better.1 Americans for Safe Access also has links to research studies suggesting that cannabis may help in the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer's disease and cancer,2 noting:
"To date, more than 15,000 modern peer-reviewed scientific articles on the chemistry and pharmacology of cannabis and cannabinoids have been published, as well as more than 2,000 articles on the body's natural endocannabinoids. In recent years, more placebo-controlled human trials have also been conducted.
A 2009 review of clinical studies conducted over a 38-year period, found that 'nearly all of the 33 published controlled clinical trials conducted in the United States have shown significant and measurable benefits in subjects receiving the treatment.' The review's authors note that cannabinoids have the capacity for analgesia through neuromodulation in ascending and descending pain pathways, neuroprotection, and anti-inflammatory mechanisms—all of which indicates that the cannabinoids found in cannabis have applications in managing chronic pain, muscle spasticity, cachexia, and other debilitating conditions.
Currently, cannabis is most often recommended as complementary or adjunct medicine. But there is a substantial consensus among experts in the relevant disciplines, including the American College of Physicians, that cannabis and cannabis-based medicines have therapeutic properties that could potentially treat a variety of serious and chronic illness."
What is amazing is that your body is actually hard-wired to respond to cannabinoids through its unique cannabinoid receptor system. Research is still ongoing on just how extensive their impact is on our health, but to date it's known that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, anxiety, bone growth, and immune function.3
A report by Dr. Manuel Guzman in the journal Nature Reviews suggests that these active components of cannabis and their derivatives are also potential anti-cancer agents:4 "…these compounds [cannabinoids] have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumor cells in culture and animal models by modulating key cell-signaling pathways. Cannabinoids are usually well tolerated, and do not produce the generalized toxic effects of conventional chemotherapies."The Difference Between Cannabis and Hemp
There are two very distinct groups of marijuana strains. One is cannabis; the other is hemp. There's plenty of confusion about the similarities and differences between these two plants. While they are subspecies of the same plant species, they look very different, and are extremely different in ways that really matter when it comes to medicinal use.
The fact they have in common is that they both contain cannabidiol (CBD), which has medicinal properties. The amount of CBD, however, differs greatly between the two. Dosing, therefore, is dramatically different where you to try to use hemp in lieu of cannabis, as the latter, cannabis, is up to 100-fold more potent. Another difference that appears to matter in terms of its usefulness as medicine relates to differing terpene profiles. Hemp contains very little of these valuable medicinal compounds.
Lastly, there's the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana; it's the molecule that makes you feel "stoned." (While CBD also has certain psychoactive properties, it does NOT produce a high.) By legal definition, hemp cannot have more than 0.3 percent THC in it. So to summarize:
- Hemp has less value for medicinal uses, as it only contains about four percent CBD and lacks many of the medicinal terpenes and flavonoids. It also contains less than 0.3 percent THC, which means it cannot produce a high or get you stoned. However, for many disease processes, THC is very much indicated and required. So, for many disease processes, CBD alone has much less value.
- Cannabis is potent medicine courtesy of high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of CBD, critical levels of medicinal terpenes and flavonoids, as well as THC in varying ratios for various diseases. The higher the THC, the more pronounced its psychoactive effects
During the '60s and '70s, growers were focused on increasing the THC content and, due to breeding out the all-important CBD, marijuana became known primarily as a plant that gets you high. Its original medicinal properties and uses largely fell by the wayside. Things are changing however, according to Dr. Frankel:
"Five years ago, California Physicians, and other groups around the world, didn't really know if we would find CBD-rich strains anymore, but we have. Now there's many different varieties of it. We keep bringing back new CBD rich strains every month or two.The Healing Effects of Raw Cannabis
While the vast majority of marijuana use is through burning and inhalation, the video above features some of the top researchers on the healing effects of cannabis in its raw form. The leaves can be eaten in a salad or juiced. This is but one way to consume this medicinal plant. You can also find marijuana in oil form or consume it, as many medical marijuana patients do, by using a vaporizer. The device vaporizes marijuana without any of the combustion byproducts, allowing for a clean route of ingestion.
While individual states are still battling over whether to legalize medical marijuana, there are a number of states that have it on the ballot this November. This is one trend that's unlikely to slow down anytime soon. It's estimated that the legal marijuana market will grow to $2.34 billion in 2014, making it one of the fastest-growing industries (if not the fastest).5
Hopefully, as its use expands, more people will have access to another natural treatment to take control of their health. Keep in mind that, for now at least, even if you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, the potency of cannabis varies greatly, as do its effects when ingested.
This is why experts like Dr. Frankel are very focused on trying to develop accurate dose-consistent medicine. The Patient Access Centers he consults with create a diverse collection of dose-consistent oral-buccal sprays. He also believes it's very important to open up and start talking about dosing—what works, what doesn't. It is his belief that some patients, in large part due to lack of education about the medicine, may be taking 10, or even 100 times, higher dosage than is really needed to treat their ailment. Unfortunately, many doctors in this still highly controversial field are afraid to recommend dosages, for fear of the repercussions.
By Dr. Mercola
In the US, backyard vegetable gardens are still viewed mostly as a hobby – an activity that you can engage in to get away from your daily grind, get your hands dirty, and spend some time in nature.
But this is rapidly changing, thanks to a growing movement of people who are not only in love with the process of gardening but also the literal fruits of their labor.
Yes, homegrown food is fresher, tastier and, often, more nutritious than produce shipped from across the globe. But gardening is much grander than that, as it puts you in control of a commodity that is, at its very essence, survival, freedom, and health. Growing your own food is the way of the future, ironically, by getting back to our foundational roots of self-sufficiency and oneness with nature.It's Time to Start Planting Your 21st Century Victory Garden
During World War II, many foods, including butter, eggs, coffee, meat, and sugar, were rationed by the government. There were also labor and transportation shortages that made it difficult for enough fresh produce to be brought to the market. And so the government called on Americans to plant "victory gardens" in order to supply their own fruits and vegetables.
It's inspiring to look back on now, as close to 20 million Americans planted produce in every nook and cranny they could find, from rooftops and empty lots to their own backyards and they grew 40 percent of the produce in the US. Neighbors began to work together, planting varying crops and forming food cooperatives to share their harvests with one another.
Unfortunately, when the war ended so, too, did many Americans' gardening efforts. Today, Americans largely tend to their lawns – all 35 million acres of them.1 New York Times author Michael Pollan was one of the first to tackle the absurdity of the pursuit of lush green lawns.
Pollan says these are a "symbol of everything that's wrong with our relationship to the land" – over environmentally friendly and productive landscapes like vegetable gardens, meadows, or orchards.
Unlike a vegetable garden, which gives back in the form of fresh produce and a symbiotic relationship with soil, insects, and wildlife, a lawn gives nothing, yet requires significant chemical treatments and meticulous mowing and watering to stay within society's confines of what a properly "manicured lawn" should be.
New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman has pointed out that if only 10 percent of Americans converted lawns into food-producing gardens, it would supply one-third of America's fresh produce.2 That's quite impressive… revolutionary even.
In the 21st century, as increasing numbers of people are growing fed up with industrial agriculture, dissenting from our monopolized food system by planting your own backyard garden may be the only path to good health… and freedom. As TreeHugger reported:3
"Thomas Jefferson was a gardening enthusiast, but his passion for growing food went beyond his own backyard. Apparently he believed that America was incapable of true democracy unless 20 percent of its citizens were self-sufficient on small farms. This would enable them to be real dissenters, free to voice opinions and beliefs, without any obligation to food producers who might hold their survival at stake.
During World War II, Americans rallied together to grow vast acres of victory gardens that ended up supplying 40 percent of the nation's wartime food supply – an astonishingly large quantity of produce in a relatively short period of time, when you stop to think about it.
Sadly, in 2014, we are further than ever from that self-sufficient ideal that Jefferson hoped for. By contrast, Americans now tend 35 million acres of lawn (approximately 54,000 square miles). Lawns are the biggest 'crop' in the U.S., covering an area three times greater than corn, and yet they are essentially horticultural deserts, with nothing for little pollinators to find but fatal pesticides."2014 Is the International Year of Family Farming
Growing your own garden or participating in a community garden is a great way to improve your health, help build a sustainable food system, and support our planet as it struggles to make room for increasing numbers of us. Food grown in your own garden is fresher, more nutritious, and tastes better than store-bought food—and you can't beat the price!
Urban gardens are key to saving energy, protecting water quality and topsoil, promoting biodiversity, and beautifying both densely populated communities and rural areas. Remember, plants are our richest source of natural medicine. You can become your family's own "farm" quite easily. Most people are shocked at how much produce can be harvested even from relatively small spaces.
On a global scale, the United Nations has designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming to bring attention and recognition to the family farmers that are helping to nourish the world. There are more than 500 million family farmers worldwide. Such farms, which are less than two hectares (or about five acres) in size, amount to:4
- 200 million farms in China
- 117 million farms in India
- 33 million farms in sub-Saharan Africa
The good news is that small farms are actually increasing around the globe, giving hope that our planet may begin to heal from the assault of industrial agriculture, which is water intensive, erodes soil far faster than it can be replenished, and creates an abundance of corn, wheat, and soy – not nutrient-dense, diverse crops.
Small farmers are unique also in that they adapt to work with the land and the conditions that nature gives them – something that is vital to growing food for the planet's population. According to a Food Tank report:5
"Whereas large commercial farms tend to be predominant in high potential yield areas, smallholder farmers and family farmers are often the stewards of marginal lands, and use their knowledge and abilities to sustain production under challenging circumstances.
Not only are smallholder farmers in a unique position to contribute to the global food supply, but empowering smallholder and family farmers is a vital step toward improving nutrition, increasing incomes, protecting and enhancing biodiversity, enhancing soil quality, conserving water, and mitigating and adapting to climate change."You Can Single-Handedly Create a Healthier Diet for Your Family
As Food Tank put it, "all farmers can have a direct impact on nutrition through the crops that they choose to grow and consume," and this is true even if your "farming" extends only to a few containers on your patio.
Traditionally, women in many cultures have been in charge of maintaining family gardens, and through their choices of crops can directly impact their family's nutrition as well as support biological diversity in their communities. Of course, men, too, can take on this role – it doesn't matter what your gender is, only that you're willing to get your hands dirty.
You can be, in essence, your own "family farm" and in so doing help to protect indigenous crop varieties while boosting your health. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, about 75 percent of plant genetic resources have disappeared, and another third of crop biodiversity may be gone by 2050!6
It is therefore crucial that small farms take back control of crop variety and plant more nutrient-dense crops in lieu of the fields of corn, wheat, and soy. And in your own backyard, you can start to do this by replacing your lawn with food-producing, and other native, plants. It is becoming abundantly clear that farms embracing crop diversity and integrated systems of agriculture are the solution to sustainable farming of the future. Food Tank explained:7
"Studies from Bioversity International and FAO show that smallholder farmers utilize farming practices that preserve biodiversity -- not just for its own sake -- but also because cultivating a wide variety of species helps insulate farmers against the risk of plant disease, and crop diversity promotes soil health and increases yields.
In addition, utilizing integrated farming systems, in which a smallholder farmer produces grains, fruits and vegetables, and animal products, can be between four and ten times more productive than large-scale, monoculture operations. Yield advantages for polyculture operations — farms growing multiple crops in the same space — are between 20 and 60 percent."10 Innovative Food Projects Connecting People with Their Food and Protecting Traditional Agriculture
There's no doubt that many Americans have lost touch with where their food comes from. Meanwhile, many farmers are aging and among younger generations, farming isn't exactly considered a viable career option. This could spell disaster for the future of food, but it seems the tide may be turning here as well. Interest in locally produced food is increasing, as are exciting programs that encourage youth to choose sustainable agriculture as a hobby, passion, and career. Ten such projects that do just that, while also helping to put people back in touch with where their food comes from, include:8
1. Developing Innovations in School and Community Cultivation (Uganda): This program teaches students about local food, traditional cooking, and how to improve their diets and agricultural techniques.
2. Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) (US): These local markets strengthen regional food systems, and help to give both new and experienced farmers opportunities for sales while teaching consumers about the origins of their food.
3. Tackling the Agriculture-Nutrition Disconnect (India): An information platform to share knowledge about nutrition, health, and agriculture with the long-term goal of building a nutrition knowledge and innovations network in India.
4. Fresh! From Finland: A campaign to encourage the use of local food in schools while teaching children about food origins and culinary traditions.
5. The Center for Foods of the Americas (Latin America): This effort travels through 21 countries to catalogue local ingredients, recipes, and street food to preserve Latin American cuisine.
6. Manna From Our Roof (Italy): This program teaches youth to growth their own food – from "field to fork" – including taking the product to market, using urban roof gardens.
7. The Prettiest Kitchen Gardens (Hungary): This initiative encourages Hungarians to grow food in lieu of flowers to revive the once-popular kitchen garden tradition.
8. The Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities (US): A group created by Oaxacan mothers to preserve and strengthen indigenous food culture through publishing recipes, workshops, classes, and more.
9. The European Council for Young Farmers (Europe): A program to support young farmers, strengthen rural areas, and protect agricultural and cultural traditions.
10. USAID Kenya Dairy Sector Competitiveness Program: A program that aims to transfer knowledge from Kenya's older retiring farmers to the youth in order to preserve and develop dairy skills.'Permanent Agriculture' Is Sustainable Agriculture: Wendell Berry
Farmer, activist, and writer Wendell Berry has spoken out about the importance of local farming and environmental preservation for decades. In 1977, his book The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture spoke out against industrial agriculture before local farming was all the rage. Last month, in an interview with Yale Environment 360, he once again spoke about the importance of maintaining our ties with nature and how, so far, the US has done little in the way of truly sustainable farming. He speaks about Kentucky, but his words could easily apply to much of the US:9
"By the time settlement reached Kentucky it was 1775, and the industrial revolution was already underway. So we've been 238 years in Kentucky, we Old World people. And what we have done there in that time has not been sustainable. In fact, it has been the opposite. There's less now of everything in the way of natural gifts, less of everything than what was there when we came. Sometimes we have radically reduced the original gift. And so for Americans to talk about sustainability is a bit of a joke, because we haven't sustained anything very long — and a lot of things we haven't sustained at all.
The acreage that is now under the influence of the local food effort or the sustainable agriculture effort is at present tiny, and industrial agriculture is blasting ahead at a great rate. For instance, in the last two years, the high price of corn and soybeans has driven that kind of agriculture into the highly vulnerable uplands of my home country. I can show you farms that in my lifetime have been mostly in grass that are now suddenly covered, line fence to line fence, with monocultures of corn or beans… So we have these two things, a promising start on what we call, loosely, sustainable land use, and we have a still far larger industrial extractive agriculture operating, really, against the land."
Berry, along with Wes Jackson of the Land Institute, has offered a solution in the form of a 50-year farm bill. Unlike the typical US Farm Bill, which favors industrial farming and monocultures of corn, soy, and grains, the 50-year farm bill proposes a gradual transition from annual crops (corn, beans, etc.) to "permanent" perennial crops and cover – a necessity to stop soil erosion and protect diversity. He explains: 10
"…the 50-Year Farm Bill attempts to address the real and ongoing problems of agriculture: erosion, toxicity, loss of genetic and species diversity, and the destruction of rural communities, or the destruction, where it still survives, of the culture of husbandry. It begins with the fact that at present, 80 percent of the land is planted annually in annual crops such as corn and beans, and 20 percent in perennials.
It proposes a 50-year program for the gradual inversion of that ratio to 80 percent perennial cover and 20 percent annuals. It's pretty clear that annual plants are nature's emergency service. They're the plants that come in after, say, a landslide, after the land has been exposed, and they give it a temporary cover while the perennials are getting started. So our predominantly annual agriculture keeps the land in a state of emergency …It's hard to make a permanent agriculture on the basis of an emergency strategy."Bringing a Bit of Farming to Your Own Backyard
Virtually everyone can bring out their own inner farmer by starting a garden. It may seem like an inconsequential move in the grand scheme of things, but if even a minority of people begin to produce some of their own food, it can make a drastic difference for the environment and your health (not to mention freeing you from reliance on a broken food system).
You don't need vast amounts of space either. Even apartment dwellers can create a well-stocked edible garden, as you can use virtually every square foot of your space to grow food, including your lateral space. Hanging baskets are ideal for a wide variety of crops, such as strawberries, leafy greens, runner beans, pea shoots, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs. And instead of flowers, window boxes can hold herbs, greens, radishes, scallions, bush beans, strawberries, chard, and chiles, for example.
Just start small, and as you get the hang of it, add another container of something else. To learn more, please see my previous article on creating edible gardens in small spaces. Before you know it, large portions of your meals could come straight from your own edible garden. I recommend getting your feet wet by growing sprouts. If you want to jump right in outdoors, Better Homes & Gardens has a free All-American Vegetable Garden Plan that can be put into a 6x6 area. It's a great starting point for beginners.
You can also visit a few local plant nurseries around your home, especially those that specialize in organic gardening. The employees are likely to be a great resource for natural planting tips that will help your garden thrive. If you prefer not to garden, for whatever reason, then you can still jump on board the sustainable agriculture movement by frequenting farmer's markets and small farms in your area. The idea is to get as most food as you can from your family farms or your own backyard, as every meal that comes from a sustainable source is one less produced by the destructive force of industrial agriculture.
By Dr. Mercola
About one in every three deaths in the US is attributed to cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and stroke. In the US, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which can lead to heart attack.
Even though the death rate from cardiovascular diseases has declined by 29 percent between 2001 and 2010, it's still the number one cause of death in the US. According to a new report1 from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease annually.
A quarter of these deaths—or about 200,000—could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes, and more than half (6 out of 10) of the preventable heart disease and stroke deaths happen to people under age 65. As reported in the featured USA Today article:2
"Preventable/avoidable deaths were defined as all deaths from heart disease and stroke in people under age 75 because if their risk factors... had been under control they should have lived longer, says the lead author Linda Schieb, a CDC epidemiologist.
The current life expectancy in the USA is age 78 so if people died sooner than that it is considered early or premature, she says."
CDC Director Thomas Frieden noted that the findings were "really striking" since we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people dying well before their time each and every year.
The analysis shows that African Americans are nearly twice as likely as Caucasians to die from preventable cardiovascular disease. Those living in Southern states also had the highest rates of preventable deaths from heart disease and stroke. According to Mr. Frieden:
"It's unfortunate that your longevity may be influenced more by your "ZIP code" than "genetic code."
If you ask me, that's a telling statement indeed! Ditto for the following statement by preventive cardiologist Gina Lundberg, an assistant professor of medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta:
"Americans need to take better control of their health and be more aggressive in controlling their blood pressure, their cholesterol, their weight, their exercise habits — and to stop smoking."Yes, You CAN Avoid Becoming a Statistic
According to the CDC report, preventive lifestyle strategies include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Managing your blood pressure and diabetes
- Reducing salt consumption
- Quitting smoking
In a nutshell, preventing cardiovascular disease involves reducing chronic inflammation in your body. Proper diet, exercise, sun exposure, and grounding to the earth are cornerstones of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
Unfortunately, while all the CDC's general recommendations listed above are spot-on, there's still plenty of room for improvement when it comes to more detailed recommendations for how to achieve weight loss and manage health problems like blood pressure and diabetes.
For example, the recommendation to reduce salt intake makes no differentiation between harmful processed table salt, which is also what you'll find in processed foods, and health-promoting salts high in essential trace minerals, such as Himalayan salt or other natural unprocessed sea salts.
Salt can actually be a nutritional goldmine, provided you consume the right kind and pay very careful attention to your optimal salt-to-potassium ratio, but you won't hear about that from most conventional sources. Similarly, conventional dietary advice for weight loss and diabetes management leaves an awful lot to be desired, and more often than not lead you in the wrong direction.The Diet—LDL Particle Size Connection
First and foremost, it's important to realize that your diet is your best and primary ally for the prevention of inflammation that can lead to heart- and cardiovascular disease. Much focus is placed on cholesterol levels and the ratio of "good" HDL and "bad" LDL cholesterol, but unfortunately, many conventional recommendations for how to improve your cholesterol levels are seriously flawed.
For example, it's vitally important to realize that there are different sizes of LDL cholesterol particles, and it's the LDL particle size that is relevant (as opposed to just the overall level of LDL's), as small particles get stuck easily and causes more inflammation. It's possible to have normal total or LDL cholesterol yet have a high number of LDL particles.
This is nearly universally missed using the conventional testing. On the other hand, you may end up being prescribed a statin drug to lower your cholesterol when in fact your LDL particle number is normal, placing you in the low risk category for heart disease. To learn about how to test for LDL particle size, please see my interview with Chris Kresser, L.Ac.
It's important to realize that statin drugs, while aggressively lowering your cholesterol levels, do not modulate LDL particle size. What's worse, statin drugs in and of themselves actually promote inflammation and accelerate heart disease! A 2012 study published in the journal Atherosclerosis3 showed that statin use is associated with a 52 percent increased prevalence and extent of calcified coronary plaque compared to non-users. And coronary artery calcification is the hallmark of potentially lethal heart disease!
As a general rule, regardless of your LDL particle number, chances are you do NOT need a statin drug to address high cholesterol. The only people who may truly benefit from a statin drug are those with the genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia. The only way to make sure your LDL particles are large enough to not get stuck and cause inflammation and damage is through your diet. In fact, it's one of the major things that insulin does. So rather than taking a statin drug, you really need to focus on your diet to reduce the inflammation in your body, which is aggravated by:
- Eating lots of sugar/fructose and grains
- Oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked, scrambled eggs)
- Eating foods cooked at high temperatures
- Eating trans fats
If you're still confused about what a "proper diet" is, I suggest reviewing my Optimized Nutrition Plan, which is designed to guide you through the dietary changes in a step-by-step fashion, moving from beginners to intermediary to advanced. When properly applied, it can improve just about anyone's health. Following is a summary of the basic recommendations, all of which will help combat chronic inflammation:Limit or eliminate all processed foods Eliminate all gluten, and highly allergenic foods from your diet Eat organic foods whenever possible to avoid exposure to harmful agricultural chemicals such as glyphosate Eat at least one-third of your food uncooked (raw), or as much as you can manage Increase the amount of fresh vegetables in your diet Avoid artificial sweeteners of all kinds Swap all trans fats (vegetable oils, margarine etc) for healthful fats like avocado, raw butter or coconut oil To re-balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take a high-quality omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil, and reduce your consumption of processed omega-6 fats from vegetable oils (trans fats) Drink plenty of pure water Optimize your vitamin D levels, either through appropriate sun exposure, a safe tanning bed, or as last resort an oral vitamin D3 supplement Limit fructose to less than 25 grams per day, from all sources, including whole fruits. If you have insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, you'd be well advised to keep your fructose below 15 grams per day Beware: Heart Disease May be an Outcome of Cholesterol- and Vitamin D Deficiency
One of the most common dietary misconceptions is the notion that animal foods are bad for your heart because they contain cholesterol. Conventional medicine tells you that heart disease is due to elevated cholesterol and recommends lowering cholesterol levels as much as possible, including in your diet.
Compelling research by Dr. Stephanie Seneff (the same researcher who recently published a groundbreaking study on the harmful impact of glyphosate on human health) suggests the converse may be far closer to the truth. She believes heart disease is due to getting too little cholesterol, opposed to getting too much.
According to Dr. Seneff, heart disease is more likely a cholesterol deficiency problem, and in particular a cholesterol sulfate deficiency problem. She points out that all of this information is available in the research literature, but it requires putting all the pieces together to see the full picture. Her research suggests that high LDL is a symptom of cholesterol sulfate deficiency. Basically, it's your body's way of trying to maintain the correct balance by taking damaged LDL and turning it into plaque, within which the blood platelets produce the cholesterol sulfate your heart and brain need for optimal function.
Hence, when you simply remove the LDL using a medication, you remove your body's "backup" mechanism to keep your heart as healthy as possible, and as a result you can end up with heart failure.
Vitamin D from sun exposure also plays a significant role in this equation. Low levels of vitamin D in your blood have long been correlated with higher risk of heart disease and heart attacks. It's also been suggested that the more sunlight you get, the better your cardiovascular health will be, as there are a number of physiological mechanisms triggered by vitamin D production through sunlight exposure that act to fight heart disease, such as increase in your body's natural anti-inflammatory cytokines; the suppression of vascular calcification; and the inhibition of vascular smooth muscle growth.
Now, when you expose your skin to sunshine, your skin synthesizes vitamin D3 sulfate. This form of vitamin D is water soluble, unlike oral vitamin D3 supplements, which is unsulfated. The water soluble form can travel freely in your blood stream, whereas the unsulfated form needs LDL (the so-called "bad" cholesterol) as a vehicle of transport. Dr. Seneff believes vitamin D deficiency, combined with cholesterol deficiency, may be at the heart of the cardiovascular disease phenomenon.Other Lifestyle Changes That Will Naturally Reduce Inflammation
In addition to avoiding the dietary hazards just mentioned—particularly sugar/fructose, grains and processed foods of all kinds—here are a few more recommendations that can have a profound impact on reducing inflammation in your body and reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Optimize your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance, a major risk factor for heart disease. If your fasting insulin level is above three, consider limiting (max 15 grams of fructose per day) or eliminating your intake of grains and sugars until you optimize your insulin level. Following my nutrition plan will automatically limit your intake of foods that raise insulin levels.
- Exercise regularly. One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it helps normalize and maintain a healthy insulin level. A 2011 study4 published in the Lancet, which included several hundred thousand people, found that a mere 15 minutes of exercise a day can increase your lifespan by three years—even if you have cardiovascular disease risks.
- Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil. Also reduce your intake of damaged omega-6 fats from processed vegetable oils, in order to balance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. For the reason discussed above, your best source of vitamin D is through your skin being exposed to the sun. This way, your body will produce much-needed cholesterol sulfate. In the wintertime, however, you may need to take an oral supplement. Just make sure you're taking the right form of vitamin D (D3, not D2), and remember to get your vitamin D levels tested regularly to make sure you're within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.
- Regularly walk barefoot to ground with the earth. When you do, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body, and this grounding effect is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of, and helps alleviate inflammation throughout your body.
Grounding helps thin your blood by improving its zeta potential, which means it improves the negative electrical charge between your red blood cells thus repelling them and keeping your blood less likely to clot. In fact, grounding's effect on blood thinning is so profound if you are taking blood thinners you must work with your health care provider to lower your dose otherwise you may overdose on the medication. Research has demonstrated it takes about 80 minutes for the free electrons from the earth to reach your blood stream and transform your blood.
The strategies listed above will help prevent a variety of chronic diseases caused by reducing chronic inflammation in your body. As for heart disease prevention specifically, there are two additional strategies that need mention.
- Check your HDL to total cholesterol ratio. HDL percentage is a potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your cholesterol. This ratio should ideally be above 24 percent.
- Boost your good cholesterol and lower your triglyceride levels. High triglycerides are also a very potent risk factor for heart disease. In combination, high triglycerides and low HDL levels are an even bigger risk; this ratio is far more important to your heart health than the standard good vs. bad cholesterol ratio. In fact, one study found that people with the highest ratio of triglycerides to HDL had 16 times the risk of heart attack as those with the lowest ratio of triglycerides to HDL.
You calculate your triglyceride/HDL cholesterol ratio by dividing your triglyceride level by your HDL level. This ratio should ideally be below 2. So while you strive to keep your HDL cholesterol levels up, you'll want to decrease your triglycerides. You can increase your HDL levels by exercising and getting plenty of omega-3 fats like those from krill oil. Triglycerides are easily decreased by exercising and avoiding grains and sugars in your diet.
- Check your iron levels. Iron is nature's rusting agent. If you have excessive levels in your body you are at risk of major oxidation, or premature aging. Excess iron will also increase your risk of heart disease. If you are a man, or a woman in menopause, you should get your iron levels tested and, if they're too high, take steps to reduce them.
- Avoid drugs that promote heart disease. Statin drugs and antidepressants are two commonly prescribed types of medications that have been shown to promote heart disease.
By Dr. Mercola
Will Allen, owner of Cedar Circle Farm in Vermont, has spent the last 14 years pioneering a process where a relatively small farming community feeds thousands of locals, and teaches them about organic urban agriculture. He is widely recognized as a pioneer in the organic agriculture movement.
I visited Will's farm in Vermont last year just prior to attending the BioChar conference. We did the interview at his farm. Their community-supported agriculture (CSA) program has 200 households in it during the summer, and another 100 households join their fall program.
"When we first started out, we decided that it's going to be an educational farm because most of the farmers right now are not producing young farmers," he says. "We're trying to train the next generation of farmers and trying to change farming by training that generation to be organic and community-focused...
We have several young people and middle-aged people who got trained here and who are now running their own farms. We put them through a program where they have to be here two or three years. But they get paid a regular salary; it's not like an apprentice program," he says.
His farm sells produce within a 50-mile radius, and his customers include local restaurants, co-ops, and farmer's markets. Well over 1,000 children visit the farm each year, and the farm even runs a farm-to-school program with the local grammar school and high school. There's also a backyard garden program, where budding gardeners can learn the tricks of the trade.What's Old Is New: Pesticide-Free Crop Growing Techniques
Allen has been part of the organic movement for about 40 years. When he first began, he had the first organic farm in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Rather than relying on chemical pest control, Allen used age-old principles of fighting pests with beneficial insects.
Eventually, he became director of the Rural Toxics Program for the California Institute for Rural Studies, which did outreach programs to cotton growers. Cotton is actually one of the most toxic crops there is. Over half of all the pesticides used worldwide are used on cotton.
"We were able to teach cotton growers how to grow organic cotton, and we did an outreach to 62 clothing companies," Allen says.
As a result of this outreach, a number of well-known brands have switched over to organic cotton, including Patagonia, which uses nothing but organic cotton for its line of clothing. About 18 percent of Nike's clothing line is now also organic.
"We did it kind of in the same way the chemical companies do it. See, they're drug dealers. I mean, the chemical companies are the old dye companies of the 1800s, and then they became pharmaceutical companies...
The way drug dealers sell stuff is they give it away at first, until you get hooked... We did exactly the same thing with cotton... We were able to give 150 growers 30 acres of cotton that we monitored, and we released the beneficial insects on their cotton fields....
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program was developed at the University of California, the Division of Biological Control. They finally phased it out in 2001, but it was an incredible program that taught people how to use biological integrative pest management."
The way it works is that adult insects look for nectar. The nymphs they produce in turn look for meat and chitin, the outer shell of insects, which they need for their metamorphosis. The nymphs provide the bulk of the pest control in this way. To entice these beneficial insects into the fields, all you really have to do is plant nectar-producing flowers near the crop, and nature will take care of the rest.How Avoiding Factory Farmed Foods Helps the Environment
About 80 percent of genetically engineered plants grown in the US end up as animal feed, and approximately 40 percent of all corn grown is used for ethanol.1 Clearly, this is not wise stewardship of our resources. But how can we change this trend? Allen is currently writing a book on climate chaos and agriculture, and according to his research, 92.5 percent of our acreage is devoted to animals or food for animals. Only 7.5 percent of our acreage is devoted to food that goes directly to feeding humans.
"We're completely out of kilter with the environment in terms of what we're producing and what we're eating," he says. "We're eating all the wrong things. That isn't to say that some of those things couldn't be right if we're eating them in moderation. It's not like you got to give up meat; it's just like, 'Wait a minute, can your body take this? Can the planet take this?'"
Ronnie Cummins, founder and Director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), believes a major part of the answer is to stop eating factory-farmed meat and animal products.
"People ask me, 'What should I do about the climate, I feel helpless. I can't as an individual stop the coal industry from operating. I can't stop that XL pipeline by myself' and so on. The number one thing people should do is boycott all factory-farmed meat and animal products; boycott all genetically-engineered processed foods, and eat organic every chance you get," Cummins says.
"[O]nce animals can get back on the land and graze, it's going to cause a change in the grasses, the environment, the root structure, the sequestration of carbon, and we can hopefully bring back the climate back into balance."
He cites a number of other reasons for avoiding factory farmed animal products as well, including:From a nutrient quality point of view, factory farmed foods are inferior. They're also responsible for the vast majority of food-borne illnesses The animals are treated inhumanely The farm workers or feedlot workers are generally exploited It produces large amounts of methane The animals are being fed an entirely unnatural diet (Cows for example, do not naturally eat grains. They eat grass) The animals' feed is genetically engineered Factory farming is chemical-intensive Confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) promote antibiotic-resistant disease (80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US are used in large-scale livestock production) Why Organic Food Really Is the Least Expensive Food on Earth
As illustrated in a graphic2 created by Washington State University, Americans spend less than seven percent of their income on food—mere peanuts compared to the vast majority of other nations. On average, Americans spend $151 per week on food. Even high income earners still only average $180 per week.3 But cheap food is not quality food. And the fact that food can be had for cheap also does NOT mean that it's actually the most cost-efficient choice. As Allen explains:
"[O]rganic food is the cheapest food in the U.S., because you only pay for it once. You pay for chemical- and genetically modified food at least five times:
(1) The first payment you make for is at the supermarket; I call that the down payment.
(2) The second payment is at tax time, and it costs the same as the first one. Eighty percent of our food is processed food. Processed food is corn, cotton, soy, canola, rice, wheat, and sugar. They eat up 98 percent of all the subsidies. Those subsidies are paid for on tax day.
(3) The third time you pay for it is when you go to the doctor. In the last 20 years, an average of 60 million people have gotten food-borne illness in this country. About 200,000 over that 20-year period have gone to the hospital. As soon as you go to the hospital, prices soar.
(4) The fourth payment is the illnesses that you get from it. Heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, obesity – all of those are food-borne illnesses. It's what you eat that is making you sick.
(5) The fifth thing is: who's going to clean up that farmland when the [factory] farmer leaves? Those guys are going to go bankrupt as soon as you tell them to clean it up... so we're to have to pay for it."Organic Farming Can Help Reverse Environmental Crisis
Many of the chemicals used in non-organic farming have a half-life that is decades long. Meanwhile, organic farming techniques can achieve all the aims of conventional farming without any of these toxic agents. Organic farming also improves the health of soil, air, and waterways, and soil health is actually critical for growing nutrient-dense food.
“Organic is all about increasing the organic matter in the soil because the organic matter in the soil is what feeds the soil microorganisms,” Allen explains. “The organic matter in the soil, which is what we have to increase on all of our land, is what enables us to sequester carbon. We need to bring the carbon that’s in the atmosphere back into the soil. There are five [carbon sinks] in the world: farmland, forest, atmosphere, ocean, and fossil deposits.
The carbon sinks for agriculture and the forest are bankrupt because we've overcut our forest, and we've farmed badly for the last 150 years. We have to correct that, and we can correct that quickly... [I]f you have four percent organic matter, you get a hundred pounds of nitrogen just from the soil microorganisms. Those soil microorganisms are the best farm laborers in the world because they work 24/7."
As explained by Ronnie Cummins, even if we put an end to greenhouse gas pollution (51 percent of which comes from conventional agriculture; the remaining 49 percent comes from coal, cars, and polluting industries), we'll still have a hundred billions tons too much carbon (CO2) in our atmosphere. So how are we going to get it out of the atmosphere back to where it used to be – in the plants, in the trees, and in the ground?
The way to accomplish that is by exponentially increasing plant photosynthesis, because plants suck down CO2, release oxygen, and secure a considerable amount of carbon through their roots into the soil. Through organic agriculture, rotational grazing of animals, reforesting, and restoring the wetlands, we can "suck down" that hundred billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere and put it where it belongs. Over time, this would help restabilize CO2 levels. Moreover, we'll also have more fertile land, healthier food, healthier animals, and healthier people.More Information
If you'd like to learn more about Cedar Circle Farm, located in East Thetford, Vermont, you can visit Allen's website, www.CedarCircleFarm.org. It's also listed in the Lonely Planet travel guide for this area, if you'd like to pay them a personal visit. The train stops right at the farm on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.