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Dr. Mercola

15 Natural Remedies for Back Pain

11 hours 15 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Up to 80 percent of the US population will experience back pain at some point during their lives. Most often, the problem is mechanical in nature:1 the result of poor posture, repetitive movements, or incorrect lifting, for instance (as opposed to resulting from injury, infection, or serious diseases, like cancer).

If you visit a conventional physician for back pain (which is actually the second most common reason for doctor visits, outnumbered only by upper respiratory infections), you’ll most likely be offered only a superficial treatment.

Pain-relieving drugs are among the most common treatment followed by steroid injections and even surgery. Along with being fraught with side effects, none of these solutions tend to lead to full recovery, leaving many patients still struggling with back pain, often chronically.

This is where the natural remedies that follow can be invaluable. Before you even consider drugs, injections, or surgery, give these 15 natural remedies for back pain a try.2

Try This First: 15 Tips for Natural Back Pain Relief

This list is in no way meant to be comprehensive and all inclusive, but merely therapies that I have encountered or personally used.

1. Chiropractic Care

Seeing a qualified chiropractor is a wise option if you suffer from any type of chronic pain, including back pain. One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that chiropractic care is often better than medication for treating musculoskeletal pain.3

2. Stretching, Especially the Egoscue Method

Participants who took 52-minute stretching classes (which emphasized trunk and leg stretches) received as much back-pain relief as those taking yoga classes.4 The way you stretch matters, however, and static stretching may actually lead to irritation and injury.

Another option is the Egoscue Method, which is a series of very specific posture stretches and special exercises tailored to each person's specific needs. Egoscue helps to restore muscular balance and skeletal alignment and is often used as a natural method of pain relief. Personally, this method worked well for me in eliminating pain I had when I got out of my chair or car.

3. Strength Training

A regular strength-training routine will help strengthen your back and core muscles, which is essential for both relieving pain and preventing injury.

4. Osteopathic Manipulation

Osteopathic manipulation, which may involve moving joints back into place, massaging soft tissue, and helping you relax stressed muscles, was found to reduce chronic low-back pain in a study of 455 people. Participants received eight weeks of either osteopathic manipulation, a sham treatment, or ultrasound therapy.

Sixty-three percent of those who'd had osteopathic manipulation reported a moderate improvement in their pain while half said they had a substantial improvement.5

5. Reduce Your Stress

People with persistent negative thoughts and anxiety are more likely to suffer from back pain.6 The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system.

It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain and relieve stress.

6. Meditation

Meditation can be a powerful pain reliever. Among volunteers who had never meditated before, those who attended four 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique called focused attention (a form of mindfulness meditation), experienced significant pain relief – a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness.7

7. Yoga

Yoga, which is particularly useful for promoting flexibility and core muscles, has been proven to be beneficial if you suffer from back pain. People suffering from low-back pain who took one yoga class a week had greater improvements in function than those receiving medicine or physical therapy.8 The Yoga Journal has an online page demonstrating specific poses that may be helpful.9

8. Massage

Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation and relieve pain. Massage therapy for 10 weeks offered greater back-pain relief than usual care, according to one study, and the benefits lasted at least six months.10

9. Acupuncture

Acupuncture can be another useful approach, although in my experience requires a bit more time to achieve results. In one analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,11 researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain, such as back pain and headaches – more so than standard pain treatment.

10. K-Laser Therapy

Several beneficial things happen during K-Laser treatment. First, infrared laser therapy treatment helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones.

These benefits are the result of enhanced microcirculation, as the treatment stimulates red blood cell flow in the treatment area. Venous and lymphatic return is also enhanced, as is oxygenation of those tissues.

Finally, the treatment stimulates the cytochrome oxidase enzyme in your cells' mitochondria. This is really one of the key discoveries in the whole science of laser therapy.

Specifically, injured cells are targeted because damaged cells are more readily accepting of photons of light, whereas healthy cells don't need this extra energy. As explained by Dr. Phil Harrington, who is an expert on the use of K-Laser therapy:

"By stimulating the cytochrome oxidase enzyme, we are utilizing that oxygen in the respiratory chain inside of the mitochondria, producing more ATP for that cell. So regardless of what kind of cell it is, it's going to function at a higher level."

The three infrared wavelengths of the K-Laser target water, hemoglobin, and the enzyme to most efficiently stimulate cellular metabolism. The K-Laser is unique in that it is the only Class 4 therapy laser that utilizes three infrared wavelengths that penetrate deep into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip.

11. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Talking with a therapist, with a focus on changing your thoughts and behavior, helped relieve back pain after just six weeks. After one year, nearly 60 percent of those who received cognitive-behavioral therapy reported that their pain was gone (compared to 31 percent of those who did not receive therapy).12

12. Tai Chi

A form of Chinese martial arts, tai chi is an ancient form of self-defense that is said to support the balance of "yin and yang" in your body, thereby improving the flow of "qi," or life energy. Often described as "meditation in motion" or "moving meditation," the activity takes your body through a specific set of graceful movements. Your body is constantly in motion and each movement flows right into the next. A 10-week tai chi program has been found to improve pain and disability in people with persistent low-back pain.13

13. Physical Therapy

People who received physical therapy soon after an episode of back pain are less likely to require subsequent medical care than those who seek it at a later time.14

14. Comfrey Root

Comfrey, a perennial shrub, is traditionally used to reduce inflammation as well as heal pulled, sprained, or strained muscles and ligaments. Research shows that ointment containing comfrey extract may lower back pain significantly,15 although you shouldn’t use it longer than 10 days because it can lead to liver damage if used chronically.

15. Aquatic Therapy

Water therapy conducted in a pool is a gentle way to alleviate lower back pain. This is especially useful for people who are sedentary and pregnant women.

Don’t Blame Your Back Pain on the Weather

Does your back pain flare up when it’s hot or humid? New research found that weather parameters, including temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, and precipitation do not increase the risk of a low-back-pain episode.16 According to the study’s lead author:17

“Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms. However, there are few robust studies investigating weather and pain, specifically research that does not rely on patient recall of the weather… Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain.”

So if the weather isn’t the problem, then what is? Poor posture and/or improper movement is to blame for most cases of back pain. Spending most of your day slouched behind a desk or on the couch is a surefire way to develop back pain. Sitting is also an independent risk factor of everything from diabetes to heart disease, and can even take years off your life—even if you exercise regularly! If you spend the majority of your day sitting like I do, then I could not encourage you more strongly to review this article on sitting and intermittent movement, which provides dozens of different mini exercises you can do to interrupt your sitting.

Even though I have always been very fit, I believe my chronic sitting caused me back pain, and these intermittent movement exercises have eliminated it. Proper posture is truly foundational for health and most who live in industrialized cultures have far from ideal posture. By understanding the functional biomechanics of your body, you can learn to optimize the way you move at all times. This in turn effectively prevents aches and pains from developing. An effective method to relearn proper posture is Foundation Training, developed by chiropractor Dr. Eric Goodman to address his own chronic back pain.

Please Beware of Conventional Back-Pain Treatments

Despite it being so common, few people—including specialists—have a clear understanding of how to treat back pain. If you have low back pain and see different specialists, you will get different tests: rheumatologists will order blood tests, neurologists will order nerve impulse tests, and surgeons will order MRIs and CT scans. But no matter what tests you get, you'll probably end up with a prescription for a painkiller and perhaps a spinal fusion -- because the latter is one of the "more lucrative procedures in medicine," according to Shannon Brownlee, author of the book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.

This despite the fact that the best success rate for spinal fusions is a mere 25 percent! According to one 2011 review, more than 17 percent of patients told they needed spinal surgery actually showed no abnormal neurological or radiographic findings that would necessitate surgery.18 A related concern is the fact that lower back pain is also one of the primary reasons why people get hooked on prescription painkillers. Deaths caused by overdosing on painkillers now surpass murders and fatal car accidents in the US, and over the past five years, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent.19

Officials blame this increase on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids (derivatives of opium). Heroin is simply a cheaper option to these prescription medications. Still, prescription painkillers claim far more lives than illegal street drugs like heroin. According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths in 2010—well over five times more than those caused by heroin.20

US officials have recently gone on the offensive, stating that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses, and that both patients and doctors need to become better informed about their risks. Back pain, in turn, is a driving force behind opioid drug use, which makes it a central focus not just for decreasing disability claims and improving health and quality of life for millions of people, but also for tackling a rapidly growing problem of legal drug abuse and the associated death toll. Please do not let your physician convince you that prescription drugs are your only option for pain relief. I’ve already included nearly two-dozen alternatives in this article, and if you read below you’ll find even more.

14 More Natural Options for Powerful Pain Relief

Below I list 14 more non-drug alternatives for the treatment of pain. Again, this list is in no way meant to represent all of the approaches available; they are simply some of the best strategies I know of. If you are in pain, please try these first, before even thinking about prescription painkillers, steroid injections, or surgery of any kind.

  1. Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
  2. Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil, which contains highly absorbable phospholipid-bound omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they manipulate prostaglandins.)
  3. Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
  4. Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
  5. Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
  6. Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.21 A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.22
  7. Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  8. Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
  9. Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
  10. Evening primrose, black currant, and borage oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
  11. Cayenne cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
  12. Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic.23 At present, 20 US states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavanoids. As discussed in this previous post, varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned"—and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,24 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
  13. Hot and cold packs, and other mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
  14. Grounding, or walking barefoot on the earth, may also provide a certain measure of pain relief by combating inflammation.

Factory Farmed Chicken May Be Cheap, But the Ultimate Price You Pay Is High

11 hours 15 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Demand for food at cheaper prices has dramatically altered the entire food chain. Today, food production revolves around efficiency—the ability to produce more for less.

This mindset has significant ramifications for both animal and human health, and the environment.

Today, nearly 65 billion animals worldwide, including cows, chickens, and pigs, are crammed into confined animal feeding operations known as CAFOs. These animals are imprisoned and tortured in crowded, unhealthy, unsanitary, and cruel conditions.

As noted by the Cornucopia Institute,1 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the US. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.

Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high-quality nutrition, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock bottom prices.

CAFOs Are Hotbeds for Disease

A typical poultry CAFO measuring 490 feet by 45 feet can hold at least 30,000 chickens or more. Animal Welfare Guidelines permit a stocking density that gives each full-grown chicken an amount of space equivalent to an 8.5-inch by 11-inch piece of paper.  

An example of a poultry CAFO can be seen in the video above. It's a short clip from the film Food Inc. Sickness is the norm for animals raised in these CAFOs—the large-scale factory farms on which 99 percent of American chickens come from.

These animals are also typically fed genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans, which is a far cry from their natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.

This unnatural diet further exacerbates disease promulgation. Processing byproducts such as chicken feathers and other animal parts can also be added to the feed.

To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding, lack of vitamin D (as CAFO chickens may never see the light of day), and an unnatural diet, the animals are routinely fed antibiotics (hormones, on the other hand, are not permitted in American-raised chickens).

Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to human health, and contaminate the environment when they run off into lakes, rivers, aquifers, and drinking water. According to a landmark "Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report" published by the CDC,2 two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections.

Research suggests you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria when you buy it from your local grocery store. In some cases, the risk may be even greater.

Last year, using data collected by the federal agency called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in:

  • 81 percent of ground turkey
  • 69 percent of pork chops
  • 55 percent of ground beef
  • 39 percent of raw chicken parts

Despite the well-documented health and environmental hazards, most consumers are still unaware that well over 90 percent of all chicken meat and eggs sold in the US come from CAFOs.

Most people are also unaware that these cheap CAFO foods are very different, from a nutritional standpoint, from animals raised on pasture, and that while they may be inexpensive at the checkout line, there are significant hidden costs associated with this kind of food production.

The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken

As discussed in the featured article,3 the hidden costs of cheap factory farmed chicken can be divided into three categories:

  • Ethical costs: Research has shown that chickens are not only quite smart, they experience suffering just as animals higher up in the food chain—including you.
  • "Chickens have nervous systems similar to ours, and when we do things to them that are likely to hurt a sensitive creature, they show behavioral and physiological responses that are like ours.

    When stressed or bored, chickens show what scientists call 'stereotypical behavior,' or repeated futile movements, like caged animals who pace back and forth," Cornucopia writes.

  • Environmental costs: CAFOs are notorious for producing massive amounts of offensive waste that disturbs and pollutes the local ecosystem.
  • The featured article references a number of areas in which residents are battling nauseating odors and infestations of flies, rats, mice, intestinal parasites, and other disturbing health effects. As stated by Cornucopia:

    "Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench. Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity.

    These costs are, in the terms used by economists, 'externalities' because the people who pay them are external to the transaction between the producer and the purchaser... In theory, to eliminate this market failure, Tyson should fully compensate everyone adversely affected by its pollution. Then its chicken would no longer be so cheap."

  • Human health costs: Besides the health ramifications suffered by those who happen to live near a CAFO and are exposed to the environmental contamination caused by these factory farms, cheap CAFO chicken and eggs are also taking a hidden toll on your health when you eat them.
  • In part because their nutrition is inherently inferior; in part because they're contaminated with antibiotics; and in part because they raise your risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Most recently, Foster Farms and Kirkland chicken brands issued recalls4 for Salmonella contamination that has affected hundreds of consumers across America since March 2013.

    Recalled items have "use or freeze by" dates ranging from March 17, 2014 to March 31, 2014. The identifying plant marks on the recalled products are P-6137, P-6137A, or P-7632. You can find this plant mark inside the USDA mark of inspection. One of Foster Farms' processing plants was also shut down by government mandate5 after cockroaches were discovered during a Food Safety inspection. And last fall, yet another of its plants were threatened with closure due to the presence of Salmonella contamination.6

Follow Safe Handling Instructions for Raw Chicken

Your risk of foodborne illness is magnified if you fail to follow safe handling instructions. For example, washing your chicken increases your risk of food poisoning, as it allows dangerous campylobacter bacteria to spread.7, 8 As reported by Fox News:

"When washed, campylobacter from raw chicken can be transferred into water droplets, which may splash onto neighboring surfaces, hands, clothing, and cooking utensils. If the campylobacter bacteria are ingested directly or via unwashed cutting boards and utensils, they can cause campylobacteriosis, characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, and fever."

Another important safety tip is to designate separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. Do not cut vegetables on the same cutting board you just used to prepare your chicken (or other meats). Besides avoiding cross contamination in your kitchen, also make sure you cook the chicken thoroughly, to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria.

The Case Against Factory Farmed Foods

CAFOs represent a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing, and distribution systems. It's important to realize that the factory farm system is NOT a system that ensures food safety and protects human health. On the contrary, it makes the food system far more vulnerable to pathogenic contaminations that have the capacity to kill—both the livestock, and the people who eat them.

For example, over the past year, nearly 10 percent of the entire swine population in the US has been wiped out by a highly lethal virus called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has been—at least in part—traced back to pig's blood used in piglet feed. In this case, the virus does not affect humans. But it's a valuable demonstration of how fragile the system becomes when you veer too far from the natural order of things.

Besides everything mentioned already, the factory feeding model also involves the mixing of animal parts (in this case, blood) from a large number of animals, which is then fed to large numbers of animals—the meat from which in turn are again mixed together in large processing plants, before it's ultimately sold in grocery stores across the nation. All this mixing and cross-contamination allows for pathogens to contaminate huge amounts of food products, and is the reason why a single food contamination can spread so far and wide, affecting people across multiple states.

Processing plant (i.e. plants where meat is cut or milk is pasteurized, for example) are primary culprits when it comes to the spread of pathogens. Due to regulations, traditional farmer-to-consumer practices have been outlawed. Now processors run the show and cut out the farmer's share, which has decimated small farmers and created this industrialized, disease-promoting mess.

Small-Scale Farming Makes for Far Safer Food

The weaknesses of the factory farm model are usually overlooked during food safety discussions. Instead, small-scale raw food producers—and raw dairy producers in particular—are targeted and vilified as sources of dangerous pathogens that threaten human health. Such attacks are completely out of order and do nothing to improve food safety on the whole, as the PRIMARY sources of pathogenic contamination actually originate in CAFOs, large-scale butchering and processing plants, and processed food manufacturing plants, where multiple ingredients are mixed together.

For example, late last year, Chobani Greek yoghurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.9 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides. In 2011, Cargill recalled a whopping 36 million pounds of ground turkey10 after an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella in the meat was linked to 107 illnesses and one death.

Remarkably, as explained in a previous Food Safety News article,11 a large-scale meat producer can have 50 percent of its samples test positive for Salmonella, and still get the green light of approval from the USDA! When it hits 51 percent contamination, the meat is tagged "unsafe." But even at that point, USDA testing simply continues until illness is reported. This is factory farmed food safety for you...

Meanwhile, a small organic farmer will notice a health problem with an animal in his herd long before it gets sent for slaughter, and he can then treat that individual animal as necessary. And, should a pathogenic outbreak occur on a farm, the risk of public exposure is limited by the fact that the animal products are sold locally; they're not shipped long distances and mixed in with others. This is why a food borne outbreak on an organic farm may affect one or two people, whereas an outbreak originating from a processing plant can affect hundreds, or even thousands. One pasteurized milk contamination sickened 200,000 people!12

Organic, Pastured Chicken Is Your Best and Safest Alternative

If food safety, optimal nutrition and disease prevention really matters, the way forward is to shift into a socially responsible, small-scale system where independent producers and processors focus on providing food for their local and regional markets. This alternative produces high-quality food, and supports farmers who produce healthy, meat, eggs, and dairy products using humane methods. And it's far easier on the environment.

True free-range chickens and eggs come from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture, where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. Keep in mind that when it comes to labels such as "free-range" and "natural," there are loopholes that allow the commercial egg industry to call eggs from their industrial egg laying facilities "free-range," so don't be fooled.

By far, the vast majority of food at your local supermarket comes from these polluting, inhumane farm conglomerations. If you want to stop supporting them, you first need to find a new place to shop. Your best source for pastured chicken (and fresh eggs) is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. If you live in an urban area, visiting a local farmer's market is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality chicken and eggs. Again, free-range pastured chickens should be allowed outside, and to eat insects. To see how this looks in the real world, please watch my video below with farmer Joel Salatin.

Take Control of Your Health by Joining the Real Food Movement

If you really want to be sure your food is healthy and safe, it would be best to avoid grocery stores as much as possible, as conventionally-raised livestock, including chickens, are far from ideal. The more we all make it a point to only buy food from a source we know and trust, the faster factory farming will become a shameful practice of the past. Farmers and lovers of real food show us that change is possible. Here are a few suggestions for how you can take affirmative action to protect your and your family's health:

  1. Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
  2. Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to selling local foods. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
    • 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.
    • Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
    • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, 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.
  3. Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food.
  4. Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM.
  5. Cook, can, ferment, dry, and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children.
  6. Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food comes from.
  7. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system.
  8. Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice, and let your congressperson know what you think.
  9. Spread the word! Share this article with your friends, family, and everyone else you know.

Raw Milk versus Pasteurized—Which Is Safer?

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The United States lags far behind many other nations when it comes to food safety and nutritional recommendations, and this is perhaps particularly true when it comes to raw milk.

The fact is, large dairy farmers operating under the factory farm model simply cannot produce raw milk safe for human consumption.

They're too large, and therefore end up being hotbeds for pathogenic contamination. They also cannot provide enough open pasture for tens of thousands of cows to continually graze on.

Cleanliness and pasture are critical parameters for producing healthy milk fit for raw consumption. So really, the war on raw milk boils down to control—controlling the competition, which is selling a superior product. It's NOT an issue of safety at all.

In fact, several studies have demonstrated the superior safety of raw milk compared to pasteurized, yet the vilification of raw milk continues unabated—science and statistics be damned...

Europeans Can Buy Raw Milk from Vending Machines

In sharp contrast to the US, some European nations sell raw milk in vending machines! And contrary to popular (American) belief, the bodies are NOT piling up as a result. As reported by Modern Farmer:1

"Europe's embrace of raw milk vending machines isn't new. Such daring dispensers of unpasteurized dairy can be found in France, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and, as one map2 shows, all over the place in Italy."

The safety measures are remarkably simple. If the temperature of the milk rises above the regulated level, the machine will stop dispensing milk, and the farmer is notified via text message. The milk spout is sterilized by a UV light between each purchase.

In the US, several states have outright banned the sale of raw milk for fear of contaminated milk despite the fact that, statistically, such fears are completely and udderly unfounded (pun intended).

Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD,3 featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows that you are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk!

Pasteurized Dairy and Processed Foods Top the List of 'Most Dangerous'

The vast majority of foodborne illnesses in the US are linked to factory farmed and highly processed foods, not raw foods. For example, late last year, Chobani Greek yogurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.4 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides.

In 2011, Cargill recalled a whopping 36 million pounds of ground turkey.5 An antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella in the meat ended up causing 107 illnesses and one death.

An investigation revealed that this strain of Salmonella had been found four times over the course of one year, yet the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), took no action against the producer. And, from the time the first illness was reported and the recall took effect, five months passed, allowing over a hundred more people to become ill from the contaminated meat.

A major part of the problem is that, despite being in charge of food safety oversight of meat and poultry, the USDA does not have the authority to take action against a meat or poultry producer—even if the permissible limits of pathogenic contamination are repeatedly exceeded.

Clearly, this does not bode well for food safety. As explained in a previous Food Safety News article discussing this case:6

"For example, take ground turkey. When USDA tests for Salmonella, they take individual 1-pound samples on 52 consecutive days of production. Sometimes it takes a year to complete a set — and the establishment gets a heads up that a sample is going to be taken!

In addition, if 26 or fewer are positive, the sample set passes. If more than 26 are positive, the sample set fails.

Basically, these are like open book exams — not pop quizzes — where a 50 percent is still passing! And even when a sample set fails, USDA does another set of testing. And they keep doing testing until a set passes."

What this means is that if 50 percent of the samples are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, it's deemed "safe." But if it hits 51 percent, it's tagged as "unsafe." And testing simply continues until illness is reported. What sense does this make?

Yet anytime the lack of food safety is discussed, the focus is suddenly turned to raw milk! It's almost as though US agencies are using raw milk as a scapegoat to keep you from looking at the real problem, which is that factory farms produce inherently unsafe foods. It's like a propaganda machine sleight of hand maneuver...

CDC Stance on Raw Milk—As Biased as It Gets

Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy and an internationally recognized expert in raw milk production and safety, has on numerous occasions tried to set the record straight with US authorities, to no avail. In a 2012 letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he writes:7

"As a grade A producer of retailed-approved raw milk in California, I find your raw milk page filled with highly erroneous and very misleading information... In California, we have legal retail-approved raw milk in 400 stores consumed by 75,000 consumers each week. This retail legal raw milk is tested and state inspected and far exceeds pasteurized milk product standards without any heat or processing.

It is clean raw milk from a single source dairy. There have been no deaths from raw milk in California in 37 years. Two years ago, I submitted a FOIA request to the CDC to request data on the two deaths that the CDC database claims were from raw milk. The data I received back from the CDC showed that in fact there had been no death from raw milk at all.

The two deaths had been from illegal Mexican bath tub cheese and not raw milk from any place in America. Why does the CDC persist in publishing this erroneous information? ...The last people to die from milk died from pasteurized milk at Whittier farms in 2007, not from raw milk."

While both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC warn that raw milk can carry disease-causing bacteria, they completely overlook the fact that these bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased animals, which may then in turn produce contaminated milk.

They make no distinction whatsoever between disease-riddled factory farmed milk and the milk from clean, healthy, grass-fed cows. This is indeed a key issue, as raw milk from a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) IS dangerous and must be pasteurized in order to be fit to drink, whereas raw milk from cows raised on pasture IS NOT dangerous and DOES NOT need pasteurization. The source of the milk makes all the difference when it comes to raw milk.

What the CDC Doesn't Tell You About Raw Milk Is Worth Knowing...

The CDC also fails to inform visitors in its website that legal raw milk producers oftentimes adhere to stricter safety standards than CAFOs do. California, specifically, has its own special set of standards for raw milk for human consumption, in which farmers must meet or exceed pasteurized milk standards, without pasteurizing.

Instead of giving you the facts, the CDC lists raw milk as one of the riskiest foods in America, without any real proof to back up such a proclamation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has even called for a complete ban on raw milk because it is so "dangerous." But on what do they base their assumptions? On the CDC's unproven opinion? If safety was truly the issue, then pasteurized dairy would be banned, as that's what's causing the most disease.

So you've got to ask yourself, is this really about our personal safety or the safety of the milk industry? Eating directly from the farm is prohibited by industry so they can control our food supply. They make it very difficult for farmers to sell directly to us, whether dairy products or meat products. They claim this is done for our safety, but it's really just a plot to control our food system.

"The FDA does not mention raw milk on their top 10 most risky foods in America list," McAfee notes. "Pasteurized ice cream and pasteurized cheeses make the top 10 risky foods list... According to the Cornell study performed on CDC data, there were 1,100 illnesses caused by raw milk between 1973 and 2009. There were 422,000 illnesses caused by pasteurized milk. No deaths from raw milk and at least 50 deaths from pasteurized milk or pasteurized cheese—the CDC left out the 29 or more people that died from the pasteurized Jalisco cheese listeria incident in 1985."

Raw Milk Has Many Health Benefits

The CDC, as McAfee notes, is absolutely riddled with bias. While most of it is obvious, some of the bias is hidden by the way the CDC counts its statistics. For example, it counts outbreaks rather than the number of people affected by the outbreak. In one outbreak caused by pasteurized milk, 200,000 people fell ill! Yet it's only counted as one incident. Its website also makes no mention whatsoever to studies showing how raw organic milk differs, nutritionally, from CAFO milk, and how it improves health. For example, raw milk is:

Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract High in omega-3 and low omega-6, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These enzymes are destroyed during pasteurization, making pasteurized milk much harder to digest Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live Lactobacilli Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism Rich in healthy unoxidized cholesterol Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats

Pasteurizing milk, on the other hand, destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and actually promotes pathogens.

Max Kane's Self-Healing Is a Testament to the Power of Raw Dairy

In the video above, I interview Max Kane, a local raw dairy farmer from whom our office purchases a variety of raw dairy products from. Max was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 10. Through years of study, he eventually healed himself through nutrition and lifestyle changes. He now consumes only 100 percent raw, 100 percent organic, and 100 percent pasture-raised dairy products. Raw dairy makes up about 50 percent of his diet.

"The cream is perhaps the most important part of the milk because the cream is where all the energy is that's needed to digest the milk protein casein," he explains. "That's why it's important to consume full-fat dairy products instead of non-fat or skim dairy products. The cream is also responsible for regulating the sugar absorption into your blood. It decreases the likelihood of insulin spikes. The cream naturally floats to the top of the milk, and it can be skimmed right off the top. Traditionally, people would use the cream line as a visual aid to help them assess the quality of the milk...

Homogenization [is] an industry process that fractionates the cream molecule, the fat molecule, into small little pieces. This was done for the purpose of making the cream line non-detectable to the human eye... That's how they standardized the milk, by taking away the viewable quality assessment from the consumer, and ultimately left the consumer with no real visual way to assess the quality and the value of the milk."

The quality of grass-fed milk, butter, and yogurt can easily be ascertained by its color. The carotenoids in the plants cows eat on pasture gives grass-fed products a more yellow-orange cast. When cows are raised on dried grass or hay, opposed to fresh-growing grass, you end up with a whiter product, which is an indication of reduced carotenoid and antioxidant content. Raw milk yogurt is also very thick and creamy, compared to pasteurized commercial varieties. The same goes for pastured eggs, which can be ascertained by their deep orange yolk. CAFO chickens, which never go outdoors, and are fed grains rather than bugs and insects, produce eggs with pale yellow yolks.

ABOUT Max Kane - Max Kane was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 10, and through years of study, healed himself through nutrition and lifestyle changes. 100% of his dairy products and over 50% of his other foods are purchased directly from farms. When it comes to dairy, he only consumes 100% raw, 100% organic, 100% grass-fed. Dairy makes up about 50% of his diet. After realizing the healing power of fresh farm foods, Kane teamed up with Amagisoft to create FarmMatch.com.

ABOUT FarmMatch -- It's free to create an account, but no account is required to use the system.

FarmMatch is built over the Google mapping system and makes local food searchable worldwide, making it easy to find a local farmer. Not only are specific farm products searchable, but products are searchable by quality standards as well… 100% grass-fed, non-GMO, etc. You can connect with farmers and buy online as well. The order management system is consumer funded. Buyers pay a $2.95 fee when placing an order or can opt into a $3.95/month plan that allows unlimited ordering with no $2.95 fees. Through these small affordable consumer fees, FarmMatch delivers a state-of-the-art software suit to every small scale farmer at no charge to the farmer. The FarmMatch business model not only helps individual small farmers, but it also lifts the entire local food movement as a whole.

Join the Fight for Food Freedom

The fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Who gets to decide what you eat? You? Or the FDA? If the FDA and other government agencies are allowed to impose their view of "safe food" on consumers, raw milk won't be the only thing lost—all food will be pasteurized, irradiated, and genetically engineered. The effort to reclaim our right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to get involved with the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:

  1. Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts. To review the raw milk laws in your state, see the Farm-to-Consumer.org's Raw Milk Nation page.
  2. Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF.
  3. Support your local farmers: Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.

Guys: Your Cellphone Is Hurting Your Sperm

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Four in 10 US homes are cell-phone only, meaning they’ve ditched their landlines entirely.1 This is twice the rate in 2009, and a sign of just how integrated cell-phone use is in our culture.

Among certain demographics, the reliance on cell phones as the only household phone is even higher. For instance, more than 65 percent of adults aged 25-29 live in households with only cell phones, along with nearly 60 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds.

The convenience comes at a price, however, especially if you’re planning to have children, or already have them.

Cell Phones Worsen Sperm Quality

A systematic review and meta-analysis looked into the impact of low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR) – the type emitted by cell phones – on sperm quality, both in the lab and among male patients at fertility clinics.

Their analysis of 10 such studies showed that exposure to EMR from cell phones lowered sperm motility by 8 percent and sperm viability by 9 percent.2 Previous studies have also found that cell phone radiation can affect men's sperm count, and the quality and motility of their sperm. One such study, published in PLOS One found:3

"RF-EMR in both the power density and frequency range of mobile phones enhances mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation by human spermatozoa, decreasing the motility and vitality of these cells while stimulating DNA base adduct formation and, ultimately DNA fragmentation.

These findings have clear implications for the safety of extensive mobile phone use by males of reproductive age, potentially affecting both their fertility and the health and wellbeing of their offspring."

During the 2013 discussion “Cell Phones & Wi-Fi – Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?,” leading experts from top universities further reported:4

“There is a direct relationship between duration of cell phone use and sperm count decline. Sperm count is reduced by half in men who carry cell phones in their pants pockets for four hours per day. The motility of the sperm is also impaired.

The testicular barrier, that protects sperm, is the most sensitive of tissues in the body, and is 100x more absorbent. Besides sperm count and function, the mitochondrial DNA of sperm are damaged 3x more if exposed to cell phone radiation.

…DNA mutations have been linked more to damage on the male side in research from Iceland, the assumption being that male sperm is more vulnerable than female eggs, which are more protected. Mutations increase with the age of the father, and more autism and schizophrenia increase with the age of the father.”

The data suggest men who plan to father children, in particular, may want to reconsider carrying their cell phones on their belts or in their pocket, in close proximity to their reproductive organs. In addition, both men and women have a number of other sensitive organs in that general area, including your liver, kidneys, colon, and bladder—all of which are susceptible to radiation.

Expert Environmental Health Researchers Warns of Wireless Radiation and Cancer Connection

Download Interview Transcript

Dr. Devra Davis, one of the most well-respected and credentialed researchers on the dangers of cell phones, and founder and president of Environmental Health Trust, warned at the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) meeting that Wi-Fi use might cause cancer.

In particular, Dr. Davis warned about the risks to pregnant women and their unborn children, noting that prenatal animal studies have shown exposure to radiation from cell phones:

  • Altered DNA
  • Altered brain metabolism
  • Compromised spinal cords
  • Affected learning abilities

Children’s brains contain more liquid than adults’, which impacts the amount of radiation absorbed (children absorb far more). Among teens who use cell phones from a young age, the risk of brain cancer is about four to five times higher than that of teens who didn’t use cellphones.

Dr. Davis also warned about the increased cancer risks to those who live near cell towers, and even the potential dangers of having Wi-Fi in schools. She said:

We should not rely on proof in a form of death or a disease before taking action… we should rather look at evidence that shows the risks. We now have strong evidence that shows wireless radiation is a possible carcinogen, if not a definite carcinogen.

…A number of well-designed studies indicate that cellphone use increases cancer risk. Cellphones change the brain. Antennas for cellphones are continually searching for signals to send and receive information. The body or brain absorbs about half the radiation emitted from the phone at any time.”

Dr. Davis compared the radiation from cell phones to the radiation from a microwave oven, noting that power level is the only difference. That being said, it’s not an issue of heating per se.

Non-Thermal Biological Health Effects of Cell Phones Exposed

The SAR ("Specific Absorption Rate") value is a measure of the maximum tested power of the cell phone and its potential for heating tissues. The SAR rating itself is nothing new. In fact, the SAR values of phones have been available for some time, typically listed in fine print somewhere in your owner's manual, on the manufacturer's website, and in the FCC's databases.

But the SAR level only measures the power density of a phone, estimating the radiation penetration into the head using a plexiglass head of a simulated 200-pound man. This is just an estimate, and it is only an estimate of one of the components of risk from cell phones – the heat.

It does not gauge the risk from the frequencies of the cell phone, the erratic pulsing and modulation of the signals, or the magnetic fields from batteries, which is sorely needed, since it’s now apparent that cell phones and Wi-Fi trigger changes even without heating tissues.

According to Martin Pall, professor emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University, more than 20,000 publications in the scientific literature show significant biological effects at exposures well within safety standards, including about 4,000 that discuss non-thermal effects.5

Unfortunately, both US and international safety standards are based only on the notion that low-frequency electromagnetic radiation and microwave radiation induce harm by heating.

Dr. Pall found, however, that 23 studies have shown that microwave and other low-frequency EMFs act by activating voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs)6 with “most biological effects being due to elevated intracellular calcium, consequent nitric oxide (NO) elevation, and either peroxynitrite or NO signaling.” He reported on a “whole serious of biological changes” that may be produced by microwave exposures via VGCC activation, including:

Oxidative stress Single and double-stranded breaks in cellular DNA Blood-brain barrier breakdown Greatly depressed melatonin levels and sleep disruption Cancer Male and female infertility Immune dysfunction Neurological dysfunction Cardiac dysfunction Impaired Fertility Is Only the Tip of the Iceberg

What experts in the area of the biological effects of electromagnetic frequencies and wireless technologies are finding is that there's virtually no doubt that cell phones and related gadgets are capable of causing not only cancer but also contributing to a wide variety of other conditions, from depression and diabetes to heart irregularities and impaired fertility. Researchers have now identified numerous mechanisms of harm, which explain how electromagnetic fields impact your cells and damage your DNA.

One such expert is Dr. Martin Blank, PhD, one of the most experienced researchers of the cellular and molecular effects of electromagnetic fields in the US. He gave an informative speech at the Commonwealth Club of California program, "The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields," co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org. In it, he explained why your DNA, with its “coil of coils” structure, is especially vulnerable to electromagnetic fields of all kinds. As described in the International Journal of Radiation Biology, April 2011, DNA possesses the two structural characteristics of fractal antennas: electronic conduction, and self-symmetry.7

These properties contribute to greater reactivity of DNA to electromagnetic fields than other tissues, making the long-term consequences of repeated microwave exposures to our genetic material of great concern. Dr. Blank is adamant when he says that there is evidence of harm, and that the harm can be significant. He also points out that the science showing harmful effects has been peer-reviewed, published, and that the results have been replicated, evaluated and "judged by scientists capable of judging it."

An analysis of the range of known mechanisms of action, including DNA effects, was published in November 2010 in "Non-Thermal Effects and Mechanisms of Interaction Between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matter.”8 Furthermore, the mobile industry's own research in the 13-country Interphone study showed a 40 percent increased risk of brain cancer from 1,640 or more hours of cell phone use,9 and independent Swedish research published in 2007 showed a 540 percent increased risk of brain cancer from greater than 2,000 hours of cell phone use.10

Get Your Cell Phone Out of Your Pocket – And Other Smart Cell Phone Tips

Around the world, many countries are already adopting the Precautionary Principle regarding cell phone use. Russian officials have issued the recommendation that all children under the age of 18 should avoid using cell phones entirely. The UK, Israel, Belgium, Germany, India, France, and Finland also urge citizens to err on the side of caution with respect to their children's use of cell phones. Cell phone dangers will one day likely be as well-known as tobacco dangers, but there's going to be a window when people are extremely vulnerable.

And that window is right now. Children are especially vulnerable to damage from cell phone radiation and should not use them at all (or only for very limited amounts). Men and women who want to have healthy children need to take special precautions to protect their reproductive organs and should not keep phones in their front pockets or close to their abdomens. In the US, public warnings are not yet commonplace, but it's still important to protect yourself – and your children. There is plenty of science showing harm to warrant taking action now, and here’s how:11

  • Children should not play with radiating cell phones. Young children should not use cell phones except in an emergency. While you can put the phone in “airplane mode,” which disconnects it from Wi-Fi and the Internet, the cell phone still emits magnetic fields from the battery, which have also been shown to have equally important biological consequences. In no cases should children sleep with cell phones, and extreme caution is advised for pregnant women or women hoping to conceive due to the profound long-term impact of environmental factors.
  • Limit or eliminate Wi-Fi exposures. If you have a Wi-Fi router, make sure your router is a low-power version, not in a high-use area and keep it turned off as much as possible. Consider putting it on a timer so it is only available during certain hours, and never during sleeping hours.
  • Schools should not have Wi-Fi. Cabled/wired connections do not pose the same risks. If there is Wi-Fi, again, it should be limited to the time when the Wi-Fi is specifically needed and not be operating at other times. Ideally, classrooms, school libraries, and gyms should be Wi-Fi-free.
  • Resume using landline phones whenever possible. Get rid of your portable phone and use your landline. At the very least, don’t keep your cell phone in your bedroom while you sleep. Be aware even landline phones emit magnetic fields from the speaker, and sensitive people can sometimes feel them, especially on long calls and particularly when using trim phones. Old-fashioned desk phone earpieces offer a greater distance between the speaker and your ear that can make a meaningful difference.
  • Keep your cell phone away from your body. Avoid keeping it in your pocket or on your belt. If you’re pregnant, keep your cell phone away from your belly. Keep your phone at the other end of the room or on the seat of the car. Use texting more than talking. A cell phone case for the iPhone is available that filters out a significant portion of radiation (but by no means all the power and frequencies, and other biologically disruptive signal characteristics also remain). There are several options for shielded cell phone cases and holsters at www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
  • Use a wired earpiece or headphones with cell phones. Like with landline phones, some people are impacted by the magnetic fields from the speaker in the ear buds, so choose a model with the greatest distance from your ear, or use air tube technology with no electronics near your ear.
  • Use caution using your cell phone in your car. Signals bounce around inside your vehicle, and your head is the antenna.
  • Opt-out of new utility meters called “smart meters.” Prevent smart meters from being installed in your home whenever possible.
  • Avoid using wireless baby monitors, as they all operate on microwave frequency. Look for the old wired monitors.
  • Know your exposures. You or your community can purchase an RF meter for about $500 to measure RF in homes, schools, churches, etc. See www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
  • Support labeling laws that require cell phone manufacturers to list radiation levels in an obvious place on the packaging and at the retailer.

How to Prevent, and Treat, Sunburn

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

You've heard the advice before: stay out of the sun or use plenty of sunscreen to block cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays. But while it's true that excessive sun exposure resulting in sunburn may increase ayour risk of skin cancer, it's a fallacy to believe that sun exposure should be avoided altogether.

The key is to find the right balance, where you're exposing plenty of skin to the sun's rays, but not staying out to the point of getting burned. Sun exposure can only be therapeutic when it's done in appropriate and measured timeframes.

Excessive sun exposure provides no benefit and can only result in damage like sunburn, which is an inflammatory response in your skin to UVB overexposure. However, UVB exposure is precisely what you want, in appropriate amounts, because when UVB strikes the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative into vitamin D3.

The benefits of optimizing your vitamin D stores cannot be overstated, and I've discussed this in a large number of articles spanning more than a decade. Ironically, one of the benefits is actually a significant reduction in cancer risk—both skin cancer and many other types of cancer.


Most recently, researchers1, 2 again confirmed that adequate vitamin D stores increases the survival chances for bowel cancer patients. Another recent study3 found that low vitamin D levels increases the risk for advanced liver fibrosis in patients with hepatitis C.

Research continues to support that vitamin D truly is a "master key" for optimal health and disease prevention. This is why it's so important to strike the right balance. You need sun exposure—but not so much that you burn your skin.

UVAs versus UVBs

So, how can you get the benefits without raising your risk for skin damage? It's important to remember that the sun can either be helpful or harmful depending on what type of ultraviolet light you're getting. The ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) Considered the unhealthy wavelength because it penetrates your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage. Sunblocks containing SPF filter out the beneficial UVB, not these cancer-causing UVAs, unless they also contain a UVA blocking ingredient.
  • As a result, wearing sunscreen may prevent you from burning, as excessive UVBs are the chief cause of sunburn, but you still receive a large amount of skin-damaging radiation. Moreover, UVA rays are constantly available, even on cloudy days.  There are likely some benefits to UVA in moderation that we do not fully understand, as there appears to be with many spectrums emitted from the sun.

  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) – This is the 'healthy' wavelength that helps your skin produce vitamin D. While both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, UVB does so far more rapidly.
  • Contrary to UVAs, which are more readily available, UVB rays are low in morning and evening, and high at midday or solar noon, making this the most optimal time for vitamin D production (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.). Ironically, this is the timeframe most mainstream experts warn you to stay out of the sun.

What Constitutes 'Safe and Appropriate' Sun Exposure?

As a general rule of thumb, to optimize your vitamin D levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun – including your legs, back, arms, and chest. For optimal benefit, strive to have at least 40 percent of your skin uncovered.

The key is knowing when to cover back up. You want your skin to turn the lightest shade of pink. This can occur in as little as 10-20 minutes, depending on your skin tone and other factors, such as location and cloud cover.

At that point, you've reached your skin's equilibrium or saturation point, and your body will not produce any more vitamin D. It can take three to six times longer for darkly pigmented skin to reach the equilibrium concentration of skin vitamin D.

You can create as much as 20,000 units of vitamin D per day this way. Best of all, your body has this built-in feedback loop that prevents you from overdosing on the nutrient when you get it via sun exposure.

If you're taking supplemental vitamin D3, not only do you need to get your level tested regularly to ensure you're taking enough to maintain optimal levels (between 50 and 70 ng/ml), you also need to be mindful of increasing your intake of vitamin K2. When using the sun, having and maintaining a tan can serve as a "visual measure" of your vitamin D status.

Healthy Sun Exposure Is Your Best Source of Vitamin D

The charts below display the likelihood of vitamin D synthesis across the U.S. by month.

Technological Aids

According to experts in the field, you can likely get sufficient amounts of UVB radiation when the sun is as low as 30 degrees above the horizon, or whenever the temperature is warm enough to expose large amounts of skin. Dr. Ola Engelsen with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research has noted that the sun must be more than 15 degrees above the horizon during cloudless conditions, in order to provide beneficial UVBs. He also developed a helpful calculator4 that takes a number of factors into consideration to give you an estimate of how many minutes of exposure you need to produce the equivalent of 1,000 IUs of vitamin D.

Sunburn: Signs and Symptoms

It's important to remember that there's no additional benefit to staying in the sun past the point of "pinking." For some light-skinned individuals with minimal previous sun exposure, this could only be a few minutes. You're only raising your risk of sunburn, which is something you definitely want to avoid. The risk of sunburn is higher if you have a lighter complexion. Telltale signs of sunburn include:

  • Redness of the skin or erythema
  • Skin that's warm or hot to the touch
  • Discomfort when skin gets touched or rubbed against clothes
  • Peeling or flaking of the skin
  • Extreme dryness or wrinkling of the skin

These symptoms are frequently not immediately visible, but become obvious a few hours after overexposure. They tend to be most painful in the first 24 hours. Like ordinary burns, sunburns are classified into three degrees: first, second, and third. First- and second-degree sunburns are fairly temporary and are manageable at home. In third-degree sunburns, infection-prone skin blisters, fever, and chills can occur, and immediate medical attention is recommended to avoid complications.

How to Avoid Sunburn in the First Place

The benefits of sun exposure definitely outweigh its risks, but you do need to be smart about it. Taking a few sensible steps to avoid sunburn will ensure you're maximizing the benefits while limiting any potential adverse effects. To continuously enjoy the positive effects of sun exposure without getting burned, I recommend following these safety tips:

  • Protect your face and eyes by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a cap. The skin around these areas is much thinner than other areas of your body and is more at risk for cosmetic photo damage and premature wrinkling.  If it's too hot to protect your skin by covering with light clothing, be sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen on your skin - these products often contain zinc.
  • Limit your initial exposure and slowly work your way up. If you are a fairly light-skinned individual who tends to burn easily, limit your initial exposure to just a few minutes, especially if it is in the middle of summer. The more tanned your skin gets, the longer you can stay in the sun without burning. If it is early or late in the season and/or you are a dark-skinned individual, you could likely safely have 30 minutes on your initial exposure.
  • Build an internal sunscreen with beneficial antioxidants. Astaxanthin – a potent antioxidant – has been found to offer effective protection against sun damage when taken as a daily supplement. Do note that it takes a couple of weeks for it to build up in your system, so you cannot simply take it the day you're hitting the beach. Astaxanthin can also be used topically. You can make your own lotion by adding astaxanthin to organic coconut oil, be careful of staining your clothing as astaxanthin is a very dark red. Other helpful antioxidants include proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, and lycopene.
  • Moisturize your skin naturally. Before sunbathing, apply organic coconut oil on the exposed areas of your skin (as noted above, you could add some astaxanthin to the oil for an added measure of protection). This will not only moisturize your skin to prevent dryness, but will also give you additional metabolic benefits.
Eating Your Veggies Helps Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage

The amount of antioxidants you get from your diet actually plays a major role in how you effectively avoid sunburn. The more antioxidants you have in your skin, the lower your risk of getting burned. They act as an internal type of sunscreen and allow you to maximize your sun exposure while minimizing the risks. Carotenoids, for instance, are critical to the photosynthetic process and protect a plant or organism from damage by light and oxygen.

By consuming plants or organisms that contain these pigments, you gain a similar protective benefit. Vitamins A and C are also important – your cells use them to regulate both light absorption and protection against sun overexposure. Besides astaxanthin, which is taken as a supplement, dietary sources of effective antioxidants include whole fresh vegetables and fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Although the exact pathway by which antioxidants help protect your skin from burning has yet to be elucidated, it's most likely related to the antioxidants' anti-inflammatory properties, as sunburn is actually an inflammatory process.

How to Treat Sunburn Naturally

Taking measures to prevent sunburn from occurring is clearly your best course of action. But should you end up getting overexposed, the following strategies can help speed the healing of your skin, and minimize the damage. One of the most effective first-aid strategies I know of is to apply raw aloe vera gel topically to the burn. It's loaded with powerful glyconutrients that accelerate healing. Aloe is also easy to grow if you live in a southern location, and is an excellent medicinal plant to keep in your home garden (or keep one in a pot on your balcony).

You need to be careful of the species as many have very flat leaves with virtually no gel. The best plants have the thickest leaves. They are relatively easy to propagate and you can turn one plant into six or more in under a year. I now have about four dozen aloe vera plants on my property, which I use both for oral and topical use. After cutting the leaf from the plant, you want to first cut off the prickly edges. Then, using a peeler, peel the skin off one side. You can now rub the jelly side directly on your sunburn. For a demonstration, see the following video. Apply it five times a day until your condition improves.

Applying cold compresses to the sunburned area can also help lessen the burning pain. To avoid further irritation, do not wash sunburned skin with harsh soaps. Speaking of water, you also want to make sure to stay properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Young children need to be carefully monitored for signs of dehydration.5


Avoid applying petroleum jelly on your sunburn, as it may exacerbate the burn. It is also a petrochemical that is loaded with toxins you don't want in your system. I would suggest never applying petroleum jelly topically. Also, it's inadvisable to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers in most cases, as they may simply worsen your condition. Besides aloe vera, there are plenty of other topical food-based remedies that can help ease the pain and speed healing. For example, you can use:

Potatoes - Potatoes have starch-based compounds that may help soothe sunburn. Chop an uncooked potato into slices, and rub or pat down a piece on your sore sunburned spots. You can also try grating a cold raw potato and applying it as a poultice. Honey - The ancient Egyptians were known to use honey as a topical salve for skin burns. Just make sure you're using high-quality honey, such as raw organic honey, or Manuka honey, which has very potent medicinal qualities. The "Grade A" type honey you find in most grocery stores is more akin to high fructose corn syrup, which is more likely to increase infection, and should never be used to treat topical wounds. Vinegar - The acetic acid found in vinegar is said to reduce pain, itching, and inflammation. Add a cup of apple cider vinegar into your bath water and soak your burned skin into it. It can also work like a natural aspirin. Simply dab a bit of white vinegar on to your sunburn for 20 minutes of instant pain relief.Green tea - Green tea's catechin and tannic acid help soothe sunburn pain. Soak a couple of tea bags in cool water. You can either use the tea bags themselves as a cold compress on the burnt areas, or wash your face gently with the cold tea extract. Studies also suggest that drinking just two cups of green tea a day can provide additional sun-protective benefits. Cucumbers - With cucumber's cooling effect, simply putting it on top of your sunburns is guaranteed to provide instant soothing effects. You can also use it as a paste by mashing it and applying it on your skin.Lettuce - To take advantage of lettuce's painkilling benefits, boil its leaves in water. After straining, allow the liquid to cool. Keep it chilled inside the refrigerator. Using clean organic cotton balls, carefully apply the lettuce juice over the affected area. Calendula - It has natural anti-inflammatory and healing properties that are especially beneficial for burns. Although there are many calendula creams sold in drugstores today, you can make your own calendula poultice using fresh calendula blossoms for faster healing of your sunburns.Coriander oil - For a soothing effect, use it as an essential oil by lightly rubbing it onto your sunburn. Sunscreens May Do More Harm Than Good

As noted earlier, sunscreens effectively protect against UVB, which is the main cause of sunburn, and are classified into their level of sun protection factor or SPF:

  • SPF 15 - Blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation
  • SPF 30 - Blocks up to 97 percent of UVB radiation
  • SPF 50 - Blocks up to 98 percent of UVB radiation

This means that when you apply sunblock, even at a lower SPF 15, you're effectively eliminating any chance of raising your vitamin D level. And, as mentioned earlier, most sunscreens do not filter out the more damaging UVAs, unless it also contains a UVA block. So you're still being exposed to harmful UVA rays, even if you don't get burned. Besides preventing vitamin D production, sunscreens are problematic for other reasons as well.

Many contain toxic and/or hormone-disrupting ingredients, which migrate through your skin directly into your bloodstream. Products that contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, may also increase the speed at which malignant cells develop. Consumer Reports recently warned6, 7 that parents should stop applying spray-on sunscreens on their kids until more research is done to assess the dangers of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide—two key sunscreen ingredients. According to the report, children may be inhaling these chemicals when the sunscreen is sprayed on.

Vitamin D Performance Testing Can Help Optimize Your Health

In my view, sensible sun exposure is so important for optimal health, you're really doing yourself and your kids a disservice by not learning how to do so safely and effectively. A robust and growing body of research (totaling in the neighborhood of 34,000 studies) clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for disease prevention. Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half.  

This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.

In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. 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."

6 Things You Didn't Know About Watermelon

Mon, 07/21/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In the US, July is National Watermelon Month, so named not only because a cool, refreshing slice of watermelon represents the epitome of summer, but also because watermelon harvests peak this month.1

Watermelon is now the most-consumed melon in the US (followed by cantaloupe and honeydew). This cousin to cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash is thought to have originated in Egypt close to 5,000 years ago, where it is depicted in hieroglyphics.

Today, upwards of 300 watermelon varieties are grown in the US and Mexico (although only about 50 are popular).2 You may think you know everything there is to know about this summertime fruit, but allow me to surprise you… watermelon is more than just delicious… it’s a super-healthy addition to your diet (in moderation, of course).

You just need to be careful when eating any melon, including watermelon to follow the advice of Wayne Pickering in my interview. Eat melon alone or leave it alone because it will make your stomach groan. So ideally, no food 30 minutes before or after eating melons.

6 Watermelon Facts That Might Surprise You

1. Watermelon Has More Lycopene Than Raw Tomatoes

Lycopene is a powerful carotenoid antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables a pink or red color. It’s most often associated with tomatoes, but watermelon is actually a more concentrated source.

Compared to a large fresh tomato, one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the lycopene (6 milligrams (mg) in watermelon compared to 4 mg in a tomato).3 More on why lycopene is so important shortly…

2. Watermelon Juice May Relieve Muscle Soreness

If you have a juicer, try juicing about one-third of a fresh watermelon and drinking its juice prior to your next workout. This contains a little over one gram of l-citrulline, an amino acid that seems to protect against muscle pain.

One study found that men who drank natural unpasteurized watermelon juice prior to their workouts had reduced muscle soreness 24 hours later compared to those who drank a placebo.4

You do need to be careful with drinking watermelon juice, though, as it contains a significant amount of fructose. It may be better to eat the entire fruit, or opt for these other tips to prevent muscle soreness.

3. Watermelon Is a Fruit and a Vegetable

Remember how watermelon is related to cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash? That’s because it’s part vegetable and part fruit (it’s a sweet, seed-producing plant, after all).5 The other clue that watermelon is both fruit and vegetable? The rind is entirely edible…

4. You Can Eat Watermelon Rind and Seeds

Most people throw away the watermelon rind, but try putting it in a blender with some lime for a healthy, refreshing treat.6 Not only does the rind contain plenty of health-promoting and blood-building chlorophyll, but the rind actually contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh.7 

Citrulline is converted to arginine in your kidneys, and not only is this amino acid important for heart health and maintaining your immune system, but it has been researched to have potential therapeutic value in over 100 health conditions.8

While many people prefer seedless watermelon varieties, black watermelon seeds are edible and actually quite healthy. They contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber. (In case you were wondering, seedless watermelons aren’t genetically modified, as they’re the result of hybridization.9)

5. It’s Mostly Water

This might not be surprising, but it’s still a fun fact; watermelon is more than 91 percent water.10 This means that eating watermelon with you on a hot summer day is a tasty way to help you stay hydrated and avoid dehydration (it’s not a substitute for drinking plenty of fresh water, however).

6. Some Watermelon Are Yellow

The Yellow Crimson watermelon has yellow flesh with a sweeter, honey flavor than the more popular pink-fleshed Crimson Sweet. It’s likely that yellow watermelon offers its own unique set of nutritional benefits, but most research to date has focused on the pink-fleshed varieties.11

Lycopene: Watermelon’s Nutritional Claim to Fame

Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, with upwards of 6,500 micrograms (6.5 mg) in less than half a cup (the red-fleshed varieties will contain significantly more lycopene than yellow-fleshed watermelon).

Also noteworthy, the lycopene in watermelon appears to be quite stable, with little deterioration occurring even after it’s been cut and stored in the refrigerator for more than two days. In one study, it took about seven days of storage for the lycopene to deteriorate, and then it was only by about 6 percent to 11 percent.12

So what makes lycopene so important? Lycopene's antioxidant activity has long been suggested to be more powerful than that of other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. In one study, after controlling for other stroke risk factors, such as older age and diabetes, they found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest.13

A 2014 meta-analysis also revealed that lycopene decreased stroke risk (including stroke occurrence or mortality) by more than 19 percent.14 In addition to lowering your risk of stroke, lycopene has been shown to have potential anti-cancer activity, likely due to its potent antioxidant properties.

A 2014 meta-analysis of 10 studies also showed that dietary lycopene may protect against the risk of ovarian cancer among postmenopausal women.15 There is also some evidence from animal studies that lycopene may help with cancer treatment as well.

One study found that lycopene treatment reduced the growth of brain tumors while another showed frequent lycopene intake suppressed breast tumor growth in mice.16

Watermelon Extract May Significantly Reduce Blood Pressure

New research also highlights the role of watermelon nutrients on heart attack prevention, via a significant reduction in blood pressure. Obese study participants who received citrulline and arginine supplements derived from watermelon extract had significant improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress, both while at rest and undergoing a stressful cold-water test.17 According to the researchers:

“Watermelon supplementation reduced aortic BP [blood pressure] and myocardial oxygen demand during CPT [cold pressor test] and the magnitude of the cold-induced increase in wave reflection in obese adults with hypertension. Watermelon may provide cardioprotection by attenuating cold-induced aortic hemodynamic responses.”

Remember, in your body the citrulline in watermelon is converted into L-arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Adequate nitric oxide is required to enable you blood vessels to stay relaxed and open for blood flow, which is one reason why it may help lower blood pressure.

Watermelon for Inflammation, Sexual Health, and More

L-arginine may also help with erectile dysfunction by helping to relax your blood vessels, including those supplying blood to your penis – and that’s why watermelon is sometimes referred to as “Nature’s Viagra.” In fact, citrulline supplementation has been found to improve erection hardness in men with mild erectile dysfunction.18

What else is watermelon good for? It’s rich in anti-inflammatory substances. For instance, watermelon contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant lycopene as well as cucurbitacin E, or tripterpenoid, which reduces the activity of the pain and inflammation-causing enzyme cyclooxygenase – the same enzyme blocked by COX-2 inhibitors, which include most NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen. While being very low in calories (about 46 calories in a cup), watermelon also contains an impressive variety of other important nutrients in which many Americans are lacking, including:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B6
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
  • Magnesium
How to Pick the Perfect Watermelon

Cutting into a watermelon and finding out it lacks flavor is disappointing. There’s a trick you can use to pick out a ripe watermelon, either from your farmer’s market or your own melon patch. Look for a pale, buttery-yellow spot (not white or green) on the bottom. This is where the watermelon sits on the ground ripening, and it’s one of the best indicators of ripeness you can use (even commercial watermelon pickers use this as a gauge).19 Other tricks for picking a ripe watermelon include:

  • Should be heavy for its size
  • Smooth rind with a dull top (the top is the side opposite the ground spot)
  • The thump test (this is controversial, but ripe watermelon is said to have a hollow bass sound)

Store your watermelon in a cool area (50-60 degrees F) until it’s cut. Cut watermelon should be refrigerated (and be sure to wipe off your watermelon with a damp cloth prior to cutting it). Remember, try the rind blended with some lime juice rather than simply tossing it in the trash (choose an organic watermelon especially if you’ll be eating the rind). Finally, watermelon should be enjoyed in moderation due to its fructose content. One-sixteenth of a medium watermelon contains 11.3 grams of fructose (I recommend keeping your total fructose intake below 25 grams of fructose per day if you're in good health, and below 15 grams a day if you’re overweight or have high blood pressure or diabetes).

How the Bates Method Can Help You Retrain Your Eyes to See More Clearly Again

Sun, 07/20/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to see clearly without glasses or contacts? According to Greg Marsh, a certified natural vision coach, clear vision is achievable by virtually everyone, even if you’re already wearing strong corrective lenses.

He created the CD program Reclaim Your Eyesight Naturally, which teaches you how to retrain your eyes to relax, thereby allowing you to see more clearly.

I first sought Greg out several years ago, at the suggestion of a man who, in his 70s, had excellent vision. After trying it out, I was hooked.

Greg got his first pair of glasses in third grade, and at every vision check, he needed stronger, thicker lenses. His life changed when, in his late 20s, he came across a book written by a teacher of Dr. Bates' vision program.

"It just melted my heart, the stories about people improving their eyesight and getting their lives back," he says. "I started trying it on my own near-sightedness. I had some initial success and then kind of hit a plateau.

That's when things got really interesting for me. I eventually did a formal training as a natural vision teacher. I bought every program I could find. I also did a lot of cross-training in various ways to use the mind. I went into martial arts, meditation, and all kinds of things.

For many years, I just kept diving in every which way, and it just became irresistibly simple, interesting, and subtle."

A Technique So Effective, It Was Banned...

The method Greg teaches was initially conceived by Dr. William H. Bates, over 100 years ago. A board-certified ophthalmologist at the top of his field, Dr. Bates taught his method to many, and it was so effective that it ended up being banned in New York after the optometrists lobbied the local politicians!

In essence, it became a threat to the business model of optometrists. The prohibition on the Bates Method is still on the books in New York to this day. Whether or not it's actually prosecuted is another issue.

"In the 1950s and the early 1960s, that's when all the state optometry boards were going after people," Greg says. "One of the Bates practitioners they went after was Clara Hackett, who had worked personally with Aldous Huxley, who's one of the more famous successors.

He wrote the book The Art of Seeing. He was basically told, 'You're blind. Get onboard with Braille.' He got his vision back from working with the Bates Method.

Clara Hackett was on trial because she didn't want to fold up and go home. All these people came in and testified. Aldous Huxley, the famous author of Brave New World, came in and testified.

He was very popular, so the jury was kind of in awe. Apparently, during the break of the jury, all the jurors were palming. Then they knew the outcome was going to be good."

The Bates Method

So how does the Bates Method work? Greg explains:

"Basically, there are six muscles on the outside of your eye, and they're moving it around... Ideally, these muscles are easily following visual interests... The problem is – it could be for emotional reasons, physical stress, or whatever – you start to strain. Once you start to strain, your vision starts to go."

The action of straining essentially squeezes your eyeballs, contorting them. This makes your vision blurry, as it alters where the field of vision "lands" on your retina. Now you have three basic choices

  1. Find out what's stressing you, making you strain. Let it go, relax, and get your vision back. Dr. Bates developed ingenious tools for doing just that
  2. Get laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK), which permanently alters your focal length
  3. Get corrective lenses. The problem with corrective lenses is that now you're creating permanent strain

The Bates Method isn't really an exercise; it's more of a mental approach. It's also worth noting that the Bates Method is clearly NOT a medical approach. You still need to see your regular eye doctor for checkups. Greg explains the theory upon which his program is based as follows:

"Dr. Bates' keyword is 'strain.' If you strain your eyes, strain your thoughts, and strain your vision, these muscles are going to start getting tight. The strain is the essence of everything.

Imagine you're on a tightrope, you're walking, and you're feeling your way forward. That's how the eyes want to work. If you get tense on a tightrope, you're dead, right? Instead of thinking of it as exercises, you have to go into it in a really subtle way; it's more like a meditation."

Basically, your vision is not compromised because of weak eye muscles. They’re strong enough. They’re just too tensed to work properly, so you have to relax them.

When people have a hard time seeing they typically will squint, which actually makes your vision worse. Squinting is one of the worst things you can do for your vision as it stresses your muscles. I find myself all day long paying attention to this as typical response is to contract your eye muscles and squint.

Another part of the process is "faith"—faith that your eyes "know what they're doing" and can see well. The problem is that once you start wearing corrective lenses, you're actually worsening your vision. This progressive worsening of your vision can lead to a defeatist mentality if you don't realize that what you're doing is creating the problem.

Be certain that you do the little experiment Greg discusses in the video by creating a pinhole with your hand and surprising yourself how clear your vision becomes without any corrective lenses. Just bend your finger to create a small pinhole between the skin folds. Now hold the pinhole in front of your eye, and notice how much more in focus everything is that you're looking at. As they say, seeing is believing and this will go a long way to convince you that you can actually see well without corrective lenses.

By wearing glasses, you're essentially retraining your eyes to strain in order to see all day long. Ideally, you'll want to remove your glasses whenever you can safely do so. Also make sure you have appropriate lighting, especially when reading. "The amount of light is huge," Greg notes. "While somebody is making the transition from needing glasses to not needing glasses, things like using more light really help, like if you're reading a book."

Common Vision Problems Caused by Excessive Eye Strain

The two most common eyesight conditions requiring glasses are: (1) myopia (near-sightedness, which usually appears in childhood or during teenage years) and (2) presbyopia (a type of farsightedness which leads to reading glasses at middle age). They both are very responsive to the Bates Method, and in fact the approach is nearly identical. If you have a mild prescription, you can simply go more and more frequently without glasses as you improve your eyesight. Of course, you should always wear glasses if they are required for driving, until you pass your vision test without them.

Especially with nearsightedness, stronger prescriptions tend to require more creativity and persistence, since the habits of staring and straining are more established. Also with high nearsightedness, you may need to progressively work your way down, which can be an expense for more pairs of glasses. But the visual clarity and relaxation you will feel all through your body and mind makes it deeply rewarding! The need for reading glasses is a common age-related problem, but according to Dr. Bates, loss of vision is not a “fact of life” at all. Even this he relates to eye strain.

“Most optometrists or ophthalmologists would say that the ciliary muscle around the lens is the cause—that it gets frozen. They’ll say, 'Well, gee, your lens has become impossibly hard and now it doesn’t move anymore,' Greg says. 

The lens of your eye, which is behind your cornea, right behind the iris, thickens and thins continuously all day long as you focus on various things. It also grows as you age. Eye doctors will say that your lens has become too large and rigid, and can’t flex anymore. But according to Greg, the problem with that model is that most people who sincerely apply the Bates Method do reduce or eliminate their need for reading glasses. Once again Dr. Bates’ solution is to relax the eyes so the muscles can function naturally.

The Power of Your Mind

Astigmatism, cross-eye, glaucoma, cataracts, and other vision conditions can also benefit from the Bates Method. With regards to cross-eye, Greg notes that this problem is not really caused by too-short a muscle pulling the eye. Rather it’s that the muscle is chronically too tight, and if you relax it, your eye will typically go back to its normal position.

"I love working with people who have been diagnosed with glaucoma or cataract and who are open to natural approaches," he says. "One lady I worked with was about to get surgery for glaucoma. Her doctor told her she'd already lost 60 percent of her vision just in one eye. I had an amazing EFT session with her. I told her to palm 10 minutes at a time at least six times a day. Three or four days later, she let me know that her score dropped from 28 down to 12 on glaucoma in that eye. Her doctor said, 'Oh, wow. The medicine finally started to work.'"

Dr. Bates used to experiment with visualizations for patients with cataracts—a condition where the lens of your eye gets cloudy. One of Dr. Bates' patients who had cataracts was able to make her cataracts disappear through guided visualization alone. When she got stressed out again, the cataracts reappeared.

"I don't want to put anybody in a box and say, 'Oh, your thoughts are negative.' But if you're having negative thoughts, imagine you can feel how that manifests as, say, a cataract. Louise Hay, the guru of emotional reasons for disease, she would say the reason for cataract is the future looks dark. I can't tell you how many people have resonated with that. They've had a family member who died, a big business bust, or they just realized, 'Wow, I'm getting old. I haven't done everything I wanted.' That metaphor of 'the future looks dark.'

Now just imagine the crystalline structure of the eyes and how ever that magically transmutes into the cataract and the opacity. Now imagine changing that vibration and then just asking: 'How fast can I imagine and how fast can I allow for this change to take place?'"

Remember that the Bates Method is not a medical approach, and you must seek a licensed practitioner for any diagnosis, prescription, or treatment. The Bates Method is more like meditation or yoga. It can help you engage your mind and imagination, to relax your eyes, and bring about as much natural healing as possible.

Sample Bates Method Techniques

One of the most famous Bates Method techniques is palming. Look around and notice the level of clarity of your vision at present. Then, simply place the center of your palms over your eyes. Relax your shoulders. You may want to lean forward onto a table or a stack of pillows, to facilitate relaxation. Relax like this for at least two minutes. Then remove your hands, open your eyes, and notice whether anything looks clearer. Usually, it will.

"What you're doing is you're letting your hands and your fingers sort of melt into your face. You feel how that affects your whole being as you let that happen. It's almost like your whole stress system is starting to melt away," Greg explains.

"Send love and relaxation into your eyes through your palms, which, by the way, are minor chakras, or energy centers. You're sending all this relaxation into your eyes, and your eyes are relaxing. Imagination becomes very important here, too. You can imagine, pretend, and feel that your eyes are going back toward their natural round shape. Just stay with that as long as you want. And then when you do uncover your eyes, you're going to see that things are more clear, at least for a moment.

See, this is a setting, a thermostat setting that your body-mind just had for a long time. It may take some practice, some awareness, and gradually learning to sustain this [relaxed state]. It's kind of a zen thing. You can't crave it too much because the more you crave it, now you're trying to force it and now you're straining again."

Another technique is called the Bates Long Swing. Begin by simply swaying your body back and forth. The simple act of languidly moving your body, even just a little bit, has a very soothing effect on your brain and thought patterns, and that alone can sometimes help you feel more relaxed during stressful situations. Your eyes also respond. Instead of being locked in a stare, like a deer in headlights, they can begin to relax and move naturally again.

More Information

You can find a lot of information about the Bates Method on the web. The thing to be careful about is that you don’t get drawn into an “eye exercise” approach where you end up straining to get rid of the strain. I think this is the key reason people fail to get results with the Bates Method. Greg’s approach is fantastic for always bringing you back to a relaxed state of mind and body, and helping your eyes feel ready to see clearly again.

You can purchase Greg’s program, Reclaim Your Eyesight Naturally, which consists of six CDs and a 62-page guidebook that helps tie everything together. Just keep in mind that if you are looking for a quick fix, Dr. Bates' approach is probably not for you. The time required to effect a permanent improvement can vary greatly. In rare cases just a few minutes is sufficient. However, it is often necessary to continue the program for weeks or months, or longer for extreme conditions. Greg also teaches workshops and vision coach trainings, and works with people one-on-one via phone or Skype.

"I've heard from hundreds of people that have done my program," he says. "A lot of people have had stunning success with just the CD program. A lot of others need maybe one session just to get the light bulb to come on. Other people, especially if they're backed up into a really big prescription, they may need some help unlocking the doors of: why, emotionally, am I stuck here? But it's amazing what a little EFT, guided visualization, and awareness of tight muscles can do."

Again, when you have tightness in your eyes, you’re more likely to get eye diseases, and stress is the leading contributor to not achieving full vision recovery. Doing the palming technique is a good foundational step to help release some of that stress and tension held in your eyes. Meditation can also be a helpful strategy, overall.

The Bates Method is really quite simple, yet it requires patience, and some finesse. Remember, the goal is not to “train” or exercise your eyes to make them stronger. The goal is to relax them. Greg’s program provides thorough instructions that can help you get there. Also remember that your mindset is important. With faith in yourself and your body’s self-regenerative ability, the toughest hurdle is learning to relax, so your eyes can function in accord with their natural design.

Reclaim Your Eyesight Naturally Click Here to Order

Toxic Hot Seat—What You Don’t Know About Flame Retardant Chemicals Can Hurt You in More Ways Than One

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Fear of fire is primal. No one wants to burn to death. This is undoubtedly why it's so difficult to repeal laws relating to the use of fire retardant chemicals—even though experiments show they do not work... and worse, they're actually exposing you to potent toxins.

In fact, flame-retardant chemicals have been linked to serious health risks, including infertility, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays, reduced IQ scores and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruptions, and various forms of cancer.

Still, the very idea that fire retardant chemicals might save your life, or the life of someone you love, is a powerful one. And chemical companies are cashing in on this idea, even though it does not hold up to scrutiny.

The featured HBO documentary, Toxic Hot Seat1 unravels the toxic truth of flame retardants, revealing many disturbing facts about these allegedly "life-saving" chemicals.

Flame Retardants Have Been Proven Harmful

Many studies have proven that flame retardant chemicals are highly toxic, whether they're on fire or not.

About 90 percent of seating cushions are made from polyurethane foam, which is highly flammable. California was the first US state to enact a law that required foam used in upholstered furniture to withstand a 12-second exposure to an open flame.

Eventually, this became a de facto law nationwide, and today, virtually all furniture contains high amounts—as much as several pounds worth—of flame-retardant chemicals.

But these chemicals don't "stay put" in the furniture. They migrate out, and collect in house dust. As a result, an estimated 90 percent of Americans have some level of flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies. Long-term residents of California, which was the first state to use flame retardant chemicals, tend to have far higher levels.

This is no small concern. Most recently, flame retardant chemicals were identified as one of 17 "high priority" chemical groups that should be avoided to reduce your risk of breast cancer.2, 3

Flame retardants also produce more toxic smoke when they burn, and California female firefighters aged 40 to 50 are six times more likely to develop breast cancer than the national average.

Firefighters of both genders also have higher rates of cancer, in part because of the high levels of dioxins and furans they're exposed to when flame-retardant chemicals burn.

What many do not realize is that a) an object treated with flame retardant chemicals CAN still catch fire, and b) when it does, it will give off higher levels of toxic carbon monoxide, soot, and smoke than an untreated object. Ironically, these three things are more likely to kill you than a burn might, which means flame-retardant chemicals may actually make fires more deadly.

Children Pay a High Price for the Unproven 'Safety' of Flame Retardants

Flame retardant chemicals are known to accumulate in breast milk, and can be transferred to your baby in utero. This is particularly bad news, as recent research4, 5 reveals that children born of women who were exposed to high levels of flame retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) during pregnancy, had on average a 4.5 point decrease in IQ. Such children are also more prone to hyperactivity disorders.

PBDEs were voluntarily withdrawn from the American market in 2004, but there are still many products on the market that were manufactured before that time. These products can continue to release PBDEs into your environment.

Do Flame Retardants Really Work?

Adding insult to injury, there's virtually no evidence to suggest that these chemicals actually work when it comes to saving your life should a fire occur.

According to the chemical industry, fire-retardant furniture increases your escape time 15-fold in the case of a fire. This claim originated from a study using powerful, NASA-style flame retardants, which provided an extra 15 seconds of escape time. But this is not the same type of chemical used in most furniture.

As revealed in Toxic Hot Seat, tests have shown that the most widely used flame-retardant chemicals actually provide NO meaningful benefit in case of a fire, while increasing the amounts of toxic chemicals in the smoke.

How did we get into this situation? As revealed in the film, Big Tobacco actually played a key role... Flame-retardant chemicals were developed in the 1970s, when 40 percent of Americans smoked and cigarettes were a major cause of fires.

The tobacco industry, under increasing pressure to make fire-safe cigarettes, resisted the push for self-extinguishing cigarettes and instead created a front group called the National Association of State Fire Marshals.

The group pushed for federal standards for fire-retardant furniture, and in 1975, California became the first state to enact such fire standards (Technical Bulletin 117).

Another front group called "Citizens for Fire Safety," is in actuality a trade association for the three largest manufacturers of flame retardant chemicals—NOT a coalition of concerned citizens, which is how they portray themselves.

This group has also been working to protect the chemical industry from legislation that might cut into their business, and have helped expand the commercial use of flame retardant chemicals into an ever-greater number of products. All of this has been done in the name of "fire safety"—a benefit that just doesn't seem to hold up to closer scrutiny.

What's worse, while the original author of the fire standard had specified that any chemical used had to be proven safe for human health, this requirement was removed and the law went into effect without this language...

Chemical manufacturers could have taken it upon themselves to ensure their products were safe, but true to form, they didn't. And we're now paying the price, in the form of developmental delays, reductions in IQ, fertility issues, and elevated cancer rates.

Regulatory Changes in California May Improve Public Safety Nationwide

Since its passage, the chemical industry has spent millions to keep TB117 in place. Numerous bills in California have been introduced that would update TB117 to state that toxic chemicals were no longer required for furniture, but the deep-pocketed chemical industry defeated them each time—until now!

As of January 1, 2014, new regulations (TB-117-2013) kicked into effect that will hopefully make toxic flame retardants less prominent in the average home. As reported by Scientific American:6

"The change does not prevent manufacturers from using flame retardants, but it does make it feasible to avoid their use while still clearing regulations. The new requirements state that upholstered furniture sold in the state must not continue to 'smolder' some 45 minutes after a lit cigarette is placed on it—protecting against a cigarette carelessly dropped on a couch rather than a lit candle.

Manufacturers can meet the requirement without the use of fire retardants, by using fabrics that better withstand such exposures or by lining furniture with a fire barrier such as polyester batting. Furniture manufacturers nation-wide have ensured that their wares met the stringent California flammability standards for the past few decades, so the new requirements are expected to have ripple effects across the industry that will trigger a reduction in the use of flame retardant in our home furnishings."

Another reason the political inertia was finally broken was because the chemical industry's "star witness," Dr. David Heimback, who testified during previous efforts to amend the regulation, was found to have lied. A burn expert, Dr. Heimback told California lawmakers heart-wrenching stories about babies dying after suffering horrific burns in fires started in non-treated items. Alas, upon further investigation, it was discovered that he made all these cases up!

The fight is far from over, however. In early January, Chemtura Corp., a leading manufacturer of flame retardant chemicals, filed a lawsuit7 against California, challenging the regulatory changes. The trial will begin on August 29, 2014 in Sacramento Superior court.

There's also the toxic legacy of four decades' worth of flame retardants to contend with. As discussed in a previous Huffington Post article,8 what are we to do with the tens of millions of toxic sofas, chairs, and baby products that have already been made and sold? At present, there's no known method to safely dispose of these chemically-treated products. No matter where they end up, they will continue to pose a health and environmental hazard, as these chemicals also accumulate in the food chain.

Washington State Is Also Pushing for Protective Legislation

Be aware that while California's new flammability standard is a step in the right direction, it does NOT prevent manufacturers from continuing to use flame retardants. As noted by Randi Abrams-Caras of the Washington Toxics Coalition:9

"It's terrific that there's no longer a law that requires [flame retardant chemicals], but what we need is a law that says they can't be used."

Such legislation is currently under consideration in Washington State,10 where advocates are pushing for the "Toxic-Free Kids and Families Act." Sponsored by Senator Sharon Nelson and Representative Kevin Van De Wege, this Act would:

  • Ban six forms of tris flame retardants (TDCPP and TCEP) in children's products and home furniture beginning July 1, 2015
  • Prevent makers of children's products and home furniture from replacing tris with other toxic flame retardants that have been identified by Ecology as a concern for children's health beginning July 1, 2014
  • Ensure compliance with the law by allowing the WA State Department of Ecology to request certificates of compliance from products makers
Where Are Flame Retardants Hiding in Your Home?

Of greatest concern are polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005. This includes a majority of upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) guide11 to PBDEs contains even more details about products in which these toxic chemicals might be lurking. Older carpet padding is another major source of flame-retardant PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet.

Your mattress may be of greatest concern since you spend a large amount of your life sleeping on it. As of July 1, 2007, all US mattresses are required to be flame resistant. Besides PBDEs, other flame-retardant chemicals currently approved for use in mattresses include boric acid, a toxic respiratory irritant used to kill roaches; antimony, a metal that may be more toxic than mercury; and formaldehyde, which causes cancer. Mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. They may even claim that their mattresses are chemical-free, when in reality they are not... To avoid this toxic exposure, I recommend looking for a mattress made of either:

  • 100% organic wool, which is naturally flame-resistant. Even if you hold a match to wool, it will self-extinguish in moments. This is why I use one of our wool mattresses, as it's free of these dangerous fire retardants like PBDE
  • 100% organic cotton or flannel also tends to be flame-resistant
  • Kevlar fibers, the material they make bullet-proof vests out of, which is sufficient to pass the fire safety standards. Stearns and Foster is one brand that sells this type of mattress

Also use extra caution when purchasing baby products. In one test, about 80 percent of the baby items tested were found to contain flame retardant chemicals. Sixty percent of car seats produced in 2011 were also found to have them. Other baby items that may harbor toxic flame retardants include:

Nursing pillows Baby carriers Car seats Changing table pads High chairs Strollers Bassinets Portable cribs Walkers Baby tub inserts and bath slings Glider rockers Sleeping wedges Protect Your Family by 'Going Green'

As you replace PBDE-containing items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, and cotton. Also look for organic and "green" building materials, carpeting, baby items, and upholstery, which will be free from these toxic chemicals and help reduce your overall exposure.

In California, furnishings that are in compliance with the new flammability standards will carry a "TB 117-2013" tag indicating its compliance. Look for this tag, or ask the retailer whether a particular piece contains flame retardant chemicals. The Green Science Policy Institute has created a flyer12 summarizing the new flammability standard, and offers a list of retailers in and outside of California that sell chemical-free furnishings. The fewer toxins you surround yourself with inside your home, the less your chance of succumbing to the harmful effects of toxic overload.

Beer Marinade Could Reduce Levels of Potentially Harmful Substances in Meats

Sat, 07/19/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In the US, 80 percent of households own a grill or smoker, and 97 percent of grill owners had used it for cooking in the past year.1 While the most popular grilling holidays are the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day, about 60 percent of grillers use their grill year-round.

While it’s encouraging that so many people enjoy cooking their own meals at home, arguably one of the best choices you can make, doing so on a grill is, unfortunately, not ideal for your health, due to toxic grilling byproducts created in the meat.

There’s good news though… simple (and tasty) steps can significantly cut down on toxins in your meat and make grilled meat healthier.

Cancer-Causing Substances Form in Grilled Meats

Any time you cook meat at high temperatures, whether you’re grilling, frying, broiling, etc., some pretty nasty chemicals are created. For instance, when fat drips onto the heat source, causing excess smoke, the smoke surrounds your food and it can transfer cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the meat.

Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are also formed when food is cooked at high temperatures, and they’re also linked to cancer. In terms of HCA, the worst part of the meat is the blackened section, which is why you should always avoid charring your meat, and avoid eating any blackened sections.

Scientists have estimated the average cancer risk because of heterocyclic amine exposure ranges from 1 per 10,000 for the average person to more than 1 per 50 for those ingesting large amounts of well-done muscle meats (beef, pork, fish, and poultry), especially flame-grilled chicken. Other research shows:2

  • People who regularly eat well-done meat cooked at high temperatures have a 60 percent greater risk of pancreatic cancer3
  • Both HCAs and PAHs are mutagenic, which means they cause changes in DNA that may increase cancer risk, and have been found to cause cancer in animals4
  • A diet high in HCAs has been linked to tumors in the breast, colon, liver, skin, lung, prostate, and other organs in animals5
  • Animals fed PAHs developed leukemia and tumors of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs6
Beer Marinade Slashes Toxic PAHs in Grilled Meat

If you choose to grill meat, here’s a simple trick: marinate it in beer first. When researchers marinated pork loin steaks in beer for four hours, then grilled it to well-done on a charcoal grill, it led to significantly lower amounts of PAHs in the meat.7

Interestingly, certain types of beer worked better than others (namely, the darker, presumably more antioxidant-rich beer had the best effect). Specifically, compared to non-marinated pork loin:8

  • A pale lager marinade (pilsner) reduced the formation of PAHs by 36.5 percent
  • A nonalcoholic pilsner marinade reduced formation by 25 percent
  • A black beer marinade (a dark lager) reduced PAHs by 68 percent

Past research also showed that marinating steak in red wine or beer for six hours before cooking cut levels of two types of HCAs by up to 90 percent.9 Beer was also efficient at reducing a third type of HCA, cutting levels significantly in just four hours. In this study, the meat was pan-fried, not grilled, a method also known to create toxic byproducts.

Vinegar, Olive Oil, and Spices Also Cut Down on Carcinogens in Cooked Meats

If you’re not a fan of beer or wine, you can swap those out for other tasty marinade or rub ingredients like herbs, spices, lemon juice, vinegar, and more. Although I highly recommend making your own marinades at home (as store-bought varieties often contain high-fructose corn syrup and additives, including MSG), even store-bought varieties were very effective at reducing carcinogenic chemicals.

In one study, steaks were marinated for one hour prior to grilling in one of three commercial marinades -- Caribbean, Southwest, or herb. Each significantly decreased HCAs, as follows:10

  • The Caribbean mixture decreased total HCA content by 88 percent
  • The herb marinade decreased HCAs by 72 percent
  • The Southwest marinade decreased HCAs by 57 percent

Marinating steaks in a base mixture of oil, water, and vinegar (without spices) was also effective at decreasing HCAs, which means you can feel free to use whatever flavors suit your palate. For instance, in one study adding a spice blend to burgers reduced the level of malondialdehyde, a chemical marker for oxidation, in the meat by 71 percent and levels in participants’ urine by 49 percent.11

The following ingredients have all been shown to be effective at lowering HCAs in various meats. You can add them in directly to the meat (such as in hamburgers), via marinade or using a dry rub:12

Cherries Dried plums Apples Garlic Virgin olive oil Teriyaki marinade Turmeric Onions Rosemary Grape seed extracts Cider vinegar Mustard Lemon juice Cloves Cinnamon Oregano Black pepper Paprika Ginger  

 

A word of warning… traditional barbecue sauce made of tomato solids and sugar is not the best choice for grilling. One study found it caused a significant increase in chemical formation – “doubling and even tripling” levels of HCAs after 15 minutes of cooking.13

Healthy Grilling Tips to Cut Down on Cooking Toxins

I do believe it’s best to limit the amount of grilled foods you eat, but if it’s something you aren’t willing to give up, use the tips that follow to make it far healthier for your body.

  • You can reduce the amount of PAHs when you grill by not cooking fatty meats, and by trimming the fat off before you grill.
  • When grilling, cook your food with indirect heat, such as on a rack rather than directly on the coals. Cooking on a cedar plank is also helpful.
  • Always avoid charring your meat (and don't eat the black or brown parts).
  • Cook meat partially before putting it on the grill, or cook smaller pieces of meat, which take less time to cook, and therefore give HCAs less time to form.
  • You can reduce the amount of another cooking byproduct, advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), in your food by using an acidic marinade that contains lemon juice or vinegar.
  • Marinating meats before grilling or broiling them can reduce HCAs (according to some experts by 90 percent or more). However, only use natural ingredients for marinades, and keep the coating thin to avoid charring.
  • Flip your burgers often, as this will help cut down on HCAs.
  • Add blueberries, cherries, garlic, or spices to your burgers, as they can also help prevent the formation of HCAs. Cherries appear to be particularly effective, with research by food scientist J. Ian Gray showing “substituting ground cherries for 11.5 percent of the meat in hamburger reduced the formation of PhIP, the principal heterocyclic amine that forms when this meat cooks. The cherry burger had about 10 percent of the amount of PhIP in a pure grilled hamburger.”14
  • Add vitamin E to your burgers. Research by Gray found that mixing a 40-milligram vitamin E capsule into ground beef works almost as well as ground cherries at inhibiting the production of HCAs – without affecting taste.15
  • Adjust your cooking temperature, even when using your oven. Increasing oven temperature from 392 degrees F to 482 degrees F may triple the amount of HCAs created in beef.16
  • Avoid grilling hot dogs, bratwurst, and other processed meats, as these seem to be among the worst offenders.
  • If grilling chicken, remove the skin prior to cooking, and don’t eat the skin if you do cook it, as it has the highest HCA content.
  • Only grill high-quality, organic and grass-fed meats.
  • Cook the meat as little as possible -- rare or medium-rare at the absolute most. You can also quickly sear the meat on both sides, leaving the inside mostly raw. This gives the illusion that you’re eating cooked meat, with many of the benefits of raw. Remember, with HCAs, the longer the cooking time and the higher the heat, the more HCAs.
How to Help Neutralize Damage from HCAs You Do Consume

If you eat cooked foods, you’re probably consuming HCAs (and other cooking byproducts). Aside from using marinades and spices strategically to reduce their formation, another strategy is to fortify your diet with superfoods known to help neutralize such toxins. As reported in the Natural Medicine Journal,17 this is easy to do just by eating a diet rich in vegetables (especially spinach and cruciferous varieties) and fermented foods. Interestingly, if you indulge in an occasional beer, the best time to do so might be along with your grilled meat, as the yeast it contains may also help mitigate HCA toxicity.

“Genotoxic in vitro testing tells us that green tea, black tea, rooibos tea, red wine, blueberries, blackberries, red grapes, kiwi, watermelon, parsley, and spinach all inhibit the mutagenic activity of certain HCAs. The chemical sulforphane present in cruciferous vegetables has also been shown to have antimutagenic effects against HCAs. The bacteria found in fermented dairy foods also have a neutralizing effect.

The yeast in beer appears to have a similar neutralizing effect. Consuming beer in close proximity in time to when barbecued meat is eaten is one of the most effective ways to lower HCA mutagenicity. Dark or stout beers are in some reports more effective than paler beers. Green tea extracts also lower HCA mutagenic potential. Thus incorporating any of these foods into meals containing barbecued meat or poultry may lessen the mutagenic effect.” 18

Could Strenuous Exercise at Night Mean Better Sleep?

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

One of the benefits of exercise overall is improved sleep quality, but it's typically recommended that you not exercise within three hours of bedtime so you have adequate time to wind down.

If your regular bedtime is midnight, then exercising in the evening, at 9 p.m., for instance, should theoretically not interfere with your sleep (although admittedly this schedule is pushing the limits of your body’s natural circadian rhythm).

New research is suggesting, however, that exercise as little as 1.5 hours before bed may not interfere with your sleep either and, in fact, might help you sleep better.

Strenuous Exercise at Night for Better Sleep?

The study followed 52 19-year-olds who played sports for up to 90 minutes in the evenings, ending about 1.5 hours before their usual bedtime. Those who reported more exertion during the sports fell asleep faster, woke up fewer times during the night, and slept more deeply than those who exercised less vigorously.1

The students who exercised with higher levels of exertion also reported increased tiredness, less hunger, and better mood at night. The researchers concluded:2

Against expectations and general recommendations for sleep hygiene, high self-perceived exercise exertion before bedtime was associated with better sleep patterns in a sample of healthy young adults.”

Though surprising, it’s not the first time vigorous exercise shortly before bed has been linked to better sleep. A study published in 2011, however, found that when people exercised vigorously for 35 minutes right before bed they slept just as well as on nights when they didn't exercise.3

Another study, a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, found that 83 percent of people said they slept better when they exercised (even late at night) than when they did not.4

More than half of those who exercised moderately or vigorously said they slept better on workout days than non-workout days, and just 3 percent of late-day exercisers said their sleep quality was worse when they exercised than when they did not. The National Sleep Foundation concluded that exercise is good for sleep, regardless of the time of day it's performed, noting:

"While some believe exercising near bedtime can adversely affect sleep and sleep quality, no major differences were found between the data for individuals who say they have done vigorous and/or moderate activity within four hours of bedtime compared to their counterparts (those who did vigorous or moderate activity more than four hours before bedtime).

According to the 2013 Sleep in America® poll, the conclusion can be drawn that exercise, or physical activity in general, is generally good for sleep, regardless of the time of day the activity is performed."

Is Nighttime Exercise Right for You?

For some people, evenings may be the most convenient time to fit in a workout. So if exercising in the evening allows you to fit in regular workouts, this is definitely better than not exercising at all. The key here is to listen to your body.

Most experts will agree that the best time for YOU to exercise is when you will do it consistently! The most important thing is to choose a time of day you can stick with, so that exercise becomes a habit.

I would generally discourage exercising in the evening, especially if it's vigorous exercise like Peak Fitness or you struggle with your sleep. Exercise raises your heart rate and body temperature, which are not conducive to sleeping. However, if evening is the most convenient time of day for you to exercise and you find that it does not interfere with your sleep, then you should continue.

Alternatively, reserve your evening exercise sessions for gentle, relaxing exercises like yoga, while scheduling more vigorous workouts for morning or afternoon. There is some research to suggest that morning or afternoon exercise may offer unique benefits, but if you're not sure which time of day you prefer, you can do some experimentation of your own.

Without a doubt, there are many people who are sensitive to late-night exercise, such that a vigorous session will keep them awake, and this should certainly be avoided…

What You Lose if You Don’t Snooze

Sleep deprivation is a serious health concern that many simply choose to ignore. The price for doing so can be steep. Research tells us that lack of sleep can contribute to everything from diabetes, obesity, and heart disease to physical aches and pains and irreversible brain damage.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) actually classifies insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic, as it’s crucial for virtually every tissue and organ in your body. It’s during sleep that metabolic waste products are eliminated from your brain, and it’s thought that not getting enough sleep may actually injure your brain cells, impacting your cognition.5

In fact, recent research found that people who report sleeping less each night have swelling in a brain region that indicates faster cognitive decline,6 while older men who reported poor sleep were more likely to face subsequent cognitive decline.7

Furthermore, among people between 50 and 64 years of age, those who slept less than six hours a night, on average, or more than eight hours a night, had lower brain function scores.8

As for even more research looking into how lack of sleep affects your brain function, in one recent animal study, sleep-deprived mice lost 25 percent of the neurons located in their locus coeruleus, a nucleus in the brainstem associated with wakefulness and cognitive processes.9

The research also showed that "catching up" on sleep on the weekend will not prevent this damage. Other research published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging suggests that people with chronic sleep problems may develop Alzheimer's disease sooner than those who sleep well.10

Burnout Is the Enemy of Sleep

If you're cutting down on sleep in order to get ahead in your career while juggling a household and your kids' jam-packed schedules, such findings should give you pause. As noted in The Atlantic:11

"For some, sleep loss is a badge of honor, a sign that they don't require the eight-hour biological reset that the rest of us softies do. Others feel that keeping up with peers requires sacrifice at the personal level—and at least in the short-term, sleep is an invisible sacrifice."

Many are impacted by the tendency to sacrifice sleep for work and other obligations. According to the 2013 International Bedroom Poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 25 percent of Americans report having to cut down on sleep due to long workdays.12 On average, Americans get only 6.5 hours of sleep on weeknights, but report needing 7.25 hours in order to function optimally. A recent Atlantic article recommended the following tips for getting more sleep:13

  • "Start by getting 30 minutes more than you are getting now. Everybody has 30 minutes." And, "Have a 'thrive buddy'—someone who can help you if you are tempted to binge-watch Breaking Bad [in lieu of sleeping]. You can call your thrive buddy and they can talk you down."
  • "At the end of each day, think of something that no longer serves you. It could be a grudge you are holding against someone, someone you’re angry with, or it can be a project that you started in your head, but you’re not really going to do anything about it. It is very liberating to realize you can complete a project by dropping it."
  • "At the end of the day, pick a time when you turn off all of your devices and gently escort them out of your bedroom. It’s terribly important. Because otherwise, if you have it charging by your bed, and you wake up in the middle of the night for whatever reason, you're going to be tempted. You allow your daytime with its challenges and problems that we all have to deal with to intrude into your recharging night time."
  • "When you get up in the morning, one thing that has made a big difference in my life is not to immediately go to my smartphone. Take, like, one minute."
Trouble Sleeping? Try Losing Weight

One of the ways that weight loss helps your body is by helping you get a good night’s sleep. In a study presented at the joint meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society in Chicago, it was revealed that people who lost at least 5 percent of their bodyweight after six months slept an average of nearly 22 minutes more each night.14 Your weight, exercise levels, and your sleep are all intricately connected.

Just as weight loss may help you sleep better, exercise may help you both sleep better and lose weight. And lack of sleep can cause you to gain weight and also make it difficult to exercise. Safwan Badr, a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, explained that sleep, nutrition and exercise should be considered components of a “three-legged stool of wellness.”15 “The three are synergistic,” he says. “It's hard to lose weight if you are sleep deprived. It's hard to eat healthy if you are sleep deprived. It is hard to exercise if you're tired."

Exercise Is One of the Best Secrets for Sound Sleep

Getting back to the original question of whether late-night exercise will disrupt your sleep… it’s possible, and likely that only you can answer that question for yourself. If late-night exercise keeps you awake, move your workout to another time of day; you don’t want to sacrifice your sleep – but then you don’t want to sacrifice your workout either, as it’s one of the best tools for sound sleep. Research shows that regular exercisers report sleeping better, including falling asleep faster and having a decreased need for sleeping pills, than they did prior to the start of their exercise program.16 This is precisely why regular exercise is one of my 33 top tips for a good night’s sleep.

Personally, I prefer exercising in the morning for a number of reasons, the first being that your workout will be completed early on, leaving less chance for other obligations to eat up your exercise time. Additionally, exercising in the morning makes it easy to exercise while fasting, which will amplify the benefits you receive. But it is best to listen to your body and honor what it tells you.

Another reason to schedule your workouts first thing in the morning? Research shows that 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning may actually reduce your food cravings, both immediately afterward and throughout the day.17 Morning exercise may also help you keep moving even after your workout, which is another key to optimal health. So if you can swing it, give morning workouts a try. If not, don’t stress… fit your workouts in when they’re most convenient for you.

As Painkiller Addiction and Overdoses Continue to Rise, Pharmaceutical Companies Are Sued for Inciting Epidemic

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Pain, regardless of cause, is among the most common of health ailments. Unfortunately, Americans in particular are succumbing to drug addiction in record numbers as a result of short-sighted and financially-driven drug marketing.

More than 70 million prescriptions for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are written each year, and according to 2010 data,1 there were enough narcotic painkillers being prescribed in the US to medicate every single adult, around the clock, for a month.

By 2012, a whopping 259 million prescriptions for opioids and other narcotic painkillers were written in the US,2 which equates to 82.5 prescriptions for every 100 Americans. And those narcotics are responsible for 46 deaths each and every day...

Americans use the most opioids of any nation—twice the amount used by Canadians, who come in second place in terms of prescriptions.3 The problem has become noticeable enough that US officials now warn that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses.

As noted by CDC Director Tom Frieden,4 narcotic painkillers are very dangerous medications: "Patients given just a single course may become addicted for life," he recently warned. I strongly recommend exhausting your options before resorting to a narcotic pain reliever, and I'll list a number of alternatives at the end of this article.

These drugs do have a place and it is a great benefit to have them as a resource, but it appears that they are clearly being abused by large numbers of people and the evidence suggests that it is likely the majority.

It's quite clear that these drugs are being overprescribed, and can easily lead you into addiction and other, more illicit drug use. I strongly suspect that the overreliance on them as a first line of defense for pain is a major part of this problem.

Prescription Rates Vary Widely by State

Prescription rates vary widely from state to state,5, 6 , 7 however. The most recent data by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly illustrates these discrepancies. As reported by Forbes:8

"Alabama tops the list of painkiller prescriptions, with 143 prescriptions for every 100 people. This startlingly high number is three times the amount in the lowest prescribing state, Hawaii.

The numbers don't look so encouraging, especially since overdose from prescription drugs continues to be a huge problem in the country. Luckily, though, when prescribing regulations tighten as they have in Florida, the death rate does seem to respond in kind."

As noted in the article, Florida clamped down on its prescription guidelines in 2010, in an effort to combat rampant "pill mills" that were little more than legal (and even not-so-legal) suppliers to junkies.

As a result, narcotic-related deaths in Florida declined by 23 percent over the next two years. Deaths from oxycodone, the most commonly abused drug, fell by a respectable 50 percent between 2010 and 2012.9

In 2012, New York State also enacted more stringent prescription rules for painkillers. There, doctors are required to access a state prescription-drug monitoring program before writing another prescription.

In the two years since, there's been a 75 percent reduction in patients seeing multiple doctors for the same drug.10

Still, there's plenty of room for improvement. Especially in states where prescription rates are highest, such as Tennessee, West Virginia, Alabama, Maine, and New Hampshire.

"We're not seeing consistent, effective, appropriate prescribing of painkillers across the nation, and this is a problem because of the deaths that result," Frieden said in a July 1 teleconference.11

"All states, but especially those whose prescribing rates are highest, need to examine whether the drugs are being used appropriately."

Chicago and Two California Counties Sue OxyContin Makers for Inciting Drug Abuse Epidemic

This is a Flash-based audio and may not be playable on mobile devices.

In related news,12 Chicago and two California counties—Orange and Santa Clara—have filed a lawsuit against five drug companies that manufacture OxyContin, charging them with contributing to an epidemic of drug abuse. The two California counties are suing on behalf of the entire state. In Santa Clara County, the death rate for opioid overdoses has tripled in the last decade, and according to assistant County Counsel Danny Chou, this is all due to a "decades-long marketing plan" by drug companies "to create a market for these drugs that never should have existed" in the first place.

According to Chou, Santa Clara spends millions of dollars to treat overdoses and addiction in its public hospitals, and he wants the drug makers to pay for these costs—just like tobacco companies were forced to pay after being sued in the 1990s. The lawsuit accuses the drug companies of purposefully downplaying the risks of these drugs, and secretly funding front organizations, like the American Pain Foundation, to promote the use of painkillers. According to Chou:

"They're the ones who deceive the doctors about the risks and benefits of opioid drugs. And they also deceive patients who then demand these drugs from the doctors. Ultimately, I don't think that the problem could be resolved until doctors and patients get accurate information. You have to start at the source."

Front Groups Are Used to Deceive You

Interestingly, a 2011 Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation13 discovered that a University of Wisconsin-based organization called Pain & Policy Studies Group—which had received $2.5 million from makers of painkillers over the past decade—had been a "national force" pushing for expanded use of opioids. This group has also warned against increasing regulations of these dangerous drugs. As reported by MedPage Today:14

"Doctors in the addiction and pain fields say the UW Pain Group pushed a pharmaceutical industry agenda not supported by rigorous science. 'They advocate for policies that benefit pharmaceutical companies and harm pain patients and the public health,' said Andrew Kolodny, MD, an expert on opioid addiction...

The efforts of the UW group helped create a climate that vastly expanded unproven medical use of the often abused drugs, said Kolodny, chairman of psychiatry at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. In addition, a review of records revealed personal financial relationships between drugmakers and two officials with the UW Pain Group. Those include helping a drug company win Food and Drug Administration approval for a new narcotic painkiller and working as speakers or consultants."

The largest funder of the UW Pain Group was Purdue Pharma, which donated about $1.6 million to the group. Purdue actually ended up having to pay fines and restitution payments to the tune of $635 million after the US Department of Justice accused the company of misleading doctors with fraudulent claims, back in 2007. The company promoted OxyContin as "less addictive, less likely to cause withdrawal, and less subject to abuse" compared to other pain medications—claims for which they had no proof.

According to the featured report, the UW Pain Group played a key role in the rapid growth of Oxycontin, which led to a scourge of addiction and death. Indeed, as noted by MedPage: "The narcotic painkiller industry's funding of the UW Pain Group is a unique twist on the drug and medical device industry's use of medical schools to sell more of its products, sometimes at the expense of patients."

Conflicts of Interest Must Be Taken Seriously

In 1996, the founder of the UW Pain Group, David Joranson, co-authored a consensus statement from the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine, which suggested that opioids were "safe and effective for chronic, noncancer pain and that the risk of addiction was low." Another co-author of this paper was J. David Haddox, DDS, MD, who was also a paid speaker for Purdue Pharma. (He was given an executive position with Purdue three years later.)

In 2002, Joranson and Haddox teamed up yet again, co-authoring a paper with a third UW Pain Group official, Aaron Gilson, PhD, in which they warned that regulatory scrutiny might do more harm than good, as it would hamper people's efforts to manage their pain. The paper did not disclose any of their conflicts of interest with Purdue and other drugmakers who would stand to gain from such advice. This is precisely why conflicts of interest are so dangerous, and why disclosure of such conflicts is so important.

Clearly, these three men were acting on behalf of an agenda, and the agenda was bought and paid for by pharmaceutical companies. Again and again, we see how front groups are created and craftily used to create the illusion of an independent consensus. There are countless such front groups serving as PR machines for virtually every major industry out there, but the pharmaceutical and chemical industries are probably in the lead. These front groups are integral for shaping and molding public opinion, by virtually any means, including corporate opinion masquerading as "science-based fact"—even after companies have been forced to pay fines for misleading claims!  

As reported by MedPage15 in 2012:

"[T]he UW Pain group is just one link in a network of national organizations and researchers with financial connections to the makers of narcotic painkillers. Beginning 15 years ago, that network helped create a body of 'information' that today is found in prescribing guidelines, patient literature, position statements, books, and doctor education courses, all which favored drugs known as opioid analgesics.

Without rigorous scientific evidence to prove that their benefits outweigh potential harm, drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin increasingly have been used to treat a wide array of chronic pain syndromes including low back pain and fibromyalgia...

Over the past decade as many as 100,000 Americans have died from opioid overdoses and millions have become addicted to the drugs, said Andrew Kolodny, MD, a New York psychiatrist and opioid addiction specialist who co-founded Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. 'This is an out of control epidemic, not caused by a virus or a bacteria,' said Kolodny... 'This epidemic has been caused by a brilliant marketing campaign that dramatically changed the way physicians treat pain.'"

19 Non-Drug Solutions for Pain Relief

As I stated at the beginning, I strongly recommend exhausting other options before you resort to a narcotic pain reliever. The health risks associated with these drugs are great, and addiction is a very real concern. Below I list 19 non-drug alternatives for the treatment of pain. These options provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that prescription (and even over-the-counter) painkillers carry. This list is in no way meant to represent the only approaches one can use. These are just some of the best strategies that I know of. If you are in pain, please try these first, before even thinking about prescription painkillers of any kind.

  1. Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
  2. Take high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they manipulate prostaglandins.)
  3. Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
  4. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.
  5. K-Laser Class 4 Laser Therapy. If you suffer pain from an injury, arthritis, or other inflammation-based pain, I'd strongly encourage you to try out K-Laser therapy. It can be an excellent choice for many painful conditions, including acute injuries. By addressing the underlying cause of the pain, you will no longer need to rely on painkillers. K-Laser is a class 4 infrared laser therapy treatment that helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones.
  6. The infrared wavelengths used in the K-Laser allow for targeting specific areas of your body, and can penetrate deeply into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip. For more information about this groundbreaking technology, and how it can help heal chronic pain, please listen to my previous interview with Dr. Harrington.

  7. Chiropractic. Many studies have confirmed that chiropractic management is much safer and less expensive than allopathic medical treatments, especially when used for pain, such as low-back pain. Qualified chiropractic, osteopathic, and naturopathic physicians are reliable, as they have received extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate healthcare training, which lasts between four to six years. These health experts have comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management.
  8. Acupuncture can also effectively treat many kinds of pain. Research has discovered a "clear and robust" effect of acupuncture in the treatment of back, neck, and shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches.
  9. Physical and massage therapyhas been shown to be as good as surgery for painful conditions such as torn cartilage and arthritis.
  10. Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
  11. Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
  12. Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.16 A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.17
  13. Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  14. Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
  15. Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
  16. Evening primrose, black currant, and borage oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
  17. Cayenne cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
  18. Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic.18 At present, 20 US states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavanoids. As discussed in this previous post, varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned"—and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,19 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
  19. Methods such as yoga, Foundation Training, massage, meditation, hot and cold packs, and other mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
  20. Grounding, or walking barefoot on the earth, may also provide a certain measure of pain relief by combating inflammation.

Processed Foods Hurt Your Immune System and Gut Health

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you could make one change in your life that would lower your risk of chronic disease, help you lose weight, and make you feel happier and more energized, would you do it?

The one change I’m referring to is cutting back on processed foods. It’s widely known that refined junk foods aren’t good for your body as they’re packed with sugar (including fructose), synthetic and rancid fats, preservatives, genetically modified (GM) ingredients, additives, and more.

Lesser known, yet equally important (if not more so), is the role of poor diet on inflammation and gut health – two factors that are intricately involved in virtually every aspect of your health.

In short, nearly all processed foods are the epitome of what you shouldn’t be putting in your body. The research against processed foods is hard to deny, or ignore, any longer, especially in light of a new study highlighting processed foods’ detrimental effect on your immune system and gut health (and that of future generations).

Eating Your Way to an Early Death…

In a recent review published in the Nutrition Journal,1 Dr. Ian Myle of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explained that our modern-day Westernized diet is setting the stage for immune-mediated diseases:2

While today's modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.”

It's important to realize that dietary components can either trigger or prevent inflammation from taking root in your body. Chronic inflammation, meanwhile, is involved in diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and much more.

Regarding your diet, for example, whereas synthetic trans fats and sugar, particularly fructose, will increase inflammation, eating healthy fats such as animal-based omega-3 fats found in krill oil, or the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), will help to reduce them.

But this is only one mechanism by which processed foods damage your health. When you eat processed foods, you may be triggering the release of powerful antibodies meant to fight off foreign invaders, which can actually cause collateral damage to your body's cells.

In fact, eating a diet rich in processed foods and junk foods can cause an ongoing mistaken internal attack on very necessary components of your digestive system.3 Everyone is affected differently by this constant internal antibody attack, otherwise, we'd all have autoimmune diseases.

But it is known that macrophages, one of the more powerful tools your immune system uses to fight foreign invaders, can also do wide-ranging damage to your body's tissues.4 The Nutrition Journal review focused on several others as well, including:5

  • Simple sugars increase inflammatory markers in your blood while the “complex carbohydrate fiber (but not starches), such as that found in fruits and vegetable, appear to reduce inflammation”
  • Another contributor to modern diet-induced immune dysfunction may be the increased consumption of omega-6 fats (found in vegetable oils) in lieu of omega-3 fats
  • Recent animal and cell-culture models have found that elements in gluten may stimulate inflammation and disrupt your immune system
  • In animal models, the combination of pesticide-producing GM corn and pesticide-resistant GM soy led to increased rates of severe stomach inflammation
  • The over-abundance of many processed and biologically incompatible foods in the typical Western diet simultaneously enhance inflammation while muting your immune system’s ability to respond to and ultimately control infections
What You Eat Can Make or Break Your Gut Health

Nearly 100 trillion bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms compose your body's microflora, and advancing science has made it quite clear that these organisms play a major role in your health, both mental and physical. For example, beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, have been shown to:

This is why I recommend a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods along with cultured or fermented foods. If, for whatever reason, you are not consuming fermented foods at least a few times a week, it's wise to consider supplementation with a high-quality probiotic supplement.

When you eat too many grains, sugars, and processed foods, these foods serve as “fertilizer” for pathogenic microorganisms and yeast, causing them to rapidly multiply. One of the best things you can do for your health, including your digestive health, is eliminate sugars and processed foods as much as possible.

In fact, millions of people currently suffer from yeast overgrowth and a host of other maladies related to an improper balance of mircoorganisms in your intestines. And most conventional doctors will not be able to identify the cause of your symptoms if you suffer from such an imbalance. As explained in the Nutrition Journal:6

“The notion that diet, stress, and environment can, for better or worse, imprint upon the bowel has been around since the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. However, only recent focus and technologic advances have allowed accurate elucidation of the mechanisms by which our lifestyle impacts our microbiome and leads to dysbiosis.

In the gut (and on the skin), there is an optimal, albeit not yet fully elucidated, balance of bacterial species. Some strains of bacteria are needed to digest dietary fibers while others produce valuable nutrients like vitamin K.

Beneficial bacteria aide their hosts by occupying space and/or modifying the microenvironment in ways that prevent harmful bacteria from gaining a foothold. More importantly, the commensal flora provides a type of training to the immune system.

Like a sparring partner in boxing, the immune system’s interactions with the normal commensal flora provide an education that is indispensable when a pathogenic opponent is encountered.

…Just as loss of honeybees from orchards or addition of aninvasive species to a lake creates significant harm for the surrounding biosphere, so too it appears that small shifts in our microbiome caused by today’s unhealthy diets can reverberate through human health.”

Planning to Have a Baby? What You Eat Now Impacts Your Baby Later (Moms and Dads)

One of the most striking aspects of your gut health is its power to influence not only your health but also that of your children and grandchildren. Poor dietary choices can actually become encoded into the gene expression patterns (epigenome) of your DNA and your gut microbiome, leading to permanent changes in the balance of bacteria in your body – changes that may be passed onto your children.7

As noted in the Nutrition Journal,8 a mother’s diet may shape her child’s taste preferences in utero, skewing them toward vegetables or sweets, for instance. There’s also evidence that children inherit their microbiome from their mother, and part of this may be “seeded into the unborn fetus while still in the womb.”

If a mother has an imbalance of bacteria, she will pass this imbalance onto her child and “thus fails to present the ideal commensals for a proper immune education during her child’s most critical developmental window… This developmental dysbiosis leaves the offspring’s immune system poorly trained to fight off infections and encourages autoimmune and allergic diseases,” Dr. Myles noted.

Even a father’s diet plays a role in the child’s future health, as “paternal epigenetics related to methylation of DNA and histones can also be inherited by the offspring and could alter early development of the immune system.” As Dr. Myles explained:9 “Since the information encoded upon DNA is passed from parent-to-child and even potentially from parent-to-grandchild, cells that learn bad habits like ignoring signs of infection or over-reacting to antigens could combine with microbiome shifts to further worsen a child’s immunologic development.”

Fermented Foods Are Your Friend

Now that you’re aware of the risks of processed foods, and the importance of re-seeding your gut with beneficial organisms, you’re probably wondering what, exactly, to do about it. The first step is eliminating as many processed foods as possible, in favor of whole, unprocessed foods like organic grass-fed meat, raw grass-fed dairy, cage-free organic eggs, organic produce, nuts, seeds, and healthful fats (like coconut oil). The next step is to feast on fermented foods regularly. Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions.

Fermented vegetables are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into your gut, and, unlike some other fermented foods, they tend to be palatable, if not downright delicious, to most people. As an added bonus, they can also be a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture.

We had samples of high-quality, fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and a typical serving (about two to three ounces) contained not only 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, but it also had 500 mcg of vitamin K2, which we now know is a vital co-nutrient to both vitamin D and calcium. Most high-quality probiotic supplements will only supply you with a fraction of the beneficial bacteria found in such homemade fermented veggies, so it's your most economical route to optimal gut health as well.

Additional healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots, and natto (fermented soy). Some of the beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods are also excellent chelators of heavy metals and pesticides, which will also have a beneficial health effect by reducing your toxic load.

Health Benefits of Kimchi as a Probiotic Food

You’re probably familiar with sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt, but one fermented food that’s still relatively unknown to North American palates is kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented vegetables and a spicy blend of chili peppers, garlic, scallions, and other spices. It's common to find kimchi at almost every Korean meal, where it is served alone as a side dish, mixed with rice or noodles, or used as an ingredient in soups or stews. There are many reasons, health-wise, to give kimchi a try if you've never had it -- it's rich in vitamins A and C, for instance. But what makes kimchi unique is its fermentation process, which leads to the production of beneficial Lactobacilli bacteria. The Journal of Medicinal Food explained:10

“Kimchi is a traditional Korean food manufactured by fermenting vegetables with probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Many bacteria are involved in the fermentation of kimchi, but LAB become dominant while the putrefactive bacteria are suppressed during salting of baechu cabbage and the fermentation. The addition of other subingredients and formation of fermentation byproducts of LAB promote the fermentation process of LAB to eventually lead to eradication of putrefactive and pathogenic bacteria, and also increase the functionalities of kimchi. Accordingly, kimchi can be considered a vegetable probiotic food that contributes health benefits in a similar manner as yogurt as a dairy probiotic food.”

In many ways, kimchi may be even better than yogurt, as it contains other noteworthy superfoods as well, like cruciferous vegetables, garlic, ginger, red pepper, and more, which significantly boost its health potential. GreenMedInfo lists nearly two-dozen studies showing kimchi’s benefits,11 and, according to a study in The Journal of Medicinal Food,12 kimchi has an impressive roster of health functionality that includes:

Anticancer Antiobesity Anticonstipation Colorectal health promotion Probiotic properties Cholesterol reduction Fibrolytic effect Antioxidative properties Antiaging properties Brain health promotion Immune promotion Skin health promotion Health Goal: Swap Out One Processed-Food Meal for Fermented Foods

Eliminating processed foods from your diet might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Start slowly with this “bite-sized” step: swap out one of your processed-food meals (or even a snack) with homemade fermented foods. You can try a kefir smoothie (blend kefir with frozen berries and, if you like, a couple of organic raw eggs) or a serving of fermented veggies or kimchi. You can find step-by-step instructions to make your own fermented vegetables at home here. Just one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented veggies, eaten with one to three meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health.

If you’ve never eaten fermented foods, too large a portion may provoke a healing crisis, which occurs when the probiotics kill off pathogens in your gut. When these pathogens die, they release potent toxins. If you are new to fermented foods, you should introduce them gradually, beginning with as little as one teaspoon of sauerkraut or kimchi with a meal. Observe your reactions for a couple of days before proceeding with another small portion, and increase your dose gradually, as tolerated. Remember, many food preferences develop very early in life, so the sooner you can introduce fermented vegetables to your children, the better.

Traces of the flavors of the foods mothers eat are perceptible in their breast milk and amniotic fluid. Babies whose mothers eat foods like garlic, broccoli, or kimchi while pregnant tend to be more likely to enjoy these foods later in life. Once you’ve reached your goal of swapping out one processed-food meal with fermented foods, make another goal, such as swapping out your snack of chips or pretzels for raw veggies and dip – or replacing your daily soda with a glass of green vegetable juice. As you continue making changes, use your momentum and increased energy to keep moving forward, tackling one unhealthy habit at a time. Soon you’ll be rid of processed foods entirely… along with all the health troubles that go along with them.

Top 10 Destructive Nutrition Lies Ever Told

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

There is no shortage of health advice out there, and no shortage of bad advice to go along with it. Some misguided notions are harmless—but others are outright dangerous and can lead you down the road to chronic health problems and may even trim years off your life.

It is critically important to decipher fact from fiction. Many nutrition myths get repeated over and over until they are mistaken for truth, especially when perpetually spread by public health authorities.

But the good news is that slowly, the real truth finally appears to be reaching mainstream audiences, as evidenced by the eagerness of satirists to take a jab at the food industry, as in the clever Coca-Cola parody featured above.

In an article addressing destructive nutrition lies, Kris Gunnars of Authority Nutrition1 is among those admirably trying to bust the dangerous dietary myths that continue being spread by so many nutritionists. I agree with the majority of his points, but have added a few others that I believe to be important. Read on for my own top 10 list, which builds upon his.

Lie #1: Breakfast Is the Healthiest Meal of the Day, and You Should Eat Many Small Meals a Day

How many of you had mothers who would not let you leave the house without breakfast? Mother may have known best about some things—but as it turns out, this wasn't one of them. There is now a good deal of research supporting the health benefits of intermittent fasting—which is what you were really doing by zipping out of the house without breakfast.

Recent studies suggest that intermittent fasting can provide the same health benefits as constant calorie restriction which many studies have shown to dramatically increase life span in animals. It may also be helpful for those who cannot successfully reduce their everyday calorie intake.

Besides turning you into an efficient fat burner, intermittent fasting can also boost your level of human growth hormone production (aka the "fitness hormone") by as much as 1,200 percent for women and 2,000 percent for men.

Intermittent fasting and continuous calorie restriction have both been shown to produce weight loss and improve metabolic risk markers. However, intermittent fasting tends to be slightly more effective for reducing insulin resistance.

Other benefits include reducing inflammation, improving blood pressure, and increased lean body mass. Intermittent fasting can also improve your brain function by increasing levels of BDNF, a protein that protects your brain cells from the changes associated with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

There are several types of intermittent fasting to choose from, so I recommend experimenting to see what style works best for you. One of the easiest, however, is to simply skip breakfast, and limit your eating to a narrow window of time each day—say between 11am and 7pm, to start. You can review my more comprehensive article on intermittent fasting for more details.

The advice to "eat six small meals per day" comes from seemingly logical principles (portion control, keeping your energy up, stabilizing blood sugar, etc.), but in reality, eating this way has not been shown to provide these benefits. We seem to need periods of fasting for optimal metabolic function.

And if you think about it, our ancient ancestors never had access to a grocery store 24/7 and they went through regular periods of feast and famine. The problem is that most of us are in 24/7 feast mode. Implementing intermittent fasting is the quickest way I know of to jump start your body into burning fat as its primary fuel again.

Lie #2: Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease

The dangerous recommendation to avoid saturated fat, which arose from an unproven hypothesis from the mid-1950s, has been harming people's health for about 40 years now. As recently as 2002, the "expert" Food & Nutrition Board issued the following misguided statement, which epitomizes this myth:

"Saturated fats and dietary cholesterol have no known beneficial role in preventing chronic disease and are not required at any level in the diet."

Similarly, the National Academies' Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get 45-65 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 20-35 percent from fat, and 10-35 percent from protein. This is the polar opposite of an ideal fat to carb ratio and virtually guarantees you a heightened risk of disease.

Most people benefit from a diet where 50-85 percent of daily calories are derived from healthful fats. However, you need very few, if any, carbohydrates for optimal health. Although that amount of fat may seem like a lot, fat is very calorie-dense, and will therefore still constitute the smallest amount, in terms of volume, on your plate.

The truth is, saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide the building blocks for your cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances, without which your body cannot function optimally.

Fats also serve as carriers for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and are required for converting carotene into vitamin A, absorbing minerals, and a host of other important biological processes. Saturated fat is also the preferred fuel for your heart! Good sources of healthy fats to add to your diet include:

Avocados Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw dairy Organic pastured egg yolks Coconuts and coconut oil Unheated organic nut oils Raw nuts, especially macadamia, and raw seeds Grass-fed and finished meats Lie #3: High Omega-6 Seed and Vegetable Oils Are Good for You

Of all the health-destroying foods on the market, those made with highly processed vegetable and seed oils are some of the worst. When consumed in large amounts, as they are by most Americans, they seriously distort your important omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. In a perfect world, this ratio is 1:1—but the average American is getting 20 to 50 times more omega-6 fats than omega-3 fats. Excessive omega-6 fats from processed foods significantly increase your risk for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other illnesses.

The cholesterol found in arterial plaque is oxidized, damaged cholesterol, which your immune system identifies as bacteria. In response, your immune system sends out macrophages to attack it, which creates inflammation inside your artery walls. A major factor driving heart disease is this oxidized cholesterol, which you introduce into your body every time you consume vegetable oils, or foods cooked in them.

Many vegetable and seed oils are also genetically engineered, which only compounds their health risk. More than 90 percent of US canola oil is GE. So what's the best oil to cook with? Of all the available oils, coconut oil is the one of choice for cooking because it's close to a completely saturated fat—meaning, much less susceptible to heat damage. And coconut oil is one of the most nutritionally beneficial fats. For more information about coconut oil, please see our special report. Olive oil, while certainly a healthful oil, is easily damaged by heat and is best reserved for drizzling cold over salad.

Lie #4: Artificial Sweeteners Are Safe Sugar Replacements for Diabetics, and Help Promote Weight Loss

Most people use artificial sweeteners to lose weight and/or because they are diabetic and need to avoid sugar. The irony is that nearly all of the studies to date show that artificial sweeteners cause even MORE weight gainthan caloric sweeteners. Studies also show that artificial sweeteners can be worse than sugar for diabetics.

In 2005, data gathered from the 25-year long San Antonio Heart Study showed that drinking dietsoft drinks increased the likelihood of serious weight gain much more so than regular soda.2 On average, each diet soda the participants consumed per day increased their risk of becoming overweight by 65 percent within the next seven to eight years and made them 41 percent more likely to become obese. There are several possible reasons for this, such as:

  • Sweet taste alone appears to increase hunger, regardless of caloric content
  • Artificial sweeteners appear to perpetuate a craving for sweets, and overall sugar consumption is therefore not reduced, leading to further problems with weight control3
  • Artificial sweeteners may disrupt your body's natural ability to "count calories," as evidenced by multiple studies. For example, a Purdue University study found that rats fed artificially sweetened liquids ate more high-calorie food than rats fed high-caloric sweetened liquids4

The list of health risks associated with artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, continues to expand. I maintain an ongoing list of studies related to the detrimental effects of aspartame, which I recommend you review for yourself if you are still on the fence. I invite you to watch my aspartame video, as well.

Lie #5: Soy Is a Health Food

The meteoric rise of soy as a "health food" is a perfect example of how a brilliant marketing strategy can fool millions. But make no mistake—unfermented soy products are NOT healthful additions to your diet, regardless of your age or gender. I am not opposed to all soy—properly fermented and preferably organic soy, such as tempeh, miso, and natto, offer great health benefits, courtesy of the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) the fermentation process produces.

Thousands of studies have linked unfermented soy to a number of health problems, however. More than 90 percent of American soy crops are also genetically engineered, which only compounds its health risks.5 If you find this information startling, then I would encourage you to review some of the articles on my Soy Page. The following table lists a number of the damaging health effects science has linked to unfermented soy:

Breast cancerBrain damage and cognitive impairmentHeart disease Thyroid disordersKidney stones Immune dysfunction Severe, potentially fatal food allergiesMalnutritionDigestive problems Problems with pregnancy and breastfeedingReproductive disorders and impaired fertilityDevelopmental abnormalities in infants Lie #6: Whole Grains Are Good for Everyone

The use of whole grains is an easy subject to get confused about, especially for those with a passion for health and nutrition. For the longest time, we've been told that whole grains are highly beneficial. Unfortunately, ALL grains can elevate your insulin and leptin levels, even whole grains and organic varieties—and elevated insulin/leptin increases your risk of chronic disease. This is especially true if you already struggle with insulin/leptin resistance, which would manifest as high blood pressure, distorted cholesterol ratios, being overweight, or diabetes).

It has been my experience that more than 85 percent of Americans have trouble controlling their insulin and leptin levels and have one or more of the symptoms listed above. You may be one of those if you struggle to maintain an ideal body weight and body composition, tend to accumulate fat around you belly, or have a suboptimal lipid profile. In fact, insulin/leptin dysregulation is a common indicator for many of the diseases so prevalent today, such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and cancer.

Many whole grains also contain gluten, which is a common trigger for allergies and sensitivities. Subclinical gluten intolerance is far more common than you might think, with symptoms that are not always obvious. I strongly recommend eliminating or at least restricting grains from your diet, as well as sugars/fructose, especially if you have any of the conditions listed above. As a general rule, the higher your insulin levels are, the greater your grain restriction should be.

Lie #7: Genetically Engineered Foods Are Safe and Comparable to Conventional Foods

Genetic engineering (GE) of our food may be the most dangerous aspect of our food supply today. I strongly recommend that you avoid ALL GE foods. Since more than 90 percent of the corn and 95 percent of the soy grown in the US are GE, then you can count on virtually every processed food having at least one GE component if it doesn't bear the "USDA 100% Organic" or non-GMO label.  Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of them is that the crops are saturated with one of the most dangerous herbicides on the market, glyphosate, to the tune of nearly a billion pounds per year. This toxic chemical can't be washed off as it becomes integrated into nearly every cell of the plant, and then gets transferred into your body.

No one knows exactly what will be the ultimate impact of these foods on your health, particularly over the long term. Animal studies have pointed to increased disease, infertility, and birth defects as the top contenders. The first-ever lifetime feeding study showed a dramatic increase in organ damage, cancer, and reduced lifespan. It's important to realize that, unless you're buying all organic food or growing your own, you're probably consuming GE foods on a daily basis. In order to avoid as many GE foods as possible, be aware that the following common crops are likely to be GE unless otherwise labeled:

CornCanola Alfalfa Soy Cottonseed Sugar from sugar beets Zucchini Crookneck squash Hawaiian papaya Lie #8: Eggs Are Bad for Your Heart

Eggs are one of the most demonized foods in the US... thanks to the cholesterol myth. The misguided belief that cholesterol, such as in egg yolks, will give you heart disease is simply untrue (see Lie #1). Studies have shown that eggs do NOT have a detrimental impact on cholesterol levels and are actually one of the most healthful foods you can eat. In one Yale study,6 participants were asked to consume two eggs daily for six weeks. Researchers found that this egg consumption did not spike cholesterol levels and did not have a negative effect on endothelial function, a measure of cardiac risk.

Choose pasture-raised organic eggs, and avoid "omega-3 eggs" as this is not the proper way to optimize your omega-3 levels. To produce these omega-3 eggs, the hens are usually fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Omega-3 eggs are also more perishable than non-omega-3 eggs. Some of the many nutritional benefits of eggs are summarized for you in the table below.

One egg contains six grams of high quality protein and all nine essential amino acids Beneficial for eye health due to lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants in your lens and retina that help prevent eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts Good source of choline, a member of the vitamin B family (essential for nervous system, cardiovascular system, and prenatal brain development) Vitamin D: eggs are one of the few foods that contains naturally occurring vitamin D (24.5 grams)Sulfur (essential component of glutathione, also promotes healthy hair and nails)Many other vitamins and minerals (B vitamins, vitamins A and E, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc) Lie #9: Low-Fat Foods Prevent Obesity and Heart Disease

Conventional recommendations over the past 40 years or more have called for drastically decreasing the overall fat in your diet, but this fat aversion is a driving force behind today's metabolic dysfunction, obesity, and ill health. As discussed earlier, most people need between 50 and 85 percent of their calories from fats—a far cry form the less than 10 percent from saturated fat recommended by the USDA!7 Kris Gunnars stated it quite nicely:8

"The first dietary guidelines for Americans were published in the year 1977, almost at the exact same time the obesity epidemic started. Of course, this doesn't prove anything (correlation does not equal causation), but it makes sense that this could be more than just a mere coincidence.

The anti-fat message essentially put the blame on saturated fat and cholesterol (harmless), while giving sugar and refined carbs (very unhealthy) a free pass. Since the guidelines were published, many massive studies have been conducted on the low-fat diet. It is no better at preventing heart disease, obesity or cancer than the standard Western diet, which is as unhealthy as a diet can get."

Let's face it, if low-fat diets worked, the United States would be the healthiest nation on the planet—folks have been following them since the late 1970s! But if you look at the following graph, you can see that America's waistline has done nothing but expand since then. There's no telling how many people have been prematurely killed by following these flawed guidelines. Yet, despite mounting research to the contrary, low-fat diets are stillbeing pushed as "heart healthy" by the majority of nutritionists, cardiologists, and the like.

Lie #10: Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories

I have already covered how insulin resistance is a key factor in disease (see Lie #4). A diet high in non-fiber carbohydrates—particularly processed grains and sugar—leads directly to insulin and leptin resistance. When your highest percentage of calories comes from healthful fats, these problems just don't exist. Most high-carb diets are high in sugar and starch, not vegetables. When the low-fat mantra swept over the country, the high-carb craze soon followed. When fat was removed from foods, something had to be added back in to make foods more palatable—and that something was sugar. Particularly, highly concentrated forms of fructose, such as high fructose corn syrup, which spell metabolic disaster for your body.

With fat being the identified villain (albeit falsely accused), sugar was completely ignored—even though sugar was the real culprit behind inflammation, metabolic dysfunction, diabetes, and heart disease. America's love of sugar was a boon to the processed food industry—which added fructose to practically everything from soup to nuts... literally. If you want to see what effects this had on the country's health and belt size, just turn on your national news.

A high-carb diet disrupts your insulin and leptin signaling, and over time may very well result in type 2 diabetes. By contrast, a diet higher in beneficial fats corrects these metabolic issues. Recent research has demonstrated that the ketogenic diet—one marked by carbohydrate restriction and substantial healthful fats—extended the lifespan of mice by 20 percent, because it optimized their insulin sensitivity and other metabolic processes. There is evidence that low carbohydrate diets, combined with appropriate amounts of protein, can even slow down Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

Now for the #1 Truth...

The more you can eat like your ancestors, the better—fresh whole foods, locally and sustainably raised, and foods that are minimally processed or not processed at all. These are the types of foods that your genes and biochemistry are adapted to and will provide you with the ability to reverse and prevent most diseases. You will find these at your local farmer's market, food co-op, or in your own backyard garden. And you will be amazed at the positive changes you'll see in your health when you "clean up" your diet!  Be wary of nutritional advice from mainstream "experts" as it may not be based on science—or based on bad information that is several decades outdated. Truthful, accurate information is your number one weapon in taking control of your health.

Premier Government Body of Science and Medicine Turning Into Yet Another Agency for Corporate Science

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

I’ve written quite a bit about growing conflicts of interest over the past few years—conflicts that, in the end, affect your health by impacting the practice of medicine. Yet despite growing awareness of this problem, matters keep getting worse.

Now it’s becoming apparent that the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of our premier government bodies of science and medicine, has been turned into yet another agency promulgating corporate greed-driven science...

In a recent article,1 Dr. Sanjay Gupta discusses conflicts of interests that may have coaxed the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a new narcotic painkiller, Zohydro ER (Zogenix).

The drug, which is the first drug containing pure hydrocodone (synthetic heroin), was approved at the same time that the FDA was also recommending tighter controls on narcotic painkillers, in light of alarming addiction rates and deaths linked to accidental overdoses.  

All other hydrocodone-containing painkillers on the market are mixed with other non-addictive ingredients. Zohydro ER was approved for patients who need around-the-clock pain relief, and contains an opioid dose that is five to 10 times greater than anything else on the market.

As noted by Dr. Gupta, when FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg was criticized for the agency’s approval of Zohydro, she countered saying that “100 million Americans” suffer from severe chronic pain warranting use of the drug. This figure amounts to about 40 percent of the US adult population!

Misleading Statistics Used to Push Stronger Narcotics Onto the Market?

Prescription painkillers have been identified as one of the primary causes of lethal overdoses, not to mention widespread drug addiction. If 40 percent of American adults are in chronic pain and in need of a potent narcotic that will place them at very high risk of addiction or lethal overdose, surely something must be seriously wrong!

The question is, what is the root of the problem? What’s causing all this chronic pain? Or, is the problem rooted in the statistic itself? As it turns out, it appears to be the latter...

The 100 million figure has become a staple in the ongoing debate over the use of narcotic painkillers,” Dr. Gupta writes.2 “It is cited in news stories, by medical organizations and by drug companies seeking approval for new opioid therapies...

But that number is exaggerated and misleading, according to pain specialists familiar with how it was derived. The number originated with the Institute of Medicine report,3Relieving Pain in America, A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.’

A Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigation found that nine of the 19 experts on the IOM panel that produced that report had connections to companies that manufacture narcotic painkillers at the time or in the three years prior to their work on the report.”

The IOM did not disclose any of these financial conflicts of interest when the report was published. One must wonder why, as the IOM itself has claimed that disclosing conflicts of interest is “essential.”

Drug Companies Are NOT Concerned by Rising Addiction and Death Rates

With nearly half of the IOM’s pain panel having financial conflicts of interest, it is not surprising that the report warns against restricting the use of opioid drugs. As Dr. Gupta notes:

“Past Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today investigations4 found that the boom in narcotic painkillers has been fueled in part by an aggressive push from drug companies that funded nonprofit groups which advocated for greater use of opioids.

Indeed, six of the IOM panel members have been officers or board members of advocacy groups that were named in a 2012 U.S. Senate Committee on Finance investigation into the links.

A seventh panel member co-founded another organization that is the subject of a separate investigation5 launched in February by two US senators.”

In the latter case, pharmaceutical companies, including the maker of Zohydro, paid up to $35,000 to attend private meetings with FDA and National Institutes of Health (NIH) staff, in which discussions revolved around the development of new pain treatments. This prompted two US Senators to launch an investigation into what appears to be a classic “pay to play” scheme. According to a previous MedPageToday report:6

“[T]he meetings also involved discussions of ‘enriched enrollment’ for pain trials, which enables drug companies to weed out nonresponders or patients who have adverse reactions to the drug from enrollment in clinical trials -- which critics say stacks the deck in favor of the drug...

Zohydro clinical trials used the enriched enrollment methodology. During its FDA advisory committee hearing, several experts expressed concerns about what would happen once the drug moved from trials into the real world because of that methodology.”

The Problem with the 100 Million Chronic Pain Figure...

So, are 100 million Americans really plagued by chronic debilitating pain? Is there really a vast need for a product such as Zohydro, in light of our current drug abuse epidemic? This is highly unlikely. According to Allan Basbaum, PhD and Michael Von Korff, ScD, the 100 million figure constitutes anyone who has reported chronic pain lasting three to six months, including those with manageable pain, and those recovering from surgery.

“Their comments came at a meeting of pain experts held at the National Institutes of Health,” Dr. Gupta writes.7 “In a video of the meeting, Allan Basbaum, PhD, who reviewed the Institute of Medicine pain report, said he was stunned when he saw the 100 million figure. ‘If we are concerned about the message we are sending, we shouldn't exaggerate the message because the eyeballs start to roll,’ said Basbaum, a pain expert and professor of anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco.

‘The message will be more powerful if people can believe it.’ A moment later, pain expert Michael Von Korff, ScD, said the 100 million figure was derived from a research paper that he co-authored. ‘Nobody asked me about it before they used it,’ said Von Korff, senior investigator with Group Health Research Institute in Seattle... While the 100 million represents about 40 percent of the adult population… Von Korff said only about 20 percent to 25 percent are substantially impaired by chronic pain and a smaller number -- about 10 percent to 15 percent -- have substantial work disability because of chronic pain.”

Conflicts of Interest Abound

The conflicts of interest now running, and ruining, the IOM are many. For starters, the chairman of the IOM’s pain panel that created the “Relieving Pain in America” report, Phillip Pizzo, MD, was formerly the dean of Stanford Medical School. Less than a year before the pain panel convened, Stanford received a $3 million medical education grant from Pfizer.

According to Stanford, there were no conditions attached to the grant. However, Pfizer does create a number of painkillers. Other drug companies selling pain relievers have also contributed funds to the school. Although the panel members claim that these conflicts in no way affected their evaluations or recommendations, numerous studies have shown that financial conflicts of interest does exert undue influence. And even a modest amount of psychological insight will tell you that this is the case. One typically does not bite the hand that feeds...

Another pain panel member, Dennis Turk, PhD, is the co-founder of a group called IMMPACT. This is one of the two groups that received up to $35,000 per drug company attendee at private FDA/NIH meetings to discuss pain treatment. He’s also served as a consultant and received research grants from drug companies that make various painkillers.

“Daniel Carlat, MD, a psychiatrist and director of the Pew Charitable Trusts' Prescription Project, which seeks to increase transparency in healthcare, said doctors and the public need to know if financial incentives influence the institute's recommendations,” Dr. Gupta writes.8 ‘It's hard to rationalize why they would not simply disclose all the potential conflicts on that panel,’ Carlat said.”

IOM President Has Fiduciary Responsibility to PepsiCo and Its Shareholders...

Speaking in more general terms, the IOM appears to have been taken over by corporate interests in general. For example, the IOM’s new President, Victor Dzau,9, 10 is on the board of directors of no less than four companies: Genzyme, Medtronic, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, and PepsiCo, thereby extending the IOM’s conflicts of interest far and wide between both drugs and the primary purveyors of chronic disease, the junk food industry. As noted by Forbes Magazine:

“As a prominent and influential health care leader, how could Dzau treat a tax on soda, or a ban on vending machines in schools, or any of a multitude of other health policy issues relating to the obesity and diabetes epidemic? In addition, might Dzau’s involvement with PepsiCo (and the other companies) produce a chilling effect on the free speech and activities of Duke faculty and affiliated doctors?”

Dzau is also the chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and the CEO of the Duke University Health System. He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Board of three companies: CV Therapeutics, Atherogenics Inc., and United Therapeutics. Interestingly enough, Duke University never disclosed this myriad of conflicts of interest either, even though being on the board of directors of a company means he has a fiduciary duty to each of these companies, and its stockholders.

In a 2010 Lancet paper,11 Dzau says his vision for global "health science" is driven by a "public-private financial partnership" between academic institutions and governments. Unfortunately, large US universities – who have long maintained close ties with Big Pharma – are now increasingly creating very lucrative "public-private partnerships" with government, which creates a major conflict of interest. How can a person with such extensive corporate board memberships realistically uphold the IOM promise of providing unbiased health information?

Dr. Paul Offit Was Elected to the IOM in 2011

Dr. Paul Offit, who became an IOM member in 2011, also has similarly concerning conflicts of interest. Dr. Offit reportedly received a $350,000 grant from Merck to develop a rotavirus vaccine, and has served on the scientific advisory board for Merck. He received another estimated $6 million when Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) sold the patent for the RotaTeq vaccine he developed. He was also on the CDC advisory board that approved the addition of a rotavirus vaccine to the US National Immunization Program (NIP) in 1998—a decision that paid off handsomely.

The original rotavirus vaccine added to the NIP, which was made by a competitor, was pulled from the market due to adverse effects. The RotaTeq vaccine replaced it, and Dr. Offit continues to receive royalty payments from the sale of RotaTeq to this day. (According to Wired Magazine,12 Merck's revenue from RotaTeq was $665 million in 2008 alone, of which Offit and his RotaTeq co-creators are said to receive a percentage.)

In 2005, Merck, CHOP, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine announced the creation of the Maurice R. Hilleman Chair in Vaccinology. The chair, paid for by Merck, went to Dr. Offit, who still holds it to this day. In addition to his faculty salary at CHOP, he gets another $90,000 a year from this Merck-endowed chair. Offit has been severely criticized for his blatant conflicts of interest in the past and is also notorious for his claim that infants can tolerate 10,000 vaccines at once. Last year, he was also a primary figurehead behind a flurry of media reports that told readers to beware, if not outright be afraid, of taking supplements.

Take Control of Your Health, and Beware of Who You Trust

The revolving doors between academia, government, and industry have effectively led to a situation where it's now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust conventional health advice from the federal government. This includes recommendations supported by non-profits like IOM, which is supposed to be independent. Clearly, when the president of a scientific organization has fiduciary responsibility to four for-profit corporations, it is hardly in a position to produce truly independent recommendations anymore.

It’s unfortunate, but when it comes to your health, you simply cannot accept claims at face value... You've got to dig below the surface and use all the resources available to you, including your own common sense and reason, true independent experts' advice, and other's experiences, to determine what medical treatment or advice will be best for you in any given situation. Ultimately, you must come to the realization that YOU are responsible for your and your family's health -- not me, not your physician, and certainly not any researchers or government health agencies on a drug or vaccine manufacturer's payroll.

Most Evil Company Loses Court Battle in Money-Laundering Scheme

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

During last year's I-522 ballot campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Washington State, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) came up with a devious, and illegal, money-laundering scheme to protect the identity of members who donated funds to the opposing campaign.

You might remember that several major food companies experienced major backlash from consumers when their contributions to the 2012 anti-labeling campaign in California (Prop. 37) came to light, and those donating to the Washington campaign certainly wanted to avoid the same fate.

Unfortunately, this illegal move helped the GMA defeat I-522 (by a mere one percent margin), but they did get their just deserts… the GMA was sued by Attorney General Bob Ferguson in 2013, who accused them of intentional money laundering and violating state campaign disclosure laws.

Several developments have happened since then, including the GMA trying to sue a state (twice) – a motion that was recently rejected. More on that shortly; first let's take a look at some of GMA's sordid history.

GMA's Plot to Defeat I-522 Began in 2012

On October 16, 2013, Attorney General Ferguson filed suit against the GMA on behalf of the State of Washington, alleging the association had violated the state's campaign disclosure laws. According to the press release:1

"Ferguson alleges the GMA illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors. The funds were spent to express opposition to Initiative 522...

'When Washington state voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 276 in 1972, they voiced their desire for transparency and openness in elections,' Ferguson said. 'Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views.'

...The AGO [Attorney general's office] is preparing to seek a temporary restraining order asking the court to order the GMA to immediately comply with state disclosure laws. The AGO is also requesting civil penalties and costs of investigation and trial, including reasonable attorney's fees, injunctive relief and any other relief the court deems appropriate."

According to the filed complaint, the GMA began plotting and planning how to best defeat Initiative 522 back in December of 2012, placing particular emphasis on the establishment of a separate GMA fund to "combat current threats and better shield individual companies from attack."

A previous Politico report revealed that a key aspect of the GMA's plan for combating GMO labeling efforts across the US included the pursuit of statutory federal preemption—a law that prevents a labeling requirement.2

This is but one part of a detailed, five-pronged strategic plan to keep its members from having to reveal what their foods are made of. The documents released through the Attorney General also revealed quite a bit about the GMA's strategic plan by what they hide.3 Large sections of the documents are redacted, including:

  • A portion under the heading "Industry Image Efforts," which appears to be related to the GMA's plan for addressing "attackers," i.e. people and organizations working toward letting you know what's in your food
  • Under the subhead "Industry Image Campaign," it is revealed that a PR firm, the name of which is redacted, "has been retained to help develop a comprehensive program for execution in 2014." The details relating to this plan are redacted
  • A section redacted in its entirety is titled, "Examining Options for Conveying Information to Consumers"
  • Also redacted is the name of an entity that "understands the need for continued opposition to efforts at the state level to impose mandatory labels and has directed GMA staff to continue to oppose such efforts."
  • I for one am curious as to who this mysterious entity is that has "directed" the GMA to oppose labeling in the face of public demand for disclosure and transparency...

  • Also redacted are several pages-worth relating to the Association's long-term plans to quench GMO transparency issues

The GMA was actually forced to reveal the donors to their aggressive anti-labeling campaign, but they're continuing to insist that they should be allowed to hide their donors in order to "speak with one voice" for the interests of the food industry.

Since then, GMA has again removed its online membership list. Clearly, there's a concerted effort to hide who is behind this radical front group. You can still find the cached members list on web.archive.org, however.4

GMA Tried to Get the 'Natural' Label to Include GMOs

On December 5, 2013, the GMA sent a letter to Elizabeth Dickinson, Chief Counsel of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), informing her that "GMA will be filing a Citizen Petition early in 2014 that asks FDA to issue a regulation authorizing foods containing ingredients derived from biotechnology to be labeled "natural."5

According to the letter, 26 state legislatures are currently considering whether GMOs should be permitted in products bearing a "natural" label, and some 65 class-action lawsuits have been filed against food manufacturers who use GMO ingredients in their "natural" products.

The GMA essentially wants the FDA to settle the dispute and close the door on future lawsuits – even though genetically modified (GM) foods are clearly far from natural.

GMA Fires Back, Countersues the State of Washington and Threatens to Sue Virginia

To add even more drama to this saga, on January 13, 2014 the Washington State Office of the Attorney General announced that the GMA has countersued the state, challenging its campaign finance laws.6

Essentially, the GMA is suing for the right to hide corporate campaign funds—a move that threatens the transparency of the state's election process 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. This is bullying at its finest, but fortunately Attorney General Ferguson is no wuss, boldly declaring:

"After breaking our state's campaign finance disclosure laws, the GMA now seeks to have them declared unconstitutional. I look forward to defending transparency in Washington elections."

A GMA document also lays out a clear-cut strategy for addressing any state that successfully implements a GMO labeling law, stating that, "The first state to implement a GMO labeling law will be sued on the constitutional grounds seen in IDFA v. Amestoy."

On April 16, the Vermont Senate passed the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill (H.112) by an overwhelming margin. Like clockwork, on May 9 the GMA confirmed it will indeed sue Vermont in federal court, in an effort to overturn H.112. This is the second time in mere months that the GMA is suing a state for the right to pull the wool over your eyes!

Superior Court Judge Rejects GMA's Motion for Dismissal

In its countersuit, the GMA requested that the case against them be dismissed, but Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller has ruled against them. As reported by Nation of Change:7

"…the states' case against the (GMA) will move forward, rejecting the GMA's motion to dismiss the case completely based on constitutional grounds…Schaller ruled that the state's campaign laws require the formation of a political committee, and disclosures were constitutionally applied…

Hopefully as the trial proceeds, the 300 food and beverage manufacturers who illegally contributed to the GMA's slush fund will learn their lesson. These companies include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Frito Lay, General Mills, and more."

Attorney General Ferguson appeared heartened by the ruling, stating it was time to hold the GMA accountable:8 "Today's ruling is an important step in our work to hold the Grocery Manufacturers Association accountable for the largest campaign finance concealment case in Washington history… We intend to send a strong message to all: If you want to engage in political campaigns in Washington, you have to play by the rules."

For those who are new to this issue, I recently named the GMA "the most evil corporation on the planet," considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights—just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo. The primary GM crops grown in the US are corn, soy, and sugar beets, and the primary ingredients in processed food are high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), and refined sugar.

Add in all the pesticides and hazardous fertilizers used in this chemical agriculture system, and you have the perfect formula for environmental destruction, disease, and premature death. Worse still, without GMO labeling, it can be difficult to determine exactly what it is that you're eating. This is the business model the GMA is protecting, and labeling GM foods will surely severely cripple it. This is why the GMA is willing to resort to everything, from illegal money-laundering schemes to irrational and wholly ludicrous lawsuits arguing for "the right" to violate disclosure laws. Their profits depend on keeping you in the dark about GM food.

The Great Boycott Is Here

The insanity has gone far enough. It's time to unite and fight back, which is why I join Ronnie Cummins in his encouragement to vote with your wallet and boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. You can start by using the list in the table below. The victories in Vermont and Oregon clearly show that you have the power to incite great change. In this case, you can help change the food system by taking decisive action with your food dollars.

"We flood their Facebook pages, tarnish their brand names. We pressure financial institutions, pension funds and mutual funds to divest from Monsanto and the other GMA companies. Our motto for Monsanto and GMA products must become: Don't buy them. Don't sell them. Don't grow them. And don't let your financial institution, university, church, labor union or pension fund invest in them," Cummins writes.9

"As soon as the GMA files a lawsuit against Vermont, the Organic Consumers Association, joined by a growing coalition of public interest groups, will launch a boycott and divestment campaign directed against all of the 300 GMA companies and their thousands of brand name products—including foods, beverages, seeds, home and garden supplies, pet food, herbicides and pesticides."

So far, between 2012 and 2014, Monsanto and the GMA have successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million! These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, and processed food industries. Together, these industries are working in a symbiotic fashion to grow, subsidize, and manufacture foods that have been clearly linked to growing obesity and chronic disease epidemics. As noted by Ronnie Cummins:

"Until now the GMA colossus has ruled, not only in Washington DC, but in all 50 states. But now that Vermont has passed a trigger-free GMO labeling law, and Oregon is poised to do the same in November, the balance of power has shifted. Monsanto, the GMA and their allies are in panic mode. Because they know that when companies are forced to label or remove GMOs, and also are forced to drop the fraudulent practice of labeling GE-tainted foods as 'natural' or 'all natural,' in one state, they will have to do it in every state. Just as they've been forced to do in Europe, where mandatory GMO labeling has been in effect since 1997."

Are You Supporting Those Who Have Repeatedly Taken a Stand Against Your Health and Right to Know?

To defeat the GMA lawsuit against Vermont, money must be raised for legal assistance to the state. We must also intensify any and all efforts to educate others and put pressure on the marketplace to quell the GMA's radical power grabs. To this end, please make a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund today.

Another way you can help is by refusing to invest in GMA member companies—even if indirectly through retirement and mutual funds. With enough pressure, we can pressure institutional investors like Fidelity, Vanguard, and State Street to dump the stocks they have in these companies. Moreover, we need to boycott ALL of the 300 companies who are still members of the GMA. Combined, they produce more than 6,000 brand name products, and all of these products are on the boycott list. This includes:

Foods BeveragesSeeds Home and garden suppliesPet foodsHerbicides and pesticides for home and professional use

 

This may seem as a monstrously difficult task... but if we work together and individually make an effort, collectively we can do it. There are 400 million Americans, and each person makes multiple purchasing and investment decisions each and every day of the year. Every action you take from here on counts. Pro-organic consumer groups will also launch programs placing emphasis on boycotting "Traitor Brands," meaning natural and organic brands that are actually owned by members of the pro-GMO GMA. As noted by Cummins:

"Health-conscious and green-minded consumers often inadvertently support the GMA when they buy brands like Honest Tea, Kashi, Odwalla and others whose parent companies, all members of the GMA, have donated millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522)."

As a sign of solidarity, please sign the Boycott Pledge now.

Traitor Brands

While I cannot list all of them here, some of the 50 "natural" and/or organic Traitor Brands targeted by this boycott include those listed below. The reason for not focusing the boycott on the conventional parent companies is because pro-organic health-conscious consumers rarely buy Coca-Cola, Diet Pepsi, or sugary breakfast cereals to begin with. The only way to really put pressure on these parent companies is by avoiding the brands they market to organic consumers; the brands you actually typically buy.

"Let's be clear. Junk Food and beverage companies who are members of the GMA are gobbling up organic and 'natural' brands because they recognize the huge profit potential in the fast-growing organic and natural markets. They want our business. If we stop buying their brands, they know there's a good chance we'll find alternative brands. And we might never look back," Cummins writes.

Natural/Organic Traitor BrandOwned By/Parent Company IZZE PepsiCo Naked Juice PepsiCo Simply Frito-Lay PepsiCo Starbucks Frappuccino PepsiCo Honest Tea Coca-Cola Odwalla Coca-Cola Gerber Organic Nestle Sweet Leaf tea Nestle Boca Burgers Kraft/Mondelez Green and Black's Kraft/Mondelez Cascadian Farm General Mills Larabar General Mills Muir Glen General Mills Alexia ConAgra Pam organic cooking sprays ConAgra Bear Naked Kelloggs Gardenburger Kelloggs Kashi Kelloggs Morningstar Farms Kelloggs Plum Organics Campbells Wolfgang Puck organic soups Campbells RW Knudsen Smuckers Santa Cruz Organic Smuckers Smuckers Organic Smuckers Dagoba Hersheys Earthgrain bread Bimbo Bakeries Simply Asia McCormick Thai Kitchen McCormick Nine Additional Ways to Take Your Power Back

In addition to not buying Traitor Brand foods or beverages (even if they're certified organic), here are nine ways you can take power back from the corporate bullies that make up the Grocery Manufacturers Association:

  1. Stop buying all non-organic processed foods. Instead, build your diet around whole, unprocessed foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocadoes, organic pastured meat, dairy, and eggs, and raw nuts
  2. Buy most of your foods from your local farmer's market and/or organic farm
  3. Cook most or all your meals at home using whole, organic ingredients
  4. Frequent restaurants that serve organic, cooked-from-scratch, local food. Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants (Chipotlé is a rare exception), use processed foods made by GMA members for their meals
  5. Buy only heirloom, open-pollinated, and/or organic seeds for your garden. This includes both decorative plants and edibles
  6. Boycott all lawn and garden chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) unless they are "OMRI Approved," which means they are allowed in organic production. If you use a lawn service, make sure they're using OMRI Approved products as well
  7. Become an avid label reader. If a GMA member company owns the product, no matter what it is, don't buy it
  8. Download the Buycott app for your smartphone, which allows you to scan products to find out if they're part of the boycott before you buy them
  9. Join the Organic Consumers Association's new campaign, "Buy Organic Brands That Support Your Right to Know"

The insanity has gone far enough. It's time to unite and fight back, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. To learn more about this boycott, and the traitor brands that are included, please visit TheBoycottList.org. I also encourage you to donate to the Organic Consumers Fund. Your donation will help fight the GMA lawsuit in Vermont, and also help win the GMO labeling ballot initiative in Oregon in November.

Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, matters. It makes a huge difference. By boycotting GMA member Traitor Brands, you can help level the playing field, and help take back control of our food supply. And as always, continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and share what you've learned with family and friends.

How to Reverse Type 2 Diabetes, Why Insulin May Actually Accelerate Death, and Other Ignored Facts

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Great Britain, like the United States, has seen a remarkably rapid rise in pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes over the last decade. According to a recent BBC News1 report, more than one-third of British adults are now pre-diabetic.

In 2003, 11.6 percent of Britons had pre-diabetes. By 2011, that figure had more than tripled, reaching 35.3 percent. Researchers warn that this will lead to a massive avalanche of type 2 diabetics in upcoming years, which will have serious consequences for health care and life expectancy.

In the United States, nearly 80 million people, or one in four has some form of diabetes or pre-diabetes. What's worse, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes among children and teens has also skyrocketed.

The most recent data,2, 3 reveals that, between 2001 and 2009, incidence of type 1 diabetes among children under the age of 19 rose by 21 percent. Incidence of type 2 diabetes among children aged 10-19 rose by 30 percent during that same timeframe!

Conventional Medicine Has It All Wrong...

Statistics such as these point to two very important facts. First, it tells us that diabetes cannot be primarily caused by genetics, and secondly, it literally screams that something we're doing, consistently and en masse, is horribly wrong, and we need to address it.

In this case, that "something" is a seriously flawed diet and lack of physical activity. Unfortunately, Dr. Ron Rosedale wrote in 2005, doctors cause diabetics to D.I.E from their flawed prescriptions, which stem from a basic lack of insight into the root cause of this disease. D.I.E., here, is a clever acronym for "Doctor Induced Exacerbation," which does indeed include early death.

Conventional medicine has type 2 diabetes pegged as a problem with blood sugar rather than the underlying problem of improper insulin and leptin signaling. The reality is that diabetes is a disease rooted in insulin resistance4 and perhaps more importantly, a malfunction of leptin signaling, caused by chronically elevated insulin and leptin levels.

This is why the medical community's approach to its treatment is not getting anywhere. Treating type 2 diabetes with insulin is actually one of the worst things you can do...

Recent research has come to the same conclusions that Dr. Rosedale warned us about nearly a decade ago, which is that treating type 2 diabetes with insulin can lead further to the development of type 1 diabetes.

And, not only are conventionally-trained doctors wrong about the cause of the disease, but they continue to pass along seriously flawed nutritional information as well, which allows the disease to increase to epidemic proportions.

Definitions of Terms

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of causes and treatments for diabetes, let's clarify the difference between type 1 and type 2, and the emergence of what some are now referring to as "type 3" diabetes. The terms "pre-diabetes" and "metabolic syndrome" also need to be explained.

  • Pre-diabetes, also known as impaired glucose tolerance, is a term used to describe an earlier state of progressing insulin resistance. It is conventionally diagnosed by having a fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125 mg/dl.
  • Pre-diabetes is very easy to turn around. Simply swapping processed foods for whole organic foods lower in sugar and sugar-forming carbohydrates combined with a few minutes of daily exercise will quickly put you on the road to reversing this condition.

  • Metabolic syndrome. As your insulin resistance progresses, your liver makes too much sugar and fat, and your skeletal muscles are less able to burn them and make glycogen, which is how glucose is stored in your muscles and liver. In turn, there is an increase in sugar and fats in your bloodstream which leads to high triglyceride levels and increased body fat--especially abdominal fat, and higher blood pressure.
  • Having 3 or more of a group of symptoms caused by insulin (and now we also know leptin) resistance -- high triglycerides, low HDL, higher blood glucose and blood pressure, and increased belly fat—is referred to as metabolic syndrome (in the past it was called Syndrome X).

  • Type 1: insulin-dependent diabetes. Traditionally, type 1 diabetes develops before the age of 20. It used to be relatively uncommon, but as noted above, its incidence is rapidly rising.
  • Type 1 diabetes is classically an autoimmune disease in which your immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of your pancreas, resulting in an inability to produce any significant insulin which that, if left untreated, will cause death in days to weeks from a hyperglycemic coma.

    This deficiency of insulin is why type 1 is called "insulin-dependent" diabetes. There is currently no known way to completely reverse this.

    However recent research suggests glimmers of hope. For example, Columbia University scientists claim that by turning off a particular gene, human gut cells can be converted into cells that produce insulin in response to dietary sugar.5, 6

  • Type 2: non-insulin-dependent diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is producing some insulin, in fact usually too much, but is unable to recognize the insulin and use it properly. This is an advanced stage of insulin resistance, which is typically caused by a diet that is too high in sugars and sugar forming foods.
  • When you have inadequate insulin signaling, sugar cannot get into your cells and instead builds up in your blood. While anyone can get type 2 diabetes, you are typically considered at highest risk if you are overweight, sedentary, if you are a woman who had gestational diabetes, have family members with type 2 diabetes, or have metabolic syndrome. However, all of these really have the same underlying root of insulin and leptin resistance.

    Type 2 diabetes represents the vast majority of all diabetics, and contrary to conventional medical and media teaching, it's nearly 100 percent curable7 through lifestyle changes alone (if these are instituted before conventional medical therapy/drugs kills the cells in the pancreas that makes insulin, causing type 1 diabetes too; see below).

Study Confirms: 'Insulin Therapy May Do More Harm Than Good'

A study published in the June 30, 2014 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine8 concluded what Dr. Rosedale has been saying for two decades, that insulin therapy in type 2 diabetic patients may indeed do more harm than good. As reported by Medical News Today:9

"In the US, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when hemoglobin A1c levels reach 6.5 percent or higher. The higher A1c levels are, the greater the risk of other health problems. Sometimes the condition can be managed through changes in diet, but other patients with type 2 diabetes may need medication - such as insulin or metformin - to help lower their blood sugar levels, and ultimately, reduce the risk of diabetes complications.

But the researchers of this latest study... claim that the benefits of such treatment - particularly for people over the age of 50 - may not always outweigh the negatives. 'In many cases, insulin treatment may not do anything to add to the person's quality life expectancy,' says study co-author John S. Yudkin... 'If people feel that insulin therapy reduces their quality of life by anything more than around 3-4 percent, this will outweigh any potential benefits gained by treatment in almost anyone with type 2 diabetes over around 50 years old.'

For example, they estimate that a person with type 2 diabetes who begins insulin therapy at age 45 and lowers their hemoglobin A1c levels by 1 percent may experience an extra 10 months of healthy life. But for a patient who starts treatment for type 2 diabetes at age 75, they estimate the therapy may only gain them an additional 3 weeks of healthy life. The researchers say this prompts the question - is 10-15 years of pills or injections with possible side effects worth it?"

New Kid on the Block: Type 3 Diabetes, or 'Brain Diabetes,' May Be Responsible for Alzheimer's Disease and Glaucoma

A growing body of research suggests there's a powerful connection between your diet and your risk of both Alzheimer's disease and glaucoma,10 via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes. Alzheimer's disease was tentatively dubbed "type 3 diabetes" in early 2005 when researchers learned that the pancreas is not the only organ that produces insulin. Your brain also produces insulin, and this brain insulin is necessary for the survival of your brain cells.

A drop in insulin production in your brain may contribute to the degeneration of your brain cells, and studies have found that people with lower levels of insulin and insulin receptors in their brain often have Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have now discovered that insulin does far more than simply regulating blood sugar. Your brain does not require glucose, and actually functions better burning alternative fuels, especially ketones. In fact, Dr. Rosedale believes that it is the constant burning by the brain of glucose that is primarily to blame for Alzheimer's and other brain disorders

Insulin is actually a "master multitasker" that helps with neuron glucose-uptake, and the regulation of neurotransmitters, like acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning. This is why reducing the level of insulin in your brain impairs your cognition. Other research11 shows that type 2 diabetics lose more brain volume with age than expected—particularly gray matter. This kind of brain atrophy is yet another contributing factor for dementia. "Brain diabetes" may also be responsible for glaucoma, according to recent research. As reported by Medical News Today:12

"Researchers [in India]... have proposed a new mechanism of glaucoma which suggests that diabetes can occur in the brain and may be the cause of many neurodegenerative disorders including glaucoma... an irreversibly blinding disorder with almost 65 million sufferers worldwide. There is no cure...

The recent paper titled 'Glaucoma: Diabetes of the brain - a radical hypothesis about its nature and pathogenesis', published in Medical Hypotheses... explore glaucoma and related neurodegenerative diseases from many perspectives and come up with a multifaceted and internally coherent concept of glaucoma being 'the diabetes of the brain.'"

It's becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain. As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of glucose and insulin that blunts its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities, eventually causing permanent brain damage.

Additionally, when your liver is busy processing fructose (which your liver turns into fat), it severely hampers its ability to make cholesterol, an essential building block of your brain that is crucial for optimal brain function. Indeed, mounting evidence supports the notion that significantly reducing fructose consumption is a very important step you can take to prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Root Causes of Type 1 Diabetes

Contrary to type 2 diabetes, type 1 is not may not be rooted in insulin and leptin dysfunction caused by excessive sugar (and carbohydrate) consumption. However, over the past several years, research has given us important clues about its predisposing conditions. Two important ones that you have more or less complete control over are:

  • Vitamin D deficiency. Research suggests that sun avoidance may play a major role in the development of insulin dependent diabetes. The further you move away from the equator the greater your risk of being born with, or developing type 1 diabetes. A major key to preventing type 1 diabetes in children is to ensure that pregnant mothers have optimal vitamin D stores. There is also strong evidence that this can decrease your child's risk of autism. Once your child is born, ensuring he or she gets optimal sun exposure (and/or wise use of oral vitamin D supplementation) could virtually eliminate the risk for type 1 diabetes.
  • Abnormal gut flora. An excessive focus on a germ-free environment is another potential contributing factor that impairs immune function. In 2008, animal research13 suggested that beneficial bacteria could protect against the development of type 1 diabetes. There is a good deal of evidence that a contributor to the rising rates of type 1 diabetes is raising our children in too sterile an environment. Many parents religiously use antibacterial soaps and keep their children away from the natural dirt, germs, viruses and other grime of childhood.14
  • Antibiotics, which kill all of the good and bad bacteria in the gut, are also overused in childhood. The lesson here is, it's okay to let your child get dirty. Use plain soap and water for washing. Avoid antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and feed them naturally fermented foods such as yogurt, pickles and sauerkraut.15

Root Causes of Insulin Resistance, Pre-Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes involves loss of insulin and leptin sensitivity. This makes it easily preventable and nearly 100 percent reversible without drugs. One of the driving forces behind type 2 diabetes is excessive dietary fructose, which has adverse effects on all of metabolic hormones—including two key players: insulin and leptin.

There is no question in my mind that regularly consuming more than 25 grams of fructose per day will dramatically increase your risk of insulin/leptin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and chronic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer's. It's important to realize that even though fructose is relatively "low glycemic" on the front end, it actually reduces the receptor's affinity for insulin, leading to chronic insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar on the back end. So, while you may not notice a steep increase in blood sugar immediately following fructose consumption, it is likely changing your entire endocrine system's ability to function properly behind the scenes...

Another major cause of type 2 diabetes is the consumption of the vast amount of glucose derived from the high carbohydrate diet that has been recommended for the last half century by conventional medical and media recommendations. All carbohydrates that are not fiber will be quickly metabolized into sugar, and it makes little sense to eat large amounts of sugar to keep your blood sugar lower.

The misconception of the cause of diabetes may be the biggest problem. Conventional medicine describes diabetes as a disease characterized by elevated blood sugar. This "dysregulation of blood sugar control" is typically explained as "an inability of your body to produce enough insulin." To control diabetes with that view, it would be rational to prescribe insulin or drugs that raise insulin to counteract the elevated blood sugar. The reality however is that type 2 diabetes is NOT the result of insufficient insulin production. It's actually the result of too much insulin being produced on a chronic basis primarily from eating the high carbohydrate, low fat diet recommended by the ADA and AHA to prevent and treat this.

This overwhelms and "deafens" your insulin receptors, hence the term "insulin resistance." It's the chronically elevated insulin levels that make your body "resistant" to understanding the signals sent by the insulin. This also occurs with leptin. It's really important to realize that T2 diabetes is not caused by elevated blood sugar or "insulin deficiency" per se. The root cause is insulin and leptin resistance which is why prescribing insulin is one of the WORST things you can do for type 2 diabetes, as it will actually worsen your insulin and leptin resistance over time. You do not need more insulin. You need to restore the sensitivity of your insulin and leptin receptors by keeping their levels low!

If you're still having trouble understanding why taking insulin is a terrible choice in type 2 diabetes consider this; when your blood sugar becomes elevated, insulin is released to direct the extra energy (sugar) into storage. A small amount is stored as a starch called glycogen, but the majority is stored as fat. Therefore, insulin's primary role is not to lower your blood sugar, but rather to store this extra energy as fat for future needs when food may not be available. The fact that insulin lowers your blood sugar is merely a "side effect" of this energy storage process. Taking more insulin just makes you fatter!

Your body's cells become desensitized to insulin, leptin, and other hormones, by being overexposed to these hormones—be it by eating food that causes excessive secretion, or by injection. Diabetes treatments that concentrate merely on lowering blood sugar by adding insulin therefore tend to worsen rather than remedy the actual problem of metabolic miscommunication.

As Dr. Rosedale has previously stated: "Type 2 diabetes is brought on by constantly having too much insulin and leptin circulating secondary to the same diet that has been recommended to treat diabetes and heart disease, a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet. Then giving these diabetics more insulin is adding gasoline to the fire. Doctors couldn't be doing more harm if they tried."

Leptin—An Oft-Ignored KEY Player in Type 2 Diabetes Development

While much conventional advice centers around insulin, leptin is another hormone that plays an integral role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Leptin is produced in your fat and other cells, and one of its primary roles is regulating your appetite and body weight. Leptin tells your brain when to eat, how much to eat, and most importantly, when to stop eating. Leptin also instructs your brain as to what to do with the available energy.

Now remember, when your blood sugar becomes elevated, insulin is released to direct the extra energy into storage—the majority of which is stored as fat, and leptin is produced in these fat cells. The more fat you have, the more leptin is produced. Furthermore, as the sugar gets metabolized in your fat cells, the fat releases further surges in leptin. This is why I typically talk about insulin and leptin resistance, as they work in tandem. Moreover, leptin is largely responsible for the accuracy of insulin signaling and whether or not you become insulin-resistant. If you're insulin resistant, you're more than likely leptin resistant as well, especially if you're overweight or obese.

Why?

Because when you develop leptin resistance, your brain can no longer hear leptin's signals, resulting in chronic hunger, overeating, inability to properly burn fat and, typically, obesity. Insulin resistance, and ultimately type 2 diabetes, follow suit. Just as with insulin, the only known way to reestablish proper leptin signaling is through proper diet. High consumption of carbohydrates, especially fructose, are again the prime culprit and the root cause of leptin resistance. Lack of exercise and abnormal gut flora also contribute and/or exacerbate insulin and leptin resistance. Leptin's importance in blood glucose control and diabetes is powerfully illustrated by recent studies that show its ability, even in low doses, to lower blood glucose in both type 1 and 2 diabetics, and this is an exciting new potential treatment.

Magnesium Deficiency—Another Factor That Raises Your Risk for Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes

Magnesium deficiency is also worth mentioning while still on the subject of root causes of type 2 diabetes. Magnesium actually plays an important role in glucose and insulin homeostasis,16 and magnesium deficiency is widespread these days. Magnesium is also required to activate tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that functions as an "on" or "off" switch in many cellular functions and is required for the proper function of your insulin receptors.

It is well known that people with insulin resistance also experience increased excretion of magnesium in their urine, which further contributes to diminished magnesium levels. This magnesium loss appears to be secondary to increased urinary glucose, which increases urinary output.17 Therefore, inadequate magnesium intake seems to prompt a vicious cycle of low magnesium levels, insulin resistance, elevated insulin and glucose levels, and excess magnesium excretion. In other words, the less magnesium your body has, the less it appears to you'll be able to "hang onto it."18

Rarely do so many studies,19, 20, 21 from around the world find universal agreement on a subject, but here the evidence is clear: if you want to optimize your metabolism and keep your risk for type 2 diabetes low, one of the things you need to do is consume adequate magnesium. One 2013 study involving pre-diabetics found that most had inadequate magnesium intake, and those with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by a whopping 71 percent.22

Current government guidelines for magnesium intake among adults call for 300 to 420 mg per day (depending on your gender, age, pregnancy and lactation), but many people consume less than 300 mg per day. Research suggests many would benefit from a much higher intake, about 700 mg per day or more. Magnesium is lost in sweat during exercise and used up in higher amounts when you're stressed.

I believe that magnesium threonate is one of the best supplemental sources, as it seems to penetrate cell membranes, including your mitochondria, which results in higher energy levels. Additionally, it also penetrates your blood-brain barrier and seems to do wonders to treat and prevent dementia and improve memory. Whatever supplement you choose, be sure to avoid any containing magnesium stearate, a common but potentially hazardous additive.

New Warning: Insulin Can Rapidly Produce Type 1 Diabetes in Type 2 Diabetics

Please understand that medications and supplements are not the answer for type 2 diabetes. Diabetes drugs fail to address the underlying problem, and many, like Avandia, can have dangerous side effects. Avandia is linked to 43 percent increased risk of heart attack and 64 percent higher risk of cardiovascular death, compared with other treatments. Instead, type 2 diabetes is best controlled by restoring your insulin and leptin sensitivities. This is done by eliminating grains and sugars—especially fructose—from your diet, getting plenty of healthy fats, exercising, and sleeping well. Further details on this will be provided below, in the treatment section.

As noted earlier, recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism23 confirms what Dr. Ron Rosedale has stated for the last two decades, which is that insulin treatment can provoke otherwise reversible type 2 diabetes to progress into type 1 insulin deficient and therefore insulin-dependent diabetes. The study found that giving genetically engineered recombinant insulin to type 2 diabetics with certain genetic susceptibility can trigger their bodies to produce antibodies that destroy their insulin producing cells (pancreatic islet cells). You may not realize that all human insulin, the type typically used, is GMO or genetically modified which might be responsible for this autoimmune reaction.

Basically, it triggers an autoimmune disease response, producing a condition in which you have both type 1 and type 2 diabetes simultaneously. The average time of type 1 diabetes onset was 7.7 months. One study participant developed type 1 diabetes in just over one month! According to the authors, acute deterioration of blood glucose control after administering insulin is a warning sign of this problematic side effect. According to this study, the genes predisposing you to this autoimmune-type response to insulin are:

  • Type 1 diabetes high risk HLA class II (IDDM1), thought to play a role in about half of all type 1 diabetes cases
  • VNTR genotype (IDDM2), which is believed to predispose you to type 2 diabetes

This is yet another way conventional diabetic treatment pushes diabetics into premature death... Research24 published last year revealed that treating type 2 diabetes with insulin more than doubled patients' risk of all-cause mortality. It also leads to:

Twice as many myocardial infarctions 1.4 time more strokes2.1 time more neuropathy1.4 times more cancer 1.7 time more major adverse cardiac events3.5 times more renal complications1.2 times more eye complications2.2 times more deaths

Another study published in Diabetologia25, 26 in May of this year, found that diabetic cancer patients also have a significantly elevated risk of death. Diabetic patients using insulin at the time of their cancer diagnosis had a four times higher mortality rate one year after cancer diagnosis, compared to non-diabetic patients, or those who did not use insulin to control their diabetes. While this was an observational study, which means it cannot establish causality, it is worth noting nonetheless.

Dr. Rosedale has also said; "All of these increased rates of chronic diseases caused by taking insulin may be because it is doing exactly the opposite of what has been shown in many studies to reduce cancer, total mortality, and extend lifespan; reducing insulin. In fact, T2 diabetes is often considered to be a model of accelerated aging because of the high insulin. In other words, treating diabetics by overly raising insulin, either with drugs or insulin itself, is only further accelerating their aging, associated chronic diseases, and death, and should be considered malpractice."

Warning #2: Beware of Future Diabetic Vaccines

As noted by GreenMedInfo.com,27 these findings also raise serious warnings against diabetic vaccines:

"[T]here are a number of trials underway to produce vaccines containing insulin intended to induce a 'tolerogenic immune response' and therefore ameliorate autoimmune type 1 diabetes. Clearly, however, their findings run contrary to this expectation, revealing that it is possible that introducing exogenous forms of insulin may stimulate the opposite reaction and induced autoimmunity against the hormone, or the cells in the pancreas responsible for producing it."

It also raises questions about the safety and effectiveness of synthetic insulin. Virtually all of the insulin sold in the US is synthetic, synthesized from recombinant DNA technology, which differs considerably from natural animal-derived insulin. Interestingly, it could be that it's the "inactive" ingredients or additives, such as polysorbate 20, that produce an exaggerated immune response in susceptible individuals—similar to that encountered with vaccines. Sayer Ji also notes that:28

"Furthermore, synthetic insulin does not have the same conformational state – i.e. it does not assume the same complex folded form – of natural human insulin, or more closely related pig insulin. This presents a 'recognition' problem from the perspective of the immune system which may identify the foreign protein as 'other' generating acute or sustained autoimmune reactions to it as a result...

Research29 dating back to the early 1980s compared synthetic E. Coli derived insulin with porcine (pig) derived insulin in diabetic children and found that porcine insulin was more effective at lowering HbA1 values (a marker of damage associated with elevated blood sugar), superior at reducing fasting glucose concentrations, and less antibody reactive to insulin than synthetic insulin. While pig derived insulin has its limitations, especially considering there are limits to how much can be produced, clearly it is more appropriate than synthetic versions if it is true that the latter is incapable of reproducing the same therapeutic outcome for diabetics."

How to Prevent and Treat Insulin/Leptin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes

Now that you have an understanding of the root causes of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, it's time to outline a program to reverse this condition. Remember, type 2 diabetes is curable, and in the vast majority of cases does not require any form of medication.

The following nutrition and lifestyle modifications should be the foundation of your diabetes prevention and treatment plan. Also, make sure to monitor your FASTING insulin level. This is every bit as important as monitoring your fasting blood sugar. You'll want your fasting insulin level to be between 2 and 4. The higher your level, the greater your insulin resistance and the more aggressive you need to be in your treatment plan, especially when it comes to altering your diet.

  • Swap out processed foods, all forms of sugar—particularly fructose—as well as all grains, for whole, fresh food. A primary reason for the failure of conventional diabetes treatment over the last 50 years has to do with seriously flawed dietary recommendations. Fructose, grains, and other sugar forming starchy carbohydrates are largely responsible for your body's adverse insulin reactions, and all sugars and grains—even "healthful" grains such as whole, organic ones—need to be drastically reduced.
  • If you're insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you'd be wise to limit your total fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. This includes about 80 percent of Americans. For all others, I recommend limiting your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less, to maintain optimal health.

    The easiest way to accomplish this is by swapping processed foods for whole, ideally organic foods. This means cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Processed foods are the main source of all the primary culprits, including high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, processed grains, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and other synthetic additives that may aggravate metabolic dysfunction.

    Besides fructose, trans fat (NOT saturated fat) increases your risk for diabetes30 by interfering with your insulin receptors. Healthy saturated fats do not do this. Since you're cutting out a lot of energy (carbs) from your diet when you reduce sugars and grains, you need to replace them with something. The ideal replacement is a combination of:

    • Low-to-moderate amount of high-quality protein. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. When selecting animal-based protein, be sure to opt for organically raised, grass-fed or pastured meats, eggs, and dairy, to avoid potential health complications caused by genetically engineered animal feed and pesticides.
    • Most Americans eat far too much protein, so be mindful of the amount! I believe it is the rare person who really needs more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women should have about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day.

      To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. To determine whether you're getting too much protein, simply calculate your lean body mass as described above, then write down everything you're eating for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein from all sources.

      Again, you're aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. If you're currently averaging a lot more than that, adjust downward accordingly. You could use the chart below or simply Google the food you want to know and you will quickly find the grams of protein in the food.

      Red meat, pork, poultry and seafood average 6-9 grams of protein per ounce.

      An ideal amount for most people would be a 3 ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9 or 12 ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of protein Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.

      If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese) Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cup Cooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cup Most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce
    • As much high-quality healthy fat as you want (saturated31 and monounsaturated). For optimal health, most people need upwards of 50-85 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats. Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. (Remember, fat is high in calories while being small in terms of volume. So when you look at your plate, the largest portion would be vegetables.)
    • As many non-starchy vegetables as you want
  • Exercise regularly and intensely. Studies have shown that exercise, even without weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity.32 High intensity interval training (HIIT), which is a central component of my Peak Fitness program, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 24 percent in just four weeks.
  • Improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Today's Western diet has far too many processed and damaged omega-6 fats, and is far too little omega-3 fats.33 The main sources of omega-6 fats are corn, soy, canola, safflower, peanut, and sunflower oil (the first two of which are typically genetically engineered as well, which further complicates matters). Our bodies evolved for an optimal 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3. However, our ratio has deteriorated to between 20:1 and 50:1 in favor of omega-6. This lopsided ratio has seriously adverse health consequences.
  • To remedy this, reduce your consumption of vegetable oils (this means not cooking with them, and avoiding processed foods), and increase your intake of animal-based omega-3, such as krill oil. Vegetable-based omega-3 is also found in flaxseed oil and walnut oil, and it's good to include these in your diet as well. Just know they cannot take the place of animal-based omega-3s.

  • Maintain optimal vitamin D levels year-round. New evidence strongly supports the notion that vitamin D is highly beneficial not only for type 1 diabetes as mentioned before, but also in type 2 diabetes. The ideal way to optimize your vitamin D level is by getting regular sun exposure, or by using a safe tanning bed. As a last resort, consider oral supplementation with regular vitamin D monitoring, to confirm that you are taking enough vitamin D to get your blood levels into the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml. Also please note that if you take supplemental vitamin D, you create an increased demand for vitamin K2.
  • Get adequate high-quality sleep every night. Insufficient sleep appears to raise stress and blood sugar, encouraging insulin and leptin resistance and weight gain. In one 10-year long study34 of 70,000 diabetes-free women, researchers found that women who slept less than five hours or more than nine hours each night were 34 percent more likely to develop diabetes symptoms than women who slept seven to eight hours each night. If you are having problems with your sleep, try the suggestions in my article "33 Secrets to a Good Night's Sleep."
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. If you incorporate the diet and lifestyle changes suggested above you will greatly improve your insulin and leptin sensitivity, and a healthy body weight will follow in time. Determining your ideal body weight depends on a variety of factors, including frame size, age, general activity level, and genetics. As a general guideline, you might find a hip-to-waist size index chart helpful. This is far better than BMI for evaluating whether or not you may have a weight problem, as BMI fails to factor in both how muscular you are, and your intra-abdominal fat mass (the dangerous visceral fat that accumulates around your inner organs), which is a potent indicator of leptin sensitivity and associated health problems.
  • Incorporate intermittent fasting. If you have carefully followed the diet and exercise guidelines and still aren't making sufficient progress with your weight or overall health, I strongly recommend incorporating intermittent fasting. This effectively mimics the eating habits of our ancestors, who did not have access to grocery stores or food around the clock. They would cycle through periods of feast and famine, and modern research shows this cycling produces a number of biochemical benefits, including improved insulin/leptin sensitivity, lowered triglycerides and other biomarkers for health, and weight loss.
  • Intermittent fasting is by far the most effective way I know of to shed unwanted fat and eliminate your sugar cravings. Intermittent fasting has also been identified as a potent ally for the prevention and perhaps even treatment of dementia. Ketones are released as a byproduct of burning fat, and ketones (not glucose) are actually the preferred fuel for your brain. Keep up your intermittent fasting schedule until your insulin/leptin resistance improves (or your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol ratios, or diabetes normalizes). After that, you only need to do it "as needed" to maintain your healthy state.

  • Optimize your gut health. Your gut is a living ecosystem, full of both good bacteria and bad. Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than lean people. The more good bacteria you have, the stronger your immune system will be and the better your body will function overall. Fortunately, optimizing your gut flora is relatively easy. You can reseed your body with good bacteria by regularly eating fermented foods (like natto, raw organic cheese, miso, and cultured vegetables).
You CAN Prevent and Treat Diabetes

You don't have to be a part of the diabetes epidemic that is taking place before your eyes; you merely need to make some lifestyle changes and be mindful about your habits. The changes, detailed above, will prevent you from heading down the diabetes path, and can be the U-turn you've been looking for if you're already insulin resistant or diabetic. None of these strategies are expensive or overly time-consuming. However, they do require a measure of honest reflection and discipline.

Now that you have an understanding of what diabetes really is and how it develops, you can steer clear of behavior patterns that harm your health, and incorporate those that will enhance your quality of life. Again, type 2 diabetes involves loss of insulin and leptin sensitivity, which is easily preventable, and nearly 100 percent reversible without drugs, by addressing your diet and other lifestyle habits, such as exercise, sleep, and intermittent fasting. I suggest taking a lifestyle inventory to see where you might have room for improvement. For example:

  • Review your eating patterns. How much sugar and sugar-forming carbohydrates are you eating daily? Is corn syrup a primary staple of your diet, hidden in the processed foods you buy on a regular basis? Are you spending your time in the middle of the grocery store, or around the periphery? (Most processed foods come from the middle aisles.)
  • Are you an "emotional eater"? Do you tend to overindulge in comfort foods when you are feeling sad or angry? If so, review the information on my website about EFT, which you might find very helpful.
  • Evaluate your activity level. Are you getting enough exercise each week?
  • Are you getting enough sunlight? Have you measured your vitamin D levels lately? Unless you are deeply tanned, that is the only way to know your level. Do you need to consider a vitamin D supplement?
  • Are you getting enough magnesium in your diet? Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, headache, nausea, fatigue, and weakness. An ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms, including muscle spasms and abnormal heart rhythms. To learn more, please see my interview with Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of The Magnesium Miracle.
  • What patterns are you inadvertently passing along to your children? What example are you setting for your kids, in terms of nutrition and exercise? Are they getting the message that health is a priority? Getting healthy can and should be a family activity! When everyone is involved, you can support each other and give kudos for positive strides, making it more fun for everyone. The payoffs to your health will be great, and you will be passing along good lifestyle habits to your children, which will serve them for years to come.

How Chilies Can Be Used to Treat Pain

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Chili peppers are a staple part of the cuisine in Central America, Asia, and India, while in the US you can find countless varieties of hot sauce, often with the words “inferno,” “insanity,” or “fire” on the labels.

It’s this heat, of course, that draws so many to add chili peppers to their meals, and it’s also the reason for their many medicinal properties, including pain relief.

Chili peppers’ heat comes from capsaicin, a compound produced to protect the peppers from fungal attack.1 Capsaicin is colorless and odorless, but when you eat it, capsaicin tricks your brain into perceiving heat where it touches your body.2

Birds, interestingly, are not affected by capsaicin, and this allows them to widely disperse chili seeds for the plants’ survival. Virtually every other mammal, however, is – although humans are believed to be the only animal that chooses to willingly eat them.

How Chili Peppers Trick Your Brain 

Your nervous system contains heat-receptor proteins known as TRPV1 receptors. Located in cells in your skin and digestive system, these receptors remain inactive unless you’re exposed to temperatures above 107.6 degrees F (42 degrees C).

At this point, you’ll experience heat and pain, warning you to stay away from the source of heat. When you eat a chili pepper, capsaicin binds to and activates TRPV1, so even though you’re not actually in danger, your body thinks it’s being exposed to extreme heat.3

As explained by the New York Times:4

“…in mammals it [capsaicin] stimulates the very same pain receptors that respond to actual heat. Chili pungency is not technically a taste; it is the sensation of burning, mediated by the same mechanism that would let you know that someone had set your tongue on fire.”

The intensity of heat in peppers is measured by the Scoville scale, which was developed by pharmacist Wilbur Lincoln Scoville in 1912. While a bell (sweet) pepper has a score of zero, pure capsaicin can surpass 15 million Scoville Heat Units (SHU).

For comparison, jalapeno peppers range from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, while Scotch Bonnet peppers can be upwards of 350,000. Ghost chilies, which are even hotter, have a potency of about 900,000 SHU. I am growing three ghost pepper plants and can confirm they are indeed very hot.

Chili Peppers’ Burning Sensation Ultimately Leads to Pain Relief

Capsaicin helps alleviate pain in part by depleting your body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that is involved in transmitting pain signals to your brain. It also works by de-sensitizing sensory receptors in your skin.5

This is why it’s used in topical pain-relieving creams and patches (some of which contain the equivalent of 10 million SHU). It’s actually the very intense burning sensation that–ironically–ultimately relieves pain. Gizmodo explained:6

“Applied externally, chilies cause a sensation of burning, as capsaicin activates TRPV1 in nerves in the skin. But, if exposed to capsaicin for long enough, these pain nerve cells will become 'exhausted', having depleted their internal chemical stores.

The nerve cells are no longer able to respond to capsaicin (or indeed, anything that might cause pain) and so you are no longer able to perceive pain. This is why chronic exposure to capsaicin acts as an analgesic.”

Most often, capsaicin has been studied for relieving postherpetic neuralgia, or pain associated with shingles, and HIV-associated neuropathy, although it has shown promise for treating other types of pain as well.

In one study, a man with persistent pain due to wounds from a bomb explosion experienced an 80 percent reduction in pain symptoms after using a capsaicin (8 percent, known as high concentration) patch.7

Topical treatment with 0.025 percent (low concentration) capsaicin cream has also been found to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, with 80 percent of patients experiencing a reduction in pain after two weeks of four-times-daily treatment.8

It’s also been shown to help reduce or eliminate burning, stinging, itching, and redness of skin associated with moderate to severe psoriasis.9 There’s even a nasal spray containing capsaicin that significantly reduced nasal allergy symptoms in a 2009 study.10

Capsaicin Also Has A Role in Weight Loss

Capsaicin’s therapeutic properties aren’t limited to pain relief. Researchers have also explored its role for weight loss, including using capsaicin to selectively destroy nerve fibers that transmit information from your gut to your brain. While this procedure was said to have a "remarkable" impact on weight,11 destroying these nerve fibers could have serious long-term implications on your health.

Fortunately, capsaicin may be effective for weight loss when added to your diet, as opposed to via surgery. Studies have shown the substance may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body.12 Again, this was when capsaicin was used as a dietary addition… with no surgery required.

Part of the benefit may be due to capsaicin's heat potential, as it is a thermogenic substance that may temporarily increase thermogenesis in your body, a process where your body burns fuel such as fat to create heat, with beneficial impacts on your metabolism and fat-burning potential.

Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients may boost your metabolism by up to 5 percent, and increase fat burning by up to 16 percent.13 It may even help counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often occurs during weight loss.

Capsaicin May Help Kill Cancer Cells

Capsaicin has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and has shown some promise for cancer treatment. Research has shown, for instance, that capsaicin suppresses the growth of human prostate cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.14

In one study, about 80 percent of the prostate cancer cells in mice were killed by capsaicin, while treated tumors shrank to about one-fifth the size of untreated tumors.15

Capsaicin has also been shown to be effective against breast, pancreatic, and bladder cancer cells, although you might need to eat unrealistically large amounts of capsaicin to get such benefits (such as eight habanero peppers a week).16

5 Additional Options for Natural Pain Relief

If you’re looking for natural forms of pain relief, capsaicin cream is only one option. Five other options that have equal promise include:

  1. Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains anti-inflammatory compounds. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  2. Astaxanthin: Astaxanthin has been shown to be very useful against joint pain caused by inflammation. Studies have demonstrated astaxanthin reduces nuclear factor kappa beta; the master switch for the inflammatory response. It also reduces tumor necrosis factor and other pro-inflammatory cytokines that cause inflamattion and pain.17
  3. Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic.18 At present, 20 U.S. states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavonoids.
  4. Varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned"—and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,19 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.

  5. Devil's Claw. A South African herb found to be particularly effective against pain caused by inflammation, including arthritis, and muscle pain.
  6. K-Laser Class 4 Laser Therapy: If you suffer pain from an injury, arthritis, or other inflammation-based pain, I'd strongly encourage you to try out K-Laser therapy. It can be an excellent choice for many painful conditions, including acute injuries. K-Laser is a class 4 infrared laser therapy treatment that helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones. These benefits are believed to be the result of enhanced microcirculation, as the treatment stimulates red blood cell flow in the treatment area. Venous and lymphatic return is also enhanced, as is oxygenation of those tissues.
You’re Wise to Seek Natural Pain Relief…

Given the risks associated with commonly prescribed NSAIDs and other pain-relieving drugs, including narcotic painkillers (which now kill more people than murders and fatal car accidents in the US), I strongly recommend investigating safer options. And there are many. In addition to capsaicin and the alternatives already mentioned above, the following options can also provide pain relief.

  1. Eliminate or radically reduce processed foods, grains, and processed sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains (especially wheat) and processed sugars (especially concentrated fructose) will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
  2. Start taking high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil, due to its high bioavailability and naturally occurring astaxanthin which protects it against rancidity, among other health benefits. Omega-3 fats are precursors to the anti-inflammatory class of prostaglandins, which regulate inflammation. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory, painkilling drugs work; they manipulate prostaglandins, but in ways that can have devastating and even life-threatening side effects.)
  3. Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun or safe tanning bed exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
  4. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.
  5. Chiropractic. Many studies have confirmed that chiropractic management is much safer and less expensive than allopathic medical treatments, especially when used for pain, such as low-back pain. Qualified chiropractic, osteopathic, and naturopathic physicians are reliable, as they have received extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate healthcare training, which lasts between four to six years. These health experts have comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management.
  6. Acupuncture can also effectively reduce many kinds of pain. Human clinical research has discovered a "clear and robust" effect of acupuncture in the treatment of back, neck, and shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches.
  7. Physical and massage therapy has been shown to be as good as surgery for painful conditions such as torn cartilage and arthritis.
  8. Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. In order to get an analgesic effect, higher doses are typically required; you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
  9. Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
  10. Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
  11. Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
  12. Evening primrose, black currant, and borage oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.

The Importance of Sleep, and the Hazards of “Dream Deprivation”

Sun, 07/13/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Dr. Rubin Naiman, author of Hush: A Book of Bedtime Contemplations, is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. As a sleep and dream expert, his focus is how sleeping and dreaming affects your health.

Four years ago, I interviewed Dr. Naiman on the most common causes for insomnia. Here, the discussion revolves around some of the more basic fundamentals of sleeping, and the importance of dreaming.

Early on in his career as a psychologist, Dr. Naiman recognized that it was difficult for people to move forward or to address and heal emotional issues if they were tired or sleepy. He also had an innate fascination with the world of dreams.

Eventually, he shifted his career focus entirely into sleep and dreams, and how it ties into your mental and physical—even spiritual—health.

Sleep Basics

In basic terms, there are four stages of sleep but the two that are highly restorative are:

  1. Deep sleep, which you can think of as "true sleep"
  2. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is dream sleep

According to Dr. Naiman, one of the best ways of understanding those two types of sleep is to think of them as different kinds of nourishment. "Sleep and dreams are a bit like water and food to the psyche, to the soul, to the mind," he says. For optimal health, you need both.

Data suggests that the average American sleeps a little under seven hours a night, which actually isn't enough. Dr. Naiman explains:

"We have to keep in mind that sleep debt accumulates. If somebody is losing, say, an hour of sleep every night, and if they're sleeping an average of seven hours, at the end of seven days and nights, they will have lost the equivalent of a full night's sleep.

Millions of us do this. Even though they might not notice an obvious change in their functioning, the reality is they will function as if they've been up the entire night. There's a danger in that, of course, in terms of accidents, performance, and so on. We all need to get the right amount of sleep."

The ideal amount of sleep varies from person to person, and even season to season. Health conditions, pregnancy, and other factors can also influence your need for more sleep.

Dr. Naiman recommends looking at the quality of your waking day to determine whether you're getting enough sleep. If your energy is steady and rhythmic through the day, you're probably getting good-quantity and good-quality sleep.

Why Dreaming Matters

Because most of your REM or dream sleep occurs in the latter third of the night, sleep loss at that time results in what Dr. Naiman refers to as "dream deprivation." Another factor that contributes to dream deprivation is the routine use of an alarm clock. When it goes off, it will oftentimes wake you out of the tail end of a dream.

"This is like having a really good novel, but tearing off the last few pages. It'd be very, very frustrating," Dr. Naiman says.

"Dreaming is essential. In recent years, there's been a lot of research underscoring the fact that dreaming has functions very different from sleep.

I think of the dream as being a digestive and assimilating process for information... In a sense, during REM sleep and dreaming your brain becomes a second gut.

If we think about all of the information that we're exposed to in the course of a single day – the conversations, the things we read, the things we see, hear, and think about, and all the things we just experience through our senses – all that information can be understood as something we consumed.

What happens in REM sleep is all of this information we've metaphorically swallowed is digested and assimilated. It's sifted through. Again, in its wisdom – and depending on lots of factors -- the brain decides what it's going to keep and what it's going to let go of.

I think after this information is digested, the process of assimilation shows up metaphorically in the dream, in the images of the dream. The bottom line here is that if you don't dream well, it has a profoundly negative impact on your memory. In a deeper sense, it's as if you stopped growing psychologically. You stopped adding to who you are." 

How to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene

To optimize your sleeping and dreaming, one of the most important issues is to make sure you're going to bed early enough, because if you have to get up at 6:30am, you're just not going to get enough sleep if you go to bed after midnight.

Dr. Naiman also notes that one common characteristic of really healthy sleepers is that they tend to love sleep—they cherish it and enjoy it. For them, sleep is a source of pleasure.

"I talk to people about falling back in love with sleep," Dr. Naiman says. "If you love sleep, if you want to have a good relationship with sleep, start dating it. Start courting it. Acknowledge your love of sleep before you get into bed with it. This is the first step, and it's a critical attitudinal shift. Because we can do all of the right things, but if our heart is not in the right place around sleep, it really won't help as much."

More practical factors include making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. It also needs to be free of electromagnetic fields. If you keep electronic gadgets in your room, such as a TV, cell phones, and electric alarm clocks, your body may, at an imperceptible level, pick up that your bedroom is actually buzzing with energy. This needs to be addressed by removing as many electromagnetic sources as possible. Make your bedroom an electronic-free zone and make certain all the electronics in your bedroom are turned off before you go to sleep.

This includes making sure your electrical wiring is enclosed in conduits, as this will cancel out potentially dangerous electromagnetic radiation. If you're really sensitive, it may be wise for you to flip the circuit breaker to your bedroom before going to bed.  There are actually newer devices that allow you to do this remotely.

"In terms of alarms, if you have to use an alarm, I think it's better to opt for some of these newer, gentle alarms that will not blast you out of bed. You can get these for smartphones, or you can get them built into regular alarms. You can also use a dawn simulator that gradually brightens a light to simulate sunrise.

One of the things I strongly recommend, in addition to having sort of a soft, graded alarm system, is to modulate the light that comes out of these digital alarms or digital clocks. Many of them put out pretty intense white or blue light, which is the worst thing for sleep... If you're going to have light, you want to have a low-blue light, more along the amber or red spectrum of light, that doesn't suppress melatonin... It's critical to dial down our lights at night."

The Importance of Melatonin

If you're exposed to light at night, even an hour or two before bed, you will suppress your melatonin production. This can have long-term health ramifications that go far beyond insomnia, as besides making you sleepy, melatonin also has potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits. When you're exposed to the blue wavelength of light, your brain receives the signal that it's daytime, and it responds by suppressing melatonin. Television screens, computer screens, iPad screens, or smartphone screens—all of these emit blue light.

There's a free program called f.lux that you can download onto your computer that will automatically change the wavelength of the light during evening hours. This can ameliorate some of the adverse effects on your melatonin production, but ideally, you'd want to turn them all off at least an hour or so before bed, and dim any lights around you.

Normally, melatonin levels are very low during the day. They rise up very gradually at night. Melatonin peaks during the last two or three hours of sleep, which is typically when you're dreaming. Interestingly, melatonin is also a vasodilator—it opens up your peripheral blood vessels, allowing your body to dissipate energy as heat during the night. Our remaining energy is diverted toward cleansing and maintenance as well as immune system functioning.

The best way to optimize your melatonin production is to get exposure to sun light in the morning, safe levels of natural light throughout the day, and  then gradually reducing the amount of light as the evening wears on. However, a melatonin supplement can sometimes be helpful. In terms of selecting a high quality product, and when and how to take it, Dr. Naiman offers the following suggestions:

 "Most melatonin products are instant-release. Because melatonin has a short half-life of about 45 minutes, you get a spike if you swallow it around bedtime. You get a spike that will come down pretty quickly. It almost is the opposite curve you see in nature. I tend to recommend a sublingual variety (under the tongue), so it's absorbed quickly but avoids the first liver pass, and also a sustained-release or continued-release variety. This mimics the natural pattern of melatonin release more closely."

Learning to Slow Down and Rest Is Crucial for Optimal Sleep

According to Dr. Naiman, sleep problems don't typically occur because of a lack of sleepiness or inadequate sleepiness; they occur as a result of excessive wakefulness. In short, you're running too hard, too fast. Oftentimes, insomniacs will have cortisol dysrhythmia, where their cortisol levels become elevated at night instead of in the morning. Basically, insomnia can be a side effect of being too hyped up; too frenetic, and not allowing yourself to simmer down and relax.

"Given the context of the velocity of our lives, we tend not to notice how fast we're going, and we really need to notice that. We need to yield, slow down, and even stop sometimes. When would benefit by installing speed bumps in our daily lives.

The bridge that takes us from waking to sleep is the bridge of rest – true rest. We live in a world that is hyper-aroused. And we've forgotten what true rest is. People often confuse rest with recreation. They'll go to a movie or go on a hike or  bowling to 'rest.'. But these are recreational activities, not true rest.

True rest involves the practice of something that allows us to be receptive, to really slow down. I think the reason a lot of people resist this is because when we start to slow, we start to experience what I've called personal turbulence... We descend through a layer of unresolved emotions, thoughts and feelings. Typically when we hit this turbulence, we pull back up into activity.

What I suggest is a way of learning to descend through personal turbulence and touching the ground, the ground of some peace, some quiet, and some inner serenity. That kind of practice is so helpful in getting to sleep... A lot of people who can't fall asleep complain that they can't stop the mind. Well, they haven't given it enough time. If they're flying really high and fast, that's fine. But they need more time to descend and a longer landing strip."

Meditation or yoga can be very useful for this. There are also technologically assisted ways of resting, such as biofeedback and heart rate variability approaches. Ther are various smartphone apps can be helpful in monitoring and assessing your sleep quality. In the end though, it comes down to making a decision as to which has greater value: productivity or rest. Many of us do not realize that productivity cannot be achieved at the expense of rest. Sleep is actually essential for optimal wakefulness, attention, and productivity!

Addressing Sleep Apnea

Another challenge that can rob you of sleep is sleep apnea, which is typically, but not always, related to a mechanical airway obstruction due to being overweight. Sleep apnea deprives your body and brain of oxygen, which can cause very severe health problems over time.

"People who have severe or even moderate to severe sleep apnea I believe need an immediate intervention," Dr. Naiman says. "In cases like that, I think CPAP could be a lifesaver. There's no question about it. In all the epidemiologic studies, we found there were very few people over the age of 65 with severe sleep apnea. The researchers realized it's because they passed away! You can't live with this for a long time."

However, CPAP doesn't necessarily have to be a lifelong treatment strategy. Lifestyle strategies such as exercise and diet can go a long way toward ultimately resolving the issue. Psychological factors may also need to be addressed.

"There's some evidence that some apnea is associated with upper airway hypertension. The term hypertension here is not related to blood pressure; it's a literal tension in the voice box or the throat. From an energy medicine standpoint, it's associated constriction in the throat chakra –  people not feeling free to fully express who they are. If you hold excessive tension in that area through the day, it can over-relax or prolapse when you go to sleep."

Interestingly, one alternative medicine approach for sleep apnea is learning to play the didgeridoo—an aboriginal wind instrument that requires you to learn circular breathing. According to Dr. Naiman, a small number of studies have shown that this appears to be curative for mild apnea. Another is oral myofunctional therapy. The interview I did with Joy Moeller can be really helpful for many with this condition. This technique is based on the neuromuscular re-education or re-patterning of the oral and facial muscles, and includes facial exercises and behavior modification techniques to promote proper tongue position, improved breathing, chewing and swallowing.

Does Daytime Napping Help or Hinder Good Sleep?

Many sleep experts tend to recommend against napping, on the basis that it may interfere with your ability to sleep well during the night. Dr. Naiman, however, disagrees.

"I think if somebody has insomnia, we want to maintain their sleepiness or sleep load. We don't want them to remain sufficiently sleepy at night. Often if they do nap, they'll end up napping for an hour or two, which is not good. But the other side of this is using the nap as a way of practicing sleep. If you don't fall asleep when you're practicing during the nap, it's not going to impact the next day. I have various CDs available that offer guidance in practicing sleep.

For people who sleep well, I think the nap is great. It's a way of descending, of touching down, and of reconnecting with rest during the day. Again, a nap is a nap; it's not substitution for good night's sleep. We generally recommend positioning the nap somewhere around the middle of the waking day, about eight hours into it and running for approximately 20 minutes or so. It's very refreshing. It's great for memory. It reduces blood pressure. It enhances mood. It's just all around a good thing to do."

More Information

Dr. Naiman's new book, Hush: A Book of Bedtime Contemplations, written to be read before bedtime,encourages you to get back in touch with your own inner wisdom about sleep. It's based on an integration of sleep science, sleep spirituality, and sleep psychology, and includes what Dr. Naiman calls 100 Spiritual Prescriptions for Sleep.

"I think of these as bedtime snacks for the soul," he says. "You read one or two at night. It doesn't really provoke a lot of contemplation; it's meant to invoke sleep to get people to transition from sort of normal patterns of thinking into a way of using thinking to let go of thinking, and of course, to allow the default of sleep to come to the surface."

What Leonardo Taught Us About the Heart

Sat, 07/12/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Leonardo da Vinci is known as one of the world’s greatest artists, counting such famous paintings as the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper” among his many accomplishments. But Leonardo was much more than a painter.

By day, he was an artist, an architect, and an engineer, but his hobby was science. Throughout his life, Leonardo filled extensive notebooks with scientific theories, inventions, and drawings of the human skull, skeleton, muscles, and organs. More than 4,000 pages have been discovered so far.

With little formal education, and a “day job” as an artist, Leonardo’s drawings were never published and stayed largely undiscovered until more than 250 years after his death.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Francis Wells has spent years studying Leonardo’s extensive anatomical drawings, especially of the human heart, and even published a book on the topic titled The Heart of Leonardo.

According to Dr. Wells, Leonardo’s insights are “quite astonishing” and describe inner workings of the heart that even modern-day cardiologists often get wrong.1

Leonardo da Vinci’s Early Insights Into the Human Heart

While many of Leonardo’s drawings are based on animal hearts, he did carry out dissections on human hearts as well, including one in which he described the “first known description of coronary artery disease.” Many of his drawings and writings on the heart turned out to be spot on, and he is credited with:2

Accurate descriptions of how the arterial valves close and open (a topic that is now researched using MRI technology) Recognizing that currents in blood flow, created in the aorta artery, help heart valves close Suggesting that arteries create a health risk if they “fur up” Realizing that the blood is in a circulation system (which may have influenced William Harvey’s 1616 discovery that the heart pumps blood around the body) Showing that the heart is a muscle that does not warm the blood Being the first anatomist to correctly note the number and root structure of human teeth

It’s thought that, had Leonardo’s insights been recognized earlier, it may have changed early treatment for heart disease (and many other health conditions). To this day, much of the heart’s workings remain a mystery, which only adds to the wonderment of Leonardo’s early drawings (another interesting tidbit: Leonardo wrote backwards, from right to left).

Perhaps most of all, what we can learn from Leonardo da Vinci – a man with an insatiable curiosity and love of learning -- is to continue questioning, exploring, and discovering, even among topics that are assumed to be well established. BBC News reported:3

According to Mr. Wells, Leonardo's legacy is that we should follow the Renaissance Man's example and continue to challenge, question and enquire rather than listen to accepted wisdom.”

Top Heart Myths That Might Surprise You

In keeping with Leonardo’s example, I want to share some information about heart health that may surprise you…

Saturated Fat Does Not Promote Heart Disease

As of 2010, recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture4 (USDA) call for reducing your saturated fat intake to a mere 10 percent of your total calories or less. It's virtually impossible to estimate how many people have been prematurely killed by the persistent promulgation of this myth that lowering naturally occurring saturated fat intake is good for your heart.

Grown from a flawed study published over half a century ago that has since been soundly debunked by many decades of research, it’s now known that the avoidance of saturated fat actually promotes poor health in a number of ways.

Recently an editorial in the British Medical Journal titled "From the Heart, Saturated Fat is Not the Major Issue," firmly busted this pervasive myth.5 As stated by the author, Aseem Malhotra, an interventional cardiology specialist registrar at Croydon University Hospital in London:

"The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades. Yet scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks...

The aspect of dietary saturated fat that is believed to have the greatest influence on cardiovascular risk is elevated concentrations of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Yet the reduction in LDL cholesterol from reducing saturated fat intake seems to be specific to large, buoyant (type A) LDL particles, when in fact it is the small, dense (type B) particles (responsive to carbohydrate intake) that are implicated in cardiovascular disease.

Indeed, recent prospective cohort studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, saturated fat has been found to be protective." [Emphasis mine]

Natural Salt Is Essential for Your Health

Salt is another oft-vilified food for the heart, and it’s true that overindulgence in the typically used commercially processed table salt can lead to fluid retention, high blood pressure, swelling of your limbs, and shortness of breath. In the long term, it is thought to contribute to high blood pressure, kidney and heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure.

However, salt provides two elements – sodium and chloride – that are essential for life. Your body cannot make these elements on its own, so you must get them from your diet.

Compelling evidence suggests that while processed salt can indeed cause fluid retention and related health problems, numerous studies have, overall, refuted the salt-heart disease connection.

For example, a 2011 meta-analysis of seven studies involving more than 6,000 people found no strong evidence that cutting salt intake reduces the risk for heart attacks, strokes, or death.6 In fact, salt restriction actually increased the risk of death in those with heart failure.

Similarly, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that same year revealed that the less sodium excreted in your urine (a marker of salt consumption), the greater the risk of dying from heart disease.7

That said, it’s clear that many are consuming far too much processed table salt and not enough natural salt. Natural salt contains 84 percent sodium chloride, and 16 percent naturally occurring trace minerals, including silicon, phosphorus, and vanadium.

Processed (table) salt, on the other hand, contains 97.5 percent sodium chloride and the rest is man-made chemicals, such as moisture absorbents and flow agents. If you’re interested in the role of salt in your heart health, consider, too, that potassium deficiency may be more responsible for hypertension than excess sodium, and too much sodium along with too little potassium has been found to more than double your risk of death from a heart attack, compared to eating about equal amounts of both nutrients.8

Shunning the Sun May Harm Your Heart

Do you avoid regular sun exposure, or slather on sunscreen every time you go outdoors? These behaviors are linked with vitamin D deficiency, which is detrimental to your heart. Even if you're considered generally "healthy," if you're deficient in vitamin D, your arteries are likely stiffer than they should be, and your blood pressure may run higher than recommended due to your blood vessels being unable to relax.

Recent research also confirmed that postmenopausal women with higher vitamin D levels had higher HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.9 Further, cholesterol, sulfur, and vitamin D from sun exposure are all interrelated, and the status of each promotes or prevents the disease process known as cardiovascular disease.

Too Much Exercise Can Backfire for Your Heart Health

Several recent scientific studies indicate that endurance exercises, such as marathon and triathlon training, pose significant risks to your heart, some of which may be irreversible and life threatening. Long-distance running, for instance, can lead to acute volume overload, inflammation, thickening and stiffening of the heart muscle and arteries, coronary artery calcification, arrhythmias, and sudden cardiac arrest. A safer and more effective exercise is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which consists of short bursts of intense exertion. HIIT maximizes the benefits for your heart, while optimizing your human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin levels.

Heart Disease Is One of the Leading Causes of Death in the US

About 800,000 people die of heart disease in the US each year. At one in every three deaths, this makes heart disease ostensibly the leading cause of death for both men and women.10 In addition, 720,000 Americans have a heart attack every year, the majority of which (515,000) are a first heart attack.11 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.

However, many have argued that the flawed medical paradigm is actually the leader, killing far more including many of those that die from heart disease. 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, while elevated insulin levels can also lead to insulin resistance, a major risk factor for 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
Heart Disease Can Be Prevented with Healthy Lifestyle

A quarter of the 800,000 annual heart disease deaths in the US—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, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).12 In my mind the conventional medical system is largely responsible for many of these deaths, as their dietary recommendations for the prevention of heart disease are diametrically opposed to what you actually need for optimal heart health. For over 60 years, saturated fats have been blamed for heart disease, resulting in the promulgation of a dangerous low-fat, high-sugar diet.

In reality, a diet that promotes health is high in healthy fats and very, very low in sugar and non-vegetable carbohydrates... Research coming out of some of America's most respected institutions now confirms that sugar is actually a primary dietary factor driving chronic disease development. If you’re wondering what a "proper diet" is for heart health, I suggest reviewing my Nutrition Plan, which is designed to guide you through the dietary changes in a step-by-step fashion, moving from beginner to intermediary to advanced. When properly applied, it can improve just about anyone's health, including your heart health. Following is a summary of the basic recommendations:

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 synthetic trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, etc.) for healthy fats like avocado, raw butter, and coconut oil To rebalance 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 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 Four More Lifestyle Habits for Heart Health

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 your risk of cardiovascular disease.

  1. Optimize your insulin and leptin levels. 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.
  2. Exercise regularly. One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it helps normalize and maintain a healthy insulin level. A 2011 study 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.13
  3. 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.
  4. 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 that 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 bloodstream and transform your blood.

  5. 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.

The Truth About Exercise—The Case for High Intensity Workouts

Sat, 07/12/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Over the last several years, researchers have slowly but surely reached the consensus that high intensity interval training (HIIT), which is characterized by relatively short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest, far outperforms conventional aerobic endurance type exercises.

Not only does it beat conventional cardio as the most effective and efficient form of exercise, it also provides health benefits you simply cannot get from regular aerobics, such as a tremendous boost in human growth hormone (HGH), aka the "fitness hormone."

Perhaps best of all, HIIT requires only minutes, compared to hours, each week. In the featured video, Dr. Michael Mosley, author of Fast Exercise: The Simple Secret of High-Intensity Training, shares his own experiences with HIIT.

The Truth About Exercise

As Dr. Mosley reports in the featured BBC special, groundbreaking research suggests that as little as three minutes of high intensity training per week can produce significant health benefits.

Dr. Mosley was able to improve his insulin sensitivity by 24 percent by putting in a mere 12 minutes of intense exercise per week, for four weeks. Such an effect is truly amazing, and indeed important, as improving and maintaining good insulin sensitivity is perhaps one of the most important aspects of optimal health.

He performed the exercises on a stationary bike. After warming up, he cycled “all-out” for 20 seconds, rested for a couple of minutes, and then gave it his all for another 20 seconds.

The HIIT approach I personally prefer and recommend is the Peak Fitness method of a 50% longer exercise time of 30 seconds of maximum effort followed by less recovery of only 90 seconds for a total of eight repetitions.

When you're first starting out, depending on your level of fitness, you may only be able to do two or three repetitions, which is perfectly alright. As you get fitter, just keep adding repetitions until you’re doing eight.

About a year ago, I personally modified the number of repetitions I do from eight to six, as it was sometimes just too strenuous for me to do all eight. By listening to my body and cutting it back to six reps, I can now easily tolerate the workout and go full out. Plus, I no longer dread doing it.

I also do alternatives to elliptical now where I will do six sets with a barbell and ten pounds on it and do deadlifts, bent over rows, upright rows, squats, clean and jerks and bicep curls all in rapid succession with no breaks. It is not quite as intense but goes for about 60 seconds and really pushes me metabolically. I also rest for a few minutes until I recover. I think the variety is good.

Another tweak I made is to incorporate Buteyko breathing, which means I do most of the workout breathing only through my nose. This raises the challenge to another level.

There are very compelling reasons for trading your hour-long walk on the treadmill for a 20-minute high intensity routine, and research shows that in this case, less time can indeed lead to a greater payout, if done correctly. As Dr. Mosley writes in his book, Fast Exercise:

“I believe that we have now produced sufficient data to be able to recommend short bursts of high-intensity exercise as a safe and effective alternative to conventional workouts, removing the ‘time barrier’ as an excuse for not exercising.

This will hopefully boost compliance and help people take up an approach that will lead to a healthier way of life. The great thing about HIIT is that it can be done in the workplace or at home without preplanning or missing an episode of your favorite TV show.”

Even Brief Intense Exercise Produces Genetic Changes That Promote Fat Loss

A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism1 in 2012, showed that when healthy but inactive people exercise intensely, even if the exercise is brief, it produces an immediate change in their DNA. While the underlying genetic code in the muscle remains unchanged, exercise causes important structural and chemical changes to the DNA molecules within the muscles.

This contraction-induced gene activation appears to be early events leading to the genetic reprogramming of muscle for strength, and to the structural and metabolic benefits of exercise. Several of the genes affected by an acute bout of exercise are genes involved in fat metabolism. Specifically, the study suggests that when you exercise, your body almost immediately experiences genetic activation that increases the production of fat-busting proteins! Besides lowered body fat, other benefits associated with high intensity interval training include:

  • Improved muscle tone
  • Firmer skin and fewer wrinkles
  • Higher energy levels
  • Improved athletic speed and performance
  • Boosted sex drive
Intermittent Movement—Another Crucial Piece of the Puzzle

In the video, Dr. Mosley also meets with Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic obesity expert whose research suggests that the best way to lose weight is to increase your non-exercise activity thermogenesis, also referred to as NEAT. This is the calories you expend during your day-to-day living, through body movement that have nothing to do with traditional exercise.

Similar research has been conducted by Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals.

Mounting research clearly shows that undisrupted sitting for long periods of time is an independent risk factor for chronic disease and early death—even if you exercise vigorously each week. More and more, we’re starting to realize the importance of keeping your body in perpetual motion—bending, stretching,  reaching, standing up...

Using so-called “fidget pants,” Dr. Levine measures how much Dr. Mosley and other volunteers move during any given day, and how that non-exercise movement translates into calories burned. As it turns out, even slight increases in daily motion can result in several hundreds of calories burned.

When asked which might be more important for health: intermittent bursts of high intensity exercise a few times a week, or more or less non-stop non-exercise movement throughout the day, Dr. Levine notes that those who exercise regularly will clearly continue to do so because they love it.

But a large section of the population gets no exercise whatsoever and think nothing of it. For those people, paying careful attention to their intermittent movements—the movement inherent in their daily living—becomes incredibly relevant and important for their health. In a nutshell, the key to optimal health is to “keep off your bottom as much as possible.” It’s just that simple. That in no way detracts from the importance or benefits you can reap from a regular fitness regimen though.

According to Dr. Levine, “there should never be an hour where you’re sitting down.” One solution, provided your job can accommodate it, is to do your work standing up. Another solution, suggested by Dr. Vernikos, is to make sure you stand up at least once every 15 minutes or so. In a previous article, I collected a list of 30 videos demonstrating quick and simple exercises you can do when you stand up.

What Makes High Intensity Exercise So Effective

Getting back to high intensity exercise, part of the key that makes HIIT so effective is that it engages far more of your muscle tissue than conventional aerobic cardio exercise. You have three different types of muscle fibers: slow, fast, and super-fast. Only ONE of these muscles, the super-fast fibers, will impact your production of human growth hormone (HGH), which is KEY for strength, health, and longevity. The vast majority of people, including many athletes such as marathon runners, only train using their slow muscle fibers. In fact, neither traditionally performed aerobic cardio nor strength training will work anything but your slow muscles. These are the red muscles, which are filled with capillaries and mitochondria, and hence a lot of oxygen.

The fast type of fiber, which is also red muscle that oxygenates quickly, is five times faster than the slow fibers. Power training, or plyometric burst-type exercises, will engage these fast muscles. The super-fast ones are the white muscle fibers. They contain far less blood and less densely packed mitochondria. These muscle fibers are what you use when you do anaerobic, short burst exercises. High intensity burst-type exercises are the ones that will engage these super-fast fibers. They're 10 times faster than slow fibers, and activating them is the key to producing growth hormone! To further maximize your growth hormone release, you’ll want to:

  • Get a good night's sleep
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels
  • Avoid sugar, especially fructose. (If you consume sugar or fructose, especially within two hours post-exercise, you will virtually obliterate the production of growth hormone!)
Tips for Building a High-Quality Fitness Regimen

Ideally, intense exercise should be balanced with strength training, proper stretching, core strengthening, stress reduction, restorative sleep, and good nutrition. You'll find much more information about HIIT and other types of exercise in the fitness section of my website. When putting together your exercise routine, I recommend incorporating the following:

  1. Stand Up Every 15 Minutes. Compelling research now tells us that prolonged sitting can have a tremendously detrimental impact on your health, even if you exercise regularly. Your body needs to interact with gravity in order to function properly, and this has to be ongoing, throughout your day. Whenever you have a chance to move your body, do so! I invite you to look at our list of 30 videos for ideas about what you can do when you stand up.
  2. Interval Peak Fitness (Anaerobic) Training: Interval training involves alternating short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods, and are central to my Peak Fitness routine.
  3. Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a one-set strength training routine will ensure that you're really optimizing the health benefits of your fitness program. You can also "up" the intensity by slowing it down. For more information about using super slow weight training as a form of high intensity interval exercise, please see my interview above with Dr. Doug McGuff, and my video about super slow workouts at the top of this section.
  4. Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen, and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury, and improve your balance and stability. Foundation Training, created by Dr. Eric Goodman, is an integral first step of a larger program he calls "Modern Moveology," which consists of a catalog of exercises.
  5. Stretching: My favorite type of stretching is Active Isolated Stretching (AIS). With AIS, you hold each stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body's natural physiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the elasticity of muscle joints. This technique allows your body to repair itself and prepare for daily activity. You can also use devices like the Power Plate to help you stretch.

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