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Dr. Mercola

Four Unexpected Benefits of Donating Blood

3 hours 16 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Most people donate blood because they want to help others, and, indeed, donating blood a single time may help save the lives of up to three people.1 Still, less than 10 percent of the US population eligible to donate blood actually does so every year.

Why don’t more people donate blood on a regular basis? According to the American Red Cross, the most common reasons given by people who don’t give blood are because they “never thought about it” or “don’t like needles.”

It may be time to start thinking about it today, or muster up the courage to overcome your fear of needles, as giving blood doesn’t only help others… it helps you too.

Four Benefits of Giving Blood

Someone in the US needs blood every two seconds,2 so if you’re up for doing a good deed, donating blood is a phenomenal choice. More than 41,000 blood donations are needed each day, and because blood cannot be manufactured, the only way to supply this need is via generous blood donors. It’s certainly an altruistic act… but it’s also one that offers important yet little-discussed benefits.

1. Balance Iron Levels in Your Blood

In my view, this is clearly the most important reason. For each unit of blood donated, you lose about one-quarter of a gram of iron.

You may at first think this is a bad thing, since too little iron may lead to fatigue, decreased immunity, or iron-deficiency anemia, which can be serious if left untreated. This is common in children and premenopausal women.

But what many people fail to realize is that too much iron can be worse, and is actually far more common than iron deficiency (especially in men and postmenopausal women).

So for many, the fact that donating blood helps to rid your body of excess iron is one of the greatest benefits it offers. It has been long known that menstruating women have fewer heart attacks. This was previously thought to be due to hormones but is now thought to be due to lower iron levels.

Similar to premenopausal women, blood donors have been found to be 88 percent less likely to suffer from a heart attack,3 and this is thought to be due to its effects on iron levels. Researchers explained:

Because high body iron stores have been suggested as a risk factor for acute myocardial infarction, donation of blood could theoretically reduce the risk by lowering body iron stores.”

Interestingly, in a study published in the April 2013 issue of American Journal of Public Health,4 researchers found that statin cholesterol-lowering drugs improved cardiovascular outcomes at least partially by countering the pro-inflammatory effects of excess iron stores.

In this study, the improved outcomes were associated with lower ferritin (iron) levels but not with “improved” lipid status. Researchers concluded iron reduction might be a safe and low-cost alternative to statins, and according to logic this means that donating your blood, which reduces iron, could potentially help too.

2. Better Blood Flow

Do you know what a high-sugar diet, smoking, radio frequencies, and other toxic electromagnetic forces, emotional stress, anxiety, high cholesterol, and high uric acid levels do to your blood?

All of these make your blood hypercoagulable, meaning it makes it thick and slow moving, which increases your risk of having a blood clot or stroke. Hypercoagulable blood contributes to inflammation, because when your blood does not flow well, oxygen can't get to your tissues.

For example, early (and some current) birth control pills were notorious for causing heart attacks in women. One of the mechanisms that cause this increased risk is that synthetic estrogens and progesterones increase blood viscosity.

Repeated blood donations may help your blood to flow better, possibly helping to limit damage to the lining of your blood vessels, which should result in fewer arterial blockages. (Grounding can also help to thin dangerously thick blood.) Phillip DeChristopher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Loyola University Health System blood bank, told TIME:5

What is clear is that blood donors seem to not be hospitalized so often and if they are, they have shorter lengths of stay… And they’re less likely to get heart attacks, strokes, and cancers.”

3. You Get a Mini Physical

Every blood donor gets a “mini physical” prior to donation. Your temperature will be checked along with your blood pressure, pulse, and hemoglobin. Your blood will also be tested for 13 infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and C, West Nile Virus, and syphilis.

Donating blood is certainly not a replacement for medical care, but it does give you a (free) glimpse into your health (as well as notice if you’ve been exposed to an infectious disease without knowing).

4. A Longer Life

People who volunteer for altruistic reasons, i.e. to help others rather than themselves, appear to live longer than those who volunteer for more self-centered reasons. Altruistic volunteers enjoyed a significantly reduced risk of mortality four years later according to one study,6 with the study’s lead author noting:7

“This could mean that people who volunteer with other people as their main motivation may be buffered from potential stressors associated with volunteering, such as time constraints and lack of pay.”

What You Should Know About Excess Iron Levels

Iron is essential for life, as it is a key part of various proteins and enzymes, involved in the transport of oxygen and the regulation of cell growth and differentiation, among many other uses.

One of the most important roles of iron is to provide hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that contains iron at its core), a mechanism through which it can bind to oxygen and carry it throughout your tissues, as without proper oxygenation, your cells quickly start dying.

However, because your body has a limited capacity to excrete iron, it can easily build up in organs like your liver, heart, and pancreas. This is dangerous because iron is a potent oxidizer and can damage your body tissues contributing to serious health issues. Cancer researchers have found evidence that bowel cancers are two to three times more likely to develop when dietary iron is too high in your body.8 High iron levels have also been linked to:

Cirrhosis Liver cancer Cardiac arrhythmias Type one diabetes Alzheimer's diseaseBacterial and viral infections

 

This is a personal issue for me, as getting my dad’s iron levels checked saved his life 20 years ago. I discovered he had a ferritin level close to 1,000. It was because he has beta-thalassemia. With regular phlebotomies, his iron levels normalized and now the only side effect he has is type 1 diabetes. His high iron levels damaged his pancreatic islet cells triggering what is called “bronze” diabetes, and so he requires the use of insulin.

I also inherited beta-thalassemia from him but thankfully, I am able to keep my iron levels normal by removing about a pint of blood a year. This is removed not all at once but over a few dozen deposits. I screen myself with ferritin levels several times a year. I also screened my patients with ferritin levels and noticed nearly one-fourth of them had elevated levels. So I would strongly encourage you and your family to be screened annually for this, as it is SO MUCH easier to prevent iron overload than it is to treat it.

Hemochromatosis is one of the most prevalent genetic diseases in the US. The C282Y gene mutation is thought to be responsible for the majority of hemochromatosis cases. It takes two inherited copies of the mutation (one from your mother and one from your father) to cause the disease (and even then only some people will actually get sick). If you have just one mutation, you won’t become ill but you will absorb slightly more iron than the rest of the population, a trait that may have given people an advantage when dietary sources of iron were scarce.

Have You Had a Ferritin Screen?

Checking your iron levels is easy and can be done with a simple blood test called a serum ferritin test. I believe this is one of the most important tests that everyone should have done on a regular basis as part of a preventive, proactive health screen. The test measures the carrier molecule of iron, a protein found inside cells called ferritin, which stores the iron. If your ferritin levels are low, it means your iron levels are also low.

The healthy range of serum ferritin lies between 20 and 80 ng/ml. Below 20 is a strong indicator that you are iron deficient, and above 80 suggests you have an iron surplus. The ideal range is between 40-60 ng/ml. The higher the number over 100 the worse the iron overload, with levels over 300 being particularly toxic. Levels this high will eventually cause serious damage in nearly everyone that sustains those levels long term.

Four Common Factors That Increase Your Risk of Iron Overload

People with hemochromatosis are not the only ones who may accumulate more iron than is healthy. While premenopausal women who are menstruating regularly rarely suffer from iron overload due to the monthly loss of blood, most adult men and postmenopausal women tend to be at a high risk, as they don't have a monthly blood loss (one of the best ways you can get rid of excess iron is by bleeding). Another common cause of excess iron is the regular consumption of alcohol, which will increase the absorption of any iron in your diet. For instance, if you drink wine with your steak, you will likely be absorbing more iron than you need. Other potential causes of high iron levels include:

  1. Cooking in iron pots or pans. Cooking acidic foods in these types of pots or pans will cause even higher levels of iron absorption.
  2. Eating processed food products like cereals and white breads that are "fortified' with iron. The iron they use in these products is inorganic iron, not much different than rust, and it is far more dangerous than the iron in meat.
  3. Drinking well water that is high in iron. The key here is to make sure you have some type of iron precipitator and/or a reverse osmosis water filter.
  4. Taking multiple vitamins and mineral supplements, as both of these frequently have iron in them.

If you find out that your iron levels are elevated or you have hemochromatosis, donating your blood is the safest, most effective, and most inexpensive approach to remedy this problem. If, for some reason, a blood donor center is unable to accept your blood for donation, you can obtain a prescription for therapeutic phlebotomy. At the same time, you will want to be sure to avoid consuming excess iron in the form of supplements, in your drinking water (well water), from iron cookware, or in fortified processed foods.  

7 Food Swaps That Will Make You Healthier

3 hours 16 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Pre-packaged processed foods may be convenient, but cooking from scratch using fresh unprocessed ingredients is a must if you want to improve your health. Remember, if you fail to plan you are planning to fail.

While this means that someone – you, your spouse, or someone else – needs to spend regular time in the kitchen, it typically does not require nearly as much extra time as people imagine.

One of the most important strategies is to make the appropriate food swaps. For example, does it take more time to use real butter instead of margarine? Of course it doesn’t!

The following list will give you an overview of some of the most important food swaps you can make. They can go a long way toward making you healthier.

Choose Organic Over Non-Organic

Whenever you have the option, choose organic varieties of food over non-organic. As a general rule, organic foods are safer, and probably healthier, than conventional foods, for the simple fact that you’re ingesting fewer toxins.

And, contrary to popular belief, this is actually even more important when it comes to animal products such as meat, dairy products, butter, and eggs.

While conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and berries are typically heavily sprayed with a wide assortment of pesticides, non-organic animal products tend to be among the most contaminated, as the animals are fed a steady diet of these conventionally grown, pesticide-contaminated and genetically engineered grains...

While I believe organic foods grown in healthy soils can be far more nutritious than their conventional counterparts grown in depleted soils with synthetic chemicals, a major benefit of organically grown foods really is the reduction in your toxic load.

A 2012 meta-analysis by Stanford University1 confirmed that organic foods expose you to fewer pesticides – about 30 percent on average. Organic meats also reduce your risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by an average of 33 percent. Conventional meats are in fact a major contributor to antibiotic resistance, which poses a grave public health threat these days.

Swap CAFO Meats for Organic, Grass-Fed Meats

If you can only afford to buy some foods organic, make it organic, grass-fed meats. This will cut down on your exposure to toxic pesticides. Factory farmed meats are also typically contaminated with hormones and antibiotics.

Most cows raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are fed grains (oftentimes genetically engineered grains, which make matters even worse), when their natural diet is plain grass.

This difference in the animals' diet creates vastly different end products in terms of nutrition. When left to feed on grass-only diets, levels of conjugated linoleic acid or CLA are three to five times more than those fed grain-based diets. And that’s just for starters.

A joint effort between the USDA and Clemson University researchers in 2009 found a total of 10 key areas where grass-fed beef is better than grain-fed for human health. In a side-by-side comparison, they determined that grass-fed beef was:2, 3

Lower in total fat Higher in total omega-3s Higher in beta-carotene A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84) Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA) Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease Pass on Pasteurized Milk, and Opt for Raw Organic Milk

Several studies have demonstrated the superior safety of raw milk compared to pasteurized. For example, raw milk is:

Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract High in omega-3 and low in 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

 

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.

There are basically two types of raw milk, and only one is suitable for raw consumption. Raw milk from a CAFO must be pasteurized in order to be fit to drink, whereas raw milk from cows raised on pasture does not. Cleanliness and pasture are critical parameters for producing healthy milk fit for raw consumption.

CAFO milk must be pasteurized to prevent the spread of potentially hazardous pathogens, which are the result of crowded, unsanitary living conditions and the routine administration of antibiotics that are needed to keep these cows well. In the process, all valuable enzymes are also destroyed, such as lactase for the assimilation of lactose; galactase for the assimilation of galactose; and phosphatase for the assimilation of calcium. Literally dozens of other precious enzymes are destroyed in the pasteurization process. Without them, milk is very difficult to digest, and gives rise to allergies.

The quality of grass-fed milk and other grass-fed dairy products 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.

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.

Swap Margarine for Organic Butter (Preferably Raw)

The unfortunate result of the low-fat diet craze has been the shunning of healthful fats such as butter, and public health has declined as a result of this folly. There are a myriad of unhealthy components to margarine and other butter impostors, including:

  • Trans fats: These unnatural fats in margarine, shortenings, and spreads are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat. Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance, and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy, and problems with lactation; and low birth weight, growth problems, and learning disabilities in children. A US government panel of scientists determined that man-made trans fats are unsafe at any level.
  • Free radicals: Free radicals and other toxic breakdown products are the result of high temperature industrial processing of vegetable oils. They contribute to numerous health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
  • Emulsifiers and preservatives: Numerous additives of questionable safety are added to margarines and spreads. Most vegetable shortening is stabilized with preservatives like BHT.
  • Hexane and other solvents: Used in the extraction process, these industrial chemicals can have toxic effects.

A far better choice is good-old-fashioned butter. When made from grass-fed cows, it’s particularly rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—just like grass-fed beef. CLA is not only known to help fight cancer and diabetes, it may even help you to lose weight, which cannot be said for its trans-fat substitutes. Butter is also a rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A (needed for a wide range of functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape) and all the other fat-soluble vitamins (D, E, and K2).

These vitamins are often lacking in the modern industrial diet. It also contains important trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, and selenium (a powerful antioxidant). RealMilk.com4 can help you locate a source of raw butter. If you want to try your hand at making it yourself, check out Positron.org.5 They have an excellent web page with step-by-step instructions6 for making your own butter from scratch, using raw, grass-fed milk.

Switch from CAFO to Organic Pastured Eggs

While proteins are found in many types of food, only foods from animal sources, such as meat and eggs, contain “complete proteins,” meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health, choline for your brain, nervous and cardiovascular systems, and naturally occurring B12. Eggs are powerhouses of healthy nutrition, provided they’re harvested from organically raised, free-range, pastured chickens. True free-range eggs are from hens that range freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.

Conventional large-scale CAFO egg-producers raise their hens indoors and in cages. Egg-laying hens confined to cages do not have space to move or stretch, and they show more fearful behavior and become prone to skeletal problems. Large numbers of animals confined in small spaces also pollute the air, water, and soil with the vast amounts of manure they produce. CAFO eggs are also far more prone to harboring pathogens that can cause foodborne illness.

The nutritional differences between true free-ranging chicken eggs and commercially farmed eggs are again a result of the different diets eaten by the two groups of chickens. Instead of seeds and insects, the main ingredients of commercially raised hens' diets are genetically engineered (GE) soy and corn. Commercial eggs, even if they state “free-range” on their label, will typically fall into this category. You can tell the eggs are free range or pastured by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.

Your best source for fresh eggs is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. To find free-range pasture farmers, ask your local health food store or refer to EatWild.com7 or LocalHarvest.com.8 Cornucopia.org also offers ahelpful organic egg scorecard9 that rates egg manufacturers based on 22 criteria that are important for organic consumers.

Ditch the Soda for Sparkling Water

Soda and other sweetened commercial beverages have no nutritional benefits, and are loaded with chemical additives and high amounts of refined sugar, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup—or even worse, artificial sweeteners. The average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, so one can of soda alone exceeds your daily recommended allotment of fructose (15 grams/day) if you’re insulin resistant, which about 80 percent of Americans are.

Excess sugar has been unequivocally linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, and many other serious health problems, so the less sugar you consume, the better. If you really feel the urge for a carbonated beverage, try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of lime or lemon juice, or sweetened with stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. (Keep in mind that if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners.)

Swap Bottled Water for Pure Filtered Tap Water

Nothing beats pure water when it comes to serving your body's needs for fluids, and when it comes to water, your best bet is to filter your tap water. Many are still under the mistaken impression that bottled water is more pure, but about 40 percent of bottled water is nothing but regular tap water, which may or may not have received any additional treatment. In fact, most municipal tap water must adhere to stricter purity standards than the bottled water industry. The plastic bottle itself is also extremely detrimental to the environment, and can further contaminate the water inside it by leaching hormone-disrupting plastic chemicals into it. This includes:

  • Cancer-causing PFOAs
  • PBDEs (flame retardant chemicals), which have been linked to reproductive problems and altered thyroid levels
  • The reproductive toxins, phthalates
  • BPA, which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen

Just remember that the caveat to drinking tap water is to make sure you filter your tap water. I've written a large number of articles on the hazards of tap water, from fluoride to dangerous chemicals and drugs, to toxic disinfection byproducts and heavy metals, so having a good filtration system in place is more of a necessity than a luxury in most areas. A whole house water filter is your best bet, as it will remove harsh chlorine disinfection byproducts from your whole house. These toxins pose a health hazard not only in your drinking water, but also in your shower and appliances.

The best option for your home's drinking water is to filter at the point of use with an NSF certified water filter. This addresses all of the chemicals found in well water or an urban water supply, along with any lead that might leach into the water if you have old plumbing. You can also optimize your drinking water by injecting physical energy into the water. The simplest way to do this is by vortexing, where you simply stir the water with a spoon or use an automated device that spins the water at high speed over high powered magnets before drinking it. This helps create “living water,” or EZ water—so named by Gerald Pollack, PhD, author of the groundbreaking book: The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor.

Another option to consider is to bottle your own water from a gravity-fed spring, which provides natural living water. There's a great website called FindaSpring.com10 where you can find natural springs in your area. The best part is that most of these spring water sources are free! Remember to bring either clear polyethylene or glass containers to collect the water so no unsafe chemicals can contaminate your water on the way home. If you choose to use glass bottles, be sure to wrap them in towels to keep them from breaking in the car.

Simple Food Swaps Can Have a Great Impact on Your Health

Make no mistake about it. A few strategic food swaps can go a long way toward improving your health. Basically, what you’re doing is replacing processed food items and factory farmed foods for less contaminated—and in most cases more nutritious—options. While the list could be far longer, the food swaps covered above are, I believe, among the most important. Swapping adulterated and pasteurized dairy products, such as milk and butter, for organic, raw varieties will allow you to reap the true benefits of dairy.

Likewise, swapping factory farmed animal products like beef, chicken, and eggs for grass-fed or pastured varieties will automatically reduce your toxic burden and exposure to hormones and antibiotics. Last but not least, since soda is clearly at the top of the list when it comes to promoting obesity and related health problems, swapping them out for pure filtered water and/or mineral water can be one of the most potent health changes you could possibly make. For even more nutritional guidance, please see my free, optimized nutrition plan.

New Science Destroys the Saturated Fat Myth

Sun, 07/27/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The nutritional myth that saturated fat is bad for you continues to fall apart as a steady stream of new books and studies on this topic hit the media. The latest work to challenge the old dogma is a book called The Big Fat Surprise by journalist Nina Teicholz, interviewed above.

Her book comes alongside new research that raises questions about the long-held but false belief that cardiovascular disease is related to fat and cholesterol intake.

Teicholz points out the flaws in the original Ancel Keys study; how saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low-fat craze has resulted in excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, which has resulted in increased inflammation and disease.1 Teicholz tells the Wall Street Journal:2

"There has never been solid evidence for the idea that these [saturated] fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias."

Are We Seeing the Cholesterol Myth in a Scientific Free-Fall?

The cholesterol myth has suffered a bit of a triple whammy of late, making it harder and harder for heart specialists to uphold the company line. This information is just the latest in a long line of science disproving the need for the saturated fat phobia.

  1. In 2012, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology examined the health and lifestyle habits of more than 52,000 adults ages 20 to 74, concluding that women with "high cholesterol" (greater than 270 mg/dl) had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with "low cholesterol" (less than 183 mg/dl).
  2. Researchers also found that, if you're a woman, your risk for heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke are higher with lower cholesterol levels.3

  3. In 2013, a prominent London cardiologist by the name of Aseem Malhotra argued in the British Medical Journal that you should ignore advice to reduce your saturated fat intake, because it's actually increasing your risk for obesity and heart disease.4
  4. Then in March 2014, a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, using data from nearly 80 studies and more than a half million people, found that those who consume higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less.
  5. They also did not find less heart disease among those eating higher amounts of unsaturated fat, including both olive oil and corn oil.5, 6

Fat Has Been Blamed for Sugar's Evil Deeds

What do these journalists and scientists know that your physician might not? Going back forty years or more, fat has been misidentified as the culprit behind heart disease, when all along it's been sugar.

A high-sugar diet raises your risk for heart disease by promoting metabolic syndrome—a cluster of health conditions that includes high blood pressure, insulin and leptin resistance, high triglycerides, liver dysfunction, and visceral fat accumulation.

Insulin and leptin resistance is caused by factors inherent in our modern lifestyle, including diets heavy in processed carbohydrates, sugars/fructose, refined flours, and industrial seed oils.

Making matters worse, the average American gets inadequate exercise, suffers from chronic stress and sleep deprivation, is exposed to environmental toxins, and has poor gut health (dysbiosis). This is the perfect storm for chronic disease.

Cholesterol Is Not Only Beneficial for Your Body—It's Absolutely Mandatory

About 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease annually. A quarter of these deaths could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and managing insulin and leptin levels.

By reducing your cholesterol, you may actually be increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease. Your body needs adequate cholesterol to perform a number of critical functions, and there is strong evidence that people have a higher risk for heart attacks by having their cholesterol levels driven too low, as is being done by drugs like statins.

Cholesterol plays important roles such as building your cell membranes, interacting with proteins inside your cells, and helping regulate protein pathways required for cell signaling. Having too little cholesterol may negatively impact your brain health, hormone levels, heart disease risk, and more. Therefore, placing an upper limit on dietary cholesterol, especially such a LOW upper limit as is now recommended, is likely causing far more harm than good.

The Truth About Saturated Fats

Just as your body has requirements for cholesterol, it also needs saturated fats for proper function. One way to understand this is to consider what foods humans consumed during their evolution. Many experts believe that since the Paleolithic Era, we evolved as hunter-gatherers. Paleolithic nutrition states that we have eaten animal products for most of our existence on Earth. To suggest that saturated fats are suddenly harmful to us makes no sense, especially from an evolutionary perspective.

As recently as 2010, the current recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) call for reducing your saturated fat intake to a mere 10 percent of your total calories or less. This is astounding, and quite the opposite of what most people require for optimal health! The latest science suggests healthy fats (saturated and unsaturated fats from whole food, animal, and plant sources) should comprise anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your overall energy intake. Saturated fats provide a number of important health benefits, including the following:

Providing building blocks for cell membranes, hormones, and hormone-like substances Mineral absorption, such as calcium Carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K Conversion of carotene into vitamin A Helping to lower cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids) Acts as antiviral agent (caprylic acid) Optimal fuel for your brain Provides satiety Modulates genetic regulation and helps prevent cancer (butyric acid) Seven Good Tests for Assessing Cardiac Risk

The best indicators for heart disease risk are outlined in the table that follows. Be aware that these same indicators have also been found to be fairly accurate in predicting your dementia risk.

1. HDL/total cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very important heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. This percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it's a significant indicator of heart disease risk. 2. Triglyceride/HDL ratios: Divide your triglyceride number by your HDL. This ratio should ideally be below 2. 3. NMR lipoprofile: Possibly the most powerful test for evaluating heart disease risk, this test determines your proportion of smaller, more damaging LDL particles. Small LDL particles get stuck easily, cause more inflammation, and are tied to insulin and leptin resistance. This test is not typically ordered, so you might need to request it from your physician or order it yourself through a third-party. (For more information on the NMR Lipoprofile, please watch my interview with Chris Kresser, above.) 4. Fasting insulin: A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5, but ideally, you'll want it below 3. If your insulin level is higher than 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce or eliminate all forms of dietary sugar, particularly fructose, and processed grains. 5. Fasting blood glucose: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood glucose of 100-125 mg/dl had nearly three times the risk of coronary artery disease of people with a blood glucose below 79 mg/dl. 6. Waist-to-hip ratio: Visceral fat, the type of fat that collects around your internal organs, is a well-recognized risk factor for heart disease. The simplest way to evaluate your risk here is by simply measuring your waist-to-hip ratio. (For further instructions, please see the link to my previous article.) 7. Iron level: Excess iron can exert very potent oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron in your blood, you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your serum ferritin level and make sure it is below 80 ng/ml. The simplest ways to eliminate excess iron are blood donation and therapeutic phlebotomy. What REALLY Constitutes a Heart-Healthy Diet?

The following table outlines my version of a "heart-healthy diet," which minimizes inflammation, reduces insulin resistance, and helps you reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. If you want further details, I suggest reviewing my Optimized Nutrition Plan, which will guide you through dietary changes in a step-by-step fashion, moving from beginner to intermediate to advanced.

1. Limit or eliminate all processed foods 2. Eliminate all gluten and highly allergenic foods from your diet 3. Eat organic foods whenever possible to avoid exposure to harmful agricultural chemicals, such as glyphosate 4. Avoid genetically modified ingredients (GMO), which wreak biological chaos on a cellular level and are linked to abundant health problems, including chronic inflammation and heart disease 5. Eat at least one-third of your food uncooked (raw), or as much as you can manage; avoid cooking foods at high temperatures 6. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables in your diet, locally grown and organic if possible 7. Eat naturally fermented foods, which help optimize your gut bacteria and prevent inflammation-causing superantigens from pathogenic bacteria, as well as providing valuable vitamin K2, B vitamins, and other nutrients 8. Avoid all artificial sweeteners. 9. 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 consumption below 15 grams per day until your insulin resistance  has normalized 10. Swap all trans fats (vegetable oils, margarine etc.) for healthy fats like avocado, raw butter, cheese, and coconut oil; avoid consuming oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked scrambled eggs) 11. To rebalance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil, and reduce your consumption of processed omega-6 fats from vegetable oils 12. Drink plenty of pure water every day Five Other Heart-Healthy Moves

In addition to following the heart-healthy plan discussed above, there are several more strategies that can be profoundly helpful in reducing chronic inflammation and thereby lowering your cardiovascular risk:

  1. Exercise regularly. One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it helps normalize and maintain healthy insulin and leptin levels. Exercise also boosts HDL, increases your growth hormone production, helps curb your appetite, and improves your mood and sleep.
  2. Intermittent fasting. Fasting is an excellent way to "reboot" your metabolism so that your body can relearn how to burn fat as its primary fuel, which helps you shed those excess fat stores. Intermittent fasting has a far greater retention and compliance rate compared to conventional all-day fasting regimens. Another version is alternate-day fasting.
  3. Grounding yourself to the earth. When you walk barefoot, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body, and electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known. Grounding (also called Earthing) helps alleviate inflammation, as well as thinning your blood and causing your red blood cells to repel each other, making them less likely to clot.
  4. AVOID statin drugs. Statin drugs can reduce your cholesterol to dangerously low levels, while doing nothing tomodulate LDL particle size. Statin drugs may even accelerate heart disease. A 2012 study showed that statin use is associated with a 52 percent higher prevalence of calcified coronary plaque compared to those not taking them.7 And coronary artery calcification is the hallmark of potentially lethal heart disease. Antidepressants have also been associated with heart disease.
  5. AVOID chemicals whenever possible. BPA, for example, has been linked to heart disease: adults with the highest levels of BPA in their urine are more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease as those with the lowest levels.

Is Biting Your Nails Dangerous - or Just Gross?

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Nail biting, or onychophagia, is a relatively common habit that affects people of all ages. There are many theories as to why people bite their nails, but most agree that it often stems from stress or may be an activity that’s picked up as a child.

Estimates suggest that 30 percent of children, 45 percent of teenagers, 25 percent of young adults, and 5 percent of older adults bite their nails,1 with the aesthetic consequences being the most obvious.

For some people, the social stigma and embarrassment over the look of their nails causes them to become depressed, isolated, or avoid activities they would otherwise enjoy. Beyond this, however, is there reason to worry if you regularly bite your nails?

5 Little-Known Risks to Biting Your Nails

Nail biting may actually be harmful to you beyond the emotional effects. For instance…

1. Disease-Causing Bacteria

Your nails are an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, and that includes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli (which would love to call the underside of your nail tips home).

As you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of your body, where they may lead to infections. Your fingernails may actually be twice as dirty as your fingers,2 considering they’re difficult to keep clean, making this a prime point of transfer for infectious organisms.

Although I’m not aware of any research on this, it’s often suggested (anecdotally) that people who bite their nails have stronger immune systems, and therefore get sick less often, than those who do not.

One potential explanation for this is that nail biting may help introduce pathogens from your environment to your immune system, helping it to learn and build defenses, similar to what occurs when people eat their boogers.

2. Nail Infections

Nail biters are susceptible to paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around your nail.

This painful condition may have to be drained surgically. Bacterial infections caused by nail biting are actually one of the most common nail problems, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).3

3. Warts Due to HPV Infections

Warts on your fingers caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, are common among chronic nail biters. (Here I’m referring to the types of HPV that cause warts on your hands, as opposed to those that lead to genital warts and, rarely, cervical cancer.) These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.

4. Dental Problems

Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the manner in which your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth.

Your teeth may shift out of their proper position, become misshapen, wear down prematurely, and become weakened if you bite your nails over time. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that frequent nail biters may rack up $4,000 in additional dental bills over the course of their lifetime.4

5. Impaired Quality of Life

A study published this year found that people who chronically bite their nails report significantly higher quality of life impairment than those who do not.5

The level of impairment rises with time spent on nail biting, the number of involved fingernails and those who report visible nail abnormalities. Tension when trying to resist nail biting, suffering due to nail biting or nail-eating behavior also negatively influenced quality of life.

Is Nail Biting a Mental Disorder?

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association decided to re-classify nail biting as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), along with other forms of “pathological grooming.”

If nail biting is taken to the extreme that it is significantly interfering with your life and causing you extreme emotional and physical pain, you could, perhaps, make a case for a psychiatric-disorder connection, but in the majority of cases this appears to be another case of disease mongering to sell more psychiatric drugs.

As reported in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, most cases of nail biting in young adults does not appear to be the result of a psychiatric disorder but rather simple boredom or stress:6

Nail biting in young adults occurs as a result of boredom or working on difficult problems, which may reflect a particular emotional state. It occurs least often when people are engaged in social interaction or when they are reprimanded for the behavior.”

6 Simple Tips to Stop Biting Your Nails

Nail biting tends to begin in childhood, peak in adolescence, and then slowly (or abruptly), decline with age. Whether you’re an adult who can’t seem to kick the habit, or a parent of a child or teen who bites his or her nails, here are simple options that are often effective for quitting:

Keep a journal to identify your nail-biting triggers, such as boredom or watching TV, then avoid the triggers as much as possible Wrap your fingertips with Band-Aids or electrical tape Keep your nails trimmed short or manicured Keep your hands busy with other activities, such as knitting Consider behavioral therapy, such as habit reversal training7 Put an unpleasant tasting substance on your fingertips (vinegar, hot sauce, or commercially available bitter-tasting options) Break Your Nail-Biting Addiction Using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

I also urge you to try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is a powerful self-help method that can help you rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress.

It’s very effective for regular stress management as well as for breaking all kinds of addictions. Once the emotional distress is reduced or removed, your body can often rebalance itself and accelerate healing.

I've seen its effectiveness first-hand for a number of years, which is why EFT is the healing technique I most highly recommend to optimize your emotional health. Specifically, EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over five thousand years, but without the invasiveness of needles.

Instead, simple tapping with your fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem -- whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. – and voice positive affirmations. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit" — the emotional block — from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance, which is essential for optimal emotional health and the healing of physical disease.

For a demonstration of how to perform EFT, please view the video below featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman. This is a general demonstration that can be tailored to just about any problem. You can also find text instructions and photographs of where to tap on my EFT page. For when you're on the go, there are at least four different EFT applications available in the iTunes store. The apps range from a simple recap of the EFT’s Basic Recipe to a sophisticated virtual coaching app for specific mental health problems like anxiety and depression.

Bear in mind that while EFT is quite easy to learn and perform, I strongly encourage you to seek out a qualified therapist for more serious or complex issues. It is an art, and tapping for deep-seated issues typically require the kind of skill that only a well-seasoned practitioner will have. If you try to self-treat, you may end up falsely concluding that EFT doesn't work, when nothing could be further from the truth... This is particularly pertinent if you're trying to address trauma-based stress such as PTSD or grief following the loss of a loved one, but if you’re a chronic nail biter, this would certainly still apply.

Under Our Skin—A Shocking Film Exposes the Hidden Reality of Lyme Disease

Sat, 07/26/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Ticks can spread a number of diseases, including human babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease, which has become one of the most serious and controversial epidemics of our time.

According to preliminary statistics1 released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year, approximately 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed in the US each year.

This is about 10 times higher than the officially reported number of cases, indicating that the disease is being vastly underreported. Since national surveillance began in 1982, the number of Lyme cases reported annually has increased nearly 25-fold.2

The Oscar shortlisted documentary Under Our Skin,3 exposes a hidden story of “medical and scientific malfeasance and neglect,” as thousands of people with Lyme disease go undiagnosed, or get misdiagnosed each year. Many who suffer the troubling effects of Lyme disease are simply told that their symptoms are “all in their head.”

As the film follows patients fighting for their lives and livelihoods, it brings into focus a haunting picture of a health care system that is all too willing to put profits ahead of patients. The featured version is the newly released Director’s Cut, which includes 15 minutes of restored footage, re-edited scenes, and character updates.

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease refers to illnesses transferred by insects. Although many still attribute transmission exclusively to ticks, according to Dr. Deitrich Klinghardt, one of the leading authorities on Lyme disease, the bacteria can also be spread by other insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and mites.

Ticks are blood suckers, and prefer dark, crevices such as your armpit or behind your ear, or your scalp. Once it attaches itself and starts feeding on your blood, it will at some point “spit” its bacterial load into your blood stream. If it carries an infectious organism, the infection will spread to you via this salivary emission.

Common side effects of tick bites include an itchy “bull’s eye” rash, pain, fever, and inflammation. Symptoms of Lyme disease typically start out with unrelenting fatigue, recurring fever, headaches, and achy muscles or joints.

The disease may progress to muscle spasms, loss of motor coordination, and even intermittent paralysis, meningitis, or heart problems. For a more complete list of symptoms, refer to the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance.4 Lymedisease.org has also created a printable Symptom Checklist.5

Interestingly, a recent paper published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology6, 7 argues that ticks should be reclassified as venomous, noting that many of its salivary proteins, and their known functions, are similar to those found in scorpion, spider, snake, platypus, and bee venoms. An estimated eight percent of tick species are in fact capable of causing paralysis with a single bite.

The most simple presentation is the orthopedic forms of Lyme disease as they’re typically more superficial, affecting the larger joints. When the microbes and the associated immune reactions are situated in the connective tissue, the infection presents as a “vague, dispersed pain,” which oftentimes ends up being misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia by conventional doctors.

Lyme disease, just as syphilis was, is also known as “the great imitator,”8 as it mimics many other disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The Lyme Paradox

Despite debilitating symptoms, many Lyme patients outwardly appear completely healthy, which is why Lyme disease has also been called “the invisible illness.” People with Lyme often “look good,” and their blood work appears normal, but their internal experience is a different story altogether.

As a result, many patients simply end up being referred to a psychiatrist. Doctors have even been known to accuse Lyme patients of being attention seekers, fabricating their illness...

A big part of the problem is that Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose using conventional lab tests. One of the reasons blood tests are so unreliable as indicators of Lyme infection is that the spirochete has found a way to infect your white blood cells.

Lab tests rely on the normal function of these cells to produce the antibodies they measure. If your white cells are infected, they don’t respond to an infection appropriately. Interestingly, the worse your Borrelia infection is, the less likely it will show up on a blood test. In order for Lyme tests to be useful, you have to be treated first. Once your immune system begins to respond normally, only then will the antibodies show up.

This is called the “Lyme Paradox”—you have to be treated before a proper diagnosis can be made.

I recommend the specialized lab called Igenex because they test for more outer surface proteins (bands), and can often detect Lyme while standard blood tests cannot. Igenex also tests for a few strains of co-infections such as Babesia and Erhlichia.

That said, a negative on the Igenex test for these co-infections doesn’t necessarily mean you are not infected, there are many more strains than they can test for.

There’s great variation in the presentation of the disease as well, depending on where you contracted it, and whether or not you have any other coexisting infections. The only distinctive hallmark unique to Lyme disease is the “bull’s eye” rash, but this is absent in nearly half of those infected. Fewer than half of Lyme patients recall a tick bite. In some studies, this number is as low as 15 percent.

The History and Discovery of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease was named after the East Coast town of Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease was first identified in1975.9 The disease was initially referred to as “Lyme arthritis” due to the presentation of atypical arthritic symptoms. By 1977, the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis, also known as the deer tick) was linked to transmission of the disease.

Then in 1982, Willy Burgdorferi, PhD, discovered the bacterium responsible for the infection: Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are released into your blood from the infected tick, while the tick is drinking your blood. We now know there are five subspecies of Borrelia burgdorferi, more than 100 strains in the US and 300 worldwide, many of which have developed resistance to our various antibiotics.

Borrelia burgdorferi is10 is a cousin to the spirochete bacterium that causes syphilis. In fact, they look very similar under a microscope, and both are capable of taking different forms in your body (cystic, granular, and cell wall deficient forms), depending on what conditions they need to accommodate. This clever maneuvering helps them to hide and survive. B. burgdorferi’s corkscrew-shaped form allows it to burrow into and hide in a variety of your body’s tissues, which is why it causes such wide-ranging multisystem involvement.

The organisms may also live in biofilm communities—basically a colony of germs surrounded by a slimy glue-like substance that is hard to unravel. All of these different morphologies explain why treatment is so difficult, and why recurrence of symptoms occurs after standard antibiotic protocols.

Ticks can also simultaneously infect you with a number of other disease-causing organisms, such as Bartonella, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Babesia. Any or all of these organisms can travel with Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme) and each organism causes a different set of symptoms. Many Lyme patients have one or more of these co-infections, which may or may not respond to any given treatment.

The Ongoing Lyme Controversy

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) publishes guidelines for a number of infectious diseases, one of which is Lyme. IDSA’s 2006 clinical practice guidelines for Lyme disease11 claim that Lyme is very rare, and easily cured with two weeks of antibiotics, requiring 28 days in rare cases. They also claim there is no scientific evidence for chronic Borrelia infection. However, the literature choices they list in their reference section reflect a clear bias. Of the 400 references they cite, half are based on articles written by their own people. Their literature review in no way represents the total body of science related to the study of Lyme disease.

IDSA’s guidelines have sweeping impacts on Lyme disease medical care. They are commonly applied by insurance companies to restrict coverage for long-term treatment and strongly influence physicians’ treatment decisions. Insurance companies have denied coverage for long-term treatment, citing these guidelines as justification that chronic Lyme disease is a myth.

Opposing the IDSA is the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), the members of which argue that Lyme disease is far more prevalent than previously recognized, in large part due to inaccurate laboratory tests. They also insist that many patients suffer long-term consequences, and require far longer treatment than recommended by IDSA.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has been a strong advocate for people with Lyme disease.12 In 2007, while he was Connecticut Attorney General, Blumenthal conducted an antitrust investigation into the IDSA’s panel members and 2006 Lyme disease guidelines. His investigation found rampant conflicts of interest in the IDSA, with numerous undisclosed financial interests among its most powerful panelists. Some of them had financial interests in diagnostic tests, vaccines, and insurance, for example.

IDSA agreed to create a new panel to review the ethics of the 2006 IDSA panel, overseen by Blumenthal’s office. Eight hours of testimony13 from both sides of the fence were heard by the newly formed panel on July 30, 2009. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to any changes. The Final Report14 published on the IDSA site concluded that the original guidelines were “based on the highest-quality medical/scientific evidence available,” and that the authors “did not fail to consider or cite any relevant data.” As a result, chronic Lyme patients continue having to fight for their right to treatment. You can find suggestions for how to respond to insurance denials based on IDSA’s guidelines on LymeDisease.org’s website.15

Take Prevention Seriously

Considering the difficulty of diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, taking preventive measures16 should be at the top of your list:

  • Avoid tick-infested areas, such as leaf piles around trees. Walk in the middle of trails, and avoid brushing against long grasses path edgings. Don’t sit on logs or wooden stumps
  • Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves, to make it easier to see the ticks
  • Tuck your pants into socks, and wear closed shoes and a hat—especially if venturing out into wooded areas. Also tuck your shirt into your pants
  • Ticks, especially nymphal ticks, are very tiny. You want to find and remove them before they bite, so do a thorough tick check upon returning inside, and keep checking for several days following exposure. Also check your bedding for several days following exposure

As for using chemical repellents, I do not recommend using them directly on your skin as this will introduce toxins directly into your body. If you use them, spray them on the outside of your clothes, and avoid inhaling the spray fumes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list17 indicating the hourly protection limits for various repellents. If you find that a tick has latched onto you, it’s very important to remove it properly. For detailed instructions, please see LymeDisease.org’s Tick Removal page.18 Once removed, make sure you save the tick so that it can be tested for presence of pathogenic organisms.

Dr. Klinghardt’s Treatment Protocol for Lyme Disease

Doctors who believe chronic Lyme to be a reality will typically rely on long-term use of antibiotics. While this treatment can be effective, there are many reasons to opt for alternatives such as those detailed in my interview with Dr. Klinghardt, as antibiotics will disrupt your gut flora, thereby exposing you to a whole host of other pathologies. Dr. Klinghardt’s basic treatment strategies are summarized below. His full treatment protocol is too complex to include here, but if you want details, I recommend reading our 2009 article that focuses on those specific Lyme treatment strategies. You can also visit Dr. Klinghardt’s website, where he posts his more current treatment protocols and recipes. In summary, there are five basic steps to his protocol:

  1. Evaluation of all external factors. External factors include electrosmog, EMF, microwave radiation from wireless technologies, and molds. (For more information on mold, go to Ritchie Shoemaker’s website19).
  2. Remediation and mitigation of external factors. Once external factors have been assessed, they're remediated and mitigated. (Please refer to our previous article on mold remediation.) To mitigate microwave radiation, Dr. Klinghardt recommends shielding the outside of your home with a graphite paint called Y Shield. Inside, he uses a special silver-coated cloth for your curtains. Patients are instructed to remove all cordless telephones and turn off all the fuses at night, until they have recovered from Lyme disease.
  3. Addressing emotional issues. Emotional components of the disease are addressed using Energy Psychology tools, including psychokinesiology (PK), which is similar to the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but more refined and advanced.
  4. Addressing parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections. Dr. Klinghardt addresses the parasites first, followed by the bacteria and the viruses. The “Klinghardt antimicrobial cocktail," which includes wormwood (artemisinin), phospholipids, vitamin C, and various herbs, is an integral part of this treatment. He addresses viral infections with Viressence (by BioPure), which is a tincture of Native American herbs.
  5. Addressing other lifestyle factors. Nutritional considerations and supplements are addressed.
  6. Also, the following table lists a variety of different treatment strategies that have been found to be useful in Lyme disease by those embracing natural methods.

Probiotics to improve immunity and restore microflora during and after antibiotics Curcumin is helpful at reducing neurological toxins and brain swelling Astaxanthin to neutralize toxins, improve vision, and relieve joint pain, common in Lyme Whey protein concentrate may help with nutrition, often poor in Lyme patients who don’t feel well enough to eat properly Grapefruit seed extract may treat the cyst form of Borrelia Krill oil to reduce inflammation Cilantro as a natural chelator for heavy metals Serrapeptase helps to break biofilms Resveratrol may treat Bartonella, a co-infection and also helps detoxification GABA and melatonin to help with insomnia Artemisinin and Andrographis, two herbs that may treat Babesia, a common co-infection CoQ10 to support cardiac health and reduce muscle pain and brain fog Quercetin reduces histamine (often high in Lyme) Transfer factors can help boost immune function Additional Resources

In Dr. Klinghardt's experience, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is by far the best and most responsible group. The following are some other resources you might find helpful. For more, see the Resource page on UnderOurSkin.com:20

Under Our Skin - Director's Cut Click Here to Order

How Sugar Harms Your Brain Health and Drives Alzheimer’s Epidemic

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Alzheimer's disease, a severe form of dementia, affects an estimated 5.2 million Americans, according to 2013 statistics.1

One in nine seniors over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's, and the disease is now thought to be the third leading cause of death in the US, right behind heart disease and cancer.

A growing body of research suggests there's a powerful connection between your diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes.

Contrary to popular belief, your brain does not require glucose, and actually functions better burning alternative fuels, especially ketones, which your body makes in response to digesting healthy fats.

According to some experts, such as Dr. Ron Rosedale, Alzheimer's and other brain disorders may in large part be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.

Alzheimer's disease was tentatively dubbed "type 3 diabetes" in early 2005 when researchers discovered that in addition to your pancreas, your brain also produces insulin, and this brain insulin is necessary for the survival of brain cells.

Sugar Damages Brain Structure and Function

In your brain, insulin helps with neuron glucose-uptake and the regulation of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning. This is why reducing the level of insulin in your brain impairs your cognition.

Research2 has also shown 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.

Studies have found that people with lower levels of insulin and insulin receptors in their brain often have Alzheimer's disease. But according to recent research published in the journal Neurology,3 sugar and other carbohydrates can disrupt your brain function even if you're not diabetic or have any signs of dementia.

To test their theory, they evaluated short- and long-term glucose markers in 141 healthy, non-diabetic, non-demented seniors. Memory tests and brain imaging were administered to assess their brain function and the actual structure of their hippocampus. As reported by Scientific American:4

"Higher levels on both glucose measures were associated with worse memory, as well as a smaller hippocampus and compromised hippocampal structure.

The researchers also found that the structural changes partially accounted for the statistical link between glucose and memory. According to study co-author Agnes Flöel, a neurologist at Charité, the results 'provide further evidence that glucose might directly contribute to hippocampal atrophy.'"

The findings suggest that even if you're not diabetic or insulin resistant (and about 80 percent of Americans fall into the latter category), sugar consumption can still disrupt your memory.

Long-term, it can contribute to the shrinking of your hippocampus, which is a hallmark symptom of Alzheimer's disease. (Your hippocampus is involved with the formation, organization, and storage of memories.)

The authors of the study suggest that "strategies aimed at lowering glucose levels even in the normal range may beneficially influence cognition in the older population."

'Normal' Blood Sugar Levels May Still Be High Enough to Cause Problems

Normally, a fasting blood sugar level between 100-125 mg/dl is diagnosed as a pre-diabetic state. A fasting blood sugar level of 90-100 is considered "normal." But in addition to the featured research, other studies have also found that brain atrophy occurs even in this "normal" blood sugar range.

Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, MD insists that being very strict in limiting your consumption of sugar and non-vegetable carbs is one of THE most important steps you can take to prevent Alzheimer's disease for this very reason.

He cites research from the Mayo Clinic, which found that diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia. Meanwhile, high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk.

Download Interview Transcript

Sugar Lobby Threatens Organizations and Buries Science on Health Effects

Compelling research shows that your brain has great plasticity, which you control through your diet and lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, the American public has been grossly brainwashed by the sugar and processed food industries into believing that sugar is a perfectly reasonable "nutrient" that belongs in a healthy diet.  

Without accurate information, it's certainly more difficult to make health-affirming choices. Newsweek5 recently ran an article revealing just how far the sugar industry will go to defend its market share:

"According to a new report6 from the Center for Science and Democracy... industry groups representing companies that sell sweeteners, like the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association... have poured millions of dollars into countering science that indicates negative health consequences of eating their products.

For example, when a University of Southern California study from 2013 found that the actual high fructose corn syrup content in sodas 'varied significantly' from the sugar content disclosed on soda labels, the Corn Refiners Association considered paying for its own counter research.

A consultant suggested that the counter research should only be published if the results aligned with their goal of disputing the USC study: 'If for any reason the results confirm [the University of Southern California study], we can just bury the data,' the consultant wrote, according to the report."

According to the Center for Science report, the Sugar Association even threatened the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO had published a paper on sugar, recommending a 10 percent limit on added sugars, stating that added sugars "threaten the nutritional quality of diets."

The Sugar Association shot off a letter to the director general, warning him that, unless WHO withdrew the study, the Sugar Association would persuade the US Congress to withdraw the WHO's federal funding. The following year, when WHO published its global health strategy on diet and health, there was no mention of the offending sugar study.

The Sugar Lobby Deserves Blame for Fueling Chronic Disease Epidemics

Indeed, despite overwhelming evidence showing that sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is at the heart of our burgeoning obesity and chronic disease epidemics, the sugar lobby has been so successful in its efforts to thwart the impact of such evidence that there's still no consensus among our regulatory agencies as to the "factual" dangers of sugar...

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data,7 13 percent of the average American's diet is sugar. In the UK, a recently published report8 by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends limiting your added sugar intake to five percent, in order to avoid obesity and type 2 diabetes. They calculate this to be the equivalent of 25 grams of sugar (5-6 teaspoons) per day for women, and 35 grams (7-8 teaspoons) for men.

This matches my own recommendations for healthy, non-insulin resistant individuals—with one key difference. I recommend restricting sugar/fructose consumption to 25 grams from ALL sources, not just added sugar. This includes limiting your non-vegetable carbohydrates as well. Crazy enough, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition still recommends you get 50 percent of your daily energy intake in the form of starchy carbohydrates, which will undoubtedly and significantly raise your risk of insulin resistance. If you're insulin/leptin resistant, diabetic, overweight, or have high blood pressure, heart disease, or cancer, I recommend restricting your sugar/fructose consumption to a maximum of 15 grams per day from all sources, until your insulin/leptin resistance has been resolved.

Dietary Guidelines for Maintaining Healthy Brain Function and Avoiding Alzheimer's Disease

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 for preventing Alzheimer's disease

Because of the very limited treatments, and no available cure as of yet, you're really left with just one solid solution, and that is to prevent Alzheimer's from happening to you in the first place. As explained by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, Alzheimer's is a disease predicated primarily on lifestyle choices; the two main culprits being excessive sugar and gluten consumption.

Another major factor is the development and increased consumption of genetically engineered (GE) grains, which are now pervasive in most processed foods sold in the US. The beauty of following my optimized nutrition plan is that it helps prevent and treat virtually ALL chronic degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's. Dr. Perlmutter's book, Grain Brain, also provides powerful arguments for eliminating grains from your diet, particularly if you want to protect the health of your brain. In terms of your diet, the following suggestions may be among the most important for Alzheimer's prevention:

  • Avoid sugar and refined fructose. Ideally, you'll want to keep your total sugar and fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin resistance or any related disorders. In one recent animal study, a junk food diet high in sugar resulted in impaired memory after just one week!9 Place recognition, specifically, was adversely affected.
  • As a general rule, you'll want to keep your fasting insulin levels below 3, and this is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance. However, other sugars (sucrose is 50 percent fructose by weight), grains, and lack of exercise are also important factors. Lowering insulin will also help lower leptin levels which is another factor for Alzheimer's.

  • Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain barrier, the barrier that keeps things out of your brain where they don't belong, is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don't belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer's.
  • Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate, such as the one described in my nutrition plan. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements like folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.
  • Increase consumption of all healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3. Beneficial health-promoting fats that your brain needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called ghee, organic grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but ketones. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are a great source of ketone bodies, because coconut oil is about 66 percent MCTs. In 2010, I published Dr. Mary Newport's theory that coconut oil might offer profound benefits in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. She has since launched one of the first clinical trials of its kind to test this theory.

    Also make sure you're getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. (I recommend avoiding most fish because, although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most fish are now severely contaminated with mercury.) High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.

  • Optimize your gut flora by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high-potency and high-quality probiotic supplement
  • Eat blueberries. Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanin and antioxidant content, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases. 
Other Helpful Dietary Tips and Valuable Supplements

Another helpful tip is to reduce your overall calorie consumption, and/or intermittently fast. As mentioned above, ketones are mobilized when you replace carbs with coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats. A one-day fast can help your body to "reset" itself, and start to burn fat instead of sugar. As part of a healthy lifestyle, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day. To learn more about intermittent fasting, please see this previous article.

Also be aware that when it comes to cholesterol levels and Alzheimer's, lower is NOT better. Quite the contrary. According to Dr. Perlmutter, research shows that elderly individuals with the lowest cholesterol levels have the highest risk for Alzheimer's. They also have the highest risk for dying. As he says, the war on cholesterol is fundamentally inappropriate and harmful.

Finally, there's a short list of supplement recommendations worth noting for their specific benefits in preventing and treating dementia. So, although your fundamental strategy for preventing dementia should involve a comprehensive lifestyle approach, you may want to take special note of the following natural dietary agents. These four natural foods/supplements have good science behind them, in terms of preventing age-related cognitive changes:

  1. Gingko biloba: Many scientific studies have found that Ginkgo biloba has positive effects for dementia. A 1997 study from JAMA showed clear evidence that Ginkgo improves cognitive performance and social functioning for those suffering from dementia. Another 2006 study found Ginkgo as effective as the dementia drug Aricept (donepezil) for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer's type dementia. A 2010 meta-analysis also found Ginkgo biloba to be effective for a variety of types of dementia.
  2. Alpha lipoic acid (ALA): ALA has been shown to help stabilize cognitive functions among Alzheimer's patients and may slow the progression of the disease.
  3. Vitamin B12: A small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology10 found thatpeople who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by two percent. Remember sublingual methylcobalamin may be your best bet here.
Lifestyle Strategies That Can Help Ward off Alzheimer's Disease

Lifestyle choices such as getting regular sun exposure and exercise, along with avoiding toxins, are also important factors when it comes to maintaining optimal brain health. Here are several of my lifestyle suggestions:

  • Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
  • Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's.

  • Exercise regularly. It's been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,11 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has also shown that people with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1alpha in their brains12 and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's. I would strongly recommend reviewing the Peak Fitness Technique for my specific recommendations.
  • Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However, you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
  • Avoid aluminum, such as antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc.
  • Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.
  • Avoid anticholinergics and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
  • Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.

  • Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Study: Interrupted Sleep May Be as Harmful as No Sleep at All

Thu, 07/24/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Sleep deprivation is a well-known risk to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact one aspect of your health… it impacts many.

When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to react as quickly as you normally would, making driving or other potentially dangerous activities, like using power tools, risky.

Your ability to think clearly is also dampened by lack of sleep, which means you will have trouble retaining memories, processing information, and making decisions.

As your reaction time and cognition slows, your emotions will be kicked into high gear. This means that arguments with co-workers or your spouse are likely and you’re probably going to be at fault for blowing things out of proportion.

But much more than that, sleep deprivation has virtually the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.

There’s an important caveat to be aware of that is not yet widely known, however, and that is your sleep quality is every bit as important as your sleep duration. So if you stay in bed for eight or nine hours a night, but during that time you’re waking up repeatedly, it’s just as bad as getting hardly any sleep at all…

One Night of Interrupted Sleep Wreaks Havoc on Your Mood, Energy Levels

Just one night of interrupted sleep is all it takes to make you feel more depressed, fatigued, and confused, according to new research.1 What’s more, there was little difference in the negative effects of interrupted sleep (defined as four prolonged awakenings spread across eight hours in bed) compared to those of restricted sleep (spending just four hours in bed, total).

Night-wakings also lead to reduced vigor and motivation and increased errors on an online performance test. The study attempted to mimic life-like night-wakings, which for the study purposes included making a phone call to participants in the middle of the night directing them to complete a brief computer exercise (at four separate occasions during the night).

It’s a scenario that may not seem unfamiliar to you, especially if you find yourself waking at night frequently. What does this mean for new parents, doctors (mostly residents in training but certain specialties like OB and trauma surgeons on ER call), and the millions of other people who find their sleep regularly interrupted at night (by pets, noise, racing thoughts, light pollution, work obligations, and more)? If you suffer from interrupted sleep, it might be putting your health at risk. Professor Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, the study’s lead author, said:2

“Our study shows the impact of only one disrupted night. We know that these effects accumulate and therefore the functional price new parents — who awaken three to ten times a night for months on end — pay for common infant sleep disturbance is enormous…

I hope that our study will bring this to the attention of scientists and clinicians, who should recognize the price paid by individuals who have to endure frequent night-wakings.”

Interrupted Sleep Makes It Difficult to Get Through the Necessary Stages of Sleep

It makes sense that interruptions to your sleep would result in much the same damage as lack of sleep, because sleep occurs in phases. Ideally, you should progress from slow-wave sleep back up to REM sleep in 60- to 90-minute cycles.

Any interruptions to this make your body start over, in a sense, which means you might never reach the most restorative, deeper phases of sleep.

You might as well not be sleeping at all, which is likely one reason why lack of sleep and interrupted sleep result in such similar damage. In a healthy night’s sleep, you should progress through the following sleep stages (though not necessarily in this order):3

  • Stage One, when you’re preparing to drift off
  • Stage Two, during which your brain wave activity becomes rapid and rhythmic while your body temperature drops and heart rate slows
  • Stage Three, when deep slow brain waves emerge (this is a transition from light sleep to deep sleep)
  • Stage Four, also known as delta sleep, this is a deep sleep stage
  • Stage Five, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is when most dreaming occurs

As reported by Psych Central:4

Sleep does not progress through all of these stages in sequence, however. Sleep begins in Stage One and progresses into stages 2, 3, and 4. Then, after Stage Four sleep, Stages Three, then Two are repeated before going into REM sleep. Once REM is over, we usually return to Stage Two sleep.

Sleep cycles through these stages approximately 4 or 5 times throughout the night. We typically enter REM approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep.

The first cycle of REM often lasts only a short amount of time, but each cycle becomes longer. This is why we need long periods of sleep each night as most of the REM sleep occurs in the hours before awakening.

If we get short periods of sleep, we can’t really get through the stages we need to heal and stay healthy. REM can last up to an hour as our sleep progresses. In case you are wondering, if you feel like a dream is taking a long period of time, it really is. Contrary to what was once believed, dreams take as long as they actually seem.”

Small Shifts in Your Sleep Cycle May Make or Break Your Health

If you’re wondering just how sensitive your sleep cycle actually is, you might be surprised to learn that it’s incredibly vulnerable to changes, such that even the small amount of sleep deprivation caused by Daylight Saving Time may be problematic.

One Washington University neuroscientist told CBS News that adjusting clocks forward one hour corresponds with a significant increase in traffic accidents and heart attacks5 over the next two to three days.

One study also found that the spring transition, which causes a phase advance, is particularly hard on the average person’s sleep-wake cycle,6 and while it’s generally thought that the loss of one hour of sleep on the night of the change is inconsequential, research suggests otherwise. According to a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews:7

“…data suggests that increased sleep fragmentation and sleep latency present a cumulative effect of sleep loss [following the spring transition], at least across the following week, perhaps longer.

The autumn transition is often popularized as a gain of 1 h[our] of sleep but there is little evidence of extra sleep on that night. The cumulative effect of five consecutive days of earlier rise times following the autumn change again suggests a net loss of sleep across the week. Indirect evidence of an increase in traffic accident rates, and change in health and regulatory behaviors which may be related to sleep disruption suggest that adjustment to daylight saving time is neither immediate nor without consequence.”

A One-Hour Difference Is a Huge Deal

As far as lack of sleep goes, research has shown that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night, there were increases in the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.8 In other words, getting just one hour less sleep a night may raise your risk of multiple chronic diseases. Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:

Increase your risk of heart disease. Harm your brain by halting new cell production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus. Impair your ability to lose excess pounds or maintain your ideal weight. This is likely the effect of altered metabolism, because when you're sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises. Contribute to a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight. Accelerate tumor growth, primarily due to disrupted melatonin production. Melatonin inhibits the proliferation of a wide range of cancer cell types, as well as triggering cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction). The hormone also interferes with the new blood supply tumors require for their rapid growth (angiogenesis). Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high intensity interval training). Raise your blood pressure. Increase your risk of dying from any cause. A Simple Trick to Help You Stay in Deep Sleep Longer

Deep sleep is one of the most important sleep phases as your body repairs and regenerates, your immune system is strengthened and much more. The more time you can spend in this crucial sleep phase during the night, the more refreshed you’re going to feel in the morning, as well. Sound stimulation has been shown to be effective for prolonging deep sleep, so if you’re having trouble staying asleep at night, this is a simple trick to try.

Published in the journal Neuron,9 the study found that playing “pink noise” sounds that were synchronized to the subject’s brain waves when the subject approached deep sleep allowed them to remain in deep sleep longer than when the sound was not played. The participants were also shown 120 pairs of words before going to bed and tested the following morning to see how many they could remember.

After sound stimulation, the subjects improved their memory retention by nearly 60 percent, recalling an average of 22 sets of words compared to 13 when the sound was not played. The key, according to the authors, is that the frequency of the sound was synched to the subject’s brain waves. This produced an increase in the size of the brain waves during deep sleep, and these slower brain waves are associated with information processing and memory formation. You can find special “pink noise” apps to play in your bedroom, or you can simply turn on a fan to get this benefit.

Turn Off Your Gadgets and Avoid Other Common Sleep Disturbances

If your sleep is being interrupted, the first step is to determine the cause. If you’re a new parent being woken by a newborn, there’s obviously little you can do, aside from teaming up with your spouse or another family member so you can each have alternating nights of uninterrupted sleep. Most cases of sleep disruptions, however, will be related to environmental or emotional factors. Some common examples include:

  • Eating a heavy meal, or spicy foods, too close to bed
  • Pets in your bed or bedroom
  • Pain (headache, menstrual cramps, back pain, etc.)
  • Alcohol in the evening
  • Use of your computer, tablet, cellphone, or television

That last one is a biggie, as about 95 percent of Americans use an electronic device within one hour of going to sleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll.10 This has a major implication on the quality of your sleep, in ways you might not even imagine. Certainly, such devices can keep you awake by making noises, but they also interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, in far more insidious, and damaging ways.

Exposure to even small amounts of light from a television, your computer, tablet, or smartphone can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Plus, when you're connected to the Internet, your phone or computer are communicating with nearby cell towers, which means they're also emitting low levels of radiation. One 2008 study revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.11, 12

According to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll, 53 percent of respondents who turn electronics off while sleeping tend to rate their sleep as excellent, compared to just 27 percent of those who leave their devices on.13 This is why I recommend avoiding watching TV or using a computer or tablet at least an hour or so before going to bed. If you do keep your devices in your room, make sure they are physically turned off along with your Wi-Fi router. An alternative, you can try a free computer program called f.lux (see justgetflux.com), which alters the color temperature of your computer screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths as it gets late.

How to Get Uninterrupted, Restorative Sleep

Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes. Number one on my list? As mentioned, turn off your electronic gadgets and keep them out of your bedroom:

  • Avoid watching TV or using your computer/smartphone or tablet in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed.
  • Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
  • Get some sun in the morning. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night.
  • Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your clock radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades, or wear an eye mask when you sleep.
  • Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.
  • Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
  • Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.
  • Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. If possible install a kill switch to turn off all electricity to your bedroom. If you need a clock, use a battery-operated one.

15 Natural Remedies for Back Pain

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 02:00

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

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 02:00

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.

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