By Dr. Mercola
On July 23, 2015, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1599,1 ironically misnamed "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act"2,3,4 more commonly referred to as the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" or DARK Act.
Despite heavy opposition, the measure was approved 275-150.
The “DARK” Act (HR 1599) specifically preempts states’ rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws and, if passed by the Senate, will effectively block Vermont’s GMO labeling law, set to take effect in 2016.
This is a significant blow to Americans’ right to truthful and transparent information about the food we eat, and Republican dissention in the Senate is our last hope to put a stop to this latest and most monstrous incarnation of the “Monsanto Protection Act.”Pro-GMO Forces Spent Nearly $64 MILLION on Lobbying This Bill to Pass the House
According to a report5 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), food and biotechnology companies spent $63.6 million in 2014 to lobby specifically for this kind of anti-labeling legislation. That’s nearly three times the amount spent on anti-labeling lobbying efforts in 2013.
Of the $25.4 million spent by the Grocery Manufacturers Association for GMO related lobbying last year, nearly half ($13.3 million) came from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. These numbers dwarf those of the pro-labeling lobby, which spent a mere $2.6 million in 2014.
The report also notes that between 2012 and 2014, labeling opponents spent $105.8 million to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, and that doesn’t even include funds used to lobby state legislatures.HR 1599 Eliminates State Rights
In addition to barring states from creating their own food labeling requirements for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), HR 1599, introduced by Rep. Pompeo, also preempts any and all state and local regulation of GE crops, and further weakens federal oversight.6
Moreover, rather than simply labeling foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, the bill calls for the creation of a USDA non-GMO certification program similar to its National Organic Program — essentially shifting all of the costs over to those who want to declare that their foods are not GMO.
This system is as backwards as it gets. If GMOs were labeled, as they rightfully should be, there would be no need for GMO-free labeling, which was originally nothing more than a workaround to give consumers what they want — the right to make an informed purchasing decision.
The basic premise and purpose of general food labeling is to inform you of what’s in the food you’re buying; its basic ingredients and additives — not what’s NOT in the food (unless it relates to a known health risk, such as peanut allergy or gluten intolerance).
Due to industry manipulation aimed at hiding controversial and potentially hazardous ingredients and residues, we’ve seen this shift in burden, starting with non-RBGH labels for dairy products using milk from cows not given synthetic, genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormones, which have been linked to cancer.
Now any food that does not contain a man-made genetic experiment will be forced to declare that they’re “normal” on the label, or be assumed to contain GMOs. It’s completely nonsensical and the only beneficiaries of such a convoluted, backward system are the biotechnology and the processed food industries.GMO Salmon Labeling OK’d
Interestingly, just days before HR 1599 was passed by the House of Representatives, a provision was added to a Senate spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that requires genetically engineered salmon to be labeled.
As reported by AgriPulse:7
“The... biotech salmon labeling requirement are not in the House bill. The Senate committee approved both provisions without a roll-call vote. Differences between the two bills will have to be worked out later between Senate and House negotiators.
The salmon labeling requirement proposed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, would add a wrinkle to the congressional debate over labeling for genetically engineered crops.
Murkowski told colleagues that farmers shouldn't be concerned that the salmon labeling would set a precedent for labeling biotech crops. ‘Corn doesn't swim from one field to another and propagate with other corn in another state. Fish move. Fish escape,’ she said.”
The labeling of GE salmon is a perfect example of everything that’s wrong with HR 1599, and why the Senate should not pass it when the time comes. Whose responsibility is it to label their fish? Should traditional salmon suppliers be forced to certify theirs as non-GMO, which HR 1599 would require, or should the transgenic fish (which has been engineered with eel genes to make it grow three times faster) be labeled as genetically engineered?
The cost and burden for proper identification really belongs with the transgenic species, which has never existed in nature before; not the traditional fish you would expect to purchase when buying a package labeled “salmon.”Would GMO Labeling Really Raise Food Prices?
There’s little doubt that the House of Representatives was swayed by false and deceptive propaganda. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which was one of the hidden architects of HR 1599, managed to convince many of the representatives that GMO labeling would increase food prices — on average by $500 for a family living in New York.8
However, what’s so contradictory is that food makers are so nervous about denying their customers transparency that they’re willing to print a QR code on the box instead of the four words: “Produced with Genetic Engineering.” QR stands for Quick Response, and the code can be scanned and read by smart phones and other QR readers. It provides details about the product and may be linked to a coupon or other marketing ploys.
In a July 16 article for PoliticoPro, Jenny Hopkinson discusses the implementation of company-supported QR apps for your smartphone, noting that the program is being coordinated by the GMA. Hershey’s will likely be the first company to try out the QR code, with a wider rollout by the middle of next year.
However, there are still issues to be resolved before the smart-label program can begin. Ingredient names need to be standardized, and adding the QR codes to packaging will take time. What’s not addressed is that it will also, most likely, cost money. As reported by Hopkinson:
“The bar code idea is a way of finding that balance, because it creates a process by which a great deal of info can be supplied to a consumer who is interested but it doesn’t indicate that there is anything wrong with a product like a label does, (Agriculture Secretary Tom) Vilsack said.
Rep. Collin Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, supports the idea too. Peterson told POLITICO in May that such a system would mean that: ‘[I]f someone wants to know what’s in these products they can read it on their smartphone and that solves the problem” without “cluttering up the label.’”Changes to Food Labels Have Never Impacted Price of Food
How can printing a QR code on food packaging be cheaper than adding four words? Won’t adding a QR code also increase the cost of food? And why this focus on avoiding the suggestion that there might be something wrong with the food, or that four more words will “clutter up” the label? The only way to interpret this run-around is that they’re liars trying to hide the facts from their customers.
Their willingness to add QR codes defeats the argument that adding a few words to the label would raise food prices. There’s also no guarantee that companies will actually tell the truth about GMOs on these voluntary online labels, so promises of voluntary transparency through this system should probably be taken with a big grain of salt.
On the whole, it seems their chief aim is to keep the information about GMOs out of direct sight of the consumer. It really is not about the cost of a label. As noted in a Boston Globe Op-Ed by Rep. Jim McGovern (Massachusetts) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (Maine):9
“Supporters of the bill (HR 1599) claim that GMO labeling will increase food prices. While plenty of things impact the prices we pay at the grocery store — including transportation costs and ingredient costs — GMO labeling is not one of them. In study after study, we have seen that a simple GMO disclaimer on food packaging will not increase prices.
Food companies change their labels all the time to make new claims, and all food companies will soon have to change their labels to make important changes to the Nutrition Fact Panel. Adding a few words to the back of the food package about genetic engineering will not have any impact of the cost of making food.
Opponents of updating food labeling made the same bogus arguments when they fought nutrition labeling in the 1980s. Back then, they claimed that disclosing the presence of calories, salt, fat, and sugar would require costly reformulations. But those much more significant changes to foods labels — adding the Nutrition Facts Panel and including more information about ingredients — didn’t change the price of food at all.” [Emphasis mine]GMOs — Another Too Big to Fail Enterprise?
In a recent article published in The New York Times,10 Mark Spitznagel, senior economic advisor to Senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul11,12 (son of the well-known libertarian, Texas congressman, and former Presidential candidate Ron Paul) addresses the inherent risks of promoting GMOs without safeguards.
Before 2007, when the financial crisis began, Spitznagel and co-author Nicholas Taleb, a scientific advisor and professor of risk engineering, warned that the “financial system was fragile and unsustainable, contrary to the near ubiquitous analyses at the time.” Now the pair is issuing another warning, noting that:
“The GMO experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, ‘too big to fail’ enterprise — but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails.”
Back then, Spitznagel and Taleb predicted a collapse of the financial system. Now they’re predicting a collapse of the global ecosystem. In both instances, the same set of false arguments is used to dismiss the call for more prudent action:
- Critics accuse those concerned about GMOs to be “anti-science,” and invoke “scientific consensus” claiming safety and being in favor of forging forward. But, as noted by Spitznagel and Taleb: “Had science operated solely by consensus, we would still be stuck in the Middle Ages. According to scientific practice, scientific consensus is used in telling us what theory is wrong; it cannot determine what is right. Nor can it apply to risk management, which requires much greater scrutiny.”
- The salvation through technology argument. “In fact, only a small minority of technologies end up sticking; most fail because of some flaw identified over time,’ they note. ‘The technological salvation argument we faced in finance is also present with GMOs, which are intended to ‘save children by providing them with vitamin-enriched rice.’ The argument’s flaw is obvious: in a complex system, we do not know the causal chain, and it is better to solve a problem by the simplest method, and one that is unlikely to cause a bigger problem.”
- The no-reward-without-risk argument. According to Spitznagel and Taleb: “We were told that had ideas such as ours prevailed in the past, they would have hindered risk-taking. Yet, the first rule of risk-taking is to not cross the street blindfolded.”
- Relying on primitive risk models. “What is most worrisome, is that the risk of GMOs are more severe than those of finance. They can lead to complex chains of unpredictable changes in the ecosystem, while the methods of risk management with GMOs — unlike finance, where some effort was made — are not even primitive.”
- Relying on prediction models without taking into account or preparing for prediction errors
The oft-repeated mantra claiming there’s a scientific consensus that GMOs are safe is in fact a lie. Scientists have become so concerned about this fallacy having taken root that 300 scientists, researchers, physicians and scholars signed their name to a statement published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe,13 asserting that there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.
According to this paper, the claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is in actuality “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated.” It also states that such a claim “is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue.”
The claim that GE foods are materially comparable to conventional foods, and therefore inherently safe, falls flat when you consider that GE crops are designed to be different. Among crops, two primary GE modifications have taken place: so-called Roundup Ready crops are designed to withstand the herbicide Roundup, which would normally threaten the survival of the crop if sprayed too liberally.
Another example of these kinds of herbicide-resistant crops include Dow Chemical’s Enlist Duo 2,4-D and glyphosate resistant corn and soy. Other GE crops are designed to produce their own internal pesticide; these are the so-called Bt-crops.
With the advent of Roundup Ready crops, use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has significantly risen, with about one billion pounds being sprayed on crops each year. GE crops are far more contaminated with glyphosate than conventional crops, courtesy of their inherent design, and this fact alone blows a massive hole in the safety claim.
Glyphosate was recently classified as a Class 2A “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) research arm on cancer, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) admits foods are not tested for glyphosate residues due to the high expense of doing so.14 So, GE corn, soy, cottonseed, and sugar beets are known to contain higher levels of a probable carcinogen, which the government does not test for, andthat in and of itself is cause for labeling GMOs — not hiding it on some website that you can only get to by scanning a QR code and hoping the company is completely transparent in its reporting.
By Dr. Mercola
If you pick up a package of chicken breasts from your supermarket, it gives no clues to the controversies and political unrest facing the farmers that raised those chickens. Nor does it hint at the unethical, inhumane, and often unsanitary conditions that have become commonplace in "modern" poultry farming.
Who's to blame? The giant poultry processors – like Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim's Pride, and Sanderson Farms – who dominate the industry and control the chicken farmers like puppets and punish those who dare to speak out against the system.
If you happened to catch John Oliver's HBO episode of "Last Week Tonight" that featured this issue (it aired in May 2015), you were party to one of the most compelling and honest exposes of US poultry production to be featured by mainstream media.John Oliver Takes on Giant Poultry Processors
Poultry processors feature promotional videos of chicken farmers who appear happy and secure in their work, but this rosy picture is, according to Oliver, nothing but PR spin.
Many farmers tell a different story of hardship and financial ruin. More than 70 percent of chicken farmers live below the poverty line,1 despite the fact that chicken is in high demand in the US, due to a process known as contract farming.
Companies bring chicks in to individual farms, drop them off and then pick them up for processing after they're fully grown. Nearly all US chickens (97 percent) are raised in this manner, but the problem is that the poultry processors own the chickens while the farmers own the property and equipment. In other words, as Oliver put it:
"You [the farmer] own everything that costs money and we [the processor] own everything that makes money."
Many farmers go into significant debt (over $1 million) to start up their farms because they're led to believe they'll have a steady source of income. But then they're left at the complete mercy of the processors to continue on.
Even the growing conditions – the fact that chickens are raised indoors without access to sunlight and fresh air, for instance – are dictated by the poultry processors. Further, as farmers begin to pay off their debt, the processors can step in and demand costly upgrades, sending the farmers right back into the red.Chicken Farmers Paid Using Cut-Throat Gladiator System and Face Retaliation for Speaking Out
Chicken farmers are also paid via a tournament or "gladiator system," which pits farmers against each other. Those ranked in the top half (producing the fattest chickens with the least amount of feed, for instance) receive a bonus payment while those at the bottom will get a penalty.
That may mean the farmers at the bottom receive about half the pay for the same number of chickens…
And when the farmers speak out against the industry, the processors retaliate by cutting the number and quality of chickens the farmers received. The industry denies this, but the farmers say otherwise.
Chicken farmer Mike Weaver told Politico that after he spoke at a USDA-hosted panel about the tournament system, Pilgrim's retaliated by giving him poor-quality chicks and feed. He told Politico:2
"They do it clandestinely… They have ways of getting back at you that's hard for you to prove."
The retaliations are no secret among the business – so much so that it's rare for chicken farmers to speak up at town hall meetings designed to get protective regulations in place. The poultry producers warn the farmers not to attend -- and the farmers listen lest they have their livelihood threatened.Rules to Protect Chicken Farmers Are Not Being Enforced
Rules have been made to help protect the farmers, but each year the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rider is inserted into the House Appropriations bill. This defunds the Agriculture Department's efforts to protect farmers.3
This isn't surprising, since the poultry industry spends million to lobby Congress on their behalf. As reported by EcoWatch:4
"Two lawmakers, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), have led the charge to torpedo the GIPSA rider, but have been stymied repeatedly by colleagues like Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR)…
Womack, a member of the Appropriations Committee from the district where Tyson is headquartered, has received tens of thousands of dollars from individuals associated with Tyson and the National Chicken Council, the industry's trade group.
But the money flow does not stop there. Kaptur published a press release with the names of representatives who voted against her provision. Of them, in 2014, Reps. Jack Kingston (R-GA), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) received contributions from Tyson.
Rep. Andy Harris (R) received contributions from Perdue (both are based in Maryland); Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) received a donation from Pilgrim's Pride, and Sanderson gave thousands to the late Rep. Alan Nunnelee (R), who hailed from the Mississippi district where the company is headquartered…
Each of them received a substantial portion of the National Chicken Council's $302,900 in 2014 contributions… The National Chicken Council has spent more than $2.5 million [lobbying Washington] just in the last five years…
Tyson goes above and beyond with more than $9 million in recent lobbying expenditures; Perdue has spent hundreds of thousands, as has Pilgrim's; and Sanderson Farms has spent more than a million dollars in the last three years. They have each lobbied against GIPSA reform in some capacity."
On a positive note, the Agriculture bill for 2016 was recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee without the GIPSA defunding rider attached for the first time in years, although for now the poultry farmers are still being gagged...Perdue Chicken Farmer Speaks Out
In the video above, Leah Garces of Compassion in World Farming visits Craig Watts, a contract farmer for Perdue. Dissatisfied with the system, he has taken the bold step to show everyone the reality hiding behind his barn doors. "There's a lot of flaws in the system," he says. "The consumer is being hoodwinked."
His chicken farm raises about 30,000 chickens at a time (which is far less than the 60 million chickens common at farms in Iowa), and over a six-week growing period, it's considered normal for at least 1,000 of them to die. Causes of death include illness, genetic problems, and injuries occurring from overcrowding. The chicks are sent to the contract farmer from Perdue, and the farmer has no control over the health or genetics of the chicks they receive.
Their only job is to raise them, and in order to fatten them up faster, the farmers are, sadly, actually contractually prohibited from giving the flock access to open air and sunshine, because the less the chickens move, and the more they eat, the bigger they grow.
Is it any wonder that the lobbyists for the meat, egg, and dairy industries heavily promote, and several states have already enacted, so-called ag-gag laws to prevent anyone from exposing animal cruelty and food-safety issues at CAFOs? They don't want you to know what's really going on at their "farms," which is a significant red flag that you do not want to eat food raised there.
It's worth noting, too, that most CAFO animals are fed genetically modified (GM) feed, like corn and soy. These crops are heavily treated with herbicides like Roundup, the active ingredient of which is glyphosate. Glyphosate is also patented as an antibiotic — and a very effective one at that — against a large number of beneficial organisms.
Unfortunately, like all antibiotics, it also kills vitally important beneficial soil bacteria and human gut bacteria. This is yet one more way that eating CAFO foods may harm your gut, your mental health, and your physical health.New Drug-Resistant Bacteria in Your Meat
There are other reasons to think twice before buying chickens that come from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – the potential for drug-resistant bacteria. Nearly 25 million pounds of antibiotics are administered to livestock in the US every year for purposes other than treating disease, such as making the animals grow bigger faster. In fact, 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the US are used in agriculture, and this practice is promoting the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect 2 million Americans every year, causing at least 23,000 deaths.5 Worse still, a report commissioned by UK Prime Minister David Cameron estimates that by 2050 antibiotic resistance will have killed 300 million people, with the annual global death toll reaching 10 million.6 And according to the CDC, 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is in fact linked to food,7 but a more accurate statement might be linked to food from CAFOs.
Take Klebsiella pneumonia, a bacteria that can lead to pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound and surgical site infections and meningitis. Klebsiellaare often found in the human intestinal tract, where they are normally harmless. But if your immune system is compromised and you get exposed to an especially virulent drug-resistant form of Klebsiella, the consequences to you can be deadly. It wasn't thought to be transmitted via food… until now.
New research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases showed that turkey, chicken, and pork sold in US grocery stores may contain klebsiella pneumonia.8 In fact, 47 percent of samples tested contained the bacteria, which was, in some cases, nearly identical to strains found in people with klebsiella pneumonia infections during the same time period. US chicken is not currently tested for klebsiella pneumonia bacteria. In the case of CAFO chicken, you've probably heard about the risks of salmonella, but in addition to that and klebsiella pneumonia, campylobacter is particularly problematic.
Chickens and turkeys normally harbor campylobacter in their digestive tracts without becoming ill. Antibiotics routinely given to the birds in CAFOs don't completely eliminate campylobacter from the birds' intestinal tracts, so the surviving bacteria are the tougher ones that have resisted being killed off by the antibiotics.
Those bacteria proliferate in the birds and end up being passed on to you — along with their antibiotic-resistance. Campylobacter bacteria are found on chicken carcasses in slaughterhouses and in commercial poultry products — including on the outside of poultry packaging — where they can easily infect you, your children, or even your pets.Another Massive Chicken Recall
It seems a week doesn't go by without a major recall of some type of food product, often one that's mass produced. Salmonella Heidelberg,a particularly virulent strain of salmonella, sickened several hundred people between 2004 and 2014. The strain was traced to Foster Farms, one of the largest poultry companies on the US West Coast. You can see some of Foster Farms cruel and highly questionable "business practices" in the video above (warning, it's graphic).
From March 1, 2013 to July 11, 2014, chicken from this CAFO sickened more than 600 people before a recall was issued. Foster Farms got a fair share of bad publicity in 2014, yet no punitive action has been taken. Again in 2015, we've already had two large chicken recalls – Barber Foods' recall of 1.7 million pounds of frozen and stuffed, raw chicken products, and Aspen Foods recall of 1.9 million pounds of chicken products. Both companies' products were recalled after reports of people being infected with salmonella enteritidis after eating the chicken.
While the poultry industry reports that rates of salmonella contamination have actually gone down, rates of human salmonellosis have remained stable.
But a company can actually be in compliance with the food safety standards and still be responsible for a salmonella outbreak, which is what happened in the case of Foster Farms. Since the company was meeting USDA performance expectations, the agency didn't have the power to force a recall; it was left up to the company to voluntarily recall their tainted chicken and it was resistant to doing so.
So it's important to realize that whole poultry is permitted to contain a certain level of salmonella — and there's NO set level for chicken parts. Since salmonella is so prevalent, you should assume any store-bought CAFO chicken is contaminated and handle it accordingly. In fact, the USDA expects you to destroy any present pathogens through safe handling and proper cooking.USDA Allows US Chickens to Be Shipped to China for Processing
Unbeknownst to many Americans, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows chicken raised in the US to be shipped to China, processed, then shipped back for US sale.9 It's unclear which, if any, companies are using this process, but still unsettling to know it can occur, especially given that China's food-safety record is less than admirable.
Further, there are no plans for USDA inspectors to be stationed at the Chinese processing sites, and US consumers will have no way of knowing if their chicken took a trip to China, as labels aren't required. Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, told the Houston Chronicle:10
"Economically, it doesn't make much sense… Think about it: A Chinese company would have to purchase frozen chicken in the U.S., pay to ship it 7,000 miles, unload it, transport it to a processing plant, unpack it, cut it up, process/cook it, freeze it, repack it, transport it back to a port, then ship it another 7,000 miles. I don't know how anyone could make a profit doing that."
There is potential for profit, however, because while US poultry processors are paid about $11 an hour, such Chinese workers may only earn $1.11 The seafood industry already uses such a system, sending US-caught salmon and crab overseas to China because of the "significant cost savings" in processing.12Bird Flu Epidemic Still Raising Costs
2015 ushered in the largest outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N2 avian flu in US history. Nearly 50 million birds have been infected and killed as a result. Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa have declared a state of emergency and China and Mexico have imposed bans on US poultry and eggs. The US government approved $330 million in "emergency funds" to help fight the disease's spread.13 And the USDA also stepped in, with 266 employees dedicated to helping states affected by the outbreak. The Agency also approved $130 million (of taxpayer money) to help CAFOs "get back on their feet."14
And the outbreak is still costing taxpayers, as the USDA has hired private security firms to place armed guards outside of CAFOs hit by bird flu, even though the birds have already been cleared out. As reported by Politico:15
"The concern, one official said, is that people enter the facilities and track the virus out to other facilities that contain healthy birds."
The costs that have been incurred are incredible, especially considering the epidemic was caused by the CAFOs. What happens when you have tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of animals living together in cramped, waste-covered quarters, fed an unnatural and unhealthy diet, and unable to spend time outdoors or engage in any of their natural behaviors? Disease takes hold and runs rampant. As reported in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives:16
"As a general principle, the concentration of humans or animals in proximity enhances potential transmission of microorganisms among members of the group. It also creates greater potential for infecting surrounding life forms, even those of different species. The conditions created also may be a breeding ground for new, more infectious, or more resistant microorganisms."
As a result of the epidemic, "shell eggs," which are the type sold by the carton in grocery stores, have increased significantly in price. Wholesale costs rose from $1.19 a dozen in late April to $2.03 a dozen in late May.17 According to analysts at Goldman Sachs, consumers may end up spending up to $8 billion because of the bird-flu-induced egg shortage. If you haven't already considered it, now would be a great time to connect with a local farm that offers healthy chicken and eggs. The products might be more expensive than the CAFO versions at your grocery store… but are they really more expensive, all things considered?Celebrities Get Involved to Clean up the Chicken Industry
Celebrities like Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling have contacted wholesale store Costco to urge them to stop selling eggs from caged hens. Pitt wrote in an open letter to the store:18
"As you know, these birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings… In these cruel cages, the animals' muscles and bones atrophy from years of immobilization.
That's why the cages are illegal in most of Europe, and why California banned the cages by an overwhelming vote years ago… In short, cramming hens into cages for their entire lives constitutes cruelty to animals, and animals deserve better. As you know, many major corporations, from Burger King to Unilever, are getting rid of cages – and Whole Foods hasn't sold eggs from caged hens in years."
While Costco hasn't given a response about selling eggs from caged hens, the company has been involved in an ongoing push to end the use of human antibiotics in chicken and other livestock. Costco has been working with the FDA and the CDC to help eliminate the use of so-called shared-use antibiotics (those used for both humans and livestock), a step in the right direction – although taking a stand against caged hens is equally important.Wouldn't You Rather Eat Meat Without Drugs?
Positive change is on the horizon. Consumer demand has put pressure on meat companies like Tyson, Perdue, and Pilgrim's Pride to adjust their production practices. Fast-food chain Carl's Jr. even recently rolled out a burger made with grass-fed, free-range beef, promising to be free of antibiotics, steroids, and hormones,19 which shows that when enough consumers talk, corporations listen.
However, the best way to change the system is to stop supporting them. Instead, seek out a local farmer near you who is operating outside the constraints of these industry giants. By purchasing your meat from smaller farms that raise their animals in a humane fashion, according to organic principles, you're promoting the proliferation of such farms, which in the end will benefit everyone, including all the animals. The organic industry also tends to favor far more humane butchering practices, which is another important part of "ethical meat." The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods — including organic grass-fed and finished meats — in your local area:
- 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, CSA's, and markets near you.
When shopping for antibiotic-free meat, you can also keep the following labels in mind to help you find truly high-quality meat:20100% USDA Organic label offers excellent assurance that antibiotics have not been used at any stage of production. "Grass-fed" label coupled with USDA Organic label means no antibiotics have been used, but if the "grass-fed" label appears alone, antibiotics may have been given. "American Grass-fed" and "Food Alliance Grass-fed" labels indicate that in addition to having been raised on grass, the animal in question received no antibiotics. The following three labels: "Antibiotic-free," "No antibiotic residues," and "No antibiotic growth promotants," have not been approved by the USDA and may be misleading if not outright fraudulent. "Natural" or "All-Natural" is completely meaningless and has no bearing on whether or not the animal was raised according to organic principles. "Natural" meat and poultry products can by law receive antibiotics, hormones, and genetically engineered grains, and can be raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).
By Dr. Mercola
There is simply no expert that would disagree with the observation that most people do not eat enough vegetables, let alone high-quality organic ones.
So it makes perfect sense that individuals who consume more vegetables are likely to be healthier.
Most Americans also eat far too much low-quality protein and non-vegetable carbohydrates (i.e. grains), which likely accounts for most of the difference seen when comparing vegetarian to non-vegetarian diets.
But that does not justify excluding all animal products for the sake of health.
By eliminating all animal foods you also run the very real risk of a number of other nutrient deficiencies, as some simply cannot be obtained from plant foods.
The featured article by Authority Nutrition2 lists seven such nutrients you need to make sure you’re taking in supplement form should you decide to adopt a strict plant-based diet.
In addition to those seven, I also address the issue of sulfur deficiency, which is one of the lesser-recognized hazards of a diet devoid of animal foods.Vitamin B12
In terms of health risks from eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, most people think of vitamin B12 deficiency, as vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is present in natural form only in animal sources of food, such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs.
Vitamin B12 is known as the energy vitamin, and your body requires it for a number of vital functions. Among them: energy production, blood formation, DNA synthesis, and reproductive health.
Studies3 suggest one in four American adults is deficient in this vitally important nutrient, and nearly two-fifths or more of the population has suboptimal blood levels. Also, the older you get the more likely you are to have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The two ways you become deficient are through a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet, or through your inability to absorb it from the food you eat. As noted in the featured article,4 signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Impaired brain function
- Megaloblastic anemia
Health risks associated with this deficiency include neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, and an increased risk of heart disease.
If you’re a strict vegan, you have a couple of options. Nori seaweed naturally contains small amounts of bioactive B12, as does tempeh, which is fermented soy. If you don’t eat these foods on a regular basis, you need to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
As noted in the featured article (which includes scientific references):
“Nori seaweed is considered the most suitable source of biologically available vitamin B12 for vegans. Keep in mind that raw or freeze-dried nori may be better than conventionally dried. It seems that some of the vitamin B12 is destroyed in the drying process.
Another plant food often claimed to contain vitamin B12 is spirulina. However, spirulina contains so-called pseudovitamin B12, which is not biologically available. For this reason, it is not suitable as a source of vitamin B12.”
Oral B12 is notoriously ineffective due to the fact it requires intrinsic factor in order to be absorbed. Intrinsic factor is a glycoprotein that mediates gastrointestinal absorption of vitamin B12 in your small intestine. It selectively absorbs only active vitamin B12 from naturally occurring vitamin B12 compounds.
As a result, the effectiveness of eating nori seaweed or taking an oral B12 supplement has been questioned. When it comes to supplementation, you want to look for a sublingual version rather than pill form. But just how bioavailable is nori seaweed?
Animal research published in the British Journal of Nutrition5 sought to clarify the bioavailability of vitamin B12 in nori, and found that it contains five different types of biologically active vitamin B12 compounds (cyano-, hydroxo-, sulfito-, adenosyl-, and methylcobalamin).
Vitamin B12 coenzymes (adenosyl- and methylcobalamin) comprise about 60 percent of the total vitamin B12 content. Results of the experiment showed that the B12 in nori seaweed was in fact bioavailable — at least in rats.
Research6 published last year also concluded that nori seaweed appears to be the most suitable vitamin B12 source available to vegetarians.While a number of processed foods are enriched with B12, I don’t recommend adding more of these to your diet. Enriched breakfast cereal and bread, for example, have the potential to drive your health in the wrong direction by promoting insulin resistance, even though you might get some B12 from it. Creatine
Creatine is an amino acid found in animal foods that is important for muscle energy, proper function of your central nervous system, and brain health.
A trio consisting of creatine, animal-based omega-3 fats, and Coenzyme Q10 are also essential for proper mitochondrial function, and insufficiencies of these may play a role in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other nerve degenerative disorders.
As noted in the featured article:
“Creatine is not essential in the diet, since it can be produced by the liver. However, vegetarians have lower amounts of creatine in their muscles. Placing people on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for 26 days causes a significant decrease in muscle creatine.
Because creatine is not found in any plant foods, vegetarians and vegans can only get it from supplements.”Carnosine
Carnosine is a dipeptide composed of two amino acids: beta-alanine and histidine. It’s a potent antioxidant, the highest concentrations of which are found in your muscles and brain.
If you’re a vegetarian, you will have lower levels of carnosine in your muscles. This is one reason why many strict vegans who do not properly compensate for this and other nutritional deficiencies tend to have trouble building muscle.
Carnosine itself is not very useful as a supplement as it is rapidly broken down into its constituent amino acids by certain enzymes. Your body then reformulates those amino acids back to carnosine in your muscles.
A more efficient alternative is to supplement with its primary precursor, beta-alanine, which appears to be the rate limiting amino acid in the formation of carnosine.
Foods containing beta-alanine, such as meat and fish, are also known to efficiently raise carnosine levels in your muscle, and studies7,8 looking at increasing athletic performance with carnosine have found beta-alanine to be far more effective of the two.Vitamin D3
Vitamin D is a steroid hormone that you get primarily from sun exposure and certain foods. Vitamin D is involved in the biochemical cellular machinery of all cells and tissues in your body. It also influences your genetic expression, and in recent years, the importance of vitamin D sufficiency for optimal health and chronic disease prevention has become increasingly well recognized.
As revealed in a recent interview with vitamin D researcher Dr. Robert Heaney, while sun exposure is the primary and likely ideal way to get your vitamin D, researchers are also finding that a number of foods contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in biologically meaningful quantities.
An educated guess is that the average adult living in the central part of the US gets about 1,500-2,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D3 from food — primarily meats, fatty fish, and egg yolks. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is found in plants, but the D3 found in animal foods is more potent, and more efficiently raises blood levels of bioactive vitamin D.
However, even if you ate animal foods you would most likely be similar to about 90 percent of the population and also be deficient in vitamin D. It is the rare individual who can achieve optimal vitamin D3 levels without supplementation, especially during the winter. Supplementation in this instance could also include tanning with an appropriate bed.
Since most of your vitamin D is produced when your skin is exposed to sunlight, shunning animal foods does not equate to a direct threat of vitamin D deficiency. However, if you’re also shunning the sun then it would definitely be wise to consider a vitamin D3 supplement, as deficiency is virtually guaranteed. When supplementing, keep the following considerations in mind:
- Use supplemental vitamin D3, not D2. They are not interchangeable, and vitamin D2 may do more harm than good when taken as a supplement
- Increase your vitamin K2 concomitant with D3. They work in tandem to slow arterial calcification, and vitamin K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries
- It’s important to maintain balance between vitamin D, vitamin K2, calcium, and magnesium. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fat found in marine animals such as fish and krill. It’s important for normal brain function and heart health, and pregnant women who are deficient in DHA also place their children at increased risk for developmental problems.
As noted in the featured article: “In the body, DHA can also be made from the omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which is found in high amounts in flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. However, the conversion of ALA to DHA is inefficient. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans are often lower in DHA than meat eaters.”
Most of the health benefits linked to omega-3 fats are linked to the animal-based EPA and DHA, not the plant-based ALA.
That said, plant-based omega-3 fats are NOT inherently harmful and should by no means be avoided. Ideally, you’d get a combination of both. For example, you could combine flax and hemp in your diet with an animal-based omega-3 in the form of krill oil, which has an antioxidant potency that is 48 times greater than fish oil. From an environmental perspective, krill harvesting is also a far more sustainable and eco-friendly choice compared to fish oil.Heme-Iron
Iron is found in both plant and animal foods, but the type of iron differs. Heme-iron is found only in meat, primarily red meat. Non-heme iron is found in plants, but this type of iron is more poorly absorbed by your body. Moreover, heme-iron helps with the absorption of non-heme iron from plants, so vegans and strict vegetarians have an elevated risk of anemia, even though they’re getting plant-based iron.
Iron serves many functions in your body, but one of the most important is to bind to the hemoglobin molecule and serve as a carrier of oxygen to your tissues. Without proper oxygenation, your cells quickly start dying. So anemia is not to be taken lightly. If you have iron deficiency anemia, the best source of iron is high-quality red meat, preferably grass-fed and organic. The fact that a vegetarian diet is low in iron may be a phenomenal and good thing if you are an adult male or postmenopausal woman, as both of these groups need far less iron and a significant percentage actually have too much iron. So unless you are a premenopausal woman or child or have iron deficiency from a recent or chronic blood loss, then you likely don’t need to be at all concerned about iron supplementation.
If you do need supplementation, then a strong word of caution is in order. Ferrous sulfate, a form of iron found in many multivitamins, is a relatively toxic inorganic metal that can lead to significant problems. A safe form of supplement is carbonyl iron. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no reported overdoses from carbonyl iron. (However you should still keep any and all iron supplements away from children.)Taurine
Taurine is another dietary component that appears to play an important role in brain and heart health. It’s also important for muscle function, bile salt formation, and antioxidant defenses. Together with magnesium, it has a calming effect on your body and mind. Taurine is a byproduct of the sulphurous amino acids cysteine and methionine (technically a sulfonic acid), and is only found in animal foods.
Examples include seafood, red meat, poultry, and dairy products. It’s also available in supplement form. According to the featured article:
“It is not essential in the diet since small amounts are produced by the body. However, dietary taurine may play a major role in the maintenance of taurine levels in the body. Levels of taurine are significantly lower in vegans than in meat eaters.”Sulfur
Which brings us to sulfur.. Sulfur is derived almost exclusively from dietary protein, such as fish and high-quality (organic and/or grass-fed and pastured) beef and poultry. Meat and fish are considered "complete" as they contain all the sulfur-containing amino acids you need to produce new protein. When you abstain from animal protein you significantly increase your risk of sulfur deficiency and related health problems.
Also keep in mind that if you’re a vegetarian who relies on grain-heavy processed foods in lieu of animal protein, you’re likely not getting the sulfur you need because sulfur is lost during the processing.
Sulfur plays a vital role in the structure and biological activity of both proteins and enzymes. If you don't have sufficient amounts of sulfur in your body, this deficiency can cascade into a number of health problems, as it can affect bones, joints, connective tissues, metabolic processes, and more. According to Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a senior scientist at MIT, areas where sulfur plays an important role include:
- Your body's electron transport system, as part of iron/sulfur proteins in mitochondria, the energy factories of your cells
- Vitamin-B thiamine (B1) and biotin conversion, which in turn are essential for converting carbohydrates into energy
- Synthesizing important metabolic intermediates, such as glutathione
- Proper insulin function. The insulin molecule consists of two amino acid chains connected to each other by sulfur bridges, without which the insulin cannot perform its biological activity
One 2012 study9 concluded that the low intake of sulfur amino acids by vegetarians and vegans explains the origin of hyperhomocysteinemia (high blood levels of homocysteine, which may lead to blood clots in your arteries -- i.e. heart attack and stroke) and the increased vulnerability of vegetarians to cardiovascular diseases. If you don’t eat meat you can get sulfur from coconut oil and olive oil.
Other plant-based sources that contain small amounts of sulfur — provided the food was grown in soil that contains adequate amounts of sulfur — include wheat germ, legumes, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and kale. As for supplements, methylsulfonylmethane, commonly known by its acronym MSM, is an option. MSM is an organic form of sulfur and a potent antioxidant, naturally found in many plants.Your Body Needs Animal-Based Foods
I know that a large number of individuals disagree with this statement but that is my belief after 30 years of practicing nutritional medicine. Interestingly, the average vegetarian is far healthier than the average American, most likely due to them eating far more vegetables and avoiding many processed foods. However, this is not a justification to avoid all animal foods. While I certainly would never argue with anyone for avoiding animal foods for ethical reasons, I would for health reasons. It is possible to avoid some of the deficiency syndromes that result from choosing to avoid animal foods by following the recommendations above.
Remember, “animal-based foods" are not restricted to just meats. While I do believe that grass-fed and finished organic meats can be quite healthy when they're cooked properly (avoiding charring is important), I don’t believe that everyone needs to eat meat to stay healthy. You also do not need large amounts of meat. In fact most Americans eat far more than they need for optimal health, which has its own set of health risks.
If you don’t want to eat meat, there are plenty of other animal-based foods you can include in your diet, such as mercury-free fish or seafood, free-range eggs, raw dairy products, and omega-3 fats from krill. Such products, when obtained from humane sources such as organic farms where the animals are free to roam and eat their natural diet, do not need to be avoided for animal-rights or other moral reasons, as the animals are not harmed by providing milk and eggs. Meanwhile, they provide many important nutrients also found in meat.
If you’re convinced a vegan diet is right for you, then at bare minimum consider a program of supplementation to get the nutrients you can’t get from your diet. Bear in mind that the ones included in this article are just some of the ones we’re aware of. Calcium and iodine deficiencies are also common among strict vegans, for example, and there may be other nutrients in animal foods that we’re still ignorant of that you’ll miss out on if you avoid all animal-based foods.
By Dr. Mercola
Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits is widely known to lower your risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease while cutting your risk of dying prematurely nearly in half.1
People who eat seven or more servings of vegetables daily, for instance, enjoy a 31 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 25 percent lower risk of cancer. And each additional daily portion of fresh veggies lowered participants’ risk of death by 16 percent (compared to 4 percent for fresh fruit).
It’s not any one compound in veggies that makes them so healthy; rather, it’s the synergistic effect of all of their vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and likely, yet-to-be-discovered elements that add up to make vegetables superfoods.
However, researchers recently teased out one such benefit from the crowd, revealing that a primary reason why people who eat lots of fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of heart disease and early death is because of their high vitamin C levels.Higher Vitamin C Levels Linked to Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Early Death
A Danish study that followed more than 100,000 people found those with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables had a 15 percent lower risk of developing heart disease and a 20 percent lower risk of early death compared with those with the lowest intakes.2
The study also revealed that those with the highest plasma vitamin C levels had significantly reduced rates of heart disease and all-cause mortality. The researchers explained:3
“… [W]e can see that the reduced risk is related to high vitamin C concentrations in the blood from the fruit and vegetables… our data cannot exclude that a favorable effect of high intake of fruit and vegetables could in part be driven by high vitamin C concentrations.”
Past research has also revealed vitamin C’s role in heart health. For instance, a study published in the American Heart Journal revealed that each 20 micromole/liter (µmol/L) increase in plasma vitamin C was associated with a nine percent reduction in heart failure mortality.4
According to Dr. Andrew Saul, editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, if everyone were to take 500 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C per day — the dose required to reach a healthy level of 80 µmol/L — an estimated 216,000 lives could be spared each year.How Does Vitamin C Protect Your Heart?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant known to block some of the damage caused by DNA-damaging free radicals. Over time, free radical damage may accelerate aging and contribute to the development of heart disease and other health conditions. It’s through this antioxidant effect that it’s thought vitamin C may play a role in protecting heart health.
For instance, people who eat a diet rich in antioxidants like vitamin C may have a lower risk of high blood pressure. Vitamin C is also known to slow down the progression of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).
It may help keep your arteries flexible and prevents damage to LDL cholesterol. People with low levels of vitamin C are at increased risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease, and stroke, all of which can stem from atherosclerosis.5
A preliminary French study is among those that showed people with vitamin C deficiency are at an increased risk for a lethal hemorrhagic stroke (when an artery that feeds your brain with blood actually ruptures). According to Daily News:6
“Our results show that vitamin C deficiency should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke, as were high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight in our study,' study researcher Dr. Stéphane Vannier, M.D., of Pontchaillou University Hospital in France, said in a statement.
'More research is needed to explore specifically how vitamin C may help to reduce stroke risk. For example, the vitamin may regulate blood pressure.'... [P]ast studies have also linked vitamin C with reduced stroke risk.
A 2008 University of Cambridge study found people with high blood levels of vitamin C reduced their stroke risk by 42 percent, and a similar 1995 study in the British Medical Journal indicated elderly people with low levels of the vitamin had a greater risk of stroke."3 More Reasons Why Your Heart Needs Vitamin C
According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, vitamin C is a superstar for your heart health, improving it in the following ways:7
1. Enhance Glutathione
Vitamin C enhances your body’s level of glutathione. Known as your body's most powerful antioxidant, glutathione is a tripeptide found in every single cell in your body.
It is called "master antioxidant" because it is intracellular and has the unique ability of maximizing the performance of all the other antioxidants, including vitamins E, CoQ10, and alpha-lipoic acid, as well as the fresh vegetables and fruits that you eat every day.
Glutathione's primary function is to protect your cells and mitochondria from oxidative and peroxidative damage. It is also essential for detoxification, energy utilization, and preventing the diseases we associate with aging.
Glutathione also eliminates toxins from your cells and gives protection from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants. Your body's ability to produce glutathione decreases with aging, which is one reason why vitamin C may be even more important as you get older.
2. Strengthen Your Blood Vessel Walls
Vitamin C is essential for the biosynthesis of collagen, which in turn is beneficial for your arterial walls. According to Dr. Sinatra:8
“Weakened collagen can permit noxious oxidized LDL, homocysteine, Lp(a), cigarette smoke, and heavy metals to cause inflammatory reactions in the vascular lining — which starts the atherosclerotic plaque formation process.”
3. Improve Vasodilation
Your blood vessels' ability to expand is known as vasodilation. If vasodilation is poor, it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Vitamin C increases the availability of nitric oxide (NO), which promotes vasodilation.What Else Is Vitamin C Good For?
Total Video Length: 56:38
Download Interview Transcript
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it doesn’t get stored in your body and you must consume what you need from the foods you eat each day. Vitamin C is utilized throughout your body to heal wounds, repair and maintain bones and teeth, and produce collagen, a protein found in your skin, cartilage, blood vessels, and more.
In addition to heart disease, vitamin C is considered an anti-aging vitamin and actually reversed age-related abnormalities in mice with a premature aging disorder, restoring healthy aging.9 It has also been found to play a role in preventing the common cold, cancer, osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration, asthma, and more. Vitamin C may also be useful for:10Boosting immune system function Improving vision in people with uveitis (inflammation of the middle part of the eye) Allergy-related conditions, such as eczema and hay fever Treating sunburn Alleviating dry mouth Healing burns and wounds Decreasing blood sugar in diabetics Fighting viral illnesses, such as mononucleosis Maintaining healthy gums
In the video above, you can also hear from Dr. Ronald Hunninghake, an internationally recognized expert on vitamin C who has personally supervised more than 60,000 intravenous (IV) vitamin C administrations. Dr. Hunninghake explained:
“The way to really understand vitamin C is to go back to the writings of Irwin Stone who wrote The Healing Factor, which was a fantastic book written in the ‘70s about vitamin C. He points out that every creature, when they are sick, greatly increase their liver's or their kidney's production of vitamin C. But humans, primates, and guinea pigs have lost that ability.
We still have the gene that makes the L-gulonolactone oxidase enzyme that converts glucose to vitamin C but it's non-functional. We have to get our vitamin C from the outside: from food. When we give vitamin C intravenously, what we're doing is recreating your liver's ability to synthesize tremendous amounts of vitamin C… So I always look upon high dose vitamin C as nature's way of dealing with crisis in terms of your health.”
IV vitamin C is used for a variety of illnesses, notably as an adjunct to cancer treatment and for chronic infections, such as cold or flu or even chronic fatigue.Eating Plenty of Vegetables Is the Best Way to Get Vitamin C
The ideal way to optimize your vitamin C stores is by eating a wide variety of fresh whole foods. A number of people, primarily with the naturopathic perspective, believe that in order to be truly effective, synthetic vitamin C (ascorbic acid) alone is not enough. They believe the combination of the ascorbic acid with its associated micronutrients, such as bioflavonoids and other components. Eating a colorful diet (i.e. plenty of vegetables) helps ensure you're naturally getting the phytonutrient synergism needed. Hunninghake agrees.
"There is no question that would be a better way to go. Any time you can [get vitamin C from] food, you're going to be better off… [F]ood is still the essential thing your body needs in order to get optimal cellular functioning. But when you're sick, you can use trace nutrients in orthomolecular doses to achieve effects that you can't get from just food alone. But in general, for people who are healthy and want to stay healthy, I would recommend using vitamin C that has bioflavonoids and other co-factors associated with it."
One of the easiest ways to ensure you're getting enough vegetables in your diet is by juicing them. For more information, please see my juicing page. You can also squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into some water for a vitamin C rich beverage. You can also increase your vegetable and fruit intake. While many contain vitamin C, particularly rich sources include:Sweet peppers Chili peppers Brussels sprouts Broccoli Artichoke Sweet potato Tomato Cauliflower Kale Papaya Strawberries Oranges Kiwi Grapefruit Cantaloupe
When taking an oral vitamin C, you also want to be mindful of your dosing frequency. Dr. Steve Hickey, who wrote the book Ascorbate, has shown that if you take vitamin C frequently throughout the day, you can achieve much higher plasma levels. So even though your kidneys will tend to rapidly excrete the vitamin C, by taking it every hour or two, you can maintain a much higher plasma level than if you just dose it once a day (unless you're taking an extended release form of vitamin C). As mentioned, the elderly may have higher requirements for vitamin C, as aging may inhibit absorption. Smokers may also require more vitamin C due to the increased oxidative stress from cigarette smoke.When You Get Your Vitamin C from Vegetables, the Benefits Are Endless
Vitamin C is an example of a vitamin that’s ideal to get by eating plenty of fresh produce. Vegetables have an impressive way of offering widespread benefits to your health. When you eat them, you're getting dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands, of super-nutrients that support optimal, body-wide health. Vegetables contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else.
Plant chemicals called phytochemicals can reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells, and maintain DNA. Studies have repeatedly shown that people with higher vegetable intake have:
And as far as your heart health goes, vegetables are one of the best forms of dietary fiber. An inverse association has been found between fiber intake and heart attack, and research shows that those eating a high-fiber diet have a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease.11 When you combine this with the vitamin C, it’s no wonder vegetables are such a superstar for heart health. Keeping veggies on hand is the first step to eating more of them.
Fresh, non-genetically-modified and organic is best, but even frozen will work in a pinch. Make it a point to include vegetables with every meal – a salad, a side dish, a pre-meal snack, a glass of fresh vegetable juice – or make veggies the main focus of your meals. You’ll easily work your way up to seven or more servings a day. For something different, try making fermented vegetables at home. The vitamin C in sauerkraut(fermented cabbage) is about six times higher than in the same helping of unfermented cabbage approximately one week after fermentation begins, so it’s an excellent way to boost your vitamin C intake.
By Dr. Mercola
More than 70 percent of survey respondents from a National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) survey revealed that the loss of their eyesight would have the greatest impact on their day-to-day activities.1
Despite their prevalence and significant impact on quality of life, few are taking the necessary steps to prevent eye diseases and protect vision health at all life stages… namely, by eating a healthy diet.
Newly released data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 87 percent of Americans are not meeting vegetable intake recommendations and 76 percent are not eating the recommended amount of fruits.3
If you want to protect your vision health, however, the time to act is now – by eating more of the healthy vision foods that follow.
1. Dark Leafy Greens
The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in green leafy vegetables, with kale and spinach topping the list of lutein-rich foods. Other healthy options include Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both important nutrients for eye health,4 as both of them are found in high concentrations in your macula — the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision.
More specifically, lutein is also found in your macular pigment – known for helping to protect your central vision and aid in blue light absorption — and zeaxanthin is found in your retina.
Both have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration. Julie Mares, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Nutrition Action:5
“They’re the predominant carotenoids in both the lens and the retina, and specifically in the cone-rich area of the macula… That’s the part of the retina that’s used to see fine detail, like reading a pill bottle or newspaper…
By age 75, half of us will either have a visually significant cataract or have already had one extracted… It’s the number-one cause of poor vision among people aged 65 to 74.
There’s strong, compelling evidence for a potential protective effect of these carotenoids… They’re nutritional powerhouses… They’ve got gobs of antioxidants.”
2. Orange Pepper
According to one 1998 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology orange pepper had the highest amount of zeaxanthin of the 33 fruits and vegetables tested.6 Zeaxanthin cannot be made by your body, so you must get it from your diet.
3. Organic Pastured Egg Yolks
Egg yolk is a source of both lutein and zeaxanthin along with healthy fat and protein, and while the total amount of carotenoids is lower than in many vegetables, they’re in a highly absorbable, nearly ideal form.
According to recent research,7 adding a couple of eggs to your salad can also increase the carotenoid absorption from the whole meal as much as nine-fold.
Keep in mind that once you heat egg yolks (or spinach) the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged, and will not perform as well in protecting your vision; so cook your eggs as little as possible, such as poached, soft-boiled, or raw.
4. Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon
Rich in omega-3s, the omega-3 fat DHA is concentrated in your eye's retina. It provides structural support to cell membranes that boost eye health and protect retinal function, and research suggests eating more foods rich in these fats may slow macular degeneration.
In fact, those with the highest intake of animal-based omega-3 fats have a 60 percent lower risk of advanced macular degeneration compared to those who consume the least.8
A 2009 study also found that those with the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30 percent less likely to progress to the advanced form of the disease over a 12-year period.9
A second study published in 2009 found those with diets high in omega-3 fats, along with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin, had a lower risk of macular degeneration.10 In addition to wild-caught Alaskan salmons, sardines, and anchovies are other good sources of animal-based omega-3s.
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a good source of astaxanthin, but you may not be able to eat enough of it to reap optimal clinical results. Astaxanthin is produced only by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, forcing it to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation.
Compelling evidence suggests this potent antioxidant may be among the most important nutrients for the prevention of blindness. It's a much more powerful antioxidant than both lutein and zeaxanthin and has been found to have protective benefits against a number of eye-related problems, including:Cataracts Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) Cystoid macular edema Diabetic retinopathy Glaucoma Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis) Retinal arterial occlusion Venous occlusion
Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not), which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection right to your eyes.
Dr. Mark Tso,11 now of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, and who was my boss when I worked at the University of Illinois Eyebank in the1970s, has demonstrated that astaxanthin easily crosses into the tissues of your eye and exerts its effects safely and with more potency than any of the other carotenoids, without adverse reactions.
Depending on your individual situation, you may want to take an astaxanthin supplement. I recommend starting with 4 milligrams (mg) per day. Krill oil also contains high-quality animal-based omega-3 fat in combination with naturally occurring astaxanthin, albeit at lower levels than what you’ll get from an astaxanthin supplement.
6. Black Currants
Black currants contain some of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in nature — approximately 190-270 milligrams per 100 grams — which is far more than that found in even bilberries. They're also rich in essential fatty acids, lending added support to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Anthocyanins are flavonoids, and the health benefits of these antioxidants are extensive. As discussed in one 2004 scientific paper:12
"Anthocyanin isolates and anthocyanin-rich mixtures of bioflavonoids may provide protection from DNA cleavage, estrogenic activity (altering development of hormone-dependent disease symptoms), enzyme inhibition, boosting production of cytokines (thus regulating immune responses), anti-inflammatory activity, lipid peroxidation, decreasing capillary permeability and fragility, and membrane strengthening."
For medicinal purposes, many opt for using black currant seed oil, which is available in capsule form. But eating the whole food is always an option, especially when they're in season.
Bilberry, a close relative of the blueberry, is another nutritional powerhouse for your eyes. Its nearly black berries also contain high amounts of anthocyanins, just like the black currant (but contrary to black currant, bilberries tend to be difficult to grow and cultivate). Anthocyanin-rich bilberry extract has a protective effect on visual function during retinal inflammation.13
Further, a study in the journal Advances in Gerontology found that rats with early senile cataract and macular degeneration who received 20 mg of bilberry extract per kilo of body weight suffered no impairment of their lens and retina, while 70 percent of the control group suffered degeneration over the three month-long study.14 According to the authors:
"The results suggest that... long-term supplementation with bilberry extract is effective in prevention of macular degeneration and cataract."Avoiding Eating This for Healthy Eyes…
Healthy vision is just as much a result of what you don’t eat as what you do. For starters, high insulin levels from excess carbohydrates can disturb the delicate choreography that normally coordinates eyeball lengthening and lens growth. And if the eyeball grows too long, the lens can no longer flatten itself enough to focus a sharp image on the retina. This theory is also consistent with observations that you’re more likely to develop myopia if you are overweight or have adult-onset diabetes, both of which involve elevated insulin levels. You’ll want to avoid sugars, especially fructose, as much as possible.
Research by Dr. Richard Johnson, Chief of the Division of Kidney Disease and Hypertension at the University of Colorado, shows that consuming 74 grams or more per day of fructose (equal to 2.5 sugary drinks) increases your risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg by 77 percent.
High blood pressure can cause damage to the miniscule blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow. A diet high in trans fat also appears to contribute to macular degeneration by interfering with omega-3 fats in your body. Trans fat is found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, cookies, pastries, and crackers.
Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce, or eliminate, excess sugar and grain intake, as well as trans fats, from your diet while helping you optimize your insulin levels. As it stands, about half of Americans are eating vegetables less than 1.7 times per day and fruit less than once per day.15 Changing this dietary habit around so that you’re eating plenty of vegetables with every meal could make a major difference in your future vision health.Outdoor Light Benefits Your Eye Health Too
Spending time outdoors offers exposure to multiple types of light, including ultraviolet B rays (UVB, which leads to the production of vitamin D) and visible bright light – two additional “nutrients” to feed your vision health. Research shows that people with nearsightedness have lower blood levels of vitamin D,16 which supports the function of muscle tissue around the lens in your eye. When exposed to outdoor light, for instance, cells in your retina trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that slows down growth of the eye and perhaps stops the elongation of the eye during development. Nature reported:17
“Retinal dopamine is normally produced on a diurnal cycle — ramping up during the day — and it tells the eye to switch from rod-based, nighttime vision to cone-based, daytime vision. Researchers now suspect that under dim (typically indoor) lighting, the cycle is disrupted, with consequences for eye growth. ‘If our system does not get a strong enough diurnal rhythm, things go out of control,’ says [researcher Regan] Ashby, who is now at the University of Canberra. ‘The system starts to get a bit noisy and noisy means that it just grows in its own irregular fashion.’”
A study by researcher Ian Morgan of the Australian National University suggests three hours per day with light levels of at least 10,000 lux may protect children from nearsightedness.18 This is the amount of light you would be exposed to on a bright summer day. An indoor classroom or office, by comparison, would only provide about 500 lux. Like many facets of health, maintaining healthy eyes takes a comprehensive approach, one that involves eating right and paying attention to other healthy lifestyle factors like spending time outside in natural light.
In addition, if you already suffer from poor eyesight, The Bates Method, which teaches you how to retrain your eyes to relax thereby allowing you to see more clearly, may help you to improve your vision without glasses.
A signature Italian antipasto, or appetizer, bruschetta is traditionally made using grilled slices of bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt. There are countless variations of bruschetta involving different combinations of tomatoes, cured meats, vegetables, cheeses, and herbs and spices.
If you’re on the lookout for a new bruschetta recipe that’s both healthy and easy to prepare, I suggest you try my Summertime Avocado Bruschetta. I guarantee that it’ll not only satisfy your bruschetta cravings but deliver a bunch of beneficial nutrients in every bite as well:
2 avocados, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 scallions, chopped
2 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons hot sauce
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the baguette:
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
½ teaspoon Himalayan salt
36 slices of gluten-free baguette
Note: If you’re on a no-grain diet, serve as a filling in a romaine lettuce leaf.
- Gently toss to combine all ingredients, except cilantro, in a bowl. Cover and chill for two hours.
- Preheat oven at 375°Farenheit. Combine three tablespoons of coconut oil, garlic, and salt.
- Spread bread slices in a single layer on a baking pan, and brush evenly with the coconut oil and garlic mixture.
- Bake for 10 minutes or until toasted. Let it cool.
- Top each toast evenly with avocado mixture. Sprinkle with cilantro before serving and drizzle tops with olive oil.
This recipe makes six servings.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)
Summertime Avocado Bruschetta Preparation Tips
Maximize this avocado bruschetta recipe’s flavor and nutritional potential with these helpful tips:
Why Is Summertime Avocado Bruschetta Good for You?
Aside from its stress- and hassle-free preparation, what I like best about this avocado bruschetta recipe is that it doesn’t fall short when it comes to taste and nutritional value.
First, it has avocado, one of my favorites and one of the healthiest fruits you can eat, as a main ingredient. It’s an excellent source of monounsaturated fat, which your body can easily burn for energy and which will helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods. Avocado also contains close to 20 essential health-promoting nutrients, including:
This avocado bruschetta recipe also has tomatoes, which other than being loaded with the flavonoid lycopene, a natural antioxidant that’s known to reduce the risk of oxidative stress and osteoporosis, also provide generous amounts of:
- Vitamins A, C, E, B, and K
It also uses coconut oil, which can give you a truly impressive array of positive health effects when you incorporate it in your everyday diet. Some of its most sought-after benefits include:
Coconut oil is ideal for all sorts of cooking and baking, as it can withstand higher temperatures without being damaged like many other oils.
Why Conventional Recommendations for Those at High Risk for Heart Disease Usually Makes Matters Worse
By Dr. Mercola
One in four Americans over the age of 40 is currently taking a statin drug under the illusion that it will decrease their risk for heart disease.
Dr. David Diamond is a neuroscientist with a PhD in biology. He's also a Professor of Psychology, Molecular Pharmacology, and Physiology at the University of South Florida and a Research Career Scientist at the Tampa VA Hospital.
He ended up investigating both diet and statins as a result of having to address issues with his own health, and his conclusions are very different from the current status quo in medicine.Why Low-Fat Diets Are Ill Advised for Those at High Risk for Heart Disease
Fifteen years ago, when applying for life insurance, Dr. Diamond discovered he was at high risk for heart disease. It surprised him, as he'd been in good health, even though he'd gained about 20 pounds over the course of 15 years, and he had no family history of heart disease.
"When I looked at the blood test results, I saw why [I was placed in the high risk category],' he says. 'Triglycerides are recommended to be below 150 and even preferably below 100. My triglycerides were stratospheric at 750.
My high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is called the 'good cholesterol' and which you'd like to be above 40 or 50, was about 20 to 25.
That combination of extremely high triglycerides and very low HDL put me at about a 15 times greater risk for heart attack compared to someone with optimal lipids.
I really believed this was an anomalous blood test. I figured I would exercise more – and I've exercised all my life – and follow the recommended American Heart Association (AHA) diet, so I cut back on my fat.
In six months, I figured, everything would be back to normal. But after six months, the numbers were the same."
He admits being completely ignorant of nutrition. The only thing he "knew" was that saturated fat is bad for you, that it causes heart diseases, and that cholesterol clogs your arteries — both of which he now knows are wrong...
After exercising and following the recommended low-fat diet for five years, his triglycerides were still in the 700-800 range and his HDL remained at about 20-25. Making matters worse, he'd gained another five pounds.
"Perhaps the worst moment for me was when my doctor sat me down and said, 'Okay the time has come. You've done your best, but diet and exercise just haven't worked for you. It's time for you to go on medication.' He recommended fish oil, niacin, and a statin."What Causes Elevated Triglycerides?
Before acquiescing to medication, Dr. Diamond decided to do some research on triglycerides. His doctor had diagnosed him with familial hypertriglyceridemia, a genetic disorder, but Dr. Diamond still wanted to read through some of the medical literature just to be sure he'd done everything he could before taking a drug.
"Well, the very first paper I looked at indicated that triglycerides are primarily produced from excess carbohydrates, particularly glucose and fructose,' he says. 'And as far as HDL levels, you see an association of low HDL levels in people who have high blood sugar.
There was an obvious connection of carbohydrates in the diet to triglycerides and HDL. I was astounded by this. This was the first of many epiphanies I've had while studying cholesterol, diet, and heart disease.
I figured that what I needed to do is not to avoid the fat; I should avoid the carbohydrates! I actually talked to my doctor about this.
And of course he said to me, 'Well, you're going to take a bad situation and make it worse, because by going on an Atkins-type diet, you're increasing the likelihood that you'll have heart disease.'
Nevertheless, from a few studies that I read at first – and it has now become a few thousand studies – I've learned of the linkage between carbohydrate consumption, elevated blood sugar, and triglycerides."Reducing Carbohydrates Is KEY for Reducing Triglycerides
Counter to his doctor's advice, Dr. Diamond dramatically reduced non-vegetable carbohydrates and ate as much saturated fat as he wanted. And what happened?
After stubbornly remaining at nearly 800 for five years, his triglycerides plunged to 150 — without any drugs whatsoever — and his HDL increased dramatically, from 30 to 50.
Indeed, I've treated many patients with high triglycerides, including people with levels upwards of 1,500-2,000, and I've seen patients' triglyceride levels plunge in as little as five days when cutting out carbs and increasing healthy fat.
So the really good news about high triglycerides is that you can achieve rapid reversal by changing your diet.
"This had a profound effect on me,' Dr. Diamond says. 'I was indignant, really, and this sense of indignation grew on me. I really felt I had been deceived; that it's the carbohydrates that we need to worry about, not the fat in particular.
The demonization of saturated fat and cholesterol — I realized it actually led me astray... To clarify, the good fats are the natural fats. When you're talking about natural saturated fats, you're looking at high-quality fats.
Partially hydrogenated fats – especially the unnatural oils like corn oil and soybean oil, which becomes heavily oxidized [when heated] — are very unhealthy.
It's not that I eat fat with reckless abandon. I avoid those artificial vegetable fats and stay with the fats that are really high quality, such as avocado and olive oil. I cook with coconut oil.'"
This experience prompted him to develop a course at the University of South Florida called "Medical Ethics," which teaches students how to evaluate flawed methodology in the science on nutrition and heart disease. In 2011, Dr. Diamond also gave a lecture on his experience and on the flawed advice we've been given on diet, cholesterol and statins titled: "How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic", which has gone viral with about 150,000 views. I've included it here for your convenience.Deciphering the Truth About Dietary Cholesterol
Before his self-chosen re-education, Dr. Diamond firmly believed that dietary cholesterol clogs arteries and causes heart attacks. It was part of his medical education, but that too, he discovered, was all wrong. Your liver, to a great extent, actually controls the level of cholesterol in your blood. And while people with heart disease have cholesterol clogging their arteries, it's not the consumption of cholesterol that causes it to accumulate there.
Clogged arteries are caused by inflammation in the arterial wall, and your body attempts to protect itself by packing cholesterol there. The question is, what causes the inflammation in the arterial wall? Key dietary factors promoting chronic inflammation are: sugar, trans fats, and oxidized cholesterol, which again is what you get when you heat partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Coconut oil, on the other hand, is a healthy saturated fat that is excellent for cooking, as it oxidizes much less than other oils when exposed to high heat. It tends to not promote inflammation; on the contrary, coconut oil has potent anti-inflammatory activity.
On a side note, a novel point about coconut oil that many are unaware of is that for those of us, including myself, who suffer from a genetic condition called beta thalassemia — or chronic low cholesterol, which can be quite harmful — coconut oil can be used instead of drugs to raise your cholesterol. Conventional medicine insists that high cholesterol is bad for your heart, but excessively low cholesterol can have very serious consequences, including an elevated risk of dementia, depression, and aggression. Low cholesterol can also cut your life short.
"For elderly people, someone over 60 years of age, high cholesterol is associated with better health and greater longevity. This completely surprises people. But people 65 years of age with a total cholesterol of about 300 will live longer than someone whose cholesterol is below 200," Dr. Diamond says.
Interestingly, research has shown that vegetable oil consumption actually lowers cholesterol levels. Hence if you give corn oil to people who have heart disease, you would expect them to have a greater longevity and better health. Alas, that's not what happens. A trial1 published in 1965 tested that hypothesis by giving men diagnosed with heart disease a couple of tablespoons of corn oil each day. Their health outcomes were then compared to men with heart disease who did not receive corn oil.
"After about three years, the results were absolutely crystal clear. The men who consumed the corn oil had lower cholesterol and twice as many heart attacks and deaths from heart disease compared to the group that basically ate what they wanted.
To me, this should have stopped any kind of belief that lowering cholesterol is good for you, and the paper explicitly stated that people with heart disease should not consume corn oil; it is unhealthy. And yet, the American Heart Association still recommends corn oil to people. Why? Two reasons: 1) it lowers your cholesterol and 2) the corn oil industry is a sponsor to the American Heart Association."Doctors Are Misinformed About Nutrition for a Reason
When Dr. Diamond lectures about cholesterol to physicians, they're often astounded by what they learn. Unfortunately, their "educated ignorance" is not by accident. If studied carefully, you'll find that the medical profession's ignorance about cholesterol was crafted by careful design, starting over a century ago with the Flexner Report, funded by the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, who wanted nutritional science to be excised from the medical school curriculum.
They were successful in this endeavor, and for the past hundred years, most physicians have been, and still are, nutritionally ignorant. The reason for this, if you haven't yet deduced it, is because if you know how to heal with food, why would you prescribe drugs? What doctors are taught about nutrition in medical school is wrong. And it's wrong by design to generate disease that increases profits for the drug companies, which are outgrowths of the chemical industry that the Carnegie and the Rockefeller foundations supported in the 1900s.The Difference Between Absolute Risk and Relative Risk in Medical Research
Dr. Diamond recently published a paper2,3 together with Dr. Uffe Ravnskov. In it, they highlight the deceptive use of absolute risk versus relative risk in medical research. There's a massive difference between the two, and it's easy to confuse people with relative risks. Specifically, Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov emphasize that the way statin researchers have been presenting their data has been deceptive.
"This absolute risk versus relative risk goes back to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1984. Before the statin era, the drug cholestyramine, which is a bile [acid] sequestrant, can lower your cholesterol dramatically. The men with the highest cholesterol levels averaging about 290 were put on cholestyramine versus placebo.
After seven years and over $100 million spent, you had almost no incidence of heart disease and 95 percent of the men had absolutely no adverse effects. The first issue was: is high cholesterol unhealthy? The answer from this study is it's not... But something funny goes on now when you have drug companies supporting this [cholesterol view] or people who have a goal that is not purely scientific."
A typical heart disease study might last two or three years, and in that time, perhaps two percent of the people in the placebo group will have a heart attack. The actual incidence of heart attack is then two percent. In the group receiving the actual drug being studied, perhaps one percent of the people have a heart attack. The difference between the placebo and the treatment group is one percent — this is the absolute risk reduction. An absolute risk reduction of one percent means you need to treat 100 people to prevent the incidence of heart attack in just one person.
"Where people start playing games is in what's called relative risk. When people publish these studies and they talk to the media, they don't want to say that they have a one percent reduction of heart attacks. That doesn't sell drugs very well... The difference, they say, is going from two heart attacks [in the placebo group] to one heart attack [in the treatment group], and that difference is 50 percent.
By reducing one heart attack in one person out of 100, using relative risk reduction you now can say that you have reduced heart attacks by 50 percent. That was the primary point of our paper: that this is deceptive and this is misleading people because when you talk to the doctors and you talk to the public, they have no idea that this has been a manipulation of the data to basically amplify the very small effects of statins,' Dr. Diamond says.
It's a statistical aberration. The reason it's misleading is because people don't know that you're talking about the incidence of an adverse event across two groups expressed as a ratio. People assume that 50 percent means half of the whole population that's treated.
People have told me that when they take a statin and when they see numbers like 30, 40, or 50 percent reduction, they almost feel immune from getting a heart attack. When I explain to them that basically, 'you feel lucky that you're going to be that one out of 100 that'll have one less heart attack,' then they don't feel so emboldened. When I started talking about the adverse effects of statins, I've had many people stop taking their statins."Other Ways Studies Are Skewed and Biased
At the end of the day, what really matters is what your risk of death is: the absolute risk. According to Dr. Diamond, it's quite common to see NO effect on actual all-cause mortality from the lowering of cholesterol. Now, some may say that even if statins only save one person out of 100, it's still worth taking the drug. But this must also be balanced with the side effects, which include muscle pain, muscle damage (including damage to your heart muscle), and inhibition of the production of the coenzyme Q10.
This is massively important, as it not only raises your risk of heart problems, but also dementia. Statins also raise your risk for diabetes, which is a risk factor for heart disease and all cause of death. It's also worth noting that "known" side effects can be minimized by the way you design the study.
This too is covered in Drs. Diamond and Ravnskov's paper. One way side effects are hidden is by allowing participants to drop out of the study. Obviously, if people have side effects, they want to quit and remove themselves from the trial. But by excluding those who withdraw due to side effects, and looking only at the subjects that remain in the study to the end, you effectively only look at people who fared reasonably well on the drug.
"The other thing I find amazing is now that we're looking at the next generation of the proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors, suddenly these statin researchers are talking about people who are statin-intolerant. They say as many as 20 percent of people who take statins are intolerant because of all the side effects. They're coming out of the woodwork talking about side effects, because now, there's another drug that potentially exceeds the statins."
Another aspect of side effects that Dr. Diamond addresses in his paper is that low cholesterol is associated with an increased risk for cancer. People with a cholesterol level of 180 or below have a much higher risk for cancer than people whose level is 280. Statin trials typically do not run past four years, which is generally not long enough to detect increases in cancer.
Yet despite the short duration of the statin trials, you still find studies showing significant increases in cancer. For example, one recently published decade-long study showed that women who had been on statins had more than twice the rate of breast cancer compared to women who were not on statins. "I think there's little doubt that low cholesterol in general and particularly statin-reduced cholesterol increases the likelihood of developing cancer," Dr. Diamond says.Beware of the Next-Gen Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs
The next-generation drugs designed to lower cholesterol are the PCSK9 inhibitors, and according to Dr. Diamond, these drugs are virtually guaranteed to cause harm. At present, they're not yet available on the market, but FDA approval is being sought. These drugs do not work in the same way statins do. An enzyme called PCSK9 causes a degradation of the LDL receptor that rebinds to low density lipids (LDL).
If you don't have that receptor, the cholesterol stays in your blood. By blocking this enzyme, you end up with more LDL receptors on the surface of the cell. The LDL can unbind to the cholesterol and bring it inside the cell. As it brings more cholesterol inside the cell, you're extracting the cholesterol from the blood, hence it's very effective at lowering the serum cholesterol. Since the mechanism of action is completely different from statins, they won't have the same side effects, but that doesn't mean it'll be ultimately beneficial for your health.
"Basically, you got a drug that's relatively a 'cure' at this stage as far as mechanism is concerned. But what you're going to end up with are these cells that are going to be chockfull of cholesterol, and that's really unnatural,' Dr. Diamond says. 'The PCSK9 is this beautiful system in which you have balance. You bring the LDL into the cell, the LDL receptor disintegrates, and everything is in balance. This drug is going to take it out of balance.
You're going to interfere with the functioning of the cells, because they are loaded with cholesterol that shouldn't be there. Ultimately, it's very likely that this will contribute to all kinds of dysfunctions... Brain cells are not supposed to be filled with cholesterol. They need the cholesterol, but they need it to be able to build new brain cells and build new connections, not to have those cells chockfull of cholesterol.'"It's Never Too Late to Take Control of Your Health
Twenty-five percent — or one in four — of Americans over the age of 40 are currently taking a statin. If you are watching this and you're not taking a statin, congratulations. But it's almost guaranteed that someone you know is on this drug. My slogan is "take control of your health," and Dr. Diamond's story demonstrates just how important this concept is. Even PhDs need to do their own research when it comes to their health. No one is immune to well-meaning but misguided advice from their doctors.
"I don't give people any medical advice; I'm not a physician,' Dr. Diamond notes. 'I give people information. I make it very clear that people need to take their own health into their own hands... The problem we have is that if your doctor says you need to take a statin, it's almost as if that's been etched in stone. People are very resistant to changing their minds.
Now, when they actually hear me lecture — and I give full-day lectures; I cover about the brain, nutrition, and heart disease — once they've heard my lecture then they stopped taking their statin, because I go over all the data. I give the historical perspective as well as the mechanistic perspective.
But I'm very reluctant to talk to people, because it causes such conflict. Because after they talk to me, they go back to their doctor and the doctor says, 'Well, what medical school did he go to?' It's the typical response. 'Who are you going to trust? I'm your doctor.' It's a serious problem for people to know who to trust."
Indeed, many people face real dilemmas when it comes to their health, because they're unsure of who's actually giving them the correct information. I would encourage you to look at your situation and ask yourself, "is what I'm doing working?" If like Dr. Diamond you've been on a low-fat diet and exercising for ages and see no improvement, chances are you got it all wrong. The question then becomes, are you willing to try a different route?
From my perspective, there's simply no doubt that conventional dietary recommendations are largely responsible for many of our current health epidemics, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In essence, the recommendations are converse to the truth. Most doctors recommend a low-fat, high-carb diet and artificially sweetened "diet" foods and beverages to lose weight and protect your heart.
In reality, this is a sure-fire recipe for insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, and related diseases. Many would lose weight and improve their health by turning the traditional food pyramid upside down as shown in my Food Pyramid for Optimized Health below, getting the majority of your calories from healthy fats, along with a moderate amount of high quality protein, and very little non-vegetable carbohydrates. Vegetables can be consumed without limits.
By Dr. Mercola
On July 1, 2015, Oregon became the fourth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. In Colorado, recreational pot has been legal since 2012 and medical marijuana since 2001. About half the states in the country now permit the use of medical marijuana.
With state laws changing almost monthly, America's appetite for marijuana is growing — leaving the weed business booming. An estimated 33 million Americans used pot in 2013, up nearly one-third from a decade ago.
In the midst of this "marijuana gold rush," growers eagerly struggle to meet demand, while facing the challenges of operating a legal drug business in a world where overriding laws still regard pot as illegal, and the changes haven't trickled up.
The CNBC special "Marijuana Country: The Cannabis Boom" takes a look at the challenges the new pot industry has caused in Colorado, as well as the legal quagmire related to marijuana crossing state lines.
What happens in Colorado won't stay in Colorado — they are paving the way for the rest of us in this brave new world of legal weed. It's just a matter of time before other states run into the same legal, ethical, and public health concerns.Marijuana Bud May Be Colorado's Unofficial State Flower
Colorado is now home to more than 500 marijuana stores. One of the largest, Medicine Man, turns out more than 120 pounds per week and has dubbed itself "The Costco of the Grow." Their grow houses cultivate more than 70 different varieties of cannabis.
In its first year, Colorado's legal pot sales topped half a billion dollars and generated $50 million in taxes for the state.
Colorado has become a major pot exporter, supplying states in which pot remains illegal. Only 40 percent of sales are to Colorado residents — the other 60 percent are to tourists.
"Marijuana tourism"1 is creating significant discord between Colorado and its neighboring states. In fact, Nebraska and Oklahoma are suing Colorado in the US Supreme Court, arguing they've suffered "direct and significant harm" from pot's crossing the borders.The Marijuana Underground Is Alive and Well
You might think legalization would have put an end to underground pot sales in Colorado, but actually the opposite is true — the black market is booming. In Colorado, 40 percent is still grown and sold illegally, and recent signs suggest the same may be true for Washington State.2
But why? In the eyes of many seasoned weed users, the marijuana underground offers several advantages, not the least of which is economics.
In licensed Colorado dispensaries, taxes on marijuana are as high as 36 percent, and there are limits on how much you can purchase. In the featured documentary, buyers report they can buy weed illegally for one-third of the price charged in dispensaries with one phone call, day or night... no tax, no limit.
How do sellers get away with it? They claim to offer their products for a "donation," "gift," or "exchange." Some are selling through the mail via sites like Craigslist. A few illegal wholesalers and brokers even manage to sell their goods to licensed dispensaries.Marijuana Businesses Struggling All the Way to the Bank
Selling marijuana may be legal in your state, but as far as the banks are concerned, any money exchanged is illegal drug money and they won't touch it.
American marijuana businesses are forced to deal only in cash because banks refuse to bankroll them, in fear of the repercussions from federal drug trafficking laws. According to the National Cannabis Industry Association, this is the most significant problem the industry faces at present.3
The proliferation of cash from marijuana sales makes the 2,000 retail shops and medical dispensaries irresistible targets for criminals, as well as being risky for employees and vendors, who must be paid in cash.
These problems will likely grow unless Congress steps in and changes federal drug and drug-trafficking laws. The flip side is that some companies are actually benefitting from this cash-and-carry system — security services and safe manufacturers are doing just fine.Pot Legalization Ignites Even More Controversy
Marijuana legalization has come with other complications. One is that many workplaces still maintain a zero tolerance for positive drug tests, including cannabis. You can be fired for testing positive for cannabis, even if medical marijuana is legal in your state.
Part of the problem is, unlike alcohol or cocaine, there is no test to determine your current level of impairment from cannabis — your test result will be the same whether you use pot on a daily basis, or used only once 40 days ago.
The development of a "pot breathalyzer" is underway, but in the meantime, the standard drug test is what companies use. On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Dish Network was perfectly within its right to fire a call center employee for using medical marijuana (and testing positive on a drug test), because pot remains illegal under federal law.4
Safety guidelines also need to be determined, such as safe levels for driving under the influence of marijuana. This ties back the issue already discussed about the difficulty with assessing a person's current level of impairment. Cannabis edibles are posing another type of challenge, as adults have been "overdosing," and children can't resist the temptation to eat them, if carelessly left in reach.
Marijuana can be added to all sorts of treats, from lollipops to muffins to candy bars — even sodas. Adults tend to overdose on edibles due to the delay in their effect, which has made some individuals fairly ill. Symptoms of THC overdose typically include anxiety, sweating, rapid heart rate, nausea, and dilated pupils. If you purchase marijuana edibles, please make sure to keep them out of the reach of children and pets, as well as adhering to the recommended dose.
Irrespective of your views on the pros and cons of recreational marijuana, the body of scientific evidence about its medicinal value is strong, and growing, due to its cannabidiol (CBD) content. Much of the herb's popularity stems from its medicinal potential. In 2014, a survey found that the majority of physicians — 56 percent — favor nationwide legalization of medical cannabis.5
A growing segment of the population is becoming aware of marijuana's promise in treating a wide variety of health problems, and none are more excited than the parents of children with severe seizure disorders, such as Dravet syndrome. Dravet syndrome,6 also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), is a form of intractable, life-threatening epilepsy in which a child can suffer upwards of 100 seizures a day.
Certain varieties of cannabis offer the only real hope for children with this type of disorder, as Dravet syndrome does not respond well to standard epilepsy drugs. Twenty to 30 percent of children with Dravet experience a significant reduction in seizures within days or weeks of using high-CBD, low-THC cannabis, with virtually no adverse effects. So for some, legalized marijuana is just one more option for entertainment, but others feel like it's the difference between life and death.The Growing List of Illnesses Cannabis Can Treat
Your body makes its own cannabinoids, similar to those found in marijuana, but in much smaller amounts. These endocannabinoids appear to perform signaling operations similar to your body's neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. Cannabinoid receptors can be found on cell membranes throughout your body — in fact, scientists now believe they may represent the most widespread receptor system.7
The fact that your body is replete with cannabinoid receptors, key to so many biological functions, is why there's such enormous medical potential for cannabis. CBD may be the most potent and beneficial of the cannabinoids, particularly for tamping down an overactive immune system, as is the case with autoimmune disease. CBD also has antipsychotic properties but does not get you high.
The response of cancer patients to cannabis treatment is very encouraging. Not only does cannabis help with the unpleasant side effects of traditional chemotherapy (including pain, nausea, and insomnia), but the cannabis itself appears to be a natural chemotherapy agent. Over the past several years, dozens of studies point to marijuana's effectiveness against many different types of cancer, including brain cancer, breast and prostate, lung, thyroid, colon, pituitary, melanoma, and leukemia. It fights cancer via at least two mechanisms, making it difficult for a cancer to grow and spread:
- Cannabis is pro-apoptotic, meaning it triggers apoptosis (cellular suicide) of cancer cells, while leaving healthy cells untouched
- Cannabis is anti-angiogenic, meaning it cuts off a tumor's blood supply
This may explain why chronic pot smokers have such surprisingly low rates of lung and other cancers, especially when compared to cancer rates among tobacco smokers.8,9 In addition to cancer, cannabis has been found effective against an ever-growing list of illnesses. Research has been limited, but we may be turning the corner. It's likely we'll soon be expanding this list as the evolving political climate becomes more favorable to cannabis research.Mental disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), mood disorders, and Tourette's syndrome Seizure disorders Pain and insomniaRheumatoid arthritis Degenerative neurological disorders, dystonia, and tremorHeart disease Multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune issuesAutism Parkinson's diseaseObesity Cancer, numerous typesNausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite Science Shows Marijuana Is MUCH Safer Than Prescription Drugs
Many prescription drugs are known to be dangerous. Pharmaceuticals in general are among the leading causes of death in the US, and some drugs have killed tens of thousands of individuals. The painkiller Vioxx is one classic example that killed over 60,000 before being pulled off the market. According to Dr. Margaret Gedde, MD, PhD, owner and founder of Gedde Whole Health and the Clinicians' Institute of Cannabis Medicine, you don't have to look far to find research confirming that cannabis is safer and less toxic than many prescription drugs.
This includes liver and kidney toxicity, gastrointestinal damage, nerve damage, and of course death. Moreover, cannabinoids often work when pharmaceutical drugs fail, so not only is cannabis safer but it's typically more effective. Besides treating intractable seizures, one of the strongest areas of research regarding marijuana's health benefits is pain control.
In 2010, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) released a report10 on 14 clinical studies about the use of marijuana for pain, most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. The report revealed that marijuana not only controls pain, but in many cases it does so better than pharmaceutical alternatives.
If you compare prescription painkillers (opiates) to marijuana, marijuana is much safer. Opioid painkillers can lead to slowed respiration and death if an excess is taken — and the risks are compounded if you add alcohol to the equation. By contrast, cannabis overdose cannot kill you because there are no cannabinoid receptors in your brain stem, the region of your brain that controls your heartbeat and respiration.
The statistics speak for themselves. In 2010, prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths, and painkiller overdoses claimed more women's lives than cocaine and heroine combined. In the CDC's Public Health Reports study,11 prescription drugs were involved in fatal car crashes at three times the rate of marijuana. In states where medical marijuana is legal, overdose deaths from opioids like morphine, oxycodone, and heroin decreased by an average of 20 percent after one year, 25 percent after two years and up to 33 percent by years five and six.
As noted by Dr. Gedde:
"There's an ongoing death rate from use of pain medications as prescribed. So, even as prescribed, they're highly dangerous and they are open to abuse. As far as medications used in the pediatric population to control seizures, there are also severe toxicities to organs. Many of them are very sedating. The children become unable to function or really to interact because of the sedating effects. Other medications have a side effect of rage and behavioral problems.
Unprovoked rage is actually a known side effect of some of the anti-seizure medications. Cannabis and in particular cannabidiol has none of these issues. No toxicities. The main side effect of cannabidiol is sleepiness. As a child gets accustomed to it, that does wear off and the child can be very alert and functional on the cannabis oil once they have worked into the dosing. Once you put them against each other, there really is no comparison in terms of safety."Education Is Key
It can sometimes be challenging finding accurate, science-based information about cannabis. Dr. Gedde offers the following suggestions for obtaining reliable information:
"The reason why it's difficult is that the preponderance of research funds have been to show harm related to cannabis, as a drug of abuse... [L]ook for the real research that's there on the endocannabinoid system and the ways that marijuana cannabis has been helping people for centuries. And look into the history of medical practice; that's where the information starts to come out."
She also recommends looking to current clinical practice, which is possible in states where cannabis is now safely and legally accessible. This is where you can learn more about optimal dosing and protocols found effective for various conditions. Other resources that may be helpful include the following:
- Cancer.gov,12 the US government's cancer website, contains research relating to the use of cannabis
- PubMed13 is a searchable public resource containing a vast amount of medical literature, including studies involving cannabis
- The Journal of Pain14 is a publication by the American Pain Society with a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis
- National Institute on Drug Abuse15 is an excellent resource, including information about preclinical and clinical trials that are underway to test marijuana and various extracts for the treatment of a number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, inflammation, pain, and mental disorders.
I also recommend listening to my previous interview with Dr. Frankel, in which he discusses many of the medical benefits of cannabis.
By Dr. Mercola
Dulse, a type of red seaweed with a chewy texture that’s often used in dried, flaked form, has been harvested for centuries in Europe. But this sea vegetable, which typically grows along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, has remained in relative obscurity in the US – until now.
Researchers from Oregon State University (OSU) were on a mission to develop a new food source for abalone – sea snails that are popular cuisine in Asia. Dulse, rich in proteins, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, turned out to be perfect for this – but while growing the red plant, the researchers had an idea – why not feed dulse to people too?
It might have been a hard sell in the US, where seaweed is typically consumed only with sushi or miso soup… and, to a greater extent, by some of those in the vegan and vegetarian communities.
The strain of dulse being grown in Oregon, however, is unique. It’s so unique that the research team is working on a marketing plan to develop a new line of seaweed-based specialty foods. Oregon State researcher Chris Langdon explained:1
"This stuff is pretty amazing… When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it's a pretty strong bacon flavor."Seaweed Can Take on a Meaty Flavor Due to Umami
Seaweed that tastes naturally like bacon could draw in a whole new crowd of people looking to add nutrition and flavor to their diets. While it may seem surprising that a sea vegetable could take on a meaty flavor, seaweed imparts a strong umami flavor into virtually any dish it touches.
It was more than 100 years ago when a Japanese chemist named Kikunae Ikeda discovered the secret that made dashi, a classic seaweed soup, so delicious. It was glutamic acid, which, in your body is often found as glutamate.
Ikeda called this new flavor “umami,” which means “delicious” in Japanese, but it wasn’t until 2002 that modern-day scientists confirmed umami to be a fifth taste, along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty.
Most foods contain glutamate, although some more than others. Foods naturally high in glutamate include protein-rich meat, eggs, poultry, milk, cheese, and fish, along with sea vegetables, ripe tomatoes, and mushrooms.
Umami is valued for making foods taste better. When an umami-rich food like seaweed is added to soup stock, for instance, it makes the broth heartier, more “meaty,” and more satisfying.Is Bacon-Flavored Seaweed the Next Superfood?
Seaweed is an excellent source of iodine, vitamins, and minerals, provided it comes from clean, non-polluted waters. Various types of seaweed and brown algae also support detoxification and may also help prevent your body from absorbing heavy metals and other environmental toxins.
Research also suggests that brown seaweed may help boost fat-burning in your body while dulse is said to have twice the nutritional value of kale and can contain up to 16 percent protein by dry weight.2 Needless to say, this patented bacon-flavored variety could easily take the superfood market by storm.
Adding to its allure, Chris Langdon, an aquaculture researcher at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, and colleagues have created a way to farm the seaweed, growing it in huge vats of cold seawater.
This cultured dulse grows faster than wild dulse, and the water could potentially be filtered to minimize the uptake of contaminants. Wild-grown dulse is expensive, selling for up to $90 a pound, but the farmed version is more affordable (not to mention could theoretically be made much more widely available).3Bacon-Flavored Seaweed Salad Dressing and More May Soon Be on the Market…
Langdon currently grows about 30 pounds of the bacon-flavored dulse strain a week, although he has plans to more than triple production. The researchers have also teamed up with OSU's Food Innovations Center in Portland, Oregon to explore ways to use dulse in cooking. As OSU reported:4
“[Jason Ball, a research chef at the Food Innovation Center in Portland]… is pushing the envelope, testing dulse veggie burgers, trail mix, and even dulse beer. Working directly with Langdon, Ball can experiment with different strains that have different flavors and attributes.
With fresh dulse, he’s looking for a tender chewiness and slightly salty finish. ‘Pan-fried,’ he says, ‘dulse can be light and crispy with a savory saltiness, like bacon.’”
About 14 prototype recipes have already been created using the unique dulse, including salad dressing, sesame seed chips, and smoked dulse popcorn peanut brittle.Seaweed’s Claim to Fame? Iodine!
Worldwide, it's thought that up to 40 percent of the population is at risk of iodine deficiency. In the US, however, agencies tend to say most people are iodine "sufficient," meaning they get enough of the nutrient from their diet.
This is controversial, though, as according to other sources, such as Dr. David Brownstein, who has been working with iodine for the last two decades, over 95 percent of the patients in his clinic are iodine deficient.
Dr. Jorge Flechas, MD also believes severe iodine deficiency is rampant and believes the current US daily recommended allowance (RDA) for iodine may be completely insufficient for overall physical health and prevention of diseases such as thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, and cancer.
Iodine is a vitally important nutrient that is detected in every organ and tissue. Along with being essential for healthy thyroid function and efficient metabolism, there is increasing evidence that low iodine is related to numerous diseases, including cancer. Other tissues also absorb and use large amounts of iodine, including:Breasts Salivary glands Pancreas Cerebral spinal fluid Skin Stomach Brain Thymus
Iodine deficiency, or insufficiency, in any of these tissues will lead to dysfunction of that tissue. Hence the following symptoms could provide clues that you’re not getting enough iodine in your diet. For example, iodine deficiency in:
- Salivary glands: inability to produce saliva, producing dry mouth
- Skin: dry skin, and lack of sweating. Three to four weeks of iodine supplementation will typically reverse this symptom, allowing your body to sweat normally again
- Brain: reduced alertness and lowered IQ
- Muscles: nodules, scar tissue, pain, fibrosis, and fibromyalgia
Iodine actually induces apoptosis as well, meaning it causes cancer cells to self-destruct. Dr. Flechas is adamant that absence of iodine in a cell is what causes cancer.
The jury is still out on whether iodine in supplemental form is safe (especially at higher doses). As an alternative, toxin-free sea vegetables (and spirulina), which are naturally iodine rich, are likely the ideal natural sources from which to obtain your iodine — as long as you make sure that these are harvested from uncontaminated waters.Why Else Is Seaweed Good for You?
Natural iodine aside, there are many other reasons to include sea vegetables in your diet as well. It’s a rich source of potassium, calcium, and iron, for instance. Seaweed also contains alginic acid, which protects the plants from bacteria but has the action of binding to heavy metals when you eat them. This means sea vegetables are natural detoxifiers.
There’s even research showing a kelp-containing diet helped lower levels of the sex hormone estradiol in rates, which suggests it may help lower the risk of estrogen-related cancers, such as breast cancer, in humans.5 In addition to the familiar nutrients like iron and vitamin C, seaweed also contains a number of unique vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that many Americans don’t eat much of. As noted by the George Mateljan Foundation:6
“As part of their natural defense mechanisms, sea vegetables contain a variety of enzymes called haloperoxidases. These enzymes all require vanadium in order to function. Although this mineral is not as well known as some of the other mineral nutrients, it appears to play a multi-faceted role in regulation of carbohydrate metabolism and blood sugar.
… [V]anadium may help to increase our body's sensitivity to insulin by inhibiting a group of enzymes called protein tyrosine phosphatases. It may also help us decrease our body's production of glucose and help us increase our body's ability to store starch in the form of glycogen… Recent research from India makes it clear that a variety of non-flavonoid and non-carotenoid antioxidant compounds are present in sea vegetables, including several different types of antioxidant alkaloids.
An increasing number of health benefits from sea vegetables are being explained by their fucoidan concent. Fucoidans are starch-like (polysaccharide) molecules, but they are unique in their complicated structure (which involves a high degree of branching) and their sulfur content. Numerous studies have documented the anti-inflammatory benefits of fucoidans (sometimes referred to as sulfated polysaccharides)… The sulfated polysaccharides in sea vegetables also have anti-viral activity and… anticoagulant and antithrombotic properties that bring valuable cardiovascular benefits.”Creative Ways to Add More Sea Vegetables to Your Diet
OSU’s bacon-flavored dulse is not yet widely available, but there are many other seaweed varieties to try. Among them:7
- Hijiki: A stronger-flavored seaweed that grows in thick branches, which expand considerably when cooked.
- Nori: Often used to make sushi rolls, nori is deep purple or red but turns bright green when toasted. (Untoasted nori is best, nutritionally speaking.)
- Arame: Arame has feathery leaves and a sweeter flavor than some other varieties.
- Wakame: Found in miso soup, wakame is brown with delicate leaves and a mild, non-fishy flavor.
- Dulse: As mentioned, dulse has a chewy texture and is often used in dried or flaked form.
Try fresh sea vegetables as a salad or added to eggs, stir fries, and soup. The flaked form can be used as a seasoning in place of salt or added to smoothies. You can also add sea vegetables to your fermented vegetable recipe to increase the mineral, vitamin, and fiber content. You can add pieces of whole dulse or use flakes.
Wakame needs to be presoaked and diced into the desired size prior to using. As a reminder, choosing seaweed from non-polluted waters is crucial, as these plants absorb the contents of the water in which they’re grown. While this is part of what makes them so nutritious, it can also be their downfall if sourced from contaminated waters.
Further, seaweed that comes from large, industrial seaweed “farms” (often in Asia) may be machine harvested in ways that harm the environment. Look for seaweed sourced from non-polluted waters that is harvested in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner (such as hand harvested). Also check that your sea vegetables are processed using only sun drying or low-temperature air drying, not high heat that may damage nutrients.
Many suppliers also have their products routinely tested for chemicals, heavy metals and, after the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, radioactivity. By seeking out a supplier with high standards and ethics, you’ll receive a true superfood without any risks of contamination or environmental harms.
By Dr. Mercola
That depression can take a toll on your physical health is pretty well-recognized. Recent research has also found that it can actually cause changes in your brain.
Specifically, recurring depressive episodes reduce the size of your hippocampus — an area of your brain involved in forming emotions and memory — stressing the importance of early intervention, especially among teenagers.
Your memory isn't only restricted to remembering dates and passwords; it also plays an important role in developing and maintaining your sense of self.
When your hippocampus shrinks, it's not just your rote memory that is affected, behaviors associated with your sense of self are also altered, and a smaller hippocampus equates to a general loss of emotional and behavioral function.
The good news is the damage is likely reversible, but to do that, you have to actually do something about your situation.Chronic Depression Can Damage Your Brain
Using brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data of nearly 8,930 people from around the world, an international team of researchers found that those who suffered recurring bouts of depression also had a smaller hippocampus.1,2,3
This applied to about 65 percent of all depressed participants. Those who were experiencing their first depressive episode did not show evidence of shrinkage, suggesting it's the repetitive recurrence that causes the hippocampus to shrink.
Those who showed hippocampal shrinkage also reported getting depressed earlier than the others, typically before the age of 21.
Previous studies have noted that depressed people tend to have a smaller hippocampus, but it was not known whether this was a predisposing factor, or a result of the illness.
This study reveals the answer: Depression comes first; the brain damage follows... According to co-author Professor Ian Hickie:4
"[The] more episodes of depression a person had, the greater the reduction in hippocampus size. So recurrent or persistent depression does more harm to the hippocampus the more you leave it untreated.
This largely settles the question of what comes first: the smaller hippocampus or the depression? The damage to the brain comes from recurrent illness...
Other studies have demonstrated reversibility, and the hippocampus is one of the unique areas of the brain that rapidly generates new connections between cells, and what are lost here are connections between cells rather than the cells themselves.
Treating depression effectively does not just mean medicines. If you are unemployed, for example, and then sit in a room doing nothing as a result, this can shrink the hippocampus. So social interventions are just as important, and treatments such as fish oils are also thought to be neuro-protective."The Inflammatory Roots of Depression
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not likely caused by unbalanced brain chemicals; however there are a number of other biological factors that appear to be highly significant. Chronic inflammation is one such factor.5
Scientists have also found that your mental health can be adversely impacted by factors such as vitamin D deficiency and/or unbalanced gut flora — both of which, incidentally, play a role in keeping inflammation in check, which is really what the remedy to depression is all about.
As discussed in an article by Dr. Kelly Brogan, depressive symptoms can be viewed as downstream manifestations of inflammation.
"The source itself may be singularly or multiply-focused as stress, dietary and toxic exposures, and infection... [I]nflammation appears to be a highly relevant determinant of depressive symptoms such as flat mood, slowed thinking, avoidance, alterations in perception, and metabolic changes,"6 she writes.
Certain biomarkers, such as cytokines in your blood and inflammatory messengers like CRP, IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-alpha, show promise as potential new diagnostic tools, as they're "predictive7 and linearly8 correlative" with depression.
For example, researchers have found that melancholic depression, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression are associated with elevated levels of cytokines in combination with decreased cortisol sensitivity (cortisol is both a stress hormone and a buffer against inflammation).9
As explained by Dr. Brogan:
"Once triggered in the body, these inflammatory agents transfer information to the nervous system, typically through stimulation of major nerves such as the vagus, which connects10 the gut and brain.
Specialized cells called microglia in the brain represent the brain's immune hubs and are activated in inflammatory states.
In activated microglia, an enzyme called IDO (indoleamine 2 3-dioxygenase) has been shown11 to direct tryptophan away from the production of serotonin and melatonin and towards the production of an NMDA agonist called quinolinic acid that may be responsible for symptoms of anxiety and agitation.
These are just some of the changes that may conspire to let your brain in on what your body may know is wrong."Sugar Is One of the Most Inflammatory Ingredients in Your Diet
It's virtually impossible to address inflammation without noting the role of sugar, found in ample supply in most processed foods.
Besides promoting chronic inflammation, refined sugar intake can also exert a toxic effect by contributing to insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signaling, which play a significant role in your mental health.
Sugar also suppresses activity of a key growth hormone called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor), which promotes healthy brain neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, which animal models suggest might actually be causative.
In 2004, the British psychiatric researcher Malcolm Peet published a provocative cross-cultural analysis of the relationship between diet and mental illness.12 His primary finding was a strong link between high sugar consumption and the risk of both depression and schizophrenia.
Another study13 published in 2007 found that inflammation may be more than just another risk factor for depression. It may in fact be the risk factor that underlies all others. According to the researchers:
"The old paradigm described inflammation as simply one of many risk factors for depression. The new paradigm is based on more recent research that has indicated that physical and psychological stressors increase inflammation.
These recent studies constitute an important shift in the depression paradigm: inflammation is not simply a risk factor; it is the risk factor that underlies all the others.
Moreover, inflammation explains why psychosocial, behavioral and physical risk factors increase the risk of depression. This is true for depression in general and for postpartum depression in particular."Eating Real Food May Be Key for Successful Treatment of Depression
The evidence clearly indicates that your diet plays a key role in your mental health, for better or worse. So if you're struggling with depression, mood swings, or feel yourself sliding into "the blues," I strongly advise you to look at what you're eating. The key is to eat real food, ideally organic (to avoid chemical exposures) and locally grown (for maximum freshness).
Also make sure to eat plenty of traditionally cultured and fermented foods, which will help nourish beneficial bacteria in your gut. Good examples include fermented vegetables of all kinds, including sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha (a fermented drink), as well as fiber-rich prebiotic foods like jicama (Mexican yam).
Optimizing your gut flora appears to be absolutely crucial for good mental health, which is understandable when you consider that gut bacteria actually manufacture neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, along with vitamins that are important for brain health. In fact, you have a greater concentration of serotonin in your gut than in your brain.
I recommend avoiding all types of processed foods, including certified organic ones, as processed foods are no longer "alive." What you're looking for is whole, unadulterated foods, with which to cook from scratch (or eat raw). Processed foods are simply loaded with ingredients known to alter your gut flora and promote inflammation, thereby inviting depression. This includes:
- Added sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients (primarily corn, soy, and sugar beets) which, besides their own unknown health risks, also tend to be heavily contaminated with glyphosate—a Class 2A carcinogen that can also damage your gut microbiome and has been linked to antibiotic-resistance. Most conventional (non-GE) wheat is also treated with toxic glyphosate prior to harvesting.
- Artificial sweeteners, along with thousands of food additives, most of which have never been tested for safety
- Chemicals in the food packaging, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, which can migrate into the food
- Trans fats
By altering the balance of your gut flora, pesticides and herbicides also disrupt the production of essential amino acids like tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and promote production of p-cresol, a compound that interferes with metabolism of other environmental chemicals, thereby increasing your vulnerability to their toxic effects.
Recent research has shown clear links between inactivity and depression. Women who sat for more than seven hours a day were found to have a 47 percent higher risk of depression than women who sat for four hours or less per day. Those who didn't participate in any physical activity at all had a 99 percent higher risk of developing depression than women who exercised. Indeed, exercise is perhaps one of the most effective yet underutilized treatments for depression.
Studies have shown its efficiency typically surpasses that of antidepressant drugs. One of the ways exercise promotes mental health is by normalizing insulin resistance and boosting natural "feel good" hormones and neurotransmitters associated with mood control, including endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA.
It also helps rid your body of stress chemicals that can lead to depression, and while depression can shrink your hippocampus, exercise has been shown to increase the volume of gray matter in the hippocampal region of the brain. It also promotes neurogenesis, i.e. your brain's ability to adapt and grow new brain cells. While sugar suppresses brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), thereby raising your risk of depression, exercise boosts it.
Exercise initially stimulates the production of a protein called FNDC5, which in turn triggers the production of BDNF. BDNF is a remarkable rejuvenator in several respects. In your brain, it not only preserves existing brain cells, it also activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and effectively makes your brain grow larger. Research14 confirming this includes a study by Kirk Erickson, PhD, in which seniors aged 60 to 80 who walked 30 to 45 minutes, three days per week for one year, increased the volume of their hippocampus by two percent.Meditation Also Alters Your Brain in Beneficial Ways
Meditation is another underutilized tool to optimize mental health. Not only is it helpful for stress relief and gaining greater self awareness (if not a more spiritual perspective of life's ups and downs), it too has been shown to alter the structures of your brain for the better. As reported by Forbes:15
"The practice appears to have an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the 'me' centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions...
Skeptics, of course, may ask what good are a few brain changes if the psychological effects aren't simultaneously being illustrated? Luckily, there's good evidence for those as well, with studies reporting that meditation helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being."
With regards to depression specifically, a 2014 meta analysis16 of 47 studies concluded that mindfulness meditation can be helpful. While the overall effect size17 was "moderate" at 0.3, Forbes rightfully points out that this is identical to the effect size for antidepressants, which is also 0.3, and the go-to solution in most cases of depression. Like exercise, mindfulness meditation has also been shown to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, and brain areas involved in the regulation of emotions and self-referential thought processes.18
Shrinkage of the amygdala has also been noted. In this case, less cell volume in a brain center can be a blessing, as the amygdala controls the subjective perception of fear, anxiety, and stress.
People suffering with anxiety disorders tend to produce too much serotonin in the amygdala, which is why serotonin-boosting drugs like SSRIs can worsen depression and anxiety in some people. Previous studies have also revealed that increased nerve activity in the amygdala is part of the underlying mechanism that produces anxiety. Basically, those with anxiety disorders have an over-active fear center, and meditation may help dampen this over-activity.Key Strategies to Overcome Depression
Two key strategies for overcoming depression have already been addressed above: diet (trading in the processed foods for real food, with an emphasis on fermented foods to optimize your gut flora), and exercise. Optimizing your vitamin D level by getting appropriate sun exposure (or taking a vitamin D3 supplement with vitamin K2) is another key strategy not to be overlooked. In one previous study, people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels.
Considering the fact that vitamin D deficiency is typically the norm rather than the exception, and has been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders, getting your vitamin D level checked and addressing any deficiency is a crucial step.
There's no doubt in my mind that if you fail to address the root of your depression, you could be left floundering and struggling with ineffective and potentially toxic band-aids for a long time. Your diet does play a large part in your mental health, so please address the impact processed foods might be having.
Also be sure to support optimal brain functioning with essential fats. This includes healthy saturated fats like 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, and grass-fed meats. I also recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. This may be the single most important nutrient to battle depression.
Last but not least, add some effective stress-busting strategies to your toolbox. Ultimately, depression is a sign that your body and your life are out of balance. One way to return balance to your life is by addressing stress. Meditation can be helpful, as discussed above. When weather permits, get outside for a walk. But in addition to that, I also recommend using a system that can help you address emotional issues that you may not even be consciously aware of.
For this, my favorite is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states. EFT is particularly powerful for treating stress and anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, which are the parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.19,20
Although you can learn the basics of EFT on your own, if you have a serious mental disorder or depression, I highly recommend consulting a qualified EFT practitioner.21 For serious or complex issue you need a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT to help guide you through the process, as it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on and relieve deep-seated, significant issues.
By Dr. Mercola
Americans are taking fewer vacation days than they did 15 years ago, often not taking all of their earned vacation days, according to a survey by the US Travel Association.1 But the decision to put work over family and friends can lead to burnt bridges among personal relationships that can make your life richer for decades to come.
The survey revealed that seven out of 10 respondents skip kids’ activities, birthdays, and vacations in favor of work, while, paradoxically, 73 percent said spending time with family makes their lives richer and more meaningful.
Another survey found Americans use only 10 of their average 14 days of vacation a year, and while about one-third of Americans report feeling stressed out at work, most won’t take a vacation day because of it.2
In short, many Americans find it hard to find a suitable work-life balance that allows them to pay the bills and earn financial security while still spending time with family and having ample free time for their own sanity.
If it’s been awhile since your last vacation, you may be starting to feel it. Lack of adequate time off can manifest in many mysterious (and not so mysterious) ways, as the list below, compiled by TIME, explains.310 Signs You Need a Vacation
1. Little Problems Seem Huge
When you’re in a good place mentally and emotionally, you can handle those daily curveballs that come your way – with ease and even your fair share of finesse. But if you’re overly stressed, forget about it. Even small nuisances will seem overwhelming and may cause you to snap at co-workers or clients unnecessarily.
2. Coworkers Ask if You’re Alright
You probably spend a lot of time around your colleagues, and they may be among the first to notice that you’re not acting like yourself. Maybe you’re unusually cranky, quiet, or tired instead of your chipper self.
This is a sign that a long weekend is calling your name (if you can’t take a longer vacation, at least try to fit microbreaks into your day by walking outside for five or 10 minutes).
3. You’re Making Mistakes
Workplace errors are often the result of chronic stress. This can be problematic for your reputation and job security or, depending on your line of work, potentially deadly to those around you (such as if you work in the medical field). If you notice you’re making an unusual number of mistakes, arrange for some time off to regroup.
4. You’re Overly Cynical
Those who are most successful at work have about six positive experiences for each negative one. A ratio of three to one (in favor of positive) is about the bare minimum you need to stay happy at work. If that ratio gets flipped and you’re finding your work unfulfilling and frustrating without any positive merits, it could be due to impending burnout.
5. You’re Engaging in Counterproductive Work Behaviors
Arguing with co-workers, taking extra time at lunch or breaks, or “borrowing” office supplies are examples of “counterproductive work behaviors” or CWBs.
These behaviors are linked to high levels of workplace stress, and they may manifest weeks or months after the most stressful periods (such as a busy season).4 Time off may be a welcome cure (and might even give you time to seek out other opportunities).
6. You’re in Physical Pain
Workplace stress, particularly heavy workloads, negative work environments, and obstacles that prevent you from completing your work, are linked to pain levels in employees.5 Stress also promotes inflammation and pain sensitivity, which is why recurring backaches, headaches, eye strain, and other aches and pains are signs a vacation is long overdue.
7. Your Stomach’s Upset
An upset stomach and other digestive issues can also be manifestations of overwork and stress.6 The latter can even lead to changes in the bacteria in your gut that can make you prone to stomach issues.
8. You Have Trouble Sleeping
Excessive work stress and burnout can increase the chances of sleep problems, including difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. People who are overworked have more trouble unwinding at the end of the day and also are more likely to report daytime sleepiness.7
9. You End Your Day with a Glass of Wine
Regularly using alcohol as a coping mechanism may be a result of too much stress at work. Those experiencing chronic stress and burnout may be more vulnerable to using alcohol and food as ways to ease stress in favor of healthier options like exercise.
10. You Lost the Sense of Purpose of Your Work
A more serious sign of burnout is losing perspective of why you’re working in the first place. You may not see any benefits, when in fact your job benefits your community, your country, or your family. If you can’t remember why you wanted your job in the first place, schedule a break from your daily grind soon.What Do You Stand to Gain from Taking a Vacation?
You’ve seen what might happen if you don’t take a vacation, but what might happen if you do? According to research from the University of Calgary, taking a vacation (or even participating in leisure activities) can actually reduce depression.8
A separate study found sharing vacation experiences with your loved ones is a valuable contributor to family cohesion,9 whereas immersing yourself in a different culture may also foster creative thinking10 and improve well-being.11 Still other research by British research Scott McCabe has shown the following vacation benefits:12Rest and recuperation from work Provision of new experiences leading to a broadening of horizons and the opportunity for learning and intercultural communication Promotion of peace and understanding Personal and social development Visiting friends and relatives Religious pilgrimage and health Subjective wellbeing
As the Examiner reported:13
“McCabe believes these positive benefits [of vacation] to be so strong that he recommends that families be given some form of financial assistance if they are unable to afford vacations on their own.”
Keep in mind that not every vacation will leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed. Generally speaking there are some universal factors that tend to contribute to a restful time off, and if you’re chronically stressed you’ll want to be sure you plan your vacation with at least some of these in mind:14
- Free time for yourself
- Warmer, sunnier location
- Good sleep
- Making new acquaintances
- Exercising during vacation
It can certainly be exciting to travel the world and see new cities, states, or countries… but a vacation doesn’t have to be elaborate to be beneficial and enjoyable. Simply planning a vacation may help boost your mood, even if you don’t actually go on one.
Research showed people were happiest during the planning stage of their vacation, when their sense of anticipation was peaked.15 After the vacation was over, levels of happiness quickly returned to baseline.
“Staycations” have also become popular among those looking for a respite without breaking the bank. You might stay at a nearby hotel or bed-and-breakfast for a night or two to break up your daily grind. Or you can plan a week of day trips – visiting museums, zoos, national parks, theme parks, or other local points of interest – and returning home to sleep each night.
The key isn’t so much where you go as simply taking time off to just be with those you love, explore your surroundings, and nurture your inner self. Take the time to do the things you don’t get to do each day – like lingering over a cup of coffee and having the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Whether your vacation is down the street or across the globe, you’ll enjoy numerous mental and physical health benefits both during your trip and upon your return. Surprisingly enough, even though many Americans forgo their annual vacations, 24 percent believe a vacation is a birthright… if you claim yours, here are even more benefits you’ll enjoy, according to the US Travel Association:16
- Increased health: Travelers rate their health a full point higher (on a scale of one to five) while on vacation.
- Deep sleep: Travelers say they get three times more deep sleep while on vacation, as well as an additional 20 minutes of sleep a night after their vacation.
- Life satisfaction: Feelings of life satisfaction increase during vacation and continue to stay elevated after returning home.
- Improved work life: Vacations can enhance your productivity and business accomplishments at work, so you’ll return to work refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.
By Dr. Mercola
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 an estimated 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year, and the prevalence is rising.
Between 1993 and 1997, 43 counties across the US had a high incidence of Lyme disease. By 2012, the number of hotspots had skyrocketed to 182. As reported by Time Magazine:4
“‘Lyme disease is not only becoming more rampant in its normal hotspot of the northeast United States, it’s spreading across the country,’ a new report5 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns.
‘Over time, the number of counties identified as having high incidence of Lyme disease in the northeastern states increased more than 320 percent,’ researchers write...
They also note that the disease is appearing in states where it has never been recorded before. One big reason why Lyme disease is spiking, according to the CDC report: climate change.”6Eliminating Predators Have Allowed Lyme Disease to Spread and Become More Prevalent
While deer usually gets the blame for spreading tick-borne disease, rodents are actually the primary threat. According to Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at a Lyme disease research center:7
“The resurgence of deer population is an overblown factor. Our research suggests that white-footed mice are more important numerically. Basically, mice are a fantastic host for both the tick and [the bacteria that causes Lyme].”
Ticks are not born with the Lyme spirochetes. It picks up the bacteria when feeding on an infected host.8 Ostfeld’s research indicates that white-footed mice infect 75-95 percent of larval ticks that feed on them, while deer only infect about one percent.
Urban sprawl and hunting has eliminated many of the mice’s natural predators, allowing populations to grow, and with them comes infected ticks. This year, ticks are epidemic in certain areas of the US, including Illinois.
The CDC has identified high-risk counties in 17 states, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease refers to illnesses transferred by biting or blood-sucking insects. The bacterium responsible for Lyme infection is Borrelia burgdorferi, 9 a “cousin” to the spirochete bacterium that causes syphilis.
Many still attribute transmission of Lyme disease exclusively to ticks (in the US, the black-legged deer tick, Ixodes scapularis; in Europe, the castor bean tick, I. ricinus.).10
But according to Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt — one the leading authorities on Lyme disease — the bacteria can also be spread by other biting or blood-sucking insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and mites.
Common side effects of tick bites include an itchy “bull’s eye” rash, pain, fever, and inflammation.
However, you don’t have to get the hallmark “bull’s eye” as this rash occurs only in about half of those infected, so absence of such a rash does not exclude the possibility of a tick bite. Symptoms of Lyme disease typically start out with:
- Unrelenting fatigue
- Recurring fever
- Headaches / migraines
- Achy muscles and/or joints
If left untreated, 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.11 Lymedisease.org has also created a printable Symptom Checklist.12
The B. burgdorferi spirocheteis shaped like a corkscrew, which allows it to burrow into and hide in a variety of your body’s tissues. It can also live intracellularly (inside your cells), which allows it to evade antibiotics.
For this reason, some doctors recommend giving antibiotics along with Plaquenil in order to change the intracellular pH.13 The organisms can also take up residence in biofilms, or in an encoated “cyst” form.
All of these different morphologies and clever evasion capabilities explain why Lyme infection can cause such wide-ranging multisystem involvement and why treatment is so difficult.
This also explains why recurrence of symptoms can still occur after standard antibiotic protocols. Complicating matters further, ticks can also infect you with a number of other disease-causing organisms, such as Bartonella, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Babesia.
These organisms can travel with Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme) and each organism causes a different set of symptoms. According to Dr. Klinghardt, many Lyme patients have one or more of these co-infections, which may or may not respond to any given treatment.
The Lyme bacterium has yet another stealthy survival mechanism. While most bacteria need iron to survive, the Lyme bacterium has adapted to survive without iron, using manganese instead.
This allows it to evade your body’s natural immune system defenses that destroy pathogens by cutting off their iron supply.14Why Lab Tests Are Unreliable for Diagnosing Lyme Disease
The simplest presentation of Lyme disease is the orthopedic forms, which typically affect 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. In fact, Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and doctors quite often get it wrong.15
Lyme is known as “the great imitator,” as it can mimic many other disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.16 When nothing unusual shows up on blood tests, some patients are even told their problems are “all in their head,” and may be referred to a psychologist.
One of the reasons blood tests are so unreliable as indicators of Lyme infection is that the spirochete is capable of infecting 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 will not 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 actually have to be treated first. Once your immune system begins to respond normally, only then will the antibodies show up on a blood test. 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 does not necessarily mean you are not infected, as there are many more strains than tests can currently detect.The Controversy over Treatment for Chronic Lyme
While most doctors now acknowledge that Lyme disease is real, controversy still remains over whether or not Lyme can persist and become chronic — and if so, whether extended, long-term treatment with antibiotics is effective.17 Doctors who belong to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) do not believe in chronic Lyme and typically will not treat a Lyme patient beyond four weeks.
Doctors belonging to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society18 (ILADS), on the other hand, do believe Lyme can persist and are willing to treat you beyond the four- week period. Insurance companies typically will not pay for extended use of antibiotics though, as they follow the guidelines of the IDSA.
Personally, I find it baffling that physicians would deny the possibility of ongoing infection when these organisms are known to operate by stealth, and are capable of evading detection and most standard treatment protocols. I can tell you first hand, from my experience with my girlfriend Erin who was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2013 after suffering from a range of hard-to-pin-down symptoms for 14 years, chronic Lyme does exist.
The good news is that no matter how long you’ve had it, there is hope for a full recovery. A new Lyme research center attached to the rheumatology division at Hopkins Bayview Medical Center has also been created, specifically to investigate chronic Lyme. As reported by BDN Maine News:19
“Dr. John Aucott, a leading Lyme researcher tapped to direct the Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center... said his new affiliation with Hopkins will bring fresh attention, and resources, to the issue. He and others will look to determine if the infection is hiding or, as he hypothesizes, is developing into a new disorder, possibly an autoimmune one like rheumatoid arthritis. He and others will explore if there is a genetic component, an underlying condition or other bacteria or viruses involved.”Treatment Recommendations
Total Video Length: 1:35:03
Download Interview Transcript
I personally do not believe that long-term antibiotic treatment is a wise choice for most chronic Lyme sufferers. I recommend exhausting every natural alternative before resorting to long-term antibiotics as it will seriously impair your gut microbiome. They also leave you open to yeast or fungal co-infections, which are already common in the disease.
Eliminating the beneficial bacteria in your gut with antibiotics will also seriously impair your natural immune function, and may raise your risk of antibiotic-resistant infection, which could be life-threatening. A gentler solution to conventional antibiotics is the Nutramedix line of herbal antimicrobials. This was developed by one of my alternative medicine mentors, Dr. Lee Cowden, and is often termed the “Cowden Protocol.”
It is not thought to cause resistance because this protocol cycles various herbal antimicrobials. The use of antifungals like fluconazole and nystatin may be appropriate and helpful when a secondary yeast infection is present. Ideally, you would focus on boosting your immune function with a healthy diet and antioxidants such as astaxanthin. A compounded drug called low-dose naltrexone (LDN), known to help your body fight harder, may also be beneficial.
Below is a summary of Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt’s basic treatment strategies. For more comprehensive details on his full treatment protocol, please see this previous article: “Dr. Klinghardt's Treatment of Lyme Disease.” You can also visit Dr. Klinghardt’s website,20 where he posts his more current treatment protocols and recipes. In summary, there are five basic steps to his protocol:
- Evaluation of all external factors. External factors include electrosmog, EMF, microwave radiation from wireless technologies, and molds. (For more information on mold, see Ritchie Shoemaker’s website21).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Addressing other lifestyle factors. Nutritional considerations and supplements are addressed.
The following table lists a number of nutritional supplements found to be useful in the treatment of 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
- International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS)
- Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA). Under the “Diagnosing TBDS” tab, you can find a listing of medical professionals knowledgeable in the treatment of Lyme
- Lyme Disease Association, Inc.
- Lyme disease expert Joseph J. Burrascano, MD, wrote what is essentially a manual for managing Lyme disease, entitled: Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease, which is worth adding to your resource files. Realize that his treatment focus is long-term antibiotics, which I believe should not be your first choice. Nevertheless, there is some good information there.
Considering how difficult it is to diagnose and treat Lyme disease, I strongly recommend taking preventive measures22 to prevent infection in the first place. This includes the following recommendations:
- 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, 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. Ticks must typically remain attached for at least 24 hours for the Lyme disease bacteria to be transmitted into your blood stream, so early removal is important.
- If you have Japanese barberry on your property, you may want to consider getting rid of it. As noted in a recent Forbes article:23
“This popular shrub has pretty red color and is easy to grow — so much so that it is invasive, choking off native plants in its path. Deer favor native shrubs, leaving the thorny barberry alone.
And the microclimate around the barberry also favors the tick’s reproduction and that of the white footed mouse, an intermediate host in the transmission cycle, resulting in an aptly described ‘tick nursery.’ So rid your property of barberry and go with native plants as much as possible.”
I do not recommend using chemical insect repellants 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 list24 indicating the hourly protection limits for various repellents. Also beware of using toxic insect repellants on your pets. Misuse of Spot-On flea and tick products can be lethal. For safer alternatives, see Dr. Karen Becker’s recommendations.
If you find that a tick has latched on, it’s very important to remove it properly. For detailed instructions, please see Lymedisease.org’s Tick Removal page.25 Once removed, make sure you save the tick so that it can be tested for presence of pathogenic organisms.
By Dr. Mercola
Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that crawl out like vampires in the night, feeding on the blood of people and animals while they sleep. Although they’re found worldwide, bed bugs were considered largely eradicated in the US until recent decades.
Now, they’re spreading rapidly in North America, including in the US where they’ve been detected in every state. Cleanliness is no deterrent for these pesky creatures, and they’ve popped up everywhere from five-star resorts and cruise ships to libraries, schools, and day care centers.
While a bed bug may go for months without eating, they prefer to feed every several days, and will travel up to 100 feet to find a meal (although most live within eight feet of a sleeping surface).1
Bed bugs typically hide during the day, in mattress seams, bed frames, headboards, dressers, behind wallpaper, and any other small crack or crevice they can find. This is why one of the first things you should do while traveling is to check your sleeping area thoroughly for bed bugs or signs that they’re around (like feces).Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?
Bed bugs are more of a nuisance than a danger, although they can prompt serious allergic reactions in some people. Although more than 40 human diseases have been detected in bed bugs, they’re not known to spread diseases, although evidence in this area is lacking.2
Their bites can cause significant itching, however, which can in turn lead to a secondary skin infection if excessive scratching damages your skin. They can also lead to loss of sleep, although this is typically due to anxiety over the bed bugs and not the bites themselves. When you’re bitten by a bed bug, it injects anesthetic and anticoagulant at the same time, so you won’t feel the bite until later.
Anywhere from a day to several days later red, swollen bumps, similar to mosquito bites, will appear, typically on your neck, arms, hands, and face (although they can be anywhere on your body). They may itch or feel irritated, but try not to scratch them.
The psychological toll that bed bugs exact can be steep, however. There is one case report showing a woman who committed suicide following repeated bed bug infestations in her apartment, and the researchers concluded, “the bed bug infestations were the likely trigger for the onset a negative psychological state that ultimately led to suicide.”3
Research has also shown that people who have experienced bed bugs in their living environment are significantly more likely to report anxiety and sleep disturbances.4 Emotional distress and even psychological and emotional effects associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have also been reported after bed-bug infestations.How to Detect a Bed Bud Infestation – and the Top 10 Bed Bug Cities
Bed bugs’ bodies are flat and range in size from one to seven millimeters (mm). Their shape, combined with their reddish-brown color, makes it easy for bed bugs to hide out along baseboards and the folds of luggage, bedding, folded clothing, furniture, and more.
If you look carefully, you may be able to spot bed bugs near your sleeping area, but they may also be present if you detect the following signs:5
- Bed bug exoskeletons, which are released after molting
- Rust-colored blood spots on mattresses or furniture (this is from their blood-filled fecal matter)
- A sweet, musty odor
While bed bugs are found year-round, infestations tend to peak during the summer months, perhaps because more people are travelling during this time. And if you’ll be travelling, you might be interested to know if you’re going to one of the worst cities for bed bugs in the US, as compiled in Orkin Pest Control's 2014 Bed Bug Cities List:6
- Chicago, IL
- Detroit, MI
- Columbus, OH
- Los Angeles, CA
- Cleveland, OH
- Dallas/Fort Worth, TX
- Cincinnati, OH
- Denver, CO
- Richmond-Petersburg, VA
- Dayton, OH
No one wants to let bed bugs linger in their home or place of business, but you must use caution before accepting any of the standard pesticide-based treatments.
From 2003 to 2010, 111 illnesses, including one fatality, associated with bed bug-related insecticide use were detected by the Sentinel Event Notification System for Occupational Risks (SENSOR)-Pesticides program and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH).7
The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) has also reported a “dramatic increase” in the number of bed bug-related calls due to pesticide exposures. NPIC reported 169 such calls from 2006 to 2010, 129 of which resulted in mild or serious health effects (including one death).8
Most often, the illnesses were related to excessive insecticide application, failure to wash or change pesticide-treated bedding, and inadequate notification of pesticide application.Serious Neurological Symptoms Reported After Bed Bug Treatments
Cases have also been reported of pesticides intended only for outdoor use being sprayed indoors. In one case in Ohio, according to a health advisory released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):9
“These illegal applications were made five times over 72 hours and included spraying of ceilings, floors, and even beds and a crib mattress. The occupants included a family with small children, who displayed health symptoms typical of pesticide poisoning, including headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and muscle tremors.
The families were evaluated and treated at a local hospital. The homes were evacuated and families relocated. The families lost furniture, electronics, clothing, linens, toys, and other personal items that were grossly contaminated.”
In other calls to NPIC, the CDC reported:10
“…the family members (ranging in ages from 1-32 years) experienced neurological symptoms (such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, numbness in the face and limbs, muscle tremors, etc.), abdominal pain, and cardiopulmonary symptoms (chest tightness, heart palpitations, and chest pain).
Documented in another call was a mother who contacted NPIC describing her infant who developed vomiting and diarrhea after being placed on a mattress treated with an undiluted indoor insecticide.
Other bed bug related calls to NPIC describe similar complaints where the caller or the caller’s family members experienced headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, tremors, etc., from indoor pesticides being misapplied (often over applied).”Chemical-Free Thermal Remediation May Offer Non-Toxic Bed Bug Treatment
If your home is infested with bed bugs and you don’t want to douse your home in pesticides, there is another option: thermal remediation. The process essentially turns your home into an oven for a number of hours, during which the extreme heat (upwards of 130 degrees Fahrenheit) kills the bugs – no chemicals needed.11
Everything can remain in your home, except for plastic items or anything that might melt (and pets must be removed, of course). This makes it far more convenient than chemical treatment, which typically involves packing and bagging everything in your home and getting rid of clothing and mattresses. Plus, it solves the issue of pesticide resistance, which has been spreading among bed bugs. While thermal remediation may be slightly more costly than chemical processes, the health effects it can spare your family are truly priceless.How to Avoid a Bed Bug Infestation
Bed bugs have become a fact of life in the 21st century, and not one that’s likely to go away any time soon. If you travel at all or visit any facilities like hospitals, libraries, movie theaters, etc., there’s a possibility you could bring home some of these unwelcome visitors. To minimize your chances of an infestation, follow the tips below:12Always inspect hotel rooms for signs of an infestation (look for bed bugs in mattress seams and check for any rust-colored spots on bedding)Check your sleeping area thoroughly, including under the mattress, bed frame, and headboard as well as in nearby furnitureKeep your luggage on luggage racks, not on the bed or on the floor and away from electrical outlet panels, art frames, and other bed-bug hiding spots When you return home, examine your luggage and clothing carefully, and store it away from your sleeping areaPlace all of your previously packed clothing directly into the dryer for at least 15 minutes on the highest settingKeep clutter in your home to a minimum (which will give bed bugs fewer places to hide) Wash and dry bed linens on the hottest temperature setting allowedInspect any used furniture carefully before bringing it into your homeInspect your home for signs of bed bugs regularly, after you’ve travelled, had houseguests, or even when a service technician has been in your home
By Dr. Mercola
There are many reasons to snack on whole, raw almonds. They’re an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants, for starters, and almond skins even contain beneficial phenols, flavonoids. and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits.
Drinking almond milk may therefore seem like a smart choice, one that may offer you the health benefits of almonds in beverage form – but it’s not as healthy as it would appear, particularly if you buy commercial varieties.
What exactly is almond milk? It’s typically a combination of almonds, water, sweetener, thickener such as carrageenan, and, often, fortified nutrients such as vitamins A, E, and D.
The problem is that most almond milk contains hardly any almonds, mostly water, added sugars, and a smattering of vitamins for good measure. As Business Insider put it:1
“If almond milk closely resembles any beverage, it's a glass of water and a multivitamin.”A Handful of Almonds in a Carton…
The amount of actual almonds in a half-gallon carton of almond milk is shocking: research suggests it’s just over a handful. In one analysis of the UK almond milk brand Alpro, almonds made up just 2 percent of the beverage, and the Almond Board of California noted that ingredients are pretty similar between UK and US almond milk brands.2
If you’ve ever wondered how almond milk can be so low in calories – about 30 calories in a cup, compared to 160 calories in a serving of almonds – it’s because it’s mostly water… not almonds.
“Based on these numbers,” Business Insider reported, “to get the nutritional value of a handful of almonds, you'd have to drink not just a few cups of the almond milk but an entire carton of it.”3Almond Milk Sales Soar as Consumers Get Ripped Off
One maker of plant-based milk, White Wave, reported first-quarter sales in 2014 had increased 50 percent over the prior year. In the US, almond milk tops the plant-based milk market, taking up two-thirds of the share (followed by soy milk, at 30 percent, rice, and coconut milks).4
In all, sales of alternative milks are soaring and are expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2016, with almond milk leading the way.5 But as a consumer, you have to question what you’re really paying for… and how much it’s costing you. In the case of almond milk, you’re paying a lot of money for what is essentially water and sweetener with a handful of almonds.
According to Mother Jones:6
“…the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds. Which leads us to the question of price and profit… A jug of almond milk containing roughly 39 cents worth of almonds, plus filtered water and additives, retails for $3.99.”Are Other ‘Alternative’ Milks Healthy?
Almond milk is just one plant-based milk available in most major supermarkets. You can now easily find a handful of others as well, most of which are marketed as healthy… but are they really? Here’s a run-down on some of the more popular alternative milks on the market:
One of the worst problems with soy comes from the fact that 90 to 95 percent of soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified (GM). GM soybeans are designed to be "Roundup Ready," which means they're engineered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of herbicide.
The active ingredient in Roundup herbicide is called glyphosate, which is responsible for the disruption of the delicate hormonal balance of the female reproductive cycle.
What's more, glyphosate is toxic to the placenta, which is responsible for delivering vital nutrients from mother to child, and eliminating waste products. Once the placenta has been damaged or destroyed, the result can be miscarriage. In those children born to mothers who have been exposed to even a small amount of glyphosate, serious birth defects can result.
Glyphosate's mechanism of harm was identified in 2013 and demonstrates how this chemical disrupts cellular function and may induce many of our modern diseases, including autism. It’s also been declared a “probable carcinogen.”
Aside from the GM issues, thousands of studies have linked unfermented soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility, and even cancer and heart disease.
The only soy with health benefits is organic soy that has been properly fermented, and these are the only soy products I ever recommend consuming.
After a long fermentation process, the phytate and "anti-nutrient" levels of soybeans are reduced, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system. To learn more, please see this previous article detailing the dangers of unfermented soy.
Rice milk is composed of similar ingredients to almond milk, namely filtered water, rice, and added vitamins. There’s nothing particularly healthy about rice milk along with a potential harm: arsenic.
Rice has been shown to accumulate 10 times more arsenic than other grains, due to physiology and growing conditions, and is an ingredient of “moderate” concern in rice and rice-based processed foods, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). EWG reported:7
“In 2012, the independent, highly regarded Consumer Reports research organization made public tests indicating that arsenic concentrations commonly exceeded 100 parts per billion in rice, rice flour, crackers, pasta, hot and cold breakfast cereals, and infant cereal…
Arsenic levels in rice milk often surpassed 10 parts per billion, the maximum allowed in drinking water.”
Coconut milk is made from the expressed juice of grated coconut meat and water. About 50 percent of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is rarely found in nature.
Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, a monoglyceride that can actually destroy lipid-coated viruses such as HIV and herpes, influenza, measles, gram-negative bacteria, and protozoa such as Giardia lamblia.
Lauric acid is a type of medium chain fatty acid (MCFAs), which is easily digested and readily crosses cell membranes. MCFAs are immediately converted by your liver into energy rather than being stored as fat.
There are numerous studies showing that MCFAs promote weight loss, including one study that showed rats fed MCFAs reduced body fat and improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.8
Yet another study found that overweight men who ate a diet rich in MCFAs lost more fat tissue, presumably due to increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation from the MCFA intake.9 In addition, coconut milk is rich in antioxidants and nutrients, including vitamins C, E and B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and iron.
Many consider raw milk to be an “alternative” form of milk, but it is actually how all milk used to be consumed. High-quality raw milk from a reputable source is far preferable to the pasteurized CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) milk found in most supermarkets.
High-quality raw milk has a mountain of health benefits that pasteurized milk lacks. For example, raw milk is:
- Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract
- Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies)
- Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism
- Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
- Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and contains a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live lactobacilli
While almond milk isn’t exactly a superfood by any means, there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about it – unless you choose varieties with added sweeteners and other additives. For the most part, it’s more deceptive than anything, as you’re paying a premium for mostly water and could get better nutrition from eating a handful of actual nuts. Still, if you enjoy the taste of almond milk and don’t want to give it up, making your own almond milk is far more economical – and healthier – than buying a ready-made version.
You can increase the amount of almonds for added nutrition, leave out the sweeteners and other additives, and be left with an almond-milk beverage that’s actually decent for your health at a fraction of the price. It’s simple to make, too. One recipe from Whole Foods Market involves first soaking about one cup of organic, raw almonds in cold water overnight (about 10-12 hours).10 Then, blend the almonds with about three cups of water (you can add more or less depending on how you like the consistency).
Strain the frothy mixture through a cheesecloth, fine-mesh strainer or nut-milk bag. Your almond milk will keep in the fridge for about three days (give it a stir before drinking). Also, don’t throw away the leftover pulp; it can be added to smoothies or even baked goods for added nutrition. One benefit to consuming almonds this way is that they’ll be soaked before you eat them. Soaking helps to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your own digestive and metabolic enzymes.
Phytic acid, which is found in the coatings of nuts, is an "anti-nutrient" responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body. Phytic acid also blocks the uptake of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc. Further, when nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated and increasing the nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest. (Enzyme inhibitors in nuts [and seeds] help protect the nut as it grows, helping to decrease enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting.)Choose Raw Almonds for Best Results
When choosing almonds for this recipe (or for snacking), try to find raw, organic almonds. It can be tricky, as pasteurized almonds sold in North America can still be labeled "raw" even though they've been subjected to one of the following pasteurization methods:
- Oil roasting, dry roasting, or blanching
- Steam processing
- Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment (PPO is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons)
There are generally no truly "raw" almonds sold in North America, so don't be misled. It is possible to purchase raw almonds in the US, but it has to be done very carefully from vendors selling small quantities that have a waiver from the pasteurization requirement. The key is to find a company with the waiver that is not pasteurizing them.
By Dr. Mercola
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been considering the approval of AquAdvantage genetically modified (GM) salmon since 1993. After reviewing the research, which reportedly came from the salmons' creator AquaBounty, the FDA concluded in 2012 that the fish was likely safe for human consumption and would not put the environment at risk.1
Three years and a public commentary later, the FDA has yet to make a final approval, and environmentalists and food-safety advocates alike have expressed serious concerns about unleashing GM food animals into the US – a decision no other country in the world has approved.
The GM salmon are engineered to grow about twice as fast as typical farm-raised salmon. This is achieved by inserting the DNA from two other fish, a growth-promoting gene from a Chinook salmon and a “promoter” gene from the eel-like ocean pout, which essentially keeps the growth hormone flowing 24/7, leading to eerily fast growth.
While a typical salmon might take up to 36 months to reach market size (and grow only in spurts during warm weather), AquaAdvantage GM salmon is ready for market in just 16 to 18 months.2
Since it grows so fast, it requires less food (by about 25 percent) over the course of its lifetime – and half of its feed is replaced with plants instead of fish, making them about 0.25 cents a pound cheaper to produce than conventional salmon.3 All of these "benefits" may come at a steep price, however, should one of these GM salmon escape into the wild…What Would Happen if GM Salmon Make It into the Wild?
AquaBounty's GM salmon would be grown in tanks on land with additional filters, screens, and netting used to block any drains or pipes that could provide an outlet into nearby waterways.
And female eggs will be sterilized prior to leaving the facility, using a process that has a 99.8 percent sterilization rate (which means 0.2 percent are still fertile).4 Nonetheless, AquaBounty therefore claims any escape into the wild is "virtually impossible."5
But if history is any indicator of future of events, the GM salmon will one day find a way into the natural environment. We're already seeing the unintended consequences of GM crops popping up where they're not supposed to.
And "super weeds" and increasingly resistant pests are rapidly spreading and wreaking havoc across American farmland, while the human health concerns keep mounting.
When scientists take genetic modification even further, tinkering with genes in insects and animals, the consequences may be even steeper.
When a Purdue University computer model tracked the effects of releasing just 60 "Frankenfish" (GM salmon) into a population of 60,000, there was a complete extinction of the normal fish in just 40 fish generations…
George Leonard, writing for the National Geographic, also addressed the issue of escape potential with the following statement:6
"While this initial application to grow GE salmon is for land-based facilities, the prospect of even larger profits from growing GE salmon in the ocean will certainly create pressure for approval in these more environmentally risky [ocean pen] systems in the future.
The U.S. is poorly equipped to deal with this future scenario. In June 2011, NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco released a National Aquaculture Policy to guide how marine aquaculture proceeds in our ocean waters. While the policy includes some strong environmental provisions, it does not categorically prohibit the growing of GE fish in the ocean. It should…
Congress should work to pass Senator Mark Begich's PEGASUS [Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States] Act or similar legislation that requires FDA to take the environmental risks seriously before approving GE fish. If Congress doesn't act soon, the nation's ocean may suffer from FDA's efforts to chart a course for GE salmon."GM Salmon Might Flourish in the Wild…
A new review published in the journal BioScience also reviewed 80 studies to determine what might happen if GM salmon were allowed to intermingle with nature.7
For starters, behavioral changes were noted, such as the fact that GM salmon eat more, linger near the water's surface, and tend to be loners. They have reduced immune function and, of course, they grow much faster than their wild counterparts.
The researchers were unable to determine whether the GM salmon would overtake wild salmon, but stressed not to discount the possibility too quickly. In the case of AquaBounty, one of their facilities, on Prince Edward Island, is located next to an estuary, while the Panama facility is near a river.
"Invasive species also didn't evolve in the environment where they are now invading, and they still are able to survive and flourish. We could argue along the same lines with the [genetically modified] fish."AquaBounty Fined by Panama Government for Regulatory Failures
One of AquaBounty's biotech facilities is located in Panama, where regulators have fined the company for repeated regulatory and permit violations. A 2012 investigation into the facility revealed a failure to secure necessary permits, particularly regarding water usage and pollution, and the violations persisted into 2013.
Panamanian authorities noted that the violations were significant enough to levy "almost the maximum fine allowable against the company."10 Not to mention, the violations raise even more concerns regarding the approval of GM salmon. George Kimbrell, a senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, noted:11
"This decision is also even further proof that FDA is dangerously out of touch with the facts on the ground, advancing AquaBounty's application based on its promises, not reality."
Dana Perls, a food and technology campaigner at Friends of the Earth added:12
"The FDA is going forward with its review based on the premise that this facility will be in compliance with regulations, yet now we're seeing it's not… It is increasingly clear that there is inadequate regulation: the FDA is trying to shoehorn this new genetically engineered animal into a completely ill-fitting regulatory process."
While the company has permission to test and develop the GM salmon, they are not able to sell it. As a result, about 62 tons of the GM fish have already been dumped in Panamanian landfills…13 There was also a report of at least one other biosecurity lapse, in which mechanical failures related to a storm resulted in "lost" salmon.14Costco Remains Silent on Issue of Selling GM Salmon
The FDA's decision on AquAdvantage salmon will set the tone for the additional GM species currently in the pipelines. If the GM salmon is approved, it will pave the way for the about 35 other GM species under development right now, and one day make GM cows, chicken, and pigs commonplace in supermarkets… at least in those willing to sell them.
It's no secret that the US public is not wild about the idea of eating GM animals (although is already inundated with GM corn and soy).
About three-quarters of Americans have stated they would not eat GM fish, although to date there are no federal labeling requirements for any GM food (so you'd have no way of knowing if your fish was GM or not).15
To date, about 65 US supermarkets, including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Safeway, and Kroger, have pledged not to sell the fish even if it's approved (once approved, the fish would take about two years to reach the market).16 Costco, however, which is one of the largest retailers of salmon in the US, is not among them.
A campaign lead by Friends of the Earth and allies has since succeeded in collecting 300,000 signatures asking the food giant not to sell GM salmon. The groups hand delivered the signatures to Costco's headquarters in June 2015. Danielle Friedman, organizing director of the Community Alliance for Global Justice, said:17
"By delivering these signatures directly to Costco's front door, it is our hope that they will no longer be able to ignore the risks posed by genetically modified salmon and make the pledge."Environmental Groups Call on FDA to End GM Salmon Review, Citing New Risks
Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, and other environmental groups called on the FDA to end its ongoing review of GM salmon earlier this year. The notion was prompted by a 400-page draft risk assessment from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which revealed a number of concerning findings regarding GM salmon:18
- GM salmon are more susceptible to the disease-causing bacteria Aeromonas salmonicida, which suggests unique animal health problems and environmental concerns
- Have demonstrated diminished growth rates in AquaBounty's commercial facilities, casting doubts over any potential "benefits"
- Have displayed questionable performance, including inconsistent growth rates, which suggests "the growth-hormone gene construct inserted in the fish is not operating in a predictable manner, raising questions about the durability, safety, and commercial viability of GM salmon"19
Dana Perls added:20
"Major grocery chains, consumers, and salmon producers are all rejecting genetically engineered salmon… This new assessment adds to the body of science showing that this genetically engineered fish doesn't offer any benefit to aquaculture, has unique health problems and presents environmental risks. Why is the FDA continuing to spend scarce tax-payer dollars reviewing this fish that offers all risk and no reward?"Take Action Against Transgenic Food Fraud
It's important to recognize that not labeling transgenic food is fraud. As an example, salmon spliced with an eel-like creature is no longer the salmon you would expect when seeing "salmon" written on a label. Not disclosing this fact is fraud because it is counter to a consumer's expectation. The burden should not be placed on the traditional salmon fishermen to get their nature-provided fish certified as GMO-free; the burden of truthful declaration of what the product actually is should be placed on the patent holder and producer of these transgenic organisms.
The same logic should apply to crops. Research has shown that there are significant compositional differences between GM soybeans and non-GM varieties, for example.21 Contrary to industry claims, the study found that they also differ in terms of nutritional quality, with organic soybeans having the healthiest nutritional profile. According to the authors, "This study rejects that genetically modified soy is "substantially equivalent" to non-GM soybeans."
For close to 20 years the American public has been exposed to these largely experimental, untested foods. The FDA claims GMOs can be presumed safe, and that there was an "overwhelming scientific consensus" backing up their decision to categorize GMOs as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) back in 1992. Yet the evidence shows that is a bold-faced lie. Steven Druker reveals this and much more in his book Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public.
Scientists have also taken a firm and public stand against this oft-repeated lie. On January 24, a statement signed by 300 scientists, researchers, physicians and scholars was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, unequivocally asserting that there isnoscientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.22
If you want to get involved, The Center for Food Safety has created a petition asking the FDA not to approve GM salmon and, if the FDA insists on approving these genetically modified fish, to require the fish to be labeled. I urge you to sign it. Food & Water Watch has also created a petition asking members of congress to stop the approval of GM salmon.
By Dr. Mercola
Do annual mammograms save lives?
Several studies over the past few years have concluded that mammograms do not save lives, and may actually harm more women than they help, courtesy of false positives, overtreatment, and radiation-induced cancers.
According to research1 published in 2010, the reduction in mortality as a result of mammographic screening was so small as to be nonexistent — a mere 2.4 deaths per 100,000 person-years were spared.
Another study2 published in The Lancet Oncology in 2011 demonstrated, for the first time, that women who received the most breast screenings had a higher cumulative incidence of invasive breast cancer over the following six years than the control group who received far less screenings.
Now, researchers from Harvard and Dartmouth have published a paper3 in which they present similar conclusions.Mammograms Have No Impact on Breast Cancer Mortality
After analyzing cancer registry data from 16 million women in 547 counties across the United States, they found “no evident correlation between the extent of screening and 10-year breast cancer mortality.”
The researchers concluded that mammograms primarily find small, typically harmless, or non-lethal tumors, leading to widespread overdiagnosis.
As explained by Dr. Otis Webb Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and author of the book, How We Do Harm, the term "overdiagnosis" in cancer medicine refers to:
"...a tumor that fulfills all laboratory criteria to be called cancer but, if left alone, would never cause harm. This is a tumor that will not continue to grow, spread, and kill. It is a tumor that can be cured with treatment but does not need to be treated and/or cured."
Also, echoing results found in 2011, higher screening rates were associated with higher incidence of breast cancer. As reported by The LA Times:4
“For every 10-percentage-point increase in screening rates, the incidence of breast cancer rose by 16 percent... That worked out to an extra 35 to 49 breast cancer cases for every 100,000 women...
The researchers also examined breast cancers according to their stage at diagnosis, a marker of a tumor’s aggressiveness. More screening was associated with a higher incidence of early-stage breast cancers but no change for later-stage tumors, according to the study.
How can this be?
‘The simplest explanation is widespread overdiagnosis, which increases the incidence of small cancers without changing mortality,’ the study authors wrote. ‘Even where there are 1.8 times as many cancers being diagnosed, mortality is the same.’”To Screen or Not to Screen?
Clearly, the issue of breast cancer screening using mammography can be a deeply emotional one. Virtually all discussions relating to cancer are. A recent article in Forbes Magazine5 paints a vivid picture of most women’s fears, and warns of the dangers of not getting diagnosed in time.
While it needs to be an individual choice, I believe it can be valuable to take a step back and look at the big picture, which includes population-based statistics such as those presented above.
It’s also well worth investigating all available options and, of course, weigh the risks and benefits associated with each. As reported by Care2:6
“[The] study authors... point to a balance of benefits and harms and believe mammography is likely most favorable when directed at women who are at high risk — not too rarely and not too frequently.
They also believe watchful waiting, rather than immediate active treatment, is probably a good option in some cases.”
A main objection to mammography is the fact that it uses ionizing radiation to take images of your breasts, and it’s a well-established fact that ionizing radiation can cause cancer.
So the idea that the “best” way for you to avoid dying from cancer is to expose yourself to cancer-promoting radiation at regular intervals for decades on end (in order to catch the cancer early) really falls short on logic — especially since there are non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques available.
Results published in the British Medical Journal7 (BMJ) in 2012 show that women carrying a specific gene mutation called BRCA1/2 are particularly vulnerable to radiation-induced cancer.
Women carrying this mutation who were exposed to diagnostic radiation before the age of 30 were twice as likely to develop breast cancer, compared to those who did not have the mutated gene.
They also found that the radiation-induced cancer was dose-responsive, meaning the greater the dose, the higher the risk of cancer developing. The authors concluded that:
“The results of this study support the use of non-ionizing radiation imaging techniques (such as magnetic resonance imaging) as the main tool for surveillance in young women with BRCA1/2 mutations.”Mammograms Do Not Reduce Mortality Beyond That of Physical Examination
Last year, one of the largest and longest investigations into mammography was published.8
It involved 90,000 women who were followed for 25 years, and it sent shockwaves through the medical industry when it reported that the death rates from breast cancer were virtually identical among women who got annual mammograms and those who did not.
Moreover, it found that mammography screening had harmful effects. As reported by The New York Times:9
“One in five cancers found with mammography and treated was not a threat to the woman’s health and did not need treatment such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation.”
At the outset of the study, the women, aged 40-59, were randomly assigned to receive either five annual mammography screens, or an annual physical breast examination without mammography.Over the course of the study, 3,250 of the women who received mammography were diagnosed with breast cancer, compared to 3,133 in the non-mammography group.
Of those, 500 women in the mammography group, and 505 in the control group, died from the disease. However, after 15 years of follow-up, the mammography group had another 106 extra cancer diagnoses, which were attributed to overdiagnosis. According to the authors:10
“Annual mammography in women aged 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer beyond that of physical examination or usual care when adjuvant therapy for breast cancer is freely available. Overall, 22 percent of screen detected invasive breast cancers were over-diagnosed, representing one over-diagnosed breast cancer for every 424 women who received mammography screening in the trial.”
The rate of overdiagnosis (22 percent) is virtually identical to that found in a 2012 Norwegian study,11 which found that as many as 25 percent of women are consistently overdiagnosed with breast cancer that, if left alone, would cause no harm. Other studies that have come to similar conclusions include the following:
- In 2007, the Archives of Internal Medicine12 published a meta-analysis of 117 randomized, controlled mammogram trials. Among its findings: rates of false-positive results are high (20-56 percent after 10 mammograms)
- A 2009 meta analysis by the Cochrane Database review13 found that breast cancer screening led to a 30 percent rate of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which increasedthe absolute risk of developing cancer by 0.5 percent. The review concluded that for every 2,000 women invited for screening throughout a 10 year period, the life of just ONE woman was prolonged, while 10 healthy women were underwent unnecessary treatment.
Mammograms can also miss the presence of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), mammograms miss up to 20 percent of breast cancers present at the time of screening. Your risk for a false negative is particularly great if you have dense breast tissue, and an estimated 49 percent of women do.14 Mammography's sensitivity for dense breasts is as low as 27 percent,15 which means that about 75 percent of dense-breasted women are at risk for a cancer being missed if they rely solely on mammography. Even with digital mammography, the sensitivity is still less than 60 percent.
Considering the mortality rate from breast cancer is virtually identical whether you get an annual mammogram or an annual physical breast exam, it suggests physical examination can go a long way toward detecting a potential cancer. It certainly makes sense to familiarize yourself with your breasts and the signs and symptoms of breast cancer.16,17 If you notice any of the following symptoms, be sure to address it with your doctor, even if you’re not due for an annual checkup yet.Lump in the breast (keep in mind that breast lumps are common, and most are not cancerous) Dimpling of the breast surface, and/or “orange peel” skin texture Pain or unusual tenderness or swelling in the breast Visible veins on the breast Retracted nipple Change in size or shape of the breast Nipple discharge Enlarged lymph nodes (located in the armpit) Vaginal pain Unintentional weight loss Optimize Your Vitamin D for Breast Cancer Prevention
While detection and diagnosis of breast cancer is certainly important as early treatment has a greater chance of success, prevention is really key, and here you can wield a lot of power over your own destiny. In the largest review of research into lifestyle and breast cancer, the American Institute of Cancer Research estimated that about 40 percent of US breast cancer cases could be prevented if people made wiser lifestyle choices. I believe that is a very conservative estimate.
It’s likely that 75 percent to 90 percent of breast cancers could be avoided by strictly applying the recommendations below, especially when done in combination, as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Optimizing your vitamin D level alone has been shown to reduce your chances of breast cancer by at least 50 percent and double your chances of surviving breast cancer should you receive a breast cancer diagnosis.
Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature's most potent cancer fighters. It’s actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death). Vitamin D also works synergistically with every cancer treatment I'm aware of, with no adverse effects. The average vitamin D level found in American breast cancer patients18 is 17 ng/ml, a far cry from a more optimal 40-50 ng/ml.
So please, be sure to regularly monitor your vitamin D levels and take whatever amount of vitamin D3 you need to maintain a clinically relevant level. (Remember you also need vitamin K2 if you’re taking an oral vitamin D supplement instead of getting regular sun exposure.)
Sources Other Breast Cancer Prevention Tips
Other important lifestyle considerations that can help reduce your chances of breast cancer include the following:Eat REAL FoodA key dietary principle for optimal health and disease prevention is to eat real food. Choose fresh, organic, preferably locally growth foods. That also means avoiding all types of processed foods, which can contain any number of health harming ingredients, from refined sugar, processed fructose, genetically engineered ingredients, carcinogenic pesticides, and tens of thousands of food additives that have not been tested for safety.
Refined sugar is detrimental to your health in general and promotes cancer. As a general guideline, limit your total fructose intake to less than 25 grams daily. If you have cancer or are insulin resistant, you would be wise to restrict it to 15 grams or less.
Consider reducing your protein intake to one gram per kilogram of lean body weight. Replace the eliminated protein and carbs with high-quality fats, such as organic eggs from pastured hens, high-quality meats, avocados, and coconut oil. There's compelling evidence that a ketogenic diet helps prevent and treat many forms of cancer.
Also consider adding more cancer-fighting foods, herbs, and spices to your diet, such as broccoli. To learn more about how anti-angiogenetic foods fight cancer, please see our previous article: “Dramatically Effective New Natural Way to Starve Cancer and Obesity.” Get plenty of natural vitamin AVitamin A may also play a role in helping prevent breast cancer.19 It's best to obtain it from vitamin A-rich foods, rather than a supplement. Your best sources are organic egg yolks, raw butter, raw whole milk, and beef or chicken liver.
Beware of supplementing as there's some evidence that excessive vitamin A can negate the benefits of vitamin D. Since appropriate vitamin D levels are crucial for your health in general, not to mention cancer prevention, this means that it's essential to have the proper ratio of vitamin D to vitamin A in your body.
Ideally, you'll want to provide all the vitamin A and vitamin D substrate your body needs in such a way that your body can regulate both systems naturally. This is best done by eating colorful vegetables (for vitamin A) and by exposing your skin to appropriate amounts sunshine every day (for vitamin D). Get sufficient amounts of iodineIodine is an essential trace element required for the synthesis of hormones, and the lack of it can also cause or contribute to the development of a number of health problems, including breast cancer. This is because your breasts absorb and use a lot of iodine, which they need for proper cellular function. Iodine deficiency or insufficiency in any of tissue will lead to dysfunction of that tissue, and tumors are one possibility.
However, there's significant controversy over the appropriate dosage, so you need to use caution here. There's evidence indicating that taking mega-doses, in the tens of milligram range may be counterproductive. One recent study suggests it might not be wise to get more than about 800 mcg of iodine per day, and supplementing with as much as 12-13 mg (12,000-13,000 mcgs) could potentially have some adverse health effects. Nourish your gutOptimizing your gut flora will reduce inflammation and strengthen your immune response. Researchers have found a microbe-dependent mechanism through which some cancers mount an inflammatory response that fuels their development and growth.
They suggest inhibiting inflammatory cytokines might slow cancer progression and improve the response to chemotherapy. Adding naturally fermented food to your daily diet is an easy way to prevent cancer or speed recovery. You can always add a high-quality probiotic supplement as well, but naturally fermented foods are the best. Avoid xenoestrogensXenoestrogens are synthetic chemicals that mimic natural estrogens. They have been linked to a wide range of human health effects, including reduced sperm counts in men and increased risk of breast cancer in women. There are a large number of xenoestrogens, such as bovine growth hormones in commercial dairy, plastics like bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, and parabens in personal care products, and chemicals used in non-stick materials, just to name a few. Avoid charring your meatsCharcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased breast cancer risk. Acrylamide — a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted, or fried — has been found to increase breast cancer risk as well. Avoid unfermented soy productsUnfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, which increases the chances for mutations and cancerous cells. Drink a quart of organic green vegetable juice dailyReview my juicing instructions for more detailed information. Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fatsOmega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer. Take curcuminThis is the active ingredient in turmeric and in high concentrations can be very useful in the treatment of breast cancer. It shows immense therapeutic potential in preventing breast cancer metastasis.20 To learn more about its use for the prevention of cancer, please see my interview with Dr. William LaValley. Avoid drinking alcoholOr at least limit your alcoholic drinks to one per day. Improve your insulin and leptin receptor sensitivityEating a whole food diet low in added sugars is key. Exercising regularly will also promote optimal insulin and leptin sensitivity Avoid wearing underwire brasThere is intriguing data suggesting metal underwire bras increase your breast cancer risk. Avoid electromagnetic fields Items such as electric blankets and cell phones can be particularly troublesome and increase your cancer risk. Definitely avoid stashing your phone in your bra as you go about your day.
By Dr. Mercola
More than 2.1 billion people, or close to 30 percent of the global population, are overweight or obese, and obesity is responsible for about five percent of all deaths each year, worldwide.1 In the US, nearly one in five deaths is now associated with obesity.
That obesity factors into your mortality risk isn't so surprising when you consider just how many chronic and serious disease it's associated with.
In the US, just eight obesity-related diseases account for 75 percent of all healthcare costs! Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), dementia, and cancer are among them, but there are many others as well.
When you consider that two hallmarks of obesity are insulin/leptin resistance and chronic inflammation, you can begin to recognize that excess weight is fertile ground for a wide array of other ailments—many of which can cut your life significantly short.The Links Between Obesity, Insulin Resistance, and Other Chronic Diseases
When you're insulin resistant, your cells have become seriously impaired in their ability to respond to the insulin your body makes. At the heart of this problem is a diet too high in sugar (especially processed fructose).
While you can be insulin resistant and lean, obesity places far greater stress on your cells, which makes insulin resistance more probable. Insulin resistance is at the core of nearly every chronic degenerative disease and is typically what needs to be addressed first to turn around any disease.
Research4 shows that chronic overeating places stress on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER)—the membranous network found inside the mitochondria of your cells. And when the ER receives more nutrients than it can process, it signals the cell to dampen the sensitivity of the insulin receptors on the surface of the cell.
Thus continuously eating more than your body really needs promotes insulin resistance by the mere fact that your cells are stressed by the work placed on them by the excess nutrients. This also helps explain why intermittent fasting (as well as other forms of calorie restriction) is so effective for reversing insulin resistance and increasing longevity.
Once your insulin resistance worsens, the concentration of glucose in your blood begins to rise, and elevated glucose contributes to the development of diabetes.
According to a recent meta-review,5 the preponderance of research clearly shows that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there's a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes prediabetes and diabetes.
It's important to realize that type 2 diabetes is not caused by lack of insulin, which is why taking insulin is one of the worst things a diabetic can do. You have plenty of it.
Your cells have simply lost their sensitivity to it because there's too much, and/or in the case of chronic overeating, your cells shut down the insulin receptors to "catch a break," as it were, because they're overloaded. As noted in one 2007 paper6 discussing the mechanisms of obesity-associated insulin resistance:
"In the past decade, a large number of endocrine, inflammatory, neural, and cell-intrinsic pathways have been shown to be dysregulated in obesity.
Although it is possible that one of these factors plays a dominant role, many of these factors are interdependent, and it is likely that their dynamic interplay underlies the pathophysiology of insulin resistance."
In essence, obesity is a marker for other chronic diseases, but it's really the insulin resistance that typically (but not always) accompanies obesity that drives all of these other pathologies.
For example, research7 has shown that insulin resistance strongly predicts the risk of cardiovascular disease over a five-year period.
A follow-up study8 published in 2001, using the same cohort, discovered that insulin resistance also predicts a number of other age-related diseases, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and all-cause mortality risk.
Interestingly, over the course of this six-year long study, NONE of the middle-aged participants in the least insulin-resistant group developed disease or died, compared to 36 percent of those in the most insulin-resistant group. According to the authors:
"The fact that an age-related clinical event developed in approximately 1 out of 3 healthy individuals in the upper tertile of insulin resistance at baseline, followed for an average of 6 years, whereas no clinical events were observed in the most insulin-sensitive tertile, should serve as a strong stimulus to further efforts to define the role of insulin resistance in the genesis of age-related diseases."Obesity Will Soon Overtake Smoking as Lead Cause of Cancer
For decades, smoking was one of the leading causes of cancer, but that's about to change.
Obesity will likely claim the lead spot as the principal cause of 10 different types of cancer within the next decade, according to cancer specialists who discussed the trend at this year's American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago.
"They said spiraling rates of obesity meant that cancer – once seen as a disease of old age – was now increasingly being diagnosed up to two decades earlier than in the past. Their figures suggest one in five cancer deaths in Britain is caused by excess weight," The Telegraph9 reports.
The links between obesity and cancer are quite clear, and excess weight can increase your risk of cancer rather significantly. For example, obese women increase their risk of womb cancer by 600 percent.
Your risk for breast, prostate, colon, and all the other gynecological cancers is also elevated, primarily due to the hormone imbalances associated with obesity, which tend to fuel tumor growth.
Researchers have also found a correlation between obesity and increased risk for cancer relapse.10 Overweight survivors of prostate cancer treatment were found to have a three percent higher rate of relapse compared to their slimmer counterparts. They also had seven percent higher odds of the cancer spreading.Exercise Should Be Prescribed as Part of Cancer Treatment, Experts Say
Fortunately, researchers are also starting to recognize the power of lifestyle changes over drug prescriptions (although there's still plenty of research looking at pharmaceutical solutions, such as a compound that blocks the the sugar and nutrient pipeline in immune cells.11) As noted in the featured article:12
"Separately, experts yesterday said exercise was such a 'potent' force against cancer that it should be prescribed as part of disease treatment. Researchers said women with breast cancer could reduce mortality by up to 50 percent with half an hour's moderate exercise, five times a week, compared with those who are inactive.
The results were based on a study of mice... Studies in men with prostate cancer also suggested vigorous exercise was linked to reduction of between 40 and 50 percent in mortality. 'Exercise creates a hostile environment for cancer cells,' the researchers said."Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals Add to the Obesity Epidemic
Excess dietary sugar and lack of exercise are not the only factors influencing your weight. Research shows environmental and dietary toxins also play a role—and perhaps a significant one. As recently reported by Scientific American:13
"A new study14 suggests the long-held industry assumption that bisphenol-A breaks down safely in the human body is incorrect. Instead, researchers say, the body transforms the ubiquitous chemical additive into a compound that might spur obesity.
The study is the first to find that people's bodies metabolize bisphenol-A (BPA) — a chemical found in most people and used in polycarbonate plastic, food cans and paper receipts — into something that impacts our cells and may make us fat."
When you're exposed to BPA, it takes about six hours for your liver to metabolize approximately half of the concentration. Up to 90 percent of what your liver metabolizes is eventually excreted, but the fact that it's metabolized and excreted doesn't mean it's harmless. By treating mouse and human cells with the BPA metabolite, called BPA-Glucuronide, the researchers showed the cells had a "significant increase in lipid accumulation," which is an indication that the cells are turning into fat cells.
What this means is that the BPA metabolite is not inactive, as was previously assumed. It's actually quite biologically active, so we cannot make blanket statements (assumptions, really) saying that since it's a metabolite, it's inactive and therefore has no health effects. As noted by one of the study's authors: "Hopefully this [study] stops us from making assumptions about endocrine disrupting chemicals in general."Heart Disease—Another Major Killer Closely Associated with Obesity
Excessive sugar consumption and obesity is also closely associated with heart- and cardiovascular disease. One recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study15 concluded that "most US adults consume more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet," and that there's "a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for cardiovascular disease mortality."
The 15-year long study, which included data for 31,000 Americans, found that those who consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who got less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar.
On the whole, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of added sugar in the diet regardless of the age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index. A 2014 study16 came to very similar results.
Here, those who consumed the most sugar — about 25 percent of their daily calories — were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limited their sugar intake to seven percent of their total calories.
Research presented during the 2013 American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism Scientific Sessions suggested sugary beverages are to blame for about 183,000 deaths worldwide each year, including 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths, and 6,000 cancer deaths.
In the US alone, an estimated 25,000 annual deaths are attributed to the consumption of sweetened beverages like soda.
Part of the problem is that HFCS found in soda and other sweetened drinks actually causes more severe metabolic dysfunction because it's more readily metabolized into fat than any other sugar. The fact that refined fructose is far more harmful to your health than other sugars was recently highlighted in a meta-review published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.18
Of the different sugars available, refined fructose is probably the absolute worst, as it's broken down very much like alcohol, damaging your liver and causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins.The Links Between Fructose, Uric Acid, Kidney Disease, and Cardiovascular Disease
Kidney disease is another health problem associated with excessive fructose consumption,19 and kidney disease in turn may elevate your risk for cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, according to Dr. Richard Johnson, your uric acid level can help identify your susceptibility to fructose damage; it essentially acts as a marker for fructose toxicity. According to the latest research in this area, the safest range of uric acid is between 3 and 5.5 milligrams per deciliter, but there appears to be a steady relationship between uric acid levels, blood pressure, and cardiovascular risk, even down to the range of 3-4 mg/dl. Many obese individuals tend to have significantly elevated uric acid levels, some as high as 10 mg/dl.
The way you would use this information is quite simple. If your uric acid is elevated above 4 mg/dl for men and 3.5 mg/dl for women, you need to eliminate as much fructose from your diet as possible until your uric acid level has normalized, in order to avoid the toxic effects of fructose, which includes insulin resistance. That said, elevated uric acid20 also appears to be predictive of chronic kidney disease (CKD), as evidenced by studies in which renal disease is induced in rats by raising their uric acid levels. And as noted in a 2013 paper:21
"Gout was considered a cause of CKD in the mid-nineteenth century, and, prior to the availability of therapies to lower the uric acid level, the development of end-stage renal disease was common in gouty patients... In addition, many subjects with gout also had coexistent conditions such as hypertension and vascular disease, leading some experts to suggest that the renal injury in gout was secondary to these latter conditions rather than to uric acid per se...
Renewed interest in uric acid as a cause of CKD occurred when it was realized that invalid assumptions had been made in the arguments to dismiss uric acid as a risk factor for CKD. The greatest assumption was that the mechanism by which uric acid would cause kidney disease would be via the precipitation as crystals in the kidney, similar to the way it causes gout. However, when laboratory animals with CKD were made hyperuricemic, the renal disease progressed rapidly despite an absence of crystals in the kidney."
Last but not least, a recent analysis22 of 24 studies suggests that your kidney health may actually be a more potent indicator of your cardiovascular disease risk than blood pressure and cholesterol. Compared to those with healthy kidneys, those with kidney disease were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease. So in summary, avoiding elevated uric acid (another effect of which is painful gout), kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease again boils down to controlling your refined sugar/processed fructose consumption.Coke and Pepsi Need to Acknowledge Soda's Impact on Diabetes Rates
You're probably aware of Coca-Cola and Pepsi's obesity-prevention campaigns, offering advice on how to maintain your weight while still indulging in their assortment of beverages. Their recommendations usually focus on exercising more and opting for zero- or low-calorie beverages sweetened with artificial sweeteners instead of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)—scientific data showing they promote obesity and metabolic dysfunction to the same or greater degree than HFCS be damned...
Many consumers react positively to such campaigns. However, you never see these companies addressing the issue of diabetes—which their products are a principal promoter of—and when researchers tested out consumers' reactions to anti-diabetes messages, the attitudes were far less favorable, which is probably why Coke and Pepsi refuse to address it. As reported by PR Newser23 a couple of years ago:
"When the ad was changed to send an anti-diabetes message... participants' attitudes toward the brand became 37 percent more negative. That's a huge shift in reaction. 'People are not willing to punish the brand for obesity, which seems like a lifestyle problem. But diabetes is considered a disease, and many consumers see the parent brand as contributing to it,' said Kurt Carlson, a Georgetown marketing professor who oversaw the study."
The fact that Coke and Pepsi are willfully ignoring the issue doesn't make it any less relevant, and truly, if we want to see real changes within the industry, we need to press them on this issue, and force them to acknowledge their role in the diabetes epidemic. Eventually, I wouldn't be surprised if the soda industry ends up facing class-action lawsuits similar to those filed against the tobacco industry, as sodas and other sweetened beverages are now well linked to the obesity and diabetes epidemic.
Coca-Cola also admits to targeting teens (and has previously targeted children through in-school advertising and product placement). In an effort to quiet critics, Coke has made attempts to rebrand itself with a new, healthier image. Alas, their new "Coke Life," a low-calorie, low-sugar stevia-sweetened soda served in a green can24 is just another green-washed soda, on par with filtered cigarettes... Filter or not, it's still harmful and certainly should not be advertised to kids as a way to make their day more "fun" or "enjoyable." There's nothing enjoyable about diabetes.The Good News: Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Cancer Are All Preventable
Nearly one in five US deaths is associated with obesity, and one in every three deaths is attributed to cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attacks and stroke. According to a 2013 report25 from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of the 800,000 cardiovascular disease deaths occurring in the US each year, a quarter of them —or about 200,000—could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes.
Personally, I believe the rate of prevention could be far higher than that—especially if great attention was paid to sugar/fructose consumption and elimination of insulin resistance.
According to statistics found in the Credit Suisse Research Institute's 2013 study26 Sugar Consumption at a Crossroads, up to 40 percent of US healthcare expenditures are for diseases directly related to the overconsumption of sugar. We actually spend more than a trillion dollars each year fighting the damaging health effects of sugar!
To protect your health, please consider restricting your fructose consumption to 25 grams per day or less. If you're overweight or have a disease such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease (or are at high risk for them) then you're probably better off further reducing your fructose intake to 15 grams per day or less (and this includes all sources—HFCS, sugar, honey, agave, fruit, fruit juice, maple syrup, etc.)
Doing this will help you normalize your insulin- and leptin levels, thereby reducing your risk of not only diabetes and heart disease, but also a long list of other chronic health problems.
Key to success when cutting out added sugar is to replace the lost calories (energy) with high quality healthy fat, which includes 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 and seeds; and grass-fed and finished meats.
Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer—all of these issues tend to be feared by most people. But the solution—the most effective prevention—is within your own control. Reverse the amount of sugar to healthy fats in your diet (less sugar/non-vegetable carbs, more fat), and you'll see your risk factors start fading away.
By Dr. Mercola
About half of Americans (54 percent) enjoy spicy foods, which is considerably less than in some other areas of the world, like India, Asia, and Central America, where chili peppers and other spicy foods are considered staples.1
If you’re one of those people who love a bit of heat with virtually any meal, you’re in luck, as spicy foods are among the best for your health. They contain potent plant compounds called capsaicinoids, which have been found to prevent chronic diseases and are also what give peppers their heat.
This, coupled with their high concentrations of vitamins and antioxidants, makes spicy peppers a unique superfood – if you can stand their heat. The seeds in peppers are spicy, in fact, to deter animals from eating them. Humans are unique in that we eat them anyway, and it’s even been suggested that we’ve learned to love their spicy flavor because our bodies know how healthy they are.Spicy Foods Are Good for Your Heart and More
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, so any foods that support heart health are worthy of more than a passing glance. Spicy foods, particularly chili peppers, certainly fit this bill.
When hamsters ate food spiced up with capsaicinoids, their levels of LDL cholesterol declined, as did the plaque in their arteries.2 Capsaicin, one of the most studied capsaicinoids, in particular has also been linked to improved blood vessel function.
One study revealed it stimulates TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid 1), a blood vessel receptor, that in turn promotes the release of nitric oxide and lowers blood pressure.3 It is through this activation of TRPV1 that capsaicin appears to exert many of its beneficial effects, as TRPV1 receptors are found in many tissues. As reported in the journal Open Heart:4
“Capsaicin-mediated activation of TRPV1-expressing neurons in the gastrointestinal tract promotes sympathetically mediated stimulation of brown fat, raising metabolic rate.
The increased expression of UCP2 [uncoupling protein 2] induced by TRPV1 activation exerts a protective antioxidant effect on the liver in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and on vascular endothelium in the context of hyperglycemia.
In rodent studies, capsaicin-rich diets have shown favorable effects on atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver, cardiac hypertrophy, hypertension, and stroke risk.”Hot Peppers May Lower Your Cancer Risk
Another major killer, cancer, is also affected by capsaicin in hot peppers. Capsaicin has been shown to activate cell receptors in your intestinal lining, creating a reaction that lowers the risk of tumors.
Mice genetically prone to develop tumors had reduced tumors and extended lifespans when fed capsaicin, and the researchers believe the compound may turn off an over-reactive receptor that could trigger tumor growth.
Capsaicin has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has even shown some promise for cancer treatment. Research has shown, for instance, that capsaicin suppresses the growth of human prostate cancer cells while leaving normal cells unharmed.5
In one study, about 80 percent of the prostate cancer cells in mice were killed by capsaicin, while treated tumors shrank to about one-fifth the size of untreated tumors.6
“The scientists discovered that TRPV1 works as a tumor suppressor in the intestines through a ‘feedback loop’ with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), reducing the risk of unwanted growth.”
Capsaicin has also been shown to be effective against breast, pancreatic, and bladder cancer cells, although you’ll likely need to eat large amounts of capsaicin regularly to get such benefits (such as three to eight habanero peppers a week).9Eating Spicy Food May Help You Lose Weight
Spicy foods increase satiety, helping you to feel full while eating less, and hot peppers may even help your body to burn more calories. Studies have shown capsaicin may help fight obesity by decreasing calorie intake, shrinking fat tissue, and lowering blood fat levels, as well as fight fat buildup by triggering beneficial protein changes in your body.10
Part of the benefit may be due to capsaicin's heat potential, as it is a thermogenic substance that may temporarily increase thermogenesis in your body, where your body burns fuel such as fat to create heat, with beneficial impacts on your metabolism and fat-burning potential.
Research suggests that consuming thermogenic ingredients may boost your metabolism by up to 5 percent, and increase fat burning by up to 16 percent.12 It may even help counteract the decrease in metabolic rate that often occurs during weight loss.Capsaicin Is an Excellent Pain Reliever
Capsaicin is not only a potent anti-inflammatory, which is useful for many types of pain, but also it provides pain relief by depleting your body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain. It also works by de-sensitizing sensory receptors in your skin.13
This is why it’s often used in topical pain-relieving creams and patches. It’s actually the very intense burning sensation that, ironically, ultimately relieves pain. Gizmodo explained:14
“Applied externally, chilies cause a sensation of burning, as capsaicin activates TRPV1 in nerves in the skin. But, if exposed to capsaicin for long enough, these pain nerve cells will become 'exhausted', having depleted their internal chemical stores.
The nerve cells are no longer able to respond to capsaicin (or indeed, anything that might cause pain) and so you are no longer able to perceive pain. This is why chronic exposure to capsaicin acts as an analgesic.”
In one study, a man with persistent pain due to wounds from bomb explosion experienced an 80 percent reduction in pain symptoms after using a capsaicin (8 percent, known as high concentration) patch.15
Topical treatment with 0.025 percent (low concentration) capsaicin cream has also been found to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, with 80 percent of patients experiencing a reduction in pain after two weeks of four-times-daily treatment.16
It’s also been shown to help reduce or eliminate burning, stinging, itching, redness of skin associated with moderate to severe psoriasis,17 and even help relieve migraine pain.Boost Your Sex Life and More with These Other Healthy Spices
Peppers are only one type of spice, and when it comes to experiencing the full range of health benefits spicy foods offer, variety is key. In the case of your sex life, it’s not the spice from chili peppers but that from ginseng and saffron that showed benefit. In a review of purported aphrodisiacs, both ginseng and saffron were found to boost sexual performance.18
Ginseng, which can add quite a “kick” to your meals, is valued for its ability to boost energy levels and speed metabolism. Panax ginseng, in particular, has been linked to weight loss benefits, with one study showing obese, diabetic mice given panax ginseng extracts not only had improvements in insulin sensitivity, but also lost a significant amount of weight after 12 days.19 Other notable spices include:
This spice may help to boost your metabolism, and it also has impressive benefits for blood sugar regulation, making it an ideal seasoning for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Cinnamon has been found to significantly reduce blood sugar levels, triglycerides, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels in people with type 2 diabetes, as well as increase glucose metabolism by about 20 times, which would significantly improve your ability to regulate blood sugar.20
Black pepper contains a substance called piperine, which not only gives it its pungent flavor, but also blocks the formation of new fat cells.21 When combined with capsaicin and other substances, black pepper was also found to burn as many calories as taking a 20-minute walk.22 As an aside, black pepper also increases the bioavailability of just about all other foods -- herbs and other compounds – making it a healthy choice for virtually any meal.
The mustard plant is actually in the cruciferous family of vegetables (along with broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, for instance). Mustard seeds have been shown to boost metabolic rate by 25 percent, which means you'll burn calories more efficiently. In fact, just 3/5 teaspoon of mustard seeds daily may help you burn an extra 45 calories an hour.23
Ginger is another warming spice that has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to help soothe and relax your intestinal tract. Research also suggests that ginger may have thermogenic properties that help boost your metabolism, as well as have an appetite-suppressant effect when consumed, suggesting a "potential role of ginger in weight management."24
Cardamom, an aromatic spice with a spicy-sweet flavor, is another thermogenic herb that helps boost your metabolism and may boost your body's ability to burn fat. Cardamom is a popular herb used in Ayurveda, an ancient holistic system of medicine and natural healing from India.Chili Peppers Are Easy to Grow at Home
It’s quite easy to secure a steady supply of chili peppers, as they’re easy to grow, even indoors. You don’t need much space, as one or two plants can easily feed a family. I grow four kinds of chili peppers and enjoy them fresh, raw, and organic, although you can also add them to fish, beef and chicken dishes, soups, curries, and vegetables. They also work well for making sauces that add flavor and nutrition to most any savory meal.
In addition to the capsaicin, fresh chili peppers also provide high levels of immunity-boosting vitamin C, antioxidants including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, B vitamins. and even minerals like potassium, magnesium and manganese. If you think you don’t like spicy foods, you might want to give them another chance. It’s possible to build up a tolerance to the spice so you can grow to enjoy them. And remember that even though the spice might feel painful, it’s just an illusion. When you eat a chili pepper, capsaicin binds to and activates TRPV1. You’re not actually in any danger; your body simply thinks it’s being exposed to extreme heat.25When Spicy Foods Should Be Avoided
You might want to wrap up your spiciest meals well before bedtime, as spicy foods before bed can give you indigestion that makes it nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep. Even if you can eat spicy foods without discomfort, they are still linked with more time spent awake during the night and taking longer to fall asleep.26 It’s speculated this may be due to capsaicin affecting sleep via changes in your body temperature. Spicy foods may also irritate your bladder if you’re in the midst of a urinary tract infection (UTI), so you may want to hold off until you’re healed.
As for the notion that you should avoid spicy foods if you’ve got stomach issues, this is a myth – hot chilies may actually be protective. Not only have chili peppers been found to reduce the risk of stomach bleeding in people taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin, but eating them daily may also significantly reduce your risk of peptic ulcers.27 So if you enjoy them, there’s no reason not to indulge.
By Dr. Mercola
The digestive process seems simple on the surface. You put a food in your mouth, chew it up, and swallow. Then your body breaks down your food into components your body can utilize and absorb. Whatever’s left gets excreted as waste.
In reality, however, digestion is a complex process that can be easily sidelined by a number of factors, from not chewing your food enough to lacking enzymes, stomach acid, or the right balance of microbes to properly digest your food and absorb its nutrients.
The foods you eat can also make or break your digestive health, with heavily processed, genetically modified (GM), and sugar-rich foods among the worst offenders. If your diet is based on the latter, your gut is likely inflamed, possibly leaky, and putting you at risk of both chronic and acute health problems.
1. Aloe Vera
Fresh aloe vera gel is rich in enzymes and has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory, making it useful for soothing a number of digestive complaints.
Aloe vera juice can be helpful for acid reflux, for example, but ideally should be made from home-grown aloe with leaves that are 18 inches long before harvesting. Species that produce thick leaves are best.
Aloe also contains high amounts of an immune-stimulating polysaccharide, especially mannose, which has been shown to induce white blood cells to secrete interferon, tumor necrosis factor, and beneficial cytokines.
The benefits come from the inner gel of the plant, not the outer leaf. The inner gel can be combined with a lime or lemon and blended with a hand blender to make it more palatable when drinking. In addition, aloe vera has been found helpful for:3
- Candida infections
- Parasitic infections
- Ulcers, including those caused by H. pylori bacteria4
- Crohn’s disease, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
2. Bone Broth
It forms the foundation because not only is it very easily digested, it also contains profound immune-optimizing components that are foundational building blocks for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. It is incredibly healing to your gut.
The GAPS diet is often used to treat children with autism and other disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but just about anyone with allergies or less than optimal gut health can benefit from it, as it is designed to heal leaky gut. If your gut is leaky or permeable, partially undigested food, toxins, viruses, yeast, and bacteria have the opportunity to pass through your intestine and access your bloodstream; this is known as leaky gut.
When your intestinal lining is repeatedly damaged due to reoccurring leaky gut, damaged cells called microvilli become unable to do their job properly. They become unable to process and utilize the nutrients and enzymes that are vital to proper digestion.
Eventually, digestion is impaired and absorption of nutrients is negatively affected. As more exposure occurs, your body initiates an attack on these foreign invaders. It responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms we relate to a variety of diseases.
Leaky gut is the root of many allergies and autoimmune disorders, for example. When combined with toxic overload, you have a perfect storm that can lead to neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities. Bone broth contains a variety of valuable nutrients of which many Americans are lacking, in a form your body can easily absorb and use.
This includes gelatin. The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion. In addition, bone broth contains:Calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals Components of collagen and cartilage Silicon and other trace minerals Components of bone and bone marrow Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate The "conditionally essential" anti-inflammatory amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine
3. Fermented Vegetables
Another key component of the GAPS program is the daily consumption of fermented foods, particularly fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi.
Fermented foods are potent chelators (detoxifiers) and contain much higher levels of beneficial bacteria than even probiotic supplements, making them ideal for optimizing your gut flora. Fermented veggies also contain high levels of antioxidants and fiber for optimal digestive health.
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 digestive health and your overall health.
If you ferment your own vegetables, consider using a special starter culture that has been optimized with bacterial strains that produce high levels of vitamin K2. This is an inexpensive way to optimize your K2 levels, which are also crucial for good health.
If you enjoy spicy foods, you might also want to give kimchi a try. 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. It's rich in vitamins A and C, and due to its fermentation process is also rich in beneficial gut-boosting lactobacilli bacteria.
4. Kefir and Coconut Kefir
Kefir (fermented milk) and coconut kefir (fermented coconut water) are two more options to add more fermented foods to your diet. Both are rich in probiotics and enzymes to promote healthy bacterial balance that is necessary for proper gut health.
Kefir is easy to make at home using organic, raw, grass-fed milk, or coconut water, and will contain far more probiotics than you can get in supplement form. In addition to beneficial probiotics, traditionally fermented kefir also contains:Beneficial yeast Minerals, such as magnesium Essential amino acids (such as tryptophan, which is well-known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system) Complete proteins Calcium Vitamins B1, B2, and biotin (B7) Vitamin K Phosphorus
If you don’t consume dairy or you’re looking for a different taste, coconut kefir is a nice alternative to support your gut health. As noted by the Epoch Times:5
“Coconut kefir will enhance hydration and recolonize your gut and mucous membranes with a wide variety of beneficial microflora. It also contains beneficial yeasts that seek out and destroy pathogenic yeasts in the body (like Candida) as well as helping clean, strengthen, and purify intestinal walls so it can become more resistant to dangerous pathogens like E. coli, salmonella, and parasites.
Coconut kefir also helps assimilate nutrients in the gut and enhances the usage of certain trace minerals and B-vitamins.”
5. Flax Seed Tea
Flax seed tea is simple to make by pouring 12 ounces of boiling water over one tablespoon of flax seeds, then letting it steep overnight (drain the seeds out prior to drinking). This simple beverage provides healing support to the colon due to its content of omega-3 fats, soluble fiber and lignans, which are anti-inflammatory and have a lubricating effect.6 If you have leaky gut syndrome or irritable bowel, give this tea a try.
6. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is rich in the amino acid L-glutamine, which is known to help heal the soft tissue lining your intestines. It’s especially helpful for people with leaky gut, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and irritable bowel syndrome. You can eat red cabbage steamed, juiced, or, perhaps best of all, fermented, which will add an abundance of gut-healthy enzymes and beneficial bacteria into the mix as well.
Chlorella, single-celled fresh water algae, is often referred to as a near-perfect food, with a wide range of health benefits. For starters, it promotes healthy pH levels in your gut, which in turn helps good bacteria to thrive. It’s also a potent detox agent for mercury and other heavy metals, which is useful since one of the symptoms of mercury build-up is digestive distress and reduced ability to properly assimilate and utilize fats. Chlorella is even rich in fiber, helping to tone the lining of your intestines and keep you “regular.”
Moringa, sometimes described as the “miracle tree,” has small, rounded leaves that are packed with an incredible amount of nutrition: protein, calcium, beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium… you name it, moringa’s got it. No wonder it’s been used medicinally (and as a food source) for at least 4,000 years.7 From a digestive standpoint, moringa is high in fiber that, as the Epoch Times put it, “works like a mop in your intestines… to clean up any of that extra grunge left over from a greasy diet.”8
Also noteworthy are its isothiocyanates, which have anti-bacterial properties that may help to rid your body of H. pylori, a bacteria implicated in gastritis, ulcers, and gastric cancer.
The recommended daily amount of fiber is between 20 and 30 grams, but I believe about 32 grams per day is ideal. Unfortunately, most people get only half that or less. Your best source of dietary fiber comes from vegetables, and most people simply aren't eating enough veggies. One way to easily increase your fiber intake is to add psyllium to your diet.
Taking it three times a day could add as much as 18 grams of dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) to your diet. In addition to supporting healthy digestion, soluble fibers such as psyllium are prebiotics that help nourish beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria in turn assist with digestion and absorption of your food, and play a significant role in your immune function.
Please keep in mind that psyllium is a heavily sprayed crop, which means many sources are contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. For this reason, be sure to ONLY use organic psyllium husk, and make sure it’s 100% pure. Many supplement brands use synthetic or semi-synthetic active ingredients that do not contain psyllium, such as methylcellulose and calcium polycarbophil. Some brands even add sweeteners and other additives, which you’re better off avoiding.
10. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds contain about 10 grams of fiber in just two tablespoons, and they’re rich in anti-inflammatory phytochemicals for soothing gastrointestinal distress. One of chia seeds’ greatest qualities is how easy they are to use. They have a mild flavor that makes them adaptable to a variety of recipes, and they’re gluten-free, which is perfect for those with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or who are simply trying to avoid gluten. Chia seeds can be added to virtually any dish, from raw yogurt to applesauce to smoothies.
Keep in mind that chia seeds take on a gelatinous texture after they mix with a liquid, so if you prefer a crunch, sprinkle them on just before eating.Avoid These Six Gut Health Disasters…
In addition to knowing what to add to your diet and lifestyle for digestive health, it's equally important to know what to avoid, and this includes the following. By avoiding the gut health disasters below and fortifying your diet with the superfoods mentioned above, you’ll be well on your way to optimal digestive health and wellness:Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement) Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise "dead" nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria) Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Antibacterial soap Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular
One way of optimizing the bacteria in your gut is by adding fermented foods to your wholesome diet.
One of my personal favorites is sauerkraut, which is rich in beneficial bacteria and at the same time tastes so good. So if you love cabbage, this raw sauerkraut recipe is a must-try.
1 whole green cabbage
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 carrots, grated
2. Mix the starter culture in the celery juice, making sure it’s completely dissolved. Add the juice to your vegetables, spreading it out evenly.
4. Put as much as sauerkraut in a ceramic pot or glass container as you can.
5. Get a masher, and mash the vegetables down. This will release more juices in your sauerkraut and eliminate any air pockets.
6. Place a cabbage leaf on top of your sauerkraut, and tuck it down the sides. Cover the jar with the lid loosely (Fermentation produces carbon dioxide, which will expand the jar).
6. Store the container in a place with a controlled temperature, like a cooler, for 5 to 7 days. On the seventh day, transfer the sauerkraut to the refrigerator.
Raw Sauerkraut Preparation Tips
You can customize your sauerkraut recipe according to your taste. Beets, garlic, shredded celery, golden beets, sweet potato, bell peppers, and parsley are wonderful choices. You can use any herb you like, such as thyme or cilantro. Adding a habanero pepper also adds a bit of spiciness to your sauerkraut (wear gloves when handling peppers as they can burn your skin).
Choose cabbage that is blemish-free and has compact leaves. Do not pick those that are too light for their size and have broken leaves.
It is best to store your sauerkraut or any other fermented food in a glass jar. Avoid using plastic containers, as they have bisphenol-A, which can leach into your food. Metal jars are also not recommended.
Pick ginger roots that are firm, smooth, and free from mold. If you are going to slice instead of grate it, make the slices as thin as possible.
By storing your carrots in the coolest part of your refrigerator, you can maintain their freshness for two weeks. However, do not put them beside apples or pears, as their ethylene gas can make your carrots bitter.
Why Is Raw Sauerkraut Good for You?
Raw sauerkraut is light on your pocket but heavy on health benefits. Aside from providing good bacteria for your gut, it also:
- Has anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that high levels of glucosinolate found in sauerkraut, once they break down, may reduce the DNA damage and cell mutation during the formation of cancer (carcinogenesis). The same study also found out that women who ate at least three servings of sauerkraut and short-cooked cabbage have a lower breast cancer risk than those who consumed one serving per week.[i]
- Is an excellent source of vitamin C. A serving of sauerkraut provides 35 percent of the average recommended intake of vitamin C, which is vital in the production of white blood cells, and promotes cell regeneration and repair.
- Supports bone growth. Sauerkraut is rich in vitamin K that helps strengthen your bones and releases proteins, which regulate bone mineralization. A single serving offers 23 percent of the daily recommended intake.
- Maintains good eye health. Fermented cabbage provides high levels of vitamin A, which can reduce your risk for macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Fights inflammation. Sauerkraut’s anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to its phytonutrient antioxidants, which can help lessen the pain in joints and muscles. [ii]
Fermented foods like sauerkraut are actually a vital component of the Gut and Psychology/Physiology Syndrome (GAPS) program developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. She has been using this program to help heal patients suffering from different illnesses like autism, epilepsy, mood disorders, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, and more. The beneficial bacteria from the cultured foods, which her patients consumed daily, helped remove heavy metals and toxins from the body, which improved their immune system.
Beneficial bacteria from fermented foods also provide the following important health benefits:
- Helps prevent obesity and diabetes
- Improve mood and physical health
- Regulate fat absorption
- Produce B vitamins and vitamin K2
If you are new to eating fermented foods, you should take it slow. Start off with one teaspoon of sauerkraut per meal so as not to overwhelm your gastrointestinal tract and cause a healing crisis, which occurs when the probiotics kill the pathogens in it. Gradually increase your serving of fermented foods as tolerated by your body.
Once you are fully acquainted with cultured foods, eat one quarter to one-half cup of fermented vegetables along with one to three meals per day to reap the health benefits that these foods offer.