By Dr. Mercola
What is the proper role of sugar in our society? It used to be a condiment; now it’s a diet staple. Mounting evidence clearly shows that refined sugar is a primary factor causing not just obesity, but also chronic disease.
According to Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco (USCF), sugar acts as a chronic, dose-dependent liver toxin (poison) when consumed in excess.
You might recognize Dr. Lustig from one of the most popular YouTube videos on sugar that has over 5 million views. You might also have seen him on 60 Minutes, which ran a report on the dangers of sugar in 2012.
You might also have seen him sparring with Stephen Colbert or Bill Maher. Or you might know him from his book, Fat Chance.
Never before have humans consumed as much sugar as we do today, and the ramifications of this dietary change are quite clear. Fructose, found in most processed foods, is by far the worst form of sugar, causing the greatest amount of harm in the shortest amount of time.
For example, in one clinical trial, test subjects who consumed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) developed higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease in just two weeks.Chronic Disease Has Risen in Lockstep with Sugar Consumption
Historically, sugar was used as a condiment. As early as 1200 BC, India developed a process to extract cane juice, called khanda, which is where we got the word “candy” from.
"It was for nobility and it was hard to come by, until about year 1700, when the pot still allowed for mass production of refined sugar. It was still extraordinarily expensive until the middle of 18th -19th century," Dr. Lustig says.
"At that point, we started seeing it appearing in various venues. We started seeing the growth of American sugar industry in Louisiana, Texas, and Hawaii. That's when we started seeing chronic metabolic disease.
In fact, the very first demonstration of an increase in chronic metabolic disease was in 1924, when Hayden Emerson, the commissioner of health of New York City, noticed a seven-fold increase in diabetes rate in the [city’s] population.
Then in 1931, Dr. Paul Dudley White (cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital) called attention to the fact that we had an epidemic of heart disease.
Finally, in 1988, we learned about the advent of adolescent type 2 diabetes. These are the three seminal hallmarks of chronic metabolic disease pervading our population. It goes up in lockstep with our increase in per capita sugar consumption.”
The bottom line is that sugar used to be something we added to coffee and tea. We had full control over the amount we ate. Today, we consume about 20 times more sugar than our ancestors did, and we have very little control over the amount since it’s become a diet staple.
It’s now found in virtually every processed food you can think of. On average, sugar makes up 15 percent of total calories consumed (about 19.5 teaspoons per day), and your liver, which processes sugar, simply cannot handle that kind of load. When you overload your liver in this way, you inevitably end up with chronic metabolic disease.
"Basically, sugar is metabolized virtually identically to that of alcohol, and we are now seeing diseases in children that we never saw before, and they are alcohol-related diseases, like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes.
Kids don’t drink alcohol but they certainly consume sugar, and that’s the point,” Dr. Lustig says. “Sugar is the alcohol of the child. And we are all overdosed.
We have gone beyond our limits and we are now evidencing a massive increase in chronic metabolic disease that is chewing through the health care resources of every developed and developing country on the planet, and this is unsustainable."Insulin Resistance—A Hallmark of Metabolic Syndrome
According to Dr. Lustig, whatever organ becomes insulin resistant ends up manifesting its own chronic metabolic disease. For example, when you have insulin resistance of the liver, you end up with type 2 diabetes.
When you have insulin resistance of the brain, you end up with Alzheimer’s disease. Insulin resistance of the kidney leads to chronic renal disease, and so forth. All of these diseases are insulin resistant states. The question is what causes the insulin resistance in the first place?
"[W]e have some new data that we are very excited about, which demonstrate that if you overload the mitochondria, the little energy-burning factories within cells, in any given organ, you'll end up manifesting various forms of chronic metabolic disease," Dr. Lustig says.
“The chemical that overloads the mitochondria best is trans-fats. But the chemical that overloads the mitochondria next best is sugar. Trans fats and sugar pretty much characterize the processed food diet.”
In November 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed trans fats from the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list. This is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, instead of reverting back to healthy saturated fats like coconut oil, lard, and butter, trans fats have been replaced with other non-saturated vegetable oils, that when heated, produce toxic aldehydes which cause cellular damage.
We may not realize the full ramifications of this switch until a decade or two down the line. Sugar, on the other hand, is going to be even more difficult to dislodge from the food system.
According to SugarScience.org, added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names.1 And yet, getting rid of the excess sugar in processed food is exactly what needs to be done.
"As long as sugar is on that (GRAS) list, the food industry has license to use as much as it wants to in any given food stuff. So, sugar has become the biggest problem in our diet since the advent of trans fats," Dr. Lustig says. "Granted, there are many problems with processed food. There's too much of five things and too little of three things.
There's too much trans fats; too much omega-6 fatty acids (which are pro-inflammatory); too much branched-chain amino acids (which also overload your liver and cause chronic metabolic disease)... too much alcohol, and too much sugar.
On the too-little side, there's too little fiber, too few micronutrients, and too little omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory. Processed food has a zillion things wrong with it. Unfortunately, processed food is what we subsidize. Processed food is what we expect people to consume because of 1) expense and 2) shelf life. That’s making a fortune for the food industry, but it’s killing us.”Is There a Safe Threshold for Sugar?
According to Dr. Lustig, trans fats are “without question consumable poison.” But is sugar as bad or worse than trans fat? Dr. Lustig says no, it’s not worse, because while there is no threshold at which trans fats are safe, there may be a threshold below which sugar will not cause a problem. While there are individual differences, as a general rule the safety threshold for sugar appears to be around six to nine teaspoons (25-38 grams) of added sugar per day.
“That’s what the data suggest, because your liver does have the capacity to metabolize fructose, as long as the mitochondria don’t get overwhelmed,” Dr. Lustig says. “So as long as you keep it below the threshold, above which toxicity would occur, I think that, probably, sugar is okay.”
Whether or not you're insulin resistant will play a role, as insulin resistance generates hyperinsulinemia. Hyperinsulinemia means that there's more insulin at the fat cell, which means you'll shunt more energy into those fat cells because that's what insulin does. Insulin resistance is clearly associated with weight gain. But while many believe that insulin resistance is the result of weight gain, recent data argues against that notion, Dr. Lustig says. Instead, the data shows that insulin is what drives the weight gain.
When your liver turns excess sugar into liver fat and becomes insulin resistant, that generates hyperinsulinemia, and hyperinsulinemia drives energy storage into body fat.
Currently, about two-thirds of the American population is overweight. About one-quarter to one-third is diabetic or prediabetic, and another quarter of the population is hypertensive. Many also have high serum triglycerides. Insulin resistance is a component of all of these health issues. According to Dr. Lustig, the data shows that at least 50 percent of Americans have some form of insulin resistance—whether you’re overweight or not—and that is what’s driving our seemingly out-of-control disease statistics.Metabolic Disease in America
As Dr. Lustig notes, if you were to do a Venn diagram2,3 of the United States population, you'd have 240 million adults in that diagram, divided into two circles. One circle would be about twice as big as the other: the obese population forming a smaller circle of about 30 percent, and the non-obese population forming a larger circle of about 70 percent. Eighty percent (57 million people) of the obese population is metabolically ill. They have insulin resistance that manifests itself in a myriad of ways, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.
"The standard mantra is, 'If they would just diet and exercise, they wouldn't be obese and we could solve this problem,'" Dr. Lustig says. "This is patently untrue. It is true that 80 percent of the obese population is metabolically ill. But that means that 20 percent of the obese population is not. They're metabolically healthy. They are called metabolically healthy obese. They will live a completely normal life, die at a completely normal age, and not cost the taxpayer a dime. They are just fat. They're not contributing to our runaway medical train, as it were."
Conversely, it turns out that of the 70 percent that are of normal weight (168 million people), 40 percent of them (67 million people) have insulin resistance on lab testing, and they manifest aspects of the metabolic syndrome as well. They too get type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia. The prevalence of metabolic disease among normal weight people is not as great as among obese people—40 percent versus 80 percent—but they do get ill and there are far more people in this group.
“When you do the math, there are more thin sick people than there are fat sick people,” Dr. Lustig says. “The thin sick people are actually costing more, and when you do the math on the two together, the sick population is 124 million—that’s more than half of the US adult population. It turns out the thin sick people are costing us more...
And you can't attribute this to gluttony and sloth or diet and [lack of] exercise, because they're normal weight. If it's not about behavior, then there's only one other option: it must be about exposure. This is an exposure that obese people are exposed to and it's an exposure that even normal weight people are exposed to. That is called the Western diet. The Western diet is replete with sugar. Sugar is mechanistically the thing that drives this insulin resistance."How Do You Resolve Insulin Resistance?
The answer can be summarized in two words: real food. According to Dr. Lustig, the overwhelming majority, 60-70 percent of the patients seen in his clinic are there as a result of their processed food diet.
"What we have to do is we have to move them back [to real food], and what we do is we explain what real food is. A lot of kids don't even know what real food is. A lot of kids think that fruit flavored yogurt is real food; it is not. We explain that yogurt is sour milk [it's not sweet]... So if you want yogurt, have plain yogurt and throw whole fruit in, just like what Europeans do. That's called real food."
Intermittent fasting may be another way to address insulin resistance. Although Dr. Lustig doesn’t think most people have to go this far, he believes it can work for some. When you fast, your liver burns off the available liver fat. So you’re temporarily depleting your liver fat stores, restoring metabolic stability to your liver and improving hepatic insulin sensitivity. That said, he believes that the long-term answer for most people lies simply in eating real food.
"I think you can do this rationally, by eating properly all the way through the week rather than having to do intermittent fasting. I think, ultimately, the goal is get the liver fat down. And since the cause of the liver fat is dietary sugar, via the process of De novo lipogenesis... once you get rid of the sugar, the liver fat will go down, and we have data that supports that, both in adults and in children... I think, ultimately, what you have to do is get the liver fat down. Will intermittent fasting do that? Yes, it will. But will eating properly do that too? It does it even better," he says.
"What we tell people are these very simple rules, all of which are evidence-based: get rid of every sugared beverage in the house. Then, eat your carbohydrate with fiber. Whole food is okay because the fiber mitigates the negative effects of the fructose on hepatic metabolism, because it reduces the rate of absorption... We don't tell people they can't eat sugar. But they have to eat sugar in a form that nature provided it, and it's called whole fruit."The Importance of Exercise
Exercise is also an important component. Interestingly, Dr. Lustig notes that exercise works not by promoting weight loss; rather its benefits are related to the fact that exercise promotes muscle gain. It may be a fine distinction, but one worth noting nonetheless. There is a transcription factor known as Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α), which is involved in mitochondrial biogenesis. When you turn up PGC-1α, you make more mitochondria. Increasing your sympathetic muscle tone. This is what exercise does, it turns on PGC-1α. So, in short, exercise increases muscle mass, which increases mitochondria, and this in turn improves insulin sensitivity.
"Every doctor who tells their patient, 'Well, if you'd exercise, you'd lose weight.' Given what we know now, this statement is tantamount to malpractice, because it isn’t true. There are no studies that show [exercise leads to weight loss]. Yet, exercise is the single best thing you can do for yourself and we should be promoting it, but we have to explain to patients what the outcome variable they should be looking at is. And the outcome variable is belt size [waist size], because they will reduce their visceral fat. They will lose inches, not pounds. And losing inches means improved metabolic health," Dr. Lustig explains.Research Proves Causation—Sugar Definitely Increases Risk for Disease
At present, there are 15 agencies and 51 separate agreements controlling food regulatory activities in the US, and according to Dr. Lustig, “no one knows what the other hand is doing, and the food industry takes complete advantage of this.” Dr. Lustig and many others are pushing for a national food policy. He also insists that “it’s time for us to take food back as a mode of therapy.” And if food is medicine, doctors really must be taught a thing or two about nutrition...
“We have the data. We don’t have correlation anymore. Now, we have causation. We have causation for sugar and obesity (although sugar is not the only cause). We have causation for sugar and diabetes, for heart disease, and for fatty liver disease... We now have causation. It’s time to do something about it.”
For example, a paper by Yang, et al, published in JAMA Internal Medicine last year looked at consumption of added sugar over two decades, as a percentage of total calories, concluding that it significantly contributed to cardiovascular deaths. People who consumed 30 percent of their daily calories as added sugar (like many teenagers are) had a four-fold greater risk of dying from heart disease.
"If you think we got a problem now, wait until our teenagers hit heart disease age; things are really going to be even worse shortly," he notes. "Food should confer wellness, not illness, and it used to. But then, the food industry got involved. And now it confers illness, not wellness. We have to take back our food."
To counter the propaganda provided by profit-driven industry interests, dozens of scientists at three American universities—including Dr. Lustig—have created a new educational website called SugarScience.org,4 aimed at making independent research available to the public. To learn more about what the science really says about sugar, I highly recommend browsing through the site.
By Dr. Mercola
Chicken salad is mentioned in US cookbooks dating back to the early 1800s,1 but it’s likely this traditional dish came to be long before that. It’s said the Chinese were actually the first to mix together chicken with oil and spices, creating the first variation of Asian chicken salad.
American chicken salad, at its most basic level, is a mixture of chicken and mayonnaise (or a similar “binder”) along with various additions like celery and onions. It was reportedly first served in America at a Rhode Island meat market called Town Meats in 1863. The owner mixed leftover chicken with mayonnaise, tarragon and grapes and customers loved it.2
If you’re looking for a filling and healthy lunch or dinner, try the herbed chicken salad recipe below,3 and be sure to keep reading for tips on how to make classic chicken salad healthier than ever.
Healthy Herbed Chicken Salad
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh dill sprigs
2 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 small garlic clove
1⁄3 cup homemade mayonnaise (based on avocado or olive oil and egg, see below)
1⁄3 cup raw sour cream
2 Tbs. lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. cooked organic, free-range chicken, shredded
2 jarred roasted red peppers, well-drained and chopped (or substitute fresh roasted peppers)
3 inner celery ribs with leaves, thinly sliced
8 cups mixed salad greens
1/2 lb. tomatoes, choppedProcedure:
- Make the herbed mayonnaise: In a food processor, pulse the herbs, anchovies, and garlic until coarsely chopped. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, and lemon juice and process until smooth. Season to taste with the pepper.
- In a large bowl, toss the herbed mayonnaise with the chicken, peppers, and celery. Serve on the salad greens and garnish with the tomatoes.
One factor that will make or break the quality of your chicken salad is, not surprisingly, the chicken. Be prepared that if you watch the video above – a clip from Food, Inc. that shows the reality of industrial chicken farms or CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) – you may lose your appetite.
You’ll see chickens with oversized breasts, which distort their body proportions so badly they can barely walk. You’ll see chickens that are diseased and dying (or already dead), all packed into a huge dark pen. This is inhumane, clearly, but it’s also unhealthy – grossly so.
Nearly all (99 percent) of American chickens come from CAFOs like the one in the video above (or worse). These animals are typically fed genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans, which is a far cry from their natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects and worms.
Byproducts of processing, such as chicken feathers and other animal parts, can also be added to the feed. This unnatural diet further exacerbates disease promulgation.
To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding, lack of vitamin D (as CAFO chickens may never see the light of day), and an unnatural diet, the animals are routinely fed antibiotics.
Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to human health, and contaminate the environment when they run off into lakes, rivers, aquifers, and drinking water. According to a landmark "Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report" published by the CDC, at least 2 million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections.4
According to a University of Florida report that reviewed data on the 14 pathogens that cause 95 percent of total cases of food-borne illness, poultry was found to cause more food-borne disease than any other food, amounting to $2.4 billion in costs of illness.5
The primary bacteria to blame were Campylobacter, followed by Salmonella. 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.This Is How Chicken Is Supposed to Be Raised...
I strongly encourage you to avoid CAFO chicken and instead choose food sourced from local farms that are raising chickens the right way. The chickens should be allowed outside and they should be able to roam and eat insects and other natural foods. Please watch my video above with farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm to see how this looks in the real world.
Fortunately, finding high-quality pastured chickens (and organic eggs) is relatively easy, as virtually every rural area has small farmers with chickens. If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores and farmers' markets are typically the quickest route to finding high-quality local chicken sources. If you’re buying chicken from a typical grocery store, be aware that labels can be misleading. Look for organic “pasture raised” poultry – and follow up with the producer to find out exactly how much time the chickens spend on pasture.How to Make Homemade Mayonnaise
The other factor that can make or break the health value of your chicken salad is the mayonnaise. Most prepared mayos are made with primarily GE soybean oil, one of the most harmful oils you can eat. This type of oil, whether partially hydrogenated, organic, or made from newer soybean varieties modified in such a way as to not require hydrogenation, are highly processed and wreak chaos in your body at the cellular level, paving the way for problems ranging from obesity and diabetes to reproductive disorders and heart disease.
The majority of soybeans grown in the US are genetically engineered and, as a result, are saturated with dangerous levels of the herbicide glyphosate, which has been linked to a growing list of serious health problems. Even though you may not consider mayonnaise a sweet product, most commercial varieties also contain high fructose corn syrup or other forms of fructose, which adds to the toxic load on your liver.
If you think you can't live without your mayo, consider using an organic variety made with olive oil or grapeseed oil. Many people also enjoy mashed avocado in place of mayonnaise, or you can simply make your own homemade mayo. Mayonnaise is easy to make in a blender and, when made with healthy oils and fresh, organic eggs, is actually good for you. If you make your own, it won't last as long but it will taste much better, and you just make smaller batches.
Good mayo requires only a few basic ingredients: olive oil, organic egg yolks, vinegar or lemon juice, mustard, and a little unprocessed salt. Whip the ingredients together (adjust the amounts to your taste) and you have a spread that’s not only good for you, but tastes so delicious you won’t ever want to go back to the store-bought version.Poached or Roasted? What’s the Best Way to Prepare Chicken for Chicken Salad?
If you’re a seasoned cook or foodie, you may be familiar with the debate over poached or roasted meat for chicken salad. The former, poached, yields a moist, smooth chicken salad while the latter, roasted, adds flavor and more texture. There’s no “right” answer, and you might end up using whatever type you have on hand. Making chicken salad is an excellent way to use up leftover roast chicken, and if you’re in a pinch some health food stores have organic rotisserie chicken already cooked.
Perhaps the best way to prepare the chicken for your chicken salad, however, is to poach the meat in the process of making a healthy bone broth using a whole chicken. You’ll know the meat is ready when it starts to separate from the bone. Simply remove the chicken for your chicken salad and continue simmering the broth (which you can later eat alone or make into a chicken soup).
By Dr. Mercola
As a result of today's skyrocketing rates of chronic disease and disability among children, including autism, some scientists are questioning the safety of large-scale vaccination programs.
In spite of serious adverse effects among some particularly vulnerable people—many of whom are children—public health officials and many doctors giving vaccines continue to bury their heads in the sand, refusing to even acknowledge there's a problem.
The featured documentary, "Shots in the Dark: Silence on Vaccine," takes a hard look at vaccine toxicity and its impact on families. Although released in 2011, the concerns raised are still relevant today.
Current research casts a shadow of doubt about vaccines being as safe as people have been led to believe. Several concerned scientists and many vaccine safety critics are sounding the alarm in hopes of gaining the attention of a public that tends to believe, without question, what doctors and the media say—that vaccines are unquestionably safe for everyone.
Certainly the original intention behind mass vaccination programs was a noble one—to reduce the spread of dangerous infections and increase our children's odds of living long, healthy lives.
However, cases of severe, debilitating vaccine-triggered illnesses are becoming less of a rarity and lead to the logical conclusion that we may be trading artificial, temporary vaccine acquired immunity for life-long illness and disability.Vaccine Safety Studies Severely Outdated – By Almost 100 Years!
There is increasing evidence that vaccines cause children to suffer more adverse reactions than any other pharmaceutical product.
Some of the recent research points to vaccines playing a key role in cases of autism, multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome and other major illnesses, particularly among individuals who are predisposed to react adversely to vaccine components.
Vaccines contain a variety of toxic compounds, including thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative) and aluminum hydroxide, the most commonly used adjuvant which may be even more dangerous than mercury.
Vaccines are a $30 billion per year industry. Decades ago there used to be dozens of vaccine manufacturers, but today just five big drug corporations dominate the lucrative world vaccine market: Pfizer, Merck, Sanofi Pasteur, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline.
Vaccine manufacturers, government health officials, medical trade associations and the majority of physicians reject outright any suggestion of a cause-and-effect relationship between vaccines and serious illness, relying on poorly designed studies, some dating back to the late 1920s.
With the scientific advancements over the past century, those studies are seriously dated. For example, in the 1920s we had no idea that certain compounds interact to produce toxic and mutating effects on human DNA.
There is no way to predict how vaccines may be causing new mutations and damaging you or your child's DNA because it simply hasn't been studied. There is much we didn't know then about how the brain and immune systems develop and function, and much we still don't know.
Today, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1 recommends 69 doses of 16 vaccines for your child, starting on his or her day of birth and continuing through age 18—including 49 doses before the age of six. This is more than double the number of vaccines prescribed 30 years ago.
Such a regimen typically manipulates and deals a heavy blow to your child's developing immune system, raising his or her risk for development of brain dysfunction and autoimmune disorders.Vaccine Adjuvants Linked to Dangerous Gene Mutations
The official line is that vaccines don't cause a type of brain and immune dysfunction that is labeled by doctors as "autism" or "autism spectrum disorder." However, rates of autism, along with many other chronic immunological and neurological diseases have exploded over exactly the same time period that our infants and children have been hit with increasing numbers of vaccines.
Autism rates are approximately 200 times higher than they were 30 years ago. In 1985, autism affected one child in 10,000 in America. In 2014, it was one in 50. Senior MIT Research Scientist Stephanie Seneff estimates that, based on current projections, half of all children will have autism by the year 2025! 2
Vaccine advocates claim that autism is a "genetic disease," but that's an outdated model. Emerging evidence suggests that autism is actually an epigenetic disease—meaning, autism is triggered by de novo mutations that change a child's genes.
But what's causing these mutations and DNA changes? They are likely caused by a number of coexisting factors, related to the toxic nature of our modern world. Environmental chemicals and other toxins can turn genes on that would ordinarily be dormant, and turn genes off that would normally protect you.
For example, some researchers have correlated elevated autism rates with the introduction of vaccines that use human fetal cell lines and retroviral contaminants. There is also scientific evidence that the mercury preservatives and aluminum adjuvants in vaccines are creating health problems.Scientist Finds Direct Evidence of Mercury Overload in Autistic Children
Human exposures to mercury and aluminum have increased dramatically over the past 30 years. The human body isn't equipped to break down and eliminate these heavy metals, so they tend to accumulate in tissues over time. It's been a challenging task for scientists to tease out exactly what effect this increased mercury load has on long term health.
For example, researchers have found that some people have a more difficult time excreting mercury from the body than others potentially due to genetic or other biological differences. Accumulation of mercury in the human body can have devastating effects on health.
Dr. Robert Nataf, Director of the Philippe Auguste Laboratory in Paris, France, was tasked with exploring the biology of children diagnosed with autism. He found direct evidence of mercury toxicity in the children, who had elevated porphyrin levels. Porphyrins are essential compounds that help you fight toxins, and he found porphyrins specific to mercury elevated in autistic children, which suggests mercury overload.
Prior studies have shown that when a person has mercury poisoning, the body's cells cannot build the intercellular transport network (microtubules) necessary to get substances made by the cell to where they are needed. The result of this blockage can be chronic illness. In the documentary, Dr. Nataf uses this metaphor: "Mercury is like a highway accident. The result is a weakening of the cell's functioning. When a cell weakens, it starts making mistakes, creating malformations."Aluminum Adjuvants May Cause Your Body to Attack Itself
Total Video Length: 41:58
In the video above, Dr. David Ayoub discusses how the aluminum in vaccines may be even more dangerous than mercury. Aluminum is to your brain and central nervous system as cigarette smoke is to your lungs, producing tremendous oxidative stress. When you review the signs and symptoms of aluminum toxicity, they are quite similar to the symptoms of autism, ADHD, Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's and other neurological diseases.
Aluminum hydroxide is the oldest and most commonly used vaccine adjuvant and is considered "safe," in spite of scientific evidence to the contrary. An adjuvant's role is to hyper-stimulate the immune system to mount a strong antibody response to the lab altered virus or bacteria introduced into the body by a vaccine. It was once thought that the body eliminated aluminum hydroxide within a few days of an aluminum containing vaccine being injected into it, but scientists now know this isn't necessarily true. For genetic or biological reasons that we don't yet understand, some people appear predisposed to poor aluminum detoxification, so it accumulates in their tissues and leads to myalgias, fatigue, cognitive deficiencies and other health problems.
Although somewhat rare, another illness that can result from injected aluminum hydroxide is macrophagic myofasciitis3 (MMF), marked by disabling pain in your muscles, skin and fascia. Muscle biopsies of those with MMF show dark fibrous structures in the cytoplasm of their macrophages, proven to be aluminum hydroxide. The macrophages in their muscle tissue form masses called granulomas, and the resulting inflammation causes widespread pain throughout their bodies.
The aluminum vaccine adjuvant is doing what it was designed to do, telling the immune system to mount a strong response, but when aluminum is lodged in your muscle, your body can attack itself and elicit a classic autoimmune reaction. Aluminum can travel around your body easily, unimpeded, piggybacking on your iron transport system. It crosses biological barriers that normally keep other types of toxins out, such as your blood-brain barrier. Over time, aluminum can accumulate in your brain and cause brain inflammation. Aluminum toxicity may be contributing to the Alzheimer's epidemic, as well as other neurological and immune disorders commonly seen today.Vaccines May Contain Six Times More Aluminum Than Labels Say
If you go by the aluminum content on vaccine labels, the amount kids are getting is excessive, but if you add in the aluminum NOT listed on the labels—"accidental exposure" due to contamination—it's a much more serious problem. Dr. Ayoub cites one study that found five to six times more aluminum in vaccines than what was actually listed on the labels. Vaccines are not the only source of aluminum exposure—it's present in the air, water, food, beverages, cosmetics, anti-perspirants and other consumer products. Not surprisingly, as children's aluminum burden has increased, so has the prevalence of childhood neurological disorders.Can Vaccines Cause Permanent Brain Damage?
Although there are a number of biological mechanisms that have been implicated in facilitating vaccine-induced brain inflammation and immune dysfunction, clues about the effects of heavy metal toxicity on your brain can be found in the relatively new field of neuroimmunology. The brain's immune system is comprised of cells called microglia, which function similarly to the macrophages found in other parts of the body. You have as many microglia in your brain as neurons—they cover nearly all of your brain tissue, and they are mobile, moving about in order to identify and destroy foreign particles that pose a threat to your neurons.
Playing a key role in your brain's immune response, microglia produce a number of inflammatory molecules. This inflammatory response is a two-edged sword. If inflammation does not resolve, it can damage cerebral tissue—damage that CAN be permanent. When microglia are confused, they sometimes become "hyperactive" and attack everything, which can lead to cognitive deficiencies, demyelination, permanent brain damage or even death. This is how vaccine adjuvants may cause permanent brain damage, especially among infants and children with genetic susceptibilities and underlying neurological or immune system disorders that may or may not have been diagnosed.
If your child has a hypersensitive immune response pattern that's different from the norm, he or she may be at increased risk for suffering a vaccine reaction. At the present time, it is well known that the large gaps in vaccine safety science mean that doctors have few ways to reliably predict which child is going to experience such a reaction. Parents are seldom warned of all vaccine risks, even when their child has had a previous vaccine reaction or has a known neurological or immune system disorder that has the potential to raise those risks!Most Adverse Vaccine Reactions Are Never Connected
Proving causation is extremely difficult with vaccine reactions. Unless symptoms of a vaccine reaction are immediate and dramatic, parents and doctors may not connect a child's health deterioration to vaccinations a child received. When parents report a reaction to their child's physician, they are typically told the illness couldn't possibly be related to the vaccine – it is just a "coincidence" say most pediatricians. Only the most extreme, dramatic and life-threatening vaccine reactions end up in federal vaccine court—the ones where the "dots" are easily connected. Unfortunately, at that point the damage is already done, and all too often it's permanent.
The CDC's VAERS database (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System)4 lists 8,000 different adverse vaccine reactions, from localized swelling and anaphylactic shock to autism, coma and death.5 Because of the factors already discussed, the actual number of reactions is probably much higher than the database reports. The vast majority of adverse reactions are never reported.Government's Best Kept Secret: The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
Given the furor that erupts when anybody publicly questions vaccine safety, you would think that US government officials are certain that vaccines are safe for everyone. But in reality, they've known about serious vaccine risks for decades and they know that some people are more susceptible to having vaccine reactions that lead to permanent injuries and death.
At the insistence of vaccine manufacturers pressing Congress for a shield from vaccine injury lawsuits, 30 years ago Congress established the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). Vaccine injury cases are adjudicated in the US Court of Claims, also known as "Vaccine Court."6 The VICP is supposed to provide non-adversarial, expedited financial compensation for vaccine victims according to provisions in the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act,7 which absolved vaccine manufacturers, pediatricians and other vaccine providers of nearly all responsibility and liability for vaccine injuries and deaths.
Unfortunately, two out of three vaccine victims applying to the VICP are turned away empty-handed. Very few families ever see a dime from this program, or they have ridiculously long waits for their cases to be heard and settled. Many parents are unaware that the compensation program even exists and miss the short filing deadlines for filing a vaccine injury claim in the VICP (two years following a vaccine death and three years following the first symptom of a vaccine injury).
The families seeking compensation are in vaccine court not because they were opposed to vaccination but because of what happened when they DID vaccinate their children. In the documentary "Bought," vaccine safety activist Dawn Loughborough says this about VICP:
"We used to have this idea we were protecting children from infectious diseases. And we created the National Vaccine program with children in mind, but somewhere in time protecting the program became more important than what's happening to our children."Do No Harm?
Another issue standing in the way of ensuring that pharmaceutical products licensed by the FDA are safe is ensuring that those who are involved in the licensing and safety monitoring process are free from conflicts of interest. For example, there is evidence that individuals with ties to the pharmaceutical industry occupy a significant number of seats on FDA advisory committees that review new prescription drug licensing applications.
Apparently, conflicts of interest are rampant with a recent published study8 revealing that on average, 13 percent of the members of FDA advisory committees in the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) have a financial interest in the company whose drug is up for committee review. The Precautionary Principle—establish safety first—has been replaced with do whatever it takes to rush a drug to market.
Then, when it has been found to cause severe and sometimes fatal health outcomes, like Vioxx, health officials simply deal with the fallout later. And then there is the pharmaceutical lobby, arguably the most powerful lobby in Washington with more than 600 lobbyists doling out funds to political candidates of both parties—in exchange for their loyalty, of course. This is why getting anything done in Congress that the drug industry doesn't want done is next to impossible.Please Share Your Story
It's about time we had some good science to accurately assess how many people are being injured by vaccines, and who is most at risk. The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the rug like nothing more than "statistically acceptable collateral damage" from one-size-fits-all vaccination policies.
If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury, or death, please report it and talk about it. If we don't share information and experiences with one another, then everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. If you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper, write a letter to the editor. Make a call to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the story. We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies, or public health officials promoting vaccine mandates, to dominate the conversation.
By Dr. Mercola
Hibernation is a survival mechanism that keeps certain animals alive through the winter months. Even when temperatures become freezing and food and water are scarce, hibernating animals barely notice as they slumber in a sedentary state.
But far from simply sleeping, hibernation involves multiple, sometimes counterintuitive, physiological shifts that give the animals a survival advantage. For instance, prior to hibernation animals will gorge themselves on food, becoming obese and, essentially, diabetic. During hibernation, animals’ lungs resemble asthmatics,’ with a thick coating of mucus and collagen.
Even hibernators’ brains show signs of changes akin to early-stage Alzheimer’s, and some lose their memories, yet come spring the animals emerge, seemingly unfazed. According to BBC News:1
“As their body temperature drops, hibernators also remove the lymphocytes (white blood cells) from their blood and store them in the lymph nodes. And within 90 minutes of awakening, these reappear.
This damping down of the immune system prevents a general inflammation in the body during rewarming – the very thing that would cause humans and other non-hibernators to suffer kidney damage.”Scientists Study Hibernation to Improve Human Health
That hibernating animals are able to slow their metabolism almost to a point of suspended animation, and re-emerge after the inhospitable winter no worse for the wear, has peaked scientists’ interest. If a similar state was able to be induced in humans, it might have significant health ramifications, including for the following diseases.2
When an arctic ground squirrel hibernates, the blood flow in its brain is just one-tenth of normal. The resulting oxygen deprivation would lead to a stroke in humans, but the squirrels survive because their metabolism also lowers to 2 percent of normal.
Thus, they require much less oxygen to survive. If we could lower metabolism similarly in humans having strokes, it might prevent brain damage from occurring. Rapidly cooling the body is one possibility for achieving this.
Grizzly bears gain 100-plus pounds prior to hibernation, yet, unlike humans their cells do not stop responding to insulin and they do not develop type 2 diabetes or other metabolic diseases. Research shows that bears’ fat cells actually change their response to insulin depending on the season.
They’re sensitive to insulin in the summer and fall, but during hibernation become insulin resistant (which is then reversed come spring).3 This insulin resistance helps them gain the fat they need to survive the winter.
When a black bear hibernates, its bone is recycled at 25 percent of its normal rate. This allows them to maintain their bone strength even after long periods of virtually no movement. Harnessing this ability in humans could have implications for those at risk of osteoporosis.
Hibernating arctic ground squirrels prioritize the use of fat as fuel when they’re in low-oxygen conditions. This likely prevents the buildup of waste products, like lactic acid, which can be damaging to humans in an oxygen-deprived state (such as during heart surgery).
Researchers are looking into the artic squirrels’ ability to burn more fat than sugar during hibernation, as it could help reduce organ damage in humans undergoing surgery.Hibernating Animals Give Clues to Turning on Your Fat Switch
I highly recommend reading Dr. Richard Johnson's book The Fat Switch. In it, he reviews groundbreaking new research showing that eating too much and exercising too little are NOT solely responsible for why you keep gaining weight or have trouble shedding those excess pounds.
His research shows that metabolic syndrome (characterized by central obesity or increased waist circumference, high blood pressure and insulin resistance) is actually a normal condition that animals undergo to store fat.
Animals' ability to gain "hibernation fat" appears to be regulated by a switch in the mitochondria that is turned on and off by a common food that no longer provides survival advantage to humans living in contemporary society, namely fructose.
Fructose-containing sugars cause weight gain not by the calories they contain, but by triggering this "fat switch," which tells your body it's time to store fat, just as if you were an animal preparing for hibernation. According to Dr. Johnson:
“...most animals have learned how to become fat and how to become thin. They do it in a tightly regulated way... Hibernating mammals will double their weight and fat in the fall in preparation for winter...
These animals develop all the features of metabolic syndrome that we do. They get fat. They’re visceral fat goes up. They get fatty liver. The triglycerides go up in their blood. They get insulin-resistant... It’s a normal process.
It’s not a disease. This is how animals store fat. It’s part of the fat storage syndrome. I’ve actually proposed (and it’s in press) that the metabolic syndrome really should be called the fat-storage condition, because it’s just fat storage.”
The question, of course, is how do animals do it? Through his earlier research, Dr. Johnson discovered the method that animals use to gain fat prior to times of food scarcity, which turned out to be a powerful adaptive benefit. His research showed that fructose activates a key enzyme, fructokinase, which in turn activates another enzyme that causes cells to accumulate fat.
When this enzyme is blocked, fat cannot be stored in the cell. Interestingly, this is the exact same “switch” animals use to fatten up in the fall and to burn fat during the winter. Fructose is the dietary ingredient that turns on this “switch,” causing cells to accumulate fat, both in animals and in humans!Human Mutations May Explain Why We Get Fat from Eating Fructose… But Other Animals Don’t
Dr. Johnson has also explained why humans seem to be especially sensitive to the effects of fructose, often becoming obese when exposed in excess (but without the ability to “switch back” to being thin, like animals do):
“'The enzyme that makes you fat is turned on in obese people,' Dr. Johnson explains, 'and the enzyme that makes you lean is turned off.' This is why the book is called The Fat Switch, because basically there is a switch that turns on and off. It looks to me like it’s universal to all animals.
This book is a story of that... [O]nce we realized that there was this switch, we asked, 'Why are people becoming obese?' Now we realized it was related to the sugar intake.
...The last part was connecting in with the evolutionary aspects. There’s a very famous evolutionary biologist in London, in the Natural History Museum. His name is Peter Andrews. He trained with Richard Leakey. He’s like a world expert on human evolution. It turned out that there were certain mutations that occurred in our past. For example, we don’t make vitamin C. We also have higher uric acids than most other animals.
When we look at when these mutations occurred, we could see that they actually occurred during periods of human famine, and that these were probably mutations that allowed us to become fatter in response to fructose than other animals. We’re much more sensitive to sugar than most animals, and it’s because of these mutations.
Then I was able to work with a spectacular scientist who helped resurrect those extinct genes. We’re able to basically prove that when we lost these genes, we became more sensitive to sugar. Then out of it comes the discovery that this pathway is probably important not just in obesity, but in a lot of other diseases like celiac disease, food allergies, and kidney disease.”
Effective treatment of insulin resistance and secondary obesity therefore requires turning off your fat switch – by avoiding fructose, which is the trigger – and improving the function of your cells' mitochondria. As a standard recommendation, I strongly advise keeping your TOTAL fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. However, for most people – especially if you struggle with high blood pressure and insulin resistance – it would be wise to limit your fructose to 15 grams or less, as it is virtually guaranteed that you will consume "hidden" sources of fructose from most beverages and just about any processed food you might eat.Is Your Body Primed for Hibernation?
Many people joke that they ‘hibernate’ through the winter. As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, you might find yourself craving (and eating) high-calorie comfort foods and wishing you could spend the day curled up on your couch. Is this coincidence… or are humans primed for hibernation like other animals? There are stories of humans hibernating. One such story was published in the British Medical Journal in 1900, and told of a group of Russian peasants who were in a state of chronic famine. When winter approached, they would stay indoors and wake just once a day to eat bread and drink water, and take turns watching the fire, before falling back into a deep slumber.4
Many animals, including mammals, birds, fish, insects and amphibians, have the ability to slow their metabolism and enter low-energy states for survival (this is known as torpor). This is how mice, hamsters and bats survive the winter; they have regular bouts of torpor. It’s also possible that humans might have some remnants of torpor. BBC News explained:5
“There are even hints that we humans might, to some extent, retain some of these abilities. For a long time, there was no evidence that primates could hibernate. But in 2004, a species of Madagascan lemur was shown to practice regular bouts of torpor. 'If you look at the lemur and look at us, we share about 98% of our genes,' says [professor Rob] Henning. 'It would be very strange if the tools of hibernation were all packed into that 2% difference.'”
There has even been suggestion that people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) (a type of depression that occurs during the winter) might have “hibernation-like physiology.” For instance, prior to hibernation, animals have a spike in their parasympathetic nervous system, which slows their heart and metabolic rate and lowers body temperature. Researchers have discovered a similar spike in people with SAD.6 Rather than hibernating through winter, however, as some animals do, humans may respond to their hibernation-like physiology by eating more, gaining weight and sleeping more than usual.Do You Need Help Fighting Off Winter Hibernation?
If the short days and long nights of winter leave you feeling fatigued, craving sugary and starch foods, and like you’d rather just “hibernate” until spring, try getting exposure to sunlight as much as possible. Vitamin D deficiency has long been associated with Seasonal Affective Disorder, so spend time in the sun when possible or use a high-quality tanning bed. Blue light therapy and using full-spectrum lighting in your home and office can also help. You can further boost your mood naturally during the dark, cold winter by:
- Exercising. Regular physical activity works as well as antidepressant drugs to improve your mood. In fact, it’s one of the most powerful strategies you can take to prevent and treat depression and boost your mood.
- Going to sleep early. You were designed to go to sleep when the sun sets and wake up when the sun rises. If you stray too far from this biological pattern you will disrupt delicate hormonal cycles in your body. In the winter, this may mean that you’ll want to go to sleep a couple of hours earlier than in the summer.
- Avoiding sugar/fructose and increasing high quality animal-based omega-3 fats. Your brain consists of about 60 percent fat, DHA specifically, so you need a constant input of essential omega-3 fats like krill oil for your brain to work properly. In fact, one study showed that people with lower blood levels of omega-3s were more likely to have symptoms of depression and a more negative outlook while those with higher blood levels demonstrated the opposite emotional states. Sugar (including fructose) also has a seriously detrimental impact on your brain function and may turn on your body’s “fat switch.”
By Dr. Mercola
Considering how important sleep is for survival, very little is known about how much sleep humans actually get each night. There are surveys that have been done, of course, but most of these rely on self-reporting of sleep time, which can be notoriously inaccurate.
If you go to bed at 10 pm and get out of bed at 7 am, you might say you’ve slept for nine hours. In reality, you probably spent at least 15-30 minutes falling asleep and may have woken during the night once or more.
With the advent of fitness-tracking wristbands such as Jawbone’s UP24, however, we now have access to actual sleep data (and more) from wristband users. The data is quite useful on a personal level.
Newer devices, like Jawbone’s UP3 that should be released in early 2015, can even tell you what activities led to your best sleep and what factors resulted in poor sleep. However, it’s also fascinating on a larger scale, as the data reveal insights into sleep patterns from around the world.What Influences Sleep Patterns Around the Globe?
Jawbone impressively collected data from 1 million UP users (I was one of them) in 2014, revealing a “year in sleep.” There were some differences by country, but three events seemed to influence sleep patterns the most in all countries tracked:
- Sporting events
- Time changes
In the US, for instance, Americans tend to sleep longer on three-day weekends and holidays (like Thanksgiving weekend). Brian Wilt, principal data scientist at Jawbone, detailed 9 more fascinating facts about sleep habits from around the world:1
- United States: The practice of moving clocks ahead one hour for daylight saving time in the spring leads to the worst sleep of the year (with Americans losing about 13 minutes of sleep that night).
- Canada: Canadians woke up 39 minutes early and lost 30 minutes of sleep to watch hockey during the Winter Olympics hockey finals.
- Germany: Germans lost about an hour of sleep the night their team won the 2014 World Cup.
- Italy and France: Residents of these countries sleep in much later during the week in August, when most take vacation and businesses often shut down.
- Russia: Russia made a permanent switch to “winter time” in October 2014, allowing Russians to wake about a half-hour later each day.
- Japan: People in Japan lost sleep during the World Cup matches, as they had to get up very early to watch the games.
- Australia: Australians tend to have earlier bedtimes and later wake times in August, and the opposite during December.
- United Arab Emirates: During the holy month of Ramadan, people stay up close to two hours later because eating before sundown is forbidden.2
- United Kingdom: The worst night of sleep in the UK was June 14, the night of the England-Italy match during the World Cup. Residents lost an average of 23 minutes of sleep.
What else can fitness tracker data reveal? Jawbone analyzed data for tens of thousands of Americans in 21 US cities to reveal the most sleep-deprived areas.
What they found was that sleep times were remarkably similar, ranging from a low of 6.82 hours in Houston, Texas to a high of 6.93 hours in Orlando, Florida. On average, that’s just over 6.8 hours of sleep a night.3 Beyond this, the data reveal how natural disasters impact your sleep.
During the South Napa earthquake that hit Northern California in 2014, 93 percent of wristband wearers near the epicenter suddenly woke up at 3:20 am, when the quake hit.4 Not surprisingly, most of them had a hard time going back to sleep afterward, and 45 percent of those near the epicenter did not go back to sleep for the rest of the night.
Also interesting, the data can reveal routines and characteristics about different cities. Wilt summed up data of sleep patterns among seven US cities, collected on March 31, 2014, which he described as a “typical night.”
“New Yorkers work hard and play hard, and they’re the first to bed and among the first to rise. Users in Tokyo are among some of the last to go to bed and the first to wake up, since they only average 5 hours and 46 min of night sleep. Dubai has the most leisurely sleep schedule, with 10% of users still asleep by 11am.
In Beijing, you can see workers taking their afternoon workplace naps. We can also see people in Madrid taking their afternoon sleep (although it’s much more common on weekends, with greater than 10% of UP wearers logging a siesta). Only a maximum of 95% of a city is asleep at any given time, since the early risers are awake before the last to sleep are in bed.”5How Much Sleep Are YOU Getting?
You may be surprised at how little sleep you’re actually getting. When I first started using a fitness tracker, I was striving to get 8 hours of sleep, but my Jawbone UP typically recorded me at 7.5 to 7.75.
I have since increased my sleep time, not just time in bed, but total sleep time to over 8 hours per day, and the fitness tracker helped me realize that unless I am asleep, not just in bed, but asleep by 10 pm I won’t get my 8 hours. Gradually I have been able to get this down to 9:30 pm.
So even if you go to bed at a reasonable hour, you might still be lacking in sleep. Aside from using a fitness tracker, how can you tell if you’re getting enough? And how much do you actually need?
Dr. Rubin Naiman -- a clinical psychologist, author, teacher, and the leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams – recommends to simply sleep "enough hours so that your energy is sustained through the day without artificial stimulation, with the exception of a daytime nap," which he believes you are biologically programmed for.
I agree with this functional description rather than trying to come up with a specific numeric range. I would add to that guideline, however, the suggestion to watch out for physical or biological symptoms.
For example, when I push myself and don't get high-quality sleep or enough sleep, I'm predisposed to postprandial hypoglycemia. In other words, I have low insulin resistance so when I sleep poorly, it doesn't take much sugar or carbs for it to be easily metabolized and drop my blood sugar—which also makes me really sleepy. When I get enough sleep, I'm far less susceptible to it.
Pay attention to clues your body may be giving you. For instance, if you need an alarm clock to wake up, and you wake up feeling tired and groggy, you probably need to go to sleep earlier (or get more restful sleep). It’s also said that if you fall asleep within a few minutes of your head hitting the pillow, you’re probably sleep deprived. A well-rested person will take about 10-15 minutes to fall asleep at night.6The Risks of ‘Just Getting By’ on Minimal Sleep
If you’re tired during the day, there’s a good chance you need to get more sleep. Even if you think can “get by” on five or six hours a night, you’re not fooling your body. Sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness,7 which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases. Sleeping less than six hours per night more than triples your risk of high blood pressure, and women who get less than four hours of shut-eye per night double their chances of dying from heart disease.8
According to research from Great Britain, poor or insufficient sleep is actually the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50,9 and people with chronic sleep problems may develop Alzheimer's disease sooner than those who sleep well.10
Poor sleep can actually impact virtually every aspect of your health, and the reason for this is because your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) actually "drives" the rhythms of biological activity at the cellular level. Hence disruptions tend to cascade outward throughout your entire body. For example, besides making you more susceptible to physical aches and pains, interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
- Increase your risk of cancer
- Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
- Contribute to a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
- Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
- Increase your risk of dying from any cause
Last year I interviewed Dan Pardi on the topic of how to get restorative, health-promoting sleep. Pardi is a researcher who works with the Behavioral Sciences Department at Stanford University and the Departments of Neurology and Endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. According to Pardi, the following three factors are key to determining how restorative your sleep is:
- Duration— i.e. the number of hours you sleep. Sleep requirements are highly individual, and can change from one day to the next, depending on factors like stress, physical exertion, illness, and pregnancy, just to name a few. But, on average, most people need about eight hours of sleep per night.
- Timing—i.e. the habit of going to bed at approximately the same time each night. Even if the duration of sleep is the same, when the timing of your sleep is shifted, it's not going to be as restorative.
- Intensity—This has to do with the different stages that your brain and body goes through over the course of the night, the sequence of them, and how those stages are linked. Some medications will suppress certain phases of sleep, and certain conditions like sleep apnea will lead to fragmented sleep. With these scenarios, even if you're sleeping for an adequate duration and have consistent timing, your sleep will not be as restorative.
If you have these three areas covered and you’re still not sleeping well, maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night is one crucial foundational component to consider. The reason why light exposure during the daytime is so important is because it serves as the major synchronizer of your master body clock. To maintain healthy master clock timing, aim to adjust your light exposure to a more natural light rhythm, where you get bright light exposure during the day and limited blue light and bright light exposure once the sun sets.
Pardi recommends getting at least 30-60 minutes of outdoor light exposure during daylight hours in order to "anchor" your master clock rhythm. The ideal time to go outdoors is right around solar noon but any time during daylight hours is useful. Once the sun has set, the converse applies. After sunset you want to avoid light as much as possible in order for your body to secrete melatonin, which helps you feel sleepy.Ready for the Best Night’s Sleep You’ve Had in a While?
Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 pm and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. Even the American Medical Association now states:11
- Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. The slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades. If this isn’t possible, wear an eye mask.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose. You can also download a free application called F.lux that automatically dims your monitor or screens.12
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.
- Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.
- Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. Ideally, you should turn off any wireless router while you are sleeping. You don’t need the Internet on when you are asleep.
“…nighttime electric light can disrupt circadian rhythms in humans and documents the rapidly advancing understanding from basic science of how disruption of circadian rhythmicity affects aspects of physiology with direct links to human health, such as cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, and metabolism.”
By Dr. Mercola
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. As noted in the featured article:3
“George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, has spent years studying depression, and has come to the conclusion that it has as much to do with the body as the mind.
‘I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition anymore,’ he says. ‘It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.’
The basis of this new view is blindingly obvious once it is pointed out: everyone feels miserable when they are ill. That feeling of being too tired, bored and fed up to move off the sofa and get on with life is known among psychologists as sickness behaviour.
It happens for a good reason, helping us avoid doing more damage or spreading an infection any further. It also looks a lot like depression.”
One researcher even goes so far as to suggest depression should be rebranded as an infectious but non-contagious disease,4 while the author of the featured article playfully compares depression with an allergic reaction—in this case “an allergy to modern life”—considering the many environmental factors that are known to cause inflammation, from diet to toxic exposures and stress.
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.Inflammation and Depression
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,5” 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 “predictive6 and linearly7 correlative” with depression.
For example, researchers have found8 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). 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 connects9 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 shown10 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.”Using Brain Scans to Help Choose Treatment Type
Speaking of biomarkers, research11 by Dr. Helen Mayberg, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University, may also pave the way toward a more refined and customized treatment plan. Her research is discussed in the video above.
Dr. Mayberg has identified a biomarker in the brain that can be used to predict whether a depressed patient is a good candidate for medication, or might be better off with psychotherapy. As noted by the New York Times:12
“Patients who had low activity in a brain region called the anterior insula measured before treatment responded quite well to cognitive behavior therapy (CBT} but poorly to Lexapro; conversely, those with high activity in this region had an excellent response to Lexapro, but did poorly with CBT....
[T]he insula is centrally involved in the capacity for emotional self-awareness, cognitive control and decision making, all of which are impaired by depression. Perhaps cognitive behavior therapy has a more powerful effect than an antidepressant in patients with an underactive insula because it teaches patients to control their emotionally disturbing thoughts in a way that an antidepressant cannot.”The Links Between Gut and Mental Health
A number of studies have confirmed that gastrointestinal inflammation specifically can play a critical role in the development of depression, suggesting that beneficial bacteria (probiotics) may be an important part of treatment. For example, a Hungarian scientific review13 published in 2011 made the following observations:
- Depression is often found alongside gastrointestinal inflammations and autoimmune diseases as well as with cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, type 2 diabetes and also cancer, in which chronic low-grade inflammation is a significant contributing factor.
Thus researchers suggested “depression may be a neuropsychiatric manifestation of a chronic inflammatory syndrome.”
- An increasing number of clinical studies have shown that treating gastrointestinal inflammation with probiotics, vitamin B, vitamin D, may also improve depression symptoms and quality of life by attenuating pro-inflammatory stimuli to your brain.
- Research suggests the primary cause of inflammation may be dysfunction of the “gut-brain axis.”
Your gut is literally your second brain -- created from the identical tissue as your brain during gestation -- and contains higher levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with mood control.
It's important to understand that your gut bacteria are an active and integrated part of serotonin regulation and actually produce more serotonin than your brain. Optimizing your gut flora is a key part of the equation to optimize your levels. If you consume loads of processed foods and sugars, your gut bacteria will be severely compromised because processed foods tend to decimate healthy microflora. This leaves a void that is filled by disease-causing bacteria and yeast and fungi that will promote inflammation and decrease the health of your second brain.
Besides distorting your microflora, sugar also triggers a cascade of other chemical reactions in your body known to promote both chronic inflammation and depression. For starters, excessive sugar consumption leads to elevated insulin levels. That can have a detrimental impact on your mood and mental health by causing higher levels of glutamate to be secreted in your brain, which has been linked to agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Sugar 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.
Cultured and fermented foods, on the other hand, help reseed your gut with a wide variety of healthy bacteria that promote mental and physical health as long as your keep your sugar and processed food intake low. For instance, one 2011 study14 found that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus has a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowers the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior. So the three-prong dietary answer for treating depression is to:
- Severely limit sugars, especially fructose, as well as grains, as all forms of sugar feed pathogenic bacteria in your gut. The easiest way to do this is to avoid processed foods, and start cooking from scratch using whole ingredients. As a standard recommendation, I suggest limiting your daily fructose consumption from all sources to 25 grams per day or less.
- Avoid foods with genetically engineered ingredients, as they too have been implicated in the destruction of gut flora, along with promoting chronic inflammation. Keep in mind that conventionally-grown foods may also be contaminated with glyphosate, which has been found to selectively destroy beneficial, health-promoting gut bacteria, so ideally, you’ll want to make sure as much of your food as possible is organically grown to avoid pesticide exposure.
- Introduce fermented foods into your diet to rebalance your gut flora.
Beware that your gut bacteria are also very sensitive to and can be harmed by the following, all of which should be avoided: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 Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Antibacterial soap Vitamin D Deficiency Predisposes You to Depression
Vitamin D deficiency is another important biological factor that can play a significant role in mental health. In one 2006 study,15 seniors with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml were found to be 11 times more prone to be depressed than those with higher levels. It’s worth noting that the mean vitamin D level was just under 19 ng/ml, which is a severe deficiency state. In fact, 58 percent of the participants had levels below 20 ng/ml. A 2007 study16 suggested that vitamin D deficiency is responsible for symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients with fibromyalgia. Vitamin D deficiency is also a well-recognized cause in Seasonal Affective Disorder17 (SAD). A double-blind randomized trial18 published in 2008 also concluded that:
“It appears to be a relation between serum levels of 25(OH)D and symptoms of depression. Supplementation with high doses of vitamin D seems to ameliorate these symptoms indicating a possible causal relationship.”
More recently, researchers19 found that seniors with depression had vitamin D levels that were 14 percent lower than those who were not depressed. Here, those with vitamin D levels below 20 ng/ml had an 85 percent increased risk of depression, compared to those with levels above 30 ng/ml. Yet another paper20 published in 2011 noted that:
“Effective detection and treatment of inadequate vitamin D levels in persons with depression and other mental disorders may be an easy and cost-effective therapy which could improve patients’ long-term health outcomes as well as their quality of life.”
Based on the evaluation of healthy populations that get plenty of natural sun exposure, the optimal range for general physical and mental health appears to be somewhere between 50 and 70 ng/ml. So, if you’re depressed, you’d be well advised to get your vitamin D level checked, and to address any insufficiency or deficiency. The D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth is one cost effective testing solution. As for optimizing your levels, sensible sun exposure is the ideal way. Alternatively, use a tanning bed with an electronic ballast, and/or an oral vitamin D3 supplement. GrassrootsHealth has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. Keep in mind that if you opt for a vitamin D supplement, you also need to take vitamin K2 and magnesium, as these nutrients work in tandem.There Are Many Alternatives to Drug Treatment
Antidepressant drugs come with a long laundry list of risks, and are therefore best left as a last resort, if all else fails. Medical journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Robert Whitaker has detailed the many drawbacks and benefits of various treatments in his two books: Mad in America, and Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, noting that physical exercise actually comes out on top in most studies—even when compared against antidepressant drugs.
Exercise primarily works by helping to normalize your insulin levels while simultaneously boosting “feel good" hormones in your brain. But researchers have also discovered that exercise allows your body to eliminate kynurenine, a harmful protein associated with depression.21 And, again showing the link between inflammation and depression, your body metabolizes kynurenine in the first place via a process that is activated by stress and inflammatory factors... While I addressed several dietary factors to restore health to your gut, I also recommend supplementing your diet with a high quality animal-based omega-3 fat, such as krill oil. This may be the single most important nutrient for optimal brain function, thereby easing symptoms of depression. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also contribute to depression, and affects one in four people.
Last but not least, make sure you get enough sleep. The link between depression and lack of sleep is well established. Of the approximately 18 million Americans with depression, more than half of them struggle with insomnia. While it was long thought that insomnia was a symptom of depression, it now seems that insomnia may precede depression in some cases.22 Recent research also found that sleep therapy resulted in remarkable improvements in depressed patients. The take-home message here is that one or more lifestyle factors may be at the heart of your depression, so you’d be well advised to address the factors discussed in this article before resorting to drug treatment—which science has shown is no more effective than placebo, while being fraught with potentially dangerous side effects.
By Dr. Mercola
Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, has been a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism.
He’s become quite well-known in recent years for stating that excessive amounts of sugar in your diet has toxic effects. He’s also pointed out that processed fructose is far worse, from a metabolic standpoint, than refined sugar.
Now, new research1,2 from the University of Utah confirms Dr. Lustig’s stance, showing that corn syrup is more toxic to female mice than table sugar. Not only did corn syrup adversely impact the animals’ rate of reproduction, it also caused premature death.
From a chemical standpoint, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is similar to table sugar, but it does contain higher levels of fructose.
Manufacturers have long claimed that HFCS contains at most 55 percent fructose (and 45 percent glucose). This is very close to white sugar, which contains about 50 percent fructose (and 50 percent glucose).
That said, tests have revealed that the fructose level in HFCS can reach as high as 65 percent. It is this elevated fructose level is one piece of the explanation for why HFCS is so much worse for you than refined sugar.Corn Syrup Found to Be More Toxic Than Table Sugar
According to senior author Wayne Potts,3 “this is the most robust study showing there is a difference between high-fructose corn syrup and table sugar at human-relevant doses.” As reported by Reuters:4
“The study showed that female mice fed a diet which contained 25 percent of calories from added fructose and glucose carbohydrates known as monosaccharides that are found in corn syrup died at a rate 1.87 times higher than female mice on a diet in which 25 percent of calories came from sucrose.
The mice on the fructose-glucose diet produced 26.4 percent fewer offspring than their counterparts on the diet containing added table sugar...
The study suggests humans, especially women, could face adverse health effects tied to consuming too much corn syrup, which is found in many processed food products...
Between 13 and 25 percent of Americans are estimated to eat diets containing 25 percent or more of calories from added sugars, according to the paper.”
According to the authors of this paper, 42 percent of the added sugar found in the US diet comes from corn syrup; 44 percent comes from sucrose. The remaining 14 percent of added sugars are in the form of natural sweeteners such as honey, molasses, and fruit. .
Worldwide however, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) accounts for only eight percent of added sugar consumption, so Americans are far more likely to consume excessive amounts of HFCS than many other nationalities, and our disease statistics tend to mirror that as well.
High fructose consumption is in fact a primary contributor to most chronic disease states, starting with insulin resistance, which can then progress into related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and more.Heart Failure Patients with High Blood Sugar Have Higher Risk of Early Death
In related news,5 researchers claim that testing blood sugar levels of patients suffering heart failure can help identify those at greatest risk of death. According to the study’s lead author Dr. Douglas Lee:6
"Our findings suggest that the measurement of blood sugar levels in all patients arriving at emergency departments with acute heart failure could provide doctors with useful prognostic information and could help to improve outcomes in these patients.
Among patients without pre-existing diabetes, the majority (51 percent) had blood glucose levels on arrival at hospital that were within 'normal' limits but greater than 6.1 millimoles per liter (mmol/L) [110 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)].”
Among non-diabetics, the risk of death within one month of their heart failure was 26 percent higher among those with even slightly elevated blood sugar levels, compared to patients whose blood sugar levels were in the low-normal range.
Those with blood sugar levels nearing the criteria for diabetes had a 50 percent higher risk of death within the month following their heart failure. Elevated blood sugar levels were also associated with a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.American Agricultural Policies Promote High Disease Rates
There's a common belief that healthy food is inherently more expensive, and thus can only be for the wealthy. But healthy food could easily be more affordable for everyone, were it not for agribusiness CEOs, their lobbyists, and the politicians in their pockets.
Both corn and sugar beet crops are heavily subsidized in the US. The reason why buying a loaf of processed white bread is cheaper than buying a pound of broccoli is directly related to agricultural subsidies, which favor all the ingredients that make up a junk food diet.
As noted by Business Insider,7 the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) spends nearly $1.3 billion a year on subsidies for our most commonly used junk food ingredients, including corn, wheat, soy, and sugar beets.
Sugar used to be a condiment; now it’s a diet staple. According to SugarScience.org, added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names.8
If subsidies were really based on nutritional value, then neither corn nor sugar beets would fit the bill... As it stands, agricultural subsidies are used to grown ingredients that form the very foundation of a junk food diet.US Sugar Industry Enjoys a Particularly Sweet Deal...
Interestingly enough, processed food could be even cheaper than it already is. Not that this would necessarily be a positive thing, but it highlights the fact that processed junk foods are a real profit center—both for food industry and our politicians.
According to University of Michigan–Flint economist Mark J. Perry,9 US policies such as minimum price guarantees for domestic sugar, along with high tariffs for imported sugar, ends up costing American consumers about $3 billion per year in inflated processed food prices. As noted in a recent article by Reason Magazine:10
“Taking candy from a baby is easy. Taking sugar from a senator? Not so much... [I]t's not just the nation's 3,913 sugar beet farms and 666 sugarcane farms that crave the sugar program's artificially sweetened revenues. The program also persists because it offers a steady source of money to elected officials.
In a June 2014 report, Bryan Riley, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, noted that while sugar constitutes just two percent of the total value of US crop production, the nation's sugar farmers account for 35 percent of the crop industry's total campaign contributions and 40 percent of its lobbying expenditures.
Over the years, major sugar companies such as American Crystal Sugar and Florida Crystals have donated millions of dollars to individual candidates and political action committees. According to OpenSecrets.org, the industry as a whole has donated $41.7 million since 1990.”
Processed foods have become such major profit centers, food manufacturers have absolutely no incentive to switch to selling whole, unadulterated foods. I believe our food system can be changed, but only if enough people understand the simple truths of healthy eating and refuse to buy sugar-laden processed foods. Four years ago, Dr. David Ludwig, a Harvard-affiliated pediatrician, wrote a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),11 offering concrete suggestions to turn this disease-producing diet trend around, such as:
- Restructuring subsidies
- Regulating the marketing of food to children
- Adequately funding school lunch programs
- Using existing and future technologies to allow the food industry to retain profits while producing more healthful products
Those are all good suggestions, but while politicians debate and search for their moral compasses, I would suggest doing your own homework and changing your own diet.Do You Know How Much Sugar You Consume Every Day?
We’ve long acknowledged that the Western diet is associated with increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Yet the conventional paradigm is extremely reluctant to accept that it is the sugar content of this diet that is the primary culprit. Doctors and health officials alike are still trying to convince you that you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as it’s “in moderation.”
The crux of the problem is that if you eat a diet consisting primarily of processed foods, moderation immediately goes out the window, because virtually all processed food items contain some form of added sugar. Oftentimes, just ONE food item can contain an entire day’s worth of sugar!
Sweetened beverages may be among the worst culprits. Take Vitamin Water, for example. One 20 oz bottle contains around 30 grams of sugar,12 which equates to THREE Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts. That one bottle alone is also TWICE the daily recommended fructose allowance for people with insulin resistance, and it’s five grams over the limit for non-insulin resistant folks! On average, sugar makes up 15 percent of total calories consumed in the US (about 19.5 teaspoons per day), and your liver, which processes sugar, simply cannot handle that kind of burden.
When you overload your liver in this way, you inevitably end up with chronic metabolic disease. According to available data, the safety threshold for sugar appears to be around six to nine teaspoons (25-38 grams) of added sugar per day. Any more that, and you’re setting yourself up for an insulin resistance. And again, processed fructose tends to cause more severe metabolic dysfunction than regular sugar, in part because it’s more readily metabolized into fat than any other sugar.
The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance in turn progresses to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The metabolism of fructose by your liver also creates a number of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.To Avoid Chronic Disease, Be Mindful of Your Fructose Consumption
Mounting evidence clearly shows that refined sugar and processed fructose are primary factors causing obesity and chronic disease, including heart and cardiovascular disease. A paper by Yang, et al, published in JAMA Internal Medicine last year looked at consumption of added sugar over two decades, as a percentage of total calories, concluding that it significantly contributed to cardiovascular deaths. People who consumed 30 percent of their daily calories as added sugar (like many teenagers are) had a four-fold greater risk of dying from heart disease.
The evidence is quite clear: If you want to normalize your weight, and dramatically reduce your risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, you need to address your processed food consumption. Refined sugar, processed fructose, grains, and other sugar-forming starchy carbohydrates are largely responsible for your body's adverse insulin and leptin reactions, which underlie these and other chronic disease states.
If you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you’d be wise to limit your total sugar/fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. This applies to at least half of all Americans. For all others, I recommend limiting your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less, to maintain optimal health. The easiest way to accomplish this is by swapping processed foods for whole, ideally organic foods. This means cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. My free nutrition plan offers a step-by-step guide to feed your family right.Healthy Diet Summary
Remember, processed foods are the main source of all the primary disease-promoting culprits, including high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, processed grains, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and other synthetic additives that may aggravate metabolic dysfunction. Since you’re cutting out a lot of energy (carbs) from your diet when you reduce sugars and grains, you need to replace them with something. The ideal replacement is a combination of:
- High quality healthy fat (including saturated13 and monounsaturated). Those with insulin resistance benefit from upwards of 50-85 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats. Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. (Remember, fat is high in calories while being small in terms of volume. So when you look at your plate, the largest portion would be vegetables.)
- As many non-starchy vegetables as you want
- Low-to-moderate amount of high quality protein. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. When selecting animal-based protein, be sure to opt for organically raised, grass-fed or pastured meats, eggs, and dairy, to avoid potential health complications caused by genetically engineered animal feed and pesticides.
Most Americans eat far too much protein, so be mindful of the amount. I believe it is the rare person who really needs more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women will need about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day.
To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. To determine whether you’re getting too much protein, simply calculate your lean body mass as described above, then write down everything you’re eating for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein from all sources.
Again, you’re aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. If you’re currently averaging a lot more than that, adjust downward accordingly. You could use the chart below or simply Google the food you want to know and you will quickly find the grams of protein in the food.
An ideal amount for most people would be a 3 ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9 or 12 ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of proteinEggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.
If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese) Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cupCooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cupMost vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce
By Dr. Mercola
Laxatives with the active ingredient polyethylene glycol 3350 (PEG 3350), the most popular of which is Miralax, are commonly given to children with constipation. Some of these children end up using the drug daily for years, which their parents (and likely their doctors as well) probably assume is safe.
Miralax is advertised as natural. It's described as a tool to pull water into your colon so your gut can eliminate naturally. But there's nothing natural about Miralax, as its active ingredient polyethylene glycol is a petroleum derivative. In essence, it's plastic.
What's more, Miralax is not approved for use in children. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved it for adult usage and even then only for seven days at a time.
No one knows what for sure what happens when children take PEG laxatives chronically, but a growing number of adverse events are being reported, including concerning neurological disturbances, kidney problems and more. With scrutiny increasing, and a new study into their side effects underway, it's time to think twice before turning to laxatives for constipation.Majority of US Pediatricians Have Recommended PEG Laxatives
If your child suffers from chronic constipation, there's a very good chance your pediatrician recommended Miralax (or a generic equivalent) as a safe solution. According to one study, 75 percent of pediatricians had used such laxatives to treat childhood constipation.1 One Beverly Hills, California pediatrician even told the New York Times:2
"'I've had kids on it daily for years" …For children with chronic constipation who are not being helped by dietary changes, "We literally give it like water.'"
Unfortunately, there is very little science on what happens when PEG 3350 is consumed and whether or not it is absorbed by children. According to the FDA:3
"There is a perception that PEG is safe because it is minimally absorbed from the stomach and intestines. However, little is known about whether absorption in children differs from adults, especially in children who are constipated, have underlying intestinal disease, or are very young… Children are receiving adult doses of PEG in some cases."FDA Study Detected Antifreeze Chemicals in Laxatives
In 2008, the FDA tested eight batches of Miralax because "many of the reported adverse events were classic symptoms of ethylene glycol ingestion."4 Ethylene glycol (EG) and diethylene glycol (DEG) are ingredients in antifreeze so, in other words, the government tested the laxative after receiving reports of children exhibiting symptoms of antifreeze poisoning following their use.
The study “confirmed the presence of small amounts of ethylene glycol and diethylene glycol in all lots tested,”5 with the FDA describing them as impurities resulting from the manufacturing process. Those results were not released and only came to light after being “buried in the agency’s brief to researchers, issued last year .”6 Yet, in 2009 the FDA’s drug safety oversight board raised several concerns about the use of these laxatives in children.7
They noted that children may be more susceptible to variations in PEG product quality and effects of large doses of PEG given for weeks or longer is not known. They also stated that "it is unknown if prolonged duration in solution would change the chemical properties of PEG-3350," or, in other words, what might happen when the substances are ingested and/or metabolized.
In addition to finding EG and DEG in the products, PEG may be breaking down into EG and DEG in your body (polyethylene glycol is a chain of EG molecules).Thousands of Neurological Adverse Events Reported
There have been more than 7,000 reports related to PEG laxatives filed in the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), according to Carol Chittenden, co-director of the Empire State Consumer Project, an advocacy group. This is likely an underestimate of the true problem, as for every adverse event that's reported, there may be 100 more that are not reported.
Following thousands of complaints from parents, many of them in discussion groups online, the Empire State Consumer Project petitioned the FDA to investigate the safety of PEG 3350 in 2012. Part of the petition called for the FDA to add a boxed warning about children on PEG 3350 laxatives, which the FDA has not acted on.
However, in September 2014 the FDA awarded a nearly $325,000 grant The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to study whether PEG 3350 is absorbed by the very young and whether it contributes to the development of psychiatric problems. Among the adverse events reported, many of them are neurological in nature. According to the FDA:8
"Neuropsychiatric adverse events [in children using PEG products] may include seizures, tremors, tics, headache, anxiety, lethargy, sedation, aggression, rages, obsessive-compulsive behaviors including repetitive chewing and sucking, paranoia, and mood swings."
There were also reports of metabolic acidosis, which is a disturbance in the body's acid-base balance, leading to too much acid in your blood. While some cases of metabolic acidosis are mild others can lead to shock or even death. Poisoning resulting from ethylene glycol from antifreeze produces many of these same symptoms, including metabolic acidosis and neurologic effects.
If you ore your child has experienced any adverse events while taking a PEG 3350 laxative like Miralax, please report them – both to your physician and directly to the FDA's Adverse Event Reporting System.PEG Laxatives Are Also Prescribed for Colon Prep Prior to Colonoscopy
Even if you’re not constipated, you may have taken PEG 3350 if you’ve had a colonoscopy screening. The laxative is commonly included as part of the preparation. Any PEG 3550 effects will, in this case, be limited to just one exposure, albeit a large one, unlike in the children that take this laxative chronically.
However, if you're planning to schedule a colonoscopy and want a truly safe, non-toxic alternative, talk with your physician about using magnesium citrate only. The only side effect of magnesium citrate is loose stools, which is why it's a non-toxic alternative for colonoscopy prep.
In addition, some practitioners are having a lot of success using colon hydrotherapy as a prep just prior to the colonoscopy. Unfortunately, at this time this is not widely available. Remember that your only option for colon prep is not to simply take the potentially toxic PEG 3550 laxative. If your physician is not willing to offer you an alternative, then seek out a more naturally oriented physician who will.Natural Alternatives for Treating and Preventing Constipation
Constipation is defined as passing hard, dry stools that you have to strain to move, and it's typically accompanied by decreased frequency of defecation. Straining is not normal, nor are experiencing feelings of incomplete elimination, bloating, crampiness, or sluggishness after going number two. If you're over the age of 65, your risk of becoming constipated increases significantly. Chronic, untreated constipation can lead to fecal impaction, which can be a serious medical condition. Laxatives should be avoided at all cost and used only as a last resort, not only due to the potential side effects but also because your body may become dependent on them.
Laxatives may decrease your colon's ability to contract and can even eventually damage your large intestine's nerves, muscles, and other tissues. This applies to both pharmaceutical laxatives as well as herbs like cascara. If you absolutely must use a laxative, make sure it is used for only a very short period of time. Fortunately, although constipation is very common, it is also usually temporary and relatively easy to resolve – without resorting to laxatives. The strategies that follow will help reverse constipation in addition to helping prevent recurrences, and are safe for children and adults alike:
- Remove all sources of gluten from your diet (the most common sources are wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and other grains)
- Eat a diet that includes whole foods, rich in fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that provide good nutrients and fiber; most of your fiber should come from vegetables, not from grains
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, excess sugar (especially fructose), chemical additives, MSG, excessive amounts of caffeine, and processed foods as they are all detrimental to your gastrointestinal (and immune) function
- Boost your intestinal flora by adding naturally fermented foods into your diet, such as sauerkraut, pickles, and kefir (if you tolerate dairy). Add a probiotic supplement if you suspect you're not getting enough beneficial bacteria from your diet alone
- Increase your fiber intake. Good options include psyllium and freshly ground organic flax seed (shoot for 35 grams of fiber per day)
- Make sure you stay well hydrated with fresh, pure water
- Get plenty of exercise daily
- Avoid pharmaceutical drugs, such as pain killers like codeine or hydrocodone, which will slow your bowel function. Antidepressants, and antibiotics can cause a variety of GI disruptions
- Address emotional challenges with tools like EFT
- Consider squatting instead of sitting to move your bowels. Squatting straightens your rectum, relaxes your puborectalis muscle, and encourages the complete emptying of your bowel without straining, and has been scientifically shown to relieve constipation and hemorrhoids
By Barbara Loe Fisher
Independent medical literature reviews document that flu shots don't really prevent influenza or complications of influenza7,8 or influenza-like-illness (ILI) associated with other types of viruses that cause about 80 percent of all respiratory or gastrointestinal infections during any given flu season.9,10,11,12
A car in which seatbelts and brakes only worked at best half the time is not a car Americans would choose to buy or drive. Car manufacturers profiting from selling that kind of defective product would be sued in civil court, and rightly so.Americans Forced to Get Flu Shots or Suffer Sanctions
Yet, U.S. public health officials are making flu vaccine policy that gets turned into law.13,14 They are forcing Americans to buy and use a pharmaceutical product that fails to work as advertised time and again and can brain injure people, too.15,16,17
But we can't sue drug companies for vaccine failures, brain injuries, and deaths in civil court.18
Every spring, federal health officials select two influenza A virus strains (usually H1N1 and H3N2 subtypes)23 and one or two influenza B virus strains24 to include in flu vaccines released in the fall.
This past December, CDC officials held a press conference and informed Americans that they were unaware last spring that one of the influenza A strains selected for the 2014-2015 flu vaccine – the H3N2 subtype – was starting to "drift."
Bottom line: if you or your child got a flu shot this year, it does not protect you from the most common influenza A subtype making people sick. And now, some influenza experts are warning that flu shots do not make symptoms less severe if the vaccine fails to prevent influenza infection.292003/2004 Flu Shot Failure: Same Story
Is this the first time that federal health officials have been aware that the influenza A H3N2 subtype constantly mutates and is often the dominant strain of flu that circulates in the U.S.? No, it's not.
Let's go back and take a look at the 2003-2004 flu season's epic influenza vaccine fail. In the spring of 2003, federal health officials did know ahead of time that the influenza A Panama strain they chose for the seasonal flu vaccine was not a match for the emerging mutated H3N2 Fujian strain making people very sick.
Influenza experts told the FDA vaccine advisory committee (VRBPAC) that two genetic mutations in the H3N2 strain would likely cause the flu shot to fail if it was not included in the vaccine.30
As the consumer voting member at that March 2003 FDA committee meeting, I abstained from the influenza vaccine strain selection vote because the influenza A strain being recommended was not a match for the emerging mutated H3N2 strain and said I thought the public should be told.31
So what was the government's rationale for allowing drug companies to produce a flu vaccine they knew was likely a non-starter from the very beginning?
Well, the vaccine manufacturers said they couldn't include the mutated H3N2 subtype in the vaccine because they would miss the fall 2003 delivery and marketing deadline!
In other words, it was all about protecting a multi-billion dollar flu vaccine market and not about truth in advertising. Flu vaccine effectiveness for the 2003-2004 season was described by health officials as 3 percent to 14 percent, which does qualify as an epic fail.322012-2013 Flu Shot Failure: Vaccine Manufacturing Problem
Now let's look at the 2012-2013 flu season, when flu vaccine effectiveness was 50 percent and only 41 percent in preventing the H3N2 subtype that caused most of the disease that season.
A little digging into the medical literature reveals that the H3N2 subtype problem was not due to a natural antigenic drift like CDC officials are claiming it is this season.
No, flu vaccine failure two years ago was about mutations in the egg adapted H3N2 vaccine strain used by drug companies to produce the vaccine.33
In other words, it was a vaccine manufacturing problem. Drug companies introduced H3N2 mutations through the vaccine manufacturing process, creating a mismatch between the circulating H3N2 strain and the vaccine strain.Congress Funds Aggressive Influenza Vaccine Push on Americans
How honest is the CDC being with legislators voting to give federal health agencies and drug companies billions of dollars to produce influenza vaccines34,35,36,37,38,39 that are being aggressively pushed on all Americans, including infants, children, pregnant women and health care workers40,41,42,43 using a pathetically poor evidence base?44,45,46Influenza Viruses Always Mutating, Vaccine Strain Virus Shedding
Influenza viruses that infect humans and animals are always mutating and evolving, recombining with each other and creating new influenza strains being shed and transmitted in body fluids and waste products of animals and humans.47,48,49,50,51 Vaccine strain influenza viruses can recombine with other viruses as well,52 particularly those shed and transmitted by children and adults given live influenza virus vaccines53,54,55,56 and by experimental live virus vectored vaccines being created in labs, with unknown effects on humans, animals and the environment.57,58,59,60GMO Flu Vaccines, Risky Adjuvants: Follow the Money
And yet, billions of dollars are being spent by government and industry to build more flu vaccine plants to create genetically engineered flu vaccines that contain insect and animal DNA, foreign proteins61,62,63,64,65 and novel adjuvants designed to hyper-stimulate human immune responses.66,67,68,69,70 In an irrational crusade to outsmart influenza viruses, vaccine risks are increasing71 while vaccine failures continue to haunt the entire money-driven enterprise.72,73,74Repeal Flu Shot Mandates, Hold Companies Accountable
After decades of government propaganda trumpeting the benefits and minimizing the risks of annual flu shots, one-size-fits-all, cradle to the grave influenza vaccine recommendations should be revised. Flu shot mandates should be repealed and vaccine manufacturers held accountable for vaccine risks and failures in civil court.
By Dr. Mercola
About 75 percent of California residents have flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies, according to a late 2014 study.1 Many of them had no less than six different kinds, including one (chlorinated tris, or TDCIPP) that was phased out of children’s pajamas in the 1970s.
Also surprising was the discovery of tris-(2-chloroethyl) phosphate, or TCEP, which has never been detected in Americans before. TCEP is a known carcinogen and damages your nervous and reproductive systems.
The study highlighted an important finding, which was that those with the highest levels lived in homes with the highest levels in household dust. This means that flame-retardant chemicals lurking in your home – in your mattress and your couch cushions, for instance – are a primary source of exposure… but it’s not the only one.Flame Retardants Found in Swimming Pools
It’s known that highly toxic disinfection byproducts (DBPs) form from reactions between pool disinfectants and organic matter, including hair, skin, sweat, dirt, urine and more.
Researchers from Purdue University wondered whether similar reactions occurred between disinfectants like chlorine and other chemicals in the water, such as those from personal care products.
To find out, they first needed to find out what kinds of chemicals are in the water. So they tested water from three indoor swimming pools in the US – two public pools used mostly by college students and one pool located inside a high school. They found 32 different chemicals in the water.2 Of them, three were most common:
- TCEP, the carcinogenic flame retardant that’s found in 75 percent of Californians (and probably is equally prevalent in other Americans)
- DEET, an active ingredient in insect repellants
It’s unclear just how much flame-retardant and other chemical exposures may be coming from swimming pools, but it deserves a closer look, especially if you spend a lot of time swimming in pools. The study’s lead author noted:3
"Swimmers are exposed to chemicals through three different routes: You can inhale, you can ingest and it can go through your skin. So the exposure you receive in a swimming pool setting is potentially much more extensive than the exposure you would receive by just one route alone."
It was also unclear just how the flame retardant TCEP was being introduced to the pool water, although the researchers noted other chemicals, like caffeine, were likely introduced by human excretions (sweat and urine).
If 75 percent of Americans excrete flame retardants in their urine, then perhaps that is responsible for the levels found in pools as well. It’s also possible flame-retardant chemicals contaminate the water before anyone gets in. As the National Resources Defense Council explained:4
“During manufacturing, use and disposal, these [flame retardant] chemicals are released into the environment where they can be found in air, water, and wildlife. They are carried on air currents as far away as the Arctic where they pollute native human populations, marine mammals, and even polar bears.”Should You Avoid Swimming Pools?
Most public pools are overloaded with chlorine, as the well-intentioned people who maintain public pools overly shock them with chlorine to make sure bacteria and other organisms get snuffed out quickly.
But even the swimming pool in your backyard could be toxic if you treat it with chlorine – even if you’re relatively confident there aren’t other chemicals (like DEET) in the water.
Any organic matter – including hair, skin, sweat, and dirt – can react with chlorine to create DBPs. It’s known that trihalomethanes (THMs), one of the most common DBPs, are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they’ve been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
They’ve also been linked to reproductive problems in both animals and humans, such as spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, and congenital malformations, even at lower levels.
People who frequent swimming pools have an increased risk of bladder cancer compared to those who do not,5 and DBPs have even been suggested as partially responsible for the increased risk of melanoma cancer among swimmers.6
According to one study published in the Journal of Environmental Sciences,7 the cancer risk of DBPs (in this case THMs) from various routes in descending order was:
- Skin exposure while swimming
- Gastro-intestinal exposure from tap water intake
- Skin exposure to tap water
- Gastro-intestinal exposure while swimming
The cancer risk from skin exposure while swimming comprised over 94 percent of the total cancer risk resulting from being exposed to THMs! The authors even went so far as to conclude that swimming in a chlorinated pool presents “an unacceptable cancer risk.”Can Swimming Pools Be Made Safer?
One of the best solutions is NOT to chlorinate your pool and just use a maintenance "shock" treatment every five or six days, which will kill the algae buildup. The shock treatment volatilizes in about 24-48 hours and gives you a several-day window in which you can safely use your pool.
You can also reduce the amount of organic material you bring into the pool, and thereby the amount of DBPs created, by showering prior to entering and teaching your children not to urinate in the water.
This will be difficult if you’re visiting a public swimming pool or waterpark, however, since many people do not shower prior to entering, and you can’t control what other types of chemicals (from personal care products, sunscreens, insect repellants and, yes, urine) might be in the water.
Swimming in an ocean is an excellent alternative, as is swimming in a lake or other natural unpolluted body of water. Although, even these are, sadly, mostly contaminated.Flame Retardants, Plastic Ubiquitous in the World’s Oceans
A new study published in PLOS One found there are more than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons in the world’s oceans.8 The data came from 24 expeditions involving surface net tows and visual spotting of large plastic debris.
There was actually less plastic found floating on the water than expected, but that’s because the researchers believe the plastic is broken down quickly. It either sinks and gets caught in deeper water currents or it’s eaten by marine animals, including barnacles, zooplankton, fish, birds, and whales. Said the study’s lead author:9
“Plastic in the ocean is basically a hazardous waste, as it absorbs this plethora of persistent chemical wastes and… delivers these toxins to these animals that unknowingly ingest them.”
Chief among those chemical wastes are, you guessed it, flame retardants, which past studies have shown are persistent ocean pollutants. Research from the University of California-Davis has revealed that when fish eat plastic contaminated with flame retardants they show signs of endocrine disruption, tumor formation and malformed gonads.10
As Newsweek reported:11 “It stands to reason this is also happening in the wild, and that plastics may serve as a vector to transfer pollutants into fish, and then perhaps the humans who eat these fish…”
Flame-retardant chemicals have been linked to serious health risks, including infertility, birth defects, neurodevelopmental delays, reduced IQ scores and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruptions, and various forms of cancer. If you want to reduce your exposure, it’s wise to start in the place where you spend the most time – your home (not the swimming pool). Tips you can use to reduce your exposure around your home include:12
- Be especially careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows, as these are most likely to contain flame-retardant chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also, avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself, as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure.
- Older carpet padding is another major source of PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet. You'll want to isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.
- You probably also have older sources of the PBDEs known as Deca in your home, and these are so toxic they are banned in several states. Deca PBDEs can be found in electronics like TVs, cell phones, kitchen appliances, fans, toner cartridges, and more. It's a good idea to wash your hands after handling such items, especially before eating, and at the very least be sure you don't let infants mouth any of these items (like your TV remote control or cell phone).
- As you replace PBDE-containing items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, and cotton.
- Look for organic and "green" building materials, carpeting, baby items, mattresses, and upholstery, which will be free from these toxic chemicals and help reduce your overall exposure. Furniture products filled with cotton, wool, or polyester tend to be safer than chemical-treated foam; some products also state that they are "flame-retardant free."
- PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often.
- If you want to avoid flame retardants in your mattress, you can have a licensed health care provider write you a prescription for a chemical-free mattress, which can then be ordered without flame retardants from certain retailers. You can also find certain natural mattresses on the market that don’t contain them. For instance, most wool mattresses do not have flame-retardant chemicals added because wool is a natural flame retardant.
By Dr. Mercola
Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that is easily burned for energy, while being low in fructose. Not surprisingly, improved weight management1,2 is one of the health benefits of avocado consumption, and its high-fat, low-sugar content is likely a key factor contributing to this effect.
Research3 has also found that avocados are helpful for regulating your blood sugar levels. This is an important benefit for most people, considering that one in four American are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.
According to the California Avocado Commission, a medium Hass avocado contains about 22.5 grams of fat, two-thirds of which is monounsaturated. They also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including:
- Vitamin E
- Folic acid
- Potassium (more than twice the amount found in a banana), which can help balance your vitally important potassium to sodium ratio
Due to its beneficial raw fat content, avocado enables your body to more efficiently absorb fat-soluble nutrients (such as alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein) in other foods eaten in conjunction.
One 2005 study4 found that adding avocado to salad allowed the volunteers to absorb three to five times more carotenoids antioxidant molecules, which help protect your body against free radical damage.An Avocado a Day May Help Lower Bad Cholesterol
Previous research has suggested that avocados might help improve lipid profiles, both in healthy individuals and in those with mild hypercholesterolemia (elevated cholesterol levels).
In one such study,5 healthy individuals saw a 16 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol level following a one-week long diet high in monounsaturated fat from avocados.
In those with elevated cholesterol levels, the avocado diet resulted in a 17 percent decrease of serum total cholesterol, and a 22 percent decrease of both LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, along with an 11 percent increase of the so-called “good” HDL cholesterol.
More recently, researchers at Pennsylvania State University tested three different cholesterol-reducing diets, to assess and compare their effectiveness.6,7,8 Forty-five overweight participants were enrolled in the study, and were assigned to follow one of the tree diets:
- Low-fat diet, where saturated fats were substituted for more carbohydrates, including plenty of fruit and whole grains
- Moderate-fat diet (without avocado), where saturated fats were substituted with monounsaturated fats in the form of canola and sunflower oil. About 34 percent of daily calories came from fat, but aside from that, it was very similar to the low-fat diet, which included poultry and low amounts of red meat
- Moderate-fat diet with avocado. Aside from including one whole Hass avocado per day, this diet was identical to the other moderate-fat diet, and the overall fat ratio was the same
The results, reported by the NPR,9 “surprised” the researchers:
“At the end of the study, the researchers found that the avocado diet led to significant reductions in LDL cholesterol, compared with the other two diets.
To put the difference in perspective, the avocado diet decreased LDL cholesterol about 14 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Compare that with a decrease of about 7 mg/dL for the low-fat diet, and about a 8 mg/dl drop from the moderate-fat diet.
"I was surprised to see the added benefit [of the avocado]," Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition scientist at Penn State and the lead author of the study, tells us." It's something in the avocado" other than just the fat composition, she says.”All Fats Are Not Created Equal
It’s worth noting that canola and other vegetable oils (used in the moderate-fat diets in the featured study) are typically hydrogenated, which means they contain trans fats, and trans fats wreak havoc on your heart and cardiovascular health. So I for one am not surprised at the results of this study.
Previous research10 has actually shown that replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (found in soybean, corn, and safflower oil) leads to increased small, high-density LDL particles, increased oxidized LDL, and reduced HDL.
Research has confirmed that large LDL particles do not contribute to heart disease. The small, dense LDL particles, however, do contribute to the build-up of plaque in your arteries, and trans fat increases small, dense LDL. (Saturated fat, on the other hand, increases large, fluffy—and benign—LDL.)
Research has also shown that small, dense LDL particles are increased by eating refined sugar and carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and most processed foods. Together, trans fats and refined carbs do far more harm than saturated fat ever possibly could. One tool designed to help you eliminate trans fats are the Naturally Savvy Get Healthy Challenges that I helped create.A Note on the DASH Diet...
On a brief side note: In the CBS video above, they also make mention of the DASH diet, which has been found to lower blood pressure by as much as five points, rivaling the effects of blood pressure lowering medications.
The DASH diet is quite similar to the Mediterranean diet, promoting the consumption of vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, and recommends avoiding sugars, red meat, and salt.
Many believe that the low-sodium is responsible for its success. However, there’s compelling evidence suggesting that the real reasons it works so well for both hypertension and weight loss is because it increases potassium and restricts your intake of fructose—as does the Mediterranean diet.
Fructose is actually a far more important factor than salt when it comes to hypertension. The connecting link between fructose consumption and hypertension lies in the uric acid produced. Uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism, and increased uric acid levels drive up your blood pressure.
Now, when you reduce sugar in your diet (from sources such as added sugars, processed fructose, grains of all kinds, and processed foods), you need to increase the amount of healthy fat. And avocado is an excellent choice to bolster your fat consumption and overall nutrition.
I have been consuming an avocado daily for the last several years. On most days, I will add a whole avocado to my salad, which I eat for lunch. This increases my healthy fat and calorie intake without seriously increasing my protein or carbohydrate intake. You can also add about ¼ to 1/3 of an avocado as a healthy banana substitute when making smoothies or your protein shake.Avocado Benefits Your Heart and Brain
Besides its beneficial influence on your cholesterol, avocados have also been found to provide other heart-healthy benefits. For example, one interesting 2012 study11 found that eating one-half of a fresh medium Hass avocado with a hamburger significantly inhibited the production of the inflammatory compound Interleukin-6 (IL-6), compared to eating a burger without fresh avocado.
Also, just like avocado does not raise your blood sugar levels, fresh avocado did not increase triglyceride levels beyond what was observed when eating the burger alone, despite the avocado supplying extra fat and calories. According to lead author David Heber, MD, PhD, the findings offer “promising clues” about avocado’s ability to benefit vascular function and heart health. Healthy fats are also vital for optimal brain function, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders like Alzheimer’s. As noted in a recent issue of Scientific American:12
“The brain thrives on a fat-rich, low carbohydrate diet, which unfortunately is relatively uncommon in human populations today,” reports David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain. “Mayo Clinic researchers showed that individuals favoring carbohydrates in their diets had a remarkable 89 percent increased risk for developing dementia as contrasted to those whose diets contained the most fat.
Having the highest levels of fat consumption was actually found to be associated with an incredible 44 percent reduction in risk for developing dementia.” ...‘Good’ fats include monounsaturated fats, found abundantly in olive oil, peanut oil, hazelnuts, avocados and pumpkin seeds, and polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 and omega 6), which are found in flaxseed oil, chia seeds, marine algae oil and walnuts.”To Maximize Benefits, Peel Your Avocado the Right Way
Interestingly, the manner in which you de-skin your avocado can affect how much of its valuable phytonutrients you get out of it. UCLA research has shown that the greatest concentration of beneficial carotenoids, for example, is located in the dark green fruit closest to the inside of the peel. In 2010, the California Avocado Commission issued guidelines for getting the most out of your avocado by peeling it the right way.13 To preserve the area with the greatest concentration of antioxidants, you’re best off peeling the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana:
- First, cut the avocado length-wise, around the seed
- Holding each half, twist them in the opposite directions to separate them from the seed
- Remove the seed
- Cut each half, lengthwise
- Next, using your thumb and index finger, simply peel the skin off each piece
While avocado is commonly eaten raw, on salad or alone, there are many other ways to include avocado in your diet. Its creamy, mild flavor tends to go well with many foods, making it a refreshing and nutritious addition to various recipes. For example, you can use avocado:
- As a fat replacement in baking. Simply replace the fat called for (such as oil, butter, or shortening) with an equal amount of avocado
- As a first food for babies, in lieu of processed baby food
- In soups. For examples, see Lucy Lock’s Chilled Mediterranean Soup, or her Raw Creamy Carrot Soup
- As a banana substitute in smoothies or your protein shake
The California Avocado Commission’s website14 contains hundreds of unique recipes that include avocado. All in all, avocado may be one of the most beneficial superfoods out there, and may be particularly valuable if you’re struggling with insulin and leptin resistance, diabetes, or any other risk factors for heart disease. Last but not least, avocados are also one of the safest fruits you can buy conventionally-grown, as their thick skin protects the inner fruit from pesticides.
On top of that, avocados have been rated as one of the safest commercial crops in terms of pesticide application,15 so there’s no real need to spend extra money on organic avocados. I’ve had my own team test avocados from a variety of growers in different countries, sold in several major grocery stores, and they all tested free and clear of harmful chemicals. For more fun and interesting avocado facts, check out the following infographic.
Embed this infographic on your website:<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/avocado-uses-health-benefits.jpg" alt="Avocado Uses and Health Benefits" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;" /><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Discover interesting facts about avocado, including its uses and benefits, through the infographic <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/avocado-uses-health-benefits.htm"><strong>"Avocado Uses and Health Benefits."</strong></a> infographic. Use the embed code to share it on your website.</p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code><img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/avocado-uses-health-benefits.jpg" alt="Avocado Uses and Health Benefits" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Discover interesting facts about avocado, including its uses and benefits, through the infographic <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/avocado-uses-health-benefits.htm"><strong>Avocado Uses and Health Benefits: Facts About This Food.</strong></a> infographic.</p></code></pre>
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By Dr. Mercola
Pine nuts have been enjoyed since ancient times. Roman soldiers ate them and they’ve been mentioned by Greek authors as early as 300 BC.1 Nutritionally speaking, pine nuts contain many of the same healthy nutrients as other nuts, including healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants… but pine nuts are not actually nuts at all.
Pine nuts are the seeds of pine trees. You’ll find them between the scales of pine cones, but while all pine trees yield pine nuts, only about 20 species have pine nuts large enough to be worth eating.
Once harvested from the cone, pine nuts must be shelled, and they should be consumed shortly after. Unshelled pine nuts are prone to rancidity due to their high oil content (so be sure to store them in your fridge).2
Pine nuts are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, and in the US they’ve grown into a $100 million market (although about 80 percent of US pine nuts are imported).3 They’re commonly eaten raw or roasted, and their sweet nutty flavor and crunchy texture lends itself well to snacking, vegetable dishes and, of course, sauces like pesto.5 Health Benefits of Pine Nuts
There are many additional reasons to eat pine nuts aside from the flavor, as they’re surprisingly good for your health.
1. Suppress Your Appetite
If you’re trying to lose weight, eating pine nuts may help. Research showed that fatty acids derived from pine nuts lead to the release of high amounts of cholecystokinin (CCK), an appetite-suppressing hormone.4
Women who consumed three grams of the fatty acid pinolenic acid prior to breakfast slowed the absorption of food in their gut and decreased their food intake by 37 percent. According to researchers:5
“Korean pine nut PUFAs [polyunsaturated fatty acids] suppress appetite and affect food intake.”
2. Boost Energy
Pine nuts contain nutrients that help boost energy, including monounsaturated fat, protein and iron. Pine nuts are also a good source of magnesium, low levels of which can lead to fatigue.
One-half cup of pine nuts provides nearly half of the daily recommended amount of magnesium, which is a benefit in itself since so many Americans are deficient.
3. Reduce Heart Disease Risk
Pine nuts contain a synergistic blend of compounds known to support heart health. This includes monounsaturated fat, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin K and manganese.
Research suggests that the pinolenic acid in pine nuts supports healthy cholesterol levels and may have LDL-lowering properties by enhancing the liver’s LDL uptake.6
4. Anti-Aging Antioxidants
Pine nuts contain a wealth of antioxidants, including vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, and lutein. Antioxidants are crucial to your health as they are believed to help control how fast you age by combating free radicals, which are at the heart of age related deterioration.
Antioxidants are nature's way of defending your cells against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS). Your body naturally circulates a variety of nutrients for their antioxidant properties and manufactures antioxidant enzymes in order to control destructive free-radical chain reactions.
5. Vision Health
Pine nuts contain lutein, a carotenoid that may help you ward off eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Your macula is a small area just two millimeters wide, located in the back of your eye, in the middle portion of your retina.
For reasons scientists have yet to pinpoint, parts of your retina and macula may become diseased. As AMD progresses, tiny, fragile blood vessels that leak blood and fluid begin to develop in your retina, causing further damage.
However, there is pigment in your macula that seems to act as a blue-light filter to protect your macular region against oxidation by light. In addition, this macular pigment can scavenge free radicals.
Lutein is one of the predominant pigments in this area, and numerous studies have found that consuming foods rich in these nutrients can significantly reduce your risk of AMD (and non-Hodgkin lymphoma).
If you’re a fan of pine nuts, you may have experienced “pine nut mouth” (or pine nut syndrome). It’s an intense bitter, metallic aftertaste that can persist in your mouth for a day up to two weeks.
So far, tests have failed to turn up any contaminants, bacteria, or chemicals in the nuts that could be responsible for the aftertaste, or the fact that not everyone who eats them gets it.7 According to one review, which summed up the many questions left to be answered regarding pine mouth syndrome (PMS):8
“A clinically compatible case of PMS must include taste disturbance, usually characterized as bitter or metallic, following the ingestion of affected pine nuts by 1 to 3 days. Affected nuts would appear to include all, or some portion, of nuts harvested from species Pinus armandii (Chinese white pine), but could include nuts from other species.
The specific toxin that is apparently present in affected nuts has not yet been isolated, and the mechanism of toxicity and factors determining PMS susceptibility need to be further detailed. There are no proven therapies for PMS.”
One thing that is known about pine nut mouth is how to stop it… stop eating pine nuts and simply wait for the symptoms to disappear. If you experience a bothersome metallic aftertaste when eating pine nuts, you might want to consume other varieties of nuts and seeds instead.Green Avocado Salad with Pine Nuts
If you’re looking for a simple way to incorporate pine nuts into your meals, try this crisp green salad recipe, which is from Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type.
- 1 head red- or green-leaf lettuce, or Romaine
- 1 whole avocado, chopped into chunks
- 1 cup of sunflower seed sprouts
- 1 medium tomato, chopped small
- 1 medium cucumber
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- Prepare the lettuce leaves and place in a large bowl.
- Cut up the remaining vegetables and add them to the salad.
- Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet on medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar, add the crushed garlic, pour over the salad, and serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.
If you want to learn even more about what's in the food you're eating, visit our Food Facts library. Most people are not aware of the wealth of nutrients available in healthful foods, particularly organic fruits and vegetables. By getting to know your food, you can make informed decisions about how to eat healthier and thereby boost your brain function, lower your risk of chronic disease, lose weight, and much more.
Food Facts is a directory of the most highly recommended health foods to add to your wholesome diet. Its purpose is to provide you with valuable information about various types of foods including recipes to help you maximize these benefits. You'll learn about nutrition facts, scientific studies, and even interesting trivia about each food in the Food Facts library. Remember, knowing what's in your food is the first step to choosing and preparing nutritious meals each and every day. So visit Mercola Food Facts today to get started.
By Dr. Mercola
Magnesium is a mineral used by every organ in your body, especially your heart, muscles, and kidneys.1 If you suffer from unexplained fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms or even muscle spasms and eye twitches, low levels of magnesium could be to blame.
If you’ve recently had a blood test, you might assume it would show a magnesium deficiency. But only 1 percent of magnesium in your body is distributed in your blood, making a simple sample of magnesium from a serum magnesium blood test not very useful.
Most magnesium is stored in your bones and organs, where it is used for many biological functions. Yet, it’s quite possible to be deficient and not know it, which is why magnesium deficiency has been dubbed the “invisible deficiency.”
By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and may be deficient. Other research shows only about 25 percent of US adults are getting the recommended daily amount of 310 to 320 milligrams (mg) for women and 400 to 420 for men.2
Even more concerning, consuming even this amount is “just enough to ward off outright deficiency,” according to Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical and naturopathic doctor.Magnesium Deficiency May Trigger 22 Medical Conditions
Magnesium is often thought of primarily as a mineral for your heart and bones, but this is misleading. Researchers have now detected 3,751 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins, indicating that its role in human health and disease may have been vastly underestimated.3
Magnesium is also found in more than 300 different enzymes in your body and plays a role in your body's detoxification processes, making it important for helping to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins. In addition, magnesium is necessary for:
- Activating muscles and nerves
- Creating energy in your body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
- Helping digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
- Serving as a building block for RNA and DNA synthesis
- Acting as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin
Dr. Dean has studied and written about magnesium for more than 15 years. The latest addition of her book, The Magnesium Miracle, came out in 2014 and in it you can learn about 22 medical areas that magnesium deficiency triggers or causes, all of which have all been scientifically proven. This includes:4Anxiety and panic attacks Asthma Blood clots Bowel diseases Cystitis Depression Detoxification Diabetes Fatigue Heart disease Hypertension Hypoglycemia Insomnia Kidney disease Liver disease Migraine Musculoskeletal conditions (fibromyalgia, cramps, chronic back pain, etc.) Nerve problems Obstetrics and gynecology (PMS, infertility, and preeclampsia) Osteoporosis Raynaud’s syndrome Tooth decay
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, headache, nausea, fatigue, and weakness. An ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms, including:Numbness and tingling Muscle contractions and cramps Seizures Personality changes Abnormal heart rhythms Coronary spasms The Role of Magnesium in Diabetes, Cancer, and More
Most people do not think about magnesium when they think about how to prevent chronic disease, but it plays an essential role. For instance, there have been several significant studies about magnesium's role in keeping your metabolism running efficiently—specifically in terms of insulin sensitivity, glucose regulation, and protection from type 2 diabetes.
Higher magnesium intake reduces risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism and slows progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes in middle-aged Americans.5 Researchers stated, "Magnesium intake may be particularly beneficial in offsetting your risk of developing diabetes, if you are high risk."
Multiple studies have also shown that higher magnesium intake is associated with a higher bone mineral density in both men and women,6 and research from Norway has even found an association between magnesium in drinking water and a lower risk of hip fractures.7
Magnesium may even help lower your risk of cancer, and a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher intakes of dietary magnesium were associated with a lower risk of colorectal tumors.8
Results from the meta-analysis indicated that for every 100-mg increase in magnesium intake, the risk of colorectal tumor decreased by 13 percent, while the risk of colorectal cancer was lowered by 12 percent. The researchers noted magnesium’s anti-cancer effects may be related to its ability to reduce insulin resistance, which may positively affect the development of tumors.Surprising Factors That Influence Your Magnesium Levels
Seaweed and green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard can be excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts, and seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Avocados also contain magnesium. Juicing your vegetables is an excellent option to ensure you're getting enough of them in your diet.
However, most foods grown today are deficient in magnesium and other minerals, so getting enough isn’t simply a matter of eating magnesium-rich foods (although this is important too). According to Dr. Dean:
"Magnesium is farmed out of the soil much more than calcium… A hundred years ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we're lucky to get 200 milligrams.”
Herbicides, like glyphosate also act as chelators, effectively blocking the uptake and utilization of minerals in so many foods grown today. As a result, it can be quite difficult to find truly magnesium-rich foods. Cooking and processing further depletes magnesium.
Meanwhile, certain foods can actually influence your body’s absorption of magnesium. If you drink alcohol in excess, for instance, it may interfere with your body’s absorption of vitamin D, which in turn is helpful for magnesium absorption. If you eat a lot of sugar, this can also cause your body to excrete magnesium through your kidneys, “resulting in a net loss,” according to Dr. Danine Fruge, associate medical director at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida.9 The following factors are also associated with lower magnesium levels:10
- Excessive intake of soda or caffeine
- Older age (older adults are more likely to be magnesium deficient because absorption decreases with age and the elderly are more likely to take medications that can interfere with absorption)
- Certain medications, including diuretics, certain antibiotics (such as gentamicin and tobramycin), corticosteroids (prednisone or Deltasone), antacids, and insulin
- An unhealthy digestive system, which impairs your body's ability to absorb magnesium (Crohn's disease, leaky gut, etc.)
It may seem like you could remedy the risks of low magnesium simply by taking a supplement, but it’s not quite that simple. When you're taking magnesium, you need to consider calcium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 as well, since these all work synergistically with one another. Excessive amounts of calcium without the counterbalance of magnesium can lead to a heart attack and sudden death, for instance. Research on the Paleolithic or caveman diet has shown that the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the diet that our bodies evolved to eat is 1-to-1.11Americans in general tend to have a higher calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their diet, averaging about 3.5-to-1.
If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles will tend to go into spasm, and this has consequences for your heart in particular. "What happens is, the muscle and nerve function that magnesium is responsible for is diminished. If you don't have enough magnesium, your muscles go into spasm. Calcium causes muscle to contract. If you had a balance, the muscles would do their thing. They'd relax, contract, and create their activity," Dr. Dean explains.
When balancing calcium and magnesium, also keep in mind that vitamins K2 and D need to be considered. These four nutrients perform an intricate dance together, with one supporting the other. Lack of balance between these nutrients is one of the reasons why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, and why some people experience vitamin D toxicity. Part of the explanation for these adverse side effects is that vitamin K2 keeps calcium in its appropriate place. If you're K2 deficient, added calcium can cause more problems than it solves, by accumulating in the wrong places, like your soft tissue.
Similarly, if you opt for oral vitamin D, you need to also consume it in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2 and more magnesium. Taking mega doses of vitamin D supplements without sufficient amounts of K2 and magnesium can lead to vitamin D toxicity and magnesium deficiency symptoms, which include inappropriate calcification that may damage your heart.Tips for Increasing Your Magnesium Levels
One way to really increase your magnesium, as well as many other important plant-based nutrients, is by juicing your greens. I typically drink one pint to one quart of fresh green vegetable juice every day, and this is one of my primary sources of magnesium. Organic foods may have more magnesium if grown in nutrient-rich soils but it is very difficult to make that determination. If you opt for a supplement, be aware that there are a wide variety of magnesium supplements on the market, because magnesium must be bound to another substance. There's simply no such thing as a 100 percent magnesium supplement.
The substance used in any given compound can affect the absorption and bioavailability of the magnesium, and may provide slightly different, or targeted, health benefits. The table that follows summarizes some of the differences between the various forms. Magnesium threonate and citrate are some of the best sources, as it seems to penetrate cell membranes, including your mitochondria, which results in higher energy levels. Additionally, it also penetrates your blood-brain barrier and seems to do wonders to treat and prevent dementia and improve memory. If you take a supplement, you can use the “bowel test” to determine if you’re taking too much magnesium. Dr. Dean explains:12
“The best way to tell if you are getting enough magnesium is the “bowel test”. You know when you have too much magnesium when your stools become loose. This, in fact, may be a blessing for people with constipation… [which] is one of the many ways magnesium deficiency manifests.”
Besides taking a supplement, another way to improve your magnesium status is to take regular Epsom salt baths or foot baths. Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate that can absorb into your body through your skin. Magnesium oil can also be used for topical application and absorption. Whatever supplement you choose, be sure to avoid any containing magnesium stearate, a common but potentially hazardous additive.Magnesium glycinate is a chelated form of magnesium that tends to provide the highest levels of absorption and bioavailability and is typically considered ideal for those who are trying to correct a deficiency. Magnesium oxide is a non-chelated type of magnesium, bound to an organic acid or a fatty acid. Contains 60 percent magnesium, and has stool softening properties Magnesium chloride/Magnesium lactate contain only 12 percent magnesium, but has better absorption than others, such as magnesium oxide, which contains five times more magnesium Magnesium sulfate/Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) are typically used as laxatives. Be aware that it's easy to overdose on these, so ONLY take as directed Magnesium carbonate, which has antacid properties, contains 45 percent magnesium Magnesium taurate contains a combination of magnesium and taurine, an amino acid. Together, they tend to provide a calming effect on your body and mind Magnesium citrate is magnesium with citric acid, which like most magnesium supplements has laxative properties but is well absorbed and cost effective Magnesium threonate is a newer, emerging type of magnesium supplement that appears promising, primarily due to its superior ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane, and may be the best magnesium supplement on the market
By Dr. Mercola
There is perhaps no more comforting food than a warm bowl of chicken soup, but the benefits are not only to your psyche. Chicken soup has been used as a remedy for the common cold since at least the 12th century.1
The fluids it provides can help your body fight infection, while the steam might help ease your congestion. But beyond this, chicken soup contains beneficial compounds that might alleviate inflammation.2
When you’re sick with a cold, part of your body’s inflammatory response is to send white blood cells to your upper respiratory tract to help fend off the invaders. This, however, may stimulate many of the symptoms of the common cold, including mucous production, cough, and sneezing.3
One study showed that chicken soup helped to stop the migration of the cells, which could potentially help to stop some cold symptoms from developing. According to the study:4
“Chicken soup significantly inhibited neutrophil migration and did so in a concentration-dependent manner... chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity.
A mild anti-inflammatory effect could be one mechanism by which the soup could result in the mitigation of symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections.”Chicken Soup: More Than a Placebo Effect?
Other studies looking into the health benefits of chicken soup also suggest it has more than just a “placebo effect.” As reported in the New York Times,5 one study found that eating hot chicken soup helped increase the movement of nasal mucus more than simply drinking hot water.6
“None of the research is conclusive, and it’s not known whether the changes measured in the laboratory really have a meaningful effect on people with cold symptoms. However, at the very least, chicken soup with vegetables contains lots of healthy nutrients, increases hydration and tastes good, too.”What Else Makes Chicken Soup So Healthy?
Beyond the potential anti-inflammatory activity, there’s good reason to eat chicken soup – it’s full of healthy vegetables and other nutritious ingredients.
Chicken is an excellent source of protein, B vitamins, selenium, phosphorus, and choline. It provides all B vitamins along with a surprisingly varied number of additional nutrients.
Chicken also contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. As reported by the George Mateljan Foundation:9
“Chicken is perhaps best known for its high protein content, but it is a food that actually provides broad nutrient support… Included… are plentiful amounts of sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine and methionine, as well as branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) that are important for support of cardiac and skeletal muscle.
All B vitamins are present in chicken meat… In terms of minerals, chicken is richest in selenium… Zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron are also provided by this food.”
I encourage you to make your own homemade bone broth to use as a base for your chicken soup. Bone broth contains valuable minerals in a form your body can easily absorb and use, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur chondroitin, glucosamine, and a variety of trace minerals.
The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid. It attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion. You can find a recipe to make chicken bone broth here.
Cabbage, which is part of the chicken soup recipe below, contains powerful antioxidants like vitamins A and C and phytonutrients such as thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which stimulate detoxifying enzymes and may protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
Cabbage also contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check. Among them are anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol that’s particularly plentiful in red cabbage, although all types of cabbage contain anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Studies have demonstrated more than 150 beneficial health effects of garlic, including reducing your risk for heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, and various cancers such as brain, lung, and prostate cancer.
Garlic also has immune-boosting properties and is a triple threat against infections, offering antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.A New Twist on Chicken Soup: Chicken Soup with Yellow Lentils
The recipe below comes from my Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type cookbook. It’s simple to prepare and takes a new spin on ordinary chicken soup, with the addition of two varieties of vinegar, cabbage, and yellow lentils.
Chicken Soup with Yellow Lentils
- 1 whole organic pasture-raised chicken, cut up (marinate overnight in lemon juice if you have time)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 jar crushed tomatoes (or substitute fresh)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup yellow lentils, soaked overnight
- 4 cups chicken stock or bone broth
- ½ head medium cabbage, chopped OR ½ pound spinach
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Heat a large pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Place chicken in pot and brown each side for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Place onions in the pot and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sauté for another 5-10 minutes. Add both vinegars, lentils, stock, and chicken. Simmer for 1 hour on low heat.
- Remove chicken and take off skin and bones. Then return the chicken to the pot.
- Add the cabbage and cook for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and spinach (if using). Cook for another 10 minutes.
- Serve with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
By Dr. Mercola
Vaccines are one of the most controversial medical therapies, and it's impossible to make an informed decision unless you know both sides of the story. In the process of knowing both sides, the historical context is critical.
Dr. Suzanne Humphries, author of Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History,1 is a nephrologist who has committed the latter part of her medical career to exposing the "lost history" of vaccinations.
Barbara Loe Fisher of NVIC commented that this is one of the rare books that conducted in-depth research documenting the medical history related to mass vaccination programs and infectious diseases.
I have read the book from cover to cover and would strongly recommend that you pick up a copy if you have even the remotest interest in this topic, especially if you believe in the safety and necessity of vaccines, as the comprehensive documentation will likely cause you to reevaluate your position.
It is an absolutely fascinating read, and in some ways demonstrates that enforcement of vaccine programs could be far worse today, when compared to historical standards when people were imprisoned and even killed when they refused to comply.
I will likely reread the book again so I can be well armed to articulately express my concerns on why one needs to have serious reservations on the validity of vaccines, based on historical precedents.Why This Book Was Written
Dr. Humphries' interest in this area began in 2009, when several of her patients told her that they'd been perfectly healthy until they got one vaccine or another. Prior to this, she'd been, as she says, "agnostic" about vaccination.
"I had vaccinated my dialysis patients; I, myself, was vaccinated; and I pretty much believed what I was taught in medical school," she says.
Then she started noticing that her patients were being ordered to get vaccinated on their first day of admission into the hospital—often when they had serious diseases: inflammatory diseases, heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and one patient with cancer on chemotherapy.
"My patients were getting vaccinated on their first hospital day before I even saw them, and the order had my name on it," she says. "This alerted me that there was something going on that I had not approved of.
I complained to the hospital administration about it. It was from resistance that I was met with that, ironically, led me into this path."Countering Vaccine Arguments Led to Startling Conclusions
The conventional paradigm states that vaccines are safe and effective, and can be given to virtually anybody regardless of how sick they are.
In order to address and counter the arguments she was given for this routine policy, she had to research vaccination, which led her to discover that there is absolutely nothing in the medical literature to support vaccinating an acutely ill person.
"At some point, they called in an expert to set me straight," she says. "The arguments that I got from the experts still were not lining up with science.
My patients were acutely ill, they had inflammatory diseases, and I didn't want them vaccinated. I was told that I was confusing the nursing staff by discontinuing vaccines in my patients. That was how it all started."
Arguments often used by vaccine advocates include the oft-parroted sound byte that ‘diseases like smallpox and polio were eradicated by vaccination.’ Hence vaccines rank among the greatest medical interventions known.
As a result, she ended up researching smallpox and polio—even though it really had nothing to do with what was happening to her patients. Alas, this was when Dr. Humphries started coming to some really startling conclusions.
"In my research, I was startled [to realize] that what I found was completely counter to what I have been told and taught my entire life. I now don't believe that smallpox vaccines eradicated smallpox. I now don't believe that polio vaccines eradicated polio.
The stories are very twisted, long, and complicated, and the vaccines have changed over time. It's really easy to kind of throw up smokescreens here and there and make whatever argument one might want to, because people are so ignorant and because the story is so complicated."The Story Behind the Smallpox Vaccine
Every vaccine has a story behind it, Dr. Humphries says. The smallpox vaccine, for example, was actually developed long before the medical establishment knew anything about the human immune system. The revelations on smallpox alone are fascinating enough to purchase this book, and is far more detailed than the summary in this article.
The vaccine was actually developed based on a rumor circulating among dairy maids. The rumor was that when a dairy maid had been infected with cowpox—which is a common infection on the udder of the cow—she would no longer be susceptible to smallpox.
The rumor was a persistent one, as rumors can be, despite the fact that there were plenty of dairy maids who developed smallpox after having cowpox. But this rumor is what led Edward Jenner to develop the first smallpox vaccine.
"Basically, it was made by scraping pus off the belly of a cow," Dr. Humphries says. "Sometimes there was some goat genetic disease in there. There was horsepox mixed in there.
There was sometimes human pox mixed in and some glycerin. They would shake it up; they would take kind of a prong, and puncture the skin several times...
What I didn't realize was that there were many people who developed serious smallpox disease and died after they were vaccinated. The severity of disease was often worse in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated.
There are statistics that show that the death rate was higher in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated."
When the smallpox vaccine was developed, there was also no way to accurately diagnose the type of pox disease a person had. It may have been chickenpox, monkeypox, or smallpox, but back then, any kind of pox disease was considered smallpox—even though the vaccine didn't actually have the human smallpox virus in it. Animal pox virus was always used. According to Dr. Humphries, it was the most contaminated vaccine that's ever been on the market.
"If you look at a town like Leicester in England, that town was noticing that they had one of the highest vaccination rates in the vaccinated world and their smallpox breakout was higher than ever," Dr. Humphries says. "The people in the town had a rally. The mayor and some of the health officials were there. They all agreed that they were going to stop vaccinating... The result was quite different from the predictions.
The predictions were that there was going to be a bonfire of disease set upon the planet and that these people in Leicester were risking the health of the world by not making vaccination mandatory. But once they stopped smallpox vaccines they had the lowest rate of smallpox infection and deaths.
What we show in our book – and we show the graphs of the disease rates and the death rates – was that both of them went down precipitously after the vaccinations were stopped. That story right there tells you that vaccines were not what made the disease go away; what made the disease go away was isolation and sanitation."
One of the major arguments against vaccine-induced immunity is that it primarily stimulates the humoral immune system and not the cellular immune system. Antibodies are produced by the humoral immune system and then routinely measured to determine "immunity." The problem with this approach is that you can have high antibody levels and still get the disease. It’s very difficult and expensive to measure the cellular immune response, and immunologists admit that they are still in the dark about a lot of the finer points of the overall immune response.
When you use antibody titers or blood levels to check for immunity, all you’re doing is getting a picture of what happened (you had an immune response); it doesn’t tell you whether you’re going to be immune in the future, because antibodies are only one aspect of the immune response, and in some cases are not even necessary to easily combat the sickness and become immune.
For example, those with agammaglobulinemia—a disease where you cannot make antibodies — can get infected with measles, recover uneventfully, and still respond to subsequent challenges of the virus in a normal healthy fashion and not get sick. These individuals will have lifelong immunity to measles, the same as someone without agammaglobulinemia.
Traditionally, the way immunity is determined is to do a test that measures antibodies, which is the humoral immune system. But there’s no good way to assess the cellular immune system. It’s a really imprecise science at best. As Dr. Humphries notes:
"It's not only imprecise; sometimes it's downright inaccurate. You can have very high antibody levels, like numerous case reports of people who have hugely high antibody levels for tetanus, or normal antibodies, and have gotten some of the worst cases of tetanus. I have papers that show that people without antibody for polio have actually been able to respond to the virus as if they were already immune. The antibody really is a real wrong roadmap to look at to tell what's really going on. Sometimes there's correlation, but it's certainly not a given."The Story Behind the Polio Vaccine
The other prime argument for the justification and support of today’s highly aggressive vaccination program is the alleged success of the polio vaccine. But here again, the historical perspective fails to support the vaccination paradigm.
"The story behind polio is absolutely fascinating when you look at the politics that went on researching the vaccine, and how scientists were fired if they disagreed with the program going on through the National Foundation of Infantile Paralysis (NFIP) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. That was the vaccine that Jonas Salk developed," Dr. Humphries says.
Before the Salk vaccine became available, if you were admitted to the hospital any doctor could diagnose you with polio based on two physical examinations within 24 hours, to check for paralysis in one or more muscle groups. We now know that a number of viruses can cause paralysis, but back then, all instances were thought to be due to polio virus. When the polio vaccine was developed, a problem emerged. Swedish scientists were trying to tell the US scientists that formaldehyde inactivation was not going to work as planned.
Their warning, however, fell on deaf ears. This was unfortunate, as they turned out to be correct. Live poliovirus, which was put in an injectable vaccine, would appear to be inactivated right after it was made, but sometimes it would "resurrect" in the vial... In essence, the formaldehyde did not kill off all the polioviruses in these vaccines, which led to live polio viruses being injected. As a result, more people developed paralysis from the vaccine in 1955 than would have developed it from a wild, normal natural poliovirus.
Something had to be done to make it appear as though the vaccine was working. So what they did was change the diagnostic criteria for polio. Sadly this is a very common practice in medicine. When the observations don’t fit your expectations, change or rig the system so that they do. With polio, the original criteria was two examinations within 24 hours. This was changed to two examinations within 60 days. This was helpful in cooking the books, because within 60 days, most people recover from their bout with poliomyelitis.
"All those people who were formerly called polio were no longer categorized as polio because they recovered from their paralysis within that time," Dr. Humphries explains.
Then there was the issue of testing. Prior to the vaccine, there was no testing done on blood or stool samples. After the vaccine came along, there was an epidemic in Michigan around 1958. About 2,000 people were diagnosed with polio. In disbelief over the outbreak, serological testing was done, and they discovered that the polio virus was found in only a small minority—about one-quarter of those who displayed symptoms of infection. Interestingly, in the remainder they discovered a different virus or no virus at all! And, subsequently, those patients were no longer "counted" as having polio.
"So simply by doing the diagnostic testing and changing the diagnostic criteria, the rates of polio plummeted, whether or not there was ever a vaccine. These were the kind of things that were going on back then," Dr. Humphries says.Oral Polio Vaccine Propagates Transmission of Vaccine Virus
It’s important to realize that the injected polio vaccine does nothing to prevent transmission of the virus, and after an oral polio vaccine you become a reservoir of virus that can mutate or combine with other bowel viruses, creating new strains that are often more virulent to those around you. According to Dr. Humphries, the only thing the injectable vaccine theoretically does is give you some blood immunity, similar to tetanus. This means it is only going to be effective if your blood meets the virus before the virus meets your nervous system.
Once vaccine makers realized just how difficult it was to inactivate the polio virus, and many people ended up contracting polio from the vaccine, they decided to abandon the injectable polio vaccine and create an oral vaccine instead, which is more similar to the natural route of infection. Again, controversy ensued. The oral vaccine did interrupt transmission of the wild type virus, but it propagated transmission of the vaccine virus instead.
"The fact of the matter is that you can attenuate a virus all you want, which means that you pass it through different animals to make it mutate enough that it's not quite as lethal or virulent at some point. But once you put that vaccine or that virus back into its natural host, it mutates back to the way it was," Dr. Humphries explains.
"You can give a baby an oral polio vaccine and it can be attenuated. But even in the vial, before you give it to that baby, those viruses are starting to revert back to their former problematic state. And then once the baby swallows that, the baby will generate some immunity in the intestine. But what's going to come out of that baby is going to be mutated vaccine virus. Oftentimes this is problematic, especially in people who are immunosuppressed."
In the 1990s the US quit using the oral vaccine, and switched back to the injectable vaccine. To address the hazards of injecting improperly or inadequately inactivated polio virus, certain adjustments to the formulation were made. Modern polio vaccines are propagated and inactivated differently from earlier versions, and different countries also use different strains of the polio virus. Older polio viruses used to contain three strains of the virus. Today, some countries will only use one or two.Polio Was 'Eradicated' NOT by the Vaccine But Through Redefinition
As noted by Dr. Humphries, it's very easy to defeat the polio vaccine argument, as most incidences of polio disappeared because the disease was redefined—not because there was an actual change in disease prevalence. In fact, it could be argued that the vaccine did more harm than good, since some versions caused polio, and others propagated new mutated strains of the virus. According to Dr. Humphries, at one point, the only polio cases in the US were vaccine-induced. Yet even though there are no cases of wild polio being discovered, the polio vaccine remains part of the US vaccine program...
"Even today, you can just go on to the CDC website and the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). You can see that cases of polio in this country by and large occur when people get the oral vaccine in another country and then come here. When they say that polio is only a plane ride away, the truth is that disease from polio vaccine is also a plane ride away... Like I said, the injected vaccines do not interrupt propagation of the virus. If somebody comes to this country who has recently had an oral polio vaccine and he's shedding a highly virulent strain, people in this country can start passing it around."Polio Epidemic Historically Related to Increase in Sugar Consumption
Here's another interesting tidbit that no one ever talks about: In the past, it has sometimes been suggested that a large part of the polio epidemic was related to increases in sugar consumption. Dr. Benjamin Sandler wrote an entire book about this, and Dr. Humphries refers to his work in her book as well. She explains the connection as follows:
"Polio's an enterovirus [i.e. a virus that enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract and thrives there]. The integrity and the flora population in your bowel is extremely important when it comes to dealing with any kind of bowel infection. A diet that's high in sugar is going to 1) impair your cell-mediated immune system and 2) trash your gut flora... [It was] shown that in populations who cut back on their sugar intake, the rates of polio plummeted... But it was so unbelievable that nobody really listened to him.
It was the same as when Dr. Frederick Klenner tried to say that he cured 100 percent of patients with intravenous vitamin C and [it] just didn't register. The... low-sugar diet was very effective because of the effect it has on the immune system and on the bowel flora. The same with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT); DDT really trashes the bowel, the intestinal walls, and the flora.... Not only can DDT give you all the symptoms of polio all by itself, it can also make the poliovirus much more virulent and active in the body for the same reason: it disturbs the normal function of the bowel."
DDT exposure has also been linked to Alzheimer's disease, and it's worth noting that the contemporary equivalent of DDT, glyphosate, according to Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, is far more toxic than DDT. It definitely has been shown to decimate your microbiome, and glyphosate preferentially kills bacteria known to be beneficial for human health.'You Cannot Dabble in the Topic of Vaccination'
Dr. Humphries left a successful practice making $300,000 a year to be a poorly paid researcher. For her it was worth it, because her integrity wouldn't allow her to turn a blind eye to what she knew to be wrong.
"If you want to make these [vaccine] arguments, we have to have information and we have to have knowledge. We have to understand the history, the medical literature, the biology, the chemistry, the physiology, and the immunology. That is not easy. You cannot dabble in the topic of vaccination. If you do, you're likely going to be toppled by the pro-vaccine lobby because they're doing their homework.
I felt it was more important to do my homework and make these arguments that I wanted to make... I do lectures if people invite me. I have toured through Scandinavia. Our book has been translated into two different languages [Spanish and German]... Right now I'm really immersed in the topic of infant immunity because there is so much information that has just come out in the past few years that, in my opinion, turns the vaccine paradigm for infants completely on its head.
Instead of arguing about any particular vaccine, if you understand the way the infant immune system is designed, you can automatically see that if you were going to toss any kind of a vaccine in there, you might give them some short-term immunity, but you're also going to change their immune systems so that it can't function the way it was designed to function... The arguments against vaccines when you really understand the infant immune system I think are irrefutable."Science of Epigenetics Changes Everything Yet Again...
Epigenetics is another field where biology is being turned on its head and all the old paradigms are being tossed out. Epigenetic science now tells us that our genes are NOT our destiny, and the problem is that once you start to epigenetically tinker with the infant immune system, you are basically depositing what Dr. Humphries refers to as "little cluster bombs" that will eventually "explode into a big problem." As an example, she cites a study by Nikolaj Orntoft, in which African girls were injected with a tetanus vaccine to see which genes might be upregulated or downregulated. What they found is that there's really no way to predict which genes will be affected.
So not only will each individual have a unique response to any given vaccine, based on their current health status, we're also epigenetically predisposed to respond differently in terms of the side effects we might develop. This means that having a vaccine compensation table for reimbursement for vaccine damage is nonsensical as we're bound to have different genes upregulated after vaccines are given.
"We can have cancer genes upregulated, or autoimmune diseases upregulated. This has been shown in modern literature that used these highly sophisticated gene techniques to actually watch what happens after the vaccine is injected. I think this is really powerful information to show that, when vaccines started, they knew nothing about the immune system. Then scientists knew something about the immune system, but now we know about the genetics of the immune system and the epigenetics of the immune system, and that's got to be taken into account..."Most Doctors Are Completely Uninformed, Which Means You Cannot Make an Informed Choice
Dr. Humphries stresses the importance of "thinking long and hard" about how much information you've been given before your child is given a vaccine.
“[Vaccines] can have tumorigenic kidney cells of a cocker spaniel in it. It can have human fetal cells with retroviruses. [It can have] aluminum, which is one of the most horrible things to inject into any sort of life form, especially into a muscle... Parents really need to know that their doctors are not informed and therefore they cannot give informed consent, and that they really need to think about it because you cannot unvaccinate.
The fear of, “Oh, what if my child gets a disease”—that’s where knowing the history is really important because what we’re talking about is under which conditions people become susceptible . That’s really more important than transmission. Because, yes, measles transmits very rapidly through the population, but it actually has a lot of benefits to the immune system—so much so that they’re using it to treat cancer today.”
We really need to understand each disease – what the risk of it is, how it's transmitted, what the vaccine effectiveness is, and what the risks are. Dr. Humphries also notes that the human body is designed in such a perfect way that there is a system in place to handle just about anything that happens to it, provided we've treated our body properly.
"Babies who come into this world in a normal and natural way, who are breastfed for an appropriate amount of time, that's the best protection you could ever give to your baby's immune system or brain. Consider that when the fear starts to creep in. If you're breastfeeding your baby, you're already giving the most powerful thing on the planet that can be given to that baby," she says.More Information
People have been scared into believing vaccines are the answer to prevent disease, but when you look at the historical evidence, the arguments used simply fall apart. There's just no question that improving your innate immune system—through reducing sugar and processed foods in your diet, improving your gut flora, leading a healthy lifestyle, and having adequate vitamin D levels, ideally through sensible sun exposure,—will provide a far more effective immune response and virtually eliminate any risk of developing a life threatening infection.
The key is to have the courage to trust in this truth—that your body is designed to maintain health. Its natural course and direction is to be healthy not sick. If you have a healthy lifestyle, exposure to nearly all of these infectious agents will ultimately make you healthy and stronger. This is similar to exercise, which actually tears your body down to make it stronger. Nature actually knows what it's doing, whereas putting chemicals into your body based on human theories (or rumors!) that are oftentimes completely wrong, is unlikely to produce better results. As noted by Dr. Humphries:
"We have a highly profitable, lucrative religion that involves the government, industry, and academia. That religion is vaccination. People believe in vaccines. They'll tell you, they believe in vaccines. But you ask them what they know about vaccines and it will be almost nothing. In fact the people who argue the loudest usually know the least when it comes to trying to convince you to take the vaccine. That's been my experience.
Medical schools are bereft of information on the history of vaccination, on the contents of them, and the potential problems. We have the go-to doctors, like Dr. Paul Offit, teaching doctors how to talk to vaccine-refusing parents. We have doctors like Dr. Robert Jacobson putting out PowerPoint presentations to give to doctors, literally telling them to persuade the parents rather than to inform them...
Doctors are really being systematically brainwashed. Not only that, but if doctors do start to see problems... wake up to it; do their own research, and buck the system, they risk being treated the way I was. I was well respected through the entire state of Maine. People were referring their patients to me. My colleagues would come to me with their medical problems... But once I started to argue against the practice of vaccination, I was automatically tossed into the category of a quack..."
To learn more, I couldn’t more highly recommend Dr. Humphries excellent book, Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History, available in paper back and Kindle on Amazon. You can also find more information on the book’s website, dissolvingillusions.com. I have read it cover to cover and plan on doing so again as there are loads of powerful information that helps combat the blindly foolish acceptance of nearly all media and professionals on the value of vaccinations.
By Dr. Mercola
When you get a cut or a scratch, what keeps invading bacteria from making you sick? Specialized immune-system cells called neutrophils and monocytes ultimately arrive at the scene, gobbling up pathogens.
In the meantime, in order to keep disease-causing microbes from multiplying out of control, other cell types in the area of the wound, including mast cells and leukocytes, provide a more immediate response against invaders.
It turns out, however, that these are not your body's only line of defense. Your body's dermal fat cells, or adipocytes – the ones just below your skin – may be the first responders against potential invaders.Skin Fat Might Protect You from Infections
The fat underneath your skin is known to help insulate your body, protecting you from extreme temperatures. It also helps attach the dermis layer of your skin to your muscles and bones, the latter of which it also helps pad in the event of a fall.1
But fat cells do far more than control your body temperature and act as storage for energy… they also fight infections, according to a new study.2 Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, professor and chief of dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, the study's lead researcher, said:3
"It was thought that once the skin barrier was broken, it was entirely the responsibility of circulating (white) blood cells like neutrophils and macrophages to protect us from getting sepsis," said Gallo, the study's principal investigator.
"But it takes time to recruit these cells (to the wound site). We now show that the fat stem cells are responsible for protecting us. That was totally unexpected. It was not known that adipocytes could produce antimicrobials, let alone that they make almost as much as a neutrophil."Fat Cells Produce Germ-Fighting Antimicrobial Peptides
Previous research by Gallo and colleagues found that the pathogenic Staphylococcus aureus bacteria could be found in the fat layers of the skin,4 but they weren't sure if it played a role in infection.
The current study revealed fat layers in the skin of mice thickened after being introduced to the S. aureus bacteria. Mice that were incapable of forming new fat cells were more prone to infection. And, according to the study:5
"The differentiating fat cells secreted a small-molecule peptide called cathelicidin, specifically in response to the infection."
In other words, the fat cells produced high levels of an antimicrobial peptide (AMP) called cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide, or CAMP. AMPs are used by your body's innate immune response to kill invading pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and other pathogens.6
Further tests showed that human fat cells also produced CAMP, which suggests the animal findings will hold true in humans as well – and your fat may serve as an important germ-fighting barrier against infection.Too Much CAMP Is Pro-Inflammatory
Antimicrobial peptides destroy the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, making them very useful for fighting infections. You skin also produces AMPs,7 and having them in your fat layer would seem to provide another layer of protection to prevent microbes from establishing an infection.
What is noteworthy about cathelicidin, however, is that it has both antimicrobial and pro-inflammatory properties. Too much CAMP is associated with autoimmune and inflammatory disease, and the featured study found that obese mice had more CAMP in their blood than those of normal weight.
According to Gallo:8
"…in humans it is becoming increasingly clear that the presence of AMPs can be a double-edged sword, particularly for CAMP. Too little CAMP and people experience frequent infections.
…The best example is atopic eczema (a type of recurring, itchy skin disorder). These patients can experience frequent Staph and viral infections. But too much CAMP is also bad. Evidence suggests excess CAMP can drive autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases like lupus, psoriasis and rosacea."Obesity and Insulin Resistance May Increase Your Susceptibility to Infection by Altering AMP Production
If fat cells produce antimicrobial peptides, you might assume that someone with more fat cells would get even more protection against infection. Yet, the opposite actually holds true, both for obesity and the related condition insulin resistance. Both of these can alter AMP production. Gallo explained:
"Defective AMP production by mature adipocytes can occur due to obesity or insulin resistance, resulting in greater susceptibility to infection, but too much cathelicidin may provoke an unhealthy inflammatory response."
This may be one reason why obesity is associated with inflammation and is also an established risk factor for numerous infections, including skin infections.9 There are still many unanswered questions about the role your fat cells play in immune response and disease.
Your body needs fat, but excess fat, such as in obesity, may alter your health in ways that have yet to be discovered. For now, the discovery that the fat beneath your skin may help ward off infection is a big one. As Gallo said:
"The key is that we now know this part of the immune response puzzle… these findings may help researchers understand disease associations with obesity and develop new strategies to optimize care."Natural Ways to Boost Immune Function and Ward Off Infection
What happens to those pathogens that make it past the AMPs produced by your fat cells (or those that enter your body through your mouth, nose, ear, or eyes)? They can be easily defeated by a strong immune system, with the key word being strong.
You want to do everything you can to build and strengthen your immune system, which is your built-in defense against disease. There are quite a few ways to do this, including the natural steps outlined below:
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. I firmly believe that optimizing your vitamin D levels is the single most important and least expensive action you can take to help strengthen immune function and protect against getting sick, especially during the flu season.
- Eat fermented foods: Fermented vegetables are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into your gut. As an added bonus, they can also be a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture like Kinetic Culture. This is important because about 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gut, where healthy microflora is essential for a strong immune response. Also there's a connection between certain types of pathogenic bacteria in your gut and body fat that produces a heightened inflammatory response and drives the inflammatory process – all the more reason to nourish the beneficial varieties.
- Avoid sugar and grains: Excessive refined carbohydrates in the form of sugar and grains is very unbalancing for your gut flora. Sugar is "fertilizer" for pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and fungi that can set your immune system up for an easy assault by pathogens.
- Exercise: Exercise improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The job of these cells is to neutralize pathogens throughout your body. The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and defending against viruses and other pathogens that may otherwise opportunistically overrun your body.
- Manage your stress: When researchers from Carnegie Mellon University infected study participants with a common cold virus, those who had reported being under stress were twice as likely to get sick.10 Chronic stress also exerts a powerful negative influence on your epigenetic health, turning on and off the expression of genes that directly influence your likelihood of getting sick. Using techniques like energy psychology, you can correct the emotional short-circuiting that contributes to your chronic stress, which helps to optimize your genetic expression. My favorite technique for this is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but there are many others, such as yoga, journaling, and prayer.
- Use natural immune-boosters. Examples include oil of oregano and garlic, both of which offer effective protection against a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in your body. And unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance and the development of "super germs."
Vitamin D is an important player in overall healthy immune function, and it's also an effective antimicrobial agent in its own right, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. I strongly urge you to have your vitamin D level monitored to confirm your levels are optimized at 50-70 ng/ml year-round.
By Dr. Mercola
According to the documentary, Sleepless in America, coproduced by the National Geographic Channel, 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived. Many get less than five hours of sleep per night. Percentage-wise, adolescents are among the most sleep deprived.
The consequences are dire, not just for the individual who isn’t getting enough rest, but for those around them as well. While most people don’t give lack of sleep much thought, there are in fact life-threatening consequences.
Notably, “experts now believe that sleep deprivation may have played a role in the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Staten Island ferry crash, and the Three-Mile Island nuclear meltdown,” the film states. Countless people have also lost their lives to tired drivers who simply dozed off behind the wheel.
It’s important to realize that getting less than six hours of sleep each night leaves you cognitively impaired. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to health effects such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s,1 and cancer. Depression and anxiety disorders are also adversely impacted by lack of sleep.The Importance of Staying in Sync with Nature
Maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night is one crucial foundational component of sleeping well.
This was addressed in a previous interview with researcher Dan Pardi. In it, he explains how exposure to bright daylight serves as the major synchronizer of your master clock—a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN).
These nuclei synchronize to the light-dark cycle of your environment when light enters your eye. You also have other biological clocks throughout your body that are synchronized to your master clock.
One reason why so many people get so little sleep, and/or such poor sleep, can be traced back to a master clock disruption. In short, most people spend their days indoors, shielded from bright daylight, and then spend their evenings in too-bright artificial light.
As a result, their body clocks get out of sync with the natural rhythm of daylight and nighttime darkness, and when that happens, restorative sleep becomes elusive.
An estimated 15 million Americans also work the night shift, and the adverse health effects of working nights are well documented. As just one example, three years of periodical night shift work can increase your risk for diabetes by 20 percent, and this risk continues to rise with time.What Happens When You’re Sleep Deprived?
What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact one aspect of your health… it impacts many. Among them are five major risks to your mental and physical well-being:
- Reaction time slows: When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to react as quickly as you normally would, making driving or other potentially dangerous activities, like using power tools, risky. One study even found that sleepiness behind the wheel was nearly as dangerous as drinking and driving.2
- Your cognition suffers—both short- and long-term: A single night of sleeping only four to six hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day. In one animal study,3 sleep deprived mice lost 25 percent of the neurons located in their locus coeruleus, a nucleus in the brainstem associated with cognitive processes.
- Memory and learning declines: The process of brain growth, or neuroplasticity, is believed to underlie your brain's capacity to control behavior, including learning and memory. However, sleep and sleep loss modify the expression of several genes and gene products that may be important for synaptic plasticity.
- Emotions are heightened: As your reaction time and cognition slows, your emotions will be kicked into high gear. This means that arguments with co-workers or your spouse are likely, and you’re probably going to be at fault for blowing things out of proportion.
- Immune function and health deteriorates: Sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness,5 which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.
Hence, if you’re sleep-deprived you will have trouble processing information and making decisions. This is why it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep prior to important events at work or home.
For example, research discussed in the film found that diagnostic mistakes shot up by 400 percent among doctors who had worked for 24 consecutive hours.
Sleep deprived medical residents also reported a 73 percent increase in self-inflicted needle sticks and scalpel stabs, and when driving home from work, they had a 170 percent increased risk of having a serious motor vehicle accident.
Research4 also suggests that people with chronic sleep problems may develop Alzheimer’s disease sooner than those who sleep well. One of the reasons for this is because sleep is critical for brain detoxification—a process during which harmful proteins linked to Alzheimer's are cleared out.
Furthermore, certain forms of long-term potentiation, a neural process associated with the laying down of learning and memory can be elicited in sleep, suggesting synaptic connections are strengthened while you slumber.
The amygdala controls basic emotions like fear and anger. As discussed in the film, another area of your brain called your frontal cortex, plays a key role in the regulation of emotions, and sleep is vital for its function.
When you’re well rested, your frontal cortex is nicely connected to your amygdala—that deep emotional center—and works almost like “a break to your emotional gas pedal.”
Sleep deprivation causes a disconnect between these two brain centers, allowing your emotions to run amok. Sleep deprivation also plays an important role in mental illness, and tends to result in more adverse psychiatric outcomes.
For example, research shows that sleeping less than six hours per night more than triples your risk of high blood pressure, and women who get less than four hours of shut-eye per night double their chances of dying from heart disease.6
The studies are quite clear and most experts agree, you are seriously fooling yourself if you think you can do fine on less than eight hours of sleep. But eight hours of sleep is not eight hours in bed. If you go to bed at 10 pm and get out of bed at 6 am, you might say you’ve slept for eight hours. In reality, you probably spent at least 15-30 minutes falling asleep and may have woken during the night one or more times.
With the advent of fitness-tracking devices such as Jawbone’s UP, however, we now have access to actual sleep data (and more) from wristband users. The data is quite useful on a personal level and they helped me understand that I need to start getting to sleep around 9.30 PM if I hope to get a full eight hours of sleep, which I now typically do.
Newer devices, like Jawbone’s UP3 that should be released in early 2015, can even tell you what activities led to your best sleep and what factors resulted in poor sleep. It’s also fascinating on a larger scale, as the data reveal insights into sleep patterns from around the world.The Glorification of Sleep Deprivation
According to the 2013 International Bedroom Poll by the National Sleep Foundation,7 25 percent of Americans report having to cut down on sleep due to long workdays. On average, Americans get only 6.5 hours of sleep on weeknights, but report needing 7.25 hours in order to function optimally. As noted in a previous article in The Atlantic:8
“For some, sleep loss is a badge of honor, a sign that they don’t require the eight-hour biological reset that the rest of us softies do. Others feel that keeping up with peers requires sacrifice at the personal level—and at least in the short-term, sleep is an invisible sacrifice.”
Modern man’s penchant for equating sleep with unproductiveness (if not outright laziness) can be traced back to the heyday of Thomas Edison, who was known for working around the clock. According to the featured article:9
“Edison spent considerable amounts of his own and his staff’s energy on in publicizing the idea that success depended in no small part in staying awake to stay ahead of the technological and economic competition.” No one... did more to frame the issue as a simple choice between productive work and unproductive rest ...
Over time, children’s books and magazines began to promote this type of Edisonian asceticism... Edison encouraged all Americans to follow his lead, claiming that sleeping eight hours a night was a waste and even harmful. “There is really no reason why men should go to bed at all,” he said in 1914.”
This culture of sleep deprivation started with the invention of the light bulb, and has only gotten worse with the proliferation of light-emitting electronics, which disrupt your natural waking-sleeping cycle. The following infographic, created by BigBrandBeds.co.uk, illustrates how your electronic gadgets wreak havoc on your sleep when used before bedtime.10
As discussed in the film, sleep apnea is another common cause of sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea is the inability to breathe properly, or the limitation of breath or breathing, during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea consists of the frequent collapse of the airway during sleep, making it difficult to breathe for periods lasting as long as 10 seconds. Those with a severe form of the disorder have at least 30 disruptions per hour. Not only do these breathing disruptions interfere with sleep, leaving you unusually tired the next day, it also reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can impair the function of internal organs and/or exacerbate other health conditions you may have.
The condition is closely linked to metabolic health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and according to research,11 even a modest weight reduction can halt the progression of obstructive sleep apnea. Shedding excess pounds might even cure it, according to one five-year long study.12 That said, you do not have to be obese to suffer from sleep apnea. As discussed by Dr. Arthur Strauss, a dental physician and a diplomat of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine, factors such as the shape and size of your mouth, and the positioning of your tongue, can also play a significant role.
If your sleep apnea is related to your tongue or jaw position, specialty trained dentists can design a custom oral appliance to address the issue. These include mandibular repositioning devices, designed to shift your jaw forward, while others help hold your tongue forward without moving your jaw. Relief may also be found in the form of speech therapy treatment called oral myofunctional therapy, which helps to re-pattern your oral and facial muscles. For more information about this, please see my previous interview with Joy Moeller, who is a leading expert in this form of therapy in the US.How to Support Your Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Better for Optimal Health
Making small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes to ensure more shut-eye:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. You can also download a free application called F.lux13 that automatically dims your monitor or screens in the evening, which can help lessen the adverse effects if you have to use them in the evening.
- Get some sun in the morning, and at least 30 minutes of BRIGHT sun exposure mid-day. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. Also, if you work indoors, make a point to get outdoors for at least a total of 30-60 minutes during the brightest portion of the day.
- Sleep in a dark room. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. I recommend covering your windows with drapes or blackout shades, or using an eye mask.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.
- Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
- Avoid electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. Ideally, you should turn off any wireless router while you are sleeping. You don’t need the Internet on while you’re asleep.
- Use a fitness tracker to track your sleep. Chances are you’re not getting nearly as much sleep as you think, and using a fitness tracker that monitors your sleep can be a useful tool to help motivate you to get to bed earlier so you can get eight hours of sleep. When I first started using a fitness tracker, I was striving to get 8 hours of sleep, but my Jawbone UP typically recorded me at 7.5 to 7.75. Part of the equation too is going to bed earlier, as most of us have to get up at a preset time.
By Dr. Mercola
As time goes by, science provides more and more evidence that your brain is malleable and continually changing in response to your lifestyle, physiology, and environment.
This concept is called neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity—meaning, you are literally reforming your brain with each passing day. It used to be thought that your brain was static, except during some critical developmental periods, but today, we know this isn’t true.
Your brain possesses the remarkable ability to reorganize pathways, create new connections and, in some cases, even create new neurons throughout your entire lifetime.
Our views of the nature of the brain have changed in a similar way as our views of DNA. It used to be thought that DNA did not change—in other words, you’re stuck with what you’re born with.
This, too, has been disproven by researchers like Bruce Lipton, who have introduced an entirely new branch of biological science called epigenetics. Your DNA changes continuously based on your experiences, emotions, and environment.
The point is, you have much more control over your body, mind, and brain than you might think. If you can mold and shape your brain, you are not entirely at the mercy of your genetics or the neural pathways you brought into this world or formed as a child—and this is great news!New Study Shows How Quickly Your Brain Can Rewire Itself
A recent study1 discussed in Scientific American2 illuminates your brain’s remarkable ability to rewire itself in response to experience. Mice with amblyopia or “lazy eye” (partial blindness caused by visual deprivation early in life) improved faster if they were exposed to visual stimuli while running on a treadmill.
Amblyopia can happen to someone born with a droopy eyelid, cataract, or other defect not corrected early in life. If the eye is opened in adulthood, recovery is usually slow and incomplete.
In this experiment, researchers induced amblyopia in mice by suturing one eye shut for several months. After the sutures were removed, the mice were shown a “noisy” visual pattern while running on a treadmill for four hours a day for three weeks.
The pattern was chosen to activate nearly all the cells in the animals’ primary visual cortex. After two weeks, the animals’ responses were comparable to those of normal mice that had never been visually deprived. Neither running nor visual stimulation alone had this effect.
The researchers believe the impressive response has something to do with built in mechanisms that allow animals to keep track of environmental stimuli from a distance:
“It makes sense to put the visual system in a high-gain state when you’re moving through the environment, because vision tells you about far away things, whereas touch only tells you about things that are close.”
The scientists do not know whether or not their findings apply to humans but are planning further studies. The current thinking is that “activity stimulates plasticity”—and this applies to your brain as well as other parts of your body. Plasticity is what allows tissues to heal.3Neurons That Fire Together, Wire Together—And Neurons That Fire Apart, Wire Apart
Neuroplasticity is, in simple terms, the ability of your brain to change and adapt in response to experience.4 You can think of those neurological changes as your brain's way of tuning itself to meet your needs.
There are two types of brain plasticity—functional plasticity (your brain's ability to move functions from a damaged area to undamaged areas) and structural plasticity (its ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning).5
Think about what happens when you’re learning a new skill. The more you focus and practice something, the better you become, and this is a result of new neural pathways that form in response to your learning efforts. At the same time, your brain is undergoing “synaptic pruning”—elimination of the pathways you no longer need.
Until recently, it was believed that the human brain, which consists of approximately 100 billion neural cells, could not generate new ones. The old model assumed that you were born with a finite number of brain cells, and when a cell died, no new cell grew in its place.
This old model is no longer relevant, as it’s been proven that certain areas of your brain can generate new cells (neurogenesis), as well as creating new neural pathways.
Environment plays an essential role in the process, but genetics can also have an influence. These neural processes have been well documented in people recovering from stroke-related brain damage.
This phenomenon even applies to emotional states. For example, if you have a history of anxiety, your neural pathways become wired for anxiety. If you develop tools to feel calm and peaceful more of the time, those anxiety pathways are pruned away from lack of activity—“use it it or lose it” really applies here.
According to “What is Neuroplasticity:”6
“It was once believed that the human brain had a relatively small window to develop new pathways in our life span, then after that the pathways became immutable.
This old theory thought our ability to generate new pathways dropped off sharply around the age of 20, and then became permanently fixed around the age of 40.
New studies have shown through the use PET, and MRI brain scanning technology, that new neural cells are generated throughout life as well as new neural pathways. Even the elderly are capable of creating measurable changes in brain organization. These changes are not always easy but can happen through concerted focus on a defect area.”How the Science of Neuroplasticity Changes the Game
Your brain’s plasticity is also controlled by your diet and lifestyle choices, including exercise. Despite what the media tells you, your brain is not "programmed" to shrink and fail as you age. The foods you eat, exercise, emotional states, sleep patterns, and your level of stress—all of these factors influence your brain from one moment to the next.
Any given gene is not in a static "on" or "off" position. You may be a carrier of a gene that never gets expressed, simply because you never supply the required environment to turn it on. As neurologist David Perlmutter explains:
"We interact with our genome every moment of our lives, and we can do so very, very positively. Keeping your blood sugar low is very positive in terms of allowing the genes to express reduced inflammation, which increase the production of life-giving antioxidants. So that's rule number one: You can change your genetic destiny. Rule number two: you can change your genetic destiny to grow new brain cells, specifically in the hippocampus...
Your brain's memory center regenerates. You are constantly growing new brain cells into your 50s, 60s, 80s, and 90s – throughout your lifetime – through a process called neurogenesis. That said, these two ideas come together because you can turn on your genes through lifestyle choices that enhance neurogenesis and that enhance regrowth of cells and expansion of your brain's memory center. This was proven by researchers recently. They demonstrated that there are factors under our control that can make that happen."For Brain Health, You Need Physical AND Mental Exercise
The blind mice study is just one more piece of evidence for how important exercise is for your brain. Recent science has shown that physical exercise is as important as mental exercise when it comes to keeping your mind fit.7, 8 A number of studies show that exercise can promote growth of new brain cells, enlarge your memory center, improve IQ scores, and help prevent brain deterioration as you age.
One study found that one 20-minute weight training session improved memory. In a year-long study, individuals who exercised were actually growing and expanding their brain's memory center one to two percent per year, whereas typically that center would have continued to decline in size. Strength training, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT), is especially beneficial for boosting long-term memory and reducing your risk for dementia.
Exercise prompts nerve cells to release one growth factor in particular, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health and directly benefit cognitive functions, including learning. Fasting also triggers BDNF, and exercising while fasting can go a long way toward keeping your brain and muscles biologically young.
According to brain plasticity expert Dr. Michael Merzenich (interviewed in the video above), engaging in challenging new activities throughout your life, staying socially active, and practicing “mindfulness” are other ways to boost your brain function. He also stresses the importance of having a genuine interest in your chosen activities. Just going through the motions is not enough to build these neural pathways—you have to really care about what you’re learning.Protect Your Brain with Wise Lifestyle Choices
Lifestyle strategies proven to promote neurogenesis and target BDNF include the following:
- Exercise, especially high-intensity interval training
- Reducing overall calorie consumption
- Reducing carbohydrate consumption (especially grains and sugars)
- Enough healthy fat consumption to eliminate insulin resistance
- Enough high-quality omega-3 fats and eliminating damaged omega-6 fats (processed vegetable oils) will improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. I prefer krill oil to fish oil, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which is particularly beneficial for your brain. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that’s very good for reducing free radical-mediated damage to fat—and your brain is 60 or 70 percent fat
There are three other important considerations for brain health:
- Vitamin D: This vitamin/hormone plays a fundamental role in brain health, inflammation, and immune function. Vitamin D influences the expression of 2000-3000 genes. Researchers have located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the brain’s hippocampus and cerebellum, areas that are involved in planning, information processing, and memory formation. In older adults, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function. Appropriate sun exposure is all it takes to keep your levels where they need to be. If this is not an option, a tanning bed that uses electronic ballasts is the next best alternative, followed by a vitamin D3 supplement.
- Gut Health: Your gut is your "second brain;" gut bacteria transmit information from your GI tract to your brain via your vagus nerve. Just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut—including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is linked to mood. Abnormal gut flora has been associated with abnormal brain development. In addition to avoiding sugar, one of the best ways to support gut health is to consume beneficial bacteria. You can take a probiotic supplement, but I'm particularly fond of using fermented vegetables, as they can deliver extraordinarily high levels of beneficial bacteria for minimal cost.
- Choline: Choline reduces inflammation, plays a roll in nerve communications, and prevents the buildup of homocysteine in your blood (elevated homocysteine is linked to heart disease). Eggs and meat are two of the best dietary sources of choline. If you do not consume animal foods, you may be at risk of a deficiency and want to consider supplementation. If you're pregnant, make sure your diet includes plenty of choline-rich foods, as research shows higher choline intake leads to changes in epigenetic markers in the fetus.
Research shows that how you respond to stress may be a key factor in how your brain ages. An animal study9 showed how elevated stress hormones may speed up short-term memory loss in older adults. Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment.10 Chronic stress can actually trigger a genetic switch that results in loss of brain volume, and this in turn contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment.11 Given this, it makes sense why a recent study12 showed that your daily stress responses have long-term implications for your mental health.
Researchers found that people with increased stress have increased risk for mental disorders a decade later, especially anxiety and depression. The message is clear: managing daily stress is a key factor in keeping your brain healthy as you age, and this has implications for everything from depression to dementia. My favorite tool for stress management is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), an energy psychology tool that can help reprogram your body's reactions to everyday stress.
Recent research has shown that EFT (or “tapping”) significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, such as anger and shame. EFT has been shown to lower cortisol levels13 (one of your major stress hormones) and is actually an epigenetic intervention that can alter gene expression.14 EFT is a powerful tool for transforming your stress reactions into more adaptive ones, and replacing old dysfunctional patterns with new. For more information, I invite you to visit my EFT page.You CAN Take Control of Your Brain Function...
Again, the good news is that you’re not at the mercy of your genes or the dysfunctional neural pathways you might have developed in childhood. Your brain can literally be rewired, and you are doing so already—every day of your life! Old neural patterns are continuously being overwritten by new ones. Diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and other lifestyle choices all impact your brain’s structure and function, and how “gracefully” it ages. You are in the driver’s seat, so pay attention to the choices you make today, as they are forming the brain you’ll have tomorrow.
By Dr. Mercola
The effects of stress on your mental and physical health are being studied more intensively these days. Anxiety can be considered a type of stress response, typically involving a sense of fear, dread, or apprehension.
A brief period of anxiety is a natural, adaptive response to a potential threat, which puts your body into a heightened state of arousal to keep you out of harm’s way—your heart beats faster and your respirations increase as your muscles are prepared for action.
For instance, the anxiety you may feel while hiking near a steep drop-off will likely make you more alert and careful in your movements. The problem arises when anxiety becomes a permanent state, in the absence of any real threats.
When anxiety becomes chronic—as it is for an estimated 40 million Americans—it can increase your risk for a number of mental and physical health problems. If you find you spend a good deal of time feeling anxious, then it’s important to take steps to reduce that anxiety before it has a chance to damage your health.
While you can’t eliminate anxiety from your life entirely, energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), demonstrated in the video above, can help you reduce your stress by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that can happen when anxiety becomes chronic.1Anxiety and Stress Have Similar Effects on Your Brain
Although stress and anxiety are not the same thing, they do significantly overlap in terms of their effects on your body. While stress often occurs in response to an external stimulus (like an argument with your spouse), anxiety tends to be more of an internal state.
Many experts believe that anxiety disorders result from a combination of nature (your genetics) and nurture (your environment).
In other words, individuals who are abused or neglected as children have a higher risk for developing an anxiety disorder, but whether or not it manifests depends in part on their innate ability to cope with stressful situations, “internal resources,” personality traits, and social support system.
Anxiety evokes the same "fight or flight or freeze" response as stress, meaning that anxiety will trigger a flood of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol that help you respond in an emergency.
It’s normal to feel anxiety with a stressful event, such as before public speaking or in anticipation of a job interview, but normally anxiety will fade once the event passes.Is Your Brain Becoming Wired for Anxiety?
If you experience anxiety for long enough, your brain may become “wired” for it, such that any potentially undesirable situation sounds a biological alarm. Chronic anxiety might cause you to constantly look out for potential threats when none exist.
Worse yet, some people are so used to feeling anxious that they don't realize there's a problem and simply suffer in silence. Prolonged anxiety can lead to social isolation, physical symptoms, and related mental health problems, including depression.
Chronic anxiety and anxiety disorders may persist for months or even years, regardless of the coming and going of life events. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains how your brain processes anxiety:2
"Several parts of the brain are key actors in the production of fear and anxiety… scientists have discovered that the amygdala and the hippocampus play significant roles in most anxiety disorders.
The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is believed to be a communications hub between the parts of the brain that process incoming sensory signals and the parts that interpret these signals. It can alert the rest of the brain that a threat is present and trigger a fear or anxiety response.
The emotional memories stored in the central part of the amygdala may play a role in anxiety disorders involving very distinct fears, such as fears of dogs, spiders, or flying. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that encodes threatening events into memories."Anxiety Can Lead to a Number of Physical Illnesses
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 85 percent of all disease has an emotional element (and this is probably a conservative estimate), and stress and anxiety may top the list.
When you're stressed, the stress hormones that prepare your body for the perceived emergency also temporarily suppress parts of your immune system, which reduces your response to pathogens and other foreign invaders.
So, if you’re stressed all the time, as with chronic anxiety, you are setting yourself up for a crash, in terms of your overall health. The list of stress-related health problems is long and growing longer all the time. The following is just a sample:
- Lowered immune system function
- Heightened inflammatory response (researchers found that dwelling on a stressful event can increase your levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in your body3)
- Increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Altered brain chemistry, blood sugar and hormone balance
- Increased risk of cancer and tumor growth rate4
It is estimated that only one-third of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment,5 and the majority of that “treatment” is limited to prescription drugs. Anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines, which include Ativan, Xanax, and Valium, are a poor solution and come with many potentially serious risks, including memory loss, hip fractures, and addiction.
Up to 43 percent of older adults use benzodiazepines for anxiety and insomnia, often chronically, even though their long-term effectiveness and safety remain unproven. People who take these drugs are nearly four times more likely to die prematurely than people who don't, and also have a 35 percent greater risk of cancer. There is also evidence that benzodiazepine use by older adults results in a 50 percent higher risk for dementia.
Benzodiazepines exert a calming effect by boosting the action of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), in the same way as opioids (heroin) and cannabinoids (cannabis). This in turn activates the gratification hormone, dopamine, in your brain.
Taking anti-anxiety medications over time can result in addiction or physical dependence, and getting off of them can be a major challenge—and very unpleasant, as “benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome” is characterized by panic, insomnia, sweating, vomiting, seizures, muscular pain and a plethora of other symptoms that can persist for up to two weeks.6 I believe there are better ways to manage anxiety.Tapping Your Troubles Away
Energy psychology techniques, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), can be very effective for reducing anxiety by correcting the bioelectrical short-circuiting that causes your body’s reactions—without adverse effects. You can think of EFT as a tool for “reprogramming” your circuitry, and it works on both realand imagined stressors.
EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture for more than 5,000 years to treat physical and emotional ailments, but without the invasiveness of needles. Following a 2012 review in the American Psychological Association’s journal Review of General Psychology, EFT is moving closer to meeting the criteria for an “evidence-based treatment.”
Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, including anxiety. 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.7,8 If you recall NIMH’s explanation about how your amygdala and hippocampus are involved in anxiety disorders, you can see why tapping is such a powerful tool. EFT has also been shown to lower cortisol levels.9Although you can learn the basics of EFT on your own, if you or your child has a serious anxiety disorder, I highly recommend that you consult a qualified EFT practitioner. 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. Teach Yourself How to Tap—And Then Teach Your Entire Family
EFT is simple to learn and can be done effectively by both adults and children. We have a number of free articles, videos, and tutorials on our website that will help you learn how to do it, and then the more you tap, the more skilled you’ll become. EFT is a great tool to teach to your children to help them diffuse their everyday stresses, thus preventing them from festering or evolving into chronic anxiety.
Children with mood problems such as anxiety are being drugged at an alarming rate, which certainly doesn’t help them learn how to regulate their emotions. If your child’s anxiety is out of control, then there’s a good chance it will persist into adulthood, setting him up for all of the problems already discussed. Many mood and behavior problems can be addressed safely and effectively without drugs. Suitable approaches include nutrition, appropriate exercise, avoidance of environmental toxins, and tools such as EFT. Learning to regulate emotions helps children to better manage their own moods and behaviors, improves self-esteem, and empowers them to feel more “normal” and less stigmatized.
You can learn the basics of tapping on your own and then teach the process to your child, or you can recruit the help of a professional EFT practitioner. I invite you to use the following resources to learn the mechanics of EFT, as well to help you gain an appreciation for its wide-ranging application.
- Basic EFT course and tutorial
- Using EFT for stress
- Using EFT for food cravings
- EFT cuts tension headache by more than half
- A discussion of EFT’s effectiveness and scientific validity, including a demonstration of Clinical EFT by Dawson Church
If you suffer from anxiety, make sure you are addressing basic factors that are often overlooked with mental health issues. Specifically, make sure to address the following:
- Too much sugar. Many studies have demonstrated the connection between a high-sugar diet and poor mental health. High sugar and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can result in falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. In turn, hypoglycemia causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, and panic attacks. Additionally, sugar fans the flames of inflammation in your body.
- Leaky gut and poorly functioning second brain. As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause a variety of psychiatric symptoms, including anxiety and depression. Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues,10 so optimizing your gut flora is a critical piece. Your gut sends more signals to your brain than the brain sends to it. It also has more neurons and produces more neurotransmitters than the brain. So optimize your gut health by eliminating sugar and increasing beneficial bacteria. Make sure to include plenty of naturally fermented vegetables in your diet to help balance your gut flora, and if that’s not an option for you, consider a high-quality probiotic supplement.
- Inactivity. Exercising creates new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm. Exercise also boosts your levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress. Stand up as much as possible, as compelling research now tells us that prolonged sitting has an extremely detrimental impact on your health, even if you exercise regularly. Intermittent movement may be even more important than regular exercise, so make a goal of walking 7,000 to 10,000 steps daily.
- Animal-sourced omega-3 deficiency. Your diet should include a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fats, like krill oil. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play an important role in emotional health, and deficiencies have been linked to mood disorders. Research has shown a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3s.11
- Food additives and GMO ingredients. A number of food additives and dyes are thought to negatively affect mental health, and many have been banned in Europe. Potential culprits to avoid include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and the preservative sodium benzoate. Recent research also shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, which is used in large quantities on genetically engineered crops, limits your body's ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds. As a result, the damaging effects of those toxins are magnified, potentially resulting in a wide variety of diseases, including brain disorders that have both psychological and behavioral effects.
- EMF. Limit your exposure to radiofrequency microwave radiation, cell and portable phones, and electro-pollution. This is especially true for your sleeping environment where rest and repair occur.
- Other toxic exposures. Avoid all known toxins as much as possible, such as MSG and artificial sweeteners including aspartame, mercury from "silver" amalgam fillings, and fluoride in the water supply, just to name a few.
By Dr. Mercola
A recent article in The Week1 reviews seven things that will make you sick or lead to premature death according to science. Included in this list is smoking pot, being a pop star, playing football, and staying in an unhappy marriage.
More important, I think, are the following four dietary and lifestyle factors—only three of which made it into the featured story:
- Excessive sugar consumption
- Artificial sweeteners
- Trans fat
- Vitamin D deficiency
A diet high in sugar (which includes processed fructose and grains) causes a host of health problems that can take years off your life, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Processed foods are the primary culprit. Added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names,2 so you may not even be aware of just how much sugar you’re eating on a daily basis. According to the featured article:
“Sugar accounts for 15 percent of the average American's daily calorie intake, and the WHO recommends that number be reduced to no more than five percent, or roughly 25 grams — six teaspoons — per day. That's less than what's found in a single can of soda.
Free sugars are found in white and brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and additives like high fructose corn syrup. ‘The key point is that we are consuming way too much added sugars for good health,’ says Rachel Johnson of the American Heart Association.”
While obesity alone is associated with one in five deaths in the US, sugar may also have other, perhaps more direct impacts on longevity specifically. Professor Cynthia Kenyon, whom many experts believe should win the Nobel Prize for her research into aging, discovered that non-vegetable carbohydrates directly affect specific genes that govern youthfulness and longevity.
By eliminating non-vegetable carbohydrates, Professor Kenyon was able to make C. elegans roundworms live six times longer than normal. Even more interesting, they also kept their health and youthful vigor until the end.
Her findings have been successfully repeated in other labs around the world using other animals, including rats, mice, and to some extent, monkeys. Humans also have these same genes, indicating these results should apply to us as well.Insulin Resistance Drives Chronic Disease
Excessive amounts of refined sugar and processed fructose and grains cause insulin resistance, and most of the disease-promoting effects of a processed food diet can be traced back to this.
Insulin is a major accelerant of the aging process, and also affects many bodily processes, all of which can impact your longevity. For example, insulin alters the expression of numerous hormones; stimulates your sympathetic nervous system; and promotes vasoconstriction.
As noted by Dr. Robert Lustig, many of the chronic diseases we struggle with today are in fact insulin resistance states. In essence, whichever organ becomes insulin resistant ends up manifesting its own metabolic syndrome.
For example, when you have insulin resistance of the liver, you end up with type 2 diabetes. When you have insulin resistance of the brain, you end up with Alzheimer’s disease. Insulin resistance of the kidney leads to chronic renal disease, and so forth.
To reduce your risk of disease, you want to keep your insulin levels as low as possible, and one of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to avoid processed foods and sweetened beverages of all kinds.
As a standard recommendation, keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. If you are insulin resistant (and at least half of the American population is, whether overweight or not), you’d be wise to limit your fructose to 15 grams per day or less.
This may be particularly important if you have elevated uric acid levels, which can be used as a predictor for fructose toxicity. (For more information on this, please my previous interview with Dr. Richard Johnson.)
To counter the food industry’s propaganda that downplays the impact of a high-sugar, processed food diet, dozens of scientists at three American universities have created a new educational website called SugarScience.org.3
The site is aimed at making independent research available to the public. To learn more about what the science really says about sugar, I highly recommend browsing through the site.Artificial Sweeteners Take a Toll on Your Health
Many mistakenly opt for artificial sweeteners to keep their sugar consumption in check, not realizing just how harmful this trade-off may be. Contrary to industry claims, research over the last 30 years—including several large scale prospective cohort studies—have shown that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite and increase cravings for carbs.
They also produce a variety of metabolic dysfunctions that promote fat storage and weight gain.4,5 Research also shows that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame actually worsen insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar!
Other mechanisms of harm have also been revealed. Most recently, scientists discovered that artificial sweeteners disrupt your intestinal microflora,6,7,8,9 thereby raising your risk of both obesity and diabetes. Most importantly, this study proves causation.
Specifically, the researchers found that artificial sweeteners alter metabolic pathways associated with metabolic disease. Decreased function was observed in pathways associated with the transport of sugar in the body, for example.
Artificial sweeteners were also found to induce gut dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in otherwise healthy people. Glucose intolerance is a well-known precursor to type 2 diabetes, but it also plays a role in obesity, because the excess sugar in your blood ends up being stored in your fat cells.
Besides worsening insulin sensitivity and promoting weight gain, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners also promote other health problems associated with excessive sugar consumption, including cardiovascular disease, stroke10,11,12 and Alzheimer’s disease.
While poor diet is a major driver of Alzheimer’s in general (the primary culprits being sugar/fructose and grains, especially gluten), the key mechanism of harm here appears to be methanol toxicity—a much-ignored problem associated with aspartame in particular.
In a previous interview, toxicology expert Dr. Woodrow Monte (author of the book While Science Sleeps: A Sweetener Kills13), explains the links between aspartame and methanol toxicity and the formation of toxic formaldehyde.Trans Fat –A Primary Driver of Heart Disease
For decades, saturated fats were said to cause heart disease. Responding to such health concerns, the food industry replaced saturated fats with trans fats, giving rise to a whole new market of low-fat (but high-sugar) foods. Trans fat is also a major contributor to insulin resistance. Americans' health has plummeted ever since, and millions have been prematurely killed by this horrible mistake.
Trans fat, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, is thought to act a pro-oxidant, contributing to oxidative stress that causes cellular damage, and many researchers agree that there is no threshold at which trans fats are safe. Dr. Fred Kummerow, author of Cholesterol Is Not the Culprit, has researched fats for eight decades, and he was the first researcher to note that trans fat clogs your arteries and promotes heart disease. Moreover, trans fats prevent the synthesis of prostacyclin,14 which is necessary to keep your blood flowing. When your arteries cannot produce prostacyclin, blood clots form, and you may succumb to sudden death. Trans fat has also been linked to dementia.
While trans fat consumption decreased by about one-third between 1980-2009,15 many are still getting far too much trans fat in their diet. The problem is that it’s oftentimes hidden. Even products boasting a “zero trans fat” label can contain trans fat, because food manufacturers are not required to list trans fat if it falls below a certain amount per serving. Using ridiculously tiny serving portion is a legal loophole that permits food manufacturers to mislead you about the trans fat in their products. As a general rule, to successfully avoid trans fats, you need to avoid any and all foods containing or cooked in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, so be sure to check the list of ingredients.
Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed trans fats from the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list. This is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, instead of reverting to healthy saturated fats like coconut oil, lard, and butter, trans fats are being replaced with other non-saturated vegetable oils that produce toxic cyclic aldehydes when heated. These byproducts appear to be so harmful they may even make trans fats look benign in comparison, and we may not realize the full ramifications of this switch until a decade or two down the line... To learn more about this, please listen to my interview with investigative journalist Nina Teicholz.16Low Vitamin D Level Raises Your Mortality Rate
Last but not least, optimizing your vitamin D stores can go a long way toward preventing disease and living a longer, healthier life. Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Compelling evidence actually suggests optimizing your vitamin D can reduce your risk of death from any cause.17 At this point, the known health benefits of vitamin D number in the hundreds, if not thousands, in part due to the fact that it influences about 10 percent of all your genes. Some of the key benefits include protection against:Cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. According to longtime vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick, research has shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of heart attack by 50 percent. If you have a heart attack and you're vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack is upwards of 100 percent. Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis18 (MS) and inflammatory bowel disease. Lung disease. In those who are deficient, vitamin D supplementation may reduce flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms by more than 40 percent.19 Other research20 suggests vitamin D may protect against some of the adverse effects of smoking as well. Infections, including influenza. Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses. I believe it's far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu. DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Holick's studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months upregulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes. This included improving DNA repair; having a beneficial effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and /or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example); boosting the immune system; and many other biological processes. Brain health (depression,21,22 dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease). Vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. Vitamin D is therefore important for optimal brain function, mental health, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease. According to one recent study,23,24 seniors with low vitamin D levels may double their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Another study25,26,27 found that people with the highest average intakes of vitamin D had a 77 percent decreased risk for Alzheimer's. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health. Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on your brain through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Cancer. Vitamin D has a number of specific anticancer effects, including the promotion of cancer cell death, known as apoptosis, and the inhibition of angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor). There are well over 800 references in the medical literature showing vitamin D’s effectiveness against cancer.
One recent meta-analysis28 concluded that vitamin D helps protect against bladder cancer. In all, having a high serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with a 25 percent reduction in relative risk of bladder cancer. Similarly, a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine29 concluded that a vitamin D level of more than 33 ng/mL was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer. Sun Exposure Is the Ideal Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Stores
Sensible sun exposure appears to be the best way to optimize your vitamin D level. In fact, I personally have not taken a vitamin D supplement for over five years, yet my levels are in the 70 ng/ml range. If you can’t get enough sunshine, then a tanning bed equipped with an electronic ballast (to avoid potentially harmful EMF fields) would be your next best option.
If your circumstances don’t allow you to access the sun or a tanning bed, then taking a vitamin D supplement is certainly advisable. In this case, be sure to take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—and take vitamin K2 and magnesium in conjunction with it, as both are essential for its optimal function. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so taking some form of healthy fat with it will also help optimize absorption.
There are a number of important reasons for these recommendations. For starters, the biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, and without sufficient amounts, calcium will build up in areas such as your arteries and soft tissues. This can cause calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries—a side effect previously thought to be caused by vitamin D toxicity. We now know that inappropriate calcification is actually due more to lack of K2 than simply too much vitamin D.
Magnesium is also important, both for the proper function of calcium, and for the activity of vitamin D, as it converts vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium also activates enzyme activity that helps your body use the vitamin D. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency30 is very common, and if you’re lacking in magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you may exacerbate the situation. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best.
As for dosage, GrassrootsHealth has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. It’s virtually impossible to make a general recommendation on how much vitamin D to take as the amount needed can vary significantly from one individual to another. Your best bet is to regularly monitor your levels, and take whatever amount of vitamin D3 you need to maintain a clinically relevant level.
Sources The Reward of a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle Include a Longer, Healthier Life
The good news here is that avoiding refined sugar/processed fructose, trans fat, and artificial sweeteners is actually rather easy. By trading processed foods for real food—food that is whole (unprocessed, or minimally processed) and ideally organic and/or locally grown, you will automatically eliminate all three—plus a number of other hazardous ingredients, including cyclic aldehydes, acrylamide, and genetically engineered ingredients. Buying organic will also help you avoid harmful pesticides. Another piece of good news is that, according to Dr. Kummerow, your body will eliminate trans fats in about a month.
So, if you want to live a longer, healthier life, start cooking at home using fresh, whole, unadulterated ingredients, ideally organic. For step-by-step guidance, please see my free Optimized Nutrition Plan. Next, get your vitamin D level checked. This time of year, after several months of minimal sun exposure, is an ideal time to test your vitamin D levels to get an idea of what your levels are at their lowest. If you’re low, take proactive measures to raise your levels, and then retest in mid-summer.
The D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth is a very cost effective solution. To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)
As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."