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Dr. Mercola

Carbon Monoxide Can Be Deadly Even If You're Outdoors

9 hours 12 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced when fuels, including coal, wood, charcoal, oil, kerosene, propane, and natural gas, are burned. When you inhale this gas, it enters your bloodstream where it replaces and blocks the oxygen molecules.

If you inhale enough of it, the carbon monoxide can replace virtually all of the oxygen in your bloodstream, essentially suffocating you from the inside out. Your brain, which is especially vulnerable, may be suffocated in just four minutes after exposure to carbon monoxide.1

Initial symptoms of exposure include flu-like symptoms such as headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you're exposed to high enough levels it can make you pass out, and if you're exposed while you're sleeping (or passed out) it can kill you before you ever wake up or experience symptoms.

In the US, more than 400 Americans die each year from CO poisoning (not including cases linked to fires), 4,000 are hospitalized, and another 20,000 visit emergency rooms due to exposure.2

Many people are aware of the risks posed by carbon monoxide, which is why your home should have a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector installed near every sleeping area. Far less widely known, however, is that it's possible to be overwhelmed, and even killed, by carbon monoxide even if you're in a seemingly well-ventilated area – like outdoors.

Teen Dies from Carbon Monoxide Exposure While Boating

TWC News reported a 15-year-old girl died while boating. She and two friends were hanging off the back of the boat, playing in the water, when the girl disappeared and drowned.

An autopsy revealed high levels of carbon monoxide in her blood, which likely came from the exhaust fumes created by the running boat's engines. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):3

"Larger boats, such as houseboats, sometimes have generators that vent toward the rear of the boat. This venting poses a danger of CO poisoning to people on the rear swim deck or water platform.

On larger boats CO builds up above the water near the water platform. CO that builds up in the air space beneath the stern deck or on and near the swim deck can kill someone in seconds.

Traveling at slow speeds or idling in the water can cause CO to build up in a boat's cabin, cockpit, bridge, and aft deck, or in an open area. Wind from the aft section of the boat can increase this buildup of CO.

Back drafting can cause CO to build up inside the cabin, cockpit, and bridge when a boat is operated at a high bow angle, is improperly or heavily loaded, or has an opening that draws in exhaust."

In addition to installing a CO detector appropriate for marine use inside your boat's cabin, the CDC recommends the following steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning on boats:4

Properly install and maintain all fuel-burning engines and appliances.Educate all passengers about the signs and symptoms of CO poisoning. Swim and play away from areas where engines vent their exhaust.Watch children closely when they play on rear swim decks or water platforms. Never block exhaust outlets. Blocking outlets can cause CO to build up in the cabin and cockpit areas – even when hatches, windows, portholes, and doors are closed.Dock, beach, or anchor at least 20 feet away from the nearest boat that is running a generator or engine. Exhaust from a nearby vessel can send CO into the cabin and cockpit of a boat. Barbecues May Give Off Fumes for Hours After Cooking

Another tragic story of CO poisoning was reported by BBC News.5 A couple had gone camping and cooked their meals on a barbecue safely outside of their tent, as recommended.

Several hours later, they brought the barbecue inside their tent when they turned in for the night so it wouldn't get wet in the rain or be stolen. The barbecue was cold to the touch and no glowing or smoke coming off of it, so the couple believed it to be inactive.

However, a barbecue may still give off fumes for hours after you've finished cooking. And while the carbon monoxide released while the flame is lit will be turned into carbon dioxide, which is relatively harmless, the CO produced when the flame has gone out is not burnt off. This means it can quickly accumulate to toxic levels if brought inside a cabin or tent.

Sadly, this is what happened to the couple. Hazel Woodhams succumbed in her sleep wile her partner, Roland Wessling, woke up feeling extremely ill. He was able to get help and was treated in a hospital for his extremely high carbon monoxide levels. The Gas Safety Register recommends the following tips for barbeque CO safety:

  • Never take a smoldering or lit BBQ into a tent, caravan, or cabin. Even if you have finished cooking the BBQ should remain outside as it will still give off fumes for some hours after use
  • Never use a BBQ inside to keep you warm
  • Never leave a lit BBQ unattended or while sleeping
  • Place your cooking area well away from your tent. Always ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air in the area where the BBQ is being used
  • Only use your BBQ in accordance with the operating instructions
How Is Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Treated?

If you think you're experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning, get emergency medical help immediately. Getting into fresh air as quickly as possible is important, and once at the emergency room you'll likely be treated with a pure oxygen mask (or if you're not breathing, a ventilator), to help oxygen reach your tissues and organs.

Sometimes hyperbaric oxygen therapy is also recommended. This involves spending time in a pressurized oxygen chamber, breathing pure oxygen in a room with double or triple the normal air pressure. This helps to speed the transfer of oxygen into your blood and is often recommended to help protect heart and brain function.

A 2011 meta-analysis failed to determine whether the use of hyperbaric oxygen lowers the incidence of adverse neurological outcomes after CO poisoning compared to pure oxygen alone, which suggests more research is needed in this area.6

Still, hyperbaric oxygen is often recommended if the carbon monoxide poisoning is severe, as well as for pregnant women, since CO can be especially damaging to an unborn baby.7

Carbon Monoxide Poisonings Rise in the Fall and Winter

Accidental deaths due to carbon monoxide poisonings begin to rise in the fall and winter when cooler weather arrives. Heaters get turned up and windows get shut, trapping carbon monoxide gas, if present, indoors. And some people leave car engines running in closed spaces, either to warm up or during repairs, risking poisoning with the odorless gas.

It's estimated that close to half of accidental carbon monoxide deaths occur in January, February, and March, so be sure to be especially vigilant in maintaining your CO detectors and taking precautions during this time.8

In cases where CO levels are very slowly increasing in a home, you or your physician may mistake poisoning symptoms for the flu. One clue it's CO related is if your symptoms tend to improve when you leave your home and worsen once you've returned.

Also, if CO is the problem, all family members will be affected. Remember, if you suspect elevated CO levels, leave the home and get into fresh air immediately. If you linger, it's possible to quickly become mentally confused, lose muscle control and pass out before you have a chance to leave or call for help.

In order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning from occurring in your home or vehicle, follow these tips from the CDC.9 This is very important, as CO poisoning is an under-recognized health risk that can be easily prevented by taking the proper precautions.

Install a battery-operated or battery back-up CO detector in your home and check or replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall. Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year. Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors. If you smell an odor from your gas refrigerator, have an expert service it. An odor from your gas refrigerator can mean it could be leaking CO. When you buy gas equipment, buy only equipment carrying the seal of a national testing agency, such as Underwriters' Laboratories. Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly. Horizontal vent pipes for appliances, such as a water heater, should go up slightly as they go toward outdoors… This prevents CO from leaking if the joints or pipes aren't fitted tightly. Have your chimney checked or cleaned every year. Chimneys can be blocked by debris. This can cause CO to build up inside your home or cabin. Never patch a vent pipe with tape, gum, or something else. This kind of patch can make CO build up in your home, cabin, or camper. Never use a gas range or oven for heating. Using a gas range or oven for heating can cause a build up of CO inside your home, cabin, or camper. Never burn charcoal indoors. Burning charcoal - red, gray, black, or white - gives off CO. Never use a portable gas camp stove indoors. Using a gas camp stove indoors can cause CO to build up inside your home, cabin, or camper. Never use a generator inside your home, basement, or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door, or vent. Have a mechanic check the exhaust system of your car or truck every year. A small leak in the exhaust system can lead to a build up of CO inside the car. Never run your car or truck inside a garage that is attached to a house even with the garage door open. Always open the door to a detached garage to let in fresh air when you run a car or truck inside. If you drive a car or SUV with a tailgate, when you open the tailgate open the vents or windows to make sure air is moving through. If only the tailgate is open CO from the exhaust will be pulled into the car or SUV.

Documentary Reveals the Hazards of Toxic Mold and Mold-Related Illness

9 hours 12 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

"Probably every doctor in the United States is treating mold illness — they just don't realize it."

Mold illness may be the most prominent health problem physicians are missing today — a "hidden" pandemic that's sweeping the nation.

Millions are suffering from mysterious illnesses for which they've received essentially no help from physicians. Some are referred to psychologists after being told their illness is "imagined," while others are accused of fabrication.

Because mold toxins are so unique and their effects are so broad, symptoms of mold toxicity are complex and varied, making it difficult for physicians to arrive at the correct diagnosis.

Unable to identify the cause of their illness, sick people become much sicker over time. Marriages are devastated, livelihoods are lost, and many reach such levels of despair that they end up committing suicide.

The featured documentary, "Moldy," explores the subject of mold toxicity through the stories of people who've battled this illness and won, as well as interviews with a number of top experts in the field.

The film sheds light on the symptoms of mold toxicity, why it's so dangerous, and most importantly, how you can recover your health.

Modern Industry Has Created Dangerous 'Super-Molds'

Mold spores are ever-present in the air. Under optimal conditions, these naturally occurring and very resilient spores can take root in your home or workplace, or in your food. Molds make toxins (mycotoxins) that can change how you feel, how you think, and even how long you live.

In my 2011 interview with Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker  (embedded below), he stated that mold toxins are even more toxic than pesticides and heavy metals and affect a greater number of body systems.

Since the 1970s, the molds in our environment have become much more aggressive due to the widespread use of a fungicide called Benomyl,1,2 through a process similar to the creation of superbugs by overuse of antibiotics.

In the agriculture industry, Benomyl killed nearly all of the fungi on crops such as strawberries and wheat, but the few surviving fungi happened to be highly toxic molds — which are now flourishing in our environment.

In the 1970s, Benomyl was also added to paints to stop the growth of mold on damp walls, especially in public buildings such as offices and schools.

Just as with food crops, a few types of dangerous mold were selectively allowed to grow unchecked, so we're exposed to more of these dangerous fungi now than at any other time in history, as a direct result of these chemical fungicides.

In the US, 45 million people live and work in moldy buildings, and approximately half of all US buildings have water damage, which greatly increases the likelihood of hidden toxic mold.

NOT Wanted — Dead or Alive

Dead mold is just as bad as live mold. When mold dies, the cells' walls desiccate and break apart into little fragments. The fragments carry the toxins upon them, and when inhaled, they're absorbed into your body.

Many mistakenly believe that simply moving out of a contaminated building will solve the problem, but the toxins adhere to your belongings. If you move with everything you have, you can take the problem with you.

The toxins make their way into everything — books, clothing, bedding, furniture, you name it — and many times, personal belongings keep individuals ill.

If you have a mold-related illness, the optimal action is, unfortunately, to dispose of everything you own. Some experts say to leave and take nothing with you but your driver's license.

Mold Is Toxic to Every Organ in Your Body

Download Interview Transcript

Mold affects everyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, or overall health and fitness level. Surprisingly, you are as much at risk for mold in dry climates as wet climates. The mold growing in desert regions can be even more tenacious, since it's had to adapt to the drier air.

It turns out that 25 to 28 percent of people are genetic "canaries in the coal mine" for experiencing severe mold reactions — and in the US that amounts to about 75 million canaries.

Anyone can have problems from a water-damaged building, but if you're mold-sensitive, it's more likely that exposure can trigger a debilitating illness. Symptoms are wide ranging, from autoimmune and inflammatory issues to neurocognitive problems.

People have experienced fatigue, migraines, muscle cramps, numbness and tingling, cardiac arrhythmias, and insomnia. The list of symptoms is almost endless because the toxins can settle into so many parts of your body.

Weight gain is very common. A few experience "unexplained" weight loss, but most have rapid unexplained weight gain that doesn't stop until they receive proper treatment.

There are numerous mental and neurological effects associated with mold toxicity, including brain fog, cognitive dysfunction, and mood disturbances. It's not uncommon for people to have short-term and long-term memory loss, confusion, depression, and panic attacks. Children can experience drops in IQ.

Brain imaging reveals that mycotoxins can actually damage your brain — in particular, your amygdala. This can result in experiencing mood swings or rage for no apparent reason. Those with mold toxicity often describe their emotions as "out of control." According to mycotoxin expert Dr. Harriet Ammann, indoor molds can damage the systems of your body in the following ways:3

Vascular: blood vessel fragility, hemorrhage from tissues or lungs Digestive: diarrhea, vomiting, hemorrhage, liver damage, fibrosis, and necrosis Respiratory: trouble breathing, bleeding from lungs, and sinus infections Neurological: tremors, loss of coordination, headaches, depression and anxiety, and multiple sclerosis Skin: rashes, burning, sloughing, and photosensitivity Urinary: kidney toxicity Reproductive: infertility, changes in reproductive cycles Immune: Immunosuppression Mold Illness Is Real

The good news is, once you realize you've been poisoned by toxic mold, with proper support your brain and body can recover. But in order to do so, it's important to find a "mold literate" physician to guide you in every aspect of your care. Recovering from mold-induced illness requires an integrative approach under the guidance of a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner. Most primary care practitioners aren't trained to treat mold poisoning and don't even take a mold history. Unexplained symptoms are usually dismissed or attributed to other problems, such as psychological issues.

Those who DO believe in mold toxicity typically limit their approach to the prescribing of steroids and dangerous antifungal medications, many of which are toxic to your liver. Recovering from mold toxicity requires removing the source or sources of exposure, then starving the fungi out of your body with an antifungal diet and avoiding foods that may be contaminated with mold. Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimized, as vitamin D has been shown to be effective against mold allergies.

Top 10 Foods to Avoid If You Have Mold Sensitivity

People with environmental mold sensitivities are typically sensitive to mold in food as well. Along with a menagerie of chemicals, pollutants, and pathogens, mold further adds to your body's toxic burden and can overwhelm your detoxification and immune systems. Even miniscule exposures can trigger major reactions once you're sensitized — as well as triggering a relapse once you've recovered.

So, it's important that you take steps to make your environment as mold-free as humanly possible, including your foods. Some foods are more susceptible to mold contamination than others. Below are the top 10 mycotoxic foods, as outlined in the book Mold: The War Within by Kurt and Lee Ann Billings. As you can see, many of top offenders are grains. For more on the Billings' recovery plan, refer to our prior article covering natural treatments for mold toxicity.

1.  Alcoholic beverages: Alcohol is the mycotoxin of Saccharomyces yeast (brewer's yeast), and often contains other mycotoxins from mold-containing fruits and grains 2.  Wheat and all wheat products 3.  Rye 4.  Peanuts: Often contaminated with dozens of mold types, one of which is cancer-causing aflatoxin 5.  Cottonseed and cottonseed oil 6.  Corn: Universally contaminated with a variety of fungal toxins 7.  Barley 8.  Sorghum: Used in a variety of grain products and alcoholic beverages 9.  Sugar from sugar cane and sugar beets 10.  Hard cheeses What's Involved in Mold Remediation?

Whether you stay in a contaminated house or leave, remediation will be necessary, and I would suggest hiring a professional mold remediator. In the case of flooding, step number one is to pump out any standing water and remove all personal belongings, which also need to be carefully cleaned and dried if you're going to try to salvage them. As stated earlier, it's optimal to discard all personal belongings and start over, if possible. Standard mold remediation involves the following steps:

1.  Setting up containments and sucking the air out with negative air pressure. (This is similar to turning on your bathroom vent fan.) 2.  Next, they clear the air using a HEPA filtered air purifier or scrubber. The air must be cleaned because once they start working on the mold, the spores will begin to fly everywhere like light dust. 3.  Wearing protective gear, such as HEPA filtered respirators, goggles, protective suits, and latex gloves, the remediator begins taking the affected area apart. Removed parts, such as drywall, are slowly and carefully placed into a bag. 4.  Once the affected pieces are bagged, every inch of the area is carefully HEPA vacuumed again. 5.  Once the source of the mold has been located, it's carefully removed using hot soapy water, scrub brush, HEPA filtered sanders, chisels, or any other tool that will remove the mold. 6.  Professional remediators will typically treat the area with a disinfectant, as bacteria accompany mold growth. 7.  Next, the area is force dried. Once thoroughly dry, repairs can be made.   How to Choose a Professional Remediator

Take great care in hiring a mold remediator and make sure he or she is certified. You will find contractor or professional listings on the following websites. Both the IICRC and NORMI are certifying organizations for mold remediation, but the IICRC certification may be the most widely used. Keep in mind that a mere certification may not be enough — also evaluate the remediator's qualifications and insurance (liability as well as workers' compensation). With the ACAC, there are a few different levels.

  • IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification)
  • ACAC (American Council for Accredited Certification)—a certifying body that is third-party accredited.
  • The IAQA (Indoor Air Quality Association)—a membership organization with no certification program (the ACAC handles this by agreement)
  • RIA (Restoration Industry Association)
  • NORMI (National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors)
Improving Your Indoor Air Quality

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air quality is one of the top five greatest environmental risks to public health. Amazing as it sounds, indoor air can be five to 10 times more polluted than outdoor air. This is due to inadequate ventilation, so contaminants build up and stagnant air is re-circulated. Long-term exposure to air pollution particulates has been associated with faster cognitive decline in older adults.

One of the best things you can do to improve your air quality is add a high-quality air purifier. My recommendations for air purifiers have evolved over the years, along with changing technologies and newly emerging research. At present, after much careful review and study, I believe air purifiers using Photo Catalytic Oxidation (PCO) seem to offer the best technology available. For more tips on improving your air quality, please refer to our earlier article.

More from Leading Mold Experts...

I've interviewed several experts on mold-related illness over the past few years, and five of those are linked below. The most recent was natural health author and actress Suzanne Somers whose latest book, TOX-SICK: From Toxic to Not Sick, includes information about recovering from mold toxicity.

Suzanne and her husband both suffered from mycotoxin exposure. For Suzanne, toxic black mold settled in her intestines, which led to a misdiagnosis of cancer. For her husband, the mold caused symptoms akin to Parkinson's disease. Suzanne is a strong advocate for reducing your body's toxic load, advising her readers, "Stop counting your calories and start counting your chemicals!" Sound advice indeed!

Friendship Fights Depression, Researchers Find

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Previous research shows that having a strong social network of good friends is a significant factor in longevity. If you're socially isolated, you may experience poor health and a shorter lifespan.

Friendships can also be a significant factor in successful recuperation from depression. According to recent research,1 good mood and a positive outlook can actually spread like a contagion through social groups.

Perhaps more importantly, this study refutes earlier claims that depression is "contagious," finding instead that only positive moods tend to spread among people in close association.

Certainly, being depressed can have a dampening effect on the mood of those around you, but according to the authors, there's little risk of a depressed person actually pulling others into a state of clinical depression.

Friends Can Help Protect You from Depression

Data from more than 2,000 high school students was reviewed in this study. Over a period of six to 12 months, the students answered questions about symptoms of depression and who their friends were.

As reported by The Atlantic:2

"Kids who initially scored as clinically depressed did not 'infect' their friends, but if they had enough friends who had what the study called a 'healthy mood'... that doubled their chances of recovering from their depression.

And for people who weren't depressed in the first place, having enough mentally healthy friends halved their chances of developing depression.

That's a pretty large effect, and supports previous research3 saying that high-quality social relationships lower people's risk of depression."

According to the authors, when you find clusters of friends who are depressed, which other studies have found, this probably isn't due to one depressed individual pulling the others into the dumps with them.

Instead, it may be due to a third factor. Perhaps they're all heavy drinkers for example, or engaging in other activities that promote a negative mindset.

Co-author Thomas House claims their study method "wasn't susceptible to that because we looked at direct changes of state. We were pretty much directly observing this process of your friend influencing you.

"And the nice conclusion that we got was that your friends can protect you from depression and help you recover from it."

The Inflammatory Roots of Depression

As important as friendships can be, they will probably not solve depression rooted in poor diet and lifestyle habits.

It's important to realize that, contrary to popular belief, depression is not likely caused by unbalanced brain chemicals; however there are a number of other biological factors that appear to be highly significant.

Chronic inflammation is one such factor.4

For example, researchers have found that melancholic depression, bipolar disorder, and postpartum depression are associated with elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines in combination with decreased cortisol sensitivity (cortisol is both a stress hormone and a buffer against inflammation).5

Scientists have also found that your mental health can be adversely impacted by factors such as vitamin D deficiency and/or unbalanced gut flora — both of which, incidentally, play a role in keeping inflammation in check, which is really what the remedy to depression is all about.

Sugar, found in ample supply in most processed foods, is among the most pro-inflammatory ingredients there are, so the first step would be to replace processed foods with real, whole foods (ideally organic to avoid harmful pesticides and other detrimental ingredients).

Besides promoting chronic inflammation, refined sugar can exert a toxic effect by contributing to insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signaling, which play a significant role in your mental health.

Sugar also suppresses activity of a key growth hormone called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) which promotes healthy brain neurons. BDNF levels are critically low in both depression and schizophrenia, which animal models suggest might actually be causative.

Sugar also facilitates the growth of pathogenic microbes in your gut and causes an imbalance of your microbiome that will also contribute to depression through a wide variety of mechanisms.

What to Do if Someone You Know Is Depressed

Perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do if you have a friend or family member that struggles with depression is to help guide them toward healthier eating and lifestyle habits, as making changes can be particularly difficult when you're feeling blue — or worse, suicidal.

If you are feeling desperate or have any thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a toll-free number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911, or simply go to your nearest Hospital Emergency Department. You can't make long-term plans for lifestyle changes when you are in a crisis.

One Boy's Sadness Turns Into a Smile Campaign

On the topic of friendship, this CBS report features a young boy with remarkable emotional resilience and capacity to reach out in friendship to others despite his own pain. By the time he was 6 years old, Jaden Hayes had lost both parents. While heartbroken, he was still determined to live with joy, and one day he told his aunt and guardian he was "sick and tired of seeing everyone so sad all the time."

He wanted to turn people's frowns into smiles. And so began this young boy's "smile campaign." Since that day, he and his aunt have handed out about 500 toys — small rubber duckies, dinosaurs, etc. — just to make people smile, who weren't. His goal, he says, is to make 33,000 people smile; a goal he may well have reached already through this news report.

Jaden is proof positive that going through a rough time in life does not automatically doom you to depression and despair. You have a choice in how you deal with your situation. And while some seem to have a "hardier" emotional constitution than others, happiness is often a choice that we make.

That said, your lifestyle can wield great influence over your emotional and mental state, so it would be unreasonable to say a depressed person should simply "snap out of it" and "turn their frown upside-down." I believe most cases of depression are rooted in an unhealthy diet and subsequent gut dysfunction and/or nutritional deficiencies, with vitamin D and omega-3 being two very significant ones, in terms of their effect on mental health.

The Importance of Omega-3

Healthy fats play a particularly important role in depression. Without healthy fats, your brain function may be adversely affected, and one potential side effect is depression, as well as more serious psychiatric disorders. Healthy fats include saturated fats like avocados, butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, raw dairy, organic pastured egg yolks, coconuts and coconut oil, unheated organic nut oils, raw nuts, and grass-fed meats.

You'll want to make sure you're getting plenty of these types of fat in your diet. Beyond that, animal-based omega-3 fat, found in fish and krill oil, may be the single most important nutrient to battle depression. It's particularly important when combating more serious problems such as psychosis and schizophrenia.

In one recent study,6,7,8,9 taking an omega-3 supplement for three months substantially reduced the risk of developing a psychotic disorder in the future. Eighty-one individuals considered at risk for developing schizophrenia or psychosis took part in the randomized, double blind trial.

Half of them got a daily course of fish oil for 12 weeks while the other half received a placebo. After the intervention period, all participants were monitored for one full year.

Seventy-six of the 81 participants completed the study, and only two of the 41 people who took fish oil went on to develop a psychotic disorder during the follow-up period. In the placebo group, 11 of the 40 participants developed psychosis. Interestingly, seven years later, only four from the original treatment group had developed a psychotic disorder compared to a total of 16 in the placebo group, suggesting even short-term omega-3 supplementation can have long lasting effects.

Eating Real Food May Be Key for Successful Treatment of Depression

The evidence clearly indicates that your diet plays a key role in your mental health, for better or worse. So if you're struggling with depression, mood swings, or feel yourself sliding into "the blues," I strongly advise you to look at what you're eating. The key is to eat real food, ideally organic (to avoid chemical exposures) and locally grown (for maximum freshness).

Also make sure to eat plenty of traditionally cultured and fermented foods, which will help nourish beneficial bacteria in your gut. Good examples include fermented vegetables of all kinds, including sauerkraut and kimchi, kombucha (a fermented drink), as well as fiber-rich prebiotic foods like jicama (Mexican yam).

Optimizing your gut flora appears to be absolutely crucial for good mental health, which is understandable when you consider that gut bacteria actually manufacture neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, along with vitamins that are important for brain health. In fact, you have a greater concentration of serotonin in your gut than in your brain.

I recommend eating REAL food and avoiding all types of processed foods, including certified organic ones, as processed foods are no longer "alive." What you're looking for is whole, unadulterated foods, with which to cook from scratch (or eat raw). Processed foods are simply loaded with ingredients known to alter your gut flora and promote inflammation, thereby inviting depression. This includes:

  • Added sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  • Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients (primarily corn, soy, and sugar beets) which, besides their own unknown health risks, also tend to be heavily contaminated with glyphosate — a Class 2A carcinogen that can also damage your gut microbiome and has been linked to antibiotic-resistance. Most conventional (non-GE) wheat is also treated with toxic glyphosate prior to harvesting.
  • By altering the balance of your gut flora, pesticides and herbicides also disrupt the production of essential amino acids like tryptophan, a serotonin precursor, and promote production of p-cresol, a compound that interferes with metabolism of other environmental chemicals, thereby increasing your vulnerability to their toxic effects.
  • Artificial sweeteners, along with thousands of food additives, most of which have never been tested for safety
  • Chemicals in the food packaging, such as bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, which can migrate into the food
  • Trans fats, which can harm your memory among other things

It is possible to fight depression with a good, can-do mindset coupled with positive changes to your diet, all of which can help you start on the path to effortless healing and taking control of your health.

Can Fish Oil Help Combat Schizophrenia?

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Omega-3 fats found in fish oil, krill oil, and oily fish like sardines and anchovies play an integral role in brain health. Sixty percent of your brain is made up of fat.

The omega-3 fat DHA alone makes up about 15 percent to 34 percent of your brain's cerebral cortex, depending on your age (the older you are, the more DHA). It's found in relatively high levels in your neurons – the cells of your central nervous system – where it provides structural support.

Because your brain is literally built from omega-3 fats, it makes sense that it would play an integral role in brain function. But in addition, omega-3s also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and these are thought to be responsible for some of their therapeutic effects on mental health.

In 1999, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Stoll published a study showing that omega-3 fats improved the course of illness in people with bipolar disorder.1

In 2001, he published the book The Omega-3 Connection, which was among the first works to bring attention to and support the use of omega-3 fats for depression.

Then, in 2010, researchers from the Orygen Youth Health Research Center in Australia found that supplementing with animal-based omega-3s for 12 weeks reduced the risk of psychosis development in those at high risk for over one year.

The beneficial effects remained even after the supplements were no longer being taken – a benefit that has not been seen with antipsychotic medications.2

Last month, a follow-up to the 2010 research was published, and it showed even more promising results for the role of these beneficial fats in mental health.

Omega-3s May Protect Against Psychosis

The new research, published in the journal Nature Communications, revealed that omega-3s may delay progression to psychosis among patients at high risk for much longer – a period of at least seven years.3

Among the patients taking omega-3s for 12 weeks, only 10 percent transitioned to psychosis during the study period. The rate of transition among the non-omega-3 group was 40 percent.

Further, those in the placebo group had a more rapid progression time to psychosis compared to those in the omega-3 group. Those taking omega-3s also had significantly improved overall symptoms and psychosocial functioning. According to the study:4

“Long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for neural development and function.

As key components of brain tissue, omega-3 PUFAs play critical roles in brain development and function, and a lack of these fatty acids has been implicated in a number of mental health conditions over the lifespan, including schizophrenia.

We have previously shown that a 12-week intervention with omega-3 PUFAs reduced the risk of progression to psychotic disorder in young people with subthreshold psychotic states for a 12-month period compared with placebo.

We have now completed a longer-term follow-up of this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, at a median of 6.7 years. Here we show that brief intervention with omega-3 PUFAs reduced both the risk of progression to psychotic disorder and psychiatric morbidity in general in this study.

The majority of the individuals from the omega-3 group did not show severe functional impairment and no longer experienced attenuated psychotic symptoms at follow-up.”

Why Omega-3s Are a Welcome Alternative to Antipsychotic Drugs

Antipsychotic medications are among the most powerful and side effect prone drugs in medicine, which is why finding a natural alternative is all the more important.

The side effects caused by these drugs include, ironically, psychotic symptoms (like hearing voices or paranoia), aggressive behavior, hostility, seizures, heart attack, delayed puberty, and more. Oftentimes the side effects are far worse than the symptoms for which they're prescribed, and rival illegal street drugs in terms of their dangerous risks to health.

In children, the long-term effects are often largely unknown, while in the short term, we've seen shocking increases in violent and aggressive acts committed by teens taking one or more antipsychotic drugs.

While it’s known that early intervention may help those at risk of developing psychosis, starting on a course of antipsychotic drugs if you’re still healthy poses serious risks.

This is not so for omega-3 fats, which are so good for you that I recommend virtually everyone increase their intake, even if you don’t have mental health challenges.

However, among people with schizophrenia, supplementation with omega-3 fats appears to be particularly important. According to Current Psychiatry:5

“Essential fatty acid deficiency and resulting lipid membrane abnormalities have been hypothesized to play a role in schizophrenia onset. Moreover, epidemiologic data suggest an association between high fish consumption and positive outcomes in patients with schizophrenia.”

Multiple clinical trials have been conducted that show supplementing with omega-3s among people with schizophrenia leads to significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life – and the improvements remained even after the supplements were discontinued.

Even among patients already taking antipsychotic drugs, adding an omega-3 supplement led to greater improvements.6

How Fish Oil Helps Your Brain

As mentioned, the omega-3 DHA molecule has unique structural properties that provide optimal conditions for a wide range of cell membrane functions, and grey matter in your brain is a particularly membrane-rich tissue.

One study revealed that people who consumed baked (or broiled) fish at least once a week had more gray matter in their brain. Specifically, compared to those who didn’t consume fish on a regular basis, regular fish eaters had 14 percent greater gray-matter volume in the area responsible for cognition and more than 4 percent greater volume in the area responsible for memory.7

In fact, the introduction of high-quality, easily digested nutrients from seafood into the human diet coincided with the rapid expansion of grey matter in the cerebral cortex – a defining characteristic of the modern human brain.

Research is showing that degenerative conditions can not only be prevented but also potentially reversed with omega-3 fats. For example, in one study 485 elderly volunteers suffering from memory deficits saw significant improvement after taking 900 milligrams (mg) of DHA per day for 24 weeks, compared with controls.8

Another study found significant improvement in verbal fluency scores after taking 800 mg of DHA per day for four months compared with placebo.9 Furthermore, memory and rate of learning were significantly improved when DHA was combined with 12 mg of lutein per day.

Interestingly, research suggests that the unsaturated fatty acid composition of normal brain tissue is age-specific, which could imply that the older you get, the greater your need for animal-based omega-3 fat to prevent mental decline and brain degeneration.

A study in the journal Neurology reported that "older women with the highest levels of omega-3 fats, found in fish oil, had better preservation of their brain as they aged than those with the lowest levels, which might mean they would maintain better brain function for an extra year or two."10,11

Still, omega-3s are also incredibly important for brain health during development -- in utero and during childhood and adolescence. One study of 8- to 10-year-old boys looked at how DHA supplementation might affect functional cortical activity, and the results were quite impressive.

The data indicated there were significant increases in the activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex part of the brain in the groups receiving supplemental DHA. This is an area of your brain that is associated with working memory. They also noticed changes in other parts of the brain, including the occipital cortex (the visual processing center) and the cerebellar cortex (which plays a role in motor control).12

What Are the Best Sources of Omega-3 Fats?

Making sure you’re getting enough omega-3 in your diet, either from wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and anchovies or a high-quality omega-3 supplement like krill oil, is absolutely crucial for your optimal health, including your mental health.

While a helpful form of omega-3 can be found in flaxseed, chia, hemp, and a few other foods, the most beneficial form of omega-3 – containing two fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which are essential to fighting and preventing both physical and mental disease – can only be found in fish and krill. Because, nearly all fish, from most all sources, are severely contaminated with environmental pollutants like toxic mercury, you have to be very careful about the types of seafood you consume when trying to increase your omega-3 fats. A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated.

Sardines, in particular, are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fats, with one serving containing more than 50 percent of your recommended daily value.13 Other good options include anchovies, herring, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. You’re probably aware that if you don’t eat a lot of fish, you can supplement your diet with omega-3 fats by taking fish oil. Less widely known is that you can also get your omega-3s from krill oil, and it may, in fact, be preferable to do so.

Why might you be better off with krill? The omega-3 in krill is attached to phospholipids that increase its absorption, which means you need less of it, and it won't cause belching or burping like many other fish oil products. Additionally, it contains almost 50 times more astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant, than fish oil. This prevents the highly perishable omega-3 fats from oxidizing before you are able to integrate them into your cellular tissue.

In laboratory tests, krill oil remained undamaged after being exposed to a steady flow of oxygen for 190 hours. Compare that to fish oil, which went rancid after just one hour. That makes krill oil nearly 200 times more resistant to oxidative damage compared to fish oil! When purchasing krill oil, you'll want to read the label and check the amount of astaxanthin it contains. The more the better, but anything above 0.2 mg per gram of krill oil will protect it from rancidity. To learn more about the benefits of krill oil versus fish oil, please see my interview with Dr. Rudi Moerck, a drug industry insider and an expert on omega-3 fats.

5 Tips to Support Your Mental Health

My heart goes out to you if you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness. The solutions offered below will often help you to overcome your battle in the long run, but in no way are they meant to minimize the complicated puzzle of mental illness, or the extreme toll it can take on family units and in some cases extended circles of friends.

Whether you’re facing schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, or another mental condition, these strategies have nothing but positive effects and are generally very inexpensive to implement. Plus, they can be used for both children and adults alike, and work great when implemented with your entire family involved.

  1. Exercise – If you suffer from depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST. The research is overwhelmingly positive in this area, with studies confirming that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. One of the primary ways it does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the "feel good" hormones, in your brain.
  2. Address your stress – Stress can worsen symptoms of mental illness as well as trigger relapses. Meditation or yoga can help. Sometimes all you need to do is get outside for a walk. But in addition to that, I also recommend using a solid support system composed of friends, family, and, if necessary, professional counselors, who can help you work through your emotional stress. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is also often effective.
  3. Eat a healthy diet – Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Avoiding fructose, sugar, and grains will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing positive mental health. In addition, scientific evidence increasingly shows that nourishing your gut flora with the beneficial bacteria found in traditionally fermented foods (or a probiotic supplement) is extremely important for proper brain function, and that includes psychological well-being and mood control.
  4. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has successfully demonstrated the power and effectiveness of this theory. In her England clinic, she successfully treats children and adults with a wide range of conditions, including autism, ADD/ADHD, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, immune disorders, and digestive problems using the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Nutritional Program, which she developed.

  5. Support optimal brain functioning with essential fats – I also strongly recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil, or eating sardines, anchovies, or wild-caught Alaskan salmon regularly to ensure you have an adequate intake of omega-3 fats.
  6. Get plenty of sunshine – Making sure you're getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in numerous psychiatric and neurological disorders.

Are Mutant Lice Headed Your Way?

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Only one thing sends more shivers down the spines of school-aged children’s parents than head lice… and that is mutant head lice. Research from 2014 of lice samples from the US and Canada showed almost all of the insects (99.6 percent) had developed gene mutations making them resistant to common over-the-counter lice shampoos.1

Such shampoos often contain the toxic pesticide permethrin… which should not be placed anywhere near a child’s scalp due to the health risks alone. But now it appears the chemicals will no longer be very effective either.

Pesticide-Resistant Lice Widespread in the US

The researchers from the above-mentioned study conducted another study this year that was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in August. They sampled lice from 30 states and found lice from 25 of them carried the resistance genes.

In California, Florida, Maine, and Minnesota, every insect sampled was resistant. The problem with resistance was first detected in the 1990s and has been growing since. As CNN reported:2

The insecticides in these products are supposed to work by getting into the nerve cells of lice and changing the cells' chemistry in a way that leads to muscle paralysis and eventually death.

However, there are lice that randomly have mutations in genes that make them less susceptible to these insecticides, said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist at Harvard University.

It is not clear how, but it could be that these genetic changes cause insect nerve cells to take up less insecticide or to pump more of it out of the cells. When these insecticides are used a lot, the naturally resistant, probably rare, lice have a survival advantage.

Just like how bacterial populations can become resistant to antibiotics, these lice take over the population, Pollack said.”

The study was funded by pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which owns Sklice lotion, a newer generation lice-fighting product that contains the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin (and may cost up to $200, plus the doctor’s visit for a prescription).

But although these newer products will be touted as the solution to the mutant head lice, it’s likely only a matter of time before they develop resistance to the newer chemicals too. CNN noted:3

There may be lice that harbor some level of resistance to these newer products and they would eventually take over the population if the other products became widely used, Pollack said. ‘I do expect that we will see resistance to any product with the exception perhaps of combing and heat and smothering the lice,’ Pollack said.”

Why Pyrethroid Insecticides Should Be Avoided…

Pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin are the active ingredients in most over-the-counter lice shampoos. Pyrethroids — synthetic chemicals derived from natural chemicals found in chrysanthemums — have risen in popularity over the past decade. There are currently more than 3,500 commercial products containing this insecticide.

This includes items like roach sprays, flea bombs, and dog flea or tick collars and medicated shampoos. Lice shampoos may also contain pyrethrins, which are botanical insecticides derived from chrysanthemums.

Both pyrethroids and pyrethrins have similar chemical structures and act in a similar manner. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):4

“Most pyrethrins and some pyrethroid products are formulated with synergists, such as piperonyl butoxide and MGK-264, to enhance the pesticidal properties of the product. These synergists have no pesticidal effects of their own but enhance the effectiveness of other chemicals.”

This is the case with RID lice shampoo, which contains 4 percent piperonyl butoxide along with pyrethrum extract equivalent to 0.33 percent pyrethrins.5 Animal studies suggest pyrethroids cause neurological, immune, and reproductive damage. Canadian research also suggests pyrethroids may be associated with behavior problems in children.

The study tested urine samples from 779 Canadian children, aged 6 to 11, and the parents answered questions relating to their child's behavior. Almost all (97 percent) of the children had pyrethroid breakdown products in their urine.6

A 10-fold increase in urinary levels of one specific pyrethroid breakdown product doubled the child’s risk of scoring high for parent-reported behavioral problems, such as inattention and hyperactivity.

A previous study also found that toddlers who had been exposed to pyrethroids while in utero had lower development scores compared to unexposed children. According to a 2006 EPA review, animal research has also shown that even low levels of some of these compounds have an adverse effect on:7

Immune function Nervous system development Behavioral development Thyroid Liver Reproductive hormones

Some pyrethroids act as endocrine disruptors by mimicking estrogen. Such hormone-disrupting chemicals can raise your levels of estrogen, thereby promoting the growth of estrogen-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer.

And remember, when you apply these chemicals for lice treatment, they go right through your child’s scalp and into his or her bloodstream. Worse still, multiple treatments are often recommended to be effective (and now even that is highly questionable).

You Don’t Need Drugs to Get Rid of Head Lice

While medicated shampoos are touted as the best way to get rid of head lice, you have to decide whether you really want to slather your child’s hair up with pesticides… especially when they may not kill the lice and there are other effective alternatives.

For starters, coat your child’s hair in olive oil or coconut oil. This is often said to work by asphyxiating the lice, although this is controversial. Some research even suggests that depriving lice of oxygen by putting them underwater for eight hours is not enough to kill them, and one study found applying olive oil did not result in significant lice mortality.8

Coconut oil, on the other hand, appears to be a useful option, as it’s been found to lead to 80 percent mortality in head lice after four hours.9 A spray made of coconut and anise was also found to work better at killing head lice than a permethrin lotion.10

Coconut oil (as well as olive oil) is also useful because it lubricates the hair, making it easier to remove lice and eggs. And this is key. Using an extra-fine-toothed lice comb to manually remove lice and eggs is one of the most effective tools available.11 You can also remove the insects with your fingers.

In fact, a growing number of “nitpicker” companies have popped up in recent years, which will manually remove lice from your child’s hair for a cost of $90 to $250 an hour. Many combine the combing/brushing with an oil application to make removal easier, and again this is something you can do yourself at home. You may need to repeat the treatment two or three times to be sure you’ve removed all newly hatched lice.

3 More Natural Lice Treatments to Try

There’s really no reason to apply neurotoxic pesticides to your child’s head. Many will find a combination of coconut oil and manual removal to be quite effective, but you can also try:

1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)

Diatomaceous earth is made form tiny fossilized water plants called diatoms. The diatoms are ground up to make a fine, chalky powder that’s rich in minerals and toxic to insects. DE works because it absorbs fats from the insects’ protective outer coating, drying them out, and killing them.

DE is non-toxic to humans, although you should be careful to avoid breathing in the dust, especially for a prolonged period. For lice treatment, first place a t-shirt upside down over your child’s head so the collar forms a seal around the scalp.

Apply diatomaceous earth to your child’s hair, being careful to keep the dust inside of the t-shirt “bag.” Tie off the open end of the t-shirt and massage the DE into your child’s scalp. Allow it to sit overnight, then shampoo it out the next day. This should be followed by a thorough combing with an extra-fine comb. You may need to repeat the treatment once a week for three weeks.12

2. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has been long valued for its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties, however it’s also very effective at killing head lice. An application of 1 percent tea tree oil killed 100 percent of head lice after 30 minutes in one study.13 One option is to mix several drops of tea tree oil with the coconut oil you apply to your child’s scalp. You can also find tea tree oil shampoos that may be effective (especially when combined with the DE treatment described above).

3. Hot Air

Various devices are available that kill head lice using hot air. Once such device, the LouseBuster, killed nearly 100 percent of lice eggs and 80 percent of hatched lice, even when operated at a comfortable temperature, it’s slightly cooler than a standard blow dryer.14 The LouseBuster is sold to nurses, schools, and hospitals, as well as so-called “lice salons” that specialize in non-toxic lice removal.15 According to the journal Pediatrics:16

“Our findings demonstrate that one 30-minute application of hot air has the potential to eradicate head lice infestations. In summary, hot air is an effective, safe treatment and one to which lice are unlikely to evolve resistance.”

Head lice is, unfortunately, quite common, affecting 6 million to 12 million US kids every year.17 But if your child gets sent home from school with a case, don’t panic – and don’t rush to the drug store for toxic lice removal shampoos. By using one or more of the natural methods described above, you should be able to quickly rid your child’s hair of lice without the use of dangerous chemicals. And if you’re not up for tackling the job yourself, there are many professional lice removal salons that will do it for you (just be sure to choose one that uses only chemical-free methods).

Coca-Cola Front Group Aims to Confuse You About Soda’s Influence on Obesity

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The food, chemical, and biotechnology industries have all built up intricate and powerful systems designed to manipulate public and scientific opinion using false front organizations and industry shills posing as independent experts.

The mission is to mislead people — including lazy reporters — about issues that threaten the corporate bottom line.

So-called astroturfing techniques are frequently used to discredit the opposition and create the false appearance of scientific consensus on a particular issue.

Astroturfing refers to the effort on the part of special interests to surreptitiously sway public opinion by making it appear as though there's a grassroots effort for or against a particular agenda, when in reality such a groundswell of public opinion might not exist.

One hallmark of astroturfing is attacking those who question the status quo, and using derogatory terms such as "crank," "crack," "nutty," "pseudo-science," and "conspiracy theorist" to describe them and their argument.

These shills also inject themselves into social media discussions, pretending to be "regular people," when in fact they have a very clearly defined agenda to steer the conversation.

Above is the full video produced by the Global Energy Balance Network that was funded with previously non-disclosed millions of dollars by Coca-Cola. A shocking lack of non-disclosure. It is also really hilarious to see that they chose Dr. Blair to narrate this; he is clearly obese and could be the poster child for a junk food junkie.

Coca-Cola Funds Front Group to Peddle 'Nonsense' as Science

While the tobacco and chemical technology industries are notorious for these kinds of tactics, the food industry is using the same playbook.

For example, Coca-Cola Company was recently "outed" by the New York Times1,2,3,4 for funding a front group by the name of The Global Energy Balance Network.

The aim of this group appears to be to confuse consumers about soda science, and divert attention away from the mounting evidence showing that sweet beverages are a major contributor to obesity and diseases associated with insulin resistance, such as diabetes.

As reported in the featured article:5

"Coca-Cola, the world's largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new 'science-based' solution to the obesity crisis: to maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise, and worry less about cutting calories.

The beverage giant has teamed up with influential scientists who are advancing this message in medical journals, at conferences and through social media...

'Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, 'Oh they're eating too much, eating too much, eating too much' — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks, and so on,' the group's vice president, Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, says in a recent video announcing the new organization.

'And there's really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.'"

In response to, and in support of, this exposé, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wrote a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times,6 signed by 36 leading researchers, scientists, and public health officials, noting that Coca-Cola is blatantly ignoring the "well-documented evidence that sugary drinks are a major contributor to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes."

Protecting Profits Through Misdirection

Last year, Coca-Cola made a $1.5 million donation to two universities where the leaders of the new front group are employed. Since 2008, the company has also funded projects led by two of the group's founding members, to the tune of $4 million.

Coca-Cola is also the registered owner and administrator of the Global Energy Balance Network's website and, according to an editorial7 announcing the creation of the Global Energy Balance Network, the group has received an "unrestricted education gift" from Coca-Cola.

"Critics say Coke has long cast the obesity epidemic as primarily an exercise problem... Now, public health advocates say, Coca-Cola is going a step further, recruiting reputable scientists to make the case for them," the New York Times writes.

"Barry M. Popkin, a professor of global nutrition... said Coke's support of prominent health researchers was reminiscent of tactics used by the tobacco industry, which enlisted experts to become 'merchants of doubt' about the health hazards of smoking...

The group says there is 'strong evidence' that the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake... 'but maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories.' To back up this contention, the group provides links to two research papers, each of which contains this footnote: 'The publication of this article was supported by The Coca-Cola Company...'

[T]he Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana announced the findings of a large new study on exercise in children that determined that lack of physical activity 'is the biggest predictor of childhood obesity around the world.' The news release contained a disclosure: 'This research was funded by The Coca-Cola Company.'"

I will have more to say on this topic in early October as I am interviewing Dr. Marion Nestle for her new book Soda Politics that is released on October 3.

Also, you might want to view the comment section and look to see when the American Beverage Association, (the trade front group for Coke and Pepsi) post some of their absurd propaganda in response to this article, as they have done in the past.

You CANNOT Exercise Your Way Out of an Unhealthy Diet

Arguing for more exercise is not a bad thing in and of itself, but by placing the sole focus on exercise and making you think you can exercise your way out of a high-sugar diet, Coca-Cola is doing a lot of harm. The fact is, your diet can make or break your exercise efforts. Not the other way around. The finest destruction of the calorie and exercise myth can be viewed in this lecture featuring Dr. Zoe Harcombe, who wrote the best book I ever read on the subject, The Obesity Epidemic. I recently interviewed her and will publish that interview shortly.

Research8 shows exercise is largely ineffective for producing any significant amount of weight loss on its own. If you want any chance of weight reduction, you have to cut calories as well.9

Part of this is because while you certainly burn more calories when you exercise, you cannot burn off thousands of excess calories each day. For example, to burn off the calories of a single Snickers bar you'd have to walk about five miles, and to offset a one soda per day habit, you have to walk one hour per day!

Now, if you normally eat a candy bar or drink a soda each day, and you decide to skip the candy or soda AND walk a few miles each day, THEN you'd be looking at potential weight loss. Otherwise you're just fighting for maintenance. And if you're overweight as it is, without changing your diet your exercise routine will simply help you maintain your current weight at best...

In addition to cutting calories, you also need to consider their source. Calories from processed fructose will affect your body differently than calories from healthy fat, for example. Research also shows that fructose promotes metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease to a greater extent than glucose, so not even all sugars are the same. Refined fructose is actually broken down very much like alcohol, damaging your liver and causing mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction in the same way as ethanol and other toxins.

A recent meta-review10 published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there's a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes pre-diabetes and diabetes. Moreover, research suggests sugary beverages are to blame for about 183,000 deaths worldwide each year, including 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths, and 6,000 cancer deaths.

Not surprisingly, compared to studies with no financial conflicts of interest, research funded by the beverage and sugar industries are five times more likely to conclude there's "no link" between sugary beverages and weight gain.11 Yet the reality just doesn't match up with the industry's well-crafted fantasies.

Nearly 30 percent of American children and teens are now either obese or overweight, and blacks and Hispanic kids are not only disproportionally more overweight than their Caucasian peers, they're also disproportionally exposed to soda ads, according to a 2014 report12 from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, the African-American Collaborative Obesity Research Network, and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Big Food Astroturfing

As noted in a recent Campaign US article,13 Coca-Cola isn't the only company engaging in astroturfing efforts to save their bottom-line as people are getting savvier about nutrition and health:

"Coke is far from alone in quietly pushing junk science to reframe health issues and help win over consumers and regulators. Under pressure from the organic and clean-eating movement, Big Food is upping its game in this newest form of astroturfing: backing groups that look and sound like educational resources while supporting the goals of the corporations that help the bills. Unlike astroturf groups of the past, these organizations don't go to great lengths to hide their corporate connections.

Most of them name their major backers right on their site. Instead, they trust that carefully crafted visuals and scientifically accredited spokespeople will dissuade the average consumer — or journalist — from looking too closely. Take a look at the Food Dialogue website, the online face of the US Farmers and Rancher Alliance...

The site says it's devoted to giving agriculture a voice in enhancing consumers' trust in food production... Ketchum PR helps the organization get its message out to city folks. But dig deeper into the site and you find that USFRA's backers include giant corporations tied to industrialized farming, including biotech company Monsanto, known for its GMOs, pesticide maker Dow AgroSciences, ag pharmaceutical provider Merck Animal Health, and food processor Cargill... No organic farm groups are included among its membership."

According to a recent report14 by the environmental organization Friends of the Earth, titled "Spinning Food," the US Farmers and Rancher Alliance and other such front groups "craft a narrative about food that is intended to defuse public concern about the real risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and undermine the public's perceptions of the benefits of organic food and diversified, ecological agriculture systems." And, while most of industry front groups claim to offer "balanced discussions" about the issues at hand, they shrewdly promote a single-sided and single-minded agenda.

As noted by Kari Hamerschlag, senior program manager at Friends of the Earth:

"Coca-Cola's effort to establish a well-funded front group and buy the credentials of scientists is a cookie-cutter example of how a food company spins the story of food and science to benefit its bottom line."

Another perfect example of an industry front group is the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF), which is currently advertising its support for HR 1599, a bill that would strip states of their right to enact GMO labeling laws. One of the ads15,16 regurgitates the lie that food prices would rise if genetically engineered foods were to be labeled, saying:

"Across the country misguided politicians have threatened polices that could hurt our environment, close family farms, and increase food prices by $500 per family. But Congressman Mike Pompeo is fighting for a solution that would keep food costs down, help farmers, and protect our environment. Call Congressman Pompeo and tell him to keep fighting for the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. It's the right thing for Kansas and our country."

Transparency Is Crucial to Protect Public Health

As detailed in a recent article17 by Paul D. Thacker and Charles Seife, published in PLOS Biology Community Blog, transparency is critical for public health. Unfortunately, while efforts have focused on increasing transparency in science over the past several years, even former supporters of transparency are now starting to backpedal.

This includes the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) which, to quote Thacker and Seife, "has begun a campaign to blunt the tools with which the public can investigate claims of scientific malfeasance." More specifically, the UCS is questioning the use of open-access requests with which journalists and researchers can request access to correspondence between scientists and corporations for example. As noted in the article:

"In February, a tiny nonprofit, the U.S. Right to Know, sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to several universities. FOIA requests are legal inquiries that allow citizens and other professionals to obtain certain information in the possession of various government entities. These particular requests sought communications between scientists and several companies, trade groups, and PR firms, in order to see if the academics were coordinating their messaging with companies.

A journalist reporting on this FOIA request in Science noted that the Organic Consumers Association funds the U.S Right to Know and that many of the scientists targeted are involved with a website called GMO Answers. He did not mention that GMO Answers is run by the PR firm Ketchum, on behalf of GMO companies.

Upon hearing of these inquiries, a lead analyst at UCS stated, 'These requests to the genetic engineering researchers, just like other overly broad open records requests that seek excessive access to scientists' inboxes, are inappropriate.' [But requests] under FOIA for personal correspondence are not just appropriate, but crucial to ensuring transparency."

The authors go on to provide specific examples of instances where access to scientists' personal correspondence led to the discovery of industry-orchestrated disinformation campaigns, scientific fraud, medical ghostwriting, and other corrupt practices.

"Scientists' emails have also revealed other mechanisms by which industry exerts control over the scientific literature. A recent Senate investigation released scientists' emails to show that the device maker Medtronic edited the scientific manuscripts — written by supposedly independent researchers — to support one of their products," the authors write.

Take Notice of Who's Behind the Messages You Hear

In short, without transparency laws, there's no way to monitor scientific misbehavior, and as noted by Thacker and Seife, scientists should expect to be subjected to a high level of outside scrutiny. When scientists are working on issues that affect public health, watchdog groups and journalists would be remiss were they not to look for potential misconduct that might put the public's health in jeopardy.

And as universities become increasingly enmeshed with corporations funding their research, and corporations keep building networks of front groups, the need for transparency and laws that provide access to "behind-the-scenes" information will only increase as time goes on. As Thacker and Seife states:

"In short, those working to improve public welfare should oppose attempts to embolden government entities to withhold public information, thus threatening public health and the public trust in science."

It's high time to pull back the curtain and see who's really pulling the strings and levers. In the case of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), that entity is Coca-Cola, and whenever you hear the talking points from GEBN, you know exactly who is talking, and why. To stop you from ditching soda from your diet, they simply redirect the blame for your weight and health problems to a lack of exercise. Coca-Cola doesn't necessarily want you to die; they just don't want you to stop drinking their beverages because then they'll go out of business. It's that simple. So believe what they tell you at your own risk...

Tell Coke They're a Joke!

Obesity is a serious public health problem in the United States, and you are being sorely misled by companies pretending to have a solution that, in reality, only worsen the problem. I strongly urge you to let the Coca-Cola Company know how you feel by telling them to stop their deceptive marketing of soda products.

Join me in taking a stand against false advertising and let your voice be heard. If you’re on Twitter, send a tweet to #CokeCEO to let the Coca-Cola Company know you disapprove of their deceptive advertising. If you’re on Facebook, please share your thoughts with them on their Facebook Page. You can also e-mail Coca-Cola Company to let them know how you feel about their strategy for fighting obesity — which does not include giving up soda and other sugary beverages.

Already, in response to growing criticism, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent has issued a public apology,18 acknowledging that the company’s approach was “poorly planned.”  But Coca-Cola’s campaign was hardly the result of poor planning! It was about disseminating poor science and perpetuating misleading information in order to deceive you about the influence of soda on your weight — a Big JOKE!

Coca-Cola also says “the way we have engaged the public health and scientific communities… is not working.” But this is not about engaging public health and scientific communities. It’s about trying to defend the indefensible using plain old bad/misleading information — a Big JOKE!

Coke even has a “work it out calculator”19 that supposedly tells you how much you have to exercise to burn off your favorite beverage, but look at the numbers for Diet Coke... According to them, you don’t have to spend a single minute exercising if you drink Diet soda, yet overwhelming amounts of research shows artificially sweetened beverages promote weight gain to the same degree or more as regularly sweetened beverages — a Big JOKE!

You Are What Your Microbes Eat

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

While it’s long been said that “you are what you eat,” a more accurate description might be “you are what your microbes eat.” There are more bacteria and other microorganisms in your body than there are human cells, and your unique microbial community is constantly changing in response to your environment.

In fact, a new diet can rapidly reshape the microbes in your gut, which has implications not only for your digestive health but far beyond this to your weight, risk of chronic diseases, and more. According to research published in the journal Nature, such changes may occur in as little as one day:1

“… [S]hort-term consumption of diets composed entirely of animal or plant products alters microbial community structure and overwhelms inter-individual differences in microbial gene expression.

The animal-based diet increased the abundance of bile-tolerant microorganisms (Alistipes, Bilophila, and Bacteroides) and decreased the levels of Firmicutes that metabolize dietary plant polysaccharides.”

Gut microbes known as Firmicutes have been detected in higher numbers in obese individuals, who also may have 90 percent less of a bacteria called bacteroidetes than lean people.2

It’s been suggested that altering gut bacteria could therefore play a role in obesity, although a computer analysis led by Katherine Pollard, a biostatistics professor at the University of California, San Francisco suggests it’s much more complex than that.

What Your Microbes Produce Matters…

While it’s becoming increasingly clear that microbes play an integral role in your health, it’s not only the phylum or species of bacteria that matter.

Research by Pollard and colleagues suggests the same species of bacteria may act differently in different people, but most studies don’t get into that fine level of detail.

Pollard’s research suggests it’s not only the species of bacteria that is important but also what each microbe produces that matters.

For instance, some microbes produce anti-inflammatory molecules or vitamins while others speed the conversion of calories you eat into body fat.3 Further, the same species of bacteria may have vast genetic differences. NPRreported:4

“‘Individual microbial species can have widely variable genomes,’ says William Anton Walters, a researcher in molecular biology and genetics at Cornell University. Any given bacterium may share less than half of its genes with another member of the same species.

These genetic differences, rather than phylum or even species designations, Walters says, ‘could explain the differences between the obese and lean gut microbiota.’”

So while there’s clearly a connection between gut bacteria and obesity, researchers are still trying to pin down exactly what that connection is. In the meantime, intriguing studies continue to be published.

Preliminary research from the Netherlands, for instance, has even revealed that transplanting fecal matter from healthy thin people into obese people with metabolic syndrome led to an improvement in insulin sensitivity.5

What is known is that obesity rates have been increasing steadily over the last several decades, and it appears to be a much more complex issue than the simple “calories in, calories out” explanation promoted by the USDA.

Metrocosm’s Max Galka put together a clear example of how obesity rates in the US keep rising, and its pervasiveness suggests a variety of factors, from gut bacteria to environmental chemicals, are likely to blame. Check out the revealing graphic below.6

Liver Disease Linked to Gut Bacteria

While the role of your gut bacteria on your weight continues to be explored, so, too, does its role in other chronic diseases, including liver disease – specifically non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Differences in gut microbiota between people with NAFLD and lean individuals have been detected. Those with NAFLD are also more likely to have bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine along with increased intestinal permeability.

In one study by researchers from the National University of Ireland, NAFLD patients were found to have over double the frequency of small intestine bacterial overgrowth compared to the healthy patients.7

Bacterial overgrowth refers to the growth of an excessive amount of pathogenic microbes, which release waste products known as endotoxins (which travel through your intestinal walls and eventually must be filtered by your liver). This becomes an even greater issue if you have increased intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, as it allows more of the waste products to enter your bloodstream.

It makes sense, then, that restoring the health of your gut with probiotics to balance out the bacterial overgrowth would be beneficial to NAFLD patients, and this is what the research suggests. According to the World Journal of Hepatology:8

“… [S]ome data indicate that the immunoregulatory effects of probiotics may be beneficial in NAFLD treatment as they modulate the intestinal microbiota; improve epithelial barrier function and strengthen the intestinal wall decreasing its permeability; reduce bacterial translocation and endotoxemia; improve intestinal inflammation; and reduce oxidative and inflammatory liver damage.”

Further, one of the most severe effects of eating too much sugar is its potential to wreak havoc on your liver, including causing NAFLD. Excess sugar will also upset the balance of bacteria in your gut, making it easier for pathogenic strains to flourish…

Scientists Are Increasingly Studying Microbes to Understand Human Health and Disease

Researchers from MIT are undertaking the so-called “Underworlds” project beginning this year. They intend to test Boston-area sewage for the presence of viruses, bacterial pathogens, and pharmaceutical and illegal drugs. As the Boston Globe reported:9

Data on such substances could predict epidemics or tell when they’re waning. They could also demonstrate the impact of shifts in regulations, such as bans on using trans fat in restaurants.”

The US National Institute of Health’s Human Microbiome Project (HMP) is also underway to “characterize microbial communities found at multiple human body sites and to look for correlations between changes in the microbiome and human health.”

So far, this data gathering has resulted in nearly 200 scientific papers, along with a repository of resources that scientists can access to explore the relationships between human gut bacteria and disease.

The American Gut Project decided to take it a step further by allowing the American public to participate. (I published an invitation to join the project in 2012. Hopefully, some of you decided to join, as I did. If you didn’t, you can still sign up to participate on the Human Food Project’s website.10)

All the gathered information from this project will be made public. It’s an extremely ambitious project seeking to identify the parameters for the ideal gut flora and how diet affects it. According to the American Gut Project:11

“One of the big questions the American Gut scientists hope to figure out is what characterizes healthy and sick guts (or even just healthier and sicker guts) and how one might move from the latter to the former…

Even just beginning to know how many and which species live in our guts will be exciting, particularly since most of these species have never been studied, which is to say there are almost certainly new species inside you, though until you sample yourself… we won't know which ones.”

Optimizing Your Gut Flora for Optimal Health

All of this information should really drive home the point that optimizing your gut flora – living in harmony with your microbiome instead of assaulting it – is of critical importance for disease prevention and optimal health. Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria is essential for maintaining proper balance here. In light of this, here are my recommendations for optimizing your gut bacteria.

  • Fermented foods are the best route to optimal digestive health, as long as you eat the traditionally made, unpasteurized versions. Healthy choices include lassi (an Indian yoghurt drink, traditionally enjoyed before dinner), fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash, and carrots, and natto (fermented soy). 
  • Fermented vegetables are an excellent way to supply beneficial bacteria back into our gut. As an added bonus, they can also a great source of vitamin K2 if you ferment your own using the proper starter culture.

    We had samples of high-quality, fermented organic vegetables made with our specific starter culture tested, and a typical serving (about two to three ounces) contained not only 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, but it also had 500 mcg of vitamin K2, which we now know is a vital co-nutrient to both vitamin D and calcium.

    Most high-quality probiotic supplements will only supply you with a fraction of the beneficial bacteria found in such homemade fermented veggies, so it's your most economical route to optimal gut health as well.

  • Probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis.

In addition to knowing what to add to your diet and lifestyle, it's equally important to know what to avoid and these include:

Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement) Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains, which have also been implicated in the destruction of gut flora Processed foods (as the excessive sugars, along with otherwise "dead" nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria) Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water Antibacterial soap Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular

Drugged Diets and Pig Pollution

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In the US, federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in raising pigs for pork.1 In fact, if a hog farmer wants to claim "no hormones added" on its pork labels, it must be followed by the statement that the use of hormones is prohibited by federal regulations.

The drug ractopamine, a beta-agonist growth promotant, is allowed, however, and that's essentially the same thing. Ractopamine is similar to adrenaline in that it causes pigs to gain more muscle (and less fat) and put on weight rapidly.

The drug, which was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in pigs in 1999, may add $2 to $3 in extra income per pig due to its ability to make pigs heavier, faster.2

As such, it's widely used by conventional (concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO) pig farmers. By some estimates, this controversial drug is used in as many as 80 percent of all US pig operations.3 It's also used in cattle and turkey farming.

But don't let the pervasiveness of its use give you a false sense of safety. While many Americans are unaware that the drug is even used (it doesn't have to be labeled, so how would they?).

Ractopamine is banned from food production in at least 160 other countries, including countries across Europe, Russia, mainland China, and Republic of China (Taiwan), due to its suspected health effects.

Ractopamine Linked to Birth Defects, Reproductive Problems, and Cardiovascular Effects

There's good reason to be wary about eating meat that contains ractopamine. The UN food standards body, Codex, reportedly based their assessment of ractopamine "safety" on one human study that included six people – one of whom dropped out due to adverse effects.4

In humans, beta-agonist drugs are used to treat asthma and heart failure. They work by mimicking stress hormones in your body, causing your heart rate to increase and your blood vessels to relax.

The drugs clenbuterol and zilpaterol, which are similar in action to ractopamine, are banned for use by Olympic athletes, while a study on monkeys showed those given ractopamine daily developed rapid heart beat and birth defects, including short limbs, missing digits, open eyelids, and enlarged heart.5

And according to the Center for Food Safety (CFS):6

"Data from the European Food Safety Authority indicates that ractopamine causes elevated heart rates and heart-pounding sensations in humans."

There is even a warning on the drug's label that people with heart disease should take extra precautions to avoid exposure, and anyone using it must use protective clothing and eye gear:7

"WARNING: The active ingredient in Topmax, ractopamine hydrochloride, is a beta-adrenergic agonist. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure… Not for use in humans. Keep out of the reach of children.

The Topmax 9 formulation (Type A Medicated Article) poses a low dust potential under usual conditions of handling and mixing. When mixing and handling Topmax, use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask."

Ractopamine is also known to affect the human cardiovascular system and is thought to be responsible for hyperactivity. It may also cause chromosomal abnormalities and behavioral changes. And as written in the journal Talanta:8

"The use of highly active beta-agonists as growth promoters is not appropriate because of the potential hazard for human and animal health."

Ractopamine May Lead to More Animal Suffering

An FDA investigation found ractopamine resulted in more reports of sickened or dead pigs than any other livestock drug on the market.9 From 1999 to 2011, the FDA found more than 160,000 pigs taking the drug suffered from adverse effects, including hyperactivity, trembling, broken limbs, inability to walk, and death.

Temple Grandin, a professor at Colorado State University and animal welfare expert, told The Fern:10

"I've personally seen people overuse the drug in hogs and cattle… I was in a plant once where they used too much ractopamine and the pigs were so weak they couldn't walk. They had five or six people just dedicated to handling the lame pigs."

Worse still, ractopamine is administered in the days leading up to slaughter, and as much as 20 percent of it can remain in the meat you buy.

While other drugs require a clearance period of around two weeks to help ensure the compounds are flushed from the meat prior to slaughter (and therefore reduce residues leftover for human consumption), there is no clearance period for ractopamine. Testing for residues is also limited. In 2010, for instance, no federal testing was done to detect ractopamine residues in 22 billion pounds of pork.

USDA Grants 'No Ractopamine' Label to Pasture-Raised Pork Farmer

David Maren, founder of Tendergrass Farms, raises pigs all naturally, on pasture, without ractopamine. In 2014, he drafted a label to let consumers known that his pigs are not fed ractopamine, but the USDA originally refused to approve it. As noted by NPR:11

"[Maren] drew up a new label containing these words: 'Our pigs are never fed beta-agonists (like Ractopamine) — drugs widely used as artificial growth promotants in the pork industry today.' Meat labels have to get approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, though, which is supposed to make sure that labels are not false or misleading. 

The USDA refused to approve Maren's proposed label. Officials at the USDA advised Maren to modify the label to say instead that 'our animals are never fed growth promotants,' and to include an additional statement that 'federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork.'"

This, however, is misleading, since it sounds as though Maren's pork is the same as all the rest, when it actually carries a definite distinction in being ractopamine-free. He persisted and submitted a new proposal that reads the pork is made with "no ractopamine – a beta-agonist growth promotant," and this time the USDA approved it.

This label, thought to be the first of its kind in the US, may start putting pressure on conventional pig farmers to abandon the drug. Already, countries such as China and Russia are demanding that any US meat imports be ractopamine-free. Chipotle restaurants, meat producer Niman Ranch, and Whole Foods Markets also avoid pork products that have been fed ractopamine.12

North Carolina Environmental Groups Issue Legal Complaint to EPA Over Pig Pollution

In September 2014, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and other groups filed a complaint with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They alleged that hog farms are polluting the air and water, and putting the health of nearby minorities at risk.

The EPA was supposed to respond to the complaint by mid-August, but it appears the deadline has been missed. At issue are some of the state's hog farms, which treat animal feces in open-air lagoons and dispose of the waste by spraying it onto nearby fields. The creation of new lagoons and the spray systems, were banned in 2007, but older farms were allowed to continue their use.

Further, the complaint alleges that the CAFOs disproportionately affect racial minorities, many of whom live in the eastern part of the state where the pig farms are concentrated. North Carolina Health News reported:13

"In their complaint to the EPA, the groups say that DENR [North Carolina Department of Natural Resources] has effectively ignored residents' complaints for years by continuing to permit farms that use lagoon and spray systems. That's why the environmentalists turned to the EPA. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, state agencies that receive federal funds, such as DENR, cannot act in a racially discriminatory way.

It's possible the EPA may not find that DENR intentionally discriminated against minorities. But it may not matter, because if the EPA finds that DENR's actions had the effect of discrimination, the EPA could rule that DENR is in violation of federal law, according to a guide from the Department of Justice.

… For DENR, a loss of funding could be significant. In its 2013-14 budget, DENR received $111.2 million from the EPA, roughly 16 percent of its full $701.2 million budget. Of course, such an action will require that the EPA finish its investigation."

Wisconsin Residents Fight Back Against Newly Proposed Pig Farm

Iowa-based Reicks View Farms has submitted a proposal to build a pig CAFO in Bayfield, Wisconsin, in the Lake Superior watershed region. The large-scale facility would hold 26,000 pigs and produce up to 10 million gallons of pig manure a year, which is to be spread on nearby agricultural land.

Although Wisconsin is already home to 272 CAFOs, the newly proposed pig farm has been met with fierce backlash from residents, who fear the CAFO will ruin the environment and pose a threat to the Lake Superior watershed. According to the Star Tribune:14

"… [T]he number of big feedlots in Wisconsin has been growing steadily since 2000, and they are increasingly controversial — especially near Green Bay. There, runoff from manure and other fertilizers has contributed to a major dead zone in the bay and contaminated some local wells.

An administrative law judge said last year that a 'massive regulatory failure' had led to groundwater contamination in the area and ordered the Wisconsin DNR to act, a case that has convinced many communities around Lake Superior that the state is not going to protect their bay…

Local residents also fear their countryside is not suitable for intensive farming. 'I can't imagine a more inappropriate place' for a large livestock operation, said Gordon Stevenson, who ran the Wisconsin DNR's agricultural runoff program before his retirement. He is now an outspoken critic of his former employer and the state's environmental policies."

Why Most People Don't Want to Live Anywhere Near a Pig CAFO…

Living in the nearby vicinity to one is akin to living next to a landfill or a chemical factory, maybe even worse. It's not unusual for people to report the fumes coming from the CAFOs are so bad they can't make it from their house to their car without stopping to retch. This isn't only a matter of bad odor, though; it's a serious health threat. As reported in a literature review from the National Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production:15

"Ammonia emissions from hog farms react with other gases in the air to form fine particle pollution, a public health threat linked to decreased lung function, cardiovascular ailments, and most seriously, premature death… Air emissions from lagoons, sprayfields, and hog houses have been linked to neurological and respiratory problemsSubjects in a controlled exposure chamber who were exposed to air from hog operations for one hour reported headaches, eye irritation, and nausea…

Unpleasant odors have been found to be a nuisance and emotional stressor on neighbors and are known to contain irritants that can cause damage to mucosal linings in the nose, throat and respiratory tract… Researchers from the UNC School of Public Health and Duke University found that neighbors exposed to odors from hog operations showed evidence of reduced immune system function… Evidence is also emerging that indicates that the health of citizens living near hog operations is negatively affected.

Research in Iowa and North Carolina showed that neighbors living within three miles of hog operations experience elevated levels of respiratory complaints relative to those living near other animal production operations or crop production… Abhorrent odors can be exacerbated by the smell and sight of rotting flesh from hog carcasses that are often stored in 'dead boxes' close to neighbors' property lines. 'Dead trucks' that transport hog carcasses to rendering facilities also emit odor.

… There are also concerns about the exposure of workers or neighbors to antibiotics in the dust generated in the hog confinement facilities, which are vented to the outdoors. … A North Carolina study of 58,169 children found a 23 percent higher prevalence of asthma symptoms among students attending schools where staff noticed livestock odors indoors twice a month or more."

CAFO Pork May Be a Source of Drug-Resistant Bacteria

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is in fact linked to food,16 but a more accurate statement might be linked to food from CAFOs. Take Klebsiella pneumonia, a bacteria that can lead to pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound and surgical site infections, and meningitis.

Klebsiella
are often found in the human intestinal tract, where they are normally harmless. But if your immune system is compromised and you get exposed to an especially virulent drug-resistant form of Klebsiella, the consequences to you can be deadly.

It wasn't thought to be transmitted via food… until now. New research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases showed that turkey, chicken, and pork sold in US grocery stores may contain Klebsiella pneumonia.17 In fact, 47 percent of samples tested contained the bacteria, which was, in some cases, nearly identical to strains found in people with Klebsiella pneumonia infections during the same time period.

Victory: Judge Rules Idaho 'Ag-Gag' Law Unconstitutional

One of the reasons so few Americans are aware of these issues is because of "ag-gag" laws, which legally prevents people from filming or photographing conditions on factory farms. Ag-gag laws are being heavily promoted by lobbyists for the meat, egg, and dairy industries to essentially prevent anyone from exposing animal cruelty and food-safety issues at CAFOs. Montano, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa already have such laws in place preventing people from taking photos or videos of CAFOs.

Fortunately, in Idaho a judge recently struck down the state's ag-gag law, declaring it unconstitutional and citing First Amendment protections for free speech. The decision could change the fate of existing laws, whose days may now be numbered. NPR reported:18

"'This is a total victory on our two central constitutional claims,' says University of Denver law professor Justin Marceau, who represented the plaintiff, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, in the case. 'Ag-gag laws violate the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. This means that these laws all over the country are in real danger.'"

And, as Jill Richardson, a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board, told Truthout:19

"While most mature US cattle may lack the liberty they once had to graze on grass, the freedom of speech is still guaranteed for human beings, at least in Idaho… If Big Ag wants activists to stop documenting animal cruelty, then factory farm owners should stop practicing it."

How to Find Drug-Free, Humanely Raised Meat…

Naturally raised, pastured meat, and preferably organic, is virtually the only type of meat that is healthy to eat, in my view. Fortunately, many grocery chains are now responding to customer demand, and will provide at least a small assortment of grass-fed meats. The least expensive way to obtain grass-fed beef and other locally produced organic foods, however, is from your local farmer. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:

  • Local Harvest – This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  • Eat Wild– With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eat Wild's Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada.
  • Farmers' Markets – A national listing of farmers' markets.
  • Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals – The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  • FoodRoutes – The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

The Public Health Ramifications of GMOs and Herbicides

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

On August 20, 2015, Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. published a paper1,2 in the one of the most prestigious medical journals, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on the topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), herbicides, and public health, noting that:

“... [T]he application of biotechnology to agriculture has been rapid and aggressive. The vast majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are now genetically engineered.

Foods produced from GM crops have become ubiquitous...Two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape.

First, there have been sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops, and still further increases — the largest in a generation — are scheduled to occur in the next few years.

Second, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate, the herbicide most widely used on GM crops, as a ‘probable human carcinogen’ and classified a second herbicide, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as a ‘possible human carcinogen.’”

The ‘Answer’ to Herbicide Resistance Is Bound to Make Food Increasingly Toxic

The authors recount how genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant crops have led to a dramatic increase in herbicide application due to mounting resistance among weeds.

They then go on to argue that the science and risk assessment of the next-generation of GE crops — touted as the “answer” to growing resistance — is seriously flawed.

These next-gen crops are designed to be resistant to combinations of herbicides. Enlist Duo, which was recently green lighted, is resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D; the latter of which was a major ingredient in Agent Orange, used with devastating effect during the Vietnam War.

As a result of this approval, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expects use of 2,4-D to increase anywhere from three to seven times in coming years.

Benbrook and Landrigan note that the science supporting Enlist Duo consists solely of unpublished toxicology studies done by the herbicide manufacturer in the 1980s and ‘90s.

These studies predate more recent scientific discoveries of how chemicals create adverse health effects even at very low doses, including endocrine and epigenetic effects.

They also criticize the risk assessment of Enlist Duo, saying it “gave little consideration to potential health effects in infants and children, thus contravening federal pesticide law.”

The risk assessment also did not adequately account for ecological impact on pollinators, including the monarch butterfly, which is being decimated by massive glyphosate applications on vast fields of GE crops.

Last but not least, the assessment only considered glyphosate in isolation, despite studies showing that glyphosate in combination with surfactants and other chemicals tend to synergistically increase their toxic potential.

Evidence Against Glyphosate Keeps Mounting

Research3 published in 2007 found that aerial spraying of glyphosate in combination with a surfactant solution resulted in DNA damage in those exposed.  

Another study4 published this year found that glyphosate in combination with aluminum synergistically induced pineal gland pathology, which in turn was linked to gut dysbiosis and neurological disease.

The study abstract offers a condensed layman’s summary of the many mechanisms of harm and their synergistic effects, which can be difficult to understand without some explanation:

“Many neurological diseases, including autism, depression, dementia, anxiety disorder, and Parkinson’s disease, are associated with abnormal sleep patterns, which are directly linked to pineal gland dysfunction.

The pineal gland is highly susceptible to environmental toxicants. Two pervasive substances in modern industrialized nations are aluminum and glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup ®. In this paper, we show how these two toxicants work synergistically to induce neurological damage.

Glyphosate disrupts gut bacteria, leading to an overgrowth of Clostridium difficile. Its toxic product, p-cresol, is linked to autism in both human and mouse models. p-Cresol enhances uptake of aluminum via transferrin.

Anemia, a result of both aluminum disruption of heme and impaired heme synthesis by glyphosate, leads to hypoxia, which induces increased pineal gland transferrin synthesis.

Premature birth is associated with hypoxic stress and with substantial increased risk to the subsequent development of autism, linking hypoxia to autism.

Glyphosate chelates aluminum, allowing ingested aluminum to bypass the gut barrier. This leads to anemia-induced hypoxia, promoting neurotoxicity and damaging the pineal gland.

Both glyphosate and aluminum disrupt cytochrome P450 enzymes, which are involved in melatonin metabolism. Furthermore, melatonin is derived from tryptophan, whose synthesis in plants and microbes is blocked by glyphosate.

We also demonstrate a plausible role for vitamin D3 dysbiosis in impaired gut function and impaired serotonin synthesis. This paper proposes that impaired sulfate supply to the brain mediates the damage induced by the synergistic action of aluminum and glyphosate on the pineal gland and related midbrain nuclei.”

A Bonanza of Research Material for the Studious

For a more thorough review of the published studies5 questioning the safety of glyphosate in terms of its effects on human and animal health, please see this compilation by Dr. Alex Vasquez. It contains 220 pages’ worth of research — more than enough to satisfy most critical thinkers.

Another illuminating and heavily referenced 80-page report6 you can read through at your leisure is “Banishing Glyphosate,” authored by Drs. Eva Sirinathsinghji and Mae-Wan Ho, with cooperation from six other researchers, including Dr. Don Huber and Dr. Nancy Swanson.

Dr. Huber has also written a 42-page report7 titled “Ag Chemicals and Crop Nutrient Interactions.” In it he explains how extensive use of glyphosate and the adoption of glyphosate-tolerant GE crops have resulted in essential micro- and macronutrient deficiencies in plants, and the increased need for micronutrient remediation in the soil.

A study8 published earlier this year shows that glyphosate-based herbicides adversely affect the activity and reproduction of earthworms, which are important players in healthy soils. Herbicide application also increased nitrate concentrations in the soil by 1,592 percent, and phosphate concentrations by 127 percent, thereby adding to the risk of nutrient leaching into and polluting nearby water sources and groundwater aquifers. Research9 from 2003 also found that growing Bt corn had an adverse effect on the microbial activity in the soil by significantly increasing the saturated to unsaturated lipid ratios in the soil.

It’s Time to Take a Precautionary Approach to Biotechnology

Landrigan and Benbrook offer two recommendations in their paper. First, they suggest the EPA delay permission to use Enlist Duo, as this decision was not only based on outdated never-published research and an incomplete risk assessment, these studies also predate the IARC’s reclassifications of both glyphosate and 2,4-D as probable and possible carcinogens respectively. Secondly, they urge revisiting “the United States' reluctance to label GM foods,” noting that labeling is essential for:

  • Tracking emergence of novel food allergies
  • Assessing effects of herbicides applied to GE crops
  • Respecting the wishes of consumers who want to know how their food was produced

Considering the fact that a) glyphosate has been shown to accumulate in GE crops,10 b) chronically ill people have been found to have significantly higher levels of glyphosate in their urine than healthy populations,11 and c) the US government does not test food for glyphosate, labeling GE foods is also one of the only ways to alert consumers of the potential presence of elevated levels of toxic herbicides in their food. Besides increased glyphosate accumulation, GE crops have also been shown to have a less healthy nutritional profile compared to non-GE varieties.12

In conclusion, Landrigan and Benbrook write:

“... GM foods and the herbicides applied to them may pose hazards to human health that were not examined in previous assessments. We believe that the time has therefore come to thoroughly reconsider all aspects of the safety of plant biotechnology...

[T]he argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated with herbicides and that two of these herbicides may pose risks of cancer. We hope, in light of this new information, that the FDA will reconsider labeling of GM foods and couple it with adequately funded, long-term postmarketing surveillance.”

Industry Blowback Was Swift, and Expected...

Dr. Benbrook is well-known for his critical stance against GMOs, so it came as no surprise that his name on this article led to instantaneous blowback from the industry. The paper was barely out of embargo before Science 2.0 published a made-to-order character assassination piece13 penned by Hank Campbell, saying:

Dr. Chuck Benbrook is an adjunct at Washington State University but he calls himself a research professor. Why so many organic food proponents believe a guy about something as complex as genetic modification when he can't even get his own title correct is a mystery we can't solve today but his credibility sure won't be bolstered up by an op-ed he just published in the New England Journal of Medicine.”

Hank Campbell is the founder of Science 2.0, and the newly elected president of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), the stated purpose of which is to “provide an evidence-based counterpoint to the wave of anti-science claims.” ACSH has been paid through one of Monsanto’s PR groups to engage in the battle to save GMOs, and that undoubtedly includes attacking anyone raising questions about GMOs or promoting caution — and labeling.

I predict Campbell’s vitriolic attack was just the first salvo in what may turn into a more coordinated effort to get Benbrook and Landrigan’s article retracted and removed from the New England Journal of Medicine. The same strategy they used to discredit Dr. Seralini’s GMO rat study. Jon Entine and the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) are also funded by Monsanto PR firms, and they recently started the Genetic Expert News Service14 to moderate the conversation on GMOs.

All of these scientific looking sites link back to each other’s articles and engage in coordinated sharing through skeptic networks, weaving one big dirty web of misdirection and obfuscation. For example, Campbell criticizes Benbrook’s article as being short on scientific evidence. Meanwhile, his own article offers no scientific support to rebut any of Landrigan and Benbrook’s claims. It reads more like a blog note of a sullen teenager than a professional tasked with upholding scientific integrity.

Food Industry Is Spending Tens of Millions Lobbying for Less Transparency

A question worth asking is why is the food industry pouring tens of millions of dollars into lobbying against transparency? Could it be because they have something to hide? According to Civil Eats,15 food and beverage companies have spent $51.6 million on a series of efforts to defeat GMO labeling laws alone, including lobbing for HR 1599, which would bar states from implementing their own GMO labeling laws.

An analysis16 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows nearly a quarter of these funds came from Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Land O’Lakes, and PepsiCo. But we’re not only faced with Rep. Mike Pompeo’s bill HR 1599, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” more commonly referred to as the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" or DARK Act, which was recently passed by the US House of Representatives. Other bills seek to:

  • Remove country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for beef, chicken, and pork (HR 239317). Supporters of this bill have spent $54.2 million on lobbying efforts.
  • Eliminate the need for permits to discharge pesticides into rivers, lakes, streams, and other bodies of water regulated under the Clean Water Act (S150018). As noted by Civil Eats: “Because the bill was just introduced in June, a good accounting of lobbying on its behalf is not yet available... But when virtually the same bill was introduced in 2013... agribusinesses and agricultural organizations and trade associations...  spent more than $11 million lobbying for the bill during 2013 and 2014.”
  • Coincidentally (or not), a recent study by the US Geological Survey found neonicotinoid insecticides in over half of all streams sampled in both urban and agricultural areas in 24 states and Puerto Rico.19,20

    Neonicotinoids are used primarily on corn and soybeans, both as aerial spray and as prophylactic seed treatment. So now, as widespread pollution of waterways with these agricultural toxins is becoming more apparent, related industries are pouring millions into laws that will make it easier for them to hide all this damage rather than rally around sustainable, non-toxic, and regenerative solutions.

International trade agreements also threaten to restrict transparency about food — how it’s produced, and where it comes from. In addition to hampering GMO labeling efforts in the US, provisions in both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would also effectively force participating nations to eliminate country of origin from their food labels or run the risk of being sued for harming trade.

Glyphosate Promotes Human and Animal Disease

In a recently published study21 titled “The High Cost of Pesticides: Human and Animal Diseases,” Judy Hoy, an expert on Montana wildlife, along with Dr. Nancy Swanson and Dr. Stephanie Seneff poured through data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) database, looking for correspondences between animal and human disease, and correlations with pesticide usage.

Several of the plotted charts show animal and human diseases rising in step with glyphosate usage on corn and soy crops.

This includes conditions such as failure to thrive, congenital heart defects, enlarged right ventricle, liver cancer, and in newborns: lung problems, metabolic disorders, and genitourinary disorders. Overwhelmingly, the evidence points to the fact that our food supply is rapidly deteriorating in quality. Excessive pesticide and herbicide use is also decimating soil- and water quality.

The writing is on the wall, and the situation is grim indeed — and made even grimmer by the fact that the food and chemical technology industries are fighting tooth and nail to hide what’s happening, and worse, prevent even the most astute people from making informed choices. But that doesn’t mean we acquiesce to the seemingly inevitable and simply “roll over and die.” No! Now is not the time become paralyzed in the face of immense obstacles. Now is the time to stand up and fight for what you believe is right; fight for the world you want for your children.

New Scientific Analysis Confirms Saturated Fats Have No Link to Heart Disease

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In February the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) submitted its 2015 Scientific Report1,2,3 to the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS).

This report serves as the foundation for the development of US dietary guidelines.

In a surprise twist, the DGAC not only suggested eliminating warnings about dietary cholesterol, it also reversed nearly four decades of nutrition policy by concluding that dietary fats have no impact on cardiovascular disease risk.

Unfortunately, the DGAC didn’t set the record straight with regards to saturated fats, as it makes no firm distinction between healthy saturated fats and decidedly unhealthy trans fats.

For decades, healthy fat and cholesterol have been wrongfully blamed for causing heart disease, but over 70 published studies overwhelmingly dispute this.4

Trans Fat, Not Saturated Fat, Raises Your Heart Disease Risk

Now we can add yet another large study to this ever-growing list. The meta-analysis5,6,7,8 published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found no association between high levels of saturated fat in the diet and heart disease.

Nor could they find an association between saturated fat consumption and other life-threatening diseases like stroke or type 2 diabetes.

However, the study DID find a disease link to trans fat consumption. As reported by Newsweek:9

“[C]onsumption of trans unsaturated fats found in everyday supermarket goods such as margarine, processed cakes, and microwave popcorn can increase the risk of death from coronary heart disease (CHD) by 28 percent.”

Trans fats also increased all-cause mortality by 34 percent. This is important because many “experts” frequently confuse trans fat with saturated fat intake.

Moreover, a pooled analysis of 11 studies10,11 showed that replacing saturated fat (found in foods like meat, egg yolks, dairy products, salmon, nuts, avocados, coconut oil, and olive oil) with monounsaturated fat (vegetable cooking oils12), or carbohydrates (sugars and grains) raised the risk of non-fatal heart attacks.

This prompted the authors to comment that dietary guidelines for saturated fats and trans fats “must carefully consider the effect of replacement nutrients.” This too is in line with previous findings.

What Happens When You Replace Saturated Fat with Carbs?

In a 2014 editorial13 published in the Open Heart journal, research scientist and doctor of Pharmacy James J. DiNicolantonio reviewed the cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates.

The health consequences are significant, including the following:

Shift to overall atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL, increased triglycerides, and increased ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio) Increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, and death from heart disease and increased overall mortality (all causes)Increased thrombogenic markers Increased oxidized LDLIncreased inflammationReduced HDL Impaired glucose tolerance, higher body fat, weight gain, obesity, and diabetesIncreased small, high-density LDL particlesIncreased risk for cancer The Hazards of Replacing Partially Hydrogenated Oils with Vegetable Oils

The issue of what to replace trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils) with is equally important. Ideally, you’ll want to replace them with healthy saturated fats — NOT vegetable oils.

This is discussed in Nina Teicholz’ book, The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, and in the interview I did with her last year. Nina is an investigative journalist, and she was actually one of the reporters who broke the story on the dangers of trans fats, a little over 10 years ago.

Now she’s warning us that the vegetable oils many restaurants and food manufacturers are trading the trans fats in for may actually be more harmful than the trans fats! The reason for this is because when heated, they create highly toxic oxidation products, including aldehydes, which are extremely inflammatory.

So what’s the ideal fat to cook with?

Tallow and lard are two great options. Tallow is a hard fat that comes from cows. Lard is a hard fat that comes from pigs. They're both animal fats, and used to be the main fats used in cooking.

One of their benefits is that, since they're saturated fats, they do not oxidize when heated. And saturated fats do not have double bonds that can react with oxygen; therefore they cannot form dangerous aldehydes or other toxic oxidation products. Coconut oil is another healthy option, as it too resists oxidation when heated.

Food Industry Petitions FDA to Make Allowances for Trans Fats in Packaged Foods

The evidence showing trans fats are a major health hazard has prompted the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to remove partially hydrogenated oils — the primary source of trans fats — from the list of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) ingredients.

The initial proposal was issued in 2013, and on June 16, 2015, the decision was finalized.14 Food manufacturers have until 2018 to get partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) out of their products.

Despite the evidence of harm, and less than a week after the BMJ study’s publication, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) petitioned the FDA to permit “small amounts” of trans fats in certain packaged foods.15 Proposed allowance for trans fats in the GMA’s petition include adding PHOs during processing, as an:

Anti-caking agent, free flow agent, and lubricant Emulsifier Solvent for fat-soluble ingredientsTextural agent to improve textural characteristics of the food Dough strengthenerMoisture retainer StabilizerThickener Surface-finishing agentHeating medium, such as frying oil

In its petition, the GMA argues that “low-level uses of PHOs are as safe as the naturally occurring trans fat present in the normal diet.” Incidentally, this is NOT what the BMJ study16 found. In it, they found no observed link between naturally occurring trans fats in foods like meat and dairy and heart disease.17 That link was only found for artificially created trans fats.

According to the authors, this discrepancy “might reflect a true difference between sources or might be a function of consumption levels...” noting that the average consumption of industrially produced trans fats was about 250 percent greater than that of naturally-derived ruminated trans fats. The assertion that low levels of trans fats is safe also flies in the face of a previous determination by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which as far back as 2002 noted there is "no safe level of trans fatty acids and people should eat as little of them as possible."

Heart Healthy Benefits of Nuts and Olive Oil

In related news, both nuts and olive oil — which are sources of healthy fats — have been shown to promote heart health. As noted by Dr. Michael Greger, MD,18 a number of studies in which subjects added nuts to their diet (without replacing specific foods, which might skew results one way or another), found that nuts significantly improved arterial health. Moreover, while some studies show mixed results in terms of the level of benefit, there’s no evidence that nuts might actually worsen health (provided you’re not allergic).

According to Dr. Greger:

“Eating at least one serving of walnuts per week may drop our chances of a cardiovascular-related death by 50 percent.19 However, walnut consumption may only drop our cholesterol levels about 5 percent. How could we get a 50 percent drop in cardiac mortality from just a 5 percent drop in cholesterol? Walnuts must have some other heart-protecting benefits besides lowering cholesterol.

The ability of blood vessels to relax and open normally is considered an excellent barometer of underlying vascular health... So what effect do nuts have? A 2011 review20 in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases found five clinical trials analyzing the effect of nut consumption on arterial function, and all three studies on walnuts showed an improvement in endothelial function measured in the arm.”

Other recent research21 again confirms the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil, showing it improves blood sugar and cholesterol after meals to a greater degree than corn oil. As reported by Reuters:22

“Lowering (post-meal) blood glucose and cholesterol may be useful to reduce the negative effects of glucose and cholesterol on the cardiovascular system,’ lead study author Francesco Violi, a researcher at Sapienza University in Rome, said...

On two separate occasions, researchers gave 25 healthy people a typical Mediterranean lunch. For one meal, they added 10 grams (about 2 teaspoons) of extra virgin olive oil, and for the other, they added 10 g of corn oil.

Blood tests done before and two hours after the meals found that blood sugar rose after eating in all the participants, which is normal. But blood sugar rose much less after a meal with olive oil compared to one with corn oil. That’s in line with previous research linking EVOO to elevated levels of insulin, a hormone that helps convert glucose into energy, Violi said.”

Take-Home Message: Unprocessed Saturated Fat Is Good for You

Focusing your diet on REAL FOOD (raw whole, ideally organic, and from pasture raised cows) rather than processed fare is one of the easiest ways to sidestep dietary pitfalls like harmful fats — not to mention other harmful ingredients like refined sugars, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and additives that have never been properly tested for safety. Beyond that, it’s really just a matter of tweaking the ratios of fat, carbs and protein to suit your individual situation.

One key though is to trade refined sugar and processed fructose for healthy fat, as this will help optimize your insulin and leptin levels. We’ve spent decades trading healthy saturated fats for carbs and trans fats, and there can be no doubt that this has had an enormous influence on disease statistics, raising incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s — all the top killers.

Healthy fat is particularly important for optimal brain function and memory. This is true throughout life, but especially during childhood. So, if processed food still make up the bulk of your meals, you’d be wise to reconsider your eating habits. Not only are processed foods the primary culprit in obesity and insulin resistance, processed foods can also affect the IQ of young children. One British study23 revealed that kids who ate a predominantly processed food diet at age three had lower IQ scores at age 8.5. For each measured increase in processed foods, participants had a 1.67-point decrease in IQ.

Another study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics24,25,26 also warns that frequent fast food consumption may stunt your child’s academic performance.  For more detailed dietary guidance, please see my optimal nutrition plan. It’s a step-by-step guide to feeding your family right, and I encourage you to read through it. I’ve also created my own “food pyramid,” based on nutritional science, which you can print out and share.

Flowers Used in Chinese Herbal Medicine

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Herbal therapies are an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). While there are 5,767 substances defined in the Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicinal Substances, a typical practitioner may routinely use between 200 and 600.

Most often, the herbs (a combination of one to 13 different plants) are added to water and boiled. The liquid is then separate from the herbs and drunk as a water decoction.

The herbs may also be consumed in powdered form, spray-dried concentrates, pill form, or even “honey pills,” which are “prepared by combining powdered herbs with concentrated decoctions and honey to produce a small herbal pill.”1

It used to be customary for Chinese families to maintain a collection of herbal formulas used to treat various medical problems, life changes (pregnancy, menopause, and old age), or even use for the different seasons.

Some still do maintain such knowledge and use herbal remedies in their daily lives, while in the modern day you can find a TCM practitioner to help determine which herbs are right for you.

7 Flowers Used in Chinese Herbal Medicine

You’ve probably heard of some of the more common herbs used in TCM, such as panax ginseng, licorice, and rhubarb root. However, there are others as well, including flowers you might not expect. For instance, the Epoch Times compiled the 7 flowers that follow, which have been used as part of Chinese medicine for centuries.2

1. Lonicera Flower (Jin Yin Hua)

Also known as honeysuckle flower, this remedy is often used for colds, flu, and sore throats. It was even used in combination with three other herbs as a treatment for swine flu.

Research has shown the flower, in combination with other herbs used to treat acute bronchitis, “had potent pharmacological action” as well as showed antiviral and antibacterial effects.3 It’s also known for its anti-inflammatory actions.4

2. Viola Flower (Zi Hua Di Ding)

Also known as the purple flower earth herb or the Chinese violet, viola flower has anti-inflammatory and antipyretic (fever-reducing) effects. It is often used for clearing heat, releasing toxins, or dissolving masses, and it is an age-old remedy for snake bites (to help reduce both swelling and toxicity).

Viola is traditionally associated with the heart and the liver5 and is also sometimes used for bacterial infections.

3. Pagoda Flower (Huai Hua)

Also known as Sophorae flower, this remedy is used for bleeding disorders, including in the treatment of hemorrhoids and excessive menstrual bleeding.

4. Chrysanthemum Flower (Ju Hua)

This common herbal medicine is useful for treating dry, irritated eyes, high blood pressure, and headaches. Chrysanthemum flowers are often used in combination with honeysuckle to lower high blood pressure and treat arteriosclerosis.6

It’s also said to affect the liver and lungs, and is commonly consumed in tea form. According to the Jade Institute:7

“The benefits of long-term consumption of Chrysanthemum tea have been recognized throughout the history of Chinese medicine. It is said to prevent aging and to be a favorite of Taoists and poets, though the benefits are achieved only with drinking the tea over a long period of time.

In the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, it says, ‘taken over a long time it facilitates the qi and blood, lightens the body and prevents aging.’”

5. Safflower (Hong Hua)

Also known as Carthamus, this red flower is typically used to treat menstrual disorders, invigorate circulation, and dissolve clots. It’s also useful for treating heart disease, joint pain, and flat warts.

Safflower was among a group of Chinese herbs found to be potentially beneficial for people with elevated blood triglyceride levels, a risk factor for arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.8

According to the American Botanical Council (ABC), safflower is among the blood-promoting herbs in Chinese medicine that aid circulation, nourish blood and increase its production, and have anti-thrombotic properties. ABC notes safflower may “support coronary blood flow and reduce myocardial oxygen use, ischemia, and arrhythmia.”9

6. Magnolia Flower (Xin Yin Hua)

If you have nasal congestion or chronic sinusitis, magnolia flower is the herbal remedy for you. An herbal tea containing magnolia flower and other Chinese herbs was found to improve chronic sinusitis when used for six weeks.10

Fermented magnolia flower petal extract has also shown promise as a natural antioxidant and anti-cancer agent.11

7. Lotus Flower (Lian Zi Xin)

The lotus flower is used for treating bleeding disorders, including bloody noses, as well as irritability and fevers. Its seeds, stem, and leaves are also used in TCM.

Elder Flower: Another Traditional Flower Remedy Worth Trying

Elder flowers, the flowers of the elder tree (which also gives us elderberries), are rich in flavonoids, minerals, phenolic compounds, volatile oils, and more. In traditional Greek medicine, elder flowers were used as a diaphoretic (to increase sweating, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system).

In Germany, elder flower is commonly used to treat feverish common colds, and in the US and Canada, elder flower may be combined with yarrow flower and peppermint leaf in tea form to relieve colds and flu. According to the American Botanical Council:12

Its flavonoids and phenolic acids may contribute to the diaphoretic effect. It has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and diuretic actions in in vitro studies. The flavonoids and triterpenes appear to be the main biologically active constituents.

The Commission E [in Germany] approved the internal use of elder flower for colds. The British Herbal Compendium lists its uses for common cold, feverish conditions, and as a diuretic. The German Standard License for elder flower tea calls it a diaphoretic medicine for the treatment of feverish common colds or catarrhal complaints.”

Elder flower has been traditionally used as a tonic to boost immunity. It is also widely known to promote lung and bronchial tract health. If you’re battling a cold or flu, try drinking elder flower tea (combined with yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint, and ginger, if you like) hot and often to help induce sweating and flush the virus out. Further, as noted by Herb Wisdom:13

“The most common uses [of elder flower] are for colds and flu, sinus infections, and other respiratory disturbances. As a supplement, elderflower also has diuretic and laxative properties and is helpful in relieving occasional constipation.

Elderflower has antibacterial and antiviral properties and may also help alleviate some allergies and boost the functioning of the immune system. Topically, elderflower might help reduce pain and swelling in joints due to some forms of arthritis and is used to stop bleeding.

As an oral rinse, elderflower can be used for its antiseptic properties as a mouthwash and gargle. Elderflower also reduces blood sugar levels, very similar to the way insulin works.”

Lavender: Another Incredibly Useful Herb

Lavender oil is known for its calming and relaxing properties, and has been used for alleviating insomnia, anxiety, depression, restlessness, dental anxiety, and stress. It has also been proven effective for nearly all kinds of ailments, from pain to infections.

Its name actually comes from the Latin lavare, which means "to wash,” and lavender has long been used as a tonic to help cleanse the skin.14 I am particularly fascinated by lavender oil's potential in fighting antifungal-resistant skin and nail infections.

Scientists from the University of Coimbra found that lavender oil is lethal to skin-pathogenic strains known as dermatophytes, as well as various Candida species.15 Lavender oil has a chemically complex structure with over 150 active constituents.16 This oil is rich in esters, which are aromatic molecules with antispasmodic (suppressing spasms and pain), calming, and stimulating properties. The chief botanical constituents of lavender oil are linalyl acetate, linalool (a non-toxic terpene alcohol that has natural germicidal properties), terpinen-4-ol, and camphor.

Other constituents in lavender oil that are responsible for its antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties include cis-ocimene, lavandulyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, and geraniol. Lavender can also be used to:17

  • Relieve pain. It can ease sore or tense muscles, joint pain and rheumatism, sprains, backache, and lumbago. Simply massage lavender oil onto the affected area. Lavender oil may also help lessen pain following needle insertion.
  • Treat various skin disorders like acne, psoriasis, eczema, and wrinkles. It also helps form scar tissues, which may be essential in healing wounds, cuts, and burns. Lavender can also help soothe insect bites and itchy skin (lavender oil can help ward off mosquitoes and moths. It is actually used as an ingredient in some mosquito repellents).
  • Keep your hair healthy. It helps kill lice, lice eggs, and nits. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCB) says that lavender is possibly effective for treating alopecia areata (hair loss), boosting hair growth by up to 44 percent after just seven months of treatment.
  • Improve your digestion. This oil helps stimulate the mobility of your intestine and stimulates the production of bile and gastric juices, which may help treat stomach pain, indigestion, flatulence, colic, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Relieve respiratory disorders. Lavender oil can help alleviate respiratory problems like colds and flu, throat infections, cough, asthma, whooping cough, sinus congestion, bronchitis, tonsillitis, and laryngitis. It can be applied on your neck, chest, or back, or inhaled via steam inhalation or through a vaporizer.
  • Stimulates urine production, which helps restore hormonal balance, prevent cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), and relieve cramps and other urinary disorders.
  • Improve your blood circulation. It helps lower elevated blood pressure levels and can be used for hypertension.
Do You Want to Use More Medicinal Herbs?

Herbs can help support your health from a very basic level, just as foods do. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, you could walk into a drug store and find hundreds of herbal extracts for sale. Upwards of 90 percent of the population at that time knew how to use the medicinal plants growing in their backyards to treat common illnesses and injuries; they had too, as this was virtually the only "medicine" available.

With the rise of what is now known as conventional allopathic medicine shortly before World War I, herbalism slowly fell out of favor and became to be thought of as folk medicine. Rather than viewing nature as the source of healing, as had been done for centuries, people began to view drugs and other “modern” healing methods as superior. If you would like to start using medicinal plants more often, here are 9 tips to do so. I also recommend browsing through my “Ultimate Guide to Herbal Oils":18

  1. Learn to identify three medicinal plants you don't already know that grow in your region and learn their uses.
  2. Add at least one of these herbs to your garden or to pots on your windowsill.
  3. Make a tincture, tea, syrup, or salve. Or make one of each!
  4. Harvest and dry mint, lemon balm, calendula, nettles, or any other plant growing in your region.
  5. Find a plant to sit with quietly each morning for a week; draw the plant.
  6. Identify one healing skill you would like to have but don't, and find a way to learn it — perhaps by taking an herb or aromatherapy class.
  7. Make an herbal first aid kit.
  8. Organize local healers for emergency response in your community.
  9. With medicinal plants grown in your region, learn how to treat one condition that you and/or someone in your family struggles with.

Another Perk for Drinking Coffee

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Nearly 60 percent of Americans drink coffee, and for many the habit is a daily one.1 Coffee drinking has long been viewed as more of a vice or a crutch to get a quick energy boost to power through the day, but this view is now changing as the health benefits of coffee continue to be revealed.

This is good news for those of you who sip on a cup of joe in the morning, as it turns out this may be a quite healthy way to start your day.

Daily Coffee Boosts Colon Cancer Survival

Among people with advanced (stage III) colon cancer, drinking four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily lowered the risk of cancer recurrence or death during the study by 52 percent compared to those who drank no coffee.

Drinking two or three cups per day was also beneficial, lowering the risk of recurrence or death by 31 percent.

The researchers stressed that other caffeinated beverages, such as soda, did not have the same effect. No link was found between decaffeinated coffee and risk of colon cancer recurrence either.

Further, a causal link was not found. This means it could simply be that coffee drinkers tend to follow a healthier overall lifestyle that’s contributing to the lower risk. However, the antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds in coffee have been linked to a lower chronic disease risk before.

In fact, coffee has been linked to a lower risk type 2 diabetes as well, a condition known to increase the risk of colon cancer. It’s likely that compounds in coffee may lower the risk of multiple chronic diseases via similar pathways.

As reported by the New York Times:2

The researchers’ hypothesis is that the factors that increase risk for Type 2 diabetes, such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and high insulin levels, also drive colon cancer, Dr. [Charles S.] Fuchs [director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston] said.

And many studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness that may increase the risk of colon cancer.

‘We believe that activating the energy pathways that contribute to heart disease and diabetes is also relevant for the proliferation of cancer cells,’ Dr. Fuchs said, while also stressing that more research was needed.

The analysis determined the lowered risk associated with coffee was… because of the caffeine. One hypothesis is that caffeine increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, so it requires less of the hormone. That, in turn, may reduce inflammation, which is a risk factor for diabetes and cancer.”

What Else Does the Research Say About Coffee and Cancer?

While a number of individual studies have suggested coffee consumption might increase your cancer risk, when multiple studies are analyzed, such as is the case with meta-analyses, the association disappears, and, in fact, becomes protective.

For instance, one 2007 meta-analysis found an increase in consumption of two cups of coffee per day was associated with a 43 percent reduced risk of liver cancer3 – a finding that has been confirmed by more recent research.

Not to mention, coffee appears to have additional benefits for liver health, slowing down the progression of liver disease to cirrhosis, improving responses in people with hepatitis C, and lowering the risk of death in people with cirrhosis.4

The potential benefit of coffee for liver health appears so strong that researchers have stated daily coffee consumption should be encouraged in people with chronic liver disease.5

Another meta-analysis involving 59 studies revealed an increase in consumption of one cup of coffee per day was associated with a 3 percent reduced risk of cancers.6 According to the researchers:

“[C]offee drinking was associated with a reduced risk of bladder, breast, buccal and pharyngeal, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, hepatocellular, leukemic, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.”7

There’s even research showing coffee consumption could lower your risk of skin cancer. Drinking four cups of caffeinated coffee daily might reduce your risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.8

According to researchers:

“[C]offee constituents suppress UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis, induce cell apoptosis, protect against oxidative stress and DNA damage, reduce inflammation in epidermal cells, and inhibit changes in DNA methylation.”9

Women who consumed more than three cups of coffee a day had a significantly lower risk of basal cell carcinoma (non-melanoma skin cancer) than those who consumed less than one cup per month.10

Roasted Coffee Contains More Than 1,000 Compounds, Many of Which May Help Fight Cancer

Coffee has multiple potential anti-cancer pathways. As mentioned, caffeine is one of them, as its been shown to both stimulate and suppress tumors depending on the cancer and when it’s administered.11

Polyphenols in coffee, such as lignan phytoestrogens, flavonoids, and polyphenols are also known to have anti-cancer properties, as does caffeic acid, which inactivates several pathways involved in the development of tumors – including cell cycle regulation, inflammatory and stress response, and apoptosis.

Researchers noted in the journal BMC Cancer:12

“There are two specific diterpenes in coffee, cafestol and kahweal, which produce biological effects compatible with anti-carcinogenic properties, including the induction of phase II enzymes involved in carcinogen detoxification, specific inhibition of the activity of phase I enzyme responsible for carcinogen activation, and stimulation of intracellular antioxidant defense mechanisms.

Coffee is also a major source of the chlorogenic acid that contributes to its antioxidant effect. Intake of chlorogenic acid has been shown to reduce glucose concentrations in rats and intake of quinides, degradation products of chlorogenic acid, increases insulin sensitivity.

Chronic hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are confirmed markers of high risk for some cancer sites.”

The Benefits of Coffee: From Your Heart to Your Brain

The benefits of coffee are becoming so well established that, for the first time, a government advisory committee included a mention of caffeine in its recommendations for the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The report said Americans could safely consume up to five cups of coffee a day, or approximately 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, with no detrimental effects.13

The recommendation was based on an evaluation of multiple meta-analyses and other studies evaluating the link between coffee and chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Here’s a sampling of what the research shows:

Heart Health

In a study of more than 25,000 people, those who drank a moderate amount of coffee – defined as three to five cups daily – were less likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries than those who drank no coffee or more coffee daily.14

A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term "hardening of the arteries." Coronary artery calcium can be a significant predictor of future heart disease risk.

In addition, one study showed moderate coffee drinking reduces your chances of being hospitalized for heart rhythm problems. 15 Another study found it may trigger a 30 percent increase in blood flow in your small blood vessels, which might take some strain off your heart.16

Another study, a meta-analysis that included data from 11 studies and nearly 480,000 people found drinking two to six cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of stroke.17

Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease

Drinking four to six cups of coffee a day is associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis, as is drinking a high amount of coffee over five to 10 years. According to researchers, Caffeine has neuroprotective properties and seems to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.”18 Higher coffee and caffeine intake are also associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.19

Dementia

Caffeine promotes production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, and triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, thereby improving your brain health.

Among people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), those with higher blood levels of caffeine (due to coffee consumption) were less likely to progress to full-blown dementia.20 Caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset, particularly for those who already have MCI,” the researchers said.

Premature Death

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has even shown that coffee consumption is inversely associated with premature death. The more coffee drank, the lower the risk of death became, including deaths from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.21

Coffee Is the Number One Source of Antioxidants in the US

Another reason why coffee may have such dramatic effects on Americans’ health is because it is the number one source of antioxidants in the US diet. The research, which was presented at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, showed that Americans get more antioxidants from drinking coffee than from any other dietary source, with researchers noting “nothing else even comes close.”22

Examples of the antioxidants in coffee include significant amounts of hydrocinnamic acid and polyphenols. Antioxidants are nature's way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals.

Free radicals are a type of a highly reactive metabolite that is naturally produced by your body as a result of normal metabolism and energy production. They are your natural biological response to environmental toxins like cigarette smoke, sunlight, chemicals, cosmic, and manmade radiation, and are even a key feature of pharmaceutical drugs. Your body also produces free radicals when you exercise and when you have inflammation anywhere in your body.

As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants. If you don't have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.

While fruits, such as berries, and vegetables are ideal sources of antioxidants, many Americans don’t eat the recommended amounts each day. This is why coffee, which is consumed widely on a daily basis, represents such a large dietary share of antioxidants. If you’re not a coffee drinker, you can easily boost your antioxidant intake by eating fresh produce – and even if you do drink coffee, getting your antioxidants from a wide variety of sources is still important.

Is Decaf Coffee a Healthy Choice?

The coffee beans used to make decaffeinated, or decaf, coffee undergo a process to remove most of the caffeine. In order to be labeled decaffeinated, the coffee must have 97 percent of the original caffeine content removed.23 This may be preferable for those who are highly sensitive to caffeine (for instance experiencing jitters after one regular cup), but there are some considerations. For starters, some of the research on coffee’s health benefits have shown caffeinated coffee to be more effective than decaf (the featured colon cancer study is one such example).

In particular, caffeinated coffee has also been linked to a lower risk of liver damage, increased metabolic rate, reduced risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, and enhanced athletic performance while decaf coffee has not.24 The process used to decaffeinate the coffee is also important to be aware of.

One of the most commonly used methods is Direct Process, which uses the chemical methyl chloride to remove the caffeine from coffee beans. Starbucks, for instance, uses this process on most of its decaf brews (although it also offers a “naturally processed” decaf Sumatra blend).25

The National Cancer Institute lists methyl chloride as a possible carcinogen, so it’s something you’re better off avoiding (trace amounts are sometimes detected in decaf coffee, although typically at levels below 1 part per million). Natural Process decaffeination uses either ethyl acetate (a plant hormone) or carbon dioxide to remove caffeine, while the Swiss Water process uses only water. Only the carbon dioxide or Swiss water methods are allowed in coffee that’s certified organic. If you choose to drink decaffeinated coffee, be sure to choose one that is decaffeinated using one of these latter two methods.

Another option, if you’re simply looking for a lower-caffeine blend, is to choose Arabica beans, which naturally have about half the caffeine content of Robusta beans. 26 Also, keep in mind that even decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine free (a typical cup of decaf may contain 3 to 18 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, compared to between 140 to 300 mg in a regular cup.

This is an important distinction for pregnant women to be aware of. Public health agencies suggest pregnant women limit daily caffeine to 200 mg (or about two cups of coffee a day). However, caffeine can significantly impact the growing fetus. It is able to freely pass through the placenta, and since caffeine does not provide any benefits to your baby, only potential hazards, I strongly recommend pregnant women avoid ALL forms of caffeine.

How to Ruin a Good Cup of Coffee…

If you want to drink coffee for its health benefits, drink your coffee black, without sugar, non-dairy creamer or cream, or flavorings. If you are dousing your cup of coffee in creamer, non-dairy creamer, sugar, and other sweeteners and flavorings, you are missing out on the therapeutic benefits and potentially harming your health.

The natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants are part of what makes coffee so healthy. However, some research suggests that adding dairy to your coffee may interfere with your body's absorption of beneficial chlorogenic acids.27 Meanwhile, if you add sugar to your coffee you’ll spike your insulin levels, which contributes to insulin resistance.

Also, coffee beans are one of the most heavily pesticides-sprayed crops. So, you should select only coffee beans that are certified organic. Remember, you will obliterate any positive effects if you consume coffee that's been doused in pesticides or other chemicals. Whenever possible, purchase sustainable "shade-grown" coffee to help prevent the continued destruction of our tropical rain forests and the birds that inhabit them.

There are many who say shade-grown coffee tastes better as well. In addition, you'll want to purchase whole bean coffee that smells and tastes fresh, not stale; if your coffee does not have a pleasant aroma, it is likely rancid. Grind it yourself to prevent rancidity, as pre-ground coffee may be rancid by the time you get it home. If you use a "drip" coffee maker, be sure to use non-bleached filters. The bright white ones are chlorine-bleached, and some of this chlorine will leach from the filter during the brewing process. Bleached filters are also notoriously full of dangerous disinfection byproducts, such as dioxin.

Finally, while it appears coffee in moderation is beneficial, be careful not to overdo it, as some studies have found adverse effects when about 10 cups a day or more are consumed. When referring to a “cup” of coffee, most research considers it to be five to eight ounces with about 100 mg of caffeine. In contrast, a small cup at many coffee houses starts at 12 ounces while a large cup may hold 20 to 24 ounces. Simply be aware of how much you’re actually consuming.

Fresh and Chunky Gazpacho Recipe

Sun, 08/30/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Gazpacho is an authentic Mediterranean dish that originates from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia and is a classic meal staple, especially during hot summer seasons.

Usually served cold, this tomato-based recipe is an instant feast to the eyes with its chockfull of colorful vegetable ingredients. Although there are many varieties of gazpacho soup, depending on the region, the most popular and traditional way to make it involves pounding and pureeing the vegetables using a mortar and pestle to create a smooth consistency and avoid foaming.

But to add a little twist and to make my gazpacho soup recipe chunkier and tastier, I'm going to skip that process and introduce some new ingredients. Check out my Fresh and Chunky Gazpacho recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • ²∕3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons horseradish
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

For the garnish:

  • ¼ cup plain yogurt or plain non-fat yogurt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ avocado, chopped

Procedure:

  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients, except the items for garnishing.
  2. Cover and chill at least two hours, or overnight.
  3. Serve in chilled bowls and top each serving with a dollop of yogurt, two tablespoons of cilantro, and a few avocado pieces.
Fresh and Chunky Gazpacho Preparation Tips

Make your chunky gazpacho soup even more delicious and nutritious with these practical tips:

Tomatoes

  • Don't use canned tomatoes, as they typically have a lining that contains bisphenol-A (BPA), which is a potent endocrine-disrupting chemical that has been linked to a number of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, neurological effects, and reproductive problems.
  • Use organic tomatoes. Research shows they contain 55 percent more vitamin C and 139 percent more total phenolic content at the stage of commercial maturity compared to conventionally grown tomatoes.1
  • Consume your tomatoes with a healthy fat like coconut oil or olive oil, which is what we used in this recipe, because the lycopene in them is a fat-soluble nutrient.
  • Do not refrigerate your tomatoes. If a tomato gets too cold, not only will its flavor be affected but also its texture, color, and ripening potential. Allowing your tomatoes to ripen naturally on your countertop will bring out the best in them in terms of taste and flavor.
  • Avoid using aluminum cookware or utensils when cooking tomatoes. This is to prevent the aluminum from leaching into your dish and to prevent your tomatoes from fading, getting bitter, and discoloring your cookware because of their high acid content.  
  • Add a sprinkle of salt, sugar, or some grated carrot to bring out the flavor in overly acidic tomatoes.2

Cucumbers

  • Choose organic, fresh, firm, and green cucumbers with no hint of bruising or discoloration. Avoid those that are mushy, shriveled, discolored, or without their skin intact.
  • Store cucumbers in a plastic bag or original packaging in the refrigerator for up to one week. Wash and scrub them gently before use.3

Horseradish

  • Scrub with a stiff brush and peel off its dark skin before using.4
  • Chop or grate horseradish finely to stimulate a stronger flavor.
  • When serving horseradish, do not use silver to avoid tarnishing reactions.

Yogurt

  • Never vigorously stir, whisk, or beat yogurt. Instead, fold it into your recipes to maintain its rich and creamy consistency. Over-stirring may cause it to break down and thin out. 5
  • Do not use aluminum pans when preparing anything with yogurt, as the acid in it will react with the metal.
  • Buy non-pasteurized yogurt made from raw milk from grass-fed cows to ensure its probiotic benefits.
Why Is Fresh and Chunky Gazpacho Good for You?

What I like most about this scrumptious gazpacho soup recipe is that its preparation process doesn't involve any form of heating, which could potentially diminish its nutrient content. That's on top of the exciting health benefits from all its fresh and colorful vegetable ingredients.

For example, tomatoes are rich in flavonoids and other phytochemicals that have anti-carcinogenic properties. They're also an excellent source of lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, which is most concentrated in the jelly-like substance that surrounds the seeds, as well as vitamins A, E and B-complex vitamins, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. Other lesser known phytonutrients found in tomatoes include:

  • Flavonols – rutin, kaempferol, and quercetin
  • Flavonones – naringenin and chalconaringenin
  • Hydroxycinnamic acids – caffeic acid, ferulic acid, and coumaric acid
  • Glycosides – esculeoside A
  • Fatty acid derivatives –  9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid

Plus, cucumbers are excellent sources of beneficial vitamins and minerals, such as:

  • Bone-building manganese
  • Heart-healthy potassium and magnesium
  • Anti-inflammatory vitamin K
  • Infection-fighting vitamin C
  • Energy-producing pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)

In addition, recent studies show that cucumbers contain powerful lignans, which are unique polyphenols usually found in crucifers and alliums like cabbage and onions, that bind with estrogen-related bacteria in the digestive tract, contributing to a reduced risk of several cancers, including breast, uterus, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Another cancer-fighting phytonutrient in cucumbers are called cucurbitacins, which are part of a larger group known as triterpenes.

Meanwhile, perhaps due to their intense colors and flavors, bell peppers were also found to be packed with:

  • Niacin
  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Thiamin

Studies by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) showed that the vitamin K (phylloquinone) content in bell peppers, including hot varieties, may affect blood coagulation and may also play a role in protecting against osteoporosis, since patients with reduced bone density show lower levels of this nutrient. Interestingly enough, sautéed peppers contain higher amounts of vitamin K than raw peppers.

Onions, on the other hand, which are one of my most highly recommended vegetables, are abundant in an antioxidant flavonoid called quercetin, which has proven anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic functions.

USDA Soil Scientist Reveals Simple Tips for Improving Soil Health

Sun, 08/30/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The health of the soil in which our food is grown is intimately connected to our health, not to mention the environment as a whole.

Ray Archuleta, aka "the Soil Guy," is a soil scientist and conservation agronomist at the United States Department of Agriculture - Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) at the East National Technology Support Center (ENTSC) in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"I've been working for the government for about 30 years. It was during the last 10 years that I started discovering that we weren't fixing our resource issues.

Our water quality wasn't getting better, and the farmers were going broke. The worst thing about it is I couldn't help them.

Even though I went to eight years of university studies, I realized that I didn't understand how the soil and the ecosystem function. That led to the fact that I couldn't help the producers save their farms," he says.

Once Ray got a job at the East National Technology Service Center, he was finally exposed to the right people with the right paradigm and began learning how a farm connects to and is part of the natural ecosystem.

"I think the majority of our farmers think that the farms are separate from the woods or the prairie. But I started realizing that the soils still want to be treated like those prairies and like those woods.

Simply stated, soil health is the soil's ability to function, to sustain animals, plants, humans, and our climate. The healthier the soil is, the more it functions properly.

If I would use one word to explain soil health, I would say biomimicry: mimicking nature, the biology and the ecology, to make it function.

Keeping the soil covered, having living root, bringing diversity, and integrating animals — those are principles we teach to make soil healthy and functioning."

The Importance of Cover Crops

Gabe Brown was one of the first to introduce me to the concept of "soil armor," basically providing the soil with a shield of protection in the form of mulch or wood chips, or by using a cocktail of cover crops.

Bare soil is a recipe for poor soil health, as it dries up the soil and prevents the soil microbes from thriving. So making sure the soil is covered is a foundational step, no matter what the size of your farm or garden.

"A plant doesn't just cover the soil but it's a biological primer. It's an energy transformer. It feeds the soil microbiology. It's so critical for people to understand that it's not just a cover for protection, but it's a biological primer and energy transformer.

So, the plants are absolutely critical for the soil ecosystem. The ironic thing is that a majority of our producers think that cover crops are optional. They look at them as just something to stop erosion."

The thing is, unless you provide the soil with armor, nature will try to provide it — typically with intensified weed growth! That's why I'm a big fan of mulch, which can cut weeds by nearly 90 percent. It can also cut water needs in half.

My favorite is wood chips as they provide plenty of carbon, are great food for earthworms, radically increase mycorrhizal fungi, and are very inexpensive if not free. But cover crops will do the same thing, and is easier to use on a farm.

"Carbon is the driving cycle," Ray explains. "It drives the phosphorus - and nitrogen cycle. It is the driving force because it is the one that feeds the soil organisms.

And that photosynthetic material leaks into the soil rhizosphere, and it feeds the biology and it drives the soil biology.

So, to me, carbon is the most limiting nutrients in our soils todays because we till it so much, we don't use covers, and we strip all the armor away. Most of our soils are carbon depleted, so carbon is the most critical."

USDA Now Prioritizes Soil Health

Fortunately, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which is part of the USDA and the major agency that works with private land owners, farmers, and ranchers, has become very committed to understanding and teaching about soil health.

Not only will regenerating our soils lead to improved food production, it also addresses a majority of resource concerns, such as water.

When you add carbon back into the soil, either by adding mulch or cover crops, the carbon feeds mycorrhizal fungi that eventually produce glomalin, which may be even better than humic acid at retaining water, so that you limit your irrigation needs and make your garden or fields more resilient during droughts.

"Our chief, Jason Weller, requires that all of us, every NRCS employee, be taught soil health so it spread through the whole agency. So, it is a priority for NRCS to not only learn soil health and to teach our employees but also to facilitate it at the ground level to our farmers and ranchers. This movement is growing by leaps and bounds... I think modern agriculture is turning the corner," Ray says.

Considering data suggesting we may lose all commercial top soil, globally, in the next 60 years if we keep going at the current rate, such changes cannot move fast enough.

The NRCS website is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about soil health, and farmers wanting to change their system. At present, about 10 percent of US farmers have started incorporating practices to address soil health. Only about two percent have transitioned to full-on regenerative land management, such as that taught by Gabe Brown.

So there's still plenty of room for improvement. But it's certainly a start, and the winds of change are picking up. One incentive for farmers, once they understand the system, is that it can save them quite a bit of money, improving the profitability of their farm.

"It helps wean them off costly chemical fertilizers, helps them reduce the fungicide cost, the insecticide cost. Going to no-till farming with cover crops, integrating animals, and in farming more like nature, they're reducing a lot of their petroleum-based inputs. This is phenomenal. It also saves them work. And they can see how the farm soil is improving, and they get excited about that.

I've had farmers said, 'You know what? Right now, I am excited about farming, and I haven't been excited about farming in years.' Some of them say, 'Now, I have hope.' That's really encouraging. The number one thing I do is get people to look at the soil differently, as a living ecosystem. I think that's the number one thing. If I cannot convince them to do that, they won't do the rest of the practices."

Anyone Can Grow Food

The late Jerry Brunetti introduced the idea of Victory Gardens during World War I and II, when it was advertised as a way for patriots to make a difference on the home-front. At that time, the majority of the produce grown in the US was grown right in people's backyards, and I firmly believe we need to revert back to growing our own food.

We don't have to rely on large-scale commercial agriculture and industrial agriculture. And you don't need an entire farm to grow some of your own food. All you need to do is convert some of your decorative landscaping to edibles if you have a front – or backyard. Or you can grow food in containers if you live in an apartment. Community gardens are another option.

"I love the idea of victory gardens," Ray says. "I think one of the most powerful ways to reconnect people back to the land. We're connected very well with our cellphones but we're incredibly disconnected from the natural resource, and I think the victory garden would be a great way to do that and spread that kind of understanding. And it's simple.

I think that's where we have to go because one of my biggest concerns, too, is our farms are too big. A lot of producers don't want to hear that. I'm telling them they're farming too many acres and it's hard to do it right. I tell a lot of young farmers, 'You're better off doing it with the acreage you have. Learn how to do it right. Learn the management skills. Learn the logistics. You're better off than buying and farming another hundred acres.'"

Tips for the Garden Enthusiast

YouTube is a fantastic resource where you can learn a lot, including how to optimize your garden and grow your own food. To start off, search YouTube using the keywords "no-till garden." Tilling your soil is a major mistake, as it destroys valuable soil life and promotes weed growth. When you till, you break up the aggregates, waking up R-strategist bacteria that consume the glomalin, the organo-mineral complexes or organic matter that acts like a glue in the soil and help retain water. So tilling is profoundly counterproductive.

Instead, do what Ray suggests:

"Get some cardboard, lay it on top [of the soil], get your leaves, get a bunch of compost, smother the grass there, and start layering that like a lasagna. When you're ready to plant your tomatoes, you just create a hole right through, pierce the cardboard into the soil beneath, and let it go. That's all you have to. And then every season after you get your vegetables up, plant a cover crop. It's that simple."

Keep in mind you do not want to plant in the composting materials on the top of your cardboard, or directly into the pile of wood chips. You need to drop your plants through all of that material into the soil underneath. The mulch just helps protect your plants and nourish the soil. Another important point: do not mix the wood chips into your soil, as that ties up nitrogen. Simply place the wood chips on top of the soil and leave them; do not bury them.

There are also a number of excellent books available these days. Ray recommends Carrots Love Tomatoes: Companion Planting for a Healthy Garden, which teaches you how to do intercropping of vegetables. Certain vegetables grow better when joined by other plants. The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) website also has a number of books, including one of cover crops that, along with many others, can be read online for free if you don't want to purchase a paper copy.

Two Ways to Use Cover Crops

There are two ways to use cover crops. One way is to simply plant the cover crop once you've grown and harvested your regular crop. This way the soil is not left bare, and the cover crop basically becomes mulch for the next growing season. The second way is to mix the cover crop in with the regular crops during the growing season — a system called intercropping. Here, you have to make sure the crops go well together.

For example, if you're growing sweet corn, you could use clover, as it does not compete too much with the corn while building the mycorrhizal network. So intercropping requires you to learn which crops support and benefit each other.

"Some producers will grow cowpeas or soybeans next to their corn. Again, it's a legume and the legumes, at the bottom, have these nodules that these rhizobia bacteria nodulate and get nitrogen from the air and they transform it to a soluble form that the plants can utilize," Ray explains. "The legume will build this underground network, and they feed each other, share resources: nutrients, phosphorus, and water. It's just beautiful."

Going Beyond Organic...

From my perspective, one of the best ways to optimize your health is to grow your own food. Not to mention the fact that gardening can help boost your mental well-being, and may help promote a healthier microbiome to boot, if you allow yourself to get a bit dirty.

Once you get started, I think you'll find that little compares to the joy of interacting with nature, watching your garden grow and flourish, knowing that you're going to get nutrient-dense foods that are not only nourishing you and your family but also helpful for the environment.

"I see so much parallelism between the medical institutions and agricultural institutions," Ray says. "There's really no buy-in from the people themselves. In other words, I think we're not going to change dramatically until people start educating themselves and have skin in the game, which leads to soul of the game...

I never thought that one person could make a difference, but they can. I have a lot of organic producers I work with, and I love them dearly. I think we need to take it beyond organic as ecological farming because some of the organic farms – I've been all over the country like in California – some of them have the most degraded soils, and it's not just about organic, it's above organic.

We're teaching people how to farm more like nature does and reduce the tillage. Tillage can be as intrusive as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. So for my brothers and sisters of organic, I think [the key] is to help them and teach them also to reduce tillage, do more mulch tillage, and use more of the cover [crops]... Organic means they're not using chemicals, which is fine. But [healthy soil] is about much more than that."

Why Does Your Stomach Growl?

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If asked why your stomach growls, many people would answer, “Because I’m hungry!” This is somewhat of a myth, however. Your stomach may make noise when you’re hungry and lacking food in your stomach, but it can also growl when you’re not hungry and your stomach is full.

The growling noise may not even be coming from your stomach at all but rather from your small intestines. Oftentimes, when your stomach (or bowel) makes noise, a phenomenon technically known as “borborygmi,” you may not hear it at all.

The noises are loudest when your stomach is empty, which is why they’re often associated with hunger.

What Causes Stomach Grumbling?

The rumbling sound in your stomach is the result of muscular contractions of your intestinal wall combined with the presence of liquid and gas. It’s a perfectly normal function and one that occurs most of the day.

Your intestines tend to quiet down when you’re sleeping but a complete absence of bowel sounds can actually be a sign of a medical emergency, especially if it’s accompanied by severe abdominal pain.

According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), here’s what’s really causing your noisy tummy:1

“Within the intestines, ingested fluids and solids are mixed with the daily secretion of about eight liters (two gallons) of enzyme-rich fluid, most of which is subsequently absorbed. However, fluid moving through a tube is silent – it is only when there is air in the pipes that we hear the plumbing.

In the intestine ever-present gases originate from swallowed air and the release of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and other gases by the bacterial fermentation of undigested food in the lower gut. Even when inaudible to the intestines’ owner, characteristic sounds may be listened to by a doctor or nurse using a stethoscope.

While the noisy movement of fluid and gas occurs at all levels, the most audible sounds originate from the stomach. Whether audible or not, bowel sounds in the absence of other significant symptoms are normal phenomena of no medical significance.”

Growling Is Part of the Migrating Motor Complex (MMC)

If you hear your stomach growling, it’s likely because your stomach and intestines are engaged in a process called the migrating motor complex (MMC). This typically occurs when your stomach and intestines have been empty for about two hours.

Sensing the absence of food, receptors in the walls of your stomach cause waves of electrical activity in your enteric nervous system (which is like a second brain embedded in the wall of your gut).2

This, in turn, triggers hunger contractions that travel the entire length of your gut, helping to clear out stomach contents, mucus, food particles, bacteria, and other accumulated debris between your meals. A poorly functioning MMC has been linked to abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and indigestion.3

The hormone motilin is thought to be involved in triggering different phases of the MMC, but little is known about it because it’s not expressed in mice and rats (and therefore hasn’t been widely studied).

What is known is that motilin levels increase cyclically every 90 to 120 minutes between meals and its release is halted after you eat a meal. When motilin levels peak so, too, do contractions of muscles in your stomach and intestines. 4

It’s thought motilin may play a role in both obesity and hunger. Dr. Jan Tack, a professor of medicine who studies gastrointestinal disorders at Belgium’s University of Leuven, told TIME:5

“‘We have shown that motilin-induced hunger signaling is altered in people experiencing unexplained weight loss and obesity,’ he says. Tack says a person’s motilin levels also seem to change after bariatric procedures like gastric bypass surgery.

Motilin may also affect the ways you experience pleasure or a sense of reward after eating, he adds.

All of this research is very new. But manipulating motilin and the resulting MMC response may eventually emerge as a novel way to treat obesity, dyspepsia and other gut-related health issues, Tack’s research suggests.”6

When Are Bowel Sounds a Problem?

Most of the time, a noisy stomach is nothing to be concerned about. However, bowel sounds are known to increase if you have dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, or if you’re having a bout of diarrhea, due to increased muscle contractions and accumulation of fluid and gas (along with water stool in your gut).

Malabsorption conditions, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance may also lead to what’s known as hyperactive bowel sounds. IFFGD explained:7

“… [R]educed small intestinal levels of the enzyme needed to digest the milk sugar lactose, permits that sugar to reach the colon intact where it is fermented by colon bacteria.

These organisms release hydrogen and products that attract fluids into the gut and stimulate its contractions. These amplify the three conditions that produce abdominal sounds: gut movement, gas, and fluid.”

In the more rare event of a mechanical obstruction of your gut, bowel sounds may also increase. In this case, the contractions in your intestines attempt to move solids, liquids, air, and gas through a narrowed intestine, leading to loud, often high-pitched noises.

If you’re experiencing an obstruction, the noises will be accompanied by severe abdominal pain and illness, and emergency medical attention is needed.

Too Much Sugar Can Cause a Noisy Tummy

If you find your stomach is embarrassingly noisy, it could be because you’re eating too much sugar, particularly fructose and sorbitol (found in fruits and also used as an artificial sweetener in many sugar-free gums and candies).

“Excessive amounts of these sugars… may cause diarrhea, flatus, and increased intestinal noise,” according to IFFGD.8 Not to mention, eating an excess of fructose and other sugars is one of the worst things you can do for overall gut health – a noisy, gurgling stomach is the least of it (or perhaps a symptom of it).

Sugar, for example, is a preferred food source for fungi that produce yeast infections and sinusitis, whereas healthy probiotic-rich foods like fermented vegetables boost populations of health-promoting bacteria, thereby disallowing potentially pathogenic colonies from taking over.

Optimizing your gut flora is actually one of the most important steps you can take for your health. Not only could it help normalize your weight and ward off diabetes, but it's also a critical component for a well-functioning immune system, which is your primary defense against all sorts of disease.

It’s even essential for your brain health. So don’t worry if you hear your stomach growling – it’s typically totally normal. However, let it be a reminder of the complex processes going on to keep your gut, and your whole body, healthy. To support these processes and optimize your gut bacteria and microbiome as a whole, keep these recommendations in mind:

Do: Avoid: Eat plenty of fermented foods. Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, natto (fermented soy), and fermented vegetables. If you ferment your own, consider using a special starter culture that has been optimized with bacterial strains that produce high levels of vitamin K2.

This is an inexpensive way to optimize your K2, which is particularly important if you’re taking a vitamin D3 supplement. Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement). And while some researchers are looking into methods that might help ameliorate the destruction of beneficial bacteria by antibiotics, your best bet is likely always going to be reseeding your gut with probiotics from fermented foods and/or a high-quality probiotic supplement. Take a probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics are an exception if you don’t eat fermented foods on a regular basis. Conventionally raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria. Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts, and seeds, including sprouted seeds. Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water. Get your hands dirty in the garden. Germ-free living may not be in your best interest, as the loss of healthy bacteria can have wide-ranging influence on your mental, emotional, and physical health.

According to the hygiene hypothesis, exposure to bacteria and viruses can serve as "natural vaccines" that strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease. Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms on the plants and in the soil. Processed foods. Excessive sugars, along with otherwise “dead” nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria. Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.9 Unless 100% organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Open your windows. For the vast majority of human history the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature.

Today, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors. And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages, it has also changed the microbiome of your home. Research shows opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you.10 Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (RoundUp) in particular. Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher. Recent research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and that eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system. Antibacterial soap, as they too kill off both good and bad bacteria, and contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistance.

Mercola.com Celebrates Its 18-Year Anniversary

Sat, 08/29/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Mercola.com now celebrates its 18th anniversary... We’ve surely come a long way since 1997 when I decided to launch a small website to share the latest developments in natural health with the world beyond the confines of my medical practice!   

Thanks to you, this site has become a leading source of health news and information, with more than 10 million unique visitors coming to our site every month to learn how to take control of their health, which has been my sole motivation all along.

By the time I stopped seeing patients in order to dedicate my limited time to this newsletter, I’d already personally helped tens of thousands of patients address their health problems.

But I knew I could help educate order of magnitudes more on how to get healthy through this newsletter than I ever could treating patients privately. Our site proves this as we now have more than a million page views every day.

It was a decision I’ve never regretted, and I regularly delight in the feedback from readers I see during my travels that report feeling better than they’ve ever felt before as a result of implementing the lifestyle changes I suggest and getting off toxic drugs.

Exposing the Truth, Years Ahead of Time...

We’ve made many changes at Mercola.com since our humble beginnings in 1997. We’ve gone from sending out a newsletter once a week, to now providing two or more in-depth articles every day of the week.

Over the years we’ve helped pave the way in demanding transparency in FDA actions, and we’ve exposed the realities of how many public health programs are intricately tied to Big Pharma.

We’ve also made many aware of the pernicious revolving doors existing between government and big industries and corporations like Monsanto and Merck, and how corruption and conflicts of interest color science and many if not most government health recommendations.

Throughout this 18-year journey, we’ve consistently shared the news well before the mainstream. Examples of topics we’ve been frontrunners of include:

  • Exposing the swine flu pandemic for the hoax that it was. That article ended up being among the top five pages viewed on the entire internet the day we posted it, and it crashed all our servers.
  • Exposing Merck’s drug, Vioxx, for the killer that it was, years before major media started reporting it. I actually issued the first public warning about Vioxx while it was still in clinical trials — a year before it became available by prescription.
  • Warning about the emergence of statin drugs, which I stated were an accident waiting to happen. My first warnings were issued in 2001. Fast-forward to a decade and a half later and the truth of this has become quite evident, and the dangers of statins are now well-documented.
  • Two years ago I began issuing a similar warning for the next-gen cholesterol drugs, PCSK9 inhibitors, which just received FDA approval on July 24, 2015. I predict this class of drugs may be even more dangerous than statins ever were.

  • I’ve long warned of the dangers of routine mammograms, and in the past several years, a number of studies have emerged showing that mammograms appear to do more harm than good, and are not, in fact, saving women’s lives.
  • Being one of the first to widely educate people about the critical importance of vitamin D and sensible sun exposure for health and disease prevention, and the many benefits of astaxanthin.
Thank You for Supporting Health Liberty and Freedom for All!

Many don’t realize that I never sold anything on the site for the first four years. When the income from my medical practice could not subsidize the site any further I realized I had to be able to finance the growth in some way.

I chose to avoid using ads that would promote items I did not necessarily agree with, and also decided against having outside investors so I could maintain complete editorial control of the content.

This gives me the freedom to report the facts as I see them, and base my recommendations on the available research and input from experts, without having to appease advertisers who have something to sell.

I fully appreciate that many are seriously struggling in this economy. That is why it is my sincere intention that most of the healthy lifestyle changes I advocate cost little or nothing at all, and are freely available to just about anyone, regardless of income.

And, while most of my recommendations center on eating real food and exercising, whenever I do recommend or offer products, I do so because I have thoroughly researched them and find they’re the best in their category. I have a top-notch research and development team to help me in this process as well.

If you chose to use a supplement, please make sure the company is using the highest quality ingredients without dangerous additives. Profit generated from the sale of products in my online store go right back into maintaining and building a better site, providing you with more free tools, videos, and in-depth articles.

Even more importantly, 15 to 20 percent of these profits help support my Health Liberty partner organizations — all of which are dedicated to protecting your freedom to make voluntary health choices. All of the proceeds from my latest book, Effortless Healing, now a New York Times best-seller,1 will also be used to provide financial support to my Health Liberty partners, which include:

  • The National Vaccine Information Center (vaccine choices and informed consent)
  • Fluoride Action Network (water fluoridation)
  • Organic Consumers Association, and the Institute for Responsible Technology (GMOs)
  • Consumers for Dental Choice (mercury-free dentistry)
  • GrassrootsHealth (vitamin D)
Health Liberty Has Been a Resounding Success

The nonprofit coalition Health Liberty was launched five years ago, and since then we’ve made great strides toward getting toxic mercury out of dentistry and fluoride out of drinking water.

We’ve also seen a tremendous awakening across the US of people learning about the hazards of genetically engineered foods and the need to label them; the health and environmental benefits of organics and regenerative agriculture; the importance of vitamin D for health and disease prevention; and the necessity to fight for our right to make informed vaccine choices.

To all of you, I want to extend my sincere Thank You for participating in this health revolution, and for your support in our many Health Liberty campaigns! We could not have achieved any of our victories without you.

Because of your loyal support, we’ve slowly but surely awakened the world to the false promises of the fatally flawed conventional medical view, which claims disease is best treated with drugs, and that the government knows what’s best for your health and should be allowed to dictate your health options.

That model is a prescription for disaster for personal health and freedom. The truth is, it’s health that counts ― and the freedom to choose health over treating symptoms of disease will always be our goal.

So it’s with great excitement and hope for the future that I promise you my team and I will continue educating and creating awareness to allow you to make your own informed health choices. Most of all, after 18 years, I am really excited to see the community that has been created, and I want to personally thank YOU for being here and supporting and encouraging each other in the Vital Votes forum as well.

18th Anniversary Specials

Many of the changes to this web site have occurred in response to requests and suggestions from you, and I encourage you to continue sharing your thoughts and ideas for how to make it even better as we move forward. For example, my online store grew in response to your requests for an easy and safe method to purchase high quality health products over the Internet that have been carefully vetted and independently tested. Mercola.com evolved to give you just that ― an online health products store that you can trust.

So if you see a need that has not yet been filled, or if there are topics you’d like to see covered in future articles, please share them in the comments section below. Last but not least, free replays of my presentation based on the health teachings of my latest book, Effortless Healing, are now available for viewing on the site 24/7.  Click here to start watching today!

More Evidence: Benefits of Music Easing Pain and Anxiety After Surgery

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you’re going to be undergoing a medical procedure, or you struggle with chronic pain, reaching for your playlist may be as good as reaching for a bottle of pain pills.

The power of music for relaxation, stress relief, and pain reduction is undeniable, although individual research studies proving the same were too small to show a strong connection.

That all changed when researchers pooled the data from 73 randomized clinical trials focusing on the role of music among surgery patients. Researcher Dr. Catherine Meads at Brunel University told NPR:1

"As the studies themselves were small, they really didn't find all that much… But once we put them all together, we had much more power to find whether music worked or not."

Music Reduces Pain Before, During, and After Surgery

Given that music is non-invasive, safe, and inexpensive – and most people find it enjoyable – the researchers suggested hospitals should routinely offer it to patients. The study found music helped patients drop an average of two points on a 10-point pain scale, while also using significantly less pain medication.

This level of relief is comparable to that achieved by a dose of pain-relieving drugs. In addition to reductions in pain, less anxiety and more patient satisfaction were also noted.

Benefits were found when music was played before, during, or after surgery, and even music played while patients were under general anesthetic was effective. Although in many cases the patients themselves chose the music, music was beneficial regardless of the type of music played or who selected it.

About the only downside noted was that several studies found music played in operating rooms may make it harder for surgical staff to hear directions, potentially increasing the risk of errors. This can be remedied by reserving the music for before and after the actual procedure.

Music Works Better Than Anti-Anxiety Drugs

After reviewing 400 studies, another meta-analysis revealed listening to music resulted in less anxiety and lower cortisol levels among patients about to undergo surgery than taking anti-anxiety drugs.2

Other evidence showed music has an impact on antibodies linked to immunity and may lead to higher levels of bacteria-fighting cells. Still more research revealed that playing music in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) improved the health of premature babies with respiratory distress or sepsis.3

When parents sang to their babies, or sounds mimicking those in the womb were played, numerous benefits occurred, including changes in heart rates, sucking behavior, and parents’ stress levels. The researchers noted:

Entrained with a premature infant’s observed vital signs, sound and lullaby may improve feeding behaviors and sucking patterns and may increase prolonged periods of quiet–alert states. Parent-preferred lullabies, sung live, can enhance bonding, thus decreasing the stress parents associate with premature infant care.”

How Does Music Help with Pain and Anxiety Relief?

While some have suggested music serves as a distraction from pain, others believe there are intrinsic qualities in music that make it so effective. Music has been used since ancient times as a form of healing; even the ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras reported used stringed instruments to practice “musical medicine.”4

It’s now known, however, that music triggers activity in the nucleus accumbens, a part of your brain that releases the feel-good chemical dopamine and is involved in forming expectations.

At the same time, the amygdala, which is involved in processing emotion, and the prefrontal cortex, which controls abstract decision-making, are also activated, according to research published in the journal Science.5

Based on the brain activity in certain regions, especially the nucleus accumbens, captured by an fMRI imager while participants listened to music, the researchers could predict how much money the listeners were willing to spend on previously unheard music.

Songs that triggered activity in the emotional and intellectual areas of the brain demanded a higher price.

Interestingly, the study’s lead author noted that your brain learns how to predict how different pieces of music will unfold using pattern recognition and prediction, skills that may have been key to our evolutionary progress. Time reported:6

These predictions are culture-dependent and based on experience: someone raised on rock or Western classical music won’t be able to predict the course of an Indian raga, for example, and vice versa.

But if a piece develops in a way that’s both slightly novel and still in line with our brain’s prediction, we tend to like it a lot. And that, says [lead researcher] Salimpoor, ‘is because we’ve made a kind of intellectual conquest.’

Music may, in other words, tap into a brain mechanism that was key to our evolutionary progress. The ability to recognize patterns and generalize from experience, to predict what’s likely to happen in the future — in short, the ability to imagine — is something humans do far better than any other animals. It’s what allowed us (aided by the far less glamorous opposable thumb) to take over the world.”

Music Therapy Is a Growing Field

Music therapy is a bona fide profession that’s been around since the 20th century (although, as mentioned, the use of music for healing has been going on for centuries). According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA):7

“The 20th century discipline began after World War I and World War II when community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, went to Veterans hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars.

The patients' notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that the hospital musicians needed some prior training before entering the facility and so the demand grew for a college curriculum.

The first music therapy degree program in the world, founded at Michigan State University in 1944, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1994.”

There are numerous ways to use music in the health care field. For instance, exposure to music may help people with Alzheimer’s disease to overcome neurolinguistic limitations, such as including more meaningful words and complex grammar when recalling memories.

When Alzheimer’s patients sat in rooms filled with music and were asked to tell a story about their life, their stories contained more meaningful words, were more grammatically complex, and conveyed more information (per number of words) than stories told in a silent room.8,9

This makes sense, as the study’s co-author noted, because “music and language processing share a common neural basis.”10 It's long been theorized that listening to music may boost your brainpower; you've probably heard of this with the "Mozart Effect," which suggests listening to classical music can make you smarter.

Indeed, research has shown listening to music while exercising boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills in people diagnosed with coronary artery disease (coronary artery disease has been linked to a decline in cognitive abilities). Signs of improvement in the verbal fluency areas more than doubled after listening to music compared to that of the non-music session.11 In addition, AMTA notes that music therapy may be useful for the following:

Alleviating acute and chronic painElevating moodCounteracting depression Promoting movement for physical rehabilitationCalming or sedationInducing sleep Counteracting apprehension or fearLessening muscle tensionRelaxation, including the autonomic nervous system Strengthening communication skillsImproving physical coordination among special needs studentsExploring personal feelings Making positive changes in mood and emotional statesIncrease or maintain physical, mental, and social/emotional functioning in the elderlyVital support for physical exercise Stress reductionAssistance during labor and deliverySubstance abuse problems Brain injuriesDevelopmental and learning disabilities Suffering from Chronic Pain? Try Music

While you can seek out a music therapist to work with you on an individual health problem, you’re free to use music to your advantage whenever the mood strikes. And, of course, it’s not only useful for surgical pain but can also be used to help relieve chronic pain as well. Technology has given us a simple way to harness the power of music by allowing you to create different playlists for exercising, relaxing, working, pain reduction, stress relief, and other important aspects of your day so you can instantly access the right music for your mood or activity.

Most studies suggest that it doesn’t matter what type of music you listen to, so just choose the types that appeal to you most. About the only exception is during exercise, when a faster tempo may be best. For instance, in one study when the music's tempo slowed, the subjects' exertion level reduced as well.12 And when the tempo was increased, their performance followed suit. So a faster temp should help keep up your intensity.

Outside of exercise, only you know the “best” music for you and that will inevitably change – not only day to day with your mood but also over time with the different chapters of your life and health challenges you may be addressing. Recent research suggests a striking number of Americans – more than 25 million – suffer from daily pain, and 14.4 million describe the pain as being severe.13 Oftentimes prescription drugs aren’t enough to control the pain, and they carry steep side effects, so alternative treatments are welcomed. Listening to music is one such alternative that is safe and available to virtually everyone.

Are You in Pain? Try This Before Drugs

If you are dealing with severe or chronic pain, my first suggestion would be to see a pain specialist who is familiar with alternative treatments and the underlying causes of pain. You need a knowledgeable practitioner who can help you attack the pain from multiple angles, giving you both relief and healing. This might involve music therapy or a combination of strategies, including those that follow:

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

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

Free Vitamin D Continuing Education Courses Now Available, PLUS Key Nutritional Strategies to Optimize Your Health

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

GrassrootsHealth in conjunction with the University of California San Diego has recently released a series of Vitamin D continuing education training courses and certifications you won't want to miss.

Whether you are a health care professional or a layperson looking to increase your knowledge, these presentations are sure to be of benefit to everyone — and they're offered free of charge!

Today I'm also offering a live webinar in which I'll discuss a number of other essential nutritional strategies for optimal health. If you have not yet registered for this webinar, you can do so in the webinar section below.

Free Vitamin D Education for the General Public

Free education sessions for the general public can be found on the University of California Vitamin D for Public Health page. Here you will learn about the science of sunshine exposure and vitamin D, the health conditions affected by vitamin D, how to optimize your vitamin D levels, and much more.

Thousands of studies have been done on the health effects of vitamin D, and research shows that it is involved in the biochemical function of all cells and tissues in your body, including your immune system and function.

When you're deficient in vitamin D, your health can deteriorate in any number of ways, because your cells actually need the active form of vitamin D to gain access to the genetic blueprints stored inside the cell.

It's been estimated that if vitamin D levels were raised among the general population, it could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year!

So please, take advantage of this fabulous opportunity to get this vital education free of charge, and share it with everyone you know so they can be empowered too.

Besides addressing your diet, optimizing your vitamin D level is perhaps one of the most potent ways you can improve your health.

Free Certification Courses for Health Professionals

For health care professionals, each course provides one AMA continuing education credit.

  • Level 1 D*Certification: Public Health Initiative: Meeting the Vitamin D Requirements of the Pregnant Woman and Improving Health Outcomes is taught by Dr. Carol Wagner, a neonatologist with the Medical University of South Carolina
  • Level 2 D*Certification: Vitamin D, Sunshine, Optimal Health: Putting it all Together is led by one of the leading researchers in the field of vitamin D, Dr. Robert Heaney of Creighton University

You can sign up for these classes on GrassrootsHealth's Free Online CME page.

Upon completion of these courses, you can fill out a form to be listed on GrassrootsHealth's website as a Certified Vitamin D practitioner. Practitioners are also encouraged to enroll their pregnant patients in the Protect Our Children NOW! project, which is now running nationwide.

Health outcomes of mothers and children will be tracked to demonstrate the results of vitamin D optimization during pregnancy and to monitor for any unusual conditions, and the results of the program will be reported in the scientific literature and to the community.

How to Enroll in Protect Our Children NOW!

Protect Our Children NOW! seeks to resolve vitamin D deficiency among pregnant women and children, and the campaign will also raise global awareness about the health risks associated with vitamin D deficiency.

Among other items, the projects expected impact is likely to be a reduction in preterm births (in some cases up to a 50 percent reduction). If you are 12 to 17 weeks pregnant, at least 18 years of age, and currently reside in the US, you may enroll in this fully sponsored project at no cost to you. Participation in the program includes:

  • Free vitamin D blood tests
  • Your and your newborn's new questionnaire entries
  • Reporting of results directly to you
  • Free vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D Is Crucial for Optimal Health

Optimizing your vitamin D level is vital for health, and compelling research shows there's typically a significant reduction in disease risk, no matter what disease is under investigation. Several forms of cancer appear to be reduced by 40 to 50 percent or more, for example.

Vitamin D can also reduce your risk of heart attack by about 50 percent. And, beware... research suggests that if you have a heart attack while being vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack is upwards of 100 percent!

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes, asthma, and allergies are also impacted by your vitamin D levels, as are virtually all autoimmune diseases, and many neurological disorders as well, including Alzheimer's disease. But there are also a number of other proactive strategies that will help you optimize your health, several of which I'll address in today's webinar.

Day Two of My Live Webinar Today! 

Yesterday, my live talk centered around the five items needed to help reverse illness. In today's webinar (10 am CST), I will highlight a number of essential nutritional strategies. If you have not yet registered for this webinar, you can access it by clicking on the button below. Three really essential nutritional tools to maintain health are:

  1. Maintaining the proper balance of gut bacteria
  2. Obtaining high quality omega3 fats
  3. Maintaining your CoQ10 levels

In addition to these three key strategies, today's talk will also cover:

  • Core Strategies for Optimal Wellness
    • Gaining the Necessary Nutrients with Confidence
    • The Power of Antioxidants
  • Additional Every Day Tips
    • Ensuring the Proper Balance for Bone Health
    • Getting the Most from Vitamin D
  • Addressing Health Concerns Specific to Men and Women
    • A Plan for Prostate Health
    • The Advantages of L-Arginine
    • Making Breast Health a Top Priority
    • The Importance of Iodine

Key Strategy #1: Maintaining the Proper Balance of Gut Bacteria

Your body's microbiome — colonies of various microbes that reside in your gut and elsewhere in and on your body — is one of the primary factors that drive your genetic expression, turning genes on and off depending on which microbes are present. A number of health conditions and chronic diseases have been linked to the makeup of your microbiome, including depression, obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Crohn's disease, brain diseases, autism, and allergies. It's also a critical component for a well-functioning immune system, which is your primary defense against virtually all disease.

Your microbiome is as unique to you as your fingerprint, and can be rapidly altered based on factors such as diet, lifestyle, and exposure to toxins and antibiotics. While there are no good or bad bacteria per se, potentially harmful microbes become dangerous once they start to take up too much real estate, outnumbering the more beneficial ones. This is why maintaining the proper balance of gut bacteria is so important.

The good news is that supporting your microbiome isn't very complicated. However, you do need to take proactive steps to implement certain key strategies while actively avoiding other factors. To optimize your microbiome both inside and out, consider the following recommendations:

Do: Avoid: Eat plenty of fermented foods. Healthy choices include lassi, fermented grass-fed organic milk such as kefir, natto (fermented soy), and fermented vegetables. If you ferment your own, consider using a special starter culture that has been optimized with bacterial strains that produce high levels of vitamin K2. This is an inexpensive way to optimize your K2, which is particularly important if you're taking a vitamin D3 supplement. Antibiotics, unless absolutely necessary (and when you do, make sure to reseed your gut with fermented foods and/or a probiotic supplement). And while some researchers are looking into methods that might help ameliorate the destruction of beneficial bacteria by antibiotics,1,2 your best bet is likely always going to be reseeding your gut with probiotics from fermented and cultured foods and/or a high-quality probiotic supplement. Take a probiotic supplement. Although I'm not a major proponent of taking many supplements (as I believe the majority of your nutrients need to come from food), probiotics is an exception if you don't eat fermented foods on a regular basis Conventionally-raised meats and other animal products, as CAFO animals are routinely fed low-dose antibiotics, plus genetically engineered grains loaded with glyphosate, which is widely known to kill many bacteria. Boost your soluble and insoluble fiber intake, focusing on vegetables, nuts, and seeds, including sprouted seeds. Chlorinated and/or fluoridated water. Especially in your bathing such as showers, which are worse than drinking it. Get your hands dirty in the garden. Germ-free living may not be in your best interest, as the loss of healthy bacteria can have wide-ranging influence on your mental, emotional, and physical health. Exposure to bacteria and viruses can serve as "natural vaccines" that strengthen your immune system and provide long-lasting immunity against disease.

Getting your hands dirty in the garden can help reacquaint your immune system with beneficial microorganisms on the plants and in the soil. According to a recent report,3 lack of exposure to the outdoors can in and of itself cause your microbiome to become "deficient." Processed foods. Excessive sugars, along with otherwise "dead" nutrients, feed pathogenic bacteria. Food emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80, lecithin, carrageenan, polyglycerols, and xanthan gum also appear to have an adverse effect on your gut flora.4 Unless 100% organic, they may also contain GMOs that tend to be heavily contaminated with pesticides such as glyphosate. Open your windows. For the vast majority of human history the outside was always part of the inside, and at no moment during our day were we ever really separated from nature. Today, we spend 90 percent of our lives indoors.

And, although keeping the outside out does have its advantages it has also changed the microbiome of your home. Research5 shows that opening a window and increasing natural airflow can improve the diversity and health of the microbes in your home, which in turn benefit you. Agricultural chemicals, glyphosate (Roundup) in particular is a known antibiotic and will actively kill many of your beneficial gut microbes if you eat and foods contaminated with Roundup. Wash your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher. Recent research has shown that washing your dishes by hand leaves more bacteria on the dishes than dishwashers do, and that eating off these less-than-sterile dishes may actually decrease your risk of allergies by stimulating your immune system. Antibacterial soap, as they too kill off both good and bad bacteria, and contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistance. Key Strategy #2: Obtaining High-Quality Omega-3 Fats

From my perspective, based on medical experience and overwhelming scientific evidence, making sure you're getting enough omega-3 in your diet, either from wild salmon or a high-quality omega-3 supplement like krill oil, is absolutely crucial for optimal health. While a helpful form of omega-3 can be found in flaxseed, chia, hemp, and a few other foods, the most beneficial form of omega-3 – containing two fatty acids, DHA and EPA, which are essential to fighting and preventing both physical and mental disease – can only be found in fish and krill.6

Unfortunately, nearly all fish, from most all sources, are now severely contaminated with toxic mercury, which is why I have amended my previous recommendations to consume fish on a routine basis. It's simply not advisable for most people any longer. About the only exception to this rule is wild caught Alaskan salmon. Avoid farmed salmon, as they contain only about half of the omega-3 levels of wild salmon. Farmed salmon may also contain a range of harmful contaminants, including environmental toxins, synthetic astaxanthin, and genetically engineered organisms from the grain feed they're given.

My latest recommendation for a source of high-quality omega-3 fats is krill oil. The omega-3 in krill is attached to phospholipids that increase its absorption, which means you need less of it. It also naturally contains astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant — almost 50 times more than is present in fish oil. This prevents the highly perishable omega-3 fats from oxidizing before you are able to integrate them into your cellular tissue. To learn more about the benefits of krill versus fish oil, please see my interview with Dr. Rudi Moerck, a drug industry insider and an expert on omega-3 fats.

Key Strategy #3: Maintaining Your CoQ10 Levels

Coenzyme Q10 is used for energy production by every cell in your body, and is therefore vital for good health, high energy levels, longevity, and general quality of life. It also helps protect against cellular damage from free radicals. Unfortunately, one in four Americans aged 45 and over are now taking a statin drug, which depletes your body of CoQ10, thereby speeding up progression of heart disease... If you're in this group, you simply must replenish your CoQ10 with a supplement. You cannot get enough from food alone.

There are two forms of CoQ10, and the better, far more effective alternative is its reduced form, called ubiquinol. This is the form your body actually uses to achieve it benefits, and substantial research shows that if you are over 25, this reduced form is superior for your health in a number of ways. Even if you're not a statin user, ubiquinol may offer valuable health benefits. For example, studies have shown ubiquinol has a positive effect on:

  • Inflammatory processes
  • "Anti-aging" effects
  • Cardiac arrest recovery
  • Stroke recovery
  • Periodontal disease (including gingivitis and dry mouth)

A common concern by producers of ubiquinol, scientists, and consumers alike, is whether or not supplementing with ubiquinol may negatively affect your body's own production of it. Fortunately, several studies have shown that this is not the case. Even at very high levels of ubiquinol — upwards of thousands of milligrams a day for a considerable period of time — natural production has remained unaffected. The safety profile for ubiquinol is also excellent. Even at very large doses, no adverse effects or drug interactions have ever been found or reported.

Dosage Suggestions for CoQ10/Ubiquinol

If you're on a statin drug, you MUST take at least 100 to 200 mg of ubiquinol or CoQ10 per day. If you're not on a statin drug, the amount of CoQ10 or ubiquinol you might need depends on how sick you are. The sicker you are, the more you need. If you don't take any form of CoQ10 at all and you're just starting out with ubiquinol, start with 200 to 300 milligrams a day. Within a two- to three-week period your plasma levels will typically plateau to its optimum level.

After that, you can go down to a 100 mg/day maintenance dose per day. This dose is typically sufficient for healthy people. If you have an active lifestyle, exercise a lot, or are under a lot of stress due to your job or "life" in general, you may want to increase your dose to 200 to 300 mg/day.

Since you're replenishing natural cellular energy that is used up through physical activity and/or stress, and counteracting the natural drop in production levels that come with age, you will typically feel a difference in energy levels when you start taking it. Ideally, you'll want to split the dose up to two or three times a day, rather than taking it all at once, as this will result in higher blood levels.

Take Control of Your Health!

Health is actually not as complicated to obtain and maintain as you might think. Your body is actually remarkably efficient when it comes to healing and regenerating itself, provided you feed it and care for it properly. Perhaps one of the simplest health directives you could ever come across is to just EAT REAL FOOD (whole, unadulterated/unprocessed, and ideally organic).

Eating real food automatically eliminates nearly all of the tens of thousands of chemicals that are never tested for safety but included in your food due to loopholes in the food laws. Besides nutritious food, you also need physical activity, and sensible sun exposure to help optimize your vitamin D. These are lifestyle habits that cost little to nothing in terms of money, but pay plenty of dividends in terms of health and longevity.

Farm Workers Bear the Brunt of Pesticide Poisoning

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Worldwide, more than 5 billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed onto crops each year,1 and more than 75 percent of the US population has detectable levels of organophosphates (OPs), which are among the most commonly used insecticides on American farms.

Your diet is one of the most likely routes of exposure – unless you're a farmer or live near an agricultural area. For farm workers, their children, and those who live in farming communities, pesticide exposure is a fact of life, but one that puts their health in serious jeopardy.

The next time you’re at the grocery store deciding between organic or conventional strawberries, realize that the decision affects far more than your own health. For the farm workers spraying those fields, and the children living and going to school near them, the pesticide exposure will be far greater than it will be for you.

Most of the farm workers are forced to work in these hazardous conditions in order to feed their own families, but that’s because pesticide-laden conventional produce is still accepted and dominates the market.

Ultimately, a shift to an organic, more sustainable food supply would make all the difference – not only for the families that eat the food but also for the farm workers who grow it.

Farm Workers Are Exposed to High Levels of Pesticides

A recent report from Farmworker Justice highlighted just how bad the pesticide exposure has become.2 Up to 20,000 farm workers are poisoned by pesticides each year, according to data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The actual number is likely far higher, as many of the workers may not seek medical care or may be misdiagnosed if they do seek treatment. There is also no coordinated national incident reporting system to track such exposures. Despite this, pesticide exposures cause farm workers more chemical-related injuries and illnesses than any other workforce nationwide. According to the report:3

“Farmworkers are exposed to pesticides in a variety of ways. Workers who perform hand labor tasks in treated areas risk exposure from direct spray, aerial drift, or contact with pesticide residues on the crop or soil.

Workers who mix, load, or apply pesticides can be exposed to pesticides due to spills, splashes, and defective, missing, or inadequate protective equipment.

Even when not working in the fields, farmworker families, especially children, are also at risk of elevated pesticide exposure. Workers bring pesticides into their homes in the form of residues on their tools, clothes, shoes, and skin. They inadvertently expose their children through a hug if they cannot shower after work.

The close proximity of agricultural fields to residential areas results in aerial drift of pesticides into farmworkers’ homes, schools, and playgrounds. Some schoolyards are directly adjacent to fields of crops that are sprayed with pesticides.

Pesticide exposure is an unavoidable reality for farmworkers and their families because pesticides are in the air they breathe, the water they drink, the food they eat, and the soil they cultivate.”

Health Impacts of Pesticide Exposures

There are both short- and long-term effects that occur from pesticide exposures. In the short-term, exposures can lead to rashes, blisters, stinging eyes, blindness, nausea, dizziness, headaches, coma, and death.

Some effects are delayed, however, and may not be immediately apparent. Such long-term effects include infertility, birth defects, endocrine disruption, neurological disorders, and cancer.

There are about 2.5 million farm workers in the US, about 60 percent of whom live in poverty. Most of them lack legal work authorization, which means they’re unlikely to report violations of workplace safety, abuse of protective regulations, or even seek medical attention for potential poisonings.

Further, some symptoms of pesticide exposure resemble the flu, so many workers aren’t aware of the exposure. There are also language barriers to factor in and the risk of employer retaliation if a farm worker challenges unsafe pesticide practices or seeks medical treatment for pesticide exposures. According to the report:4

“Rural and agricultural communities have been found to experience higher rates of leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma, as well as cancers of the skin, lip, stomach, brain, and prostate.

Workers who reported farm work as their primary occupation suffered elevated risks for prostate cancer, esophagus cancer, and oral cavity cancers. 

Pesticide exposure is attributed to higher rates of birth defects, developmental delays, leukemia, and brain cancer among farmworker children.”

‘Absolute Proof’ of the Damaging Effects of Pesticides on Children’s Brains

Because the effects of pesticide exposure aren’t always immediate, it can be difficult to tie them directly to the health problems they cause. However, the CHAMACOS Study showed that very small amounts of pesticides may be harming kids’ brains.

It followed hundreds of pregnant women living in Salinas Valley, California, an agricultural mecca that has had up to a half-million pounds of organophosphates sprayed in the region per year.

The children were followed through age 12 to assess what impact the pesticides had on their development.5 It turns out the impact was quite dramatic, and mothers' exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy was associated with:6

  • Shorter duration of pregnancy
  • Poorer neonatal reflexes
  • Lower IQ and poorer cognitive functioning in children
  • Increased risk of attention problems in children

Research published, ironically, the same day as the CHAMACOS study, also found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos (Dursban, a pesticide once used to control cockroaches in inner cities) was associated with lower IQs and poorer working memory in three-year-olds.7

A senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who is now an official at the California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the combination of studies come "about as close as I can imagine to absolute proof" of the damaging effects of pesticides on children's brains.8

It is this cumulative effect of numerous chemicals, particularly to developing children, that likely poses the greatest risks of all. Brenda Eskenazi, chief investigator of the CHAMACOS study, noted:9

"The other thing we don't know about is the combined effect of exposures … Throughout the course of a day, people may eat several different types of produce, each of which may bear traces of one or more pesticides. They encounter other types of chemicals as well — from antibacterials in soaps, to plasticizers in foodware, to flame retardants in the furniture… By day's end, you've got a combination of chemicals and an unknown level of risk."

This level of risk is heightened significantly among the children of farm workers who also live and go to school in close proximity to the heavily sprayed fields…

Many Farm Workers Are Unaware of the Risks They’re Facing

A federal law known as the Work Protection Standard (WPS) requires pesticide safety training for farm workers, notification of pesticide applications, and emergency medical assistance. However, it is weakly enforced and many workers only watch a 20-minute video about pesticide exposure symptoms once every five years.

Pesticide applicators are at heightened risk as well, since many speak Spanish but the pesticide labels (including the safety information and health risks) are written in English. Available safeguards, such as requiring pesticide applicators to sit in an enclosed cab with a ventilation system (as opposed to in the open cab of a truck) are not often used or required.

Many of the workers are simply not aware of the health risks posed by pesticides and are often unaware when exposures occur. Medical monitoring of workers who regularly handle neurotoxic pesticides, which allows overexposures to be identified before there is irreversible harm, has been shown to help reduce the risks – but it’s not required.

No-spray buffer zones around area homes, schools, and parks could help to protect workers and their families from aerial pesticide drifts… but perhaps the more pressing question is why we continue to use such toxic chemicals on agricultural fields in the first place.

EPA Botches Pesticide-Spraying Settlement

In 1999, a civil-rights complaint was filed against the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Farm workers in the strawberry fields near Oxnard, California were concerned the pesticides sprayed on the fields were contaminating nearby schools. And the complaint alleged that agricultural pesticides were being used more heavily around schools with mostly minority student populations.

After an investigation, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its preliminary finding and, in a first and only decision, ruled it a case of discrimination and settled with the state of California. The EPA touted this as a victory for the farm workers… but there were just a few problems… For starters, the EPA took more than a decade to issue their finding – in 2011. By that time, the children in the schools in question had long since graduated and some had even started families of their own. The terms of the settlement were also far from “victorious.”

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation, in exchange for admitting no wrongdoing, agreed to put an additional air monitor near a school. And the original complainants, who are supposed to be a part of the process, weren’t notified of the EPA’s discrimination finding until after the settlement with the state was announced; they had no input whatsoever.

EPA Ignores Ongoing Spraying of Toxic Chemicals Near Schools…

The complainants tried to get the EPA to reopen the settlement negotiations, but the agency refused. One of them even filed a lawsuit against the EPA for the way it handled the investigation and settlement, but it was dismissed in 2014 (an appeal is pending). One of the main atrocities of the case is that it had mentioned, in 1999, the regular use of the fumigant methyl bromide, which was linked to neurological effects and lung and kidney damage. In 2005, the US agreed to phase the chemical out, but farmers were allowed to continue to spray it on strawberries until 2015.

By the time the EPA’s decision was made, methyl bromide was already being widely replaced… but the EPA didn’t factor in the chemicals being used to replace it. So while methyl bromide was certainly less of an issue, replacement chemicals, like 1,3-D, a probable carcinogen, should have been investigated – but were not. As reported by The Center for Public Integrity:10

The settlement agreement didn’t take into account the chemicals that would spring up to replace methyl bromide. In fact, it focused only on the use of methyl bromide between 1995 and 2001 — the years leading up to when the case was filed, and later accepted for investigation. The EPA said at the time that it looked at methyl bromide because the chemical was specifically mentioned in the complaint. [Brent] Newell [legal director for the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment, which is one of the agencies that filed the complaint], called it a dereliction of duty.

‘I still do not know why EPA did not include the fumigants that were replacing methyl bromide,’ he said. ‘… Now, if they didn’t do it because they’re incompetent, that’s a problem. If they knew about it and they decided to deliberately restrict their investigation to only methyl bromide, then that’s an even bigger problem. They would be ignoring evidence that’s material to the investigation.’”

The Floriculture Industry Is Also a Danger to its Workers

It’s not only pesticide-laden produce that is putting workers’ lives at risk; the cut flower industry is also among one of the worst for pesticide exposures. A 1990 study looking at the prevalence of reproductive problems in Colombian workers exposed to pesticides while growing flowers found that workers in the floriculture industry were exposed to 127 different types of pesticides.11 According to the study:

"The prevalence rates for abortion, prematurity, stillbirths, and malformations were estimated for pregnancies occurring among the female workers and the wives of the male workers before and after they started working in floriculture, and these rates were related to various degrees of exposure. A moderate increase in the prevalence of abortion, prematurity, and congenital malformations was detected for pregnancies occurring after the start of work in floriculture."

Years later, a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Health Research again assessed the risk factors associated with pesticide exposure among farmers of cut flowers — this time in the Philippines.12 Thirty-two percent of the workers reported pesticide-related illnesses since starting work in the flower business, which typically centered around their eyes, ears, nose, and throat. The most commonly reported symptoms were weakness and fatigue, muscle pain, chills and fever, blurred vision, dizziness, and headache.

In a flower-growing region in Northern Ecuador, where female employment in the industry is high, researchers found that “prenatal exposure to pesticides – at levels not producing adverse health outcomes in the mother – can cause lasting adverse effects on brain development in children.” They conclude that pesticide exposure may contribute to a "silent pandemic" of developmental neurotoxicity in school-age children.13

By Eating Organic, You Can Help Shift the Agricultural Industry Away from the Use of These Toxic Chemicals

Your best bet for minimizing health risks from pesticide exposure is to avoid them in the first place by eating organic as much as possible and investing in a good water filtration system for your home or apartment. Alternatively, you can try growing some of your own produce using organic methods right in your own backyard. One of the benefits of eating organic is that the foods will be free of genetically modified (GM) ingredients – and this is key to avoiding exposure to toxic glyphosate.

Eating locally produced organic food will not only support your family's health, it will also protect the environment from harmful chemical pollutants and help shift the agriculture industry away from conventional farming with the use of toxic chemicals – a must for worker protection. As for cut flowers, you can sometimes find organic cut flowers for sale at farmer’s markets, flower shops, and health food stores, and they’re also available to order online.

In the absence of organic certification, you can also look for fair trade certification, as fair trade programs pay greater attention to protecting worker's health and wellbeing, and typically use fewer or less pesticides.

When consumers speak up, corporations listen. It’s because of consumer demand that we’re seeing major chicken producers nixing their use of antibiotics in chicken. If enough people demand organic, pesticide-free food, and other goods, the agriculture industry will have no choice but to listen. Finally, if you know you have been exposed to pesticides, the lactic acid bacteria formed during the fermentation of kimchi may help your body break them down. So including fermented foods like kimchi in your diet may be a wise strategy to help detox the pesticides that do enter your body.

Five Items You Need to Address to Reverse Just About Any Illness

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Life is a journey and for most of us health is an important part of that journey, because if you have health challenges your ability to manifest your passions will be seriously impaired.

One of my primary passions is health, which is one of the reasons I went to medical school. But that was only a start, as most of what I have learned about optimizing health occurred long after my medical school graduation over 30 years ago.

After three decades of managing patients from all over the world and reviewing hundreds of thousands of studies, I have reached some conclusions about how to avoid or reverse most any disease you can acquire.

After 18 years of writing and editing this newsletter I have learned how to translate this information into easy to understand language, which I believe is one of its primary benefits, as it was one of the first sites to translate complex medical jargon into easy to understand language.

Best Health Strategies for You

However, the daily newsletter articles usually focus on one specific topic and do not seek to put a comprehensive health recommendation in one place. That is why I wrote my current New York Times bestselling book Effortless Healing earlier this year.

Effortless Healing compresses tens of thousands of pages an easy to understand 350-page book. If you are new to the site or natural medicine I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy and carefully review it, as it will help put everything together for you. It makes a wonderful gift for someone who is new to natural healing.

It is clear from a number of the questions submitted that many are unaware that I have compiled about 100 pages of detailed dietary recommendations. If you haven't yet reviewed it I would encourage you to review my nutrition plan

However I realize that not everyone likes to read, which is why I produced a one-hour PBS special for people that are completely new to natural medicine and you are welcome to view it in my Effortless Healing Guidelines article posted on August 23.  I've also embedded it below for your convenience.

But most readers of this site know the basics I presented, which is why I wanted to do an advanced version for you and, even more importantly, have the opportunity to dialog with me directly and ask for clarification on the recommendations.

My live webinar presentation will assume that you know the basics presented in my PBS special and provide an advanced strategies. I will seek to answer the most important of the over 300 questions that were posted for the webinar.

Join My Live Anniversary Thank You Webinar Today!

To celebrate 18 years of the newsletter and thank you all for your generous support, I'm going to provide you with an opportunity to interact with me directly through the magic of the Internet.

So today Wednesday August 26th at 10 AM CST, I will be conducting the first of a two-day free webinar in which I will review the most important items you need to implement to radically improve your health.

I have listed an outline of what I will discuss below. You are welcome to submit any questions you have on this material by accessing the webinar page early.

For the last few weeks we have had our anniversary page that allowed readers to post their question. We have picked the best of the over 300 questions and look forward to the opportunity to answer them during the next two days.

The Five Items You Need to Address to Reverse Just About Any Illness

The more I study natural medicine, the more it becomes clear to me that the solution for most all illness involves some fairly basic concepts. In my experience, if you apply these principles early enough with most illnesses you will activate your body's healing response and recover from your illness.

The basic principles involve sun, water, movement, food, and sleep. In my experience most people who have just started investigating the power of natural medicine fail to comprehensively integrate all of these principles and reap the powerful synergistic benefits they can provide.

Access Sun Exposure as Much as Possible

There are many benefits of sun exposure. The UVB in the sun will help your body produce vitamin D, and optimal levels are crucial to prevent diseases like obesity, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, Alzheimer's, and dozens of other diseases.

Also, and this is important, if you have cancer or an autoimmune disease like MS, Crohn's, or rheumatoid arthritis, it is absolutely vital to raise your vitamin D to an optimal biological level.

Regular sun exposure not only provides UVB but over 1500 wavelengths and we most likely will not full appreciate the value of regular exposure to many of these wavelengths for hundreds of years. We do know that infrared exposure helps your body form structured water.

However, many people are confused about sun exposure, and don't understand that to reap the benefits they need a significant amount of skin exposed to the sun for their skin to stimulate vitamin D production.

Even if you live in a sunny climate during the summer it's experience that it is the rare individual that is getting adequate sun exposure. This is typically due to the simple fact that most people have responsibilities during the work week that keeps them indoors, out of the sun. Remember that 15 to 30 minutes of eating outside with all your clothes on is not going to give you healthy vitamin D levels.

There is simply no question that regular sun exposure is the ideal as it will provide you with far more than just UVB, but if you, like most people, are unable to do this, then you must take oral vitamin D and regularly test your blood until your level is above 50 ng/ml.

Vitamin K2 has virtually the same benefits as vitamin D and works synergistically with vitamin D. If you are taking oral vitamin D you simply must have a regular source of vitamin K2. Sadly there is no commercial test for vitamin K2. However, I'm actually in discussion with the appropriate clinical director for Quest to offer this test commercially soon. I'm really excited as it will allow the necessary research to be done.

Remember that just being out in sun will NOT work if you are fully clothed; you need to expose significant amounts of your skin to the sun to improve your vitamin D levels. The time necessary varies based on your age, weight (as fat tissue sucks up vitamin D), skin color, season, latitude, altitude, cloud cover, and time of day.

The range can be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. The only way to know for sure is to make sure you never get burnt and to measure your vitamin D blood levels. Also, if you take oral supplements it's important to take vitamin K2, about 150 mcg as MK7.

Fermented vegetables would also work but only if they are made using a starter culture using special bacteria designed to make more vitamin K2, otherwise they will not have enough K2. That is why we created a special starter culture called Kinetic Culture that will provide you with therapeutic levels.

Remember most fermented foods, especially yogurt that you purchase in the grocery store are nothing more than creamy junk food. Avoid them. Only consume yogurt you make yourself or purchase from ones that have been approved by Cornucopia.

Drink Clean Water, Free of Toxins Like Chlorine and Fluoride

Remember that most municipal water supplies are contaminated with chlorine disinfection byproducts and fluoride. It is relatively easy to remove chlorine and disinfection byproducts with high quality carbon filters. My favorite is the whole house water filter we sell in our store. The only concern is that it will restrict the flow of your water to 7.5 gallons per minute. So most people get two and hook them up in parallel to get 15 gallons per minute.

The large filters are good for 5 to 10 years but the prefilters need to be changed every month or two. However carbon filters don't remove fluoride very well, so reverse osmosis or distillers are the only option. My favorite is reverse osmosis (RO) as they don't damage the water as much.

The downside of RO filters is most have a holding tank that invariably becomes contaminated and needs to be regularly disinfected with chlorine, which is a maintenance hassle. The work-around for this is to use one that has a high output without a holding tank that you can fill a large glass container with.

We have been working on this for a few years and hope to release one in the near future. Some of the new updates here include improving the water after it is filtered, as many filters, especially reverse osmosis and distillation, destructure the water. The best way to restore the structure is to use a high-quality vortexing device and then refrigerate the water until you drink it.

The update is that we have been developing a new vortexer with a one gallon glass jar that is half the price of most vortexers out there. It has taken us a few years to develop this product and it's patented. We hope to launch it before Christmas. Many may know that I have not been a fan of alkaline water. However there is recent research that shows alkaline water may work but NOT because of its pH.

There is a quite a bit of research out of Japan showing the value of hydrogen supplementation and one of the best ways to do that is in water. The problem is that most alkalinizers, especially the ones sold in MLM settings, do work initially but the plates that generate the hydrogen build up scale in a few weeks and unless you invest hours of work in removing them you will not get the benefits. Not to worry though, as we are diligently working on a device to provide hydrogen water, but we have at least another year of research before we can bring it to market.

Eat Real Food at the Right Time

It is important to realize that if you implement these simple food strategies you can prevent and reverse most any disease. Getting your nutrition correct is the first step in healing just about any disease. For some diseases, like type 2 two diabetes, it will cure virtually every case. It will also prevent and treat most heart disease, cancers, and Alzheimer's. You typically don't need special herbs or supplements to resolve diabetes. They might help but the key is removing the insulin resistance with diet and exercise.

So what is the common thread that runs through these diseases? If you are a long time reader you probably know that the answer is insulin resistance. Resolve insulin resistance and you no longer have type 2 diabetes, and you dramatically reduce if not eliminate your risk of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's. The simple key is to EAT REAL FOOD.

Ideally growing it yourself is best. A great way to start is growing your own sunflower seed sprouts. From seed to harvest is under 10 days. We even sell sunflower seed kits that make it easy for you. The risk of contamination is very small if you grow them yourself. Most all contaminated ones are commercially grown. Next best is locally grown and organic. But if you can't do this for whatever reason, you still need to eat vegetables. Even non-organic ones are better than no vegetables at all.

I have mentioned it many times in previous articles but remember that local Weston A. Price Chapter leaders are available all over the world. Find one close to you and they can network you with the best local options for real foods in your area. That means avoiding all processed foods, and especially sugars and processed grains, or even worse, heated oils. I am not sure which is worse, processed sugar or fats, but the key is to avoid both. That means industrialized polyunsaturated oils in a bottle, like corn or canola oil.

Saturated fats like coconut oil are fine, as are olive oil, butter, avocado, and nuts (especially macadamia and pecans). But how do you know if you have insulin resistance? Simple: if you are overweight, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or taking a statin, you likely have it, but to know for sure, have a fasting blood insulin level test. If it's over 5 you're insulin resistant.

Until you resolve your insulin resistance it is best to avoid even healthy grains and limit your fruits to 25 grams of fructose or less per day. Once you resolve your insulin resistance you can increase your healthy grains and fruits to whatever level you enjoy as long as insulin resistance doesn't recur.

The Timing of Your Food Is KEY

Insulin resistance is epidemic in our culture. Resolving it will be vital to improving just about any health problem. The most powerful strategy I have ever encountered is to replicate our ancestral eating patterns. Remember, your ancient ancestors never had access to food 24/7 so it makes perfect sense that your genes and metabolism are optimized for regular periods where you don't eat.

For more details on this powerful intervention please review this earlier article on intermittent fasting. The key is to restrict your calories to a 6 to 8 hour window, and eat no calories for the remainder of the day. You can drink water, tea, or coffee as long as there is no dairy or sweetener in them.

But since this an update I have some important new observations for advanced readers. You might recall from earlier articles that I said breakfast was the least important meal of the day. Well, I have subsequently come to realize that for many people it can indeed be an important meal. Let me explain why. I have long taught that it was best to avoid any food or calories for at least three hours before you go to bed. A problem with skipping breakfast is that it does not allow you to fast for even longer before you sleep.

Improving Your Mitochondria for Your Health, Energy, and Longevity

Why is it important to have a long span of time during which you're not eating before bed? Largely this is due to the way your body creates energy, which is through your mitochondria. These tiny bacterial derivatives live inside your cell and are optimized to create energy from the food you eat and the air you breathe.

The mitochondria create energy by generating electrons that are normally transferred to ATP (adenosine triphosphate). When you don't have insulin resistance this energy transfer works quite nicely, but when you are insulin resistant or you eat excessively, all hell can break loose. If you eat excessive food and you don't burn the calories with movement fairly shortly after consuming the calories, the electrons back up inside the mitochondria as there is plenty of ATP that isn't being used.

The problem is that these electrons are highly reactive and they start to leak out of the electron transport chain in the mitochondria, and if enough electrons leak out they wind up prematurely killing the mitochondria, and then wreak further havoc by damaging your cell membranes and DNA. There are many knowledgeable experts that believe this is one of the keys to accelerated aging.

So how can you apply this knowledge? Simple: resolve your insulin resistance as soon as you can, and do not eat for AT LEAST three hours before you go to sleep. This is because your body will use the least amount of calories when sleeping and the LAST thing you need is excess fuel generating free radicals damaging your tissues.

Interestingly, by applying this principle, if you have insulin resistance this will help you resolve it. This is one of the reasons why I believe skipping dinner may be a better strategy. Clearly that's more difficult to implement from a social perspective, but it might be a superior biological strategy. Personally, I stop eating now around 4 PM and have 6 to 7 hours of fasting before I go to sleep.

You Must Regularly Move Your Body to Stay Healthy

The average American adult spends about 10 hours (or more) each day sitting, and more than 10,000 studies have now confirmed that chronic sitting is a potent independent risk factor for insulin resistance1 and an early death – even if you eat right, exercise regularly, and are very fit; even a professional or Olympic level athlete. It's really important to realize that you simply cannot offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise. You need near-continuous movement throughout the day. Once you've sat for an hour, you've sat too long.

For a while I recommended getting up every 10 minutes, but for me that failed miserably. The only thing that worked was to restrict my sitting to less than one hour a day. So ideally, strive to sit for less than three hours a day, and make it a point to walk more. A stand-up desk is a great option if you have an office job, and a fitness tracker or smartphone can be used to ensure you're getting the recommended 7,000 to 10,000 steps per day.

Next, you'll want to incorporate a more regimented fitness routine, and while virtually any exercise is better than none, high intensity exercises are the most potent. Benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) includes cardiovascular fitness, improved muscle growth and strength, and the generation of "anti-aging" human growth hormone (HGH), also referred to as "the fitness hormone."

It also effectively stimulates your muscles to release anti-inflammatory myokines, which increase your insulin sensitivity and glucose use inside your muscles. They also increase liberation of fat from adipose cells, and the burning of the fat within the skeletal muscle.

Strength training is also an important component, and is recommended for both sexes of all ages, including kids and seniors. Gaining more muscle through resistance exercises has many benefits, from losing excess fat to maintaining healthy bone mass and preventing age-related muscle loss as you age.

High-intensity strength training (a.k.a. super slow weight training) also has the added benefit of triggering greater amounts of anti-inflammatory myokines than regular HIIT. So if you want to combat chronic inflammation in your body, high intensity weight training may offer additional benefits over other forms of HIIT training.

Whatever you choose to do, please do take the time to exercise, and incorporate as much physical activity into your life as you can.

Many of you may not realize that my early life goal was to be an astronaut, but my encounter with the military in the application process made it very clear that government employment was not for me. I also would not go into space because of the radiation dangers. However, it's interesting to note that the routine scientists have determined to keep astronauts healthy in space is what I wound up doing for myself in a much more comfortable environment on planet Earth.

The two areas of health that coincide are sleep and exercise. Astronauts sleep for eight and a half hours, which is precisely my sleeping time. They also exercise for two and half hours. They need to exercise that long to counteract the effects of microgravity.

While we have the benefit of gravity on earth, I do believe that we benefit from that amount of movement and exercise activity each day and interestingly, that is at least how much I exercise every day. One hour and forty-five minutes of walking every day, fifteen minutes of swimming and at least 30 minutes of stretching and exercise.

You Are Not Special — We All Need to Sleep Eight Hours to Stay Healthy

Most fail to fully appreciate how important sleep is to their health. I know, as I was one of them. However I have since learned to appreciate the major role that adequate sleep plays in recovery, repair, and optimal healing. I used to think I was immune to needing adequate sleep. I would routinely get less than six hours a night and thought I could function this way. But I've since realized that most adults really need about eight hours of sleep every night.

There are exceptions to this rule. A genetic mutation resulting in a condition called advanced phase sleep syndrome allow affected individuals to thrive on less sleep, but fewer than one in 10,000 people have this condition. Odds are you are not one of them. I do personally know someone though with this condition: Dr. Michael Holick, world class vitamin D expert. He has done well with only four hours of sleep his entire life.

When I first started using a fitness tracker, I was striving to get eight hours of sleep, but my Jawbone UP typically recorded me at 7.5 hours. So I went to bed earlier and now average about 8.5 hours of sleep every night. The fitness tracker helped me realize that unless I am asleep, not just in bed, but asleep by 10:00 PM I won't get my eight hours. Gradually I have been able to get this down to 9:30 PM. If I wake up before 4:30 AM I typically try to go back to sleep. But after that time I find it too difficult so I merely meditate for an hour.

Frequent yawning during the day is a major red flag that you're sleep deprived, as is nodding off when you're reading or in a meeting. 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) as well. If you struggle with sleep apnea, skip the CPAP and consider a consult with an oral myofascial therapist. You can review my interview with Joy Moeller for more information.

What to Do Next

If you apply the principles that I review they will likely resolve over 80 percent of your health problems. If you have an area that I have not addressed that you still have questions on, then please use the search box as the top of every page on the site. There are 18 years' worth of articles there and odds are very high I have previously addressed your concern.

If you still have a question, then I would encourage you to find a natural medicine clinician. There are many good ones out there. A great strategy is to use social networking and go to your local health food stores and get a consensus as to who the best ones in your area are. If you have a rare or complex problem you might need to search the web and forums to find a world class expert. I believe the time and expense will be worth it.

I used to see patients from all over the world and know firsthand how glad and grateful my patients were to make the effort as they typically resolved their health challenge without dangerous drugs or surgery, and are healthy today as a result. It is vital to maintain a positive attitude the entire time and know that if you are committed to finding a natural solution you will find one. It's merely a matter of time. Always remember that you have the power to take control of you and your family's health.

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