You are here

Dr. Mercola

The 50-Year Cover-Up Killing Millions

12 hours 55 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Antibiotic-resistant infections affect 2 million Americans annually, leading to the death of at least 23,000.1 Even more die from complications related to the infections, and the numbers are steadily growing.

According to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), just one organism — methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA — kills more Americans each year than the combined total of emphysema, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, and homicide.2

A 2015 report3,4 commissioned by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron estimates that by 2050, the annual global death toll from antibiotic-resistant disease will reach 10 million, and the global cost for treatment will be around $100 trillion.

Experts have been warning about the implications of antibiotic resistance for years, but as their warnings have largely been ignored, the number of strains developing resistance to even our strongest antibiotics has been allowed to grow unabated.

While overuse of antibiotics in medicine and widespread use of antibacterial household products (items containing triclosan5) are part of the problem, the inappropriate use of antibiotics in farming bears the heaviest responsibility for creating the antibiotic-resistant superbug crisis of today.

An estimated 80 percent of total antibiotic sales in the U.S. end up in livestock. For example, commercial chicken producers have a history of treating each egg with gentamicin, an antibiotic listed as "essential" to human medicine. One chicken producer has seen the light though, and has abandoned this risky practice.

Perdue Proves Meat Production Can Prosper Without Drugs

Perdue Farms no longer uses gentamicin. In fact, according to a recent report by Mother Jones,6 the only antibiotic remaining in use at Perdue is narasin, an antibiotic not used in human medicine, and only about one-third of its chickens ever get it. (It's used to treat a parasitic intestinal condition called coccidiosis.)

Any other antibiotics are administered to sick birds only (about 4 percent of all birds). According to Mother Jones:

"Perdue ... the country's fourth-largest poultry producer, has set out to show that the meat can be profitably mass-produced without drugs.

In 2014, the company eliminated gentamicin from all its hatcheries, the latest stage of a quiet effort started back in 2002 to cut the routine use of antibiotics from nearly its entire production process."

Interestingly, Perdue fared the best in a 2010 Consumer Reports test7 checking for the presence of the foodborne pathogens salmonella and campylobacter in commercial chicken meat. Fifty-six percent of Perdue's chickens were free of both pathogens.

Its main competitors, Tyson and Foster Farms, both had 80 percent of their chickens tested positive for one or both bacteria. Organic store brand chickens had no salmonella at all, but 57 percent still harbored campylobacter.

According to Consumer Reports, "This is the first time since we began testing chicken that one major brand has fared significantly better than others across the board." Even back then, Perdue's exemplary success was attributed to its more stringent policies on antibiotics.

Why Use Antibiotics in Food Production?

In food production, antibiotics are used for two purposes: 1) to combat disease brought on by overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, and 2) to promote speedy growth. The growth promoting ability of antibiotics was discovered by American Cyanamid (now part of Pfizer) in the 1950s.

It revolutionized livestock farming, allowing farmers to grow bigger chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows faster, without having to feed them more.

The main problem with using antibiotics in food production is that when microbes are exposed to repeated low doses of antibiotics, they quickly develop resistance. This possibility was highlighted by biologist Dr. Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin.

He noted that unless all of the microbes are killed, remaining survivors pass their resistant genes on to the next generation of bacteria, and so resistance becomes stronger and stronger, until the bacteria becomes completely impervious to the effects of the drug. As noted in the featured article:8

"When you treat thousands of chickens in a huge enclosed barn with, say, steady doses of tetracycline, you risk generating an E. coli bug that can resist the antibiotic you threw at it, and that bug's new superpowers can also jump to a strain of salmonella that happens to be hanging around.

Now, two nasty pathogens that plague humans have developed tetracycline-resistant strains."

The 50-Year Cover-Up

In the U.S., use of antibiotics in food animals rose six-fold between 1960 and 1970. It didn't take long before scientists started warning that this practice had the potential to create a public health crisis.

By the end of the 1960s, British scientists found that feeding antibiotics to animals produced resistant bacteria that could be transmitted to humans. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) taskforce came to a similar conclusion in 1972.

At that time, the FDA stipulated that drug manufacturers had to prove their products did not contribute to resistance or risk losing their drug approval. So, the drug industry set out to prove antibiotics in animal feed would not pose such problems.

As reported by Mother Jones, rather than settle the question, their efforts resulted in a 50-year long cover-up of the facts:

"[T]he Animal Health Institute, a trade group of animal-pharmaceutical manufacturers, contacted Dr. Stuart Levy, a young Tufts University researcher who specialized in antibiotic resistance.

The group wanted Levy to feed tiny, daily doses of antibiotics to chickens and see if the bacteria in their guts developed resistance ... Levy found a family farm near Boston and experimented on two flocks of chickens.

One got feed with small amounts of tetracycline. The other went drug-free. Within 48 hours, strains of E. coli that were resistant to tetracycline started to show up in the manure of the birds fed drugs.

Within a week, nearly all the E. coli in those birds' manure could resist tetracycline. Within three months, the E. coli showed resistance to four additional anti­biotics the birds had never been exposed to: sulfonamides, ampicillin, streptomycin, and carbenicillin.

Most striking of all, researchers found that E. coli resistant to multiple antibiotics was appearing in the feces of the farmers' family members — yet not in a control group of neighbors.

The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, were so stunningly clear that Levy thought they would prompt the industry to rethink its profligate antibiotic use, or at least inspire the FDA to rein it in. But the industry rebuffed the study it had bankrolled, questioning the validity of the data ...

In 1977, the FDA proposed new rules that would have effectively banned tetracycline and penicillin from animal feed, but the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee, led by agribusiness champion Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-Miss.), ordered the FDA to wait, 'pending the outcome of further research.'"

FDA Complicit in the Antibiotic Cover-Up

An internal FDA review on the safety of feed additives belonging to penicillin and tetracycline classes of antibiotics, which began in 2001 and ended in 2010, revealed that 26 of the 30 drugs under review did not meet the safety guidelines set in 1973, and none of them met current safety guidelines.

However, this information only came to light after the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the FDA to obtain the documentation. The FDA is supposed to look at three factors when determining the safety of an antibiotic-based feed additive:

  1. Are antibiotic-resistant bacteria being introduced into the food supply?
  2. Are people likely to be exposed to those bacteria?
  3. The consequences of what happens when people are exposed to those bacteria — would they still be able to get treated with human antibiotics?

Based on these three factors, the NRDC's report9 concluded that virtually ALL feed additives containing penicillin and tetracycline antibiotics pose a "high risk" to human health and should not be permitted in animal feed, yet about half of the total sales for these two antibiotics are used for that purpose.

The FDA knew this for well over a dozen years, yet did nothing to curtail the unsafe use of these drugs. The NRDC report also found that as far back as the 1970s, when many of the antibiotics now used in feed were being reviewed for FDA approval, 18 of the 30 antibiotics were already considered "high risk" for human health, but were approved for use in animal feed anyway.

Over the years, as warnings about dire human health effects mounted, farmers started using more antibiotics, not less. Between 2009 and 2014, agricultural antibiotic use in the U.S. increased by 23 percent.

Finally, in December 2013, the FDA issued its long overdue guidance on agricultural antibiotics. Alas, it only went so far as to ask drug companies to voluntarily restrict the use of antibiotics that are important in human medicine by excluding growth promotion in animals as a listed use on the drug label.10

The rule goes into effect in January 2017. However, farmers can still use antibiotics for therapeutic purposes, and this loophole allows them to continue feeding their animals antibiotics for growth promotion without actually admitting it, since enforcement is lax at best.

Why Most Commercial Chicks Are Treated With Vaccines and Antibiotics Before Hatching

Getting back to Perdue and poultry production, chickens are not just fed antibiotics in their feed. As mentioned earlier, most hatcheries also dose the egg with gentamicin. Why? Mother Jones explains:

"About 40 years ago, a herpes virus called Marek's disease began to attack chickens, and vets discovered that vaccinating the chicks while they were still in their shells could inoculate them for life. But when you penetrate eggs with a needle ... the tiny hole ... (allows) bacteria in.

To solve this problem, hatcheries added small amounts of gentamicin to the vaccine ... This method was so efficient that, decades later, the hatchery ended up being the trickiest place for Perdue to remove antibiotics from production.

The company gets its eggs from contract breeders, and in the past eggs often arrived covered in bacteria-laden manure. Now Perdue requires its breeders to deliver clean eggs. Perdue also used to mix its Marek's vaccines in the middle of a less-than-pristine hatchery.

Today the company mixes the drugs under sterile laboratory conditions and injects clean, antibiotic-free vaccines into clean eggs. It took a while, but by March 2014 the company had banished antibiotics from all 16 of its hatcheries."

How Poultry Vaccine Created a Lethal Supervirus

What Mother Jones does not delve into is the story of how this vaccine created a supervirus. As previously reported by PBS,11 vaccinated chickens spread Marek's disease to unvaccinated birds, and research shows the vaccine actually makes the disease spread faster than it normally would.

Compared to a sick, unvaccinated bird, a vaccinated bird sheds 10,000 times more viruses. Scientists have also found the vaccine made the virus more virulent, with exceptionally rapid lethal consequences for unvaccinated birds, which can catch the virus via contaminated dust.12 According to PBS:

"This is the first time that this virus-boosting phenomenon, known as the imperfect vaccine hypothesis, has been observed experimentally ... [T]he vaccine is 'leaky.' A leaky vaccine is one that keeps a microbe from doing serious harm to its host, but doesn't stop the disease from replicating and spreading to another individual ...

[T]he results ... raise the questions for some human vaccines that are leaky — such as malaria, and ... avian influenza, or bird flu ... Vaccines for HPV and whooping cough can leak too ...

'Previously, a hot strain was so nasty, it wiped itself out. Now, you keep its host alive with a vaccine, then it can transmit and spread in the world,' [co-author Andrew] Read said. 'So it's got an evolutionary future, which it didn't have before' ... The vaccination of one group of birds leads to the transmission of a virus so hot that it kills the other birds ...

Like Marek's vaccines, vaccines for avian influenza are leaky. For this reason, they're banned from agricultural use in the U.S. and Europe. When bird flu breaks out in these western chicken populations, farmers must cull their herds.

However, Southeast Asia uses these leaky vaccines, raising the possibility for virus evolution akin to what's happened with Marek's disease. 'In those situations, they're creating the conditions where super hot avian influenza could emerge, 'Read said. 'Then the issues become what does that mean when it spills over into other flocks, into wildlife or into humans. Avian flu is the setting to watch for evolutionary problems down the line.'"

Probiotics and Oregano Take the Place of Antibiotics at Perdue Farms

So what is Perdue using to keep its birds plump and healthy in lieu of antibiotics? The answer is natural remedies like probiotics and oregano. As in humans, by keeping the chickens' intestines "well-seeded" with healthy bacteria, pathogens are suppressed and immune function is boosted. Certain strains of probiotics (which Perdue guards as a trade secret) have also been shown to boost the chickens' growth rate. Moreover, as noted by Mother Jones:

"After Perdue bought an organic chicken company called Coleman Natural Foods in 2011, it adopted another unorthodox therapy: oregano. The fragrant herb ... has anti­microbial properties that, when added to feed, help the birds stave off infections. But, I ask Stewart-Brown, won't bad microbes develop resistance to oregano, too? Likely yes, he says, so Perdue only uses oregano to prevent particular infections, not as a constant additive.

Moving away from antibiotics, Stewart- Brown says, has forced him to think about the birds' overall well-being ... Perdue even turns off the lights in the chicken houses for four hours a night so the birds can rest. In the past, lights were left on 24 hours per day on the theory that chickens kept awake eat more and thus get fatter faster.

Reducing stress by letting the birds rest ... makes them healthier — and since healthy birds grow faster, the extra sleep has the same effect as constant feeding."13

Another alternative warranting further investigation would be colloidal silver, which has a history of use that stretches back thousands of years. As noted in a 2013 study,14 which assessed silver's ability to reduce or prevent post-surgical infections, its bactericidal activity is well established. Researchers have also demonstrated that silver makes antibiotics thousands of times more effective!15

Know This: Your Actions Make a Big Difference!

Why did Perdue make all of these changes when regulations don't require them to do so? Turns out Perdue listens to consumers. Starting in 2002, the company started noticing an increase in queries about its use of antibiotics. According to Perdue, "You can drown them with science to suggest they shouldn't be worried, but the worry is real."

A few years earlier, in 1998, the company began an experiment to evaluate the impact of antibiotics on growth. Three years later, the results were in, and they were not favorable for the continued use of the drugs. Nearly 7,000 chickens raised on 19 farms were included in the trial.

Half were given growth promoting antibiotics, and the other half got none. Before slaughter, each bird was weighed. The difference was minuscule. Antibiotic-free birds weighed on average a mere 0.03 to 0.04 pounds less than the antibiotic-fed chickens. That doesn't amount to much when you consider an average chicken weighs between five and six pounds.

The results proved you can eliminate the drugs without harming profitability, and armed with this knowledge, Perdue decided to address people's concerns by moving the operation away from antibiotics. Interestingly, a 2015 scientific review found that antibiotics don't promote growth the way they used to.

Before 1980, antibiotics boosted growth by about 15 percent. By 2000, that effect had dropped to 1 percent. The reason for this has been attributed to improved nutrition and hygiene, and better breeding methods. All in all, it seems clear that use of antibiotics — at least in chicken farming — has virtually NO benefits anymore over and beyond the occasional use to treat a sick animal.

Perdue's actions are a perfect example of what happens when enough people take the time to share their views and concerns with food companies. Your actions made the difference here, and it's important to recognize this fact. Even if you don't contact a company directly, each time you buy a product you vote with your pocket book, and your choices drive the food system. So be conscious of the system you choose to buy into.

Tell Sanderson Farms and KFC to Follow in Perdue's Footsteps

Remarkably, despite all the evidence pointing out just how dire the antibiotic-resistant disease situation has become, there are companies out there that still pay it no mind. Sanderson Farms is one of them. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is another16 According to its CEO, Joe Sanderson, Perdue's shift away from antibiotics is nothing more than a marketing ploy, and one he doesn't care to imitate. As noted in the featured article:17

"Sanderson ... has held to the old-school party line, maintaining that 'there is no evidence that using these antibiotics for chickens leads to resistant bacteria.' Cost is the No. 1 decision maker when people go to the grocery store to buy chicken, he says, and using antibiotics remains the cheapest way to produce a lot of meat fast. 'We believe the majority of chicken sold in grocery stores will continue to be grown with antibiotics,' he says."

No, Mr. Sanderson. While cost certainly plays a role, at this point in the game it's no longer the determining factor. Literally millions of lives are at stake if we do not address the elephant in the room that is agricultural antibiotics. Paying a few pennies more per pound of chicken is a small price to pay for a clean bird, and I'm certainly not the only person who feels this way.

The fact that Perdue has been growing faster than any of its competitors is evidence of this fact. The fact that the other top poultry producers, with the exception of Sanderson, are also transitioning over to antibiotic-free is another tipoff. If you agree, I urge you to contact Sanderson and tell him antibiotic-free does matter. You can use their online Contact Page to write them an email, or better yet, call them at 1-800-844-4030, or write a letter to:

Sanderson Farms
Attn: Joe Sanderson, CEO
PO Box 988
Laurel, MS 39441.

KFC is another major food company that has so far failed to take the situation seriously. While many restaurant chains, including McDonald's, Subway and Taco Bell have vowed to limit or discontinue use of chicken raised with antibiotics, KFC has made no move in that direction. You can reach KFC by calling 1-800-CALL-KFC, or fill out their feedback form, available on the KFC website.

Click Here Click Here Antibiotic-Treated Pork May Contain Carcinogenic Residue

Eating antibiotic-treated foods is like taking a small amount of antibiotic on a daily basis, and this is exactly what you don't want to do if you're concerned about your health and well-being. It can disrupt your gut flora, and predispose you to drug resistant infections.

It may also expose you to potentially dangerous drug residues. The veterinary antibiotic carbadox is one example. This drug has been used by American pork producers for nearly 40 years. Besides controlling swine dysentery and bacterial swine enteritis, it also boosts growth like many other antibiotics.

In April, the FDA announced it has conducted a preliminary risk characterization, which suggests pork derived from animals treated with carbadox may contain trace amounts of carcinogenic residue. This is particularly true for pork liver, found in lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages. According to Politico:18

"'The agency clarified that it isn't recommending people make changes in their food choices while it works to remove carbadox from the market.' Potential cancer risks are based on an assumed lifetime of consuming pork liver or other pork products containing carbadox residues, and short-term changes in diet are unlikely to affect a person's lifetime risk ... "

This just goes to show how little we know about the safety of the drugs used in food animals. And it's yet another warning signal that we really need to clean up our food supply. There are safe alternatives, so why not use them? The cost may (or may not) be a little higher, but I'm certain the 2 million Americans struck with a drug resistant infection each year would argue that the extra cost is worth it.

Family and friends of the tens of thousands who die from drug-resistant infections are likely to agree with this sentiment as well. At what point does public health begin to trump corporate profits? Aren't 23,000 deaths per year enough? How high must the death toll get before factory farmers like Sanderson wizen up to the seriousness of their obligation to create safe and healthy food?

Where to Find Healthy Food

In my view, buying antibiotic-free meat is an important step if you value your health. Ideally, opt for organically raised grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products such as milk and eggs. If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund19 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.20 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com. Other organizations that can help you locate wholesome farm-fresh foods include:

EatWild.com

EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other organic produce.

Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation

Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass-fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange

The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest

This website will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Farmers' Markets

A national listing of farmers' markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals

The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

FoodRoutes

The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.

Here's Why 'Inert' Ingredients May Be the Most Harmful of All

12 hours 55 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, has been the focus of increasing scrutiny after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined it to be a probable human carcinogen.

Yet, glyphosate is not the only ingredient in Roundup and other glyphosate-based products, nor is it the only potentially toxic ingredient.

The formulation includes a number of so-called inert ingredients as well, and these have largely evaded scrutiny because they were concealed as proprietary "trade secrets."

Monsanto is now facing multiple lawsuits from people who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup. The suits allege that glyphosate, along with the product's inert ingredients are to blame, and in fact that the mixture of chemicals together is far more dangerous than glyphosate alone.

According to the Intercept, one of the lawsuits states, "Monsanto 'knew or should have known that Roundup is more toxic than glyphosate alone and that safety studies of Roundup, Roundup's adjuvants and 'inert' ingredients' were necessary."1

Inert Ingredients in Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Are Toxic to Living Cells

Most studies looking into glyphosate toxicity have only studied glyphosate and its toxic breakdown product, aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA), even though the presence of "inactive" compounds are likely amplifying glyphosate's toxic effects.

A 2012 study revealed that ingredients such as solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other added substances are anything but "inactive." They can, and oftentimes do, contribute to a product's toxicity in a synergistic manner — even if they're non-toxic in isolation.

Certain adjuvants in glyphosate-based herbicides were also found to be "active principles of human cell toxicity," adding to the hazards inherent with glyphosate.

It's well worth noting that, according to the researchers, this cell damage and/or cell death can occur at the residual levels found on Roundup-treated crops, as well as lawns and gardens where Roundup is applied for weed control.2 As written in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health:3

"Pesticide formulations contain declared active ingredients and co-formulants presented as inert and confidential compounds. We tested the endocrine disruption of co-formulants in six glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) …

All co-formulants and formulations were comparably cytotoxic [toxic to living cells] well below the agricultural dilution of 1 percent (18 to 2000 times for co-formulants, eight to 141 times for formulations).

… It was demonstrated for the first time that endocrine disruption by GBH could not only be due to the declared active ingredient but also to co-formulants.

These results could explain numerous in vivo results with GBHs not seen with G [glyphosate] alone; moreover, they challenge the relevance of the acceptable daily intake (ADI) value for GBHs exposures, currently calculated from toxicity tests of the declared active ingredient alone."

'Inert' Ingredient Polyethoxylated Tallowamine (POEA) 2,000 Times More Toxic Than Glyphosate

POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine), a major adjuvant surfactant in Roundup, has been shown to be cytotoxic (toxic to cells) at doses far lower than glyphosate itself. Unfortunately, most regulatory bodies regard POEA as inert, requiring no risk assessment, even as research suggests otherwise.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study found POEA was between 1,200 and 2,000 times more toxic than glyphosate alone, which highlights the problems with letting so-called inert ingredients escape regulatory scrutiny.4 In 2014, the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) reported:5

"The major adjuvant POEA in glyphosate Roundup formulations is by far the most cytotoxic for human cells, ahead of glyphosate and its metabolite. It also amplifies the toxic effects of glyphosate …

It is very likely that the primary target of Roundup, especially its POEA surfactant, is the mitochondria, which play a key role in the development of sperm cells and sperm motility. In addition, male infertility could arise from ROS damages to mitochondrial DNA."

Accumulating Research Shows Roundup More Dangerous Than Glyphosate Alone

Germany removed POEA-containing herbicides from the market in 2014 because a forestry worker developed inflammation of the lungs after exposure.

Earlier this year, ANSES, the national health and safety agency in France, also took steps to ban the product. The European Commission has also proposed banning POEA.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced plans to monitor food for glyphosate residue but not for POEA, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won't focus on POEA either, simply because it's not an official active ingredient.

Monsanto must be well aware of the problems, as they're reportedly preparing to transition to other types of surfactants.6 The fact is, research is mounting that, when it comes to Roundup, the sum of its parts may be even more toxic than glyphosate alone. For instance:7

• In 2002 and 2004, studies showed glyphosate-containing herbicides were more likely to cause changes linked to cancer (specifically, cell-cycle dysregulation) than glyphosate alone8,9

• In 2005, research showed Roundup to be more toxic to rats' livers than glyphosate alone10

• In 2009, various Roundup formulations were found to be more toxic to human umbilical, embryonic and placental cells than glyphosate alone.11 The researcher explained:

"This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert … Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels [found on Roundup-treated crops]."12

NAS Releases New Study on Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) released their assessment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).13

The 400-page report, which was sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cites an ongoing lack of transparency that is fueling distrust in consumers.14

For instance, in 2002 the U.S. General Accounting Office recommended that the FDA verify raw test data from a GMO developer on a random basis, but it doesn't appear the FDA followed through with this recommendation. As The Huffington Post reported:15

"The committee said that much of the information submitted to regulatory agencies seeking approval of new GMO products is kept secret, treated as 'confidential business information.'

This lack of public access to health and safety data submitted by developers creates distrust, the committee said.

'Given a developer's self-interest in getting a product approved and its control over the material considered by the agency, the lack of access creates skepticism about the quality of the data,' the committee said."

No Evidence GE Crops Changed the Rate of Increase in Yields

Also noteworthy, the NAS report found no evidence that GE crops led to overall increases in yields of soybeans, cotton or corn, a benefit long parroted by the industry for why GMO crops are necessary to "feed the world."

The spread of resistant weeds and insects as a result of GE crops is also discussed. As for glyphosate, the report only noted there is "significant disagreement among expert committees on the potential harm that could be caused" by its use. It also downplayed the severity of many issues while failing to recommend needed policy changes.

Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. an agricultural economist at Washington State University, recommended three strategies that could significantly reduce human exposure to glyphosate at very little cost (unfortunately, such common-sense strategies were missing from the NAS report):16

"Hopefully, the U.S. and EU will soon agree to three steps  —  banning all pre-harvest uses of glyphosate on small grains, edible beans, and other human food crops (all non-GE) …

 [S]econd, reducing the ridiculously high tolerances on GE crops that Monsanto and other companies were able to get onto the books over the last decade in the U.S., and internationally via Codex; and three, banning use of high-risk surfactants and other so-called 'inert' ingredients in formulated, ready-to-use herbicide products."

Roundup Residues Found in Foods You Might Not Expect

If you want to avoid consuming residues of Roundup, you'll want to limit or eliminate processed foods in your diet. Most of them are made with GE crops that are heavily sprayed with Roundup. Even foods you might not expect can also contain Roundup residues.

An Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) analysis found the highest levels of glyphosate in non-GE crops including bagels, bread and wheat cereal. This, they noted, is likely the result of the common practice of using glyphosate as a desiccant shortly before harvest.

Ten out of 24 breakfast foods tested in ANH's analysis had detectable levels of glyphosate. This included oatmeal, bagels, coffee creamer, organic bread and even organic, cage-free, and antibiotic-free eggs. In addition, advocacy group Moms Across America sent 10 wine samples to be tested for glyphosate. All of the samples tested positive for glyphosate — even organic wines, although their levels were significantly lower.17

Roundup isn't even sprayed directly onto grapes in vineyards, but it is often used to spray the ground on either side of the grape vines. A study of glyphosate residues by the Munich Environmental Institute also found glyphosate in 14 best-selling German beers.18

All of the beers tested had glyphosate levels above the 0.1 microgram limit allowed in drinking water. Although these studies didn't test for the "inert" Roundup ingredients, if glyphosate was detected there's a good chance their companion additives would be too.

Eat Organic Foods to Avoid Roundup Residues

Your best bet for minimizing health risks from herbicide and pesticide exposure — including both the active and "inactive" ingredients — 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. If you know you have been exposed to herbicides and 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 also be a wise strategy to help detox the pesticides that do enter your body. One of the benefits of eating organic is that the foods will be free GE ingredients, and this is key to avoiding exposure to toxic Roundup ingredients.

Eating locally produced organic food will not only support your family's health, it will also protect the environment from harmful chemical pollutants and the inadvertent spread of GE seeds and chemical-resistant weeds and pests.

How the Zika Industry Was Born

12 hours 55 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide $622 million to fight the Zika virus. Yet, by White House estimates, this is "woefully inadequate." They've recommended directing $1.9 billion to fight this latest declared public health emergency.1

I use the term emergency loosely here, as we've seen these types of overzealous responses before. First, a new threat is revealed. Remember SARS, bird flu, swine flu and Ebola? Or even the measles "outbreak" in 2015?

There was widespread fear, outrage and panic that the disease would sweep across the U.S., affecting populations from border to border. Calls for experimental drugs and vaccines were made and millions, if not billions, of dollars were spent. And for what?

In most cases, the diseases fizzled out on their own, exacting a far less sensational health toll than the media and, often, the government had you believe. In the case of swine flu, for example, the U.S. government ordered 20 million doses of the drug Tamiflu — costing $2 billion — to fight the pandemic that never was.

That drug has a shelf life of three years. Money well spent? Now they're proposing another $1.9 billion to fight Zika — is this a case of history repeating itself?

Zika Virus: From Obscure Mild Illness to Booming Industry Virtually Overnight

Last year at this time, you probably had never heard of Zika virus. And if you had, you probably wouldn't have given it a second thought.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Most people infected with Zika virus won't even know they have the disease because they won't have symptoms."2

Then the headlines started. Cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with unusually small heads, in Brazil were said to have surged from an average of about 150 suspected cases of microcephaly annually to more than 4,780 suspected cases from October 2015 to February 2016.

Although there does not appear to be any evidence prior to 2016 suggesting Zika virus might cause birth defects, the rise in microcephaly was blamed on Zika-carrying mosquitoes.

The Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, presumably, have been in Brazil all along — so why is the sudden increase in suspected cases of microcephaly being blamed on that mosquito?

This is but one questionable factor in the Zika virus scare. At this point, Zika virus might be associated with birth defects, but causation has not been definitively proven.

In the U.S., for instance, there are about 25,000 infants born with microcephaly every year. The U.S. is not considered to be a region where Zika virus is endemic and, according to the journal Neurology:3

"Microcephaly may result from any insult that disturbs early brain growth and can be seen in association with hundreds of genetic syndromes."

It may be too soon to rule out Zika virus as a contributing cause, but it's also too soon to declare it a public health emergency and pull out all the stops to wage a very expensive war against it.

The Zika Industry Is Born

Whenever a new health emergency is announced, look to see who stands to profit from its creation. In this case, many players have come out of the woodwork, hoping to get a piece of the (potentially $1.9 billion!) Zika cash cow.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has pledged to gather another $56 million to combat Zika.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen also announced two Zika grants totaling more than $2 million, which are going to the American Red Cross to support mosquito-control efforts and education in Brazil and to Chembio Diagnostics Systems, Inc., which is planning to develop rapid tests to diagnose Zika.4 As reported by The Vaccine Reaction:5

"It seems everybody wants in on the action. It is exciting to be one of the early pioneers in a brand new industry with lots of growth potential, particularly when it has such strong government support and when the prospects for mandated use of the vaccines are so promising … for the industry, that is.

There is already talk about Zika being with us forever and becoming one of those things against which we will routinely vaccinate."

Race to Develop Zika Vaccine Prompts Guillain–Barré Syndrome Concerns

At least 18 companies are racing to develop a vaccine against Zika, but one expert on vaccines combating mosquito-borne diseases, Dr. Thomas Monath, has expressed major concerns.

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is an autoimmune disease that can cause paralysis. Cases of GBS have been rising in areas reporting Zika outbreaks, and there is some evidence that Zika might be triggering GBS.

The concern is, then, that exposure to Zika virus in a vaccine could trigger GBS as well, even if it's a killed or inactivated form of virus. GBS is already a known vaccine reaction. It's in the process of being added to the official Vaccine Injury Table.

(In order to win uncontested federal compensation for a vaccine injury, a person must prove he or she developed certain clinical symptoms and medical conditions on the table within a certain time frame of receiving a certain vaccine and that there is no more biologically plausible explanation for the vaccine-related injury or death.)

Research published in The Lancet journal suggested exposure to Zika virus may exacerbate the threat of GBS by 20-fold.6,7

The CDC Is No Longer Credible

" … Practically everyone in the world knows about Zika and believes that the primary cause of babies being born with shrunken heads (microcephaly) and brain damage in Brazil is that their mothers were bitten by the Zika-carrying mosquito while they were pregnant," The Vaccine Reaction reported. "Why does everyone believe that?" they continued.8

"Because public health officials at the U.S. Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) say so.

Forget that these federal health agencies have provided no solid scientific evidence of a causal relationship. That's beside the point. It's the CDC and NIH."

Yet, time and time again we see evidence that what the CDC says isn't always accurate. In fact, sometimes it's blatantly wrong.

According to documents obtained by USA Today, one CDC-run laboratory had its permit suspended due to serious safety violations while working with viruses, bacteria and toxins (such as anthrax, plague and Ebola) that could be used as biological weapons.

CDC labs have been referred for "secret federal enforcement actions" six times because of serious or repeated violations. USA Today had to win access to the records via a Freedom of Information Act appeal. Prior to that, the CDC refused to answer questions about enforcement histories relating to its own labs.9

This isn't the first time the CDC has been involved in safety violations. In 2014, as many as 84 scientists and staff members at a CDC biolab were exposed to live anthrax.

The live pathogen had been sent from a higher-security facility. Biosafety protocols were apparently not followed at either of the facilities. This and subsequent errors, involving H5N1 influenza virus and Ebola mix-ups at CDC labs, led to the creation of an external lab safety advisory group.

A follow-up report released by the advisory group in March 2015 called the CDC's commitment to safety "inconsistent and insufficient" and also pointed out that "laboratory safety training is inadequate."10 The point is, this is who many Americans are trusting to provide accurate information about circulating viruses and other diseases.

Are There Other Potential Explanations for an Increase in Microcephaly?

It's possible Zika-carrying mosquitoes could be involved, but there are other factors that should be considered as well. For starters, the outbreak occurred in a largely poverty-stricken agricultural area of Brazil that uses large amounts of banned pesticides.

Between these factors and the lack of sanitation and widespread vitamin A and zinc deficiency, you already have the basic framework for an increase in poor health outcomes among newborn infants in that area. Environmental pollution and toxic pesticide exposure have been positively linked to a wide array of adverse health effects, including birth defects. For instance:

  • Vitamin A deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of microcephaly11
  • The CDC lists malnutrition and exposure to toxic chemicals as known risk factors12
  • The CDC also notes certain infections during pregnancy, including rubella, cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, and others, are risk factors
Why Isn't the Government Targeting Opioid Addiction, Antibiotic-Resistant Disease and Other Proven Epidemics?

Microcephaly is a devastating birth defect and it's important to uncover its underlying cause. However, the U.S. government's plan to pour money into Zika virus research and vaccine development, i.e., to pour money into Big Pharma, for what is now a theoretical connection and certainly not an epidemic by any means, boggles the mind.

Meanwhile, there is no comparable uproar over existing (and pharmaceutical-caused) epidemics, like opioid addiction. The U.S. government seeks "treatment" for the opioid epidemic without addressing irresponsible prescribing and drug industry marketing or high-level financial conflicts of interest.

The government has also long allowed rampant overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics, including in agriculture, which has led to rampant cases of antibiotic-resistant disease.

The government didn't "save us" from any of the other public health emergencies in recent years (swine flu, bird flu and Ebola among them), and it's not likely to change its spots anytime soon. What you can bet on, however, is that the government will continue to support the hand that feeds it. Only time will tell if that support will stop at the House bill's $622 million or keep going up to $1.9 billion.

Benefits of Coconut Oil Are Undeniable

Mon, 05/30/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

It seems that coconut oil has been getting a lot of press lately and for many different reasons. It has a number of surprising uses, as a food, certainly, but for many other health-related benefits. Some of them are quite surprising.

That's why coconut oil seems to have moved from "What is it?" to "It's a superfood!" as people all over the world take stock of what it can do for them.

Nutritionally speaking, the fatty acids in coconut oil lend several health benefits, including improved brain function, stimulating your body's metabolism, generating energy and helping you shed excess body fat, as has been shown among people from populations that regularly consume high amounts of coconut oil. Here are several of the best benefits of coconut oil.

Coconut Oil Has Fatty Acids That Are Good for You

You may have heard that while saturated fat was once thought to be a leading cause of heart disease, it's now known to be not just beneficial but crucial for good health. The good news: coconut oil is one of the best sources of saturated fat on the planet. In fact, about 90 percent of the fat content in coconut oil is saturated fat.

Rather than clogging your arteries, damaging your coronary system and putting you on the fast track to a stroke, new information has emerged in a significant meta-analysis,1 which showed no significant evidence that saturated fat causes any of the above, but is in fact very good for you.

Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides that can have therapeutic benefits for people with certain brain disorders, epilepsy, and may even help prevent Alzheimer's disease.2

Where Coconut Oil Has Been Used, People Thrive

As you look at the civilizations around the world that have consumed coconut oil for decades and even centuries, it's clear there's a difference, medically speaking, between those individuals and those of the so-called "enlightened" first-world countries.

They seem to be healthier! As an example, individuals in Polynesian populations such as those in Tokelau and Pukapuka, where people tend to eat a lot of coconut, were examined in light of their high saturated fat intake and low cholesterol and sucrose levels.

Researchers found that "vascular disease is uncommon in both populations and there is no evidence of the high saturated fat intake having a harmful effect."3

Another case in point is the Kitevan people in New Guinea, whose collective diet is untarnished by the food habits of the Western world. Besides eating a lot of tubers, fruit and fish, the people also consume coconut as a prominent staple.

None of the people involved in the study4 reported stroke, sudden death, weakness, brain diseases, or chest pain related to heavy lifting. Coronary artery disease was nowhere to be found.

The only inference that can be made is that, rather than being sick, weak and diseased, many populations around the world have managed much better than more "progressive" parts of the world on their traditional diets with the plentiful addition of coconut oil.

Triglycerides, Fat and Where It's At

No matter where you travel, practically every place has been influenced by the Western diet, and not in a good way.

Where there's obesity in large amounts of the population, there's a very good chance you'll find misguided and destructive eating habits such as low-fat diets along with too much processed, CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) meat and not enough vegetables and healthy sources of fat.

Some believe it's all about calorie intake; however, people who have been paying attention to which foods are actually healthy and which are not understand this isn't really the case. It's about the substance behind the calories.

Medium-chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil amount to about two-thirds its total fatty acids. In explanation:5

"Dietary fats are molecules composed of individual carbon atoms linked into chains ranging from two to 22 carbon atoms in length. Long-chain fatty acids (LCTs) ranging from 12 to 18 carbons long are the predominant form of fat in the American diet.

MCTs, by contrast, are composed of only six to 10 carbon links. Because of their shorter chain length, MCTs have a number of unique properties which give them advantages over the more common LCTs."

The bottom line is, when you eat foods high in medium-chain triglycerides, your body benefits.

Case in point: when seven healthy men were tested for metabolic function in relation to triglycerides, scientists determined that long-term substitution of medium-chain foods for long-chain "would produce weight loss if energy intake remained constant."6 The potential benefit is significant weight loss.

Microorganisms Are Destroyed by Coconut Oil

Lauric acid in coconut oil makes up about half of the fatty acids. In the digestion process, coconut oil morphs into a monoglyceride called monolaurin. Both substances can exterminate harmful pathogens such as fungi, bacteria and viruses.

Staphylococcus aureus and a common cause of yeast infection, Candida albicans, were two of the most notorious pathogens these coconut oil compounds were able to eradicate in one study7 and candida in another.8

Coconut oil also works on fungal infections such as athlete's foot and ringworm. The European Journal of Pediatrics even reported research showing that blending coconut oil and anise was almost twice as effective as the commonly prescribed (and toxic) permethrin lotion for treating head lice. According to the review:9

"The spray was significantly more successful (41/50, 82.0 percent) cures compared with permethrin (21/50, 42.0 percent ... ).Per-protocol success was 83.3 percent and 44.7 percent, respectively."

Want to Lose Weight? Coconut Oil Reduces Your Appetite

Many people pay good money in search of a substance that would truly curb their appetite so they would eat less and lose weight. How serendipitous that coconut oil can actually do that for you! The actual process has to do with how the fatty acids you consume are metabolized.

Ketone bodies, created when your body breaks down fat for energy, are an alternative fuel for your brain. They're produced as you digest coconut oil.

Studies on men consuming the most MCTs at breakfast found they ate less overall at lunchtime.10 Those eating the most MCTs consumed an average of 256 fewer calories on a daily basis.11

The ketogenic diet, featuring low carb and high fat intake, has applications in relation to treating a number of other health problems. Significantly, it's been shown to reduce epileptic seizures in drug-resistant children12 as well as other individuals with epilepsy.

At the New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University, researchers reported:13

"Consumption of medium-chain triglyceride oil as part of a weight loss plan improves weight loss compared with olive oil and can thus be successfully included in a weight loss diet. Small changes in the quality of fat intake can therefore be useful to enhance weight loss."

Coconut Oil Can Upgrade Your Blood Cholesterol Levels

As previously discussed, coconut is loaded with healthy saturated fat, but it does nothing to diminish the health of your blood lipid profile as the food and medical industries has for decades tried to tell you. In fact, saturated fats raise your HDL (good) cholesterol while transforming your LDL. According to the data:14

"A high saturated fat intake … is associated with increased concentrations of larger, cholesterol-enriched LDL and this occurs in association with decreased HL [hepatic lipase] activity."

Consuming coconut oil helps you to maintain optimal cholesterol levels. One study involving 40 women showed that when put up against soybean oil consumption, coconut oil increased HDL and lowered LDL to HDL ratio while decreasing waist circumference. On the other hand, soybean oil led to decreases in beneficial HDL.15

Coconut Oil as a Toiletry, a Cleaner — Even an Insect Repellent

If you haven't had a chance to explore all the extraordinary uses for coconut oil, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. Besides its ability to promote heart health and squelch the risk of stroke, it's been shown to strengthen your immune system even as you attain soft, supple skin.

Coconut oil works well as a facial cleanser and makes a great shaving lotion. Slathering it on dry, lifeless hair for 15 minutes helps restore lost moisture and shine.

While it doesn't impart the minty aftertaste that most toothpastes pride themselves on, using it before bed helps not only freshen your breath, but kills bacteria that cause plaque and other problems, without the fluoride (and if you miss the minty taste, just add a drop of peppermint essential oil). If you're looking for a natural deodorant that will last and won't pose potential health risks from added aluminum, thoroughly mix:

  • 3 Tbsp. organic coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp. non-GMO cornstarch or arrowroot powder
  • 3 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 drops of essential oil of your choice, or a pinch of clove powder

As for the insect repellent, a good recipe combines coconut oil with a high-quality essential oil such as peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, tea tree or vanilla, which may help keep insects from biting, as opposed to applying toxic sprays like DEET.

What You Don't Know CAN Harm You

In spite of all the clinical verification to the contrary, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)16 still maintains there's "no good evidence" that coconut oil performs any of the above functions. CSPI even contradicts recommendations that people switch from vegetable oils, including canola oil, to coconut oil for better health.

In another decidedly ignorant move, CSPI fell in lock-step with the biotech industry for profit with the announcement that "fear" of GMOs is "irrational" and that GMO foods are "safe to eat."

At the same time, a statement signed by 300 scientists, researchers, physicians, and scholars was published contending that claims of GMO safety have been "falsely perpetuated." Clearly, somebody is not telling the truth or has not done their due diligence to figure it out.

That's not the only discrepancy in the world of pseudo science that purports to be in the interest of human health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came forward with a declaration that, as of 2018, partially hydrogenated oils (aka trans fat) would no longer be allowed in food unless authorized by the agency because of potential health risks. Yet the FDA was in the forefront of getting trans fats into the marketplace in the 1980s.

In the 1980s, CSPI actually spearheaded a highly successful campaign against the use of healthy saturated fats, touting trans fats as a healthier alternative, so take their official stance against coconut oil with a (big) grain of salt. In spite of the naysayers, the real science speaks. Coconut oil has undergone the trials that prove its benefits are, indeed, undeniable.

How a High-Fat Diet Helps Starve Cancer

Mon, 05/30/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In 1931, Dr. Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize  Physiology or Medicine for his discovery that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells.

Most experts consider him to be the greatest biochemist of the 20th century. His lab staff also included Hans Krebs, Ph. D., after whom the Krebs cycle1 was named.

The Krebs cycle refers to the oxidative reduction pathways that occur in the mitochondria. So just how does the metabolic inflexibility of cancer cells differ from healthy cells?

A cell can produce energy in two ways: aerobically, in the mitochondria, or anaerobically, in the cytoplasm, the latter of which generates lactic acid — a toxic byproduct. Warburg discovered that in the presence of oxygen, cancer cells overproduce lactic acid. This is known as The Warburg Effect.

Mitochondrial energy production is far more efficient, capable of generating 32 times more energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) than anaerobic energy generation.

Warburg concluded that the prime cause of cancer was the reversion of energy production from aerobic energy generation to a more primitive form of energy production, anaerobic fermentation.

To reverse cancer, he believed you had to disrupt the energy production cycle that is feeding the tumor, and that by reverting back to aerobic energy metabolism you could effectively "starve" it into remission.

Although he was never able to conclusively prove it, he maintained this view until his death in 1970. One of his goals in life was to discover the cure for cancer. Sadly, as so typically happens in science, his theories were never accepted by conventional science despite his academic pedigree — until now.

The New York Times2 recently published a long, detailed article about the history of modern cancer research, including Warburg's theories on cancer, which are now becoming more widely accepted.

Sugar Feeds Cancer

Another simpler way of explaining Warburg's discovery is that cancer cells are primarily fueled by the burning of sugar anaerobically. Without sugar, most cancer cells simply lack the metabolic flexibility to survive. As noted in the New York Times (NYT) featured article:

"[T]he Warburg effect is estimated to occur in up to 80 percent of cancers. [A] positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which has emerged as an important tool in the staging and diagnosis of cancer works simply by revealing the places in the body where cells are consuming extra glucose.

In many cases, the more glucose a tumor consumes, the worse a patient's prognosis."

Unfortunately, Warburg's theories quickly vanished into obscurity once scientists turned their attention toward genetics. Molecular biologists James Watson, Ph. D., and Francis Crick, Ph. D., discovered DNA in 1953 and from that point on, cancer research began to primarily focus on genetics.

The gene hypothesis gained even more momentum once Dr. Harold Varmus and Dr. Michael Bishop won the Nobel Prize in 1976 for finding viral oncogenes within the DNA of cancer cells.

At that point, the attention fell squarely on genetic mutations, and the theory that cancer cells are simply distorted versions of normal cells began to take hold.

The Warburg Revival

It would take another 30 years before the next major revision to the reigning cancer hypothesis. In 2006, the Cancer Genome Atlas project, designed to identify all the mutations thought to be causative for cancer, came to an astonishing conclusion — the genetic mutations are actually far more random than previously suspected.

In fact, they're so random it's virtually impossible to pin down the genetic origin of cancer. Some cancerous tumors even have NO mutations at all. Rather than offering the conclusive evidence needed to put an end to cancer, the Cancer Genome Atlas project revealed something was clearly missing from the equation.

With time, researchers began pondering whether cancer development might in fact hinge on Warburg's theory on energy metabolism. In recent years, scientists have come to realize that it's not the genetic defects that cause cancer.

Rather mitochondrial damage happens first, which then triggers nuclear genetic mutations. As noted by The New York Times:

"There are typically many mutations in a single cancer. But there are a limited number of ways that the body can produce energy and support rapid growth. Cancer cells rely on these fuels in a way that healthy cells don't.

The hope of scientists at the forefront of the Warburg revival is that they will be able to slow — or even stop — tumors by disrupting one or more of the many chemical reactions a cell uses to proliferate, and, in the process, starve cancer cells of the nutrients they desperately need to grow.

Even James Watson, Ph.D. one of the fathers of molecular biology, is convinced that targeting metabolism is a more promising avenue in current cancer research than gene-centered approaches ...

'I never thought ... I'd ever have to learn the Krebs cycle,' he said, referring to the reactions ... by which a cell powers itself. 'Now I realize I have to.'"

Cancer-Causing Genes Regulate Cells' Nutrient Consumption

The genetic component has not completely fallen by the wayside though. Scientists have discovered that a number of genes known to promote cancer by influencing cell division — including a gene called AKT — also regulate cells' consumption of nutrients. So certain genes do appear to play a role in cancer cells' overconsumption of sugar.

"Dr. Craig Thompson, the president and chief executive of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, has been among the most outspoken proponents of this renewed focus on metabolism ...

His research showed that cells need to receive instructions from other cells to eat, just as they require instructions from other cells to divide.

Thompson hypothesized that if he could identify the mutations that lead a cell to eat more glucose than it should, it would go a long way toward explaining how the Warburg effect and cancer begin," The New York Times writes.

"The protein created by AKT is part of a chain of signaling proteins that is mutated in up to 80 percent of all cancers. Thompson says that once these proteins go into overdrive, a cell no longer worries about signals from other cells to eat; it instead stuffs itself with glucose.

Thompson discovered he could induce the 'full Warburg effect' simply by placing an activated AKT protein into a normal cell. When that happens, Thompson says, the cells begin to do what every single-celled organism will do in the presence of food: eat as much as it can and make as many copies of itself as possible."

Whereas healthy cells have a feedback mechanism that makes it conserve resources when there's a lack of food, cancer cells do not have this mechanism, and feed continuously.

As noted by Dr. Chi Van Dang, director of the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, cancer cells are "addicted to nutrients," and "when they can't consume enough, they begin to die. The addiction to nutrients explains why changes to metabolic pathways are so common and tend to arise first as a cell progresses toward cancer."

Novel Treatment Offers Hope for Cancer Patients

A brilliant Korean biochemist by the name of  Young Hee Ko, Ph.D., who was working in the early 2000s with Peter Pedersen, a professor of biological chemistry and oncology at Johns Hopkins, made a remarkable discovery that offers a great deal of hope for cancer patients. Today Ko is the CEO of KODiscovery at the University of Maryland BioPark, where she continues her work in the field of cellular metabolism in cancer and neuro-degenerative disease.

I believe she has the answer to a large number of intractable metastatic cancers, and predict she'll eventually receive a Nobel Prize for her work. I will actually be presenting with Ko at the Conquering Cancer Conference in Orlando on September 23 and 24 of this year..

What the two of them noticed was that when cancer cells overproduce lactic acid, they have to produce more pores, called monocarboxylic acid transfer phosphates, to let lactic acid out, or else the cancer cell will die from the inside out. As mentioned, lactic acid is a very toxic substance. Pondering how to best exploit this functional difference between normal cells and cancer cells, Ko remembered a compound called 3-bromopyruvate (3BP), which she'd worked with while getting her Ph.D.

This molecule looks very similar to lactic acid, but it's highly reactive. She thought 3BP might be able to slip into the pore that's allowing the lactic acid to be expelled from the cancer cell, thereby preventing the lactic acid from spilling out. Her hunch was correct. In over 100 lab tests, 3BP blew away all of the chemotherapy drugs she used for comparison. In a nutshell, 3BP "melts" tumors away by preventing the lactic acid from leaking out of the cancer cell, thereby killing it from the inside.

Old Diabetes Drug May Find New Use in War on Cancer

Interestingly, metformin, a drug that decreases serum glucose in diabetics, has also been shown to have anti-cancer effects — another nod at Warburg's theory that cancer cannot thrive in a low-glucose environment. As noted in the featured article:

"In the years ahead, [metformin is] likely to be used to treat — or at least to prevent — some cancers. Because metformin can influence a number of metabolic pathways, the precise mechanism by which it achieves its anticancer effects remains a source of debate. But the results of numerous epidemiological studies have been striking.

Diabetics taking metformin seem to be significantly less likely to develop cancer than diabetics who don't — and significantly less likely to die from the disease when they do.

Near the end of his life, Warburg grew obsessed with his diet. He believed that most cancer was preventable and thought that chemicals added to food and used in agriculture could cause tumors by interfering with respiration. He stopped eating bread unless it was baked in his own home. He would drink milk only if it came from a special herd of cows ...

Warburg's personal diet is unlikely to become a path to prevention. But the Warburg revival has allowed researchers to develop a hypothesis for how the diets that are linked to our obesity and diabetes epidemics — specifically, sugar-heavy diets that can result in permanently elevated levels of the hormone insulin — may also be driving cells to the Warburg effect and cancer."

Although metformin likely has some benefit in improving mitochondrial dysfunction, I believe that there are far better options, as metformin has been associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Berberine is a natural plant alkaloid that is far safer and works similarly. However, both will be miserable failures if one does not restrict protein to less than 1 gram/kilogram of lean body mass and net carbs to less than 40 grams per day.

From my perspective, ignoring diet as a prevention tool is foolhardy at best. Like Warburg, I'm convinced that most cancers are preventable through proper diet and nutrition, and besides optimizing your nutrient ratios, avoiding toxic exposures is another important factor. This is one reason why I recommend eating organic foods, especially grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products, whenever possible.

The Importance of Diet for Successful Cancer Treatment

The foundational aspect that must be addressed is the metabolic mitochondrial defect, and this involves radically reducing the non-fiber carbohydrates in your diet and increasing high-quality fats. You may need up to 85 percent of your dietary calories from healthy fats, along with a moderate amount of high-quality protein, as excessive protein can also trigger cancer growth.

That's really the solution. If you don't do that, other treatments, including 3BP, probably will not work. (However, I believe that if you're in nutritional ketosis and then add 3BP, you may be able to reverse just about any cancer. That's my current impression. It may be flawed, and I will revise it as necessary, but everything I've seen so far points in that direction.)

It's important to remember that glucose is an inherently "dirty" fuel as it generates far more reactive oxygen species (ROS) than burning fat. But to burn fat, your cells must be healthy and normal. Cancer cells lack the metabolic flexibility to burn fat and this why a healthy high-fat diet appears to be such an effective anti-cancer strategy.

When you switch from burning glucose as your primary fuel to burning fat for fuel, cancer cells really have to struggle to stay alive, as most of their mitochondria are dysfunctional and can't use oxygen to burn fuel. At the same time, healthy cells are given an ideal and preferred fuel, which lowers oxidative damage and optimizes mitochondrial function. The sum effect is that healthy cells begin to thrive while cancer cells are "starved" into oblivion.

For optimal health, you need sufficient amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. However, ever since the advent of processed foods and industrial farming, making healthy selections has become a more complex affair. There are healthy carbs and unhealthy ones. Ditto for fats. There are also important considerations when it comes to protein, as excess protein also contributes to poor health. From my review of the molecular biology required to optimize mitochondrial function, it is best to seek to have about:

  • 75 to 85 percent of your total calories as healthy fat
  • 8 to 15 percent as carbs, with twice as many fiber carbs as non-fiber (net) carbs
  • 7 to 10 percent of your calories as protein (high-quality grass-fed or pastured meats and animal products)
Dietary Considerations: Fats

Healthy fats3 represent about 75 to 85 percent of your daily calories. The key here is HEALTHY fats as the vast majority of fats people eat are unhealthy. Avoid all processed and bottled oil with the exception of third party certified olive oils, as 80 percent are adulterated with vegetable oils.

Ideally you should have more monosaturated fats than saturated fats. Limit polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) to less than 10 percent. At higher levels, you will increase the PUFA concentration in the inner mitochondrial membrane, which makes it far more susceptible to oxidative damage from the reactive oxygen species generated there.

Lastly, do not exceed 5 percent of your calories as omega-6 fats. Combined, your omega 6/omega 3 fats should not exceed 10 percent, and the omega 6:3 ratio should be below 2. Sources of healthy fats include:

✓ Olives and olive oil

✓ Coconuts and coconut oil

Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk, and cacao butter

✓ Raw nuts, such as, macadamia and pecans, and seeds like black sesame, cumin, pumpkin, and hemp seeds

✓ Organic pastured egg yolks

Avocados

✓ Grass-fed meats

✓ Lard, tallow and ghee

✓ Animal-based omega-3 fat such as krill oil

Dietary Considerations: Carbs

When it comes to carbohydrates, there are fiber-rich low net carbs, (mainly vegetables) and non-fiber carbs (think sugar and processed grains). Ideally, you want twice as many fiber carbs as non-fiber carbs (net carbs). So if your total carbs is 10 percent of your daily calories, at least half of that should be fiber.

Fiber is not digested and broken down into sugar, which means it will not adversely impact your insulin, leptin and mTOR levels. Fiber also has a number of other health benefits, including weight management and a lower risk for certain cancers.4 As noted in the featured NYT article, your insulin level plays a very important role in cancer.

"The insulin hypothesis can be traced to the research of Dr. Lewis Cantley. In the 1980s, Cantley discovered how insulin, which is released by the pancreas and tells cells to take up glucose, influences what happens inside a cell.

Cantley now refers to insulin and a closely related hormone, IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1), as 'the champion' activators of metabolic proteins linked to cancer. He's beginning to see evidence, he says, that in some cases, 'it really is insulin itself that's getting the tumor started.'

One way to think about the Warburg effect, says Cantley, is as the insulin, or IGF-1, signaling pathway 'gone awry — it's cells behaving as though insulin were telling it to take up glucose all the time and to grow.' Cantley, who avoids eating sugar as much as he can ... says that the effects of a sugary diet on colorectal, breast and other cancer models 'looks very impressive' and 'rather scary.'"

The most important number to keep track of is your net carbs, which you'll want to keep as low as possible. Net carbs are calculated by taking the total number of carbohydrates in grams and subtracting the amount of fiber contained in the food. The resulting number is your net carbs. For optimal health and disease prevention, I recommend keeping your net carbs below 40 or 50 grams per day.

The only way you'll know how many fiber and net carbs you eat is to keep a diary of what you eat. Excellent sources of high-fiber carbs that you can eat plenty of include:

✓ Chia seeds

✓ Berries

✓ Raw nuts

✓ Cauliflowers

✓ Root vegetables and tubers, such as onions and sweet potatoes

✓ Green beans

✓ Peas

✓ Vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussel sprouts

✓ Psyllium seed husks

Dietary Considerations: Protein

Last but not least, there's an upper limit to how much protein your body can actually use, and eating more than your body requires for repair and growth will simply add fuel to disease processes. An ideal protein intake is likely around one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. For most people this equates to about 40 to 60 grams a day, but many Americans typically consume three to five times that amount, which — just like excess sugar — can raise your risk of cancer.

Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Some vegetables, such as broccoli, also contain generous amounts of protein. To estimate your protein requirements, first determine your lean body mass. Subtract your percent body fat from 100. For example, if you have 20 percent body fat, then you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that percentage (in this case, 0.8) by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos.

Next, jot down everything you eat for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein you've consumed from all sources. Again, you're aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. If you're currently averaging a lot more than what is optimal, adjust downward accordingly. The chart below will give you a general idea of the protein content of various foods.

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

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9- or 12-ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18 to 27 grams of protein

✓ Eggs contain about 6 to 8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12 to 16 grams of protein

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese)

✓ Seeds and nuts contain on average 4 to 8 grams of protein per quarter cup

✓ Cooked beans average about 7 to 8 grams per half cup

✓ Cooked grains average 5 to 7 grams per cup

✓ Most vegetables contain about 1 to 2 grams of protein per ounce

Optimizing Mitochondrial Function Is Key for Cancer Prevention and Treatment

We're now starting to realize that mitochondrial dysfunction is at the core of virtually all diseases — cancer especially — and your lifestyle has everything to do with this situation. Hence strategies that support and optimize mitochondrial function, such as nutritional ketosis (achieved by a high-fat, low-net carb diet), intermittent fasting and high-intensity exercise are all part of the solution.

One of the basic reasons why a high-fat, low-net carb diet works so well is because it drives your inflammation down to almost nothing. And when inflammation disappears, your body can heal. It will also take the proverbial foot off the gas pedal of aging. Sadly, my guess is that over 99 percent of the population is not receiving the benefits of this approach simply because they either haven't heard of it or don't understand it.

This is why my next book will focus on mitochondrial optimization. I firmly believe it's a major key to tackling not only the cancer epidemic, but many other disease epidemics as well. Ultimately, the really great news is that you have far greater control over your health, and your risk of cancer, than you might think.

What Is Horseradish Good For?

Mon, 05/30/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If it were wine, horseradish might be described as having an earthy, robust flavor, accompanied by an oddly sweet heat that warms you to your core. One taste and its intensity radiates not so much in your mouth as in your sinuses.

A cold-hardy plant, horseradish can be called a spring, fall or winter crop. Harvest by loosening the dirt around the plant with a digging fork (for minimal damage) before pulling out the roots. Cut off the tops and store them in a cool place until needed.

For ultimate freshness and heat, peel and grate for whatever dish or therapeutic use you may have.

As a condiment, horseradish is often prepared into a sauce to eat on prime rib or roast beef sandwiches. Some say it's red when it's used on shrimp (mixed with ketchup), and white when it's spread on beef.

Either way, it adds a kick of both heat and flavor, but be aware that heat from your stove will diminish the heat in the horseradish. Grated into casseroles, salads, mashed potatoes, deviled or scrambled eggs, this root is a versatile attention-grabber that can light up any dish or beverage.

Referred to botanically as Cochlearia armoracia, horseradish was referenced in the Greek Delphic Oracle as being worth its weight in gold. Some early Greek healers, finding no Icy Hot in the bathroom cabinet, had the wisdom to use horseradish as a rub for low back pain.

While it has a long tradition to represent "bitter" in Jewish Seder meals, horseradish was also suggested as an aphrodisiac in both Egypt and Greece. You've probably figured out that horseradish has nothing to do with either horses or radishes. Maybe it's a euphemism for radishes with a kick, which isn't a bad metaphor.

Where Does the Heat Come From?

Horseradish is a perennial plant native to Russia, Europe and Western Asia, but today it's grown across the globe. A member of the Brassicaceae family with cabbage, mustard and wasabi, the leaves and root have been recognized in the annals of medicine for thousands of years.

Incidentally, wasabi (Wasabia japonica) is a root plant from the same genus and native to Japan. The notoriously aromatic green condiment called "wasabi" requires horseradish, which is actually slightly hotter. Ironically, most of the wasabi sold in the U.S. is really just horseradish blended with dry mustard and food coloring.

Horseradish roots don't have much of an odor until you cut into them. Nick the skin and you'll get a powerful whiff of its unique, aromatic essence.

After it's cut and allowed to rest for 20 minutes or so, the strong essence begins to abate, unlike the zest from a habanero pepper, which has a heat index comparable to that of horseradish.

However, the Scoville Scale,1 which typically measures the heat of peppers, is based on capsaicin content. In horseradish, it's from allyl isothiocyanate.

However, allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) is much more than just a heat- and flavor-loaded compound. Scientists concluded that AITC may be useful for bladder cancer prevention, among other malignancies. One report explained that AITC:

"Presents many desirable attributes of a cancer chemopreventive agent, including extremely high bioavailability after oral administration, rapid uptake by cells, microbicidal activity against a wide spectrum of pathogens, significantly higher toxicity in malignant cell than in normal cells, its ability to rapidly induce cancer cell death regardless of its tissue origin … "2

Horseradish Offers Many Health Advantages

You don't have to look far to find references to compounds and nutrients in horseradish that impart many good mechanisms for your body. A book3 on the topic lists many of them: "Horseradish has been reported to have antimicrobial, spasmolytic, cytotoxic, antiseptic, diuretic, stimulant, and antioxidant properties."

Horseradish is also a mild antibiotic, which stimulates urine production, so it's been used to relieve urinary infections. Best of all, long-term use only does your body good, unlike most prescription drugs. Plus, symptoms such as urinary tract and sinus pain are not simply alleviated as they are with pharmaceuticals.

For the areas not covered, studies4 have indicated many other uses that can benefit nearly every area of your body:

✓ Joint and muscle pain

✓ Urinary infections

✓ Chest congestion

✓ Water retention

✓ Cancer

✓ Respiratory disorders

✓ Headaches

✓ Cold and flu

✓ Dandruff

✓ Tonsillitis

✓ Sinus infections

✓ Detoxification

The Sinus-Impacting Bouquet of Horseradish Conveys Health Benefits

Calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus are some of the most prominent minerals in horseradish. Besides fiber and vitamin C, this seemingly humble root contains volatile oils such as mustard oil, which is an anti-viral that can help you fight infection.

Natural antibacterial agents contain even more cancer-killing compounds, with multiple detoxifying chemical reactions and expressions to the human body to its credit.

But the fragrance of this root is particularly effective against sinus infections because it helps rid your body of mucus in the sinuses, where bacterial infections often start. Stores of this thick substance accumulate deep in the nasal cavities, making it difficult to get rid of.

Some herbalists recommend horseradish preparations just for this purpose. Once your nostrils are introduced to the strong kick of horseradish, the mucus often can't help but begin flowing, which is the signal that the infection is on its way out of your body.

A recommended recipe to clear mucus from your nose, as well as congestion from your chest, is called the "Sinus Plumber."5 Be careful breathing it as you make it, because the fumes are powerful! It calls for:

  • An 8- to 12-inch-long chunk of horseradish root
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • Pinch of salt (to taste)

Stir the ingredients together in a small glass jar, which can be stored in the refrigerator for four to five weeks. Eat one-half to 1 tsp. two to three times a day for as long as it takes for your congestion to begin clearing up.

You can dilute the mixture into one-quarter cup of tomato juice to make it more palatable if desired, but full-strength is best.

Glucosinolates: Flavor, Heat and a Whole Lot More

As already discussed, horseradish is related to broccoli. Multiple studies have extolled the organosulfuric, chemoprotective glucosinolates in broccoli, especially in broccoli sprouts,6 but horseradish contains the same amount 10 times over!

A recent University of Illinois (UI) review7 demonstrated how these powerful cancer-fighting enzymes work in horseradish:

"In the new study, the team looked for the products of glucosinolate hydrolysis, which activate enzymes involved in detoxification of cancer-causing molecules. These are compounds that could help detoxify and eliminate cancer-causing free molecules in the body."

Scientists also found that different species of horseradish contain varying amounts of glucosinolate molecules, and that the "premium" strain, U.S. Fancy, has the most.8 Still, the cheaper strains (U.S. No. 1 and U.S. No. 2) contain quantities that are nothing to sneeze at, according to UI food crop scientist Dr. Mosbah Kushad:

"We knew horseradish had health benefits, but in this study we were able to link it to the activation of certain detoxifying enzymes for the first time. There was no information on whether the USDA grade of the horseradish root is associated with cancer preventive activity, so we wanted to test that."

Glucosinolates, also found to affect the metabolism of hormones, are concentrated in horseradish greens as well as the roots, according to The George Mateljan Foundation,9 which provides scientifically proven, commercially-independent information on foods:

"We should also be thinking about spices like brown mustard seed, yellow mustard seed, and horseradish as cruciferous vegetables, because they are! Health-supportive molecules like glucosinolates are concentrated in these spices in the same way that they are concentrated in the leaves of the plants (like mustard greens or horseradish greens)."

More Healing Compounds Attributed to Horseradish

Sinigrin is a glucosinolate — possibly as much as 90 percent of the total — found in crucifers such as cabbage and horseradish. An article10 on a site dedicated to disease prevention noted:

"One of the most powerful glycosides found in horseradish, sinigrin has been found to relive the symptoms of water retention, due to its stimulating effect on the blood capillaries. Horseradish is rubefacient, an agent that stimulates blood flow below and to the surface of the skin."

Another study11 explained how the pH of AITC against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus (a bacteria), and S. cerevisiae (baker's yeast) stood up against sodium benzoate, a widely used food preservative linked to hyperactivity and behavioral problems.

Scientists determined that AITC was between six and 21 times more inhibitory to the growth of Gram-negative E. coli than benzoate, and three to 45 times more inhibitory to S. aureus. The study conclusion was that the main heat and flavor ingredient in horseradishes (and other Brassicaceae veggies) is much stronger than sodium benzoate. According to a disease prevention magazine:12

"Even within individual prostate cells, glucosinolates beneficially influence the metabolism of hormones, which may explain why a higher consumption of mustard family vegetables is associated with a lower risk for prostate cancer.

In addition, one of the anti-carcinogens produced, allyl isothiocyanate (AITC) demonstrated 90 percent absorption when ingested. Horseradish's pungent flavour is primarily caused by the AITC. This compound is produced from the hydrolysis of sinigrin by the enzyme myrosinase."

Food as Medicine — What a Novel Idea

Hippocrates was right! When you look at all the compounds, enzymes, nutrients and minerals in food such as horseradish, and find they really can impact your health for the better, you learn that food truly can be your medicine, just as medicine can be your food. If fully appreciated, another of the "father of medicine's" famous proverbs would be beneficial for impacting peoples' health:

"A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses."

Try This Cucumber Avocado Caprese Salad Today

Sun, 05/29/2016 - 02:00

Recipe From PopSugar

 

A salad is a very versatile dish to make – you can mix and match different fresh fruits and vegetables, add herbs and spices for flavor, and even top it with cheese or any lean protein (like chicken, turkey, or beef) for added flavor. Drizzle it with balsamic vinegar or olive oil, and you’ve got a ready-to-eat meal that will load you up with nutrients and fill you up.

 

This easy Cucumber Avocado Caprese salad recipe adapted from PopSugar Fitness uses some of the most basic salad ingredients that you can find in most local farmers markets (or if you’ve got a garden, you might even have some of these fresh produce growing in your backyard). Try this recipe today – it’s great served as a side dish, but can be eaten on its own, too.

 

Ingredients:

 2 organic cucumbers

 1 pint organic cherry or grape tomatoes (about 30 pieces)

 1 avocado

 2 tablespoons chopped fresh organic basil

 1 cup fresh mozzarella balls

 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

 1 teaspoon garlic powder

 Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup black olives (optional)

 

Procedure:

1.       Wash, dry, and dice the cucumbers. Wash, dry, and halve the tomatoes. Dice the avocado.

2.       Place the cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado, and olives in a bowl. Add sliced basil and mozzarella. Pour on the oil, vinegar, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

3.       Enjoy immediately.

 

This Refreshing and Healthy Salad Brings Delight With Every Bite

 

Texture, color, flavor, and nutrients – this recipe boasts of all these qualities (and so much more) that it’ll definitely become one of your favorite pick-me-up meals. With only 250 calories per serving, this salad is perfect for people who want a filling yet delicious meal that will not mess up their weight management and fitness goals.

 

Made mostly of water (95 percent), the humble cucumber is a great food to munch on during hot summer days, as it will keep you rehydrated. It contains a plethora of nutrients: vitamins C, K, B vitamins, manganese, copper, and potassium, to name a few.

 

Cucumber also has unique polyphenol compounds that reduce your risk of disease, and may help fight inflammation, protect your brain, and support your digestive and heart health. It can even keep your breath fresh: placing a cucumber slice on the roof of your mouth can kill odor-causing bacteria. Read more about the health benefits of cucumbers.

 

Avocado is one of my top superfoods, and for good reason. This low-fructose fruit is an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat that your body easily burns for energy. An avocado can also provide as much as 20 essential nutrients, including high levels of potassium, vitamin E, fiber, B vitamins, and folic acid.

 

According to a 2005 study,[i] adding avocado to salad helped the study participants to absorb three to five times more carotenoids antioxidant molecules, helping protect your body against free radical damage.

Aside from helping lower bad cholesterol levels, avocados may promote optimal brain function, helping you to avoid degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also shown its potential to fight cancer.

 

One tip: make sure you eat the fleshy green part closest to the skin, as that is where the highest amount of carotenoids can be found. To do this, peel the avocado with your hands, as you would a banana.

 

Another garden favorite, tomato is known mainly for its lycopene content, an antioxidant that’s been found to have potent anti-cancer activity. But did you know that this berry can provide you with excellent amounts of fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, manganese, and potassium? It also has good amounts of vitamin E, B6, folate, magnesium, thiamin, phosphorus, and copper.

 

One reminder: make sure to buy your ingredients fresh, and from organic producers. Organic fruits and vegetables tend to have lower levels of pesticide residues, such as cadmium, a carcinogenic toxic metal. Organic produce also have higher antioxidant levels, which are a boon to your health. You can buy organic produce from local farmers markets, or better yet, start your own garden at home.

 


[i] Journal of Nutrition March 1, 2005: 135(3); 431-436 

Platelet and Stem Cell Therapy — Novel Approaches That Can Help Heal Orthopedic Injuries

Sun, 05/29/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Orthopedic injuries can be debilitating, and many who seek treatment frequently end up getting surgery. Unfortunately, the side effects from going under the knife are often irreversible. If a mistake is made, you can end up with a permanent, lifelong problem.

In my view, surgery is the last resort almost every single time. The practical question though is, what are the realistic alternatives?

James Leiber, a D.O., who is board certified in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Pain Medicine as well as Family Medicine, has worked with the Air Force and was actually a personal physician to the former President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

He's currently an associate professor of family medicine and osteopathic principles and practice at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Bradenton, Florida and runs his own practice, New reGeneration Orthopedics of Florida and is the first Florida affiliate of Regenexx.

He has a passion for interventional regenerative orthopedics — a field in which he has many years of experience. In his Florida practice, he uses a number of different stem cell products and techniques, which he discusses in this interview.

Many years ago he became interested in prolotherapy, which has been around since the 1930s, when orthopedists were trying to figure out how to strengthen ligaments without doing surgery.

They discovered that by injecting an irritant solution into damaged tissue, it will release growth factors that help heal and strengthen the area.

In the last decade, medical professionals have begun using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cells in the same way. Ultrasound is also used, along with other imaging techniques, which allows the doctor to "see" what's going on inside the tissue. It's also helpful for pinpointing the exact location for the injections.

The Benefits of Platelets and Stem Cell Therapy

Platelets are an important part of the healing cascade. They're responsible for blood clotting and are among the "first responders" to any site of an injury. By forming a clot, they stop bleeding.

This process involves the platelets opening up and spilling out the growth factors held inside. These growth factors act as signaling molecules, issuing the instructions needed to call forth resources to repair the damaged tissue. This includes stem cells.

Stem cells are primitive precursors to your cells. They can be thought of as "baby cells," and are found in high concentrations in your bone marrow and fat tissues. Some also float around in your blood, and in your joints. Dr. Leiber explains:

"When the (stem cells) come to the area, they can turn into the new tissue that's trying to be repaired. They can also instruct all the other cells on what to do. They become like the foreman.

They can even take a cell that's trying to destroy the knee, for example, and convert it into a cell that's trying to repair.

Stem cells are very powerful in their ability to heal. That's why we use them. We prefer to use someone's own stem cells, and for many reasons we prefer to use the stem cells that come from the bone marrow rather than the fat.

There are other types of stem cells. You can get stem cells from someone else. Those could come from the fetus or from the fluid around the fetus [or] the umbilicus. All of those things are, first of all, not being done in the United States.

Secondly, we prefer to use someone's own stem cells. We think that's really the safest way to go. We like the idea of culture expanding, but we have some restrictions within the United States of being able to do that."

Common Ailments That May Benefit From Stem Cell Therapy

When you're young, you have high amounts of platelets and stem cells, which translate into a high level of self-regenerative ability. Children typically heal from injuries rather quickly.

With age, they become less effective, and the wear and tear on your body starts to outpace your body's ability to repair itself. At some point, you begin to see chronic conditions from overuse, degeneration, and aging.

"We're able to take the cells that that person has, isolate them, concentrate them, do a few little tricks with them to make them more effective, and then precisely place them in the areas that the tissue has damaged. We can get very good healing even for very advanced conditions."

Most of Leiber's patients are active seniors seeking to address age-related degeneration. Many are former competitive athletes. Over the past few years, awareness about PRP and stem cell therapy has also spread among professional athletes seeking treatment for sports injuries. Common complaints include:

  • Knee problems such as arthritis, knee or meniscus tears and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears
  • Shoulder injuries like rotator cuff tears ,arthritis, and labral tears
  • Spine problems, such as disc herniations and spine arthritis
  • Hip, hands, feet, and elbow problems
Using Own Stem Cells Is a Safe Treatment Option

Stem cells can also be clinically indicated for other things, such as regeneration of peripheral nerves, organ damage, and even type 1 diabetes.

"There's incredible potential for the use of stem cells from either bone marrow or fat for other types of problems, including heart and brain," Leiber says.

"But we don't claim to be as experts in that. I think there's an issue when a doctor treats everything under the sun with stem cells. I think there's a lack of expertise when that happens."

One common concern with stem cell therapy is whether the injected stem cells might become malignant. According to Leiber, at least in orthopedic treatments (which is his specialty), stem cells have never turned into anything abnormal, and there's more than a decade's worth of patient data to support that claim.

Part of these safety concerns stem from the fact that when you inject another person's stem cells, or ones from animals, the risk of malignant conversion does exist.

In fact, the veterinarian associated with my site, Dr. Karen Becker, has treated many animals using stem cells, and noticed that many dogs invariably develop cancer a few years down the line after being treated with another animal's stem cells. This does not appear to be the case when you're using your own stem cells though.

"We've been tracking that for sure," Leiber says. "When you use someone else's stem cells, there are other risks associated with it. There's rejection risk. You're obtaining the genetic material of someone else. I think that needs to be sorted out. I'm sure over time we can get that to be a safe therapy, but that needs a lot more research."

What Stem Cell Therapy Is Not

While stem cell therapy has great healing potential, it would be inadvisable to approach it thinking it's a one-shot magic bullet. On the contrary, it's ideally incorporated as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that takes other lifestyle factors into account. Leiber explains:

"Stem cells have the capacity to repopulate and regenerate themselves. When we take bone marrow out, for example, they will repopulate themselves in six weeks. We give people about a six- to eight-week window, maybe a little bit longer depending on their situation.

We try and push them in the right direction with a lot of diet and food planning advice, supplement advice, exercise advice, discussions about sleep and environmental chemicals, and a whole bunch of different things to get them as healthy as possible.

Some people are facing a crossroads in their life where they've been told by multiple orthopedists that they need a spine fusion or they need a knee replacement, for example, and they really don't want to go that route. They're willing to make the changes necessary. I think it's a real unique opportunity. I have been counseling people in this regard for many years, but the patients I'm seeing now are very, very motivated. We are able to sort of kick-start their life back in a lot of different ways."

On the whole, your chances of success are radically improved if you eat real food, eliminate processed foods, and focus on high-quality fats while minimizing net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber), along with moderate protein. This kind of diet helps upregulate your body's innate repair and regenerative systems. Most importantly, you radically downregulate inflammation, which is one of the core variables contributing to much of the pathology generating the damage.

"If you put stem cells into an area and you haven't tried to change the terrain, inflammation will promote stem cells to turn more into scar tissue. That's not really what we're looking for, the fibrosis. We make a big deal about this," Leiber says.

Recommended Supplements

Certain nutrients and supplements can help stem cells grow more efficiently. Regenexx, which specializes in developing stem cell therapies, conducted in vitro studies showing that when stem cells are placed in an environment mimicking an arthritic joint, their growth rate is significantly reduced. They then duplicated the test in various nutrient environments, to determine which nutrients could help the stem cells grow better.

Nutrients and combinations of nutrients that boost stem cell regeneration include vitamins C and D, glucosamine and chondroitin, curcumin, resveratrol, bitter melon, and the amino acid l-carnosine. Leiber recommends these to most of his patients. He also recommends taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil in higher amounts.

"Interestingly, melatonin, which most people are familiar with for sleep ... helps stem cells preferentially turn into cartilage over a different kind of cell type. We don't really know what the right dose is. But it's safe, it's cheap, and I think it's worth taking just because of that information. Other people who I feel may have a need for detoxifying a little bit more, I may add N- acetylcysteine (NAC)," Leiber says.

"If I feel that they have quite a bit of inflammation or I have some testing that tells me they have inflammation, on top of that there's a product I use that has a mixture of boswellia and willow bark and a whole bunch of different antioxidants, phytonutrients derived from fruits and vegetables. I'll have them taking them in advance to the procedure as well. If they're coming with a lot of gut issues, we may start exploring that a little bit and treating that in advance as well."

On a side note, my latest passion is optimization of mitochondrial function with dietary intervention and supplementation, and many of these supplements are also very useful for improving mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy (mitochondrial autophagy). Resveratrol is a particularly intriguing one. It also stimulates SIRT 1, which activates both of those pathways, as does bitter melon and curcumin.

As for diet, you really need to restrict net carbs, which is total carbs minus fiber, to less than 50 grams a day, or maybe even as little as 30 or 40 grams if you're trying to address chronic dysfunction. Replace those carbs with high-quality fats like butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and high-quality fat from pastured animals like tallow or lard.

These are strategies that will help you burn fat for fuel, which burns far cleaner and generates less free radicals, which in turn decreases inflammation. By optimizing your mitochondrial function, you optimize health and life in general. It's a profoundly effective strategy to not only treat disease but improve longevity.

Anatomy of a Typical Stem Cell Treatment

Leiber specializes in platelet-based procedures and stem cell procedures, which include platelets and growth factors as well. The former are not as involved or expensive as a stem cell procedure. The stem cell protocol generally involves three parts, spread out over three separate treatments. A typical treatment protocol for advanced knee arthritis might go something like this:

1. Prior to your first appointment, or as part of your first appointment, you would get any necessary imaging tests done. Leiber also does a diagnostic ultrasound examination, which allows him to see the tissue structures of the area in question, in real time. The first treatment typically involves prolotherapy to strengthen the ligaments and tendons and create a more hospitable environment for the stem cells.

2. After three to five days, you go back in for a bone marrow aspiration. "I think there's a lot of unnecessary fear associated with that," Leiber says.

"I would say 95 percent of the time there's really only mild discomfort or less associated with it. I numb the skin. I numb down to the bone in the back of the pelvis. Once I know the patient is comfortable, I take a separate tool, and go down to the bone.

There's no sharp sensation. I let them know I'm about to enter the bone and that they're going to feel a little bit of pressure ... Then I start to draw out some of the bone marrow."

Very small amounts of bone marrow are drawn at a time, at a slow pace, to prevent achiness. For most conditions, 60 to 100 milliliters of bone marrow will be drawn from four locations on each side of the pelvis. After eating a healthy lunch, you then come back for the injection, consisting of a mixture of stem cells, growth factors, and platelets. Leiber uses image guidance to select the best areas for the injections.

Unfortunately, a local anesthetic at the injection site cannot be used, as it's been shown to kill the stem cells. But a small amount of local anesthetic in the skin and on the way to the target tissue can be used or a nerve block can be administered (like for a dental procedure), and most patients tolerate these injections very well. You'll have limited mobility for about three to five days as you have to minimize pressure on the joint. You may also need pain medication during this time.

3. Three to five days later, another blood draw is done, from which platelets and growth factors are separated and extracted and then reinjected into the trouble area. This acts as "fertilizer" for the stem cells that were put in earlier. A brace may be used to protect the area. After that, you'll need to see a physical therapist for about six weeks.

"In very advanced conditions, in very advanced knee arthritis or hip arthritis, we'll go ahead and do a concentrated platelet booster at about the six-week mark," Leiber says.

"When you're talking about something that's bone on bone, this is not a cure. For lesser conditions — for tears in ligaments and tendons — this can be a cure; for very advanced arthritis, I think of this more of as a treatment strategy. You may need periodic platelet boosters to maintain the benefits you get from the original stem cell treatment."

More Information

Everything except the actual PRP and the stem cell treatment is typically covered by insurance. A platelet-based procedure without stem cells can cost anywhere from $600 to $2,000. A stem cell protocol can range anywhere from $4,000 to $6,000, or more if you're treating more than one area.

When looking for a physician who's skilled in this type of treatment, make sure the doctor allows ample time for the appointment. "You can't really come to an assessment of what's going on from a more global perspective in 10 minutes," Leiber says. "An appointment should take an hour plus, and there should be a lot of examination, discussion, and so forth. All the questions should be answered."

According to Leiber, Regenexx is far ahead of the curve in this field, and there's an affiliate network of practicing physicians across the U.S. You can find affiliated doctors on their Find a Regenexx Physician page. If you're in Florida, you can also seek out Leiber's practice, New Regeneration Orthopedics, located in Bradenton.

'Food Frontiers' Documentary Reveals the Changing Landscape of the American Food System

Sat, 05/28/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Did you know that 1 in 7 American households experience food insecurity, not knowing whether they'll be able to eat on any given day? It's a massive problem, but one that communities across the country are beginning to tackle in earnest.

"Food Frontiers," co-produced by Leo Horrigan and Mike Milli, features several community-driven projects aimed at improving access to healthy foods in a number of innovative ways.

The film is part of Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Foodscape's online curriculum — an interactive site scheduled for release in August, which will teach high school students and teachers about the American food system and what can be done to improve it.

Improving Food Security and Food Quality Is a Community Effort

For example, in southern California a farm-to-school program has helped improve students' access to healthy food by making fresh local produce a staple in school district cafeterias.

In Virginia, a pediatrician has combined her medical practice with a commercial kitchen, and prescribes cooking classes for her patients and their parents.

In New York City, a nonprofit organization helps organize farmers markets in neighborhoods lacking access to fresh foods, and in Philadelphia, a Fresh Food Financing Initiative raised $190 million to build new grocery stores and upgrade existing ones.

This initiative was so successful at reviving and improving conditions in struggling Pennsylvania neighborhoods, 17 other states eventually went on to duplicate the effort.

The Importance of Food Distribution and Access

Having access to healthy food is an important consideration when you're trying to address rising obesity and diabetes rates, and according to Horrigan, the film can be a helpful teaching aid and a conversation starter.

"We hope this film will inspire people who may want to replicate the successful projects we examined," he says.

Farmers markets and other fresh food outlets are particularly important in low income neighborhoods, as lower income communities tend to have a higher risk of disease due to the poor quality of processed food typically sold in small convenience stores and gas stations.

The film also discusses the importance of healthy foods in the school system, and shows how farmers are working with schools to provide fresh produce.

As noted by Rodney Taylor, a food service director who led school start-up projects in Santa Monica and Riverside, California, children need to be taught healthy eating habits, and it all begins with what they see in the cafeteria.

Are there fresh veggies and fruit available, or is it all packaged, processed food? It's hard for kids to make the right choices when they don't know there's a difference between real food and processed food, and even more difficult if they're rarely or never exposed to fresh foods.

Nebraska Village Creates Student-Run Grocery Store

The grocery store in Cody, Nebraska, is a perfect example of a social enterprise — a business whose primary purpose is the common good. Cody is a tiny rural town of about 150 people, and, prior to 2013, residents had to travel more than 40 miles to the nearest food store.

The low number of residents made opening a grocery store financially unviable, but through brainstorming sessions with local teachers, a novel concept was developed.

The store is set up as a non-profit organization operated by the school, and high school students run the store during the day. The kids work for class credit, real-world work experience and general life skills. This way, salaries are kept to a minimum.

The kids only get paid for after-school hours and during school breaks. The small grocery has turned into a thriving success that benefits the entire community in a multitude of different ways. It was even featured on PBS NewsHour earlier this year.1

Farmers Markets Thrive in Low-Income New York City Neighborhoods

In New York City, the nonprofit organization Harvest Home develops farmers markets in low income neighborhoods. At present, they operate 19 farmers markets in 4 of the 5 city boroughs, serving about 250,000 customers each year.

Most of the neighborhoods served have a high incidence of diet-related conditions like obesity and diabetes, and the customer base is lower-income people who normally cannot find fresh produce in their local grocery or convenience stores.

Many are immigrants, and Harvest Home realized that holding cooking demonstrations at the markets was a good way to educate people on how to use the produce sold at the market. It's a win-win for farmers and customers alike.

The market is also set up to accept food stamps, as a majority of customers are on assistance programs.

"Elected officials now have started to rally around supporting the markets, because they have seen the benefit to their constituents.

In 2009, the department of health came out with a new incentive program for SNAP, that for every $5 you spend at the market using SNAP, you get an additional $2 coupon.

That mechanism was to promote and incentivize people to come into the market and use their food stamps," Maritza Owens, CEO of Harvest Home says.

Teaching the Joy of Cooking

"People don't know how to properly feed themselves," Paige Balius, facilitator for Sustainable Food Center's The Happy Kitchen, says. "At worst, they outsource it to a restaurant. At best, they follow some fad diet advice they found in a magazine."

The fact of the matter is, if you're not cooking your own food, it's really difficult to eat healthy. The Happy Kitchen,2 located in Austin, Texas, started in the late 1990s. At that time, the organization ran farm stands in low-income neighborhoods.

In time, they realized people needed cooking lessons as much as they needed access to fresh produce, as many didn't know how to prepare whole foods from scratch. Many also don't understand the deep connection between your diet and your health. The cooking classes are held by volunteers from the community, many of whom have neither teaching nor culinary backgrounds. What they do have is a passion for healthy eating and cooking. And they teach you how to do it on a tight budget.

Pediatrician Serves Up Cooking Classes

Virginia pediatrician Dr. Nimali Fernando has also come to understand the deep need for cooking instruction. Many of her young patients suffer from gut problems, constipation and lack of bowel movement, and this is a direct cause of eating a fiber-less, highly refined processed food diet, she says.

She admits that 10 years ago she'd simply send them home with a laxative, but she eventually realized that this is not doing anything to fix the problem. She decided she really needed to give her patients and their parents the tools to improve their health through proper diet, and that includes the know-how of cooking with healthy ingredients.

From this realization grew "The Doctor Yum Project," which includes a teaching garden and a full kitchen, in addition to a doctor's office where the overall décor is focused on health and wellness, as opposed to disease and drugs.

Fernando holds regular cooking classes in her commercial kitchen, which is adjacent to her medical office, but she'll also bring families into the kitchen to expose them to various dietary concepts as part of their medical appointment. "If I do my job right on this side [the kitchen], I won't have to see them on the other side [the medical office] that much," she says, and that is her goal.

California Schools Join Forces With Farmers

American school lunches have become notorious for their poor quality. In most schools, none of the dishes are made in house, and most are notably lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. Overall, school lunches are the epitome of processed factory food, laden with sugar and synthetic ingredients. The seriousness of this situation is further deepened by the fact that many low-income children depend on their school lunch as the primary, and perhaps only, meal of the day.

Rodney Taylor, director of Nutrition Services for the Riverside Unified School District in California, is well-acquainted with hunger, and has made it a personal mission to make sure every single student in his district has access to wholesome food at school. "The experts tell us that if we do nothing, 1 in 3 children will develop diabetes in their lifetime. This is unacceptable to me, as we know that through diet alone, we can change that," he says.

After being approached by a local farmer over a decade ago, Taylor developed what has become an extremely successful farm-to-school program. Starting with just three farmers, the program has grown to nine different farms, which cooperate and coordinate their services via a food hub. Two years ago, Taylor's district committed to serving ONLY fresh produce, and they now use no canned, processed or frozen fruits or vegetables at all.

This switch also ends up addressing the issue brought forth by many naysayers — the fact that kids "won't eat" fresh fruits and vegetables even if it's served to them and therefore fresh foods are a waste of the school's money. "When that's all they're seeing [from the time] they come into kindergarten, they get used to eating it," Taylor says. "And it's going to make a whole generation of children healthier. How do we educate the whole child? I think it's a tragedy if we haven't taught him to be a lifelong healthy eater."

This program has also been a saving grace for the farmers. Many of the orange groves in this California area are over 100 years old, and as orange trees get older, they produce sweeter but smaller oranges. Their smaller size means commercial vendors don't want to buy them, because they want large oranges. As a result, orange growers were really struggling to stay afloat. The farm-to-school program is the perfect outlet for these perfectly healthy but commercially undesirable fruits.  

There Are Many Ways to Build Sustainable Food Systems

Few things are more important these days than building a more sustainable food system, and as this film shows, there are countless ways of going about it. Best of all, it doesn't take huge numbers of people to make something happen. A handful of dedicated individuals can have a positive, long-term impact on an entire community. 

This is particularly true for people who run food services for a school district. Here, a single person has the power to influence the daily diet — and hence the health — of tens or even hundreds of thousands of children.

Along with improving access to healthy foods, there's also a need for education. In generations past, cooking skills were passed from parent to child, but with the advent of processed foods, many lost these crucial survival skills. That's really what they are — if you cannot cook, you stand little chance of living a long and healthy life. Cooking real food is absolutely foundational for disease prevention and survival.

Where to Find Healthy Food

Fortunately, organic, locally grown foods are becoming easier to get a hold of between farmers markets, food hubs, and other community supported agriculture (CSA) venues. (Of course, you always have the option of growing your own, and that's ultimately your best option.)

Even raw milk is slowly becoming easier to find, and that's great news. If you're still unsure of where to find raw milk, check out Raw-Milk-Facts.com and RealMilk.com. They can tell you what the status is for legality in your state, and provide a listing of raw dairy farms in your area.

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund3 also provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws.4 California residents can also find raw milk retailers using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com. Other organizations that can help you locate farm-fresh foods include the following:

EatWild.com

EatWild.com provides lists of certified organic farmers known to produce safe, wholesome raw dairy products as well as grass-fed beef and other organic produce.

Here you can also find information about local farmers markets, as well as local stores and restaurants that sell grass-fed products.

Weston A. Price Foundation

Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass-fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.

Grassfed Exchange

The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling organic and grass-fed meats across the U.S.

Local Harvest

This website will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.

Farmers Markets

A national listing of farmers markets.

Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals

The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.

FoodRoutes

The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

The Cornucopia Institute

The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified-organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO "organic" production from authentic organic practices.

Tips to Avoid Stinky Shoes When Going Sockless This Summer

Sat, 05/28/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

When the sun starts warming the pavement and the temperature starts to rise, you may be tempted to go sockless in your shoes. It's a feeling of freedom and brings back memories of childhood.

Unfortunately, unless you take care of those shoes, it also breeds bacterial growth and a smell you can identify when you walk in the room. If smell were an indicator, your shoes could stand up and walk around all on their own.

How can you enjoy that sockless feeling without contributing to air pollution in your home?

The Foundation of Foot Odor

Shoes start to smell because they are in close proximity to smelly feet. One step to keeping your shoes smelling sweetly is to reduce your foot odor. The medical term for smelly feet is bromodosis, and it can affect anyone.

The smell starts with sweat secreted from sweat glands on your feet. The functions of these glands are to keep your feet moist, skin supple and aid in temperature regulation. When you're hot or exercising, your feet sweat even more than usual.

Unlike other sweat glands on your body, the sweat glands in your feet secrete sweat all the time, and not just in response to heat or exercise.1

The smell begins when the sweat is broken down by bacteria and fungi living on your skin. As the sweat decomposes a noticeable cheesy odor is produced. This scent can become even more offensive when there is a buildup of bacteria and sweat, such as in your shoes.

Socks Prevent the Smell

Using socks prevents the smell because your socks absorb the sweat and the bacteria, protecting your shoes. When your feet are stuffed inside your shoes all day, bacteria, sweat and dirt are transferred to the insoles and fabric of the shoes.

When you replace your socks daily, you reduce the buildup of bacteria and decomposing sweat that line the insides of your favorite shoes.

Socks reduce the friction between your feet and your shoes, reducing the build-up of calluses on your feet. Socks also keep your feet from becoming dry and cracked, leaving openings in your skin that increase your risk of infection. Your socks will protect your feet from fungal infections, such as athlete's foot, as well.

A buildup of moisture can also lead to mold growth on your shoes. This will break down the integrity of the shoes far more quickly, resulting in shoes that no longer provide support and are ready to be retired.

But, there are ways to reduce the odor emanating from your shoes, while still not wearing socks or stockings in your favorite athletic shoes or flats.

The Smell of Athlete's Foot

The medical term for athlete's foot is tinea pedis. It develops from a fungal infection, most often between your toes. Symptoms may vary from person to person.

You may experience all possible symptoms, including severe discomfort, or just a couple. The fungus usually grows in a warm, moist, and dark environment. Symptoms may include:2

✓ Cracked and bleeding skin

✓ Scaling skin

✓ Redness

✓ Itching

✓ Burning skin

✓ Macerated skin, or skin breakdown

✓ Foot odor

✓ Blisters

Athlete's foot is sometimes associated with onychomycosis, or a fungal infection of the toenails. If you have diabetes, the infection may spread or you may develop a severe secondary infection. If you experience severe redness, pain, swelling or pus from your feet, you should see your doctor.3

Although generally harmless, it may also create a foul odor that is distinctively different from the usual source of smelly feet.

Care Tips to Keep Your Shoes Odor-Free

If you just have to go sockless in your shoes, there are a few precautions that may reduce the amount of odor your shoes produce over the summer months.

Remember the odor originates from bacteria and sweat transferred from your feet to your shoes. Each of these tips will either help reduce the growth of bacteria or make your shoes a hostile environment for bacterial and fungal growth.

1. Wash and Dry

It's simple. The cleaner and drier your feet and shoes remain, the more likely it is that your feet won't smell. Wash your feet with soap and water at least once daily.

Be sure they are thoroughly dry before you put your feet into shoes for the day. Although your feet will continue to secrete sweat, starting dry gives you a better chance of staying sweet-smelling.4

2. Kill the Bacteria

You can kill many of the scent-producing bacteria on your feet using either white vinegar or a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. Place your fluid of choice in a spray bottle and spray the bottom of your feet after each shower.

Allow your skin to air dry for a couple of minutes before walking or using shoes. Make your hydrogen peroxide wash with 1 teaspoon of 3 percent peroxide to 8 ounces of water. White vinegar can be used straight out of the bottle.5

3. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties.6 You might spray your feet with white vinegar or hydrogen-peroxide solution after your shower and rub coconut oil on your feet just before bed. The oil helps to kill bacteria and softens your skin.

4. Stay Out of the Dark

Bacteria and fungi love dark, moist environments. After you take your shoes off for the day, keep them out of gym bags, dark shoe boxes and dark closets. Use a shoe rack to keep the tongue of the shoe up and air circulating through the shoe.

5. Silica Gel Packs

These are the little bead packets you find in a new box of shoes and inside bottles of vitamins. You can also purchase them in bulk. These packets are used to absorb moisture inside your shoes after you've worn them.

Put a couple of packets in each shoe and place them in a closed bag. If you leave the shoes open to air with the silica packets, they won't be as effective because they'll absorb moisture from the air as well as from inside your shoes.

Closed in a bag they'll be exposed only to the moisture in your shoes. Use caution or avoid this if you have your shoes near pets or young children.

6. Tea Tree Oil

Although there is no well-designed scientific research demonstrating effectiveness against smelly feet, tea tree oil is effective against athlete's foot and other fungal infections.7,8

Tea tree oil may be mildly irritating to your skin and has not been tested on children or pregnant women.9 If you'd like to try tea tree oil, use it sparingly and not every day to reduce irritation you may experience.

7. Newspaper

Keeping your shoes dry is an important way of reducing the growth of bacteria and fungi. Stuff them with newspaper after you've washed the shoes or after a particularly sweaty day or workout. Switch out the newspaper every four hours until the paper is dry when you remove it.

8. Sunlight

Sunlight and fresh air are natural ways of drying out your shoes and getting rid of odors. Hang your athletic shoes by the tongue to keep the shoe open to air. Set dress flats or heels out on a chair or table in the sun. Watch the weather and get them inside before it rains.

9. Alcohol 

Bacteria are sensitive to alcohol. Use isopropyl alcohol over the interior of the shoe. Isopropyl alcohol comes in strengths ranging from 70 percent to 99 percent, all of which will work for this purpose. Remember to avoid putting alcohol on the outside of your shoes because it can ruin the surface of the shoe. Leave the shoe in an area where it will get plenty of air circulation. You can do this up to once weekly to keep the bacterial growth in your shoes at a minimum.

10. Alternate Your Shoes

By alternating the days you wear shoes, you give them a longer period of time to dry out thoroughly, reducing the growth of bacteria. If athletic shoes are your foot apparel of choice, then keep two or three pairs in your closet so you can alternate them.

11. Replace With Charcoal-Containing Insoles

Your insoles absorb quite a bit of the sweat and bacteria from your feet. Replacing them periodically can reduce the amount of bacteria in your shoes. If odor control is a significant issue, even with the listed measures, you may think about replacing your insoles with insoles containing activated charcoal for odor control. However, these may irritate your skin, so wearing socks with them is advisable.

12. Salt

Bacteria require moisture to grow. Salt will pull water from the cells of the bacteria, causing those cells to die. Salt also interferes with the enzyme activity of the bacteria and weakens the molecular structure of the cell.10 Use kosher salt or sea salt, as regular table salt has finer grains that are more difficult to remove from your shoes. Spread 1 tablespoon of coarse-grain salt evenly over the insoles of your shoes. Let the shoes set for 12 to 24 hours before tapping the salt out of your shoes.

13. Powder, Soda, Starch or Litter

Another option to dry out the inside of your shoes is to stuff them with a combination of equal parts baking powder, baking soda and cornstarch in a coffee filter. Staple the filter together and stuff it in your shoe overnight. Kitty litter is another material designed to absorb fluids. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of kitty litter in a coffee filter, staple closed and place inside your shoes overnight.

Forget About These

While there are several things you can do to reduce foot and shoe odor, there are also some things you shouldn't do.

1. Masking the Smell With Perfume

Leave out the perfume. They will only mask the odor. Perfume and sweaty feet don't make for a good combination!

2. Foot Antiperspirants

Antiperspirants stop your feet from sweating, a completely unnatural option. You may be tempted to just use a spray to cut back on foot odor, but you'll also be adding chemicals to your body and eliminating the method your body uses to moisturize the skin on your feet.

3. Freezing

Although this may reduce the odor in your shoes in the short run, freezing does not kill the odor-causing bacteria growing in your shoes.11 If you do choose to freeze, put your shoes in a resealable bag and place in the freezer for several hours.However, if they don't smell when you remove them from the freezer it may only take a day or two to re-establish the bacterial growth, whether you wear them or not. So if you're freezing, wear the shoes immediately before the odor returns.

When All Else Fails

When all else fails to reduce the stench wafting from your shoes, it's time to return to your socks. If you enjoy being sockless because you don't want socks to show over the top of your shoes, try low-rise socks. These usually sit below the level of athletic shoes and don't show at all.

Women have the option of wearing ped socks or ped hosiery in dress shoes, serving the same purpose of absorbing sweat and bacteria but without showing over the tops of dress shoes. Socks might not be your choice of apparel, but they will protect your feet from becoming dry and cracked or from developing calluses from rubbing against your shoes.

Awesome Aloe Vera Oil

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 02:00
What Is Aloe Oil?

By itself, aloe oil is not a true, pure oil. It is prepared by mixing the aloe vera plant with a fatty oil.1 This plant oil basically contains the properties of aloe, from which it is extracted. However, since it is combined with a carrier oil, its nutritional properties may be enhanced or reduced.

Most of the health benefits provided by aloe vera come from its water-retaining, fleshy leaves2 — specifically the nutrient-rich gel extracted from them. It is usually the leaves or gel that is used to create the oil.

Aloe vera is a perennial plant and thrives in hot, arid environments. More specifically, it is commonly found in North Africa, the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean region, Australia, and some areas in the United States.3

Historical records show that aloe vera was an important component in herbal medicine. For instance, the Ebers Papyrus from Ancient Egypt and De Materia Medica by Dioscorides mention the use of aloe vera. The Ancient Egyptians valued the plant as a treatment for infections, rashes, and burns, and referred to it as the "plant of immortality."

Other civilizations, such as the Arabs, Greeks, and Spaniards, used aloe vera to help reduce perspiration and eliminate body odor. Spanish missionaries often carried aloe vera with them to help treat the sick.4

Uses of Aloe Vera Oil

Aloe vera is commonly used by the cosmetic, food, and beverage industry. It is widely used in personal care products, such as lip balms, lotions, and other skincare treatments.

 Of course, the aloe vera plant by itself is also a popular skincare agent. Some people use its gel to relieve itching, accelerate the healing of wounds, and as a moisturizing agent. Other uses of aloe vera oil include:5

  • Massage oil, due to its ability to relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Aromatherapy oil. Aromatherapists often mix aloe vera oil with other carrier oils in order to make use of its healing and rejuvenating activities.
  • Haircare product. It can be used as a conditioner to treat dry scalp and dandruff.
  • Treatment for insect bites. This plant oil can also be used to treat swelling and inflammation caused by insect bites from bees and wasps.
  • Dental care product. Nutrients in aloe vera have been found to aid in the treatment of periodontal disease. Used as a massage oil for the gums and teeth, this oil can help reduce the risk of caries, plaque, and even gingivitis.
Composition of Aloe Oil

Many of the beneficial compounds of aloe vera gel are transferred to the oil during its production stage. Nutrients you can obtain from the gel and oil include:6

  • Vitamins C, A (beta-carotene), E (alpha-tocopherol), B1, B2, and B6 (choline and folic acid)
  • Minerals. The aloe vera plant is known to absorb nutrients from the soil. It can provide iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, manganese, sodium, and potassium
  • Amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in aloe oil, as well as 7 out of 8 essential amino acids
  • Anthraquinones, such as aloe emodin, aloin, and cinnamic acid ester. These have been shown to have antiviral effects
  • Lipid compounds, such as arachidonic acid, gamma-linoleic acid, and other phytosterols
  • Polysaccharides, which are carbohydrate molecules with beneficial properties. They have been associated with the treatment of tumors and cancer, diabetes, and immune function
Benefits of Aloe Oil

Because aloe oil contains the health properties of the original aloe vera plant, it possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antifungal, antioxidant, and astringent activity.

Like aloe vera gel, aloe oil is also known for its ability to promote skin health.7 It helps the skin heal from sunburn quickly due to its antioxidant properties. Using aloe vera to treat small cuts and wounds is also recommended.

Aloe oil is a good replacement for chemical moisturizers. The plant's long list of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, can keep your skin supple and firm. It may help prevent the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and stretch marks.

Aloe vera is known to fight acne because of its ability to reduce skin inflammations, blistering, and itching.

Today, aloe vera is used to address common skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, and rashes.8 Its soothing nature makes it suitable to treat and relieve pain caused by herpes and shingles.

Aloe vera is also an effective haircare agent. Aside from treating dandruff and dry scalp, the plant can also promote hair growth and keep your locks strong. When added to tea tree oil, aloe oil can be useful against fungal scalp infections.

People with arthritis may also enjoy pain relief with aloe vera. Applying it topically on painful joints can help reduce inflammation.   

How to Make Aloe Oil

Aloe vera oil is produced through the process of maceration extraction.10 The plant is soaked in a carrier oil heated to high temperatures. Once the plant's cell membranes have been ruptured, the hot oil then absorbs the nutrients and essence of the plant. After a while, the mixture is filtered in order to remove the plant components.

In the case of aloe vera, its stems and leaves containing the aloe gel are macerated. The product is similar to infused oil and is not 100 percent aloe vera. Even so, this essential oil is just as useful as its gel counterpart. One advantage the oil has over aloe vera gel is its longer shelf life — about 8 to 10 months.

Fortunately, you can create aloe oil at home. Here's a guide on how to make an aloe vera massage oil infusion from We Love Aloe:11

What You Need:

  • ½ cup of aloe vera gel (either straight from the plant or from a health food store)
  • ½ cup of coconut oil
  • 2 to 3 drops of essential oil of your choice
  • 1 bowl
  • A pot
  • Stove burner

Procedure:

1. Mix the aloe vera gel (extract it properly if you use a fresh leaf) with the coconut oil in a bowl. The ratio of aloe vera gel to the coconut oil should be 1:1.

2. Add 2 to 3 drops of an essential oil of your choice to the aloe vera and coconut oil mixture and mix well.

Adding an essential oil will give your aloe massage oil an appealing aroma, which will help calm the mind and give your aloe oil more health benefits (which may vary depending on what oil you pick).

Suggested oils include rose, jasmine, peppermint, or even a citrus essential oil. The essential oil (or two) will help supplement and maximize the medicinal properties of Aloe Vera.

3. Heat the mixture in a pot on the stove burner on low heat for approximately 10 minutes.

4. Leave the aloe oil to cool before moving forward.

5. Once the aloe vera oil has cooled, you can start using the oil. Rub it on your body, arms, legs, back, or chest as a moisturizing agent or to relax.

6. Store the oil in a cool, dry place for approximately 2 weeks. You can also refrigerate the oil to preserve its ingredients, making their health benefits stay stronger for a longer period.

How Does Aloe Oil Work?

As mentioned, aloe vera oil contains most of the nutritional properties as aloe vera gel. It's safe for topical application as a skin moisturizer or a massage oil. Maximize its benefits by using the product right after you shower or bathe. Your damp skin will absorb the oil more effectively.

You may also add aloe vera oil to personal care products, such as soaps, shampoos, lip balms, toothpastes, and skin products. Experiment with different products, but it's advisable to first seek the help of a professional aromatherapist.

Is Aloe Oil Safe?

If you are to use aloe oil on your skin, it's best to be meticulous when choosing a product. Remember, your skin is very absorbent and will absorb everything applied unto it — including chemicals and artificial ingredients. Always check if the product is organic or not. This will give you an idea if the product contains dangerous substances and additives, which are likely added during the extraction process.

Some people recommend taking aloe vera juice, gel, and oil orally for their digestive benefits. Even if these products are proven safe for consumption, you should be cautious when ingesting them or seek professional advice. They can induce diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting in some people so please use caution. 

To be on the safe side, don't ingest aloe vera oil, as it is not a pure oil. It is mixed with a carrier oil that may not be safe for consumption. This may increase the amounts of certain compounds, which may become toxic in large concentrations.

Side Effects of Aloe Oil

Always err on the side of caution when using aloe oil as it can cause allergic reactions on some people. To check for an allergic reaction to aloe, you may do a skin test, or apply a drop of oil on a small area of your skin. Aloe vera compounds can react with certain drugs, such as laxatives, diabetes medication, and diuretics. 

Diarrhea induced by the plant can reduce your body's potassium levels, which can affect the potency of certain medications. As with any herbal oil, consult an experienced aromatherapy practitioner or physician before using aloe vera oil, especially when you're using any medication, and are pregnant or nursing.

16 Chronological Tips to Improve Your Sleep

Thu, 05/26/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Sleep is supposed to be a time for your body to recharge, a respite from the demands of the workaday world. Yet, according to the documentary Sleepless in America, 40 percent of Americans are sleep deprived, with many getting less than five hours of sleep per night.

For many, sleep isn't a respite at all but rather has turned into a source of great frustration and stress. If you've ever struggled with insomnia, you know the anxiety that can occur when the clock starts approaching bedtime.

Will you be able to fall asleep? Will you lie in bed, awake, for hours, only to fall asleep shortly before your alarm clock goes off? Though it may seem hopeless, let me assure you that sound sleep can be yours.

Oftentimes it only takes some simple tweaks to your bedtime routine and, ironically, to your habits during the day to make sound sleep a reality.

Lack of Sleep Can Leave You Functionally Drunk

Before I delve into how to improve your sleep, let's go over why it's so important to do so. You probably already know that sleep is important — and that you feel lousy after a night with barely any shuteye.

However, you may be surprised by the results of a recent University of Michigan study, which found even six hours of sleep a night is too little and may leave you functionally impaired, similar to being drunk. University of Michigan mathematician and study author Olivia Walch said:1

"It doesn't take that many days of not getting enough sleep before you're functionally drunk … Researchers have figured out that being overly tired can have that effect.

And what's terrifying at the same time is that people think they're performing tasks way better than they are. Your performance drops off but your perception of your performance doesn't."

Smartphone App Reveals Insights Into How the World Sleeps

In 2014, Walch and colleagues released a free app that recommends optimal lighting schedules for adjusting to new time zones (i.e., helping to reduce the effects of jet lag).

The app, called Entrain, asks users to input their sleep times, home time zone and typical lighting schedule, and it can also record hourly light and sleep schedules.

The researchers used data collected from the app to reveal trends in how people sleep around the world.2 Average sleep duration ranged from seven hours and 24 minutes for residents of Singapore to eight hours and 12 minutes for residents of the Netherlands.

This might not seem like a large discrepancy, but even 30 minutes of extra sleep can make a big difference in your health and ability to function. Other interesting facts revealed by the study included:3

  • Middle-aged men got the least sleep and often slept less than seven to eight hours a night.
  • Women tended to schedule more time for sleep and slept about 30 minutes more per night than men. Women tended to go to bed earlier and wake up later.
  • People who spent time in the sunlight each day tended to go to sleep earlier and got more sleep than those who spend most of their day indoors.

Trends were also noted by age, which suggests your biological clock may influence your internal clock. In particular, the researchers noted that people's schedules dictated their bedtime but their internal clock governed their wake time.

Therefore, the best way to get more sleep is to go to bed earlier. Study co-author Daniel Forger, Ph.D., of the University of Michigan explained:

"Across the board, it appears that society governs bedtime and one's internal clock governs wake time, and a later bedtime is linked to a loss of sleep …

At the same time, we found a strong wake-time effect from users' biological clocks — not just their alarm clocks. These findings help to quantify the tug-of-war between solar and social timekeeping."

1 in 3 U.S. Adults Don't Get Enough Sleep

In February 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that one in three U.S. adults don't get enough sleep.4

In this case, "enough" sleep was defined as seven or more hours per night, but many adults may need closer to eight hours per night (and thus lack of sleep may affect even more than one in three adults).

What are the health risks of this reported sleep deprivation? Research has found that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night, there were increases in activity in genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.5

Poor or insufficient sleep was even found to be the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50.6 Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:

  • Increase your risk of heart disease and cancer
  • Harm your brain by halting new neuron production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus
  • Contribute to a pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can lead to weight gain
  • Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high-intensity interval training)
  • Increase your risk of dying from any cause
16 Chronological Daily Tips to Improve Your Sleep

If your sleep could use some improvements, try these 16 tips compiled by Reader's Digest.7 What makes them unique is that you do them starting in the morning and continue throughout the day and night.

By the time it's bedtime, you'll be ready to hit the hay. Here's the chronological list, starting with when you wake up and continuing until bedtime.

1. Open Your Shades

Exposure to bright light first thing in the morning stops production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and signals to your body that it's time to wake up. Outdoor sunlight is best, so you might even want to take a quick walk outside.

2. Make Your Bed

This is a psychological trick aimed at making your bedroom less cluttered — and therefore easier to relax in — come bedtime. You can also quickly put away any junk cluttering your nightstand and dresser.

3. Exercise

Exercise leads to better sleep at night. Many people schedule their full workouts for morning, which makes it easier to also exercise while fasting (an added benefit). If you don't have time for a full workout, at least do some quick stretching or bodyweight exercises.

4. Take a Walk Outdoors After Lunch

Not only will this increase in physical activity help you sleep later, but taking your walk outdoors gives you more exposure to bright sunlight. Light intensity is measured in lux units, and on any given day, the outdoor lux units will be around 100,000 at noon.

Indoors, the typical average is somewhere between 100 to 2,000 lux units — about two orders of magnitude less. The brightness of the light matters, because your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night.

If you are in relative darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production. This, in turn, can have some rather significant ramifications for your health and sleep. I take a one-hour walk every day in the bright sunlight on the beach, so along with boosting my vitamin D, I also anchor my circadian rhythm at the same time and I rarely ever have trouble sleeping.

5. Cut Off Your Caffeine

If you're a coffee drinker, take your last caffeinated sip in the early afternoon (this applies to caffeinated soda, too). The caffeine can linger in your body for hours, blocking a brain chemical called adenosine that would otherwise help you to fall asleep.

6. Consider a Nap

According to Rubin Naiman, Ph. D. a clinical psychologist, author, teacher, and a leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams, we're biologically programmed to nap during the daytime, typically in the middle of the afternoon.

The key is to avoid napping for too long, as this may disrupt your circadian rhythms, which would hurt your sleep instead of help it. The ideal nap time for adults appears to be around 20 minutes (any longer and you'll enter the deeper stages of sleep and may feel groggy when you wake up).

7. Exercise in the Early Evening (If You Haven't Already)

The importance of exercise for sleep cannot be overstated, so if you didn't fit in your workout in the morning, be sure to do so later. There is some debate over how close is too close to bedtime to exercise. For some people, exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake, but for others even late-night exercise seems to help (not hinder) sleep.

One poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 83 percent of people said they slept better when they exercised (even late at night) than when they did not, so even if it's late, you may still want to exercise.8 Let your body be your guide.

8. Take 15 Minutes to Unwind

If you're stressed, it's harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Taking 15 minutes (at least) each day to relax may help your sleep significantly. You may try listening to music, journaling, meditation, chatting with a neighbor or the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Do whatever works best for you.

9. Eat a Light Dinner and Stop Eating Three Hours Before Bed

If you eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime, your body will have to devote energy to digesting your food when it should be recharging during sleep. As part of Peak Fasting, I also recommend that you stop eating three hours before bed and don't have your first meal until 13 to 18 hours later.

10. At Sundown, Dim Your Lights (or Use Amber-Colored Glasses)

In the evening (around 8 p.m.), you'll want to dim your lights and turn off electronic devices. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. After sundown, shift to a low-wattage bulb with yellow, orange or red light if you need illumination.

A salt lamp illuminated by a 5-watt bulb is an ideal solution that will not interfere with your melatonin production. If using a computer or smartphone, install blue light-blocking software like f.lux, which automatically alters the color temperature of your screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths as it gets late.

The easiest solution, which I recently started using myself, however, is to simply use amber-colored glasses that block blue light. I found an Uvex model (S1933X) on Amazon that costs less than $10 and works like a charm to eliminate virtually all blue light. This way you don't have to worry about installing programs on all your devices or buying special light bulbs for evening use. Once you have your glasses on, it doesn't matter what light sources you have on in your house.

11. Turn Down the Volume

In the evening hours, you'll also want to keep noise to a minimum. Noise louder than a normal conversation may stimulate your nervous system and keep you awake. You may want to use a fan or other form of white noise to drown out noise disturbances while you sleep. The exception is listening to soft, soothing music, such as classical, which may actually help you to sleep.9

12. Take a Warm Bath About 1.5 Hours Before Bed

Thermoregulation — your body's heat distribution system — is strongly linked to sleep cycles. When you sleep, your body's internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics your body's natural temperature drop.

This is also why taking a warm bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime may help you sleep; it increases your core body temperature, and when it abruptly drops when you get out of the bath, it signals your body that you are ready for sleep.

13. Adjust Your Bedroom Temperature

While there's no set consensus as to what temperature will help you sleep the best, in most cases any temperature above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees F will interfere with your sleep.10 Some experts suggest 65 degrees F is ideal for sleep.

14. Sip a Cup of Chamomile Tea

Chamomile has sedative effects that may help with sleep, which is why chamomile tea is often sipped before bed. One study found that people with insomnia who took a chamomile supplement had improvements in daytime functioning and potential benefits on sleep measures as well.11 You may want to try sipping a cup prior to bedtime to see if it helps you sleep.

15. Get Ready for Bed

A nightly ritual of washing your face, brushing your teeth and getting into your pajamas signals to your mind and body that it's time for bed. Try to stick with the same hygiene ritual, at the same time, each night.

16. Sleep in Complete Darkness

Once you're ready to climb into bed, make sure your bedroom is pitch black. The slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body's clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades to achieve this and, if this isn't possible, wear an eye mask.

Taking these steps daily should help most people to improve their sleep. If you need more help, I suggest reading my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for 33 simple tips on improving your sleep. You'll likely find that small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to helping you achieve regular restful sleep.

Aspartame and Excess Pregnancy Weight Puts Baby at Risk for Obesity

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The decisions you make before your baby is born have a significant impact on his or her health for years to come. It's only been recently that researchers have begun to fully understand the complexity behind the human genome and the extent to which it is expressed for generations in the future.1

Both mother's and father's genetic material have an impact on the health of their offspring, including the likelihood the child may experience obesity in his or her lifetime.2 Each year, scientists discover new information that links your health with a transgenerational impact.

New research has also linked the impact of pregnancy weight gain with the future weight of your child, even when your little one is born in a normal weight range.3

In addition, research shows that consuming artificial sweeteners during pregnancy may also influence your child's future weight. The choices women make during pregnancy continue to follow the child all his life.

Consuming Artificial Sweeteners During Pregnancy May Influence Your Child's Weight

The use of artificial sweeteners has increased substantially in the past decade. Between 1991 and 2007, the use of artificial sweeteners almost doubled.4 

Previously, animal studies suggested that consuming artificial sweeteners while pregnant would place the offspring at risk for obesity. Until recently, there have not been human studies demonstrating the same effect.

Research led by Meghan Azad, Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba examined the association between mothers who drank diet sodas sweetened with artificial sweeteners, such as NutraSweet, Splenda and Equal, and the effect on the baby's body mass index (BMI) in the first year after birth. 5

Over 3,000 women participated in the study. Drinking diet sodas daily appeared to increase the risk two-fold that the infant would be overweight when they reached 1 year of age. They did not find a comparable association with the consumption of drinks sweetened with regular white sugar.

The researchers could not link the increased risk of obesity in the baby with other obesity risk factors, such as mother's weight, quality of the diet and total calorie intake. The authors, quoted in ScienceDaily, concluded:

"To our knowledge, our results provide the first human evidence that artificial sweetener consumption during pregnancy may increase the risk of early childhood overweight.

Given the current epidemic of childhood obesity and the widespread consumption of artificial sweeteners, further research is warranted to replicate our findings in other cohorts, evaluate specific NNS (nonnutritive sweeteners) and longer-term outcomes, and study the underlying biological mechanisms."6

How Aspartame Is Broken Down in Your Body

Aspartame is a sweet substance used primarily in low-calorie drinks. It was discovered quite by accident when chemist James Schlatter Ph.D., was working on a drug to treat ulcers.7 Originally sold under the brand name NutraSweet, today it is also the artificial sweetener in Equal, Equal Spoonful and Equal Measure.

Aspartame stimulates your taste buds in the same way as sugar but with significant differences. It's created by combining two different amino acids, with a hydrocarbon attached to add sweetness.

Once inside your digestive system, it's broken down into two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and methanol, an alcohol molecule. The aspartic acid in aspartame has been synthetically altered to carry the methanol molecule, the hydrocarbon responsible for the sweetness of the chemical.

Because the methanol is not bonded to a fiber molecule as it is in fruits and vegetables, it is not safely carried out of your body but rather is converted by an enzyme into formaldehyde.

The Short Version

In 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was quoted as saying they were no longer accepting adverse reaction reports related to aspartame.8

At that time, aspartame accounted for approximately 75 percent of all adverse reaction reports related to food additives.9 Research studying the effects of aspartame has shown conflicting results.

However, after a thorough investigation of 166 different studies, Dr. Ralph Walton, a professor of Psychiatry at Northeastern Ohio University's College of Medicine, found 100 percent of those studies financed by the industry supported the safety of aspartame.10

In contrast, between 92 percent and 100 percent of independently financed studies found adverse reactions in participants using aspartame. Walton noted:

"If the FDA studies and the literature review focusing only on the NutraSweet® industry funded research are excluded, then 100 percent of the truly independently funded research demonstrated some type of adverse reaction to aspartame.

Whether 100 percent or 92 percent, the clear split in the literature, with outcome correlated so closely to funding source, is deeply troubling."11

The formaldehyde exposure from aspartame is significant, and only one of the chemicals responsible for adverse reactions you may experience.

Unfortunately, formaldehyde is absorbed and accumulates in your cells over time.12 This causes gradual damage to your nervous system and immune system as well as irreversible genetic damage.13

Influence of Aspartame on Weight

Aspartame doesn't just have an influence on your growing baby's genetic profile, but also on your weight gain, and the obesity risk your child faces after birth, irrespective of their birth weight or your weight.14

Several studies have demonstrated the effect of artificial sweeteners on your appetite and weight gain.15,16 Aspartame, and other artificial sweeteners, actually stimulate your appetite, increase your cravings for carbohydrates and stimulate your body to store more fat.

These effects are triggered by how your body metabolizes and reacts to aspartame. Normally when you eat something sweet your brain releases dopamine, activating your brain's reward center. This also triggers the release of leptin, another hormone, telling your brain when you are full.

Aspartame stimulates the release of dopamine, but because it is a no-calorie sweetener, your body doesn't release leptin and you rarely feel full or satisfied. This increases your cravings for carbohydrates, increasing your risk for weight gain.

Aspartame in Your Gut

Another pathway affecting your weight maintenance is the way aspartame affects your gut microbiome. In a study published in Nature, researchers demonstrated an intake of aspartame in their research population resulted in a change in gut microbiome and a reduced sensitivity to insulin.17,18

Even low-dose ingestion of aspartame can affect your microbiome and change your insulin sensitivity.19 These changes affect your ability to maintain your weight and increase your risk of obesity prior to pregnancy and may also increase your risk of gaining too much weight during pregnancy.

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

In past studies, researchers have linked a higher weight gain during your pregnancy with a greater risk of having an overweight newborn. However, a current study has taken this information one step further, demonstrating your weight gain during pregnancy is linked to your child's risk of obesity, even if he is born at a normal weight.20

This study followed more than 13,000 normal-weight babies for 10 years. At the end of the study, approximately 49 percent were overweight and 29 percent were obese at some time between the ages of 2 and 10 years. Lead study author, Dr. Teresa Hillier of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii stated:21

It is a common belief that all normal weight babies have the same risk of becoming obese as children and adults. This study shows that that isn't true."

Long-Term Risks of Childhood Obesity

The effects of childhood obesity may be experienced long into adulthood. According to a study from the University of Colorado Cancer Center, childhood obesity may have detrimental effects on the health of your child independent of adult obesity.22,23 The researchers theorize that if your child is overweight and loses weight in adulthood, those detrimental health effects will continue to plague them. Childhood obesity has been linked to: 24,25

✓ Metabolic syndrome

✓ Cardiovascular disease

Type 2 diabetes

✓ Retinal and renal complications from diabetes

✓ Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

✓ Obstructive sleep apnea

✓ Polycystic ovarian syndrome

✓ Infertility

✓ Asthma

✓ Orthopedic complications

✓ Psychiatric disease

✓ Increased rates of some cancers

Steps to Preventing Childhood Obesity

As with many health conditions, it's easier to prevent the condition than it is to treat the effects. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in childhood and quadrupled in adolescents since 1985.26 Even if you gained too much weight during pregnancy or started your pregnancy overweight, you can still take specific steps to reduce the odds your child will suffer from obesity. Hillier recommends:

"She can breastfeed her infant; studies show that breastfed babies are less likely to become obese and we also found breastfeeding reduced childhood obesity in a small subsample of our study. She can also feed her child healthy foods, and get nutritional advice about what to feed her baby, especially when it comes to starting on solid food, and she can make sure her she and her child get plenty of exercise." 27

Incorporating these recommendations into your everyday life when you are pregnant may reduce your own risk of obesity and the risk to your children.

1. Eliminate Artificial Sweeteners

Eliminate foods and drinks that contain any artificial sweeteners. Read the labels on the foods, snacks and drinks you purchase. Move toward eating more real food during the day. Pay attention to mints or other small candies that may contain artificial sweeteners.

2. Drink Water

Hydration is important to your health and the health of your baby. Don't rely on drinking a set amount of water each day as your fluid needs will change as your baby grows. Instead, rely on the color of your urine. When fully hydrated your urine will be light yellow in color and will not have any strong odor.

3. Increase Fiber

One of the benefits of eating high-fiber foods is you can more easily reduce the amount of carbohydrates you consume. The important number is your net carbs. This number is calculated by taking the total number of carbohydrates in grams you've eaten in the day and subtracting the amount of fiber in grams. The resulting number is your net carbs.

In addition, eating a fiber-rich diet may help reduce your risk of constipation during pregnancy and improve your digestive process. Seek to include approximately 40 to 50 grams of fiber (from both soluble and insoluble fiber sources) for every 1,000 calories you eat each day.

4. Reduce Fructose

Fructose is a sugar found in fruit and in many processed foods and drinks. You might be familiar with the term "high-fructose corn syrup" (HFCS) used to sweeten some foods. HFCS will increase your triglyceride and low density lipoprotein levels (LDL), increase your insulin resistance, increase your risk of gestational diabetes and increase the amount of fat your body stores.

Although you may consume the same number of calories with HFCS, glucose, protein or fat, the metabolic effect in your body will be entirely different if you consume excessive amounts of fructose.

5. Exercise

Exercising during pregnancy is important to your health both during and after birth. Labor is intensive exercise, which your body will be better able to cope with if you've been working out through the pregnancy. Exercise will also help to control your appetite and normalize your insulin levels, helping you to control your weight.

6. Recondition Your Brain

One of the important things you can do during pregnancy is to help recondition your brain to the foods you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Manufacturers define a "bliss point" in foods. This is the "magic" combination of sugar and other ingredients added to a processed food precisely to increase your craving for that food without overwhelming the taste.

Sugar naturally triggers the production of the same chemicals in your brain as opiate drugs, making it as addictive as cocaine to some people.

One way to reprogram your brain is to use the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). This is a simple method that uses the principles of acupuncture without the needles or, sometimes, the need for a practitioner. It is so easy, you can learn it and use it at home.

When your body's energy system is disrupted from the carbs, sugars, processed foods and sweets in a typical Western diet, you're likely to experience distractions and cravings. This can lead to emotional eating and weight gain. Instead, use EFT to reduce your cravings and achieve more normal weight gain during pregnancy and beyond.

FDA to Redefine “Healthy” Foods

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you were to believe the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Pop-Tarts and Frosted Flakes are healthier than nuts and avocados. This incomprehensible stance stems from the agency’s definition of the word “healthy.”

According to FDA rules, food can only be marketed as healthy if it meets certain nutritional criteria for fat, sodium, cholesterol and beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Snack foods cannot contain more than 3 grams of total fat per serving in order to qualify as healthy, and only 1 gram of that can be saturated fat This position is reprehensibly negligent in light of all the new evidence supporting the benefits of saturated fat.

As a result of this outdated — not to mention wrong — criteria, high-sugar, low-fat snacks like Pop-Tarts end up on the “healthy” snack list, while high-fat, low-sugar ones like Kind fruit and nut bars fail to qualify.

FDA to Reassess Definition of Healthy

Last year, Kind LLC received an FDA warning letter ordering the company to cease using the term “healthy” on its snack packaging because their nut bars contain too much saturated fat. As noted by the Organic Consumers Association:1

“When the term ‘healthy’ was first officially defined in 1994, low fat content was the main focus of health professionals. Sugar wasn’t on the FDA’s, or most nutritionists,’ radar.

Kellogg Co. doesn’t generally market its Frosted Flakes or low-fat Pop-Tarts as “healthy,” but under the current guidelines, it could. While the foods are high in sugar, they meet all the criteria, from low fat to fortified with vitamins.

And fat-free pudding cups can be marketed as healthy, but avocados couldn’t because they have too much fat, according to today’s rules.”

Striking Discrepancies Between FDA Rules and Dietary Guidelines

To prevent ill health, both the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend limiting daily added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men, and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women. The limits for children range from 3 to 6 teaspoons (12-25 grams) per day, depending on age.

The problem is, low-fat foods are typically chockfull of sugars, and the FDA’s criteria for “healthy” doesn’t even take sugar content into account at all.

As noted by The Wall Street Journal,2 there are even striking discrepancies between the latest U.S. dietary guidelines, issued earlier this year, and the FDA’s criteria for healthy foods.

Not only do the guidelines recommend limiting sugar intake to 10 percent of total daily calories, they also recommend increasing consumption of salmon and nuts, “yet neither food meets the FDA’s criteria for ‘healthy.’”

Following a petition by Kind LLC, and at the urging of both food manufacturers and lawmakers, the FDA has announced it will reevaluate the definition of the word healthy. It will also seek to define the word “natural,” and reevaluate regulations for nutrient content claims in general.3,4,5,6,7  

“We very much hope the FDA will change the definition of healthy, so that you don’t end up in a silly situation where a toaster pastry or sugary cereal can be considered healthy and a piece of salmon or bunch of almonds cannot,” Daniel Lubetzky, Chief Executive for Kind LLC told The Wall Street Journal.

While Kind still cannot use “healthy” as a nutrient claim, last month the FDA notified the company saying it could use the phrase “healthy and tasty” in the descriptive paragraph outlining Kind’s philosophy.

According to the FDA, it’s not considered a nutrient claim as long as it does not appear on the nutrition information panel.

Fat Has Been Wrongly Demonized for Half a Century

Saturated fat was a healthy staple in the human diet for thousands of years. Then, half a century ago, professional ambition, bad science and politics converged to create the myth that saturated fat is bad for your heart. It wasn’t true, but the hypothesis gained legs and health authorities began pushing it.

Food manufacturers responding to the call for low-fat diets removed the fat, replacing it with refined sugar instead. The rest, as they say, is history. The low-fat recommendation has perhaps done more harm than any other flawed dietary advice.

Skyrocketing rates of metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes can be directly traced back to it. Ditto for heart disease and cancer. Over the past several decades, a number of scientists and nutritional experts have argued against the low-fat myth, pointing out its obvious flaws.

Ignore Low-Fat Advice If You Care About Your Health

In a 2013 BMJ paper,8 prominent London cardiologist and adviser to the U.K.’s National Obesity Forum, Dr. Aseem Malhotra argued you should ignore advice to reduce your saturated fat intake because it actually increases your risk for obesity and heart disease. According to Malhootra, whom I recently interviewed for an upcoming article:

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

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

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

Another study9 published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 noted that a reduction in saturated fat intake must be evaluated in the context of replacement by other macronutrients, especially carbohydrates.

When you replace saturated fat with a higher carbohydrate intake, particularly refined carbohydrate, you exacerbate insulin resistance and obesity, increase triglycerides and small LDL particles, and reduce beneficial HDL cholesterol. The authors concluded that dietary efforts to improve your cardiovascular disease risk should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrates.

Another dietary culprit that promotes heart disease is trans fat, found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Trans fat increases your LDL levels, or "bad" cholesterol, while lowering your levels of HDL, known as "good" cholesterol. Like sugar, and perhaps even to a greater degree than sugar, trans fats contribute to many serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Foods Marketed as 'Healthy' Often Contain Shocking Amounts of Sugar

The real culprit of obesity and heart disease is excessive sugar, excessive protein, and low quality fat consumption. A high-sugar diet dramatically raises your risk for both type 2 diabetes and heart disease by promoting metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, insulin and leptin resistance, raised triglycerides, and visceral fat accumulation. In short, when you reduce saturated fat and increase net carbs (total carbs minus fiber), you end up promoting obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Low-fat food items tend to be particularly high in sugar. Indeed, it’s important to realize that if you eat a diet consisting primarily of processed foods, you are on a high-sugar diet. It’s virtually impossible to avoid added sugar unless you cook from scratch using whole ingredients. Ironically, as noted in the interview above, a major reason why people eat too much sugar is because they’re eating foods that are marketed as healthy!

“People are buying products that are marketed as being healthy or low-fat, which are loaded with excess sugar, and that makes it difficult for them to exercise personal responsibility. Because the food industry knows people will buy food products based on the way they’re marketed and promoted, not on the nutritional value,” Malhotra says.

Even if the food label does not specify “sugar,” it’s likely in there in some form or fashion. According to SugarScience.org, added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names.10 In the U.S., about half of sugar consumption comes from foods people think have very little or no sugar in them, like condiments and low-fat yogurt, for example.

I've previously written about how various “health” foods and beverages contain far more sugar than a glazed doughnut. Take Vitamin Water: One 20 ounce bottle contains 33 grams of sugar, which equates to THREE Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnuts! Yet most people think they’re simply drinking nutrient-enriched water.

Additionally, most processed foods are made with refined vegetable oils that are predominately oxidized omega-6 oils. Not only are most of us getting an excess of these omega-6 oils, but the refining increases the rancidity and toxic aldehydes that are present when these oils are heated.

How Much Fat, and What Kinds, Do You Need For Optimal Health?

From my review of the molecular biology required to optimize mitochondrial function, it is best to seek to have about 75-85 percent of your total calories as healthy fat. That leaves approximately 8-10 percent of your calories as protein and 8-15 percent as carbs, which should be twice as many fiber carbs as non-fiber carbs like vegetables, seeds and nuts.

The graph below is generated from data that represents my most recent food selections over a period of two weeks. When it comes to fats, ideally you should have more monosaturated fats than saturated. Also limit PUFA’s to 10 percent.

At higher levels, you will increase the PUFA concentration in the inner mitochondrial membrane, which makes it far more susceptible to oxidative damage from the reactive oxygen species generated there. Lastly, do not exceed 5 percent of your calories as omega-6 fats. Combined, your omega 6/omega 3 fats should not exceed 10 percent, and the omega 6:3 ratio should be below 2.

Here are a few more tips to help ensure you're eating the right fats for your health:

  • Use organic butter made from raw grass-fed milk instead of margarines and vegetable oil spreads.
  • Use coconut oil for cooking. It is far superior to any other cooking oil and is loaded with health benefits.
  • Use olive oil cold, drizzled over salad or fish, for example. It is not an ideal cooking oil as it is easily damaged by heat.
  • Sardines and anchovies are an excellent source of protein and beneficial omega-3 fats and are also very low in toxins that are present in most other fish.
  • Following my nutrition plan will teach you to focus on real food instead of processed junk food. This change alone will dramatically reduce the amount of refined sugar and processed fructose in your diet. It will also address the issue of healthy versus harmful fats in your diet. Believe me, you'd be hard-pressed to find a processed food containing healthy fat, or a whole food containing a truly harmful one.
  • To round out your healthy fat intake, be sure to eat raw fats, such as those from avocados, raw dairy products, and olive oil, and also take a high-quality source of animal-based omega-3 fat.

Bunions: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Wed, 05/25/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Your foot is the foundation of your ability to move, walk, run, jump and stand. Each of your feet and ankles has 29 different bones, accounting for over 25 percent of the bones in your body. The American Podiatric Medical Association found that 77 percent of people over 18 years suffer from foot pain.1

Failure to walk and run with proper form and posture can result in tight muscles, changing the form and function of the joints in your foot. Flip flops, tight shoes and high heels can trigger changes in your foot structure leading to pain and deformity.

Simple exercises and proper footwear can make a big difference in the potential development or progression of bunions. By the time you reach age 50, your feet will likely have traveled 75,000 miles.2 No wonder so many people experience so much discomfort and pain.

What's a Bunion?

Bunions are an anatomical deformity possibly resulting from a congenital structural defect or may be initiated from poor foot function and tight musculature. Constricted muscles and tendons exert a strong force on the joints of your foot.

An area often exhibiting deformity from those forces is the joint between your big toe and your foot. This is where bunions commonly form. Bunions may also form on the other side of your foot, in the joint between your little toe and the long bones of your foot.

Thickened skin may also develop over the bump. This area may become swollen and inflamed, contributing to your pain and discomfort from bony changes.

When the bunion forms between the base of your big toe and the first metatarsal bone (long bone of your foot), it creates an imbalance in how your weight is distributed over your foot joints.

This increases the deformity and the discomfort. When the bunion forms between your little toe and the fifth metatarsal it's called a bunionette.

How Bunions Form

Although most bunions develop in adulthood, bunions may develop in adolescence as well. Among adolescents, they most frequently occur in girls between 10 and 15 years of age. Women are also at greater risk for developing a bunion or bunionette than men.3

There are several factors that increase your risk of developing a bunion. You have control over some of these factors, and others are a function of your bone structure and development.4

✓ Wearing high heels

✓ Wearing narrow shoes

Arthritis, notably rheumatoid arthritis

✓ Foot injuries

✓ Feet don't develop properly before birth

✓ Uneven weight bearing, which makes a joint unstable

✓ Tight muscles and tendons

✓ Inherited foot type

Each of these factors places your foot in an unnatural position. Consistent use and weight bearing on your foot in a poor position may encourage your muscles to become less flexible. A lack of flexibility will increase your risk of a bunion deformity.

Dr. Georgeanne Botek, head of the section of Podiatry and medical director of Cleveland Clinic's Diabetic Foot Clinic, says, "Bunions often run in families but they can be the result of the way we walk or the shoes we wear."5

What You'll Feel

Before you experience symptoms, you'll often see the changes in your foot. A bump will begin to form on the outside of your foot just below your big toe or your little toe in the case of a bunionette. Once the bunion grows larger you may experience more symptoms including:6

✓ Pain over the skin where the bunion rubs on your shoes

✓ Pain and soreness over the bony area

✓ Numbness around the bunion

✓ Burning sensation

✓ Swelling at the joint where the bunion formed, especially after being on your feet

✓ Thicker skin over the base of the affected toe

✓ Redness over the skin from rubbing on your shoes or originating deeper from inflammation at the joint

✓ New corns or calluses on other toes as your weight is poorly distributed

✓ Movement restriction in the affected joint

These symptoms are frustrating, painful and restrict the type of footwear you may be comfortable wearing. Without treatment and care, your bunion may grow so large that even wide-toe shoes are not wide enough to accommodate the deformity.

What Are Your Options for Treatment?

There are several different options for treatment. Personally, I believe that surgery is the very last resort you should consider. Although a surgical procedure may affect the anatomical structure, it will not address the underlying condition that caused the bunion in the first place.

I have a bunion I've been treating for years. Treatments have reduced my pain and discomfort and almost stopped the progression of the changes to my foot.

Bunions are permanent unless you have them surgically corrected. However, with other less-invasive treatments, you can reduce the symptoms of pain and discomfort, slow or stop the progression and improve the flexibility of your foot and joints. Ohio podiatrist Dr. Dina Stock told the Cleveland Clinic:

"For many people it may simply be a matter of wearing properly fitting shoes. Be sure to choose low-heeled, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes and the widest part of your foot."7

7 Options for Treating Bunions at Home

Try these methods at home to reduce inflammation, improve the flexibility of your foot and reduce the stress over your bunion.8

1. Reduce the Pressure

By reducing the pressure over the bunion you may find relief from pain. Protect the bunion with moleskin or a gel-filled pad. Wear shoes that provide plenty of space in the toe box.

Shop at a store where the staff will measure your foot and fit you with the right size shoe. You might be surprised to learn that your real shoe size is not the one you've been buying for the last several years.

2. Increase Circulation

Whirlpools, warm socks, hot packs, ultrasound and massage can all increase the circulation to the area, helping to reduce inflammation and promote healing.

3. Reduce the Inflammation

Ice and ibuprofen may help to reduce the inflammatory response in the bunion and reduce your pain. Reducing the inflammation may help healing, but it won't slow the progression of the bunion over time.

4. Improve Flexibility

If you have a bunion, you may notice that the toe with the deformity is not as flexible as the same toe on the other foot. The large toe may become so inflexible you can only move it a couple of degrees. This inflexibility contributes to the development of a bunion.

It might be tempting to treat only the toe with the bunion, but you may not get the same results as when you treat your whole foot. It's a little like the domino effect. The way you bear weight over your feet affects how your knees, hips and lower back function.

Your big toe affects how the rest of your foot functions. When one area has problems it affects the areas around it. Watch the video below to see the proper stretches you can do at home to improve the flexibility of your whole foot.

5. Strengthen Your Muscles

Flexibility is important, and so are strong muscles. Your foot is the foundation of your daily activities and your athletic performance. Regular foot exercises, combined with improved flexibility, may improve how your foot functions and reduce the progression of your bunion.

Imbalances in the strength of the muscles in your foot affect proper walking and running form and limit full range of motion in your foot. Both factors increase your risk of injury and bunions.9 To strengthen the muscles in your foot:

✓ Pick up a washcloth or marbles with your toes to strengthen your arch.

✓ Draw the alphabet in the air with your big toe to strengthen your ankle.

✓ Stand on one foot (without holding onto anything) for 10 to 20 seconds. Balancing strengthens your whole foot and improves your overall balance.

✓ Roll a tennis ball or foam roller under your foot to stretch your plantar fascia. This is a tough tendon running from the ball of your foot to your heel.

✓ While barefoot, rise up on your toes, strengthening your calves and foot.

✓ Lift each toe individually from your big toe to your little toe, then put them back down in reverse order.

✓ While barefoot, put your weight on your heels and spread your toes on both feet as far as you can. Do this while maintaining your balance.

6. Splinting

Wearing a night splint is another option that can help stretch the muscles around your big toe and improve your flexibility. As your toe is held in the correct position and the muscles become more flexible, the long bones in your foot are no longer being pulled out of alignment.

When study participants wore a splint at night and a shoe that's orthotic with a toe separator during the day, they experienced statistically significant pain relief.10 This particular study did not note any structural changes to the foot, but it only looked at results after three months of treatment. Bunions take years to develop and may require a similar amount of time to see significant reversal of bony deformity.

Do Orthotics Really Help?

Orthotic is the term used to describe a shoe insert designed to change the way your foot bears weight. Orthotics are sold over-the-counter or may be custom-molded to your foot by your podiatrist. Although orthotics are popular, and used by many athletes, not all experts are convinced they are useful.11

The basic function is to put your foot in a better position and take stress off of an injured area. However, giving your foot muscles a permanent vacation means your muscles will get weaker and less flexible.12 Orthotics decelerate the velocity of pronation and distribute the force of your footfall over a broader area, reducing the stress on any one part of your foot. Although helpful in the short term while an injury heals, they are not recommended for long-term use.13

Pick the Right Shoe

The shoes you choose have a direct bearing on the health of your feet. Even if you love your flip-flops, it might be time to give them up. As you walk in such shoes, your toes increase their gripping action, causing chronic tension in your toes in a flexed position that eventually alters your balance.14

The absolute right shoes for your feet might just be no shoes at all. When you surround your feet with padding and lifts to correct what shoe manufacturers perceive as defects in the way you walk, you place your foot in an unnatural position and create an imbalance in your feet and body. Thus, the muscles in your feet are not used correctly, changing the degree of strength and flexibility you should have.15

Of course, there are concerns with going barefoot. You probably can't go without shoes at work, and walking outside presents problems with sharp stones and other debris. However, when done properly, you can successfully enjoy time without shoes and, as a result, stronger feet and a reduced risk of bunions.

Spend most of your time at home out of shoes, practicing your "fox walk." Shoes encourage you to strike your heel on the ground first, while walking like a fox is easier on your joints, knees, hips and lower back. With knees bent, the ball of your foot strikes the floor first, rolling back to your heel. Your knees remain bent, without ever locking or being straight. It's virtually soundless and the way that children walk before they get into shoes.

If you have diabetes, which can lead to diminished sensation and ability to feel pain in your feet, then walking without protection on your feet is not recommended, even at home. Stepping on an errant pencil or sharp object may pierce the skin on your feet without your realizing it, increasing your risk of an infection.

You May Be Able to Prevent Bunions

It is much easier to prevent bunions than it is to correct them. Pay attention to the strength and flexibility of the muscles in your feet. Six-pack abs might be the cosmetic addition you want for your summer wardrobe, but they also play an important role in reducing back pain and protecting your abdominal organs.

The same is true for the muscles in your feet. By stretching and strengthening the muscles you may help prevent the development of an unwanted cosmetic change to your feet. Follow the recommended stretches and strengthening exercises, avoid wearing tight shoes or high heels, and go barefoot as much as possible while you're at home.

The Urgent Need to Compost

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Simple solutions are often the most powerful, and this certainly applies to compost. While many cities in the U.S. offer residents garbage and recycling pickup, in Marin County, California, residents are also offered green carts in which to collect yard waste, food scraps and other "green" waste to be composted.

The green waste is picked up once a week, just like trash, but instead of being sent to take up space in a landfill, the green waste is ground up into small pieces and taken to a certified organic compost facility. There, it's converted into a rich, organic soil amendment.

What's so Great About Compost?

Research conducted by University of California Berkeley bio-geochemist Whendee Silver, Ph.D. found a single one-half-inch dusting of compost on rangeland can boost the soil's carbon storage for at least 30 years.

"For a lot of people, this sounds a little fantastic," Silver told SFGate, "[but] there's nothing magic about it." She continued:1

" … [W]e've been bleeding [carbon] … into the atmosphere for many, many years through plowing, overgrazing and poor agricultural practices … So anything we can do to get some of that carbon back into the soil is going to be beneficial."

It's estimated that one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stems from poor land management processes that contribute to the loss of carbon, such as carbon dioxide, from farmlands.2

Carbon farming is a simple premise that involves using agricultural methods that can naturally trap carbon dioxide in the ground (for decades, centuries or more), while also absorbing it from the air.

The process, known as "carbon sequestration," could help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while regenerating the soil and more. Composting green waste, and then spreading it over grazing lands, is one powerful tool toward this end. According to SFGate:3

"The research showed that if compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — were applied over just 5 percent of the state's grazing lands, the soil could capture a year's worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California's farm and forestry industries.

The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, the researchers found.

In theory, Silver calculates, if compost made from the state's green waste were applied to a quarter of the state's rangeland, the soil could absorb three-quarters of California's greenhouse gas emissions for one year, due in large part to the one-time offset from waste diversion."

Improve Soil Fertility, Boost Plant Growth, Capture Carbon and More

Compost happens with or without the help of humankind — it's happening right now on forest floors, in farmers' fields, and in your yard. But oftentimes it's a slow process and you can speed it up using the right combination of water, oxygen, heat, and organic material.

When communities work together to compost their green waste, the end result is a healthy soil amendment that leads to priceless rewards. Many American diets are now based on foods grown in mineral-depleted, unhealthy soils.

This is certainly the case with genetically engineered (GE) processed foods and meat and dairy products from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

One of the more insidious aspects of the industrial food system is that, as soil becomes sicker and less able to perform its functions, farmers become increasingly dependent on the chemical technology industry — they become trapped.

The use of glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide) begins a downward spiral, making it necessary for farmers to use more and more herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers that kill soil microbes — especially if they're using GE seeds.

Plants' natural symbiotic relationship with soil microorganisms is disrupted by the use of synthetic fertilizer. The use of synthetic fertilizers results in higher yields and bigger produce that is less nutrient-dense.

The mineral content of fruits and vegetables has declined by 5 percent to 40 percent over the last five to seven decades.4,5 Compost, on the other hand, works with the soil to boost its health naturally, resulting in multiple benefits. As reported by SF Gate:6

" … [A]pplying compost is a simple way of creating what scientists call a positive feedback loop. Plants pull carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis and transfer a portion of the carbon to the soil through their roots.

Soil microorganisms then turn the carbon into a stable form commonly known as humus. This not only sequesters the carbon but improves the soil's fertility, boosting plant growth and capturing more carbon while also improving the soil's ability to absorb and retain water."

Applying Compost to Grasslands Increases Carbon Sequestration

In 2013, the Marin County, California research was published in the journal Ecosystems.7 It looked into the effect of applying soil amendments such as compost to grasslands. Grasslands cover 25 percent of the Earth's land surface and have significant potential for carbon sequestration.

Using a field-scale model to test several case studies on California grasslands, the researchers found applying manure slurries led to greenhouse gas emissions from the soil. However, applying composted manure and plant waste led to large offsets that exceeded emissions.

Other benefits, including increased plant productivity, soil carbon sequestration and reduced need for commercial feeds, were also seen. If it can be done in California, it can be done elsewhere as well, with potentially radical benefits to the environment. The researchers concluded:

" … [C]ompost application to grasslands is likely to lead to net greenhouse gas offsets across a broad range of potential environmental and management conditions.

We conclude that applications of composted organic matter to grasslands can contribute to … (carbon erosion) mitigation while sustaining productive lands and reducing waste loads."

Subterranean Landfill Fires Show Why Current Systems Are Failing

Organic waste is the second highest component of American landfills. So one of the major benefits of composting that waste, instead of sending it out with the trash would be a significant reduction in needed landfill space.

There are more than 3,000 active landfills, and 10,000 old landfills, in the U.S.8 While the number of landfills in the U.S. has been decreasing in recent decades, they have, individually, been increasing in size.

Along with being a major source of methane emissions, landfills produce "leachate," a toxic fluid composed of pollutants like benzene, pesticides, heavy metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and more, which come from the compressed trash.

Although landfills are technically supposed to keep garbage dry and are lined to prevent leachate from contaminating nearby soil and groundwater, the landfill liners are virtually guaranteed to degrade, tear, or crack eventually, allowing the toxins to escape directly into the environment.

Another little-known risk is the creation of subterranean smolders, which are basically flameless fires that occur deep beneath the surface.

Sometimes called "hot spots" or "subsurface reactions," these smolders are the result of a heat-producing chemical reaction (although the specifics of what elements and conditions are necessary to trigger one remain a mystery).

Landfill Hot Spot Could Heat Up Radioactive Waste

The smolders are incredibly difficult, if not virtually impossible, to put out, requiring some combination of extreme amounts of water, dirt applications or quarantining the area so it effectively runs out of fuel. The high-temperature smolders pose risks to people living near and working in landfills.

They damage the plastic liners and pipes and allow leachate to seep into groundwater. The leachate also becomes more difficult to treat due to the chemical reaction and the higher temperatures result in the release of even more dangerous gases into the air.

Further, at The Bridgeton Landfill, which is about 20 miles from St. Louis, Missouri, a currently burning smolder is only about 1,200 feet away from thousands of tons of radioactive barium sulfate, which is a byproduct of uranium processing. If the radioactive waste gets hot, it could release cancer-causing radon gas into the surrounding communities.9

You Can Try Composting in Your Backyard

When you apply compost and add carbon back into the soil, the carbon feeds mycorrhizal fungi that eventually produce glomalin, which may be even better than humic acid at retaining water. This means you naturally limit your irrigation needs and make your garden or fields more resilient during droughts.

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has become very committed to understanding and teaching about natural soil health and regenerative agriculture. The NRCS website is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about soil health, including farmers wanting to change their system.

On an individual level, you can get involved by growing some of your own food and applying compost to your vegetable and flower gardens. Composting can be done on virtually any scale. If you live in a city or suburb, there are many small systems available. The principles of composting — finding the balance between carbon, nitrogen, water and air — remain the same.

Even if you live in an urban environment, you can still compost. People living in urban areas actually have a great opportunity to build networks to tap available resources of potential composting materials that will otherwise end up in a landfill. There's plenty of waste out there. For example, you could ask your local coffee shop for their coffee grounds, or ask a juice bar for their spent pulp.

You can also turn to your neighbors, who may or may not be interested in composting themselves but have plenty of food scraps, leaves and cardboard. If you want to give it a try, check out my interview with New York City native Rebecca Louie, below. She's the author of "Compost City: Practical Composting Know-How for Small-Space Living," and in the video she reveals how to create compost in even the smallest of spaces.

How Fish Farms Destroy the Ecosystem and Threaten Your Health

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Fish used to be one of the healthiest foods on the planet, but pollution and farming perversions have made most fish a highly unhealthy food, and some types of farmed fish the most toxic food on the planet.

Fish farming, which began about 65 years ago, is considered by many to be one of the least sustainable approaches to farming. This is particularly true when it comes to carnivorous fish like salmon, which feed on other fish. To raise 1 pound of salmon, you need over 2 pounds of wild fish to produce its feed.

In addition to being an unsustainable practice, aquaculture also causes many environmental problems, and poses unique risks to your health. In fact, industrial fish farming raises many of the same concerns about chemicals and pollutants associated with feedlot cattle and factory chicken farms.

Feedlots of the Sea

Most wild-caught fish now suffer from some degree of contamination, due to widespread environmental pollution. Since most fish farms are placed in open waters or inland lakes, farmed fish are exposed to those same pollutants, but they're also fed a concoction of pesticides, antibiotics1 and other drugs.

Toxic copper sulfate is also frequently used to keep nets free of algae. All of these toxins build up in sea floor sediments and are dispersed through the environment, affecting other fish and wild sea creatures.

Despite its many drawbacks, aquaculture is booming. Between 2008 and 2013, the farmed fish industry in the U.S. grew at a pace of 5 percent per year. As noted in the featured video, better solutions are needed.

One novel invention is the aquapod — a large, predator-proof geodesic sphere that can withstand being placed further out in the ocean. By dispersing the waste byproducts in deeper waters, the environmental impact is lessened.

However, in my view this is far from an ideal solution, as drugs and toxins are still being dispersed into the wild, and while it may take longer to produce adverse effects, those effects are certainly not eliminated by this method.

It's similar to dumping toxic waste barrels into deep waters in the middle of the ocean. It may be out of sight and out of mind, but that doesn't mean it has no environmental ramifications in the long run!

Land-Based Fish Farms Also Wreak Ecological Havoc

Another solution has been to place fish farms on or close to land, but recent research2 shows that this isn't the answer either. As reported by CBC News:3

"The only peer-reviewed study examining the environmental impacts of Nova Scotia land-based fish farms has found some negative effects on downstream ecosystem.

A now-defunct unit of Environment Canada conducted research at five sites in 2011 which grow juvenile fish for transfer later to open ocean pens ...

Lead researcher Benoit Lalonde said they looked at the health of benthic invertebrates, 'the building blocks of what lives in the river or the stream' in areas where water that passed over hatcheries flowed ...

Researchers found significant changes in biodiversity ... [T]he only species that flourished were 'pollution tolerant species' ... 'What we lost there were all the sensitive species,' he said."

Humans living next to fish farms also suffer ill effects. In Vietnam, more than 100 families living near a canal that houses two fish farms report suffering from an array of diseases linked to water pollution.4

Prior to the installation of these fish farms, the water in the canal was clean and usable, but within a span of just two years, the farms have destroyed the water quality to the point that residents have to boil the water just to be able to bathe in it.

Half of All Farmed Fish Suffer Genetic Mutations and Deformities

Research also shows that farm-raised fish tend to develop all sorts of mutations, suggesting this method of farming is too far from nature's ideal. Some of the mutations have been linked to the pesticides used to combat sea lice and other pests, as these chemicals have been found to also affect the fishes' DNA.

According to Kurt Oddekalv, a respected Norwegian environmental activist, about 50 percent of farmed cod are deformed, and female cod that escape from farms are known to mate with wild cod, spreading the genetic mutations and deformities into the wild population.

Similarly, a recent study5 published in the journal Scientific Reports found that half of all farm-raised fish examined had deformed ear bones, which causes hearing impairment.

In larger, older fish, the odds of this deformity were even higher. Among farm-raised salmon weighing more than 9 pounds, all had this deformity in at least one ear. As reported by Newsweek:6

"The otoliths (ear bones) of these fish vibrate at a different frequency than the rest of the animal's body and are used to pick up and measure sound waves ...

In healthy fish, these bones are composed of aragonite, a crystalline form of calcium carbonate. But as Reimer and colleagues found, many of these otoliths were deformed and composed of a different material — vaterite.

Vaterite is also made up of calcium carbonate, but in an irregular and less dense crystal structure, thus changing the way that sound is absorbed and processed ... The presence of these vaterite deformities was 10 times higher in farmed fish than in wild animals ... "

What's Causing the Ear Bone Deformities?

The cause for these ear bone deformities is still unknown. Researchers suggest it may be triggered by some dietary factor, or may be related to their abnormally increased growth rate. Genetics is another possibility, and the researchers hope to investigate all of these hypotheses.

While hearing loss may seem like a deformity of no consequence in farmed fish, it can indeed have adverse consequences. Most farmed fish will never be released into the wild where they'd have to fend for themselves and find their own food.

But some, such as Pacific salmon, are raised in hatcheries only to be released into the wild in order to repopulate the species. As noted by Newsweek:7

"Allison Coffin Ph.D., a researcher at Washington State University who wasn't involved in the study, says the deformity could possibly affect the survival of fish released to the wild ...

Importantly, though, the study provides 'more evidence hatchery conditions are causing problems with the fish, and we need to figure out what we're doing,' she says."

Farmed Salmon Has Many Other Abnormal Features, Including Highest Toxic Load of Any Food Tested

Farmed salmon also suffer other disturbing mutations. The flesh of the farmed salmon is "brittle," and breaks apart when bent — a highly abnormal feature. The nutritional content is also wildly abnormal, which may have consequences for your health. Wild salmon contains about 5 to 7 percent fat whereas the farmed variety can contain anywhere from 14.5 to 34 percent.

Many toxins readily accumulate in fat, which means even when raised in similarly contaminated conditions, farmed salmon will contain far more toxins than wild.

This elevated toxicity is quite significant. According to toxicology researcher Jerome Ruzzin Ph.D., in Norway, farmed salmon is one of the most toxic foods in the world! Overall, tests show farmed salmon contain five times more toxins than any other food product tested.

Shockingly, research reveals that the most significant source of toxic exposure is not actually the pesticides or the antibiotics, but the dry pellet feed. Pollutants found in the fish feed include dioxins, PCBs, and a number of different drugs and chemicals. The source of these toxins originates in the fatty fish used for the feed — fish that cannot be sold for direct human consumption due to their elevated pollution levels. These pollutants then get incorporated into the feed pellets.

Another problem stems from the manufacturing process. The fatty fish are first cooked and separated into protein meal and oil. While the oil has high levels of dioxins and PCBs, the protein powder further adds to the toxicity of the end product. To the protein powder, an "antioxidant" called ethoxyquin is added.

This chemical was developed by Monsanto in the 1950s — as a pesticide — and it really does not belong in fish food. In fact, Europe has strict regulations on this pesticide in other foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

The chemical helps prevent oxidation, which is why fish pellet manufacturers secretly began using it as an "antioxidant," but the effects of this chemical on human health have never actually been established. However, the one and only study ever done on ethoxyquin and human health found it has the ability to cross the blood brain barrier, and may have carcinogenic effects.

Farm-Raised Salmon Have Different Genetics Than Wild

Interestingly, recent research8,9 also shows that salmon born in hatcheries have vastly different genetics than those born in the wild. Turns out salmon adapt to captivity extremely fast. Within a single generation, their genetic makeup changes, and with it their natural ability to thrive and reproduce in the wild.

This is a problem, as not all farmed salmon are destined for the dinner plate. In areas like Oregon and Washington, salmon are bred in hatcheries and then released into the wild to replenish wild salmon populations.

Surprisingly, the researchers found no less than 700 different genetic differences between the hatchery-born salmon and the wild-born ones. The salmon tested was the steelhead trout. In the wild, these fish are solitary and territorial creatures. In fish farms, they're raised under densely packed conditions, and in a single generation they not only lose some of these instinctual traits, they also develop improved immune function and wound repair mechanisms.

According to lead researcher Michael Blouin: "This pretty much settles the question of whether hatchery fish can be genetically different after just a single generation of domestication. What is important is that this work is a step towards trying to figure out which traits are under strong selection in the hatchery, and what hatchery conditions exacerbate that selection."

Beware of Farm-Raised Catfish

Farm-raised catfish also tend to be loaded with dioxins, and the feed is the source here as well. As noted by Nutrition Facts:10

"In the 1990s, a supermarket survey found the highest concentrations of dioxins in farm-raised catfish. The source of dioxins was determined to be the feed, but that's surprising, since catfish aren't fed a lot of animal fat. Turns out it was dioxin-contaminated clay added to the feed as an anti-caking agent, which may have originally come from sewage sludge ... so, what may have started out in sewage sludge ended up on the plates of consumers in the form of farm-raised catfish ... "

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested ball clay be discontinued from use in fish feed. But they didn't actually ban or restrict it. As a result, no industry changes were made, and a belated 2013 follow-up investigation discovered that 96 percent of farmed catfish is now contaminated with dioxins. In the initial survey11 in 1997, only one-third of the catfish samples contained dioxins, so the problem has vastly escalated.

And, while imported fish often tends to be more contaminated than U.S. fish, this was not the case with catfish. Catfish imported from China or Taiwan was in fact 10 times less contaminated than those raised in the U.S.

As noted by Nutrition Facts: "[W]hen they checked the feed fed to U.S. catfish, more than half were contaminated, and so, it seems likely that mined clay products are still being used in U.S. catfish feeds ... This is a good illustration of how we can't necessarily rely on regulators to protect our families' health."

Genetically Engineered Omega-3 Crops Have Devastating Effects on Butterflies

It seems the more scientists try to "fix" things, the worse it gets. To substitute omega-3 oils from fish, genetically modified (GM) canola and camelina that contain omega-3 have been developed. The U.K. approved GM camelina in 2014, and it's being promoted as an omega-3 supplement for both humans and farmed fish. Professor Johnathan Napier Ph.D., who led the GE project at Rothamsted Research, hailed the GM crop as a "truly sustainable" source of fish farm feed.

Alas, these crops turn out to have devastating ecological consequences. While reducing the burden on fish stocks seemed like a good idea, recent research has shown that when long chain omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil (EPA and DHA) are fed to the cabbage white butterfly — which feed on canola and camelina — the insects grew heavier and suffered a high frequency of wing deformities. As noted by the Cornucopia Institute:12

"The problem with GM omega-3-producing crops lies in the fact that genetic engineers have introduced a compound from the sea into a terrestrial environment. Neither this butterfly nor any other invertebrates that feed on these plants have ever been exposed to these molecules in their diets.

Some might rejoice that such GM omega-3-producing crops will have the unexpected added benefit of harming a butterfly that is considered to be crop pest. But that would be to ignore the potential effects on beneficial insects such as non-pest butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. It is also not known what effects may occur further up the food chain, such as on predators that consume such insects ...

The lesson to be learned from the new study seems to be that we should be wary of the claims of genetic engineers that their products are safe and sustainable when those claims are not substantiated through rigorous testing.

In making such claims, they often restrict their framework to narrow and self-serving considerations, such as whether the GM crop expresses the desired trait and delivers an acceptable product when fed to livestock — in this case, farmed fish. They ignore the wider context in which the GM crop is grown and consumed. In this way, the genetic engineer's claimed 'sustainability' success can turn out to be a hazard for ecosystems."

Fish Farms Create More Problems Than They Solve

It's become quite clear that fish farms are not a viable solution to overfishing. If anything, they're making matters worse, destroying the marine ecosystem at a far more rapid clip to boot ... So what's the answer? Unfortunately, the vast majority of fish — even when wild-caught — is too contaminated to eat on a frequent basis. Most major waterways in the world are contaminated with mercury, heavy metals, and chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and other agricultural chemicals that wind up in the environment.

Radiation from the leaking Fukushima power plant in Japan is another concern, and many have simply given up on eating fish for fear of radioactive contamination, or they opt for farmed fish, thinking it's a safer option. Based on the evidence, choosing farmed fish to avoid radiation is not going to do your health any favors. You may avoid nuclear radiation, but you're getting far more of other toxins instead.

One answer to this conundrum is to contact the distributor of whatever wild fish you may be interested in, and ask them whether or not they test for radiation. Some companies do. Alternatively, you could get a Geiger counter and test it yourself.

Best Seafood Options: Wild Alaskan Salmon, Sardines and Anchovies

While many types of fish are best avoided these days, there are exceptions. For example, I believe the nutritional benefits of wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon still outweigh the risks of potential contamination. The risk of sockeye accumulating high amounts of mercury and other toxins is reduced because of its short life cycle, which is only about three years. Additionally, bioaccumulation of toxins is also reduced by the fact that it doesn't feed on other, already contaminated, fish.

Alaskan salmon is also not allowed to be farmed, and is therefore always wild-caught. My favorite brand is Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, which offers a nice variety of high-quality salmon products that test high for omega-3 fats and low for contaminants. Their fish is also regularly screened for Fukushima radiation and found to be free of it. Canned salmon labeled "Alaskan salmon" is a less expensive alternative to salmon fillets.

Another exception is smaller fish with short lifecycles, such as sardines and anchovies, which I eat nearly every day. These also tend to be better alternatives in terms of fat content, so it's a win-win situation — lower contamination risk and higher nutritional value.

A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated. Just make sure they're not from the Baltic Sea, which is known for its exceptionally high levels of pollution. Other good choices include herring and fish roe, which are full of important phospholipids that nourish mitochondrial membranes.

Nearly 30 Percent of U.S. Bees Wiped Out This Winter

Tue, 05/24/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

U.S. bees are in trouble, and, if the latest figures are any indication, the problem is getting worse instead of better.

The preliminary results on bee colony losses from 2015 to 2016 were released by The Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).1

The survey included responses from nearly 6,000 U.S. beekeepers managing about 15 percent of the estimated 2.66 million managed honey-producing colonies in the U.S.

Over the 2015 to 2016 winter, more than 28 percent of the bee colonies were lost — an increase of nearly 6 percent compared to the previous winter.

Further, more than half of the beekeepers reported winter colony loss rates that were greater than the average "acceptable" winter mortality rate, which is just under 17 percent.

Bee Losses Occur Year-Round, Not Just During the Winter

In addition to what were described as "unsustainable" bee colony losses during the winter were losses that occurred during the spring and summer months. It was long assumed that such losses only occurred during the winter, such that — up until six years ago — no one even kept track of annual losses.

Now, however, it's apparent that bee colonies aren't only at risk during the winter and losses are occurring year-round. The featured survey revealed beekeepers lost 44 percent of their colonies from April 2015 to March 2016, which is the highest annual loss on record.2

Dennis VanEngelsdorp, Ph.D., a University of Maryland bee scientist and survey leader, told The Guardian:3

"It's very troubling and what really concerns me that we are losing colonies in summer too, when bees should be doing so well … This suggests there is something more going on — bees may be the canary in the coalmine of bigger environmental problems.

One in 3 bites of food we eat is directly or indirectly pollinated by bees. If we want to produce apples, cucumbers, almonds, blueberries and lots of other types of food, we need a functioning pollination system."

Beekeepers Resort to Mail-Order Queen Bees to Save Their Colonies

There is only one queen bee per hive, and her job is, in part, to lay lots of eggs to keep the colony thriving. Without a queen bee, the colony cannot survive, and there are now queen bee producers in the U.S. that sell queen bees to beekeepers trying to save their queenless hives.

It's a sign of just how desperate the beekeeping industry has become. In The Guardian, VanEngelsdorp continued:4

"We are seeing greater cost pressures to pollinate crops. It costs around $200 a year to keep a colony alive and replace a queen. You're lucky if you make $200 a year through the honey produced, so a lot of operators aren't even breaking even. There are a lot who are really hurting."

The USDA considers 18.7 percent to be the benchmark beyond which the bee losses become economically unsustainable. The USDA's internal research agency, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) reported:5

"If losses continue … it could threaten the economic viability of the bee pollination industry. Honey bees would not disappear entirely, but the cost of honey bee pollination services would rise, and those increased costs would ultimately be passed on to consumers through higher food costs."

Summer Losses Suggest Pesticides Are Involved

There are many theories as to why bees are disappearing. Bayer, Syngenta and other chemical companies have blamed mites as a reason for the bee deaths. However, the summer losses weaken their argument, according to Jeff Pettis, a USDA senior entomologist, as mite infestations are more likely to occur in the winter.6

Instead, pesticide exposure is a likely factor. Neonicotinoids have been increasingly blamed for bee deaths (and were implicated in the 2013 mass bee die-off of 25,000 bumblebees along with millions of bee deaths in Canada).

The majority of soybean, corn, canola, and sunflower seeds planted in the U.S. are coated with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics). The chemicals, which are produced by Bayer and Syngenta, travel systemically through the plants and kill insects that munch on their roots and leaves.

Neonicotinoids are powerful neurotoxins and are quite effective at killing the pests, but they're also harmful to non-target pests, namely pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

This occurs because the pesticides are taken up through the plant's vascular system as it grows and, as a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant.

An independent review by 29 scientists with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (which looked at 800 studies) found neonicotinoids are gravely harming bees.7 One of the researchers, Jean-Marc Bonmatin, Ph.D., with the National Centre for Scientific Research, said:8

"The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT … Far from protecting food production, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it."

Loss of Natural Habitat to Plant Monocultures Takes Away Bees' Natural Food Sources

Another glaring problem is the fact that vast areas of meadow and grasslands in the U.S. — meccas for pollen-rich plants — have been lost to monoculture. Monoculture is the growing of just one type of crop on a massive scale — a growing method that is contrary to nature.   

Not only does this do away with natural food sources for pollinators but at the same time it exposes them to increased risks. Genetically engineered (GE) corn is the epitome of monoculture, and the vast majority of GE corn is treated with neonicotinoids like clothianidin or thiamethoxam.

As reported by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America, honeybees in the Midwest "get it from all sides" when the vast expanses of GE corn are planted, as they:9

  • "Fly through clothianidin-contaminated planter dust
  • Gather clothianidin-laced corn pollen, which will then be fed to emerging larva
  • Gather water from acutely toxic, pesticide-laced guttation droplets
  • Gather pollen and nectar from nearby fields where forage sources such as dandelions have taken up these persistent chemicals from soil that's been contaminated year on year since clothianidin's widespread introduction into corn cultivation in 2003"
Glyphosate May Also Be to Blame

Neonicotinoids are not the only chemicals the bees have to worry about. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, may also play a role in bees' deaths.

As stated by GMO expert Don Huber, P.h.D.,, professor emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University, there are three established characteristics of colony collapse disorder that suggest glyphosate may be at least partly responsible:

  1. The bees are mineral-deficient, especially in micronutrients
  2. There's plenty of food present but they're not able to utilize it or to digest it
  3. Dead bees are devoid of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, which are components of their digestive system

In many cases of bee die-offs, the bees become disoriented, suggesting endocrine hormone disruption. Glyphosate is a very strong endocrine hormone disruptor. Huber also cited a study on glyphosate in drinking water at levels that are commonly found in U.S. water systems, showing 30 percent mortality in bees exposed to it.

While the majority of glyphosate is sprayed onto agricultural crops, it's even used in city parks, which means bees may get little reprieve. In 2014, for instance, New York City agencies applied glyphosate to parks and other areas 2,748 times, and that is likely an underestimate.10

A Freedom of Information Act request found pesticide information related to Central Park and other parks that are managed by non-profit conservancies (and not by the city government) has not been made public. The bottom line is that bees and other pollinators are being exposed to pesticides and other chemicals virtually everywhere they turn.

And in all likelihood, it's not one or two chemicals that are the problem but many. In 2013, researchers analyzed pollen from bee hives in seven major crops and found 35 different pesticides along with high fungicide loads.11 Each sample contained, on average, nine different pesticides and fungicides. When the pollen was fed to healthy bees, they had a significant decline in the ability to resist infection with the Nosema ceranae parasite, which has been implicated in bee deaths.

How You Can Help Bees

To avoid harming bees and other helpful pollinators that visit your garden, swap out toxic pesticide and lawn chemicals for organic weed and pest control alternatives. Even some organic formulations can be harmful to beneficial insects, so be sure to vet your products carefully.

Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant an edible organic garden. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honeybee habitats. It's also recommended to keep a small basin of fresh water in your garden or backyard, as bees actually do get thirsty.

In addition, you'll want to grow your own pollinator-friendly plants from organic, untreated seeds. If you opt to purchase starter plants, make sure to ask whether or not they've been pre-treated with pesticides.

Keep in mind that you also help protect the welfare of all pollinators every time you shop organic and grass-fed, as you are actually "voting" for less pesticides and herbicides with every organic and pastured food and consumer product you buy. You can take bee preservation a step further by trying your hand at amateur beekeeping.

Maintaining a hive in your garden requires only about an hour of your time each week, benefits your local ecosystem, and you get to enjoy your own homegrown honey.

Saving Pollinators Must Be a Global Priority

On a larger scale, in order to save bees and other pollinators we need to stop the widespread use of chemicals that harm them, while at the same time returning much of our land to grasslands and building a network of herbivore economics. There is virtually no better way to improve the conditions for animals, protect pollinators, bring more revenue to farmers, and improve human health via nutritious foods from properly pastured animals.

By mimicking the natural behavior of migratory herds of wild grazing animals — meaning allowing livestock to graze freely and moving the herd around in specific patterns — farmers can support nature's efforts to regenerate and thrive, while providing natural, pesticide-free foraging area for pollinators and other beneficial insects. The good news is that we don't need to invent yet another chemical or a new piece of farm equipment to solve this problem.

We simply need to revert back to a system that works with nature instead of against it. Finally, if you're wondering why bees are so important, when one Whole Foods store removed all produce from plants dependent on pollinators, it ended up pulling 52 percent of its produce offerings from store shelves. A sampling of the produce that disappeared without bees is below. Imagine a world without it.12

✓ Apples

✓ Onions

✓ Avocados

✓ Carrots

✓ Mangos

✓ Lemons

Limes

✓ Honeydews

✓ Cantaloupes

✓ Zucchinis

✓ Summer squash

Eggplant

✓ Cucumbers

✓ Celeries

✓ Green onions

✓ Cauliflower

✓ Leeks

✓ Bok choys

✓ Kale

✓ Broccolis

✓ Broccoli rabes

✓ Mustard greens

Hibiscus Tea: A Soothing Elixir

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

One of the most dramatic game changers in improving your health is incredibly simple, and it’s free. In fact, it may be the most crucial step you can take to make several phenomenal health improvements. What is it?

Simply put, it’s calling a halt to all sodas, because virtually all of them are loaded with toxic amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners. The carbonated sugar water you’ve been clinging to is more toxic to your health than you ever imagined.

The problem many people have with giving up soda is that they feel they have to give up flavor. Some people accustomed to drinking soda or large amounts of juice complain that drinking water is “boring.” While it’s true that water is the healthiest beverage, you can still enjoy a tasty beverage that’s good for you, too.

If you’re serious about developing a healthier lifestyle, you may find hibiscus tea a refreshing alternative.

The Perfect Alternative to Water Resistance: Hibiscus Tea

Grown predominantly in warmer climates such as the Southeastern U.S., hibiscus or Hibiscus sabdariffa, from the Malvaceae botanical family, is also known as Roselle. That’s fitting as many of its large, exotic flowers are vibrant red with a tinge of pink.

The calyx part of the flower is what is dried to make a lovely ruby-colored tea with more than 200 varieties. Especially in hot, dry climates, it’s desirable for its cooling, soothing qualities. Also known as “sour tea,” it has a pleasingly sharp flavor, similar to the tartness of cranberry.

Hibiscus tea was a beverage of choice for Egyptian pharaohs in ancient Egypt. In fact, many cultures, including those in the Caribbean, Mexico, China, Africa and Europe, cultivated and used hibiscus tea, not just for its flavor but for its medicinal properties.

Hibiscus tea isn’t typically on most grocery shelves or even easy to find in alternative health stores. However, you can find 100 percent certified USDA organic hibiscus tea, whether you want iced or hot tea, online. Be sure to choose a variety that comes from a reputable source.

Teabags are certainly the traditional method of preparation, but modern technology has made hibiscus extracts available via an airless pump technology, which protects the liquid from oxidation from exposure to the air.

Just a few pumps in your glass or cup is all you need for a refreshing substitute to a plain glass of water, and this healthy beverage is a far cry from the toxic substances ingested when you consume a soda.

Traditional and Modern Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea

High in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants, hibiscus tea has been recognized in both early tradition and modern science as a remedy to calm nervous disorders, treat insomnia, moderate heart problems, decrease inflammation and speed up your metabolism. Pulp from the leaves has been used to make poultices for wounds.

Recently, Nigerian scientists deemed hibiscus better than a leading pharmaceutical at lowering blood pressure. In the study,1 75 participants with mild to moderate hypertension were randomly placed in three groups, each receiving a daily dose of hydrochlorothiazide (a prescription medication), hibiscus (HS) or a placebo.

Hibiscus sabdariffa was a more effective antihypertensive agent than HCTZ in mild to moderate hypertensive Nigerians and did not cause electrolyte imbalance. HS showed longer duration of action compared to HCTZ and reduction in serum Na+ [sodium] may be another antihypertensive mechanism of action of (hibiscus).”2

Used in some commercial tea blends even in the U.S., hibiscus can lower blood pressure without side effects, and further, to have residual benefits. Using hibiscus tea to affect "even small changes in blood pressure ... when maintained over time, will reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.”3

One study recognized hibiscus for its antioxidant and liver-protective anthocyanins. Tested on human cancer cells, this compound was found to cause apoptosis, or cell death in leukemia cells.4

Still another review linked hibiscus extracts with protecting the liver and preventing obesity and fatty liver disease.5 Along the same lines:

Statistical findings showed an 11.2% lowering of the systolic blood pressure and a 10.7% decrease of diastolic pressure in the experimental group 12 days after beginning the treatment [hibiscus tea], as compared with the first day.

The difference between the systolic blood pressures of the two groups was significant, as was the difference of the diastolic pressures of the two groups.”6

What’s the Problem with Soda?

If you’re a soda drinker, there are several reasons why you should be looking for an alternative, particularly if you’re not yet sold on sticking to plain water for refreshment.

The average American drinks an average of 57 gallons of soda every year,7 which is a major health mistake. Sugar and artificial sweeteners are called “toxic” because they’re linked to rising rates of obesity and chronic disease.

One article8 listed other health problems caused by soda consumption. Drinking soda:

✓ Contributes zero nutrition

✓ Raises heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes risk

✓ Turns sugar to fat in the liver

✓ Drastically increases belly fat

✓ Causes insulin resistance

✓ Is linked to an increased risk of dementia

Even worse than regular soda, diet soda, even if it’s “calorie free,” has also been linked to weight gain. In fact, if you look for a clinical study for evidence that diet drinks or foods help you lose weight, you won’t easily find it. That’s because diet soda causes weight gain more than if people drank plain old soda!

Research shows that drinking diet drinks may increase heart disease, heart attack and stroke risk in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women, a University of Iowa study revealed. Those who consume more than one a day are 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease.9

Some beverage companies are changing up ingredients in their beverages, such as aspartame, because people are beginning to understand how damaging it is, as it’s linked to problems like depression, headaches and mood disorders.

What’s the Problem with Fructose?

If you’re wondering why it’s so important to replace soda in your diet with a healthier choice like hibiscus tea or water, fully 50 percent of regular sugar is fructose, one of the most insidious, health-destructive substances you can consume. It’s an extremely powerful pro-inflammatory agent that accelerates aging, and that’s just one of the problems.

How else does fructose destroy your health? Fructose acts as a trigger, activating a metabolic “fat switch,” which can be thanked for contributing to the obesity epidemic that’s so pervasive in America and throughout the world. Fructose is a major contributor to many diseases including:

Are You Ready to Achieve Optimal Health? There’s One More Pesky Problem

When it comes to the health of the people you love, encouraging them to drink pure water and give up soda and juice is one of the best things you can do. This is sound advice for your own health as well.

You read that right. Juice is another pesky culprit in the struggle for good health. The reason juice has become a problem is that most people view fruit and juice to be as healthy as drinking water. In moderate quantities, whole fruit can be healthy for some people, but fruit juice is best avoided.

Fruit juice typically contains very high concentrations of fructose, which will cause your insulin to spike and may counter the benefits of the antioxidants it contains. Previous studies have already demonstrated that drinking large amounts of juice dramatically increases your risk of obesity.

When buying commercial fruit juice, you need to check the label, as many fruit juices contain high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors in addition to concentrated fruit juice. But even freshly squeezed fruit juice can contain about eight full teaspoons of fructose per 8-ounce glass and is best avoided.

What Makes Juice Products Unhealthy

One of the first problems you might encounter buying juice at the supermarket is that it might not even contain 100 percent fruit.

Real juice contains pectin, which binds to naturally occurring methanol present in the fruit. When you eat fresh fruit, the pectin grabs the methanol and prevents you from absorbing it. However, when you eat or drink processed fruit or fruit juice that has been commercially bottled, the pectin and the methanol dissociate.

When pectin in natural fruit and fruit juice binds itself to methanol, a wood alcohol known to be poison to your metabolic system, the methanol leaves your body. But fruit juice at its worst not only contains dangerous amounts of methanol the longer it sets on the shelf, but also causes the methanol to dissolve into the juice as the dissociation process continues.

One of the most notable references to methanol is in relation to alcoholics who use it as a cheap substitute when they can’t afford the real thing, which destroys their systems in numerous ways. That’s why Nutra Sweet, aka aspartame, is so toxic to your system: It contains methanol.

Hibiscus Tea: A Natural Healer

For a much healthier option to soda and fruit juice, studies show drinking hibiscus tea is a good choice. It may even be more beneficial than black tea. Besides being naturally “decaf,” it also helps support memory and concentration, and may help keep kidney stones from developing. As a wise Chinese sage once said, “Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary.”

5 Additional Benefits of Hibiscus Extract

Polyphenols are plant compounds recognized for their disease prevention, antioxidant and anti-aging properties, and hibiscus extract is a potent source. Research has shown that hibiscus extract has been used "commonly and effectively… in native medicines" against high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disorders. To date, the variety of studies showing health benefits of hibiscus extract are impressive and include:

  • Potential anti-cancer effects: Research has shown that polyphenol-rich extracts of hibiscus induced cell death in human gastric carcinoma cells. Hibiscus extract has also induced cell death in human leukemia cells.
  • Antioxidant benefits: Research revealed that consumption of hibiscus extract enhanced systemic antioxidant potential and reduced oxidative stress in study participants. The study also found a "high biotransformation" of the ingested HSE polyphenols, which suggests the compounds are in a highly bioavailable form.
  • Kidney stones and liver protection: One study found that hibiscus extract has anti-urolithiatic activity, which means it may help reduce the formation of kidney stones. It's also been shown to help protect the liver against chemically induced damage in fish.
  • Diabetes: Hibiscus extract has shown promise for improving both blood pressure and blood lipid profiles in people with diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome: Hibiscus extract has even shown promise for preventing and treating metabolic syndrome, with one study finding a daily dose of hibiscus extract for just one month lead to improvements in glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improvements in insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome.

Shirataki Noodles — An Incredibly Healthy High-Fiber, No-Carb Food

Mon, 05/23/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

One of the fastest ways to destroy your health is to eat a diet high in net carbs and protein and low in healthy fats. Considering the fact that 80 percent of Americans are insulin resistant and eat in this way, it's no surprise that obesity rates are on a steady climb.

While no one diet is perfect for everyone, as a general rule, most people could benefit by restricting net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) to less than 50 grams per day. If you exercise a lot or are very active, you might be able to increase it to 100 grams.

For example, grains, rice, pasta, potatoes and vegetables are all carbohydrates. However, because vegetables are so high in fiber, they're very low in net carbs. This is why you can eat virtually unlimited amounts of veggies on a low-carb diet. It's really the fiber content that differentiates "good" carbs from the "bad."

To determine your net carbs, simply subtract the fiber from the total carbs, and that's your total non-fiber or "net" carbs.

Shirataki Noodles — An Exceptional High-Fiber Food

Vegetables aren't the only high-fiber food though. A food you may never have heard of is shirataki noodles, which may be the epitome of a low net carb food, containing about 97 percent water and 3 percent fiber, zero calories, and no digestible carbs.

They're long, white, and translucent noodles, sometimes referred to as konjac noodles or miracle noodles. They're made from glucomannan fiber from the root of the konjac plant (aka devil's tongue yam). As explained by Authority Nutrition:1

"Glucomannan is a highly viscous fiber. Viscous fiber is a type of soluble fiber, and one of its main characteristics is the ability to absorb water and form a gel. In fact, glucomannan can absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, as reflected in shirataki noodles' extremely high water content.

These noodles move through the digestive system very slowly, which helps you feel full and delays nutrient absorption into the bloodstream. In addition, viscous fiber functions as a prebiotic. It nourishes the bacteria living in your colon, also known as the gut flora or microbiome."

The Importance of Fiber for Health

The microbes in your body consume the same foods you do, and as a general rule, the beneficial ones tend to feed on foods that are known to benefit health, and vice versa.

Some of the microbes in your gut specialize in fermenting soluble fiber found not only in shirataki noodles but also in fruits and vegetables, and the byproducts of this fermenting activity help nourish the cells lining your colon. This helps prevent health problems associated with leaky gut syndrome.

The most important fermentation byproducts are short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, propionate, and acetate. These short-chain fats:

  • Help nourish and recalibrate your immune system, thereby helping to prevent inflammatory disorders such as asthma and Crohn's disease2,3
  • Increase specialized immune cells called T regulatory cells, which help prevent autoimmune responses. Via a process called hematopoiesis, they're also involved in the formation of other types of blood cells in your body
  • Serve as easy substrates for your liver to produce ketones that efficiently fuel your mitochondria and serve as important and powerful metabolic signals
  • Stimulate the release of a gut hormone known as peptide YY (PYY), which increases satiety, meaning it helps you feel fuller4
  • Butyrate in particular affects gene expression and induces apoptosis (normal programmed cell death), thereby decreasing your risk of colon cancer
Leaky Gut Is Real, and a Major Contributor to Chronic Disease

Unfortunately, few Americans get the recommended 30 to 32 grams of fiber per day, and when fiber is lacking, it starves these beneficial bacteria, thereby setting your health into a downward spiral.

In the past, there have been questions about whether leaky gut syndrome is a "real" condition or not. Recent research5 has confirmed the reality of leaky gut, showing that, indeed, physical gaps between the cells that line your intestinal barrier can develop, allowing undigested food particles into your blood stream.

A gut protein called zonulin regulates the opening and closing of these holes in the cell wall of your intestine. When a gap develops, larger molecules such as food particles can get through, thereby causing allergic reactions and other problems such as type-1 diabetes, Celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

It can also contribute to neurological problems. For example, research by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride has revealed that nearly all mothers of autistic children have abnormal gut flora. This is significant because newborns inherit their gut flora from their mothers at the time of birth.

Gut dysfunction is also a factor in depression and various behavioral problems, both in children and adults.

Health Benefits of Glucomannan

Glucomannan — the fiber found in shirataki noodles — has been linked to a number of health benefits, including:

  • Weight loss. Research has shown that taking glucomannan before eating a high-carb meal reduces levels of the "hunger hormone" ghrelin. When taken daily for one month, it also reduced fasting ghrelin levels
  • Reduced blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Lowered cholesterol levels, in part by increasing the amount of cholesterol excreted in the stool, leaving less to be reabsorbed into your bloodstream. One meta-analysis found glucomannan lowered LDL cholesterol by an average of 16 mg/dL and triglycerides by an average of 11 mg/dl6
  • Constipation relief and improved bowel movements
Shirataki Noodles Are a Resistant Starch

Fiber is typically classified as either soluble or insoluble. However, other properties, such as fermentability, are of greater importance when it comes to actual health benefits.

As noted in Today's Dietitian,7 "Naturally occurring resistant starches are a group of low-viscous fibers that are slowly fermented in the large intestine. As their name suggests, resistant starches are starches that resist digestion in the small intestine."

They're the types of fiber that act as prebiotics, feeding healthy bacteria in your gut. Because resistant starches are fermented very slowly, they won't make you gassy, allowing you to eat far more of them without suffering discomfort.

They also add significant bulk to your stools, and help you maintain regular bowel movements. Since they're not digested, resistant starches also do not result in blood sugar spikes.

Research also suggests resistant starches8 help improve insulin regulation, reducing your risk of insulin resistance. Interest in resistant starches is so high, scientists are even looking at ways to engineer plants and other foods to produce or incorporate them.9 As noted by Time Magazine:10

"Those benefits — getting digested slower, being converted into fatty acids and sustaining colonies of gut bacteria — set resistant starch apart.

Resistant starch is being explored as a healthy food for people with type 2 diabetes; eating it improved certain measures of inflammation, a condition that often precedes type 2 diabetes, and lipid profiles in women with the condition, showed one 2015 study.11

'Certain populations and cultures have been benefiting from resistant starches for a long time,' says Paul Arciero, professor in the Health and Exercise Sciences department of Skidmore College. 'In my belief, that's what's protected them against some of the ravages of the more modern-day high carbohydrate diet.'

Examples of foods high in resistant starch12 include underripe banana, rolled oats, white beans, lentils, seeds, and products like potato starch, tapioca starch, and brown rice flour. Interestingly, cooking a normally digestible starch such as potato or pasta and then cooling it in the refrigerator will alter the chemistry of the food, transforming more of it into resistant-type starch.13

Cooking With Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki noodles are a prime example of a resistant starch. High in fiber with no digestible carbs, they not only benefit your gut microbiome but also help you lose weight and ward off conditions like diabetes and colon cancer. The noodles, which are virtually tasteless on their own, readily take on the flavor of whatever seasoning or sauce you use.

Many enjoy their consistency, and the fact that they won't stick together like regular wheat pasta noodles. They're also a great "convenience food," as they require very little preparation. To eat cold, simply drain, rinse (this will remove most of the konjac root odor, which has a slight fishy smell), and dress with your favorite seasoning.

For a hot meal, you can add them to a pot of broth (homemade broth would be ideal), which will allow the noodles to soak up the flavor of the broth. If you want a more regular noodle texture, heat them in an ungreased skillet for a few minutes. This will evaporate some of the water in the noodles, removing some of that mushy, gel-like consistency.

Serious Eats14 and Authority Nutrition15 offer some recipes and simple tips for cooking with shirataki noodles. You can also find all sorts of recipes on YouTube. While they're ideal for Asian recipes, they can replace rice or pasta in just about any dish.

Increasing Your Fiber Intake May Help Prolong Your Life

Mounting research suggests that a high-fiber diet can help reduce your risk of premature death from any cause, likely because it helps to reduce your risk of a number of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Again, these benefits are in part due to the fermenting action of certain beneficial microbes in your intestine, and the health-promoting byproducts produced from this process.

Avoiding sugar and processed food is equally important, as they promote the growth of fungi and other harmful microbes that can easily take over, given half a chance. The nice thing about shirataki noodles is that they're ALL fiber and NO digestible carb at all. In essence, they're a perfect no-net-carb pasta replacement you can enjoy in generous amounts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends getting 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed. I believe about 25 to 50 grams per 1,000 calories consumed is probably a better goal. A more general recommendation is to make sure you get 20 to 30 grams of fiber per day. Besides shirataki noodles, other healthy sources of soluble and insoluble fiber include:

✓ Psyllium seed husk, flax hemp, and chia seeds

✓ Berries

✓ Vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts

✓ Root vegetables and tubers, including onions, sweet potatoes, and jicama

✓ Macadamia nuts

✓ Peas

✓ Green beans

✓ Cauliflower

✓ Beans

Pages

Join Forum

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.

Best of the Web

Price-Pottenger Foundation