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Dr. Mercola

Documentary 'Synthetic Forests' Covers the Enormous Risks of GE Trees

19 hours 7 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

If the biotech industry has its way, 184 million acres of native forests around the world will be bulldozed down and replaced with plantations of genetically engineered (GE) trees.

On these proposed GMO tree plantations, there are essentially no other plants, insects, birds, or wildlife — just rows upon rows of cloned Frankentrees growing at accelerated rates on a crust of dead, lifeless soil above dwindling groundwater reserves.

Trees are being genetically engineered with unnatural characteristics, such as the ability to kill insects, tolerate colder temperatures, resist toxic chemicals, and grow faster — but these "advantages" come at an unacceptable price.

"Synthetic Forests" is a documentary exposing the truth about GE trees. In this short but hard-hitting film, leading scientists discuss the devastating and irreversible impacts of allowing GE trees into our global ecosystem.

Why Genetically Engineer Trees?

Industry wants to market designer trees with a variety of traits that will increase their income-generating capacity — at least over the short-term. Trees have varying degrees of commercial value, depending on their characteristics, as well as how quickly they can be harvested.

For example, some trees like the fast-growing Eucalyptus are being engineered to grow even faster.

In collusion with the paper industry, trees are being engineered to have lower lignin, as this natural polymer must be removed from wood pulp before the pulp can be made into paper, which is an expensive part of the process.

The problem is, lignin is what gives trees their structural integrity — it's what allows trees to stand strong in wind and other harsh weather conditions, and to withstand diseases and damage from insect and animal browsing.

Low-lignin trees are weaker and less able to withstand these environmental stresses and do not optimally nourish important fungi once they are put back into the soil. Dead low-lignin trees also decompose faster, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere more quickly, which contributes to climate change.

The best thing for trees is to stop using them for paper. Paper doesn't need to be made from wood pulp, because far more Earth-friendly materials exist, such as agricultural wastes, recycled material, hemp, tobacco, and even banana leaves.

Fruit trees are also being genetically altered so they can be marketed as "disease resistant."

However, despite these marketing claims, many GE trees and other plants are actually weaker and more susceptible to disease than their natural counterparts and end up needing massive amounts of chemicals to remain viable, usually in the form of herbicides and pesticides.

Not only that, contamination of wild and organic fruit trees by GE genes has been devastating to nearby wild groves. For example, cross-contamination by GE papaya plantations has crushed Hawaii's wild, organic papaya industry.1

Expert Says Genetic Engineering Is Based on 'Lousy Science'

The problem with genetic engineering has to do with the fact that GE plants and animals are created using horizontal gene transfer (also called horizontal inheritance), as contrasted with natural reproduction, which involves vertical gene transfer.

Vertical gene transfer, or vertical inheritance, is the transmission of genes from the parent generation to offspring via sexual or asexual reproduction, i.e., breeding a male and female from one species.

By contrast, horizontal gene transfer involves injecting a gene from one species into a completely different species, which yields unexpected and often unpredictable results due to the wake of mutations it generates.

Proponents of genetic engineering assume they can apply the principles of vertical inheritance to horizontal inheritance. But according to geneticist David Suzuki, Ph.D. this assumption is flawed in just about every possible way and is "just lousy science."

Genes don't function in a vacuum — they act in the context of the entire genome. Whole sets of genes are turned on and off in order to arrive at a particular organism, and the entire orchestration is an activated genome.

When you change a genome, nature can respond in unpredictable ways. It's a dangerous mistake to assume a gene's traits are expressed properly, regardless of where they're inserted. The safety of genetic engineering is only a hypothesis, and in science, hypotheses often end up being wrong.

The Spread of Seed and Pollen Is Uncontrollable

Genetically engineered trees are vastly different from other annual GE crops like corn and soybeans because trees can live for decades and even centuries in the wild. Once GE trees escape the confines of their plantation, they are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.

Many tree species, such as pines and poplars, can spread their pollen and seeds over great distances. Pollen can blow hundreds or even thousands of miles, dusting native trees with GE pollen.

Consequently, the risks, regulation, and assessment needs of GE trees may be even greater than those of more seasonal crops like GE corn and soy. Disrupting forest ecosystems endangers the health of the entire planet.

Native forests have been called the "lungs of the Earth," supporting food and wildlife habitats everywhere. Forests absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, filter water and release it back into the atmosphere, as well as building the soil.

With GE trees, contamination of native forests is both inevitable and irreversible. Many tree species regularly interbreed with similar species, and some are highly invasive, including Eucalyptus — a "bully" that's spread out of control across California.

Once wild tree species are contaminated, GE trees could take over vast geographical areas, and there's no do-over — you can recall a dangerous drug, but you can't recall a dangerous tree until it is too late.

GE Trees May Be the 'Greatest Threat to Forests Since the Chain Saw'

Genetically engineered trees threaten native forests, which are already endangered by mining, agriculture, pollution and other factors. When you lose a forest, you don't just lose trees — you destroy an entire web of life.

Critical biodiversity is lost.

We don't even know the extent of what we're losing, as many species of plants, animals and insects have yet to be studied. This biodiversity may hold undiscovered cures for cancer and other diseases. Loss of native forests also has negative effects on indigenous communities and world climate.

The health effects of GE seeds and pollen introduce additional concerns. Birds eat the seeds, and we have no idea how they'll be affected. People inhale the pollen — how will our immune systems react? No one knows because it hasn't been studied. Entire Filipino villages have been stricken with a mysterious illness thought related to Bt-corn pollen, but an official investigation was never done.2

In addition to that, as noted in the film, only about one percent of sprayed herbicides and pesticides hit their target — the rest ends up in our food and water. Like GE food crops, GE trees are heavily reliant upon these chemicals. One half million pounds of toxic chemicals already rain down on the U.S. each year in rainwater — much of which is atrazine. Arial spraying of atrazine is used almost exclusively in forestry.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) advises physicians to warn patients about the potential health dangers of eating GMO food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

GE trees can only add to these risks. A list of the dangers of GE trees is summarized in the table below, which is by no means comprehensive, but it will at least give you a feel for the seriousness of this issue.

Loss of native forest ecosystems, loss of diversity Ground water contamination Increased fire danger (high oil Eucalyptus trees are like torches for wildfire) Increased herbicide and pesticide use Excessive water use (GE Eucalyptus plantations have massive water requirements) Deforestation (monoculture plantations are NOT forests) Damaged soils and decreased carbon sequestration Air pollution from burning wood pellets; burning wood produces super fine particulates that can bypass your body's defenses Negative effects on indigenous people Unknown health effects from inhaled GMO pollen Adverse health effects from aerial application of toxic chemicals Contamination of native gene pool Loss of land, livelihood and export markets Thousands of mutations are typically created Bad science with unpredictable consequences Is ArborGen the Next Monsanto?

The majority of research and development on GE trees has come from a company called ArborGen, the industrial "love child" from a tryst between Monsanto, International Paper, Westvaco, and Fletcher Forests.3 ArborGen is the largest US corporate proponent for GE trees and is hoping to follow Monsanto's blueprint for commercializing GE crops. If GE trees are approved by the USDA, ArborGen is projected to grow 2,000 percent by 2017.4

A scientist from the Center for Food Safety recently exposed a secret letter from the USDA to ArborGen, dated August 2014. In it, the USDA made the unprecedented decision to allow ArborGen to pursue unregulated commercial cultivation of a loblolly pine genetically engineered for altered wood composition. The trees could be planted anywhere in the U.S. without public knowledge or access to information about them.

Loblolly pines are native across 14 states throughout the southeastern US and are grown in plantations around the world. Their pollen is known to travel for hundreds of miles. Groups from around the world are rising in protest, as this is the first GE tree to be legalized without any government or public oversight or risk assessment.

According to Dr, Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch:5

"If these GE loblolly pines are released on a large scale in the U.S., there will be no way to stop them from cross contaminating native loblolly pines. This is deliberate, irreversible and completely irresponsible contamination of the environment with unknown and possibly devastating consequences.

Forest ecosystems are barely understood, and the introduction of trees with genes for modified wood characteristics could have all manner of negative impacts on soils, fungi, insects, wildlife, songbirds, and public health. And all this for short term commercial profit."

In addition to loblolly pines, ArborGen is also seeking USDA approval for Eucalyptus trees engineered for cold tolerance. If granted, ArborGen plans to sell hundreds of millions of seedlings to be planted every year across the southeastern US, from Texas to South Carolina. They are also promoting development of a GE American Chestnut tree that's resistant to blight, as well as many others.

The Global Campaign to STOP GE Trees

Genetically engineered tree plantations threaten to spoil native forests, displace local farmers and destroy sustainable economies. Pollen and seeds from GE trees are impossible to control, with potentially grim ecological consequences.

Self-sufficient communities will be forced to leave their land, adding to the growth of city slums.

Despite knowledge of these probable outcomes, the biotech industry, with the full backing of the U.S. government, is pushing GE trees forward with ever-increasing zeal.

Fortunately, there is some good news on the horizon. Organizations from all over the world, and all angles of interest, have banded together to form a global network opposing GE trees. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees includes more than 200 organizations in 49 countries. If you care about this issue, please visit their website and sign their petition to the USDA. But don't stop there! Following are several more things you can do to help preserve our native forests:

  • Refrain from buying paper products made from trees/wood pulp; instead, buy recycled paper (toilet paper, tissue paper, writing paper, computer paper); Greenpeace and NRDC have handy downloadable guides for buying recycled, Earth-friendly paper products
  • Reuse and recycle the paper products you do use
  • Eliminate your need for toilet paper altogether by installing in a bidet
  • Say no to napkins, especially when you're handed a stack of them; use cleaning cloths instead of paper towels
  • Cut back on printing; ask yourself if you really need to print a document; use both sides of a paper before tossing it; use old receipts for notes; reuse wrapping paper, or make your own from newsprint or magazines
  • Opt out of the yellow pages
  • Boycott the new GE apples ("Arctic apples") and GE potatoes, which just passed FDA inspection.6 For more information on GE apples, read "Genetically Engineered Apples: Any Way You Slice It, a Rotten Idea."7 Choose only produce that you know is organic, preferably grown near you. The Center for Food Safety has a free Shopping Guide to Avoiding GE Foods.

For further information, please visit:

Here's What You Get If You Eat Snow

19 hours 7 min ago

By Dr. Mercola

If you grew up in a snowy region, you almost certainly have memories of sticking out your tongue to catch snowflakes and, probably, also eating it by the mittenfull. It’s practically a childhood rite of passage.

Back then, you probably didn’t give a thought to what was actually in that snow, so long as it wasn’t brown or yellow. But even snow that’s bright white may not be as pure as it appears.

In fact, new research suggests snow is quite effective at absorbing pollutants from the air, which then become embedded in the snow itself.

Snow May Be Full of Toxins

Canadian researchers collected snow from a park in Montreal and measured levels of toxic particles typically found in automobile exhaust. The researchers explained in the journal Environmental Science: Processes & Impacts:1

“Exposure to vehicle exhaust can drive up to 70% of excess lifetime cancer incidences due to air pollution in urban environments.

Little is known about how exhaust-derived particles and organic pollutants, implicated in adverse health effects, are affected by freezing ambient temperatures and the presence of snow.”

The analysis revealed that snow appears to act as a sponge, soaking up multiple toxins from the air. Among them:

  • Benzene: a known human carcinogen that’s also been linked to birth defects
  • Toluene: chronic exposure to toluene is linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus
  • Ethylbenzene: another known carcinogen
  • Xylenes: volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that affect the central nervous system, with symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting

The snow was tested one hour after exposure to exhaust fumes, and levels of the contaminants rose significantly during that period. The researchers suggested that as the snow melts, it might then release the toxins back into the air, possibly leading to a rapid increase in air pollution.

Study author Parisa Ariya, Ph.D., a professor at McGill University, told The Huffington Post:2

"Snow flakes are ice particles with various types of surfaces, including several active sites, that can absorb various gaseous or particulate pollutants …

As a mother who is an atmospheric physical chemist, I definitely do not suggest my young kids to eat snow in urban areas in general."

The ‘Cleanest’ Snow Comes Later in the Storm

If you simply must eat snow, wait until it’s been snowing for a while (a few hours, ideally) and then collect it. According to John Pomeroy, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan who spoke to NPR, “snow acts like a kind of atmospheric ‘scrubbing brush.’”3

As snow continues to fall, air pollution levels will fall. This means snow collected later should theoretically be cleaner than the snow at the beginning of the storm.

Even still, contaminants in snow are unlikely to reach toxic levels, according to University of Arkansas chemistry professor Jeff S. Gaffney, Ph.D., and there’s probably little risk from taking a small bite here and there.4

That being said, if you live in an urban environment near heavy traffic, or anywhere with high levels of air pollution, the snow will likely reflect that. Further, it’s not only urban areas that may have dirty snow.

Agricultural practices also have a large impact on snow’s purity, according to researchers at the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean at University of Washington. Research scientist Sarah Doherty, Ph.D. told Futurity:5

“Our work suggests that land use and farming practices might matter as much as diesel emissions in many parts of the Great Plains.”

Another Snow Hazard: Road Salt

With snow and ice comes hazardous travel, and so, every winter, the U.S. spends more than $2 billion to remove snow and ice from roadways, a cost that includes over 15 million tons of salt.6

Damage from salt corrosion is estimated to cost the U.S. up to $19 billion per year, in part because it’s highly corrosive to bridges and other steel roadway components.7

Then, when the snow and ice melt, the salt (sodium chloride) dissolves into sodium and chloride ions, which make their way into the environment, often into waterways.

Chloride concentrations equivalent to one teaspoon of salt in five gallons of water (230 mg/L) can harm aquatic life and affect the taste of drinking water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends levels be kept below this amount, but a study by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that 40 percent of urban and suburban steams tested in the northern US had levels at or above this threshold.8

Elevated chloride levels may inhibit plant growth, impair reproduction and reduce the diversity of organisms in streams, according to USGS.

Further, when animals drink melted snow that has high concentrations of road salt in it, it may lead to symptoms of salt toxicity, including weakness, confusion and dehydration.

Trees and other plants near roadways may also be damaged by salt, even if they’re more than 600 feet away.9 Even the health of the soil is impacted by road salt. USGS researchers called for “deicer management options that minimize the use of road salt while still maintain safe conditions.”

When best-management practices, such as pre-salting roads and wetting the salt before use, are used, the University of Waterloo found that chloride levels in groundwater could be reduced by half.10

You can also help on an individual level by minimizing the salt you apply on your driveway and walkways. Shoveling early after a storm will help minimize the need for salt, and if you do need to use it, try a mixture of pre-wetted sand and salt (1:1) to minimize the release of chlorides.

You Don’t Have to Eat Snow to Be Affected by Air Pollution

Outdoor air pollution is a serious environmental health risk linked to both chronic and acute health conditions, including stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory infections.

While you can easily avoid the air pollutants in snow by simply not eating it, they’re not so easily avoided when it comes to the air you breathe.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ambient (outdoor) air pollution in both cities and rural areas caused an estimated 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012, the majority of which were due to heart disease and strokes.11 As WHO noted:12

Most sources of outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers in sector like transport, energy waste management, buildings and agriculture.”

Particulate matter is air pollution made up of extremely small particles or liquid droplets. Typically it’s composed of any number of toxicants, including organic chemicals, metals, soil or dust. The smaller the diameter of the particle, the greater its risk of health damage becomes, as these can easily pass into your lungs, causing well-known damage to your heart and lungs.

“Fine” particulate matter is generally defined as particles that are 2.5 micrometers or less. These particles may come from smoke (such as forest fires) as well as gases emitted from power plants, industries and, of course, automobiles.

For comparison, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers any particles that are 10 micrometers or less as a potential health concern.13 If you happen to live in a heavily polluted area, the best option is to move, but I realize that isn’t always a practical option.

If you can’t move, pay attention to the Air Quality Index (AQI), released by the EPA to calculate five major air pollutants:

  • Ground-level ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide

If the AQI in your area is high, it may be best to stay indoors as much as possible. At the very least, avoid exercising outdoors when air pollutants are high (such as during rush-hour traffic).

Your Heart May Be Most at Risk From Snow

Unless snow is on your daily menu, it’s unlikely to pose much of a threat, consumption-wise. A more tangible risk is likely that posed to your heart while attempting to shovel. This occurs not only because of the physical exertion but also because of the cold temperatures.

Winter is the most common season for heart attacks. Research shows there are up to 53 percent more heart attacks in winter than in summer, and twice as many heart attacks a day in January compared to July.14

A study from the U.K. even found that each 1.8 degree Fahrenheit drop in temperature on any given day was linked to about 200 additional heart attacks.15 Why does cold weather increase your risk of a heart attack? For starters, cold temperatures can cause a rise in your blood pressure along with increasing levels of proteins that raise your risk of blood clots.

When the weather is cold, your heart must also work harder to maintain body heat and your arteries tighten, which restricts blood flow and reduces the oxygen supply to your heart. When combined, all of these factors could trigger a heart attack, especially in the elderly or those with existing heart disease.

There is also the issue of hypothermia, which occurs when your body temperature falls below normal. Heart failure is the leading cause of death in hypothermia cases, which is why it’s very important to dress appropriately for the weather if you plan to be outdoors in the cold. Further, don’t overdo it when you’re shoveling snow; take frequent breaks and, if necessary, get help to clear your snow.

Pregnant? For Your Baby's Health, Eat Fish, But Make Sure It's High in Omega-3 and Low in Mercury

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Omega-3 fat is important for proper energy storage, oxygen transport, cell membrane function, and regulation of inflammation. It's also critical for healthy development in utero, especially for eye and brain development, and plays a role in the length of gestation.

Recent research has again confirmed the importance of omega-3 fats during pregnancy, and the danger of too much omega-6. The former you get primarily from fish, whereas processed vegetable and seed oils — staples in the standard American diet — are the primary sources of the latter.

The ideal ratio between these two essential fats ("essential" meaning your body cannot produce them, so you have to get them from your diet) is 1:1, but a processed food diet provides FAR more omega-6 than omega-3.

Unless you avoid vegetable oils and either eat plenty of fish or take a high quality omega-3 supplement, you may be getting around 16 times more omega-6 than omega-3 from your diet.

As one recent animal study1 shows, such a lopsided ratio during pregnancy can have severe health consequences for your baby.

Another Major Concern With Your Oils

Another major factor that has contributed to a large percentage of the amount of chronic disease present in Western nations is the introduction of refined vegetable oils.

Prior to 1900, the average intake of vegetable oils was less than a pound a year and in 2000, that had increased to 75 pounds per year. We simply never had the ability to consume this much vegetable oil prior to food processing.

Refined oil contributed to the massive distortions in the omega 3:6 ratios. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with omega-6 oils if they are consumed in their native form, which is typically in unrefined seeds and nuts.

The key take-home point is to avoid virtually all refined vegetable oils. Not only do they allow you to overconsume them but they are also highly susceptible to oxidation and are typically damaged by the time you use them.

I personally consume about 10 to 15 grams of omega 6 oils a day but not one microgram is refined. They are all in the form of seeds and nuts that I eat raw, or freshly grind them immediately prior to eating.

I also eat about 4 ounces of clean fish a day in the form of wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, or anchovies. That and my seeds give me nearly 10 grams of omega-3 fat a day so my omega 6:3 ratio is about 1.5:1.

Lopsided Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio Harms Brain Development

In the featured study,2 animals fed a diet in which the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio matched the standard American diet produced offspring whose brains were much smaller than those fed equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6.

Once the offspring reached adulthood, they also developed emotional problems, exhibiting greater levels of anxiety. This despite eating a healthy diet from birth, onward. As reported by Medical News Today:3

"The team performed the first comprehensive measurement of lipid metabolites in the developing brain; they identified that metabolites of omega oils are vital regulators of neural stem cells — the cells that go on to develop into fully fledged brain cells.

In the rats with diets heavier on the omega-6 than 3, the neural stem cells developed more rapidly, to their detriment. The results ... show that increased levels of omega-6 produce an increase in omega-6 oxides. These omega offshoots cause premature aging of fetal neural stem cells.

The study's authors conclude: 'These findings provide compelling evidence that excess maternal consumption of omega-6 combined with insufficient intake of omega-3 causes abnormal brain development that can have long-lasting effects on the offspring's mental state.' [Emphasis mine]

Fish Consumption in Pregnancy Linked to Better Brain Health

A second study4,5,6 strengthens the argument by showing that the brain benefits of omega-3 appear to outweigh many of the hazards associated with mercury exposure.

Here, the researchers looked at 2,000 pregnant women, who reported their seafood intake — including the specific species of fish — via food questionnaires, starting in their first trimester. On average, the women ate about three servings (500 grams) of fish per week during pregnancy.

At birth, the umbilical blood was assessed for omega-3 DHA, mercury, and PCBs. The children underwent cognitive tests and autistic spectrum disorder evaluation at the age of 14 months and again at age 5.

The results showed that:

  • Higher fish consumption during pregnancy was associated with increased cognitive scores, and decreased risk of autistic symptoms in the children
  • For every additional 10 grams of fish per week over 500 grams, there was a corresponding improvement in test scores
  • Eating 600 grams (21 ounces, or about four servings) of fish per week was linked to a 2.8 point increase in IQ score. This link was particularly strong for large fatty fish, including tuna, even though tuna also has some of the highest levels of mercury
  • Fish intake during the first trimester also had the strongest associations, compared to higher fish intake during the second through fourth trimester
  • Above 600 grams of fish per week the cognitive benefits tapered off, suggesting this may be an ideal level, above which the risks of mercury exposure could begin to outweigh the benefits

I was not aware of these intriguing results but find it interesting in light of my transition to 4 ounces most days of either anchovies, sardines or Vital Choice Alaskan salmon. This is around 700 grams a week.

Additionally, many are concerned about Fukushima radiation contaminating fish. While I don't doubt it is an issue for some fish, I personally test the fish I consume from Vital Choice with a $1,000 Inspector Geiger counter and it has never measured anything higher than background radiation.

Recommendations for Pregnant Women

While fish have always been an ideal, rich source of omega-3 fat, the presence of pollutants such as PCBs and mercury does make caution advisable. It's not a reason to ditch ALL fish from your diet though.

As detailed in a presentation by a leading expert from Harvard Medical School,7 it's important to understand both the risks of consuming high-mercury fish and the benefits that low-mercury fish provide.

Your total mercury exposure depends on two factors: which fish you eat and the amount of fish you eat. The challenge is to select fish that qualify as low or very low in mercury.

Fortunately, the U.S. government has finally seen the light and is now specifying that pregnant women should be careful to select low-mercury seafood.

The joint recommendation8 by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding fish consumption for pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children is 8 to 12 ounces of fish per week from choices that are lower in mercury.

In their estimation, this maximizes the benefits of omega-3 while minimizing the risk of mercury exposure. According to the study above, this may even be a conservative estimate.

Resources for Identifying Fish Low in Mercury

So where can you find information about the mercury content of any given fish species? Here are three resources:

  • The FDA has a Webpage9 listing and ranking seafood based on their mercury content
  • For a list that you can print out for reference, please see the Mercury Policy Project's guide to mercury levels in fish and shellfish10
  • The National Resources Defense Council has a mercury calculator you can use to give you an idea of how much mercury you're getting from any given fish species
Best and Worst Fish Choices

On the up-side, several fish species that are low in mercury are also high in omega-3s. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon11 is one example. Just one 3.5-ounce serving provides around 2 grams of omega-3s,12 which is more than most Americans ingest in a week. Only walnuts and flaxseeds provide more.13 Another benefit is that it has a nicely balanced omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Other species with lower mercury content include pollock, tilapia, catfish, and cod, along with smaller fish like sardines and anchovies. There are some questions as to the sustainability of anchovies though.

According to Wild Planet,14 anchovies are an abundant and prolific fish stock, and a fine sustainable choice, but the Safina Center's Sustainable Seafood Program15 and The Environmental Defense Fund16 give Mediterranean and Black Sea anchovies a poor eco rating.

Avoid tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, as these four have the highest mercury levels of any fish tested. The FDA/EPA also wisely recommends limiting white albacore tuna to 6 ounces per week due to its elevated mercury content. Tuna is by far the largest source of mercury exposure in our diet —especially for children — and anyone who wants to reduce their mercury intake should eat less tuna.

According to a 2012 report17 by the Mercury Policy Project, young children should eat light tuna no more than twice a month, and albacore tuna should be avoided entirely. The report also recommends that if your child eats tuna once per week or more, you should have their blood tested for mercury. If the result is over 5 micrograms per liter (ug/L), his or her consumption should be restricted.

At What Level Does Mercury Become a Health Hazard?

Mercury is extremely toxic, so ideally, you don't want to be exposed to any. However, given the level of mercury pollution in the world today, this probably isn't feasible. You're bound to ingest or be exposed to some here and there, be it via air, water, of fish. Keep in mind that methylmercury harms a person's nervous system to differing degrees depending on how much mercury you've accumulated.

At above average doses, brain functions such as reaction time, judgment, and language can be impaired. At very high exposures, mercury can affect your ability to walk, speak, think, and see clearly.

One 2012 study18 that evaluated the effects of mercury on cognition in otherwise healthy adults found that those with blood mercury levels below 5 µg/L had the best cognitive functions. Mild impairment was evident at blood mercury levels of 5 to 15 µg/L and above 15 µg/L, cognition was significantly impaired.

When it comes to infants, studies have associated prenatal methylmercury exposure with impaired development of sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, resulting in learning difficulties, poor coordination, and inability to concentrate.

But bear in mind that the benefits of the omega-3 you get from fish can, and most likely does, outweigh the risk of methylmercury provided you don't overdo it, and stay away from fish known to be high in mercury. Again, the featured study found NO additional cognitive benefits for eating more than 600 grams/21 ounces of fish per week, which is about 4 servings.

A more cautious recommendation would be to limit your fish consumption to a maximum of 12 ounces of high omega-3/low-mercury varieties and take a high quality omega-3 supplement, such as krill.

If you believe your health problems may be related to mercury toxicity, get tested for heavy metals, and if need be, take appropriate action to detoxify. For more information, see my Revised Mercury Detox Protocol. That said, it's undoubtedly easier to avoid mercury exposure than it is to detoxify once it has built up. This is why it's so important to use discernment when selecting seafood.

Beware of Farmed Fish

While the FDA/EPA recommends salmon, they do not specify the type of salmon. I strongly discourage consumption of farmed salmon due to their inferior nutritional profile, their environmental drawbacks, and potential health hazards, detailed in my previous article, "Norway Issues Warnings About Health Dangers of Farmed Salmon."

Unfortunately, recent investigations19 have shown that as much as 80 percent of the fish marked as "wild" may actually be farmed, and that includes salmon. In restaurants, 90 to 95 percent of salmon is farmed, yet often listed on the menu as "wild."

Given these inaccuracies, how can you tell whether a salmon really is wild or farmed? The flesh of the salmon will give you a clue. Wild sockeye salmon is bright red, courtesy of its natural astaxanthin content. Sockeye salmon actually has one of the highest concentrations of natural astaxanthin of any food.

Wild salmon is also very lean, so the fat marks — those white stripes you see in the meat — are quite thin. If a fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is likely farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as salmon bearing this label are almost always farmed.

The two designations you want to look for are: "Alaskan salmon" (or wild Alaskan salmon) and "sockeye salmon," as neither is allowed to be farmed. Canned salmon labeled "Alaskan salmon" is a good bet, and if you find sockeye, it too is assured to be wild (provided it's not mislabeled; again be sure to visibly inspect the fish and look for the telltale signs).

My favorite brand of wild Alaskan salmon 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.

In addition to PCBs and mercury, 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. I disagree on the latter point. Instead, I would suggest contacting the distributor of whatever wild fish you may be interested in, and ask them whether or not they test for radiation.

If You Choose Wisely, the Benefits of Fish May Still Outweigh Its Risks

As you can see, the situation is complex. You absolutely need omega-3 fats, as your body cannot make it, but it's not as easy as saying "eat more fish." You also need to take pollutants into account (including potentially radioactive contaminants).

This is particularly important for pregnant women and young children. Sustainability is yet another factor that is worthy of consideration. The good news is that even when all of these factors are taken into account, you have still have a number of good, viable options available.

To reiterate, wild-caught Alaskan (not Atlantic) salmon is very high in omega-3 and among the lowest in mercury. It's also still a sustainable choice, plus it's not allowed to be farmed — another benefit — and it has not been genetically engineered, so the likelihood of accidentally getting the now approved GMO salmon when buying wild Alaskan is limited. For other good options, see the three resources listed earlier.

Last but not least, even if you eat fish, you may benefit from taking a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil, which is a far more sustainable choice than fish oil. The best certification for sustainability my team has found is The Marine Stewardship Council.20 We spent quite a bit of time and expense working with them; it took over 5 years of observation, but they have certified our krill supply as one of the best managed resources in the world.21

If you avoid fish, an omega-3 supplement like krill oil becomes an absolute necessity. If you’re pregnant, I would highly recommend taking the “better safe than sorry” route, and limit fish to about 12 ounces per week, and supplement with krill oil, as there’s very little risk of krill being contaminated with heavy metals and other pollutants. 

The Science of Healing Thoughts

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Can your mind heal your body? It may sound far-fetched that the power of your thoughts and emotions could exert physical, biological changes, but there are countless examples, both scientific and anecdotal, showing this possibility is very real.

Science journalist Jo Marchant shared numerous such examples, from Iraq war veterans and many others, in her book “Cure.” She told Scientific American:1

There are now several lines of research suggesting that our mental perception of the world constantly informs and guides our immune system in a way that makes us better able to respond to future threats.

That was a sort of ‘aha’ moment for me — where the idea of an entwined mind and body suddenly made more scientific sense than an ephemeral consciousness that’s somehow separated from our physical selves.”

Your State of Mind Influences the State of Your Immune System

Your mind wields incredible power over the health of your immune system, for good or for bad. Stress, for instance, has a major negative influence on the function of your immune system, which is why you've probably noticed you're more likely to catch a cold when you're under a lot of stress.

When researchers from Carnegie Mellon University infected study participants with a common cold virus, those who had reported being under stress were twice as likely to get sick.2

And, in the event you do get sick, emotional stressors can actually make your cold and flu symptoms worse. As lead author Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D. a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, noted:3

"Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control … 

The immune system's ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease.

When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease.

Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well."

The opposite also holds true in that positive thoughts and attitudes are able to prompt changes in your body that strengthen your immune system, boost positive emotions, decrease pain and chronic disease, and provide stress relief.

One study found, for instance, that happiness, optimism, life satisfaction, and other positive psychological attributes are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.4

It's even been scientifically shown that happiness can alter your genes! A team of researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses.5

The Placebo Effect Once Again Proves ‘Mind Over Matter’

By definition, a placebo is an inert, innocuous substance that has no effect on your body. However, the placebo effect, in which a patient believes he or she is getting an actual drug and subsequently feels better, despite receiving no “active” treatment at all, has become a well-recognized phenomenon.

As Marchant noted, there are many examples of the placebo effect in action:6

“Placebo painkillers can trigger the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. Patients with Parkinson’s disease respond to placebos with a flood of dopamine.

Fake oxygen, given to someone at altitude, has been shown to cut levels of neurotransmitters called prostaglandins (which dilate blood vessels, among other things, and are responsible for many of the symptoms of altitude sickness).”

As she explained, “none of these biological effects are caused by placebos themselves … they are triggered by our psychological response to those fake treatments.”7 The placebo effect was even found to produce marked effects even when no deception was involved at all.

In one trial, nearly 60 percent of patients given a placebo pill, who were told they were receiving a placebo, reported adequate relief from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Only 35 percent of those who received no treatment at all reported adequate relief.8

The exact mechanisms behind the placebo effect are still being explored, but there’s no denying that the effect is real. And, most likely, the placebo effect takes on many different forms, impacting brain mechanisms involved in expectation, anxiety and rewards.

In short, a placebo really does change your physical body, including your brain, in a number of different ways. Writing in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, researchers noted:9

“First, as the placebo effect is basically a psychosocial context effect, these data indicate that different social stimuli, such as words and rituals of the therapeutic act, may change the chemistry and circuitry of the patient's brain.

Second, the mechanisms that are activated by placebos are the same as those activated by drugs, which suggests a cognitive/affective interference with drug action.

Third, if prefrontal functioning is impaired, placebo responses are reduced or totally lacking, as occurs in dementia of the Alzheimer's type.”

Virtual Reality Games and Distraction Help Relieve Pain

Your pain pathways are plastic — they can be molded and transformed using a variety of approaches, because so many areas of your brain and nervous system are at play.

This is another avenue by which your mind has incredible power over your physical symptoms, as you may be able to drastically reduce your experience of pain by distracting your mind.

Researchers on the burn unit at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, for instance, have capitalized on the fact that the brain's attention centers can be "distracted away" from a painful experience. Burn victims frequently undergo painful wound care procedures and debridement.

Since we all respond strongly to visual stimuli, even the mere sight of wound care instruments can amplify pain for burn victims. So researchers developed an action video game, called "Snow World," that burn patients could engage in during wound care.

The results have been astonishing — burn patients experienced more than 50 percent less pain during their burn treatments when playing Snow World. Your brain has limits to its processing power, so if you're highly engaged in an activity, your brain will not be able to process all of the pain signals.

The net result is that you experience less pain. Similar studies show that when your mind is encouraged to "wander" away from painful stimuli, an opiate-rich region of your brain is stimulated, resulting in pain suppression.10 Marchant told Scientific American:11

“This is just one of many lines of research telling us that the brain plays a big role in determining the level of pain we feel. Of course any physical damage is important, but it is neither sufficient nor necessary for us to feel pain. So I think we’ve got our approach to pain all wrong.

… Our focus is almost exclusively on trying to banish it with drugs, which is incredibly costly and causes huge problems with side effects and addiction.

Research like Snow World shows the potential of psychological approaches for treating pain: both to maximize the effectiveness of drugs and perhaps in some cases to replace them.”

How to Heal a Broken Heart

Most people have suffered from a “broken heart” or two during their lifetime. This may occur after a romantic breakup, a death in your family or anytime an important relationship is cut short. The extreme emotional stress can lead to stress cardiomyopathy, which triggers symptoms that are very similar to those of a typical heart attack, including chest pain, shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and even congestive heart failure.

In most cases, a typical heart attack occurs due to blockages in the coronary arteries that stop blood flow and cause heart cells to die, leading to irreversible damage. But people with broken heart syndrome often have normal arteries without significant blockages.

The symptoms occur due to the emotional stress, so when the stress begins to die down, your heart is able to recover. In this case, your mind once again can play a powerful role in helping your broken heart to recover. Lifehack compiled several useful steps to employ toward this end:12

  • Deal With Your Feelings Head-On: You may be tempted to run from your pain or hide from it (think overworking or substance abuse). A better option is to face your feelings, accept them and feel them. Only then will you be able to move past them.
  • Let Go of Guilt. If you made mistakes in your past relationship, say your apologies, if necessary. Then, let go of the guilt and move on. The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) can be very effective in helping you to do this.
  • Be Easy on Yourself: Understand that going through a breakup or loss is hard. Allow yourself to fully experience all the emotions that come along with it and don’t judge yourself when you need extra time to process them.
  • Immerse Yourself in Your Creative Passions: If you love to write, sing, dance or create in another way, allow yourself to become lost in the creative process. It will help you to express your thoughts and emotions in a healthy, productive way.
  • Choose a Positive Mindset: Remaining negative won’t help you in the long run. Make a choice each day to look on the bright side and be open to positive new beginnings.

When your broken heart begins to mend, you can help yourself to further feel better by focusing on the following positive habits:13

Lead a healthy lifestyle Focus on your ambitions and goals Surround yourself with positive, supportive people Forgive yourself and others Get in touch with your spiritual side via nature, meditation and/or prayer Continue going to the places you love, even if they remind you of your past; make new experiences there Open yourself to starting new relationships Do something completely for yourself, by yourself Break any harmful patterns (i.e., recognize if you tend to date the same type of person that is not right for you) Learn from your mistakes Uncontrolled Anger May Be Deadly

Anger is a universal emotion felt across all ages, genders and cultures. It’s not necessarily bad, as anger prepares your body to fight off a threat, which can be life-saving in the appropriate circumstances. However, if anger isn’t managed and expressed properly, it can lead to serious consequences to your health, relationships, work and more.

Letting your anger out explosively may be harmful because it triggers surges in stress hormones and injures blood vessel linings. One study from Washington State University found that people over the age of 50 who express their anger by lashing out are more likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries — an indication that you’re at a high risk for a heart attack — than their mellower peers.14

A systematic review involving data on 5,000 heart attacks, 800 strokes and 300 cases of arrhythmia also revealed that anger increases your risk of heart attack, arrhythmia and stroke — and the risk increases with frequent anger episodes.15 So how do you know if your anger is crossing the line in terms of your health? The Epoch Times suggested:16

If you begin to notice that you are on edge quite a lot, do things that you later regret, are quick to react instead of respond, and that you have people in your life who have told you that you tend to get angry, it might be helpful to do something about it.”

Tips for Healthy Anger Management

Anger management can take on many forms, including cognitive behavior therapy or a newer technique called compassion-focused therapy. The latter helps you to self-soothe and deal with the negative feelings fueling your anger.17 To manage anger that comes along with everyday life, you can also try these tips from the Australian Psychological Society:18

  • Identify your anger triggers (people, different environments, etc.)
  • Notice the physical warning signs of anger (shoulder tightness, increased heart rate, hot face, etc.)
  • Engage in an anger-management strategy that works for you (breathing techniques, changing your environment, relaxation strategies, EFT, etc.)
  • Practice your anger-management strategies (imagine being in a situation that makes you angry and using one of your strategies to control your feelings)

If you have a short fuse when it comes to anger, I recommend using energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). EFT can reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life by stimulating different energy meridian points in your body. It’s done by tapping on specific key locations with your fingertips while custom-made verbal affirmations are said repeatedly.

This can be done alone or under the supervision of a qualified therapist. Making a point to be more mindful — focusing on what you’re doing and the sensations you’re experiencing right now — can also be helpful in improving your mental and emotional outlook. When you’re in the present moment, your mind will have less chance to wander and ruminate on stressful or anger-provoking incidents, which can help you to let go of your angry feelings.

For times when you do get angry, try to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Can you work out this misunderstanding with the other party? Will you learn more about yourself and your own faults? Be sure to also express the anger in a constructive manner, channeling your angry energy into exercise or cleaning your house, for instance.

Work on Accepting Yourself for Increased Health and Happiness

Whether you’re facing health challenges, want to manifest healing or simply want to increase your well-being, channeling positive emotions is in your best interest. To a large extent, being happy is a choice you need to make, much like choosing to exercise or eat right. Happiness comes from within — it’s not dictated by circumstance alone. This is why, if you truly want to be happy, you need to work on yourself first.

And the health benefits mentioned above, like a significantly reduced risk of heart attack and other cardiac events or the ability to help your body heal, should provide ample motivation for doing so. Interestingly, self-acceptance appears to be one of the most important factors that can produce a more consistent sense of happiness.

In a survey of 5,000 people by the charity Action for Happiness, people were asked to rate themselves between 1 and 10 on 10 habits that are scientifically linked to happiness.19 While all 10 habits were strongly linked to overall life satisfaction, acceptance was the strongest predictor. In all, the survey resulted in the following “10 Keys to Happier Living,” which together spell out the acronym GREAT DREAM:

  • Giving: do things for others
  • Relating: connect with people
  • Exercising: take care of your body
  • Appreciating: notice the world around you
  • Trying out: keep learning new things
  • Direction: have goals to look forward to
  • Resilience: find ways to bounce back
  • Emotion: take a positive approach
  • Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
  • Meaning: be part of something bigger

Allergies, Colds, and Food Intolerance

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

A runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, sneezing and coughing are among the most common symptoms of the common cold. Yet, they're also experienced by people with allergies. How can you tell the difference?

One of the most obvious telltale signs is a fever. Symptoms caused by a cold (or flu) may come along with a fever, but those caused by allergies do not (even though allergies are sometimes called "hay fever"). The duration of the symptoms is another clue.

Cold symptoms should resolve in two weeks or less, but allergies can hang around for much longer. The latter may persist for an entire season or even year-round, especially if you're allergic to an indoor allergen like dust mites or mold. There are other ways of telling the difference as well.

How to Determine If Your 'Cold' Symptoms Are Really Allergies (or Vice Versa)

Allergic symptoms tend to flare up at certain times of day or during certain activities. An allergy to dust mites might result in waking up with congestion, for instance, while symptoms that appear primarily during your morning walk could be due to pollen.

If it's the middle of winter and your child starts coughing and sneezing, and you know some of her friends have recently been sick, it's probably virus-related. Age can also lend a clue. Outdoor allergies typically begin before the ages of 4 and 6 while indoor allergies may start at age 3.

If your child has eczema, there's a good chance she also has allergies, as the two often go hand in hand (and if your child has both allergies and eczema, she may also develop asthma).1 Further, if either or both parents have allergies, your child is at an increased risk as well.

Another simple indicator is to check the mucus that's coming out of your (or your child's nose). Clear, water mucus may be due to allergies while thick, green mucus may be indicative of a cold.

If you suspect your child has allergies and symptoms also include wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath, be aware that it could also be asthma or allergic asthma (a combination of allergies and asthma).

Is Food Triggering Your Asthma Symptoms?

In allergic asthma, the same triggers that set off your allergies — pollen, pet dander, etc. — may also set off your asthma. This is also true of food allergies, although it is relatively uncommon.

You'll know it's occurring if you experience your typical food allergy symptoms, such as hives, rash, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea followed by coughing and wheezing. Anaphylaxis, in which your throat swells and you may not be able to breathe, can also occur.

Research has found that junk food increases a child's risk of asthma and allergies. Food preservatives are also known to trigger asthma attacks in some people, particularly sulfites, which are found in foods like shrimp, dried fruits and wine.2 They include:

  • Sodium bisulfite
  • Potassium bisulfite
  • Sodium metabisulfite
  • Potassium metabisulfite
  • Sodium sulfite
Asthma May Double Your Risk of Chronic Migraines

Food allergies are known to trigger migraines in some people, and these intense headaches may also have an asthma connection. If you have asthma and occasionally get migraine headaches, you may be at increased risk of chronic migraines, defined as 15 or more migraines a month.

After analyzing data from nearly 4,500 people, researchers at the Montefiore Headache Center revealed that people with episodic migraines (fewer than 15 a month) and asthma were twice as likely to develop chronic migraine during the study period compared to those without asthma.3

Among those with the most severe asthma, the risk of chronic migraine was triple that of people without asthma.

The exact mechanisms underlying this association are unknown, but the researchers suggested inflammation likely plays a role. Asthma involves inflammation (and narrowing) of the airway linings while migraines involve inflammation (and narrowing and widening) of blood vessels.4

Tending to Your Gut Health May Help Relieve Allergies

Allergies and asthma often occur together, so it's not surprising that modifying your diet, and thereby your gut health, appears to be an effective treatment for both of these conditions.

One of the best strategies to start may be consuming more fermented foods, which are naturally rich in probiotics. A systematic review and meta-analysis of 23 studies revealed that the use of probiotics was associated with fewer allergy symptoms and improved quality of life.5

In another study, mice fed a high-fiber diet had stronger resistance against asthma-like attacks than mice fed a low-fiber or regular diet.6 In fact, when mice fed a fiber-rich diet were exposed to dust mites, they had less airway inflammation than the low-fiber mice. As reported by Scientific American:7

"Seems that fiber supports gut bacteria that produce anti-inflammatory molecules called short chain fatty acids. These molecules then enter the bloodstream, where they can influence the immune system.

An over-reactive immune system can play a role in allergies and asthma. But the fatty acids can calm down the immune reaction."

Your gut bacteria also play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. They also aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens.

Bacteria even train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.

An unhealthy diet, based on processed high-sugar junk foods, may have the opposite effect, decimating your gut health and thereby raising your risk of allergies. As The Telegraph reported:8

"Pediatrician DPaolo Lionetti, of Florence University, and colleagues said children in industrialized countries who eat low-fiber, high-sugar 'Western' diets may reduce microbial richness — potentially contributing to a rise in allergic and inflammatory diseases in the last half-century."

Food Allergies Versus Food Intolerance: What's the Difference?

When you're allergic to a substance, your immune system mistakenly believes it is dangerous and produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in an attempt to neutralize it. According to The George Mateljan Foundation:9

"Antibodies are long, branched molecules that have places for recognition and binding (attachment) of the antigen on one side, and a site on the other end that can call into action other immune responses. An antibody will only bind one specific antigen and nothing else.

When the antibody binds, or sticks, to the dangerous molecule it is acts like a red flag identifying the molecule as something potentially damaging that should be removed.

Your macrophage cells are often called the 'scavenger' cells of the immune system and are specifically designed to remove damaging molecules from the body.

After the antibody binds to a dangerous molecule the macrophages consume the molecule, taking it out of circulation and destroying it."

Chemicals such as histamine released into your bloodstream during this process can lead to a battery of symptoms any time you eat the food (although symptoms may not appear until hours later). With a food intolerance, on the other hand, your immune system is not involved.

Instead, symptoms of food intolerance may be caused by your body having difficulty breaking down or digesting certain foods or food ingredients. An intolerance may also be caused by your body's reaction to a certain food additive.

While the most common allergenic foods are peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, milk and eggs, food intolerances are most commonly due to lactose, gluten, preservatives and additives and tyramine (common in cured meats, aged cheeses and smoked fish).

Essential Tips If You Suffer From Allergies

If you're one of the tens of millions of allergy sufferers in the U.S., please know there is plenty you can do besides lining the pockets of the pharmaceutical industry. Eating a wholesome diet based on unprocessed, ideally organic and/or locally grown foods, including fermented foods, along with optimizing your vitamin D levels and correcting your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, will form the foundation upon which your immune system can function in an optimal manner.

For short-term relief of symptoms, you could give acupuncture a try, and irrigate your sinuses with a neti pot. There are also a number of foods and herbs you can try to alleviate symptoms, which are listed here. For more long-term relief, you may want to consider provocation neutralization treatment, or sublingual allergy drops, which work just as well as inhalers. In addition:

  • Minimize your intake of sugars and grains: "Healing and sealing" your gut has been shown to help alleviate allergy symptoms, and the key to this is eliminating inflammatory foods like grains and processed foods, and introduce healthier ones that will support a proper balance of bacteria in your gut.
  • Increase your intake of animal-based omega-3 fats: The fats DHA and EPA found in krill oil are potent anti-inflammatories. A German study published in the journal Allergy found people who have diets rich in omega-3 fats suffer from fewer allergy symptoms.10
  • Reduce your intake of omega-6 fats: In addition to adding omega-3 fats to your diet, you also want to reduce the amount of omega-6 fats (i.e. vegetable oils) you consume because the ratio between these two fats is very important. If you eat processed foods daily, the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fats will become distorted, which can cause the type of inflammation that leads to asthma.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels: Research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may be a primary underlying cause of asthma. This means that many are needlessly suffering with a potentially life threatening ailment, since vitamin D deficiency is easily remedied. Vitamin D will also help to upregulate your immune system.
  • Fermented vegetables and/or probiotics: If you have severe food allergies, the GAPS Introduction Diet, which uses fermented foods and other natural strategies to restore balance to your gut flora, may help heal your food allergy completely. A healthy gut may help to improve allergies of all kinds.
  • Avoid pasteurized milk products, which are notorious for increasing phlegm and making asthma worse.
  • Hot peppers: Hot chili peppers, horseradish, and hot mustards work as natural decongestants. In fact, a nasal spray containing capsaicin (derived from hot peppers) significantly reduced nasal allergy symptoms in a 2009 study.11
  • Quercetin: Quercetin is an antioxidant that belongs to a class of water-soluble plant substances called flavonoids. Although research is limited, many believe quercetin-rich foods (such as apples, berries, red grapes, red onions, capers and black tea) prevent histamine release — so they are "natural antihistamines." Quercetin is also available in supplement form — a typical dose for hay fever is between 200 and 400 mg per day.
  • Butterbur (Petasites hybridus): Another natural antihistamine, butterbur was used to treat coughs and asthma as far back as the 17th century. Researchers have since identified the compounds in butterbur that help reduce symptoms in asthma by inhibiting leukotrienes and histamines, which are responsible for symptom aggravation in asthma.12
  • In a German study, 40 percent of patients taking butterbur root extract were able to reduce their intake of traditional asthma medications.13 A word of caution is needed, however. Butterbur is a member of the ragweed family, so if you are allergic to ragweed, marigold, daisy, or chrysanthemum, you should not use butterbur.

    Also, the raw herb should not be used because it contains substances called pyrrolizidine alkaloids that can be toxic to your liver and kidneys and may cause cancer. Commercial butterbur products have had a lot of these alkaloids removed.

  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): Goldenseal may be helpful for seasonal allergies. Laboratory studies suggest that berberine, the active ingredient in goldenseal, has antibacterial and immune-enhancing properties.
  • Eucalyptus oil: This pure essential oil can be healing to mucus membranes. You can apply a drop on a cotton ball and sniff it several times a day, add a few drops to water (or to a nebulizer, if you own one) for a steam treatment, or use a few drops in your bath water.

Heartburn Pills Linked to Kidney Disease

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Heartburn drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are among the most commonly used drugs in the world. About 15 million Americans use PPIs, either in prescription or over-the-counter form. Brand names include Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium.

The drugs have long been touted as a safe way to relieve heartburn, indigestion and acid reflux. They work by inhibiting the production of acid in your stomach, which helps to relieve symptoms but appears to have a number of unintended consequences as well, including for your kidneys.

PPIs have previously been linked to a kidney disorder called acute interstitial nephritis. Now researchers have linked them to the risk of chronic kidney disease, prompting experts to call for more caution in their use.

Heartburn Drugs May Increase Your Risk of Kidney Disease

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health analyzed two sets of data representing more than 250,000 people.1

In the first set, the 10-year absolute risk of developing chronic kidney disease was 11.8 percent among those taking PPIs compared to 8.5 percent among those not taking the drugs.

The second analysis found the 10-year absolute risk of chronic kidney disease among those taking PPIs was 15.6 percent compared to 13.9 percent among non-users.2

The study left some unanswered questions, like how long those who developed kidney disease had been taking PPIs. It’s also not known how the drugs may be harming the kidneys.

Many of those taking PPIs had other risk factors for kidney disease as well, including being more likely to use blood pressure medication (high blood pressure is linked to an increased risk of kidney disease).

However, even though the analysis couldn’t prove that PPIs were directly responsible for the increased risk of kidney disease, the finding warrants caution in the drugs’ use, especially given their prevalence.

Adam Schoenfeld, an internal medicine resident at the University of California, San Francisco, said in an accompanying editorial, “mounting evidence demonstrates that PPIs are associated with a number of adverse effects and are overprescribed.”3 He continued in NPR:

I think it's a pretty big concern … When they first came out they weren't associated with side effects, or we didn't think they were … So we put [people] on this medication thinking: 'It's a quick fix and they're very safe.' But in actuality they're associated with a range of side effects."

PPIs Are Also Linked to Heart Risks

If you take PPIs, you should know that not only might your kidneys be at risk, but your heart may suffer as well.

After reviewing the medical records of nearly 3 million people, researchers from Stanford University in California found people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) who took PPIs had a 16 percent risk of heart attack.4

A two-fold increased risk of cardiovascular mortality was also noted in PPI users.5 Such risks make sense when you consider that PPIs are known to reduce nitric oxide (NO) in your blood vessel walls.

NO has the effect of relaxing your blood vessels, so by reducing the amount of NO in your blood vessel walls, PPIs may raise your risk of a heart attack.

PPIs May Raise Your Risk of Fractures

In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated a new fracture risk warning be added to the labels of both prescription and OTC PPIs.

The safety announcement was based on a review of several epidemiological studies, which found the drugs were associated with an increased risk of factures of the hip, wrist and spine.6

The greatest risk of increased facture risk was found in people who had taken high doses of the drugs (available only in prescription form) or had taken the prescription drugs for at least one year.

Because of this, in 2011 the FDA recalled the safety warning for OTC PPIs, stating that “an osteoporosis and fracture warning on the over-the-counter (OTC) proton pump inhibitor (PPI) medication “Drug Facts” label is not indicated at this time.”7

Their reasoning was that OTC PPIs “are marketed at low doses and are only intended for a 14-day course of treatment up to three times per year.” Since OTC heartburn drugs are only supposed to be used for short courses of treatment, they believed the fracture risk was low.

In reality, however, many people use OTC heartburn meds for much longer than two weeks at a time, and therefore might be exposed to them long-term. Some people may also take higher doses than are recommended. Even the FDA acknowledged this, stating:

“… [C]onsumers, either on their own, or based on a healthcare professional’s recommendation, may take these products for periods of time that exceed the directions on the OTC label.”

Unfortunately, instead of letting consumers know about the fracture risk (so they could make an informed decision about using the drugs), the FDA left it up to health care professionals to be aware of the fracture risk in patients taking OTC PPIs at high doses or for extended periods.

If there’s no communication between the two parties, the consumer will be left at risk.

PPIs May Rob Your Body of Important Nutrients, Increase Your Risk of Serious Infections

If you suffer from acid reflux, suppressing your stomach acid may seem like a very good idea. Be aware, however, that doing so comes with significant risks. Stomach acid is important for your body to absorb vitamin B12, for instance.

The acid separates the B12 from the protein it’s attached to, which is essential for it to be absorbed by your body. People taking PPIs for more than two years had a 65 percent increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.8 This, in turn, can lead to a number of troublesome ailments, including:

  • Anemia
  • Nerve damage
  • Psychiatric problems
  • Dementia

Your magnesium levels are also at risk. In 2011, the FDA warned that PPIs may cause low magnesium levels if taken for longer than one year. Even taking a magnesium supplement was not enough to sufficiently increase levels among about one-quarter of those taking PPIs.9

Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, headache, nausea, fatigue, and weakness. Ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle cramps, seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, personality changes and more.

Further, PPIs may increase your risk of Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea, a potentially life-threatening infection, by 65 percent.10 The risk of hospital-acquired pneumonia may also increase with PPI use, an important consideration since PPIs are commonly given to hospital patients.

One study using a microsimulation model found that this practice needs serious review, as new initiation of PPI therapy led to an increase in hospital mortality in about 90 percent of patients.11

Reducing stomach acid also diminishes your primary defense mechanism against food-borne pathogens, thereby potentially increasing your risk of food poisoning.

Heartburn Drugs Only Treat the Symptoms, Not the Cause

In most cases, acid reflux is not due to having too much acid in your stomach; rather, it's a condition related more commonly to hiatal hernia — a condition in which the acid comes out of your stomach, which is where it's designed to be confined to. After food passes through your esophagus into your stomach, a muscular valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) closes, preventing food or acid from moving back up.

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES relaxes inappropriately, allowing acid from your stomach to flow (reflux) backward into your esophagus.

In the early ‘80s, Dr. Barry Marshall, an Australian physician, discovered that an organism called helicobacter pylori(initially called campylobacter) causes a chronic low-level inflammation of your stomach lining, which is largely responsible for producing many of the symptoms of acid reflux.

One of the explanations for why suppressing stomach acid is so ineffective — and there are over 16,000 articles in the medical literature attesting to this — is that when you decrease the amount of acid in your stomach, you suppress your body's ability to kill the helicobacter bacteria.

So suppressing stomach acid production tends to just worsen and perpetuate the condition. If you're taking a PPI drug to treat your heartburn, understand that you're treating a symptom only; you are in no way addressing the underlying cause. And, by doing so, you're exposing yourself to other potentially more dangerous health problems, courtesy of the drug itself.

That being said, please don’t try to quit PPIs cold turkey, as this can lead to a relapse and severe pain. To minimize this risk, you can gradually decrease the dose you're taking, and once you get down to the lowest dose of the PPI, you can start substituting with an OTC H2 blocker like Tagamet, Cimetidine, Zantac, or Ranitidine.

Then gradually wean off the H2 blocker over the next several weeks. While weaning yourself off these drugs, start implementing the lifestyle modifications discussed below to help eliminate your heartburn once and for all.

Heartburn May Be Due to Too Little Stomach Acid

If you struggle from heartburn, it may be because you have too little stomach acid. One simple strategy to address this deficiency is to swap out processed table salt for an unprocessed version like Himalayan salt. By consuming enough of the raw material, you will encourage your body to make sufficient amounts of hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) naturally.

Sauerkraut or cabbage juice is among the strongest stimulants for your body to produce stomach acid as well. Another benefit is that it can provide you with valuable bacteria to help balance and nourish your gut. Having a few teaspoons of cabbage juice before eating, or better yet, fermented cabbage juice from sauerkraut, will do wonders to improve your digestion. Fresh raw cabbage juice can also be very useful to heal resistant ulcers.12

Another option is to take a betaine hydrochloric supplement, which is available in health food stores without prescription. You'll want to take as many as you need to get the slightest burning sensation and then decrease by one capsule. This will help your body to better digest your food and will also help kill the helicobacter and normalize your symptoms.

Now, while hiatal hernia and H.pylori infection are unrelated, many who have a hiatal hernia also have H. pylori and associated symptoms.13 If you have a hiatal hernia, physical therapy on the area may work as well, and many chiropractors are skilled in this adjustment.

Natural Treatment for Heartburn

Ultimately, the answer to heartburn and acid indigestion is to restore your natural gastric balance and function and to do that, you need to address your gut health. The most important step is to eliminate processed foods and sugars as they are a surefire way to exacerbate acid reflux.

They also alter your gut microbiome and promote the growth of pathogenic microbes. So be sure to eat lots of fresh vegetables and other unprocessed organic foods. Food allergies can also be a contributing factor to acid reflux, so eliminate items such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.

Reseeding your gut with beneficial bacteria, either from traditionally fermented foods or a high-quality probiotic supplement is also important, as this will not only help balance your bowel flora, it can also help eliminate helicobacter bacteria naturally. Probiotics and fermented foods, especially fermented vegetables, also aid in proper digestion and assimilation of your food. Other helpful strategies to get your heartburn under control include the following suggestions.14,15,16

Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar You can help improve the acid content of your stomach by taking one tablespoon of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a large glass of water. Baking soda One-half to one full teaspoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) in an eight-ounce glass of water may ease the burn of acid reflux as it helps neutralize stomach acid. I would not recommend this as a regular solution but it can sure help in an emergency when you are in excruciating pain. Aloe juice The juice of the aloe plant naturally helps reduce inflammation, which may ease symptoms of acid reflux. Drink about 1/2 cup of aloe vera juice before meals. If you want to avoid its laxative effect, look for a brand that has removed the laxative component. Ginger root Ginger has been found to have a gastroprotective effect by blocking acid and suppressing helicobacter pylori. According to a 2007 study, it's also far superior to lansoprazole for preventing the formation of ulcers, exhibiting six- to eight-fold greater potency over the drug.17

This is perhaps not all that surprising, considering the fact that ginger root has been traditionally used against gastric disturbances since ancient times. Add two or three slices of fresh ginger root to two cups of hot water. Let steep for about half an hour. Drink about 20 minutes or so before your meal. Vitamin D Vitamin D is important for addressing any infectious component. Once your vitamin D levels are optimized, you're also going to optimize your production of about 200 antimicrobial peptides that will help your body eradicate any infection that shouldn't be there.

As I've discussed in many previous articles, you can increase your vitamin D levels through sensible sun exposure, or through the use of a tanning bed. If neither of those are available, you can take an oral vitamin D3 supplement; just remember to also increase your vitamin K2 intake. Astaxanthin This exceptionally potent antioxidant was found to reduce symptoms of acid reflux in patients when compared to a placebo, particularly in those with pronounced helicobacter pylori infection.18 Best results were obtained at a daily dose of 40 mg. Slippery elm Slippery elm coats and soothes your mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines, and contains antioxidants that may help address inflammatory bowel conditions. It also stimulates nerve endings in your gastrointestinal tract. This helps increase mucus secretion, which protects your gastrointestinal tract against ulcers and excess acidity.

The University of Maryland Medical Center makes the following adult dosing recommendations:19
  • Tea: Pour 2 cups boiling water over 4 g (roughly 2 tablespoons) of powdered bark, then steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Drink 3 times per day.
  • Tincture: 5 mL, 3 times per day.
  • Capsules: 400 to 500 mg 3 to 4 times daily for 4 to 8 weeks. Take with a full glass of water.
  • Lozenges: follow dosing instructions on label.
Glutamine Research published in 2009 found that gastrointestinal damage caused by H. pylori can be addressed with the amino acid glutamine, found in many foods, including beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, and some fruits and vegetables.20 L-glutamine, the biologically active isomer of glutamine, is also widely available as a supplement. Folate or folic acid (vitamin B9) and other B vitamins As reported by clinical nutritionist Byron Richards, research suggests B vitamins can reduce your risk for acid reflux.21 Higher folic acid intake was found to reduce acid reflux by approximately 40 percent.

Low vitamin B2 and B6 levels were also linked to an increased risk for acid reflux. The best way to raise your folate levels is by eating folate-rich whole foods, such a sliver, asparagus, spinach, okra, and beans. Melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, methionine, and betaine A dietary supplement containing melatonin, l-tryptophan, vitamin B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, methionine, and betaine, was found to be superior to the drug omeprazole in the treatment of GERD.22

Part of the success is thought to be due to melatonin's inhibitory activity on nitric oxide biosynthesis, which plays an important role in transient LES relaxation, which, as I mentioned earlier, is part of the real underlying problem of GERD.

Impressively, 100 percent of patients receiving this supplement reported a complete regression of symptoms after 40 days of treatment, compared to just under 66 percent of those taking omeprazole. The authors concluded that "this formulation promotes regression of GERD symptoms with no significant side effects."

Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication Implicated in Death of Popular Musician - How Natural Treatment Options May Help You Avoid the Same Fate

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Drugs — when taken as prescribed — kill more than 106,000 Americans each year,1 and the death toll from overdosing on painkillers is now greater than both car accidents and death from illegal drug use.

As noted in a recent New York Times article,2 "drug overdoses are driving up the death rate of young white adults in the United States to levels not seen since the end of the AIDS epidemic more than two decades ago."

Between 1999 and 2014, the rate of drug overdose deaths for Caucasians between the ages of 25 and 34 rose by 500 percent. The overdose rate for 35 to 44-year olds tripled.

And while these rates include both illegal and prescription drugs, the latter FAR exceed the former. It's a sad fact that the cornerstone of modern medicine — drugs — is also a major killer of patients.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Medication Implicated in Glenn Frey's Death

As you may have heard, Glenn Frey, co-founder and front man of the popular band The Eagles, recently died from complications from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.3 He was 67.

According to band manager Irving Azoff, Frey's rheumatoid arthritis medication played a role in his untimely death. Azoff told reporters:4,5,6

"The colitis and pneumonia were side effects from all the meds. He died from complications of [ulcerative colitis] after being treated with drugs for his rheumatoid arthritis which he had for over 15 years."

Indeed, the drugs commonly prescribed for RA are among the most dangerous on the market.

These include prednisone, TNF-alpha inhibitors (sold under brand names such as Humira, Enbrel, and Remicade. Side effects of these drugs include infection and an increased risk for cancer), and harsh anti-cancer drugs like methotrexate.

Chronic use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and analgesics like Tylenol can also result in life-threatening liver and/or kidney damage. Acetaminophen is actually the number one cause of acute liver failure in the U.S.

Your Diet and Lifestyle Can Significantly Improve or Worsen Your Condition

Download Interview Transcript

It's tragic that conventional medicine doesn't promote lifestyle changes before drugs for this condition, considering the severe side effects of the drugs. While I was still in medical practice, I treated about 3,000 RA cases — far more than most general practitioners will ever see.

Approximately 80 percent of them were able to achieve significant improvement or complete remission. Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing a former patient of mine, Sarah Allen, who put her RA into remission after following my nutritional and lifestyle recommendations for two years.

Success stories like Sarah's reveal that there IS hope for RA sufferers beyond toxic drug treatments. But it requires dedication to an overall healthy lifestyle. I find it supremely unfortunate that so many people are completely unaware of the fact that lifestyle changes can go a long way in the treatment of RA.

Hallmark Signs of RA

Total video length: 17:45

RA affects about 1 percent of the world's population. Some level of disability occurs in 50 to 70 percent of people within 5 years after onset of the disease, and half will stop working within 10 years.

Unlike the far more common degenerative joint disease osteoarthritis (OA or DJD), it can lead to crippling and painful joint deformities and, as mentioned, can be fatal. Women tend to be disproportionally affected by the disease.

One of the hallmark symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis is pain in your hands and/or feet. It tends to affect the proximal joints more so than the distal ones, i.e. the joints closest to your palm, for example, opposed to the joints further out in the fingers.

At the root of RA you find chronic inflammation — a side effect of a diet too high in processed fructose and other sugars. So while less than 1 percent of people with RA experience spontaneous remission, that does not mean the disease cannot be successfully treated.

RA Sufferers Must Cut Down on Sugars

If you have RA (or any other chronic ailment rooted in inflammation, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, just to name a few), addressing your diet is an important first step to facilitate healing. Eating a diet of REAL FOOD (ideally organic) is one of the most important first steps to help suppress painful inflammation. Processed foods and sugary (including artificially sweetened) beverages should be avoided as much as possible.

Eliminating grains, especially gluten-containing ones, can also be helpful. This may be particularly true if you have certain genetic factors. Those of Scottish-Irish decent, as well as those with a family history of autoimmune problems such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), may be at higher risk of wheat and gluten intolerance.

That said, most grains, fructose and other sugars feed inflammation regardless of your genetic disposition, and you need to be very careful about NOT adding fuel to that fire. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition7 specifically links RA with soda consumption.

The study followed nearly 200,000 women from two Nurses' Health Studies spanning nearly four decades. Information on soda consumption was obtained from a food-frequency questionnaire at baseline and approximately every four years thereafter.

After adjusting for confounding variables, the researchers found that women who drank one or more servings of soda per day had a 63 percent increased risk of developing RA, compared to those who drank less than one serving per month or none at all. And this was independent of other dietary and lifestyle factors.

Glyphosate-Contaminated Foods May Aggravate Inflammation

Aside from breaking down into sugar, most commercial grains are also contaminated with glyphosate — including non-organic wheat — and this agricultural chemical has been implicated in inflammatory conditions by promoting mitochondrial dysfunction. In the video above, Jeffrey Smith interviews Dr. Alex Vasquez, M.D., Ph.D. and Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D. about this.

In addition to producing most of your body's energy in the form of ATP, your mitochondria also participate in cellular signaling, and play an important role in autoimmune inflammation. In a nutshell summary, glyphosate and Roundup (of which glyphosate is an active ingredient) interferes with ATP production and increases oxidative damage in your mitochondria.

How do you avoid glyphosate/Roundup? This broad-spectrum herbicide is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world, and is liberally doused on both conventional and genetically engineered (GE) crops, although the latter tends to be far more heavily contaminated. In 2007, 1.6 billion pounds of glyphosate was used in the U.S. alone.

Considering its widespread use, about the only way to really avoid it is to eat organically grown foods, as synthetic chemicals are not permitted in organic farming according to the USDA's National Organic Program.

How Gut Microbes Impact Rheumatoid Arthritis

Gut health plays an important role in RA. Sugar feeds pathogenic microorganisms in your gut, and once your intestinal flora becomes unbalanced, you end up with a ripple effect of detrimental health impacts — one of which is immune system dysfunction and out-of-control inflammation. In addition to cutting out sugar from your diet, adding fermented foods and/or taking a high quality probiotic will help nourish healthy gut flora.

Interestingly, there are actually specific types of gut bacteria that correlate with the development of rheumatoid arthritis. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),8 a gut bacterium called Prevotella copri appears to play a role in the disease. Besides outcompeting several microbes known for their beneficial health effects, DNA sequencing of Prevotella has revealed that it contains genes that specifically correlate with RA.

After analyzing DNA in stool samples from both healthy people and rheumatoid sufferers, researchers discovered the bacterium was present in the intestinal microbiome of 75 percent of those with new-onset, untreated rheumatoid arthritis, compared to only 21 percent of healthy controls. This isn't the first time a microorganism has been linked to the development of RA though.

The late Dr. Thomas McPherson Brown9,10 — a board certified rheumatologist — wrote the book "The Road Back," in which he outlines a treatment approach for RA based on Dr. Sabin's theory that rheumatoid arthritis was caused by a mycoplasma — a type of watery fungus. 

While mycoplasma is difficult to eliminate, Dr. Brown found it could be controlled using long-term, low-level doses of the antibiotic tetracycline. Despite the drawbacks of taking antibiotics long-term, his approach still represents a far safer, less toxic alternative to many conventional RA drug regimens. 

My own RA treatment regimen was originally based on Dr. Brown's protocol. Over time, I gradually altered his approach, placing the greatest emphasis on dietary modifications and other natural therapies. Eventually, I eliminated antibiotics altogether. You can find a summary of my drug-free RA treatment protocol here.

The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another really important component. By stimulating as many as 300 anti-microbial peptides that are even more powerful than antibiotics, vitamin D helps improve and regulate your immune system and fight infections. Many RA sufferers will notice that their symptoms are at their worst during the winter, and often dissipate during the summer. This is a giant clue that vitamin D is at work.

Invariably, unless you're aggressively addressing your vitamin D level with sensible sun exposure and/or supplementation, your blood levels of vitamin D will drop to dangerously low levels sometime in January, February, or March, when sun exposure is at its lowest.

I typically recommend RA sufferers get their levels checked every month, to help them fine-tune the dosage they're taking. Your ultimate goal is to reach and maintain a therapeutic level of 40 to 60 ng/ml, and if you're using a supplement, you need to take whatever dosage required to get you there.

Safer Pain Relievers

Most conventional rheumatologists have few remedies in their toolbox besides toxic drugs. While these can help relieve symptoms, they do absolutely nothing to address the underlying cause of the disease, which continues to ravage your body. What's worse, many of these drugs can cause more problems than they solve, and some of the more toxic ones can easily shave well over a decade off your lifespan.

That said, pain control is an important aspect of treating RA. If pain is not addressed, you may enter a depressive cycle that can worsen your immune function and cause RA flare-ups. If you opt for a drug, be sure to use the safest ones, and only when necessary — with the goal of eventually managing your pain without medications. More long-lasting relief will be achieved once you start targeting the inflammation, which is the underlying cause of the pain.

Among pain relieving drugs, some of the safest ones are the following. At the bottom of my RA protocol summary I also list a number of other natural pain relief options. You may want to try those first. If ineffective, continue using a pain relieving drug when necessary while you start incorporating the recommended diet and lifestyle changes. As you progress and inflammation begins to recede, an herbal remedy may be the only pain reliever you may need.

  • Medical cannabis, now legal in 23 U.S. states.11 One of the strongest areas of research regarding marijuana's health benefits pertains to pain. In 2010, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research released a report on 14 clinical studies12 (most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind and placebo-controlled) on the use of marijuana for pain.
  • The studies revealed that marijuana not only controls pain, but in some cases it did so better than available alternatives.

  • Non-acetylated salicylates, such as salsalate, sodium salicylate, and magnesium salicylate (i.e. Salflex, Disalcid, or Trilisate)
Key Elements of My RA Treatment Protocol

The sooner you start incorporating more natural treatments and reduce your reliance on drugs, the better. Just remember to be patient. If you have severe RA, it may take up to three years to reach full remission. Consistency and commitment is also necessary. While you may begin slowly, by cutting out sodas for example, it will not suffice to end your efforts there.

My drug-free RA treatment protocol has helped thousands of RA patients go into remission, and the dietary changes are an absolutely essential component, so please do not take them lightly.

Key Components of My RA Treatment Protocol Dietary modifications Eat REAL food; unprocessed, organic, and locally grown if possible. Eat your food as close to raw as possible. Vegetable juicing is also highly recommended.

Eliminate processed foods and other sources of refined sugar/processed fructose, along with most grains. For most people it would be best to limit fruit to small quantities. In my experience, if you're unable to decrease your sugar intake, your chances of recovery are slim.

Optimize your gut flora by consuming naturally fermented vegetables and/or a high potency probiotic supplement; work your way up to 4 to 6 ounces per day of fermented veggies.

Also be sure to get plenty of high-quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Krill oil seems to be particularly helpful as it appears to be a more effective anti-inflammatory preparation than regular fish oil.

It's particularly effective if taken concurrently with astaxanthin, which is a potent antioxidant bioflavanoid derived from algae. Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) Naltrexone is a pharmacologically active opioid antagonist, conventionally used to treat drug and alcohol addiction. However, in very small doses, it is inexpensive, non-toxic, and has immunomodulating properties widely reported by physicians as effective in getting people off of dangerous arthritis medications. Astaxanthin A powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant with very powerful pain control properties. In one study, RA sufferers experienced a 35 percent improvement in pain levels, as well as a 40 percent improvement in their ability to perform daily activities, after only eight weeks on astaxanthin.

Astaxanthin at 4 mg per day is particularly useful for anyone placed on prednisone because it offers potent protection against cataracts and age related macular degeneration. Vitamin D Vitamin D deficiency is strongly associated with the development of RA. Ideally, you'll want to get regular and appropriate sun exposure, or take an oral D3 supplement, and closely monitor your levels to assure you maintain your level within the therapeutic range of 40 to 60 ng/ml year-round. Exercise Regular exercise is critical if you want to prevent functional decline from arthritis. RA can lead to diminished muscle mass and reduced strength that can be as debilitating as the physical damage to your joints. Just be careful not to overdo it, and take care with inflamed joints, icing them when necessary before and after exercise.

Your program should include a range of activities, including weight training, high intensity exercises, cardio, stretching and core work. Walking and swimming are also excellent (if you have access to a chlorine free pool), as are practices like yoga and tai chi. Drug-Free Relief from Pain and Inflammation Curcumin (turmeric) Curcumin has been shown to be effective against acute and chronic pain and is best known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties; inhibits inflammatory enzymes and blocks inflammation pathways; shown to influence more than 700 genes.

A 2012 study13 revealed that a highly bioavailable form of curcumin was more effective in alleviating RA symptoms, including tenderness and swelling of joints, than the NSAID drug Voltaren. Not only that, those who were taking the curcumin only actually experienced the most improvement across the board. Boswellia Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," boswellia is another herb I've found to be particularly useful against arthritic pain and inflammation. Ginger Exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and can offer pain relief. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.

Recent research14 confirms ginger's beneficial effects for RA sufferers in particular, and while the focus of the research was to identify which parts of the plant might make for a useful drug, there are significant benefits to using the whole plant.

In addition to pain relief, the study found that some of the phytochemical constituents of ginger can help stop RA-induced bone destruction. EFT Lingering emotional trauma is pervasive in people with RA. One of my favorite tools for addressing this is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), which has been described as "acupuncture without needles."

Although EFT is something you can learn to do yourself in the comfort of your own home, you may want to employ the help of a well-trained professional.

How Roundup Damages Your Mitochondria and Makes You Sick

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In the featured video, Jeffrey Smith interviews Dr. Alex Vasquez, M.D., Ph.D., author of about 100 papers and 15 scientific books, and Stephanie Seneff, Ph.D., a Senior Research Scientist at MIT and author of about 200 papers, about the impact of glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup — on your mitochondria.

As noted by Jeffrey, this is a very important topic, as mitochondrial dysfunction is an underlying foundational element of most diseases.

Why the Health of Your Mitochondria Matters

As explained by Vasquez, in addition to producing most of your body’s energy in the form of ATP, your mitochondria also participate in many other processes, such as cellular signaling.

According to Vasquez, the data is “impressively clear” that those with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and high blood pressure have dysfunctional mitochondria.

Your mitochondria also play an important role in inflammation, and control apoptosis (cell death). These two roles make your mitochondria a player in diseases such as cancer, for example, as damaged cells fail to receive the message to self-destruct, and therefore continue their malignant growth.

Vasquez — who is an expert on inflammation — divides inflammation into three different forms, which exist on a continuum and overlap each other:

  1. Metabolic inflammation (conditions such as hypertension and diabetes)
  2. Allergic inflammation
  3. Autoimmune inflammation

Chronic, low-level inflammation, which tends to underlie most chronic health conditions, he describes as “metabolic disturbance with cellular injury.” While mitochondrial dysfunction is involved in virtually ALL disease, the following bears mentioning, as they’re among the most common:

Cancer   Heart disease Seizure Disorders Asthma and allergies Autoimmune diseases Obesity Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s Depression Chronic fatigue syndrome Fibromyalgia Autism Type 2 diabetes Metabolic syndrome Hypertension How Glyphosate Damages Your Mitochondria

So how does glyphosate affect your mitochondria? Seneff speaks to this issue, noting that manganese appears to be involved. Glyphosate chelates manganese (plus many other minerals), which makes the plants deficient. In turn the animals or humans who eat the plants do not get enough either.

It’s worth explaining the chelation process a bit further. As Smith notes, glyphosate binds very strongly to micro minerals, and doesn’t let them go.

So even if there’s manganese in the plant you eat, your body cannot access and use it, because the glyphosate molecule holds it trapped within itself. Likewise the plant is prevented from taking up the mineral, even if it’s in the soil.

Your mitochondria require manganese to break down superoxide dismutase (SOD) and turn it into hydrogen peroxide, which is far less toxic, and eventually water. This is a very important process, as it protects your mitochondria from oxidative damage. Without manganese, this protection is lost.

Roundup Formulation Also Interferes With Energy Production

Roundup has also been found to interfere with ATP production by affecting your mitochondrial membranes. In this case, it’s actually the so-called “inert” solvents in Roundup that pose the greatest threat.

However, when you add the solvents and glyphosate together, the solvent makes the membrane more permeable, allowing the glyphosate to enter. Without the solvent, the damage may not be as great.

It’s worth repeating what Vasquez notes, which is that the research data is overwhelmingly consistent and clear on all of these points.

So the fact that there is even public debate about whether glyphosate or Roundup causes mitochondrial harm (and therefore harms health) means that people simply are not aware of the scientific literature.

Because from that perspective, there’s nothing to debate. According to both Seneff and Vasquez, the scientific literature is abundant, easily attainable online, clear, and very consistent.

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a review of some of the published research questioning the safety of glyphosate in terms of its effects on human and animal health, compiled by Alex Vasquez (containing 220 pages worth of research).

Another illuminating and heavily referenced 80-page report is "Banishing Glyphosate," authored by Eva Sirinathsinghji, Ph.D. and Mae-Wan Ho, Ph.D. with cooperation from six other researchers, including Don Huber and Nancy Swanson.

“Why are we having a public debate on this when the data is so clear?,” Vasquez asks. A good question indeed, and the answer is that the industry has done a great job of confusing and misleading people about the actual content and strength of the available science.

Court Finds Fraud and Defamation Was Used to Discredit GMO Study

The case of Gilles-Eric Séralini is a perfect example of how the chemical technology industry tries to keep you in the dark — by whatever means necessary, moral, legal or not. His first-ever lifetime feeding study published in 2012 revealed numerous shocking problems in rats fed GMO corn, including massive tumors and early death.

Rats given glyphosate in their drinking water also developed tumors. The following year, the publisher retracted the study saying it “did not meet scientific standards,” even though a long and careful investigation found no errors or misrepresentation of data.

Interestingly enough, in the time between the publication of the study and its retraction, the journal had created a new position — Associate Editor for Biotechnology; a position that was filled by a former Monsanto employee.

Séralini not only republished the study in another journal, he also took legal action, and at the end of last year, he won two court cases against some of those who tried to destroy his career and reputation. In the first case, Marianne magazine and a journalist by the name of Jean-Claude Jaillette — who accused Séralini of “scientific fraud in which the methodology served to reinforce pre-determined results” — were found guilty of public defamation.

In a second case, Marc Fellous, former chairman of the Biomolecular Engineering Commission of France, was indicted for forgery and the use of forgery in a libel trial.

According to Séralini’s Website:1

“The Biomolecular Engineering Commission has authorized many GM crops for consumption. The details of the case have not yet been publicly released but a source close to the case told GMWatch that Fellous had used or copied the signature of a scientist without his agreement to argue that Séralini and his co-researchers were wrong in their reassessment of Monsanto studies.”

Recent follow-up research2,3 by Séralini shows that long-term exposure to even ultra-low amounts of Roundup may cause tumors, along with liver and kidney damage in rats. In this study, the dose used was "environmentally relevant in terms of human, domesticated animals and wildlife levels of exposure," prompting the authors to suggest Roundup may have significant health implications.

Concerns Over Glyphosate Have Turned Out to Be Valid

In recent years, concerns over the health effects of glyphosate have become quite pronounced, and last year the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), reclassified  glyphosate as a Class 2A “probable carcinogen.”4, 5,6  

Monsanto recently filed a lawsuit against California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to keep glyphosate from being added to its list of known carcinogens,7 which require products to carry a special cancer warning.

Other research8,9,10,11 suggests the Roundup formulation boosts antibiotic resistance by turning on a specific set of genes in the bacterium. This primes it to become more readily resistant to antibiotics. Despite these and other concerns, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not test foods for glyphosate residues, as the chemical was assumed safe.

The chemical also wasn’t supposed to accumulate in the human body, but this too has been shown to be a false assumption.12

When Will USDA Test Food for Glyphosate Residues?

Last summer the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced U.S. regulators may start testing for glyphosate residues on food in the near future.13,14,15 However, the latest annual pesticide residue report still did not include glyphosate. Even if they did, current allowable limits may be set too far high to protect your health, so unless that’s revised as well, you may be lulled into a false sense of security. The EPA actually raised the allowable limits for glyphosate in food in 2013.

Limits for root and tuber vegetables (with the exception of sugar) were raised from 0.2 parts per million (ppm) to 6.0 ppm. Meanwhile, researchers have documented malformations in frog and chicken embryos starting at 2.03 ppm of glyphosate.16

The allowable limit in oilseed crops (except for canola and soy) was raised to 40 ppm, which is 100,000 times the amount needed to induce cancer in breast cells.17 To address the lack of testing, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) joined forces with the Feed the World Project last year, launching the world’s first glyphosate testing of urine, water, and breast milk for the general public.18,19,20,21

Roundup Ready Alfalfa Goes Wild — As Predicted

In related news, a recent USDA study22 shows that genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa — approved in late 2011 — has already gone wild, and is quickly spreading across the Western states. At the time of its approval, conventional alfalfa farmers were concerned that their conventional alfalfa would be contaminated through cross-pollination. Now their fears have turned into reality, and contamination has already cost them millions of dollars in lost revenue.

As noted by Eco Watch,23 the wild spread “exposes the failure of USDA’s "coexistence’ policy for GE and traditional crops.” There was never any doubt in my and many other people’s mind that this would happen, yet “I told you so” just doesn’t bring any satisfaction. When will our government let facts and common sense speak for themselves? Eco Watch also reports that:

“[T]he researchers also found clear evidence that the Roundup Ready gene was being spread by bees, which are known to cross-pollinate alfalfa populations separated by up to several miles. Their results suggested that ‘transgenic plants could spread transgenes to neighboring feral plants and potentially to neighboring non-GE fields.’

While they did not test this latter possibility, there is no doubt that non-GE alfalfa has in fact been transgenically contaminated — not just once, but on many occasions.”

Campbell’s Decimates Monsanto's Argument Against Labeling

The fact that GE crops are heavily contaminated with Roundup is just one of many reasons to become aware of which foods contain GMOs and which don’t. Remember, Roundup Ready crops are designed to withstand the pesticide, and tolerance has forced farmers to increase the amount of pesticide sprayed on the crop. For this and other reasons, we need GE foods to be clearly labeled.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), of which Monsanto is a member, insists mandatory GMO labeling would result in higher food prices. It’s completely illogical, yet many have fallen for this stupid ruse. Now, Campbell Soup’s decision to voluntarily label their GMO products will finally decimate this argument and prove that added cost is a non-issue. As reported by Alternet24 on January 15:

“[T]he first question we asked ... was, will you charge more for these products after you label them? In an email ... company spokesman Tom Hushen wrote, ‘To be clear, there will be no price increase as a result of Vermont or national GMO labeling for Campbell products.’

Will Campbell’s have to absorb extra costs associated with labeling? Will profit margins on its GMO brands shrink? No, says Carmen Bain, a sociology professor at Iowa State University who studies GMO labeling. Bain told PoliticoPro’s Jenny Hopkinson, ‘Campbell has determined that the cost of labeling their products is negligible (and therefore won't mean higher costs for consumers) and that it's probably costlier for them not to get out in front of this thing.’”

Knowledge Is the Antidote for Vaccine Orthodoxy

Tue, 02/02/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Last year, a measles outbreak at Disneyland brought the vaccine safety and choice  debate front and center in the media.

What should have been an intelligent discussion that weighed the potential risks versus the potential benefits of vaccination — and highlighted the very real need for more research into their safety — turned into an over-heated, often irrational  argument.

Parents who dared to speak out in favor of vaccine choice were oftentimes attacked for their position, with some mandatory vaccination supporters going so far as to call for parents of unvaccinated children to be fined and imprisoned.

What we're seeing is the result of heightened emotions based on fear. Fear of children getting sick and dying from either the complications of infectious disease or the complications of vaccination.

None of these fears are unfounded; each deserves due attention, including the attention of public health officials, who should be conducting the kind of scientific research that will yield answers to questions about vaccination that most doctors giving federally recommended vaccines to children and adults cannot answer.  

In the vaccination debate, what happens all too often is not an open, rational discussion but rather a free-for-all marked by inappropriate name-calling and threats. It has been suggested that experienced physicians who criticize vaccine safety or support vaccine choice be stripped of their medical licenses.

Promoters of vaccination laws that do not allow any non-medical exemptions have gone so far as to call for imprisonment of parents who refuse to give their children every federally recommended vaccine,  and they even have called for censorship of online public discussions about vaccine risks and failures.

In a statement in the video above, Barbara Loe Fisher, president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) explains why forced adherence to vaccine orthodoxy is a danger to freedom of speech, press and exercise of conscience in America:1

"Those embracing vaccine orthodoxy have a right to their beliefs, but they should not be given the legal right to persecute and punish fellow citizens refusing to convert. Tyranny by any other name is still tyranny."

Two Centuries of 'Vaccine Orthodoxy'

Vaccine orthodoxy dictates that everyone must believe vaccination is safe and effective, and that government-recommended vaccines should be mandated for use by everyone — no exceptions.

In the beginning, it was just one vaccination for smallpox, but now the federally recommended childhood vaccine schedule calls for 69 doses of 16 vaccines for every child starting on the day of birth through age 18.

But the fact is, vaccine risks are increased for some people because of biological and environmental differences.

As Fisher states, for some people the risks of vaccination are 100 percent, and when a vaccine reaction happens to you or someone you love, the logical response is to seek out why it happened so that it doesn't happen again.

There needs to be an open, rational discussion about vaccination, infectious diseases and health. After all, don't all of us want our children to be healthy and safe from harm?

If we want to protect the health of ALL children, we cannot continue to ignore the signs that we've gone too far with public health policies making mandatory use of multiple vaccines in early childhood as our nation's No. 1 disease prevention strategy.

We may well be sacrificing too many children's lives in the name of "the greater good."

'One-Size-Fits-All' Vaccine Policies Deserve to Be Challenged

No matter where you stand in the vaccination debate, most would agree that in the case of medical care, one size does not fit all. What works for your child (or yourself) may not work for your neighbor's but, when it comes to vaccines, they're prescribed exactly the same for every child.

Today we know, however, that some children, like those with mitochondrial disorders, are at increased risk from vaccinations. Why, then, aren't efforts being made to identify these children to prevent any unnecessary harm? An individual's response to a vaccine is actually influenced by many factors.

For instance, an individual's gut microbes may help determine their immune response to vaccines.

Infants that responded to the rotavirus vaccine had a higher diversity of microbes in their gut, as well as more microbes from the Proteobacteria group, than infants who did not mount the expected immune response.2

Epigenetic science, which now tells us that our genes are NOT our destiny, is another variable in vaccine safety, because no one knows how vaccines affect your genes (and it's likely different in every person).

Part of the problem is that once you start to epigenetically tinker with the infant immune system, you are basically depositing what Dr. Suzanne Humphries, author of "Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History," refers to as "little cluster bombs" that will eventually "explode into a big problem."

As an example, she cites a study by Nikolaj Ørntoft, in which African girls were injected with a tetanus vaccine to see which genes might be upregulated or downregulated (basically "turned on" or "turned off"). What they found is that there's really no way to predict which genes will be affected.

So not only will each individual have a unique response to any given vaccine based on their age, current health status, and microbial makeup, but we're also epigenetically predisposed to respond differently in terms of the side effects we might develop.

You can see, then, how vaccine mandates that do not respect biodiversity may turn out to be health disasters for some people.

Educated Parents Are Increasingly Rejecting Vaccine Orthodoxy

Trying to get unbiased, truthful information about vaccines is not easy, and the cards are very much stacked against you receiving the truth. As noted by Humphries:

"We have a highly profitable, lucrative religion that involves the government, industry, and academia. That religion is vaccination. People believe in vaccines. They'll tell you, they believe in vaccines. But you ask them what they know about vaccines and it will be almost nothing.

In fact the people who argue the loudest usually know the least when it comes to trying to convince you to take the vaccine. That's been my experience.

In the U.S., there is a growing number of people who are rejecting vaccine orthodoxy, especially college-educated, financially stable, middle-class parents who have become knowledgeable about vaccine risks and failures and want the right to make informed, voluntary choices about which vaccines they and their children get.

This is called informed consent to medical risk-taking, and this basic human right  is increasingly being threatened by public health officials and medical trade groups working with pharmaceutical company lobbyists who want to eliminate vaccine exemptions and force vaccine use.

Fisher explains how mandatory vaccination proponents are using threats and intimidation to achieve their goals, including even employing racial profiling and shaming in an effort to demonize those criticizing vaccine safety and advocating for vaccine choice. As Fisher explained:3

" … [T]oday in America, when we take the initiative to become educated about vaccination and infectious diseases, we are publicly labeled as 'ignorant' and 'selfish' if our newfound knowledge leads us to disagree with vaccine orthodoxy.

This year, public humiliation of anyone who rejects vaccine orthodoxy has already begun.

A New Year's Eve editorial in a Colorado newspaper branded parents, who will not "listen and comply" with government 'vaccination rules,' as 'odd,' 'foolish,' 'irresponsible' and 'reckless,' and said a law should be passed to force them to comply.

Another disturbing type of propaganda to re-emerge as we head into 2016 is what I described in 2012 as 'turning vaccine exemptions into class warfare.' This involves highly educated, well-paid physician politicians and professors in academia, who are engaging in racial profiling and the shaming of educated, middle class Caucasian parents challenging vaccine orthodoxy."

Knowledge Is the 'Antidote' to Vaccine Orthodoxy

Fisher maintains that, as more Americans graduate from college in increasing numbers, those seeking  knowledge about vaccination  will only grow. "It is one reason why we are witnessing an accelerated push by government and industry to eliminate the legal right to informed consent to vaccine risk taking in America," she said.4

Indeed, the 2015 Disneyland measles "outbreak" drummed up enough public hysteria that it was used to justify elimination of  personal belief vaccine exemptions from California daycare and school attendance  and child care employment laws.5

Increased public knowledge about the risks and failures of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may have led to a different outcome. For instance, did you know it's possible to have vaccine-strain measles infection after receiving the live attenuated MMR vaccine? It happened in 2013, when a 2-year-old fell ill with vaccine-related measles 37 days after receiving the MMR vaccine.

This was well beyond the typical incubation period for measles transmission, and it occurred in the context of an outbreak investigation of measles cluster. So at first it was assumed to be a wild-type measles infection, when in fact it was vaccine-strain measles infection. We have no statistics about how often this assumption is made when it may actually be inaccurate.

Also, were you aware the MMR vaccine provides no assurance of long-lasting immunity and even two doses of MMR vaccine may fail to provide long-term protection? Like B. pertussis whooping cough and other infectious diseases, measles has natural cyclical increases and decreases every few years in populations. These may occur even in highly vaccinated populations.

Vaccines Don't Provide the Same Life-Long Immunity as Naturally Acquired Infection

Many people believe that once you receive a vaccine, you're protected from that disease for life. This is a misconception. Vaccines do not confer the same kind of long-lasting immunity that is obtained from experiencing and recovering from the natural disease.

This is why booster shots are necessary, and why some are recommending that a third MMR vaccine be added to the U.S. vaccine schedule. The vaccine simply cannot provide life-long immunity the way getting a naturally acquired infection can.

Many people don't realize there is such a thing as natural herd immunity. However, vaccines cannot provide this. From my point of view, there can be little doubt that we need to review the safety and effectiveness of the current vaccination program in the U.S. This review needs to include methodologically sound investigative studies that are not compromised by conflicts of interest within industry and government. Fisher stated:6

"Vaccine injury and death does not discriminate between races or social classes, except when people are kept ignorant, economically dependent and unable to make informed choices.

While we still have freedom of speech, press, thought, conscience and religion in America, please exercise and defend those civil and human rights at every opportunity. If we all stand up for the freedom we have left today, we will not lose more of it tomorrow. Knowledge is the antidote to vaccine orthodoxy because knowledge is power."

Your Right to Informed Consent Is Being Threatened

Multiple bills were introduced in 2015, many backed by pharmaceutical and medical trade industries, that threatened informed consent rights. More are expected in 2016. This included bills that:7

Eliminated and restricted vaccine exemptions Expanded vaccine mandates for both adults in the workplace and children Expanded police and emergency powers during declared public health emergencies Expanded intrusive vaccine tracking and data sharing to enforce compliance Mandated the public publishing of detailed vaccine exemption and vaccination rates in much smaller geographical boundaries like individual schools Expanded laws to allow pharmacists to administer more vaccines

At least 18 states already have vaccine bills filed for 2016 legislative sessions. Many state bills propose to add new vaccine mandates and restrict or eliminate the religious and personal belief exemption to vaccination so only a restrictive medical exemption remains. A bill in Virginia was introduced that would remove a doctor's ability to grant a medical vaccine exemption if it does not conform to narrow federal contraindication guidelines.

A bill in Hawaii proposes to mandate that every time the CDC recommends a new vaccine for children AND adults, it is automatically added to the state required list of vaccines for all residents of the state.

If you'd like to stay informed about vaccine bills moving in your state, as well as vaccine bills being proposed at the federal level, and take action to protect your informed consent rights when it comes to vaccination, the NVIC Advocacy Portal is a free online communications network that connects registered users with their legislators through their smart phones, tablets and computers.

Through the Portal, NVIC's advocacy program staff will keep you up to date with the status of vaccine bills impacting your freedom to make vaccine choices and give you guidance about how you can educate your legislators about why vaccine policies and laws must include flexible medical, religious and conscientious belief exemptions.8

Foods With Flavonoids May Help With Erectile Dysfunction

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Many men have trouble discussing problems they may have with erectile dysfunction. But, while you may find it embarrassing, it can also be a signal of other underlying health related conditions, such as heart disease.

The physical function of an erection occurs between a complex interaction of nerves, muscle, emotions, hormones, brain and blood supply. When the arteries undergo changes related to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, it is more difficult for the blood to pass through.

The process plays out first in the smaller arteries of the penis, before it reaches the larger arteries supplying the heart, kidneys and brain.

Researchers from Harvard University released the results of a two-decade-long study that suggested men who habitually ate foods rich in flavonoids three times a week had a reduced incidence of erectile dysfunction as they aged.1

At the start of the study none of the men suffered from erectile dysfunction (ED), but by the end of the 20 years 35.6 percent reported problems with ED.

The researchers controlled for the differences in physical activity, alcohol intake, diabetes and other physical factors that are known to affect the development and progression of ED in the over 25,000 men who participated in the study.

They found that in men younger than 70, there was an 11 to 16 percent lower risk if the men ate several types of food rich in flavonoids per week.2

How Flavonoids Work

Flavonoids are synthesized by plants. They are antioxidants that have a significant effect on the scavenging of free radicals in the body, reducing the negative effect on DNA and disease risk.

Although they are an antioxidant, it appears that many of their benefits results from their ability to modulate cell-signaling pathways.

These flavonoids may have an effect on chronic disease by selectively inhibiting kinases, regulators of cell function and cell cycles, and reducing the inflammatory and adhesion response of the cells.3,4 All these functions help to reduce the potential risk of atherosclerosis in the arteries.

Strong research evidence suggests that consumption of flavonoids will help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, some cancers, vascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases.5 The early signs of these conditions may result in ED.

Foods With Flavonoids

Not all fruits and vegetables are created equally. Those that have higher amounts of flavonoids, and thus reduce your risk factors associated with erectile dysfunction, include:6

Apples, gala Cranberries Bananas Nectarines Peaches Blueberries Cherries Strawberries Blackberries Grapefruits Plums Raspberries Tea     Factors Affecting Erectile Dysfunction

There are several factors that affect ED. Interestingly, many of them are affected by your exercise habits, diet and stress.7

Physical Factors

Vascular ConditionsAlcohol MedicationsDiabetes Abnormal Nerve FunctionHormone deficiency Surgical ProceduresRecreational Drugs DietHigh Blood Pressure Heart DiseaseFatigue

Psychological factors can also affect erectile function. These include:8,9,10

Performance AnxietyDepression StressRelationship Problems GuiltLow Self-Esteem Viagra Is Not the Answer

If you experience ED, it's important you have your specific situation evaluated. It may be an early sign you are experiencing arterial changes that may affect your heart and potential risk for stroke or heart attack.

If psychological factors are impeding your physical relationship, it can become a vicious cycle. ED may be triggered by stress or depression, which triggers relationships problems that leads to further stress or relationship problems.

Like other health conditions, it's important to get to the bottom of the problem and not throw pills at the issue. You may need medications to control your health conditions, but you will also need diet changes and stress reduction to fully address your challenges.

One of the medications to treat ED that gained national notoriety was Viagra. Billed as the miracle pill that would allow men to once again feel younger and stronger, sales of the little blue pill have reached 35 million men worldwide, according to manufacturer Pfizer.11

But, once the excitement wore off, sales began dropping. Revenue dropped from a little over $2 million in 2012 to $1.6 million in 2014.12

This may have been the result of the average cost of $22 per pill, risk of significant side effects or the recognition that although men were having sex, it didn't fix their relationship problems.

Now men who use Viagra face more health risks. According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), taking Viagra is associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma.13

Men who take Viagra have an 84 percent greater risk of developing the deadliest form of skin cancer (melanoma) over those men who have never taken the ED medication.

Don't be tempted by the prices of Viagra and other ED medications sold online. According to Forbes Magazine and the World Meeting on Sexual Medicine, 77 percent of the Viagra sold online from 22 different sites was fake, and potentially dangerous.14

Fake Viagra is potentially high in heavy metals, holds an increased risk of fungal and bacterial infections when the medication is manufactured in unsanitary conditions and confiscated Viagra has contained printer ink, drywall dust, amphetamines and the antibiotic metronidazole (Flagyl).15

More Benefits of Flavonoids

The benefits of eating a healthy diet, full of flavonoid rich fruits, vegetables and tea, go beyond helping your vascular system, heart, and erectile functioning. Unlike pharmaceutical approaches to your health that seek to address one issue, a holistic approach will address your whole body.

Drinking tea, naturally high in flavonoids, has been linked with higher bone density and a lower risk of osteoporotic fractures.16,17 Drinking three or more cups of flavonoid- rich tea appeared to have the most benefits for bone density.

Flavonoids also block the messages that promote inflammation through blocking cyclo-oxygenase and lipoxygenase enzymes in the body.18 The suppression of inflammatory signals reduces the potential risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

Increasing the consumption of foods rich in flavonoids can improve cognitive function. A growing number of flavonoids have been shown to reduce Alzheimer-type pathology in the brain and increase cognitive function through increased blood flow and neurogenesis in the hippocampus, the area of the brain significantly affected by dementia.19,20 Other studies have found that flavonoids protect against other types of cognitive declines seen with aging.21

Natural Viagra Alternatives

Increasing your consumption of flavonoids in your diet is a long-term plan to improve your blood supply and reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction. There are some natural alternatives to Viagra that don't come with the side effects of the pharmaceutical drug.

Nitric oxide is a molecule your body produces that signals smooth muscle cells to relax, increasing blood flow and reducing the production of plaque in the arteries. L-arginine can improve microcirculation in your genitals that can result in stronger erections and better sexual responsiveness, but without the side effects of Viagra and other ED drugs.

Research studies demonstrate that L-arginine is more effective when combined with pycnogenol, resulting in significant improvement of sexual functioning22 Another pilot study found using an on-demand oral administration of 6 grams of L-arginine combined with 6 mg of yohimbine, improved the sexual functioning of men diagnosed with mild to moderate ED.23

Your Healthy Sex Life Is Linked to Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Your bodily functions, including your sexual health, is all interrelated and interconnected. You can't separate sexual health from your overall health. The choices you make about your lifestyle affect your sexual health, and your physical intimacy benefits your physical and emotional health.

If your sex life inside your committed relationship is not fulfilling, and stress or the relationship is not the problem, it may be time to evaluate the remainder of your lifestyle choices. Use these strategies to naturally boost your libido:

  1. Eliminate Sugar
  2. Sugars are found in sweets, processed foods, sodas, alcohol, and any foods containing high numbers of carbohydrates. All carbohydrates will metabolize to sugar in your body and sugar may turn off the hormones that control your sexual desire.

  3. Normalize Insulin Levels
  4. My nutrition plan is designed to help normalize your insulin levels and reduce the effects of sugar on your cells and body. Making the right dietary choices will increase your energy levels, reduce your risk for disease and improve your sex life.

  5. Optimize Vitamin D Levels
  6. Vitamin D sulfate, a product of your body's manufacture of vitamin D from sunlight, may be critical in prevention of the formation of arterial plaque. Arterial plaque will reduce blood flow to your genitals and increase your risk of ED. Your best method of getting vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight.

  7. Exercise
  8. Regular exercise improves your mood, your muscle control, balance, coordination and body image. Using high intensity interval training (HIIT) will also naturally increase your growth hormone and testosterone. These hormones are essential to your sex drive and responsiveness, whether male or female.

  9. Eliminate Smoking and Avoid Alcohol
  10. Smoking temporarily increases your blood pressure and deposits multiple different toxins in your body. Both factors are related to the health of your arteries and therefore your sexual functioning. Alcohol is high in carbohydrates that metabolize to sugar and reduce your sexual drive and responsiveness.

  11. Quality Sleep
  12. High-quality, restorative sleep is necessary to the function of your brain, cognitive abilities, creativeness and sexual drive and responsiveness.

Green Leafy Vegetables to Lower Glaucoma Risk

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

One of the best parts of leading a healthy lifestyle is that it doesn't only affect one or two aspects of your health; it makes you healthier overall. Take eating vegetables, which is arguably one of the most important aspects of living healthy.

Vegetables contain many different antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are very difficult to get anywhere else.

Plant chemicals called phytochemicals may reduce inflammation and eliminate carcinogens, while others regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells and maintain DNA.

Vegetables are also a primary dietary source of naturally occurring nitrates, which have multiple health benefits, including for your vision health.

Eating More Leafy Greens May Lower Your Glaucoma Risk

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60. It's estimated that 3 million Americans suffer from it, but only about half of them know it. In the early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms, but it progresses slowly until vision loss becomes noticeable.

At this point, it may be too late, but if glaucoma is caught early your vision loss may be slowed or prevented. Even with treatment, however, about 10 percent of people with glaucoma will still lose their sight.1 Prevention is therefore the best strategy.

Glaucoma is caused by damage to your optic nerve, often due to abnormally high eye pressure. Impaired blood flow is also known to play a role, and this is where eating your veggies come in.

Green leafy vegetables are an excellent source of nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure (high blood pressure is a risk factor for glaucoma).

There's also some evidence that nitric oxide signaling may be involved in maintaining low eye pressure. Adding more nitrate-rich veggies to your diet may therefore be a simple way to lower your risk of glaucoma.

Indeed, when researchers analyzed data for more than 100,000 U.S. adults, those who consumed the most nitrate (primarily from leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach) had a 21 percent lower risk of developing open-angle glaucoma (the most common form) compared to those who ate the least.2

How Much Nitrate Per Day Was Protective?

Leafy greens were the richest source of nitrates in the study participants' diets. Those who ate the most leafy greens were 48 percent less likely to develop "paracentral" glaucoma, which is particularly associated with blood flow.

So how much nitrate appeared to be protective against glaucoma? Those who were on the high end of consumption consumed about 1.5 servings of greens daily, which contain about 240 milligrams (mg) of nitrate.

Those on the low-end of the spectrum consumed just one-third serving of leafy greens daily, which contained about 80 mg of nitrate. Overall, kale and collard greens appeared to be most beneficial. According to the researchers:3

"The only vegetable that was consistently inversely associated with POAG was kale or collard greens: 1 serving or more per month of kale or collard greens was significantly associated with 55% to 70% reduced odds of POAG [primary open-angle glaucoma]."

While many vegetables contain natural nitrates, some of the best sources include:

Collard greensCabbageBeets CeleryRadishesKale SpinachGreen beans
Beyond Nitrates: Why Dark Leafy Greens Are Excellent for Vision Health

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 87 percent of Americans are not meeting vegetable intake recommendations and 76 percent are not eating the recommended amount of fruits.4

This means that many are missing out on the protective effects of green leafy vegetables, and this extends far beyond nitrates. For instance, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are primarily found in green leafy vegetables, with kale and spinach topping the list of lutein-rich foods.

Other healthy options include Swiss chard, collard greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Lutein and zeaxanthin are both important nutrients for eye health,5 as both of them are found in high concentrations in your macula — the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision.

More specifically, lutein is also found in your macular pigment — known for helping to protect your central vision and aid in blue light absorption — and zeaxanthin is found in your retina. Both have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and advanced macular degeneration.

Microgreens Have Magnified Nutrition

While lettuce is typically listed as a healthy leafy green (and a good source of nitrates), there's a growing movement that suggests you should ditch your lettuce in favor of more nutritious options, like microgreens.

It’s not that lettuce is bad, per se. It’s just that, pound for pound, it doesn’t really supply the concentration of nutrients that you could get from microgreens. Microgreens are basically very young vegetables, harvested at about 1 or 2 weeks when they’re only a few inches tall.

Specifically, microgreens are "harvested when seed-leaves have fully expanded and before true leaves have emerged."6

The greens are snipped off above the root (in contrast to sprouts, in which you consume the whole thing — root, stem, seed and all) and can be enjoyed in place of lettuce or even as a vegetable side dish.

Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found microgreens may contain up to six times more vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene and other nutrients than mature greens.7

Red cabbage, cilantro, garnet amaranth, and green daikon radish were noted as particularly nutritious microgreens, but you may also want to try basil, broccoli, kale and sunflower microgreens.

They're pricey to buy at specialty markets, so your best bet (for your wallet and for freshness) is to simply grow your own at home.

Another Reason Why Healthy Diet (and Exercise) May Lower Glaucoma Risk: Insulin Resistance

A diet focused on processed foods (i.e. sugars, grains and unhealthy fats) sets the stage for developing insulin resistance, which in turn is associated with multiple chronic diseases, including glaucoma.

In fact, insulin resistance and related conditions, including diabetes, pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome all increase glaucoma risk.8 The remedy, in part, is to simply eat real food, including plenty of vegetables. Vegetables are rich in vitamin K1, which increases insulin sensitivity.9

Dark green leafy vegetables are also a good source of magnesium, another nutrient that may play a key role in helping to prevent insulin resistance and diabetes, and therefore may affect your glaucoma risk.

Following my nutrition plan will automatically reduce, or eliminate, excess sugar and grain intake from your diet while helping you increase your vegetable intake and optimize your insulin levels. Aside from eating right, one of the most effective ways to lower your insulin levels is through exercise.

A regular exercise program consisting of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training and more can go a long way toward reducing your insulin levels and thereby protecting your vision. Regular exercise may also help reduce eye pressure in open-angle glaucoma.10

This Green Drink Is a Real Pick-Me-Up

If you're looking for a different way to get more vegetables into your diet, try vegetable juicing. Raw juice can be likened to a "living broth," as it is teeming with micronutrients that many people are lacking. When you drink fresh-made green juice, it is almost like receiving an intravenous infusion of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes because they go straight into your system without having to be broken down.

Leafy greens lend themselves extremely well to juicing, too, although you can add virtually any combination of veggies that you enjoy. For a recipe that provides a perfect pick-me-up in the morning or during your afternoon slump, along with beneficial leafy greens and more, try this green drink recipe from Greatist. Look for organic ingredients if possible:11

Perk-Me-Up Green Drink

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-size pears
  • 1 cup spinach
  • ¼ cucumber
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1 medium-size lime
  • ½-inch ginger

Directions:

  1. Remove the rind from the lime. (You can also leave it on, particularly if the lime is organic.)
  2. Push all ingredients through juicer, pour into two glasses, and stir.
What Else Can You Eat to Benefit Your Vision Health?

Vegetables are important for vision health, but they don't represent the whole picture. To protect your eyes from disease and maintain proper eyesight even as you age, be sure your diet includes plenty of the following foods for healthy vision:

Organic Pastured Egg Yolks

Egg yolk is a source of both lutein and zeaxanthin along with healthy fat and protein, and while the total amount of carotenoids is lower than in many vegetables, they're in a highly absorbable, nearly ideal form. According to research,12 adding a couple of eggs to your salad can also increase the carotenoid absorption from the whole meal as much as ninefold.

Keep in mind that once you heat egg yolks (or spinach) the lutein and zeaxanthin become damaged, and will not perform as well in protecting your vision; so cook your eggs as little as possible, such as poached, soft-boiled, or raw.

Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon

Rich in omega-3s, the omega-3 fat DHA is concentrated in your eye's retina. It provides structural support to cell membranes that boost eye health and protect retinal function, and research suggests eating more foods rich in these fats may slow macular degeneration.

Those with the highest intake of animal-based omega-3 fats have a 60 percent lower risk of advanced macular degeneration compared to those who consume the least.13 A 2009 study also found that those with the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30 percent less likely to progress to the advanced form of the disease over a 12-year period.14

A second study published in 2009 found those with diets high in omega-3 fats, along with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin, had a lower risk of macular degeneration.15 In addition to wild-caught Alaskan salmons, sardines and anchovies are other good sources of animal-based omega-3s.

Astaxanthin

Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is a good source of astaxanthin, but you may not be able to eat enough of it to reap optimal clinical results. Astaxanthin is produced only by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis when its water supply dries up, forcing it to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation.

Compelling evidence suggests this potent antioxidant may be among the most important nutrients for the prevention of blindness. It's a much more powerful antioxidant than both lutein and zeaxanthin and has been found to have protective benefits against a number of eye-related problems, including:

Cataracts Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) Cystoid macular edema Diabetic retinopathy Glaucoma Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis) Retinal arterial occlusion Venous occlusion

Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not), which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection right to your eyes.

Dr. Mark Tso,16 now of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, but who was my boss when I worked at the University of Illinois Eyebank in the1970s, has demonstrated that astaxanthin easily crosses into the tissues of your eye and exerts its effects safely and with more potency than any of the other carotenoids, without adverse reactions.

Depending on your individual situation, you may want to take an astaxanthin supplement. I recommend starting with 4 milligrams (mg) per day. Krill oil also contains high-quality animal-based omega-3 fat in combination with naturally occurring astaxanthin, albeit at lower levels than what you'll get from an astaxanthin supplement.

Black Currants

Black currants contain some of the highest levels of anthocyanins found in nature — approximately 190 to 270 milligrams per 100 grams — which is far more than that found in even bilberries. They're also rich in essential fatty acids, lending added support to their anti-inflammatory properties. Anthocyanins are flavonoids, and the health benefits of these antioxidants are extensive. As discussed in one 2004 scientific paper:17

"Anthocyanin isolates and anthocyanin-rich mixtures of bioflavonoids may provide protection from DNA cleavage, estrogenic activity (altering development of hormone-dependent disease symptoms), enzyme inhibition, boosting production of cytokines (thus regulating immune responses), anti-inflammatory activity, lipid peroxidation, decreasing capillary permeability and fragility, and membrane strengthening."

For medicinal purposes, many opt for using black currant seed oil, which is available in capsule form. But eating the whole food is always an option, especially when they're in season.

PBS Frontline Hit Piece on Vitamins and Supplements

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Dietary supplements are big business. In the U.S., sales totaled nearly $37 billion in 2014. According to estimates by the National Institutes of Health (NIH),1 more than one-third of all Americans take some form of dietary supplement in any given month.

Among seniors over the age of 71, 48 percent of women and 43 percent of men use them. Other estimates2 place the number of supplement users in the U.S. as high as 69 percent.

Vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements have a tremendously safe track record, yet they are often singled out as being potentially dangerous3,4 by government agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others.

For many years now, an organized campaign has been waged against supplements, with the aim of regulating them as drugs rather than food, as is currently the case. Canadian Broadcast News (CBC) News, The New York Times, and PBS/Frontline all appear to be part of this campaign.5

If you thought PBS was above such shenanigans, think again. If you've been a regular viewer of PBS, you've likely noticed the increase in sponsored messages over the last few years, and among these "underwriters," as they're now called,6 you have Monsanto, Pfizer, and Merck, just to name a few.

If you have ever supported PBS in the past I would hope you seriously reconsider and refrain from donating any money to an organization that has clearly demonstrated they are nothing more than an industry shill and could care less about your health.

PBS Frontline Goes to Bat Against the Supplement Industry While Promoting Junk Food

Most recently, Frontline aired a program focused on the concern that consumers may endanger their health by taking vitamins and supplements. What I saw struck me as a solid confirmation that PBS is not at all interested in your health.

Their supposed consumer assistance program begins with a recipe ad for "Cheez-it cheesy chicken bites" and Dr. Pepper. Coat factory farmed chicken breast with Cheez-its, bake it in the oven, and wash it down with some soda!

For an investigative journalism piece supposedly concerned about the health and well-being of consumers, this strikes me as irrational, unless PBS and Frontline were shilling for the Junk Food and Big Pharma industry.

Immediately after that industry shilling commercial, a concerned individual asks how someone could sell a product that isn’t safe or effective. Ambulances and doctors flash across the screen, with all the drama and frenzy surrounding a deadly plane crash.

Well, I would hardly consider CAFO chicken, Cheez-its and Dr. Pepper "safe," and at least the latter two are hardly "effective" as they are deceptively disguised as food when in fact they're no such thing.

They're processed food-like products that bear no resemblance to real food, chockfull of sugars and synthetic food additives scientifically proven to cause metabolic dysfunction and other health problems, not to mention food addiction.

There is no question in my mind that these foods have likely contributed to the premature death of many millions of people while the supplements PBS is so concerned about have not even been incriminated in one single death.

CBC Retracts Report on Supplements

Last November, CBC News published a Marketplace report7 in which they claimed a number of supplement makers had essentially ripped off their customers by failing to live up to the claims on their labels.

On January 21, they RETRACTED8 the report, as their tests were proven inaccurate. Sadly, by that time the damage was already done. As reported by CBC News:9

"Last fall, Marketplace commissioned lab testing for samples of fish oil, vitamin C and protein powder supplements to see if consumers are actually getting what they pay for...

However, subsequent re-testing of the samples has found that the lab results and analysis provided to Marketplace were incorrect, and that there is no evidence of problems with those products...

In response to the discovery, Marketplace is evaluating its protocols around the use of lab testing.

In a report to be broadcast on Marketplace on Friday [January 22] ... host Erica Johnson says, 'We regret giving you incorrect information and any harm it may have caused the companies in our report ...'" [Emphasis mine]

Biased Journalism Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

It's one thing for the testing to be faulty and inaccurate, but shouldn't responsible journalists provide test results to those they are accusing before publishing to prevent these errors in the first place?

My guess is their goal was to obtain incriminating test data and publish it as soon as possible.

Accuracy was secondary, but in this case they got caught with their pants down — and hopefully one or more of the companies caught in this smear campaign sues them for the damage caused by their carelessness.

The New York Times also published a hit piece against supplements last year in which they failed to double-check the veracity of the lab results they reported on. As recently noted by NewHope360:10

"When the New York attorney general's office announced its sting operation last February against the four biggest supplements retailers, the Times was right there with the story.

It took a rival story in The New Yorker11 to point out the obvious — that the test used (DNA barcoding) was inappropriate for testing botanical extracts, had in fact been roundly criticized a year earlier by academia and industry alike when DNA was first used in a published study to study extracts."

Quality Variations Exist in Every Industry

Let's be clear, I'm not here to defend the entire supplement industry.

There's a wide range of quality in the supplement business, as in every other industry, and you'd be wise to think twice before taking "gas station" supplements that promise to increase your sex drive, give you the body of a super-model, or jolt you awake for the next several hours.

Many of these products are pharmaceuticals disguised as supplements, already illegal by existing regulations - yet most of these reports repeatedly lie and refer to the supplement industry as "unregulated". But just because there are a few low integrity companies doesn't mean that the entire industry is acting fraudulently.

In fact, since Americans began taking supplements back in the 1940s, not a single death has been reported as a result. The same cannot be said for drugs, which is the "safety model" they now want supplements to conform to.

Throughout Frontline's program, the FDA is featured as an inept organization. Peculiarly, they also encourage more FDA regulation, implying if supplements are more like drugs they'd be safe. If the FDA is inept, why would we want them to regulate supplements like drugs, which have a proven hazard record?

Supplements Have an Enviable Safety Record

Even when taken as prescribed, drugs kill an estimated 106,000 Americans each year,12 and that's using decades-old data. Today more people use more drugs, so the death toll is far higher. Given that, one could easily argue that we need much more stringent regulations on drugs.

The same cannot be said for supplements. Data provided in a 2012 report13 by the U.K.-based Alliance for Natural Health International, showed that adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs are 62,000 times more likely to kill you than food supplements.

More recent data again confirms the safety of supplements. As announced by the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service14 on January 3rd:

"There were no deaths whatsoever from vitamins in the year 2014. The 32th annual report15 from the American Association of Poison Control Centers shows zero deaths from multiple vitamins. And, there were no deaths whatsoever from vitamin A, niacin, vitamin B-6, any other B-vitamin. There were no deaths from vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, or from any vitamin at all."

The one thing that can be conclusively said about supplements is that they may be the safest category for any consumable product, regardless of the specific cases highlighted by Frontline. On the whole, junk food and drugs are FAR more likely to harm or kill you.

Drugs have addicted this nation, destroyed families, and even when properly prescribed they kill over 100,000 people every year. Tylenol alone kills nearly 500 people annually, and ironically the supplement NAC is used to save the lives of those poisoned. So, to make supplements safer, we should make the inept FDA regulate them as drugs that kill tens of thousands each year? Quite the logic!

Also, it bears repeating that supplements are in fact already regulated by both the FDA16 and the Federal Trade Commission17 (FTC) — the former regulating both the finished product and individual ingredients, and the latter regulating the advertising of supplements. So while not regulated as drugs, but rather as a food, they are fully regulated.

Should 'Big Brother' Eliminate Low Quality Options?

In all industries there is a wide range of quality and a wide array of consumer options, and as the old saying goes, "you get what you pay for". However, in the case of supplements, the most likely outcome of taking a low quality product is that it won't give you any benefits, while a drug could very easily kill you. So is it now the government's job to eliminate low quality options?

If so, they'd have to completely redo the school lunch program and empty most grocery store shelves. I doubt Pepsi, Coke, Kraft and all the other junk food purveyors would allow that to happen.

Whatever happened to choice? I advocate that people take control of their health, because the more power we abdicate to the federal government, the more easily influenced they get by the people and the industries with the most money. The entire supplement industry doesn't even earn what Pepsi makes in a year, and cannot in any way compete with the drug industry in terms of profits. In short, it has virtually no political clout whatsoever.

Is it really a good idea to give the drug industry the power to "improve" supplements? I think there's plenty of evidence to show this campaign against supplements to be a deliberate plan to ensure supplements become regulated like drugs, which would put the drug industry in a perfect position to eliminate the supplement industry altogether, and what few supplements remain would become prohibitively expensive. This benefits no one, with the exception of the drug industry.

The Problem With Fish Oil Also Applies to Cooking Oils

Fish oil takes a good beating in Frontline's program, and while the review is clearly biased, they do make at least one relevant point regarding rancidity.

Still, they fail to take in the big picture. Oils are quite perishable, and if they were alarmed at the rancidity of fish oils, they would outright faint were they to test all the vegetable oils that line the shelves of every grocery store and can sit for months or years in people's cabinets!

If rancid (oxidized) fish oil is bad, rancid vegetable oils are undoubtedly worse: a) because people consume far more of them, b) because processed vegetable oils are harmful even when fresh and c) polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) found in vegetable oils are much more unstable and susceptible to oxidation than fish oil, and their health effects far more concerning.18

I don't think anyone is surprised to learn that oils are quite perishable; that's why the food industry started hydrogenating vegetable oils, which then subjected the public to deadly heart disease via trans fats. This fact was finally recognized by the FDA, which has now removed partially hydrogenated oils from the list of GRAS ingredients.

Extracted oils must be carefully handled and preserved to prevent rancidity. This is why I specifically use more expensive capsules than softgels for my krill oil. These hard capsules resist oxygen penetration that would oxidize the oil. The capsules are also filled under a nitrogen blanket, which helps ensure freshness and prevent oxidation. (On top of that, krill also contains astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant that also helps protect the oil from rancidity.)

My krill supplier also noted the following in a correspondence regarding this issue:

"Allow me also to point out that originally PV and anisidine values were set to guarantee consumers of vegetable oils, such as olive and sun-seed oil, an acceptable quality of taste and smell (at time of purchasing). Thus, this was not set as any type of safety precaution. Only later, based on in vitro type experiments on cell cultures, did suggestions emerge about health effects of rancid lipids.

However, until today, nobody has been able to demonstrate any adverse health effects of ingesting rancid oils. (Please see the attached paper19 from 2012 where human ingestion of rancid fish oil (poor souls) gave no established markers of oxidative stress). The fish oil trade association added details from the interview (from what I understand, Frontline basically cut any positive points made to ensure this one-sided story prevailed)."

That said, I do NOT encourage you to consume rancid oils of any kind, including omega-3 oils, and I've strongly cautioned against it in the past. It's a sensible precaution, even if some of the research has failed to find demonstrable adverse effects.

One last point regarding Frontline's omega-3 segment: according to the United Natural Products Alliance, Amarin Pharma — the sole manufacturer of prescription-strength omega-3 — has launched a PR campaign employing doctors to raise doubts about the quality and safety of regular omega-3 supplements.

So while the program disparaged fish oil supplements on the one hand — falsely stating that there's no evidence of health benefits20 — Frontline still compared pharmaceutical-grade fish oil to supplement fish oil, leaving the viewer with the impression that if you do want to use an omega-3 supplement after all, you should use pharmaceutical grade. The problem is that the prescription version is far more expensive.

Frontline Is Severely Conflicted and Lacking Transparency

Thirty-three minutes into the program, Merck's mouthpiece, Dr. Paul Offit, is featured front and center. But there was no disclosure about the millions of dollars he's received from Merck, or that his chair at the University of Pennsylvania is sponsored by Merck. As usual, Offit makes some really embarrassing statements, starting with "do you get enough vitamins from food, the answer is yes."

Yet, look at what the majority of Americans eat — i.e. the same kind of absolute JUNK advertised at the beginning of the program! If Cheez-it covered CAFO chicken and Dr. Pepper is on your menu, I can virtually guarantee you're not getting adequate nutrition.

There's also the issue of fortified foods such as cereals, breads, and other items. Fortified foods are a source of "added" or supplemental vitamins and minerals in most people's diets, and if dietary supplements are dangerous, might not fortified foods pose a hazard as well? Moreover, if vitamins and minerals were to be regulated as drugs, where do fortified foods fall?

The program also attempts to portray fortified milk as a good source of vitamin D rather than taking a vitamin D supplement. In truth, we should be getting our vitamin D from the sun. With sun exposure, you can make thousands of IUs in minutes yet the body has a way of regulating from excess. Also, saying that pasteurized CAFO milk is a natural source of vitamin D is flat out incorrect. It's fortified, and not a natural source.

They also cite a bowl of fortified cereal as a good everyday source of B12 — completely ignoring the health harming effects of this highly processed, completely unnatural sugary product. Meanwhile, modern medicine injects 1 gram of B12 at a time, which amounts to 166 bowls of cereal.

Nowhere in this program do they mention that our foods have become much less nutritious than in centuries past, largely as a result of industrial agriculture practices that have depleted the soils of valuable minerals and nutrients. Additionally, crops are bred for maximum yields, not maximum nutrition. It is impossible to truthfully state that most Americans obtain sufficient nutrition from their diet.

The U.S. is filled to the brim with overweight, sick people, and to make people believe their standard processed diet is nutritious and healthy is misleading if not outright dangerous.

Besides that, Offit probably isn't the best expert advice you can get on this issue, considering his deep connections to the drug industry. Nor is he necessarily the most honest. A few years back, Offit, just like Frontline, was caught having borne "false witness." As noted in the Orange County Register:21

"An OC Register article ... entitled 'Dr. Paul Offit Responds' contained several disparaging statements that Dr. Offit of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia made about CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson and her report. Upon further review, it appears that a number of Dr. Offit's statements, as quoted in the OC Register article, were unsubstantiated and/or false ...

Unsubstantiated statements include: Offit's claim that Attkisson 'lied'; and Offit's claim that CBS News sent a 'mean spirited and vituperative' email 'over the signature of Sharyl Attkisson' stating 'You're clearly hiding something.'

In fact, the OC Register has no evidence to support those claims. Further, Offit told the OC Register that he provided CBS News 'the details of his relationship, and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's relationship, with pharmaceutical company Merck.'

However, documents provided by CBS News indicate Offit did not disclose his financial relationships with Merck, including a $1.5 million Hilleman chair he sits in that is co-sponsored by Merck..." [Emphasis mine]

May Common Sense Prevail

If you were to believe Frontline, your path to optimal health would be lined with Cheez-its, sugar-laden junk food (ah, but fortified with a vitamin or two!), and soda. Don't forget the soda. Just stay away from dietary supplements! They just might kill you. If you're like me, you see right through this nonsense. And maybe like me you will consider letting PBS know you'll be canceling future donations, knowing they're shilling for the junk food industry and Big Pharma.

Luscious Healthy Lemon Curd Smoothie Recipe

Sun, 01/31/2016 - 02:00

If you ask me what the best fruit to use in your smoothies is, there’s one top choice that I would absolutely recommend: avocado. It’s incredibly versatile, has a mildly sweet (but not overpowering) flavor, and gives your smoothie a thick consistency. Plus, it’s brimming with health-boosting nutrients like B vitamins, fiber, and folic acid.   

 

You’ve probably tried my Avocado Super Smoothie recipe, but if you want another variation, here’s a delicious recipe from one of my readers, Mary Lyon. Her Lemon Curd Smoothie combines the tart flavor of lemon and pineapple with the rich goodness of avocado to create a unique but absolutely refreshing drink that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere.

 

Ingredients:

1/2 organic pineapple

2 to 3 organic lemons

1 banana

2 avocados[JLS1] 

Handful of organic greens such as spinach or watercress

1Tbsp. coconut oil

 

Procedure:

  1. Keep the rind on the pineapple and lemon. Cut in small pieces and run through a juicer to separate the juice from the pulp (rinds should not be blended into juice).
  2. Combine pineapple/lemon juice, banana, avocados, greens, and 1 Tbsp. coconut oil in blender, and blend until smooth.

 

This recipe makes 4 servings.

 

 

Tip: Get Creative When Making Smoothies

 

Some people tend to drink only one type of smoothie all the time, and while it might seem healthy and convenient, I would advise you to switch up your smoothie ingredients regularly instead so you can get a wide variety of nutrients in your diet.

 

I highly recommend this smoothie recipe because it truly a packs a nutritional wallop. Not only do you get healthy monounsaturated fats from avocado, but also vitamin C and flavonoids from lemon and pineapple, which can combat inflammation. The latter also contains fiber, and bromelain, an enzyme that is found to have cancer-fighting benefits. 

 

Adding greens like spinach or watercress also upgrades the nutritional content of this smoothie. Many people dislike using greens in their blended drinks because they can be slightly bitter, but the lemon and pineapple will help mask their strong flavor.

 

I recommend using organic fruits (and vegetables) when making smoothies, as conventional produce are usually loaded with pesticides and genetically engineered. Plus, if you’re insulin or leptin resistant, I advise you not to overdo the fruit. In fact, you should limit your fructose intake to 15 grams of fructose per day from ALL sources, including whole fruit.

 [JLS1]This would give each serving ½ an avocado.. Doc would say the avocado is the healthiest part of this smoothie so would recommend increasing the amount. Plus it seems like the amount listed wouldn’t yield 4 smoothies as is or they’d be pretty small.

Why Low-Carb Diets May Be Ideal for Most People, Including Athletes

Sun, 01/31/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Jeff Volek, Ph.D., and registered dietitian and professor in the Human Science Department at Ohio State University, has done enormous work in the field of high-fat, low-carbohydrate diets, investigating how it affects human health and athletic performance.

Volek has published many scientific articles as well as several books, including "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living," and "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance."

Both of these books were co-authored with Dr. Stephen Phinney, a physician and true pioneer in this field, who has studied low-carb diets even longer than Volek.

Starting out as a dietician, Volek was taught that low-fat diets were healthy and that saturated fats and cholesterol should be avoided. But in working with diabetics, he kept feeling that something was "off." Why should diabetics eat so many carbs?

"In essence, it drove me to want to understand metabolism and nutrition at a much deeper level," he says.

"I was also into self-experimentation ... I was at the time into very low-fat diets, thinking that was how I would optimize my own health. But I decided to experiment with a very low-carb diet."

Low-Carb Diets Can Benefit Athletes and Non-Athletes Alike

His experimentation began in the early '90s and, to his great surprise, his low-carb experiment proved to be anything but harmful. This fueled his passion for understanding how humans respond to diets that are very low in carbohydrates, and led him to continue his education.

He has now spent the last 15 years conducting research in this area, and the outcomes from most experiments have been very encouraging.

"The science continues to point in the direction that there are a lot of applications for these diets for a large number of people.

We're still sorting out a lot of the details, but clearly we need to change the way we feed Americans and the way we think about nutrition in order to reverse ... obesity and diabetes."

He's also done research on low- and non-fiber carb diets and athletic performance, and here too results have proved quite positive — despite running counter to everything he was taught about diet and performance in school, and in most of the scientific literature as well.

"It's been an interesting journey to say the least ...The things I was reading, the things I was taught were not really based on a lot of science, and were a lot of half-truths and misinformation, which still persist today," he notes.

Is Your Diet Driving Your Metabolism in the Right Direction?

Most of the food (fuel) people eat these days is moving their metabolism in the wrong direction. The Westernized diet constantly biases you toward using more nonfiber carbs for fuel.

Most Americans are primarily burning glucose as their primary fuel, which actually inhibits their body's ability to access and burn body fat.

Healthy fat, meanwhile, is a far preferable sort of fuel, as it burns far more efficiently than carbs. As noted by Volek, humans evolved to primarily burn fat as fuel — not carbs — and yet that's not how we're feeding our bodies.

"As a result, we're running into a lot of metabolic problems, because we're constantly inhibiting our body's ability to burn fuel that we evolved to burn," he says.

We all have to eat; we need fuel to live. Without generating ATP you cannot survive at all. The question is how to do that efficiently, without generating harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can destroy your mitochondria and contribute to disease?

It's all about keeping your mitochondria healthy, and low-carb, high-fat diets tend to do that far more effectively than high-carb, low-fat diets.

Healthy Fat Is a 'Cleaner' Burning Fuel

An indirect measurement included in one of Volek's books shows that when people burn fat as their primary fuel, their respiratory quotient can go down as low as 0.7 as opposed to 1, which suggests they're generating less carbon dioxide.

Regardless of the fuel your body burns, you're going to generate carbon dioxide and water. But when you burn fat, you generate 30 percent less carbon dioxide, suggesting it's a lot "cleaner" fuel.

"To use the term 'clean,' that's kind of a provocative term, but I think it is an appropriate one because ... there's a lot of 'exhaust' associated with burning carbs for fuel ... free radicals, reactive oxygen species ... That contributes to the metabolic problems we're seeing in this country."

Also, the most efficient way to train your body to use fat for fuel is to remove some of the sugars and starches from your diet. According to Volek, that's true for everyone, whether you're an elite athlete or a sedentary diabetic.

In essence, the reason why low-carb diets work so well is because it helps you escape this non-fiber, carb-based metabolism that depends on insulin levels to drive blood sugar into cells and use carbs for fuel.

Volek also introduces another term: "carb intolerance" — a metabolic impairment that you suffer from if you're insulin resistant or prediabetic. As noted by Volek:

"It really makes no sense if you're carb intolerant to be consuming half your energy from nonfiber carbs, and to be trying to force your body to burn more carbs."

Healthy Versus Harmful Fats

Most Americans consume harmful fats like processed vegetable oils, which will invariably make your health worse. So when we're talking about dietary fats, we're referring to natural, unprocessed fat, found in real foods such as seeds, nuts, butter, olives, avocado, or coconut oil.

Another good one is raw cacao — it's a phenomenal source of healthy saturated fats and many beneficial polyphenols. Fats are critical for a number of health reasons. They contribute to the formation of cellular membranes, for example, and it's really difficult to have good biological function with impaired cell membranes.

So, dietary fat serves two purposes: it serves as fuel; but it's also a foundational structural component of your biology.

If you're trying to lose weight, training your body to access your body fat is key, or else you cannot shed it. So if you're overweight, you want to teach your body to burn excess fat, and then, once you've reached your maintenance weight, the majority of fat your body will be burning is that from dietary sources.

But how do you make this conversion — to allow your body to become adapted to burn fat as your primary fuel — starting with any excess body fat you already have?

How to Make the Conversion from Burning Sugar to Burning Fat

In short, the key is to restrict non-fiber carbohydrates. It's important to make the distinction about which carbs we're talking about here, as vegetables are "carbs" too, but fiber carbs will not push your metabolism in the wrong direction — only the non-fiber ones will (think sugars and anything that converts to sugar, such as soda, processed grains, pasta, bread and cookies, for example).

You calculate the dangerous non-fiber carbs by simply subtracting the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbohydrate in the food.

Another important point is this:

"Your body can burn both carbs and fat, but your body will burn carbs first. As long as you're eating carbs, your body will try to burn those first. They're like the bully cutting in line. You may just think of them as kind of a throw-away nutrient too, because your body cannot store high levels of carb.

You have to try to oxidize them and burn them first. But if you're carb intolerant, which is highly prevalent in this country, you can't burn carbs, by definition, very well.

Your body then only has one alternative, and that's to convert the carbs you eat into fat. That happens to a greater extent to folks who are insulin resistant or carb intolerant. That really sets the stage for a lot of metabolic problems. Again coming back to how do you train the body to burn more fat; it all starts with removing the availability of carbohydrate because, as long as it's there, it's going to take precedence, and will simultaneously inhibit burning of fat.

These are very sensitive and exquisite mechanisms in place for this to work. You eat just a single meal of carbs and your fat-burning shuts down right away.

This is why a low- nonfiber carb diet works so well to shift fuel use over to fat. You restrict the amount of glucose and starches that you're consuming, and your body naturally shifts over to preferring fat for fuel. It does take some time to adapt to that. Your cells have to shift over their machinery to handle the increased levels of fat and lipid-based fuels. It takes a matter of weeks to get that adaptation.

But once it's there, they're fairly robust adaptations that don't just go away. This is why there is an adaptation period to a low-carb diet. It can be disrupted though if you reintroduce carbs. But a lot of the adaptations do remain."

Finding Your Ideal Carb Level

According to Volek, a level of non-fiber carbs that allows you to enter into nutritional ketosis (a metabolic state associated with an increased production of ketones in your liver; it's the biological reflection of being able to burn fat) is on average about 50 grams per day or less of digestible or absorbable carbohydrates. However, we all vary how we respond to the same food, so this is not an exact recommendation.

Some people can be in a full fat-burning state with full ketosis at a level of non-fiber carbs that's higher than 50 grams; maybe 70 or 80 grams. Others, especially if you're insulin resistant or have type 2 diabetes, may require less than 40 grams or even 30 grams per day.

Again, it bears repeating that when we say carbohydrates, we're referring to non-fiber carbs only. If you look at the nutrition facts on a processed food package, it will list total carbs, and that's not what we're talking about. Don't get confused about this or you'll get really nervous. You do need carbs, but you need most all of them from vegetables.

By volume, vegetables are not very calorie-dense. You could have an 85 percent fat diet, and the volume of the fat would be one-tenth the volume of the vegetables you're eating.

To find your personal carb limit, it's important to actually measure your ketones, which can be done either through urine, breath, or blood. This will give you an objective measure of whether or not you're truly in ketosis, rather than just counting the grams of carbohydrates you consume.

"That even varies within a person over time," Volek says. "You may be able to tolerate more carbs when you're in your 20s, but suddenly now you're in middle age and the same level of carbs is resulting in a few extra inches on your waist, your blood sugars are creeping up, you now have prediabetes, or worse.

The appropriate level of carb for an individual is bit of a moving target, but it is a very important element to personalizing a diet, which I think is fundamental to this idea of personalized nutrition. It's finding the appropriate level of carb for you at any given point in your lifespan that allows you to maintain health."

Research has shown that ketosis is a very safe and a therapeutic metabolic state to be in, especially if you're diabetic or suffering from carb intolerance. But there are people who are naturally very insulin sensitive and carb tolerant that don't need to be in ketosis to thrive. So there's certainly room for flexibility, depending on your individual situation.

Ketogenic Diet Can Benefit Many Chronic Health Problems

Beyond insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, there are a number of applications for a well-formulated ketogenic diet, including epileptic seizures, especially in kids who are unresponsive to drugs, and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Cancer is another area where ketogenic diets show great promise.

"I think that is the next frontier of ketogenic diets," Volek says. "There are multiple reasons why many cancers would benefit from a ketogenic diet, not just the decreased glucose availability influx (which many tumors depend on) but also the lower insulin response and less inflammation, as many tumors thrive in a pro-inflammatory environment.

There are multiple potential mechanisms by which a ketogenic diet would benefit, including epigenetic effects. We now know that the principal ketone body, beta hydroxybutyrate, is more than a metabolite. It's more than just an alternative fuel for the brain.

It acts like a hormone or a potent signaling molecule that affects gene expression, including upregulating genes that are protective against oxidative stress and enhance the antioxidant status.

Our knowledge and perspective on ketosis is expanding almost daily. It's all pointing toward positive health effects, which is quite interesting considering that for the last three or four decades, we've been demonizing ketones because we only associate it with ketoacidosis."

Other benefits include the resistance to sugar and other food cravings, as you're never that hungry once you've made the shift. Mental clarity is another great boon. According to Volek, the U.S. military is showing great interest in ketones for this reason — along with the fact that it boosts physical stamina and endurance.

Being an efficient fat burner may also predispose you to a longer life. Dr. Ron Rosedale told me many years ago that the single most important variable for controlling the aging process is the ratio of fat versus carbohydrate you burn. The more fat you burn, the slower you’re going to age in general. More recent research supports this notion.

How Ketogenic Diet May Promote Longevity and Increased Muscle Mass

Recent research has found about a dozen genes associated with longevity. The primary function of one of these genes is to cripple the degradation of branched-chain amino acids, such as leucine, which can be useful for building muscle mass. Interestingly, in one of his books, Volek mentions that ketones share a close structural similarity to these branched-chain amino acids, and seem to be preferentially metabolized.

In other words, ketones spare those branched-chain amino acids, leaving higher levels of them around, which promotes longevity and increased muscle mass.

"We learned a lot about ketogenesis from the classic work done by people in the '60s studying starvation ketosis. One of the reasons why we can survive so long without food is we enter into ketosis, and ketosis spares protein breakdown. One of a more consistent effect we see in people on a ketogenic diet is that leucine levels go up in the blood, because they're not being oxidized to the same level.

Ketones are sparing oxidation and breakdown of important structural proteins, and therefore their levels or concentrations in the blood increase and allow them to do other important signaling-type functions.

I do see a very positive interaction here with nutritional ketosis and protein metabolism in general in sparing of the branched-chain amino acids in particular, which are unique in that they are a preferential fuel, unlike other amino acids, which don't really serve as a fuel substrate," Volek explains.

The Importance of Eating Moderate Protein

There's also a "sweet spot" regarding protein. You don't want more protein than your body actually needs. As noted by Volek, this is an important point because there's a common misconception that low non-fiber carb diets are high-protein diets. In reality, a ketogenic diet must actually be moderate in protein because excessive protein is anti-ketogenic.

On the other hand, you don't want to consume too little protein, as this may push you into a negative nitrogen balance. As a general rule, I recommend eating one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day, which for most sedentary folks is 40 to 70 grams, but this may be higher for athletes and larger individuals.

The best approach is to measure ketosis to know you are not over-consuming protein.  For details on how to calculate this, please see my previous article, "The Very Real Risks of Consuming Too Much Protein."

"It's also important to maximize the quality of the protein," Volek says. "I am a general proponent of high-quality protein sources [such as] whey protein. Most animal sources of protein maintain these essential amino acids [discussed above].

I do think, with the potentially unique characteristics of leucine and branched-chain amino acids, we may discover that it's beneficial to include extra leucine even within a context of a ketogenic diet ... Especially if you're an athlete wanting to enhance lean body mass, there could be some benefit to specific use of leucine in particular after exercise or even before exercise ...

I generally think including all three [is best]. Leucine is a potent stimulator of mTOR and protein synthesis in skeletal muscles. It's one thing to turn on the machinery, but you still have to have the building blocks in order to build proteins. I do think it's important that you have full complement of the essential amino acids to make sure that you have all the material there to take advantage of the signaling effect of leucine."

Low-Carb Benefits for Athletes

The dogma in sports nutrition for the last four decades has been that in order to perform at a higher level and recover adequately, athletes need to consume high amounts of (non-vegetable) carbs before, during, and after exercise. However, in more recent years, the understanding of how low-carb diets can augment performance in certain athletes is starting to catch on.

It has certainly gained a great deal of traction in the ultra-endurance world, where athletes are exercising continuously for several hours.

"To be quite frank, they're challenged from a fueling perspective," Volek says, "because if they're eating carbs, they're inhibiting their ability to burn fat optimally. They're putting themselves in a situation where they're increasingly dependent on providing more carbs.

You can only store a limited amount of carbs in your body as glycogen, about 2,000 kilocalories, and if you're exercising for more than a couple of hours, you're burning through the majority of that stored carbohydrate.

That's when an athlete hits the wall. We know that's associated with obvious decrements in performance. How do you avoid that? You can carb-load. That's been the traditional recommendation; to try to pack even more carbs into your muscles ... but that will only delay exercise fatigue by a half hour or so. That doesn't really solve the problem.

It actually exacerbates the problem in some ways. The alternative is to train your body to burn more fat. If you're burning fat and sparing carbohydrates, you don't hit the wall. That's one of the most commonly perceived benefits of a low-carb diet for athletes."

Athletes who adopt this strategy can become exceptionally good at burning fat. Even if they're not eating calories during exercise, lean athletes have at least 20,000 to 30,000 kilocalories on their body in the form of adipose tissue that they can access during exercise. That's more than enough to finish even a 100-mile race. So from a fueling perspective, it makes sense that you'd want to burn more fat as opposed to carbohydrate.

Ultra-endurance athletes who have switched to low-carb, high-fat diets are now winning races and, in some cases, setting new course records. They're also experiencing other benefits, such as speedier recovery rates, improved metabolic health, and a leaner body composition.

More Information

Mounting evidence suggests low- non-fiber carb, high-fat diets may be the key that many people have been looking for, as it solves more than one problem. Not only does it help you shed excess body fat, it does so while simultaneously improving metabolism, boosting overall energy levels, and promoting optimal health and maximizing longevity in a number of different ways.

It can also help ward off neurological dysfunction, boost mental clarity, and improve athletic performance.

For those who struggle with insulin resistance or diabetes, it's certainly one of the most efficient ways to reverse the condition. Even those suffering with more serious conditions, such as cancer, may reap significant benefits.

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up one or both of Volek's books — "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living," and "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance" — the latter of which is geared toward athletes in particular.

How Important Is It to Wash New Clothes Before Wearing Them?

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Raise your hand if you're guilty of bringing home a new shirt or pair of pants from the store and wearing them, sans washing. It's very common, maybe even typical, as many fabrics look pristine when they're fresh off the rack.

You probably assume they're clean or at least relatively so, but tests conducted by Philip Tierno, Ph.D. director of Microbiology and Immunology at New York University, at the behest of Good Morning America, uncovered some disturbing compounds lurking on clothing.

And this is only one reason to consider washing before wearing. Many clothing items are also contaminated with chemicals and dyes that may lead to irritation or other health issues.

Even insects (like lice) could potentially be transmitted on new clothes. If you're currently not a washer-before-wearing type, you may change your mind by the end of this article.

Feces, Respiratory Secretions, Vaginal Organisms and More

Tierno tested pants, blouses, underwear, jackets and other clothing items purchased from chain clothing stores (including both high-end and low-end options). The tests revealed a number of unsavory compounds lurking on the "new" clothes, including:1

  • Respiratory secretions
  • Skin flora
  • Fecal flora
  • Yeast

Perhaps not surprisingly, swimsuits, underwear and other intimate items were the most heavily contaminated. Tierno told ABC News:2

"Some garments were grossly contaminated with many organisms … indicating that either many people tried it or ... someone tried it on with heavy contamination …

In a sense, you are touching somebody's arm pit or groin. So you want to be protected that's all … You may not come down with anything and, most cases you don't, but it's potentially possible."

What types of illnesses could you potentially get from trying on contaminated clothes? Organisms that cause hepatitis A, traveler's diarrhea, MRSA, salmonella, norovirus, yeast infections and streptococcus are all fair game when it comes to clothing items tried on by multiple people.

Even lice and scabies could potentially be transmitted by trying on clothes. Is it likely? No. Possible? Yes, particularly if your immune system is not functioning up to par. Tierno told The Huffington Post:3

"The good thing is that most people have a very robust immune system, so they can usually fight off the small number of organisms they may get on their body … The fact that you come into contact with one doesn't mean you're going to get sick."

Chemical Contaminants: Another Reason to Wash New Clothes

Depending on what country your new clothes were manufactured in, they may contain multiple chemicals of concern. Among them are azo-aniline dyes, which may cause skin reactions ranging from mild to severe.

If you're sensitive, such dyes may leave your skin red, itchy and dry, especially where the fabric rubs on your skin, such as at your waist, neck, armpits and thighs. The irritants can be mostly washed out, but it might take multiple washings to do so.

Formaldehyde resins are also used in clothing to cut down on wrinkling and mildew. Not only is formaldehyde a known carcinogen, but the resins have been linked to eczema and may cause your skin to become flaky or erupt in a rash.4

Nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE), meanwhile, is a toxic endocrine-disrupting surfactant used to manufacture clothing.

You certainly don't want to be exposed to NPE if you can help it, but when consumers wash their clothes, NPEs are released into local water supplies where wastewater treatment plants are unable to remove them.

When NPEs enter the environment, they break down into nonylphenol (NP), a toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemical that accumulates in sediments and builds up in fish and wildlife.

Chemicals May Lurk in Your Clothing Even After Washing

Unfortunately, washing won't remove all the chemicals in your clothing. For instance, the antimicrobial triclosan is sometimes added to fabrics, including clothing. Research has shown that triclosan can alter hormone regulation and may interfere with fetal development.

Animal studies have also raised concerns about its ability to affect fertility, and bacteria exposed to triclosan may also become resistant to antibiotics. Even an increased cancer risk has been suggested.

Stain-proof clothing, meanwhile, is a common source of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which are toxic to humans and the environment. You'll most often hear about PFCs in relation to non-stick cookware, but they're also common in fabrics.

Unless the clothing you buy is organic, it also is likely made from genetically engineered (GE) cotton that is heavily treated with pesticides and other chemicals during production. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) explained:5

"The chemicals used in cotton production don't end with cultivation. As an aid in harvesting, herbicides are used to defoliate the plants, making picking easier.

Producing a textile from the plants involves more chemicals in the process of bleaching, sizing, dying, straightening, shrink reduction, stain and odor resistance, fireproofing, mothproofing, and static- and wrinkle-reduction.

Some of these chemicals are applied with heat, thus bonding them to the cotton fibers. Several washings are done throughout the process, but some of the softeners and detergents leave a residue that will not totally be removed from the final product.

Chemicals often used for finishing include formaldehyde, caustic soda, sulfuric acid, bromines, urea resins, sulfonamides, halogens, and bromines.

Some imported clothes are now impregnated with long-lasting disinfectants which are very hard to remove, and whose smell gives them away. These and the other chemical residues affect people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.

Also, people have developed allergic reactions, such as hives, to formaldehyde through skin contact with solutions on durable-press clothing containing formaldehyde."

Conventionally Grown GE Cotton Is the 'World's Dirtiest Crop'

You might be surprised to learn that cotton is considered the world's dirtiest crop due to the cotton industry's heavy use of hazardous herbicides and insecticides, including some of the most hazardous insecticides on the market. According to the Organic Trade Association:6

"Cotton is considered the world's 'dirtiest' crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world's insecticides, more than any other single major crop.

Aldicarb, parathion, and methamidopho, three of the most acutely hazardous insecticides to human health as determined by the World Health Organization, rank in the top ten most commonly used in cotton production.

All but one of the remaining seven most commonly used are classified as moderately to highly hazardous.

Aldicarb, cotton's second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater."

As you might suspect, this is hazardous on multiple levels — for the farmers working with these chemicals, the people living nearby, the consumers buying the cotton and virtually everyone else, who will eventually be impacted by this widespread environmental pollution.

This is one reason why I strongly encourage you to choose organic cotton clothing whenever possible — it will not be genetically engineered and subject to this onslaught of toxic exposures.

Top Tips for Safer Clothing

Looking for clothing made from organic cotton is an excellent start to finding safe, non-toxic clothing (for you and the environment). You can also look for the OEKO-TEX Standard 100 label, which is indicative that it has been tested by an independent laboratory and found to be free of harmful levels of more than 100 substances, including:

  • Azo dyes
  • Phthalates
  • Heavy metals
  • Pesticides
  • Allergenic dyes

Finally, many experts do recommend washing new clothes when you bring them home from the store, maybe even twice. If the article of clothing cannot be machine washed, consider running it through a cycle in a hot dryer before wearing it.

You may also want to keep on some clothes while trying on new clothing at a store (at least leave on your undergarments, and then wash those too when you get home). Washing your hands after shopping is also a good idea, as you've been handling clothing that could have any number of chemicals and other contaminants on them.

For Optimal Health and Weight, Eat Real Food

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Michael Pollan's PBS documentary "In Defense of Food" is based on Pollan's book by the same name. The title may seem odd at first. What kind of defense might food be in need of?

According to Pollan, food must be defended for the simple reason that the majority of what people eat today is not actually real food: it’s "edible food-like substances" that have no counterpart in nature.

You don't have to go very far back in history to get to a point where "what should I eat?" was a nonexistent question. Everyone knew what "food" was. They harvested food off trees, bushes and out of the ground, and they ate it, either raw or cooked in some fashion.

Our current confusion about what to eat is basically the result of forgetfulness. The food industry and nutritional science both stand to gain from this kind of confusion.

They keep trying to "help" you, yet for all their expert help, people have only gotten sicker. Neither of these industries has outsmarted or outperformed nature as of yet.

Pollan also argues that you cannot divorce yourself from the health of the food chain of which you are a part. Soil health, for example, is a crucial component as it affects the health of the food grown in it, so how and where food is grown is a factor to be taken into consideration.

A Healthy Diet Cannot Be Reduced to Individual Nutrients

The food industry has radically altered — or as Pollan says, destroyed — our diet; reducing "food" to a list of individual nutrients listed on a box. Some of these nutrients are said to be "good," whereas others are said to be "bad." And, which is which changes at regular intervals.

Advertising also plays a role, with all manner of junk food being presented as having some sort of benefit. The tendency to think about food in terms of nutrients is also fueled by the food industry's practice of making health claims for specific nutrients added to or removed from their products.

As a result, confusion reigns when it comes to what foods should be on the plate. Pollan refers to this as "The American Paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become."

The Key to Healthy Eating — Eat REAL Food

The success of the processed food industry has come at a tremendous price. As noted in the film, diet-related disease is at an all-time high, and people's lives are at stake. But while many realize that their health problems are in fact related to their diet, they're at a loss as to the changes that need to be made.

"We're looking for dietary salvation," Pollan says.

What is the answer to our problems? Many are convinced that eating healthy is a complicated equation requiring loads of nutritional data. But they're wrong. As noted in the film, "You don't have to be a scientist to know how to eat."

It's actually much simpler than you might think. Pollan offers the following seven-word guide to healthier eating: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I would specify that further by pointing out that what he's talking about is REAL food, i.e. food as close to its natural state as possible.

Other practical advice offered throughout this program includes the following:

  • Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
  • Eat only foods that will eventually spoil or rot.
  • Treat meat as a flavoring or special occasion food.
  • While Pollan focuses on the links between red meat and cardiovascular disease, I believe the most important points to remember when it comes to meat are:

    1. Eat only organic grass-fed and grass-finished meats, as conventional meats are qualitatively inferior.
    2. Limit your intake to around one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. While you need protein, most Americans are simply eating too much, and of a low quality.
Real Food Diets May Differ, but Most Are Healthy

Science actually confirms that a wide variety of diets can be healthy — provided they're based on real food, as unadulterated foods contain all the nutrients your body needs, and in far more ideal ratios than nutritional scientists can guesstimate.

In the film, Pollan journeys across the world, looking at people's diets and the results thereof. Repeatedly, he confirms this truth: Those who eat historically traditional diets are healthier and live longer.

This holds true for hunter-gatherers on the plains of Tanzania, Seventh Day Adventists in California who are primarily vegetarians, and the French, whose diet is still steeped in culture and tradition. The specific foods and ratios thereof may differ, yet they all reap the benefits of good health.

Another example is the Mediterranean diet, of which there are many variations. But the primary hallmark of all of them is again fresh, whole, minimally processed foods.

Vitamins and Other Nutrients Are Best Obtained From Real Food

Pollan also explores the trends of vitamin supplementation, showing that while vitamins are indeed good for you, the best way to obtain them is from real food. One of the primary reasons we have to supplement with vitamins in the first place is because they've been removed or destroyed during processing.

The other challenge is that industrial farming practices have radically diminished the minerals in most soils, which secondarily depletes the nutrient density of many foods. Take beef for example.

Beef raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) doesn't have the omega-3 and CLA content of organically raised, grass-fed beef, because the animals are fed an unnatural diet of grains and other additives, including sugar (molasses) and artificial sweeteners.

Hence, many processed foods make bold health claims based on the vitamins added back in; some of which are more nonsensical than others. For example, Schlitz once advertised Vitamin D beer! Other examples include breakfast cereals boasting heart-healthy fiber and vitamins, despite the primary ingredient being sugar — one of the most health-harming substances on the planet.

Ditto for yogurt. While most commercial yogurts contain beneficial bacteria, they can also contain as much sugar as a can of soda, which effectively counteracts any good those microbes might do.

Moreover, commercial yogurts are almost always pasteurized, which kills off any and all bacteria. Select groups of bacteria are then added back in, but the end result is a far cry from traditionally cultured yogurt made from unpasteurized (raw) milk, in which the bacteria are allowed to multiply and thrive normally.

The Cornucopia Institute has evaluated 130 different commercial yogurt brands, scoring them based on information from ingredient labels, independent testing and, in the case of organic brands, the score brands achieved on Cornucopia's organic dairy scorecard.

So before you buy another commercial yogurt, take a look at their Yogurt Buyers Guide, and remember, your healthiest option is to buy yogurt made from raw milk from your local farmer or farmer's market.

How Nutritional Guidelines Have Decimated Public Health

While nutritional guidelines have often been less than ideal, influenced as they are by various industries (such as the sugar and beef industry), perhaps one of the most serious flaws has been the recommendation to avoid dietary fats. It's difficult to estimate just how many premature deaths have resulted from the low-fat diet recommendation, but my guess is that this is easily into the hundreds of millions.

Many studies have confirmed the disadvantage of low-fat diets. As just one example, a 2013 Spanish trial,1,2 which included nearly 7,450 volunteers between the ages of 55 and 80, was halted for ethical reasons after eight years, as the control group was deemed to be at a dangerous disadvantage.

The two intervention groups ate a Mediterranean-style diet — low in red meat, sugar, processed carbs, and junk food; and high in most everything else, including healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, legumes, and seafood, supplemented with either 30 grams of nuts per day (15 grams walnuts, 7.5 grams almonds, and 7.5 grams hazelnuts), or 50 ml of virgin olive oil per day instead of nuts. The control group ate a low-fat diet.

There were no calorie restrictions for any of the groups, nor was physical activity promoted or required. Compliance with olive oil and nut consumption was tested via blood and urine analysis. The primary end point was a composite of myocardial infarction, stroke, and death from cardiovascular causes. Secondary end points were stroke, myocardial infarction, death from cardiovascular causes, and death from any cause.

Remarkably, in less than five years, the two intervention groups achieved a 30 percent relative risk reduction for cardiovascular disease, and stroke reduction was an impressive 49 percent. According to conventional wisdom, such benefits have been seen in the low-fat group, but the converse turned out to be true, and the study was stopped early to protect the health of the control group.

As a General Rule, Whole Foods Contain Healthy Fats

So for the last 60 years, people have been admonished to eat a low-fat diet to protect their heart health. Unsurprisingly, all this time, that dangerous recommendation has actually fueled the very problem it was said to treat — a sad testament to the dangers of following nutritional guidelines based on ideas about nutrients rather than real food. Low-fat foods exist in abundance in nature, and they're called fruits and vegetables.

Other foods, such as olives, avocados, coconut oil, butter from raw milk, and beef, are high in fats, and that's a good thing. Your body needs fat for energy, the production of hormones, nerve and brain function, vitamin conversion, mineral absorption, and a host of other biological processes. As a general rule, if the fat comes from real food, it's "good."

The real problem with dietary fat arises from the processing. Harmful trans fats, for example, are formed when vegetable oil hardens, a process called hydrogenation. Science has now confirmed that the health risks previously attributed to saturated fat are actually caused by trans fats, and this includes raising your LDL cholesterol, lowering HDL, clogging your arteries, and promoting heart disease and other serious health problems.

Fat Versus Sugar — Which Actually Causes Obesity?

Reducing fat in our diet has also increased obesity — another health problem the low-fat diet was said to solve — and the reason for this is because the food industry replaced the fat with sugar. The documentary "The Secrets of Sugar," which you can view in my previous article, "Sugar Industry Secrets Exposed," tells the story of how the food industry has known for decades about the links between a processed food diet and disease.

On a mission to change how the sugar industry operates, Colorado Community Care Dentist Cristin Kearns Couzens stumbled upon evidence that they were already worried about sugar's role in heart disease as far back as the early 1970s.

She unearthed more than 1,500 pages of internal memos, letters, and reports, buried in the archives of now-defunct sugar companies, as well as in the recently released papers of deceased researchers and consultants who played key roles in the industry's strategy.

The sugar industry was sweating the impending book, "Pure White and Deadly," (1972) by British nutritionist John Yudkin, in which he presented decades of research pointing at dietary sugar — rather than fat — as the underlying factor in obesity and diabetes.

The Sugar Association secretly funded a white paper called "Sugar in the Diet of Man" that claimed sugar was not only safe and healthy, but important. Not only did they fund it, but they made it appear to be an independent study.

The Sugar Association's biggest apologist was Ancel Keys who, with industry funding, helped destroy Yudkin's reputation by labeling him a quack. The smear campaign was a huge success, bringing sugar research to a screeching halt. Keys' flawed research was also used as the basis for the low-fat recommendation.

Today, the research overwhelmingly supports Yudkin's initial warnings about sugar being a primary culprit in obesity, diabetes, and related health problems, including cancer and heart disease — two primary killers of modern man.

The Links Between Your Gut Microbiome, Diet and Health

Pollan's film also delves into some of the latest studies showing the role your gut bacteria play in your health, the importance of a plant-based diet, and how the Westernized diet has altered our gut microbiome in ways that beget poor health.

Fermented foods are important for gut health, but so is fiber. Soluble fibers, such as psyllium, are probiotics that help nourish beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria assist with digestion and absorption of your food, and play a significant role in your immune function.

When it comes to fiber, the food industry and nutritional sciences have again done more harm than good by promoting grains as an ideal source. While this may have been true 100 years ago, agricultural practices and modern food processing techniques have made most grains less than beneficial.

For starters, many modern grains, including non-organic wheat, are contaminated with glyphosate, which is now recognized as a probable human carcinogen. Glyphosate has also been linked to celiac disease and other gut dysfunction, which is the exact converse of what you're trying to achieve by adding fiber to your diet.

Secondly, most grain products on the market are highly processed, which further deteriorates their value. Instead, focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, and seeds. The following whole foods, for example, contain high levels of soluble and insoluble fiber.

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 jicamaAlmondsPeas Green beansCauliflower Beans Feed Your Children Real Food From Birth

It's bad enough that most children are eating processed foods and junk food by the time they're old enough to chew, along with excessive amounts of sugary beverages like sodas and fruit juices. What's worse is that sugar addiction is in many cases promoted from day one.

There's a big difference between breast milk and commercial baby formula — the latter sometimes containing concerning amounts of added sugars3,4 (beware that the amount of sugar is typically not listed on the label).

Sadly, many women do not have access to the truth about breastfeeding and have been misled by infant-formula marketing to believe they must spend thousands of dollars a year to provide the best nutrition for their babies. In reality (and barring any extreme exceptions such as certain transmittable diseases or drug use), breast milk is the best food for babies, period.

As noted by Pollan, the more we discover about breast milk, the more we realize that formula just isn't as good as breast milk. For example, breast milk contains undigestible oligosaccharides — sugars unique to breast milk alone — that nourish healthy bacteria in your baby's gut.

Ideally, you'll want to strive to breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first six months, at which point you can begin to supplement with solid foods and continue to breastfeed for a year or longer. But remember, even breastfeeding for as little as one month can impart great health benefits for both you and your baby.

The next best alternative to breast milk is to make a healthy homemade infant formula. There may be others, but here is one recipe for homemade formula created by the Weston Price Foundation, which I believe is sound.

'Eat Real Food, Mostly Plants'

Pollan covers a number of other topics in his film, including the impact of sugary beverages, which is a major source of calories for most Americans, including kids; New York City mayor Bloomberg's attempts to limit soda sizes in restaurants; and Mexico's national soda tax, which I discussed in a recent article.

There's no doubt that cutting out sweetened beverages of all kinds, including fruit juices and artificially sweetened drinks, can go a long way toward warding off unwanted pounds, insulin and leptin resistance, and related diseases. Remember, when it comes to diet, eating healthy is really not such a complicated affair. It's simply a matter of remembering to eat REAL FOOD. To recap the advice given by both Pollan and myself:

  • Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants
  • Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food
  • Eat only foods that will eventually spoil or rot
  • Go easy on the meat, and eat only high quality grass-fed/grass-finished or pastured meats

Drugs for Physical and Emotional Pain Change Your Brain

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Prescriptions for opioid painkillers have risen by a staggering 300 percent over the past 10 years.1 This drastic increase in the number of opioid prescriptions written and dispensed is thought to play a major role in the global problem of addiction to opioids such as heroin, morphine, and prescription pain relievers.

In the U.S. alone, 2.1 million people suffer from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, while an estimated 467,000 are addicted to heroin.2 Prescription pain relievers are considered a “gateway drug” to heroin. Over the past five years, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent.

This increase is blamed on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids. (The reason for the resurgence of heroin is in large part due to it being less expensive and, sometimes, easier to obtain, than its prescription counterparts).

Despite the prevalence of the problem, why some people become addicted and others do not remains a mystery. It’s known, however, that such drugs lead to neuroplastic changes in animals when taken long term, and now new research shows they also occur in humans, even after short-term use.

One Month of Morphine May Change Your Brain

In a study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, people with chronic low back pain received either morphine or a placebo daily for one month. Both groups experienced similar reductions in pain, but there was a major difference among those taking morphine — changes in the brain.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans showed the patients taking morphine had a 3 percent reduction in gray matter volume over the course of the study. The reductions occurred in regions of the brain that regulate emotions, cravings and pain response.3

Further, the morphine group had increases in gray matter volume in areas related to learning, memory and executive function. Lead study author Joanne Lin told Reuters:4

Because we are seeing that opioids rapidly change the brain, our take-home message is that opioids should be reserved for cases when most other treatment options have failed.”

A similar study published in 2011 also found daily morphine can cause neuroplastic changes in the human brain after only one month of use. According to that study:5

“Several brain regions underwent volumetric change over the morphine use period … Following the month of morphine administration, reduced gray matter was observed in the right amygdala.

The amygdala, together with the hippocampus, drive reward-related learning processes via modulatory influences on the nucleus accumbens.

The amygdala is involved in drug-induced associative learning, drug craving, reinforcement, the development of dependence, and the experience of acute withdrawal.

Atrophy in the amygdala was found in a previous study to be an important area of morphologic difference distinguishing opioid-dependent individuals from healthy controls.

… Learning involving the amygdala may lead to long-term behavior patterns that continue even as pleasurable effects subside; perhaps forming the basis for opioid misuse in some individuals.”

Your Brain Has Specialized Opioid Receptors

In 1972, Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered that your brain’s neurons have specific receptor sites for opiate drugs, including heroin, morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone.6 Such drugs exert their effects by attaching to the opioid receptors found in your brain and spinal cord.7

Why would your brain have a specific site for binding to opiate drugs? The sites are actually there for another purpose, including to bind to endorphins, your body’s “natural opiates.”

As it turns out, opiate drugs have a chemical structure that’s very similar to your body’s natural feel-good chemicals, endorphins. This allows them to partake of the endorphin receptors and ultimately overtake their place in your body. PBS Frontline reported:8

Like an evil twin, the morphine molecule locks onto the endorphin-receptor sites on nerve endings in the brain and begins the succession of events that leads to euphoria or analgesia.

This imposter is more powerful than the body's own endorphins because the organism can actually control how much of the feel-good chemical hits the brain.

Since we are all pleasure-seeking organisms, the motivation to self-administer such a drug is easy to understand. The drawback, of course, is addiction.”

Americans Risk Becoming Drug Addicts to Become Pain-Free

Pain is one of the most common health complaints in the U.S., but record numbers of Americans are, sadly, becoming drug addicts in an attempt to live pain-free.

According to 2010 data, there were enough narcotic painkillers being prescribed in the U.S. to medicate every single adult, around the clock, for a month.9

By 2012, a whopping 259 million prescriptions for opioids and other narcotic painkillers were written in the U.S., which equates to 82.5 prescriptions for every 100 Americans.10 And those narcotics are responsible for 46 deaths each and every day.

Americans use the most opioids of any nation — twice the amount used by Canadians, who come in second place in terms of prescriptions.11

The problem has become noticeable enough that even U.S. officials now warn that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses. The rise in heroin addiction in the U.S. is linked to dependence on prescription opioids.12

Indeed, what many fail to realize is that opioid prescription painkillers are very similar to heroin. This is part of why so many painkiller addicts end up using heroin when their tolerance level surpasses their allotted prescription dosage, or when they can no longer refill their prescription.

Heroin use can quickly turn deadly, but please don’t be mislead that it takes heroin use to cause a fatal overdose. All opioids depress your heart rate and breathing. Large doses can cause sedation and slowed breathing to the point that breathing stops altogether, resulting in death.

Stopping the drugs on your own, meanwhile, is difficult and causes significant withdrawal symptoms, including flu-like symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and muscle cramps) that may last for up to 10 days. According to PBS Frontline:13

The phrase 'cold turkey' probably comes from the appearance of goose bumps all over the body, which resembles a plucked turkey. Muscle spasms in the legs produce kicking movements, and this may be the derivation of the expression 'kick the habit.'”

Painkillers and Sedatives Linked to Increased Risk of Committing Homicide

The use of mind-altering drugs has risen along with the number of mass shootings and other homicides in the U.S. Antidepressants in particular have a well-established history of causing violent side effects, including suicide and homicide. A 2015 study published in the journal World Psychiatry found, however, that painkillers and sedatives are linked to homicide. 

Researchers analyzed data involving nearly 1,000 people who had been convicted of homicide, including studying police reports to determine if narcotics were being used at the time of the murders.14 Surprisingly, commonly used pain relievers, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen, were associated with a more than 200 percent increased likelihood of committing homicide. Other drugs also increased the risk, including:15

  • Opiate pain relievers (raised the risk by 92 percent)
  • Benzodiazepine sedatives (Valium, Xanax, etc. raised the risk by 45 percent)
  • Antidepressants (31 percent)

The researchers concluded that the increased risk of committing a homicide associated with opioid and non-opioid pain relievers deserves further attention, including whether such drugs should be used for the treatment of pain among people with a criminal history.16

If Drugs Alter Your Brain, They Could Potentially Alter Your Behavior Too

It’s not altogether surprising that opiates could alter behavior.17 Painkillers work by interacting with receptors in your brain resulting in a decrease in the perception of pain. They are inherently addictive, as they also create a temporary feeling of euphoria, followed by dysphoria that can easily lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Perhaps this state of unease may drive violent behaviors as well. We also know they lead to physical changes in your brain, the consequences of which are unknown. Withdrawal from antidepressants has also been linked to severe psychiatric problems.

Further, please note that these are not the only type of drugs associated with violent, homicidal behavior. A 2010 study by the Institute of Safe Medication Practices identified no less than 31 commonly prescribed drugs that are disproportionately associated with cases of violent acts.18

Topping that list were the quit-smoking drug Chantix, followed by Prozac and Paxil, and drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Given the significant neurological effects that may occur when you take medications like antidepressants, sedatives and opioids, they should be used as a last resort, not a first line of treatment.

Are You in Severe Pain?

I strongly recommend exhausting your options before resorting to a narcotic pain reliever, and I'll list a number of alternatives at the end of this article. That being said, if you’re in severe pain I agree that these drugs do have a place, and can be a great benefit when used cautiously and correctly. It's quite clear that these drugs are being overprescribed, and can easily lead you into addiction and other, more illicit, drug use.

I strongly suspect that the overreliance on them as a first line of defense for pain is a major part of this problem. So if you are dealing with severe or chronic pain, my first suggestion would be to see a pain specialist who is familiar with alternative treatments and the underlying causes of pain.

You need a knowledgeable practitioner who can help you attack the pain from multiple angles, giving you both relief and healing. One option that is receiving increasing attention in the U.S. is cannabis. It’s the cannabidiol (CBD) in cannabis that has medicinal properties. CBD is an excellent painkiller and has been used successfully to treat a variety of pain disorders.

In states where medicinal marijuana is legal, such as California, you can join a collective, which is a legal entity consisting of a group of patients that can grow and share cannabis medicines with each other. By signing up as a member, you gain the right to grow and share your medicine.

I do, however, still recommend working with a health care practitioner who can guide you on the most effective dosage and form of use (cannabis may be inhaled, smoked, vaporized, taken orally or even applied topically (in oil form).

19 Non-Drug Solutions for Pain Relief

I strongly recommend exhausting other options before you resort to an opioid pain reliever. The health risks associated with these drugs are great, and addiction and overdose are very real concerns.

Below I list 19 non-drug alternatives for the treatment of pain. These options provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that prescription (and even over-the-counter) painkillers carry. This list is in no way meant to represent the only approaches you can use.

They are, rather, some of the best strategies that I know of. I do understand there are times when pain is so severe that a prescription drug may be necessary. Even in those instances, the options that follow may be used in addition to such drugs, and may allow you to at least reduce your dosage. If you are in pain that is bearable, please try these first, before resorting to prescription painkillers of any kind.

  1. Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
  2. Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they manipulate prostaglandins.)
  3. Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
  4. Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a drug-free approach for pain management of all kinds. EFT borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system. It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain.
  5. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain.

  6. K-Laser Class 4 Laser Therapy. If you suffer pain from an injury, arthritis, or other inflammation-based pain, I’d strongly encourage you to try out K-Laser therapy. It can be an excellent choice for many painful conditions, including acute injuries.
  7. By addressing the underlying cause of the pain, you will no longer need to rely on painkillers. K-Laser is a class 4 infrared laser therapy treatment that helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing — both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones.

    The infrared wavelengths used in the K-Laser allow for targeting specific areas of your body, and can penetrate deeply into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip. For more information about this ground-breaking technology, and how it can help heal chronic pain, please listen to my previous interview with Dr. Harrington.

  8. Chiropractic. Many studies have confirmed that chiropractic management is much safer and less expensive than allopathic medical treatments, especially when used for pain, such as low-back pain.
  9. Qualified chiropractic, osteopathic, and naturopathic physicians are reliable, as they have received extensive training in the management of musculoskeletal disorders during their course of graduate healthcare training, which lasts between four to six years. These health experts have comprehensive training in musculoskeletal management.

  10. Acupuncture can also effectively treat many kinds of pain. Research has discovered a "clear and robust" effect of acupuncture in the treatment of: back, neck, and shoulder pain, osteoarthritis, and headaches.
  11. Physical and massage therapy has been shown to be as good as surgery for painful conditions such as torn cartilage and arthritis.
  12. Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
  13. Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
  14. Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.19
  15. Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  16. Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
  17. Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
  18. Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
  19. Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
  20. Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic, as mentioned.20 At present, 20 U.S. states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10 to 20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavanoids.
  21. As discussed in this previous post, varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned" — and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,21 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.

  22. Methods such as yoga, Foundation Training, acupuncture, exercise, meditation, hot and cold packs, and mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
  23. Grounding, or walking barefoot on the earth, may also provide a certain measure of pain relief by combating inflammation.

How Chemical Defense Attorney Blew the Lid Off PFOA and Teflon Dangers

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you’re still using non-stick cookware, you may want to seriously reconsider. Ditto for using stain- and water-repellant clothing, and opting for stain-resistant carpets and fabrics.

All of these products — and many more — contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, also known as C8), which has been revealed to be far more dangerous than previously thought.

For 50 years, DuPont used PFOA to make Teflon. Throughout that time, the company has defended the safety of PFOA, and still resists accountability for health problems resulting from exposure to this day. However, the truth has finally come to light.

I started warning people about the potential hazards of Teflon over 15 years ago. As a result, I was legally threatened by DuPont many times.

The evidence is now crystal clear for everyone to see, just as I have warned of for the last decade and a half. The dangers have become undeniable, and DuPont’s connection to this pernicious poison is starting to receive attention in the mainstream media.

The New York Times recently published an in-depth exposé1 on the legal battle fought against DuPont for the past 15 years over PFOA contamination and its toxic effects. I highly recommend reading through it; it’s an excellent read.

Last year, The Intercept also published a three-part exposé2 titled “The Teflon Toxin: Dupont and the Chemistry of Deception,” detailing DuPont’s history of covering up the facts.

Chemical Defense Attorney Became DuPont’s Greatest Nemesis

For the past 15 years, Rob Bilott — an environmental attorney and partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister — has waged a legal battle against DuPont. He’s an unlikely nemesis for a chemical company, as the firm specializes in defending corporate clients, including chemical companies.

How he came to take on DuPont on behalf of a West Virginia farmer is detailed in the featured New York Times article. The farmer had reluctantly sold 66 acres of land to DuPont in the early 1980s, for the establishment of a company landfill.

The tract of land sold to DuPont had a creek running through it, which meandered down to the area where the farmer grazed his cows.

Not long after the sale, his cattle “began acting deranged” and developed mysterious ailments. More than 150 of his cattle had died by the time the farmer, Wilbur Tennant, contacted Bilott.

In response to Bilott’s initial suit, filed in 1999, DuPont offered to commission a study of Tennant’s property, with the help of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The study was conducted by three veterinarians selected by DuPont, and three chosen by the EPA.

As reported in the featured article:

“Their report did not find DuPont responsible for the cattle’s health problems. The culprit, instead, was poor husbandry: ‘poor nutrition, inadequate veterinary care and lack of fly control.'

In other words, the Tennants didn’t know how to raise cattle; if the cows were dying, it was their own fault.”

However, a letter sent by DuPont to the EPA mentioned a substance found at the landfill that Bilott had never heard of before, despite his chemical industry expertise. That substance was “PFOA.”

The chemistry expert retained for the case recalled reading about “PFOS” in a trade journal, used in the manufacturing of Scotchgard.

Since he couldn’t find any details about PFOA, Bilott asked DuPont to share what it knew about the substance. When the company refused, he requested a court order to force the release of the documentation, which was granted.

Internal Documents Revealed DuPont’s Guilt

By the end of 2000, he stood in receipt of more than 110,000 pages of material relating to PFOA, some of which dated back 50 years. Among the documents were private internal memos, medical reports, and confidential studies conducted by scientists at DuPont. As reported in the featured article:

"I started seeing a story' Bilott said. ‘I may have been the first one to actually go through them all.

It became apparent what was going on: They had known for a long time that this stuff was bad’ ... The story that Bilott began to see ... was astounding in its breadth, specificity and sheer brazenness.

‘I was shocked,’ he said ... Bilott could not believe the scale of incriminating material that DuPont had sent him.

The company appeared not to realize what it had handed over. ‘It was one of those things where you can’t believe you’re reading what you’re reading,’ he said. ‘’That it’s actually been put in writing ...

But the crucial discovery for the Tennant case was this: By the late 1980s ... [Dupont] decided it needed to find a landfill for the toxic sludge ... Fortunately they had recently bought 66 acres ... that would do perfectly.

By 1990, DuPont had dumped 7,100 tons of PFOA sludge into Dry Run Landfill. DuPont’s scientists understood that the landfill drained into the Tennants’ remaining property, and they tested the water in Dry Run Creek. It contained an extraordinarily high concentration of PFOA.

DuPont did not tell this to the Tennants at the time, nor did it disclose the fact in the cattle report that it commissioned for the Tennant case a decade later — the report that blamed poor husbandry for the deaths of their cows. Bilott had what he needed ...

In August 2000, Bilott called DuPont’s lawyer, Bernard Reilly, and explained that he knew what was going on. It was a brief conversation. The Tennants settled ...”

Other Shocking Findings

According to the paperwork, DuPont’s own disposal recommendations specified PFOA should not be flushed into surface water or sewers, yet over the decades, the company disposed of hundreds of thousands of pounds of PFOA powder into the Ohio River.

The PFOA-laced sludge that went into the landfill on the property purchased from Tennant also entered the water table supplying drinking water to more than 100,000 residents in Parkersburg, Vienna, Little Hocking and Lubeck.

The documents further revealed that for four decades, 3M and DuPont had conducted secret medical studies on PFOA, revealing potential health problems in rats and rabbits as early as 1961.

In the following decade, DuPont discovered its factory workers had high levels of PFOA in their blood, but they didn’t tell the EPA about it.

In 1981, 3M found that ingestion of PFOA resulted in birth defects in rats, after which DuPont tested the children of pregnant employees in their Teflon division. Two of the seven children had eye defects.

DuPont again chose not to share the information publicly. In 1984, DuPont became aware that PFOA was present in the local water supply. By 1991, one of the local water districts had PFOA levels that were three times higher than DuPont’s own internally established safety limit for drinking water, set at one part per billion (ppb). Still the company kept quiet.

As reported by The New York Times:

“By the ’90s, Bilott discovered, DuPont understood that PFOA caused cancerous testicular, pancreatic and liver tumors in lab animals. One laboratory study suggested possible DNA damage from PFOA exposure, and a study of workers linked exposure with prostate cancer.”

At that time, DuPont decided to develop an alternative to PFOA. In 1993, they had found a “viable candidate” that appeared less toxic. Alas, the company decided against the switch, as it might have impacted profits.

Bilott Continues to Pursue DuPont on Behalf of the Public

After settling the Tennants’ case, Bilott decided to pursue DuPont for further damages. After all, if PFOA-tainted drinking water could harm and kill cows, what might it be doing to all the people drinking contaminated water?

Bilott drafted a 972-pages long public brief against DuPont, referred to by his colleagues as “Rob’s Famous Letter,” which in March, 2001 was sent to the director of every relevant regulatory authority, including the EPA and the U.S. attorney general. In response, DuPont requested a gag order to prevent Bilott from sharing the information he found in the Tennant case. The request was denied, and Bilott sent everything he had to the EPA.

As reported by The New York Times:

“With the Famous Letter, Bilott crossed a line ... He had become a threat not merely to DuPont but also to, in the words of one internal memo, ‘the entire fluoropolymers industry’ — an industry responsible for the high-performance plastics used in many modern devices, including kitchen products, computer cables, implantable medical devices and bearings and seals used in cars and airplanes.

PFOA was only one of more than 60,000 synthetic chemicals that companies produced and released into the world without regulatory oversight.

‘Rob’s letter lifted the curtain on a whole new theater’ says Harry Deitzler, a plaintiff’s lawyer in West Virginia who works with Bilott. ‘Before that letter, corporations could rely upon the public misperception that if a chemical was dangerous, it was regulated.’

Under the 1976 Toxic Sub­stances Control Act, the EPA can test chemicals only when it has been provided evidence of harm. This arrangement, which largely allows chemical companies to regulate themselves, is the reason that the EPA has restricted only five chemicals, out of tens of thousands on the market, in the last 40 years.” [Emphasis mine]

Next, Bilott pursued a class-action lawsuit against DuPont on behalf of everyone who’d been drinking PFOA-tainted water — about 70,000 people in six water districts, plus dozens of private wells. The EPA also began its own investigation of PFOA, based on the information provided by Bilott.

In 2002, the EPA announced PFOA may pose a health risk to the general public — both via contaminated water and Teflon cookware. DuPont’s own research shows that when its non-stick cookware is heated it breaks down into no less than 15 toxic gases and particles, mostly fluorine based.3,4

DuPont’s Legal Woes Just Keep Getting Worse

In 2005, the EPA fined DuPont $16.5 million for violating the Toxic Substances Control Act by withholding decades’ worth of information about health hazards associated with PFOA. At the time, that fine was the largest the EPA had ever assessed, yet it represented less than two percent of the profits DuPont had earned on PFOA that year, so it was hardly a deterrent.

That same year, a panel of scientists was also convened to determine PFOA’s effect on human health. After seven years of research, the results of which are detailed in more than three dozen peer-reviewed papers,5 the C8 Science Panel linked PFOA to:

  • Ulcerative colitis
  • High cholesterol
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Thyroid disease
  • Testicular- and kidney cancer

So far, some 3,500 individuals have sued DuPont for damages. The first case to reach trial was that of an Ohio woman named Carla Bartlett, who claimed PFOA-contaminated tap water caused her to develop kidney cancer.6 The case went to trial in September, 2015. DuPont/Chemours was found liable for negligence in this case,7 and the jury awarded Bartlett a total of $1.6 million in damages. DuPont is reportedly planning to appeal. As noted by The New York Times:

“DuPont’s continuing refusal to accept responsibility is maddening to Bilott. ‘To think that you’ve negotiated in good faith a deal that everybody has abided by and worked on for seven years, you reach a point where certain things were to be resolved but then remain contested,’ he says. ‘I think about the clients who have been waiting for this, many of whom are sick or have died while waiting. It’s infuriating.’’

Is Your Drinking Water Contaminated With PFOA?

In August 2015, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a Teflon report8,9,10 noting that PFOA has been found in 94 water districts across 27 states. The EWG also highlights recent research showing that PFOA is dangerous at levels 1,300 times lower than previously recognized by the EPA! According to the report:

“... [T]wo leading environmental health scientists have published research with alarming implications...[E]ven very tiny concentrations of PFOA — below the reporting limit required by EPA’s tests of public water supplies — are harmful. This means that EPA’s health advisory level is hundreds or thousands of times too weak to fully protect human health with an adequate margin of safety.”

Areas with higher concentrations of PFOA include Issaquah, Washington; Wilmington, Delaware; Colorado Springs; Nassau County on Long Island; and Parkersburg, West Virginia.11 With the exception of Parkersburg, these districts were all included in Bilott’s class-action lawsuit against DuPont.

Tests have also revealed that PFOA is present in the blood of virtually all Americans, including babies, as it transfers from the mother to the child via umbilical cord blood and breast milk. PFOA, which is very resistant to degradation, has also been found in wild animals all over the globe. Even albatrosses on Sand Island, a wildlife refuge in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, have the chemical in their system.

As noted by The Intercept:12

“Although DuPont no longer uses C8, fully removing the chemical from all the bodies of water and bloodstreams it pollutes is now impossible. And, because it is so chemically stable — in fact, as far as scientists can determine, it never breaks down — C8 is expected to remain on the planet well after humans are gone from it.”

Hundreds of Scientists Issue Warning Over PFAS

Last May, more than 200 scientists from 40 countries signed the so-called Madrid Statement,13,14 which warns about the harms of all fluorochemicals (PFAS), both old and new. It lists many of the documented health effects associated with the older, long-chain PFASs, including the following:15

Liver toxicity Disruption of lipid metabolism, and the immune and endocrine systems Adverse neurobehavioral effectsNeonatal toxicity and death Tumors in multiple organ systemsTesticular and kidney cancers Liver malfunctionHypothyroidism High cholesterolUlcerative colitis Reduced birth weight and sizeObesity Decreased immune response to vaccinesReduced hormone levels and delayed puberty

The Statement also points out that:

  1. Although some of the long-chain PFASs are being regulated or phased out, the most common replacements are short-chain PFASs with similar structures, or compounds with fluorinated segments joined by ether linkages.
  2. While some shorter-chain fluorinated alternatives seem to be less bioaccumulative, they are still as environmentally persistent as long-chain substances or have persistent degradation products.
  3. Thus, a switch to short-chain and other fluorinated alternatives may not reduce the amounts of PFASs in the environment. In addition, because some of the shorter-chain PFASs are less effective, larger quantities may be needed to provide the same performance.

  4. While many fluorinated alternatives are being marketed, little information is publicly available on their chemical structures, properties, uses, and toxicological profiles.
  5. Increasing use of fluorinated alternatives will lead to increasing levels of stable perfluorinated degradation products in the environment, and possibly also in biota and humans. This would increase the risks of adverse effects on human health and the environment.
New Reform Law May Gut State Rules on Hazardous Chemicals

While it’s becoming clear that we need much more stringent regulations on chemicals, proposed updates to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act may actually hinder efforts to protect Americans against hazardous chemicals by nullifying chemical regulations enacted by individual states.

The Senate’s bill (The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act), which was passed in December 2015, makes it more difficult for states to regulate chemicals once the EPA has evaluated them. It also prohibits states from taking any action against any chemical that the EPA is currently investigating.

The House version (the TSCA Modernization Act) — which preempts states from regulating new chemicals, and is supported by more than 100 industry groups — was passed in June 2015. At present, they’re trying to reconcile the two bills, as they contain a number of differences. As reported by The Intercept:16

“Although the Senate’s TSCA bill would leave existing state restrictions on specific chemicals intact, provisions in the bill would stop states from setting regulations going forward — and obliterate efforts that are already underway. Take Washington state’s pending legislation to ban a group of flame retardant chemicals used in furniture and children’s products.

Advocates there have been working for years to ban these endocrine disruptors and likely human carcinogens ... Although Washington’s House passed the ban 95-3 and the state Senate is working on a similar bill, TSCA reform could invalidate the whole thing. If the EPA puts these flame retardants on its yet-to-be-drafted priority list ... the Senate bill would preempt new state efforts to restrict them ...

In addition to limiting state regulations, the TSCA reform bills now being combined into one law contain provisions making it harder to intercept dangerous chemical imports at the U.S. border and requiring the EPA to designate some chemicals ‘low priority’ without fully evaluating them. And neither version addresses the huge problem of companies being allowed to introduce new chemicals to the market without first proving their safety.”

How to Avoid These Dangerous Chemicals

It’s quite clear that the chemical industry cannot be trusted to regulate itself, and DuPont stands as a shining example of this. It can take decades before a dangerous chemical is recognized as such, and then the company can simply switch over to another untested, unregulated chemical, and the whack-a-mole game continues — all because chemicals do not have to be proven safe before they’re used. As noted by The New York Times:

“‘The thought that DuPont could get away with this for this long,’ Bilott says, his tone landing halfway between wonder and rage, ‘that they could keep making a profit off it, then get the agreement of the governmental agencies to slowly phase it out, only to replace it with an alternative with unknown human effects — we told the agencies about this in 2001, and they’ve essentially done nothing.

That’s 14 years of this stuff continuing to be used, continuing to be in the drinking water all over the country. DuPont just quietly switches over to the next substance. And in the meantime, they fight everyone who has been injured by it.’’’

The Madrid Statement17 recommends avoiding any and all products containing, or manufactured using, PFASs, noting they include products that are stain-resistant, waterproof, or non-stick. More helpful tips can be found in the EWG’s “Guide to Avoiding PFCS.”18

Besides listing a number of sportswear brands known to use PFCs in their shoes and clothing, the Guide also notes that Apple admits the wristband of its new Apple Watch Sport model is made with PFCs. Other suggestions that will help you avoid these dangerous chemicals include avoiding:

Items that have been pre-treated with stain-repellants, and opt out of such treatments when buying new furniture and carpets Water- and/or stain-repellant clothing. One tipoff is when an item made with artificial fibers is described as “breathable.” These are typically treated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a synthetic fluoropolymer Items treated with flame retardant chemicals,19 which include a wide variety of baby items, padded furniture, mattresses and pillows. Instead, opt for naturally less flammable materials such as leather, wool, and cotton Fast food and carry out foods, as the wrappers are typically treated with PFCs Microwave popcorn. PFOA may not only present in the inner coating of the bag, it also may migrate to the oil from the packaging during heating. Instead, use “old-fashioned” stovetop popcorn Non-stick cookware and other treated kitchen utensils. Healthier options include ceramic and enameled cast iron cookware, both of which are durable, easy to clean (even the toughest cooked-on foods can be wiped away after soaking it in warm water), and completely inert, which means they won’t release any harmful chemicals into your home.

While some will recommend using aluminum, stainless steel, and copper cookware, I don’t for the following reasons:

Aluminum is a strongly suspected causal factor in Alzheimer's disease, and stainless steel has alloys containing nickel, chromium, molybdenum, and carbon. For those with nickel allergies, this may be a particularly important consideration. Copper cookware is also not recommended because most copper pans come lined with other metals, creating the same concerns noted above. (Copper cookware must be lined due to the possibility of copper poisoning.) Oral-B Glide floss and any other personal care products containing PTFE or “fluoro” or “perfluoro” ingredients. The EWG has an excellent database called “Skin Deep”20 you can peruse to find healthier options

Meds Killing Children - OTC Drug Kills, NAC Supplement Saves

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Commonly used over-the-counter medications can be deadly if they fall into the wrong hands, like those of children.

Pediatricians generally begin advising parents on poisoning prevention when their children reach about 6 months of age, the time when many infants become more mobile and begin to increasingly explore their environment.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests poison prevention education should begin even sooner. Researchers from Banner-University Medical Center Phoenix in Arizona reviewed calls to poison control centers across the U.S. related to infants younger than 6 months old.1

A surprisingly high number of calls were made — more than 270,000 in all, 97 percent of which were unintentional.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Accounts for Most Accidental Infant Poisonings

Unintentional ingestions, including exploratory exposures, made up the majority (50.7 percent) of the calls.

However, a sizeable portion (nearly 37 percent) of the calls were the result of therapeutic errors, including giving infants a different dosage of medication than was intended or giving a medication twice, too soon, via the wrong route or administering the wrong medication entirely.

Acetaminophen was the medication involved in the most accidental poisonings, accounting for 22,000 medication exposures and close to 5,000 general exposures.2 Acetaminophen is often recommended for infants instead of alternatives like ibuprofen.

In fact, acetaminophen is the most common pain reliever given to U.S. children, and it’s estimated that more than 11 percent of U.S. children take the drug during any given week.3 In adults, taking just a bit too much can have significant health risks, particularly for your liver.

Acetaminophen poisoning is responsible for nearly half of all acute liver failure cases in the U.S.4 Among adults, taking just 25 percent more than the daily recommended dose — the equivalent of just two extra strength pills per day — can cause liver damage after just a couple of weeks of daily use.5

When taken all at once, just under four times the maximum daily dose can be lethal to adults.

Previous research has also shown that taking just a little more than the recommended dose over the course of several days or weeks (referred to as "staggered overdosing") can be more risky than taking one large overdose.6

Children metabolize acetaminophen differently than adults, and the risks of liver failure from too much acetaminophen are thought to be lower among children than adults.7 However, liver injury has been reported among children given repeated doses.8

NAC Is an Antidote to Acetaminophen Overdose

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is an antidote for acetaminophen toxicity and is well worth knowing about if you ever use acetaminophen or keep it in your house. NAC is administered as part of standard care in cases of acetaminophen overdose.

While I generally do not recommend using acetaminophen-containing drugs for minor aches and pains, they are sometimes necessary to temporarily suppress severe pain, such as post-surgical pain. For those instances, I recommend taking it along with NAC.

It is believed the liver damage acetaminophen causes is largely due to the fact that it can deplete glutathione, an antioxidant compound secreted by your liver in response to toxic exposure.

Glutathione also helps protect your cells from free radical damage. If you keep your glutathione levels up, the damage from the acetaminophen may be largely preventable. NAC is the rate-limiting nutrient for the formation of the intracellular antioxidant glutathione, which is why it's such an effective antidote.

Mortality due to acetaminophen toxicity has been shown to be virtually eliminated when NAC is promptly administered in cases of acetaminophen overdose. So whether you are taking Tylenol in prescription or over-the-counter form, I strongly suggest taking NAC along with it.

And, if you have children and keep acetaminophen in your home, I strongly recommend keeping a bottle of NAC as well in case of accidental overdose. NAC therapy should be initiated within eight hours of an acute overdose for best results. If you suspect an overdose has occurred, seek medical help right away.

If this isn’t an option, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following protocol:9

“Oral administration is the preferred route for NAC therapy unless contraindications exist (e.g aspiration, persistent vomiting). The usual recommended loading dose is 140 mg/kg followed in 4 hours by a maintenance dose of 70 mg/kg orally given every 4 hours.

This dosing is commonly recommended to be continued for 72 hours; however more recent clinical experience supports tailoring the duration of therapy to the patient’s clinical condition.”

Other Dangers Include Cough/Cold Meds, Ibuprofen, Diaper Rash Creams

The featured Pediatrics study noted other medication risks to infants aside from acetaminophen. Poison center calls were also made due to ingestion of:

H2 blockers (for acid reflux) Gastrointestinal medications Combination cough/cold products Antibiotics Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.) Diaper creams Plants Creams and lotion Makeup

Researchers were surprised to find ibuprofen on the list of calls related to infants six months and younger, since this medication isn’t recommended for this age group.

Cough and cold medications are also not recommended for children under the age of 6, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration even warns that for infants and children younger than 2, these medicines may have serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.10

Unfortunately, unintentional poisoning due to medications occur all too often among children. The U.S. Poison Control Center receives nearly 500,000 calls per year related to young children accidently getting into medicine. This works out to one call every minute of every day.

In 2012, 64,000 kids were treated in emergency rooms for medicine poisoning; that’s one child every eight minutes, according to a report from Safe Kids.11

Most Child Medication Poisonings Occur From Parents’ or Grandparents’ Drugs

In 3 out of 4 cases of child drug poisonings, the medication belonged to a parent (39 percent of cases) or grandparent (38 percent of cases). The fact that grandparents’ medication represents this much of a poisoning threat is due to the changing nature of typical households in the U.S.

There’s been a 23 percent increase in the number of grandparents living with their grandchildren since 2005, and 1 in 8 grandparents provide regular care for their grandchildren.

Considering that older adults are among the most heavily medicated populations, with the average adult aged 65 and older taking 28 prescription per year,12 this factor alone significantly increases children’s risk of accidental drug poisoning. While both parents and grandparents acknowledged that the safest place to keep medications is “up and away” from children, many were making exceptions that would put kids at risk.

When asked what grandparents worried over in terms of keeping kids safe, more identified electrical outlets than medications. Yet, 36 times more children visit emergency rooms due to medication poisoning than electrocution.13

The fact is medication usage is so common that many become complacent, neglecting to regard their pills as potential killers. Adding to the problem, many seniors take medications multiple times a day and purposely keep them in easy-to-access, prominent locations so they don’t forget a dose.

These 7 Common Medications Can Be Deadly to Kids

In many cases, just one pill — or less — can cause permanent or life-threatening damage in a small child. The following seven medications are examples; if you have any of these in your home, please keep them safely out of the reach of children living in or visiting your home:

Heart Pills — In children, they can cause dangerously low blood pressure and heart rate, and even lead to shock. Muscle Rubs — Camphor is especially dangerous because ingesting it works so quickly.

Symptoms occur within 10 to 20 minutes, and often children can go into seizures without any warning. Prescription Pain Medications — For an infant, even half a tablet of hydrocodone can be lethal. Aspirin and Oil of Wintergreen — Oil of wintergreen is particularly hazardous because its pleasant smell tempts toddlers to ingest it.

But one teaspoon of oil of wintergreen is the equivalent of nearly 90 baby aspirins.

This is a life-threatening dose for a toddler or child. Antidepressants — After pain medications, antidepressants are the second-highest cause of accidental death from poisoning in children younger than 6. Blood Pressure Patches, Eye Drops, and Nasal Sprays — These medications are designed to be absorbed over time through your skin.

They can lead to serious consequences when ingested by a toddler. As little as 6 ml can lead to a coma. Diabetes Drugs — As these medications are more commonly prescribed, the incidence of pediatric poisonings has also increased.

If you see your child ingest a pill or medication of any kind, don’t wait to take action. Your child may appear fine at first, but deadly side effects can appear hours later when it’s too late.

If you’re in the U.S. call 911 or the National Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you even suspect your child has eaten an adult (or unknown) medication. If you’re in another country, contact emergency help immediately. Likewise, if your child is displaying any of the poisoning symptoms below, you should call for help immediately.

Seizures Low blood pressure or heart rate Delirium Unusual sleepiness Lethargy Nausea or vomiting Agitation Coma 5 Tips for Preventing Medication Poisoning

Any time you give medication to a child, carefully consider the risks versus the benefits, and be sure to carefully follow dosage instructions. Do not give more than the recommended dose, double-up on doses or use for longer than is recommended.

Often, preventing medication poisoning in children is as simple as keeping these drugs safely out of children’s reach at all times. Safe Kids recommends the following common sense precautions:

  1. Keep all medicine (including children’s medicine) up and away when young children are around, even medicine you take every day.
  2. Be alert to potential hazards of medicine stored in other locations, like pills in purses, vitamins on counters, and medicine on nightstands.
  3. Even if you are tempted to keep it handy in between doses, put medicine out of reach after every use.
  4. Choose child-resistant caps for medicine bottles, if you're able to. If pill boxes or non-child resistant caps are the only option, it's even more important to store these containers up high and out of sight when caring for kids.
  5. If you live in the U.S., program the U.S. Poison Help Number (1-800-222-1222) into your phones.
Top Natural Tylenol Alternatives

Tylenol and related products are familiar household items for many, but as mentioned they are a top source of poisonings among children and adults. Further, they are not the only option when you need relief from pain. For instance, the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) works very effectively for relieving pain and can be used for children as well.

The Advanced Muscle Integration Technique (AMIT) helps treat muscle injuries and pain as well, while these simple exercises may work wonders for treating back pain. No matter what your reason for taking Tylenol, type it into the search box above and you’ll likely find a natural alternative.

And if chronic pain is your problem, the following options provide excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that acetaminophen and other pain relievers carry.

  • Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than many NSAIDs. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
  • Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
  • Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.14 In fact, curcumin has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.15
  • Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
  • Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful.
  • Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
  • Evening Primrose, Black Currant and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
  • Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
  • Therapeutic modalities such as yoga, acupuncture, meditation, hot and cold packs, and even holding hands can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.

Polluters Invent New Way to Catch Fish for Dinner

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

For decades, more than 100 companies allegedly dumped hazardous waste, including byproducts from the manufacture of Agent Orange, into New Jersey’s Passaic River. Today it is thought to be one of the most contaminated waterways in the U.S.

The New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection warn residents not to eat any seafood harvested from the river, as it may lead to health problems like cancer, liver damage, birth defects and reproductive issues.1

Yet, some residents rely on fish from the river, eating them regularly despite their accumulated toxins. About half of the companies being held liable for the pollution have now created a so-called “fish exchange” program so that residents can turn in their toxic catch for frozen fish from Costco.

Polluters Attempt to Pacify Residents With Frozen Fish

New Jersey residents may be understandably upset that they can no longer consume fish from the Passaic River.

And so, perhaps in an effort to curb impending litigation, 54 of the companies that may be liable for polluting the river have formed “The Lower Passaic River Study Area Cooperating Parties Group,” and paid Rutgers University more than $1 million to create a fish exchange program.2

The university is raising farm-raised tilapia in a greenhouse. Residents can then bring in their toxic catches from the Passaic (on Saturdays between June and October) and exchange them, pound for pound, for the farm-raised fish.

None of the tilapia were of harvest size at the start of the program, however, so for 2015 anyone who brought in fish received bags of frozen tilapia purchased from Costco. The program has not had a big turnout, exchanging only 170 fish from June 2015 to January 2016.

Then there’s the issue of what to do with them. Right now, the collected fish are sitting in a freezer while it’s debated how to properly dispose of them. Incinerating them would release the toxins into the air; sending them to a landfill may ultimately add contaminants to soil and groundwater.

Fish Exchange Called a Distraction Tactic

The fish exchange has been called a distraction tactic: a way for the polluting companies to skirt responsibility and avoid cleaning up the river. Walter Mugdan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told WNYC:

“It’s not something that we’ve proposed nor is it something that we endorsed … It’s certainly no substitute for cleaning up the river and getting the fish to be cleaned in the first place.”

WNYC reported that the EPA has proposed a $1.7-billion cleanup of the river, which would involve removing 2 feet of toxic sediment from the river bottom and replacing it with clean rocks. Even with the best remediation, it’s likely to be decades (or more) before fish from the river is safe to eat again.

Polluted Fish Is More the Norm Than the Exception

Although the Passaic River contamination is an extreme case, it exemplifies what has happened to many natural fish sources worldwide. Pollution has rendered many sources of seafood unsafe to eat.

A major problem is the combustion in power plants of coal containing mercury. Mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources moves through the air and is deposited in water and finds its way into fish, accumulating especially in fish that are higher up the food chain.

Fish like tuna, marlin, shark, barracuda, and swordfish have some of the highest levels of contamination. Further, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study, mercury contamination was detected in EVERY fish sampled in nearly 300 streams across the U.S.

More than one-quarter of these fish contained mercury at levels exceeding the EPA criterion for the protection of human health. It’s not only mercury that’s a problem, however.

Over the course of the last century, thousands of dangerous chemical substances, such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins, and pesticides, have been poured into the oceans and other waterways.

PCBs are indicative of the environmental devastation that can occur when chemicals are used irresponsibly, even decades after they’ve been banned from the market.

Most developed nations stopped using PCBs in the 1980s, but researchers that analyzed blubber samples taken as late as 2012 still found extensive contamination.

Data from more than 1,000 animals showed high concentrations of PCBs in the blubber of killer whales, bottlenose dolphins and striped dolphins — levels that may exceed the threshold for causing health damage.3 According to the study, which was published in Scientific Reports:4

Despite regulations and mitigation measures to reduce PCB pollution, their biomagnification in marine food webs continues to cause severe impacts among cetacean top predators in European seas.”

Farmed Salmon Spreading Salmon-Killing Virus in the Pacific Northwest

The fact that companies responsible for polluting the Passaic River would consider handing out farmed fish as a viable solution is disheartening, considering farmed fish itself is responsible for environmental pollution of its own. It’s also putting wild salmon at risk.

Fish farms breed pathogens that can spread like wildfire and contaminate any wild fish swimming past. Wild salmon that died before spawning have tested positive for a number of salmon viruses, including the highly lethal infectious salmon anemia (ISA) virus, also known as salmon influenza.

First detected in Norway in 1984, infection spread to other countries via egg imports. In Chile, ISA virus wiped out 70 percent of the country’s salmon industry, at a cost of $2 billion. But Chile has no native salmon to decimate. British Columbia does.

And contrary to Chile, the wild salmon of British Columbia are absolutely critical to the ecosystem and residents of the area. The locals don’t just make money off these fish; it’s a main staple of their diet.

Salmon May Be Widely Contaminated With ISA Virus

According to biologist Alexandra Morton, at least 11 species of fish in the Fraser River have been found to be infected with European-strain ISA virus.

Yet the Canadian food inspection agency has aggressively refuted the findings, and even attacked the credibility of two of the most preeminent experts on ISA testing, who testified that positive results were found to the Cohen Commission.

In fact, everyone who has spoken up about these salmon viruses, which can be traced back to salmon farms, has been shut down in some way or another.

Morton tested farmed salmon purchased in various stores and sushi restaurants around British Columbia, and samples tested positive for at least three different salmon viruses, including:

  1. Infectious salmon anemia virus (ISA)
  2. Salmon alphaviruses
  3. Piscine reovirus, which gives salmon a heart attack and prevents them from swimming upriver

Worse still, Morton and colleagues have also found traces of ISA virus in wild salmon.5

The problem with this, aside from the unknown effects on human health from eating salmon with lethal fish viruses, is that viruses are preserved by cold, and fish are always kept frozen for freshness.

Then, when you wash the fish, the viruses get flushed down the drain and depending on your sewer system, could be introduced into local watersheds. The environmental impact of this viral contamination is unknown, but it’s unlikely to be completely harmless.

“This is why it must become public,” Morton says. She insists that consumers, stores and trading partners must become aware of this problem and be the ones to insist on proper testing and remedial action. It’s not just about protecting certain species of fish, it’s about the health of the ecosystem as a whole; it’s about human health and food safety as well. For more details, check out the documentary Salmon Confidential.

Farmed Fish Are Contaminated, Too

The other irony to polluters handing out farmed fish in exchange for polluted wild fish? Farmed fish are contaminated too. In a global assessment of farmed salmon published in the journal Science, 13 persistent organic pollutants were found.6 Some of the most dangerous are PCBs, which are strongly associated with cancer, reproductive and other health problems. PCB concentrations in farmed salmon were found to be eight times higher than in wild salmon.

Those contamination levels are deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but not by the EPA. Researchers postulated that if EPA guidelines were applied to the farmed salmon they tested, recommendations would be to restrict salmon consumption to no more than once per month.

Certain types of farmed fish, including farmed catfish imported from China and farmed shrimp from China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia are on the FDA watch list for illegal drug residues, including antibiotics and anti-fungal compounds.7

What Are the Best Fish to Eat?

Among the safest in terms of contamination, and the highest in healthy omega-3 fat, is wild-caught Alaskan and sockeye salmon. Neither is allowed to be farmed, so therefore they are always wild-caught.

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.

The two designations you want to look for on the label are “Alaskan salmon” (or wild Alaskan salmon) and “Sockeye salmon.” Canned salmon labeled "Alaskan salmon" is also a good choice and offers a less expensive alternative to salmon fillets.

A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated, so other safer choices include smaller fish like sardines, anchovies, and herring. Sardines, in particular, are one of the most concentrated sources of omega-3 fats, with one serving containing more than 50 percent of your recommended daily value.8

They also contain a wealth of other nutrients, from vitamin B12 and selenium to protein, calcium, and choline, making them one of the best dietary sources of animal-based omega-3s. If you enjoy catching your own fish, you’ll want to pay attention to local fish advisories and avoid eating fish from contaminated waters. The EPA maintains a searchable map to find fish advisories where you live.9

Focus on Finding Sustainable Seafood

From a sustainability perspective, you’ll want to avoid Atlantic sardines that come from the Mediterranean in favor of Pacific sardines. According to the Seafood Watch program:10

“As a result of ineffective management and overfishing, consumers should ‘Avoid’ Atlantic sardines from the Mediterranean. Instead, choose the relatively abundant and well-managed Pacific sardines from U.S. waters — a Seafood Watch 'Best Choice.'"

Finally, no matter what type of fish you’re considering, look for varieties that have received the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. This certification assures that every component of the manufacturing process — from how the raw materials are harvested to how the product is manufactured — has been scrutinized by MSC and has been independently audited to ensure it meets sustainable standards.

All of my krill products, for example, are MSC certified, allowing you to track where the krill oil came from in the Antarctic Ocean, as each batch of krill is carefully monitored all the way through, from catch to sale. Seafood Watch can also guide you in the direction of more sustainable seafood choices.

They have a searchable database to find more sustainable seafood options, and they even offer a Sustainable Seafood app for your smartphone. Other labels that signify more sustainable products include:

  • Whole Foods Market Responsibly Farmed 3rd Party certification
  • Fishwise: The Fishwise label identifies how the fish was caught, where it came from, and whether the fish is sustainable (or environmentally threatened).
  • Seafood Safe: The Seafood Safe label involves independent testing of fish for contaminants, including mercury and PCBs, and recommendations for consumption based upon the findings.

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