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Dr. Mercola

How Sharing Food Makes You a Better Person

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In the realm of family dinners, Thanksgiving is king. Perhaps no other day of the year do so many Americans sit down to break bread together, often sharing their meal “family style” and passing each dish from person to person until everyone has been served.

This tradition feels intrinsically good – and this is no coincidence. People have been sharing food since the beginning of time. In those days, during primitive times, there was no choice, of course. Societies had to work together to not only hunt and gather their meal but also to distribute it fairly.

Today, many of us have access to individual meals and single-sized portions, such that sharing is no longer a necessity. But the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing food is one that deserves to be experienced all year long.

Sharing Food with Others Is Good for You and Your Children…

Sitting down to a meal with others is beneficial in multiple ways. A recent study by researchers from the University of Antwerp in Belgium looked specifically at the act of sharing food with everyone at the table.1

They analyzed data about frequency of shared meals during childhood and showing characteristics of an altruistic personality in early adulthood, and a strong association was found.

Those who shared meals more often as children scored higher on the altruism scale, exhibiting such positive pro-social personality traits as giving directions to strangers, offering their seats on public transportation, helping their friends move, and volunteering.2

To be clear, this refers to sharing food with others at a meal, such as by eating “family style” where the food is served on large platters from which everyone partakes. It is not the same thing as going out to dinner with a group of friends during which each person orders an individual entrée.

The researchers explained that sharing food presents a perfect opportunity to think about fairness and other acts of altruism. They noted:3

“In contrast to individual meals, where consumers eat their own food and perhaps take a sample of someone else's dish as a taste, shared meals are essentially about sharing all the food with all individuals.

Consequently, these meals create situations where consumers are confronted with issues of fairness and respect. One should not be greedy and consume most of a dish; instead, rules of polite food sharing need to be obeyed.”

90-Year-Old Man Arrested for Feeding the Homeless

In an ironic turn of events, while sharing food helps children develop altruistic behaviors, showing altruism in public might get you arrested. This was the case for 90-year-old Arnold Abbott, who is facing 60 days in jail after being arrested in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for feeding the homeless.

The city recently passed a controversial ordinance that restricts where charitable groups can feed the homeless on public property, in what is described as a way to control the area’s growing homeless population.

Abbott, however, has no plans of stopping. After being arrested on November 2 along with two pastors, he was cited again by police on November 6. Mayor Jack Seiler has defended the arrest, and told Abbott to secure an indoor location instead.

In response, Abbott said that no indoor venues to feed the homeless are available, and he intends to continue with his mission outside until the mayor finds him a suitable location indoors.4

84 Percent of US Families Say Dinner Together Is Their Favorite Part of the Day

A 2014 study found that the majority of American households eat meals together less than five days a week.5 This is unfortunate as a separate study found 84 percent said the time their family eats together is actually one of their favorite parts of the day.6

Beyond simple enjoyment, research shows that children who share family meals three or more times a week are more likely to be in a healthy weight range and have healthier eating patterns. They’re less likely to eat unhealthy foods, more likely to eat healthy foods and less likely to have an eating disorder.7

Meanwhile, teens who eat with their families at least five times a week are 40 percent more likely to get As and Bs in school than their peers who don’t share family meals.

They’re also 42 percent less likely to drink alcohol, 59 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes and 66 percent less likely to try recreational marijuana. They were also less depressed.8 The benefits are truly profound. Separate research showed that with each additional family dinner, adolescents had:9

  • Fewer emotional and behavioral problems
  • Greater emotional well-being
  • More trusting and helpful behaviors toward others
  • Higher life satisfaction

The reality is that family relationships appear to grow stronger around the dinner table, with another study concluding:10

Our findings suggest that family meals may provide a unique opportunity for building stronger families and young people. Creating environments where frequent family meals are normative, valued and feasible for families may result in benefits for young people that extend beyond good nutrition.”

12 Tips to Avoid Food Waste on Thanksgiving and Every Day

Another reason to eat family meals together, of course, is because it allows you to choose what types of food to eat. A large part of the benefit is the time you spend preparing your meal and cleaning up. Getting your children involved teaches them invaluable lessens about food preparation and how you function together as a family, as well as how to plan and prepare healthy meals.

As part of that lesson, you can teach your children (and learn yourself) how to avoid and reduce food waste. The average consumer wastes 61 percent of the food he or she purchases, and Thanksgiving dinner is one of the worst offenders. You can help to reduce your waste and use of your leftovers with the following 12 tips:11

  • Buy only what you need: Try to make an accurate guess of how much food you’ll need so you’re not left with leftovers you can’t use up.
  • Check the clearance section: This can save you money, but you’ll also be helping to consume a food before it ends up in the landfill. You may be surprised at what types of healthy foods can be found in your grocery store’s bargain bin.
  • Use the whole vegetable: Rather than peeling your veggies, leave the skin on. You’ll get more nutrients and reduce waste (ideally choose organic vegetables if you’ll be eating the skin). If you’ll be eating beets or turnips, you can also eat both the root and the greens.
  • Help charities find “blemished” produce: If you volunteer on Thanksgiving, use the app Food Cowboy, which helps connect produce shipments that have been rejected for aesthetic reasons with charities.
  • Compost your food scraps: Many of your Thanksgiving leftovers can be turned into compost.
  • Freeze your leftovers: If you can’t finish all of your turkey, freeze them for later use.
  • Create new meals: Get creative with your leftovers, repurposing them as soup, salad, or healthy casseroles.
  • Send your leftovers to someone in need: If you have prepared foods that weren’t served, or packaged goods you didn’t eat, certain organizations, such as City Harvest, will distribute them to people in need.
  • Donate leftover produce to AmpleHarvest.org: If you purchased produce you can’t use, AmpleHarvest.org is a national service that distributes fresh produce to hungry people. This one is also useful if your garden produces more produce than your family can consume.
  • Download a food waste app: A growing number of apps aim to connect hungry people with other people’s leftovers or excess ingredients. Two to try are CropMobster and SpoilerAlert.
  • Try LeftoverSwap.com: This site connects people with too many leftovers with others who want to eat them. You simply take a picture of your leftovers, post it, and arrange for a pick up.
  • Donate scraps to a zoo or farm: Local zoos or farms will sometimes take leftover food scraps for animal feed. Check with those in your area for details.
Enjoying Family Meals Takes Proper Planning

One of my favorite sayings with respect to your meals is if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail. Family meals don’t just happen… you’ve got to make them happen. This means not only shopping ahead of time so you have the food available to cook, but also setting aside the time to eat together. Many sports for kids are scheduled at the family dinner hour, for instance, or parents may have a hard time getting home from work at a reasonable hour.

If you value the importance of a family meal, however, you must make it a priority. This might mean your family meal takes place at lunchtime instead of dinnertime on certain days of the week, but ideally strive to eat together as often as you can, scheduling non-essential activities around your dinner, and not the other way around. Most Americans make time for this on Thanksgiving… but chances are you can make time for it on “regular” days as well.

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude Can Help You Live a Longer, Happier Life

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Besides sharing time with family and friends over food, the primary ingredient of the American Thanksgiving holiday is gratitude. While it’s certainly good to have an annual holiday to remind us to express gratitude, there’s much to be said for the benefits of cultivating the spirit of thankfulness year-round.

People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. Scientists have even noted that gratitude is associated with improved health.

As noted in a previous article on this topic published in the Harvard Mental Health Letter,1 "expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better:"

"The word gratitude is derived from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness (depending on the context). In some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.

With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.

As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals — whether to other people, nature, or a higher power.

...People feel and express gratitude in multiple ways. They can apply it to the past (retrieving positive memories and being thankful for elements of childhood or past blessings), the present (not taking good fortune for granted as it comes), and the future (maintaining a hopeful and optimistic attitude).

Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone's gratitude, it's a quality that individuals can successfully cultivate further."

Gratitude—It Does a Body Good

Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, head of biologic psychology at Duke University Medical Center once stated that: "If [thankfulness] were a drug, it would be the world's best-selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system."2

One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you're grateful for each day. In one study,3, 4 people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and they had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation.

As noted in a previous ABC News article,5 studies have shown that gratitude can produce a number of measurable effects on a number of systems in your body, including:

Mood neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) Inflammatory and immune systems (cytokines) Reproductive hormones (testosterone) Stress hormones (cortisol) Social bonding hormones (oxytocin) Blood pressure and cardiac and EEG rhythms Cognitive and pleasure related neurotransmitters (dopamine) Blood sugar Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

Cultivating a sense of gratitude will help you refocus your attention toward what's good and right in your life, rather than dwelling on the negatives and all the things you may feel are lacking.

And, like a muscle, this mental state can be strengthened with practice. Besides keeping a daily gratitude journal, other ways to cultivate a sense of gratitude include:

  • Write thank you notes: Whether in response to a gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life, getting into the habit of writing thank-you letters can help you express gratitude in addition to simply feeling it inside.
  • Count your blessings: Once a week, reflect on events for which you are grateful, and write them down. As you do, feel the sensations of happiness and thankfulness you felt at the time it happened, going over it again in your mind.
  • Pray: Expressing thanks during your prayers is another way to cultivate gratitude.
  • Mindfulness meditation: Practicing "mindfulness" means that you're actively paying attention to the moment you're in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you're grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze, or a lovely memory.
Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude

Three years ago, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California,6 in collaboration with the University of California, launched a project called "Cultivating Gratitude in a Consumerist Society." This $5.6 million project aims to:

  • Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science;
  • Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities, and in so doing…
  • Engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.

In 2012, 14 winning research projects were announced, with topics covering everything from the neuroscience of gratitude, to the role of gratitude for the prevention of bullying. The organization has a number of resources you can peruse at your leisure, including The Science of Happiness blog and newsletter,7 and a Digital Gratitude Journal,8 where you can record and share the things you're grateful for. Scientists are also permitted to use the data to explore "causes, effects, and meaning of gratitude."

For example, previous research has shown that employees whose managers say "thank you" feel greater motivation at work, and work harder than peers who do not hear those "magic words." As noted in a previous Thanksgiving blog post in Mark's Daily Apple:9 "[R]esearch10 has shown that being on the receiving end of a person's gratitude can boost subjects' sense of self-worth and/or self-efficacy. It also appears to encourage participants to further help the person who offered the gratitude but also another, unrelated person in an unconscious 'pay it forward' kind of connection."

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Starting each day by thinking of all the things you have to be thankful for is one way to put your mind on the right track. Also, remember that your future depends largely on the thoughts you think today. So each moment of every day is an opportunity to turn your thinking around, thereby helping or hindering your ability to think and feel more positively in the very next moment.

Most experts agree that there are no shortcuts to happiness. Even generally happy people do not experience joy 24 hours a day. But a happy person can have a bad day and still find pleasure in the small things in life.

Be thankful for what you have. When life gives you a 100 reasons to cry, remember the 1,000 reasons you have to smile. Face your past without regret; prepare for the future without fear; focus on what's good right now, in the present moment, and practice gratitude. Remember to say "thank you"—to yourself, the Universe, and others. It's wonderful to see a person smile, and even more wonderful knowing that you are the reason behind it! And with that, I wish you all a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!

EWG Releases Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

When you eat processed foods, you can virtually guarantee that you’re also consuming any number of questionable food additives. More than 10,000 such additives are allowed in food when you factor in those that are added directly to your food as well as those in the packaging (which can migrate to your food).

Additives are used in food processing to slow spoilage, prevent fats and oils from going rancid, prevent fruits from turning brown, and fortify or enrich the food with synthetic vitamins and minerals to replace the natural ones that were lost during processing.

They’re also added to improve taste, texture, and appearance, as many processed foods would be as dull and bland as cardboard without some artificial help.

Unfortunately, many of these additives have been linked to health concerns, while others have been granted “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) status without pre-market review or approval. As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported:

“This system makes sense for benign additives such as pepper and basil, but there are enormous loopholes that allow additives of questionable safety to be listed as GRAS.

Manufacturers can decide whether these compounds are safe without any oversight by the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] – and in some cases obtain GRAS status without telling the FDA at all.”

12 Worst Food Additives to Avoid

To help you sort through the questionable compounds on food labels, EWG has released their Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives.1 It includes additives already linked to health concerns, those that have been banned or restricted in other countries, and substances that simply have no business being in food.

1. Nitrites and Nitrates

Sodium nitrite is a synthetic preservative added to meats like hot dogs and deli meat to help them maintain that nice pink color. The problem is, in the presence of heat—especially high heat—nitrites can combine with amines in processed meat to form nitrosamines, and these are carcinogenic.

Nitrosamines inflict cellular damage and have been linked to cancer, typically in your colon, bladder, stomach, or pancreas.2 The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is currently considering listing nitrite in combination with amines as a known carcinogen.

Nitrates are present in many vegetables, such as beets, celery, lettuce, spinach, and most other leafy green vegetables, and this has lead to some confusion. Nitrites and nitrates are not inherently bad for you—in fact, they are the precursor to nitric oxide (NO), which lowers your blood pressure and exerts mild anti-inflammatory effects.

Remember, it is the nitrosamine formation that is dangerous. Processed meats are far more prone to nitrosamine formation than vegetables, due to being higher in amines and intensively heat processed.3

2. Potassium Bromate

You might not be aware of this, but nearly every time you eat bread in a restaurant or consume a hamburger or hotdog bun you are consuming bromide, an endocrine-disrupting chemical commonly used in flours.

The use of potassium bromate as an additive in commercial breads and baked goods has been a huge contributor to bromide overload in Western cultures.

Bromated flour is “enriched” with potassium bromate. Commercial baking companies use it because it makes the dough more elastic and better able to stand up to bread hooks. However, Pepperidge Farm and other successful companies manage to use only unbromated flour without any of these so-called “structural problems.”

Studies have linked potassium bromate to kidney and nervous system damage, thyroid problems, gastrointestinal discomfort, and cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies potassium bromate as a possible carcinogen. Potassium bromate is banned for food use in Canada, China, and the European Union (EU).

3. Propyl Paraben

Propyl paraben is an endocrine-disrupting chemical used as a food preservative. It’s commonly found in tortillas, muffins, and food dyes and may also contaminate foods via packaging.

Research has shown that 91 percent of Americans have propyl paraben in their urine, and tests on beverages, dairy products, meat, and vegetables found the chemical in about half of the samples.4

Propyl paraben has weak estrogenic activity, which makes it relevant when it comes to estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer. This substance has been found to accelerate the growth of breast cancer cells, impair fertility in women, and reduce sperm counts and testosterone levels.5

4. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a preservative that affects the neurological system of your brain, alters behavior, and has the potential to cause cancer. It can be found in breakfast cereal, nut mixes, chewing gum, butter spread, meat, dehydrated potatoes, popcorn, chips, and beer, just to name a few.

BHA is known to cause cancer in rats, and may be a cancer-causing agent in humans as well. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Toxicology Program's 2011 Report on Carcinogens, BHA "is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

The international cancer agency categorizes it as a possible human carcinogen, and it’s listed as a known carcinogen under California’s Proposition 65.

BHA may also trigger allergic reactions and hyperactivity. BHA is banned from infant foods in the UK and is banned from use in all foods in certain parts of the EU and Japan. In the US, the FDA considers BHA to be a GRAS additive.

5. Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

BHT is chemically similar to BHA and the two preservatives are often used together. While BHT is not considered a carcinogen like BHA, it has been linked to tumor development in animals.

It’s also been linked to developmental effects and thyroid changes in animal studies, which suggests it may be an endocrine-disrupting chemical. In the US, BHT is given GRAS status.

6. Propyl Gallate

Propyl gallate is a preservative used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling. It’s often found in sausage, frozen pizza, and other processed foods that contain edible fats. The National Toxicology Program reported that propyl gallate is associated with tumors, including rare brain tumors, in rats. EWG also reported:6

A 2014 opinion by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that the available reproductive studies on propyl gallate are outdated and poorly described. In addition, there is incomplete data on whether propyl gallate is an endocrine disruptor; some evidence suggests it may have estrogenic activity.”

7. Theobromine

Theobromine is an alkaloid found in chocolate. It has effects similar to caffeine, and is the reason why chocolate is so highly toxic to dogs. In 2010, a company (Theocorp) requested that the FDA grant theobromine GRAS status so it could be added to bread, cereal, sports drinks, and other foods. The FDA raised several important questions, including whether reproductive and developmental effects seen in animals exposed to theobromine would apply to humans.

They also estimated that human consumption could be up to five times higher than the company reported as safe. The company withdrew their GRAS request, but it was later granted GRAS status anyway, and now is used in foods “outside of FDA oversight.” As EWG reported:7

“Theobromine is just one example of an enormous loophole in the FDA’s voluntary GRAS notification process. The food additive industry is allowed to designate a substance as GRAS without even notifying the agency, relying instead on ‘expert panels.’ Theocorp’s submission triggered important questions from FDA scientists about the additive’s safety. Instead of addressing them, the company withdrew the request, and the GRAS designation was made later without FDA approval. In some cases, companies forego FDA’s notification process altogether.”

8. Natural and Artificial Flavors

What’s particularly alarming when you see a word like “artificial flavor” or even “natural flavor” on an ingredients label is that there’s no way to know what it actually means. It could mean that one unnatural additive is included, or it could be a blend of hundreds of additives. Strawberry artificial flavor can contain nearly 50 chemical ingredients, for example.8

Most people assume that a natural flavor describes something like strawberries, garlic, or chili pepper used to naturally season food. In reality, most natural flavors are created in a laboratory, just like artificial flavors. The only difference is that natural flavors must be sourced from a natural product, whereas artificial flavors do not. According to the Code of Federal Regulations:9

“The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis. These contain the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”

In the end, natural flavors often bear little resemblance to the natural product from which they came. Many times, the resulting chemical may even be identical to those created synthetically to make artificial flavors, yet it will likely be more expensive. Some natural flavors even contain propylene glycol, a solvent, or the preservative BHA! Genetically engineered flavor enhancers can also be listed under the artificial flavor (or natural flavor) label. One exception is certified organic natural flavors, which must meet more stringent guidelines and cannot contain synthetic or genetically engineered ingredients.

9. Artificial Colors

Every year, food manufacturers pour 15 million pounds of artificial food dyes into US foods -- and that amount only factors in eight different varieties.10 As of July 2010, most foods in the EU that contain artificial food dyes were labeled with warning labels stating the food "may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children." The British government also asked that food manufacturers remove most artificial colors from foods back in 2009 due to health concerns.

Nine of the food dyes currently approved for use in the US are linked to health issues ranging from cancer and hyperactivity to allergy-like reactions -- and these results were from studies conducted by the chemical industry itself.11 For instance, Red # 40, which is the most widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune system tumors in mice, while also triggering hyperactivity in children.

Blue # 2, used in candies, beverages, pet foods and more, was linked to brain tumors. And Yellow 5, used in baked goods, candies, cereal, and more, may not only be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals, but it's also linked to hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and other behavioral effects in children. Even the innocuous-sounding caramel color, which is widely used in brown soft drinks, may cause cancer due to 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), a chemical byproduct formed when certain types of caramel coloring are manufactured.

10. Diacetyl

The artificial flavoring called diacetyl is often used as a butter flavoring in microwave popcorn. It’s also used to flavor dairy products, including yogurt and cheese, and exists in some “brown flavorings,” including maple, strawberry, and raspberry flavors. Research shows diacetyl has several concerning properties for brain health and may trigger Alzheimer’s disease. Diacetyl has also been linked to respiratory damage, including inflammation and permanent scarring of the airways, in workers at a microwave popcorn plant.12

11. Phosphates

Phosphates are added to more than 20,000 products, including fast food, baked goods, and processed meats. They’re used to reduce acid, improve moisture retention, and facilitate leavening. Phosphates have been linked to some concerning health conditions, including heart disease. The European Food Safety Authority is currently reevaluating adding phosphates to food, but the results of their study aren’t expected until the end of 2018.

12. Aluminum Additives

Sodium aluminum phosphate, sodium aluminum sulfate, and many other aluminum additives are found in processed foods as stabilizers. This metal can accumulate and persist in your body, especially in your bones, and animal studies show aluminum may cause neurological effects, including changes in behavior, learning, and motor response. A link between Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders and aluminum exposure may also exist.

What Happens When You Eat Processed Foods?

Processing modifies or removes important components of food, like fiber, water, and nutrients, changing the way they are digested and assimilated in your body. Unlike whole foods, which contain a mix of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, fiber, and water to help you feel satisfied, processed foods stimulate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, making you feel good even though the food lacks nutrients and fiber. This artificial dopamine stimulation can lead to excessive food cravings and, ultimately, food addiction.

Mood swings, memory problems and even depression are often the result of a heavily processed-food diet. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression, and aggression, is found in your intestines, not your brain! Many scientists believe that your gut is your second brain and they work in tandem, each influencing the other. Your intestinal health can have a profound influence on your mental health, and vice versa – and why eating processed foods that can harm your gut flora can have a profoundly negative impact on your mood, psychological health and behavior.

Plus, refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, bagels, waffles, pretzels, and most other processed foods quickly break down to sugar. This increases your insulin and leptin levels, and contributes to insulin and leptin resistance, which are the primary underlying factors of nearly every chronic disease and condition known to man, including weight gain. And, because processed foods are stripped of nutrients your body needs, you could be eating a large number of calories but still become malnourished. In just three generations, a nutrient-deficient diet can lead to infertility, which is on the rise in the US.13 Plus, processed foods often contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients, which are also linked to reproductive problems and additional health concerns.

The Easiest Way to Eliminate Processed Foods from Your Diet?

When it comes to staying healthy, avoiding processed foods and replacing them with fresh, whole foods is the "secret" you've been looking for. This might sound daunting, but if you take it step-by-step as described in my nutrition plan it’s quite possible, and manageable, to painlessly remove processed foods from your diet. Remember, people have thrived on vegetables, meats, eggs, fruits, and other whole foods for centuries, while processed foods were only recently invented. Many of the top executives and scientists at leading processed-food companies actually avoid their own foods for a variety of health reasons!

I believe you, too, should spend 90 percent of your food budget on whole foods, and only 10 percent on processed foods (unfortunately most Americans currently do the opposite). This requires that you plan your meals in advance. Ideally, this will involve scouting out your local farmer's markets for in-season produce that is priced to sell and planning your meals accordingly, but you can also use this same premise with supermarket sales. You can generally plan a week of meals at a time, make sure you have all ingredients necessary on hand, and then do any prep work you can ahead of time so that dinner is easy to prepare if you're short on time in the evenings (and you can use leftovers for lunches the next day).

If cravings are a problem for you, please see my article on how to eliminate junk-food cravings. One of the most effective strategies to eliminate sugar cravings is intermittent fasting, along with diet modifications that effectively help reset your body’s metabolism to burn fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel. If your carb cravings are linked to an emotional challenge, a psychological acupressure technique called the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can rapidly help you control your emotional food cravings. If you're currently sustaining yourself on fast food and processed foods, cutting them from your diet is one of the most positive life changes you could ever make.

Americans Have More Toxic Flame Retardants in Their Bodies Than Previously Thought... Free Test Can Determine if You’re Sitting on Toxic Furniture

Wed, 11/26/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

While odorless, flame retardants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are far from innocuous. They were recently identified as one of 17 "high priority" chemical groups that should be avoided to reduce your breast cancer risk,1 for instance.

Previous studies have shown that an estimated 90 percent of Americans already have flame-retardant chemicals in their bodies, making this an issue well worth considering—especially if you have young children, or are of child-bearing age.

Worse yet, recent tests2 have revealed that many Americans have no less than six different types of toxic flame retardants in their system.

The presence of chlorinated tris (TDCIPP) was particularly surprising, as this chemical was phased out of children's pajamas in the 1970s. As reported by Medicine Net:3

“The researchers tested urine samples from California residents and found detectable levels of a rarely studied group of flame retardants known as phosphates, and one -- tris-(2-chloroethyl) phosphate (TCEP) -- has never been seen in Americans before.

TCEP, a known carcinogen that can also damage people's nervous and reproductive systems, was detected in 75 percent of the people tested...”

Are You Sitting on Toxic Furniture?

Buying a new couch for your home is exciting, but once it's delivered and in your family room, you might notice a strong chemical scent wafting from the cushions, especially if they're made of polyurethane foam.

Your cozy couch cushions are likely to be doused in chemicals by the manufacturer. The ones that give off the "chemical" scent are probably toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) while another equally (if not more so) dangerous class of chemicals – flame retardants – have no smell at all.

Duke University has an excellent program as part of their Superfund Research Center that allows you to send in a sample of foam and have it tested for flame retardants… for free! It's virtually the only way for the average person to find out what's really lurking in their couch cushions (see the details below)…

How Flame Retardants Came to Reside in Your Couch (and in Many Other Household Items)

Flame-retardant chemicals were developed in the 1970s, when 40 percent of Americans smoked and cigarettes were a major cause of fires. The tobacco industry, under increasing pressure to make fire-safe cigarettes, resisted the push for self-extinguishing cigarettes and instead created a fake front group called the National Association of State Fire Marshals.

The group pushed for federal standards for fire-retardant furniture, and in 1975 California Technical Bulletin 117 (TB117) was passed. It required furniture sold in California to withstand a 12-second exposure to a small flame without igniting.

Because of California's economic importance, the requirement has essentially become a national standard, with manufacturers dousing their furniture with the chemicals whether they're going to be sold in California or elsewhere in the States.

Since then, their use has skyrocketed. Research published in Environmental Science & Technology revealed that 85 percent of couch foam samples tested contained chemical flame retardants.4 And as of July 1, 2007, all US mattresses are required to be highly flame retardant, to the extent that they won't catch on fire if exposed to a blowtorch.

Aside from couches and mattresses, such chemicals were detected in 60 percent of car seats tested by The Ecology Center5 while a separate study in Environmental Science & Technology also detected flame-retardant chemicals in 80 percent of the following children's products tested:6

Nursing pillows Baby carriers Car seats Changing table pads High chairs Strollers Bassinets Portable cribs Walkers Baby tub inserts and bath slings Glider rockers Sleeping wedges Does Your Couch Contain Flame Retardants? Get It Tested for FREE

Are you wondering if your couch (or another household item) contains flame retardants? Scientists at Duke University’s Superfund Research Center will tell you. Only polyurethane foam can be tested, but this is commonly used in upholstered furniture, padded chairs, car seats, and more.

All you need to remove is a sample the size of a marble, and Duke will accept up to five individual samples per household. Each will be tested for the presence of seven common flame retardants. Here’s how it works:

1. Complete an electronic sample request to generate your Sample ID Number

2. Prepare your sample

  • Cut a piece of foam, 1 cubic centimeter in size (a little bigger than the size of a marble)
  • Wrap the foam in aluminum foil
  • Place each foam sample in its own re-sealable sandwich bag; be sure to completely seal the bag
  • Attach or write the Sample ID Number on the re-sealable sandwich bag

3. Mail it in

Enclose the following in a box or envelope:

  • Foam sample with Sample ID Number written on bag (Step 2)
  • Copy of confirmation email (Step 1)

Mail to:

Gretchen Kroeger
Box 90328 - LSRC
Duke University
Durham, NC 27708

As Linda Birnbaum, the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which funds the lab, told The Atlantic:7

“Saying to anyone, ‘Send me your sample and I’ll tell you what it is’—I don’t know of anyone else who does it… If you’re dealing with something like a mattress or a camping tent or a TV, you’re not told what it’s made of

…And I think that many consumers would like to be able have that information readily available, and then they can make their own decision [on] whether this is something that they want.”

Duke University Discovers Unidentified Flame Retardant

By offering free flame-retardant testing to Americans, Duke’s lab, which is supervised by environmental chemist Heather Stapleton, has received an ongoing stream of valuable information about the types of chemicals found in Americans’ homes.

They’ve even recently uncovered a flame retardant that is not yet identified in the academic literature. The chemical is a chlorinated organophosphate similar to TDCPP, buts its health effects are unknown. TDCPP was removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s amid concerns that it may cause cancer, only to later become a ubiquitous addition to couch cushions across the US.

Stapleton and colleagues have been behind some of the most revealing flame-retardant studies to date. For instance, they recently found traces (and more) of TDCPP in every study participant tested.

Aside from that, the researchers found the average concentration in children was close to five times that of their moms.8 High levels of flame-retardant chemicals used to make FireMaster flame-retardant products were also detected (Firemaster 550 has been used to replace two other PBDEs that were removed from the market9).

In a separate study, the Duke researchers uncovered that children who wash their hands at least five times a day have 30 percent to 50 percent lower levels of flame retardants on their hands than children who wash their hands less frequently,10 adding credence to the theory that household dust (which then coats your hands) may be a primary route of exposure to these (and other) toxic chemicals.

Health Risks of Flame Retardants Revealed

PBDEs resemble the molecular structure of PCBs, which have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and impaired fetal brain development. Like PCBs, even though certain PBDEs have been banned in some US states and the European Union, they persist in the environment and accumulate in your body – and can still exist in products imported from other countries.

Higher exposures to PBDEs have been linked to decreased fertility,11 which could be in part because the chemicals may mimic your thyroid hormones. Previous research has suggested PBDEs can lead to decreases in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone).12 When present with normal T4 levels, low TSH is typically a sign that you're developing hyperthyroidism, which can have significant ramifications both for you and your unborn child if you're pregnant.

As for cancer, one type of PBDE (decaBDE) is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the others remain largely untested. A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley also revealed that both in utero and childhood PBDE exposures were associated with neurodevelopmental delays, including poorer attention, fine motor coordination, and cognition in school-age children.13 Earlier this year, yet another study also found that children whose mothers were exposed to flame retardant chemicals during pregnancy have lower IQ and are more prone to hyperactivity disorders.14

Adding Fuel to the Fire: Flame Retardants Are Ineffective

In the CNN video above, you can see a comparison of two burning chairs, one treated with flame-retardant chemicals and one without. In less than a minute, the differences in visible flames between the two chairs are minimal. Inez Tenenbaum, chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, testified before the Senate that:

“The fire-retardant foams did not offer a practically significant greater level of open flame safety than the untreated foams.”

Andrew Mcguire of the Trauma Foundation also reported to CNN that flame retardants put into furniture foam are not effective because the foam is not ignited by a match, open flame, or cigarette. Instead, it’s the fabric that ignites first, and the flames from the burning fabric overwhelm the flame-retardant chemicals.15 Research has also shown that certain flame-retardant chemicals (halogen-based flame retardants) actually increase the amounts of toxic carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide gas released into the air during a fire.16 Inhalation of these gasses, not burns, is actually the leading cause of death in fires!

New Regulations May Help Reduce the Use of Toxic Flame Retardants

The chemical industry has spent millions to keep California’s TB117 in place, but as of January 1, 2014, new regulations (TB-117-2013) kicked into effect that will hopefully make toxic flame retardants less prominent in the average home. As reported by Scientific American:17

"The change does not prevent manufacturers from using flame retardants, but it does make it feasible to avoid their use while still clearing regulations. The new requirements state that upholstered furniture sold in the state must not continue to 'smolder' some 45 minutes after a lit cigarette is placed on it—protecting against a cigarette carelessly dropped on a couch rather than a lit candle.

Manufacturers can meet the requirement without the use of fire retardants, by using fabrics that better withstand such exposures or by lining furniture with a fire barrier such as polyester batting. Furniture manufacturers nation-wide have ensured that their wares met the stringent California flammability standards for the past few decades, so the new requirements are expected to have ripple effects across the industry that will trigger a reduction in the use of flame retardant in our home furnishings."

In early January, Chemtura Corp., a leading manufacturer of flame-retardant chemicals, filed a lawsuit18 against California, challenging the regulatory changes. The trial began in August 2014 in Sacramento Superior court, but fortunately the Superior Court Judge rejected Chemtura’s bid.19 In California, furnishings that are in compliance with the new flammability standards will carry a "TB 117-2013" tag indicating its compliance. Look for this tag, or ask the retailer whether a particular piece contains flame-retardant chemicals.

You Can Help Limit Your Exposure to Flame Retardants

Until these chemicals are removed from use entirely, tips you can use to reduce your exposure to PBDEs around your home include:20

  • Be especially careful with polyurethane foam products manufactured prior to 2005, such as upholstered furniture, mattresses, and pillows, as these are most likely to contain PBDEs. If you have any of these in your home, inspect them carefully and replace ripped covers and/or any foam that appears to be breaking down. Also avoid reupholstering furniture by yourself as the reupholstering process increases your risk of exposure.
  • Older carpet padding is another major source of PBDEs, so take precautions when removing old carpet. You'll want to isolate your work area from the rest of your house to avoid spreading it around, and use a HEPA filter vacuum to clean up.
  • You probably also have older sources of the PBDEs known as Deca in your home as well, and these are so toxic they are banned in several states. Deca PBDEs can be found in electronics like TVs, cell phones, kitchen appliances, fans, toner cartridges, and more. It's a good idea to wash your hands after handling such items, especially before eating, and at the very least be sure you don't let infants mouth any of these items (like your TV remote control or cell phone).
  • As you replace PBDE-containing items around your home, select those that contain naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, and cotton.
  • Look for organic and "green" building materials, carpeting, baby items, mattresses, and upholstery, which will be free from these toxic chemicals and help reduce your overall exposure. Furniture products filled with cotton, wool, or polyester tend to be safer than chemical-treated foam; some products also state that they are "flame-retardant free."
  • PBDEs are often found in household dust, so clean up with a HEPA-filter vacuum and/or a wet mop often.
Can You Find a Chemical-Free Mattress or Couch?

It’s possible if you look for those made of natural materials and made by environmentally conscious manufacturers. You should take special precaution with your mattress, however, since you spend a large amount of your life sleeping on it. Mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. They may even claim that their mattresses are chemical-free, when in reality they are not. To avoid this toxic exposure, I recommend looking for a mattress made of:

  • 100% organic wool, which is naturally flame-resistant. Even if you hold a match to wool, it will self-extinguish in moments. This is why I use one of our wool mattresses, as it's free of these dangerous fire retardants like PBDE
  • 100% organic cotton or flannel also tends to be flame-resistant
  • Kevlar fibers, the material they make bulletproof vests out of, which is sufficient to pass the fire safety standards. Stearns and Foster is one brand that sells this type of mattress

If in doubt, remember you can have a sample of polyurethane foam cushions tested for free to be sure. This is particularly useful for items you already have around your home, as it will help you determine which harmful products need replacing.

Starbucks Supports Pro-GMO Company

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Starbucks has an image of being a socially responsible, environmentally friendly company. In 2013, 95 percent of their coffee was ethically sourced, and their goal is to reach 100 percent by 2015.1

Other goals include reducing water consumption by 25 percent in their company-operated stores by 20152 and mobilizing their employees and customers to contribute 1 million hours of community service per year.3

They even removed all the high fructose corn syrup and artificial trans fats, flavors, and dyes from their entire menu… so the news that this forward-thinking company might be supporting Monsanto, the world leader in genetically modified (GM) crops and seeds, in their bid to block a GMO labeling bill in Vermont might seem strange.

Is Starbucks really in cahoots with Monsanto? Are they really trying to keep you in the dark about what kinds of genetically modified ingredients are in your food and beverages? Absolutely, albeit by proxy.

It Started with Vermont's Historic GMO Labeling Bill…

On April 16, 2014, the Vermont Senate passed the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill (H.112) by an overwhelming margin—28-2. The bill sailed through a House/Senate conference committee and was approved by the House of Representatives on April 23.

On May 8, Governor Peter Shumlin signed the historic bill into law, which will require any genetically modified food sold in Vermont to be labeled by July 1, 2016.4 Foods containing GM ingredients would also not be allowed to be labeled "natural."

Though the bill was passed in Vermont, it has wide-reaching implications for GMOs in the US. As noted by Ronnie Cummins in the Huffington Post:5

"Strictly speaking, Vermont's H.112 applies only to Vermont. But it will have the same impact on the marketplace as a federal law.

Because national food and beverage companies and supermarkets will not likely risk the ire of their customers by admitting that many of the foods and brands they are selling in Vermont are genetically engineered, and deceptively labeled as 'natural' or 'all natural' while simultaneously trying to conceal this fact in the other 49 states and North American markets.

As a seed executive for Monsanto admitted 20 years ago, 'If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.'"

Monsanto and GMA Sued Vermont to Overturn GMO-Labeling Bill

Long before the bill passed through the legislative branches, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) had openly threatened to sue, should Vermont pass such a law.

As promised, GMA (along with the Snack Food Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers) filed the lawsuit in federal court on June 13, trying to challenge the law's constitutionality.

To date, 60 other countries have either banned GMOs or require mandatory labeling on foods that contain them, but the GMA is upset that US consumers might soon be able to distinguish between the foods that contain GM ingredients and those that do not.

Vermont estimated that eight out of ten foods at grocery stores would be affected by the new labeling requirement.6 As Cummins said, the lawsuit is an attempt to intimidate other states considering similar GMO labeling laws.

The GMA is also pushing a bill in Congress that would preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws -- the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014," dubbed "DARK" (Denying Americans the right to know) Act. Cummins told the Burlington Free Press:7

"Every U.S. citizen should be concerned when a multi-billion dollar corporate lobbying group sues in federal court to overturn a state's right to govern for the health and safety of its citizens."

Starbucks Is a Member of the GMA

If you're wondering what all of this has to do with Starbucks, here's the rub: Starbucks is a member of the GMA, right along with Monsanto. So they are, in essence, teaming up with Monsanto to keep you in the dark about the ingredients in your food.

Once word gets out, Starbucks' image will be tarnished, so let's hope the pressure from their customers will help them make positive change. As SumOfUs reported:

"Monsanto might not care what we think -- but as a public-facing company, Starbucks does. If we can generate enough attention, we can push Starbucks to withdraw its support for the lawsuit, and then pressure other companies to do the same."

To get involved, you can sign this petition from SumOfUs.org, which calls for Starbucks to withdraw its membership in the GMA, and in so doing also its support for the lawsuit against Vermont's food-labeling law.

The revelation of Starbucks' meddling with the GMA has already drawn ire from many of its fans. Among them, musician Neil Young recently announced that he is boycotting the coffee chain after learning of their dealings with Monsanto and their involvement to sue Vermont. According to Rolling Stone, Young wrote on his website:8

"'I used to line up and get my latte everyday, but yesterday was my last one,' Young wrote. 'Starbucks has teamed up with Monsanto to sue Vermont, and stop accurate food labeling.'"

As members of the GMA organization—as in any organization—no single member can decide actions on behalf of the group. Similarly, no single member is individually responsible for what the group as a whole decides.

So, Monsanto and Starbucks are correct in saying that neither is individually part of the lawsuit. However, in reality they are part of it by virtue of their membership in GMA.

Additionally, since neither Starbucks nor Monsanto currently has representation on the GMA Board of Directors—which makes decisions for the group—both can technically say their individual companies didn’t participate in the decision to sue Vermont.

What all this adds up to is semantics—word play that Starbucks and Monsanto legally can use to deflect finger-pointing from them individually. It really doesn’t make any difference whether they’re involved directly or not – the parent organization is still trying to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food.

What Else You Should Know About the GMA

The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, is pushing a Congressional bill called the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014."

As mentioned, the bill, dubbed the "DARK" (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act, would actually preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws.

It would also bar states from enacting laws that make it illegal for food companies to misrepresent their products by labeling GE ingredients as "natural." Last but not least, the DARK Act would also limit the FDA's power to force food companies to disclose GE ingredients.

And that's not all. By suing Vermont, this is the second time in mere months that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is suing a state for the right to pull the wool over your eyes. During the Washington labeling campaign, the GMA got caught in a money-laundering scheme aimed at protecting the identity (and hence the reputation) of members who donated funds to the anti-labeling campaign.

The GMA was forced to reveal the donors to the aggressive anti-labeling campaign, but shortly thereafter it sued the state of Washington, arguing they should be allowed to hide their donors—which is a direct violation of state campaign disclosure laws—in order to "speak with one voice" for the interests of the food industry. Clearly, there's a concerted effort to hide who is behind this radical front group.

Earlier this year, I named the GMA "the most evil corporation on the planet," considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk-food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights—just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo.

The primary GM crops grown in the US are corn, soy, and sugar beets, and the primary ingredients in processed food are high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), and refined sugar. Add in all the pesticides and hazardous fertilizers used in this chemical agriculture system, and you have the perfect formula for environmental destruction, disease and premature death.

This is the business model the GMA is protecting, and labeling GM foods will surely severely cripple it. This is why the GMA is willing to resort to everything, from illegal money-laundering schemes to irrational and wholly ludicrous lawsuits arguing for "the right" to violate disclosure laws. Your health, your rights to make your own decisions, and your financial wellbeing have absolutely nothing to do with the GMAs objections to GMO labeling. They're not protecting you from confusion, unnecessary complexities, or higher prices. They're protecting their own profits, and those profits depend on widespread consumer ignorance.

The Great Boycott Is Here

The insanity has gone far enough. It's time to unite and fight back, which is why I encourage you to vote with your wallet and boycott every single product owned by members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights.

This is just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo. This includes both natural and organic brands. You can start by using the list in the table below. The recent GM labeling victory in Vermont clearly shows that we have the power to incite great change. In this case, you can help change the food system by taking decisive action with your food dollars.

"We flood their Facebook pages, tarnish their brand names. We pressure financial institutions, pension funds and mutual funds to divest from Monsanto and the other GMA companies. Our motto for Monsanto and GMA products must become: Don't buy them. Don't sell them. Don't grow them. And don't let your financial institution, university, church, labor union or pension fund invest in them," Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) writes.9

"As soon as the GMA files a lawsuit against Vermont, the Organic Consumers Association, joined by a growing coalition of public interest groups, will launch a boycott and divestment campaign directed against all of the 300 GMA companies and their thousands of brand name products—including foods, beverages, seeds, home and garden supplies, pet food, herbicides and pesticides."

So far, between 2012 and 2014, Monsanto and the GMA have successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million! These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, processed food industries… and Starbucks! Together, these industries are working in a symbiotic fashion to grow, subsidize, and manufacture foods that have been clearly linked to growing obesity and chronic disease epidemics. As noted by Ronnie Cummins:

"Until now the GMA colossus has ruled, not only in Washington DC, but in all 50 states. But now that Vermont has passed a trigger-free GMO labeling law, and Oregon is poised to do the same in November, the balance of power has shifted. Monsanto, the GMA and their allies are in panic mode. Because they know that when companies are forced to label or remove GMOs, and also are forced to drop the fraudulent practice of labeling GE-tainted foods as 'natural' or 'all natural,' in one state, they will have to do it in every state. Just as they've been forced to do in Europe, where mandatory GMO labeling has been in effect since 1997."

Are You Supporting Those Who Have Repeatedly Taken a Stand Against Your Health and Right to Know?

To defeat the GMA lawsuit against Vermont, money must be raised for legal assistance to the state. We must also intensify any and all efforts to educate others and put pressure on the marketplace to quell the GMAs radical power grabs. To this end, please make a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund today.

Other equally if not even more important ways you can help is by refusing to invest in GMA member companies—even if indirectly through retirement and mutual funds. With enough pressure, we can pressure institutional investors like Fidelity, Vanguard, and State Street to dump the stocks they have in these companies. Moreover, we need to boycott ALL of the 300 companies who are still members of the GMA. Combined, they produce more than 6,000 brand name products, and all of these products are on the boycott list. This includes:

Foods Beverages Seeds Home and garden supplies Pet foods Herbicides and pesticides for home and professional use

This may seem as a monstrously difficult task... but if we work together and individually make an effort, collectively we can do it. There are 316 million that live in the US, and each person makes multiple purchasing and investment decisions each and every day of the year. Every action you take from here on counts. Pro-organic consumer groups will also launch programs placing emphasis on boycotting "Traitor Brands," meaning natural and organic brands that are actually owned by members of the pro-GMO GMA. As noted by Cummins:

"Health-conscious and green-minded consumers often inadvertently support the GMA when they buy brands like Honest Tea, Kashi, Odwalla and others whose parent companies, all members of the GMA, have donated millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522)."

As a sign of solidarity, please sign the Boycott Pledge now.

Traitor Brands

While I cannot list all of them here, some of the 50 "natural" and/or organic Traitor Brands targeted by this boycott include those listed below. The reason for not focusing the boycott on the conventional parent companies is because pro-organic health-conscious consumers rarely buy Coca-Cola, Diet Pepsi, or sugary breakfast cereals to begin with. The only way to really put pressure on these parent companies is by avoiding the brands they market to organic consumers; the brands you actually typically buy.

"Let's be clear. Junk Food and beverage companies who are members of the GMA are gobbling up organic and 'natural' brands because they recognize the huge profit potential in the fast-growing organic and natural markets. They want our business. If we stop buying their brands, they know there's a good chance we'll find alternative brands. And we might never look back," Cummins writes.

Natural/Organic Traitor Brand Owned By/Parent company IZZE PepsiCo Naked Juice PepsiCo Simply Frito-Lay PepsiCo Starbucks Frappuccino PepsiCo Honest Tea Coca-Cola Odwalla Coca-Cola Gerber Organic Nestle Sweet Leaf tea Nestle Boca Burgers Kraft/Mondelez Green and Black's Kraft/Mondelez Cascadian Farm General Mills Larabar General Mills Muir Glen General Mills Alexia ConAgra Pam organic cooking sprays ConAgra Bear Naked Kelloggs Gardenburger Kelloggs Kashi Kelloggs Morningstar Farms Kelloggs Plum Organics Campbells Wolfgang Puck organic soups Campbells RW Knudsen Smuckers Santa Cruz Organic Smuckers Smuckers Organic Smuckers Dagoba Hersheys Earthgrain bread Bimbo Bakeries Simply Asia McCormick Thai Kitchen McCormick Nine Additional Ways to Take Your Power Back

In addition to not buying Traitor Brand foods or beverages (even if they're certified organic), here are nine ways you can take power back from the corporate bullies that make up the Grocery Manufacturers Association:

  1. Stop buying all non-organic processed foods. Instead, build your diet around whole, unprocessed foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocadoes, organic pastured meat, dairy and eggs, and raw nuts
  2. Buy most of your foods from your local farmer's market and/or organic farm
  3. Cook most or all your meals at home using whole, organic ingredients
  4. Frequent restaurants that serve organic, cooked-from-scratch, local food. Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants (Chipotlé is a rare exception), use processed foods made by GMA members for their meals
  5. Buy only heirloom, open-pollinated, and/or organic seeds for your garden. This includes both decorative plants and edibles
  6. Boycott all lawn and garden chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) unless they are "OMRI Approved," which means they are allowed in organic production. If you use a lawn service, make sure they're using OMRI Approved products as well
  7. Become an avid label reader. If a GMA member company owns the product, no matter what it is, don't buy it
  8. Download the Buycott app for your smartphone, which allows you to scan products to find out if they're part of the boycott before you buy them
  9. Join the Organic Consumers Association's new campaign, "Buy Organic Brands that Support Your Right to Know"

To learn more about this boycott, and the traitor brands that are included, please visit TheBoycottList.org. I also encourage you to donate to the Organic Consumers Fund. Your donation will help fight the GMA lawsuit in Vermont.

Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal and coffee-shop stop, matters. It makes a huge difference. By boycotting GMA member Traitor Brands, you can help level the playing field, and help take back control of our food supply. And as always, continue educating yourself about genetically engineered foods, and share what you've learned with family and friends.

Shocking Facts About the Meat Industry

Tue, 11/25/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

There are many reasons to switch to grass-fed beef.1 For example, I've discussed the nutritional differences between organic pastured beef2 and that from animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) on many occasions.

Here, I will focus more on the current farming model, which is what makes CAFO beef such an inferior product in the first place, and the regulatory restrictions that sometimes make grass-fed meats hard to come by in the US.

Our food system is in dire need of change in order to protect human health, but it's a system that is difficult to change. It's not impossible, but it will require more people to change their shopping habits in order to drive up demand, and hence the industry's resolve to address the shortcomings.

Multi-Faceted Problems Stemming from Industrial Farming Practices

Industrial-scale farming has wide-ranging problems. Typically, the focus is on deteriorating food quality and safety. Certainly, the factory farm model directly contributes to Americans' increasing reliance on processed junk foods; the very same foods that are making us obese and riddled with chronic disease.

Emerging diseases in livestock, wildlife, and humans are also traceable to industrial farming practices. This includes antibiotic-resistant diseases, mad cow disease in cows, and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer and elk.

Infectious proteins causing mad cow and CWD have also been implicated in Alzheimer's disease in humans—the only differentiating factor being the time it takes for symptoms and death to occur.

According to one estimate, up to 13 percent of all Alzheimer's victims may actually have mad cow infection, acquired from eating contaminated CAFO meat.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also attribute nearly 133,000 illnesses each year to contaminated chicken parts. The agency has set a goal to reduce illness by 34 percent.

As for salmonellosis cases, the USDA estimates contaminated chicken and turkey cause about 200,000 illnesses a year. FSIS' goal is to reduce that number by at least 25 percent by 2020. Factory farmed chicken is by far the greatest culprit when it comes to food poisoning.

Beef is also frequently tainted, and a USDA rule requiring labeling of mechanically tenderized beef has been under consideration for six years already, for the fact that the procedure compresses pathogens from the surface down into the meat, where it can more easily thrive and survive cooking. Mechanically tenderized beef has been blamed for at least five E.Coli outbreaks between 2003 and 2009.

But like a multi-headed hydra, the adverse effects of industrial farming sprout in many other directions as well. For example, large-scale factory farming is also responsible for:

  • Loss of water quality through nitrogen and phosphorus contamination in rivers, streams, and ground water (which contributes to "dramatic shifts in aquatic ecosystems and hypoxic zones")
  • Agricultural pesticides also contaminate streams, ground water, and wells, raising safety concerns to agricultural workers who use them
  • A decline in nutrient density of 43 garden crops (primarily vegetables), which suggests possible tradeoffs between yield and nutrient content
  • Large emission of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide
  • Negative impact on soil quality through such factors as erosion, compaction, pesticide application, and excessive fertilization
Industrial Farming Is Destroying Food Quality

"How do you alert people to the problems of industrial-scale farming?" a recent article in National Geographic3 asks.

"The issues are urgent, but they are also difficult to confront: The indifference to animal welfare, the strip-mining of poor countries' resources to feed the rich, the environmental damage and antibiotic overuse can be so hard to face that many people just turn away."

Philip Lymbery, an animal-welfare activist and author of the book Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat, notes that one of the techniques used to perpetuate factory farming is secrecy. For example, in Europe, eggs from caged hens are marked "battery eggs," whereas in the US, those same eggs are labeled as "farm fresh" or "country fresh."

If you don't know there's a problem, you won't root for change, and that is exactly why the food industry is fighting tooth and nail to prevent labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the US, as well as legislation that would prevent them from fraudulently labeling GMOs as "Natural."

It is imperative for the food and chemical technology industries that currently monopolize agriculture to keep you in the dark about how your food is produced.

They've even lobbied for gag laws that make it a felony to video tape animal cruelty or other heinous activities occurring on factory farms, lest sympathy start upsetting the proverbial apple cart... When asked if he's opposed to animal farming for food altogether, Lymbery replies:4

"This is not, in any way, a call to vegetarianism. This is a call to put animals back on the farm. Pasture is one of the most ubiquitous habitats on the planet, covering 25 percent of the ice-free land surface.

This is about using that ubiquitous habitat to produce great food in a way which is environmentally friendly and kinder to animals, leaving much-scarcer arable to grow crops directly for people...

Three times a day, through our meal choices, we have an opportunity to change our lives and thereby help change the world.

It's as simple as buying free-range eggs, pasture-raised beef and chicken, and looking for milk that has come from cows that have been able to graze... We'll start to support family farms, will help to support a better environment, and will help to feed the world in a more humane and efficient way."

The US Meat Racket

Most all conventional meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) is raised in CAFOs. It's a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing, and distribution systems.

This is the cheapest way to raise meat, for the largest profits. But the ultimate price is high, as there's a complete disregard for human health, the environment, and ethical treatment of animals and plant workers alike.

A series of recent articles, listed on NewAmerica.org,5 delve into the various aspects of the monopoly that is America's meat market. In one, titled "The Meat Racket," Christopher Leonard reveals how the US meat industry has been seized by a mere handful of companies, and how this tightly controlled monopoly drives small livestock farmers out of business.

Other articles detail the drugs used in CAFO farming, and the risks this drug based farming poses to human health. One side effect is the creation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which I've addressed on numerous occasions.

Martha Rosenberg also recently highlighted a USDA Inspector General Report,6 which revealed that beef sold to the public have been found to be contaminated with a staggering 211 different drug residues, as well as heavy metals.7, 8

Hazardous growth-promoting drugs like Zilmax and Ractopamine are also routinely used in American CAFOs, and as much as 20 percent of the drug administered may remain in the meat you buy. Their use is disturbing when you consider that side effects in cattle include brain lesions, lameness, heart failure, and sudden death. Salon Magazine also recently ran an article9 on the subject of factory farming, penned by Lindsay Abrams, in which she discusses journalist Ted Genoways' new book, The Chain—an expose of the American pork industry. She writes in part:

"What journalist Christopher Leonard recently did for Tyson and the chicken industry, Genoways... does for pork, recounting the history of Hormel Foods... as it evolved from humble beginnings to an industrial giant with a nearly myopic focus on expansion and acceleration, regardless of the costs.

And boy, are there costs... a mysterious neurological disorder linked to a machine that has workers breathing in a fine mist of pork brains... abuse suffered by the animals on whom workers' frustrations are instead taken out; and a decline in food safety that, unbelievably, is set to become the new industry standard."

Genoways book reveals how societal issues "fan out in all directions," as he puts it, from the way our pork is produced. Sure, there are many disturbing safety issues, but it doesn't end there. According to Genoways, another hidden issue is that many of the health hazards that affect plant workers affect already exploited immigrant workers to a disproportionate degree.

Agricultural Subsidies Fleece American Taxpayers to Keep Meat Monopoly Going

As detailed in a previous article by Food Revolution,10 CAFOs and the products they produce are largely sustained by American taxpayers. In essence, we're being shrewdly fleeced to keep this flawed and unhealthy system going. Taxpayer-subsidized grain prices, for example, save CAFOs billions of dollars each year. Grass-fed cattle operations, on the other hand, receive no benefit at all from such agricultural subsidies, and hence the price of grass-fed beef is markedly higher. But that's not the end of that story either. As the article explains:

"Federal policies also give CAFOs billions of dollars to address their pollution problems, which arise because they confine so many animals, often tens of thousands, in a small area. Small farmers raising cattle on pasture do not have this problem in the first place.

If feedlots and other CAFOs were required to pay the price of handling the animal waste in an environmentally health manner, if they were made to pay to prevent or to clean up the pollution they create, they wouldn't be dominating the US meat industry the way they are today. But instead we have had farm policies that require the taxpayers to foot the bill. Such policies have made feedlots and other CAFOs feasible..." [Emphasis mine]

Why Is Most Grass-Fed Beef Sold in the US Imported?

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Did you know that most of the grass-fed beef sold in the US is actually imported from Australia and New Zealand?11 One estimate, which is based off of the USDA's import/export data,12,13,14 suggests as much as 85 percent of grass-fed beef sold in the US may be imported, although it's virtually impossible to ascertain a definite number. Some grass-fed beef is also sourced from countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Uruguay.15

To many, that will probably come as a big surprise. According to National Journal,16 the restaurant franchise Chipotle is one of the latest companies to turn to Australian ranchers to meet demand for grass-fed beef, as American suppliers are falling short, and/or cannot compete with Australia's lower prices. In a Huffington Post op-ed published earlier this summer, Chipotle founder Steve Ells said:17

"Over the years, we have had great success serving the premium beef we call Responsibly Raised... Nevertheless, sometimes the existing supply of the premium meats we serve is unable to meet our growing demand... Rather than serve conventionally raised steak, we recently began sourcing some steak from ranches in Southern Australia, which is among the very best places in the world for raising beef cattle entirely on grass.

The meat produced by these ranchers is 'grass-fed' in the truest sense of the term: The cattle spend their entire lives grazing on pastures or rangelands, eating only grass or forages... In the short-run, the grass-fed beef purchased from Australia will continue to supplement the premium Responsibly Raised beef we have long purchased from across the U.S. But over time, we hope that our demand for grass-fed beef will help pave the way for more American ranchers to adopt a grass-fed program, and in doing so turn grass-fed beef from a niche to a mainstream product."

Some of the reasons driving the import of grass-fed beef include the fact that Australia and New Zealand have a climate that permits grazing year-round. You also need a lot of land to allow herds to graze, and grasslands are plentiful Down Under. In fact, 70 percent of all Australian cattle are pasture-raised and finished, and many of the grass-fed cattle operations are massive. Volume makes it cheaper, so Australians can sell their meat for less than American grass-fed cattle ranchers can.18

The question is, is it really "impossible" for American ranchers to produce enough grass-fed beef? Probably not. Neither climate nor lack of grasslands is a factor in certain states. However, there is one factor that severely hobbles American cattle ranchers, and that is slaughterhouse shortage...

USDA's Stranglehold on American Cattle Ranchers

All farmers must use USDA-approved slaughterhouses, and laws place special restrictions on grass-fed slaughtering. If a grass-fed rancher doesn't have access to a slaughterhouse, he cannot stay in business. This is yet another shrewd if not perverse strategy that effectively maintains the status quo of CAFOs. Large slaughterhouses can also refuse smaller jobs, as they—just like CAFOs—operate on economy of scale. As explained by The Carnivore's Dilemma:19

"At harvest time, small family farmers are forced to transport their animals to the nearest legal 'processing plant' that will accept their animals. These plants often do not conform to the high standards farmers have for their animals' welfare, but the farmers have no choice. Humane certification requires humane slaughter, which only some slaughterhouses do. From an animal welfare standpoint, how animals die is as important as how they live. So unless the farmer is lucky enough to have access to an outstanding small slaughterhouse with transparent policies, they can't get the certification, even if they did the right thing every day of the animals' lives."

Basically, there may be plenty of demand for grass-fed beef, and plenty of supply, but USDA rules and regulations prevent the American-bred supply from ever reaching the customer... Across the US, smaller slaughterhouses catering to grass-fed ranchers have been closing up shop, pushed out by larger processors, adding to the shortage of processing facilities to choose from. A recent article in the Nutrition Business Journal20 addresses the question of: why are there so few meat processors in the US?

The answer is complex. Part of the problem is that once refrigeration came into play in the 1950s, slaughterhouses started moving from the downtown areas of bigger cities to more rural areas, from where the meat was then distributed to consumers. Again, economy of scale made this the less expensive option, once meats could safely be chilled and boxed. And, since rural slaughterhouses were no longer constrained by limited amounts of space, they grew increasingly larger. Eventually, they began to consolidate into fewer companies.

Today, the market is consolidated in the extreme. Just FOUR companies, Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS, and National Beef Packaging Co, control more than 80 percent of all cattle slaughtered in the US. As noted in the cited article:21 "The Big Four's grip on the market make everything—from slaughter to distribution to face-time with stretched-too-thin USDA inspectors—more problematic for small operations."

Small processing facilities are more costly to run across the board, compared to large-scale slaughterhouses. They cut everything by hand, which takes longer, and requires workers with a high degree of specialized skill. The seasonality of grass-fed beef is another hurdle. Grass-fed beef is typically slaughtered in the fall, after a full summer of grazing, whereas CAFO beef doesn't follow that same seasonal pattern. For a slaughterhouse to stay in business, it needs business year-round.

Small slaughterhouses also struggle to meet USDA's strict, and costly, regulations—many of which are geared toward mechanized plants and not a small-scale hands-on butchery. Adding to the list of complications are restrictive zoning and eco-impact regulations. Again, change is needed on many fronts, but I am hopeful that change will be forced to occur once public demand becomes too overwhelming to ignore.

Greenwashing Meat Industry Standards

A Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef (GRSB) recently presented new "sustainability principles and criteria" for beef production. The proposal has been vehemently rejected by nearly two dozen consumer, animal welfare, worker, public health, and environmental groups. The initiative has the potential to shape the definition of sustainable beef production around the world. As reported by Common Dreams:22

"In a letter23 to the Roundtable's Executive Committee, 23 groups...criticized the principles and criteria, stating: 'We—and no doubt many other organizations like us—must overwhelmingly reject the Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef. Unless the GRSB addresses the fundamental flaws outlined in our letter, the document will represent nothing more than an industry-led attempt to greenwash conventional beef production at a time when real, measurable, and verifiable change is so desperately needed.'"

For starters, the GRSB fails to address the overuse of antibiotics in farming. Nor does it adequately address workers' rights, animal welfare, environmental sustainability, waste management systems, or the establishment of a solid verification system. The latter leaves the door wide open for greenwashing beef products that are anything but sustainable. According to Andrew Gunther, Program Director at Animal Welfare Approved:

"We urgently need to change the way we farm and feed ourselves, yet the GRSB's Principles and Criteria for Global Sustainable Beef promises nothing more than 'business as usual' beef. The collective failure of GRSB members to acknowledge—let alone address—some of the fundamental faults of modern intensive beef production reveals a staggering lack of accountability and foresight at the very heart of the beef industry, particularly when we know public trust in beef is already at an all-time low."

Rethink Your Shopping Habits to Protect Your Family's Health

Part of the problem is that the current model is focused on growth; not steady profit, and certainly not sustainability. I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is very important, both in terms of human health and animal welfare. Organic, grass-fed and finished meat that is humanely raised and butchered is really about the only type of meat that is healthy to eat. Many grocery chains are now responding to customer demand, and will provide at least a small assortment of grass-fed meats.

If your local grocer still doesn't carry any, go ahead and ask the purchasing manager to consider adding it. Some stores, like Publix, will even stock specialty items requested by a single customer... The least expensive way to obtain authentic grass-fed beef though is to find a local rancher you can trust, and buy it directly from the farm. Alternatively, you can now purchase grass-fed beef from organic ranchers online, if you don't have access to a local source. The following organizations can also help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:

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

7 Best Foods You Can Eat

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you want to increase your energy, boost your mood, lose weight, and lower your risk of chronic disease, there's no doubt that tending to your diet should be a priority. But figuring out what to eat to be healthy may seem overwhelming.

There is no one-size-fits-all diet for everyone. Your age, health, gender, and lifestyle all play a role in determining how much protein, healthy fat, and carbs you need, for instance. In addition, it's important that your diet is one you find satisfying and can stick with.

The best eating plan is one that encompasses a variety of foods. This keeps your meals interesting and also increases your ability to get the nutrients you need, at appropriate levels, from your food. My nutrition plan describes this type of "diet." What you'll notice is that it's not a diet at all, but rather a way of life.

What you'll also notice, if you browse through the plan, is that allows you the freedom to customize your meals to your individual likes and dislikes, while guiding you toward truly healthy food. The fact is, even though there's no diet that's right for everyone… there are certain foods that come close.

The 7 foods that follow are my top examples. These foods are universally healthy and, in the vast majority of cases, should be part of your meals on a frequent basis.

The 7 Best Foods

1. Grass-Fed Beef and Beef Liver

Factory farming both agriculturally and for animals has seriously perverted not only the health of the animals but secondarily the health of those that eat them.

Ditching your grain-fed CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) beef in favor of grass-fed beef will result in far better nutrition (and less exposure to antibiotics and pathogenic bacteria).

A joint effort between the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Clemson University researchers determined a total of 10 key areas where grass-fed is better than grain-fed beef for human health.1 In a side-by-side comparison, they determined that grass-fed beef was:

Lower in total fat Higher in beta-carotene Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium Higher in total omega-3s A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84) Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)

As for organ meat, it is a nutritional powerhouse, loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other compounds vital to your health – and in which many Americans are deficient.

Liver in particular is packed with nutrients, which is why predatory animals eat it first and why it has been so highly prized throughout history. The most significant nutrients in liver are outlined in the following table:2

High-quality protein B complex, including B12 and folate (folic acid)Minerals, including a highly bioavailable form of iron Fats (especially omega-3 fats)Choline (another B vitamin, important for cell membranes, brain and nerve function, heart health, and prevention of birth defects)Trace minerals such as copper, zinc, and chromium CholesterolCoQ10 (essential for energy production and cardiac function; potent antioxidant; animal hearts offer the highest levels of coQ10)Vitamin D Vitamin E (circulation, tissue repair, healing, deactivation of free radicals, and slowing aging)Pre-formed vitamin A (retinol)An unidentified "anti-fatigue factor" Purines (nitrogen-containing compounds serving as precursors to DNA and RNA)Vitamin K2Amino acids

2. Dark Leafy Greens

Consuming a variety of fresh organic greens is one of the best things you can do for your body. Topping the list in terms of nutrient density are watercress, chard, beet greens, and spinach—but adding other gorgeous leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, collards, dandelion leaves, mustard greens, and escarole will just add to your overall nutrient infusion.

Greens like spinach and kale are loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants including beta-carotene, vitamin C, and sulforaphane. Spinach provides folate, which research shows can dramatically improve your short-term memory.

Eating folate-rich foods may also lower your risk for heart disease and cancer by slowing down wear and tear on your DNA. Some leafy greens, including collards and spinach, contain vitamin K1, which is good for your veins and arteries.

Beet greens are even higher in iron than spinach and strengthen your immune system by stimulating your body's production of antibodies and white blood cells, while protecting your brain and bones.

When preparing your veggies, use quick, gentle cooking methods (only cooking to a tender-crisp, not mushy texture) to preserve the most nutrients. Also try to eat a good portion of them raw, which will allow you to receive beneficial biophotons. Two of the best ways to get more raw vegetables into your diet include:

  • Juicing: Juicing allows you to absorb all the nutrients from vegetables, allows you to consume an optimal amount of vegetables in an efficient manner, and makes it easy to add a variety of vegetables to your diet.
  • Sprouts: The sprouting process increases nutrient content and bioavailability of nutrients. Sprouts also contain valuable enzymes that allow your body to absorb and use the nutrients of all other foods you eat. They're very easy to grow at home and a powerful low-cost strategy to improve your health.

3. Pastured Eggs

True free-range eggs, now increasingly referred to as "pasture-raised," are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. Testing3 has confirmed that true pastured eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs.

The dramatically superior nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens. In an egg-testing project, Mother Earth News compared the official US Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs with eggs from hens raised on pasture and found that the latter typically contains the following:4

2/3 more vitamin A 3 times more vitamin E 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids 7 times more beta-carotene

Eggs are also a valuable source of high-quality protein and fat—nutrients that many are deficient in. And I believe eggs are a nearly ideal fuel source for most of us. In addition to high-quality proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, eggs contain two amino acids with potent antioxidant properties -- tryptophan and tyrosine. Egg yolks are also a rich source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which belong to the class of carotenoids known as xanthophylls. These two are powerful prevention elements of age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness.

Ideally, you'll want to eat your eggs as close to raw as possible. Keep in mind that the closer to raw you eat them, the more important it is to make sure the eggs are truly organic and pasture-raised, as CAFO-raised eggs are far more prone to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella. As long as you're getting fresh pastured eggs, your risk of getting ill from a raw egg is quite slim. If you choose not to eat your egg yolks raw, poached or soft-boiled would be the next best option. Scrambled or fried eggs are the worst, as this oxidizes the cholesterol in the egg yolk.

4. Fermented Foods

Fermenting is one of the best ways to turn ordinary vegetables into superfoods. The fermenting process (also known as culturing) produces copious quantities of beneficial microbes that are extremely important for your health, as they help balance your intestinal flora and boost your immunity. When fermenting vegetables, you can either use a starter culture or simply allow the natural enzymes, and good bacteria in and on the vegetables, to do the work. This is called "wild fermentation."

Personally, I prefer a starter culture, because you have more control over the microbial species and can optimize it to produce higher levels of vitamin K2 (certain probiotic strains can produce more K2 than others). For the last two years, we've been making two to three gallons of fermented vegetables every week or two in our Chicago office for our staff to enjoy.

Just one quarter to one half cup of fermented food, eaten with one to three meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health. The culturing process produces hundreds if not thousands of times more of the beneficial bacteria found in typical probiotics, which are extremely important for human health.

Yogurt and kefir made from grass-fed raw milk are two additional examples of fermented foods. Kefir is a traditionally fermented food that is chockfull of healthy bacteria (probiotics). Far from simply helping your body to better digest and assimilate your food (which they do very well), probiotics influence the activity of hundreds of your genes, helping them to express in a positive, disease-fighting manner.

Friendly bacteria also 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. Probiotics can even help to normalize your weight, and lack of beneficial bacteria in your gut may play a significant role in the development of type 2 diabetes, depression, and other mood disorders, and may even contribute to autism and vaccine-induced damage. In addition to beneficial probiotics, traditionally fermented kefir also contains:

Beneficial yeast Minerals, such as magnesium Essential amino acids (such as tryptophan, which is well-known for its relaxing effect on the nervous system) Complete proteins Calcium Vitamins B1, B2, and biotin (B7) Vitamin K Phosphorus

Please beware that pasteurized products will NOT provide you with these health benefits, as the pasteurization process destroys most of the precious enzymes, bacteria and other nutrients. This is why it's important to make your own kefir or yogurt at home. As mentioned, you can get many of the same (and likely superior) benefits, by making fermented vegetables as well. For a very small investment (five or six medium-sized cabbages and other veggies to taste, celery juice for brine and, if you like, starter culture that produces high levels of vitamin K2), you can easily make up to 14 quart jars of fermented vegetables, which are an ultimate superfood. You can use these six steps to make fermented vegetables at home.

5. Grass-Fed or Pastured (Not Pasteurized) Raw Butter

Good old-fashioned butter, when made from grass-fed cows, is rich in a substance called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is not only known to help fight cancer and diabetes, it may even help you to lose weight, which cannot be said for its trans-fat substitutes (i.e. margarine). Butter is a rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A (needed for a wide range of functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape) and all the other fat-soluble vitamins (D, E, and K2), which are often lacking in the modern industrial diet.

Butter is rich in important trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, and selenium (a powerful antioxidant). One Swedish study also found that fat levels in your blood are lower after eating a meal rich in butter than after eating one rich in olive oil, canola oil, or flaxseed oil.5 The scientists' main explanation is that about 20 percent of butterfat consists of short- and medium-chain fatty acids, which are used right away for quick energy and therefore don't contribute to fat levels in your blood. Therefore, a significant portion of the butter you consume is used immediately for energy.

The very best-quality butter is raw (unpasteurized) from grass-fed cows, preferably certified organic. (One option is to make your own butter from raw grass-fed milk.) The next best is pasteurized butter from grass-fed or pastured organic cows, followed by regular pasteurized butter common in supermarkets. Even the latter two are healthier choices by orders of magnitude than margarines or spreads. Beware of "Monsanto Butter," meaning butter that comes from cows fed almost entirely genetically engineered grains.6 This includes Land O'Lakes and Alta Dena.

6. Wild Alaskan Salmon

Research suggests that eating oily fish like Alaskan salmon once or twice a week may increase your lifespan by more than two years, and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 35 percent.7 This is because such fish is an excellent source of animal-based omega-3 fats. Compared to those in the lowest percentiles, those with omega-3 blood levels in the highest 20 percent were 27 percent less likely to die of any cause, 40 percent less likely to die of coronary heart disease, and 48 percent less likely to die of an arrhythmia.8 To maximize the health benefits from fish, steer clear of farmed fish, including farmed salmon.

Levels of omega-3 fats are reduced by about 50 percent in farmed salmon, compared to wild salmon, due to the use of grain and legume feed. High levels of contaminants are also common in farmed salmon, which is why I recommend wild Alaskan salmon. Seafood labeled "Alaskan" cannot be farmed. Alaska does an incredible job at protecting their brand integrity when it comes to seafood, in addition to ensuring quality and sustainability. If you don't see the "Alaska" label or a logo from the Marine Stewardship Council, the seafood you are buying is likely farmed. If you're not a fan of salmon, you can get many of the same health benefits by eating anchovies or sardines.

7. Mushrooms

About 100 species are being studied for their health-promoting benefits, and about a half dozen really stand out for their ability to deliver a tremendous boost to your immune system. In fact, some of the most potent immunosupportive agents come from mushrooms, and this is one reason why they're so beneficial for both preventing and treating cancer. Long-chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha- and beta-glucan molecules, are primarily responsible for the mushrooms' beneficial effect on your immune system.

In one study, adding one or two servings of dried shiitake mushrooms was found to have a beneficial, modulating effect on immune system function.9 Mushrooms are not only capable of bolstering immune function and potentially fighting cancer. Aside from being rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and minerals, mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants. They contain polyphenols and selenium, which are common in the plant world, as well as antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms. One such antioxidant is ergothioneine, which scientists are now beginning to recognize as a "master antioxidant."

I highly recommend adding a variety of mushrooms to your diet, including shitake, maitake and reishi. As a caveat, do make sure they're organically grown in order to avoid harmful contaminants that mushrooms may absorb and concentrate from soil, air and water. Also, avoid picking mushrooms in the wild unless you are absolutely sure you know what you're picking. There are a number of toxic mushrooms (all mushrooms are edible, but some of them just once—a mushroom joke), and it's easy to get them confused unless you have a lot of experience and know what to look for. Growing your own is an excellent option and a far safer alternative to picking wild mushrooms.

A Step-by-Step Plan for Dietary Success

A full 80 percent of the health benefits you reap from a healthy lifestyle can be attributed to your diet, with the remaining 20 percent coming from exercise. The challenge is that dietary advice can be a bit of a moving target. It needs to be regularly revised based on new research and wisdom from personal explorations of applying this research.

My free comprehensive nutrition plan, helps you benefit from the information that has taken me more than 30 years to compile The plan is updated with recommendations such as the addition of fermented vegetables as a source of healthy probiotics and using intermittent fasting and high-intensity exercise to really optimize your health. I encourage you to go through it from the beginning, as this plan is one of the most powerful tools to truly allow you and your family to not only optimize your diet but also to take control of your health.

Common Mistakes That Can Ruin the Health Benefits of Your Salad

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Salads are most people’s first encounter with raw foods. Quick and easy to make, they are an easy and delicious way to get live, biodynamic foods into your diet. Mistakes abound however, that could turn an otherwise healthy meal into something less than ideal.

As noted by nutrition editor Cynthia Sass in a recent article for Time Magazine,1 “imbalances can either prevent a salad from being slimming, or lead to missing out on key nutrients.”  

She points out five common salad mistakes that many people make. These are certainly valuable pointers. Here, I will address a couple of them, and make some additional recommendations of my own.

  1. Too little or too much protein
  2. Insufficient variety in your choice of greens
  3. Too little or too much fat
  4. Skipping starch
  5. Insufficient seasoning
Whenever Possible, Opt for Organic Produce

Fresh organic vegetables are generally both healthier and tastier. In terms of nutrition, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about the nutrient levels themselves, which do tend to be higher in organically grown foods, it’s also about what they don’t contain, namely pesticides.

Most of us significantly underestimate the amount and variety of chemicals sprayed onto the produce we eat. Tests, however, suggest most people are exposed to hundreds of them, and they accumulate in your body over time.

They can also easily be transferred to your unborn child during pregnancy. In 2009, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published a study that found 232 chemicals in the placental cord blood of American newborns!

Organophosphate pesticides, which are commonly used on conventionally-grown produce, are well known for their hazards to human health. Prenatal exposure has been linked to delayed brain development, reduced IQ, and attention deficits. 

I’ve also pointed out the compelling links between agricultural chemicals and autism, and new research (known as the CHARGE study2, 3) shows that living within a mile of pesticide-treated crops increases your chances of bearing children with autism.

The recently published CHAMACOS Study, which followed hundreds of pregnant women living in the agricultural mecca of Salinas Valley, California, also found that exposure to organophosphates during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ and poorer cognitive functioning in children, among other health effects.

Glyphosate, another prevalent herbicide used both on conventional and genetically engineered crops at about one billion pounds a year, may be one of the most important factors in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies. The more of it you can avoid, the better.

Homegrown Sprouts Can Maximize the Nutrition of Your Salad

One of the simplest and most effective strategies to avoid harmful chemicals is to eat organic food. Another option is to grow your own. Among the easiest foods to grow at home are sprouts. As luck would have it, they’re also among the most nutritious, and they’re an excellent addition to a fresh salad.

Some of the most commonly sprouted beans, nuts, seeds, and grains are listed below. My personal favorites are pea and sunflower sprouts, which have the added benefit of providing some of the highest-quality protein you can eat.

Homegrown sprouts have radically improved the nutrition of my own primary meal, which is a salad at lunch. They’re also a perfect complement to fermented vegetables. It is hard to imagine a healthier combination that provides the essentials of nutrition, and at a very low cost.

Broccoli: known to have anti-cancer properties, courtesy of the enzyme "sulforaphane" Alfalfa: a significant dietary source of phytoestrogens. Also a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K Wheat grass: high in vitamins B, C, E, and many minerals Mung bean: good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins C and A Clover: significant source of isoflavones Lentil sprouts: contain 26 percent protein, and can be eaten without cooking Sunflower: contains minerals, healthy fats, essential fatty acids, fiber, and phytosterols. It's also one of the highest in protein Pea shoots: good source of vitamins A and C and folic acid and one of the highest in protein Most Commercial Salad Dressings Will Do More Harm Than Good...

Perhaps the most common mistake people make with their salads is their choice of salad dressing. The vast majority of commercial salad dressings are far from healthy, as they’re chockfull of high fructose corn syrup and highly processed omega-6 GMO oils full of toxic herbicides like glyphosate.

Low-fat dressings also need to be avoided. When fat is removed from a food product, it’s usually replaced by sugar/fructose in order to taste good, and this is a recipe for poor health. Excess fructose in your diet drives insulin and leptin resistance, which are at the heart of not only diabetes but most other chronic diseases as well.

So what constitutes “healthy fat,” and why do you need to add it to your salad? For starters, fats help your body absorb important minerals and vitamins, including vitamins A, D, and E. If you don’t have enough fat with your meal, your body may not be able to properly absorb these, and other, fat-soluble nutrients.

Adding healthy fat to your salad will also make it more filling, as fats are among the most satiating. In fact, many do not realize this, but frequent hunger may be a major clue that you're not eating enough fat.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Fats

The featured article notes that full-fat dressing increases absorption of valuable antioxidants compared to reduced-fat versions, but fails to make any distinction between healthy and unhealthy types of fat.

First, it’s important to realize that the use of processed omega-6 fats have increased 1,000 times in the last century, which disturbs the vital omega 6-3 ratio. If you eat any processed foods you are getting too much omega-6 fats and need to avoid any processed omega-6 oils like corn and soy and any generically branded “vegetable” oils.

Also, as revealed by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz,4 author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet, while the food industry has reduced the use of harmful trans fats, they’ve reverted back to using regular vegetable oils, and this is far from an ideal replacement.

Especially when heated, vegetable oils like peanut, corn, and soy oil degrade into highly toxic oxidation products that appear to be even worse than trans fats! One category of these byproducts, called aldehydes, are of particular concern. In animals, even low levels of aldehydes oxidize LDL cholesterol and cause high levels of inflammation, which is associated with heart disease.

Cyclic aldehydes have also been shown to cause toxic shock in animals through gastric damage, and this seems consistent with the rise in immune problems and gastrointestinal-related diseases in the human population. Even when used cold, such as in salad dressing, processed vegetable oils are best avoided. If you order salad with a house vinaigrette in a restaurant, be sure to ask what kind of oil it contains. Olive oil is ideal. If they use any other kind of vegetable oil, you may be better off skipping it. Other sources of healthy fats to include liberally in your salad include:

Olives Shredded coconut Raw nuts, such as macadamia or pecans Organic pastured egg yolks AvocadosGrass-fed meat, but limited to protein level below Adding Too Much Protein to Your Salad May Be Counterproductive

Your body needs protein. It’s a main component of your body, including muscles, bones, and many hormones. However, most Americans tend to eat far too much low-quality protein for optimal health. I believe few people really need more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. When it comes to protein from animal sources, you also want to make sure it’s been raised on pasture, to avoid exposure to pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hormones, antibiotics, and other potentially harmful drugs and chemicals.

To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women typically need about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day.

The rationale behind limiting your protein this: when you consume protein in levels higher than recommended above, you tend to activate the mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathway, which can help you get large muscles but may also increase your risk of cancer. There is research suggesting that the "mTOR gene" is a significant regulator of the aging process, and suppressing this gene may be linked to longer life. Generally speaking, as far as eating for optimal health goes, most people are simply consuming a combination of too much low-quality protein and carbohydrates, and not enough healthy fat.

Translating Ideal Protein Requirements Into Foods

Substantial amounts of protein can be found in: meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. As noted earlier, pea and sunflower sprouts also provide some of the highest quality protein available. To determine whether you’re getting an appropriate amount of protein, calculate your lean body mass as described above, then calculate the amount of protein you’re getting from all sources.

Again, your daily requirement is likely to be around one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. This places most average people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. To determine the grams of protein in each food, you can refer to the chart below or simply Google the food in question.

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

An ideal amount for most people would be a 3-ounce serving of meat or seafood (not 9- or 12-ounce steaks!), which will provide about 18-27 grams of protein Eggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.

If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese) Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cup Cooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cup Most vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce Ramp Up Your Nutrition with Herbs

Adding fresh herbs to your salad can also go a long way toward improving your nutrition, as many are densely packed with vitamins and various phytonutrients. Because of their nutrient density, they're also thermogenic, meaning they naturally increase your metabolism. Herbs are also easy to grow at home, and many have medicinal properties to boot. A recent article in Prevent Disease5 lists seven staple herbs that belong in every kitchen, and make a great addition to any salad—either mixed in fresh, or added to homemade oil and vinegar dressing. These include:

Parsley CilantroOreganoThyme Sweet Italian basilRosemary Dill   Your Food Choices Play a Key Role in Disease Prevention and Health

I believe that food can be “medicine.” It’s certainly the best preventive strategy I can think of, and getting more raw organic food in your diet is a key point.  Besides eating more salads, juicing is another great way to get more vegetables into your diet. However, as noted in a recent article in The Atlantic,6 which details the trials and triumphs of Luke Saunders, a 28-year old entrepreneur and owner of Farmer’s Fridge, even when fresh salad is available as an option, many simply won’t make that choice...

If you fall into this category, I urge you to reconsider. Remember, if you’re avoiding salad because it doesn’t “fill you up,” it’s probably because you’re not adding enough healthy fat to it. That said, making fresh produce more readily available, especially in low-income areas, is part of the solution to many Americans chronic health problems, and Farmer’s Fridge is leading the charge:

“Saunders is confronting any number of challenges. Among them is a question that has stumped many of America’s top food-policy experts for decades: If healthy food were more convenient, would more people eat it?... 

This month, Farmer’s Fridge is rolling out two more machines. If its efforts pay off, it will eventually expand to dozens of locations all over Chicago, and possibly in other cities after that. One of Saunders’ dreams... is to install machines in more low-income neighborhoods, at prices locals can afford.

He hopes that, eventually, the dual threats of poor nutrition and obesity can be treated with fresh produce, rather than with pharmaceuticals. Efforts like Saunders’ won't improve public health single-handedly, and he knows it. But his business does seem like one potential answer to a long-standing concern in the food-policy world: That there’s not enough cheap, healthy food in low-income areas...”

What Are Eggplants Good For?

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Eggplant is a popular part of Indian, Middle Eastern, and Chinese cuisines, but in the US the average American eats less than one pound per year.1 They are, perhaps, the least popular member of the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, pepper, and potatoes, as well as some poisonous plants like Deadly Nightshade.

For centuries, in fact, especially in Europe, eggplant was regarded as a bitter plant more suited for decorating the garden than eating, and many believed it was unhealthy or even poisonous. It was even blamed for causing insanity, leprosy, and cancer.2

Early on, most eggplants were yellow or white-skinned, small and resembled the shape of an egg, hence their name. Through the years, however, new varieties of eggplant emerged, including the more familiar dark-purple variety often consumed in the US today.

In the 18th century, its taste became much less bitter and this vegetable rose out of obscurity and into some of the most beloved traditional dishes around the globe – like Middle Eastern baba ghanoush, Greek moussaka, French ratatouille, and Sicilian caponata.

If you’re new to eggplant, you might be surprised to find it can be quite sweet. Some even refer to it as a fruit, which, technically, it is (like the tomato).

Eggplants Are Packed with Antioxidants

Eggplants contain fiber, copper, B vitamins, vitamin K, and potassium, but their brightly colored skin is a sign that they’re also rich in antioxidants. Anthocyanins are one type of phytonutrient that are responsible for that dark-purple color.

One variety, nasunin, has been found to have potent antioxidant and free-radical scavenging abilities. It’s also known to protect the fats in your brain cell membranes,3 and it has iron-chelating abilities, which is beneficial if you suffer from iron overload.

The predominant antioxidant in eggplants is chlorogenic acid, which also has anti-cancer, antimicrobial, and anti-viral properties. Chlorogenic acid is also one of the most potent free-radical scavengers found in plants. One variety of eggplant in particular, known as Black Magic, has been shown to have nearly three times the antioxidants as other varieties.4

In addition, nasunin and other phytonutrients in eggplant, including terpenes, are thought to be beneficial for heart health. Animal studies show that eggplant juice has beneficial effects on cholesterol levels and also relaxes blood vessels for improved blood flow.5

Eggplant Extract May Kill Cancer Cells

A cream containing eggplant extract, known as BEC and BEC5, appears to cure and eliminate most non-melanoma skin cancers in several weeks' time. There are reports that extracts of plants from the Solanaceae family of vegetables are effective for treating cancer dating back nearly 200 years to 1825, according to natural health pioneer Dr. Jonathan Wright.

However, it wasn't until much later, after the 1950s, that they were formally studied. The leading researcher in this area today is Dr. Bill E. Cham, who reported as early as 1991 in Cancer Letters that:6

"A cream formulation containing high concentrations (10%) of a standard mixture of solasodine glycosides (BEC) has been shown to be effective in the treatment of malignant and benign human skin tumors.”

One of Dr. Cham's more recent studies was published in the International Journal of Clinical Medicine.7 The paper includes two impressive case reports of 60-something men who were suffering from large basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which had plagued them for years. The results upon treatment with a cream formulation of BEC (eggplant extract) twice a day are astounding:

  • In the first case, treatment with the eggplant-extract cream resulted in rapid break down of the tumor. After two weeks, the lesion was reduced to about half its original size, and after 14 weeks the cancer was clinically eliminated with no scar tissue formation. Even the hairs had regrown where the tumor was originally.
  • In the second case, after six weeks of treatment with eggplant-extract cream, the large skin cancer lesion appeared "cleaner" and some of the cancerous tissue had been replaced with normal tissue.
  • In another three weeks, the lesion was much smaller and more normal tissue was apparent. After a total of 14 weeks, the lesion was completely eliminated with no scar tissue present.

Unfortunately, simply eating eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, or similar veggies, while beneficial for many reasons, will not induce this same effect because the active components are not able to effectively penetrate your cells. This requires the addition of glycosides, molecules with various simple sugars attached to them that can latch on to receptors found on skin cancer cells.

That being said, eggplant compounds have also been found to have anti-proliferative activities against human colon and liver cancer cells.8 The fact that eggplant has anti-cancer effects is one more testament to the benefits of eating a wide variety of natural foods.

How to Choose and Prepare Eggplant

For best flavor, choose eggplants that are glossy in color, firm, and heavy for their size. The stem should be bright green, and if you push on the flesh with your thumb, it should bounce back. A lasting indentation is a sign that the eggplant may be overripe. Overripe eggplants tend to be more bitter in flavor, as do those that are stored too long.

You can store an uncut eggplant in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer (in a plastic bag), but they are quite perishable. Ideally, look for eggplants that are locally grown and use them as soon as possible after harvest.

One of the allures of eggplants is their versatility. They can be baked, roasted, steamed or boiled, mashed, pureed, diced, and sliced. Although it’s not a requirement, many people “sweat” their eggplant prior to using it in recipes to help draw out some moisture, tenderize the flesh and reduce any bitterness. To do so, the George Mateljan Foundation recommends:9

To tenderize the flesh's texture and reduce some of its naturally occurring bitter taste, you can sweat the eggplant by salting it. After cutting the eggplant into the desired size and shape, sprinkle it with salt and allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.

This process will pull out some of its water content and make it less permeable to absorbing any oil used in cooking. Rinsing the eggplant after ‘sweating’ will remove most of the salt.”

Healthy Grilled Eggplant Recipe

Eggplant is a perfect addition to soups, stews, casseroles, and side dishes, and it’s often used as a replacement for meat in those following a vegetarian or vegan diet. But it’s also quite tasty on its own. To savor the unique flavor and texture of eggplant, all you need is a bit of healthy oil, salt and pepper. The grilled eggplant recipe below, from the Rodale Recipe Index, is one well worth keeping:

Grilled Eggplant10

Ingredients

  • 4 eggplants (1 lb each), with peel, cut lengthwise into 1" thick slices
  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive or coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Layer several paper towels on baking sheet. Place half of eggplant on top in single layer. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and cover with paper towels. Arrange second layer of eggplant, sprinkle with remaining salt, and cover with paper towels.
  2. Let eggplant stand 30 minutes, then rinse each piece and blot dry. (This helps extract excess water, reducing bitterness and preventing eggplant from absorbing excess oil during cooking.)
  3. Brush both sides of an eggplant slice with oil to coat and transfer to large bowl. Repeat with remaining oil and eggplant slices. Season with pepper.
  4. Heat grill to medium. Grill eggplant, with cover closed, 16 to 20 minutes, turning once, until lightly browned and tender. Refrigerate leftovers in airtight container for a day or two.

Bone Broth—A Most Nourishing Food for Virtually Any Ailment

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Bone broth has a long history of medicinal use. It's known to be warm, soothing, and nourishing for body, mind, and soul...

Physicians harkening as far back as Hippocrates have associated bone broth with gut healing. And while the importance of gut health is just now starting to fill our medical journals, this knowledge is far from new.

In fact, you could say modern medicine is just now rediscovering how the gut influences health and disease.

Many of our modern diseases appear to be rooted in an unbalanced mix of microorganisms in your digestive system, courtesy of a diet that is too high in sugars and too low in healthful fats and beneficial bacteria.

Digestive problems and joint problems, in particular, can be successfully addressed using bone broth. But as noted by Dr. Kaayla Daniel, vice president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and coauthor (with Sally Fallon Morell) of the book, Nourishing Broth, bone broth is a foundational component of a healing diet regardless of what ails you.

How Broth Has Been Used Through the Ages

While our ancestors used to have a pot of soup continuously puttering over the hearth, this changed with the advent of the industrial revolution, at which point many poor people simply couldn't afford the fuel to keep the fire going.

Bouillons and broth powders got their start at that time, as the need for more portable soups arose. A major turning event was when Napoleon put out a call for portable soup to feed his army.

The winner of Napoleon's competition was Nicolas Appert1 (1749-1841), whose canning process paved the way for the modern day canned goods. Later, John T. Dorrance came up with a process to create condensed soup, which led to the empire now known as Campbell's Soups.

In the early 1990s, Campbell Soup was a decent product, boasting the best ingredients, including lots of butter, and recipes from the most famous chefs of the era. As noted by Dr. Daniel, it was a very different product from what we find in grocery stores today.

Today, if you want truly high-quality bone broth or soup, your best bet is to make it yourself. Fortunately, it's easy. The trickiest part is usually going to be finding organic bones.

Bone broth, Dr. Daniel says, is actually a fast food. It just requires a little planning. One efficient way to create your broth is to use a slow-cooker or crockpot.

This will allow you to put a few basic ingredients into the pot in the morning, turn it on low heat, and by the time you get home in the evening it's done.

Besides being convenient and efficient, it's also safe, as you won't have to worry about leaving a pot puttering on the stove, which could pose a fire hazard if left unattended. "It's an old-fashioned remedy for the modern world," Dr. Daniel says.

Benefits of Bone Broth

Leaky gut is the root of many health problems, especially allergies, autoimmune disorders, and many neurological disorders. The collagen found in bone broth acts like a soothing balm to heal and seal your gut lining, and broth is a foundational component of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, developed by Russian neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

The GAPS diet is often used to treat children with autism and other disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but just about anyone with suboptimal gut health can benefit from it.

Bone broth is also a staple remedy for acute illnesses such as cold and flu. While there aren't many studies done on soup, one study did find that chicken soup opened up the airways better than hot water.

Processed, canned soups will not work as well as the homemade version made from slow-cooked bone broth. If combating a cold, make the soup hot and spicy with plenty of pepper.

The spices will trigger a sudden release of watery fluids in your mouth, throat, and lungs, which will help thin down the respiratory mucus so it's easier to expel. Bone broth contains a variety of valuable nutrients in a form your body can easily absorb and use. This includes but is not limited to:

Calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals  Components of collagen and cartilage Silicon and other trace minerals Components of bone and bone marrow Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate The "conditionally essential" amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine

These nutrients account for many of the healing benefits of bone broth, which include the following:

  1. Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage and collagen.
  2. Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses etc.
  3. Indeed, Dr. Daniel reports2 chicken soup — known as "Jewish penicillin"—has been revered for its medicinal qualities at least since Moses Maimonides in the 12th century. Recent studies on cartilage, which is found abundantly in homemade broth, show it supports the immune system in a variety of ways; it's a potent normalizer, true biological response modifier, activator of macrophages, activator of Natural Killer (NK) cells, rouser of B lymphocytes and releaser of Colony Stimulating Factor.

  4. Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis3 (whole-body inflammation). Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.
  5. Promotes strong, healthy bones: Dr. Daniel reports bone broth contains surprisingly low amounts of calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals, but she says "it plays an important role in healthy bone formation because of its abundant collagen. Collagen fibrils provide the latticework for mineral deposition and are the keys to the building of strong and flexible bones."
  6. Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the gelatin in the broth. Dr. Daniel reports that by feeding collagen fibrils, broth can even eliminate cellulite too.
How to Make the Most Nourishing Broth

The more gelatinous the broth, the more nourishing it will tend to be. Indeed, the collagen that leaches out of the bones when slow-cooked is one of the key ingredients that make broth so healing. According to Dr. Daniel, if the broth gets jiggly after being refrigerated, it's a sign that it's a well-made broth. To make it as gelatinous as possible, she recommends adding chicken feet, pig's feet, and/or joint bones.

All of these contain high amounts of collagen and cartilage. Shank or leg bones, on the other hand, will provide lots of bone marrow. Marrow also provides valuable health benefits, so ideally, you'll want to use a mixture of bones. You can make bone broth using whole organic chicken, whole fish or fish bones (including the fish head), pork, or beef bones. Vary your menu as the many types offer different flavors and nutritional benefits.

If you're using chicken, you can place the entire chicken, raw, into a pot and cover with water. Add a small amount of vinegar to help leach the minerals out of the bones. Alternatively, you can use the carcass bones from a roasted chicken after the meat has been removed. To ensure the broth is really gelatinous, Dr. Daniel suggests adding some chicken feet when you use the carcass of a roasted chicken, as some of the collagen will have been leached out already during the roasting process. You can also add vegetables of your choice into the pot.

The most important aspect of the broth-making process is to make sure you're getting as high-quality bones as you can. Ideally, you'll want to use organically raised animal bones. It's worth noting that chickens raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) tend to produce chicken stock that doesn't gel, so you'll be missing out on some of the most nourishing ingredients if you use non-organic chicken bones. If you can't find a local source for organic bones, you may need to order them. A great place to start is your local Weston A. Price chapter leader,4 who will be able to guide you to local sources.

You can also connect with farmers at local farmers markets. Keep in mind that many small farmers will raise their livestock according to organic principles even if their farm is not USDA certified organic, as the certification is quite costly. So it pays to talk to them. Most will be more than happy to give you the details of how they run their operation.

Sample Beef Broth Recipe

Below is a classic beef stock recipe excerpted from Nourishing Broth, as well as lamb and venison variations. For more nourishing broth recipes, I highly recommend Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett's new GAPS cookbook, The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet.

CLASSIC BEEF STOCK. Excerpted from the book NOURISHING BROTH by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN. © 2014 by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

Makes 4-5 quarts

Good beef stock requires several sorts of bones: knuckle bones and feet impart large quantities of gelatin to the broth; marrow bones impart flavor and the particular nutrients of bone marrow; and meaty ribs and shanks add color and flavor. We have found that grass-fed beef bones work best--the cartilage melts more quickly, and the smell and flavor is delicious.

Ingredients

  • About 4 pounds beef marrow and knuckle bones
  • 1 calf, beef, or pig foot, preferably cut into pieces
  • 3 pounds meaty bones such as short ribs and beef shanks
  • 1 small can or jar tomato paste (optional)
  • 4 or more quarts cold filtered water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 3 onions, ends removed and coarsely chopped (skin may be left on)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 celery sticks, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bouquet garni made with parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf, tied together
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, or green or white peppercorns, crushed

Directions

  1. Place the knuckle and marrow bones and optional calves foot in a very large pot, toss with vinegar and cover with cold water. Let stand for 1/2 to 1 hour. Meanwhile, place the meaty bones in a stainless steel roasting pan. For a particularly aromatic stock, brush the bones with tomato paste. Brown at 350 degrees in the oven, about ½ hour. When well browned, add these bones to the pot. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, add cold filtered water to the pan, set over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen up coagulated juices. Add this liquid to the pot. Add additional water, if necessary, to cover the bones; but the liquid should come no higher than within one inch of the rim of the pot, as the volume expands slightly during cooking. Bring to a simmer and carefully skim any scum that comes to the top. After you have skimmed, add the vegetables, bouquet garni, and peppercorns.
  2. Simmer stock for at least 12 and as long as 24 hours.
  3. Remove bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the stock into a large bowl or several 2-quart Pyrex measuring cups. Let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top. Transfer to smaller containers and to the freezer for long-term storage.

Note: The marrow may be removed from the marrow bones a couple of hours into the cooking, and spread on whole grain sourdough bread. If left in the pan for the entire cooking period, the marrow will melt into the broth, resulting in a broth that is cloudy but highly nutritious.

Variation: Lamb Stock

Use lamb bones, especially lamb neck bones and riblets. Ideally, use all the bones left after butchering the lamb. Be sure to add the feet if you have them. This makes a delicious stock.

Variation: Venison Stock

Use venison meat and bones. Be sure to use the feet of the deer and a section of antler if possible. Add 1 cup dried wild mushrooms if desired.

Bone Broth—A Medicinal 'Soul Food'

Slow-simmering bones for a day will create one of the most nutritious and healing foods there is. You can use this broth for soups, stews, or drink it straight. The broth can also be frozen for future use. Making bone broth also allows you to make use of a wide variety of leftovers, making it very economical. Bone broth used to be a dietary staple, as were fermented foods, and the elimination of these foods from our modern diet is largely to blame for our increasingly poor health, and the need for dietary supplements.

"I would like to urge people to make as much broth as possible," Dr. Daniel says in closing. "Keep that crockpot going; eat a variety of soups, and enjoy them thoroughly."

Documentary, “Poison on the Platter”: GE Foods Are Spreading Across India

Sat, 11/22/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The corporate and regulatory forces that are out to get genetically engineered (GE) foods onto your dinner plate by any means possible are not confined to the United States.

In his documentary, Poison on the Platter, Indian filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt examines from a unique non-Western perspective how multinational corporations and government regulators have conspired to spread GE foods across India.

The film provides an insightful perspective about the world impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), as discussed by scientists on the other side of the globe.

If you don’t believe contamination of our food supply by GMOs holds the potential for planetary disaster, you might change your mind after seeing this film. Mahesh Bhatt warns:

“In their mad rush to capture the multi-billion dollar Indian agriculture and food industry, the biotech multinational companies are bulldozing warnings by scientists about the adverse impact of GM foods on health and environment...

[T]his is hurtling mankind toward a disaster, which will be far more destructive than anything the world has seen so far, simply because it will affect every single person living on this planet.”

GE proponents claim that GE foods are the solution to world hunger, increased crop yield and variety, lowered input costs, and reduced environmental impact.

They also claim that foods derived from GMOs are “substantially equivalent” to foods created by conventional growing methods. The problem is that none of those claims are supported by science.

The List of Risks Posed by GE Foods Continues to Grow

Epidemiological patterns reflect a rise in more than 30 human diseases alongside the steady increase of GE ingredients in our food supply and the dramatic increase in the use of agrichemicals, such as glyphosate.

Glyphosate is not “just” an herbicide—it was originally patented as a mineral chelator. It immobilizes nutrients, making them unavailable for your body. Glyphosate is also patented as an antibiotic that can devastate human gut bacteria.

When you mix the genes of one species with those of another, you’re courting disaster. GE food trials involving laboratory animals have uncovered higher mortality, infertility, and multi-organ damage—such as bleeding stomachs.

Even Monsanto’s own mouse studies demonstrated that GE foods have toxic effects on multiple organs, including the liver and kidneys. One of the most ominous concerns about the GE food system is its impact on our soils.

Monoculture and massive agrichemical use are decimating soils at an alarming rate—soils that took thousands of years to develop. Trillions of beneficial microbes that make up healthy soil are destroyed, depleting its nitrogen and leading to soil erosion, pollution, and wasted water from massive runoff.

Nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer runoff has created dead zones along many coastal waterways. GE crop monocultures destroy in a blink what nature has taken millennia to create.

US Recklessly Speeds Ahead with Next-Generation GE Crops

Download Interview Transcript

What’s going on in India is not that different from the US. Despite all of the hellish evidence, there seems to be no risk substantial enough to deter the American government from pushing ahead with new GE seeds.

Herbicide and insecticide use is skyrocketing. USDA recently deregulated Dow Chemical’s next-generation GE crops, which are not only glyphosate-resistant, but also carry resistance to toxins like the Agent Orange ingredient 2,4-D and Dicamba. EPA has also approved Enlist Duo—a new herbicide to be used on Dow’s 2,4-D and glyphosate-resistant corn and soybeans.

EPA has also doubled the amount of glyphosate allowed in your food. For example, soybean oil is allowed to contain a whopping 400 times the limit at which it can impact your health. Widespread use of GMOs has led to an enormous resistance problem.

Superweeds and resistant pests are rapidly spreading across farmland, which has necessitated the deployment of even more noxious chemicals. USDA data reveals that glyphosate use has increased 12-fold since 1996. Meanwhile, weed resistance has been documented on 60 million farm acres across the US.

The US Earns the Gold for Highest GE Food Production

The US is the world’s leading producer of GE foods, many of which are being exported to countries, like India, that will allow it. Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of GE seeds, producing 90 percent of those used across the globe. Yet three quarters of Americans are not even aware that they consume GE ingredients in almost every meal.

Many other countries believe that GE foods must be safe because Americans have been consuming them for two decades—and “not dying from them.” However, the fallacy of this reasoning is evident when you realize that it took the US about 500 years to realize that tobacco wasn’t safe.

The incidence of chronic diseases in the US has escalated since the introduction of GE foods. Therefore, no one can claim that Americans are healthy, and no one can say with any assurance that GE foods are safe. Many scientists argue that we haven't had enough time for the effects of GMOs to fully reveal themselves across populations—and when they do, the damage may be irreparable. In the words of GMO expert and founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology Jeffrey Smith:

“I can say with absolute confidence that there is irrefutable and overwhelming evidence that genetically engineered foods are harmful and that they are not being evaluated properly by the governments of India, United States, the European Union, or anywhere in the world. This is one of the most dangerous technologies ever introduced on Earth, and it’s being deployed in our food supply. It is madness! What we need is a political willingness to say no more... We don’t understand the language of DNA.

Cheap Food Brings Expensive Healthcare

Genetically engineered foods have increased to keep pace with an exploding demand for "cheap food." Farmers are constantly pushed for higher yields. The current system is creating a glut of ecological problems, such as ravaging our bee populations. Forty years ago, Americans spent 16 percent of their income on food and eight percent on healthcare; today, those numbers are reversed. This "cheap food" system has bought us the most expensive healthcare in the world. In the same way that medical schools and universities are controlled by the drug industry, the food system is controlled by the agrichemical industry.

The industrialized food system is putting many small farmers out of business. Land grant universities, funded by corporate agribusiness, are under enormous pressure to shush any research that goes against the party line. Educational institutions are afraid to "bite the hand that feeds them." Mark Kastel, Co-Founder of The Cornucopia Institute, explains how other strategies are used to ensure that the public never finds out about the health dangers of GMOs:

"Monsanto and others actually have contracts with farmers, a technology agreement that prohibits the farmers from using any of their crop for research—other than agronomic research and yield research. So they can't partner with a physician or a medical researcher to take a look at the impact on human health. They've really impeded our ability to know whether or not GMOs are safe."

Big Bucks Buys Big Votes

Money changes everything. Monsanto, Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and other pro-GMO forces continue pouring millions into every anti-labeling campaign in an effort to prevent you from knowing what you’re eating. Their strategy consists of false claims, lies, and scare tactics, but their money is buying them smaller and smaller margins—labeling laws are coming closer to passage with each election. Every “loss” is actually a “win” when you look at the trends. As people gain awareness of the issues, they will refuse to stand for the status quo.

  • In 2012, industry spent $45 million to defeat California’s Prop 37 labeling bill, and it lost by six points.
  • Between 2012 and mid-2014, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) successfully blocked GMO labeling laws in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million. According to the most recent analysis, opponents of GMO labeling spent more than $27 million on lobbying in the first six months of 2014 alone—this is about three times more than they spent during all of 2013.
  • In the November 2014 election, the GMO industry and supporters spent $37 million to prevent Oregon and Colorado from passing their respective labeling laws. This effort was successful in Colorado, but in Oregon the race couldn’t be any tighter!
It’s Time to Stop the Insanity

Election season may be over, but you can vote with your wallet every day. If enough of us make our voices heard, things CAN change. For example, you can boycott GMA Member Traitor Brands, which helps level the playing field. As always, continue educating yourself and sharing what you've learned. Think of yourself as being pro-evidence, as opposed to anti-GMO. Just because you question something doesn't mean you're opposed to it—you just want more evidence so that you can make a good decision for yourself and your family. This film provides one more learning tool that you can forward to your friends and family, to help them take charge of their health.

Do You Know What's in Your Nail Polish?

Sat, 11/22/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Painting your nails may seem like an innocent part of your beauty routine, but inside those colorful bottles are some not-so-pretty secrets. Toxic chemicals are common in nail polish, and there’s often no way for you to know exactly what’s lurking inside.

Some might argue that occasional application of nail polish is only going to expose you to trace amounts of chemicals in levels too low to raise concern, but nail polish is just one beauty product that many women use on a regular basis.

When you add up the toxic exposures from nail polish, however “small” they may (or may not) be, with those from fragrances, makeup, body lotions, and more, it can no longer be brushed off as insignificant.

Many chemicals, including those known as endocrine disruptors, have shown adverse effects at even very low doses, and even more concerning are the effects of such chemicals on the most vulnerable populations, like pregnant women and young children (who may also have their nails painted on occasion).

So knowing what’s in your nail polish should not be an afterthought. Americans spend upwards of $768 million a year on nail polish, and nail products represent the strongest and fastest-growing segment of the beauty industry.1

You have the power to change the direction this industry is heading by demanding safe, truly non-toxic nail products… and supporting only those brands that follow suit.

Nail Polish Plasticizer Linked to Birth Defects in Animals

In 2000, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a study showing that 37 nail polishes from 22 companies contained dibutyl phthalate (DBP). DBP is known to cause lifelong reproductive impairments in male rats, and has been shown to damage the testes, prostate gland, epididymis, penis, and seminal vesicles in animals.

It’s used in nail polish because it increases flexibility and shine, but research by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that all 289 people tested had DBP in their bodies.2

Worse still, this chemical, which remember is linked to birth defects in animals, was found at the highest levels in women of childbearing age. According to EWG:3

“Women of childbearing age appeared to receive the highest exposures to DBP. Estimates based on data published by CDC researchers in October 2000 indicate that DBP exposures for 3 million women of childbearing age may be up to 20 times greater than for the average person.

Children born to these women would receive considerable exposure while in the womb, undergoing the most sensitive period of growth and development.”

For instance, in one study, women who had higher concentrations of two types of phthalates (DEHP and DBP) also had boys who appeared more feminized in their personality while playing. EWG’s findings were the impetus for a coalition of environmental and public health organizations, including EWG, to begin a push for companies to get these toxic chemicals out of their products…

The ‘Toxic Trio’ in Nail Polish

DBP is the first of the toxic trio. The other two toxic ingredients commonly found in nail polish include:

  • Toluene, which is made from petroleum or coal tar. Chronic exposure linked to anemia, lowered blood cell count, liver or kidney damage, and may affect a developing fetus. In nail polish, toluene is used to give the polish a smooth finish.
  • Formaldehyde, a skin, eye, and respiratory irritant, and a known carcinogen (formaldehyde exposure has been associated with leukemia specifically). Formaldehyde is used in nail polish as a hardener and preservative.

The chemicals are not only a concern for women using the polish, but also for workers in nail salons, who are exposed to these chemicals on a daily basis. The good news is that, beginning in 2006, some large cosmetic companies announced they were going “three free.”

They pledged to remove the toxic trio from their nail polish. The bad news is that, in 2012, California’s Department of Toxic Substances revealed that some products claiming to be non-toxic and even “three free” still contained the toxic chemicals.4 For instance:5

  • 10 of 12 nail polishes that claimed to be free of toluene contained the substance
  • 5 of 7 nail polishes that claimed to be free of all three chemicals actually contained one or more at elevated levels

As noted by Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., senior scientist with Environmental Working Group:6

“Whether cosmetics products are mislabeled or not, the truth is many personal care products are delivering a number of highly suspicious chemicals into our bodies…

The industry is largely unregulated, allowing cosmetics companies to use any mix of chemicals they choose. Professional products found in salons are not required to provide consumers with even the most basic information on their ingredients.”

The Next Generation of Nail Polishes Are ‘5 Free’

Three-free nail polishes are now relatively common, although, as the California study showed, you can’t necessarily take the label at face value. The “next generation” of polish has taken it a step further and (supposedly) removed five harmful toxins. Five-free nail polish should be free from DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde, plus:

  • Formaldehyde resin: Although formaldehyde resin hasn’t been linked to cancer like regular formaldehyde, it’s a skin allergen known to cause dermatitis. It can also off-gas formaldehyde and may contain residual levels of formaldehyde.
  • Camphor: This is a scented substance derived from the wood of the camphor tree. It can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches when inhaled, especially in large doses, making it a concern for nail technicians.

If a nail polish is five-free does that mean it’s safe? Not necessarily. A single nail polish can contain dozens of chemicals, and, as is the case with most cosmetics, it’s a largely unregulated industry.

Almost 13,000 chemicals are used in cosmetics, and only about 10 percent have been evaluated for safety. And although the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually has direct authority to regulate harmful ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, it doesn't exercise it…

What does this mean for a health-conscious person like yourself? When you use nail polish, you’re taking a chance that you’re applying harmful chemicals to your nails, even if it claims to be non-toxic. As pediatrician Dr. Maja Castillo told the Huffington Post:7

"I don't think there have been any definitive studies that show that nail polish alone is enough to cause any harm… But I think that the risks outweigh any potential 'benefits.'"

This may be especially true for children, who are likely to chew on their nails and end up ingesting much of the polish. But regardless of its intended recipient, if you’re going to paint your nails your best bet is to choose a reputable eco-friendly brand that is water-based and centered around using natural, non-toxic ingredients. If you visit a nail salon, bring your own natural polish with you, or visit a green salon that offers such products. Alternatively, try the natural option below for making your nails shine…

A Natural Way to Create Beautiful Nails

Simple buffing can create a nice, smooth sheen to your nails, without using any nail polish whatsoever. An added boon is that it may actually help your nails grow stronger and longer due to increased circulation, and you won't have to worry about chipped nail polish either. The following video demonstrates how to buff your own nails.

Answering Emails After Work Is Bad for Your Health

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The majority of US workers (52 percent) check their e-mail during non-work hours, including on sick days.1 Depending on your employer, it may be an unspoken requirement to respond immediately, but, more likely, you respond right away not because of actual workplace policy but due to a phenomenon known as “telepressure.”

Telepressure, according to Northern Illinois University Larissa Barber, PhD, is “the urge to respond immediately to work-related messages, no matter when they come.”2 Some might find this to be efficient, but what it really does is blur the line between your work life and your personal life, such that you may rarely get a real rest.

Barber’s study was revealing… those who felt greater telepressure, and therefore a stronger urge to check and respond to e-mails at all hours, faced some serious consequences. As noted in the Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology:3

This experience [workplace telepressure] can lead to fast response times and thus faster decisions and other outcomes initially. However, research from the stress and recovery literature suggests that the defining features of workplace telepressure interfere with needed work recovery time and stress-related outcomes.”

What Are the Risks of Being Always Accessible?

Those who experienced greater telepressure, and therefore made a habit of responding to e-mails ASAP no matter what the hour, reported:

  • Worse sleep
  • Higher levels of burnout (physical and cognitive)
  • Increased health-related absences from work

As Barber told TIME:4 

It’s like your to-do list is piling up, so you’re cognitively ruminating over these things in the evening and re-exposing yourself to workplace stressors… When people don’t have this recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state, so they go to work the next day not being engaged.”

This is not a uniquely American problem, of course. In the European Union, surveys show that people are finding it increasingly difficult to stop their work life from blending with their private life.5 And in Germany, psychological illness is the reason for 14 percent of missed work days, which is a 50 percent rise over the last 12 years.6

And according to a survey of more than 2,000 people, work topped the list as the most stressful factor in people's lives. Workplace stress resulted in 7 percent of adults having suicidal thoughts.

That figure was even higher among 18-24-year olds — as many as 10 percent in this age group have had suicidal thoughts as a result of work stress. One in five people also reported developing anxiety due to work-related stresses, and even more disturbingly, nearly 60 percent reported using alcohol after work to cope.7

Without the necessary downtime during non-work hours, it’s easy to see how this stress and burnout could quickly spiral out of control. And the cost associated with all this stress goes beyond that of an individual’s health. It’s also costly to employers.

“Stress-related health expenses, productivity losses and the costs associated with high employee turnover rates is currently costing American companies an estimated $360 billion each year.”8

Germany Considers Law to Protect Citizens from Work-Related Stress

In the US, where close to one in four Americans receive no paid vacation or holidays, leading to a country known as the “no-vacation nation,” workplace well-being is not often an issue that ends up on the ballot (and least not favorably).9

This is not the case in certain other countries, like France, where a legally binding labor agreement introduced this year mandates that 250,000 employees “disconnect” from work in every way outside of working hours (and this is in addition to the 35-hour workweek the country adopted in 1999).10

In Germany, meanwhile, the labor minister has commissioned a study to define the cost of work-related stress to the economy, which might “pave the way” for an anti-stress act that was recently proposed by Germany’s metalworkers’ union. That act includes wording that employees should be protected from being “permanently reachable by modern means of communication.”11

Already, certain German employers have taken matters into their own hands. Volkswagen, for instance, stopped its servers from sending emails to certain employees outside of working hours back in 2011. And Daimler has given 100,000 workers the option of having their emails automatically deleted while they’re on vacation.12

Another Reason to Avoid Checking Your E-Mails After Work…

Checking e-mails late at night not only exposes you to work-related stress… it also exposes you to artificial light. The quality of your sleep has a lot to do with light, both outdoor and indoor lighting, because it serves as the major synchronizer of your master clock.

Exposure to even small amounts of light from your computer, tablet, or smartphone can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. The research is quite clear that people who use their computer or smartphones near bedtime are more likely to report symptoms of insomnia.13

Plus, when you're connected to the Internet, your phone or computer are communicating with nearby cell towers, which means they're also emitting low levels of radiation. One 2008 study revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.14

I recommend turning off electronic gadgets at least an hour prior to bedtime, but sooner is better. If you must check an e-mail at night, you can try a free computer program called f.lux (see JustGetFlux.com), which alters the color temperature of your computer screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths (which suppress melatonin production) as it gets late. You can also wear yellow-tinted glasses, which block the blue wavelengths of light.

It’s Important to Set Boundaries for Your Work Hours

In an interview with the Atlantic,15 writer Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, explained that birth rates are actually declining in the US.

Young people simply don't see how they can juggle both work and family life, with the latter being ultimately sacrificed. Busyness and "living a fast-paced life" are increasingly being viewed as signs of status. The more e-mails you have to check in a day, the more important you are.

The more meetings you attend, phone calls you receive, and lessons your child attends, the better. On the work front, especially, extreme hours are valued and overwork has become the norm. This has a tremendous impact on your quality of life outside of work, of course, as many are unable to fully disconnect from work, unwind, and pursue valuable leisure pursuits. As Schulte explained:

"…overwork has really become pervasive. I'm not talking about hard work. I'm all for hard work that we find meaning in. But overwork leaves us burned out and disengaged butts in chairs at work and fried at home without the energy to do much more than flop down in front of the boob tube."

Not quite the leisure the ancient Greek philosophers had in mind when they said pure leisure was that place where we both refreshed the soul and become most fully human... Against that backdrop comes technology and the ability to be connected 24/7,

This leads to a feeling of constantly being "on call," that you can never quite get away from work, that the boundaries that used to keep work more contained have bled and spilled over into the hours of the day that used to be for family, for self, for leisure, for sleep."

One solution is to set boundaries that help delineate work and personal time. Reserve your morning for exercise and meditation, for example, and don’t check e-mail until you get into the office. After your work has concluded for the day, ‘unplug’ from all technology to give yourself time to recharge.

Are You Ready to Unwind? Make the Most of Your Non-Work Hours

After you've gone to work, finished your errands or household chores, and gotten your kids to bed, many are simply too tired to think about stress relief, so they zone out to mindless entertainment or social media and go to bed feeling frazzled and anxious (maybe after checking more work e-mails, too)… not surprisingly, they then start off the next day feeling much the same. It's a vicious cycle, but one that's easily broken by turning stress management into a habit. You needn't devote hours to stress relief every day. Instead, you'll find that activities you already do can work wonders for calming your nerves, especially if you make a commitment to doing them on most days of the week. Try…

1. Exercise

Exercise affects a neurotransmitter that has an antidepressant-like effect on your brain while helping to decrease muscle tension.16 Exercise also guards against the adverse physical effects of stress. During periods of high stress, those who exercised less frequently had 37 percent more physical symptoms than those who exercised more often.17

2. Spend More Time in Nature

Going outdoors helps to relieve your stress naturally, with research showing levels of the stress hormone cortisol lower in those who live in areas with the most green space, as are their self-reported feelings of stress.18 Even five minutes in nature can help reduce stress and boost your mood.

3. Focus on Your Breathing

Learning to breathe mindfully can modify and accelerate your body's inherent self-regulating physiological and bioenergetic mechanisms. These changes are in large part due to the fact that you're oxygenating your body properly as well as correcting your internal and energetic balance, and it has a direct impact on your nervous system. Ideally, you should be breathing primarily through your nose. Learning a simple technique called Buteyko breathing can help you restore normal and beneficial breathing patterns.

4. Participate in Activities You Enjoy

Engaging in a hobby gives you crucial time to play and simply enjoy yourself. A hobby can take your mind off of stress and adds more much-needed fun to your life.

5. Eat Right

Schedule time to eat without rushing or too close to bedtime, and make sure to maintain optimal gut health by regularly consuming fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement. Plenty of scientific evidence now shows that nourishing your gut flora with the friendly bacteria within fermented foods or probiotics is extremely important for proper brain function, including psychological well-being and mood control.

6. Stay Positive

This is a learned technique that can lead to a more joyful life and likely much better health, as those who are optimistic have an easier time dealing with stress, and are more inclined to open themselves up for opportunities to have positive, regenerative experiences. Try keeping a list of all that you're grateful for and make a commitment to stop any negative self-talk.

7. Stay Connected

Loneliness can be a major source of stress, so make a point to connect with those around you – even a quick chat while in line at the grocery store. Work your way up to volunteering, attending community events, meeting acquaintances for coffee, or taking a class to meet others with like interests.

8. Take a Break or Meditate

Taking even 10 minutes to sit quietly and shut out the chaos around you can trigger your relaxation response.19 Even meditating during your breaks can help you to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety.

Preventing Kidney Stones May Be As Simple As Changing Your Diet

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In the 1970s, less than 4 percent of Americans had suffered from kidney stones. By the 1990s, this had increased to more than 5 percent. Today, with rates continuing to rise, kidney stones will impact one in 10 US adults at some point during their lives1 -- usually between the ages of 20 and 50.

In most cases, kidney stones pass without causing lasting damage, but the pain during passing can be excruciating. Kidney stones are also sometimes associated with lower back pain, stomach pain, nausea or vomiting, fever, and chills.

Generally, the larger the stone, the more pain and symptoms it will cause. Sometimes aggressive treatments are needed to clear the stones, and each year, more than half a million people go to US emergency rooms due to kidney stones.2

Once you’ve had them, your risk of recurrence increases. About 35 percent to 50 percent of people will have another bout with kidney stones within five years unless changes are made.3 What type of changes? According to new guidelines issued by the American College of Physicians (ACP), one of the simplest strategies you can take is to drink more water.

Staying Hydrated Lowers Your Risk of Recurrent Kidney Stones

The number one risk factor for kidney stones is not drinking enough water. If you aren't drinking enough, your urine will have higher concentrations of substances that can precipitate out and form stones.

Specifically, stone-forming chemicals include calcium, oxalate, urate, cysteine, xanthine, and phosphate. These chemicals should be eliminated in your urine via your kidney, but if too little liquid is present, they can join together to form a stone. According to the National Kidney Foundation:4

“Urine has various wastes dissolved in it. When there is too much waste in too little liquid, crystals begin to form. The crystals attract other elements and join together to form a solid that will get larger unless it is passed out of the body with the urine… In most people, having enough liquid washes them out or other chemicals in urine stop a stone from forming.”

The new ACP guidelines call for people who have had a kidney stone in the past to increase their fluid intake so they have at least two liters of urine per day, which they say could decrease stone recurrence by at least half.5 To achieve this, they recommend increased fluid intake spread throughout the day, pointing out that both water and mineral water are beneficial.

Research shows, for instance, among patients with kidney stones that those who increase hydration to reach two liters of urine a day had a 12 percent recurrence rate compared to 27 percent among those who didn’t increase their fluid intake.

The National Kidney Foundation recommends drinking more than 12 glasses of water a day, but a simpler way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine; you want your urine to be a very light, pale yellow (darker urine is more concentrated).

Every person's water requirement is different, depending on your particular metabolic requirements and activity level, but simply keeping your urine light yellow will go a long way toward preventing kidney stones.

Remember to increase your water intake whenever you increase your activity and when you're in a warmer climate. If you happen to be taking any multivitamins or B supplements that contain vitamin B2 (riboflavin), the color of your urine will be a very bright, nearly fluorescent yellow and this will not allow you to use the color of your urine as a guide to how well you are hydrated.

Water Reduces Risk, But Soda Increases It

One important point: not just any fluid will do to increase your urine output. While water and mineral water were protective, drinking soda is associated with kidney stones, possibly because the phosphorus acid it contains acidifies your urine, which promotes stone formation.

In addition, one South African study found that drinking soda exacerbates conditions in your urine that lead to formation of calcium oxalate kidney stone problems.6 The sugar, including fructose (and high fructose corn syrup in soda), is also problematic.

A diet high in sugar can set you up for kidney stones, since sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body by interfering with calcium and magnesium absorption. The consumption of unhealthy sugars and soda by children is a large factor in why children as young as age 5 are now developing kidney stones.

Sugar can also increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in your kidney, such as the formation of kidney stones. According to The National Kidney Foundation, you should pay particular attention to keeping your fructose levels under control:7

"Eating too much fructose correlates with increasing risk of developing a kidney stone. Fructose can be found in table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. In some individuals, fructose can be metabolized into oxalate."

So if you’re a soda drinker, cutting back is an important strategy to remember. In one study, those with kidney stones who eliminated soda from their diet lowered their risk of recurrence by about 15 percent.8

Kidney Stones Associated with Increased Risk of Broken Bones

As mentioned, kidney stones usually pass without any lasting complications, however there are some long-term associated risks. Kidney stones increase your risk of developing chronic kidney disease, for instance, and new research also shows they might be associated with more brittle bones.9

Past research has suggested that people with kidney stones have lower bone mineral density. The new study used data from more than 52,000 people and showed that those with kidney stones were at a significantly higher risk of bone fractures. Specifically:10

  • Men with kidney stones were 10 percent more likely to suffer broken bones than men without
  • Male teens with kidney stones had a 55 percent higher fracture risk than those without
  • Women with kidneys stones had a 17 percent to 52 percent increased fracture risk depending on age (from their 20s to 60s); those aged 30-39 had the highest risk
Fluoride Also Linked to Kidney Stones

If you live in area with fluoridated drinking water (such as most of the US), you might be interested to know that high levels of fluoride in water are associated with kidney stones.11 The condition was nearly five times more common in an area with high fluoride (3.5 to 4.9 parts per million, or ppm) than a similar area without high fluoride levels in the water.12

Overall, the prevalence of kidney stones in the high-fluoride area was nearly double in those with fluorosis than those without. Dental fluorosis – a condition in which your tooth enamel becomes progressively discolored and mottled – is one of the first signs of over-exposure to fluoride.

Eventually, it can result in badly damaged teeth, and worse... It's important to realize that dental fluorosis is NOT "just cosmetic." It can also be an indication that the rest of your body, such as your bones and internal organs, including your brain, has been overexposed to fluoride as well. In other words, if fluoride is having a visually detrimental effect on the surface of your teeth, you can be virtually guaranteed that it's also damaging other parts of your body, such as your bones. A reverse osmosis water filtration system can remove fluoride from your drinking water.

Exercise, Avoiding Overeating Are Two More Powerful Tools for Preventing Kidney Stones

You're more prone to kidney stones if you're bedridden or very sedentary for a long period of time, partly because limited activity can cause your bones to release more calcium. Exercise will also help you to resolve high blood pressure, a condition that doubles your risk for kidney stones. Even low amounts of exercise may be beneficial to reducing your risk. In a study involving more than 84,000 postmenopausal women, it was found that those who exercised had up to a 31 percent lower risk of kidney stones.13 The link persisted even with only small amounts of physical activity.

Specifically, the research showed a lower risk from three hours a week of walking, four hours of light gardening or just one hour of moderate jogging. You can find my comprehensive exercise recommendations, including how to perform highly recommended high-intensity interval training (HIIT), here. Diet wise, women who ate more than 2,200 calories per day increased their risk of kidney stones by up to 42 percent, while obesity also raised the risk. It should be noted that even though obesity increases kidney stone risk, weight loss surgery that alters your digestive tract actually makes them more common. After weight loss surgery, levels of oxalate are typically much higher (oxalate is the most common type of kidney stone crystal).

3 More Dietary Approaches for Avoiding Kidney Stones

We’ve already covered drinking plenty of water and avoiding soda, excess sugar and fructose. What else can help reduce your risk?

1. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Magnesium

Magnesium is responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, and deficiency of this mineral has been linked to kidney stones. An estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient, so this could be a major factor. Magnesium plays an important role in your body's absorption and assimilation of calcium, as if you consume too much calcium without adequate magnesium, the excess calcium can actually become toxic and contribute to health conditions like kidney stones.

Magnesium helps prevent calcium from combining with oxalate, which, as mentioned, is the most common type of kidney stone. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium, and one of the simplest ways to make sure you're consuming enough of these is by juicing your vegetables. Vegetable juice is an excellent source of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts like almonds, and seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Avocadoes are also a good source.

2. Eat Calcium-Rich Foods (But Be Careful with Supplements)

In the past, kidney stone sufferers have been warned to avoid foods high in calcium, as calcium is a major component of the majority of kidney stones. However, there is now evidence that avoiding calcium may do more harm than good. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study of more than 45,000 men,14 and the men who had diets rich in calcium had a one-third lower risk of kidney stones than those with lower calcium diets. It turns out that a diet rich in calcium actually blocks a chemical action that causes the formation of the stones.

It binds with oxalates (from foods) in your intestine, which then prevents both from being absorbed into your blood and later transferred to your kidneys. So, urinary oxalates may be more important to formation of calcium-oxalate kidney stone crystals than is urinary calcium. It is important to note that it is the calcium from foods that is beneficial -- not calcium supplements, which have actually been found to increase your risk of kidney stones by 20 percent.15

3. Avoid Non-Fermented Soy

Soybeans and soy-based foods may promote kidney stones in those prone to them, as they may contain high levels of oxalates, which can bind with calcium in your kidney to form kidney stones. This is just one reason why unfermented soy -- the type found in soy milk, soy burgers, soy ice cream, and even tofu -- is not a health food. If you were to carefully review the thousands of studies published on soy, I strongly believe you would reach the same conclusion as I have -- which is, the risks of consuming unfermented soy products FAR outweigh any possible benefits.

If you're interested in enjoying the health benefits of soy, choose fermented soy, as after a long fermentation process, the phytate (which blocks your body's uptake of essential minerals) and anti-nutrient levels of soybeans (including oxalates) are reduced, and their beneficial properties become available to your digestive system.

So while kidney stones can be excruciatingly painful, the good news is that there’s plenty you can do to reduce your risk… Check out my nutrition plan for a simple, step-by-step guide for what types of foods to eat to reduce your risk of kidney stones and other chronic and acute health conditions.

Improved Screening Has Led to False Rise in Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Thyroid cancer appears to be on the rise in many areas of the world, although recent research suggests this may be more due to over-diagnosis than an actual increase in incidence.

In the US, the rate of thyroid cancer has doubled since 1994.1 In South Korea, it has become the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer, having increased 15-fold in the past 20 years.

However, some cancer experts note that the situation in South Korea is likely due to increased screening and misdiagnosis of harmless tumors. As noted in the featured article:2

“South Koreans embraced screening about 15 years ago when the government started a national program for a variety of cancers — breast, cervix, colon, stomach and liver.

Doctors and hospitals often included ultrasound scans for thyroid cancer for an additional fee of $30 to $50... Although more and more small thyroid cancers are being found, however, the death rate has remained rock steady, and low.

If early detection were saving lives, death rates should have come down. That pattern — more cancers detected and treated but no change in the death rate — tells researchers that many of the cancers they are finding and treating were not dangerous.”

The Risks of Over-Diagnosis

Finding tiny benign tumors that really do not need treatment is known as over-diagnosis—a phenomenon that is also common in other kinds of cancer screening, particularly breast cancer.

It’s emotionally difficult to take a “wait and see” approach once a tumor has been noted on a test or scan, but treating it can do far more harm than good if it’s benign. Far more people die with thyroid cancers than from them.

Left alone, a benign, slow-growing tumor might never cause a problem—indeed as many as many as one-third of people die with small thyroid tumors that remained undetected throughout their lives,3 and the cancer didn’t actually cause their death.

Removing and treating harmless tumors, however, can lead to a slew of cascading health problems. For example, surgical removal of your thyroid means you need to take thyroid hormones for the remainder of your life.

For many, this will lead to less than optimal hormone function. Chronic hormone deficiency, depression, and other symptoms of low thyroid function can become lifelong companions as a result... Surgical removal of the thyroid can also result in accidental damage to your vocal cords and/or parathyroid glands.

In South Korea, two percent of patients suffer vocal cord paralysis, and 11 percent end up with hypoparathyroidism as a result of damage to the parathyroid glands—the latter of which detrimentally affects calcium regulation in your body.

Experts Call for Restraint in Screening for Thyroid Cancer

The answer, some cancer experts say, is to simply reduce screening that finds these tiny, harmless cancers. One of the South Korean authors of the featured paper4 goes so far as to propose thyroid cancer screening should be banned. As noted by the New York Times:

“[C]ancer experts said the situation in South Korea should be a message to the rest of the world about the serious consequences that large-scale screening of healthy people can have.

‘It’s a warning to us in the US that we need to be very careful in our advocacy of screening,’ said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. ‘We need to be very specific about where we have good data that it saves lives.’

...These tiny cancers, called papillary thyroid cancers, are the most common kind and are the sort typically found with screening. They are known to be the least aggressive.

The epidemic was not caused by an environmental toxin or infectious agent, said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth, an author of the paper.5

‘An epidemic of real disease would be expected to produce a dramatic rise in the number of deaths from disease,’ he said. ‘Instead we see an epidemic of diagnosis, a dramatic rise in diagnosis and no change in death.’

...[T]he lesson from South Korea should be heeded, said Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, director of the division of cancer prevention at the National Cancer Institute. ‘The message for so long is that early detection is always good for you,’ he said.

But this stark tale of screening gone wrong ‘should acutely raise awareness of the consequences of acting on the intuition that all screening must be of benefit and all diagnoses at an early stage are of benefit.’”

One in Eight Women Has Thyroid Disease

While the actual incidence of thyroid cancer may not be on the rise, thyroid disease has become very prevalent in today’s world, courtesy of a number of different lifestyle factors.

According to Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD, one in eight women aged 35-65 has some form of thyroid disease6—underactive thyroid being the most common. More than one-quarter of women in perimenopause are diagnosed with hypothyroidism, in which insufficient amounts of thyroid hormone is produced.

Thyroid hormones7 are used by every cell of your body, which is why the symptoms can vary so widely. For example, thyroid hormones regulate metabolism and body weight by controlling the burning of fat for energy and heat. Thyroid hormones are also required for growth and development in children. Symptoms of hypothyroidism may also include but are not limited to the following:

Fatigue, loss of energy, and general lethargy Cold intolerance Muscle and/or joint pain Decreased sweating DepressionPuffiness Weight gainCoarse or dry skin and hair Hair lossSleep apnea Carpal tunnel syndromeForgetfulness, impaired memory, and inability to concentrate Menstrual disturbancesDecreased appetite Impaired fertilityConstipation Fullness in the throat and hoarsenessIncreased risk of heart disease Increased “bad” cholesterol (LDL)Weakness in extremities Emotional instabilityBlurred vision Mental impairmentDecreased hearing Bradycardia (reduced heart rate)  The Effect of Thyroid Disease on Mental Health

Depression and other mental health problems are perhaps particularly notable symptoms of thyroid dysfunction—if nothing else because it’s a common side effect that is easily overlooked and therefore misdiagnosed. If your depression is due to an underactive thyroid, clearly the answer to your problem is not an antidepressant but rather addressing your thyroid function... As explained by Dr. Northrup:

“The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the area of your neck just below the Adam’s apple. It’s part of the endocrine system, and it secretes the hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroxine (T3), which regulate the body’s metabolic rate. Thyroid function is very complex and exerts a profound effect on the function of nearly every other organ in the body. Therefore, smooth functioning of the overall body chemistry depends on the health of your thyroid gland.

It is not uncommon for women with thyroid problems to suffer from depression. One explanation for this is that the most biologically active form of thyroid hormone, T3, is actually a bona fide neurotransmitter that regulates the action of serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is important for quelling anxiety.”

It’s important to realize that thyroid dysfunction is a complex issue, with many variables. As noted by Dr. Northrup, midlife hypothyroidism can be related to underlying estrogen dominance, in which case taking thyroid hormone fails to address the root of the problem. Medications can also disrupt your thyroid function, in which case the most appropriate remedy may not be to add thyroid hormone.

Known thyroid-disrupting drugs include steroids, barbiturates, cholesterol–lowering drugs, the antiepileptic drug Dilantin, and beta-blockers. Heavy metal toxicity is yet another factor that can be part of the problem (to learn more about this, please listen to my interview with Dr. Jonathan Wright, below). Last but not least, Dr. Northrup8 also points out that thyroid disease oftentimes has an emotional/spiritual component:

“Thyroid disease is related to expressing your feelings, something that until relatively recently had been societally blocked for women for thousands of years. In order to have your say—and maintain your thyroid energy—you must take a fearless inventory of every relationship in which you feel you don’t have a say...

One more thing, thyroid disorders are also related to our relationship to time. The thyroid is adversely affected by feeling as though there’s never enough time or that you are running out of time. This feeling also results in adrenal burnout (which is related to thyroid disorders.). Our culture’s relationship to time is very unbalanced... A starting point here is to realize that you have all the time there is. Literally. And all the time that anyone else has—24 hours in a day.

You can change your relationship to time by changing the way you pay attention... Take regular moments during the day to simply put your attention on something. Notice a beautiful flower. Or a tree. Or the sky. Slow down and pay attention. Eventually this little practice will improve your relationship to time.”

Treating Overactive Thyroid

The reverse condition, in which too much thyroid hormone is produced, is called hyperthyroidism. While far less common, it can be a very serious condition. Making matters worse, conventional treatment options usually involve using radioactive iodine, which is a disaster, or surgery. According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, there may be a much better and safer option: a combination of iodine and lithium. This treatment originated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), at their department of thyroid. They had enough people with hyperthyroidism there that they were able to divide them into four treatment groups, receiving either:

  • Lithium
  • Lugol’s iodine
  • Lithium first and then, three or four days later, iodine
  • Lugol’s iodine first, and then three or four days later, lithium

The group that started with Lugol’s iodine and finished with lithium did significantly better than all of the other groups in getting the hyperthyroidism under rapid control. More than two decades ago, The Mayo Clinic also published an article on the treatment of hyperthyroidism using lithium. Here, they used lithium alone, and were also able to bring abnormally high T3 and T4 numbers down to normal within a week to 10 days. It didn’t work on everybody though.

According to Dr. Wright, Walter Reed’s system is profoundly effective. Of all the people treated for hyperthyroidism in Dr. Wright’s clinic, amounting to about 40, there have only been two cases where the protocol failed. Normal levels can often be achieved in less than two weeks. In summary, the treatment is as follows:

  • Patient starts out on five drops of Lugol’s iodine, three times per day
  • After four or five days, patient starts receiving 300 mg of lithium carbonate, one to three times per day
The Importance of Iodine for Thyroid Function

Iodine is the key to a healthy thyroid and efficient metabolism. Even the names of the different forms of thyroid hormone reflect the number of iodine molecules attached -- T4 has four attached iodine molecules, and T3 (the biologically active form of the hormone) has three -- showing what an important part iodine plays in thyroid biochemistry.

As your body cannot produce its own iodine, it must be obtained from your diet.  Iodine is sequestered into your thyroid gland, where it is incorporated into the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) or triiodothyronine (T3). In healthy individuals these hormones are precisely regulated by thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and are required by all metabolically active cells in your body. Unfortunately, iodine deficiency is extremely common these days, and while toxic exposure plays a significant role in thyroid disease, this nutritional deficiency is an important factor.

More than 11 percent of all Americans—and more than 15 percent of American women of child-bearing age—have urine iodine levels less than 50 micrograms per liter (mcg/L),9 indicating moderate to severe iodine deficiency. An additional 36 percent of reproductive-aged women in the US are considered mildly iodine deficient (<100 mcg/L urinary iodine). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends taking an iodine supplement during pregnancy, as most pregnant women are deficient.10

Your iodine levels can also be affected by toxic exposures. Iodine is a member of a class of related elements called "halogens," which includes bromine, fluorine, and chlorine. When they are chemically reduced, they become "halides" (iodide, bromide, fluoride, and chloride). Most people today are exposed to these halogens/halides via food, water, medications, and environment and these elements selectively occupy your iodine receptors, further deepening your iodine deficit. Additional factors contributing to falling iodine levels include:

Water fluoridation Diets low in fish, shellfish, and seaweed Vegan and vegetarian diets Decreased use of iodized salt Less use of iodide in the food and agricultural industry Use of radioactive iodine in many medical procedures, which competes with natural iodine How Much Iodine Do You Need?

In Japan, the daily dose of iodine obtained from the diet averages around 2,000 to 3,000 micrograms (mcg) or 2-3 milligrams (mg), and there’s reason to believe this may be a far more adequate amount than the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 150 mcg. Some argue for even higher amounts than that, such as Dr. Brownstein, who recommends 12.5 milligrams (mg) on a regular basis. Other proponents of higher iodine amounts include Guy Abraham, an ob-gyn and endocrinologist at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Jonathan Wright, a pioneer in natural medicine. To learn more about iodine supplementation at higher dosages, and other treatment protocols for correcting thyroid dysfunction, I highly recommend listening to my interview with Dr. Jonathan Wright.


Download Interview Transcript

Take Control of Your Thyroid Health

Thyroid hormones are used by cells throughout your body, making it very important to address your thyroid health. Again, iodine is the key to a healthy thyroid, and it’s also important for the prevention of breast cancer. If you’re not getting enough from your diet (in the form of seafood), you’d be well advised to consider taking a supplement, ideally a high-quality seaweed supplement (be sure to check its source to avoid potential radioactive contamination), or other iodine-containing whole food supplement.

As for thyroid hormone replacement, you have two basic options: bioidentical or synthetic hormones.11 Bioidentical thyroid hormones—which are what I recommend using—include Nature-Throid and Westhroid. They’re made from desiccated pig thyroid glands and contain the full spectrum of thyroid hormones: T4, T3, T2, and T1. Synthroid (generic brand: Levothyroxine) is synthetic, and contains only T4. Keep in mind that in some cases, if you're borderline hypothyroid, you may actually only need an iodine supplement rather than a thyroid hormone replacement.

With regards to screening, there’s ample evidence suggesting that thyroid cancer screening is unnecessary unless you have reason to suspect cancer. Also remember that screening does not equate to prevention. Addressing your thyroid health is far more important and beneficial than relying on screening to alert you to a potential problem. Especially considering that the chances of over diagnosis are great, and treating an otherwise harmless tumor may result in greater harm than leaving it alone and simply focusing on lifestyle factors such as diet and detoxification to improve your thyroid health.

Are There Illegal Drugs in Your Dairy?

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a survey to determine whether illegal drugs were finding their way into the US milk supply. The study was only green-lighted after a more than year-long “negotiation” into its terms with the dairy industry and state governments.

Why the FDA, which is charged with protecting the public health, would need to negotiate study terms with an industry it is supposed to police is only one murky aspect to this story…

Even more unsettling is the fact that in 2014, more than two years after the study’s completion, the FDA has yet to release its findings. Surely in two years the FDA has had ample time to analyze its findings and prepare a report. What did they find that they are hiding?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) intends to find out… it has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the survey data. Said CSPI senior food safety attorney David Plunkett:1

"Consumers have a right to know what's in their milk, and if there are dangerous drugs in it, they need to know what FDA is doing about that … Why are those dairies that either can’t or won’t follow the rules allowed to continue to market milk?"

Got Milk? You Might Have Drugs with That, Too

CSPI has reason to be suspect of drugs in milk. In 2011, they reviewed drug-testing reports at slaughter plants and found that dairy farms accounted for 67 percent of drug-residue violations. In all, 17 different drugs were found in more than 735 drug-positive tissue samples.

This included drugs that are banned for use in cattle, such as the antibiotic gentamicin.2 When illegal drug residues are found in animals coming from dairy farms, it’s an indication that drugs may be being improperly used elsewhere on the farm, and possibly accumulating in your milk as well.

Also in 2011, Spanish and Moroccan researchers used a highly sensitive test to determine what types of medications could be found in a variety of milk (cow, goat and human breast milk). They hit the chemical jackpot. Medications used to treat diseases in both humans and animals were revealed. Among the drugs and hormones detected were:3

Anti-inflammatories (niflumic acid, mefenamic acid, ketoprofen, diclofenac, phenylbutazone, naproxen, flunixin,  and diclofenac) Antibiotics (florfenicol) Natural hormones (estrone) Sex hormones (17-beta-estradiol) Steroid hormones (17-alpha-ethinylestradiol) Anti-malaria drugs (pyrimethamine) Anti-fungal drugs (triclosan)    

While all types of milk tested contained chemicals, cow's milk contained the highest levels. Some of these drugs and hormones were given to the cows directly, while others were likely ingested from the cattle food or contamination on the farm.

The FDA has authority to require milk be tested if evidence exists that drug residues may be in the milk supply. However, CSPI notes that although the FDA has stopped some dairy farms from selling their cattle for meat after drug residue violations, this prohibition doesn’t typically extend to the milk.4

This is quite ironic, since the FDA, and other government agencies, seems to have no problem going after raw milk farmers, even when there is no evidence of contamination whatsoever…

Raw Milk Farmers Continue to Be Bullied

Raw dairy products from organically raised pasture-fed cows rank among some of the healthiest foods you can consume. In California, where raw milk can be sold legally and is tested and state-inspected, it often far exceeds pasteurized milk product standards without any heat or processing.

In other words, raw milk producers oftentimes adhere to stricter safety standards than CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) do. Still, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) commonly warns against drinking raw milk, citing numerous "outbreaks" linked to the product. But drinking raw milk produced by grass-fed cows from clean, well-run farms is actually far LESS dangerous than drinking pasteurized milk.

In fact, not only does raw milk contain beneficial bacteria that are essential for a healthy digestive system, raw milk also offers protection against disease-causing bacteria. CDC data show there are about 412 confirmed cases of people getting ill from pasteurized milk each year, while only about 116 illnesses a year are linked to raw milk.5 

Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD, featured in Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, also showed that you are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk!6

Meanwhile, the CDC stays silent about the proven health benefits linked to raw milk, like the GABRIELA study, which found school-aged children who drank raw milk were 41 percent less likely to develop asthma and about 50 percent less likely to develop hay fever than children who drank store-bought (pasteurized) milk.7

Fort Worth Regulators Fine Raw Dairy Farmer Two Counties Over…

Despite the facts, aggressive regulators continue to attack small farmers producing wholesome raw food products for loyal customers. One of the latest cases is in Fort Worth, Texas, where Eldon Hooley, who runs a “very clean raw milk operation” 40 miles south, is facing thousands of dollars in fines for operating an “illegal food establishment” and distributing “unfit food.”8

And get this: Hooley is licensed to sell raw dairy products out of his farm. But because some members of a food coop bought food there and then distributed it in Fort Worth, the city regulators are coming after him.

The city is using an updated ordinance that now states even the distribution of raw milk is prohibited… despite the fact that these Fort Worth residents obviously appreciated the ability to get farm-fresh raw food distributed to their neighborhoods without having to drive 40 miles to get it. And Fort Worth is not the only region trying to take these types of draconian control measures.

Illinois Proposes Restrictive Raw Milk Production Regulations

For over 30 years, the unlicensed on-farm sale of raw milk has been legal by government policy in Illinois. It’s a policy that has worked well and with no reports of foodborne illness attributed to Illinois raw milk producers going back at least as far back as 1998, if not further back. But the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) issued proposed regulations in September 2014 that a number of raw milk producers believe would put them out of business.

The burdensome, restrictive rules include provisions that would require a producer with even just one cow or goat to have a permit and would be subject to regular inspections and testing; the rules would also prohibit unlicensed dairy farmers from giving raw milk to guests at their home!

A workgroup consisting mostly of IDPH officials and dairy industry reps drafted the proposed rules; raw milk producers and consumers were also part of the workgroup but their input was ignored. The group wasn’t funded by the legislature but rather by a grant from FDA, the same agency that has been sitting on data about drugs in pasteurized milk for more than two years! An FDA official who was part of that workgroup stated that FDA considers all raw milk potentially adulterated.

Opposition by raw milk producers and consumers to the rules is also understandable when you consider that the proposed rules would place regulation with an agency (IDPH) that was complicit in an attempt to ban raw milk in the state legislature earlier this year. In March, a consortium of county health departments tacked on an amendment to ban raw milk sales in a bogus bill. IDPH knew of the effort but did nothing to stop the consortium when it had the chance to do so.

This happened just a few months after raw milk producers and consumers worked in good faith with IDPH to draft reasonable regulations governing raw milk sales and production in Illinois. Wes King, executive director of the agricultural advocacy group Illinois Stewardship Alliance, said:9

"We're really left scratching our heads, wondering why the department would propose rules that are going to hurt farmers, they're going to hurt consumers and they're not addressing any sort of emerging or evident public health threat here in Illinois.”

Where to Find Raw Milk

There are several resources out there to help you locate raw milk and other dairy products, and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund provides a state-by-state review of raw milk laws, in case you don’t already know what your state’s rules are.

Important Raw Milk Bills That Could Usher in More Food Freedom

Raw milk is the only food banned in interstate commerce. This makes it challenging for small farmers to share their raw milk products with people living across state lines. Such nonsensical bans have resulted in an increasing number of violent crack-downs on peaceful dairy farmers who want nothing more than to provide their customers with high-quality food. Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky has plans to introduce a series of “food freedom” bills; he introduced the first two of those bills this spring, legislation that could be a big step forward for the raw milk movement. According to Massie, these bills are intended to improve consumer food choices while protecting local farmers from federal interference:

  • The Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4307): The bill would prohibit the federal government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products, offering relief for small farmers who have been harassed, fined, or prosecuted for distributing raw milk.
  • The Interstate Milk Freedom Act of 2014 (HR 4308): This bill would prevent the federal government from interfering with trade of unpasteurized natural milk or milk products between states where distribution or sale of such products is already legal.

Despite the FDA’s loyalty to Big Dairy, increasing numbers of Americans demand healthier, more natural food from actual farms, not factories, and they are moving proverbial mountains and prompting real legislative change, not just in the realm of raw milk but in many facets of food quality and freedom. Congressman Massie explained:10

"Today, many people are paying more attention to the foods they eat, what it contains, and how it is processed. Raw milk, which has been with us for thousands of years, is making a comeback among these discerning consumers. Personal choices as basic as 'what we feed our families' should not be limited by the federal government."

To protect food freedom and freedom of choice for all Americans, I urge you to contact your government representatives, and ask them to vote YES on both HB 4307 and HB 4308. The Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund has created an online petition to FAX your message to your U.S. Representative and both Senators. Please take a moment to sign the petition right now.

Monsanto Vows to Challenge Maui GMO Moratorium in Court

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Despite Monsanto's typical flooding of millions of dollars into Maui, where they outspent citizens 87 to 1, they ended up being narrowly defeated. As noted by Democracy Now,1 Maui County's measure is one of the strongest anti-GMO measures ever to pass.

"The Maui GMO moratorium calls for a complete suspension of the cultivation of GMO crops until studies conclusively prove they are safe.

Maui is often called 'GMO Ground Zero' and the moratorium that passed [November 4] could have national implications because multinational seed producers, such as Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, use the county to research and develop new seed varieties."

The safety studies required to lift the moratorium are to be paid for by the seed companies, but would be conducted by the county of Maui. Not surprisingly, Monsanto has already announced it will file a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the moratorium.2, 3

As part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Monsanto is also suing Vermont to overturn the US nation's first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill,4, 5, 6 slated to go into effect as of 2016.

Clearly, a large part of their marketing budget involves suing farmers, counties, and states – whatever or whoever gets in the way of its plans for global domination of our food supply will pay the price...

How Did Maui Pull It Off?

You may be wondering just how Maui managed to pull off a GMO ban despite being outspent 87 to 1. According to Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), there are a number of potential reasons for this unlikely win.

For starters, the pro-organic, natural health consciousness is very high among consumers and organic farmers and gardeners in Maui. Reckless spraying and application of Roundup and other pesticides on the island has also alarmed and angered residents, further raising awareness about the health and environmental hazards associated with GMO crops.

Monsanto's bullying tactics may also have backfired. The more local the democracy, the less power Monsanto has to buy politicians and misleading platforms. GMO bans in counties are likely easier to win than state labeling laws.

Jackson County, OR, Josephine County, OR and Humboldt County, CA have all recently passed GMO bans,"7 that prohibits the propagation, cultivation, raising, or growing of genetically modified organisms within county lines.

Keeping Market Shares by Force

Monsanto, Pepsi, Kraft, and a collection of other pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers have poured over $100 million to defeat state and county initiatives to keep American consumers in the dark about genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in our food.

This is despite the fact that more than 60 other nations already require such labeling. It really goes to show that the entire business of chemical seed engineering depends on maintaining its stronghold over the American market.

Every fight these companies engage in against consumers is a loss for their brand regardless of outcome. What sense does it make to fight consumers for anti-transparency purposes?

Eventually, once awareness reaches a certain threshold, altered consumer preferences will start to choke GMOs out of the marketplace. The only questions are, how long will that take? And how much environmental and health harm will accrue in the meantime?

Chemical Technology Industry Aims to Remove Local and State Rights

Ballot initiatives to label GMOs narrowly failed to pass in Colorado and is still too close to call in Oregon after the pesticide and junk food industries poured $21 million into the Oregon race, and another $17 million into Colorado. Monsanto alone has spent more than $10.65 million to keep American voters in the dark this year!

On top of all that, they are working with the federal government to take our rights away at all local levels. The GMA, whose 300-plus members include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, is pushing a Congressional bill called the "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014."8

The bill, dubbed the "DARK" (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act, would actually preempt all states from passing GMO labeling laws.9 It would also bar states from enacting laws that make it illegal for food companies to misrepresent their products by labeling GE ingredients as "natural." The DARK Act would even limit the FDA's power to force food companies to disclose GE ingredients.

Another preemptive action to take away your rights has already slipped through the legislative process. Assembly Bill 2470,10 which was signed into law earlier this year, amends California's Seed Law to "prohibit a city, county, or district, including a charter city or county, from adopting or enforcing an ordinance on or after January 1, 2015, that regulates plants, crops, or seeds without the consent of the secretary." A number of anti-whistleblower bills are also being heavily pushed by industry lobbyists.11

They want to take away the rights of cities, counties, and states, and their strategy involves overpowering states and counties with costly lawsuits, and intimidating and discrediting individuals who speak out against them—whatever it takes to achieve their claim to rule the food and agriculture system. These industries are responsible for creating a fascist government that dominates the people, and we can't stand for it.

Rather than listening to American consumers and citizens, they are perpetuating the pesticide treadmill and junk food system that is destroying our environment and personal health.

GMA—Public Enemy Number One

I named the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) "the most evil corporation on the planet," as it is an industry association made up of the worst offenders in agriculture and food production.

President and CEO Pamela G. Bailey issued a statement saying that the GMA is pleased the Oregon and Colorado initiatives were defeated. Their VP had a slightly different response that indicates he may predict the backlash heading towards their member brands. Michael Gruber recently called the recent victories "hollow," stating12 that: "To be drawn in to these ballot initiatives is unpleasant and draws criticism... not to mention its tremendous cost."

Well, you reap what you sow… and the more GMOs that are sowed, the bigger the price to be paid. One wonders how much longer this group of evil doers can keep up their nefarious schemes. Mining fertilizers that run-off and contaminate our fresh water bodies, along with increasingly dangerous pesticides soaking into our soils and waters, depleting aquifers, monocultures spreading with no regard to lessons learned, fed to animals confined and loaded with antibiotics… The safety of the entire GMO 'food' production is a boldfaced lie when you look at the primary food crops sickening Americans:

  • High fructose corn syrup—one of the primary sources of calories in the American diet—is made from GMO corn (Bt corn), registered with the EPA for producing its own internal pesticide
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) known to cause heart and cardiovascular disease is made from GMO soy that is resistant to pesticide. This allows it to soak up much more of it than non-GMO soy
  • Sugar beets are also genetically engineered, ensuring that even foods sweetened with "regular sugar" fall into a more toxic category, courtesy of elevated pesticide contamination

Corn syrup, trans fats, and sugar – what a "safe and healthy" food system these companies have created... The continued argument that GMOs are safe is a horrible joke. These ingredients are now foundational in the US diet, and there is virtually no doubt that they are primary contributors to Americans' failing health. These ingredients promote disease in and of themselves, but making matters worse, they're also genetically engineered and loaded with pesticides, which ratchets up their hazard profile yet another notch.

Add in the fact that much of the corn and soy is fed into confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where antibiotics are mixed in for good measure, and you really have to wonder how long this house of cards will stand... The writing is on the wall and the strategy is clear. They want to take away our rights as high up the chain as possible, and there has never been a more important time to fight for our local rights to preserve health and diversity. A top down attack is on the way, and we must be resilient to prevent this from happening. Local battles will turn the tide, but to ensure there's even the chance of doing so we must preserve local rights! Local food and local democracy is the key to preserving diversity, improving health, and saving the environment.

In the meantime, stop buying products from those who are not just opposing your right to know – but are trying to take away your rights entirely through federal and state preemption laws. Support your local farmers, buy as close to the farm as possible, and cut out the processors. Look for dairy, meats, vegetables, fruits, and anything you can purchase locally. This is a small effort that will have a massive impact!


This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.

GE Crops, Glyphosate, and the Deteriorating Health in the US

One of the most recent studies13 investigating the effect genetically engineered (GE) crops and glyphosate has on Americans' health noted that: "Evidence is mounting that glyphosate interferes with many metabolic processes in plants and animals and glyphosate residues have been detected in both. Glyphosate disrupts the endocrine system and the balance of gut bacteria, it damages DNA and is a driver of mutations that lead to cancer..."

The researchers searched US government databases for GE crop data, glyphosate application data and disease epidemiological data. Correlation analyses revealed "highly significant" correlations between glyphosate applications and the following health problems among the US population. According to the authors: "The significance and strength of the correlations show that the effects of glyphosate and GE crops on human health should be further investigated."

Hypertension Stroke Diabetes Obesity Lipoprotein metabolism disorder Alzheimer's Senile dementia Parkinson's disease Multiple sclerosis Autism Inflammatory bowel disease Intestinal infections End stage renal disease Acute kidney failure Thyroid cancer Liver cancer Bladder cancer Pancreatic cancer Kidney cancer Myeloid leukemia  

Recent research14 also shows that there are significant compositional differences between GE soybeans and non-GE varieties. Glyphosate readily accumulates in the former, which means more of this toxin is making it into the body of those who consume GE foods. They also differ in terms of nutritional quality, with organic soybeans having the healthiest nutritional profile. According to the authors, "This study rejects that genetically modified soy is "substantially equivalent" to non-GM soybeans."

US food policy is also part and parcel of the problem. Not only are American taxpayers subsidizing Monsanto and junk food products via farm bill subsidies, tax payer money is also used to take away our right to local democracy through preemption, and the money is being used for lobbying for even more tax dollars through the farm bill... As noted by Bittman and Pollan in a recent Washington Post15 editorial:

"The contradictions of our government's policies around food become clear as soon as you compare the federal recommendations for the American diet, known as MyPlate with the administration's agricultural policies. While MyPlate recommends a diet of 50 percent vegetables and fruits, the administration devotes less than one percent of farm subsidies to support the research, production and marketing of those foods. More than 60 percent of that funding subsidizes the production of corn and other grains — food that is mostly fed to animals, converted to fuel for cars or processed into precisely the sort of junk the first lady is urging us to avoid."

Organic Food Resources

Here are some great resources to obtain wholesome organic food. Eating locally produced organic food will not only support your family's health, it will also protect the environment from harmful chemical pollutants and the inadvertent spread of genetically engineered seeds and chemical-resistant weeds and pests.

  1. Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
  2. Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
  3. Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
  4. Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
  5. Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
  6. FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.

Mushroom Extract Might Eradicate HPV Infection

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Mushrooms contain incredibly effective all-natural immune boosters. Long-chain polysaccharides, particularly alpha- and beta-glucan molecules, are primarily responsible for the mushrooms' beneficial effect on your immune system.

In one study, for example, eating one or two servings of dried shiitake mushrooms daily for 28 days was found to have a beneficial, modulating effect on immune system function.1

Now new research has also revealed that a shiitake mushroom extract may help to eliminate infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a finding that makes perfect sense, since a strong immune system is typically all that is needed to clear up an HPV infection.

Shiitake Mushroom Extract May Eliminate HPV Infection

The new study, which was presented at the 11th International Conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology, involved a shiitake mushroom extract known as active hexose correlated compound, or AHCC. It’s often sold as a nutritional supplement for boosting immune function.

Ten women with HPV were given the mushroom extract. Three of the women took the extract daily for three months and eliminated the virus completely. They remained clear of HPV even one month later. Two other women taking the extract had declining levels of HPV, so they are continuing to take the substance for up to six months.2

The five remaining women, meanwhile, were assigned to take the extract for less than three months, which proved not long enough to clear the infection. The researchers are hopeful that all of the women will respond after six months of treatment. The study’s lead investigator, Judith Smith, PharmD, told Medscape Medical News:

"Now we know that we need to give it at least 6 months to realize the full effect… This study confirms our preclinical findings, that it can eradicate HPV… We would also like to investigate at some point if AHCC can actually prevent infection, or prevent re-infection… We'd like to see if it can help build up the immune system to the point of resisting infection with HPV.”

Interestingly, Dr. Smith has had inquiries from people asking if the mushroom extract might work to clear up genital warts caused by HPV as well. Since the extract has no side effects, she suggested they could go ahead and try it.

At least several people have confirmed so far that their lesions cleared up and have not returned.3 In addition to immune-boosting effects, shiitake mushrooms also demonstrate antiviral (including HIV, hepatitis, and the "common cold") activity, which explains why they may be a near-perfect natural treatment for HPV.

Mushrooms May Also Fight Cancer

The beauty of natural substances like mushrooms is that they typically offer multiple benefits. Shiitake mushroom extract, for instance, is known to have anti-tumor benefits as well. As Dr. Smith noted:4

“I had originally looked into AHCC for its anti-tumor benefits… Then as I learned more about its activity against various virus strains, I connected the dots to my cervical cancer research and HPV and thought of the big picture…

…a nutritional supplement to treat HPV infections would be an incredible, safe option and could easily be used to treat infections before they turn into cancer.”

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) contain lentinan, the polysaccharide for which it was named. Lentinan has been isolated and used to treat stomach and other cancers due to its antitumor properties.

One of the more remarkable scientific studies demonstrating shiitake's antitumor effect was a Japanese animal study,5 where mice suffering from sarcoma were given shiitake extract. Six of 10 mice had complete tumor regression and with slightly higher concentrations, all 10 mice showed complete tumor regression. In addition:

  • The compound lentinan in shitake mushrooms has been found to increase the survival rate of cancer patients6
  • Extracts from maitake mushrooms, when combined with vitamin C, were shown to reduce the growth of bladder cancer cells by 90 percent, as well as kill them7
  • In Japan the top two forms of alternative medicine used by cancer patients are a mushroom called Agaricus subrufescens and shiitake mushroom extract8
  • Ganoderic acid in Reishi mushrooms may be useful in treating lung cancer9
4 Fascinating Facts About Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not only capable of bolstering immune function and potentially fighting cancer. Aside from being rich in protein, fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, and minerals, mushrooms are excellent sources of antioxidants.

They contain polyphenols and selenium, which are common in the plant world, as well as antioxidants that are unique to mushrooms. One such antioxidant is ergothioneine, which scientists are now beginning to recognize as a “master antioxidant.” Here are four more facts about mushrooms that might surprise you:10

1. They Have Natural Umami Flavor

Umami is the natural flavor of glutamic acid, which, in your body is often found as glutamate; eating umami-rich foods may increase post-meal satiety, helping you eat less throughout the day and ultimately lose weight.

Shiitake mushrooms are particularly rich in umami flavor (this is why they’re often used in place of meat in sandwiches), so try adding them to soups, stews, salads, sandwiches, and practically anything else.

2. They May Help You Lose Weight

Mushrooms are hearty and satisfying, yet low in calories in high in nutrition. Mushrooms can easily “bulk up” your meals without causing weight gain. One study found, in fact, that substituting red meat with white button mushrooms can help enhance weight loss.11

3. They’re a Good Source of B Vitamins

Mushrooms provide valuable nutrients than many are deficient in, including B vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. One dietary analysis found that mushroom consumption was associated with better diet quality and improved nutrition.12

4. Healthy Cholesterol Balance

The beta-glucans in mushrooms plays a role in fat metabolism and may help support healthy cholesterol levels. Shiitake also contains eritadenine, which has strong cholesterol-lowering properties.13

Boosting Your Immune System Is One of the Best Ways to Eliminate HPV

Getting back to HPV, it’s likely that the shiitake extract helped to boost the participants’ immune systems enough to help clear the HPV. It should be noted that in more than 90 percent of cases, your immune system can clear up an HPV infection within two years on its own.

But in the case of the featured study, the researchers specifically looked for persistent infections that did not appear likely to clear on their own. Even in those cases, most of the time HPV persistence was neutralized by the immune-boosting and anti-viral effects of the mushroom extract.

You can certainly try mushroom extract, or simply eating more organically grown mushrooms, to boost your own immune system, but it’s also important to engage in immune-boosting habits, like eating the foods described in my nutrition plan, exercising and optimizing your vitamin D levels.

One of the simplest steps you can take is to eliminate your consumption of sugar and most non-vegetable carbohydrates. The over-abundance of many processed foods in the typical Western diet simultaneously enhance inflammation while muting your immune system’s ability to respond to and ultimately control infections.

Eliminating processed foods from your diet might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Start slowly with this “bite-sized” step: swap out one of your processed-food meals (or even a snack) with homemade fermented foods. You can try a kefir smoothie (blend kefir with frozen berries and, if you like, a couple of organic raw eggs) or a serving of fermented veggies or kimchi. You can find step-by-step instructions to make your own fermented vegetables at home here. Just one-quarter to one-half cup of fermented veggies, eaten with one to three meals per day, can have a dramatically beneficial impact on your health, including that of your immune system.

Do You Know the Risks of the HPV Vaccine?

By Sept. 14, 2014, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil had generated more than 33,000 adverse reaction reports to the US government, including 158 deaths.14 This is probably a gross underestimate, because, although a federal law was passed in 1986 (the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act) mandated that doctors and other vaccine providers report serious health problems or deaths that occur after vaccination to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), there are no legal penalties for not reporting. It is estimated that less than 10 percent, perhaps less than 1 percent, of all serious vaccine adverse events that occur in the US are ever reported to VAERS.

Health problems associated with the Gardasil vaccine include immune-mediated inflammatory neurodegenerative disorders, suggesting that something is causing the immune system to overreact in a detrimental way—sometimes fatally. The truth is that a growing body of medical literature is showing the HPV vaccine is linked to nervous and immune system disorders in some young women and girls. In one recent case study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine,15 researchers described the case of a 14-year-old girl who developed postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) with chronic fatigue two months following Gardasil vaccination.

POTS is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which controls functions in your body such as your heart rate, balance, digestion, bladder control, and sleep. While rare, incidence of POTS appears to be increasing and emerging evidence suggests it may be an autoimmune disorder, in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body. In the case study, POTS fulfilled the criteria for a condition known as autoimmune/auto-inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (ASIA), highlighting the underlying mechanisms of how vaccines, and particularly their adjuvants (such as aluminum), may be triggering disease.

A second study, published in the European Journal of Neurology,16 described six patients who developed POTS from six days to two months following HPV vaccination. Please be aware that there is very little evidence that the very real risks of HPV vaccination are outweighed by the purported benefits. In 2012, a systematic review of pre- and post-licensure trials of the HPV vaccine by researchers at University of British Columbia showed that the vaccine's effectiveness is not only overstated (through the use of selective reporting or "cherry picking" data) but also unproven.17

Routine Pap Smears Help to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Gardasil is now recommended by public health officials as a routine vaccination for young girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26 and also for boys between the ages of 11 and 21, who are advised to get it for partial protection against genital warts and cancers of the penis and rectum to reduce transmission of HPV, thereby preventing cervical cancer deaths (which is highly questionable) and cancers reported to be associated with chronic HPV infection. However, this is all highly questionable when you consider the fact that HPV infections in most people do not persist and lead to cancer and, instead, clear up on their own within two years.

There's no treatment necessary and often no adverse health effects in 90 percent or more of HPV infections that people experience because most HPV infections do NOT become chronic and associated with cancer! Likewise, cervical cancer accounts for less than ONE percent of all cancer deaths in the US, while anal cancer claims the lives of approximately 300 Americans each year. So, HPV vaccine is certainly not aimed at any major public health threat, no matter which way you look at it. If you are a parent, it is important to educate your pre-teens and teenagers so they know that the risks of getting or transmitting HPV infection can be greatly reduced by choosing abstinence or use of condoms.

Furthermore, even for those who do get HPV vaccinations, there are still recommendations for girls and women to have pap screens every few years to detect any cervical changes that may indicate pre-cancerous lesions because there is little guarantee that either Gardasil or Cervarix (another HPV vaccine) will prevent chronic HPV infection or cervical and other cancers. Routine pap smear testing is a far more rational, less expensive, and less dangerous strategy for cervical cancer prevention, as it can identify chronic HPV infection and may provide greater protection against development of cervical cancer than blind faith in and reliance on HPV vaccinations.

Cervical cancer cases have dropped more than 70 percent in the US since pap screening became a routine part of women's health care in the 1960s, as it can detect pre-cancerous cervical lesions early so they can be effectively removed and treated. Risk factors that increase your chances of developing chronic HPV infection include:

  • Smoking
  • Co-infection with herpes, chlamydia, or HIV
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Compromised immunity
  • Long term use of hormonal contraceptives

Most of these are modifiable risk factors. Also, as mentioned previously, you can help boost your immune system health to help reduce your risk of contracting infections and developing complications by following my sensible nutrition plan.

Your Right to Informed Consent Is Under Attack

I cannot stress enough how critical it is to get involved and stand up for your fundamental human right to exercise informed consent to medical risk-taking and your legal right to obtain non-medical vaccine exemptions. This does not mean you have to opt out of all vaccinations if you decide that you want to get HPV vaccine or one or more other vaccines. The point is that everyone should have the right to evaluate the potential benefits and real risks of pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, and opt out of getting any vaccine or drug they decide is unnecessary or not in the best interest of their health or their child's health.

While it seems "old-fashioned," the only truly effective actions you can take to protect the right to informed consent to vaccination and legally obtain vaccine exemptions is to get personally involved with your state legislators and the leaders in your community. Vaccine use recommendations are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level, and it is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choices can have the greatest impact.

Signing up for the National Vaccine Information Center's free online Advocacy Portal at www.NVICAdvocacy.org not only gives you immediate, easy access to your state legislators so you can become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community, but when state and national vaccine issues come up, you will have the up-to-date information and call to action items you need at your fingertips to make sure your voice is heard. So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.

Contact Your Elected Officials

Write or email your elected state representatives and share your concerns. Call them, or better yet, make an appointment to visit them in person in their office. Don't let them forget you! It is so important for you to reach out and make sure your concerns get on the radar screen of the leaders and opinion makers in your community, especially the politicians you elect and are directly involved in making vaccine laws in your state. These are your elected representatives, so you have a right and a responsibility to let them know what's really happening in your life and the lives of people you know when it comes to vaccine mandates. Be sure to share the "real life" experiences that you or people you know have had with vaccination.

Share Your Story with the Media and People You Know

If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury, or death, please talk about it. If we don't share information and experiences with one another, everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. Write a letter to the editor if you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper. Make a call in to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the vaccine story. I must be frank with you; you have to be brave because you might be strongly criticized for daring to talk about the "other side" of the vaccine story.

Be prepared for it and have the courage to not back down. Only by sharing our perspective and what we know to be true about vaccination will the public conversation about vaccination open up so people are not afraid to talk about it. We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies to dominate the conversation about vaccination. The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the carpet and treated like nothing more than "statistically acceptable collateral damage" of national one-size-fits-all mass vaccination policies that put way too many people at risk for injury and death. We should be treating people like human beings instead of guinea pigs.

Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More

I encourage you to visit the following web pages on the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) website at www.NVIC.org:

  • NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries, and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
  • If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
  • Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment by doctors, employers, or school officials for making independent vaccine choices.
Connect with Your Doctor or Find a New One Who Will Listen and Care

If your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don't want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the medical establishment in an effort to stop the change in attitude of many parents about vaccinations after they become truly educated about health and vaccination. However, there is hope.

At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they're starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents. It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines. So take the time to locate a doctor, who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for you or your child.

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Neurological Diseases; Also Raises Risk of Asthma Attacks, and More...

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If there’s ever was a Top Nutrient competition, vitamin D just might nab the title. It affects your DNA through vitamin D receptors (VDRs) that bind to specific locations on the human genome.

So far, scientists have identified nearly 3,000 genes that are influenced by vitamin D status, and a robust and growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is critical for optimal health and disease prevention.

This includes some of the more difficult-to-treat conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease,1 Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis2 (MS).

Vitamin D Deficiency Is Prevalent in MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, neurodegenerative disease of the nerves in your brain and spinal column, caused through a demyelization process. It has long been considered a “hopeless” disease with few treatment options.

The typical prescription for MS focuses on highly toxic medications like prednisone and interferon. However, research over the past few years suggests MS may be improved using a number of natural methods—including vitamin D.

Most recently, a study3, 4 presented at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association of Neuromuscular and Electrodiagnostic Medicine5 (AANEM) shows that vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly prevalent both among those diagnosed with MS, and patients suffering other neuromuscular conditions.

Here, vitamin D deficiency was defined as a 25(OH)D3 level of 30ng/ml or less. Of patients diagnosed with a neuromuscular condition, 48 percent were deficient in vitamin D. Only 14 percent were above “normal,” which here constituted a vitamin D level of 40 ng/ml. According to one of the authors:

“While the connection between vitamin D deficiency and neurologic disease is likely complex and not yet fully understood, this study may prompt physicians to consider checking vitamin D levels in their patients with neurologic conditions and supplementing when necessary.”

Besides this one, about a dozen other studies6 have also noted a strong link between MS and vitamin D deficiency. For example, a number of studies have confirmed that your risk of MS increases the farther away you live from the equator, suggesting lack of sun exposure amplifies your risk.

I believe optimizing your vitamin D level is of great importance if you have MS, but it’s not the only factor. For additional treatment suggestions, please see my previous article discussing natural MS treatment guidelines.

Vitamin D Deficiency Raises Risk of Brain Dysfunction and Death Following Cardiac Arrest

Besides helping prevent chronic brain disorders such as dementia, vitamin D sufficiency may also help protect brain function should you have the misfortune of suffering cardiac arrest. As noted in a recent press release:7, 8

Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of poor brain function after sudden cardiac arrest by seven-fold, according to research presented at Acute Cardiovascular Care 2014 by Dr Jin Wi from Korea. Vitamin D deficiency also led to a higher chance of dying after sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr Wi said: ‘In patients resuscitated after sudden cardiac arrest, recovery of neurological function is very important, as well as survival. Vitamin D deficiency has been reported to be related to the risk of having various cardiovascular diseases, including sudden cardiac arrest.

We investigated the association of vitamin D deficiency with neurologic outcome after sudden cardiac arrest, a topic on which there is no information so far...

Patients with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have a poor neurological outcome or die after sudden cardiac arrest than those who were not deficient.

Nearly one-third of the patients who were deficient in vitamin D had died 6 months after their cardiac arrest, whereas all patients with sufficient vitamin D levels were still alive.’"

Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Asthma

In related news,9 asthma attacks have also been linked to insufficient vitamin D status. Low vitamin D levels were significantly associated with greater frequency and severity of attacks in asthmatics. According to lead author Dr. Ronit Confino-Cohen, a senior lecturer at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Israel:

“I think that if a patient has had good treatment for asthma and is still not controlled, maybe he should be checked for his vitamin D levels before adding on more medications. Maybe supplementation would do the job.”

This isn’t the first time vitamin D deficiency has been linked to asthma attacks. Research published in 2010 also found that asthmatic children with low blood vitamin D levels may have a greater risk of suffering severe asthma attacks. According to this study, vitamin D insufficiency itself was linked to a 50 percent increase in the risk of severe asthma attacks.

At the end of 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics doubled its recommended dose of vitamin D for infants, children and adolescents, raising it from 200 to 400 units per day.10, 11 But research12 published earlier that same year revealed children may need 10 times that amount in order to receive the health benefits that optimal vitamin D levels have to offer! Many mothers also are vitamin D deficient, which is another contributor to asthma. A 2007 study13 showed that poor diet and lack of vitamin D during pregnancy were the determining factors in whether their children suffered from asthma by the age of five.

Have You Checked Your Vitamin D Level Lately?

While the optimal level for general health lies between 50-70 ng/ml, when treating chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune and/or neurological diseases, your level should ideally be somewhere between 70-100 ng/ml, which is about double what is typically considered “normal.”


References for target ranges

It’s important to realize that vitamin D deficiency14 is common round the world, even in areas where you’d suspect most people would get plenty of sun exposure. One recent study15 done in India found that 69 percent of 37,000 people tested across the country were vitamin D deficient (at or below 20 ng/ml), and another 15 percent had insufficient levels (20-30 ng/ml). Men between the ages of 31-60, and women aged 16-30 were at highest risk of vitamin D deficiency.

The ideal method to optimize your vitamin D levels is through sensible sun exposure, or using a tanning bed. If neither is available, you can use an oral supplement of vitamin D3. GrassrootsHealth has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. Many experts agree that 35 IUs of vitamin D per pound of body weight could be used as an estimate for your ideal dose.

If Taking a Vitamin D Supplement, Remember K2 and Magnesium Too

If you opt for a supplement, be sure to take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—and take vitamin K2 and magnesium in conjunction with it. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so taking some form of healthy fat with it will also help optimize absorption. The biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, and without sufficient amounts, calcium may build up in areas such as your arteries and soft tissues. This can cause calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries—a side effect previously thought to be caused by vitamin D toxicity. We now know that inappropriate calcification is actually due more to lack of K2 than simply too much vitamin D.

Magnesium is also important, both for the proper function of calcium, and for the activity of vitamin D as it converts vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium also activates enzyme activity that helps your body use the vitamin D. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency16 is also common, and if you’re lacking in magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you may exacerbate the situation.

Vitamin A, zinc, and boron are other important cofactors that interact with vitamin D, and indeed, zinc deficiency has also been identified as a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease. When taking supplements, it can be easy to create lopsided ratios, so getting these nutrients from an organic whole food diet and sensible sun exposure is generally your best bet. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best.

A Vitamin D Expert’s Take on the Latest Warning to Stay Out of the Sun to Avoid Skin Cancer

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

The US Surgeon General recently came out with a warning on skin cancer,1 claiming that the sun is dangerous and that you need to stay away out of it.

Dr. John Cannell, founder of the Vitamin D Council, has dedicated a large part of his professional career to the study of vitamin D and its health benefits, and he has a warning of his own to those who take this narrow-minded advice to heart.

It’s worth noting that the acting Surgeon General, Boris Lushniak, is a dermatologist. And of all the medical specialties out there, dermatologists are clearly the most biased against sun exposure, and as a result, against vitamin D.

This isn’t surprising, since they primarily see the ill effects of sun overexposure. But in taking an overly narrow view, the advice to avoid sun exposure as much as possible can have equally if not greater adverse health effects.

The Connection Between Sun Exposure and Skin Cancer

Unquestionably, UV radiation can be dangerous; it can increase your risk for certain skin cancers such as squamous cell, basal cell, and melanoma. But there are significant differences even between these cancers, and appropriate sun exposure may actually be more beneficial than detrimental in some cases. Dr. Cannell explains:

“Squamous cell carcinoma is clearly associated with chronic sun exposure. It is more common on the face, the hands, and the scalp.

It is related to radiation burden over your lifetime, and together with basal cell carcinoma, which is sort of intermediate, it accounts for approximately 1,500 deaths a year in the United States...

Basal cell is sort of intermediate. There are studies showing that it is associated with chronic sun exposure, and there are studies showing that it’s not associated with chronic sun exposure.

And then there’s melanoma, which is responsible for almost 9,000 deaths a year and is the deadly skin cancer that is feared. The relationship that melanoma has with the sun is quite complicated.

It is clearly associated with sunburn, especially sunburns when you’re young (that’s incontrovertible) or sunburns in a sun tanning bed.”

However, there are at least two studies showing that melanoma is more common in indoor workers than outdoor workers. And the most likely places for melanoma to appear are actually NOT the face and the hands like squamous cell carcinoma, but rather the lower back and the upper leg—areas that are usually not chronically sun-exposed.

According to Dr. Cannell, there’s a vocal minority in the dermatological community that thinks the emphasis dermatologists have on avoiding sun exposure is wrong, because while sunburn is a risk factor, chronic sun exposure is not.

“A number of studies show that chronic sun exposure is related to melanoma, but they don’t separate out the sunburns, which is very hard to do because you have to do that by memory,” Dr. Cannell says.

Two Decades-Long Study Finds Sun Avoidance Doubles Risk of Death

Dr. Cannell notes a recent study2 done in Sweden, which followed nearly 30,000 middle-aged to older women for up to 20 years. The average follow-up was 15 years.

At the outset, they asked a number of questions about sun exposure, such as: Do you sunbathe? Do you take vacations in sunny areas in the winter? Do you garden with short sleeves and shorts? And, do you use sunbeds?

What they found, and this appears to be the only study of this kind, is that the women who avoided the sun were twice as likely to die over the course of the study. The researchers attributed this finding to a vitamin D mechanism.

What this study actually shows is that chronic sun exposure appears to be associated with less mortality. It’s also the first study to show that women who use tanning beds live longer than those who don’t.

This is in direct conflict to what almost every dermatologist will say, including the Surgeon General. It’s unfortunate, but the danger of almost any specialist is that they don’t take the broader perspective.

What the Surgeon General and almost every other dermatologist fail to take into account is the overall mortality, which is referenced in this recent study.

Risk-Benefit Analysis

In addition to this study, dozens of others document the benefits of appropriate sun exposure. This includes a reduced risk of about 16 different cancers of Dr. Garland’s studies suggest this reduction is close to 50 percent.

So many hundreds of thousands of people are put at risk from other cancers as opposed to 10,000 people who are dying from skin cancer caused by sunburn. It’s really a matter of making an educated risk-benefit analysis.

“When you do a risk-benefit analysis and you look at all the data we have, the risk in my opinion appears to be in those who avoid the sun,” Dr. Cannell says.

“Now, if you avoid the sun, your risk for non-melanoma skin cancer goes down. That’s clear. But if you look at studies of either latitude or of 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in relation to cancer, you find this inverse relationship: the higher the vitamin D level, the lower the internal cancer rate.”

Dr. William Grant of Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center (SUNARC) estimates that if everyone in the United States had a vitamin D level of 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), it would save approximately 150,000 lives a year.3

That’s 100 times the rate of squamous cell cancers, which are the only ones that are definitively linked to UV exposure. In Canada alone, it is estimated that 37,000 lives a year are lost due to vitamin D deficiency.4 Also, use of sunscreen has risen in the last 30 years, so if dermatologists were correct, there should be a decrease in stage 1 melanoma. But there’s not. As sunscreen use increased, stage 1 melanoma diagnosis increased...

“It’s thought that by blocking out UVB, patients are able to stay out in the sun longer than they would have otherwise and expose themselves to the more dangerous, or at least potentially dangerous, UVA radiation that’s in the sunshine,” Dr. Cannell says. “What we recommend is what’s called safe, sensible sun exposures. The Australian Cancer Council now recommends the same thing. I think in England there’s now a change in their recommendation from strict sun avoidance to some safe, sensible sun exposure. There are some movements in large organizations to realize that safe, sensible sun exposure is a healthy thing.”

How Much Sun Exposure Is Sensible?

On its website, Cancer Research UK reports that “by enjoying the sun safely and avoiding sunburn, people can reduce their risk of skin cancer and enjoy the beneficial effects of the sun.” Cancer Research UK’s sun advice is endorsed by the British Association of Dermatologists, Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Heart Forum, the National Osteoporosis Society, and the Primary Care Dermatology Society. The UK National Health Service5 also recommends sensible, individualized sun exposure to help optimize vitamin D.

It’s important to recognize is how quickly sunlight can make vitamin D in the skin. You don’t need to be outside for hours on end. But you do need more than just a few minutes of sun on your face and arms. According to Dr. Cannell, sunbathing at solar noon in the summer, at most latitudes in the United States you will make between 5,000-10,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D within 30 minutes.

“You can ask yourself why nature would evolve a mechanism that made so much vitamin D so quickly,” Dr. Cannell says. “When I thought about that question, the only answer I could come up with is nature did it for a good reason. The organism needs vitamin D, so the system in the skin evolved to make it very quickly upon exposure to sunlight.

We recommend full-body sun exposure for up to anywhere from a few minutes to 30 minutes every day. On those days when you cannot get a full-body sun exposure, we recommend a vitamin D supplement or sensible exposure in a low-pressure UVB bed.”

If you’re getting regular sun exposure, I think the need for an oral supplement is really minimal to non-existent. When you swallow a pill, there’s no self-regulating ability. Your body doesn’t have an ability to selectively limit its absorption. But your skin has the ability to control how much vitamin D is being produced based on how much is in your blood.

I personally have not taken oral vitamin D for five years and my level runs from 50-70 g/ml. Lifeguards, roofers, and gardeners who work with their shirt off, all tend to have levels between 40 and 80 ng/ml in the summer. This also brings up an interesting question about the difference between normal and natural. Normal vitamin D levels are an average of what indoor workers have in both winter and summer. Natural are levels of a population with widespread sun exposure. The latter is going to be closer to ideal, or optimal.


References for establishment of optimal levels

There are also other reasons to strive for sun exposure rather than swallowing a pill. As noted by Dr. Cannell, aside from producing vitamin D, sunlight also affects nitric acid levels and endorphins in the skin. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin recently discovered that there may be a system at 311 nanometers that is separate from the vitamin D system (which is at 298 nanometers), and that there may be an entirely new undiscovered biochemical system in the skin that makes yet another substance, besides vitamin D. Time will tell what comes out of that research, but there are indications that sunlight may be responsible for other biological processes that are unrelated to vitamin D production.

Dr. Cannell’s Recommendation on Tanning Beds

There are basically two types of tanning beds:

  1. High-pressure UVA beds. They tan you the quickest because it’s UVA that tans the skin. They contain only a limited UVB spectrum, and will therefore give you color but not much vitamin D
  2. Low-pressure beds, which contain less UVB than sunlight at most latitudes, but still contain a significant amount of UVB. These are the beds Dr. Cannell recommends, provided you’re using a sensible approach that avoids sunburns. It’s important to realize that you can easily get burned after only a couple or a few minutes when using a tanning bed

Another important factor when selecting a tanning bed is the type of ballast it employs, to avoid excessive electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure. Most tanning units use magnetic ballasts to generate light. These magnetic ballasts are well known sources of EMF fields that can contribute to cancer. If you hear a loud buzzing noise while in a tanning bed, it has a magnetic ballast system. I strongly recommend you avoid magnetic ballast beds, and restrict your use of tanning beds to those that use electronic ballasts.

On days you cannot get either regular sun exposure or use of a tanning bed, Dr. Cannell suggests taking 5,000 IUs of vitamin D3. Other vitamin D experts recommend similar amounts. It’s worth noting that, according to the federal government’s Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), the no observed adverse effects level (NOAEL) of vitamin D is 10,000 IUs a day. This means there has never been a replicated reliable study showing that 10,000 units a day is in any way detrimental.

Many individuals who have reported side effects from taking high doses of oral vitamin D have noticed that when they supplemented with magnesium, they were able to tolerate the high oral doses of vitamin D. Dr. Carolyn Dean has written in her book, The Magnesium Miracle, that she has seen this so many times that she doesn’t advise taking more than 2,000 units of vitamin D without magnesium supplementation. Be sure to also have an adequate amount of vitamin K2 along with D to slow the progression of arterial calcification. Remember though that the best form of vitamin D is the one your body produces when it is exposed to sunlight that has sufficient amounts of UVB.

Five Tips to Get an Appropriate, Sensible Amount of Sun

Again, sunshine offers substantial health benefits, including vitamin D production, but you do need to exercise a few simple precautions to protect yourself from overexposure. Virtually all of the harm from sun exposure is related to sunburn. Here are my top five tanning tips:

  • Expose large amounts of your skin (at least 40 percent of your body) to sunlight for short periods daily. Optimizing your vitamin D levels may reduce your risk of as many as 16 different types of cancer, including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, breast, prostate, and skin cancers. If using a sunscreen, give your body a chance to produce vitamin D before you apply it.
  • Stay out just long enough for your skin to turn the very lightest shade of pink, if you’re naturally light-skinned, or just a hint reddish if you’re dark-skinned. Shield your face from the sun using a safe sunscreen or hat, as your facial skin is thin and more prone to sun damage, such as premature wrinkling.
  • When you'll be in the sun for longer periods, cover up with clothing, a hat, or shade (either natural or shade you create using an umbrella). 
  • Consider the use of an "internal sunscreen" like astaxanthin to gain additional sun protection. Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant (and pigment) produced by marine algae in response to their exposure to UV light. Typically, it takes several weeks of daily supplementation to saturate your body’s tissues enough to provide protection.
  • Consuming a healthy diet full of natural antioxidants is another useful strategy to help avoid sun damage. Fresh, raw, unprocessed vegetables and fruits deliver the nutrients that your body needs to maintain a healthy balance of omega-6 and omega-3 oils in your skin, which is your first line of defense against sunburn. Vegetables also provide your body with an abundance of powerful antioxidants that will help you fight the free radicals caused by sun damage that can lead to burns and cancer.

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