By Dr. Mercola
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For well over half a century, the media and a majority of health care officials have warned that saturated fats are bad for your health and lead to a host of negative consequences, including high cholesterol, obesity, and heart disease.
The American Heart Association began encouraging Americans to limit dietary fat, particularly animal fats, in order to reduce their risk of heart disease as far back as 1961. And as of 2010, the current recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture1 (USDA) call for reducing your saturated fat intake to a mere 10 percent of your total calories or less.
Worse yet, fat was virtually removed entirely from the latest USDA "food pyramid," now called "MyPlate." Except for a small portion of dairy, which is advised to be fat-free or low-fat, fats are missing entirely!
But despite low-fat diets having become the norm over the past six decades, American levels of heart disease, obesity, and high cholesterol have skyrocketed, far surpassing such disease rates in modern-day primitive societies that still use saturated fat as a dietary staple.
Clearly there's a lot of confusion on the subject of saturated fats, even among health care professionals. Fortunately, the tide is starting to turn, as the truth about these correlations is becoming more glaringly obvious.Systematic Review Finds No Grounds for Current Guidelines on Fat
Four years ago, a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition2 came to the conclusion that there's "no significant evidence... that saturated fat is associated with an increased risk for coronary heart disease."
Now, yet another meta-analysis of 49 observational studies and 27 randomized controlled trials published in a major publication, the Annals of Internal Medicine 3,4,5 has reached the same conclusion. In all, the analysis included data from more than 600,000 people from 18 countries, and according to the authors:
"[C]urrent evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats."
The study looked at four categories of dietary fats: saturated fats; polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6; monounsaturated fats such as olive oil; and trans fats. Saturated fats, which have the longest history of being (wrongfully) demonized, were found to have no effect on heart disease risk.
Ditto for monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, which are generally recognized as being heart healthy. Both omega-3s and omega-6s were also deemed to be beneficial6, 7 for heart health. The only fat found to really promote heart disease was trans fat (found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils). Fortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already taken steps to remove these harmful fats from the food supply.
They plan to do this by removing partially hydrogenated oils—the primary source of trans fats—from the list of "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) ingredients. If the proposal goes through, it would be a big step in the right direction. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also previously called for the elimination of trans fats from the global food supply.8
According to the authors of the featured analysis, the lack of correlation between saturated fat and heart disease really should trigger a review of our current dietary guidelines for heart health. Others still vehemently disagree, to the detriment of anyone listening to their recommendations. As reported by MedicineNet.com:9
"In response to the study, the American Heart Association says its guidelines remain the same. For heart health, it recommends a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, and unsaturated fats. Less than six percent of the diet should include saturated and trans fats, the association says."Sugar, Not Fat, Drives Heart Disease
Many health experts now believe that if you are insulin or leptin resistant, as 85 percent of the US population is, you likely need anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your daily calories in the form of healthful fats for optimal health. Research also increasingly points to refined carbohydrates (particularly processed fructose) as being the real culprit behind rising heart disease rates.
In the 1960s, British physician John Yudkin was among the first to challenge Ancel Keys' hypothesis that saturated fat caused heart disease by raising cholesterol, stating that SUGAR is the culprit in heart disease—not saturated fat.
Unfortunately, Keys was a politically powerful figure, and it was his flawed cholesterol theory that ultimately gained firm traction within the medical establishment. By the 1970s, you were considered a total quack if you supported Yudkin's sugar theory.
In more recent years, Yudkin's work has been proven prophetic—and far more accurate than Keys' ever was. For example, a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition10 found that when you replace saturated fat with a higher carbohydrate intake, particularly refined carbohydrate, you exacerbate insulin resistance and obesity, increase triglycerides and small LDL particles, and reduce beneficial HDL cholesterol.
The authors state that dietary efforts to improve your cardiovascular disease risk should primarily emphasize the limitation of refined carbohydrate intake and weight reduction.
Courtesy of the low-fat myth taking firm hold, this is the polar opposite of what actually occurred over the past half century. While saturated fat consumption was dramatically reduced in most people's diet, refined carbohydrate intake dramatically increased. Today, refined fructose is added to virtually every kind of processed food and beverage on the US market.
One of the reasons for all this added sugar is because when you remove fat, you lose flavor. So sugar is used to add flavor back in. Consumption of harmful trans fat (which for decades was touted as a healthier alternative to saturated animal fat) also radically increased, starting in the mid-1950s.
In the final analysis, it seems clear that one seriously flawed hypothesis gaining foothold in the minds of the medical establishment has led to a decades-long snowball effect of dietary recommendations that have both altered the food supply for the worse, and led to an avalanche of otherwise avoidable chronic diseases.
Evidence of this was recently highlighted in an excellent editorial in the journal Open Heart.11 In it, research scientist and doctor of pharmacy James J. DiNicolantonio reviews the cardiometabolic consequences of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates, which includes the following:
Groundbreaking research by the likes of Dr. Robert Lustig and Dr. Richard Johnson (author of the books, The Sugar Fix and The Fat Switch) clearly identifies the root cause of heart disease—and it's not fat. It's refined fructose, consumed in excessive amounts. Their research, and that of others, provides us with a clear solution to our current predicament. In short, if you want to protect your heart health and avoid a number of other chronic disease states, you need to address your insulin and leptin resistance, which is the result of eating a diet too high in sugars and grains.
For those of you still concerned about your cholesterol levels, know that 75 percent of your cholesterol is produced by your liver, which is influenced by your insulin levels. Therefore, if you optimize your insulin level, you will automatically optimize your cholesterol, thereby reducing your risk of both diabetes and heart disease. To safely and effectively reverse insulin and leptin resistance, thereby lowering your heart disease risk, you need to:
- Avoid sugar, processed fructose, grains if you are insulin and leptin resistant, and processed foods
- Eat a healthful diet of whole foods, ideally organic, and replace the grain carbs with:
- Large amounts of vegetables
- Low-to-moderate amount of high-quality protein (think organically raised, pastured animals)
- As much high-quality healthful fat as you want (saturated and monounsaturated from animal and tropical oil sources). Most people actually need upwards of 50-85 percent fats in their diet for optimal health—a far cry from the 10 percent or less that is currently recommended. Sources of healthful fats to add to your diet include: avocados; butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk; raw dairy; organic pastured egg yolks; coconuts and coconut oil; unheated organic nut oils; raw nuts and seeds; and grass-fed and finished meats
A third "add-on" suggestion is to start intermittent fasting, which will radically improve your ability to burn fat as your primary fuel. This too will help restore optimal insulin and leptin signaling.Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Are Both Necessary for Optimal Health
Saturated fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a number of important health benefits, and your body requires them for the proper function of your:Cell membranes Heart Bones (to assimilate calcium) Liver Lungs Hormones Immune system Satiety (reducing hunger) Genetic regulation
Cholesterol also carries out essential functions within your cell membranes, and is critical for proper brain function and production of steroid hormones, including your sex hormones. Vitamin D is also synthesized from a close relative of cholesterol: 7-dehydrocholesterol. Your body is composed of trillions of cells that need to interact with each other. Cholesterol is one of the molecules that allow for these interactions to take place.
For example, cholesterol is the precursor to bile acids, so without sufficient amounts of cholesterol, your digestive system can be adversely affected. It's also critical for synapse formation in your brain, i.e. the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things, and form memories. In fact, there's reason to believe that low-fat diets and/or cholesterol-lowering drugs may cause or contribute to Alzheimer's disease.12 Low cholesterol levels have also been linked to violent behavior, due to adverse changes in brain chemistry.
To further reinforce the importance of cholesterol, I want to remind you of the work of Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who most recently made a giant splash in the world of science with her discovery of how glyphosate acts to destroy human health. According to her theory on cholesterol, it combines with sulfur to form cholesterol sulfate, which helps thin your blood by serving as a reservoir for the electron donations you receive when walking barefoot on the earth (also called grounding). She believes that, via this blood-thinning mechanism, cholesterol sulfate may provide natural protection against heart disease. In fact, she goes so far as to hypothesize that heart disease is likely the result of cholesterol deficiency—which of course is the complete opposite of the conventional view.For Optimal Heart Health, Balance Your Omega-3 to Omega-6 Ratio
Another critical fat your body needs for optimal health is animal-based omega-3. Omega-3 deficiency can cause or contribute to very serious health problems, both mental and physical, and may be a significant underlying factor of up to 96,000 premature deaths each year. Again demonstrating the abject failure of government guidelines to promote health, the 2011 "food pyramid" (MyPlate) doesn't even mention omega-3. To remedy this gross "oversight," I've created my own Food Pyramid for Optimal Health, which you can print out and share with your friends and family.
As for omega-6 fats, it's important to understand that while you do need them, the most important factor is the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6. The ideal ratio is thought to be anywhere between 1:1 and 1:5, but the typical Western diet is between 1:20 and 1:50 in favor of omega-6, courtesy of an overabundance of industrially processed vegetable oils. As an oversimplification, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, whereas omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. Hence, when omega-6 is consumed in excess, it can become problematic — and even more so if it's damaged through processing. I firmly believe that increasing your omega-3 and reducing industrialized omega-6 oils is a profoundly important and simple shift in diet that you need to address. For a more complete discussion of the differences between types of dietary fat, omega-3 versus omega-6, DHA, EPA, etc., please refer to our comprehensive fatty acids overview.Preventing Heart Disease Is Within Your Control
The take home message here is that eating saturated fats like butter, coconut oil, and avocados will not increase your risk of heart disease. On the contrary, it is extremely important for optimal health, including your heart and cardiovascular health. What WILL dramatically raise your risk of heart disease and any number of other chronic health problems is refined carbohydrates, including sugar, fructose, and all unsprouted grains. Replacing saturated fats with trans fats and carbohydrates is precisely what has led to a literal "world of hurt" over the past several decades. Fortunately, reversing this trend is rather simple, but it will require you to buck a very stubborn status quo—albeit a status quo that is starting to crumble at the foundation, as more and more researchers are coming to the conclusion that we've had it all backwards. So, in summary, if you want to prevent heart disease:
- DO eat unprocessed saturated animal fats. Many may benefit from increasing the healthful fat in their diet to 50-85 percent of daily calories
- AVOID all sugars, including processed fructose and grains if you are insulin and leptin resistant. It doesn't matter if they are conventional or organic, as a high-sugar diet promotes insulin and leptin resistance, which is a primary driver of heart disease
- DO exercise regularly, as physical activity along with a healthy diet of whole, preferably organic, foods may be just as potent—if not more potent—than cholesterol-lowering drugs
- AVOID cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins, as the side effects of these drugs are numerous while the benefits are debatable. In my view, the only group of people who may benefit from a statin drug are those with genetic familial hypercholesterolemia. This is a condition characterized by abnormally high cholesterol, which tend to be resistant to lifestyle strategies like diet and exercise
By Dr. Mercola
There are many reasons to be conscious of vitamin D. A reduced cancer risk is perhaps among the most notable, but compelling evidence also suggests optimizing your vitamin D can reduce your risk of death from any cause.
Researchers have also pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year.
Despite its name, vitamin D is not technically a vitamin. It's actually a steroid hormone that you get primarily from either sun exposure or supplementation, and its ability to influence genetic expression is thought to produce many of its wide-ranging health benefits.Health Areas Benefited by Vitamin D
Many books could be written about the health benefits of vitamin D—far more than can be covered here—but to summarize in broad strokes, optimizing your vitamin D levels can help protect against:Cardiovascular disease. Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
According to longtime vitamin D researcher Dr. Michael Holick, research has shown that vitamin D deficiency can increase your risk of heart attack by 50 percent. If you have a heart attack and you're vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack is upwards of 100 percent. Autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D is a potent immune modulator, making it very important for the prevention of autoimmune diseases, like multiple sclerosis1 (MS) and inflammatory bowel disease. Lung disease. In those who are deficient, vitamin D supplementation may reduce flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms by more than 40 percent.2 Other research3 suggests vitamin D may protect against some of the adverse effects of smoking as well. Infections, including influenza. Vitamin D also fights infections, including colds and the flu, as it regulates the expression of genes that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.
I believe it's far more prudent, safer, less expensive, and most importantly, far more effective to optimize your vitamin D levels than to get vaccinated against the flu. DNA repair and metabolic processes. One of Dr. Holick's studies showed that healthy volunteers taking 2,000 IUs of vitamin D per day for a few months upregulated 291 different genes that control up to 80 different metabolic processes.
This included improving DNA repair; having a beneficial effect on autoxidation (oxidation that occurs in the presence of oxygen and /or UV radiation, which has implications for aging and cancer, for example); boosting the immune system; and many other biological processes. Brain health (depression,4,5 dementia, and Alzheimer's disease). Vitamin D receptors appear in a wide variety of brain tissue, and activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain. Vitamin D is therefore important for optimal brain function, mental health, and for the prevention of degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.
According to one recent study6,7 seniors with low vitamin D levels may double their risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Another study8,9,10 found that people with the highest average intakes of vitamin D had a 77 percent decreased risk for Alzheimer's.
Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on your brain through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Cancer. Vitamin D has a number of specific anticancer effects, including the promotion of cancer cell death, known as apoptosis, and the inhibition of angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor).
There are well over 800 references in the medical literature showing vitamin D's effectiveness against cancer. One recent meta-analysis11 concluded that vitamin D helps protect against bladder cancer. In all, having a high serum level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with a 25 percent reduction in relative risk of bladder cancer.
Similarly, a 2007 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine12 concluded that a vitamin D level of more than 33 ng/mL was associated with a 50 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer. Vitamin D for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American women,13 claiming the lives of nearly 40,000 women each year. While there are certainly many contributing factors, Carole Baggerly, founder of GrassrootsHealth, believes that ordinary breast cancer may in fact be related to (or certainly exacerbated by) vitamin D deficiency.
It can also make a big difference in cancer recovery. Most recently, a meta-analysis of five studies published in the March 2014 issue of Anticancer Research14 found that patients diagnosed with breast cancer who had high vitamin D levels were twice as likely to survive compared to women with low levels.15,16,17
The analysis included more than 4,500 breast cancer patients over a nine-year period. The high serum group had an average vitamin D level of 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), which really isn't all that high as optimal is likely over 50 ng/ml.
Women in the low serum group averaged 17 ng/ml, which is the average vitamin D level found in American breast cancer patients.18 The researchers urge physicians to make vitamin D monitoring and optimization part of standard breast cancer care, and recommend that breast cancer patients should restore their vitamin D levels to a normal range of 30-80 ng/ml.
According to the featured findings, you need at least 30 ng/ml of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) to prevent cancer from spreading. That said, other research suggests you may be better off with levels as high as 80 ng/ml.Low Vitamin D May Be an Independent Risk Factor for Death
A robust and rapidly growing body of research clearly shows that vitamin D is critical for good health and disease prevention, in part due to the fact that it influences about 10 percent of all your genes.
Most recently, researchers used a technique called Mendelian randomization to assess the impact of vitamin D deficiency on health and overall mortality, and the results are compelling. As reported by the New York Times:19
"For the study,20 published in BMJ, researchers used data from Danish government health records on 95,766 subjects. All were tested for a genetic variant that reduces their vitamin D levels, and 35,334 also had their vitamin D serum levels measured...
By studying two large populations, of which one has the genetic variant for low vitamin D and the other does not, researchers were able to virtually eliminate the impact of confounding factors like other diseases, habits and behaviors that might be contributing to poor health. These traits would be evenly distributed in the populations studied, leaving only the genetic difference between them.
The scientists found that having the genes associated with lifelong low vitamin D increases the risk of cancer death by more than 40 percent and the risk of death from any cause by more than 30 percent. They found no effect on cardiovascular disease death. 'This study shows there may be a causal relationship' between vitamin D levels and death, said the lead author, Dr. Shoaib Afzal of Copenhagen University Hospital. But, he added, 'We can't recommend that you go out and buy supplements. We still need randomized trials for that.'"[Emphasis mine]
Contrary to Dr. Afzal's suggestion to hold off on the supplements, another recent report suggests children should be given free vitamin D supplements to address "a hidden epidemic of deficiency" that is driving disease statistics. The report21 was issued by the British National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). NICE also urges supermarkets to stock low-cost vitamin D supplements, and to promote them to high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, seniors, and people with darker complexion.Sun Exposure Is the Ideal Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Stores
I firmly believe that sensible sun exposure is the best way to optimize your vitamin D level. In fact, I personally have not taken a vitamin D supplement for over five years, yet my levels are in the 70 ng/ml range. If you can't get enough sunshine, then a tanning bed equipped with an electronic ballast (to avoid potentially harmful EMF fields) would be your next best option.
If your circumstances don't allow you to access the sun or a tanning bed, then taking a vitamin D supplement is certainly advisable. In this case, be sure to take vitamin D3—not synthetic D2—and take vitamin K2 and magnesium in conjunction with it. Vitamin D is fat soluble, so taking some form of healthy fat with it will also help optimize absorption. Vitamin A, zinc, and boron are other important cofactors that interact with vitamin D.
There are a number of important reasons for these recommendations. For starters, the biological role of vitamin K2 is to help move calcium into the proper areas in your body, and without sufficient amounts, calcium will build up in areas such as your arteries and soft tissues. This can cause calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries—a side effect previously thought to be caused by vitamin D toxicity. We now know that inappropriate calcification is actually due more to lack of K2 than simply too much vitamin D.
Magnesium is also important, both for the proper function of calcium, and for the activity of vitamin D, as it converts vitamin D into its active form. Magnesium also activates enzyme activity that helps your body use the vitamin D. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. As with vitamin D and K2, magnesium deficiency22 is very common, and if you're lacking in magnesium and take supplemental calcium, you may exacerbate the situation. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium citrate and magnesium threonate are among the best.How Much Vitamin D Is Required for Breast Cancer Prevention?
In 2011, a team of researchers led by Dr. Cedric F. Garland found that a vitamin D level of 50 ng/ml is associated with a 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer.23,24 At that time, they discovered that in order to achieve protective levels, you have to take far more supplemental vitamin D than previously thought.
To reach a minimum protective level of 40 ng/ml of vitamin D, study participants had to take anywhere from 1,000 IUs to as much as 8,000 IUs of vitamin D3 per day—a far cry from the recommended daily allowance of 600 IUs of vitamin D for adults. The supplemental dose ensuring that 97.5 percent of the study population achieved a serum 25(OH)D of at least 40 ng/mL was 9,600 IU/day. This study also concluded that intake of up to 40,000 IUs per day is unlikely to result in vitamin D toxicity.
GrassrootsHealth also has a helpful chart showing the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels based upon your measured starting point. It's important to note, however, that it's virtually impossible to make a general recommendation on how much vitamin D to take as the amount needed can vary significantly from one individual to another. In essence, you need to regularly monitor your levels, and take whatever amount of vitamin D3 you need to maintain a clinically relevant level.
Finally, just in time for the new year, my team has come up with a helpful 2015 US vitamin D calendar. You can use it to track UVB levels by state throughout the year. Each month you can see how likely you are to obtain enough UVB rays based on where you live. The calendar is a $14.97 value but for a limited time, you can get it free with any order over $49.
Ideally, you would receive all the omega-3s you need from fish, but the vast majority of the world’s fish supply is heavily contaminated with PCBs, mercury, agricultural toxins, and radioactive poisons. This is why I don’t recommend getting omega-3s from fish.
I do, however, have a few exceptions to this rule – one is wild-caught Alaskan salmon or sockeye salmon. Alaskan or sockeye salmon have very little risk of accumulating high amounts of toxins in their bodies because of their short life cycle, which is only about 3 years. The bioaccumulation of toxins also decreases because salmon don’t feed on other already contaminated fish.
Additionally, wild-caught sockeye salmon has an outstanding nutrition and a fresh, irresistible taste, which you can enjoy in this recipe:
- 2 pounds wild Alaskan or sockeye salmon
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. paprika
- 1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning*
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of gray salt
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Rinse and pat dry salmon. Place on baking sheet and brush olive oil on both sides. Place skin side down and sprinkle the paprika and Old Bay seasoning on top. Grind a few good turns of black pepper and sprinkle a scant amount of gray salt.
- Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with foil. Let stand for about 5 to 10 minutes. The salmon will continue to cook while resting. Cut into 4 pieces and serve.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
*NOTE: If Old Bay Seasoning is not available, another seafood seasoning would be fine, or a combination of celery salt, dried mustard, black pepper, and a small amount of the following: ground bay leaves, ground cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)Salmon Supreme Cooking Tips
When you spend hard-earned money on food, you want to know that you’re getting what you pay for. Below are some tips on finding quality ingredients for your Salmon Supreme dish:
How to Find Quality Salmon
Two designations of salmon to look for are “Alaskan salmon” and “sockeye salmon.” Because both Alaskan and sockeye salmon is not allowed to be farmed, canned varieties labeled either “Alaskan” or “sockeye” is a safe choice. Sockeye salmon also has one of the highest concentrations of astaxanthin of any food.
Further, pay attention to the color of the salmon’s flesh. The flesh of wild-caught sockeye salmon is bright red, due to its natural astaxanthin content. It’s also very lean, so the fat marks – the white stripes on the meat – are very thin.
Avoid “Atlantic salmon,” as these mostly come from fish farms, which feed fish synthetic nutrients, hormones, antibiotics, and even genetically engineered feed. They also have pale pink flesh, with wide fat marks.Salmon Supreme Nutrition Facts Calories 455 Total fat 27 g Carbohydrates3 g Protein 49 g Why Is Salmon Supreme Good for You?
Animal-sourced omega-3 fat is one of the essential nutrients that can do wonders for your overall health. Ninety-five percent of your cells’ membranes are composed of fat, and without omega-3s, your cells won’t function properly.
This salmon recipe is not only mouthwatering, but it’s also a great source not only of beneficial omega-3 fats, but also monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, courtesy of these ingredients:
Salmon provides omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which can benefit many aspects of your health, from your cardiovascular system to mental and behavioral health to your digestive health. It may even help prevent premature death. Salmon is also a great source of high-quality protein.
Salmon also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which has been hailed as one of the most powerful antioxidants ever discovered due to its ability to quench multiple types of free radicals simultaneously.
Findings have shown that it is stronger than other carotenoid antioxidants, such as vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lycopene Astaxanthin also exhibits beneficial properties that make it useful for heart, eye, and brain health, as well as for alleviating chronic pain.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, which can help lower your risk of heart disease. It may also help you regulate your insulin and blood sugar levels, consequently lowering your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
High-quality olive oil also provides essential vitamins and nutrients. It is also gentle on your digestive system and may help in preventing gallstones and soothe ulcers.
However, please note that olive oil is prone to oxidation when subjected to heat. For a truly healthy meal, I recommend swapping it with coconut oil, which is much less susceptible to heat damage.
Adding spices, as well as herbs, to your food gives your meals a nutritional boost in more ways than one – and this recipe contains them. First, mixing them to your dishes gives you the extra flavor enhancement and complexity that only natural spices can bring. Second, herbs and spices are abundant in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and phenomenal therapeutic properties.
For instance, adding black pepper to your dishes helps increase the bioavailability of nutrients in other herbs and foods. It also contains a substance called piperine, which contributes to weight management by blocking the formation of new fat cells. Nutrients like vitamin K, manganese, iron, and fiber can also be found in this spice. Like black pepper, paprika1 can add flavor to your dishes. Made from dried, finely ground red chili peppers, this spice contains many beneficial compounds, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, and vitamin K.
By Dr. Mercola
Most of us benefit from high-quality animal protein. But what constitutes "high quality"? One key factor that has a tremendous bearing on the quality of the meat is whether or not the cattle was raised on pasture, opposed to a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO).
Joey Jones has been involved in the grass-fed beef market for over 17 years. He created the GrassfedNetwork.com—an online resource with ongoing monthly trainings for livestock producers, in which they learn how to improve the way they raise animals on grass.
While he grew up as a city kid, Joey got involved with ranching while attending college at Texas Tech University.
"In West Texas, I was doing that in a county that had the second largest feedlot. The smell of that was just horrendous as most of us have smelled... When the wind was blowing from that direction, it didn't matter what part of town you were in; the entire city could smell it.
That smell isn't a natural smell. I only know that now, from working with naturally raised animals that simply don't have those smells. Those smells are sick animals."
About 18 years ago, Joey and his wife started an organic co-op, which also offered grass-fed beef. The more involved he got, the more he realized that many of today's farmers have forgotten how to raise animals on grass only, which is what led him to create Grassfed Network.Definition of Grass-Fed
There's a lot of confusion about the term "grass-fed," and in many cases, it's an abused term like the word "natural." Some producers of beef will misuse this term because the rules around it are still somewhat undefined.
Most all calves are fed grass for a certain amount of time. This is one factor that allows less scrupulous producers to get away with calling their beef grass-fed. The key to a truly grass-fed product is actually the finishing. Optimal beef is both grass-fed and grass-finished beef.
"The only way to know any product that you're buying, whether it's produce or meat, is really to know the source of that product, and know their practices,"
Joey says. "It is true that all animals are fed grass at some point unless they're dairy animals; there are actually dairy animals that never see a blade of grass...
But almost all beef animals are going to be on grass at some point in their life. It definitely is the grass-finished product that you're after. And they're difference is big."
Joey recounts one test he performed with one of his clients, who had a herd of animals raised on grass. The animals were finished for two different grass-fed meat buying organizations.
One of the organizations accepted dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGs) as a supplement. DDGs are the corn that has been processed in a refining process that removes the starch, leaving only the dry matter from the corn.
Since there's no starch, it technically qualifies as a grass-fed feeding supplement. The other did not accept DDGs. So one group of the animals got about two pounds of DDG a day, whereas the other group only got grass forage.
"When we processed those animals and sold them, we took a meat sample from both groups," Joey says. "In that three-month period... [the DDG-fed] group had no health benefits left whatsoever in the meat. The group that didn't get those DDGs still had all the health benefits that we expect from a grass-finished product."
Some of the benefits of grass-fed and grass-finished beef include higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and other healthy fats. As Joey notes, "Many times the health benefits reside in the fat more than the meat itself and the muscle tissue."
It also has a more balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6. Modern food, in which processed foods and vegetable oils dominate, has led to a dramatic increase in omega-6 over omega-3.
Compared to a century ago, we now have 100,000 times higher intake of omega-6, which does not bode well from a health perspective. Substituting processed vegetable oils with healthy animal fat is a good approach that will help optimize your health.Most Grass-Fed Beef Sold in the US Is Imported...
Surprisingly, most of the grass-fed beef sold in the US is actually imported from Australia and New Zealand1 Some grass-fed beef is also sourced from countries like Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Uruguay.2
Joey believes the primary reason for the import of grass-fed beef is that it’s cheaper to grass finish in those countries than to finish on grain. The beef market in the US is for grain finished animals predominately, so there are very few grass-fed producers compared to conventional producers in the US.
When the demand for grass-fed is realized by the beef industry, the numbers of producers will increase and the demand can most certainly be met by US producers. In Australia, 70 percent of all Australian cattle are pasture-raised and finished, and many of the grass-fed cattle operations are indeed massive. Such is not the case in the US at the moment.
"There are not a lot of large-scale producers of grass-fed beef [in the US] though there are some," Joey says. "I think people will probably misunderstand what large-scale is. Most producers are going to have 100 or less head of animals.
They're only slaughtering one or two animals a month and so on, and direct it to the farmer's market or something like that... But some of these operations do much, much more – 30 heads a month or 3,000 head a year...
Their primary difference is going to be in the last 90 to 120 day of life. Beef animals for the most part are going to be raised on grass. Although in a commercial operation, calves start getting supplemented with grain as soon as they get separated off from their mothers.
There's grain introduced very early on in the animal's life. Although they're out on grass, they're getting supplemented to a large degree by grain, whereas a grass-fed animal – a true grass-fed animal – is only going to have grass or forages throughout their life. Any growing plant is a forage for livestock."
According to Joey, the grass-fed market only makes up about three percent of the US beef ranchers. Fortunately, that number is growing. Overall, grass-fed beef sales have been increasing by about 20 percent a year for the last six years. It's the only growing segment of the beef industry as a whole.How to Evaluate Grass-Fed Beef Sold at Your Local Grocer
For those of you who do not live near grass-fed producers, one option is to look for grass-fed beef in your local grocery store. Publix, for example, sells USDA organic, grass-fed beef. Joey recommends looking for the country of origin on the label.
"The first thing to do is make sure that it's a US-based product. That's the first step," he says. "It's impossible to know your producer if you're producer is from Uruguay or Australia. And we have no control over how that product is raised in Uruguay and Australia. Their standards are going to be different from ours, and there's simply no way to have an oversight on that.
Once you've established that it's a US-based product, you can find out who the supplier is... There are a number of larger-scale sellers of grass-fed product that are buying from these smaller producers... [C]all in and find out what their standards are and what their protocol is. All of them have different standards for their producers. You want to know what they're allowing and what they're not allowing."
Joey also suggests thinking of grass-fed beef as a seasonal product, just like produce. While this might not be a very popular idea, it has some merit. All foods have a season in which it grows, followed by harvesting and consumption. You could buy it fresh, in season, and then freeze it of course. According to Joey, a steak or ground beef will stay fresh for up to a year if properly vacuum sealed and frozen.Organic versus Grass-Fed and Finished Beef
It's important to recognize that while the USDA 100% Organic label is good, it's not necessarily a guarantee that the meat has been grass-fed and finished. In fact, the organic label is costly for ranchers, and many actually raise their cattle in ways that provide superior beef compared to beef bearing the organic label. In my mind, a truly grass-fed, grass-finished product is superior to organic.
One argument some ranchers will give is that they have to feed their animals grains because there's no grass growing in the winter. While that may be true in some areas, there are many parts of the US where year-round pasturing is possible. Gabe Brown, whom I interviewed, is even doing it in North Dakota, so if there's a will, there's usually a way.
"It is certainly possible, in many years, to get away with not feeding any hay by extending that grazing season, either by having pastures that are more native, or supplementing pasture with cover crops that will not only provide a grazing medium but also are going to help build soil and organic matter," Joey says. "The term 'organic' simply means that what it's been fed qualifies under the organic label. That can include grains and a number of other things. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're getting the health benefits of the grass-finished product.
As I mentioned earlier, even a minute amount of grain, even though the starch is removed, eliminates the health benefits of the product. Grass-finished is much more important than organic... I also think local is important. We're getting more and more global, and we need to draw back in a little bit and support our local economy. We do that by buying from local people as much as possible. Farmer's markets are great place to find the product. You can obviously talk with producers there, whether it's produce, beef, lamb, or whatever the case may be. I think that's a great start for helping to support our overall economy."Getting to Know Your Farmer Is the Best Way to Ensure High-Quality Food
To make sure you're getting the highest quality possible, your best bet is to get to know your local farmer or rancher—what his philosophy is and how he raises his herd. If at all possible, visit the farm to see the operation for yourself. Is it a clean and well-run farm? (Granted, you need to understand that "clean" does not mean sterile, when it comes to a farm environment.) Questions to ask include:Do you give the animals hormones? Are antibiotics used, and if so, when and why? Are the animals confined in a yard or are they fed hay at any point during their growth? And if so, for how long? Are the animals finished on hay or on pasture? What is the pasture mix made of? Regional, native grasses, or coastal hay? At what age is the animal finished? An ideal target for optimal fat content and taste is around 20-24-months, although some producers will go as long as 30 months, which is also fine.
When it comes to taste, several factors come into play, including genetics of the animal, the feed, and any vitamin and mineral supplements it may have been given. Typically, British cattle breeds such as Angus, Hereford, and British White, tend to be favored. Contrary to the CAFO model, smaller animals, also referred to as "heritage-sized" animals, tend to render higher-quality meat. "You're looking for a shorter and wider animal, instead of a tall and leggy animal," Joey says.Resources for Farmers and Consumers Alike
The Grassfed Network is a resource for farmers who want to learn more about transitioning to raising their animals on grass. The names of these farmers are not released on the website, but there are a number of other organizations that can help you locate grass-fed beef and other organic produce, including the following: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.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 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. Grassfed ExchangeFoodRoutes -- 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.Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
By Dr. Mercola
Pain is a widespread problem today, delivering serious blows to people's health, happiness, and productivity. The experience of pain is highly subjective—people feel pain differently. The pain process itself is a multifaceted phenomenon and understanding it has become a major focus of scientific inquiry.
The documentary The Secret World of Pain explores the biological, psychological, and genetic aspects of pain, including genetic mutations that interfere with pain signaling and even render certain individuals completely unable to experience pain—which can be quite dangerous.
Some of these rare individuals are featured in the film and are of great value to pain researchers. In addition to genetics, events in early childhood also help determine how you experience and respond to pain later in life.
The good news is that your pain response is not indelibly hardwired into you, in spite of your genetic predispositions and early childhood experiences. Studies show it's possible to distract or "manipulate" your brain into responding differently to pain—excellent news if you are a chronic pain sufferer.
With a few effective tools, you can manage pain effectively and reduce, if not eliminate, your reliance on painkiller drugs. This is important because these drugs introduce a whole new set of health risks, regardless of whether they are prescription or over-the-counter (OTC).How Extensive Is the Pain Problem?
The latest statistics indicate that pain is a massive problem. According to the Institute of Medicine report, "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research,"1 pain costs society between $560 billion and $635 billion annually—amounting to about $2,000 for every man, woman, and child living in the US.
Part of this cost is lost productivity. Overall, workers lose an average of 4.6 hours per week of productive time due to pain conditions, regardless of age. According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.2
The global market for pain management is forecast to reach $60 billion by the year 2015,3 driven by our aging population, lifestyle trends, increasingly frequent surgical procedures, and escalating rates of chronic illness—such as arthritis and cancer.
Pain is an unfortunate sequela of many diseases, as well as their common medical treatments. Low back pain is the leading cause of pain in the US, according to NIH, followed headaches and migraines, neck pain, and facial pain.4 Back pain is also the leading cause of disability worldwide.5Chronic Pain 'Defies Scientific Explanation'
Chronic pain is a particularly egregious problem, not only in the US but across the globe. As of 2011, at least 100 million adult Americans were estimated to suffer from chronic pain—a conservative estimate, as it didn't include acute pain conditions or children. According to the BBC documentary, chronic pain affects one in five people.
Globally, more than 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain, and about 3 to 4.5 percent of the world's population suffers from neuropathic pain, with incidence rates that increase with age.
In those with chronic pain, the pain response is flipped on—and stays on. For some reason, the feedback system is broken and repairing it is one of the greatest challenges facing medicine today.
Chronic pain, such as persistent pain after a stroke or the pain associated with fibromyalgia, is especially devastating because it serves no functional purpose and responds poorly to conventional treatments.
For chronic pain sufferers, pain signals fire incessantly, causing a cascade of changes to the nervous system that amplify these signals. This bombardment of your nervous system can significantly damage your brain, structurally and chemically. Brain scans show that chronic pain sufferers lose significant amounts of gray matter from their prefrontal cortex.Determinants of Your Pain Experience
How can one person saw off his arm to escape entrapment and feel NO pain, while another may be in pain around the clock, absent of any pain stimuli? Geneticists believe DNA explains how people experience pain differently. Hundreds of genes and millions of neurons are responsible for transmitting messages between your body and brain.
On the other hand, many psychologists believe how you experience pain as an adult is determined by your early childhood experiences, and your beliefs and perceptions about pain. Chances are, both geneticists and psychologists are correct!
Mutations on one gene—the SCN9A gene, involved in the regulation of sodium channels—are responsible for congenital insensitivity to pain. But different mutations on that same gene can cause "paroxysmal extreme pain disorder," a condition where pain signals are mercilessly amplified.6
But genes can't explain everything—key life experiences are just as important. Pain pathways formed in early childhood are intricately connected with touch pathways. In fact, a pain pathway can be thought of as an overstimulated touch pathway.
Preemies show stronger brain activity than normal babies, suggesting heightened sensitivity to pain. This is believed to be associated with their exposure to a greater number of painful procedures when their nervous systems are so immature, which affects the development of their pain pathways.
This doesn't happen to all preemies, but it does give powerful insight into how pain responses develop. Interestingly, pain receptors and responses differ between the genders. Studies show that women experience pain more acutely than men.7
A 2005 study showed that women have 34 nerve fibers per square centimeter of facial skin, compared to only 17 for men. Women also report more pain throughout their lives, in more areas of their bodies and for longer durations.8Emotions Play a Significant Role in Pain Intensity
Every pain experience activates different parts of your brain, creating its own neural signature, and this determines how much something hurts. Emotions play a key role, including anxiety, happiness, and sadness.
In the documentary, brain-imaging studies reveals how participants' brains light up differently when pain is paired with different emotions. In fact, multiple regions of your brain are involved with every pain experience—sensory, attention, motivation, and decision-making areas all contribute to how much pain you feel. Each pain experience is a unique, shaped by mood and context.
Emotional pain activates the same pathways in your brain as physical pain, which is one reason why being rejected "hurts" so much! The term "broken heart" turns out to be much more than a metaphor, as emotional stress is linked to chronic inflammation, lowered immune function, increased tumor growth, and other serious health concerns.
No one understands the power of emotional pain more than those trained in torture. According to the CIA's "torture manual," the threat of inflicting pain triggers fears that are more damaging to the person than the pain itself, because people typically underestimate their capacity to withstand pain.9 This is an excellent example of how powerful your beliefs and expectations influence your experience of pain.
An interesting study at Duke University10 tested how expectations influence pain relief. Participants were given painful electrical shocks, then placebo pills. A placebo pill costing $0.10 alleviated pain for about 64 percent of the participants, but an identical placebo costing $2.50 reduced pain for 85 percent of the participants.Prescription Painkillers Are Bad News
It is shocking just how little education physicians receive in medical school about pain management, despite the fact that pain is one of the most common and debilitating conditions they will face with their patients. Most European medical schools have no required courses on pain, and even when compulsory pain courses are in place, they represent just 12 hours of a six-year program. With few other tools in their tool bag, it's easy to see why physicians typically resort to prescription painkillers—and as a result, we have an epidemic of prescription drug abuse and related deaths.
Prescription painkillers typically work by binding to receptors in your brain to decrease your perception of pain—but they also create a feeling of euphoria that can easily lead to physical dependence or addiction. Painkillers can also result in allergic reactions, slowed breathing, and death, if too many are taken, and the risks are compounded if you add alcohol into the equation.
Painkiller addiction is at epidemic levels; in the UK, significantly more people are addicted to over-the-counter and prescription painkillers than to illegal drugs. In the US, it's a similar story. According to CDC, prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 Americans in 2008, which is more than three times as many as in 1999.11 Middle-aged adults have the highest prescription overdose rates. In 2010, there were four times more deaths among women from prescription painkiller overdoses than for cocaine and heroin deaths combined.12
Even if you don't become addicted to painkillers, long-term use can significantly increase your risk for depression. The drugs may reset your brain's reward pathway to a higher level, making it more difficult to experience pleasure from natural rewards like food. Seventy-seven percent of chronic pain sufferers who take opioid painkillers report symptoms of depression, and 86 percent report inability to sleep well, as well as other impairments to their quality of life.13
Even non-narcotic painkillers are risky. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, are among the most widely used painkillers in the world. In the US, more than 70 million prescriptions for NSAIDs are written each year. And each year, an estimated 107,000 patients are hospitalized for NSAID-related gastrointestinal complications—at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone.
All NSAIDs, including aspirin and ibuprofen, are associated with potentially serious side effects such as atrial fibrillation, hypertension, and GI bleeding. The best way to avoid the downsides to painkillers is to avoid taking them in the first place. A better approach to pain is treating it with natural, drug-free strategies, before resorting to OTC or prescription drugs.
Embed this infographic on your website:<img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/nsaids.jpg" alt="NSAIDs: The Painful Truth Behind Painkillers Infographic" border="0" style="max-width:100%; min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;" /> <p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/nsaids.htm">NSAIDs</a> may offer temporary relief for chronic pain, but this comes with a list of side effects ranging from gastrointestinal problems to cardiovascular problems and premature death. Learn the painful truth about these painkillers by checking out this infographic on NSAIDs. Use the embed code to share it on your website or visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p> <pre style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin: 20px auto 0 auto; padding:10px; border:solid 1px #999999; background: #ffffff; white-space: pre-wrap; word-wrap:break-word;"><code><img src="http://media.mercola.com/assets/images/infographic/nsaids.jpg" alt="NSAIDS" border="0" style="max-width:100" min-width:300px; margin: 0 auto 20px auto; display:block;"><p style="max-width:800px; min-width:300px; margin:0 auto; text-align:center;">Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or <a href="http://www.mercola.com/infographics/nsaids.htm">NSAIDs</a> may offer temporary relief for chronic pain, but this comes with a list of side effects ranging from gastrointestinal problems to cardiovascular problems and premature death. Learn the painful truth about these painkillers by checking out this infographic on NSAIDs. Visit our infographic page for the high-res version.</p></code></pre>
Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code.Study Shows Distracting Yourself May Cut Pain in Half
The good news is that you're not stuck with your genetics and old pain wiring—at least, not completely. As multiple studies have demonstrated, your pain pathways are plastic—they can be molded and transformed using a variety of approaches, because so many areas of your brain and nervous system are at play.
Researchers on the burn unit at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center are capitalizing on the fact that the brain's attention centers can be "distracted away" from a painful experience. Burn victims frequently undergo painful wound care procedures and debridement. Since we all respond strongly to visual stimuli, even the mere sight of wound care instruments can amplify pain for burn victims. So researchers developed an action video game, called "Snow World," that burn patients could engage in during wound care. The results have been astonishing—burn patients experience more than 50 percent less pain during their burn treatments when playing Snow World.
Your brain has limits to its processing power, so if you're highly engaged in an activity, your brain will not be able to process all of the pain signals. The net result is that you experience less pain. Similar studies show that when your mind is encouraged to "wander" away from painful stimuli, an opiate-rich region of your brain is stimulated, resulting in pain suppression.14
Another new technique that shows great promise for pain treatment is transcranial magnetic stimulation, or rTMS. Altering your brain activity with magnetic fields may indeed relieve chronic pain, but it's also been found useful for treating depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Parkinson's disease. Unfortunately, the treatment is not yet widely available and is fairly pricey. According to Scientific American:15
"The magnetic field affects the electrical signaling used by neurons to communicate, but how exactly it improves symptoms is unclear—scientists suspect rTMS may redirect the activity of select cells or even entire brain circuits."Medical Cannabis Is Typically Highly Effective for Pain Control
In California, medical marijuana has been legal for 18 years. Dr. Allan Frankel, a board-certified internist in California, has treated patients with medical cannabis for the past seven years. By and large, cannabis is highly favored by people across the US. According to Dr. Frankel, 85-95 percent of Americans are in favor of medical cannabis, and 58-59 percent are in favor of legalizing marijuana. The pharmaceutical industry strongly opposes medical cannabis, as it's their stiffest competition—particularly when it comes to treating pain, anxiety disorders, and seizures. Cannabis can take the place of a wide variety of synthetic drugs, and the last thing they want is a therapy that's going to take away from their bottom line.
Dr. Frankel has used cannabis to treat a variety of pain disorders, including degenerative neurological disorders like dystonia and multiple sclerosis. Although he has experienced many successes, he is reluctant to call it a panacea. Nevertheless, occasionally his patients will experience very dramatic results. Cannabis can be eaten, smoked, vaporized, or applied topically as a cream. Even eating raw cannabis—meaning, eating the leaves in a salad or juiced—can have healing effects, including pain relief, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep.
The effects are largely dose-dependent, but the dosing can be a bit tricky. Dr. Frankel shared that some patients may be taking 10 or even 100 times higher dosage than is really needed to treat their ailment. Access to medical cannabis remains a problem for many. At present, only 20 US states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, but access is gradually expanding as more states vote in legalization. In states where medical cannabis is legal, you can join a collective, whose members have the legal right to grow and share cannabis medicines with each other.Effective, Natural Pain Control Measures You Can Implement TODAY
Everyone's experience of pain is different, so you may have to do some experimenting to see what strategies work best for you. The following table lists many tried and true non-drug pain therapies that have stood the tests of time and scientific scrutiny.NATURAL PAIN CONTROL Treatments Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic.16 Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavonoids. As discussed in this previous article, varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned"—and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,17 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): Few people want to be told that their pain is psychological or emotional in origin, but there's quite a bit of evidence that backs this up. Underlying emotional issues and unresolved trauma can have an enormous influence on your health, particularly as it relates to physical pain. Dr. John Sarno, a psychiatrist who uses mind-body techniques to treat patients with severe low back pain, has experienced more than 80 percent success using EFT. Acupuncture: A novel experiment showed that acupuncture relieves pain by deactivating certain parts of the brain, particularly in the limbic system, which is involved with pain perception. Acupuncture stimulates the conduction of electromagnetic signals, which may cause your body to release natural pain-killing chemicals/endorphins. Other studies have found acupuncture more effective for chronic pain than drug treatment.18 Massage: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain, and reduce stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline. Latest studies suggest many people may not be getting massages frequently enough for pain relief—two or three 60-minute massages per week may be necessary. Chiropractic: According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine19 and funded by the National Institutes of Health, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain-free in 12 weeks, compared to those who took medication. Relearn proper posture: Foundation Training—an innovative method developed by Dr. Eric Goodman to treat his own chronic low back pain. The exercises are designed to help you strengthen your entire core and move the way nature intended. K-Laser: Laser therapy helps reduce pain and inflammation and enhances tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and bones). Laser therapy can be helpful for acute and chronic issues, alike. Mind-body approaches such as yoga, Tai Chi, biofeedback, breath work, and music therapy may be effective. Meditation can help you reduce stress-induced inflammation. Even holding hands with a loved one can relieve pain! Applying ice or heat, or alternating between the two, can provide relief and facilitate healing.20 Foods, Herbs, Creams, and Other Supplements Astaxanthin: One of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin also has potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required—you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit. Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice. Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. A prior study also found that turmeric extract (rich in curcuminoids) blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain. Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory agents. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients. Krill Oil: Many clinical studies have found the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, contained in krill oil, to have anti-inflammatory properties beneficial for pain. Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. Bromelain can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful. Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical CMO preparation myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mildly annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain. Capsaicin Cream: Capsaicin comes from dried hot peppers and has pain-relief and anti-inflammatory properties. Capsaicin depletes your body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of the pain signals your nerve cells transmit to your brain. It is available in pain-relieving creams and patches, and has shown promise for relieving shingles pain, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, and more.
By Dr. Mercola
Millions of children are taking powerful mind-altering drugs, often before they're even old enough to attend school. The long-term effects of psychotropic drugs on children are largely unknown, while serious short-term side effects are unfortunately common, including seizures, suicidal ideation, violent behavior and more.
According to WebMD,1 nearly five million American children have been labeled with some type of serious mental disorder. In any given year, 20 percent of children will be diagnosed with a mental illness.
The most common diagnosis for kids age 3 to 17 is ADHD, followed by behavioral problems, anxiety and depression,2 and many of these children are being prescribed powerful and potentially dangerous psychiatric drugs.
The BBC documentary "America's Medicated Kids" takes a look at several families with children on psychiatric medications. Journalist Louis Theroux gets a close look at some of these kids and their families by actually living with them for a time, hoping to understand what drives parents to put their kids on drugs.Bad Behavior or Pathology?
Theroux identifies a fine line between ordinary bad behavior and pathology and poses the question of whether the latest drugs are taking the place of "good old-fashioned parenting."3
What happens to children when they are medicated at a very young age, during some key formative years? Do they grow up never knowing who they really are? What passions might they have developed were it not for the drug's influence?
Psychotropic agents can influence a child's brain development, and chronic drug exposure during sensitive periods can produce alterations of his or her nervous system that have unpredictable and potentially harmful effects.
Behavioral problems in children—including what might appear to be serious mental disorders—are frequently related to improper diet, emotional upset and exposure to toxins. These underlying issues should be resolved before suppressing symptoms with potentially dangerous medications.The Diagnosis of Mental Illness in Children Is Subjective
The diagnosis of mental illness in children is far from an exact science. Modern psychiatry has expanded its reach to the point that even the most normal of emotions and mental states are now labeled as one "disorder" or another.
In many cases a child is labeled with a "disorder" such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) based on subjective observations of behaviors that nearly all children exhibit at some time or another, such as excessive fidgeting or becoming angry after losing a game.
Ironically many of these behaviors are a result of forcing children into unhealthy patterns like sitting in a chair at their desk for 6-8 hours, which will not only contribute to the restlessness diagnosed as ADHD, but also increase their risk for a variety of diseases.The Rampant Misuse of Psychiatric Drugs
Data from the National Health Interview Survey (2011-2012)4 revealed that 7.5 percent of American children ages 6 through 17 take a medication prescribed for emotional or behavioral difficulties.
In recent years, there has been a stunning increase in off-label use of atypical antipsychotics. While most are approved only for the treatment of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, this class of drugs is now increasingly prescribed for children anxiety, insomnia, and/or behavior problems.
Children as young as 18 months are now receiving them, despite the fact that the diseases they're designed to treat rarely develop before adolescence.
Sales of antipsychotic drugs for children have increased eight-fold since 1993. Sales to teens have quintupled, while adult sales doubled in the same time frame. In 2008, an estimated $6 billion was spent on off-label antipsychotics in the US, of which $5.4 billion was for uses based on uncertain science.
Aggressive, and oftentimes illegal, marketing by drug companies is believed to be a major contributing factor to skyrocketing misuse of antipsychotic drugs in children. In recent years, a number of major manufacturers of atypical antipsychotics has been caught illegally marketing their drugs for unapproved uses in children and adolescents.
Foster children are prescribed psychotropics at a rate 12 times higher than other children on Medicaid. The high rates of psychotropic drug use among foster children and poor children are likely a direct result of drug company tactics that target doctors in the Medicaid program, influencing them to prescribe more drugs to this population.ADHD Is Overdiagnosed and Overmedicated
ADHD seems to have become the catchall designation for children who do not "behave well," which is the subject of another excellent documentary, The Drugging of Our Children. One study5 estimated that 20 percent of children have likely been misdiagnosed, which amounts to nearly one million children in the US alone.
Many of these kids are diagnosed based on highly subjective observations of parents, teachers and guardians, and about two-thirds of those children were put on some form of prescription medication. In 2011, 48.4 million prescriptions for ADHD stimulants were written, up 39 percent from 2007.
ADHD drugs are indeed powerful mind-altering hard-core drugs, regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as controlled substances because they can lead to dependence.
ADHD drugs include amphetamines (Adderall) and stimulants (Ritalin and Concerta)7 with well-established risks, including heart attacks, strokes, and seizures. ADHD drugs can also stunt your child's growth or delay puberty.
It isn't just stimulants that have exploded in number—benzodiazepines (for anxiety) and narcotics (for pain) are on the rise as well, and all pose serious risks for children. Taking a narcotic painkiller for 180 days or longer can increase your risk of depression by 53 percent.
ADHD drugs, by definition, stimulate a child's central nervous system and may interfere with the intricate workings of his or her brain and personality. In 2011, ADHD drugs were responsible for nearly 23,000 emergency room visits, representing a 400 percent increase in just six years. For example, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA),8 Ritalin's potential side effects include the following:Sudden death in people who have heart problems or heart defects Stroke and heart attackIncreased blood pressure New or worse behavior and thought problemsNew or worse bipolar illnessNew or worse aggressive behavior or hostility, including suicidal thoughts and behaviors New psychotic symptoms (such as hearing voices, believing things that aren't true, paranoia)New manic symptomsIncreased heart rate Slowing of growth (height and weight) in childrenSeizuresEyesight changes or blurred vision Nutrition Is Often Overlooked in Children with Mental Health Issues
Total Video Length: 1:13:21
Download Interview Transcript
Behavioral problems clearly do exist, and do appear to be more prevalent among children today than in decades past. The question is, what's causing them? There are many contending culprits, including poor nutrition and environmental toxins ranging from food and vaccine additives to agricultural chemicals. Mental health therapy is certainly a preferable treatment to risky psychoactive drugs, but even that typically fails to address basic nutrition, which I believe is a key factor.
We know that the food choices of most children and adults today are incredibly poor, and how can you possibly expect a child to have normal behavior if he is eating refined grains, sugars, and chemical-laden processed foods that are largely devoid of nutrients? If your child struggles with emotional or behavioral difficulties—diagnosed with a mental disorder or not—I strongly recommend your addressing the following factors:
- Too much sugar. Many studies have demonstrated the connection between a high-sugar diet and poor mental health. High sugar and starchy carbohydrates lead to excessive insulin release, which can result in falling blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia. In turn, hypoglycemia causes your brain to secrete glutamate in levels that can cause agitation, depression, anger, anxiety, and panic attacks. Additionally, sugar fans the flames of chronic inflammation in your body.
- Gluten sensitivity. The evidence is quite compelling that gluten sensitivity may be at the root of a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions, including ADHD. According to a 2011 study,9 celiac disease is "markedly overrepresented among patients presenting with ADHD," and a gluten-free diet has been shown to significantly improve behavior in children. The study went so far as to suggest celiac disease should be added to the ADHD symptom checklist.
- Too few beneficial bacteria. As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of autism, ADHD, depression and numerous other mental disorders. Reducing gut inflammation is imperative when addressing mental health issues,10 so optimizing your child's gut flora is a critical step. There is even research underway to investigate whether Streptococcus bacteria, which cause strep throat, may also be responsible for OCD in children. To learn more, please see my previous article, "Are Probiotics the New Prozac?"
- Inactivity. As previously mentioned, children are typically forced into very unhealthy and unnatural positions during the school day and are forced to remain seated. Typically young children are healthier than adults as their bodies haven't had years of abuse that many adults have. As a result, their body's still communicate clearly to them and tell them they need to get up and move to be healthy. When they listen to their body, they are not only reprimanded and told to sit down but drugged if they fail to comply. Ideally, children should be allowed access to stand-up desks and be allowed to move throughout the day.
- Animal-sourced omega-3 deficiency. Research has shown that kids low in omega-3 fats are significantly more likely to be hyperactive, struggle with learning disorders, and display behavioral problems. Omega-3 deficiencies have also been linked to dyslexia, violence, and depression. In one study, fish oil was found to be more effective than Ritalin or Concerta for children with ADHD, and krill may be even more effective, as evidenced by other clinical studies. For example, a 2007 study11 examined the effects of krill oil on adults diagnosed with ADHD. By taking 500mg of krill for six months oil, this group experienced improvements in their ability to concentrate by more than 60 percent, their planning skills by 50 percent, and their social skills by nearly 49 percent.
- Food additives and GMO ingredients. A number of food additives are thought to negatively affect mental health, and many have been banned in Europe. Potential culprits to avoid include Blue #1 and #2 food coloring; Green #3; Orange B; Red #3 and #40; Yellow #5 and #6; and sodium benzoate, a preservative. Recent research also shows that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup which is used in large quantities on genetically engineered crops, limits your body's ability to detoxify foreign chemical compounds. As a result, the damaging effects of those toxins are magnified, potentially resulting in a wide variety of diseases, including brain disorders that have both psychological and behavioral effects.
- EMF. Limit you and your child's exposure to radiofrequency microwave radiation, cell and portable phones, and electro-pollution. This is especially true for your sleeping environment where rest and repair occur.
- Other Toxic Exposures. Avoid all known toxins as much as possible, such as MSG and artificial sweeteners including aspartame, mercury from "silver" amalgam fillings, and fluoride in the water supply, just to name a few.
Those who value drugs for your child's mental or behavioral problems do so primarily because they change behavior quickly (and if you have health insurance, for little cost). But while your child's behavior may be changed, he's learning that he is "sick" and in need of medication to act "normal." As illustrated in the documentary, many children come to depend on the drugs and, should they ever discontinue them, will lack the knowledge of how to effectively manage emotions and behaviors that have been masked by drugs.
Ultimately, this is a process that involves lifestyle changes combined with tools for learning new coping skills, sometimes with the help of a skilled therapist. Besides addressing your child's nutrition, as described above, I also recommend implementing the following strategies to help your child achieve optimal mental health:
- Clear your house of dangerous pesticides and other commercial chemicals.
- Avoid commercial washing detergents and cleaning products used on clothes, and replace them with naturally derived cleaning products free of added perfumes, softeners, etc.
- Spend more time in nature. Researchers have found that exposing ADHD children to nature is an affordable, healthy way of controlling symptoms.
- Exercise. Make sure your child gets plenty of exercise and outdoor playtime, remembering that midday sunlight provides the UVB wavelengths necessary to produce vitamin D3. Low vitamin D levels are associated with ADHD in children and adolescents.12 Exercise has also been found to significantly reduce the symptoms of ADHD, anxiety,13 OCD14 (obsessive compulsive disorder), depression, and other mental health issues.
- Investigate sensory therapy and emotional wellness tools. Instead of looking for a quick fix, encourage kids to talk about their emotions. You may also want to consider energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
EFT (or "tapping") is a simple tool with powerful effects, and easy to learn by both adults and children. Recent research has shown that EFT significantly increases positive emotions, such as hope and enjoyment, and decreases negative emotional states, such as anger and shame. EFT has been shown to lower cortisol levels15 (one of your stress hormones), and can help your child "tap away" the stresses of his day.
EFT can also benefit you, as a parent, to cope with the stresses of having a challenged child. Studies show that parents of a child with a mental illness tend to have elevated stress hormone levels and are at increased risk of experiencing negative impacts to their own psychological health.16 Therefore, it's very important to address your own mental health needs if you are in this situation, and EFT is a great tool offering benefits for both you AND your child. Learning to regulate emotions helps children better manage their own moods and behaviors, improves self-esteem, and empowers them so that they feel and more "normal" and less stigmatized.
Ann Adams, Director of a rehabilitation center for emotionally disturbed children in Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the world's leading experts in using EFT with children. Through her work, she has found that even highly traumatized children from greatly disturbed homes usually respond amazingly well to EFT.17 You can learn the basics of tapping on your own and then teach the process to your kids, or you can recruit the help of a professional EFT practitioner. For more information, you can review the following resources that are specific to using EFT with children:
- Ann Adams, tips for using EFT with children18
- Article: "Teaching Your Kids to Tap" by Steve Wells19
- Collection of tap-along videos by Brad Yates to help children learn EFT; Yates also has a children's tapping book, The Wizard's Wish20
- Radio broadcast on EFT Radio entitled "Teaching Kids How to Overcome Anxiety," featuring Steve Wells and David Lake21
- Short article about using EFT with children, "Helping Your Kids to Be Happy," Family Circle October 200322
By Dr. Mercola
In the United States, nearly 80 million people, or one in four, have diabetes or pre-diabetes. What’s worse, diabetes among children and teens has also skyrocketed.
In the UK, more than one-third of adults are now pre-diabetic,3 and British researchers warn that this will lead to a massive avalanche of type 2 diabetics in upcoming years, which will have serious consequences for health care and life expectancy.Diabetes Linked to Faster Decline in Memory
One of many debilitating health problems associated with type 2 diabetes is a higher risk for dementia. According to one recent study,4,5,6 diabetes ages your brain about five years faster than normal.
People who are diagnosed with diabetes in their 50s are at a significantly heightened risk for mental decline by the time they’re 70.
Previous research7 has also shown that type 2 diabetics lose more brain volume with age than expected—particularly gray matter. This kind of brain atrophy is yet another contributing factor for dementia.
According to lead author Elizabeth Selvin, PhD, MPH, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:8
“The lesson is that to have a healthy brain when you’re 70, you need to eat right and exercise when you’re 50.
There is a substantial cognitive decline associated with diabetes, pre-diabetes and poor glucose control in people with diabetes. And we know how to prevent or delay the diabetes associated with this decline...”The Importance of Healthy Blood Vessels for Proper Brain Function
A number of different factors play a role in memory decline and dementia. One important factor is the health of your blood vessels, and I’ve previously discussed the links between heart disease and dementia. In fact, the test that predicts your future risk of heart disease is better at predicting your risk of dementia than a specific dementia-risk test.9
In the featured study, diabetics were found to suffer a 19 percent greater decline in mental acuity compared to non-diabetics over the course of 20 years. Those with pre-diabetes were also at a significantly increased risk for memory decline.
The researchers suggest the decline in memory associated with diabetes is due to damage to small blood vessels in the brain. According to co-author A. Richey Sharrett, MD, DrPH:
“There are many ways we can reduce the impact of cerebral blood vessel disease—by prevention or control of diabetes and hypertension, reduction in smoking, increase in exercise and improvements in diet.
Knowing that the risk for cognitive impairments begins with diabetes and other risk factors in mid-life can be a strong motivator for patients and their doctors to adopt and maintain long-term healthy practices.”
The best predictor of type 2 diabetes is being obese or overweight, and in the US one-third of children and teens (aged two to 19), and more than two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese.
Obesity is usually the result of inappropriate lifestyle choices, such as eating too much processed foods (high in carbs and low in healthy fats), and not fasting enough.
It’s interesting to note that the poorest Americans have the highest obesity rate, and they also tend to eat a diet that is very high in processed foods. This is yet another indication that processed foods play a significant role in metabolic dysfunction, weight gain, and associated health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.Diabetes Medication May Do More Harm Than Good
This is why the medical community’s approach to its treatment is not getting anywhere. Contrary to popular belief, treating type 2 diabetes with insulin is actually one of the worst things you can do, as it only exacerbates the underlying problem.
One recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine11 concluded that insulin therapy in type 2 diabetic patients—especially older diabetics—may indeed do more harm than good. As reported by Medical News Today:12
“In the US, type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when hemoglobin A1c levels reach 6.5 percent or higher. The higher A1c levels are, the greater the risk of other health problems.
Sometimes the condition can be managed through changes in diet, but other patients with type 2 diabetes may need medication - such as insulin or metformin – to help lower their blood sugar levels, and ultimately, reduce the risk of diabetes complications.
But the researchers of this latest study... claim that the benefits of such treatment - particularly for people over the age of 50 – may not always outweigh the negatives.
‘In many cases, insulin treatment may not do anything to add to the person's quality life expectancy,’ says study co-author John S. Yudkin...
‘If people feel that insulin therapy reduces their quality of life by anything more than around 3-4 percent, this will outweigh any potential benefits gained by treatment in almost anyone with type 2 diabetes over around 50 years old.’ ...
For example, they estimate that a person with type 2 diabetes who begins insulin therapy at age 45 and lowers their hemoglobin A1c levels by 1 percent may experience an extra 10 months of healthy life.
But for a patient who starts treatment for type 2 diabetes at age 75, they estimate the therapy may only gain them an additional 3 weeks of healthy life. The researchers say this prompts the question - is 10-15 years of pills or injections with possible side effects worth it?”Lifestyle Changes Are as Effective as Medicine for Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
Just like obesity, type 2 diabetes is primarily controlled and prevented through diet and exercise. Avoiding sugar (and processed fructose in particular) is imperative for preventing insulin/leptin resistance. Exercise is also important for normalizing your insulin and leptin sensitivity.
I’ve often said that lifestyle changes can be just as, if not more, effective than drugs, and studies have repeatedly confirmed this view. Most recently, a meta-analysis published in Diabetologia13 found that diet and exercise lowers blood sugar levels and prevents diabetes in pre-diabetics as effectively as diabetic medications in both genders. As reported by MedicineNet.com:14
“The researchers reviewed data from more than 7,400 women and 5,500 men in 12 studies. Men and women with prediabetes who made lifestyle changes were 40 percent less likely to progress to diabetes after one year, and 37 percent less likely to progress after three years, compared to those who did not make lifestyle changes, the study found.
Men and women with prediabetes who made lifestyle changes also lost more weight and had greater reductions in blood sugar levels, the researchers said... ‘Clinically, these findings highlight an important issue.
Despite differences in age of onset, detection and burden of type 2 diabetes between men and women, the effectiveness of preventive interventions in people with prediabetes is not influenced by gender,’ the researchers explained...”
Magnesium deficiency is also worth mentioning, as it plays an important role in glucose and insulin homeostasis.15 Magnesium is also required to activate tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that functions as an “on” or “off” switch in many cellular functions and is required for the proper function of your insulin receptors. Studies,16,17,18 from around the world universally agree that in order to optimize your metabolism and keep your risk for type 2 diabetes low, you need to consume adequate magnesium.
One 2013 study involving pre-diabetics found that most had inadequate magnesium intake, and those with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by a whopping 71 percent.19 Current government guidelines for magnesium intake among adults call for 300 to 420 mg per day,7 but research suggests many would benefit from a much higher intake—about 700 mg per day or more.Type 3 Diabetes, or ‘Brain Diabetes,’ May Be Responsible for Alzheimer’s Disease
A growing body of research suggests there’s a powerful connection between your diet and your risk of Alzheimer's disease20 via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes. Alzheimer's disease was tentatively dubbed "type 3 diabetes" in early 2005 when researchers learned that, in addition to the pancreas, your brain also produces insulin. This brain insulin is actually necessary for the survival of your brain cells.
A drop in insulin production in your brain may contribute to the degeneration of your brain cells, and studies have found that people with lower levels of insulin and insulin receptors in their brain often have Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have discovered that insulin actually does far more than regulate your blood sugar. It also helps with neuron glucose-uptake, and the regulation of neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning. This is why reducing the level of insulin in your brain impairs your cognition.
It's becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain. As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of glucose and insulin that blunts its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities, eventually causing permanent brain damage.
Additionally, when your liver is busy processing fructose (which your liver turns into fat), it severely hampers its ability to make cholesterol, an essential building block of your brain that is crucial for optimal brain function. Indeed, mounting evidence supports the notion that significantly reducing fructose consumption is a very important step you can take to prevent Alzheimer's disease.Prevention and Treatment Guidelines
It’s becoming quite clear that to protect your brain and prevent cognitive decline, it’s important to address any underlying insulin/leptin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, type 2 diabetes is curable, and in the vast majority of cases does not require any form of medication. The following nutrition and lifestyle modifications should be the foundation of your diabetes prevention and treatment plan.
Also, make sure to monitor your FASTING insulin level. This is every bit as important as monitoring your fasting blood sugar. You'll want your fasting insulin level to be between 2 and 4. The higher your level, the greater your insulin resistance and the more aggressive you need to be in your treatment plan, especially when it comes to altering your diet.
- Swap out processed foods, all forms of sugar—particularly fructose—as well as all grains, for whole, fresh food. A primary reason for the failure of conventional diabetes treatment over the last 50 years has to do with seriously flawed dietary recommendations. Refined fructose, grains, and other sugar forming starchy carbohydrates are largely responsible for your body's adverse insulin reactions, and all sugars and grains—even "healthful" grains such as whole, organic ones—need to be drastically reduced.
- Low-to-moderate amount of high-quality protein. Substantial amounts of protein can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts. When selecting animal-based protein, be sure to opt for organically raised, grass-fed or pastured meats, eggs, and dairy, to avoid potential health complications caused by genetically engineered animal feed and pesticides.
- As much high-quality healthy fat as you want (saturated24 and monounsaturated). For optimal health, most people need upwards of 50-85 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats. Good sources include coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, nuts, and animal fats. (Remember, fat is high in calories while being small in terms of volume. So when you look at your plate, the largest portion would be vegetables.)
- As many non-starchy vegetables as you want
- Exercise regularly and intensely. Studies have shown that exercise, even without weight loss, increases insulin sensitivity.25 High intensity interval training (HIIT), which is a central component of my Peak Fitness program, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by as much as 24 percent in just four weeks. Exercise also prompts nerve cells to release brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which triggers other chemicals that promote neural health, and directly benefits cognitive functions, including learning. A number of studies have also shown that exercise can promote growth of new brain cells, enlarge your memory center, improve IQ scores, and help prevent brain deterioration associated with aging.
- Improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Today’s Western diet has far too many processed and damaged omega-6 fats, and is far too little omega-3 fats.26 The main sources of omega-6 fats are corn, soy, canola, safflower, peanut, and sunflower oil (the first two of which are typically genetically engineered as well, which further complicates matters). Our bodies evolved for an optimal of approximately 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.
- Maintain optimal vitamin D levels year-round. New evidence strongly supports the notion that vitamin D is highly beneficial for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Recent research has also confirmed the link between vitamin D deficiency and dementia. The ideal way to optimize your vitamin D level is by getting regular sun exposure, or by using a tanning bed. As a last resort, consider oral supplementation with regular vitamin D monitoring, to confirm that you are taking enough vitamin D to get your blood levels into the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml. Also please note that if you take supplemental vitamin D, you create an increased demand for vitamin K2 and magnesium.
- Get adequate high-quality sleep every night. Insufficient sleep appears to raise stress and blood sugar, encouraging insulin and leptin resistance and weight gain. In one 10-year-long study27 of 70,000 diabetes-free women, researchers found that women who slept less than five hours or more than nine hours each night were 34 percent more likely to develop diabetes symptoms than women who slept seven to eight hours each night.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. If you incorporate the diet and lifestyle changes suggested above you will greatly improve your insulin and leptin sensitivity, and a healthy body weight will follow in time. Determining your ideal body weight depends on a variety of factors, including frame size, age, activity level, and genetics. As a general guideline, you might find a hip-to-waist size index chart helpful. This is far better than BMI for evaluating whether or not you may have a weight problem, as BMI fails to factor in both how muscular you are, and your intra-abdominal fat mass (the dangerous visceral fat that accumulates around your inner organs), which is a potent indicator of leptin sensitivity and associated health problems.
- Incorporate intermittent fasting. If you have carefully followed the diet and exercise guidelines and still aren’t making sufficient progress with your weight or overall health, I strongly recommend incorporating intermittent fasting. It’s by far the most effective way I know of to shed unwanted fat, resolve insulin resistance, and eliminate your sugar cravings. Intermittent fasting has also been identified as a potent ally for the prevention and perhaps even treatment of dementia. Ketones are released as a byproduct of burning fat, and ketones (not glucose) are actually the preferred fuel for your brain. Keep up your intermittent fasting schedule until your insulin/leptin resistance improves (or your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol ratios, or diabetes normalizes). After that, you only need to do it “as needed” to maintain your healthy state.
- Optimize your gut health. Your gut is a living ecosystem, full of both good bacteria and bad. Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than lean people. The more good bacteria you have, the stronger your immune system will be and the better your body will function overall. Gut bacteria has been found to affect your brain function, and play a role in the development of diabetes as well. Fortunately, optimizing your gut flora is relatively easy. You can reseed your body with good bacteria by regularly eating fermented foods (like natto, raw organic cheese, miso, and cultured vegetables) or by taking a high-quality probiotic supplement.
If you’re insulin/leptin resistant, have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or are overweight, you’d be wise to limit your total fructose intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved. This includes about 80 percent of Americans. For all others, I recommend limiting your daily fructose consumption to 25 grams or less, to maintain optimal health.
The easiest way to accomplish this is by swapping processed foods for whole, ideally organic foods. This means cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. Processed foods are the main source of all the primary culprits, including high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, processed grains, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and other synthetic additives that may aggravate metabolic dysfunction.
Besides fructose, trans fat (NOT saturated fat) increases your risk for diabetes21 by interfering with your insulin receptors. Recent research22,23 also demonstrates that trans fat has a distinct adverse impact on memory, courtesy of the oxidative stress and brain inflammation these fats produce.
Healthy saturated fats do not have any of these adverse effects on your health. Since you’re cutting out a lot of energy (carbs) from your diet when you reduce sugars and grains, you need to replace them with something. The ideal replacement is a combination of:
Most Americans eat far too much protein, so be mindful of the amount. I believe it is the rare person who really needs more than one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Those that are aggressively exercising or competing and pregnant women should have about 25 percent more, but most people rarely need more than 40-70 grams of protein a day.
To determine your lean body mass, find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. This means that if you have 20 percent body fat, you have 80 percent lean body mass. Just multiply that by your current weight to get your lean body mass in pounds or kilos. To determine whether you’re getting too much protein, simply calculate your lean body mass as described above, then write down everything you’re eating for a few days, and calculate the amount of daily protein from all sources.
Again, you’re aiming for one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which would place most people in the range of 40 to 70 grams of protein per day. If you’re currently averaging a lot more than that, adjust downward accordingly. You could use the chart below or simply Google the food you want to know and you will quickly find the grams of protein in the food.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 proteinEggs contain about 6-8 grams of protein per egg. So an omelet made from two eggs would give you about 12-16 grams of protein.
If you add cheese, you need to calculate that protein in as well (check the label of your cheese) Seeds and nuts contain on average 4-8 grams of protein per quarter cupCooked beans average about 7-8 grams per half cup Cooked grains average 5-7 grams per cupMost vegetables contain about 1-2 grams of protein per ounce
However, our ratio has deteriorated to between 20:1 and 50:1 in favor of omega-6. This lopsided ratio has seriously adverse health consequences. To remedy this, reduce your consumption of vegetable oils (this means not cooking with them, and avoiding processed foods), and increase your intake of animal-based omega-3, such as krill oil. Vegetable-based omega-3 is also found in flaxseed oil and walnut oil, and it’s good to include these in your diet as well. Just know they cannot take the place of animal-based omega-3s.
Sleep loss has also been linked to severe brain damage. Sleep is actually necessary for maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain, and without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in. Sleep deprivation causes disruption of certain synaptic connections that can impair your brain's ability for learning, memory formation, and other cognitive functions. It also accelerates onset of Alzheimer's disease. If you are having problems with your sleep, try the suggestions in my article “33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep.”
By Dr. Mercola
For many, November and December are a favorite time of year, with major holidays bringing family and friends together. But it can also be an incredibly stressful time, as party planning, extra cooking and shopping, not to mention navigating potentially difficult family dynamics, might stretch you to your limits.
Also, since Thanksgiving and Christmas often stands for family togetherness more so than other holidays, it is the time of year when you may become acutely aware of any such voids in your life, magnifying feelings of grief, isolation, loneliness or loss.
Those who have recently lost a loved one may feel their grief particularly intensely during the holidays. Financial woes, health issues, or having unrealistic expectations of making your holiday "perfect" can also tip the scales from a time of joy to a time of misery.
It's important to remember that you cannot divorce your wellness from your emotions. Every feeling you have affects some part of your body, and stress can wreak havoc on your physical health even if you're doing everything else "right."
The classic definition of stress is "any real or imagined threat, and your body's response to it." Celebrations and tragedies alike can cause a stress response in your body, thereby affecting your immune function, brain chemistry, blood sugar levels, hormonal balance and more. Grief in particular is increasingly being viewed as a cardiovascular risk marker.Facing Grief During the Holidays
It may be helpful to remember that your grieving process, whether over the loss of a loved one, a relationship or a pet, is a uniquely individual process, and there's no "right" or "wrong" way or length of time to grieve.
Remain open to the idea that whatever you feel is OK. That said, I'd encourage you to do your best to foster a positive attitude, and to focus on the "higher" emotions of love and gratitude.
Research1 has actually shown that "repressive coping" (i.e. directing your attention away from your negative emotions) after a loss tends to strengthen emotional resiliency.
People who focused their attention on other things and didn't dwell on their grief experienced less depression and anxiety, and had fewer health complaints than those who expressed their negative emotions freely.
This doesn't mean you should ignore the situation by any means. It would be unreasonable to think you could somehow eliminate negative emotions or stress entirely. But whether you're dealing with overwhelm, grief, anxiety, anger or any other negative emotions this holiday season, there are effective tools that you can try that can help you get through it.EFT to the Rescue
If emotional stress, grief, or anger is a burden to you this time of year, I suggest trying the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to help you remove negative emotions and enjoy the season. Energy psychology tools such as EFT can help you reprogram your body's reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life, which tend to become magnified this time of year.
EFT can be used as a do-it-yourself form of emotional acupuncture that balances your body's subtle energy system and resolves unrelenting emotional pain. Instead of using acupuncture needles, you use your fingertips to stimulate specific acupuncture points.
When your energy system is balanced, emotional pain dissolves, allowing you to move past the grief. The basics of EFT can be learned by anyone and can be self-applied, but if you're experiencing complicated grief or want some extra guidance, I recommend using an experienced EFT practitioner.2
Also remember that while grief can feel insurmountable and become all-consuming at times, you can take comfort in the knowledge that virtually everyone is eventually able to move past the dark feelings.
Typically within six months, you'll begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. In the videos below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman demonstrates how to tap for stress and anger that may surface during the holidays.
Total Video Length: 24:53Tending to Your Gut Is Important to Help Combat Stress
Did you know that neurotransmitters like serotonin are found not just in your brain but also in your gut? Indeed, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, depression and suppressing aggression, is found within your intestines, not your brain.
Scientific evidence shows that nourishing your gut flora with the friendly bacteria with fermented foods or probiotics is extremely important for psychological well-being and mood control.
For instance, the probiotic known as Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 has been shown to normalize anxiety-like behavior in mice.3 Research published in 20114 also demonstrated that probiotics can have a direct effect on brain chemistry, thereby improving feelings of anxiety or depression.
So, do make it a point to tend to your gut this holiday season. This may be of particular importance during Thanksgiving and Christmas if stress, anxiety, or grief makes you overeat (not to mention the fact that Thanksgiving as a general rule is centered around eating large amounts of food, period).
Reseeding your gut with healthy probiotics can actually help counteract some of the negative health effects of indulging in too many sweet foods, although taking a probiotics certainly isn't a carte blanche to indulge indiscriminately. (Remember, sugary foods feed detrimental and/or pathogenic bacteria that can quickly disrupt the balance of your microflora.
Taking a probiotics can help ameliorate this to some extent as long as it's not an everyday occurrence.) If stress-related overeating is a problem for you, you can use EFT for this as well. In the following video, Julie demonstrates how to tap to curb stress-related overeating.Make Stress Management Part of Your Holiday Plan
Besides EFT and tending to your gut, there are many other stress-management strategies you can employ to help you unwind and maintain a healthier equilibrium. The following are, I believe, among the most important basics.
- Exercise. Studies have shown that during exercise, tranquilizing chemicals (endorphins) are released in your brain. Exercise is a natural way to bring your body pleasurable relaxation and rejuvenation, and has been shown to help protect against the physical effects of daily stress
- Restorative sleep. You can have the best diet and exercise program possible but if you aren't sleeping well your mental health can suffer and it is difficult to make healing progress. You can find 33 tips to help improve your sleep habits here.
- Meditation (with or without the additional aid of brain wave synchronization technology) and/or practicing mindfulness daily
- Schedule time to eat at a leisurely pace, and make sure to maintain optimal gut health by regularly consuming fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables, or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Low levels of vitamin D in your blood have been correlated with increased risk for depression, so optimizing your vitamin D levels may help by providing you with a stronger foundation for both physical and mental health
Here are a few additional strategies that can help you keep your sense of balance during the holidays when stress threatens to overtake you. For even more stress-management tips and tricks, check out the slideshow above:Embrace the "NO": Be gentle on yourself, and give yourself permission to say "No"… It really is okay to take special time for yourself. If the holidays have you feeling down for whatever reason, indulge in the things that make you feel happy, whether they're holiday related or not. Banish the "shoulds": If a certain tradition causes more stress and discomfort than joy, give yourself permission to do things differently! Remind yourself that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate Thanksgiving (or Christmas). Ban the word "should." Cut goals down to size: Regain a sense of control by scheduling no more than one or two manageable goals per day, even if they're as simple as writing a few cards or cleaning a small section of a room. The satisfaction of completing these tasks can add to your sense of well-being and help you get everything done, over a longer period of time. Seek out positivity: Seek out positive people who make you feel better, and avoid people who add to your stress or contribute to your depression. Divorce the Jones': Focus on what you and your family want to do for the holidays instead of what other families are doing, and prioritize your time accordingly. In a similar vein, make a concerted effort to realign the focus of the holiday to reflect your spiritual or ethical beliefs rather than commercial values. You may need to discuss how you and your family will do this, as it can take many forms depending on your beliefs. This Christmas, shop smarter, not harder: Take advantage of online shopping instead of rushing through malls. If you've got more time than money, make homemade gifts, or give gifts of service instead. Ask for help: If the thought of cooking Thanksgiving dinner gives you a headache, arrange to have friends and family over to help you cook ahead of time or hold a potluck dinner instead. Lower the bar of expectations. Sometimes, it's your expectations that are the cause of holiday frustration and disappointment. To avoid this pitfall, try setting realistic expectations for how people will behave, how the food will taste, and how everything will look. Simply allowing the holiday to transpire without any real expectations, focusing instead on maintaining a positive and grateful attitude, may be the answer you've been looking for. Celebrate the memory of loved ones who have passed. Ignoring the void a certain loved one has left may worsen feelings of grief. Instead, try to incorporate the good memories into your celebration.
Dangerous Loophole in Law Permits Food Companies to Market Novel Chemicals Without Safety Disclosures
By Dr. Mercola
The fact that processed foods contain added ingredients that aren't necessarily food isn't secret knowledge. A simple read-through of just about any processed food label will tip you off to this fact with its listing of impossible-to-pronounce chemicals.
Many of these additives have questionable safety profiles, or none at all, since only a small percentage has ever been properly tested. This situation has become the norm courtesy of a regulatory system that favors industry profitability over public health and safety. This too is a well-known fact by many.
What may come as a complete shock, however, is that companies are allowed to add chemicals to their food without disclosing what they are to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or having to prove their safety before putting them into use.
All they have to do is have their expert evaluate it on their terms. There is no independent third party objective evaluation. This is reprehensibly irresponsible on the part of governmental agencies that are assigned the task of looking out for our health. According to EcoWatch:1
"As long as a company designates a chemical as being 'generally recognized as safe,' or GRAS in regulatory parlance, according to FDA's interpretation of the law, it has no responsibility to inform the agency. FDA doesn't know about the safety of an estimated 1,000 chemicals because they aren't disclosed."GRAS: Generally Recognized as Secret
Crazy as it may seem, food additives are not automatically required to get premarket approval by the FDA.2 Certain items that fall under the "generally recognized as safe" or GRAS designation, are exempt from the approval process.
According to the GRAS Notification Program, substances that are "generally recognized, among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate their safety as having been adequately shown... to be safe under the conditions of their intended use," are excluded, and do not require FDA approval.
When the 1958 Food Additives Amendment was enacted, the exclusion of GRAS items from the formal FDA approval process for food additives was meant to apply to common food ingredients such as vinegar, i.e. items known through their historical use as being safe. Nowadays, however, countless manufactured ingredients end up slipping through this loophole.
A company can simply hire an industry insider—a completely conflicted "expert"—to evaluate the chemical, and if that individual determines that the chemical meets federal safety standards, it can be deemed GRAS without any involvement from the FDA. As noted in the NRDC's report,3 "Generally Recognized as Secret: Chemicals Added to Food in the United States:"
"A chemical additive cannot be 'generally recognized as safe' if its identity, chemical composition, and safety determination are not publicly disclosed. If the FDA does not know the identity of these chemicals and does not have documentation showing that they are safe to use in food, it cannot do its job."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)4 identified 56 food companies that rely on "undisclosed GRAS safety determinations" for 275 chemicals used in their products. Of these companies, 62 percent responded to the NRDC's request for information about the chemicals, but none of them shared their safety information.
The remainder did not respond at all.Loopholes Turn Food Safety Into a House of Cards
In an effort to stay on top of the situation, the FDA has created a voluntary program that asks food companies to submit their safety assessments for FDA review. If the agency cannot find any major problems with the company's argument for GRAS status, a "no questions" letter is sent to the company.
However, if questions about safety are raised by FDA scientists, the company can simply withdraw its voluntary submission, and go on using the chemical as if nothing has happened.
This legal loophole in the law allows food manufacturers to market novel chemicals in their products based on nothing but their own safety studies, and their own safety assessments—the results of which can be kept a secret.
The dangers inherent in such an "honor system" are obvious, as the food industry isn't well-recognized for placing consumers' long-term health above profits. As reported by the Washington Post:5
"The FDA said that although the law allows for food manufacturers to make their own safety determinations, the agency 'encourages companies to consult with the agency when developing new ingredients.' Ultimately, the FDA said, manufacturers 'are responsible for ensuring that their food products are safe and lawful.'
NRDC said that Food Additives Amendment of 1958 was enacted, the GRAS process was meant to apply to innocuous additives like vinegar. Instead, it is commonly used for chemicals that are potentially dangerous and have never before been in the American food supply.
For example, until recently, artificial trans fats were considered GRAS but the FDA has now deemed them dangerous, saying they cause as many as 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year."Take Action: Tell the FDA to Put an End to Secret GRAS Determinations
The NRDC has created an action page,6 asking the FDA to take appropriate action to put an end to food companies' right to make chemicals' safety decisions in secret. I encourage you to sign the petition, which will be sent to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
"It's up to the Food and Drug Administration to protect the public's health from unsafe chemicals added to food. But as long as companies are allowed to make chemicals' safety decisions in secret, the agency cannot ensure food is safe.
Letting industry decide for themselves that chemicals are 'generally recognized as safe' (GRAS) without notifying FDA or the public is unacceptable, especially for new additives," the NRDC writes."Consumers should demand that their grocery stores and their favorite brands sell only food products with ingredients that the FDA has found safe, and ask the FDA and Congress to make the necessary changes."
As discussed in the featured video above, the food industry has dramatically altered our diet, and these changes directly affect your weight and overall health. A large part of the problem stems from the processes used to manufacture the food, as food processing destroys valuable nutrients. It also removes much of the food's original flavor.
One example is pasteurization, which effectively sterilizes the food. Gone are all the beneficial microorganisms naturally found in raw milk, yoghurt, and cheese for example. Food irradiation is another example. Eating what amounts to a sterile diet has dramatic ramifications for your health as it alters your gut flora, allowing potentially pathogenic microorganisms to take over the terrain.
To counteract the problem of lost nutrients and flavor, synthetic nutrients and flavorings are added back into the processed food. In fact, popular junk foods owe their market shares to the complex flavor science used to optimize the addictive nature and "craveability" of these products.7 Few if any of these added chemicals serve any beneficial function in your body. On the contrary, they oftentimes tend to wreak metabolic havoc, as your body doesn't quite know what to do with them.
Another factor that makes processed foods the antithesis of a healthy diet is the excessive use of refined sugar and/or processed fructose from corn. If you become an avid label reader, you'll soon realize that virtually every processed food contains sugar—including commercial infant formula and baby food! One 2009 survey of more than 100 foods for babies and toddlers found examples that contained as much as 29 percent sugar! Others contained trans fat.Obesity Sets the Stage for Chronic Poor Health
When your child is raised on sugar, harmful fats, and any number of synthetic chemicals, health problems are sure to follow. Obesity typically comes first, which then sets the stage for a wide variety of chronic diseases, including:Diabetes, which can lead to a whole host of other medical issues Congestive heart failure, a condition in which your heart can't pump enough blood to your body's other organs Pulmonary embolism, a potentially fatal blockage of an artery Fatty liver disease, in which large pockets of fat accumulate in your liver cells Osteoarthritis Gout, caused by uric acid accumulation in your blood Gallbladder disease, resulting from high blood cholesterol levels, which can cause gall stones Cancer, particularly estrogen-sensitive cancers like breast cancer
Americans also have to contend with the fact that a vast majority of corn-based fructose is genetically engineered and heavily contaminated with the toxic herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup). Experts like Dr. Don Huber strongly believe that glyphosate is actually more toxic than DDT. Compelling evidence now suggests that glyphosate residues, found in most commonly consumed foods in the Western diet courtesy of GE sugar, corn, and soy, enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease. Glyphosate also severely disrupts your gut flora, thereby further exacerbating metabolic havoc and poor health.Ditching Processed Foods Is the Answer
Eating fresh, whole foods is the "secret" to getting healthier, losing weight, and really enjoying your food, but many have fallen into the mistaken belief that it's next to impossible to create a meal without falling back on processed foods. Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough tackled this issue head-on in their book Real Food Has Curves: How to Get Off Processed Food, Lose Weight, and Love What You Eat.8 It's a great starting point to relearn the basics of how to prepare real food.
While you may need to invest in a good cookbook, once you get the hang of it, you'll find you can whip up a healthy meal from scratch in the same amount of time it would have taken you to drive down the street to pick up fast food. Sure, finding the time and the money to make healthy meals for your family can be challenging at first, but please don't use that as an excuse to exist on processed food.
Your health -- your energy levels, your appearance, your mood, and so many other factors -- will improve when you eat real food. Returning to a diet of locally grown, fresh whole foods is really the only way to reach optimal health. For a step-by-step guide to make this a reality in your own life, simply follow the advice in my optimized nutrition plan.
Remember, a processed food diet sets the stage for obesity and any number of chronic health issues, including asthma, allergies, and behavioral problems—from hyperactivity to aggression. In fact, many of the top diseases plaguing the United States are diet-related, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. The answer to these health problems lies not in a pill, but in what you eat every day.
By Thomas S. Cowan, MD
In a previous article in this journal ("What Causes Heart Attacks," Fall 2007), I presented the case that the spectrum of heart disease, which includes angina, unstable angina, and myocardial infarction (heart attack), is better understood from the perspective of events happening in the myocardium (heart) as opposed to events happening in the coronary arteries (the arteries that supply the heart).
As we all know, the conventional view holds that the central event of heart disease occurs in the arteries, with the buildup of blockage called plaque.
In this follow-up article I will go into more detail about the conventional theory and why it is largely misleading; then I will describe the precise and well documented events that do lead to MIs (myocardial infarctions or heart attacks).
This understanding is crucial since during the last fifty years, the pursuit of the coronary artery theory has cost this nation billions of dollars in unnecessary surgical costs, billions in medications that cause as much harm as allow for any positive benefits, and, most seriously, has led many to adopt a low-fat diet, which only worsens the problem.
Newer twists on this theory only serve to further obscure the real cause. In contrast, by understanding the real patho-physiological events behind the evolution of MIs, we will be led to a proper nourishing traditional style of eating, the use of the safe and inexpensive heart tonic called g-strophanthin.
Most importantly, we will be forced to look at how heart disease is a true manifestation of the stresses of modern civilized life on the core of the human being.
To overcome the epidemic of heart disease, we literally need a new medical paradigm, a new economic system, a new ecological consciousness; in short, a new way of life. The coronary theory misses all of this, just as it misinterprets the actual pathological events.
In writing this article, I am indebted to the work of Dr. Knut Sroka and his website heartattacknew.com. For all interested in this important subject it is advised to read the entire website and watch the video on the website. The video above shows how the collateral circulation nourishes the heart even with a severe blockage of a coronary artery.
For health professionals and researchers, your understanding of this subject is incomplete without reading and studying the two articles found in the print version of the website.
The first is by G. Baroldi, "The Etiopathologies of Coronary Heart Disease: A Heretical Theory Based on Morphology," and the second by K. Sroka, "On the Genesis of Myocardial Ischemia." Both articles are reprinted in full on the website.Rebuttal of Conventional Theory
Until recently I believed, along with most physicians, that most heart attacks were caused by the progressive blockage caused by plaque buildup in the four major coronary arteries leading to the heart.
These plaques were thought to be composed of cholesterol that built up in the arterial lumen (inside of the vessel), which eventually cut off blood supply to a certain area of the heart, resulting in oxygen deficiency in that area, causing first pain (angina), then progressing to ischemia (heart attack).
The simple solution was to unblock the stenosis (the blockages) with either an angioplasty or stent, or, if that was not possible, then bypass this area with coronary bypass grafting (CABG). Simple problem, simple solution.
The problems with this approach became apparent to me through a number of avenues. The first emerged in a story related by the head of cardiology during a northern California heart symposium at which I was a speaker. He told us that during his residency he was part of a trial conducted in rural Alabama on black men.
In this trial, they did angiograms (injecting dye into the coronary arteries to detect blockages) on all the men presenting with chest pains. For the ones who had a single artery blocked, they did no interventions, only noting which part of the heart would have a subsequent heart attack if one occurred.
Of course, they all predicted it would be in the part of the heart supplied by that particular coronary artery. Then they waited. Eventually, many did return and did have heart attacks, but to the researchers' surprise less than ten percent had a heart attack in the area of the heart supplied by the original blocked artery.
This means, of course, that had they performed the usual angioplasty, stent, or bypass on that artery, the patient would have received no benefit. The second occurrence that helped change my mind was the publication in 2003 of a large study conducted by the Mayo Clinic on the efficacy of bypass surgeries, stents, and angioplasty.1
The study concluded that bypass surgery does relieve symptoms (chest pain); that bypass surgery does not prevent further heart attacks; and that only high risk patients benefit from bypass surgery with regard to a better chance of survival. In other words, the gold standard for treating arterial blockages provides at best only minimal benefits.
If you watch the video on www.heartattacknew.com and go to the FAQ called "The Riddle's Solution," it becomes clear why this is so. Large stable blockages, that is, sites that are over 90 percent blocked, in almost all cases compensate for the blockage by developing collateral or additional new blood vessels.
In fact, the view that the four coronary arteries supply all the blood to the heart is completely wrong. Starting soon after birth, the normal heart develops an extensive network of small blood vessels called collateral vessels that eventually compensate for the interruption of flow in any one (or more) of the major vessels.
As Sroka correctly points out in the above video, coronary angiograms fail to show the collateral circulation; furthermore the procedure creates spasms in the coronary arteries through the injection of heavy dye under high pressure. Thus, coronary angiograms are notoriously inaccurate at assessing the amount of stenosis in the vessels as well as the true blood flow in the heart.
To this day, most of the bypasses, stents, and angioplasties are performed on minimally symptomatic patients who show a greater than 90 percent blockage in one or more coronary artery. These arteries are almost always fully collateralized; it is not the surgery that restores blood flow, because the body has already done its own bypass.
If tests found a major coronary artery 90 percent blocked, with only 10 percent flow "squeezing through the bottleneck," how could you possibly still be alive if you did not have collateral blood vessels? And are we really to believe that the decisive thing that will cause the eventual heart attack is when the stenosis goes from 93 percent to 98 percent?
This is an insignificant difference, and the premise that this small increase will cause a heart attack is completely nonsensical. Yet this is what most of the procedures are meant to accomplish, to unblock the stenosis, which as the video on heartattacknew.com shows, does not actually improve blood flow.
It is no wonder that in study after study, these procedures fail to provide any significant benefit to the patients. For these reasons, conventional cardiology is abandoning the stable plaque model in favor of a different model for the etiology of heart attacks one that, as it turns out, is equally invalid.Meet the Unstable Plaque
We can now all agree that the entire focus of cardiology—upon the stable, progressing calcified plaque: the thing we bypassed and stented for years, the thing we do CT scans of arteries for, the thing they told us is created from cholesterol buildup in arteries, the thing "alternative cardiology" like the Ornish program focused on eliminating—all this is not so important after all.
Don't worry, though, say the "experts," we know it must be the arteries, so let's introduce another concept—drum roll—that of unstable or friable plaque. This insidious scoundrel can attack at any time in any person, even when there is no large blockage. That's because these soft, "foamy" plaques can, under certain situations (we don't know which situations), rapidly evolve and abruptly close off the involved artery, creating an oxygen deficit downstream, with subsequent angina and then ischemia.
These soft plaques are thought to be the result of a combination of inflammatory "buildup" and LDL-cholesterol, the exact two components that are targeted by statin drugs. Therefore, since unstable plaque can come loose at any time, everyone should be on statin drugs to prevent this unfortunate occurrence. Some spokesmen have even suggested putting therapeutic doses of statins in the municipal water supplies.
Defendants of this theory point to angiogram studies that show the changes in these unstable plaques, claiming them as proof that unstable plaque is the true cause of the majority of MIs. As I will show, this acute thrombosis does happen in patients having heart attacks, but it is a consequence, not the cause of the MI. What can pathology reports—as opposed to angiography studies—tell us about the role of unstable plaque in heart attacks?
After all, pathology reports are the only accurate way of determining what actually happened during a heart attack, as opposed to angiograms, which are misleading and difficult to read. The first major autopsy study of patients dying of heart attack was carried out in Heidelberg in the 1970s.2 The study found that sufficient thrombosis to cause the heart attack was found in only twenty percent of cases.
The largest such study found sufficient thrombosis in only 41 percent of cases.3 The author, Baroldi, also found that the larger the area of the heart attack, the more often the pathology report found stenosis; in addition, the longer the time between heart attack and the death of the patient, the higher the percentage of stenosis. Some researchers have used these two facts to "cherry-pick" the numbers and make the stenosis rate seem high by studying only those with large MIs and those who live the longest after the heart attack event.
Another observation that puts into doubt the relevance of the coronary artery theory of heart attack is the fact that the proposed etiological mechanism of how thrombosed arteries cause ischemia is through cutting off the blood supply and thereby the oxygen supply to the tissues. To the enormous surprise of many investigators, the reality is that when careful measurements are done assessing the oxygen level of the myocardial cells, there is no oxygen deficit ever shown in an evolving heart attack I.4 The oxygen levels (measured as pO2) do not change at all throughout the entire event. I will come back to this fact later when I describe what does change in every evolving MI ever studied.
Again, the question must be asked: if this theory is predicated on the lowering of the oxygen levels in the myocardial cells when in fact the oxygen levels don't change, then what exactly does happen? The conclusion is that while thrombosis associated with MI is a real phenomenon, it does not occur in more than 50 percent of cases—which leads to the question: why do the other 50 percent, those without an occlusion in the coronary arteries, even have an heart attack?
Second, it is clear from all pathology studies that thromboses of significant degrees evolve after the heart attack occurs, again leading to the question: what causes the heart attack in the first place? The fact that thrombosis does occur after a heart attack also explains why emergency procedures—remember, the only patients who benefit from bypass and stents are critical, acute patients—can be helpful immediately post-heart attack I to restore flow in those patients who do not have adequate collateral circulation to that part of their heart. So again, all the existing theories as to the relevance of the coronary arteries in the evolution of the heart attack are fraught with inconsistencies. If this is so, what then does cause heart attacks?The Etiology of Myocardial Ischemia
Any theory as to what causes myocardial ischemia must account for some consistent observations over the past fifty years. The most consistent risk factors for a person having heart disease are male sex, diabetes, cigarette use and psychological or emotional stress. Interestingly, in none of these is there a direct link to pathology of the coronary arteries—diabetes and cigarette use cause disease in the capillaries, not, as far as we know, in the large arteries. Also, we have learned over the past decades that the four main medicines of modern cardiology—beta-blockers, nitrates, aspirin, and statin drugs—all provide some benefits for heart patients (albeit all with serious drawbacks as well) and this observation must be accounted for in any comprehensive theory of myocardial ischemia.Heart Rate Variability
The real revolution in the prevention and treatment of heart disease will come with increased understanding of the role played by the autonomic nervous system in the genesis of ischemia and its measurement through the tool of heart rate variability (HRV). We have two distinct nervous systems: the first, the central nervous system (CNS), controls conscious functions such as muscle and nerve function; the second nervous system, the autonomic (or unconscious) nervous system (ANS), controls the function of our internal organs.
The autonomic nervous system is divided into two branches, which in a healthy person are always in a balanced yet ready state. The sympathetic or "fight-or-flight" system is centered in our adrenal medulla; it uses the chemical adrenaline as its chemical transmission device and tells our bodies there is danger afoot; time to activate and run. It does so by activating a series of biochemical responses, the centerpiece of which are the glycolytic pathways, which accelerate the breakdown of glucose to be used as quick energy as we make our escape from the bear chasing us.
In contrast, the parasympathetic branch, centered in the adrenal cortex, uses the neurotransmitters acetylcholine (ACh), nitric oxide (NO), and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) as its chemical mediators; this is the "rest-and-digest" arm of the autonomic nervous system. The particular nerve of the parasympathetic chain that supplies the heart with nervous activity is called the vagus nerve; it slows and relaxes the heart, whereas the sympathetic branches accelerate and constrict the heart. I believe it can be shown that an imbalance in these two branches is responsible for the vast majority of heart disease.
Using the techniques of heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring, which gives a real time accurate depiction of autonomic nervous system status, researchers have shown in multiple studies5 that patients with ischemic heart disease have on average a reduction of parasympathetic activity of over one-third. Typically, the worse the ischemia, the lower the parasympathetic activity.6 Furthermore about 80 percent of ischemic events are preceded by a significant, often drastic, reduction in parasympathetic activity.7
By contrast, those with normal parasympathetic activity, who experience an abrupt increase in sympathetic activity (such as physical activity or an emotional shock), never suffer from ischemia.
In other words, without a preceding decrease in parasympathetic activity, activation of the sympathetic nervous system does not lead to MI.8 Presumably we are meant to experience times of excess sympathetic activity; this is normal life, with its challenges and disappointments. These shocks only become dangerous to our health in the face of an ongoing, persistent decrease in our parasympathetic, or life-restoring, activity. The decrease in parasympathetic activity is mediated by the three chemical transmitters of the parasympathetic nervous system: acetylcholine, NO, and cGMP. It is fascinating to note that women have stronger vagal activity than men, probably accounting for the sex difference in the incidence of MI.9
Hypertension causes a decrease in vagal activity,10 smoking causes a decrease in vagal activity,11 diabetes causes a decrease in vagal activity,12 and physical and emotional stress cause a decrease in parasympathetic activity.13 Thus, all the significant risk factors suppress the regenerative nervous system activity in our heart. On the other hand, the main drugs used in cardiology upregulate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Nitrates stimulate NO production while aspirin and statin drugs also stimulate the production of ACh along with NO—that is, until they cause a rebound decrease in these substances which then makes the parasympathetic activity even worse. Beta-blockers work by blocking the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, the increase of which is a central factor in the etiology of MI. The bottom line: the risk factors for heart disease and the interventions used all affect the balance in our ANS; whatever effects they may have on plaque and stenosis is of minor relevance.How Heart Attacks Occur
So what is the sequence of events that leads to a heart attack? First comes a decrease in the tonic, healing activity of the parasympathetic nervous system—in the vast majority of cases the pathology for heart attack will not proceed unless this condition is met. Think of the person who is always pushing himself, who never takes time out, who has no hobbies, who constantly stimulates the adrenal cortex with caffeine or sugar, who does not nourish himself with real food and good fats, and who does not incorporate a regular pattern of eating and sleeping into his daily life.
Then comes an increase in the sympathetic nervous system activity, usually a physical or emotional stressor. This increase in sympathetic activity cannot be balanced because of chronic parasympathetic suppression. The result is an uncontrolled increase of adrenaline, which directs the myocardial cells to break down glucose using aerobic glycolysis. Remember that in a heart attack, there is no change in blood flow as measured by the p02 in the cells. This step shunts the metabolism of the heart away from its preferred and most efficient fuel sources, which are ketones and fatty acids.
This explains why heart patients often feel tired before their events. This also explains why a diet liberal in fat and low in sugar is crucial for heart health. As a result of the sympathetic increase and resulting glycolysis, a dramatic increase in lactic acid production occurs in the myocardial cells; this happens in virtually one hundred percent of heart attacks, with no coronary artery mechanism required.14, 15 As a result of the increase in lactic acid in the myocardial cells, a localized acidosis occurs. This acidosis prevents calcium from entering the cells,16 making the cells less able to contract.
This inability to contract causes localized edema (swelling), dysfunction of the walls of the heart (hypokinesis, which is the hallmark of ischemic disease as seen on stress echoes and nuclear thallium stress tests), and eventually necrosis of the tissue—in other words, a heart attack. The localized tissue edema also alters the hemo-dynamics of the arteries embedded in that section of the heart, resulting in shear pressure, which causes the unstable plaques to rupture, further block the artery, and worsen the hemodynamics in that area of the heart.
Please note that this explanation alone explains why plaques rupture, what their role in the heart attack process is, and why they should indeed be addressed. Notice also that this explanation accounts for all the observable phenomena associated with heart disease and is substantiated by years of research. It could not be clearer as to the true origin of this epidemic of heart disease.Nourishing the Parasympathetic Nervous System
If heart disease is fundamentally caused by a deficiency in the parasympathetic nervous system, then the solution is obviously to nurture and protect that system, which is the same as saying we should nurture and protect ourselves. Nourishing our parasympathetic nervous system is basically the same as dismantling a way of life for which humans are ill-suited. This means avoiding the excesses of industrial civilization. The known things that nourish our parasympathetic nervous system are contact with nature, loving relations, trust, economic security (a hallmark of indigenous peoples the world over) and sex—this is a whole new world of therapy for ailing hearts.
The medicine that supports all aspects of the parasympathetic nervous system is an extract from the strophanthus plant called ouabain or g-strophanthin. G-strophanthin is an endogenous (made within us) hormone manufactured in our adrenal cortex from cholesterol and therefore inhibited by statin drugs.
G-strophanthin does two things that are crucial in this process—two actions provided by no other known medicine. First, it stimulates the production and liberation of ACh, the main neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system; secondly, and crucially, it converts lactic acid—the main metabolic culprit in this process—into pyruvate, one of the main and preferred fuels of the myocardial cells. In other words, it converts the central poison in this process into a nutrient.
This may be what is meant in Chinese medicine when they say that the kidneys (that is, the adrenal glands, where ouabain is made) nourish the heart. In my many years of using ouabain, I have not had a single patient have an MI while taking it. It is truly a gift to the heart. Of course, I put all my patients on a WAPF-style heart-healthy diet, loaded with healthy fats and fat-soluble nutrients, and low in the processed carbs and sugars that are the hallmark of industrial, civilized life. There are homeopathic versions of strophanthus available, which could be used. Another option that is effective but not ideal is an extract of the plant. The drawback is that the amount of ouabain is unknown.
Reprinted with kind permission of the Townsend Letter, www.townsendletter.com.About the Author
Dr. Cowan has served as vice president of the Physicians Association for Anthroposophical Medicine and is a founding board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation. He is the principal author of The Fourfold Path to Healing and is co-author of The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby and Child Care. Dr. Cowan lectures throughout the United States and Canada. Dr. Cowan is completing a book on the human heart that will be published by Chelsea Green Publishing in 2015.
By Dr. Mercola
The US boasted nearly 92 million acres of corn crops in 2014 – the fifth largest corn acreage in the US since 1944 (and 93 percent of it is genetically modified).1
What could the US possibly do with that much corn? It’s far too much for making corn on the cob and popcorn, and even for feeding livestock (although the latter is still a major use for US-grown corn).
The number one use for corn from 2010-2012 was actually not for food at all, but rather for fuel. The US green energy policy requires oil companies to blend corn ethanol into their gasoline, which has driven up corn prices (until this year). An absolutely tragic environmental blunder.
Corn crops are already subsidized by the US government, so between subsidies and rising ethanol-driven prices, corn has become quite a cash crop for farmers. But this “green energy” program is backfiring, because there’s nothing “green” about planting an absolutely unnecessary surplus of corn, especially when natural prairies are being sacrificed.Farmers Sacrifice Natural Prairies to Grown Corn for Ethanol
Since the US government began requiring its shortsighted, industry-influenced ethanol in fuel in 2007, more than 1.2 million acres of grassland have been lost to corn (and soy) crops. This includes:5
- At least 830,000 acres of grassland in Nebraska
- More than 370,000 acres of grassland in South Dakota
The ethanol fuel program was designed to reduce global warming but, ironically, the loss of grasslands is poised to do just the opposite. Plowing up native grasslands to plant vast expanses of corn and soy – the epitome of monoculture -- releases carbon dioxide into the environment while increasing erosion and the use of toxic fertilizers and other chemicals. It also destroys habitat for native plants and wildlife.
Monoculture also was largely responsible for creating the Dust Storm of the early 1900s, as wiping out the natural grasslands of the Plains to plant unprecedented amounts of wheat disrupted the entire ecosystem of the region, with disastrous consequences.
It seems we have learned little from our recent past, as today, soil is actually depleting 13% faster than it can be replaced, and we’ve lost 75% of the world's crop varieties in just the last 100 years.Ethanol’s ‘Broken Promise’
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report titled “Ethanol’s Broken Promise,” which shows quite clearly that corn ethanol might be worse for the environment than gasoline.6
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has actually proposed cutting the amount of corn ethanol blended into gasoline in 2014 by 1.39 billion gallons, a move EWG says would lower US greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million tons of carbon monoxide, an amount equivalent to taking 580,000 cars off the road for one year. According to EWG:7
“It is now clear that the federal corn ethanol mandate has driven up food prices, strained agricultural markets, increased competition for arable land and promoted conversion of uncultivated land to grow crops. In addition, previous estimates have dramatically underestimated corn ethanol’s greenhouse gas emissions by failing to account for changes in land use.”4 Myths the Ethanol Industry Wants You to Believe
Myth 1: Ethanol Doesn’t Increase Corn Prices
Scientists from the National Academies revealed that using so much corn for ethanol increased the price of corn by 20 to 40 percent between 2007 and 2009 (which is partly why anti-hunger organizations are angry about corn ethanol).
Myth 2: Corn Increases Yields Infinitely
Corn cannot magically increase yields indefinitely, as Big Ethanol would like people to believe. In order to increase yields, farmers are plowing up native grasslands to make more room for corn. According to EWG, more than 8 million acres of grassland and wetlands have been converted to corn from 2008 to 2011, which released at least 80 million tons of carbon a year.
Myth 3: Corn Doesn’t Need Water
Estimates showing corn ethanol’s positive influence on the environment failed to take into account the water needed to grow the corn. According to agricultural economists from Purdue University, when corn plants’ water need is taken into account, corn ethanol is worse for the environment than gasoline.
Myth 4: The Global Population Eats Too Much
More than 800 million people around the world don’t have enough to eat, and when corn prices rise, it makes it difficult for even more people to feed their families. Nearly half of the corn grown in the US goes toward fuel, while people are starving around the world…US Senator Dick Durbin Keeps Pushing Ethanol
US Senator Dick Durbin is a primary pusher of ethanol. In December 2013, he joined a group of Senators to protest the EPA’s proposal to reduce the corn ethanol added to fuel.
He has also been actively working with members of Illinois’ agricultural community and biofuels industry in attempts to promote “investments in the next generation biofuels and the infrastructure necessary to bring those fuels into the market.”8
Senator Durbin went so far as to state that the EPA’s proposed changes “seriously missed the mark,” when in all actuality the changes are necessary to prevent further environmental destruction. The Renewable Fuel Standard, as it stands, requires oil companies to increase ethanol in gasoline from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons in 2022. The amount of corn required to meet this mandate, and the natural habitats that will be further lost to support it, will devastate the environment.Corn Price Crash Predicted for 2014: Taxpayers Will Pay the Difference
The corn rush may have peaked, as it’s predicted corn prices will drop by 20 percent by yearend.9 However, the 2014 farm bill included new subsidy programs to protect farmers from such drops. The past farm bill would pay out $5 billion a year to farmers, whether assistance was needed or not.
In 2014, agricultural economist Carl Zulauf from Ohio State University estimated that $9.6 billion could be paid out to corn, barley, soybean, rice, wheat, and sorghum producers – double what was paid in 2013 and 53 percent more than the Congressional Budget Office predicted.10 Ultimately, of course, it’s taxpayers who foot the bill.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said of the predictions:
“I’m not shocked. The people who should have known better did know better and still we went forward with this. Any dip [in crop prices] is going to mean massive payouts. I hope this shakes people up and hopefully then we can go back in and fix it. This is a bad deal for the taxpayer.”
What we have here is more taxpayer money subsidizing more Monsanto crops (Monsanto developed the GM corn that now dominates the market), which is only increasing now that so much corn is grown. To get an idea of the magnitude of how much money taxpayers are spending to grow corn, consider this from Watchdog.org:11
“Since 1995, the government has spent $292.5 billion on agricultural subsidies, $19.2 billion of which have subsidized corn- and soy-hydrogenated oils. Taxpayers spent $84.4 billion on corn production, $8.1 billion of which funded production of corn starch and sweeteners.”Farmers File Lawsuits as China Rejects GM Corn
One of the reasons why corn prices have plummeted this year has to do with China’s rejection of shipments containing traces of Syngenta’s genetically modified MIR162 corn. MIR162 is approved for use in the US, but China has not allowed it to be imported into the country. Now farmers from five corn-growing states have filed three class-action lawsuits against Syngenta, seeking damages of more than $1 billion. According to the Institute of Science in Society:12
“Syngenta is blamed for destroying the export of US corn to China, which led to depressed prices for domestic corn, according to Volnek Farms, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Omaha, Nebraska federal court. The two other suits were filed in Iowa and Illinois federal courts. None of the farmers involved in the lawsuits planted MIR162 seed in their fields in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska. But their harvested crop was contaminated with traces of the transgenic trait, and hence unsalable to the Chinese market.”
Of course, at the root of the problem is this: farmers wouldn’t grow these Monsanto crops if they weren’t subsidized, which would pave the way for truly sustainable methods of farming to flourish.Return to Grasslands to Avoid Environmental Destruction (and Feed the World)
By plowing up grasslands to grow monocrops, we are contributing to environmental destruction and world hunger. One important factor that some experts believe is KEY for reversing environmental devastation is to return much of our land to grasslands and build a network of herbivore economics.
There is no better way to improve the conditions for animals, solve the carbon problem, bring more revenue to farmers, and improve our health by purchasing nutritious foods from properly pastured animals (versus the horrible CAFO model based on the monocultures of corn and soy fed to the animals).
By mimicking the natural behavior of migratory herds of wild grazing animals—meaning allowing livestock to graze freely, and moving the herd around in specific patterns—farmers can support nature's efforts to regenerate and thrive. This kind of land management system promotes the reduction of atmospheric CO2 by sequestering it back into the soil where it can do a lot of good.
Once in the earth, the CO2 can be safely stored for hundreds of years, and adds to the soil's fertility. Returning to more sustainable organic farming methods is also necessary in order to support the regeneration of soils, which, ultimately, dictates how nutritious the food grown in it will be. As noted by anti-poverty activist Alnoor Ladha:13
“We have industrial agriculture that uses 75 percent of the world's resources and only yields 25 percent of the world's food, versus organic farming which provides 75 percent of the world's food while using only 25 percent of the world's resources.”
In order to make food production sustainable, we have to join forces to keep genetically engineered monoculture and pesticide resistant or pesticide producing crops at bay. This is surely not an easy task in light of the financial (and hence political) clout wielded by the chemical technology industry. And yet we must embrace that challenge. The good news is that we don't need to invent yet another chemical or a new piece of farm equipment to solve this problem. We simply need to revert back to a system that works with nature rather than against it. And this involves grazing cattle. My previous article discussing the work of ecologist Allan Savory goes into this process in greater detail.What Can You Do?
Rebuilding functional ecosystems from the ground up WILL restore them to their fullest potential, and this needs to be our overriding focus. Perhaps you can't do anything about how large-scale commercial farms are being run at the moment, but you can make a difference for yourself, for your family and community that might have residual effects. Buying organic, thereby avoiding any and all GM foods is, I believe, a crucial step. This includes buying grass-fed or pastured animal products, such as beef, chicken, milk, and eggs. Besides that, you can also:
- Grow your own organic vegetables. Organic gardening isn't something extra you do – in fact it's quite the opposite. It's what you don't do that makes the difference: no chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides on your plate! When you take control of what you eat, you'll naturally enjoy better health, ensure and protect future generations.
- Composting is another way to make what you already have work for you in the future. Save those scraps, from egg shells to coffee filters, and use them to feed your vegetable garden.
When shopping for food, be informed regarding where that food was produced. A guide to help you can be found by clicking here. If you take advantage of the farm-fresh sustainability that's becoming more prevalent as people take control of what they're consuming, you'll realize many benefits. First, you'll know where the foods you and your family eat come from, ensure optimal nutrition, and protect the health of future generations.
I recently 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 insanity has gone far enough. It’s time to unite and fight back, which is why I encourage you to boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. 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, and also help win the GMO labeling ballot initiative in Oregon in November.
Voting with your pocketbook, at every meal, 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.
By Dr. Mercola
Genetically engineered (GE) crops and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) go hand-in-hand, and they are not only driving disease statistics into the stratosphere; they’re also destroying communities.
The promises to contain the waste, disease, and infections that these factory farms create are nothing but wishful thinking. In reality, the toxic waste cannot be contained.
In a very real sense, we’re committing suicide by way of our unsustainable, polluting, degenerative food and agriculture system—a system that is subsidized and paid for by US tax payers,1 through severely broken federal policies.How CAFOs Destroy Communities
On November 25, the Associated Press2 reported that Missouri approved a new hog-breeding operation near Kingdom City in central Missouri. The farm will be permitted to raise as many as 10,000 hogs on 20 acres.
Neighbors and environmental activists have filed a petition to appeal the permit, on the grounds that inadequate waste management may affect property value3 and quality of life for residents in the surrounding area. According to the featured report:
“The opponents questioned the engineering and waste management plans... [Chief of the operating permits section of the state's Water Protection Program, Chris] Weiberg wrote the state's review could consider only whether a document was submitted that showed the project's design met state regulations.
Under existing regulations, ‘the Department does not examine the adequacy or efficiency of the structural, mechanical or electrical components of the manure system, only adherence to the regulation... [I]ssuance of a permit does not include approval of such features,’ Wieberg wrote.”
A Minnesota town, where residents have gone to great pains to clean up their lake—Lake Hendricks, which was severely polluted by phosphorus, a chemical in commercial fertilizer and animal waste—is also up in arms over the announcement of a new dairy CAFO.
Current plans situate the factory farm in such a way that waste run-off would likely destroy all their hard work. According to the Star Tribune:4
“[T]he operation will produce as much sewage as a city of 657,000 people and operate with less regulation than any similarly sized feedlot in Minnesota. The waste will be held in lagoons situated just 600 feet from Deer Creek, which flows directly into Lake Hendricks, just 4 miles away.
And while the owner plans to inject the effluent into surrounding cropland as fertilizer, similar livestock confinement operations in South Dakota have experienced spills and field runoff capable of polluting rivers and lakes.”
The disregard for human health, animal health, and the environment is part and parcel of what is so wrong with the present system, which focuses on efficiency and cost effectiveness at the expense of just about everything else.A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
A recent Business Insider5 article shows aerial photos of factory farms across the US, which reveal, in disgusting detail, how the American countryside is being destroyed by their presence.
At present, 99 percent of food animals in the US are raised in these large-scale feedlots, yet many Americans still do not realize exactly how their food is raised, and all the “hidden” costs associated with cheap food. As noted in the featured article:
“For the last several years, British artist Mishka Henner has collected images of the feedlots via satellite, to document a largely hidden phenomenon. Initially, he was searching satellite imagery to look for oil fields.
When he came across the feedlots, Henner was shocked he didn't know about such a central part of our food production. ‘The feedlots are a brilliant representation of how abstract our food industry has come,’ Henner told Business Insider.
‘It’s an efficient system for extracting the maximum yield from animals. That’s the world we live in now. We want to extract the maximum yield from everything, no matter what business you are in.’
...Thousands of cattle on a small parcel of land produce an exorbitant amount of waste with nitrogen and phosphorus that would render it useless as a fertilizer. With nowhere for the manure to go, farms must create ‘manure lagoons’ — ponds or reservoirs filled with toxic waste...”Factory Farms Are Major Polluters
All of this toxic waste, which includes antibiotics, pesticides, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, migrates into surrounding lands and groundwater.
For example, in November, at the annual meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, researchers reported6 that the 2013 flooding in Colorado resulted in massive waterway contamination, as antibiotics and microbial drug-resistant genes were flushed far and wide from CAFO waste pools.
In the Netherlands, animal health authorities recently discovered bird flu in samples taken from wild ducks.7 Chicken farms are suspected as the source of the disease and, so far, 300,000 birds at four CAFO locations have been culled to ensure the infection doesn’t spread.
CAFO waste also contributes to air pollution, and CAFO workers and neighboring residents alike report higher incidence of asthma, headaches, eye irritation, and nausea. According to the Environmental Protection Agency8 (EPA), US states with high concentrations of CAFOs report 20-30 serious water quality problems annually.
One of the reasons so few Americans are aware of these issues is because of “ag-gag” laws, which legally prevents people from filming or photographing conditions on factory farms. Ag-gag laws are being heavily promoted by lobbyists for the meat, egg, and dairy industries to essentially prevent anyone from exposing animal cruelty and food-safety issues at CAFOs.
Industrial food producers are also encouraging their “farmers” to change the terms they use for their horrific practices to less-offensive sounding words, such as swapping “gestation crates” with “individual maternity pens.”
Five states have ag-gag laws already in place, and another 10 introduced anti-whistleblower laws last year. According to USA Today,9 ag-gag laws in Utah and Idaho are currently being challenged in federal court.Industrial Farming Is Destroying Food Quality
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 in fact secrecy, and there’s little doubt that that is why ag-gag laws were lobbied for in the first place.
If you don’t know there’s a problem, you won’t demand change. This is also 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.”
In the US, 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.
This system depends on keeping consumers in the dark about how the food is produced, and what the hidden costs are, because the reality is unsavory enough that many, if not most, people would change their ways were they to find out the truth...
Information is power, and now more than ever before, there are plenty of resources for those who want to educate themselves. For example, a series of recent articles, listed on NewAmerica.org,10 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, such as creation of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which I’ve addressed on numerous occasions. A recent book review in the Wall Street Journal11 also discusses a number of books on the state of our food system. Salon Magazine also recently ran an article12 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. Not only are there many disturbing safety issues, but according to Genoways, these hazards also end up disproportionally affecting immigrant workers, who are already being exploited by the system.We Can Change the System One Family at a Time...
Part of the problem is that the current farming 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 is really the only type of meat that is healthy to eat, in my view. Fortunately, many grocery chains are now responding to customer demand, and will provide at least a small assortment of grass-fed meats. The least expensive way to obtain grass-fed beef and other locally produced organic foods is from your local farmer. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Eat Wild: With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eat Wild's Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada.
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
By Dr. Mercola
Food allergies are the fifth leading chronic illness in the US – and their incidence is on the rise.1 From 1997 to 2007, food allergies increased 18 percent among children under 18 years,2 and today an estimated one out of every 13 children has a food allergy.3
It’s known that food allergies tend to run in families, which suggests a genetic component. However, other theories for why food allergies are becoming commonplace point to a more complex environmental, as well as lifestyle-related, cause.Why Are Allergies on the Rise?
One of the primary hidden contributing factors to allergies is the food you eat, and I am not talking about food allergies. If you eat poor-quality foods, especially ones that cause insulin/leptin resistance, you will increase your risk of allergies.
When you’re allergic to a substance, your immune system mistakenly believes it is dangerous and produces immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in an attempt to neutralize it. Chemicals such as histamine released into your bloodstream during this process can lead to a battery of symptoms any time you eat the food (although symptoms may not appear until hours later).
What’s behind this immune system dysfunction is still being explored, although a leading theory is the hygiene hypothesis. A child raised in an environment devoid of dirt and germs, and who is given antibiotics that kill off all of the bacteria in his gut, is not able to build up natural resistance to disease, and becomes vulnerable to illnesses later in life.
This is likely one reason why many allergies and immune system diseases have doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled in the last few decades. Low levels of vitamin D have also been associated with an increased risk of food allergies,4 while some theorize that food additives, genetic modification, hormones, and herbicides added to foods may be triggering some cases.
Genetic engineering, for instance, can increase existing allergens, or produce new, unknown allergens. Both appear to have happened in genetically modified (GM) soy, which is found in the majority of processed foods.
At the same time, more children are being born and raised with severely damaged gut flora, which is largely the product of poor diet and antibiotics overuse, leading to Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS), as I’ll explain shortly.
New research has revealed that allergies are virtually everywhere in the US, with no region being allergy-free. The study of more than 8,000 people revealed that 45 percent of people aged six and over tested positive for at least one allergen, as did 36 percent of children aged one to five.5
There were some variations by region, such as in large metropolitan areas, where 50 percent of residents were sensitized to at least one allergen, compared to 40 percent in rural areas. In urban areas, outdoor allergens were more common than in rural areas, possibly because respiratory allergies are associated with air pollution.
Also noteworthy was the finding that allergies tended to cluster in groups. People with sensitivities to dust mites were more likely to be sensitive to grass and tree pollen, for instance, while those with peanut sensitivity more likely to also have plant allergies.
This might imply that when it comes to allergy treatment, a more holistic approach to treatment is warranted, with the most sensible starting point your gut (where 80 percent of your immune system resides).
Allergies and asthma often occur together, so it’s not surprising that modifying your diet, and thereby your gut health, appears to be an effective treatment for both of these conditions. In a recent animal study, mice fed a high-fiber diet had stronger resistance against asthma-like attacks than mice fed a low-fiber or regular diet.6
In fact, when mice fed a fiber-rich diet were exposed to dust mites, they had less airway inflammation than the low-fiber mice. As reported by Scientific American:7
“Seems that fiber supports gut bacteria that produce anti-inflammatory molecules called short chain fatty acids. These molecules then enter the bloodstream, where they can influence the immune system. An over-reactive immune system can play a role in allergies and asthma. But the fatty acids can calm down the immune reaction.”
Separate research also showed that 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.8
The researchers believed that the beneficial effect may have been due to non-denatured whey proteins, including bovine serum albumin (BSA) and alpha-lactalbumin, in the raw milk, which may support immune system health and healthful inflammation levels.
Remember, the quality of and the types of food you eat are related to your allergy risk. One of the ways they mediate that is through your gut bacteria. Your gut bacteria play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract.
They also aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens. Friendly bacteria even train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately. This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies.
However, as mentioned earlier, abnormalities in your immune system are a common outcome of GAPS, as when your gut flora is abnormal, your gut lining is more prone to deteriorate, since it is actively maintained by your gut flora.
Leaky gut is a condition that occurs due to the development of gaps between the cells (enterocytes) that make up the membrane lining your intestinal wall. These tiny gaps allow substances such as undigested food, bacteria, and metabolic wastes that should be confined to your digestive tract to escape into your bloodstream -- hence the term leaky gut syndrome.
Once the integrity of your intestinal lining is compromised, and there is a steady flow of toxic substances "leaking out" into your bloodstream, your body experiences significant increases in inflammation. Besides being associated with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, or celiac disease, leaky gut can also be a contributing factor to allergies. In 2010, researchers similarly concluded that eating a junk food diet increases kids’ risk of allergies:9, 10
“Pediatrician Dr. Paolo Lionetti, of Florence University, and colleagues said children in industrialized countries who eat low-fiber, high-sugar 'Western' diets may reduce microbial richness -- potentially contributing to a rise in allergic and inflammatory diseases in the last half-century.”
For some, the answer to resolving food (and other) allergies is to "heal and seal" your intestines, which the GAPS nutritional program is designed to do. If you have severe food allergies, the GAPS Introduction Diet, which uses fermented foods and other natural strategies, like probiotics, to restore balance to your gut flora, may help heal your food allergy completely.
A comprehensive allergy program needs to address optimizing your diet, intestinal health, and vitamin D levels while avoiding potential triggers. This includes a focus on fermented foods, high-fiber vegetables, and minimal processed foods and sugar. If fermented foods are not a regular part of your diet, a probiotic supplement may be beneficial.
Remember, improving your diet according to my free Nutrition Plan is your first step for the reasons detailed above. However, even if you have a perfect diet, allergies may persist. If that is the case the best approach to date I have found is provocation neutralization (PN), which is taught by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM). PN can be very effective for allergy relief.
I was a member of the AAEM and administered this treatment in my office when I was practicing. PN offers many allergy sufferers permanent relief without adverse side effects. The success rate for this approach is about 80 to 90 percent, and you can receive the treatment at home.
The provocation refers to "provoking a change" and neutralization refers to "neutralizing the reaction caused by provocation." During provocation neutralization, a small amount of allergen is injected under your skin to produce a small bump called a "wheal" on the top layers of your skin, and then it is monitored for a reaction.
If you have a positive reaction, such as fatigue, headache, or a growth in the size of the wheal, then the allergen is neutralized with diluted injections or with drops of the same allergen that go in your mouth. If you want to see some actual videos of provocation neutralization being done, see Dr. Doris Rapp's website, www.DorisRappMD.com. It is important to remember that the PN program is in addition to, not a replacement for, a comprehensive allergy recovery program, such as the GAPS “heal and seal” approach outlined here.
By Dr. Mercola
Throughout each day, your body loses water through your urine and sweat glands—even when you’re not purposely working up a sweat. As a result, you have to constantly replenish this fluid, and soft drinks do not count toward this requirement...
Both coffee and soda are high in caffeine, which acts as a diuretic that will dehydrate you. Worse yet, sodas, fruit juices, and other sweetened beverages are primary sources of fructose, which will only deteriorate your health.
Ditto for artificially sweetened beverages. So the key is to drink pure water. But just how much water do you need each day? While an oft-repeated guideline says you should drink eight glasses of water a day, this may be too much for some, and not enough for others.
Your water requirement can also vary wildly from day to day depending on a number of factors, such as your activity level and weather conditions.
Fortunately, your body is equipped with a mechanism that tells you when you need to replenish your water supply. It’s called thirst. And there’s also a simple way to gauge whether or not you need to drink more water even though you may not be feeling thirsty.How to Read the Signs for Your Body’s Water Needs
Once your body has lost between one to two percent of its total water content, it will signal its needs by making you feel thirsty. Using thirst as a guide to how much water you need to drink is a good way to ensure your individual needs are met, day-by-day.
However, by the time your thirst mechanism kicks in you may already be a bit dehydrated. Most studies show that about 2/3 of us are dehydrated and need to drink more water.
This is particularly true for the elderly. Therefore, it’s also wise to learn some of the other, more subtle, signals your body sends, indicating you need to drink more water. As noted in the featured article,1 this includes:
- Fatigue and/or mood swings
- Hunger even though you’ve recently eaten
- Back or joint ache
- Dull, dry skin and/or pronounced wrinkles
- Infrequent urination; dark, concentrated urine, and/or constipation
Besides listening to your thirst, a good rule of thumb is to look at the color of your urine. You should be drinking enough water to turn your urine a light-colored yellow.
Dark-colored urine is a sign that your kidneys are retaining fluids in order to maintain your bodily functions, which includes detoxification. As a result, your urine will seem highly concentrated and dark in color. You may also urinate less frequently, for the same reason.
Since your thirst mechanism tends to become less efficient with age, older adults need to pay more careful attention to the color of their urine to ensure adequate water intake.
Bear in mind that riboflavin (vitamin B2, which is also found in most multi-vitamins) will turn your urine a bright, almost fluorescent yellow. So if you’re taking supplements containing B2, it may be more difficult to judge by the color of your urine.
Frequency of urination can also be used to judge your water intake. A healthy person urinates on average about seven or eight times a day. If your urine is scant or if you haven’t urinated in several hours, that too is an indication that you’re not drinking enough.Symptoms of Chronic Dehydration
The primary symptoms of dehydration are: thirst, dry skin, dark colored urine, and fatigue. But there are also a number of commonly overlooked symptoms that may suggest you’re suffering from more or less chronic dehydration. Such symptoms include:
- Digestive disturbances such as heartburn and constipation
- Confusion and/or anxiety
- Urinary tract infections
- Premature aging
- High cholesterol
According to recent research, one in five seniors does not get enough water on a daily basis. Among those who do not have a caretaker, that number is even higher—one in four. And seniors with dementia are six times more likely to be dehydrated.
Dehydration also tends to be more common among people taking more medication. According to BBC News:2
“A 2013 analysis of death certificates by the [UK] Office for National Statistics had shown that 1,158 care home residents suffered dehydration-related deaths between 2003 and 2012.
But Dr. [Lee] Hooper said those figures were not clear-cut as patients often stopped eating or drinking towards the end of life. She also stressed that while care homes could sometimes do better, it was important to point out that identifying dehydration and solving its causes was complex.
’The reasons older people do not drink enough are that as we age we lose our sense of thirst so they may not be thirsty. [Or they] decide not to drink because of continence issues, because they don't have as much social contact or because of frailty or forgetfulness.’"Why I Do Not Recommend Bottled Water
While drinking water will help flush out toxins, the more unfiltered water you drink, the more pollutants you’re consuming… Most tap water contains an array of harmful contaminants, including disinfection byproducts, chemicals, radiation, heavy metals, and pharmaceutical drugs. Additionally, be careful about bathing in unfiltered water as you can easily absorb more toxins by breathing in a hot shower than you can by drinking tap water all day long.
Last year, federal scientists reported3 finding traces of 18 unregulated contaminants in one-third of the water samples collected from 25 municipal utilities across the US, including perfluorinated compounds like PFOA. So besides making sure you’re drinking enough, another very important consideration is the type of water you drink.
Many instinctively reach for bottled water, but there are many reasons to avoid this option. Drinking from plastic water bottles can pose serious health risks from industrial chemicals like bisphenol-A and bisphenol-S (BPA/BPS), as well as phthalates, which leach from the plastic itself into the contents of the bottle. BPA and BPS are estrogen-mimicking chemicals linked to reproductive defects, learning and behavioral problems, immune dysfunction, and prostate and breast cancer. Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors, and have been linked to a wide range of developmental and reproductive effects, as well as liver cancer.
Bottled water also costs about 1,900 times the price of regular tap water, and may or may not have received any additional treatment. Studies have shown that 40 percent of bottled water is actually regular tap water with possibly no additional filtering treatment. While the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires large public water supplies to test for contaminants several times a day, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires private bottlers to test for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years, depending on the contaminant.
One independent test4 performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2011 revealed 38 low-level contaminants in bottled water. Each of the 10 tested brands contained an average of eight chemicals. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs), caffeine, Tylenol, nitrate, industrial chemicals, arsenic, and bacteria were all detected. Fluoride is also usually present in both tap water and filtered bottled water.
Many bottled waters actually make a point of adding fluoride back into the water, so if you are drinking bottled water, make sure it’s fluoride-free. Last but not least, plastic bottles also cause enormous environmental problems because of the sheer volume of plastic waste they create; the lack of adequate recycling capability for plastics; and the amount of oil required to manufacture them.The Health Benefits of ‘Living Water’
The answer to all these health- and environmental issues is to minimize or eliminate your use of plastic water bottles. The most economical and environmentally sound choice you can make is to purchase and install a water filter for your home. And, in lieu of plastic bottles, use reusable glass water bottles instead, which have a much smaller ecological footprint.
The very best water, however, comes from a natural gravity-fed spring. I do not recommend drinking distilled water on a regular basis. It’s too acidic, and is not recommended for extended use, although it can be beneficial for temporary detoxification purposes. The ideal pH of your water should be between 6.5 to 7.5, which is neutral. What you want is pure water that is clean, pH balanced, and “alive.”
Mountain spring water is ideal. Not only does it have a healthy pH, but it’s also “structured” in a way that is not well understood. I’ve previously interviewed Dr. Gerald Pollack on this subject. He’s one of the leading research scientists in the world when it comes to understanding the physics of water, and what it means to your health. His book, The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor, clearly explains the theory of the fourth phase of water, which is nothing short of ground-breaking.
The fourth phase of water is, in a nutshell, living water. It’s referred to as EZ water—EZ standing for “exclusion zone”—which has a negative charge. This water can hold energy, much like a battery, and can deliver energy, too. This is the kind of water your cells contain; even your extracellular tissues are filled with EZ water, which is why he believes it’s so important to drink structured water for optimal health.
I drink vortexed water nearly exclusively as I became a big fan of Viktor Schauberger, who did much pioneering work on vortexing about a century ago. Dr. Pollack confirms that by creating a vortex in a glass of water, you’re putting more energy into it, thereby increasing EZ. Water from deep sources, such as deep spring water, is an excellent choice as EZ water is also created under pressure. FindaSpring.com5 is an excellent resource that can help you find a natural spring nearby. As an added boon, collecting spring water is usually free—you just need to bring your own jugs. I recommend using glass jugs instead of plastic, for all the reasons discussed earlier.Healthy Additives for a Touch of Flavor
As more people are becoming aware of the health dangers of soda, the beverage industry has created a whole new breed of “healthy” beverages—so called “functional” and enhanced waters, fortified with everything from vitamins and minerals to electrolytes, oxygen, fiber, and even protein. But if you take a closer look at the labels, you’ll discover they’re spiking your punch with a lot of unsavory ingredients, many capable of wreaking havoc on your metabolism, hormones, and other physiological processes. Many contain loads of sugar, making them no better than soda...
For occasions when you do want a dash of flavor, simply add some fresh lemon or lime juice to your water. As noted in a previous Huffington Post article,6 lemon water has over a dozen health benefits, from easing constipation and urinary tract infections, to boosting your immune system, cleansing your liver, and improving your skin.
Sliced cucumbers can also add a refreshing twist. If you want a touch of sweetness, add some natural Stevia or Luo Han Guo, which are among the safest sugar substitutes. Alternatively, simply add a drop or two of natural peppermint extract or a few crushed mint leaves from your herb garden. If you want an electrolyte type “sports drink,” try coconut water, which is a rich natural source of potassium and electrolytes. Look for one that has no additives. Or choose a fresh, young coconut and harvest it yourself.For Optimal Health, You Need Pure Water, and Enough of It
There’s no doubt that you need pure water for optimal health. Simply swapping out all the sweetened, bottled beverages you indulge in for pure water can go a long way toward improving your health—and your weight. The amount, however, is something you need to fine tune based on your individual circumstances.
Remember to listen to your body. Thirst is an obvious signal that it’s high time to replenish your fluids. Fatigue and moodiness can also indicate you need to drink more water. Probably the best way to gauge your water needs however, is to observe the color of your urine, and how frequently you urinate. On average, a healthy number of bathroom visits is around seven or eight per day, and you want the color of your urine to be a light, pale yellow.
By Dr. Mercola
High-quality soil is crucial to grow nutrient-dense plants. Tragically, most of our soil is being significantly damaged, thanks to modern farming methods. Gabe Brown is a true pioneer in teaching about regenerative land management, which helps restore soil health.
Gabe was originally trained as a traditional farmer of the conventional mindset, using heavy tilling, genetically engineered (GE) crops, and chemical principles in his challenging growing farm environment of North Dakota.
I actually had the opportunity to personally met Gabe last week when I was keynote speaker at the ACRES USA conference in Columbus. He is every bit as knowledgeable and inspiring as his interview suggests. I had a chance to listen to his full day seminar and learned loads of great info..
At this point, his operation is not certified organic, but he's implemented a number of land regenerative practices. He doesn't till his land anymore, does not use herbicides on crops that are growing. He's stopped using glyphosate altogether and has integrated cocktail cover crops and livestock rotational grazing.
In 1991, he and his wife purchased the family farm from her parents, and they began farming conventionally using heavy tillage, low crop diversity, and season-long livestock grazing.
"Not being from a farm or ranch, I always tended to question why we do certain things," he says. "I had listened and attended a class that Alan Savory put on, talking about rotational grazing.
I started doing some rotational grazing. I [also] had a friend in the northern part of North Dakota who was a no-tiller... In 1993, I went 100 percent no-till. Immediately, we started seeing some benefits... We were conserving moisture."The Importance of No-Till for Soil Regeneration
This is a rather crucial point. Tilling is probably one of the most destructive aspects of modern-day industrial agriculture, as it disrupts and destroys soil biology.
"Tillage is the act of taking either a plow, a chisel plow, a field cultivator, or any type of steel or implement and destroying the soil's structure and turning the soil over.
By reducing the tillage, we leave those soil aggregates, those pore spaces intact, which improve water infiltration and also provide home for soil biology," Gabe explains.
Tilling is especially harmful for the mycorrhizal fungi—important soil fungi that attach to the roots of plants. Their thread-like filaments connect the plants together in an underground web that can stretch over long distances, forming a virtual "plant Internet," though which plant communication takes place.
When Gabe quit tilling in 1993, he was the lone no-tiller in Burleigh County, North Dakota, where about 60 percent of the land is farmland. Today, about 70 percent of the farmland in this county is no-till. The fact that no-till has really caught on in the Northern Plains is very encouraging.
Other important factors for soil health are crop diversification and cover cropping. Gabe learned the importance of this through a series of crop failures. Four years in a row, the farm lost most or all its crops to hail or drought. To keep his livestock fed, he grew various crop cover plants, and began noticing that his soil was slowly improving.
"We had four devastating years of crop failure in a row. I tell people that's the best thing that ever could have happened to me, because it taught me that I had to learn how to take care of the resource," he says.
When he first started, soil tests on his land revealed organic matter levels of 1.7 to 1.9 percent. According to National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA) scientists, organic matter levels in the area used to range around seven to eight percent some 200 years ago. So about 75 percent of the organic matter in the soil has been lost in just the last two centuries.
"One of the buzz words today is 'sustainable.' Everybody wants to be sustainable. My question is why in the world would we want to sustain a degraded resource? My operation today is still degraded. We need to be regenerative. We need to work on regenerating our soils, not just sustaining a degraded resource," Gabe says.How No-Till Promotes Soil Health
Last summer, the organic matter on Gabe’s cropland ranged from 5.3 to 6.1 percent. So in just over 20 years of no-tilling and using regenerative land management principles, he’s been able to triple the amount of organic matter in the soil. Earthworms are another marker for soil health, and they too can be brought back when you abstain from tilling.
"There were no earthworms when we started. This past spring, my son did earthworm counts in our cropland. In a 12"x12"x2" slice of soil, we were averaging over 60. That's considerable when you start with zero. And that's just the earthworms. It doesn't count the myriad of other billions of soil organisms that are also in there," he notes.
"Earthworms, their castings and their secretions, are very nutrient-dense. When you grow a crop in a soil that's full of earthworms, those plants are going to follow the roots and are going to follow those channels that those earthworms make, and the nutrients will be supplied to the plant.
The other thing it does that we don't often talk about is improve water infiltration. When we took over this operation, we could only infiltrate a half of an inch of rainfall per hour. In other words, if we had a rainfall event of an inch, over half of it was going to run off.
When you're in a limited-moisture environment, you want all that rainfall to be captured and go into the soil. Well, in the last test we did, we can now infiltrate over eight inches of rainfall per hour, which is huge."
Vermicompost—the compost produced by earthworms—is really one of the best compost you could get. Some sell it for about $1,000 for a cubic yard or about 1,000 pounds.
The nice thing is that, once you have the kind of density of earthworms, Gabe describes, you're literally producing tens of tons of vermicompost per acre in your soil, and you don't even have to pay for it or move it. It's all done for free by the earthworms.
"As we move into these very diverse cropping systems and integrate cover crops into them, we actually plant cover crops to benefit soil life and to feed those earthworms. The cover crops become the compost that the earthworm cycle into usable plant nutrients," Gabe explains.Improving Soil with Multispecies Cover Crop Cocktails
The cocktail of cover crops Gabe has incorporated into his land management system are a really important part of the equation. During those four years of hail and drought he grew mostly monoculture or two-species cover crops, such as triticale and hairy vetch, or sudan grass and cowpeas. Then, in 2006, after listening to Brazilian cover crop expert Dr. Ademir Calegari, he began using a multispecies combination.
"I was really upset with myself that I hadn't thought of it earlier. Because what I'm trying to do in my operation is mimic native range with the diversity of plant life and the diversity of wildlife, insects, etc. Well, that's what we're really doing with the cover crop cocktail, these multispecies mixes. Today, I plant up to 70 different species in a mix. What we're trying to do is mimic the diversity in nature.
Think of it this way. If you plant a monoculture crop, that soil life is only being fed one root exudate. But if I plant a multispecies with 20 different species in it, that soil life is being fed the root exudates from 20 different plants. In other words, I'm accelerating biological time. We're able to regenerate soils much, much faster than scientists used to think were possible."Five Tenets of Soil Regeneration
Using the following five tenets of soil regeneration, you may be able to add an inch of topsoil in a five-year period:
- No-tillage. This prevents soil erosion and also allows soil microbes to thrive
- Plant diversity and rotation
- Multispecies cover-cropping. While home gardeners can add crop cover like mulch or wood chips, large scale operations can achieve the same results by planting cover crops. Gabe grows cover crops on every acre of crop land each year. The cover crops may be grown before a cash crop, along with a cash crop, or after. But it's the cover crops that provide the carbon that becomes that all-important "armor" on the soil surface. Cover crops also act as insulation, so the soil doesn't get as hot or cold as it would if bare. This allows microbes to thrive longer. Also, the soil biology heats up the soil, which can extend your overall growing season in colder areas
- Maintaining living roots in the soil year-round. It’s important to have living plant roots in the soil as long as possible throughout the year. To accomplish this, use cover crops when not growing a cash crop.
- Livestock integration and diversification
Unfortunately, one major hurdle that needs to be overcome before US farmers can more readily switch over to these regenerative principles is the government farm program, which subsidizes the growing of certain crops. At present, the farm program is strictly geared to monoculture production.
"I've come to the realization that we need to educate the consumers and the consumers need to drive the change through their purchasing dollars," Gabe says. "Let me tell you of this movement... My son and I started [a grass-fed beef] business in March, and we have zero advertising dollars. We've just been going to local farmers' markets. We already have over 650 repeat customers. We can't keep up with the demand right now. That goes to show you that if that's happening in a rural state such as North Dakota, what's happening in more urban areas?"
...I tell the farmers and ranchers I talk to that carbon drives profitability of an operation. We have to start thinking of our farms and ranches as ecosystems and these ecosystems are driven by carbon. The more biomass you produce and the more diversity, the more carbon.
Obviously, trees are a little bit scarce here in the Northern Plains. But for the average gardener, there's usually some type of tree removal service that has wood chips available in most communities that you can get and add to that garden. If you're adding carbon, you're going to increase the fungal component and you're going to increase the mycorrhizal fungi [that] secrete glomalin, which starts the formation of soil particles."
...There's a great book by Dr. David Montgomery called Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. Dr. Montgomery talks about how all the civilizations such as the Incas and the Romans, their rise and fall occurred because of the degradation of their soil resource. I had the opportunity to visit one on one with Dr. Montgomery this past year. I asked him, 'How long do we have as a nation before this occurs to us?' And without blinking an eye, he said, 'Less than 50 years.' He said, 'We cannot continue on this path of degrading our resources like we have.'... [N]o-till is a piece; cover-cropping is a piece; diversity is a piece; and livestock integration is a piece. We have to bring all of these things together."Feeding the World's Population Requires Emphasis on Soil Regeneration and Regenerative Land Management
Even if you're not a farmer, you can still have an impact by implementing the regenerative aspects of no-till, plant diversity, and using ground cover such as wood chips into your own home garden. Along with that, plant some pollinator species to provide a habitat for pollinators. Monarch butterflies, for example, need milkweed to feed and reproduce. When purchasing bee-friendly plants, make sure they have not been pretreated with pesticides that are toxic to bees, as this could actually do the bee population more harm than good... Most importantly, as a consumer, use your dollars to drive change, and educate others as to the importance of nutrient-dense food.
"We're spending more money on healthcare than any other country, but look what it's gotten us," Gabe notes. "The United States of America is now the 42nd healthiest country in the world. We're first in cancer, autoimmune diseases, attention-deficit disorder (ADD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and obesity. Why is that? We're degrading our resource so much that we no longer have the nutrient density in our foods in order for people to get healthy diets... We need to start thinking of food as health. Food is preventative medicine. The nutrient density of our foods has decreased anywhere from 15 to 65 percent for the last 40 years. That's uncalled for. It can't continue..."
Indeed, the answer to "how will we feed nine billion people by 2050?" is: by regenerating our soils so that it can support more ample and more nutritious crop growth. In order to do that, we must change our farming model, because chemical-based monoculture is leading us straight toward the drop-off at the end of a cliff...
"Look at our operation. We grow a diverse number of cash crops. We grow cover crops. We have beef, cattle, sheep, hogs, and chickens. I haven't even talked about how we allow beekeepers to come onto our land. There's a myriad of other potential income streams and enterprises that we can stack," Gabe says. "Feeding the world is absolutely no problem if we change the production model. For the small producers, it's simply a matter of stacking enterprises. Once you do that, you'll find that not only will you have more income streams to make your operation more viable, but you'll actually regenerate the soils much, much quicker."
Also known as Chinese white cabbage, bok choy is a leafy green vegetable with a long list of impressive health benefits, and a mild flavor that makes it perfect for a wide range of uses in the kitchen— you can use it to make salads and coleslaw, add it to soups, or, even juice it raw with other leafy greens.
Bok choy is the number one vegetable in China (in contrast to the US, where broccoli and Brussels sprouts are the most commonly consumed cruciferous vegetables), but it's also a favorite in other Asian cuisines, such as Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Thai.
If you're craving bok choy's crunchy goodness with an Oriental twist, then here's the perfect recipe for you…
- 6 heads baby bok choy
- 1½ tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons tamari soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin*
- ½ teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 scallions
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Note: Have all ingredients ready as the stir frying is rather quick.
- Remove the bottoms from the bok choy heads. Separate the leaves and cut across into small pieces, keeping stems and leaves separate.
- Mix together the vinegar, tamari, mirin, honey, and toasted sesame oil in a bowl. Set aside.
- Over high heat, warm the sauté pan or wok, add the olive oil, making sure it covers the pan. Add the bok choy, red pepper flakes, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Stir fry for 30 seconds.
- Add sauce mixture and cook for about 1 minute, until mixture thickens. Add bok choy leaves and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Place the bok choy in a serving bowl, add a squeeze of lemon and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
This recipe makes 4 servings.
*Can be found in the Asian food aisle at the grocery store or in an Asian market.
(From Healthy Recipes for Your Nutritional Type)Ginger Baby Bok Choy Cooking Tips
How do you select the best bok choy to use for your meals? Here's my advice: look for firm stalks and dark-green, crisp leaves, and avoid those that are wilted or soft.
You can store bok choy in your refrigerator for several days. To prepare, trim off the base and remove any discolored leaves, separate the stalks, and wash them under cold running water.
Do not overcook bok choy, though. Tender-crisp is the best way to go, as it helps preserve the vegetable's many nutrients. Whatever happens, do not microwave bok choy – just two minutes in the microwave destroys many of its healthful enzymes.Ginger Baby Bok Choy Nutrition Facts Calories 135 Total Fat 5 g Carbs 13 g Protein 6 g Why Is Ginger Baby Bok Choy Good for You?
Bok choy is loaded with vitamins C and K, beta-carotene, vitamin A1 (higher than any other cabbage variety), and dietary fiber, but only has 20 calories per cup – it's no surprise that bok choy has made it into my most highly recommended vegetables list. If you're trying to lose weight, this is one of the best foods you can add to your meals.
Bok choy contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients that can keep inflammation at bay. It has anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol, and thiocyanate, an antioxidant that can protect cells from inflammatory substances made in response to an injury or infection in your body. Thiocyanate, according to researchers, may even hold clues to treating serious inflammatory disorders like diabetes, heart disease, and cystic fibrosis.2
Another beneficial antioxidant phytocompound found in bok choy is called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which also has anti-inflammatory effects that operate on a genetic level, and may help prevent inflammatory responses at the early stages of disease development. I3C has also been found to halt the cell cycle in breast cancer cells without actually killing the cells.3
Other health benefits of eating bok choy include:
- Better bone health. A cup of bok choy has about 26 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K1, which is known for its role in blood clotting and bone metabolism.4
- Reduced risk of brain shrinkage. The healthy amounts of B vitamins in bok choy can help slow down brain shrinkage by as much as seven-fold5 in regions that are specifically impacted by Alzheimer's disease.
- Support for your heart health. Scientists believe that sulforaphane in bok choy can help improve DNA methylation,6 which is essential for normal cellular function and proper gene expression, particularly for the endothelium, the inner lining of the arteries that becomes easily damaged.
Another superstar ingredient in this recipe is ginger, which, in my opinion, is one of the most phenomenal spices you can add to your meals. Ginger is a rich source of antioxidants like gingerols, shogaols, zingerones, and more. In fact, it has over 40 pharmacological actions, such as broad-spectrum antibacterial, antioxidant, antiviral, and anti-parasitic properties.
I actually recommend ginger for its anti-inflammatory properties, which make it an effective pain reliever that may rival non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For more about ginger's health benefits, read my previous article, "Ginger's Many Evidence-Based Health Benefits Revealed."
By Dr. Mercola
Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain. In the US, it impacts about 100 million adults, which is more than the number impacted by diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.1
It can be a challenging condition to treat because while some chronic pain is associated with an injury or disease, in other cases there is no initial event (such as a back injury, infection, arthritis, or cancer) that caused the pain.
In some cases, pain may continue for weeks, months, or years without any clear cause. This may describe pain such as low back pain, headaches, or even neurogenic pain (sometimes called neuropathic pain), which is pain that comes from your peripheral or central nervous system.Chronic Pain Is a Leading Cause of Disability
Chronic pain (particularly back pain) is a leading cause of disability among Americans, significantly interfering with quality of life and productivity. When the medical costs and economic costs (disability, lost wages, and lost productivity) are factored in, pain care costs the US health care system up to $635 billion a year.2
This is a strikingly high number, but you can't put a price on the damage chronic pain can do to an individual's life. For instance, according to a survey of chronic pain sufferers by the American Pain Foundation:3
- 59 percent reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life
- 77 percent reported feeling depressed
- 70 percent said they have trouble concentrating
- 74 percent said their energy level is impacted by their pain
- 86 percent reported an inability to sleep well
Furthermore, those in chronic pain are unable to reach their full career potentials, as workers report losing an average of nearly five hours per week of productive time due to pain. For up to 20 percent, the pain forces them to take disability leave from work or change jobs altogether. Another significant percentage (13 percent) are so debilitated by pain that they must receive help with the activities of daily living.4
The side effects of pain relievers, which many believe are their only option for relief, must also be factored in. Congressional testimony from the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians stated that Americans consume 80 percent of the pain pills in the world,5 and once you start, they set off a cascade of reactions in your body that make it extremely difficult to stop.
Opioid painkillers like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl are one of the most commonly abused drug classes. These drugs are not only addictive, they can lead to slowed breathing and death if too much is taken, and the risks are compounded if you add alcohol to the equation.
Perhaps most frustrating of all is the fact that more than half of those surveyed by the American Pain Foundation said they felt they had little or no control over their pain.6 Often, this is because they don't even know what's causing it, let alone how to effectively treat it.6 Common Pain Triggers That Might Surprise You
First of all, I strongly believe that you should be grateful for the pain as your body is giving you powerful feedback that typically some lifestyle activity is causing your disability. Clearly, this is not the case for most traumas, but they are a relatively minor percentage of chronic pain.
Do you know what disease causes your body to lose the sensitivity to pain? Leprosy. People with leprosy typically die prematurely from serious infections they incur as a result of the loss of feedback from exposure to harmful environmental hot or sharp objects.
If you're suffering from chronic pain that has no obvious cause, take a look through the list of triggers that follow. Oftentimes, physical pain may be the result of an underlying condition, lifestyle factor, or emotional trauma that you haven't taken into account.
1. Emotional Trauma
Few people want to be told that their pain is psychological or emotional in origin, but there's quite a bit of evidence that backs this up. One theory is that emotional trauma (along with physical injury and environmental toxins) may stimulate molecules in your central nervous system called microglia.
These molecules release inflammatory chemicals when stressed, resulting in chronic pain and psychological disorders like anxiety and depression.7 Dr. John Sarno, for example, used mind-body techniques to treat patients with severe low back pain and has authored a number of books on this topic.8
His specialty was those who have already had surgery for low back pain and did not get any relief. This is one tough group of patients, yet he had a greater than 80 percent success rate using techniques like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
Ironically, the very drugs that most physicians prescribe to treat pain may end up making your pain worse after just a few months of use. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital and CNN's chief medical correspondent, reported:9
"…after just a few months of taking the pills, something starts to change in the body. The effectiveness wears off, and patients typically report getting only about 30% pain relief, compared with when they started. Even more concerning, a subgroup of these patients develop a condition known as hyperalgesia, an increased sensitivity to pain.
As you might guess, all of this creates a situation where the person starts to take more and more pills. And even though they are no longer providing much pain relief, they can still diminish the body's drive to breathe.
If you are awake you may not notice it, but if you fall asleep with too many of these pills in your system, you never wake up. Add alcohol, and the problem is exponentially worse. People who take pain or sleeping pills and drink a couple glasses of wine are playing Russian roulette."
3. Poor Sleep
Poor sleep can actually impact virtually every aspect of your health, and the reason for this is because your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) actually "drives" the rhythms of biological activity at the cellular level. Further, your body needs deep sleep for tissue growth and repair, which is crucial for pain relief. According to recent research from Great Britain, poor or insufficient sleep was actually the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50.10
4. Leaky Gut
Dietary changes (see below) are crucial for managing pain, and this is, in part, due to the way they influence your gut health. Substances in grains, for instance, may increase intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut syndrome), allowing undigested food particles, bacteria, and other toxicants to "leak" into your bloodstream. Leaky gut can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps, as well as cause or contribute to many others symptoms, including inflammation and chronic pain.
5. Magnesium Deficiency
Among magnesium's many roles is blocking your brain's receptors of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that may cause your neurons to become hypersensitive to pain.11 This is especially important because an estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Two major lifestyle factors that further deplete your body of magnesium are stress and prescription drugs, putting chronic-pain patients at particular risk of deficiency.
6. Lyme Disease
Some of the first symptoms of Lyme disease may include a flu-like condition with fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, achiness, and fatigue. However, it often lingers chronically, in some people for more than a decade, causing muscle and joint pain. Because Lyme and all of its co-infections cause so many constant symptoms, it easily mimics disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, Parkinson's, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and more.
If you're suffering from chronic pain and don't know why, it's worth considering Lyme disease, even if you don't think you've been bitten by a tick (it's primary transmitter). Fewer than half of Lyme patients recall ever getting a tick bite. Many Lyme patients don't remember such an event because the tick numbs your skin before biting so it is never felt. In some studies, this number is as low as 15 percent. So, if you don't recall seeing a tick on your body, that doesn't rule out the possibility of Lyme disease.Most Physicians Are Clueless When It Comes to Treating Chronic Pain
Surveys show seven in 10 Americans believe pain research and management should be one of the medical community's top priorities.12 But instead, it receives barely a passing mention. The APPEAL (Advancing the Provision of Pain Education And Learning) study, which surveyed undergraduate medical schools in Europe, found that even when compulsory pain courses are in place, they represent just 12 hours of the six-year program – or 0.2 percent.13 Further, most of the schools actually have no required courses on pain that all students must take.
This means that 12 hours of pain study represents a best-case scenario. At 82 percent of medical schools without compulsory pain courses, the students may be receiving even less… or no pain training at all. Though the APPEAL study took place in Europe, it echoes a similar trend identified in the US and Canada by a separate study published in The Journal of Pain.14
Most of the schools offered pain education as only a part of general education courses. Less than four percent of the schools had a required course in pain and many offered no dedicated courses at all. When physicians don't know how to effectively treat chronic pain, they resort to the only treatment they know: prescription drugs, which will do nothing to solve the underlying reasons why you're in pain. Not to mention, there are non-drug options available to treat your pain while you help it to become rebalanced using proper lifestyle strategies. Non-drug options may include:
- Chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments: According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.15
- Massage: Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation, relieve pain, and reduce levels of stress chemicals such as cortisol and noradrenaline – reversing the damaging effects of stress by slowing heart rate, respiration, and metabolism and lowering raised blood pressure.
- Acupuncture: Researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain, such as back pain and headaches – more so than standard pain treatment.16
- Physical therapy. Can be a highly effective modality for pain rehabilitation.
- Relearn proper posture: The Gokhale Method addresses the root cause of physical pain, which is often caused by improper posture. The method teaches you to reclaim your primal posture, which is the way your body was designed to stand, sit and move. You can also try Foundation Training—an innovative method developed by Dr. Eric Goodman to treat his own chronic low back pain. The exercises are designed to help you strengthen your entire core and move the way nature intended.
If you suffer from chronic pain, there's a good chance you need to tweak your diet as follows:
- Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work; they positively influence prostaglandins.) The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.
- Reduce your intake of most processed foods as not only do they contain sugar and additives, but most are loaded with omega-6 fats that upset your delicate omega-3:6 ratio, which will contribute to inflammation, a key factor in most pain.
- Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars (especially fructose) from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. That is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling your pain.
- Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain. This satisfies your body's appetite for regular sun exposure.
If you have chronic pain of any kind, please understand that there are many safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers. The pain remedies that follow are natural, providing excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that pain medications often carry.
- Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added only 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. In fact, curcumin has been shown in over 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind that most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider leaving a little of the pulpy core intact when you consume the fruit.
- Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.
By Dr. Mercola
Those who bother to delve into the science behind water fluoridation will inevitably come to see that there’s an abysmal lack of evidence supporting this routine practice, and an awful lot of evidence stacked against it.
Water fluoridation began in 1945. Today, the United States adds fluoride to more than two-thirds of the municipal water supplies reaching nearly 211 million Americans.
As of 2012, more than 67 percent of Americans receive fluoridated water,1 up from 66 percent in 2010.2 Of those, more than 11 million people receive fluoride at or above what has been deemed the “optimal” level, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Most likely, your dentist—along with countless government and public health officials—has praised and promoted the use of fluoride, both in toothpaste and drinking water, calling it a “necessary” part of your oral health regimen.
But let’s make this point clear: fluoride is not an essential nutrient needed for your health—dental or otherwise. There is not one single metabolic process in your body that requires fluoride. On the contrary, fluoride is a cumulative poison.Fluoride—A Cumulative Poison
Approximately 98 percent of the fluoride you ingest in water is absorbed into your blood through your gastrointestinal tract. From there, it enters your body’s cellular tissues. On average, about 50 percent of the fluoride you ingest each day gets excreted through your kidneys.
The remainder accumulates in your teeth and bones,3 pineal gland,4 and other tissues—including your blood vessels, where it can contribute to calcification. According to a 2012 study published in the journal Nuclear Medicine Communications:5
“Fluoride uptake in vascular walls was demonstrated in 361 sites of 54 (96 percent) patients, whereas calcification was observed in 317 sites of 49 (88 percent) patients.
Significant correlation between fluoride uptake and calcification was observed in most of the arterial walls, except in those of the abdominal aorta.
Fluoride uptake in coronary arteries was demonstrated in 28 (46 percent) patients and coronary calcifications were observed in 34 (56 percent) patients.”Health Hazards Linked to Fluoride Over-Exposure
As the number of studies into the toxic effects of fluoride has increased, there is now support for a rather long list of potential health problems related to fluoride accumulation in your body.
For example, according to one 500-page long scientific review,6 fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that can affect your bones, brain, thyroid gland, pineal gland, and even your blood sugar levels.
Forty-two human studies7 have also linked moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence, and over 100 animal studies have shown that fluoride exposure can cause brain damage.
Most striking among these are 30 (out of a total of 32 investigations) that have shown that fluoride lowered the ability of animals to learn and remember. The following list contains 20 of the most commonly mentioned health hazards and diseases associated with fluoride exposure:8, 9Lowers IQ Brain damage Bone fractures10 Disrupts immune system Increases tumor and cancer rate Hyperactivity and/or lethargy Dementia Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) Inhibits formation of antibodies Increases aging process Increased lead absorption11 Muscle disorders Dental fluorosis (staining and pitting of teeth) Genetic damage and cell death12 Reduces melatonin production and leads to earlier onset of puberty13 Disrupts synthesis of collagen Arthritis Thyroid disease and lowered thyroid function Inactivates 62 enzymes14 Damages sperm, increases infertility The Sordid History of Water Fluoridation
The video above features an interview with Christopher Bryson, author of the book: The Fluoride Deception. Both the book and this interview were published 10 years ago, in 2004. Bryson is an award-winning journalist and former radio producer at the BBC.
The book is based on nearly a decade’s worth of research, and it reveals the shocking details of how fluoride—a toxic byproduct of the aluminum industry—ended up being added to drinking water as a dental prophylactic.
The commonly repeated history of how water fluoridation came to be states that the practice was spurred on by research from the 1930s, which found that people who drank water containing higher levels of naturally-occurring fluoride tended to have less severe tooth decay.
On the surface, it would appear as though it was a successful government intervention on your behalf. More than 60 years later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
However, the real story reveals it was little more than a well-orchestrated PR stunt – a glowing example of the art of disseminating “adjustable truths” to sell an inconveniently toxic reality to an unsuspecting public.
In his book, Bryson describes the deeply intertwined interests that existed in the 1940s and 50s between the aluminum industry, the US nuclear weapons program, and the dental industry, which resulted in fluoride being declared not only safe, but beneficial to human health.
Prior to 1945 when communal water fluoridation in the US took effect, fluoride was actually a known toxin. A 1936 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association stated that fluoride at the 1 part per million (ppm) concentration is as toxic as arsenic and lead.
The Journal of the American Medical Association stated in their September 18, 1943 issue that fluorides are general protoplasmic poisons that change the permeability of the cell membrane by certain enzymes.15 And, an editorial published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, October 1, 1944, stated: "Drinking water containing as little as 1.2 ppm fluoride will cause developmental disturbances. We cannot run the risk of producing such serious systemic disturbances. The potentialities for harm outweigh those for good."Science for Hire...
Due to the massive amounts of fluoride required to produce bomb-grade uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons, the Manhattan Project conducted various experiments to determine its toxic effects in 1946. There were already several instances on record of fluoride being toxic to crops, livestock, and people living downwind from the polluters, so the public concern over fluoride emissions needed to be quelled in order to avoid potentially crippling lawsuits.
The brainchild of water fluoridation was Gerald Cox, a researcher with the Mellon Institute in Pittsburg. He received the suggestion to look at fluoride’s effects on teeth from Francis C. Frary, then director of the aluminum laboratory for the Aluminum Company of America. Frary was very concerned about the mounting lawsuits over the fluoride pollution his plant produced. Disposing of fluoride – the toxic waste product from aluminum plants -- was quickly turning into a very costly problem. Gerald Cox also had reasons to figure out a solution to the fluoride-waste problem.
The Mellon Institute had been the leading defender of the asbestos industry, producing research showing that asbestos was harmless, and that workers’ health problems were due to other causes, in an effort to save the asbestos industry from financial catastrophe. The aluminum industry was quickly realizing that fluoride could generate lawsuits of a similar magnitude as asbestos. Cox’s connection to the Mellon Institute -- and their history of offering “science-based” protection to industry -- makes his recommendation to turn toxic waste material into a usable “health product” something that cannot be viewed as a mere coincidence.Water Fluoridation—A Case of Successful Social Engineering
The ultimate driving force behind fluoridation gaining public acceptance, cementing the perception of fluoride as a healthy and, most importantly, safe additive to your drinking water, was a man named Harold Hodge. Within the now declassified files of the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission, Christopher Bryson found that the toxicology department at the University of Rochester, under the direction of Harold Hodge, was asked to produce medical information about fluoride that could help defend the government against lawsuits over fluoride pollution. Back in 1957, Harold Hodge was the nation’s leading, most trusted scientist, and when he declared that fluoride was “absolutely safe” at 1 ppm, everyone believed him.
Much later, it was publicly revealed that Hodge directed the human radiation experiments—a black spot in American medical history in which citizens were injected with plutonium and uranium without their knowledge or consent... So, the endorsement of fluoride as a dental health prophylactic was actually born from the need to address increasingly debilitating political and industrial problems relating to fluoride pollution. The rest, as they say, is history. In his 2012 article “Poison is Treatment—Edward Bernays and the Campaign to Fluoridate America,”16 James F. Tracy boldly reveals the PR campaign that created this fake public health measure:
“The wide-scale US acceptance of fluoride-related compounds in drinking water and a wide variety of consumer products over the past half century is a textbook case of social engineering orchestrated by Sigmund Freud’s nephew and the ‘father of public relations’ Edward L. Bernays,” he writes. “The episode is instructive, for it suggests the tremendous capacity of powerful interests to reshape the social environment, thereby prompting individuals to unwarily think and act in ways that are often harmful to themselves and their loved ones.”What’s Really Added to Your Water Supply?
It’s also important to understand that the “fluoride” added to your drinking water is NOT the naturally-occurring mineral, nor a pharmaceutical grade fluoride. There are three basic compounds that can be used for fluoridating water supplies:17
- Sodium fluoride (NaF)
- Sodium silicofluoride
- Hydrofluorosilicic acid
The first of these, sodium fluoride, was the first of the fluoride waste materials to be used for fluoridation, but now is rarely used. It’s the most well known, as this is the compound used as pharmaceutical grade in toxicology studies and other research into the potential health dangers of fluoride. The other two, sodium silicofluoride and hydrofluorosilicic acid, are the compounds actually used for water fluoridation, with hydrofluorosilicic acid being the most commonly used additive, according to the CDC.18
Sodium silicofluoride and hydrofluorosilicic acid are the waste products from the wet scrubber systems of the fertilizer industry, and are classified as hazardous wastes. Contamination with various impurities such as arsenic is also common in these products. Hydrofluorosilicic acid is one of the most reactive chemicals known to man, and its toxicity is well known in chemical circles.
It will eat through metal and plastic pipes, and corrode stainless steel and other materials. It will dissolve rubber tires and melt concrete.19 This is what is added to your water—all in the name of saving children from cavities! But even the less reactive sodium fluoride is a deadly poison, even in small quantities, and in the form used for fluoridation also contains additional impurities. Other common uses for sodium fluoride include:
- Rat and cockroach poisons
- Hypnotics and psychiatric drugs
Despite all the evidence, getting fluoride out of American water supplies has been exceedingly difficult. And it’s no wonder, really, when you factor in the considerable liability the US government could face were they to suddenly admit that water fluoridation was a way to hide toxic pollution, and there are detrimental health effects associated with drinking these pollutants... Fortunately, there is a way forward. According to Jeff Green, National Director of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water, a repeated theme in some of the recent cases where communities successfully removed fluoride from their water supply is the shifting of the burden of proof.
Rather than citizens taking on the burden of proving that fluoride is harmful and shouldn't be added, a more successful strategy has been to hold those making claims, and the elected officials who rely on them, accountable for delivering proof that the specific fluoridation chemical being used fulfills their health and safety claims, and is in compliance with all regulations, laws, and risk assessments already required for safe drinking water.
For example, a couple of years ago, a Tennessee town stopped adding the hydrofluosilicic acid fluoride product they had been using, while still keeping its resolution to fluoridate its water supplies intact (meaning they didn’t make a decision on whether it might be harmful). They just haven’t been able to find a replacement product that is compliant with existing laws, regulations and safe-water requirements, and they will not add any fluoride product that is not in compliance. To learn more, please see this previous article, which discusses these strategies more in-depth.
By Stuart Cooper, Campaign Manager, Fluoride Action Network
The fluoride-free movement has continued to grow throughout the world at a staggering pace. We have had more than 400 communities around the world end existing fluoridation programs or reject new efforts to fluoridate either by council vote or citizen referendum since 1990.
In 2014 alone, we’ve confirmed that at least 30 communities providing water to more than 9,961,111 residents rejected or ended fluoridation. Some of 2014’s victories include:
- Bucks County, Pennsylvania 385,000
- Hernando County, Florida 173,422
- Bolton, U.K. 276,790
- Southampton and parts of Hampshire County, U.K. 195,000
- Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada 76,550
- Prince George, British Columbia, Canada 71,970
- Rotorua, New Zealand 70,000
See the full list of victories.Israel Bans Fluoridation
Nearly eight million residents in Israel will no longer have fluoride added to their drinking water.
On July 29, 2013, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled1 that new regulations approved by the current Health Minister, Yael German, required the country to reverse its 14-year-old nationwide fluoridation mandate and stop adding fluoride chemicals into public water supplies in 2014.
These regulations ended the national mandate, but it was thought that individual communities could choose to fluoridate. However, the Health Minister stated in August 2014 that fluoridation would be outlawed throughout the country as of August 26.2
Minister German was aggressively attacked in the media for her new regulations. In response to the intense bullying of German by the pro-fluoridation lobby in Israel, FAN sent an open letter3 to the Minister supporting her opposition to the practice and had it signed by over 100 international professionals.
With the fluoridation ban in Israel, the victory numbers jumped up substantially, adding countless more communities throughout the nation without fluoridation.
This brings the number of people freed from the practice in 2014 to nearly 10 million, making 2014 the best year yet for the fluoride-free movement! In comparison, last year we saw about 1 million freed from the practice.
When we add Israel to the number of residents freed from fluoridation since 1990, we are talking about a whopping 14.8 million people. This also brings the official number of countries in the world with 50 percent of their population drinking fluoridated water down to 10, and leaves Ireland as the only country with mandatory fluoridation.Ireland Will Likely Be Next
Ireland is the last remaining country in the world with mandatory fluoridation, and perhaps the most likely to follow Israel’s example. In recent years, the fluoride-free momentum has been building in Ireland, and we believe the tipping point has been reached.
In 2013, legislation to end the nationwide mandate4 in Ireland was introduced, which would not only reverse the mandate, but would make fluoridation a criminal act. This bill got a significant boost when a major Irish magazine5 began investigating fluoridation.
They found a parliamentary report6 calling for an end to fluoridation that was suppressed by the government for seven years, and the Labour party’s chief whip, Emmet Stagg, called for an end to the practice,7 saying that time had run out for “mass medication” by fluoridation.
In the spring of 2014, the Agriculture Minister announced that the Irish government would appoint an international group of experts to review public water fluoridation8 in response to the growing public pressure in opposition to fluoridation.
The next day, on March 10th, the Cork County Council, the largest county council in Ireland voted by a huge majority9 in favor of a motion calling on the federal government to ban fluoridation throughout the country. The vote had cross-party support and was expected to have a domino effect with other county councils.
A domino effect is exactly what it had, when on October 6th, Dublin’s City Council passed a motion10 by a vote of 22-20 calling for the immediate cessation of water fluoridation in Ireland. Dublin is the capital and largest city in Ireland, and home to more than 500,000 residents.
Also in October, fluoridation was also being debated in the House of the Oireachtas11 (Irish Legislature).
Senator Mary Ann O’Brien made a motion to end fluoridation because of the "fundamental human right of every Irish citizen to choose whether or not they have their water medicated with fluoride given that they are now paying for it."
Senator O’Brien wrote a powerful op-ed for the Irish Independent on October 1st explaining in detail why she was bringing the motion.12
And, on November 10th, the Kerry County Council unanimously passed the motion13 opposing public water fluoridation. The vote received cross party support and was passed without any disagreement amongst the councilors, making it the fifth major Council to adopt a similar resolution in 2014, representing approximately 1.5 million Irish residents.
These votes are the result of a national effort that is gaining significant momentum due to campaigners like the West Cork Fluoride Free Campaign,14 scientist Declan Waugh,15 The Girl Against Fluoride,16 and the hard-working fluoridation fighters Robert Pocock and Gladys Ryan who preceded them.
You can learn more about the campaign in Ireland, and hear directly from many of these key players and organizers by downloading November’s International Fluoride Free Teleconference.
Ireland isn’t the only country possibly on the verge of ending fluoridation. In Canada, a resident of Peel, Ontario, Liesa Cianchino (chairperson of Concerned Residents of Peel to End Water Fluoridation), launched a lawsuit17 against the Peel Region and the Province of Ontario, Canada.
The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of adding fluoride to municipal drinking water in Canada and points out that the practice is also a violation of the Ontario Safe Drinking Water Act.
If successful, the lawsuit could end fluoridation throughout Canada, and could establish that councilors in fluoridated communities are personally liable for the damages caused by fluoridation. The action will be heard in Ontario Superior Court in Brampton.Infant Warnings
2014 saw infant fluoride warnings18 published in the annual water quality reports for San Francisco and East Bay, California (population 7.4 million), thanks to members of Clean Water California.19
These two communities now join Sunnyvale, California, Austin, Texas, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the state of New Hampshire in adding these warnings to their annual water quality reports, bringing the number of residents these warnings are sent to approximately 10 million.
There is also infant warning legislation20 currently being considered by the Massachusetts legislature, where the bill was recently sent to study committee and will receive an executive committee vote this winter. If passed, the warning would help reduce fluorosis rates and bring awareness to an additional 6.6 million people.
While this isn’t good news for the health of our children, it is a victory that fluoride’s toxicity is becoming more apparent to the scientific community. An article was published in the March 2014 journal The Lancet Neurology21 in which medical authorities classified fluoride as a developmental neurotoxin. The prominent peer-reviewed medical journal published the article entitled “Neurobehavioral effects of developmental toxicity.” The authors point out that 27 studies of children exposed to fluoride in drinking water found an average lowering of IQ by seven points; twice that of the effects of secondhand smoke on children. This confirmed what FAN has been saying for years.
At present, a total of 42 human studies22 have linked moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced intelligence, and over 100 animal studies have shown that fluoride exposure can cause brain damage. Most striking among these are 30 (out of a total of 32 investigations) that have shown that fluoride lowered the ability of animals to learn and remember. Studies have also demonstrated that fluoride toxicity, caused by overexposure, can lead to a wide variety of health problems, including:Increased lead absorption Disrupts synthesis of collagen Hyperactivity and/or lethargy Muscle disorders Thyroid disease Arthritis Brain damage, lowered IQ, and dementia Skeletal fluorosis and bone fractures Lowered thyroid function Bone cancer (osteosarcoma) Inactivates 62 enzymes and inhibits more than 100 Inhibited formation of antibodies Genetic damage and cell death Increased tumor and cancer rate Disrupted immune system Damaged sperm and increased infertility Journal Article Calls for Prohibition of Fluoridation
Also this year, The Scientific World Journal published a review article23 by Dr. Stephen Peckham and Dr. Niyi Awofeso entitled, “Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention.” According to the authors:
“Available evidence suggests that fluoride has a potential to cause major adverse human health problems, while having only a modest dental caries prevention effect. As part of efforts to reduce hazardous fluoride ingestion, the practice of artificial water fluoridation should be reconsidered globally, while industrial safety measures need to be tightened in order to reduce unethical discharge of fluoride compounds into the environment… coordinated global efforts to reduce adverse human health effects on fluoride need to start with ensuring that its introduction into water supplies is prohibited.”Increasing Our Momentum
Overall, 2014 has been a good year for the fluoride-free movement. FAN has seen a significant increase over the past year in the number of campaigns to end fluoridation worldwide, which is why this year we launched a new coalition called the Worldwide Alliance to End Fluoridation.24 This was open to any group of citizens organized to end fluoridation.25 There was an overwhelming response, with over 120 founding member groups representing 12 countries, 28 U.S. States, and 6 Canadian Provinces. And we fully expect the campaign momentum from 2014 to carry over into the new year to make 2015 an unprecedented year for the fluoride-free movement.
Most of 2014's victories were the result of citizens who organized local opposition and voiced their concerns to council members, either working in coordination with FAN, or using our materials and arguments to educate their neighbors and decision-makers about the serious health risks associated it the practice. Our hats are off to these citizen campaigners and their professional allies. Without dedicated campaigners around the world our goal of a future without fluoridation couldn’t be possible. To start your own campaign, please visit our Take Action section, and to join an existing campaign please visit the Worldwide Alliance directory.
Again, thank you for your continued support for FAN and your efforts to end fluoridation. Please help us make 2015 even more successful by making a tax-deductible donation today. Thank you.
By Dr. Mercola
Why do we sleep? And, for that matter, why do all mammals, birds, and reptiles require sleep on a regular basis in order to function? It’s a question that been intensively studied with no definitive answers… except that we know it’s vital to survival.
In people carrying the gene for fatal familial insomnia (FFI), a damaged thalamus (which is located in your brain) makes it impossible to sleep. First, the ability to nap disappears, then it becomes increasingly difficult to sleep at night, progressing over the course of a year until, eventually, it kills you.
In a healthy person, however, it’s estimated that you might be able to survive for two to 10 years without sleep before dying,1 but the consequences it would have on your ability to function would be another story.
It’s known that sleep is crucial for your brain, and that your brain doesn’t simply “turn off” while you’re sleeping. Instead, it goes through periods of deep sleep and activity – activity levels similar to those that occur when you’re awake.You Can Follow Instructions, Classify Items, in Your Sleep
Sleeping leads to a loss of sensory awareness and an inability to interact with your environment, but your brain is still very much aware, according to new research. The study gave a word test to participants while they were awake and again after they had fallen asleep.
Using an electroencephalogram (EEG) to record brain activity, they found that the subjects’ brain activity continued to respond accurately to the test questions, correctly classifying words, albeit at a slower pace. While the people remained motionless and unaware, their brains were performing complex tasks.
So even if you’re asleep, your brain is likely still awake, which may explain why noises you’re conditioned to respond to – such as the sound of your name or alarm clock – wake you up easily while other noises do not.
The researchers are hoping the finding might lead to more discoveries of what your brain is capable of during sleep – presumably so you could then use your sleeping time in a productive manner… but this is misleading, because sleep is quite possibly among the most productive times of the day, at least as far as your health is concerned.Your Brain’s Waste-Flushing System Is 10 Times More Active When You’re Sleeping
After you drift off to sleep, your body gets to work repairing and restoring itself. Among the leading theories on why we sleep is that it’s a vial time to recuperate from the damage of daily living. As the Huffington Post reported:2
“There's substantive supporting evidence, according to Harvard Medical School, in the facts that ‘many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur mostly, or in some cases only, during sleep.’"
Consider, for instance, that repair cells in your brain double during sleep,3 while your brain’s glymphatic system, which helps to flush out waste, is about 10 times more active when you’re sleeping.4
During sleep, your brain cells actually shrink to facilitate the removal of more waste, and removing these “byproducts of neural activity” may be a key reason why sleep is so restorative. Study researcher Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., the co-director of the University of Rochester's Center for Translational Neuromedicine, said:5
"The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must [choose] between two different functional states -- awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up… You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time."Other Fascinating Benefits That Take Place While You Sleep
There are many theories for why we sleep, but while many are plausible they fail to explain the whole picture. For instance, theories include that we sleep to:6
- Stay inactive during times we’re at risk of predation (by staying still, predators cannot see you as easily; critics argue that sleep makes you most vulnerable of all)
- Conserve energy (including in your brain)
- Maximize efficiency (such as in animals that sleep much of the day to conserve calories)
- Boost brain power and learning
- Repair and restore your body and mind
There are likely many biological reasons why we need sleep. Brain detoxification is only one important process that occurs during this time. Others that we know of include:7
- Reduction of fears
- Memory consolidation and strengthening
- Repair and growth of brain cells
In one animal study, sleep-deprived mice lost 25 percent of the neurons located in their locus coeruleus, a nucleus in the brainstem associated with wakefulness and cognitive processes.8 The research also showed that "catching up" on sleep on the weekend will not prevent this damage.
Other research published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging suggests that people with chronic sleep problems may develop Alzheimer's disease sooner than those who sleep well.9
And other research shows that sleeping less than six hours per night more than triples your risk of high blood pressure, and women who get less than four hours of shut-eye per night double their chances of dying from heart disease.10
What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact one aspect of your health… it impacts many. Among them are three major risks to your mental and physical well-being:11
- Reaction Time Slows: When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to react as quickly as you normally would, making driving or other potentially dangerous activities, like using power tools, risky. One study even found that sleepiness behind the wheel was nearly as dangerous as drinking and driving.12
- Your Cognition Suffers: Your ability to think clearly is also dampened by lack of sleep. If you’re sleep-deprived, you will have trouble retaining memories, processing information, and making decisions. This is why it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep prior to important events at work or home.
- Emotions Are Heightened: As your reaction time and cognition slows, your emotions will be kicked into high gear. This means that arguments with co-workers or your spouse are likely and you’re probably going to be at fault for blowing things out of proportion.
Meanwhile, previous research has found that sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness,13 which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.Are You Tired? Try Getting to Sleep Earlier
Since most people have a set time when they must wake up, if you need more sleep the solution is simple: turn off your TV, your cell phone, your computer, and your tablet… and go to sleep early. Try it for a night or two and you might be amazed at how rested you feel.
How do you know if you need more sleep? If you feel tired, it’s a pretty big clue. As William Dement, a co-discoverer of REM sleep and co-founder of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, told National Geographic:14
“As far as I know… the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.”
Yet, many of us do not listen to our bodies and sleep when we’re tired, and this is a big mistake. For example, when I push myself and don't get high-quality sleep or enough sleep, I'm predisposed to postprandial hypoglycemia. In other words, I have low insulin resistance so when I sleep poorly, it doesn't take much sugar or carbs for it to be easily metabolized and drop my blood sugar—which also makes me really sleepy. When I get enough sleep, I'm far less susceptible to it.
Dr. Rubin Naiman’s -- a clinical psychologist, author, teacher, and the leader in integrative medicine approaches to sleep and dreams -- recommendation is to simply sleep "enough hours so that your energy is sustained through the day without artificial stimulation, with the exception of a daytime nap," which he believes you are biologically programmed for. It’s also said that if you fall asleep within a few minutes of your head hitting the pillow, you’re probably sleep deprived.
A well-rested person will take about 10-15 minutes to fall asleep at night.15 If you’re well rested, you’ll also probably wake up on your own without the need for an alarm clock.My Top ‘Secrets’ for a Good Night’s Sleep
Making small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes:
- Avoid watching TV or using your computer in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed. These devices emit blue light, which tricks your brain into thinking it's still daytime. Normally, your brain starts secreting melatonin between 9 pm and 10 pm, and these devices emit light that may stifle that process. Even the American Medical Association now states:16
- Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
- Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the slightest bit of light in your bedroom can disrupt your body’s clock and your pineal gland's melatonin production. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least three feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades.
- Install a low-wattage yellow, orange, or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose. You can also download a free application called F.lux that automatically dims your monitor or screens.17
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70°F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68°F.
- Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
- Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm.
- Get some sun in the morning, if possible. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night. More sunlight exposure is required as you age.
- Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home. Ideally, you should turn off any wireless router while you are sleeping. You don’t need the Internet on when you are asleep.
“…nighttime electric light can disrupt circadian rhythms in humans and documents the rapidly advancing understanding from basic science of how disruption of circadian rhythmicity affects aspects of physiology with direct links to human health, such as cell cycle regulation, DNA damage response, and metabolism.”