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Dr. Mercola

Antibiotic Resistance Is Only Going to Get Worse

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Most of you reading this are fortunate enough to have lived all or most of your life in a world with access to antibiotics.

For all of their downfalls and risks, having access to effective antibiotics can save your life – preventing a minor wound from spreading a life-threatening infection, for instance, and allowing for potentially life-threatening conditions, like pneumonia, to be effectively treated.

The problem is that antibiotic's primary target – bacteria – is smart. Even under the best circumstances, bacteria can eventually adapt to resist and overpower once-effective antibiotics.

In recent decades, however, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has greatly sped up this process, and we're now seeing what it's like to live in a post-antibiotic era. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):1

"WHO's 2014 report on global surveillance of antimicrobial resistance revealed that antibiotic resistance is no longer a prediction for the future; it is happening right now, across the world, and is putting at risk the ability to treat common infections in the community and hospitals.

Without urgent, coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill."

Treating Superbugs With Antibiotics May Make People Sicker

In the U.S., at least 2 million people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year, and at least 23,000 die as a result.2 This is already a staggering number, but the problem is slated to get worse.

A 2015 report commissioned by UK Prime Minister David Cameron estimated that by 2050, antibiotic resistance will have killed 300 million people, with the annual global death toll reaching 10 million, and the global cost for treatment reaching $100 trillion.

A mere 15 years from now, in the year 2030, antibiotic-resistant disease — if left to spiral out of control — is expected to have killed 100 million.3 One of the most common, and formidable, antibiotic-resistant pathogens in the US is MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).

MRSA is a cause of skin infections that can spiral out of control, leading to bloodstream infections, pneumonia, infections at surgical sites, and even death. In the US, more than 80,000 invasive infections and 11,000 deaths are caused by MRSA each year.

Current national guidelines set by the Infectious Diseases Society of America call for antimicrobial treatment of MRSA, but this only highlights how little is actually known about how to treat resistant superbugs.

New research published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe revealed that commonly prescribed antibiotics may actually make MRSA infections worse.4

In the study, beta-lactam antibiotics (similar to methicillin) caused the MRSA bacteria in treated mice to build inflammatory cell walls leading to tissue damage.

In typical staph infections, such antibiotics work by neutralizing enzymes that build cell walls.One of the enzymes, PBP2A, was not neutralized by the antibiotics, however, and enabled MRSA to continue building cell walls. MRSA also had an altered cell wall structure that allowed it to spread.5

The researchers found that overall, when MRSA-infected mice were treated with the antibiotics, they became even sicker.

Superbugs Leading to Increased Deaths From Surgery, Chemotherapy

With the effectiveness of many common antibiotics growing more questionable by the day, researchers estimated that tens of thousands of Americans may be vulnerable to life-threatening infections following surgery or chemotherapy.

The study, a review of previously published research, estimated that up to 50 percent of pathogens that cause surgical site infections, and 25 percent of those that cause infections following chemotherapy, are already resistant to common antibiotics.6

If antibiotic effectiveness drops by even another 10 percent, it could result in 40,000 more infections and 2,100 additional deaths following surgery and chemotherapy each year.

A 30 percent drop in effectiveness could mean another 120,000 infections and 6,300 deaths annually, the researchers concluded.7 Worse still, if antibiotic effectiveness declines by 70 percent, the US could see 280,000 more infections and 15,000 more deaths as a result.

The study focused on surgeries and chemotherapies that often involve prophylactic antibiotics, such as hip fracture surgery, cesarean section, colorectal surgery, and transrectal prostate biopsy, and chemotherapy for the treatment of blood cancers.

Joshua Wolf, an infectious disease researcher at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, told Reuters:

"As antibiotic resistance rates rise, it is inevitable that prophylaxis will become less effective… It is very likely that surgical procedures will become less safe for patients… Treatment for cancer would also become more challenging as antibiotic resistant bacteria become more prevalent."

Antibiotic-Resistant Gonorrhea on the Rise

Gonorrhea is increasingly becoming resistant to available drug treatments, and as such may soon pose a major public health threat. Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea first emerged when I was in medical school in the late 1970s. By the 1980s, the antibiotics penicillin and tetracycline were no longer effective against it.

Next, gonorrhea resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics emerged, leaving only one class of antibiotic drugs, cephalosporins, left to treat it. Now, as you might suspect, gonorrhea is fast becoming resistant to cephalosporins – the last available antibiotics to treat it.

In 2013, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that about one-third of gonorrhea cases were resistant to at least one antibiotic. They updated treatment guidelines to include a dose of the antibiotic ceftriaxone along with a second antibiotic.

The two-pronged treatment appeared to be working, pushing resistance rates from 1.4 percent in 2011 to 0.4 percent in 2013. However, according to the latest CDC data, published in JAMA, "improvements in susceptibility may be short-lived."8,9

From 2013 to 2014, cases of resistant gonorrhea doubled, with rates reaching 0.8 percent. WHO already recognizes drug-resistant gonorrheaas "an emergency," with several countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, experiencing increasing infections.

Antibiotics Increase Sudden Cardiac Death Risks

Part of the problem with antibiotics overuse and misuse is that some people, including even some physicians, assume it can't hurt to take a course just in case. But many people aren't aware that antibiotics have a risk of serious side effects.

Macrolide antibiotics (azithromycin [Zithromax], clarithromycin [Biaxin], quinolone, and erythromycin), for instance, increase your risk of sudden cardiac death. In a meta-analysis of nearly 21 million people, the drugs were linked to a small but significant increase in the heart risk.

For every 1 million treatment courses, the use of macrolide antibiotics resulted in an additional 36 sudden cardiac deaths.10 Macrolides are widely used in the treatment of bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Past research has also highlighted their risk of side effects. Azithromycin, for instance, increases your chances of dying from a cardiovascular event by a whopping 250 percent within the first five days of usage compared to taking amoxicillin.11

One Course of Antibiotics May Disrupt Your Microbiome for a Year

The impact of antibiotic usage on our microbiome is one of the most important considerations yet has received little attention. Antibiotics are indiscriminate bactericidal agents, meaning they kill all bacteria, both beneficial and pathologic, and many of the immediate and long-term side effects are related to this fact.

By killing off the bacteria in your gut, antibiotics have a detrimental effect on your overall immune system, as about 80 percent of your immune system resides in your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, research published in MBio found just one course of antibiotics negatively alters your microbiome for up to a year.12 According to the researchers:

"We followed the oral and gut microbiomes in 66 individuals from before, immediately after, and up to 12 months after exposure to different antibiotic classes. The salivary [oral] microbiome recovered quickly and was surprisingly robust toward antibiotic-induced disturbance.

The fecal microbiome was severely affected by most antibiotics: for months, health-associated butyrate-producing species became strongly underrepresented. Additionally, there was an enrichment of genes associated with antibiotic resistance.

Clearly, even a single antibiotic treatment in healthy individuals contributes to the risk of resistance development and leads to long-lasting detrimental shifts in the gut microbiome."

This is precisely why it's crucial to only use antibiotics when absolutely necessary. And when you do use them, be sure to "reseed" your gut with beneficial bacteria, either in the form of a probiotics supplement or fermented foods. If you don't, your immune function, and more, can remain compromised for some time.

Evidence Lacking for Use of Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

Fluoroquinolones, such as Cipro and Avelox, are among the most dangerous drugs on the market. Despite their dangers, they're the most commonly prescribed class of antibiotics in the United States. In 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally issued a warning that fluoroquinolone antibiotics, taken by mouth or injection, carry a risk for permanent peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is nerve damage in the arms and/or legs, characterized by "pain, burning, tingling, numbness, weakness, or a change in sensation to light touch, pain, or temperature, or sense of body position."

Fluoroquinolones have fluoride as a central part of the drug, which is part of what makes them so dangerous. Fluoride is a known neurotoxin, and drugs with an attached fluoride molecule are able to penetrate into very sensitive tissues, including your brain.

The ability to cross the blood-brain barrier is what makes fluoride such a potent neurotoxin. Fluoride also disrupts collagen synthesis, and can damage your immune system by depleting energy reserves and inhibiting antibody formation in your blood.

In 2015, the Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee and the Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee also voted that evidence to support some uses of fluoroquinolones is lacking. Specifically, the panel voted data does not support the use of these antibiotics for:

  • Acute bacterial sinusitis
  • Acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Uncomplicated urinary tract infections

While the FDA does not have to accept the recommendations of its committees, the vote may trigger the FDA to require new label language or even revoke approval for these indications. The panel also received notice that the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System (FAERS) had received 178 reports of a "constellation of symptoms" leading to disability associated with the drugs.

The emerging cases of fluoroquinolone-associated disability (FQAD) could indicate that the drugs are causing harm through an unknown mechanism that goes beyond the generally known adverse effects.13

The Antibiotics in Your Food May Also Promote Resistance

Antibiotic overuse and inappropriate use in humans bear a heavy responsibility for creating the superbug crisis we are facing today. But, the pervasive misuse of antibiotics by the agriculture industry also plays a very significant role. Agriculture accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US. Compare this to the 6 million pounds of antibiotics that are used for every man, woman, and child in the US combined.

CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), in particular, are hotbeds for breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria because of the continuous feeding of low doses of antibiotics to the animals, which allows pathogens to survive, adapt, and eventually, thrive.

According to the CDC, 22 percent of antibiotic-resistant illness in humans is in fact linked to food,14 but a more accurate statement might be linked to food from CAFOs. Take Klebsiella pneumonia, a bacteria that can lead to pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound and surgical site infections, and meningitis. Klebsiellaare often found in the human intestinal tract, where they are normally harmless.

But, if your immune system is compromised and you get exposed to an especially virulent drug-resistant form of Klebsiella, the consequences to you can be deadly. It wasn't thought to be transmitted via food… until now. Research published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases showed that turkey, chicken, and pork sold in US grocery stores may contain klebsiella pneumonia.15

How to Avoid Becoming Another Victim to Antibiotic-Resistant Disease

You can help yourself and your community by only purchasing antibiotic-free meats and other foods and using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary. This is an important step that I urge everyone to take, even though ultimately the problem of antibiotic-resistance needs to be stemmed on a global level. That said, your lifestyle choices are the most critical factors in determining the health of your immune system, which determines your ability to resist infections.

The stronger your immune defenses, the less chance a microbe – antibiotic-resistant or otherwise -- will have of gaining a foothold in some part of your body. Below are some basic strategies for supercharging your immune system. You may also want to download my free special report about how to protect yourself from super germs.

  • Optimize your diet. Avoid foods that tax your immune system such as synthetic trans fats, fried foods, processed foods, sugar, and grains; reduce carbohydrates (sugar, grains, and fructose) and protein, replacing them with high-quality fats. Fifty to 70 percent of your total intake should be fat.
  • Most of your diet should be fresh, whole foods, like organic vegetables, grass-pastured meats and dairy, and beneficial fats, such as butter and fermented dairy from grass-pastured animals, cheese, egg yolks, and avocados.

    A great portion of your immune system resides in your GI tract, which depends on a healthy, balanced gut flora. One of the best ways to support this is by incorporating naturally fermented foods into your diet, working up to four to 6 ounces per day.

    One large serving of several ounces of fermented foods can supply you with around 10 trillion beneficial bacteria, which is about 10 percent of the population of your gut. You can take a high-quality probiotic supplement, but the actual fermented foods offer the greatest benefit.

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise improves the circulation of immune cells in your blood. The better these cells circulate, the more efficient your immune system is at locating and eliminating pathogens in your body. Make sure your fitness plan incorporates weight training, high-intensity exercises, stretching, and core work.
  • Get plenty of restorative sleep. Recent research shows sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or disease, which is why you may feel ill after a sleepless night.
  • Have good stress-busting outlets. High levels of stress hormones can diminish your immunity, so be sure you're implementing some sort of stress management. Meditation, prayer, yoga, and Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) are all excellent strategies for managing stress, but you'll have to find what works best for you.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels. Studies have shown that inadequate vitamin D can increase your risk for MRSA and other infections, which can likely be extended to other superbugs. Your best source of vitamin D is through exposing your skin to the sun or using a safe tanning bed. Monitor your vitamin D levels to confirm they're in the therapeutic range, 50 to 70 ng/ml. If you can't get UV exposure, consider taking an oral vitamin D supplement.

In addition to the basic lifestyle measures listed above, there are natural agents that science has shown to be naturally antibacterial. The following deserve special mention.

  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C's role in preventing and treating infectious disease is well established. Intravenous vitamin C is an option, but if you don't have access to a practitioner who can administer it, liposomal vitamin C is the most potent oral form. For more information on vitamin C, listen to my interview with Dr. Ronald Hunninghake, an internationally recognized vitamin C expert. If you choose to use supplement vitamin C, liposomal C seems to be the best form to use.
  • Garlic. Garlic is a powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal. It can stimulate your immune system, help wounds heal, and kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria (including MRSA and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis), plus has shown more than 100 other health promoting properties.16 For highest potency, the garlic should be eaten fresh and raw (chopped or smashed.)
  • Olive leaf extract. In vitro studies show olive leaf extract is effective against Klebsiella, a gram-negative bacteria, inhibiting its replication, in addition to being toxic to other pathogenic microbes.
  • Manuka honey. Manuka honey, made from the flowers and pollen of the Manuka bush, has been shown to be more effective than antibiotics in the treatment of serious, hard-to-heal skin infections. Clinical trials have found Manuka honey can effectively eradicate more than 250 clinical strains of bacteria, including resistant varieties such as MRSA.
  • Tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic proven to kill many bacterial strains (including MRSA).17
  • Colloidal silver. Colloidal silver has been regarded as an effective natural antibiotic for centuries, and recent research shows it can even help eradicate antibiotic-resistant pathogens. If you are interested in this treatment, make sure you read the latest guidelines for safe usage of colloidal silver as there are risks with using it improperly.
  • Copper. Replacing fixtures with certain copper alloys can help kill bacteria, even superbugs. Installing copper faucets, light switches, toilet seats, and push plates in germ-infested areas such as hospitals and nursing homes could potentially save thousands of lives each year.

Chronic Constipation May Be a Sign of Something Serious

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

For most people, the topic of bowel movements is private and the actual mechanics of how stool is produced is rarely thought about. Unless, of course, you begin to experience constipation.

According to research presented at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting 2015, at least 15 percent of the general population experiences chronic constipation.

This is equal to approximately 63 million people in the United States. The study1 demonstrated a statistically significant link between people who suffer from chronic constipation and from other health problems, including colorectal cancer and gastric cancer.

Researchers approached this study not expecting to find anything surprising. The link between diverticulitis and chronic constipation has been well documented.

However, the links found in this study between chronic constipation, gastric cancer, rectal cancer, and ischemic colitis were not expected.2

How Is Stool Formed?

Stool is the end result of digestion, which starts in your mouth. Imagine your body as a large solid cylinder, which has a tube running from the top to the bottom of the container.

The inside of the cylinder is inside your body and the tube that runs from top to bottom is actually outside the body. This is a description of your digestive system that runs from your mouth to your anus, but never opens directly to the inside of your body.

In other words, while your digestive system is technically "inside" your body, it contains digestive juices and bacteria that should only live outside your body.

Your digestive tract plays a critical role in your overall health. Digestion starts in your mouth as you chew food and the food mixes with saliva.

Digestion ends in the large intestines, after your body has extracted nutrients and water, leaving only the waste products it can't use. The nutrients absorbed contain energy, which you know as calories.

How many calories you eat and, more importantly, the quality and source of those calories are important factors in determining your overall health and wellness.

Another factor that impacts your overall health, and the risk of developing constipation, is the amount and type of bacteria living in your gut. These microbes are responsible for the breakdown of food, how the calories or energy are processed, and can increase or decrease your risk of allergies,3 obesity, and more.

Researchers have also determined that while your gut responds to stress reactions from your brain, your brain also receives signals from your gut that can trigger feelings of sadness.4

In other words, your digestive tract or gut is fundamentally related to more than just constipation, diarrhea, and weight gain or loss. And, because of this interrelationship with the health of the rest of your body, it should not be surprising that your gut health will affect how you look, feel, and act.

Who Gets Constipated and Why?

Some of the common causes of constipation include laxative abuse, hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ignoring the urge to go. If you consistently ignore the urge to have a bowel movement – for instance, to avoid using a public toilet – eventually you may stop feeling the urge.

Certain medications, like antidepressants, antacids (like calcium), blood pressure medications, and iron supplements may also contribute to constipation, as can dehydration if you're not drinking enough pure water each day.

However, one of the primary causes of constipation has to do with your diet, particularly if you're eating one high in processed foods and low in fiber.

Within the approximate 15 percent of the population who suffers from chronic constipation, there are groups of individuals who are more likely to experience the condition. These groups include:

  1. Women, especially during pregnancy or after giving birth. The weight of the developing baby normally sits on the intestines and can slow the motility or movement of the stool through the digestive tract.
  2. As the stool slows down more water is extracted by the body, making the stool hard, dry, and more difficult to pass.

  3. Older adults are at a higher risk of developing constipation because of both a reduction in activity level and a reduction in movement in the digestive tract.
  4. Individuals who live in a lower income bracket, due to less access to fresh produce.5
  5. People who have just had surgery may not move around as well, may be nervous about pushing to have a bowel movement if they had abdominal surgery or may not be eating their normal diet.
Many Drugs Increase Your Risk of Constipation

The risk factor for constipation also increases when you take a large number of medications. A wide range of medications, both prescription and over the counter, appear to increase your risk of constipation. These can include Synthroid, ibuprofen, aspirin, antacids, iron supplements, and narcotics.6,7,8

Other medical conditions can also affect the ability of the intestinal tract to function normally.9,10

Conditions that cause blockage Tumors, inflammation, or swelling from conditions such as diverticulitis or inflammatory bowel disease, and anal fissure Conditions that affect the nerves in the intestines Parkinson's disease, spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, slow motility or movement through the intestines, autonomic neuropathy, and multiple sclerosis Conditions involving the muscles used in elimination Weakened pelvic muscles or pelvic muscles which do not coordinate relaxation and contraction (dyssynergia) Conditions that affect your hormones Hypothyroidism, diabetes, hyperparathyroidism, and pregnancy Connections Between Constipation and Your Physical Health

Although the study presented at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting found links between chronic constipation and rectal cancer, gastric cancer, diverticulitis, and ischemic colitis, there are also other connections between suffering from constipation and your overall health.

For instance, chronic pushing and painful stools may predispose you to large hemorrhoids which are irritating and painful. Your colon was designed to hold a few pounds of stool, but when constipated your colon may hold up to 10 pounds of dry, hard feces.

Just the sheer volume of stool can stretch your colon, irritate the lining of the colon (mucosa), and produce toxins while waiting to be eliminated from the body. Chronic constipation can also lead to tearing of the anus, called an anal fissure.

These fissures are caused by trauma to the inner lining of the anus, often before a large, dry stool.11

Chronic constipation can also affect the genital and urinary health of women.

Because the colon and female reproductive organs are structurally close in the body, pressure from large amounts of stool in the colon can lead to rectal prolapse in the vagina,12 and increase the potential that the bladder will not empty completely or result in reflux of urine from the bladder back into the kidneys, called vesicoureteral reflux.13

This reflux causes permanent kidney damage and increases the risk of kidney infections.

Pushing large, hard stool from the rectum can result in some of your intestines protruding from the anus, called rectal prolapse. Chronic constipation is a recurring problem in 30 to 67 percent of patients who suffer from rectal prolapse.14 This requires surgery to repair.

When people decide to postpone the surgery they risk stretching the anal sphincter even further, and increasing the amount of intestines that protrude from the body.

Lifestyle Approaches to Treatment

If you're suffering from chronic constipation, there are changes you can make to your daily habits which can improve your bowel habits. Your first, and easiest, step is to ensure that you're drinking enough water. As the stool travels through your intestines your body removes water. If you are well hydrated, less water may be removed, leaving the stool softer and easier to pass. Drink enough that your urine is straw colored. If it's dark yellow then you're dehydrated and if it's colorless you are drinking too much.

The fiber in your stool will help to draw more water and keep the stool soft. This is why your doctor recommends increasing the amount of fiber in your diet to help relieve constipation. However, if you're eating a high-fiber diet but not staying hydrated the stool will still get hard and be more difficult to pass. The recommended amount of fiber in your diet is 20 to 30 grams per day; I believe that 32 grams each day is ideal.

Organic psyllium dietary fiber is important to the health of your colon. Psyllium also has other health benefits, including helping to control your blood sugar, reducing your risk of heart attack, stroke, gallstones, kidney stones, and diverticulitis, improving your skin health and helping you to lose or maintain your weight. Vegetables are the best way to fortify your diet with fiber. If you can't reach the recommended amount of fiber per day then supplementing with organic whole husk psyllium is simple and cost effective.

Regular exercise can also help reduce constipation.15 The movement helps increase the motility in your digestive tract and can stimulate the urge to have a bowel movement. When you do feel the urge, don't wait. The longer the stool sits in your colon, the more water is removed and the more difficult it is to pass.

Reducing Your Risk of Constipation

There are several ways to reduce your risk of constipation. I strongly recommend eating traditionally fermented and cultured foods on a daily basis to help to "reseed" your body with good bacteria. It's easy to make them. For a demonstration, please see the video above. If you don't eat fermented foods, taking a high quality probiotic supplement is advisable.

The use of probiotics are so important to your overall health that some researchers are comparing them to a "newly recognized organ." Research links the health and variety of the bacteria in your gut to your behavior, diabetes, gene expression, autism, and obesity.16 The bacteria in your gut plays an essential role in the digestion of your food, the motility of your intestines, and ultimately the development of constipation.

Another way to reduce your risk is to speak with your physician about the medications you're currently using. Explore options to reduce the amount of medications you may need or the brands you're currently using if they are linked to triggering constipation. Be particularly wary of using laxatives on a regular basis, as it may exacerbate constipation.

Remember, when you travel your daily regimen is often disrupted. The differences in food, changes to your regular exercise routine, or reduction in water intake can all negatively impact your body's ability to maintain a healthy bowel routine. Try to stay as close to your regular routine as possible. Bring organic whole husk psyllium to supplement your diet on the days you don't get enough fiber. Try to get your regular exercise each day and drink enough water to keep your urine a light straw color.

Squatting Can Help if You're Constipated

The last thing most people think about when using the bathroom is position, but this can significantly impact the ease with which you eliminate and even increase your risk of bowel and pelvic problems, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and more. Most of you reading this probably sit to evacuate your bowel, but this requires you to apply additional force (straining), which has some unwanted biological effects, including a temporary disruption in cardiac flow.

Sitting on a modern toilet is designed to place your knees at a 90-degree angle to your abdomen. However, the time-honored natural squat position (which is still used by the majority of the world's population) places your knees much closer to your torso, and this position actually changes the spatial relationships of your intestinal organs and musculature, optimizing the forces involved in defecation.

Squatting straightens your rectum, relaxes your puborectalis muscle, and allows for complete emptying of your cecum and appendix without straining, which prevents fecal stagnation and the accumulation of toxins in your intestinal tract. It is instructive that non-westernized societies, in which people squat, do not have the high prevalence of bowel disease seen in developed nations; in some cultures with traditional lifestyles, these diseases are uncommon or almost unknown.

If you have trouble with bowel movements, especially constipation, I urge you to give the squat position a try. Squatting does involve strength and flexibility that adults tend to lose over time (but children have naturally). Special toilets and stools that get your body into a more "squatty" position can help you get closer to the ideal even if you've been sitting for decades.

Medical Treatment Options

In some circumstances these lifestyle choices and preventative measures are not enough to alleviate constipation. Talk with your doctor about being tested for hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism your body doesn't secrete enough of the thyroid hormone. This hormone has a significant impact on the motility and movement of the intestinal tract, which is why constipation is one of the hallmark symptoms of hypothyroidism.

While it might be tempting to use over-the-counter remedies and laxatives, these remedies are not without risk. When too much is taken, too much water is drawn into the intestines, resulting in dehydration and an abnormal number of electrolytes in your blood. Both dehydration and imbalanced electrolytes can lead to kidney and heart damage, which can lead to death.

Your body can also become dependent on the use of laxatives to have a normal bowel movement. This is especially true of laxatives that use stimulants to increase the motility of the intestines and digestive tract. Stimulant laxatives include medications like Exlax, or laxatives marked as "natural" and include senna or cassia laxatives.

An underlying cause of constipation can also be a magnesium deficiency. Although primarily thought of as the mineral that affects your bones, magnesium plays a role in smooth muscle relaxation and contraction, production of neurotransmitters, building blocks of DNA, and the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The recommended daily amount of magnesium is 310 to 320 mg for women and 400 to 420 mg for men, although this amount may be just enough to prevent outright deficiency.

If your muscles that coordinate defecation are not working together, called dyssynergic defecation, then an anorectal biofeedback mechanism may be the most effective treatment to reteach your muscles to empty the rectum completely. In other cases of rectal prolapse or a rectocele caused by chronic constipation, surgery may be indicated to repair the area.17

Why the Obesity Trend Continues to Climb Unabated in the US

Wed, 11/25/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Last year, an analysis revealed that more than half of the world's obese people congregate in 10 countries: United States, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Obese Americans accounted for about 13 percent of the world's obese people, while China and India together (with more than 700 percent of the US population) only accounted for 15 percent of the total. Now, US health officials report that obesity in America has inched up even more.

Right along with it, drug prescriptions for hypertension, diabetes, and depression and other obesity-related illnesses are also rising, with 59 percent of American adults now taking at least one drug.1,2 

As reported by The New York Times:3

"About 38 percent of American adults were obese in 2013 and 2014, up from 35 percent in 2011 and 2012... And compared with a decade ago, the increase was significant: In 2003 and 2004, about 32 percent of adults were obese...

A paper... published this month in Health Affairs, found that Americans' diets had improved in quality from 1999 to 2012 — with a reduction in trans fats, small increases in fiber and less soda consumption — but that most of those advances were not happening among lower-income, less educated Americans.4"

Obese Children Show Signs of Heart Disease

Childhood obesity is perhaps an even greater concern, as obese children significantly increase their risk of suffering obesity-related illnesses and complications far earlier in life.

According to recent research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2015, obese children as young as eight now display signs of heart disease! The researchers took MRI scans of the hearts of 20 obese children, and compared them to 20 normal-weight children.

As reported by Medical News Today:5

"The team found that the obese youths had 27 percent more muscle mass in the left ventricle of their hearts and 12 percent thicker heart muscles, which are both signs of heart disease.

The study also considered 40 percent of the children to be 'high-risk' because the type of thickening seen in their heart wall is associated with a reduced ability to pump blood.

Of the 20 obese children, seven were teenagers, but the younger participants yielded the most shocking results. The researchers were particularly surprised to see signs of heart disease in children as young as 8 years old...

 [Lead author Linyuan] Jing hopes this study might spur parents on to spend a little more time and thought on their child's diet."

Food Advertisements Present False Nutritional Views

Clearly, the strategies to curtail obesity employed so far are not working. Part of the problem is the lack of focus on educating people about how processed foods and "diet" (artificially sweetened) foods6 promote weight gain.

Junk food ads not only confuse and completely miseducate children about nutrition; they also cleverly manipulate parents into making unhealthy choices for their kids.7

As noted by CNN:8

"It is a dual-pronged approach where food manufacturers are targeting kids to pester (their parents) for these products, and then manufacturers are marketing to parents to get them to think these products are healthy and not to feel guilty about buying them...

[P]arent-directed ads emphasized health benefits and nutritional information for the products...

However, a recent report... found that many of the products that are advertised to children, such as sugar-sweetened juice beverages and cereals, do not meet federal standards for healthy snacks. And... the ads that parents are seeing are for these same products."

Industry-Health Partnerships Hide Dietary Culprits

Corporate sponsorships and industry-health partnerships add to the problem by misleading the public about the greatest offenders.

For example, back in 2003, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry came under fire for entering into an agreement with the Coca-Cola Foundation, in which Coke would distribute educational messages on behalf of the academy.9

It was a classic conflict of interest case, where one of the major contributors to cavities pay for the privilege to "educate" children about dental health.

According to a 2014 study,10 sugar is the only cause of tooth decay, and to curtail cavities, avoiding sugar is imperative. Yet when was the last time you saw Coke informing kids that to prevent tooth decay they should avoid soda?

Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been allied not only with Coke, but also with Pepsi and McDonalds, "to support patient education on healthy eating."

Ditto for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), which receives millions of dollars from multinational junk food corporations each year, and offer corporate-sponsored education to teach registered dietitians about the "value" of everything from sugary beverages to chewing gum.

As noted by Dr. Michael Greger, MD,11 their official position is that "there are no good or bad foods" — a position that clearly flies in the face of nutritional science. Unfortunately, science is also being grossly manipulated by corporate interests. For example, Coca-Cola funds the Global Energy Balance Network, a front group aimed at confusing you about soda science and diverting attention away from evidence showing soda is a major contributor to obesity and diabetes.

When Confronted About Gross Conflicts, Health Organizations Cut Ties with Coke

On the upside, a number of these institutions are cutting ties with Coca-Cola after the conflicts of interest were revealed in the mainstream media. This shows just how powerful transparency can be, and why we need more of it. As reported by The New York Times12 on November 6:

"The University of Colorado School of Medicine announced... it was returning a $1 million gift from Coca-Cola after it was revealed that the money had been used to establish an advocacy group that played down the link between soft drinks and obesity.

Coca-Cola donated the money in 2014 to help establish the Global Energy Balance Network... that urged people to focus more on exercise and worry less about what they eat and drink...

Coke's chief executive, Muhtar Kent, disclosed that the company had spent almost $120 million since 2010 to pay for academic health research and for partnerships with major medical and community groups involved in curbing the obesity epidemic.

Recipients included the American Academy of Pediatrics, which accepted $3 million from Coke to launch its website, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics... which had received $1.7 million from Coke. After the disclosure, both groups said they were ending their relationships with Coca-Cola.

In a statement... University of Colorado said it was returning the $1 million seed money that Coke had provided to set up the Global Energy Balance Network because 'the funding source has distracted attention from its worthwhile goal.'"

Little Will Change Until US Government Changes Agricultural Subsidies

Federal food policies and agricultural subsidies13 are another major part of the problem, promoting the manufacture and consumption of addicting junk foods rather than real food. This was clearly spelled out in a 2013 paper14 published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, which noted that:

 "Government-issued agricultural subsidies are worsening obesity trends in America. Current agricultural policy remains largely uninformed by public health discourse... Government-issued payments have skewed agricultural markets toward the overproduction of commodities that are the basic ingredients of processed, energy-dense foods."

This includes corn, wheat, soybeans, and rice, which are the top four most heavily subsidized foods. By subsidizing these, particularly corn and soy, the US government is actively supporting a diet that consists of these grains in their processed form, namely high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soybean oil, and grain-fed cattle – all of which are now well-known contributors to obesity and chronic diseases.

There is no relationship between agricultural subsidies and nutrition, and directly related to this issue is the fact that the government's nutritional guidelines are in large part mirrored by these same agricultural subsidies rather than being built upon sound nutritional science.

Five Components Affecting Your Weight

Mounting research suggests the following five factors contribute to obesity and poor health, and all of them need to be considered if we are to successfully address this obesity epidemic:

  • Processed food
  • Chemicals (in food, environment, and everyday household products)
  • Antibiotics (in medicine and in food production)
  • Inactivity
  • Lack of sleep
To Reverse Obesity Trend, We Must Return to a Diet of Real Food...

Researchers have firmly debunked the myth that all calories are identical, and that to lose weight all you need to do is expend more calories than you consume. It's true that Americans eat too many calories overall, but research also shows that what you eat can make a big difference in how much you eat.

In a nutshell, research shows that calories gleaned from bread, refined sugars, and processed foods promote overeating, whereas calories from whole vegetables, protein, and fiber decrease hunger. It's also true that most Americans exercise too little, but it's important to realize that you simply cannot exercise your way out of a poor and metabolically "toxic" diet.

Over the past 60 years or so, a confluence of dramatically altered foods combined with reduced physical exertion and increased exposure to toxic chemicals have created what amounts to a perfect storm. The extensive use of refined sugar — primarily in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to virtually all processed foods — is at the heart of it all.

Fortunately, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now recommending a daily cap on added sugars, and food manufacturers may soon have to list the amount of added sugars on the nutritional facts label.

As noted in The New York Times:15

"The goal is for Americans to limit added sugar to no more than 10 percent of daily calories, according to the proposed guidelines. For someone older than three, that means eating no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, of it a day. That's about the same amount of sugar found in a can of Coke..."

But one also cannot underestimate the impact of chemistry, and the creation of truly addictive foods. If you think about it, it's quite revealing that, in contrast to third-world countries, the poorest people in the US have the highest obesity rates. This seeming contradiction is, I believe, a clear indication that the problem stems from the diet itself. Something in the cheapest and most readily available foods is creating metabolic havoc, and indeed that's what studies are finding.

Research into the addictive nature of processed foods reveals that food companies have perfected the art of creating addictive foods through the masterful use of salt, fat, sugar, and a wide variety of proprietary flavorings — most of which are far from natural.

As a general rule, "food" equals "live nutrients." Nutrients, in turn, feed your cells, optimize your health, and sustain life. Obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart attacks are all diseases associated with a processed food diet – a clear indication that it does not provide the appropriate nutrition for your body.

Even the First Lady Was Prevented from Telling the Truth About Processed Food

Five years ago, First Lady Michelle Obama took a strong stance against processed foods, and in a speech at a Grocery Manufacturers Association conference, she told them that:16

"This is a shared responsibility. That's why I've gone to parents and I've asked them to do their part. They have a responsibility to watch what their kids eat and teach good habits. […] And all of you have a responsibility as well.

And we need you not just to tweak around the edges, but to entirely rethink the products that you're offering, the information that you provide about these products, and how you market those products to our children. That starts with revamping or ramping up your efforts to reformulate your products, particularly those aimed at kids, so that they have less fat, salt, and sugar, and more of the nutrients that our kids need..."

Less than a year later, the First Lady's enthusiasm for healthy food had been substantially watered down, and her "Let's Move" campaign ended up focusing on exercise rather than avoiding foods that harm your metabolic health, and this is precisely the position Coca-Cola's front group The Global Energy Balance Network promotes. Coincidence? I think not.

Many Chemicals Promote Obesity

A number of chemicals have also been found to promote obesity by disrupting your hormones. This includes but is not limited to include bisphenol-A (BPA), PCBs, phthalates, triclosan, agricultural pesticides, and fire retardants.Certain agricultural chemicals, glyphosate in particular, may also affect your weight by obliterating healthy gut bacteria.

Recent research17 also warns that children whose mothers were exposed to perfluorooctanoic acid (chemicals used in non-stick coatings) during pregnancy tend to be more prone to rapid and excessive weight gain. Interestingly, many endocrine disrupting chemicals have been found to promote weight gain specifically at below-toxic levels. As noted in one 2003 study:18

"This article presents data showing that the current epidemic in obesity cannot be explained solely by alterations in food intake and/or decrease in exercise... Indeed, many synthetic chemicals are actually used to increase weight in animals.

This article provides fascinating examples of chemicals that have been tested for toxicity by standard tests that resulted in weight gain in the animals at lower doses than those that caused any obvious toxicity. These chemicals included heavy metals, solvents, polychlorinated biphenols, organophosphates, phthalates, and bisphenol-A. This is an aspect of the data that has generally been overlooked."

Antibiotics in Food and Medicine Also Promote Weight Gain

There's also compelling evidence linking antibiotic overuse and obesity, although the reasons why didn't become clear until we discovered how your microbiome influences your weight. One of the latest studies19,20 linking antibiotics to weight gain found that children who took antibiotics seven or more times before the age of 15 weighed an average of three pounds more than those with no history of antibiotic use.

However, while overused in medicine, the primary source of antibiotic exposure is actually through your diet.  The US uses nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics each year to raise food animals.21,22 This accounts for about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the US.23

In livestock, antibiotics are used both to ward off disease and to promote weight gain, and research suggests antibiotics have the same effect in humans. According to data analyzed by journalist Maryn McKenna,24 US states with the highest levels of antibiotic overuse also have the worst health status, including the highest rates of obesity.

Other growth-enhancing drugs used to fatten up livestock may fatten you up as well. Ractopamine is one example. This beta agonist drug works as a growth promoter by increasing protein synthesis, thereby making the animal more muscular.

In human medicine, beta agonists are found in asthma medication, and stubborn weight gain is in fact a common complaint among asthma patients using Advair (a beta-agonist drug) — so much so that the manufacturer has added weight gain to the post-marketing side effects.

How Lack of Sleep Promotes Obesity

Previous research has shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to have a higher body mass index (BMI) than people who get more sleep. The biological mechanisms linking sleep deprivation and weight gain are numerous.25 Alterations to your metabolism account for some of this effect, because when you're sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises.

This combination leads to an increase in appetite. Additionally, sleep deprivation tends to result in food cravings, particularly for sweet and starchy foods, due to an increase in the stress hormone cortisol. If you're chronically sleep deprived, consistently giving in to these sugar cravings will virtually guarantee that you'll gain weight.

Sleeping less than six hours per night can also radically decrease the sensitivity of your insulin receptors, which will raise your insulin levels. This too is a surefire way to gain weight as the insulin will seriously impair your body's ability to burn and digest fat. It also increases your risk of diabetes. In short, sleep deprivation puts your body in a pre-diabetic state, which can lead to increased weight and decreased health.

Your Weight Reflects Your Lifestyle Choices

As you can see, a number of factors can contribute to your weight problem. Simply eating fewer calories and exercising more usually doesn't work very well, and the reason for that is because not all calories are the same.

Rather than focusing on calories, you need to address the quality of the foods you eat, and avoid chemical exposures. Many people end up throwing their hands up in disgust when trying to clean up their diet, complaining that once they start to read labels, they realize there's "nothing safe to eat."

If this sounds like you, you're probably still looking at processed foods, trying to figure out which ones are "good" for you, and that's the problem. The list of ingredients to avoid is just about endless, and keeping track of it can be really discouraging. The answer is to create a list of healthy options instead, which is far shorter and easier to remember.

And, when it comes to advertising, keep in mind that whole unadulterated "real foods" are rarely if ever advertised, so if you're seeing an ad for a food that promises to do you a world of good, it's probably misleading... The following short list of just three super-simple, easy-to-remember guidelines will not only improve your nutrition, it will also help you avoid countless chemical exposures that can affect your weight:

  • Eat REAL FOOD. Buy whole, ideally organic, foods and cook from scratch. First of all, this will automatically reduce your added sugar consumption, which is the root cause of insulin resistance and weight gain.
  • If you buy organic produce, you'll also cut your exposure to pesticides and genetically engineered ingredients, and in ditching processed foods, you'll automatically avoid artificial sweeteners and harmful processed fats. For more detailed dietary advice, please see my free Optimized Nutrition Plan.

  • Opt for organic grass-finished meats to avoid genetically engineered ingredients, pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and other growth promoting drugs.
  • Opt for glass packaging and storage containers to avoid endocrine disrupting chemicals.

How Conflicts of Interest Affect Research Quoted in the Media

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Most of us appreciate science in helping us understand the truth about health and disease. Unfortunately, much of the science we rely on today is colored and confounded by massive conflicts of interest.

Award winning associate profession Gayle Delong has an interesting perspective of this topic. While working in the Finance Department of the Baruch College in New York City, she has studied the influence of conflicts of interest as it pertains to vaccine safety and research.

"I have two daughters with autism," she admits. "When they were first diagnosed—my older daughter was diagnosed in 2000, and my younger in 2003—there was this idea kicking around that vaccines might have some kind of association with autism.

When I first heard this I thought, 'That's crazy. That couldn't possibly be the case.' It was only in 2005, when the book Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy came out, that the association between vaccines and autism really made sense to me and my husband.

We were shocked by the idea that government regulators could allow vaccines that could have such devastating side effects. But it began to make sense after we read Evidence of Harm."

Regulatory Capture—When Industry Influences Regulatory Decisions

The original theory was that mercury (thimerosal) was the main source of the problem. That theory has now been expanded, and as revealed in my interview with Dr. Lucija Tomljenovic, vaccine adjuvants, such as aluminum, as well as viruses and other ingredients, may play a significant role.

Not to mention the fact we're now "carpet bombing" our children with vaccines, to use Delong's expression.

Common sense would suggest that if we're giving our children more than five dozen vaccinations (69 doses of 16 vaccines are recommended in the US) from day of birth to age 18, we're probably overvaccinating them.

Yet, authorities continue to insist that "more is better" when it comes to vaccines, without providing adequate scientific evidence to justify that assumption.

"So, I began to think of this in terms of an economist. I began looking at something called regulatory capture," Delong says. "It's the idea that the industry influences the decisions made by a regulator.

The whole pharmaceutical industry is influencing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)... In this case... the FDA licensed vaccines. But they were also tasked with doing research on vaccines.

Here we have an agency that is approving vaccines, and then told to say, 'OK, we'll make sure these vaccines are safe.' Once they've approved some, and once they've licensed them, very rarely are they going to turn around and say, 'Oh, we made a mistake.'"

After the FDA approves a vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decides whether it should go on the recommended schedule for American citizens. Until very recently this included mainly children, but now they're expanding that to adults as well. 

In addition to adding vaccines deemed necessary to the vaccine schedule, the CDC is also supposed to provide information about vaccine safety. That too is a conflict of interest.

Regulators are mandated to screen the product for safety, but in this case, they're also promoting it. In addition to that, regulators keep moving through the revolving door between the regulatory agencies of the very industry they are regulating; a dangerous and reprehensible practice.

Examples of 'Revolving Door' Between Regulatory Agencies and Industry Abound

Dr. Julie Gerberding is a perfect illustration of this dangerous practice. She headed up the CDC from 2002 to 2009, after which she became the president of Merck's vaccine division, a position she still holds today.

The influence her former high-level ties to the CDC wields is enormous, considering the fact that Merck makes 14 of the 17 pediatric vaccines recommended by the CDC, and nine of the 10 recommended for adults.

Dr. Thomas Verstraeten is another example. He was a researcher at the CDC working on a study looking at the safety of thimerosal back in the early 2000s. Before the study was even published, he transferred from the CDC to GlaxoSmithKline.

"Do you think that report said there was an association between thimerosal and autism? Heads up. No, it didn't," Delong says.

This type of disastrous revolving door policy doesn't just exist at the national level; it's happening at the state level as well. In New Jersey, Dr. Eddy Bresnitz went from being the state vaccine policy maker to working in Merck's vaccine division.

This type of conflict of interest goes back over a century in the US and has been prevalent in all sorts of industries. For example:

"When railroads were first regulated, the industry tried to get their guys to become regulators. And then, of course, reward them after they have done a good job as regulator by giving them nice jobs."

The Agency Theory

Conflict of interest is a well-known factor within the field of economics. According to Delong, the major problem discussed in economics is something called the agency theory—a situation in which company owners hire the managers.

The owners of the company want the value of their company to grow as much as possible. The managers want their own wealth to be maximized. What you often end up with is a situation in which one hand keeps washing the other, while the consumers or customers are seen as little more than a means to a profitable end.

"If we think about in terms of US citizens, we are hiring the regulators essentially. We want our health to be maximized, whereas the people working at the CDC and the FDA want to maximize their own wealth, their own agendas. They see their friends going to work for the private industry after they've been regulators and earning many more dollars. The consequences are tragic."

There Are No Checks and Balances...

There should be checks and balances as far as product safety goes. If a product harms someone, that person can typically sue the producer. That doesn't exist with vaccines. You cannot sue a vaccine manufacturer if you or your child is injured. You have to submit a claim to a panel.

They call it "the vaccine court"—which was started in 1985 to protect the vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits—but it's not a court at all, as there's no discovery, no judge presiding, and no appeal process. There's also no publicity to share the damage awards with the public.

"It is just a panel of special masters, who hear a claim that the vaccine injured you or your child. They decide whether you deserve compensation. Often, they only pay out about 30 percent of the claims. It's not working in a way it should be working," Delong says.

"That is why I'm not sure we can work through the government to get proper vaccine safety. I think we're basically on our own. Parents have to do their own research. They need to gather the information from different sources. Yes, look at the information from the CDC.

Look at the information from Dr. Bob Sears' books. Go to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) Website. Get the information from there because we can't trust the regulators."

Medical Journals Are Compromised by Conflicts of Interest Too

Delong has published one article1 on the conflicts of interest in vaccine safety research in the peer-reviewed journal Accountability in Research, and another on the association between autism prevalence and childhood vaccination uptake in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health,2 in which she presents evidence showing "a positive association between vaccine uptake and autism or speech delays. In states that had higher vaccine uptake for children up to the age of 2, six years later, when the children were 8, they tended to have a higher prevalence of autism or speech delays among the population."

Now, it's worth noting that medical journals also have problems with conflicts of interest. For starters, medical journals accept advertising revenue from pharmaceutical companies—a practice unheard of in economic and finance journals, according to Delong. Another tool used by drug companies that creates financial incentive for medical journals to cherry-pick the studies they publish is the reprinting of journal articles.

The drug company also regularly orders tens or even hundreds of thousands of reprints of journal articles supporting their drug, which their drug reps dole out to doctors as a stamp of approval. What people don't realize is those reprints are enormous revenue sources for the journals and heavily incentivize them to not bite the hand that is feeding them. It's just another form of kickback linked directly to the journals.

The journal knows that if they print a certain article, the reprints will add to their bottom line; whereas a more obscure or negative study will not be reprinted because there's no sales rep demand for them. We tend to think that if a study is published, it must be good, and if there are no published studies on something, it must not be based in solid science.

Understanding that there are powerful financial incentives steering medical journals to accept a study for publication may help you loosen that prejudice against unpublished science.

Why Mainstream Media Will Not Report Important Truths About Medicine

The mainstream media is not of much help either, as the drug industry spends billions of dollars in the US alone every year on advertising with them. The influence this creates is insidious, as discussed in my recent interview with award-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson, author of "Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama's Washington".

She refers to it as "soft censorship"—that situation in which a media outlet's sponsors wield power at the corporate level over the types of stories and topics that are covered. It's important to realize that you simply will not get the truth from the media on certain topics for this reason. Attkisson actually quit her job because she got fed up with her inability to run important stories, simply because they ran afoul with corporate sponsors.

"I remembered telling my mother that HPV vaccine is killing girls," Delong says. "My mother was flabbergasted. She said, 'We don't read about it in the paper.' That's, of course, because pharmaceutical companies are still buying advertisements unlike many other types of industries.

If you read any of the magazines or the inserts in the Sunday paper, you're going to see advertisements from pharmaceutical companies, page after page after page.

They're not allowed to do that in other countries, but they get away with it in the US, because they manipulated the federal regulators to allow them to do that... And, there was a study showing that if an industry pays for advertising in a media, that media tends not to report negative news about the industry."

We Need a National Vaccine Safety Board

Delong believes we need to implement a National Vaccine Safety Board, similar to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). After there's an accident, the NTSB does an investigation to determine the cause of the accident, and then presents recommendations for avoiding a repeat in the future. Importantly, the NTSB is completely removed from the Department of Transportation.

Likewise, a National Vaccine Safety Board would have to be completely outside of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The sad tragedy is that such a rational "ideal world" recommendation will never be implemented due to the massive conflicts of interests discussed earlier...

Considering the many vaccines currently on the market, where did all the vaccine studies (typically revolving around efficacy, not safety) come from? The answer is, from the industry. The problem with that is that study after study shows industry-funded research is very prone to bias in favor of the product. And, there's no impartial objective review.

When the FDA approves a product, most consumers are under the illusion that the FDA has conducted its own independent evaluation to validate the research presented to them.

Nothing could be further from the truth. All they do is examine the studies submitted to them by the very companies who want to gain massive revenues from it.

Moreover, independent researchers who manage to publish negative findings often come under heavy fire, and many have even lost their careers publishing findings that run counter to the industry's PR machine. Take vaccine researcher Lucija Tomljenovic, who studies the neurotoxic effects of aluminum vaccine adjuvants for example.

Together with neurological disease researcher Christopher Shaw, Tomljenovic has published a number of papers3,4,5,6,7 showing aluminum-containing vaccines may be unsafe. One critic blasted them saying it was irresponsible to publish this type of research because it might erode the confidence in vaccines.

But how can one have confidence when the evidence shows that many vaccine ingredients, such as aluminum, have never actually been tested for safety? Efficacy is only one side of the equation. Granted, industry-funded efficacy studies are prone to bias, but even if efficacy was top-notch, what good is a vaccine that effectively prevents one disease if it can cause lifelong disability or chronic health problems?

Safety is the other side of the equation, and vaccines need safety studies to ascertain their safety not just in isolation, but also in combination with all the other vaccines on the schedule.

This has never been done. Moreover, Tomljenovic actually discovered FDA documents from 2002 admitting that routine toxicity studies with vaccine ingredients have not been conducted because it was assumed that these ingredients are safe—emphasis on the word "assumed." I don't know about you, but to me, an assumption does not equate to proof of safety, no matter how many times you repeat it.

Helpful Resources Before You Vaccinate

One helpful resource suggested by Delong is David Kirby's book, "Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy."

She also suggests the following books for addressing the treatment of autism: Changing the Course of Autism: A Scientific Approach for Parents and Physicians by Bryan Jepson, and Dr. Kenneth Bock's Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders.

I also highly recommend Dr. Suzanne Humphries' book, Dissolving Illusions, which documents the historical framework for why vaccines have been an overhyped failure. It's an excellent resource for refuting the typical arguments and justifications used to push for vaccination.

On a final note, Delong says:

"I think, if I had to do it over again, before vaccinating my child I would go to the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), definitely, and the Generation Rescue [website]. is another good resource."

Why Are Farmers Forced to Accept Insecticide-Treated Seeds?

Tue, 11/24/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Unbeknownst to many Americans, the majority of soybean, corn, canola, and sunflower seeds planted in the U.S. are pre-coated with neonicotinoid pesticides (neonics).

The chemicals, which are produced by Bayer and Syngenta, travel systemically through the plants and kill insects that munch on their roots and leaves.1 However, you can't cover a plant seed with poison and expect it to be free of unintended consequences.

These pesticides are powerful neurotoxins, and have been blamed for decimating populations of non-target wildlife, including important pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

This occurs because the pesticides are taken up through the plant's vascular system as it grows, and, as a result, the chemical is expressed in the pollen and nectar of the plant.

Certain bird species that feast on insects killed by neonicotinoids have also declined.2

Recent research also reveals that neonics can persist and accumulate in soils, and since they're water-soluble, they leach into waterways where other types of wildlife may be affected.

As noted in a 2013 scientific review3 of neonicotinoids, "the prophylactic use of broad-spectrum pesticides goes against the long-established principles of integrated pest management, leading to environmental concerns."

Neonics Provide No Significant Benefits or Gains for Farmers

According to an investigation4 by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), published last year, treating soybean seeds with neonicotinoids provides no significant financial or agricultural benefits for farmers.

The researchers also noted there are several other foliar insecticides available that can combat pests as effectively as neonicotinoid seed treatments, with fewer risks.

As reported by Civil Eats,5 other studies suggest reducing the use of pesticides may actually reduce crop losses. The reason for this is because neonic-coated seeds harm beneficial insects that help kill pests naturally,6 thereby making any infestation far worse than it needs to be.

According to one study,7 ecologically-based farming that helps kill soybean aphids without pesticides could save farmers in four states (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) nearly $240 million in losses each year.

Despite such findings, farmers have very limited ability to avoid neonic-treated seeds.

Farmers Have Limited Ability to Avoid Pesticide-Treated Seeds

For starters, there's a near-monopoly on seed, with a small number of seed companies ruling the entire industry, leaving farmers with virtually no choices. As reported by Civil Eats:8

"Starting in the 1990s, and continuing in the 2000s, the largest seed and pesticide companies went on a buying spree, gobbling up a large number of smaller seed companies ...

The four largest seed companies control nearly 60 percent of the global patented seed market ... This fact constrains farmers' choices.

The consequences are illustrated by the increased ability of seed companies to charge excessively high prices for corn or soybean seed, and to supply pesticide-coated seeds exclusively, which contributes to those prices."

In addition to simply eliminating untreated seed from their available seed offerings, another way seed companies push farmers into using treated seed is by limiting the crop insurance they can get if they use untreated seed.

If a treated seed crop fails, the farmer will get 100 percent rebate. If they opt for untreated seed, the rebate will only cover 50 to 75 percent of losses.

Wildflowers Often Contain Higher Levels of Neonics Than Nearby Crops

One of the most recent studies9 into neonicotinoids came to a startling discovery: wildflowers growing around the margins of fields are also severely contaminated with neonics, and the concentrations of the toxin in the pollen and nectar of these flowers are sometimes higher than the levels found in the crop itself.

This appears to be a previously overlooked route of exposure for pollinators, and it also means that researchers have likely underestimated the amount of toxins these pollinators are actually exposed to. As noted by the authors:

"Indeed, the large majority (97 percent) of neonicotinoids brought back in pollen to honey bee hives in arable landscapes was from wildflowers, not crops.

Both previous and ongoing field studies have been based on the premise that exposure to neonicotinoids would occur only during the blooming period of flowering crops and that it may be diluted by bees also foraging on untreated wildflowers.

Here, we show that exposure is likely to be higher and more prolonged than currently recognized because of widespread contamination of wild plants growing near treated crops."

Seed Treatments and Crops Engineered for Insect-Resistance Have Led to Increased Use of Insecticides

The chemical technology industry claims that seed treatments and genetically engineered (GE) insect-resistant crops have dramatically decreased the use of insecticide.

While this may appear true on paper, in reality, neonic-treated seeds and Bt crops have actually led to increased use of insecticides, for three reasons:

  1. Pest resistance has driven up pesticide use
  2. Plant-incorporated insecticides are not counted toward usage
  3. Seed treatments are not counted toward usage

Bt plants are equipped with a gene from the soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which produces Bt toxin — a pesticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. Bt plants are engineered to produce this pesticide internally.

One of the touted benefits of GE crops like Bt cotton and Bt corn is reduced pesticide usage, as the plant itself will kill any bug that chews on it. However, just like exaggerated herbicide use has led to the rapid development of resistant superweeds, so have Bt plants led to the emergence of resistant pests.

For example, according to The Times of India,10 farmers in Punjab and Haryana are seeing significant losses of their Bt cotton crops to the whitefly. To address the problem, increasing amounts of pesticides have been applied. This isn't necessarily a new problem.

In 2002, farmers applied so much pesticide to fend off the whiteflies that soil and groundwater is thought to have been affected, and many now blame the exaggerated use of pesticides on the clustering of cancer cases being detected among those living in India's cotton belt.

Plant-Incorporated Insecticides Do Not Count Toward Usage and Exposure Data

It's important to realize that the Bt toxin produced in these Bt crops are NOT included in the data collection on pesticide usage. So to say that Bt crops are promoting less chemical-heavy agriculture is truly a gross misrepresentation of reality, considering the fact that every single cell of the Bt plant contains this insecticide, yet not a drop of it is counted.

The failure to count the toxin inside the plant, and only counting the pesticides applied topically, is a significant loophole that makes Bt plants appear to provide a benefit that in reality simply isn't true.

In fact, the reality is even worse than that. Topically applied Bt toxin biodegrades in sunlight and can also be washed off. The Bt toxin in these GE plants, on the other hand, does not degrade, nor can it in any way be removed or cleaned off the food because it's integrated into every cell of the plant.

Moreover, the plant-produced version of the poison is thousands of times more concentrated than the topical spray, so in reality, Bt pesticide exposure has risen exponentially — no matter what the pesticide usage data says.

Seed Treatments Don't Count Toward Pesticide Use Either

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also does not include seed treatments in their pesticide usage data, which skews the picture even further. As noted by Civil Eats:11

"The amountused is likely lower, because it takes less insecticide to coat seeds than to spray onto crops, but the area covered (number of acres) is now much greater...

[W]hile about 30 percent of corn acres were treated with insecticides that was sprayed on or applied to the soil, now about 90 percent of corn acres are treated with coated seeds. This exposes more helpful insects like bees and other pollinators to these pesticides."

Unbelievable! Bt Toxin Is Actually Exempt from Toxicity Requirements

Plant-incorporated pesticides such as Bt (both the protein and its genetic material) are registered with the EPA as a pesticide,12 but the plant itself is not regulated as such. What's worse, plant-incorporated Bt toxin in Bt soybeans is exempt from the requirement of a tolerance level for residues,13 both in the commodity and in the final food product. The final rule on this was issued in February 2014. As noted in the Federal Register:

"Dow AgroSciences LLC submitted a petition to EPA under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), requesting an exemption from the requirement of a tolerance. This regulation eliminates the need to establish a maximum permissible level for residues of Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1F protein in soybean under the FFDCA."

This is incomprehensible in light of the potential for harm. Originally, Monsanto and the EPA claimed the Bt toxin produced inside the plant would be destroyed in the human digestive system, and therefore pose no health risk. But this was proven false when, in 2011, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of 93 percent of pregnant women tested, 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies, and 67 percent of non-pregnant women.14

The study showed that Bt toxin actually bioaccumulates in your body, and other research15 suggests it may produce a wide variety of immune responses, including elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, typically associated with allergies and infections, and an increase in cytokines, associated with allergic and inflammatory responses.

A study16 published in 2011 found that Bt toxin does affect human cells, both in isolation and in combination with glyphosate-based herbicides, including Roundup.

Pesticidal crystal proteins Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac, two subspecies of the Bt toxin, were tested on cells from the embryonic kidney cell line 293, looking at specific biomarkers indicating cell death. Concentrations ranged from 10 parts per billion (ppb) up to 100 parts per million (ppm). Cry1Ab caused cell death starting at 100 ppm.

Roundup alone was found to cause necrosis (cell death resulting from acute injury) and apoptosis (cellular "suicide" or self-destruction) starting at 50 ppm, which the researchers noted is "far below agricultural dilutions." According to the authors:

"In these results, we argue that modified Bt toxins are not inert on nontarget human cells, and that they can present combined side effects with other residues of pesticides specific to GM plants." [Emphasis mine]

Mounting Evidence Shows Neonicotinoids Are Too Toxic to Use

In 2013, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report17 that ruled neonicotinoid insecticides are essentially "unacceptable" for many crops.

An independent review18 of 800 studies conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, published in 2014, concluded that neonicotinoids are gravely harming not only bees and other pollinators, but also birds, earthworms, snails, and other invertebrates. One of the researchers, Jean-Marc Bonmatin with the National Centre for Scientific Research, said:

"The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT… Far from protecting food production, the use of neonicotinoid insecticides is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it."

In light of the evidence of harm to the food chain which, let us not forget, includes us humans, it's really incomprehensible that both the EPA and USDA keep taking the side of the chemical industry. Signs of collusion between the chemical industry and these government agencies are everywhere.

Most recently, Jonathan Lundgren, who spent the last 11 years working as an entomologist at the USDA filed a whistleblower complaint against the agency, claiming he'd been harassed and retaliated against after speaking about research showing that neonicotinoids had adverse effects on bees.19,20

After publicly discussing his findings, Lundgren claims "USDA managers blocked publication of his research, barred him from talking to the media, and disrupted operations at the laboratory he oversaw." The message is clear: if you want to work in science, don't disrupt commerce. But if we keep going the way we are, what will the future hold? Where do we draw the line when it comes to toxins in our food supply?

I believe we've already crossed a threshold and most people are exposed to more toxins than their bodies can handle. Unlabeled GMOs are just one part of the problem, but it's a significant one when you consider the fact that nearly all processed foods contain one or more genetically engineered ingredients, be it Roundup Ready corn contaminated with glyphosate, or Bt soy, which is essentially a pesticide all in and of itself.

I find it hard to even consider Bt crops a food, because never in the history of humanity has poison been a staple ingredient in our diet.

Was Linus Pauling Right About Vitamin C’s Curative Powers After All?

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Vitamin C is one of the most well-established traditional antioxidants we know of, and its potent health benefits have been clearly demonstrated over time, especially for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

A perfect example of the healing power of this antioxidant vitamin is the dramatic case of Allan Smith, who contracted a serious case of swine flu, and was brought back from the brink of death using a combination of IV and oral vitamin C.

While most animals have the ability to produce vitamin C internally, three species cannot. Guinea pigs, primates, and humans must obtain their vitamin C from their diet.

Vitamin C has numerous functions in the human body,1 including acting as an essential cofactor in enzymatic reactions.

In this way, it plays a role in your body's production of collagen, carnitine (which helps your body turn fat into energy), and catecholamines (hormones made by your adrenal glands).

Vitamin C is also used by your body for wound healing, repairing, and maintaining the health of your bones and teeth, and plays a role in helping your body absorb iron.

A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C also helps prevent damage caused by free radicals. Over time, free radical damage may accelerate aging and contribute to the development of heart disease and other health conditions.

It's through this antioxidant effect that it's thought vitamin C may play a role in protecting heart health.

Linus Pauling — 'The Vitamin C Man'

One of the most famous forerunners of high dose vitamin C treatment for colds and other disease was Linus Carl Pauling (1901-1994), a biochemist and peace activist who won two Nobel Prize awards; one in chemistry in 1954, followed by a Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.

The New Scientist magazine ranked him as one of the 20 greatest scientists to ever live. He almost won a third Nobel, but Watson and Crick narrowly beat him to the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Despite being a well-respected scientist, his views on vitamin C were all firmly rebuffed by the medical community.

He detailed his discoveries in a series of books, starting with Vitamin C and the Common Cold in 1970, followed by Vitamin C, the Common Cold and the Flu (1976), Vitamin C and Cancer (1979), and How to Feel Better and Live Longer (1986).

Many felt Pauling was too far out of his field of expertise with his research into nutrition, and he was largely ignored by mainstream medicine and nutritional science.2

Was Pauling Right About Vitamin C After All?

While the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C had been established at 40 to 60 mg per day — an amount more than sufficient to prevent scurvy — Pauling advocated amounts of 1,000 mg or even higher.

Pauling himself is said to have taken 12,000 mg per day. He noted that veterinarians recommended far higher doses of vitamin C for primates than what was recommended for people.

So he initially extrapolated the dosages from monkeys, and determined that humans likely need a minimum of six grams per day — 200 times more than the RDA.

The video above features the late Pauling and his controversial claims about the curative powers of vitamin C, which included cancer and heart disease — the latter of which he claimed was a form of pre-scurvy.

Pauling died of prostate cancer in 1994 at the age of 93. However, interest in vitamin C certainly did not die with him.

On the contrary, there's been an explosion of research into the properties of vitamin C, and newer evidence suggests there might be something to Pauling's heretical claims after all. In fact, a lot of the scientific literature published on vitamin C in the two decades since Pauling's death support his claims.3,4

UCLA Researchers Confirm Vitamin C Protects Against Heart Disease

For example, the video features Dr. Balz Frei, a researcher at Harvard University's Department of Nutrition.

According to Dr. Frei, interest in vitamin C was renewed when it became known that many degenerative diseases involve oxidation, "and it is clear that vitamin C can very effectively prevent many of these oxidation processes, because it is a very strong antioxidant," he says.

A large, decade-long research study led Dr. James Engstrom at the UCLA also found that men who took 800 mg of vitamin C per day — which is more than 10 times the RDA — had less heart disease and lived up to six years longer than those following the conventional guideline of 60 mg/day.

Another study5 that included nearly 11,200 elderly people, published in 1996, found that seniors who took high-potency vitamin C and E had an overall reduced mortality rate of 42 percent.

Low potency "one-a-day" multiple vitamins had no beneficial effect on mortality. About 40 studies have also shown that people who eat vitamin C-rich diets have a lower incidence of cancer.

Vitamin C Shown to Be Selectively Cytotoxic to Cancer Cells

Total Video Length: 0:56:35

Download Interview Transcript

Five years ago, I interviewed Dr. Ronald Hunninghake about his experience with high-dose vitamin C treatments. He's an internationally recognized expert on vitamin C who at the time had personally supervised more than 60,000 intravenous (IV) vitamin C administrations.

He got his start in this field some 27 years ago when he teamed up with Dr. Hugh Riordan, who conducted research on intravenous (I.V.) vitamin C for cancer patients.6 Dr. Riordan discovered that most cancer patients are deficient in vitamin C, especially those in advanced stages of cancer.

Dr. Riordan carried out a 15-year long research project called RECNAC (cancer spelled backwards). His groundbreaking research in cell cultures showed that vitamin C was selectively cytotoxic against cancer cells. The mechanism for this is summarized in an article by Dr. Hunninghake on

"Cancer cells were actively taking up vitamin C in a way that depleted tissue reserves of C. PET scans are commonly ordered by oncologists to evaluate their cancer patients for metastases (cancer spread to other organs).

What is actually injected into the patient at the start of the scan is radioactive glucose. Cancer cells... depend upon glucose as their primary source of metabolic fuel... [and] employ transport mechanisms called glucose transporters to actively pull in glucose.

In the vast majority of animals, vitamin C is synthesized from glucose in only four metabolic steps. Hence, the molecular shape of vitamin C is remarkably similar to glucose. Cancer cells will actively transport vitamin C into themselves, possibly because they mistake it for glucose. Another plausible explanation is that they are using the vitamin C as an antioxidant. Regardless, the vitamin C accumulates in cancer cells.

If large amounts of vitamin C are presented to cancer cells, large amounts will be absorbed. In these unusually large concentrations, the antioxidant vitamin C will start behaving as a pro-oxidant as it interacts with intracellular copper and iron. This chemical interaction produces small amounts of hydrogen peroxide.

Because cancer cells are relatively low in an intracellular anti-oxidant enzyme called catalase, the high dose vitamin C induction of peroxide will continue to build up until it eventually lyses the cancer cell from the inside out! This effectively makes high dose IVC a non-toxic chemotherapeutic agent that can be given in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments.

Based on the work of several vitamin C pioneers before him, Dr. Riordan was able to prove that vitamin C was selectively toxic to cancer cells if given intravenously. This research was recently reproduced and published by Dr. Mark Levine at the National Institutes of Health."

Vitamin C As an Adjunct to Cancer Therapy

Most recently, researchers at the Lewis Cantley of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York published a paper8 showing that high doses of vitamin C helps kill and eliminate colorectal cancer cells with certain genetic mutations. According to the International Business Times:9

"Since over half of the colorectal cancer cases in humans are linked to mutations in the KRAS and BRAF genes, the researchers believe that their study findings call for more research into the therapeutic use of vitamin C for colorectal cancer cases."

According to the National Cancer Institute,10 other studies have shown high-dose vitamin C can help slow the growth of prostate, pancreatic, liver, and colon cancer cells. The institute also recognizes human studies showing IV vitamin C can help improve symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatment, such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain, and loss of appetite.

Despite all of these benefits, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved IV high-dose vitamin C for the treatment of cancer or any other disease.

A More Potent and Foundational Treatment for Cancer

The treatment of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, ALS, and Parkinson, and anti-aging have become one of my new passions. Why? Because they all share the same primary metabolic defect — dysfunctional mitochondria. Dr. Otto Warburg was an M.D., Ph.D. and most experts consider him to be the most brilliant biochemist of the 20th century.

He received his Nobel Prize in 1931 for discovering that virtually every cancer cell does not use oxygen to create energy, but it ferments glucose to provide all its energy.

Interestingly, this use of glucose may contribute to a relative vitamin C deficiency since it is produced from glucose, and may explain some of its benefits in the treatment of cancer. However I am firmly convinced that vitamin C does not treat the primary defect responsible for most cancers, which is mitochondrial dysfunction.

The best way to address this mitochondrial damage that I am aware of is a ketogenic diet. This is achieved typically by a reduced calorie and carbohydrate diet that limits all sugars, grains, and most fruits. I am currently in the process of connecting with the leading experts in the world on this and will greatly expand on this exciting news in the near future.

Vitamin C Deficiency May Be an Independent Risk Factor for Stroke

While scurvy is the most well-known side effect of vitamin C deficiency, French researchers have also reported that that those with vitamin C deficiency are at an increased risk for a lethal hemorrhagic stroke.11 According to the authors, vitamin C deficiency "should be considered a risk factor for this severe type of stroke."

They also pointed out that previous studies have found vitamin C may help regulate blood pressure, and that higher blood levels of vitamin C have been found to reduce stroke risk by more than 40 percent.

A 20-year long prospective cohort study12 in Japan found that those with the highest serum levels of vitamin C had a 29 percent lower risk for stroke compared to those with the lowest serum levels. Moreover, people who ate vegetables six to seven days a week had a 54 percent reduced risk of stroke compared to those who only ate vegetables two days or less per week.

A common denominator here is the way vitamin C affects your blood vessels. Vitamin C helps dilate blood vessels, and is required for the biosynthesis of collagen, which helps keep your blood vessels strong and intact. Lack of vitamin C can therefore lead to a weakening of your blood vessels, resulting in scurvy symptoms like subcutaneous bleeding, or the lethal hemorrhaging associated with hemorrhagic stroke.

Vitamin C Performs Many Functions That Boost Health

Vitamin C has two major functions that help explain its potent health benefits. First, it acts as a powerful antioxidant. It also acts as a cofactor for enzymatic processes. In addition to that, vitamin C is a "reducing agent," which means it donates electrons to other molecules, thereby reducing oxidation. As explained by the Linus Pauling Institute:13

"Vitamin C is the primary water-soluble, non-enzymatic antioxidant in plasma and tissues. Even in small amounts vitamin C can protect indispensable molecules in the body, such as proteins, lipids (fats), carbohydrates, and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), from damage by free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are generated during normal metabolism, by active immune cells, and through exposure to toxins and pollutants..."

Vitamin C also helps regenerate vitamin E from its oxidized form, and is involved in the metabolism of cholesterol to bile acids, the latter of which may help reduce cholesterol and gallstones. Vitamin C also boosts your body's ability to absorb iron from the foods you eat, and plays a role in detoxification, as it helps neutralize and eliminate a range of toxins from your body.14

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin C Deficiency

In the US, serious vitamin C deficiency is rare, however many people do have low levels. If you're elderly, for instance, you may have higher requirements for vitamin C, as aging may inhibit absorption. Smokers may also require more vitamin C due to the increased oxidative stress from cigarette smoke. Signs that you may need more vitamin C include:

Dry and splitting hair NosebleedsDecreased wound-healing rateBleeding gums Rough, dry or scaly skinGingivitis (inflammation of your gums)Decreased ability to ward off infectionEasy bruising What's the Best Way to Optimize Your Vitamin C?

The ideal way to optimize your vitamin C stores is by eating a wide variety of fresh whole organic locally grown foods, primarily vegetables and fruits. A number of people, primarily with the naturopathic perspective, believe that in order to be truly effective, ascorbic acid alone is not enough. They believe it's the synergistic action of the ascorbic acid in combination with its associated micronutrients, such as bioflavonoids and other components that produce the full range of benefits.

Eating a colorful diet (i.e. plenty of vegetables) helps ensure you're naturally getting the phytonutrient synergism needed. Particularly rich sources of vitamin C include the following. One of the easiest ways to ensure you're getting enough vegetables in your diet is by juicing them. For more information, please see my juicing page. You can also squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into some water for a vitamin C rich beverage.

Sweet peppers Chili peppers Brussels sprouts Broccoli Artichoke Sweet potato Tomato Cauliflower Kale Papaya Strawberries Oranges Kiwi Grapefruit Cantaloupe What You Need to Know About Vitamin C Supplements

In some cases, it may still be wise to take supplemental vitamin C. The most effective form of oral vitamin C supplementation is liposomal vitamin C, which I was introduced to by Dr. Thomas Levy, who is one of the leaders in this area. Liposomal vitamin C bypasses many of the complications of traditional vitamin C or ascorbic acid (such as gastrointestinal distress), thereby allowing you to achieve far higher intracellular concentrations.

There are also other forms of vitamin C on the market, such as buffered forms of sodium ascorbate. One example would be Ester-C. These buffered forms are also effective and do not cause the gastrointestinal distress associated with conventional ascorbic acid.

When taking an oral vitamin C, be mindful of your dosing frequency. Dr. Steve Hickey, who wrote the book Ascorbate, has shown that if you take vitamin C frequently throughout the day, you can achieve much higher plasma levels. So even though your kidneys will tend to rapidly excrete the vitamin C, by taking it every hour or two, you can maintain a much higher plasma level than if you take one mega-dose all at once (unless you're taking an extended release form of vitamin C).

As noted by the Linus Pauling Institute,15 experiments have demonstrated that plasma vitamin C concentration is controlled by three primary mechanisms: intestinal absorption, tissue transport, and renal reabsorption. You can expect a significant rise in plasma vitamin C concentration at doses between 30 and 100 mg/day.

At 200 to 400 mg/day, healthy young adults reach a steady-state concentration of 60 to 80 micromoles/L, and ingesting doses of 200 mg at a time has been shown to maximize absorption efficiency.

According to Dr. Andrew Saul, editor of the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, if everyone were to take 500 mg of vitamin C per day — the dose typically required to reach a healthy level of 80 µmol/L — an estimated 216,000 lives could be spared each year.

These Charts Show Which Foods Are Most Likely to Be Wasted

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

It's estimated that 50 million Americans do not have access to enough food,1 yet 40 percent of food in the US goes uneaten. That's the equivalent of 20 pounds of food per person each month.2

Every year, food worth the equivalent of $165 billion is wasted, much of which ends up in landfills and rots… adding to methane emissions. If food losses were reduced by even 15 percent, it could feed another 25 million Americans,3 slashing hunger rates by half.

On a global scale, as you might suspect, the numbers are even more striking… and the implications stretch far beyond hunger. An estimated 1.3 billion foods worth close to $1 trillion retail is wasted. As National Geographic put it:4

"Aside from the social, economic, and moral implications of that waste—in a world where an estimated 805 million people go to bed hungry each night—the environmental cost of producing all that food, for nothing, is staggering.

…The water wastage alone would be the equivalent of the entire annual flow of the Volga—Europe's largest river—according to a UN report.

The energy that goes into the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of that wasted food, meanwhile, generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide.

If food waste were a country, it would be the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China."

Food Waste Occurs at Every Levels of the Food Supply Chain

There is potential for food loss and waste at virtually every step of the food system. From vegetables left in farm fields to rot because they are discolored to produce lost due to spills or spoilage during processing and distribution, the amount of food lost or wasted could easily feed the world's hungry.

About two-thirds of waste occurs at the production and distribution level while the remaining one-third occurs at the consumer level.5 The Wasted report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) detailed losses that occur at each stage of the food chain:6

Losses in farming: This includes food that is never harvested and food that is lost between harvest and sale.Losses post-harvest and in packing: After produce is harvested, it is culled, which is when products are removed because they won't meet certain quality or appearance criteria (such as size, color, weight, blemishes, etc.). One cucumber farmer noted that while 75 percent of his harvest is edible, fewer than half leave the farm after culling. Losses in processing: Food losses at this stage are generally the result of trimming or inefficiencies in processing.Losses in distribution: Food losses may occur due to improper storage temperatures during shipping and handling, or due to rejected shipments of perishable items. Losses in retail: Retail stores view waste as a cost of doing business. One consultant estimated that one in seven truckloads of perishable foods delivered to supermarkets is thrown away.Losses in food service: Restaurants, cafeterias, fast food outlets, and caterers contribute to food loss due to losses in the kitchen, serving large portions that don't get eaten, challenges in planning, and time limits (which require certain foods to be thrown away after a set time). Losses in households: American families throw away about 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. Which Types of Food Account for the Most Waste?

Not all food is equally prone to being wasted. Perishable items, like fruits and vegetables, are most likely to go to waste, along with roots and tubers, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Fish and seafood are next on the list, followed by dairy, meat and oilseeds, and pulses.

FAO's infographic,7 which follows, shows a more specific breakdown, sorting food waste not only by type but also by country and point in the food-supply chain. What you'll notice about North America are high rates of waste at the consumption level.

It's estimated that the average US consumer wastes 10 times as much food as the average person in Southeast Asia.8

Reducing Food Waste Is the Answer to Feeding the World

There is enough food currently produced to feed everyone on the planet. Yet, in the US alone, 141 trillion calories end up wasted each year, which amounts to 1,249 calories per person, per day.9

NRDC estimates that for the average family of four in the US, an estimated $1,350 to $2,275 in food is lost annually.10 There are hidden or at least less obvious factors, too. When the resources to produce food are considered, the true cost of this waste amounts to:11

  • 25 percent of all fresh water
  • 4 percent of the oil we consume
  • $165 billion (more than $40 billion from households)
  • $750 million per year just to dispose of discarded food
  • 33 million tons of landfill waste

As National Geographic put it, farming already uses up a sizeable portion of our land. We can't keep growing more and more food to feed a growing population, nor do we need to. The answer lies in reducing food waste and losses:12

"The dividends of avoiding food waste can be historic. We produce enough food to feed everyone on our planet today and the 2.5 billion more people to come in the next 35 years.

We have to waste less to feed more. Farming already uses 38 percent of our ice-free land, compared to just 2 percent for cities, and uses 70 percent of our fresh water. We can't keep growing more food, and continuing to waste as much, to feed more people."

Simple Steps to End Food Waste in Your Home

Food waste must be dealt with on a large scale to stop much of the losses occurring at the farming, processing, distribution, and retail levels. However, you can make a difference starting in your own home. As NRDC explained:13

"Increasing the efficiency of our food system is a triple-bottom-line solution that requires collaborative efforts by businesses, governments and consumers.

The U.S. government should conduct a comprehensive study of losses in our food system and set national goals for waste reduction; businesses should seize opportunities to streamline their own operations, reduce food losses and save money;

…and consumers can waste less food by shopping wisely, knowing when food goes bad, buying produce that is perfectly edible even if it's less cosmetically attractive, cooking only the amount of food they need, and eating their leftovers."

Also important, learn how to properly organize your refrigerator. Certain parts of your refrigerator are colder than others while other spaces (like the shelves on the door) fluctuate in temperature. It's important to store highly perishable foods that require cold storage in the coldest, most temperature-stable areas of your fridge to avoid spoilage.

One of my all-time favorite tricks, which works for most produce, is to create a "vacuum pack" to help protect food from oxygen and airborne microbes that will accelerate its decay.

Leave the produce in the bag it came in from the grocery store, place it against your chest, and use your arm to squeeze the excess air out of the bag. Then seal it with a twist tie. Or use an automatic vacuum sealer like the FoodSaver. Another important factor is knowing what expiration dates on your food really mean.

Labels like "use by" and "sell by" on foods aren't actually an indicator of food safety, as many believe them to be, and research suggests more than 90 percent of Americans are throwing out food prematurely because of misunderstandings of what food dates actually mean. In short, many foods are still safe to eat even after they're expired.

12 Tips to Reduce Food Spoilage and Use Up Leftovers

You can help to reduce your waste and use up your leftovers with the following 12 tips:14

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

What Kind of Rice Is Best?

Mon, 11/23/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Rice, in one form or another, is one of the most important staple foods in the world and has been for possibly thousands of years. Today, it supplies around 20 percent of the world's food energy. China produces and consumes 90 percent of the rice on the planet, and in the U.S., rice is a $2.2 billion industry.

Today, basmati rice from India, jasmine from Thailand, and Arborio from Italy are growing in popularity among the more than 40,000 types, including long-, medium-, and short-grain white, as well as brown rice, yellow rice, purple, red, black, and shades in between, each with subtle textures and flavor variations.

These aromatic varieties can cost twice as much as plain white rice.

You may have heard brown rice is better for you than the white version. Technically, that's true, but how it's grown should also be taken into consideration, because it's extremely important to keep abreast of new information and to know the path foods have taken on the way to your table.

Wild Rice Provides Superior Macronutrients Compared to White

White rice provides more thiamin (25 percent of the recommended daily value, DV), folic acid, and calcium, but wild rice has a more extensive nutritional profile overall, imparting 10 percent of the DV in folate, vitamin B6 and niacin, and eight percent each in riboflavin in every one-cup serving.

Comparatively speaking, wild rice is more nutrient-dense, plus it has significantly fewer calories and carbohydrates than white rice.

At the same time, it provides three times the fiber of white rice and an impressive amount (and higher quality) of protein due to essential amino acids such as methionine and lysine.

"Essential" means they can't be synthesized by the body and must come from an outside source.1

Lysine has been referred to as one of the building blocks of protein, vital for optimal growth and converting fatty acids into energy, as well as lowering cholesterol and forming collagen for developing strong bones, tissues, tendons, cartilage, and skin.

It also prevents the amount of calcium lost in the urine and may even help prevent the bone loss known to occur with osteoporosis.2

Methionine, too, is important for forming cartilage, and can be particularly helpful for arthritis sufferers by boosting sulfur production. It has a number of other positive uses throughout the system, such as dissolving fats in your liver. It's also an anti-inflammatory, and reduces pain as well as hair loss.3

Minerals are another major attribute in wild rice. That same single-cup serving provides 15 percent of the phosphorus you need in one day, along with the same amount of zinc (both essential for optimal heart, nerve, and muscle function) and magnesium.

Wild rice is a better choice for people wanting to lose weight, because it makes you feel full longer.

How Does Brown Rice Stack up to White Rice?

Ten percent of the daily recommended protein, as well as 14 percent of the fiber, is contained in a one-cup serving of brown rice. Brown rice also contains very healthy amounts of selenium, magnesium, and phosphorus, along with niacin, vitamin B6, and thiamin.

It's the manganese content, however, that's over the top – 88 percent of what you need in one day is present in just one serving. This mineral turns carbohydrates and proteins into energy, supports the nervous system, and produces cholesterol to generate sex hormones.

Manganese is also part of a key enzyme called superoxide dismutase, located in the mitochondria, and plays a vital role in protecting cells from free radical damage.

What other benefits do these nutrients in brown rice have for your body? According to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH):4

"Brown rice is beneficial to the cardiovascular system, digestive system, brain, and nervous system. It is loaded with powerful antioxidants which provide relief from a range of ailments such as hypertension, unhealthy levels of cholesterol, stress, mental depression, and skin disorders.

High nutritional content in brown rice proves effective in various medical conditions such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and insomnia. It has anti-depressant properties and helps maintain healthy bones and stronger immune system."

Exchanging White Rice for Brown May Help Lower Your Type 2 Diabetes Risk

White rice is much more plentiful and available on supermarket shelves than brown, black, or wild rice, and it's less expensive. But, studies find that eating white rice four or five times a week is linked to heightened type 2 diabetes risk, while eating two to four servings of brown rice had the opposite effect.

Many are unaware that replacing white rice with the brown variety could help lower their type 2 diabetes risk. HSPH also noted:5

"Brown rice is superior to white rice when it comes to fiber content, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals, and it often does not generate as large an increase in blood sugar levels after a meal.

Milling and polishing brown rice removes most vitamins and minerals. In addition, milling strips away most of its fiber, which helps deter diabetes by slowing the rush of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream."

If Brown Rice Is Good, Is Black Rice Better?

Sometimes called "purple" or "forbidden" rice, black rice is an Asian heirloom variety that brings the same benefits as brown rice, but along with those you also get a set of powerful antioxidants.

Black rice has an outer shell like brown rice, making it a little more time-intensive to cook than white rice, but soaking it for an hour helps speed up the process.

Interestingly, it's possible that the darker the rice, the more potent its nutrients. Black rice, as an example, has been found to contain anthocyanins with nutritional attributes similar to those found in blueberries and blackberries.

That's really good news, since studies show that anthocyanins fight a number of serious health issues, such as cancer and heart disease.6

Researchers tested black rice bran and found it was a "useful therapeutic agent for the treatment and prevention of diseases associated with chronic inflammation." Black rice also decreased dermatitis symptoms in studies, while brown rice did not.7

A Scary New Play: 'Arsenic and Today's Rice'

In 2012, following the release of a report discussing arsenic being found in apple and grape juice, Consumer Reports8 conducted numerous tests on rice:

"In virtually every product tested, we found measurable amounts of total arsenic in its two forms. We found significant levels of inorganic arsenic, which is a carcinogen, in almost every product category, along with organic arsenic, which is less toxic but still of concern.

Moreover, the foods we checked are popular staples, eaten by adults and children alike."

Foods tested included Rice Krispies cereal, which had relatively low levels of arsenic at 2.3 to 2.6 micrograms per serving, and Trader Joe's Organic Brown Pasta Fusilli, which tested higher – from 5.9 to 6.9 micrograms per serving.

Perhaps most disturbing is that "worrisome" arsenic levels were also found in infant cereals for babies between four and 12 months old.

A 2009 to 2010 EPA study lists rice as having a 17 percent inorganic arsenic level behind fruits and fruit juices, which had 18 percent, and vegetables with 24 percent.9

While the USA Rice Federation says there's nothing to be concerned about because inorganic arsenic is a "natural substance," the Consumer Reports article maintains that:

"Inorganic arsenic, the predominant form of arsenic in most of the 65 rice products we analyzed, is ranked by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as one of more than 100 substances that are Group 1 carcinogens. It is known to cause bladder, lung, and skin cancer in humans, with the liver, kidney, and prostate now considered potential targets of arsenic-induced cancers.

A Center for Public Integrity article also reported:

"EPA scientists have concluded that if 100,000 women consumed the legal limit of arsenic each day, 730 of them eventually would get lung or bladder cancer."10

How Did Arsenic Get into the Rice?

The arsenic in rice is due to the rice being grown in contaminated soils. How arsenic got in the soil is a study in history. More often than not, farming operations have involved the addition of harmful toxins in pesticides and herbicides (not to mention the confined animal feeding operations – CAFOs – which in recent decades have made food production a far different scenario from the local, sustainable farm model most informed food consumers would hope for.

As the Consumer Reports article explains:

"Rice absorbs arsenic from soil or water much more effectively than most plants. That's in part because it is one of the only major crops grown in water-flooded conditions, which allow arsenic to be more easily taken up by its roots and stored in the grains... (The) south-central region of the country has a long history of producing cotton, a crop that was heavily treated with arsenical pesticides for decades in part to combat the boll weevil beetle."

Rice Recommendations

Due to the health benefits provided by all types of rice, it may not make sense for everyone to eliminate it from their diets entirely. A recommendation, however, would be to reach for organic varieties as often as possible, whether it's organic white, brown, or wild rice, and if you're not sure of the source, limit your consumption to two servings per week to minimize your risk of arsenic exposure.

Also, ensure all your carbohydrate sources are as unprocessed as possible, free of pesticides and chemical additives, and not genetically modified.

Quick Fish Curry with Roasted Cauliflower and Okra Recipe

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 02:00

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus 10 minutes marinating time)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Difficulty: easy
Cuisine: South Asia / Contemporary
Allergens: fish

2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ head cauliflower, broken into florets
4 x 180 g snapper fillets (or any firm white fish such as cod, sea bass or bream) skin on or skinned and pin-boned
Juice of 2 limes
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 onion, sliced
1-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 pinch freshly cracked pepper
1 cinnamon stick
12 curry fresh leaves
1 x 400 ml can organic coconut milk
140 ml fish stock or water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
8 okras, halved
1 large handful baby spinach leaves
1 handful coriander leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Mix the turmeric and ground coriander together in a small bowl and set aside.
Place the cauliflower florets, 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and half of the spice mix into a bowl and toss to combine. Transfer the cauliflower mixed with the spices onto a lightly greased oven tray with a little coconut oil and spread as a single layer. Season with a little salt and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, until golden. Set aside.

Rub the remaining turmeric spice into the flesh side of the snapper fillets, then squeeze over the juice of 1 lime. Leave to marinate for 10 minutes, covered with cling film in the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté gently for 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for a further 30 seconds, then add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, chilli flakes, a pinch of freshly cracked pepper and curry leaves, and cook for a further 1 minute.

Add the roasted cauliflower, okra, coconut cream and fish stock. Mix to combine, then place the fish flesh side down and gently simmer for 8 – 10 minutes until the fish is nearly cooked through. When the fish is almost cooked, add the spinach leaves and gently mix them through.

To finish, season with the fish sauce (add more fish sauce to taste if desired), squeeze over the remaining lime juice, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Thermomix version:

Roast the cauliflower in your oven as per recipe. Place the ginger and garlic into the Thermomix bowl and chop 3 sec/speed 7. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Place the onion (halved) into the bowl and chop 3 sec/speed 5.

Add 3 tablespoons of coconut oil and cook 3 mins/Varoma/speed 1.

Add the chopped garlic and ginger back to the bowl and cook 1 min/100C/speed 1.
Add the cardamom pods, cinnamon stick, chilli flakes, pepper and curry leaves and cook 1 min/100C/speed 1.

Add the roasted cauliflower, okra, coconut cream and fish stock to bowl. Place fish on Varoma tray and set the Varoma in position on bowl.

Cook 12 mins/Varoma/reverse/speed soft, or until the fish is done to your liking.
Add spinach to the bowl and stir in 5 sec/reverse/speed 3.

Serve into 4 bowls, each with a snapper fillet on top, season with fish sauce, squeeze over remaining lime juice, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Spine Surgeon Reveals Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain

Sun, 11/22/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

As many as 8 out of 10 Americans struggle with back pain, and many resort to surgery as a solution. Unfortunately, this often does not resolve the problem, and in some cases simply worsens the situation.

Dr. David Hanscom, an orthopedic surgeon with a practice in Seattle, is unusual in that he tells most of his patients they don't need surgery. He's written a book detailing his novel approach to chronic pain treatment, called “Back in Control: A spine surgeon's roadmap out of chronic pain.”

Spinal Fusions Rarely Cure Chronic Back Pain

Spinal fusions are a lucrative business and great source of revenue for the hospital and surgeon. Unfortunately, they rarely work for the patients. Spinal fusions arose from the assumption that disc degeneration was a source of back pain.

Therefore, it was thought that by fusing the disc together with the bone, which eliminates motion, you would get rid of the pain. However, that has since been proven false.

"Disc degeneration actually does not cause back pain. That's been well-documented," Dr. Hanscom says.

"The success rate of the spinal fusion for back pain was about 24 percent, but we still kept doing it. Then, in 1994, when this paper came out Washington showing that the return-to-work rate one year after a spinal fusion for back pain was 15 percent, I just stopped.

Every paper since then has showed pretty much the same dismal results; there's maybe a 20 to 25 percent success rate of spinal fusion for back pain...

And the downside of a failed spine surgery is terrible. It's really bad. These people are condemned to live their entire lifetime, 30 to 40 more years, in chronic pain."

Despite such findings, spinal fusions are still popular. Each year, some 600,000 spinal fusions are performed in the U.S. with a high percentage of them being performed for non-specific low-back pain, at a cost of more than $600 billion.

Neurophysiological Disorder (NPD)

By 1988, Dr. Hanscom was suffering from burnout, which included 16 NPD symptoms. He did not know the nature of the problem and would be in this state for another 15 years.

Chronic pain was one of his symptoms. He inadvertently solved his chronic pain in 2003 and it took another few years before he understood that he had full-blown Neurophysiologic Disorder (NPD). He began sharing his experience with his patients in 2006.

NPD is rooted in chronic stress and anxiety. Your body becomes full of adrenaline, and every organ system starts responding and acting up. According to Dr. Hanscom, there are over 30 symptoms created by an adrenalized nervous system.

"Some of my 16 symptoms included migraine headaches, ringing in my ears, burning on my feet, itching on my scalp, migratory skin rashes, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It was brutal. What I didn't realize... is that anxiety is actually one of the classic manifestations of neurophysiological disorder. I developed extreme anxiety. I did not become a major spine surgeon by having anxiety; I became a major spine surgeon by suppressing anxiety.

As you know, when we try not to think about something, we think more, right? Interestingly, the burnout rate in medicine is about 50 to 55 percent and has a lot to do with suppressed anxiety.

Whenever I give lectures on burnout and I use the 'anxiety' word, the whole room just goes absolutely quiet. If I hadn't gone through it myself, I would not really be able to talk about it....

We also found out that anxiety or mental pain and physical pain are processed in the same part of the brain. They're essentially the same thing."

Over the following decade and a half, Dr. Hanscom struggled to recuperate, and through a combination of pure luck and trial and error, he eventually developed a system for treating chronic pain by addressing not just the physical, but also the emotional/mental component of anger and anxiety.

While there's nothing particularly new about this process, it involves going through a sequence of strategies that allow you to calm down and de-adrenalize your nervous system. Hundreds of patients have now tried this system, and lead pain-free lives.

This system includes:

The Therapeutic Value of Expressive Writing

One of the strategies that had a profound impact on Dr. Hanscom's own recovery was expressive writing — the act of writing down your negative thoughts and emotions. Interestingly, there are over 200 research papers published since 1982 documenting the effectiveness of expressive writing.

“The research began with expressive writing around prior traumas and many different formats have been studied. The most straightforward method is ’negative writing.’

This is where you're simply writing down your current negative thoughts – the darker, the better – and you're destroying them instantly. You're not writing positive thoughts; you're writing down your negative thoughts.

You are not destroying them to get rid of the thoughts. They are permanently etched into your brain. You are allowing yourself to write with complete freedom, so the exercise separates you from your thoughts. Again, when you try not to think about something, you think about it more. None of us like unpleasant thoughts, so we keep tossing them aside. Dr. Daniel Wegner out of Harvard pointed out that by simply writing down the thoughts you're trying to suppress, it breaks the cycle," he explains.

Expressive writing exercises are now a foundational component of Dr. Hanscom's program. By breaking up the psychological pathways of anxiety and frustration, it allows you to reprogram your brain. Back pain is a classic type of chronic pain that responds well to expressive writing. An interesting study showing the emotional aspect of back pain was published last year.

Using MRI brain imaging, they showed that while people feeling acute back pain had an activated pain center, as you would expect, people who have been in chronic pain for more than 10 years experience pain in the emotional center of their brain only. The pain center was completely dormant.

Patients in the acute pain group were then rescanned every three months, and they found that within 12 months, if the pain still persisted, it migrated from the pain center to the emotional center. So, chronic pain is experienced in a completely different part of your brain compared to acute pain.

An Extreme Success Story

Dr. Hanscom recounts one rather extreme example of how effective this technique can really be. A gentleman broke his back in a horse riding accident. He subsequently needed surgery on most of his thoracic spine, which led to severe chronic pain. By the time he came to see Dr. Hanscom, he'd been in pain for eight years. Two other surgeons had told him he needed a fusion from his neck all the way down to his pelvis for pain. He came to Dr. Hanscom for a third opinion.

"He had disc degeneration, but he had a straight spine. He had no indications for a major spinal fusion surgery. I said, 'Look, I don't think you need a surgery no matter what. There's just nothing there to operate on. By the way, here are your writing exercises. Take a look at the book, see what you think, and call me in a couple of weeks.' He's a Ph.D. scientist and he thought I was just absolutely out of my mind. "

The man's girlfriend convinced him to try the writing exercises despite his skepticism, and by the third writing exercise—about three days later—he was 80 percent pain-free. After participating in one of Dr. Hanscom's workshops at the Omega Institute, he became completely pain-free, and he's now been pain-free for a year.

“He’s doing normal things now after eight years of chronic pain, he’s even back riding his horse in the hills at a full gallop. If he’d had those operations, he’d have a spine as stiff as a board, the chance of getting rid of his pain is almost zero, and it would’ve been disaster.”

Three Components to Treating Chronic Back Pain

According to Dr. Hanscom, disc degeneration is never a reason for surgery. In his view, surgery simply isn't the right solution for back pain or neck pain. Sciatica and leg pain may be relieved through surgery, however. When it comes to treating back pain, he believes there are three components to getting better:

  1. Learning about the mechanics of chronic pain and understanding that it's a neurological disorder
  2. Treating all the variables simultaneously. This includes sleep, stress, medication, nutrition, mental outlook on life and physical conditioning. "There's never one answer for chronic pain. People say, 'I tried a chiropractor, it didn't work.' Well, that could help 10 percent, but if you're not sleeping, it's not going to work. You have to combine modalities to get better," he says. "Sleep isNo. 1. The entire project is null and void unless you're sleeping"
  3. Taking control of your own care. For example, for some people chiropractic or acupuncture may be very helpful, whereas it may not work for others. You need to take an active role in determining what's best for you, and pursue treatments that work in your case

When seeing a new patient, for the first month or two, Dr. Hanscom works with simple medications to address sleep problems and pain. Then he will immediately ask you to start the expressive writing exercises, which teache you awareness and detachment, allowing you to reprogram your brain. Active meditation is also used.

"I simply have them put their brain on sensory input, maybe 20 to 30 times during the day. If you're anxious and frustrated, you simply listen to your sensory input. Instead of fighting the pathways, you place your attention elsewhere.

The second phase of the treatment is all about learning more about chronic pain, and addressing the physical part of your pain. He also stresses the need to work on forgiveness. Since pain pathways and anger pathways are linked, whenever your anger pathways are fired up, your pain pathways are going to be fired up, and vice versa. Dr. Hanscom recommends the book, “Forgive for Good,” by Fred Luskin, the director of the Forgiveness Projects at Stanford University, and who did four major research projects on forgiveness.

A retired physician and professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, Dr. John Sarno, was a forerunner in the field of using forgiveness to address chronic pain, and many of Sarno’s concepts have formed the foundation of what Dr. Hanscom now teaches.

It's also important to realize that working on your anger and anxiety issues may be a long-term process. An old issue may be triggered at any time, and unless you immediately address it, your pain may come back right along with your anger and anxiety. As noted by Dr. Hanscom:

"It can be base level stress or quirky stress. But you will get triggered. It took me a long time to accept that fact. I teach this stuff. But when I get triggered, I get angry about being triggered."

Surgery Is Best Reserved as a LAST Resort

In many if not most cases, pain can be resolved using very simple strategies. The key is to find what works for you, and more often than not, there's an emotional component that needs to be addressed. Dr. Hanscom, like me, strongly recommends leaving surgery as a very last resort. I also struggled with back pain for about five or six years, despite getting regular exercise and trying a large number of different treatments. Still, I persisted and continued to try different strategies. The approach that finally resolved my back pain was simply to avoid sitting! I now sit about one hour per day, and I have no back pain.

"I can't tell you how bad the suffering is for people with failed back surgery," Dr. Hanscom says. "I see people like you all the time, where some simple intervention solved the problem. And then I'm watching another person come in with five back surgeries in five years. They started out just like you. It's hard to watch.

I'm incredibly determined to bring this right to the mainstream public. I don't think mainstream medicine is going to buy into it, but I'm incredibly determined to get this out into the general public knowledge because, right now, the business in medicine is doing procedures that don't work because they make a profit, period …[But] I'm working very hard about creating my own gravity around the situation, and we're making some definite progress here at the hospital. My partners and I are looking at [pain] differently."

More Information

To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Hanscom’s book, “Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon's Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain.” Please do keep in mind that while it may initially seem like there’s nothing new here— perhaps you’re already familiar with medication and physical therapy for example, and therefore think it simply will not work for you— it’s the process that makes it work. And most importantly, your willingness to truly and fully engage in the process will determine much of your outcome. Dr. Hanscom views his book as a framework that presents known solutions to the various aspects of pain. Once you understand your situation in light of this structure you will find your own solution.

“It’s a very paradoxical process. You actually can’t fix yourself. [But] you are putting tools into place to allow your brain to heal,” he says ... “For instance, a lot of people have read the book and started their writing. Nothing really happens until those writing exercises start. Usually by the second or third … phone call they’re sort of  doing the tools but they’re heading for the wrong direction.”

This happens because sometimes these people are writing all day, long, Dr. Hanscom explains, and that’s actually counterproductive because you’re trying to capture your thoughts and “fix” them—which is another form of trying to regain control.

“This is a process about letting go of control, not having more control,” he says. It’s completely opposite of what we’ve been taught about stress. That’s why I think finding a coach of some sort who can guide you through the process is critical.I do think a psychologist can be very helpful for guidance and wisdom ... There’s just not an exact answer for different people. It’s more like a menu of options. But the key is staying persistent with the process.”

I would also encourage you to sit less, as sitting may actually be aggravating your back or neck pain. Cut it down to about three hours a day or less if you can. Also, while it's not a popular idea, consider being grateful that your body is wise enough to tell you that there's something in your life that needs to be changed, be it emotional in nature, or physical. A book that addresses this is “Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants,” by Dr. Paul Brand. Once you pinpoint the real problem, your pain can finally be released.

The Effects of Grounding

Sat, 11/21/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Have you ever walked barefoot on a warm sandy beach? Or kicked off your shoes and raked your toes through the grass on a dewy morning? There’s something inherently rewarding about the feeling of your skin in direct contact with the Earth, your bare hands in the soil working your garden, for instance.

This rewarding feeling isn’t happenstance; it’s the result of electrically conductive contact of your body with the surface of the Earth,  a phenomenon known as grounding or earthing.

The Earth carries an enormous negative charge. It's always electron-rich and can serve as a powerful and abundant supply of antioxidant and free-radical-busting electrons. Your body is finely tuned to "work" with the Earth in the sense that there's a constant flow of energy between your body and the Earth.

When you put your feet on the ground, you absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet. The effect is sufficient to maintain your body at the same negatively charged electrical potential as the Earth.

This simple process of grounding is one of the most potent antioxidants we know of. Grounding has been shown to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, improve sleep, enhance well being, and much, much more. Unfortunately, many living in developed countries are rarely grounded anymore.

James Oschman, who is an expert in the field of energy medicine, with a bachelor's degree in Biophysics and a PhD in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh, noted:1

Subjective reports that walking barefoot on the Earth enhances health and provides feelings of well-being can be found in the literature and practices of diverse cultures from around the world. For a variety of reasons, many individuals are reluctant to walk outside barefoot, unless they are on holiday at the beach.”

More Than a Dozen Studies Confirm the Physiological Effects of Grounding

Oschman, along with a dozen other researchers, has conducted research on the physiological effects of grounding. More than a dozen studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals showing its benefit for fighting inflammation, improving the immune response, wound healing, and the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.2

According to a review published in the Journal of Inflammation Research:3

“Grounding reduces or even prevents the cardinal signs of inflammation following injury: redness, heat, swelling, pain and loss of function… Rapid resolution of painful chronic inflammation was confirmed in 20 case studies using medical infrared imaging …

Our main hypothesis is that connecting the body to the Earth enables free electrons from the Earth’s surface to spread over and into the body, where they can have antioxidant effects.

Specifically, we suggest that mobile electrons create an antioxidant microenvironment around the injury repair field, slowing or preventing reactive oxygen species (ROS) delivered by the oxidative burst from causing ‘collateral damage’ to healthy tissue, and preventing or reducing the formation of the so-called “inflammatory barricade.”

We also hypothesize that electrons from the Earth can prevent or resolve so-called “silent” or “smoldering” inflammation.”

Interestingly, grounding research has now discovered that if you place your feet on the ground after an injury (or on a grounded sheet, or place grounding patches on the balls of your feet), electrons will migrate into your body and spread through your tissues.

Any free radicals that leak into the healthy tissue will immediately be electrically neutralized. This occurs because the electrons are negative, while the free radicals are positive, so they cancel each other out.

Grounding May Improve Sleep, Reduce Pain, Support Heart Health, and More

In a summary of findings to date, Oschman and colleagues noted that grounding appear to have a number of beneficial effects on health, including:4

Improve sleepNormalize the day-night cortisol rhythm Reduce painReduce stress Shift the autonomic nervous system from sympathetic toward parasympathetic activationIncrease heart rate variability Speed wound healingReduce blood viscosity

The concept of grounding was initially developed by Clint Ober, who began studying earthing in an effort to heal himself. In one study conducted by Ober in 2000, people who suffered from sleep disturbances and chronic muscle and joint pain were randomly divided to sleep either grounded or “sham” grounded.

Most who slept grounded reported symptomatic improvement in sleep and pain, and some also reported significant relief from asthmatic and respiratory conditions, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, sleep apnea, and hypertension. According to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health:5 “These results indicated that the effects of earthing go beyond reduction of pain and improvements in sleep.”

Yet another study found that grounding during a single night of sleep led to significant changes in concentrations of minerals and electrolytes in the subjects’ blood, and grounding for 72 hours led to a decrease in fasting glucose among people with diabetes.6

In addition, grounding while sleeping was also determined to be the first intervention known to speed recovery from delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is the pain and stiffness that occurs hours or days after strenuous exercise.7 Reduction in inflammation and stress as a result of grounding has also been documented.

According to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a prominent cardiologist, inflammation thrives when your blood is thick and you have a lot of free radical stress, and a lot of positive charges in your body. Grounding effectively alleviates inflammation because it thins your blood and infuses you with negatively charged ions through the soles of your feet.

Grounding for Anti-Aging Benefits

One of the dominant theories on aging is the free radical theory, which is that aging occurs because of accumulative damage to your body caused by free radicals. You get free radicals when you have an injury or chronic inflammation, from breathing, and from the food you eat, among other things.

While you don't want to completely eliminate ALL free radicals, you do want to maintain a healthy balance of antioxidant electrons in your body to ensure the damage from free radicals doesn't get out of hand.

Earthing can help accomplish this delicate balance, as evidenced by its effects on inflammation. Medical infrared imaging shows that inflammation begins to subside within 30 minutes of being grounded. At the same time, metabolic activity increases as does oxygen consumption, pulse rate and respiratory rate, and a decrease in blood oxygenation, within 40 minutes of grounding.

Researchers refer to this as “filling” the charge reservoirs, which, once saturated, can quickly deliver antioxidant electrons to sites of injury. According to the Journal of Inflammation Research:8

“These considerations also imply anti-aging effects of earthing or grounding, since the dominant theory of aging emphasizes cumulative damage caused by ROS produced during normal metabolism or produced in response to pollutants, poisons, or injury.

We hypothesize an anti-aging effect of grounding that is based on a living matrix reaching every part of the body and that is capable of delivering antioxidant electrons to sites where tissue integrity might be compromised by reactive oxidants from any source.”

‘An Essential Element in the Health Equation’

Simply by getting outside, barefoot, touching the Earth, and allowing the excess charge in your body to discharge into the Earth, you can alleviate some of the stress continually put on your system.

Walking barefoot can help ameliorate the constant assault of electromagnetic fields and other types of radiation from cell phones, computers, and Wi-Fi. It's also thought that grounding may actually facilitate the formation of structured water in your body.

Furthermore, grounding also calms your sympathetic nervous system, which supports your heart rate variability. When you support heart rate variability, this promotes homeostasis, or balance, in your autonomic nervous system. This is important because anytime you improve your heart rate variability, you're improving your entire body and all its functions. If you want to learn more, check out the Grounded documentary (in which I actually appear).

You'll hear first-hand accounts from residents of Haines, Alaska who have overcome chronic pain, sleep apnea, and much more simply by getting grounded. According to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, grounding is very much an essential element of human health:9

“Earthing research, observations, and related theories raise an intriguing possibility about the Earth’s surface electrons as an untapped health resource—the Earth as a ‘global treatment table.’ Emerging evidence shows that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, ANS dysfunction, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, disturbed HRV, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.

The research done to date supports the concept that grounding or earthing the human body may be an essential element in the health equation along with sunshine, clean air and water, nutritious food, and physical activity.”

Simple Ways to Get Grounded

Many Americans spend most of their waking hours wearing shoes with rubber or plastic soles. These materials are very effective insulators, which is precisely why they're used to insulate electrical wires. Yet, they also effectively disconnect you from the Earth's natural electron flow. Wearing leather-soled shoes will allow you to stay grounded with the Earth, as will walking barefoot, but you'll need to do so on the proper surface. Good grounding surfaces include:

  • Sand (beach)
  • Grass (preferably moist)
  • Bare soil
  • Concrete and brick (as long as it's not painted or sealed)
  • Ceramic tile

The following surfaces will NOT ground you:

  • Asphalt
  • Wood
  • Rubber and plastic
  • Vinyl
  • Tar or tarmac

As mentioned, simply taking off your shoes as much as you can when you're outdoors will help you take advantage of natural grounding opportunities. When indoors, using a grounding pad or sheet is an excellent way to stay grounded while you're working or sleeping. For frequent travelers, I typically bring a grounding pad with me when I fly, too, although Dr. Sinatra believes that simply taking your shoes off and putting your feet (bare or with socks) on the steel struts will do the trick as well. As noted in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health:10

“From a practical standpoint, clinicians could recommend outdoor ‘barefoot sessions’ to patients, weather, and conditions permitting. Ober et al. have observed that going barefoot as little as 30 or 40 minutes daily can significantly reduce pain and stress… Obviously, there is no cost for barefoot grounding. However, the use of conductive systems while sleeping, working, or relaxing indoors offer a more convenient and routine-friendly approach.”

Statin Nation II: What Really Causes Heart Disease?

Sat, 11/21/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

"Statin Nation II: What Really Causes Heart Disease?" is the sequel to the documentary "Statin Nation: The Great Cholesterol Cover-up." However, it stands well on its own, even if you didn't see the original film.

For many decades, the idea that saturated fats caused heart disease reigned supreme, and diets shifted sharply away from saturated animal fats such as butter and lard, toward partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine.

However, as people abandoned saturated fats and replaced them with trans fats, rates of heart disease continued on a steady upward climb. And, the more aggressive the recommendations for low-fat diets, the worse this trend became.

Last year, butter consumption in the US reached a 40-year peak, and the resurgence of butter has been attributed to a shift in consumer preferences away from processed foods and back toward natural foods.

This is a positive trend, showing that the old myth claiming that saturated fat is bad for you is finally starting to crumble. People are also starting to recognize that refined sugar is far worse for your heart than dietary fat was, and processed low-fat foods are typically loaded with sugar.

The French Paradox

According to the film, the long held view that saturated fats and cholesterol caused heart disease came under closer scrutiny in the 1990s, when researchers like Kurt Ellison with the Boston University started taking notice of what became known as the French Paradox.

The French eat a lot more fat than many other nations, yet they don't have higher rates of heart disease.

For example, in the UK people on average eat 13.5 percent of their total calories as saturated fat, whereas the French eat 15.5 percent saturated fat, yet their rate of heart disease deaths is about one-third of that in the UK — just 22 heart disease deaths per 100,000 compared to 63 per 100,000 in the UK.

Icelanders also consume higher amounts of saturated fat — on average 14.6 percent, but their rate of heart disease deaths is also lower than the UK, just 34 per 100,000.

The film reviews a number of statistics from other countries, including Denmark, Lithuania, and Portugal, which defy the idea that saturated fat consumption is associated with heart disease. The data simply doesn't bear this out.

Here's another startling example. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your saturated fat consumption below seven percent of your total calories, ideally around 5 or 6 percent.

Lithuania is very close to being on target, with a saturated fat consumption rate of 7.7 percent of total calories, yet Lithuania has one of the highest heart disease mortality rates in the world — 122 per 100,000.

Cholesterol Is Not a Major Factor in Heart Disease

Like saturated fat, cholesterol has also been wrongly demonized despite the fact that 60 years' worth of research has utterly failed to demonstrate any correlation between high cholesterol and heart disease.

Despite this, many, even most health professionals still cling to the idea that cholesterol raises your risk for heart disease, and that strategies that lower cholesterol also lower your heart disease risk.

Fortunately, limitations for cholesterol will likely be removed from the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which would be a welcomed change.

Cholesterol is actually one of the most important molecules in your body; indispensable for the building of cells and for producing stress and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D.

It's also important for brain health, and helps with the formation of your memories. Low levels of HDL cholesterol have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease, and may also increase your risk of depression, stroke, violent behavior, and suicide.

What You Need to Understand About HDL and LDL Cholesterol

While cholesterol is typically divided into HDL/"good" and LDL/"bad" cholesterol," there's really only one kind of cholesterol. The division into HDL and LDL is based on how the cholesterol combines with protein particles.

LDL and HDL are lipoproteins, meaning fats combined with proteins. Cholesterol is fat-soluble, and blood is mostly water, so for it to be transported in your blood, cholesterol needs to be carried by a lipoprotein, which is classified by density.

Large LDL particles are not harmful. Only small dense LDL particles can potentially be a problem, as they can squeeze through the lining of your arteries. If they oxidize, they can cause damage and inflammation.

Thus, it would be more accurate to say that there are "good" and "bad" lipoproteins (opposed to good and bad cholesterol). Dr. Stephen Sinatra, a board certified cardiologist, and Chris Kresser, L.Ac., an integrative medicine clinician, have both addressed this issue in previous interviews.

Some groups, such as the National Lipid Association, are now starting to shift the focus toward LDL particle number instead of total and LDL cholesterol, in order to better assess your heart disease risk. But this approach has not yet spread into the mainstream.

Statins Are Prescribed Based on an Incorrect Hypothesis

Since the cholesterol hypothesis is false, this also means that the recommended therapies — low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, and cholesterol lowering medications — are doing more harm than good. Statin treatment, for example, is largely harmful, costly, and has transformed millions of people into patients whose health is being adversely impacted by the drug. As previously noted by Dr. Frank Lipman:1

"[T]he medical profession is obsessed with lowering your cholesterol because of misguided theories about cholesterol and heart disease. Why would we want to lower it when the research2 actually shows that three-quarters of people having a first heart attack, have normal cholesterol levels, and when data over 30 years from the well-known Framingham Heart Study3 showed that in most age groups, high cholesterol wasn't associated with more deaths?

In fact, for older people, deaths were more common with low cholesterol. The research is clear – statins are being prescribed based on an incorrect hypothesis, and they are not harmless."

Statins Can Wreck Your Health in a Number of Ways

The film points out that research shows statins promote calcification of your arteries, and even though arterial calcification increases heart disease, these studies seem to be largely ignored by mainstream health professionals. Sherif Sultan, a professor of Vascular and Endovascular surgery who is featured in the film, notes that many people have in fact improved their health by getting off statins.

That certainly doesn't surprise me, considering the fact that studies have discovered a wide variety of problems associated with statin use, and virtually all of these problems are being downplayed or ignored altogether by conventional medicine.

Odds are actually very high — greater than 100 to one — that if you're currently taking a statin, you probably don't need it. Based on my own review of the evidence, the ONLY subgroup that might benefit from statins are those born with a genetic defect called familial hypercholesterolemia. Dr. Sinatra believes males with obstructions in their left anterior descending coronary artery might also benefit. For all others, statins are more likely to do you harm than good.

For example, research shows that statins:

Deplete your body of CoQ10 Statins deplete your body of CoQ10, which accounts for many of their devastating results. Although it was proposed to add a black box warning to statins stating this, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided against it in 2014. If you take a statin, you MUST take supplemental CoQ10, or better, the reduced form called ubiquinol. Increase insulin resistanceInsulin resistance promotes chronic inflammation in your body, and inflammation is the hallmark of most diseases. In fact, increased insulin resistance can lead to heart disease, which, ironically, is the primary reason for taking a cholesterol-reducing drug in the first place. It can also promote belly fat, high blood pressure, heart attacks, chronic fatigue, thyroid disruption, and diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and cancer. Increase diabetes riskBy raising your blood sugar, statins also increase your diabetes risk. When you eat a meal that contains starches and sugar, some of the excess sugar goes to your liver, which then stores it away as cholesterol and triglycerides. Statins work by preventing your liver from making cholesterol. As a result, your liver returns the sugar to your bloodstream, which raises your blood sugar levels.

Drug-induced diabetes and genuine type 2 diabetes are not necessarily identical. If you're on a statin drug and find that your blood glucose is elevated, it's possible that what you have is just hyperglycemia — a side effect, and the result of your medication.

Unfortunately, many doctors will at that point mistakenly diagnose you with "type 2 diabetes," and possibly prescribe another drug, when all you may need to do is simply discontinue the statin in order for your blood glucose levels to revert back to normal. Inhibit synthesis of vitamin K2By inhibiting the synthesis and function of vitamin K2 in your body, statins can raise your risk for atherosclerosis, heart failure, stroke, and other health problems. If you take a statin, a vitamin K2 supplement (MK7) is highly recommended. Reduces squaleneSqualene reduction caused by the statin can also raise your risk of immune system dysfunction. Interfere with the mevalonate pathwayThe mevalonate pathway is the central pathway for the steroid management in your body. Damage mitochondria Statins are toxic to the energy centers of your cells, called mitochondria. They impair heart muscle mitochondria function, disrupt ATP production (adenosine triphosphate, the energy molecules of your body), and alter intracellular signaling proteins. Interfere with selenium-containing proteinsSelenoproteins, such as glutathione peroxidase, are crucial for preventing oxidative damage in your muscle tissue. Blocking glutathione peroxidase unleashes free radicals and inflammation, which can damage muscle tissue, including your heart muscle. What REALLY Causes Heart Disease?

Statins really have nothing to do with reducing your heart disease risk. In fact, this class of drugs can actually increase your risk for heart problems — especially if you do not take ubiquinol (CoQ10) along with it to mitigate the depletion of CoQ10 caused by the drug. Taking extra vitamin K2 is also advisable.

Statins decrease CoQ10 for the identical reason they lower cholesterol, they impair the pathway your liver uses to make both of them. I believe this is probably its greatest toxicity as CoQ10 is absolutely essential for mitochondrial health. My new passion is understanding this at a fine molecular level as I'm convinced it is the core for the treatment and prevention of most cancers and the slowing down of the aging process. So if you are concerned about these issues, then I couldn't warn you more strongly to avoid statins.

Knowing that saturated fat and cholesterol have nothing to do with heart disease finally frees you to take a serious look at what does cause this potentially lethal condition. While the film focuses on how things such as cortisol, stress, and telomeres can influence heart disease, for most people heart disease is a result of poor lifestyle choices; some of the most important of which include the following. All of these things are well within your control, and don't cost much (if any) money to address.

A diet too high in sugar, trans fat, and oxidized cholesterol, and too low in healthy fatsAdded sugars, and processed fructose in particular, are a primary driver of metabolic dysfunction and heart disease. One recent 15-year long study, which included data for 31,000 Americans, found that those who consumed 25 percent or more of their daily calories as sugar were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who got less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar.

On the whole, the odds of dying from heart disease rose in tandem with the percentage of added sugar in the diet regardless of the age, sex, physical activity level, and body-mass index.

Trans fat may promote heart disease to an even greater degree than sugar. Structurally, trans fats are synthetic fatty acids produced during the hydrogenation process. (They are not present in either animal or vegetable fats.) Trans fats prevent the synthesis of prostacyclin, which is necessary to keep your blood flowing. When your arteries cannot produce prostacyclin, blood clots form, and you may succumb to sudden death.

Also, while dietary cholesterol is fine, oxidized cholesterol is not. Oxidized cholesterol forms when polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as soybean, corn, and sunflower oils) are heated. This oxidized cholesterol causes increased thromboxane formation — a factor that clots your blood.

So, if you want to protect your heart, avoid all hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils, and replace them with healthy saturated fats such as coconut and coconut oil, avocados, butter, animal fats like lard, and raw nuts. Lack of exercise Exercise protects against heart disease primarily by normalizing your insulin and leptin levels, and it is indeed potent medicine. A 2013 meta-review, which included 305 randomized controlled trials and nearly 339,300 people, found "no statistically detectable differences" between exercise and medications for heart disease, including statins. Lack of sun exposure Vitamin D is very important for reducing hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. In one study, vitamin D deficiency increased the risk of heart attack by 50 percent. What's worse, if you have a heart attack and you're vitamin D deficient, your risk of dying from that heart attack creeps up to nearly 100 percent. Ideally, you want to maintain a vitamin D level of 50 to 70 ng/ml year-round, or 70 to 100 ng/ml if you're trying to treat heart disease. Lack of grounding to the earth Grounding effectively alleviates inflammation because it thins your blood and infuses you with negatively charged ions through the soles of your feet. It also helps thin your blood by improving its zeta potential, which means it improves the energy between your red blood cells.

Research has demonstrated it takes about 80 minutes for the free electrons from the earth to reach your blood stream and transform your blood. Since heart disease is primarily caused by inflammation, regularly grounding yourself to the earth is a simple way to combat inflammation without spending a penny. Identifying Risk Factors for Heart Disease

If you want to understand what causes heart disease, you have to look at what causes damage to your artery walls, interferes in disease processes, and causes blood clotting. When the endothelial wall is damaged, repair mechanisms are set into motion, creating a "scab." To prevent this scab from dislodging, the endothelial wall grows over it, causing the area to become thickened. This is what is called atherosclerosis.

There's no fat (cholesterol) "clogging the pipe" at all; rather the arterial wall is thickened as a result of your body's natural repair process. So what causes damage to your arteries?

One of the primary culprits is sugar and fructose in particular. So eating a high sugar diet is a sure-fire way to put heart disease on your list of potential health problems. Meanwhile, total cholesterol will tell you virtually nothing about your disease risk, unless it's exceptionally elevated (above 330 or so, which would be suggestive of familial hypercholesterolemia, which, in my view, would be about the only time a cholesterol-reducing drug would be appropriate).

Two ratios that are far better indicators of heart disease risk are:

  • Your HDL/total cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very potent heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. This percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it's a significant indicator of risk for heart disease.
  • Your triglyceride/HDL ratios: This ratio should ideally be below 2.

Additional risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Your fasting insulin level: Any meal or snack high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose and then insulin to compensate for the rise in blood sugar. The insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight, and excess fat, particularly around your belly, is one of the major contributors to heart disease.
  • Your fasting blood sugar level: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100 to 125 mg/dl had a nearly 300 percent increase higher risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl. I personally believe your fasting blood sugar should be below 80 and is something that you should regularly monitor. You don't need a doctor's order for it as you can easily purchase blood (finger prick) tests on Amazon. I personally check mine and my blood ketone levels on a regular basis.
  • Your iron level: Iron can be a very potent driver of oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron levels you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your ferritin levels and make sure they are not much above 80 ng/ml. The simplest way to lower them if they are elevated is to donate your blood. If that is not possible you can have a therapeutic phlebotomy and that will effectively eliminate the excess iron from your body.

The Biggest Cause of Anxiety and Depression Is Traumatic Life Events

Thu, 11/19/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

It's estimated that 1 in 10 U.S. adults struggle with depression1 and another 40 million have anxiety. It's quite common, too, for someone with depression to also have anxiety. In fact, close to half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with anxiety.2

There's no doubt that both of these mental health conditions are at epidemic proportions, but the unanswered question remains why? Oftentimes you hear about depression or anxiety running in families, which leads to an assumption that your genetics may be to blame.

Another popular theory is that depression is due to some sort of 'chemical imbalance' in your brain (more on this later). But the truth is, in most cases no one really knows why some people are depressed or anxious while others are not, and most likely there are multiple factors at play.

Among them, and perhaps most important, could in fact be your life experiences, and particularly your experience of traumatic events.

Traumatic Life Events at the Root of Many Cases of Anxiety and Depression

A new study set out to determine what role familial risk, social circumstances and life events have on mental health, using surveys completed by nearly 33,000 people as their key form of data.3

They revealed that the single biggest determinant of anxiety and depression was traumatic life events, followed by to a lesser extent, family history of mental illness, income and education levels, relationship status and other social factors. According to the study's lead author:4

"Whilst we know that a person's genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression.

However, the way a person thinks about, and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel.

Whilst we can't change a person's family history or their life experiences, it is possible to help a person to change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels."

This is key, as it means that you are not powerless against depression and anxiety. Rather, it's possible to modify the way you think about traumatic life events in order to minimize their impact on your mental health. Antidepressant drugs, of course, will do nothing to help in this regard.

20 Percent of Population May Have a Gene Variant Linked to Depression

Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), is a key growth hormone that promotes healthy brain neurons and plays a vital role in memory. BDNF levels are critically low in people with depression, which animal models suggest may actually be a primary contributing cause.

Now researchers have determined that an alteration known as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the BDNF gene may further contribute to the risk of anxiety, depression and memory loss. All it takes is for one 'letter' of BDNF's genetic code to be 'misspelled' for the alteration to occur.

The SNP alteration not only decreases BDNF in neurons but also generates a protein (called Met66) that is different from the one produced by people without the alteration.

About 20 percent of the US population is thought to have the BDNF SNP that produces the Met66 protein, which, in turn, has been found to induce shrinking of neurons in the hippocampus, in areas of the brain important for memory and emotions. The shrinkage would reduce the connectivity between brain cells.

One of the study's researchers noted:5

"There can be a heritable component to these diseases and it makes sense that a common variant in a gene could be involved … Just like hypertension contributes to the risk for heart disease, the BDNF alteration increases the risk of depression, anxiety and memory disorders -- but is not the sole reason why they occur."

The researchers are currently looking to develop drugs that would target Met66 or block the proteins it binds to in people with the BDNF SNP alteration. However, it would be interesting to see how natural methods that promote optimal genetic expression would work instead.

Growing evidence indicates that both fasting and exercise trigger the expression of genes and growth factors that recycle and rejuvenate your brain tissues. These growth factors include BDNF, which is known to be released in response to the stress of exercise.

BDNF activates brain stem cells to differentiate into new neurons, while also triggering numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. Perhaps it is no coincidence, then, that exercise is also one of the best-known treatments for depression …

What About Chemical Imbalances?

As a physician, I have treated many thousands of depressed patients. Depression was actually one of my primary concerns in the mid-80s when I first started practicing. However, at that time my typical treatment tool was using antidepressants alone. I put thousands of people on these drugs and acquired a fair level of experience in this area.

Thankfully, I learned more methods of treatment and was able to pretty much stop drugs. It was my experience that the chemical imbalance theory was merely a massive marketing gimmick to support the use of expensive and toxic antidepressants.

Most of you have probably heard that depression is primarily due to a "chemical imbalance in your brain," which these drugs are designed to correct. Unfortunately this is not a scientific statement. So where did it come from?

The low serotonin theory arose because they understood how the drugs acted on the brain; it was a hypothesis that tried to explain how the drug might be fixing something.

However, that hypothesis didn't hold up to further investigation. Investigations were done to see whether or not depressed people actually had lower serotonin levels, and in 1983 the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) concluded:

"There is no evidence that there is anything wrong in the serotonergic system of depressed patients."

The serotonin theory is simply not a scientific statement. It's a botched theory—a hypothesis that was proven incorrect. The fact that this fallacy continues to thrive is likely harming the health of millions more than it's helping, because if you take an SSRI antidepressant drug that blocks the normal reuptake of serotonin, you end up with the very physiological problem the drug is designed to treat–low serotonin levels.

Which, ironically, is the state hypothesized to bring on depression in the first place. In 1996, neuroscientist Steven Hyman, who was head of the NIMH at the time, and is today president of the society for Neuroscience, published the paper Initiation and Adaptation: A Paradigm for Understanding Psychotropic Drugs,6 in which he explains this chain of events.

According to Dr. Hyman, once your brain has undergone a series of compensatory adaptations to the drug, your brain operates in a manner that is "both qualitatively and quantitatively different than normal."

So, it's important to understand that these drugs are NOT normalizing agents. They're abnormalizing agents, and once you understand that, you can understand how they might provoke a manic episode, or why they might be associated with sexual dysfunction or violence and suicide, for example.

How to Reprogram Your Thinking About Traumatic Events

Getting back to the original study that found traumatic life events are the major determining factor in depression and anxiety – but that the way you think about them is an equally strong determining factor, let's discuss how you can overcome such an emotional hurdle. The Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a form of psychological acupressure based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years, but without the invasiveness of needles.

Instead, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to transfer kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem -- whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, anxiety, etc. -- and voice positive affirmations. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit"—the emotional block—from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical and mental disease.

Some people are initially wary of these principles that EFT is based on -- the electromagnetic energy that flows through the body and regulates our health is only recently becoming recognized by western medicine. Others are initially taken aback by (and sometimes amused by) the EFT tapping and affirmation methodology.

But believe me when I say that, more than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, energy psychology (EFT being one type) has the most potential to literally work magic in this area. Clinical trials have shown that EFT is able to rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress. Once the distress is reduced or removed, the body can often rebalance itself, and accelerate healing. In the video above, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman shows how you can use EFT to even get rid of panic attacks.

The Gut Connection to Anxiety and Depression

Another factor worth mentioning is that unhealthy gut flora can impact your mental health, leading to issues such as anxiety, depression, autism and more. Research has found, for instance, that the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had a marked effect on GABA [an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is significantly involved in regulating many physiological and psychological processes] levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.7

Interestingly, just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut, including neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is also found in your brain. In fact, the greatest concentration of serotonin, which is involved in mood control, is found in your intestines, not your brain! (Perhaps this is another reason why antidepressants, which raise serotonin levels in your brain, are often ineffective in treating depression, whereas proper dietary changes often help.) This is where dietary changes such as reducing sugar intake and increasing your intake of probiotic-rich fermented foods can be invaluable for mood support.

Six Additional Factors for Improving Your Mental Health

There's no doubt in my mind that addressing traumatic life events is a crucial step to prevent and/or address depression and anxiety. That said, here are six additional strategies that can help you even further:

  1. Exercise – If you have depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST. The research is overwhelmingly positive in this area, with studies confirming that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. One of the primary ways it does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the "feel good" hormones, in your brain. It also helps to normalize your insulin and leptin signaling.
  2. Eat a healthy diet – A factor that cannot be overlooked is your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Avoiding sugar and grains will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, and eliminating artificial sweeteners will eliminate your chances of suffering its toxic effects.
  3. Optimize your gut health – Fermented foods, such as fermented vegetables are also important for optimal mental health, as they are key for optimizing your gut health. Many fail to realize that your gut is literally your second brain, and can significantly influence your mind, mood, and behavior. Your gut actually produces more mood-boosting serotonin than your brain does.
  4. Support optimal brain functioning with essential fats – I also strongly recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. This may be the single most important nutrient to battle depression.
  5. Get plenty of sunshine – Making sure you're getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. One previous study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders.
  6. Address your stress – Depression is a very serious condition, however it is not a "disease." Rather, it's a sign that your body and your life are out of balance. This is so important to remember, because as soon as you start to view depression as an "illness," you think you need to take a drug to fix it. In reality, all you need to do is return balance to your life, and one of the key ways to doing this is addressing stress. Meditation or yoga can sometimes help. If weather permits, get outside for a walk. But in addition to that you can also use EFT, as mentioned.

If you have been personally affected by depression or anxiety my heart goes out to you. A broken body can be easier to fix than a broken mind. Depression and anxiety are real. It is my hope that you will be encouraged and inspired by the information in this article to help those who are struggling.

Poison Plus Nutrition Does Not Equal a Balanced Diet

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

According to soda companies like Coca-Cola, sugary beverages can be safely enjoyed as part of a "balanced" diet and lifestyle. But what kind of "balance" are they really talking about?

In essence, the "balance" referred to here is a balance between poison and nutrition. The idea they're promoting is that if you eat a healthy diet, you can safely indulge in a little bit of poison every now and then.

This is the only balance they can refer to, because when it comes to real foods and pure water — which is the only beverage your body cannot live without — maintaining balance is not really an issue.

When you eat real food, it is beneficial and you don't need to concern yourself with adverse effects like obesity and diabetes.

Even a Little Junk Food Adversely Impacts Health

Food either supports health, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, it shouldn't be construed as an acceptable part of a healthy diet. It should be accurately portrayed as a junk food to be consumed as little as possible, if ever.

The idea that junk food can be safely enjoyed in moderation was recently demolished yet again with the publication of a study1,2,3 showing that eating just one junk food treat per day for one month is enough to trigger metabolic syndrome in healthy people.

The treats, which provided an additional 1,300 calories per day, included an assortment of candy bars and pastries.

In people already diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, which includes symptoms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and elevated blood sugar levels, indulging in one milkshake per day for one month exacerbated their condition.

Metabolic syndrome in turn can have deadly consequences, raising your risk for diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. As noted by co-author Suzan Wopereis:

"Acute affects of diet are mostly small, but may have large consequences in the long run.

Our novel approach allows detection of small but relevant effects, thereby contributing to the urgently needed switch from disease-care to healthcare, aiming for a life-long optimal health and disease prevention.'"

Snack Ads Dominate While Cost of Severe Obesity Now Tops $8 Billion

Medicaid spends $8 billion per year on severe obesity4 — an expense that is entirely avoidable. Obesity may also be a contributing factor to increased use of prescription drugs in the US.

Harvard researchers warn that 59 percent of American adults now use at least one prescription drug5 — a 50 percent increase from a decade ago. More people are also taking multiple drugs, which increases the risk of adverse drug interactions.

About 15 percent of adults now take more than five drugs, and the researchers suggest this rise in drug use may be related to an increase in obesity.

To prevent obesity though, people need to be told the truth about nutrition and processed foods. The food industry must be held accountable for its lies, and junk food advertising for kids needs to be minimized or abolished.

According to a recent report, 40 percent of the ads kids see on television are for sugary snacks, and research6 shows these early impressions can significantly shape their future food habits.

Since 2010, snack ads have increased by 18 percent. In 2014, preschoolers saw an average of 582 snack ads on TV, kids aged 6 to 11 saw 629 snack ads, an increase of 10 percent since 2010, and teens saw 635 snack ads, an increase of 29 percent.

Food companies are also targeting certain ethnic groups to a greater extent than others. As reported by CNN:7

"Marketing of savory snacks to black and Hispanic youth shot up 551 percent, whereas yogurt ads dropped 93 percent between 2010 and 2014. Black children saw 64 percent more snack food ads on TV than white children, and 129 percent more ads for savory snacks."

Adults are also seeing more ads for junk food. In 2014, adults saw 793 snack ads, a 32 percent increase since 2010. Millions of junk food ads were also placed on YouTube and Facebook in 2014.

Soda Linked to Increased Risk for Heart Failure

Swedish researchers are also warning that soda consumption may raise your risk for heart failure. The study8,9 included 42,000 men (aged 45 to 79) who were followed for nearly 12 years. Men who drank two or more glasses of soda or other sweetened beverages per day had a 23 percent greater risk of developing heart failure than those who avoided these types of drinks.

While the study cannot prove causation, lead author Susanna Larsson told Reuters10 that: "The take-home message is that people who regularly drink sweetened beverages should consider reducing their consumption."

Cutting Sugar Can Quickly Improve Your and Your Child's Health

Another recent and widely publicized study demonstrates just how quickly your health can improve simply by cutting out added sugars. The research11,12,13,14 was led by Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist who has long argued that added sugar is toxic when consumed in too-high amounts.

By replacing refined sugars and processed fructose with starches, obese children saw significant improvements in biomarkers associated with health in just 10 days, even though their overall calorie intake and the overall percentage of carbohydrates remained the same.

The study reduced the amount of added sugars from an average of 27 percent of daily calories down to about 10 percent, which is in line with the most recent recommendations by the federal government's Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, issued in February.

As noted by Dr. Lustig:15

"Every aspect of their metabolic health got better, with no change in calories. This study definitively shows that sugar is metabolically harmful not because of its calories or its effects on weight. Rather, sugar is metabolically harmful because it's sugar."

On average, the children (aged eight to 18) saw the following improvements in their lab work and disease markers after this short intervention:

  • LDL cholesterol fell by 10 points
  • Diastolic blood pressure fell five points
  • Triglycerides were reduced by 33 points
  • Fasting blood sugar dropped by 53 percent
  • Insulin levels also significantly improved
Refined and Processed Sugars Are Different from Sugars Found in Whole Foods

From a health standpoint, the children were not placed on an ideal diet — they were fed hot dogs and baked potato chips for example, but this was done specifically to demonstrate the impact of added sugars on metabolic health.

Refined sugar and processed fructose such as high-fructose corn syrup is FAR more harmful than glucose and other sugars found in whole foods. Even fructose in whole fruit is less harmful than processed high-fructose corn syrup due to the presence of fiber in the fruit. Dr. Lustig notes this difference in the featured interview.

Soda Politics and the Energy Balance Scam

The video above was produced by the Global Energy Balance Network, a front group secretly funded by Coca-Cola.16,17,18,19,20 The chief aim of this group appears to be to confuse consumers about soda science, and divert attention away from the mounting evidence showing that sweet beverages are a major contributor to obesity and diseases associated with insulin resistance, such as diabetes.

As reported by The New York Times,21 which exposed the ties between Coca-Cola and the Global Energy Balance Network back in August of this year:

"Coca-Cola, the world's largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new 'science-based' solution to the obesity crisis: to maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise, and worry less about cutting calories. The beverage giant has teamed up with influential scientists who are advancing this message in medical journals, at conferences and through social media...

'Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, 'Oh they're eating too much, eating too much, eating too much' — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks, and so on,' the group's vice president, Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, says in a recent video announcing the new organization. 'And there's really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.'"

To claim that evidence is lacking is beyond ludicrous, and in support of the New York Times' exposé, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) wrote a Letter to the editor22 signed by 36 leading researchers, scientists, and public health officials, noting that Coca-Cola is blatantly ignoring the "well-documented evidence that sugary drinks are a major contributor to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes."

My recent interview with Marion Nestle about her new book, Soda Politics, goes into extensive details on how the soda industry manipulates and distorts the truth on this issue to protect their business. I've included it again below for your convenience.

Download Interview Transcript

Food Companies Should Stop Fighting the Obvious, Obesity Expert Says

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed adding "added sugar" to the Nutrition Facts panel on processed foods, set at 10 percent of total energy intake for a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. The total amount of added sugar would also be listed in grams. With few exceptions, food companies are aggressively opposed to the proposal, claiming it will only add confusion,23 as they believe all sugar calories are metabolically identical.

In an article24 titled "Food Companies Should Stop Fighting the Obvious: Sugar is Ruining Our Health," Dr. Lustig blasts the food industry's outdated view that all calories are created equal, and that there's insufficient evidence demonstrating that added sugars are different from sugars found in whole foods.

He also notes that U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala) has even introduced a House bill that would restrict federal nutritional guidelines to those backed by "robust scientific evidence" only. This means any nutritional guideline would have to be proven through randomized controlled trials.

"The problem is that clinical nutritional data almost never reach robust proof, because you can't change the diets of people for 50 years to see if they develop more diabetes or heart disease; it's expensive, unethical, and unlawful," Dr. Lustig writes. "Scientists have shown that adding extra sugar to people's diets worsens cardiometabolic risk factors, such as high triglycerides, blood pressure, glucose and insulin levels, or low HDL — all components of what is called 'metabolic syndrome.'"

Dr. Lustig goes on to discuss the findings of his latest study, in which biomarkers for health were significantly improved in obese children in just 10 days by trading added sugars for starches. Both are carbohydrates, but his short-term experiment clearly shows that all calories are NOT created equal when it comes to their health effects. As noted by Dr. Lustig:

"Our study... establishes a direct relationship between added sugar and these chronic diseases, unrelated to its calories or its effects on weight... [E]very aspect of their metabolic health improved... all without changing the children's calorie intake or weight and without exercise.

We simply substituted starch for sugar in their processed food and watched their health improve. This is not correlation. It's causation — the most robust evidence of all... To turn our epidemic of metabolic syndrome around, the food industry must reduce the sugar it surreptitiously adds to processed foods... Science should drive policy, but the politics get in the way.

And politics is based on money. The food industry nets about $450 billion per year, yet America wastes at least $830 billion per year caring for diseases linked to metabolic syndrome... This is unsustainable, and a major reason why Medicare and Social Security will be broke by 2030. The USDA must do the right thing and curb Americans' consumption of added sugar, rather than kowtowing to the processed-food industry."

Are You Eating Too Much Sugar?

The American Heart Association and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend limiting your daily added sugar intake to 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women. The average American, however, consumes around 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and this is quite clearly far too much for your body to handle. A meta-review25 published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that once you reach 18 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, there's a two-fold increase in metabolic harm that promotes pre-diabetes and diabetes.

I strongly recommend limiting your daily fructose intake to 25 grams or less from all sources, including natural sources such as fruit — regardless of whether you're male or female. That equates to just over 6 teaspoons of total sugar a day. If you're insulin resistant, which applies to about 80 percent of Americans, you'd be wise to limit your total fructose to 15 grams per day until your insulin resistance is resolved.

You don't have to become another disease statistic... The power to get healthy really is in your hands, and one of the most powerful strategies to improve your health is to cut down (or eliminate) refined sugar and processed fructose (corn syrup). A good place to start would be to cut down on soda and juice if you're currently drinking it on a regular basis, until you get to zero. Then, start working on trading out processed foods for whole foods. It's not rocket science to figure out what a healthy diet is. In short, it's REAL FOOD — food in its unadulterated state, or as minimally processed as possible.

The following chart will provide a few more clarifying details:

Foods that promote weight gain Foods that promote healthy weight Processed foods of all kinds Whole, unadulterated (ideally organic) vegetables, fruits, and berries Added sweeteners, regardless of whether they have calories or not. This includes all forms of added sugars, especially processed fructose (such as high-fructose corn syrup), but also artificial sweeteners, which confuse your metabolism and trick your body into storing fat Unprocessed, unpasteurized traditionally cultured and fermented foods, such as kefir, kambucha, natto, kimchee, and fermented vegetables of all kinds Meats from confined animal feeding operations, as they're typically fed genetically engineered grains contaminated with glyphosate instead of plain grass, plus antibiotics and other growth promoters to fatten up the animals as quickly as possible.

Farmed fish are also fed an inappropriate diet that reduces their nutritional quality Organically-raised grass-fed meats, pastured chicken, and wild-caught fish that are low in contaminants Processed grains of all kinds, including organic ones, as they all break down into sugar in your body. Unless organic, grains may also be contaminated with glyphosate even if they're not genetically engineered. Such is the case with most conventional wheat for example Fresh sprouts, which can be easily grown at home. A wide variety of seeds can be sprouted, which maximizes their nutritional value.

For example, once sunflower seeds are sprouted, their protein, vitamin, and mineral content will typically provide you with 30 times the nutrient content of organic vegetables Trans fats, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, such as margarine, canola, corn, and soy oils Healthy fats, including organically-raised grass-fed meats, fatty fish like wild caught salmon, coconut oil, olives and olive oil,26 avocado, raw nuts,27 organic pastured egg yolks, and butter made from raw grass-fed milk.

For cooking, tallow and lard are ideal. Since they're saturated fats, they do not oxidize when heated. And, since saturated fats do not have double bonds that can react with oxygen, they also cannot form dangerous aldehydes or other toxic oxidation products.

Coconut oil is another healthy option, as it too resists oxidation when heated

Common Causes and Simple Treatments for Warts of All Kinds

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Warts are a common growth on the skin, and are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are over 100 different types of HPV which infect the skin. Most masses can be located on your genitals, in your mouth, or commonly on your hands and feet.

Some types of HPV are associated with cancerous growths and all are contagious. However, it is not uncommon for just one family member to have them and on just one area of the body, such as the hands.

Warts appear when the HPV virus infects the top layer of the skin, often in an area where the skin has been broken. Common warts are often skin colored and feel rough to the touch, but can have small black dots in the center. Other types of warts may appear flat and smooth, or be large and disfiguring.

5 Risks for Getting Warts
  1. Children and teens are at higher risk of having warts, especially common warts, plantar warts, and flat warts. The human papillomavirus is more easily contracted when there is a break in the skin, which might explain why children and teens are at greater risk.1
  2. People who bite their nails or pull at hangnails also have a higher risk of contracting warts on their hands and spreading those warts to their mouth or other areas of the skin.2
  3. People who bite their nails often have multiple periungual warts over several different nails. Periungual warts are located in the base of the nailbed. They will often raise the nail, cause abnormal growth of the nail, and be a source of pain, disfigurement, and embarrassment.

  4. Men and women who shave their pubic hair are at risk for HPV infection-causing warts.3 French researchers examined individuals who were at a private skin clinic in Nice, France.
  5. They found that 93 percent who had Molluscum contagiosum, a mild sexually transmitted disease, also had removed their pubic hair through waxing, shaving, or clipping. Warts were also found and could easily be spread to the area during sex or from scratching the open and irritated skin, transferring the HPV virus.

  6. People with a weakened immune system will contract warts more easily.  The immune system can be weakened by poor nutrition, medications used to suppress the immune system, and prevent rejection after organ transplantation, or by diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
  7. People who are sexually active. The greater the number of sexual partners you are engaged with the higher your risk of contracting genital warts. If you have sex with a partner who has a high number of sexual partners, this also increases your overall risk for contracting genital warts from HPV.
What Type of Wart Do I Have?

Although there are well over 100 different types of human papillomavirus, only a few of those cause the warts with which you are probably familiar.

The common wart, also called verruca vulgaris, is flesh-colored with small raised spots on the skin surface. They begin as small flesh colored growths and grow to about quarter inch in diameter. They are rough to the touch and most often appear on the hands, elbows, knees, fingers, and around the nails.

When you look closely you may see small black dots in the wart. These black dots are often referred to as “seeds” but are actually superficial blood vessels which supply the wart with oxygen and nutrients. Because of the dense tissue in the center of the wart, these vessels have clotted and appear black.

Plantar warts, also called verruca plantaris, are common warts that grow on the bottom of the foot. The flat appearance of these warts is related to being pressed by the weight of the individual.

Sufferers complain that the wart feels like small stones are under their feet when walking, causing swelling and tenderness to the foot.

The discomfort will also change the way a person walks, which increases the risk of knee, hip, and back pain. Plantar warts can occur as a single wart, but more frequently in a pattern grouped closely together.

Flat warts, also known as verruca plana, have a flat and smooth surface, unlike the common wart. They are usually smaller, occur in greater numbers, and are often found on the face, legs, and arms.

Genital warts, known as condylomata accuminata, come in a variety of sizes. When they are large they have a cauliflower-like appearance. While other varieties of HPV will grow in dry places such as the elbow or legs, this strain of the virus prefers warm, moist surfaces such as the genitals or rectal area.

Genital warts are classified as a sexually transmitted disease, although they are not always transmitted during sex, since skin-to-skin contact is all you need to spread them.. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest incidence of genital warts reported is in the age group between 20 and 24 years.4

Different Treatments for Different Types of the HPV Virus

Remember, in more than 90 percent of cases, your immune system can clear up an HPV infection within two years on its own, so keeping your immune system strong is important.

Most of the different types of warts have the potential to resolve spontaneously over several years. However, many people are interested in having the warts treated and removed to reduce the potential for infecting themselves in other areas of the body or infecting a family member or friend.

The type of treatment used can vary from home remedies to treatments only available in a physician’s office. While there are over-the-counter treatments for common warts, flat warts, and plantar warts, genital warts should always be evaluated and treated by your physician.

One of the most commonly sold over-the-counter remedies for warts is a salicylic acid based compound which removes a few layers of the wart at a time.

This type of treatment is not used on the face because it can cause scarring. These products commonly contain between 17 percent and 40 percent salicylic acid.

The wart should first be thinned by using a pumice stone or nail file across the top until all the white, dead skin is removed. Stop before the wart is bleeding or when you are uncomfortable.

Do not share this pumice stone or nail file with others or use on other parts of your body because you can transmit the wart virus and develop more warts.

You may find that soaking the wart in warm water will help to soften before filing it down. Apply the solution, gel, or pads to the wart and use as directed on the packaging. Try not to get the solution on the healthy skin around the wart. Cover the area with an adhesive bandage, duct tape, or black electrical tape. Repeat this process as directed on the packaging.

Duct Tape Really Can Fix Anything

There is also evidence that using just duct tape is more effective than cryotherapy (cold therapy or freezing) applied in the physician’s office. The treatment was tested by applying a piece of duct tape over the wart for six days. The tape was then removed, the wart soaked in warm water and filed. The tape remained off overnight and reapplied the next day for another six days.

This treatment protocol was compared against freezing therapy done in a physician’s office with liquid nitrogen applied for 10 seconds every two to three weeks for a maximum of six treatments. The researchers found that the individuals who received the cryotherapy had a 60 percent success rate with complete resolution of the wart.

However, those who used the duct tape enjoyed an 85 percent success rate with complete resolution. This difference is statistically significant and the researchers concluded that duct tape occlusive therapy was more effective than cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen.5

Some Natural Treatment Options

Other at-home remedies are aimed at improving your own immune system, which can fight off the HPV virus and resolve the warts spontaneously. Shiitake mushrooms fall into that category. In a study released from the University of Florida, researchers found that the shiitake mushroom improved the function and number of gamma-delta T cells and reduced inflammatory proteins in the body. The participants in the study ate a four-ounce serving of shiitake mushrooms every day for four weeks.6

In another pilot clinical trial from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, researchers found that using a supplemental extract from the shiitake mushroom over a three-month period of time had a significantly positive effect on the reduction or removal of HPV. In this study, 10 women who were HPV-positive were given the supplement once daily for up to five months. Fifty percent of them were free of the HPV virus at that point.

The extract used, AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) is readily available in health food stores and has no known side effects. In the next clinical trial the researchers plan to extend the trial period to six months.7

Zinc is another natural compound which can modulate the immune system, especially in persons who are deficient in the mineral. Zinc has a profound effect on the immune system. A deficiency can reduce the capacity of the body to fight infections. Based on this foundation one study found that zinc sulfate, administered at a rate of 10mg per kg of body weight daily, would completely clear HPV in 87 percent of the treatment group as compared to 0 percent clearance in the placebo group.8

Dermatologists also have several options for wart removal. Cantharidin is applied as a blistering agent which the causes a blister to form under the wart. One week later you return to the office to have the physician clip the wart away.

Cryotherapy is a treatment using liquid nitrogen which freezes the wart. Similar treatments using silver nitrate are now available over-the-counter as well. However, the treatment must be applied as directed on the package in order to be effective. Because these freezing treatments can be painful, it may be necessary to have a second person apply the treatment to get the full effect if you aren’t able to hold the treatment in place the necessary amount of time.

Electrosurgery and curettage is a treatment using burning for common warts and plantar warts. The dermatologist may scrape the wart before or after burning the area. This treatment burns the skin, so you’ll need to protect and treat the area afterward as directed by your physician to prevent any infections and reduce scarring. The dermatologist may recommend bleomycin if the warts are not responsive to other methods of treatment. Bleomycin is an anti-cancer medication which is injected directly into the wart. It can have other more significant side effects, such as losing a nail if the shot is given in the finger.

Genital Warts Are Different

Do not attempt to treat genital warts at home. Over 40 different types of HPV can infect the genital tract and 90 percent of those don’t cause symptoms and resolve spontaneously within two years of the infection. But, persistent infections with HPV may increase your risk of cancer. Of the 13 different strains of HPV that are known to cause cancer, types 16 and 18 account for 70 percent of the cervical cancers worldwide.9

Your physician will discuss the possible treatments for genital warts with you. The factors that often influence the treatment plan will include the size of the warts, how many there are, where they are located, cost of the treatment, convenience to the individual, adverse effects of the treatments, and your preference. Most genital warts respond within three months of treatment. Although complications are rare, the skin where the wart once was may stay darker or lighter than the surrounding area.

Some doctors may recommend getting vaccinated with an HPV vaccine such as Gardasil to protect against four HPV strains associated with genital warts and cancer.

Proponents of the Gardasil vaccination claim that it’s safe and effective for children and adults who want to prevent the spread of the HPV virus. The evidence, however, does not support this. There’s  evidence showing the HPV vaccine can trigger significant neurological side effects and immune system disorders. Recent research even suggests the vaccine may render you susceptible to more serious strains of HPV.

It's important to note that HPV vaccination does not treat existing HPV infections, nor does it work if you have previously been infected with the HPV's in the vaccine. I recommend doing some serious homework before you agree to take this vaccine, or give it to your child.

Use a Physician Who Listens

Your healthcare and the healthcare of your children is in your hands. You must take the responsibility to make the decisions about prevention, treatment, and vaccines. Doctors, agencies, researchers, and scientists will not be the individuals who experience the side effects from treatment or live with the problems that result. While it may take some work, keep looking until you find a doctor who will listen to your concerns and work with you to ensure good health for yourself and your family.

Is Whole Milk Dairy Better Than Low Fat?

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Are you still eating low-fat or no-fat dairy products? If you are, you probably think you’re doing the right thing for your health. And if you check with virtually any public health agency, they’d wholeheartedly agree.

The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and American Cancer Society, for instance, all recommend low-fat or no-fat dairy. The US Department of Agriculture, in their nutrition guidelines for Americans, also advises, Dairy Group choices should be fat-free or low-fat.”1

So what’s the problem? The advice to eat low-fat foods, including dairy, is antiquated, at least back to the 1970s, when low-fat diets were first recommended.

It’s also not scientifically supported, and if you’re choosing low-fat over full-fat, not only are you missing out on taste, flavor and satisfaction, but you’re missing out on valuable benefits to your health – benefits that come from eating full-fat foods.

Skim Milk Was Once Considered ‘Hog Slop’

While you’ve probably become accustomed to seeing skim milk, 1 percent, 2 percent, and whole when purchasing milk, keep in mind that it wasn’t always this way. Prior to World War II, skim milk was not sold in stores, but rather thrown away or used as feed for chickens, hogs and calves.

During World War II, dried milk powder became a preferred relief food, with the government asking U.S. dairies to produce 200 million pounds of dry skim milk powder for America’s allies.

When the war ended, however, a new marketing strategy was necessary. As written in the book "Pure and Modern Milk: An Environmental History Since 1900" by Kendra Smith-Howard:2

The development of skim milk as an attractive product for sale only came about because dairy producers, emboldened by their success selling milk to Uncle Sam during World War II, seized on postwar marketing opportunities to sell what once had been hog slop to housewives and families.”

From Byproduct to Weight-Loss Sensation

While milk was once marketed as a wholesome food for children, the industry capitalized on growing weight-gain concerns among Americans, and began marketing it as a diet food. Smith-Howard writes:3

As prices for whole milk increased in the late 1940s, milk dealers in the fluid milk market, as well as dried milk dealers, turned to skim milk as a promising product in its own right.

Though many consumers were skeptical about the value of skim milk, dairy companies enticed them with promises that drinking skim milk would help them lose weight.

Milk dealers secured the backing of physicians. As had been the case for certified and pasteurized milk in the Progressive Era, the recommendations of physicians gave skim milk newfound legitimacy.

Although physicians had long suggested nonfat milk to patients who had difficulty digesting fats or were elderly, weight-conscious consumers became the largest sector of the skim milk market in the 1950s.

Emphasizing skim milk’s role in promoting slenderness transformed skim milk’s reputation as a low-cost relief food to one that high-income dieters would embrace.”

Meanwhile, in 1953 University of Minnesota professor Ancel Keys published a flawed and cherry-picked paper that serves as the basis for nearly all of the initial scientific support for the Cholesterol Theory (the notion that eating saturated fat raises your cholesterol levels and leads to heart disease).

The nutrition community of that time completely accepted the hypothesis, and encouraged the public to cut out butter, red meat, animal fats, eggs, dairy and other "artery clogging" fats from their diets, a radical change at that time that is still very much in force today.

Accumulating research is showing, however, that this switch to low-fat has not only caused rates of chronic disease to skyrocket; it’s also been making people fat.

The Case for Full-Fat Dairy

A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition looked at the relationship between the consumption of dairy fat and high-fat dairy foods, obesity, and cardiometabolic disease.4

Those who ate full-fat dairy were no more likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes than those who ate low-fat dairy. Further, those who ate full-fat dairy were less likely to be obese.

According to the researchers:

“The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk.”

A separate study similarly found that low intake of dairy fat (no butter and low-fat milk and seldom/never whipping cream) was associated with a higher risk of developing central obesity while a high intake of dairy fat (butter, high-fat milk and whipping cream) was associated with a lower risk of central obesity.5

Still more research showed women who ate at least one serving of full-fat dairy a day gained 30 percent less weight over a nine-year period than women who ate only low-fat (or no) dairy products.6 In addition to weight benefits, previous studies have also shown that consuming full-fat dairy may help reduce your risk of:

  • Cancer: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of fat found naturally in cow's milk, significantly lowers the risk of cancer. In one study, those who ate at least four servings of high-fat dairy foods each day had a 41 percent lower risk of bowel cancer than those who ate less than one.7 Each increment of two servings of dairy products reduced a woman’s colon cancer risk by 13 percent.
  • Heart Disease: People who ate the most full-fat dairy were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, according to a 16-year study of Australian adults.8
  • Type 2 Diabetes: People who ate eight portions of full-fat dairy products a day cut their risk of diabetes by nearly 25 percent compared to those who ate fewer portions.9
Omega-3 Fats Reduce Inflammation, Offer Heart Protection

When referring to healthy fats, it’s not only those in organic, full-fat pastured raw dairy that are beneficial. Your body needs many types of fat to function properly, so you’ll want to let go of the notion that a low-fat diet is healthy. The fats you want to avoid are synthetic fats, such as trans fats, or rancid omega-6 polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), such as those found in vegetable oils.

Eating too much damaged omega-6 fat and too little beneficial omega-3 sets the stage for the very health problems you seek to avoid, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes, just to name a few. Most people, especially Americans, are guilty of this lopsided omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, and to correct it, you typically need to do two things:

  1. Significantly decrease omega-6 by avoiding processed foods and foods cooked at high temperatures using vegetable oils
  2. Increase your intake of heart-healthy animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil

Research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego, CA, for instance, found that taking a high-dose omega-3 fat supplement (in this case 4 grams daily for six months) was highly beneficial for people who had suffered a heart attack. Those taking the omega-3 had lower levels of inflammation as well as improved cardiac structure and heart functioning compared to those taking a placebo.10

Both omega-3 and omega-6 fats are PUFAs and they're both essential to your health, but when omega-6 is consumed in excess, it becomes problematic — and even more so if it’s damaged through processing.

As a group, when consumed in the wrong ratios, PUFAs tend to stimulate inflammatory processes in your body, rather than inhibit them. It is my belief that most people would benefit from taking a high-quality animal based omega-3 supplement, in addition to reducing the amount of omega-6 — which you get plenty of from processed foods. In my view, krill oil is clearly your best option when it comes to obtaining important high quality animal based omega-3 fats. It contains essential EPA and DHA in a double chain phospholipid structure that makes it far more absorbable than the omega-3s in fish oil.

Nuts Lower Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Nuts are another maligned food due to their high fat content. But once again, research is showing that high-fat nuts are among the healthiest foods you can eat. For instance, a study found that teenagers who eat nuts have a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of symptoms associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Those who ate the equivalent of a small handful of nuts three times a week were less than half as likely to develop metabolic syndrome compared to those who ate none. The risk decreased with each additional gram per day of nut intake (up to 1.8 ounces a day).11

Research has also shown that people who regularly ate a small handful of nuts at least seven times per week were 20 percent less likely to die for any reason, compared to those who largely avoided nuts in their diet.12 So what we’re seeing is increasing research that healthy fats lead to a healthy body. Yet most Americans are not eating enough healthy fats while at the same time consuming too many refined carbs, an especially dangerous combination.

Replacing Saturated Fats With Carbs Is Especially Dangerous

As Americans cut out healthy saturated fats from their diet, they replaced them largely with refined carbohydrates. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 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.13

Likewise, a 2014 study in BMJ Open Heart concluded “the benefits of a low-fat diet (particularly a diet replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or Ω-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids) are severely challenged.”14 According to the report, the potential harms of replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates or omega-6 polyunsaturated fats include:

Increase in small, dense LDL particles. Shift to an overall atherogenic lipid profile (lower HDL cholesterol, increase in triglycerides and an increase in the ApoB/ApoA-1 ratio). Smaller improvements in glucose tolerance, body fatness, weight, inflammation and thrombogenic markers Increased incidence of diabetes and obesity Increased risk of cancer Increased risk of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular events, death due to heart disease and overall mortality Increased oxidized LDL cholesterol Reduction in HDL cholesterol

Based on evidence from the literature, the researchers recommended the following dietary recommendations:

Dietary guideline recommendations suggesting the replacement of saturated fat with carbohydrates/omega-6 polyunsaturated fats do not reflect the current evidence in the literature. A change in these recommendations is drastically needed as public health could be at risk. The increase in the prevalence of diabetes and obesity in the USA occurred with an increase in the consumption of carbohydrate not saturated fat. There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health. Indeed, the literature indicates a general lack of any effect (good or bad) from a reduction in fat intake. The public fear that saturated fat raises cholesterol is completely unfounded as the low-density lipoprotein particle size distribution is worsened when fat is replaced with carbohydrate. A public health campaign is drastically needed to educate on the harms of a diet high in carbohydrate/sugar. It would be naive to assume that any recommendations related to carbohydrate or fat intake would apply to processed foods, which undoubtedly should be avoided if possible. How to Increase Your Intake of Healthy Fats

The take-home message here is that eating saturated fats such as butter, coconut oil, and raw whole milk will not increase your risk of chronic disease or make you fat. 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 grains.

Replacing saturated fats with trans fats and non-vegetable carbohydrates is precisely what has led to rising rates of chronic disease and obesity over the past several decades. Fortunately, reversing this trend is rather simple, at least on an individual level: eat more health fat. Many would benefit from getting as much as 50-85 percent of their daily calories from fats. Although this sounds like a lot, by volume the largest portion of your plate would be vegetables because they have so few calories. Examples of healthy fats that you can enjoy and feel good about eating include:

Avocados Butter made from raw grass-fed organic milk Raw grass-fed dairy Organic pastured egg yolks Coconuts and coconut oil Unheated organic nut oils Raw nuts, such as almonds, pecans, macadamia, and seeds Grass-fed meats

Is “Dodo Award” Winner Monsanto Planning to Take Control Of Commodities Market?

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Each year, since 2007, The Center for Biological Diversity has given a Rubber Dodo Award1 to the person, company, or organization that has "done the most to destroy wild places, species, and biological diversity."

This year's award, issued on November 5, 2015, went to Monsanto for its reckless peddling of glyphosate around the world — a pesticide that was recently classified as a "probable human carcinogen" by The World Health Organization (WHO), and has been linked to a worsening of virtually all chronic disease states.

According to Dr. Don Huber, an expert in an area of science that relates to the toxicity of genetically engineered (GE) foods, glyphosate may be even more toxic than DDT — a devastating chemical that, just like glyphosate, was once proclaimed to be "safe enough to eat."

Monsanto's Callous Disregard for Human and Environmental Health

As noted by The Center for Biological Diversity, the heavy use of glyphosate — particularly on genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready crops, which are also developed by Monsanto — has been implicated in the dramatic decline in Monarch butterflies.

Dr. Huber has also previously presented evidence2,3 linking glyphosate to Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), honeybee starvation,4 along with toxicity to soil, woodland plants, amphibians, fish, aquatic environments, and mammals5 — causing reproductive problems and endocrine disruption.

According to Kierán Suckling, the Center's executive director:

"The science is increasingly clear that glyphosate is damaging wildlife and putting people at serious risk, yet Monsanto continues to aggressively peddle the stuff to farmers and really any customer it can find.

It's hard to fathom the depth of the damage that glyphosate is doing, but its toxic legacy will live on for generations, whether it's through threatening monarchs with extinction or a heightened risk of cancer for people where it's spread.

Those sitting in Monsanto's boardrooms and corporate offices won't pay the price for this dangerous pesticide. It's going to be people on the ground where it's sprayed.

This kind of callous pursuit of profits is at the core of what's driving the loss of wildlife and diversity on a massive scale around the globe."

Monsanto has defended the safety of Roundup since the start, but mounting evidence suggests many of its hazards have been known for decades.

For example, Dr. Anthony Samsel obtained evidence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing that Monsanto knew glyphosate caused cancer in rats as early as 1981.

Is Glyphosate an Endocrine Disruptor?

In 1996, Congress mandated that the EPA start screening pesticides to determine whether they may disrupt the endocrine system. In June of this year, nearly 20 years after the Congressional mandate was issued, the EPA finally released its findings for 52 chemicals on the list, one of which was glyphosate.

But, according to The Intercept,6 the EPA relied heavily on biased industry research for its conclusion that there's "no convincing evidence" that glyphosate acts as an endocrine disruptor.

This means the EPA will not require any additional research into the hormonal effects of glyphosate.

In response to the EPA's exoneration of the chemical, Monsanto's Global Lead for Ecotoxicology and Environmental Risk Assessment, Steve Levine, said: "I was happy to see that the safety profile of one of our products was upheld by an independent regulatory agency."

EPA's Exoneration of Glyphosate Was Based on Pesticide Industry's Research

But just how independent was the EPA's assessment? According to The Intercept, it was anything but independent:

"Only five independently funded studies were considered in the review of whether glyphosate interferes with the endocrine system. Twenty-seven out of 32 studies that looked at glyphosate's effect on hormones... were either conducted or funded by industry.

Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto or an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force. One study was by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing herbicide...

Of the small minority of independently funded studies that the agency considered in determining whether the chemical poses a danger to the endocrine system, three of five found that it did...

And a review of the literature turns up many more peer-reviewed studies finding glyphosate can interfere with hormones, affecting such things as hormonal activity in human liver cells, functioning of rat sperm, and the sex ratio of exposed tadpoles. Yet, of the 27 industry studies, none concluded that glyphosate caused harm."

It's also worth noting that the EPA included "ancient" studies in terms of the scientific tests used. We've learned a lot about endocrine disruptors over the past two decades, but many of the tests done on glyphosate dated back to the 1970s.

According to the featured article,7 "in all, 15 of the 27 industry studies predated the term 'endocrine disruption,' which was coined in 1991." One of the studies they chose to include was 40 years old; meanwhile they left out more recent, independently performed studies showing harm.

Pesticide Myths Monsanto Wants You to Believe

Download Interview Transcript

Shrewd PR professionals teamed with lobbyists and industry-backed scientists have managed to portray pesticides as a harmless and essential part of agriculture.

Whenever damning evidence pops up, it is quickly attacked as "junk science." The tobacco industry perfected and wrote the proverbial handbook on how to manipulate science and shape public opinion on toxins, and a number of other industries, including the pesticide industry, follow the same exact game plan.

Through sheer reiteration of certain statements, the pesticide industry has developed a list of persistent myths that have no basis in science or fact, including the following:8

Myth Reality "Pesticides Are Necessary to Feed the World" According to the most comprehensive analysis9 of global agriculture to date, sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank, agroecological farming is the best way forward.

While insecticide use on American farms increased by a factor of 10 in the five decades following World War II, crops lost to pests rose from 3.5 to 12 percent.

Moreover, today nearly 50 percent of the GE corn grown in the US is not even grown for food; it's grown for ethanol.10 So in a sense, people are being starved and valuable prairies are being sacrificed to protect Monsanto's fuel subsidies. "Pesticides Are Rigorously Tested for Safety" The fact is the vast majority are not rigorously tested for safety before they're approved for use. Moreover,according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides are in fact known to be carcinogenic.

How they're tested is a related issue. Most of the toxicology testing of chemicals is antiquated, with some methodologies harking back 150 to 400 years.

As noted by André Leu, author of the book, The Myths of Safe Pesticides, we now have far more rigorous and sensitive ways of testing chemicals instead of just feeding animals, destroying them, and looking at their organ parts under a microscope.

Using magnetic resonance imaging scans and human cell lines, for example, you can now detect toxic effects of chemicals at the parts per trillion range. "The Dose Makes the Poison" The idea is that the larger the dose of a poison, the more harmful it is. Alas, modern science has shown that this is not necessarily the case.

In many instances tiny doses can have a marked effect, and combinations of chemicals often have synergistic effects, such that even non-carcinogenic chemicals can cause cancer.

Researchers have also found that timing of exposure can make a big difference. As noted by Eco Watch:11

"One stark example from a study12 using MRI technology illustrates the point: children exposed in utero to the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos experienced lasting changes in their brain architecture." "GMOs Reduce Reliance on Pesticides" Herbicide-resistant crops are designed to withstand greater amounts of pesticides, and as resistance among weeds has grown, pesticide use has skyrocketed.

GE technology drove up herbicide use by 527 million pounds (about 11 percent) between 1996 (when Roundup Ready crops were initially released) and 2011.13

In 2002, glyphosate use on Roundup Ready soybeans rose by 21 percent.

Overall, American farmers increased their use of glyphosate by 19 million pounds that year. By 2011, farmers growing Roundup Ready crops (corn, soy, and cotton) used 24 percent more Roundup than farmers planting non-GE versions of the same crop, because by that time, glyphosate-resistance had become the norm.

Farmers also began resorting to older, more toxic herbicides like 2,4-D. "We're Weaning Ourselves off of Pesticides" As noted in the featured article:14

"After 20 years of market stagnation, the pesticide industry entered a period of vigorous growth in 2004. The global pesticide market was worth approximately $46 billion in 2012 and continues to grow. It is expected to reach $65 billion by 2017, with the U.S. accounting for 53 percent of global use." "Pesticides Are the Answer to Global Climate Change" As of 2008, 532 patents for "climate-related genes," had been filed — next-generation GE seeds designed to withstand heat and drought.

But, by patenting seeds and imposing monocropping instead of encouraging farmers to save seeds with desirable traits and to plant a wide variety of foods will only promote increased food insecurity.

As weather changes increase, we need increased farm diversification, not less, in order to survive.

There's also ample evidence showing that sustainable farming will ameliorate climactic changes by creating fewer greenhouse gases and creating carbon sinks to offset rising carbon levels in the atmosphere. US Government Allowed Monsanto to Monopolize the Seed Industry

Another common myth is that the government will protect you and look out for your best interest. Unfortunately, that doesn't jive with reality either. In fact, industry giants like Monsanto have long controlled the majority of the US federal regulatory agencies affecting their business. As a result of this collusion, the chemical technology industry has the freedom to pretty much do what they please, and the following story is just one example of many.

In 2007, the attorneys general in Iowa, Texas, and several other states began an inquiry into Monsanto's confidential seed licensing agreements. Any seed company that wants to use Monsanto's genes in its own corn or soy plants are required to sign this agreement. They discovered these agreements required seed breeders and seed retailers to favor Monsanto over competing companies in a number of different ways, thereby allowing Monsanto to eliminate competition.

Ditto for farmer's agreements, which require farmers to apply Monsanto's Roundup herbicide on their Roundup Ready crops, preventing competing herbicides to be used. Then, in 2009, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated a widely publicized antitrust investigation of Monsanto. However, three years later, in November 2012, the DOJ suddenly closed the investigation without taking any enforcement action, and without so much as a press release.15 In fact, no public statement about the findings of the investigation was ever released.

As reported by Salon Magazine16 at the time:

"Several experts agree that the strongest case the DOJ could have brought against Monsanto would focus on how it has used its monopoly in one market — the provision of genetic traits — both to exclude rivals and to gain advantage in another market: the breeding and retail of seeds. They note that Monsanto's practices resemble conduct by Microsoft and Dentsply, two dominant firms that the Justice Department sued for antitrust violations in the late 1990s.

Both companies had used contracts to restrict competitors' access to the platforms they needed to distribute their technologies. In at least one way Monsanto enjoys still greater power than even Microsoft: because it now owns many of these intermediaries – the seed breeders and retailers – it no longer needs written agreements to favor some companies over others... The public will suffer the costs of Monsanto's capture of almost total control over much of the U.S. seed business.

Since 2001 the company has more than doubled the price of soybean and corn seeds, whose crops are used in foods ranging from cereal and pizza to chocolate and soda... It is not just a matter of higher prices. The resulting loss of diversity from Monsanto's dominance may restrict our ability to adapt plant stocks to an increasingly volatile climate."

USDA Whistleblower Claims Agency Suppressed Research on Bee-Killing Pesticide

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has a history of protecting industry interests over public and environmental health. In the first week of November, Jonathan Lundgren, who spent the last 11 years working as an entomologist at the USDA filed a whistleblower complaint against the agency, claiming he'd been harassed and retaliated against after speaking about research showing that neonicotinoids had adverse effects on bees.17,18

In the US, nearly all corn, about 90 percent of canola, and approximately half of all soybeans are treated with neonicotinoids. And, as the use of these pesticides has gone up, bee and Monarch butterfly populations have plummeted. After publicly discussing his findings, Lundgren claims: "USDA managers blocked publication of his research, barred him from talking to the media, and disrupted operations at the laboratory he oversaw." The message is clear: if you want to work in science, you better toe the line and don't disrupt commerce...

Monsanto Rolls Out New Tech That Gives It Essentially Illegal Insider Trading Advantage

Speaking of commerce, Monsanto recently secured a deal with Deere & Co., the world's largest maker of agricultural machinery. Deere has agreed to purchase Monsanto's Precision Planting LLC equipment unit, which also expands Monsanto's opportunities to sell its brand new FieldView application — a software package that provides real-time planting data to owners of Deere equipment. It also provides real-time harvesting data to Monsanto.

As reported by Chicago Business:19

"Precision Planting, founded in 1993, was acquired by St. Louis-based Monsanto in 2012 for $210 million. Its main plant is in Illinois, and it has some operations in South America. Precision Planting components can be used to augment new seeding equipment or to retrofit older equipment for precision applications. For example, they can be used to apply the right pressure to sow seeds in the best depth and spacing for maximum yields.

Climate Corp. will retain the digital agriculture portfolio that has been integrated into its FieldView platform. Deere has agreed to allow Climate Corp. to use its software connection to allow customers to send agronomic prescriptions from FieldView through the John Deere Operations Center to their equipment, according to the statement. Monsanto now has deals to integrate FieldView with the three largest farm equipment makers, following prior agreements with CNH Industrial NV and Agco Corp..."

What has not been publicly addressed as of yet, is the fact that this kind of technology will provide Monsanto with unprecedented insight into market yields of any harvest before anyone else, and this information could allow them to manipulate and reign supreme over the commodities market. In essence, while there are some beneficial features of this software, such as helping farmers determine the most appropriate seed depth based on various factors, including weather forecasts, the program also collects and forwards yield data.

So, at harvest time, all that data will pour in from all the farmers across the country, giving Monsanto an early overview of the various crop yields nationwide. As shady as this sounds, there does not appear to be any laws against this, but it clearly opens the door for market manipulation, either by Monsanto or whomever they might sell this data to. This is essentially insider trading that is technically currently legal, but will likely be outlawed in the future.

Soil Health and the Importance of Mycorrhizal Fungi

Tue, 11/17/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

One of the most important strategies for improving your health is to grow your own food. However, that may not be so easy if you're unaware of the importance of soil microbes.

Dr. Wendy Taheri is a research microbiologist, to whom I was introduced via Gabe Brown, a farmer in North Dakota, who is a strong proponent of regenerative land management.

Dr. Taheri was formerly employed at the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and she recently founded a new company, TerraNimbus, to help farmers enhance their yields, reduce inputs, and improve nutrient use efficiency (NUE).

“I got my PhD in ecology and evolutionary biology at Indiana University,” Dr. Taheri says. ”I was doing restoration work at old coal mines to make the soil grow plants again. We were focusing on using microbes for restoration.

During an experiment, I saw that the microbes I used were able to increase plant biomass by 69 percent. I said to myself, 'Wow, we've got to get this to the farmers.' After I graduated, I took a job with the USDA to try and do that."

In this interview, she discusses the importance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF). According to renowned mycologist Paul Stamets, 70 percent of the soil microbes are fungi, so they’re a really critical consideration when you’re trying to improve soil health.

What Are Mycorrhizal Fungi?

While few people have actually seen mycorrhizal fungi, as you need a microscope to see them, they are a very important foundation for healthy soils. Their spores are in the soil and their hyphae (long, branching filamentous structures) are not only in the soil; they also integrate with the plant via its roots.

The filaments penetrate the roots of the plant and get inside the cells where they grow an organ called an arbuscule. There are seven different kinds of mycorrhizal fungi, but arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) are the most important to farmers, as they are associated with so many different plants.

While the arbuscular kind associates with 90 percent of plant families, the other six kinds are more specialized for specific plant groups.

The hyphae, which is integrated into the plant, branch out into the soil, acting like very fine roots, giving the plant access to a larger volume of soil and hence more nutrients. These filaments specialize in uptaking nutrients such as trace minerals, particularly phosphorous, which is a limited resource.

Mycorrhizal Fungi as an Ecological Solution to Pollution

When phosphorus is applied as fertilizer, only a portion of it is utilized by the plants. A lot of what is being applied ends up running off and spilling into waterways, as tilling promotes soil erosion and hinders water retention.

From various waterways, phosphorous and other agricultural nutrients and chemicals eventually end up in our oceans, where it can lead to oxygen depletion (eutrophication).

"We tend to put a lot of phosphorus in our soils and use it not as wisely as we could, or as conservatively as we should,' Dr. Taheri says. This is really important because we're going to run out eventually...

Our soil, our atmosphere, our water, our oceans, our streams, and our lakes are all interconnected through nutrient cycles...

It’s my opinion that everyone who eats food or breathes oxygen should be concerned with how we manage our agricultural complex because the soil and the organisms in it is the only system large enough to offset global warming, which affects us all.

AMF are drawing carbon through plants, via photosynthesis. The plant is taking carbon out [of the atmosphere]. It’s feeding carbon in the form of sugars to mycorrhizal fungi. In fact, they get 100 percent of their carbon from the plant.

And then they utilize that carbon to build soil structure, which increases the soil quality. It's the best way to sequester carbon, and it's the only system big enough to offset all the oil we burned over the last century. We could actually do that.

A group of scientists is working on demonstrating that how we manage our soil can affect how much carbon we can store in it. And mycorrhizal fungi use that carbon to form soil aggregates, which is how we build our soil structure. They are keystone species in the soil; they’re very important.”

Tilling the soil promotes runoff, allowing a lot of phosphorus to wind up in the ocean. But matters are made even worse by the fact that we also have so much carbon dioxide in the air. This carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid when it mixes with water, making the water acidified.

Few people realize that 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe actually comes from the algae in the ocean, and acidification may be affecting the microbes and algae responsible for the production of this oxygen...

"Balancing global warming, carbon dioxide through management of agricultural systems can solve a lot of problems for humanity," Dr. Taheri says.

The Importance of Soil Carbon for Water Retention

About 20 years ago, scientists discovered a glycoprotein called glomalin, which adds to soil aggregates. It is produced by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi.

"If you don't have aggregates, you have dust and everything goes away. That's not a good soil for farming. Aggregates are little glued-together particles that don't fit together and compact. This is how we alleviate compaction," Dr. Taheri explains.

“And the pore space is what allows drainage and air to get into our soil because plant roots need air and many of the microbes that are important to plants do too.”

Those pore spaces are also what determine, to a great extent, the water-holding capacity of the soil. It’s actually the carbon in the soil that permits water to be retained. Much of that carbon occurs as what we call soil organic matter (SOM). As the carbon content in the soil declines along with SOM, so does its ability to hold water, making us more subject to problems from both droughts and floods.

When there's flooding, the soil cannot absorb the water and hold it for when there's a drought later. Instead, all the water runs off the top, taking the topsoil with it, and the topsoil is the most biologically active, most nutritious, and most valuable part of the soil profile.

As discussed in a previous interview with Gabe Brown, in North Dakota he gets about 16 inches of rain each year, most of which falls in a day or two. Because of his no-till farming practices and the improved soil structure he's achieved with his regenerative land management, he's actually able to retain almost all of that water, whereas his neighbors struggle with runoff and topsoil depletion.

That's also why cover crops, and diversification of crops, are so important in protecting and improving the quality of soils. We also need to limit our use of chemicals in agriculture, as they tend to destroy important soil fungi.

"Individual families of mycorrhizal fungi are more sensitive to some chemicals than others," Dr. Taheri says. "We tend to put a lot of different chemicals into our [mono]cropping systems. What I have seen is a decline in numbers, a decline in diversity, and a dominance by certain species [of fungi] in our agricultural complex, which means we're not getting all the benefits we could out of it."

Growing Organic Foods Is Part of the Small- and Large-Scale Solution

One of the steps nearly everyone can do to help increase the fungal growth in the soil is to buy and consume organically-grown foods. Those who are willing can take it a step further, because the fact that something is organically produced does not mean that no-till strategies or cover crops were used. The next step is to either grow it yourself, or find a farmer who is integrating these important land regeneration practices.

“Randy Anderson, a weed scientist for the USDA at ARS has done a lot of research on cover crops that can be used to suppress weeds. If you go cool season-cool season followed by warm season-warm season, he told me that over the course of a few years, you’ll deplete that weed seed bank and won’t have a weed problem anymore.” But it’s hard to get farmers to switch over from what they know works and try something new, although Gabe Brown, myself, and many others are trying to help them make that switch,” Dr. Taheri says.

Modern Crop Breeds are Losing Mycorrhizal Association, Which May Prevent Us From Becoming Sustainable

Aside from using no-till practices and cover crops, we need to reduce the amount of phosphorus used, because too much phosphorus suppresses the plants association with mycorrhizal fungi. One of the problems Dr. Taheri is seeing is that modern crops, probably bred under high-input breeding systems, has led to plant species that are no longer sensitive to mycorrhizal association.

This means the ability of the plants to form the association with mycorrhizal fungi is being bred out of them. In March of this year, Dr. Taheri is starting a seed certification program for commercial growers that will score whether or not, and how well associated with mycorrhizal fungi various seed varieties are.

“Any commercial growers can send me seeds and say, “I want to know how well these guys respond. If we lose that symbiosis—because of the nutrient use efficiency that is created by these microbes, and their important position in the soil—and they start to die out in our soils, I don’t think we will ever become sustainable, which means our residence here as a species on the planet will be numbered, as far as how many years we have left. We have to be able to grow enough food and we can’t really afford to lose this association.”

Some people counter such arguments by saying that we can shift to alternative growing methods, such as hydroponics. However, shifting all agriculture to hydroponics is unlikely to work on a large scale. And you still have problems like runoff to deal with. It's not entirely ecologically sound.

Also, that's not the way food was historically grown. That's not to say you can't produce some descent food using hydroponics, if done properly. But without this association with mycorrhizal fungi and other soil microbes, it's difficult to imagine optimally healthy and nutritious plants being produced, because there's such a dynamic, complex symbiosis that occurs to improve the health of the soil and nutrients that it provides us.

"Now, humans are doing the work of nature. Instead of looking at nature and saying, 'How can I get nature to do this as part of the balance of how I'm growing my plants?', instead... we've been doing nature's job with chemicals. Well, we inevitably have discovered we're not as good as Mother Nature and there are side effects to what we've done. We have to be careful, because look at the size of our agricultural complex; it's a third of the terrestrial surface of the world. It is the largest ecosystem on the planet. We have to take a real serious look at the impact of that system on our water and air quality. We can't ignore it, it's too big."

Benefits of Mycorrhizal Fungi

Most of commercial agriculture is focused on increasing yield, but according to Dr. Taheri, we really need to be looking at improving the mycorrhizal association, and breeding our microbes and our plants together to work as a team. Doing so can produce tremendous benefits, including but not limited to the following:

Increased soil fertility Increased essential oil production Increased water-holding capacity Protection from both fungal and bacterial diseases Reduced soil compaction Drought tolerance Heavy metal tolerance Salinity resistance Higher nutrient content Increased biomass Reduced inputs, meaning decreased need for harmful chemicals Earlier flowering; increased flowering, and more fruits Reduction or elimination of runoff and leaching Carbon sequestration, which will reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide How to Encourage Mycorrhizal Growth in Your Garden

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which are the focus of this article, are primarily associated with vascular plants, this includes the vast majority of everything we eat. (Notable exceptions are the Brassicas and Amaranth families.) The mycorrhizal fungi that associate with trees are from other groups of mycorrhizal fungi. For example, pine trees associate with a group we collectively call ectomycorrhizae, while the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are often referred to generically as endos or endomycorrhizae.

AMF, or endos cannot live without host plants, which is why cover crops are so important. There should always be living roots in the ground to support your microbes. There are mycorrhizal fungi inoculants that you can buy for your home garden, but according to Dr. Taheri, you need to be aware that when using soil inoculants, they’re competing with all the microbes already in your soil that have adapted to your current soil conditions. The scales of success are already tipped against them because they’re not pre-adapted.

As noted by Dr. Taheri:

“Most of the inoculants that I have seen are the same group of 12 species that are being recirculated. One of the species, for instance, is deserticola. It’s from the desert; the name tells you that. If Glomus deserticola is put in some place very different from the desert, what are the odds it’s going to survive? It’s kind of like putting a polar bear into the desert and expecting it to do well.”

That said, if you get a good association between plant and mycorrhizal fungi, you can potentially double plant growth. But most of the inoculants currently on the market are not the most appropriate species. Dr. Taheri has a very large assortment of fungi in her own collection, and has started working on a commercially viable formula. However, it may still be years before it’s perfected. Compost teas are also ineffective for promoting mycorrhizal fungi. So what can you do to improve the fungal composition of your soil?

"The best management practices for mycorrhizal fungi are cover crops, above-ground diversity, and no-till," Dr. Taheri says. "Minimize your soil disturbance, because you're breaking up your hyphae—which is not so good for your plants—as soon you start digging around."

As far as inoculants go, most of them are, to a large degree, one species called Rhizophagus intraradices. If you use fertilizer, you will typically already have plenty of Rhizophagus. It is well adapted to agricultural conditions. So why pay a lot of money for it? Dr. Taheri recommends avoiding inoculants containing primarily Rhizophagus for this reason. Inoculants can be helpful if you’re buying pottings.

However, as these have typically undergone a process that makes the soil fairly sterile. If you already have healthy soil, then you can further propagate mycorrhizal fungi simply by increasing the diversity of plants in your garden. Earthworms are a very good indicator of healthy soil. Also check your garden for insect predators, such as lizards and spiders. They too are an indication of a healthy soil balance.

"When you have diversity, you have homes for a lot of different kinds of organisms, and that's when your predators start to come in. That keeps everything in balance," she explains. "It doesn't matter that you have insects that are eating a leaf here and there. What matters is whether or not it gets out of hand. Most of the time, pathogens and things that grow on your plants are always present. Most of the time, they don't have much impact because things are in balance. You want to make sure that your management practices are not favoring things that are eating your plants while disfavoring the things that hunt those things that eat your plants."

More Information

Dr. Taheri’s company, TerraNimbus, is still new and does not yet have a working website. Eventually, she’ll have a YouTube channel that will provide helpful videos for farmers and laypeople, including interviews with scientists and leading innovators; so you can check for that from time to time or get on their mailing list. She’s also writing a booklet for farmers and gardeners about mycorrhizal fungi and what growers should know about them.

In addition to the seed varietal testing TerraNimbus will provide, they’re also planning a Rocket Hub campaign for which they need supporters to help continue mycorrhizal research and develop truly effective inoculants to restore our nation’s soils. If you would like to be on their mailing list you can sign up at

What's So Great About Garlic?

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

Garlic is one of the most important culinary herbs there is, but it’s also one that’s a proven health tonic. Eating a clove or two of garlic a day really might keep the doctor away, as it benefits health on multiple levels.

Interestingly, while garlic is often described as an herb or a spice, it’s actually neither. Garlic grows underground in a bulb and sprouts long green shoots. It is more accurate to call garlic a vegetable than an herb, and, in fact, it belongs to the allium family of vegetables, along with onions and leeks.

This is where its health benefits begin, because allium vegetables are known for their stink (and garlic is sometimes referred to as “the stinking rose”). That unique scent comes from sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin, that have many health-promoting effects.

Garlic Fights 160 Diseases, Including Cancer

Studies have demonstrated garlic's effects for more than 160 different diseases.1 In general, its benefits fall into four main categories:

  1. Reducing inflammation (reduces risk of osteoarthritis and other diseases associated with inflammation)
  2. Boosting immune function (antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic properties)
  3. Improving cardiovascular health and circulation (protects against clotting, retards plaque, improves lipids, and reduces blood pressure)
  4. Toxic to 14 kinds of cancer cells (including brain, lung, breast, gastric, and pancreatic)

In terms of cancer, garlic has been shown to kill cancer cells in laboratory studies, as well as shown promise when consumed via your diet. One study showed that women who regularly ate garlic (along with fruits and vegetables) had a 35 percent lower risk of colon cancer.2

Those who consume high amounts of raw garlic also appear to have a lower risk of stomach and colorectal cancers.3

Furthermore, among people with inoperable forms of colorectal, liver, or pancreatic cancer, taking an extract of aged garlic for six months helped to improve immune function, which suggests it may be useful for helping your immune system during times of stress or illness.4

Also worth noting, diallyl sulfide (DAS), a sulfur-containing compound in garlic, has been found to inhibit the formation of carcinogenic heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which form when meat is cooked at high temperatures.5

DAS prevents a specific type of HCA from transforming into DNA-damaging compounds by decreasing the production of certain liver enzymes required for this transformation.

What this means is that adding chopped garlic to your burgers, meat loaf, and possibly to your steak via a marinade may help cut down on cancer-causing cooking byproducts.

Immune-Boosting Effects to Fight Infectious Disease (Even Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria)

Garlic is known for its powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties. It also helps fight infection from yeasts/fungi and worms.

The combination of biochemicals in garlic, including tannins, saponins, phenols, flavonoids, and essential oils, has even been found to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Some of the superbugs killed by garlic were resistant to more than 10 different antibiotics.6

Even more intriguing, the garlic used in the study was whole, simply ground with a mortar and pestle, and the researchers recommended adding garlic to your diet as a way to help prevent infections. According to researchers:7

“…use of spices (garlic/ginger) in diet can reduce the risk of food contamination, protect the consumer from different foodborne diseases, improve their health status and combat with the foodborne diseases by using small quantity of spices (garlic/ginger) in diet

…it is recommended to use garlic …in different raw forms like pickle, garlic/ginger bread, curry powder, sauces, raw juices and without extensive cooking.

In conclusion, the results of present study have provided the justification for therapeutic potential of spices. The practice of using spices as supplementary or alternative medicine… will not reduce only the clinical burden of drug resistance development but also the side effects and cost of the treatment with allopathic medicine.”

Eating garlic can also help fight off infections from colds and flu. According to one study, those who consumed garlic daily for three months had fewer colds than those who took a placebo.

When they did come down with a cold, the duration of illness was shorter – an average of 4.5 days compared to 5.5 days for the placebo group.8

While this may not seem overly impressive, it's still better than the results achieved by the much-advertised flu drug Tamiflu. If taken within 48 hours of onset of illness, Tamiflu might reduce the duration of flu symptoms by about a day to a day and a half – similar to eating garlic daily.

Antioxidants, Vitamins, and Minerals for a Potent Health Elixir

Like many natural foods, it’s difficult to confine garlic to just one or two benefits, as it appears to offer benefits throughout your body. Garlic is rich in manganese, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamins B6 and C, so it’s beneficial for your bones as well as your thyroid.

Other health-promoting compounds include oligosaccharides, arginine-rich proteins, selenium, and flavonoids.9 The University of Maryland Medical Center summed up some of its most promising uses:10

“…garlic is used to help prevent heart disease, including atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries (plaque buildup in the arteries that can block the flow of blood and may lead to heart attack or stroke), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and to boost the immune system.

Eating garlic regularly may also help protect against cancer.

Garlic is rich in antioxidants. In your body, harmful particles called free radicals build up as you age, and may contribute to heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.

Antioxidants like those found in garlic fight off free radicals, and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage caused over time.”

Sprouted Garlic Might Be Even Healthier

Have you ever let a head of garlic sit on your counter too long, only to find it had sprouted green shoots? You don’t need to throw it away! Sprouted garlic is not only safe to eat… it may be even healthier than non-sprouted garlic.

In an article published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, garlic sprouted for five days was found to have higher antioxidant activity than fresher, younger bulbs, and it had different metabolites, suggesting it also makes different substances.11

Researchers concluded that sprouting your garlic might be a useful way to improve its antioxidant potential. Extracts from this garlic even protected cells in a laboratory dish from certain types of damage.12 This isn’t really surprising when you consider the nutritional changes that typically occur in plants when they sprout.

When seedlings grow into green plants, they make many new compounds, including those that protect the young plant against pathogens. The same thing is likely happening when green shoots grow from old heads of garlic. According to study author Jong-Sang Kim, PhD:13

“Plants are very susceptible to attack from bacteria, viruses, and insects during sprouting… This causes them to produce a variety of chemicals called phytoalexins to defend themselves. Most of these are toxic to microorganisms and insects, but beneficial to human health.”

Have You Heard of Fermented Black Garlic?

Black garlic, which is basically fermented garlic, may be even healthier than other forms. In a 2009 mouse study, Japanese researchers found that black garlic was more effective than fresh garlic in reducing the size of tumors, for instance.

The study was published in the journal Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Science and Technology.14 In another study, black garlic was found to have twice the antioxidant levels as fresh—the aging/fermenting process appears to double the antioxidants.

Black garlic is packed with high concentrations of sulfurous compounds, especially one in particular: s-allylcycteine (SAC). Science has shown a number of health benefits from SAC, including inhibition of cholesterol synthesis. Perhaps this is why Mandarin oil painter Choo Keng Kwang experienced a complete reversal of his psoriasis after just four days of eating half a bulb of black garlic a day—this, after trying countless medically prescribed skin creams that were all complete failures.

An advantage of SAC is that it is well-absorbed and much more stable than allicin and 100 percent bioavailable. Researchers are confident it plays a significant role in garlic’s overall health benefits.15 Unfortunately, fermenting garlic is a lengthy process that requires a room with controlled humidity and heat for about a month. Most people don’t have access to such equipment to ferment garlic at home, but you can find it from reliable sources online (in whole bulb form, which tastes surprisingly sweet) or in supplement form.

As an aside, I strongly recommend you include raw garlic in your diet as well, but when you do the fresh clove must be crushed or chopped in order to stimulate the release of an enzyme called alliinase, which in turn catalyzes the formation of allicin. Allicin, in turn, rapidly breaks down to form a number of different organosulfur compounds. So to “activate” garlic’s medicinal properties, compress a fresh clove with a spoon prior to swallowing it, chop it finely to add to a salad, or put it through your juicer to add to your vegetable juice.

Visit Our Food Facts Library for Empowering Nutrition Information

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Drinking Water Helps Prevent Kidney Stones

Mon, 11/16/2015 - 02:00

By Dr. Mercola

If you’ve ever suffered with a kidney stone, the pain is something you will likely not forget… and certainly want to avoid in the future. Kidney stones can cause excruciating pain in your sides and back that may spread through your lower abdomen and groin.

The pain sometimes comes in waves and, generally, the larger the stone, the more pain and symptoms it will cause. While most kidney stones pass on their own without causing damage, more than half a million people go to US emergency rooms each year due to kidney stones.1

Today, with rates continuing to rise, kidney stones will impact one in 10 US adults at some point during their lives2 -- usually between the ages of 20 and 50.

Want to Prevent Kidney Stones? Drink More Water

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

Specifically, stone-forming chemicals including calcium, oxalate, urate, cysteine, xanthine, and phosphate will have less chance to settle and bond in your kidneys and urinary tract if you’re urinating frequently.3

According to the results of a large meta-analysis, presented at a March 2015 National Kidney Foundation meeting in Dallas, Texas, people who produced 2 to 2.5 liters of urine daily were 50 percent less likely to develop kidneys stones than those who produced less.

It generally took drinking about eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water daily to produce that amount of urine. According to Kerry Willis, chief scientific officer at the National Kidney Foundation:4

"Kidney stones cause significant discomfort and cost, along with a potential to contribute to the development of kidney disease, so confirmation of reducing risk through improved hydration is an important finding."

Last year, new guidelines issued by the American College of Physicians (ACP) also called for people who have had a kidney stone in the past to increase their fluid intake so they have at least two liters of urine per day, which they say could decrease stone recurrence by at least half.5

To achieve this, they recommend increased fluid intake spread throughout the day, pointing out that both water and mineral water are beneficial.

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

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

What Are the Different Types of Kidney Stones?

When your urine contains more crystal-forming substances than the fluid can dilute, kidney stones may form. In some people, urine may also lack substances that help keep crystals from sticking together, which encourages kidney stone formation.

There are varying types of kidney stones, however, and knowing which type you have can help you get to the bottom of the underlying causes:6

  1. Calcium Stones. The most common variety, most kidney stones are made of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is found in some fruits and vegetables, but your liver produces most of your oxalate.
  2. If you are found to have oxalate stones, your doctor may recommend avoiding foods rich in oxalates, such as dark green vegetables, nuts, and chocolate, but drinking more water can also be effective.

  3. Struvite stones. Found more often in women, these are almost always the result of urinary tract infections.
  4. Uric acid stones. These are a byproduct of protein metabolism. They’re commonly seen with gout and may result from certain genetic factors and disorders of your blood-producing tissues.
  5. Cystine stones. They represent a very small percentage of kidney stones. These are the result of a hereditary disorder that causes your kidneys to excrete massive amounts of certain amino acids (cystinuria).

You won’t know you have a stone until it moves into the ureter—the tube connecting your kidney and your bladder. The pain is a result of distention of the tissues above the stone, since it is blocking the passage of urine, rather than from the pressure of the stone itself. Common symptoms include:7

Pain in your side and back, below your ribs Episodes of pain lasting 20 to 60 minutes, of varying intensity Pain “waves” radiating from your side and back to your lower abdomen and groinBloody, cloudy, or foul-smelling urine Pain with urinationNausea and vomiting “Urgency” (persistent urge to urinate)Fever and chills (indicates an infection is also present) 9 Additional Factors That Make Kidney Stones More Likely

Once you’ve had kidney stones, your risk of recurrence increases. About 35 percent to 50 percent of people will have another bout with kidney stones within five years unless changes are made.8

However, many factors may increase your risk of a first kidney stone episode, even aside from not drinking enough water. Top risk factors include:

1. A Diet High in Sugar

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

Sugar can also increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in your kidney, such as the formation of kidney stones. According to The National Kidney Foundation, you should pay particular attention to keeping your fructose levels under control:9

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

2. Drinking Too Much Soda

Soda is high in sugar, so it makes sense that drinking too much might increase your risk of kidney stones. But aside from its sugar content, drinking soda may be associated with kidney stones because the phosphorus acid it contains acidifies your urine, which promotes stone formation.

One South African study, for instance, found that drinking soda exacerbates conditions in your urine that lead to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stone problems.10 So if you’re a soda drinker, cutting back is an important tool to remember. In one study, those with kidney stones who eliminated soda from their diet lowered their risk of recurrence by about 15 percent.11

3. Not Exercising

You're more prone to kidney stones if you're bedridden or very sedentary for a long period of time, partly because limited activity can cause your bones to release more calcium. Exercise will also help you to resolve high blood pressure, a condition that doubles your risk for kidney stones.

Even low amounts of exercise may be beneficial to reducing your risk. In a study involving more than 84,000 postmenopausal women, it was found that those who exercised had up to a 31 percent lower risk of kidney stones.12 The link persisted even with only small amounts of physical activity.

Specifically, the research showed a lower risk from three hours a week of walking, four hours of light gardening, or just one hour of moderate jogging. You can find my comprehensive exercise recommendations, including how to perform highly recommended high-intensity interval training (HIIT), here.

4. Overeating

Women who ate more than 2,200 calories per day increased their risk of kidney stones by up to 42 percent, while obesity also raised the risk. It should be noted that even though obesity increases kidney stone risk, weight loss surgery that alters your digestive tract actually makes them more common. After weight loss surgery, levels of oxalate are typically much higher (oxalate is the most common type of kidney stone crystal).

5. Drinking Fluoridated Water

High levels of fluoride in water are associated with kidney stones.13 The condition was nearly five times more common in an area with high fluoride (3.5 to 4.9 parts per million, or ppm) than a similar area without high fluoride levels in the water.14 Overall, the prevalence of kidney stones in the high-fluoride area was nearly double in those with fluorosis than those without. A reverse osmosis water filtration system can remove fluoride from your drinking water.

6. Taking Certain Medications

Lasix (furosemide), Topomax (topiramate), and Xenical, among others, are known to increase the risk of kidney stones.

7. Eating Non-Fermented Soy

Soybeans and soy-based foods may promote kidney stones in those prone to them, as they may contain high levels of oxalates, which can bind with calcium in your kidney to form kidney stones. Non-fermented soy is the type found in soy milk, soy burgers, soy ice cream, and even tofu.

8. Not Eating Enough Calcium-Rich Foods

Ironically, since most kidney stones are made of calcium, the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study of more than 45,000 men,15 and the men who had diets rich in calcium had a one-third lower risk of kidney stones than those with lower calcium diets. It turns out that a diet rich in calcium actually blocks a chemical action that causes the formation of the stones.

It binds with oxalates (from foods) in your intestine, which then prevents both from being absorbed into your blood and later transferred to your kidneys. So, urinary oxalates may be more important to formation of calcium-oxalate kidney stone crystals than is urinary calcium. It is important to note that it is the calcium from foods that is beneficial -- not calcium supplements, which have actually been found to increase your risk of kidney stones by 20 percent.16

9. Lacking in Magnesium

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

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

When Should You Seek Medical Attention for Kidney Stones?

Because kidney stones can range in size from a grain of sand to larger than a golf ball, it’s important to seek medical attention, especially if you’re in severe pain. In most cases, the stone will pass on its own. Though there are several medical procedures and surgical techniques that can be used to treat kidney stones, the risks are high enough that physicians typically shy away from them unless there's no other choice. Kidney stones might take days or even weeks to pass, but if a stone fails to pass, permanent damage to your urinary tract can result.

Fortunately, there are now some more advanced options other than surgery, such as extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy. This treatment entails being submerged in a tub of water where sound waves traveling through the liquid shatter the stones. They then pass as gravel through your urine in a few days or weeks.

You should drink plenty of water during a kidney stone attack to help flush the stone out, but remember that drinking enough water regularly is one of the best ways to prevent kidney stones from forming in the first place. You certainly do not want to overdo your water intake, as this can lead to hyponatremia, in which the sodium level in your blood becomes too diluted.

However, a healthy intake of water – enough so that your urine is a very pale shade of yellow – should be your goal. Ideally, sip it throughout the day instead of trying to guzzle a few cups here and there. The latter scenario can simply cause you to urinate more without your body having a chance to absorb the extra fluid.

Finally, the tropical plant Phyllanthus niruri, which is available in supplement form, has shown promise in helping to treat and prevent kidney stones as well. Commonly known as the “stonebreaker,” Phyllanthus niruri has been shown to interfere with many stages of stone formation, including reducing crystals aggregation and modifying their structure and composition.17


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