By Dr. Mercola
Zinc is an essential trace mineral, probably most widely known for the integral role it plays in your immune system and the prevention and treatment of the common cold. Aside from iron, zinc is the most common mineral found in your body, necessary for the function of every one of your cells.
Zinc is used in the production of white blood cells, helping your body to fight infection, and plays a key role in regulating the way your heart muscle uses calcium to trigger the electrical stimulus responsible for your heartbeat.1
It's also one of the building blocks for approximately 3,000 proteins and 200 enzymes in your body. Recent research has now identified the role zinc plays in protecting your DNA.2
However, while essential, your body does not store zinc, so it is important you get enough from your dietary intake every day. Moreover, regularly getting too much can be just as hazardous as getting too little.Zinc May Reduce DNA Strand Breaks
DNA is in every cell of your body and is the blueprint your cells use during replication. Until late adulthood your body has the ability to regenerate DNA, but over time DNA does deteriorate, eventually causing the overall breakdown of body systems. Recent research has identified the role zinc may play in slowing this DNA deterioration.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has determined a recommended daily amount of identified vitamins, minerals and nutrients that reduces the risk of experiencing symptoms of deficiency. However, a lack of symptoms of insufficiency does not necessarily support optimal health.
The levels recommended for zinc vary with age and gender as the absorption, use and requirements for the mineral varies with those same factors.
Researchers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) began a study with the intention of measuring the impact small increases in dietary intake of zinc would have on the body's metabolic functions.
Janet King, Ph.D., led the study where 18 men ate a rice-based, low-zinc diet for six weeks. Both before and after the experimental period the researchers measured indicators such as DNA damage, oxidative stress and DNA inflammation.3
When participants increased dietary zinc consumption researchers found a reduction in leukocyte DNA strand breakage, suggesting a modest increase in dietary zinc could reduce the everyday "wear and tear" on DNA. King commented:4
"We were pleasantly surprised to see that just a small increase in dietary zinc can have such a significant impact on how metabolism is carried out throughout the body.
These results present a new strategy for measuring the impact of zinc on health and reinforce the evidence that food-based interventions can improve micronutrient deficiencies worldwide."
While increasing your dietary intake of zinc may be beneficial to your overall health, taking supplemental zinc may not be the way to accomplish your goal.An Imbalance of Zinc and Copper May Lead to Health Problems
Your body has an elaborate system to maintain balance between trace minerals in your system, such as iron, zinc, copper and chromium. Consuming these minerals in your food helps maintain the proper balance, while taking supplements can easily create an imbalance of too much of one and not enough of another.
Sometimes ingestion occurs knowingly, such as when you take a daily supplement, and other times you may unknowingly absorb more than the recommended daily allowance for a nutrient through another chemical source.
In 2011, researchers from the University of Maryland published a study that demonstrated a hazard of ingesting excess zinc from denture adhesive.5
Excess zinc may lead to a copper deficiency, as the absorption patterns in the gastrointestinal tract are similar. Competition for absorption may lead to an increase in zinc and a reduction in copper.
Too much zinc may lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, headaches and loss of appetite.6 Getting your zinc from your diet significantly reduces the potential of overdosing.
Copper deficiency can be the result of malabsorption, malnutrition or from an excess of zinc in your system.7 High intake of zinc may increase the creation of metallothionein, a cell protein in your intestines that binds to some metals and prevents absorption.8
These cells have a stronger affinity for copper than zinc. This produces a cycle in which the consumption of zinc triggers the development of metallothionein cells, which then decrease the amount of copper absorbed.
One of the more common symptoms of a copper insufficiency is anemia. In this case the anemia will not respond to an increase in iron, but rather improves with copper supplementation.9
Copper deficiency may also lead to an abnormal low white blood cell count (neutropenia), increasing your potential for infection. In such a case, you may take a zinc supplement to alleviate your cold, for example, thereby worsening your copper deficiency.
Other abnormalities related to copper deficiency include osteoporosis, infants born at low birth weight and loss of pigmentation in your skin.Zinc Strengthens Your Immune System
Inadequate amount of zinc in your diet may increase your potential for infection. Without zinc, your white blood cells don't function optimally and other processes in your immune system are affected as well. Neutrophils, phagocytosis, antibody production and even gene regulation in your lymphocytes are affected by zinc.10
Although scientists are continuing to study the exact cellular changes an adequate supply of zinc produces on your immune system, some studies indicate it may reduce the duration of your cold by as much as 50 percent, especially if you are deficient.11
Each year there are approximately 200 different viruses that make up the "common cold." While zinc helps support your immune system, it also appears to have antiviral properties that prevent the virus from replicating and attaching to your nasal membranes.12
Researchers have also discovered that zinc may have other immune boosting properties that help your body have a strong first response at the onset of symptoms.13
The initial dose must be taken in the first 24 hours of symptoms to work well, and those taking zinc are less likely have symptoms last more than seven days while supplementing with zinc lozenges.Adequate Dietary Zinc Intake May Help Prevent Some Diabetes Complications
Some experts estimate that as many as 12 percent of people in the U.S. are deficient in zinc, with as many as 40 percent of the elderly due to poor absorption and low dietary intake.14 Zinc plays a significant role in the reduction of oxidative stress and helping DNA to repair, especially as you age. According to Emily Ho, Ph.D., associate professor with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University:15
"Zinc deficiencies have been somewhat under the radar because we just don't know that much about mechanisms that control its absorption, role, or even how to test for it in people with any accuracy."
A recent collaborative study with researchers from New Zealand and Australia demonstrated those with zinc blood levels between 14 micromoles and 18 micromoles per liter had the lowest risk of heart disease.17 Optimizing your dietary zinc intake may also improve diabetic markers, such as better glycemic control and lower concentrations of lipids.Zinc Is Vital to Sensory Organ Function
Taste, smell and vision are three sensory functions in which zinc plays a significant role. Both taste and smell are important to your appetite, so a deficiency may reduce your desire to eat. This can be substantially important in people who suffer from cancer. Zinc deficiency, and the resulting loss of appetite, can be the result of some chemotherapy drugs and radiation treatments used to treat cancer.
In a review of the literature, researchers found a diversity of taste disorders with zinc deficiency.18 Zinc is critical to the production of the metalloenzyme carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI.19 When there is a deficiency of zinc, this enzyme is not made in adequate amounts, leading to loss of taste and, subsequently, appetite.
Your taste and smell systems use CA VI as a growth factor, but it also plays a role in apoptosis, or cell death. If you have a zinc deficiency, apoptosis increases in your body and the cells in your taste and smell organs die abnormally quickly. With an overload of zinc there is another type of alteration that results in further apoptosis and death of those same cells.20
Zinc also works in combination with vitamin A to help your eyes sense light and send the appropriate nerve impulses to the brain for interpretation.21 Your retina, an important part of eyesight, is made of membranes rich in polyunsaturated fats.22 Reactive oxygen species (ROS) may initiate chain reactions of lipid peroxidation that injures the retina, and therefore your eyesight.
Researchers have found a moderate zinc deficiency increases the oxidative stress on the retina and suggest that zinc may be protective against lipid peroxidation of the retinal membranes.23 While oxidative stress on the retina has been demonstrated, the role zinc plays in macular degeneration with age has not been conclusively proven.24 Like other symptoms of zinc deficiency, these appear to be reversible when blood levels return to normal through an appropriate intake of real food.Improve Your Zinc Intake With Real Food
In this short video, I discuss the importance of zinc to your health, the signs of zinc deficiency and how you may improve your zinc levels through your dietary choices. Vegetarians have a particular challenge as phytic acid in grains compete with the absorption of zinc and other nutrients, which doesn't occur in meat and dairy sources of zinc.
If you have symptoms of a zinc deficiency and choose to use a supplement, ensure it is from a reputable company using best-practice, quality assurance methods. Independent verification of the raw materials is vital to confirm quality and assure it is free of lead and other heavy metals. The supplement should contain several different types of zinc, such as gluconate, citrate and chelate. Unless your clinician recommends otherwise, don't go above 40 milligrams (mg) per day.
Since it's easy to create an imbalance in your body when taking supplements of trace minerals, your most effective way of balancing your zinc levels is through eating real foods high in zinc, such as:25,26
✓ Pastured beef
✓ Alaskan crab
✓ Pork chops
✓ Baked beans
✓ Pastured chicken
✓ Swiss cheese
✓ Kidney beans
✓ Cheddar cheese
✓ Pumpkin seeds
✓ Brewed coffee
By Dr. Mercola
While the controversy over whether organically grown food is healthier lingers, scientific research continues to demonstrate the health benefits to both humans and the environment of growing and consuming organic foods.
Food grown in healthier soil, with natural fertilizers and no harmful chemicals, is quite simply more nutritious and less dangerous to your health.
Detractors of organic farming rest on a meta-analysis published in 2012 by Stanford University, which found similar nutrients in both organically growth produce and those laden with pesticides and insecticides.1
That same study did admit organic foods were not burdened with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pesticide residue, but stated these were the only benefits.
More recent analyses of organic foods also found similar levels of nutrients between organic and pesticide-treated crops,2 with lower pesticide residue on organic foods.3 However, the more recent studies also found lower levels of cadmium,4 a known carcinogen, and higher levels of antioxidants.5
Organic fruits and vegetables may contain as much as 18 percent to 69 percent more antioxidants than pesticide-treated produce. As antioxidants play a critical role in the prevention of diseases and illnesses, these higher levels of nutrients, in combination with a lower toxicity level, make organically grown foods a superior choice.Eating Organic Has Long-Term Benefits
One of the strongest selling points for eating organic foods had been to reduce your exposure to pesticides and insecticides. Now, a recent study demonstrates that organic foods hold more benefits to your future health and the health of your children.
The study conducted by the European Parliamentary Research Service reviewed existing research and made several determinations.6
They also found those who ate organic foods tended to have healthier dietary patterns than those who ate foods treated with chemicals.
In other studies, researchers found epidemiological data demonstrating the negative effects of pesticide exposure on the cognitive development of children and determined these effects would be minimized eating organic foods, especially during pregnancy and during early infancy.
Another important finding, also supported by previous studies,8 was organic foods had lower cadmium content than conventional crops.9 There is no safe level of cadmium, as it is a known carcinogen and produces a number of negative effects on human health.
Your highest rate of exposure is from plant-based foods grown in contaminated soil or using certain fertilizers. Other sources include smoking and exposure to nickel-cadmium batteries.10
Once absorbed, your body efficiently retains cadmium, which can build up over your lifetime unless you take steps to remove it.11,12 Being deficient in calcium, iron, protein and/or zinc may worsen cadmium uptake and toxicity.
Cadmium is very toxic to your kidneys, may trigger bone demineralization and increases your risk of dying from lung cancer. It can also affect your blood pressure, prostate health and testosterone levels.14
Organically raised animals also reduce your exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria as the organic practice of preventing animal disease restricts the use of antibiotics in production. Minimizing your exposure to these bacteria may minimize your risk of illness and may have significant public health benefits.Higher Antioxidant Levels in Organic Foods May Mitigate Disease Risk
Researchers have determined the levels of polyphenols in organically grown crops is significantly higher than those sprayed with pesticides.15 These higher concentrations of phenolic acids, flavones, stilbenes, flavonols and anthocyanins were estimated to be between 19 percent and 51 percent higher in one study.
These plant-based antioxidant compounds have been linked to the reduction in a number of different diseases, including cardiovascular disease,16,17 neurodegenerative conditions,18 cancers19,20 and slowing the aging process.21
Antioxidants are a class of molecule that are capable of inhibiting the oxidation of free radicals that cause damage in your body.
Some antioxidants can be produced by your body, but some are not and, as you age, your ability to produce those antioxidants declines. Antioxidants are crucial to your health and can be acquired through eating real foods. They are nature’s way of defending your body against an attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS).
Your body naturally circulates a variety of nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenes and lipoic acid, to control the destructive chain reactions associated with ROS. Antioxidants are micronutrients that help your body resist the damage of pollutants and free radicals produced during metabolism.
Oxidative stress occurs when there are more free radicals and ROS in your body than antioxidant defenses, and leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage. Oxidative stress may also shorten the length of your telomeres, which researchers believe can be used as a measure of biological aging.
Antioxidants are present in higher quantities in fruits and vegetables that are organically grown and those eaten closer to the time they were harvested. This is why eating the majority of your fruits and vegetables raw, organically grown and locally harvested increases the number of nutrients from which you benefit.Studies Indicate Other Advantages to Organic Foods
Researchers have also linked eating foods organically grown to even more health benefits, including a reduction in obesity and type 2 diabetes, two of the more common health concerns facing people today.22
Research has also linked an increase in allergic reactions to foods coated with pesticides in people who have not otherwise experienced food allergies.25 Exposure to specific weed-killing chemicals are associated with higher sensitivity to foods.26
Demand for organic foods is rapidly expanding. This demand is not limited to real foods, but also prepackaged and processed foods. In 2014, people around the world spent $72 billion on organic products.28
The largest organic market located in the U.S. recorded an 11.5 percent increase in 2015. Some make the decision to buy organic based on a concern for the environment, while others are focused on their personal long-term health benefits.Even Record Growth Not Meeting Consumer Demand for Organic Food
This continued growth provides incentive for U.S. farmers to enter the market. Organic foods are sold through direct-to-consumer sales, conventional groceries and natural health food stores.
Produce accounted for 43 percent of organic food sales in 201229 with 93 percent of all sales taking place through conventional and natural food stores.
Securing a supply chain that supports demand includes ensuring more organic acreage and helping farmers transition from conventional produce farming to organic.
As more consumers become interested in eating a healthier diet and more willing to pay for higher-quality foods, smaller markets are carving out a niche in the marketplace.
It is anticipated that the growth of the organic food market will reach $1 trillion in 2017.31 This increase in sales is helping successfully launch small companies providing products to meet consumer demand.
Angel investors and venture capitalists are also taking advantage, investing more than $2 billion in 2015.32 Despite the growth in organic sales, the number of certified organic farms in the U.S. are finding it challenging to keep pace with the demand. As fewer than 1 percent of American farms were certified organic in 2012, the availability for growth in this field is wide open.33
Foreign suppliers provided $134 million in organic soybeans in 2014, prompting U.S. Congress to expand their support for organic farming and double their funds for the Organic Certification Cost Share Program.34
A recent report found 17 of the top 20 grocer retailers are not meeting the increased consumer demand for organic, pesticide-free foods.35 The same report also revealed food retailers don’t publish a publicly available policy to reduce or eliminate pesticides that impact the growth of pollinators, the largest group of which are bees.What Does an Organic Label Mean?
“ … [P]roduced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones.
Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.
Before a product can be labeled 'organic,' a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”
Without certification, products are not allowed to display the USDA organic seal.38 However, a certified organic product may contain a mix of conventionally grown and organic ingredients depending upon the labeling.39 This mix of pesticide-laden ingredients with organically grown ones may negate many of the benefits of eating organic foods. The easiest answer is to avoid processed fare, and cook from scratch, so you know exactly what you’re eating.
One of the benefits to the environment from organic farming and the reduction in pesticide use is the impact on the bee population, pollinators necessary to the growth of crops and plants. Tiffany Finck-Haynes, from Friends of the Earth, and lead author of the paper studying top retailers and organic foods, commented:40
“Without bees and other pollinators, our supermarket shelves would be pretty bare and empty. And they’re an indicator species, so they’re really telling us that their decline is most likely resulting in a larger decline that we’re seeing for the rest of the species in our ecosystem.”Organic Farming Improves Soil Biodiversity
This video demonstrates sustainable agriculture techniques used on the Allison Farm in Illinois. Another benefit to the environment is soil biodiversity, or the species, genes and entire communities of life that exists within the soil. If you think these tiny creatures aren’t important to your health, the nutrient value of the food grown in the soil and to your children’s future health, think again. Here are a few fun facts about soil:41
- Scientists have identified approximately 1 percent of the microorganism species living in the soil and the soil is home to over 25 percent of all species living on earth.
- Over the area of a football field, microorganisms in the soil produce organic matter equivalent to the weight of 25 cars every year.
- These organisms aerate the soil, allow water to permeate, provide nutrients to plants and store carbon, which affects the global climate system.
- Rich soil biodiversity is better able to withstand and control pests as it contains a range of predator species and nutrients; the greater the diversity the better the capacity to obstruct pest development.
A meta-analysis of over 250 studies found that organic farming increased species richness in the soil by 30 percent, and this number has been consistent over the past 30 years of study.42 In fields that were intensely farmed, organic farming had a greater effect on the biodiversity of the land. This analysis of research confirmed that organic farming has a positive effect on biodiversity compared to conventional farming.
By Dr. Mercola
Mounting research confirms that sun avoidance may be at the heart of a large number of health problems. Not only does your body produce vitamin D in response to sun exposure on bare skin, but sunlight also produces a number of other health benefits that are unrelated to vitamin D production.
In fact, humans appear to have a lot in common with plants in this regard — we both need direct sun exposure in order to optimally thrive, and while artificial lighting sources offering specific light spectrums may be helpful for various problems, ideally we need the full spectrum of light that natural sunlight offers.
Most recently, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) published a laboratory study using cells in petri dishes, showing that exposure to blue and ultraviolet (UV) light increases T cell activity — white blood cells involved in immune function and fighting infections.1,2,3Sunlight Is a Natural Immune Booster
This is thought to be the first study showing an impact of light on this particular type of immune cell, so more research is needed to verify the results. However, there’s plenty of evidence in the medical literature confirming that sunlight has immune-boosting properties.
In this study,4 light was found to stimulate the production of hydrogen peroxide, which boosted the activity of T lymphocytes. As little as five to 10 minutes of sun exposure were needed to boost immune cell activity. As noted in one news report:5
“Given the large surface area of human skin, all of the T cells present in skin could potentially benefit from this phenomenon through exposure to blue light, the researchers suggest.
Note that vitamin D is only produced in the body via exposure to UVB rays, which can be harmful in cases of prolonged sun exposure.
If blue light from the sun’s rays is capable of energizing infection-fighting T cells, it could be a potential means of treatment for boosting immunity in many patients, the researchers conclude.”
While the researchers appear hopeful that blue light alone might be a valuable immune-boosting treatment, it’s important to realize that the biological effects of light can be very complex, and it’s important to get it right.
As explained by Dr. Alexander Wunsch, a world class expert on photobiology, excessive exposure to blue light — such as that from LED lighting, which is primarily blue and devoid of near-infrared found in sunlight and incandescent lighting — can be quite harmful, and may be a significant risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The healthiest blue light is from the sun, as it is balanced by near-infrared radiation, which has many important biological functions. Importantly, near-infrared radiation will activate cytochrome C oxidase in your mitochondria and help to optimize ATP production.T Cells Are Intrinsically Photosensitive
For a long time, it was believed mammals only had photosensitive cells in the eye. We’re now finding photosensitive cells in many other areas of the human body.
As noted by the authors, this study demonstrates that “T lymphocytes possess intrinsic photosensitivity and this property may enhance their motility on skin.” In other words, T cells sense and respond to light.
Blue light specifically triggers the production of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in T cells, which triggers a chemical cascade that results in increased T cell motility. The increased motility or activity, in turn, allows the immune cells to function better.
Interestingly, once the T cells are activated they also alter their antioxidant capacity — an effect that appears to allow for greater H2O2 production in response to light.
The spectral sensitivity of T cells peaked at both ~350 nanometers (nm), which is in the ultraviolet A (UVA) range, and ~470 nm, which is in the blue spectrum. The latter (470 nm light) has previously been shown to kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in vitro.6
According to lead author Gerard Ahern, Ph.D., an associate professor at the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology in Georgetown, some of the immunity benefits typically attributed to vitamin D may actually be due to this new-found mechanism.
While there may be some truth to that, previous research has teased out a number of different mechanisms for vitamin D’s activity, including its bactericidal and immune-boosting effects.
For example, researchers have found vitamin D acts directly on the beta defensin 2 gene (which encodes an antimicrobial peptide) and the NOD2 gene (which alerts cells to the presence of invading microbes).7 Vitamin D is also involved in the production of over 200 antimicrobial peptides that help fight all sorts of infections.Other Health Benefits of Sunlight Unrelated to Vitamin D
This certainly isn’t the first time sunlight has been shown to produce biological effects that are important for good health. Other health benefits of sun exposure include the following.
To learn more, I recommend reading through “Sunlight: For Better or For Worse? A Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Sun Exposure,” published in the journal Cancer Research Frontiers.8
✓ Raising your vitamin D level
This is probably the most well-known benefit of sun exposure, and there’s a robust body of scientific research confirming the many benefits of optimal vitamin D levels.
Importantly, the evidence now clearly shows that once you reach a serum vitamin D level of 40 ng/ml, your risk for cancer plunges by 67 percent, compared to having a level of 20 ng/ml or less.9,10,11,12,13,14,15
Even the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (formerly Institute of Medicine, IOM) has reported an association between vitamin D and overall mortality risk from all causes, including cancer.16,17
Vitamin D also increases your chances of surviving cancer if you do get it,18,19 and this includes melanoma patients.20,21 Vitamin D is also important for your bone health, cognitive function, immune function and healthy pregnancy and infant development.22
The overall health benefits of vitamin D are so significant, a Swedish research team recently warned that “avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude as smoking.”23,24
✓ Anchoring your circadian rhythm
Spending time in bright midday sun helps anchor your circadian rhythm, which is important for optimal sleep. The vitamin D you get from sun exposure can also play a role in your sleep.
Surprising as it sounds, scientists have found vitamin D deficiency raises your risk of obstructive sleep apnea.25 In one study, 98 percent of patients with sleep apnea had vitamin D deficiency, and the more severe the sleep apnea, the more severe the deficiency.
✓ Lowering high blood pressure and reducing risk for heart disease and cancer
Research has shown that when sunlight strikes your skin, nitric oxide (NO) is released into your bloodstream.26 NO is a powerful blood pressure lowering compound that helps protect your cardiovascular system, cutting your risk for both heart attacks and stroke.
UVB light lowers blood pressure by dilating blood vessels specifically the capillaries in your skin. This directs about 60 percent of your blood flow there. This then allows the sun’s rays to easily penetrate into your blood.
Sunlight has UV rays known to be germicidal and can help kill infections in your blood. This aspect of sunlight was used to treat tuberculosis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, even awarding a Nobel prize to Finson in 1903 for this work.
According to one 2013 study,27,28 for every single skin cancer death, 60 to 100 people die from stroke or heart disease related to hypertension. So your risk of dying from heart disease or stroke is on average 80 times greater than your risk of dying from skin cancer.
While higher vitamin D levels correlate with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, oral vitamin D supplements do not appear to benefit blood pressure, and the fact that supplements do not increase nitric oxide may be the reason for this.
✓ Modulating genetic expression related to your inflammatory response
Sunlight also appears to alter genetic expression. Cambridge University scientists recently showed that the expression of 28 percent of the human genetic make-up varies from season to season.29 Some of those genetic changes affect your inflammatory responses.
During winter months, inflammatory immune-system genes are activated, which helps combat infectious microbes, and during the summer the activity of anti-inflammatory gene activity increases.
In essence, during the summer your body begins to combat the damage incurred by the inflammation produced when your immune system is on red alert. But for that, you need sun exposure.
✓ Preventing infectious diseases
Both UV light itself and the vitamin D produced when your skin is exposed to it have potent antimicrobial effects.
While vitamin D increases production of naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides that destroy the cell walls of viruses and bacteria, UV light also increases blood levels of infection-destroying lymphocytes (white blood cells).
Besides boosting rates of cardiovascular disease, widespread sun avoidance may also be responsible for the reemergence of tuberculosis30,31,32 (TB), which now kills about 4,100 people every single day.33
In 2014, there were 1.5 million TB-related deaths worldwide, making it the No. 1 infectious disease out there. Compare that to the 55,100 who die from melanoma each year (worldwide).
UV light, especially blue light, also acts as a potent disinfectant of your environment. Research has found UV light can reduce the spread of tuberculosis in hospital wards and waiting rooms by 70 percent,34,35 and helps kill 90 percent of drug-resistant bacteria in hospital rooms.36
Data suggests UV light at 254 nm can kill drug-resistant strains of S. aureus and E. faecalis in as little as five seconds.37
✓ Boosting brain serotonin, thereby improving mood and mental health
Sun exposure boosts the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, which is in part why you feel better after spending some time in the sun.
Light therapy has long been the go-to treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and more recent research suggests it can be useful in the treatment of major depression as well.38 Schizophrenia has also been linked to maternal lack of sun exposure during pregnancy.39
Importantly, you also have serotonin in your gut, and here, vitamin D has been shown to combat inflammation caused by excessive gut serotonin.
In other words, sunlight and vitamin D both play intricate roles in the gut-brain axis, raising levels in the brain while lowering levels in your gut, thereby improving mood on the one hand, while reducing gut inflammation on the other.
To learn more about this, please see “New Discoveries May Unlock the Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Autism.”
✓ Boosting testosterone and protecting male fertility
Sunlight helps boost men’s libido by affecting testosterone. Australian research reveals that men’s testosterone levels rise and fall with the seasons, peaking during August, and hitting their lowest levels in March.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have also linked low vitamin D levels with an increased risk for erectile dysfunction (ED).40
✓ Boosting dopamine, thereby protecting against myopia
Australian researchers have found that kids who spend most of their days indoors have significantly higher rates of high degree myopia (short-sightedness).
As reported by The Daily Mail:41 “The researchers believe that the neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible. It is known to inhibit the excessive eyeball growth that causes myopia. Sunshine causes the retina to release more dopamine.”Protect Your Baby’s Health With Breastfeeding and Vitamin D
Vitamin D — which is best obtained from sensible sun exposure — is particularly important during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Not only are pregnant women advised to measure their vitamin D level and make sure it’s at least 40 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL), after birth, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving infants a daily dose of 400 international units (IU) of vitamin D for the first two months.
Unfortunately, few parents follow these recommendations, thereby putting their children at risk for vitamin D deficiency and related health problems. Recent research by the Mayo Clinic highlights this risk, noting that the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding do not include vitamin D — especially if the mother is deficient.42,43,44,45
In an ideal situation, a woman will have optimized her vitamin D before getting pregnant, making sure to maintain a level of 40 to 60 ng/mL for as long as she’s pregnant and breastfeeding, because if the mother is deficient in vitamin D, the child, and her milk, will also be deficient. Alternatively, you can give your baby vitamin D drops.
According to previous research46 by Bruce W. Hollis, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina Pediatrics, mothers who took 6,400 IUs per day of vitamin D could safely supply their breast milk with vitamin D to meet, if not exceed, her own and her nursing infant's vitamin D requirements. This may also be a more convenient if not safer alternative to giving the supplement to your baby directly.How to Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer While Benefiting From Sensible Sun Exposure
An important risk factor for melanoma is overexposure to UV radiation either from direct sunlight or tanning beds/lamps. Frying yourself for several hours on the weekend here and there is not a wise choice. You want to take precautions to avoid sunburn at all cost. If you’re going to the beach, bring long-sleeved cover-ups and a wide-brimmed hat, and cover up as soon as your skin starts to turn pink.
Realize that unless you have very dark skin you don’t need to spend hours in the sun. For lighter-skinned people, optimizing your vitamin D may require mere minutes in the sun with minimal clothing. Other health effects associated with sun exposure beyond vitamin D production also appear to be fairly fast-acting.
In the featured study, T cells were activated within five to 10 minutes of light exposure. Granted, the cells were in a petri dish, and further research is needed to see whether T cells in your skin react as quickly to sun exposure.
Overall, the evidence suggests the benefits of sensible sun exposure far outweigh the risks of skin cancer. To further minimize your risks while maximizing benefits of UV exposure, here are a few factors to consider. If you pay close attention to these, you can determine, within reason, safe exposure durations.
- You should know your skin type based on the Fitzpatrick skin type classification system, which has been around for decades. The lighter your skin, the less exposure to UV light is necessary. The downside is that lighter skin is also the most vulnerable to damage from overexposure.
- For very fair skinned individuals and those with photodermatitis, any sun exposure may be unwanted and they should carefully measure vitamin D levels while ensuring they have an adequate intake of vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium and calcium.
- For most individuals, safe UV exposure is possible by knowing your skin type and the current strength of the sun’s rays. There are several apps and devices to help you optimize the benefits of sun exposure while mitigating the risks. Also be extremely careful if you have not been in the sun for some time. Your first exposures of the year are the most sensitive, so be especially careful to limit your initial time in the sun.
Recipe by Pete Evans
Eggs, whether soft-boiled or poached, are a popular breakfast food, but if you’re getting tired of them or if you want to add variety and flavor, there’s one way to kick it up a notch: turn them into a tortilla. You can use whatever healthy ingredients you have on hand, turning it into a delicious and nutritious dish. Your imagination is the only limit.
This recipe from Pete Evans is all-organic and healthy, starting with the most important ingredient: organic pastured chicken eggs. It also incorporates various vegetables, such as kale, garlic and pumpkin, to make the whole meal burst with flavor. It’s a great way to make your breakfast more enjoyable.
- 3 oz. of organic kale leaves
- 6 organic pastured eggs
- 3 ½ oz. of organic pumpkin, peeled and cut into small cubes
- 2 Tbsp. of coconut oil or another high-quality fat of your choice (e.g. raw, grass-fed butter)
- 1 garlic glove, finely chopped
- 1 ½ oz. of toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds
- Fresh lemon to serve
- 2 Tbsp. of cultured vegetables or fermented krauts of your choice, to serve
- Wash the kale leaves thoroughly, then drain them well and pat dry. Roughly chop the kale leaves, discard the inner stems and set aside.
- Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and season them with salt and freshly cracked pepper.
- Heat the coconut oil or fat of your choice in a 9 ½-inch non-stick pan over medium heat.
- Add the pumpkin and cook for 3 minutes.
- Decrease the heat; add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until softened.
- Increase the heat to medium, add the kale and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Spread the kale and pumpkin into a single layer and pour the beaten eggs into the pan, swirling the egg mixture around the pan evenly.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook without stirring for 2 to 3 minutes or until almost cooked through.
- Remove the pan from the heat, then cover it with a lid and leave it for 3 minutes to allow the residual heat in the pan to finish cooking the eggs.
- Cut the tortilla in half, and gently slide each half off the pan onto two warm plates. Sprinkle with toasted sesame and pumpkin seeds and a light squeeze of lemon. Serve with a tablespoon of cultured vegetables of your choice on each plate.
This recipe makes two servings.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Organic Pastured Eggs: The Foundation of The Kale Tortilla
To make a delicious kale tortilla, you need to use organic pastured eggs because they are simply superior to commercially harvested eggs. These eggs come from hens that freely roam in clean pastures where they can hunt for their natural diet such as worms, insects, seeds and plants. Compared to eggs from conventionally raised chickens, organic pastured eggs have the following advantages:[i]
One-third less cholesterol
One-fourth less saturated fat
Two-thirds more vitamin A
Two times more omega-3 fats
Three times more vitamin E
Seven times more beta-carotene
The best place to purchase organic pastured eggs is directly from a local farmer or a farmers market near you. It’s also a great way to meet the people who produce your food and get an idea how it is grown and harvested. If you live in an urban area, you can visit your local health food store, which typically carries these eggs.
Remember that there’s one caveat about eggs : Scrambling oxidizes the cholesterol in the yolk. If you have high cholesterol levels, this may damage your body. However, the other ingredients in this recipe may help counteract this negative effect through their antioxidants and other nutrients.
Kale Provides Plenty of Nutrients and All the Protein You Need
Kale is a form of cabbage that is now becoming widely popular simply because it’s a nutrient powerhouse. In fact, one cup of raw kale possesses all nine essential amino acids to form the proteins in your body. Plus, it has an additional nine non-essential amino acids. The table below can help shed more light on this regard:
Kale is also abundant in carotenoids, a type of antioxidant. Again, in just 1 cup of kale, you can get 200 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. It also contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help maintain healthy eyesight. But that’s not all – just take a look at the numerous vitamins and minerals this superfood provides:
Add Some Pumpkin for More Nutrients and Flavor
The humble pumpkin is more than just a Halloween decoration — it’s actually healthy for you. Almost all parts of the plant are edible, including the leaves and flowers.
Pumpkin is loaded with various vitamins, most notably vitamin A, which is about 245 percent of the daily recommended value. It also contains 19 percent of the daily value for vitamin C and 16 percent for potassium. Here are additional nutrients that pumpkin contains:
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
Several studies done on pumpkin have shown that it may be helpful for:
- Protecting cardiovascular health: Pumpkin seeds contain generous amounts of oleic and linoleic acids, which may help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.[i]
- Boosting post-workout energy: One cup of cooked pumpkin contains 564 milligrams of potassium, which can help refuel your energy levels after a workout.[ii]
- Lowering the risk of cancer: According to a study published in The British Journal of Nutrition, the antioxidant activity in pumpkins has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.[iii]
By Dr. Mercola
Is it ever appropriate to eat wheat or grains? John Douillard's book "Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back Into Your Diet" would seem to be in direct conflict with my first book, the New York Times Best Seller "The No-Grain Diet: Conquer Carbohydrate Addiction and Stay Slim for Life."
Interestingly, our views are nowhere near as conflicting as you might think. About 90 percent of our views are actually in agreement. But the devil's in the details, so I thought it would be interesting to have a dialog about this perceived conflict.To Wheat or Not to Wheat
Douillard, who began his health career as a chiropractor, went to India for a two-week vacation in 1986. He ended up staying for a year and a half, studying traditional Ayurvedic medicine. During that stay, he met Deepak Chopra, and ended up running The Chopra Center for eight years upon his return to the U.S.
"What I write about in my newsletter every week is the ancient wisdom of time-tested traditional medical practices that are now being proven with modern science.
When you have techniques that have been successfully used for thousands of years and now backed by science — we should take interest in these concepts," Douillard says.
"Early humans have been eating gluten-rich grains like wheat and barley for as much as 3.4 million years according to a handful of studies.
There is a lot of science that has not been publicized that suggest many health and longevity benefits of whole grain, including wheat. We now have a $16 billion gluten-free industry that is promoting more processed foods.
Most of the science that frowns on grains has been done on processed grains, not whole grains. My book "Eat Wheat" shares over 600 references suggesting the documented benefits of whole vs refined grains.
Thirty years ago, I was treating Epstein-Barr, chronic fatigue and Candida. The first thing you do is tell them, 'get off wheat and dairy.' They feel better … Six weeks later … their problems are back. We'll say, 'Get off of meat or become a vegetarian, or a vegan, or a raw foodist.'
You find that, again, we keep kicking the problem down the road, never really dealing with the underlying problem, which is our global inability to digest hard-to-digest foods, which is a result of a diet of processed foods, pesticides and environmental pollutants.
There's good science that shows that these processed foods, not whole grains, have literally broken down our digestive system, particularly the microbes and the enzymes that help us break down wheat."Humans May Have Eaten Grains for Millions of Years
When Douillard speaks about humanity eating wheat, he's specifically referencing a subspecies of humans that have been shown to be eating wheat-type grains a few million years ago.
Paleo, on the other hand, teaches that grains are a fairly recent addition to the human diet, and that our ancient ancestors were primarily hunter-gatherers that ate a minimum amount of grains.
"There's a handful of studies; one done at the University of Utah. They found gluten in the teeth of ancient humans throughout Africa 3.4 to 4 million years ago," Douillard says.
"They also found that these ancient humans could gather enough wheat berries in just two hours to feed them for an entire day. The entire continent of Africa was covered with grasslands.
It does make sense that if they could gather in two hours enough wheat berries for the entire day, it's a lot easier to do that than try to chase down a woolly mammoth or a lion.
We didn't start hunting our own meat until about … 500,000 years ago. We have genetics for meat that are 500,000 years old. There's genetics for eating wheat, barley and gluten … [going back] 3.4 to 4 million years … In a lot of ways, we have a lot more genetics for wheat than meat."
David Lieberman, a Harvard researcher and professor wrote the book, "The Story of the Human Body."His research shows that in the Paleolithic period, they ate about 35 to 45 percent of their diet as carbohydrates, including cereal grains.
According to Douillard, wheat was domesticated about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, and grains covered much of the African continent, making them hard to ignore as a food source. He also points to research showing that amylase, an enzyme that helps break down wheat, was genetically acquired around 2 million years ago.Grains Have a Place in Your Diet — After You've Regained Your Fat-Burning Ability
When I wrote "The No-Grain Diet" 13 years ago, it was primarily in response to the majority of the patients I treated that had insulin resistance. Avoiding grains is an important step if you're struggling with this issue. That said, my current position on grains has become more refined over the years.
While I believe normalizing insulin resistance is still crucial, optimizing your mitochondrial function is even more critical for good health and disease prevention. A major part of that is regaining the ability to burn fat as your primary fuel — something 90 to 95 percent of people are challenged with.
Becoming an efficient fat burner involves a dietary shift away from net carbs — including grains — toward higher amounts of healthy fats. For this reason, I believe it's still wise for most people to avoid grains in the early phases of recovering the ability to burn fat as your primary fuel.
As a general rule, I recommend keeping your net carbs below 15 or 20 grams per day, until you've recaptured your ability to burn fat. At THAT point, I believe grains can be reintroduced, and can be part of a healthy diet.
"I think you're absolutely right, we must reset fat burning," Douillard says. "In 1960, when they took cholesterol out of our diet, they replaced it with these processed, bleached, deodorized and refined oils that are completely indigestible.
You walk down the grocery store aisle and [see] all those clear bottles with vegetable oils in them that have nothing in them that can go rancid, that are completely indigestible, and these processed oils found in almost all packaged foods break down our digestive strength by congesting our liver and gallbladder. When you look at how we digest things, the liver and the gallbladder are the kingpins of digestion.
The bile your liver makes is like a Pacman that gobbles up toxins, fats and environmental pollutants. When bile from the liver and gallbladder is congested, you lose your ability to digest good fats and detoxify bad fats. The bile also buffers the acid in the stomach. [When you] eat wheat or dairy, [your stomach] produces a significant amount of acid that requires bile to neutralize it once it leaves the stomach.
But if there's no buffer from the bile because the liver and gall bladder are congested by years of processed foods, the stomach will slowly stop producing the acid we need to break down wheat and dairy. As a result … we have broken down … our digestive system to the point that we find ourselves taking more and more foods out of our diets rather than fixing the broken down digestion.
I agree with you — you first have to reset fat burning — [and] those processed foods … inhibit us from doing that. But before we take the grains out, or in addition to taking the grains out temporarily, we must reset liver, gall bladder and digestive function because our digestive system is the same system as our detoxification system."
According to Douillard, the primary reason people feel ill when eating wheat is not because there's something inherently bad about wheat, but rather because it's hard to digest, and part of the problem relates to an impaired ability to digest foods in the first place.
He believes that if all you do is avoid wheat, you'll continue experiencing problems down the road related to this impaired digestive ability, even if you initially feel better. The reason for this is because you've still not addressed the underlying problem, which is poor digestion.
This is why he advocates getting rid of processed foods and foods contaminated with pesticides. And, when eating grains, eat the right kind of grains. In essence, you need to reset your digestive function. Once that's done, you can begin to enjoy certain types of bread (such as organic whole wheat and sourdough) in moderation without suffering any ill effects.
"We've eaten grains, wheat in particular, three times a day for 50 to 60 years in a processed version that does nothing but congest our ability to digest well. That has to be fixed," he says.How to Optimize Your Digestive Function
So how do you restore your digestive function? One area of importance is avoiding pesticides such as Roundup, which has become a staple food contaminant over the past two decades. Research now shows glyphosate — the active ingredient in Roundup — causes leaky gut syndrome. Genetically engineered (GE) foods are notorious for having higher amounts of glyphosate contamination, due to the crops being glyphosate resistant.
Conventional (non-GE) wheat also tends to have high amounts of glyphosate residues, courtesy of a process called desiccation. The crop is basically sprayed with glyphosate just before harvest, which increases yield. I was very pleased to see Douillard address this issue in his book, as many are still unaware of this problem. Knowing that's part of the problem, the answer becomes more readily apparent: Eat organic foods, and that includes organic wheat.
The key is to repair the epithelium of your intestinal tract. Douillard notes there are several studies showing there's a significant difference between whole wheat and refined wheat in this regard. Whole wheat supports and increases levels of good bacteria, and supports tissue resistance in the epithelium, thereby protecting against leaky gut syndrome.
Whole wheat may also help decrease inflammation and pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The problems many associate with wheat in general are specifically restricted to refined and processed wheat.
"There's interesting science … that I didn't [include] in the book because it came out afterwards. One study showed that people who eat gluten-free have four times more mercury in their blood as people who eat wheat. People who are gluten-free have less good bacteria and more bad bacteria in their guts than people who eat wheat.
People who are gluten-free have less killer T cells, a measure of immunity, than people who eat wheat, suggesting that these hard-to-digest foods, the lectins and the phytic acids … [have] some benefit … [C]ertain irritants and poisons in our food (like tomatoes got tomatines, and potatoes have solanines, which are poisonous) … are a big part of our diet today … Those irritants have been shown to be immune stimulants for our immune system …
What we're beginning to see is that [when] we … take all the hard-to-digest foods out of our diet ... our immune system is being compromised as a result … [W]e've been eating [grains] for almost 4 million years. Do we have a genetic need for these types of irritants to trigger our immune system? The science is pointing in that direction."The Importance of Seasonal Eating
In his book "The 3-Season Diet: Eat the Way Nature Intended," Douillard delves into other fascinating research suggesting there may be biological imperatives to eating foods in accordance to season. Different microbes will be present in soil and plants during different seasons, and by eating certain foods at certain times of the year, you may be able to radically optimize your gut microbiome.
For example, in the fall and winter, enzymes like amylase are increased in grains. During summer and spring, amylase is decreased, and this enzyme specifically helps your body digest foods such as grains. So it may not be a fluke that grains are harvested in the fall and winter, when amylase levels are at their highest.
"When you think about [it], maybe we are supposed to eat these grains at the right time of the year, as opposed to eating everything all day long three times a day in a processed form, which we can't digest," Douillard suggests. "We're part of the circadian rhythm of nature. We completely lost that … Birds fly south, whales migrate. Our survival also depends on us being connected to those rhythms of nature. Part of that is what we eat.
I actually published, for free, a monthly grocery list, superfood list and recipe list1 for people to eat seasonal food … for every month of the year, because I feel it's such an important thing for people to know what foods are in season and how to prepare them.
The microbes in the soil change seasonally. Seasonal foods carry these seasonal bugs into our guts which become our new seasonal microbiome. They help us have better immunity in the winter, decongest in the spring, and dissipate heat in the summer …'
I think that's a piece of the puzzle … [I]t's one of those insidious key points that we've just completely ignored. If deer die when they eat [tree bark] out of season, does that mean we just get to eat whatever we want, whenever we want? I don't think so …
Of course, we would eat higher protein and higher fat, a more Paleo-ish diet, in the winter … More nuts, seeds, grains, meat, stews and soups. More leafy greens, sprouts and berries in the spring, and fruits and vegetables in the summer. The diet would change dramatically from a high protein and high fat in the winter, to low-fat in the spring, to high-carb fruits and vegetables in the summer. That's something that we just generally don't do.
If you get a grocery list and stick it in your purse and shop along that way, you start to bring more of those foods into your diet. That, along with rebooting the digestive system and trying to clean your diet up and eating organically, can help people reboot the strength of their digestion so that they can begin to break bread again …
Real bread has the ingredients of organic whole wheat, salt, water and an organic starter. It takes three days to bake that bread, where the bread in the supermarket takes two hours. That [store-bought] bread won't ever go hard. It just sits there and stays soft for weeks because of the oils they use extend shelf life but, for us, they are indigestible."Ayurvedic Principles to Improve Your Digestive Health
To improve your body's ability to burn fat as its primary fuel, consider intermittent fasting. Never skipping a meal is a major part of the problem, as the constant feeding prevents your body from burning stored fat.
Becoming a more efficient fat burner will also improve your energy levels and stabilize your mood. "Make lunch a bigger meal," Douillard says. "Supper comes from the word "supplemental" or "soup," so try to eat smaller meals in the evening the very best that you can."
To reboot your digestive health, be sure to avoid processed foods. Douillard also recommends incorporating ginger, cumin (regular, not black), coriander, fennel and cardamom in your cooking. These spices have powerful digestive benefits that support digestive health. "
When you put them all together, something sort of magical happens. This is an old ancient formula that has been used for thousands of years to reboot digestion," Douillard says. They do this in part by decongesting your bile ducts and improving your production of hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes and pancreatic enzymes.
When you take cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger and cardamom together, they amp up each other's benefits. He also sells these spices as a supplement called Gentle Digest. Ideally, add them to your meals every day. It typically takes two to three months to reset your digestion using these herbs on a daily basis. If you use a supplement, take it with your main meal.
Next, to improve bile flow from your gallbladder and improve your ability to digest fats, incorporate bile-promoting foods such as artichokes, fenugreek, fennel, beets, apples and celery into your diet. Drinking a small amount of juiced beets, apples and celery with your meal is a simple way to improve your digestion. Fenugreek tea or fennel tea are other traditional options.
"Your bile flow allows you to go to the bathroom. It regulates bowel movement function. It detoxifies you, scrubs your intestinal villi. It allows for emulsifying of fats, for delivering good fats to your brain and your body and getting rid of the bad fats, and it buffers the acids from your stomach. Without that, digestively, we're in really big trouble," he notes.What Does Lymph Have to Do With it?
Lymphatic health and optimizing lymphatic flow is also important. According to Douillard, studies have shown that when your body cannot break down the wheat, it goes undigested from your stomach into the small intestine. As a result of being undigested — due to weak stomach acid and lack of bile to buffer those acids — the proteins enter into the collecting ducts of your lymphatic system, which lines your entire intestinal tract.
The lymphatic system is the biggest circulatory system of your body. It's the detoxification system for bad fats, and a carrier of your immune system. When the lymph around the intestinal tract gets congested, your intestinal tract will swell, making you feel bloated.
"The lymph can get so congested that it'll push those fats into the fat around the belly, causing belly fat. There's good science to back all this up. There's lymph underneath your skin. When the lymph around your gut gets congested ... [it goes] into your skin, causing rashes and irritation, which is what we'd like to think are gluten-related grain issues.
Recently discovered by the University of Virginia about two or three years ago, they found brain lymphatics, called glymphatics, that drain three pounds of toxic chemicals and plaque out of your brain every year while you sleep.
When those brain lymphs are congested — because of digestive-related gut lymph congestion, which is where the lion's share of the lymph in the body is located — the brain lymphs can't drain, and they've now been linked directly to anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, infection, inflammation and autoimmune conditions … We have a real problem in the lymphatic system because of weak digestion."
To improve lymph health, you can use beets, most greens, polyphenol-rich berries such as cherries, blueberries and mulberries, and certain herbs, including red root and manjistha. Movement will also improve lymph flow, and a rebounder is great for this. To optimize glymphatic flow, be sure to get enough sleep, as your brain can only detoxify during deep sleep. Douillard goes into a number of other strategies as well in his book.Once Digestion Is Properly Restored, Wheat May Be Reintroduced
In addition to my own work, I also wanted to address the potential perceived conflict between what Douillard is promoting in his book "Eat Wheat," and Dr. David Perlmutter's recommendations, detailed in "Grain Brain," and other books. Perlmutter actually interviewed Douillard recently, and appears to be willing to embrace many of Douillard's notions. You can listen to this interview on LifeSpa.com.
"David is an old friend of mine as well. He was delighted to have this debate" Douillard says. "I really feel like this issue of wheat or non-wheat … really needs to be talked about in an open forum.
People can hear the science on both sides, because there is science suggesting that whole wheat (not refined wheat) is actually quite beneficial, and there's science that says it could be risky and dangerous. We need to understand it more. The only way to do that is with dialogue.
Dr. Perlmutter was great. I think he totally got the idea that it is the digestive breakdown. His contention was stop eating wheat because it's hard to digest, and my contention was, 'OK. But let's fix the digestive system. Then maybe we could eat healthy wheat and not take the grains out of our diet,' which is exactly what you're saying.
I think it's really great to see us all coming on board with the same philosophy. For 30 years, I have been helping people reboot digestion and go from not being able to eat wheat or dairy to being able to eat wheat and dairy. I know it's very possible and people can pull this off.
I also know when they do that, the ability to detoxify … is significantly enhanced. That, we don't want to go without. We don't want to go without ability to detoxify our body naturally. Doing a detox is a very important piece of the puzzle as well, but we have a natural detoxifying system that we have to optimize on a regular basis. That comes from rebooting digestive strength."Refined Wheat Versus Whole Wheat
You may have heard the term "wheat belly." Douillard believes a more appropriate term would be "sugar belly." Refined, processed wheat has a high glycemic index, which is in part why it has been blamed for increasing your risk of everything from belly bloat to Alzheimer's and cognitive decline.
However, some studies show whole wheat may actually reduce cognitive decline, protect against Alzheimer's and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Part of this may be related to the fact that whole wheat has a much lower glycemic index.
"I think that the biggest thing that we can do, in addition to getting rid of processed food … is to look at the amount of sugar we're eating, and get that out of our diet the best we can. We have one taste bud for sweet. We have 300 taste buds for bitter … People are addicted to [sweet] taste. We can break that addiction by actually bringing the body back in the balance.
One of the ancient principles from that perspective is to have all six tastes with each meal: sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter and astringent.
Each of these tastes provides a different type of emotional support. We leave the meal emotionally stable and balanced, not craving a dessert because the meal provided you with all these six tastes, and therefore fed you emotionally in a complete and balanced way. Balanced meals are really important," Douillard says.
"That's where I have a little issue with the Paleo diet, because the Harvard anthropologist will tell you that the Paleolithic people didn't eat just meat and vegetables. They definitely had grains and tubers and carbohydrates in their diet.
I also agree with you. We have to first reset fat burning as a primary source of fuel, because you can't just eat a bunch of fatty foods and then eat a bunch of good, healthy carbohydrates. That's too many calories, too much fuel, and we're going to store that fuel as fat. We have to reset the function first and then we can go back to being balanced. That starts with rebooting digestive strength."More Information
The devil's in the details, as they say, and Douillard's book is packed with details, including the specifics about what types of wheat to purchase, and where to purchase it if you decide to make your own bread.
Interestingly, I just upgraded my kitchen and now have a steam convection oven, which is the best way to bake bread, and I've slowly began experimenting with bread making. As noted in his book, sourdough bread, for example, is basically gluten-free because the microbes, similar to the ones in yogurt, digest all the sugar during the fermentation process.
"In one Italian study they gave gluten-free sourdough bread to people who [have] celiac and there was no intestinal inflammation," he notes.
"In fact, studies show that whole grains like kamut actually significantly reduce intestinal inflammation. There's a lot of information about wheat and baking in an old-fashioned traditional way that we've lost. If we get that back, most of us can begin to break bread again in the proper way, and stop taking things out of our diets as this only offers us a temporary solution. It doesn't address the underlying problem."
If you're intrigued, I highly recommend picking up a copy of "Eat Wheat: A Scientific and Clinically-Proven Approach to Safely Bringing Wheat and Dairy Back Into Your Diet." In it, Douillard provides detailed guidelines for how to do it properly, so you may improve, not worsen, your health. You can also learn more about Dr. Douillard's work at LifeSpa.com.
By Dr. Mercola
Guidelines have recently been submitted that support something you probably already knew, that using cotton swabs to clean your ears isn't a good idea.
The latest counsel was published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, authored by the American Academy (AAO-HNS) advisory panel of the same name.1
You may remember the mantra that's been repeated since you were a kid: Never put anything in your ear that's smaller than your elbow.
But why? We all want clean ears; further, being able to hear what's being said at the dinner table is usually a good thing, so if there's wax buildup, getting rid of it somehow seems logical.
Dr. Seth Schwartz, chairman of the guideline update group for the Academy, said doctors aren't the only ones paying attention to such guidelines. They're aware that, especially in recent years, more people have been opting for self-care.
Incidentally, while one wouldn't think such a document would be especially sought after, apparently it is. More than 50,000 copies of the old guidelines have been downloaded.'Nothing Smaller Than Your Elbow,' but Why?
Two very positive things came about when the new clinical guidelines were submitted. One was that a consumer representative, not necessarily connected with the medical community, was included on the panel.
Another was that the verbiage used became much more clear and straightforward than in years past, Schwartz said, adding:
"The process has become a little more transparent in the way we actually write the guidelines now. We are more clear about why the decisions we made are made and what data there is to support it."2
The guidelines' answer to the "why" question is pretty concise, as CNN reported:
"Cotton swabs, hair pins, house keys and toothpicks — the many smaller-than-our-elbow-objects we love to put in our ears — can cause cuts in our ear canals, perforate our eardrums and dislocate our hearing bones.
And any of these things could lead to hearing loss, dizziness, ringing or other symptoms of ear injury."3
The better alternative, experts say, is to let nature take its course. So how does that work for getting waxy ears clean? According to the AAO-HNSF, if your body is ridding itself of excess wax correctly, your ear canals should never have to be cleaned.4
Glands in your ears produce earwax to keep them lubricated, as well as clean and protected. The main reason it's present is so foreign bits like dust, dirt and dead skin cells will get stuck in it rather than burrowing deeper and lodging in your ear canal.
Additionally, studies say earwax is produced only in the outer one-third of your ear canal, so using cotton swabs or another instrument can push earwax into the deeper part of your ear canal, near the eardrum.6
Further, using cotton swabs in your ears releases histamine, which may cause itching, irritation and inflammation. The usual response then is more cotton swab use, making the problem worse.
To be clear, it's trying to get rid of earwax that often causes problems, because bacteria, fungus and viruses can be introduced from your outer to your inner ear. Besides blocking your ear canal and causing hearing loss, using instruments can rupture your eardrum.
Earwax elimination takes place naturally when you talk or chew food: Your jaw movements, along with skin growth within the canal, join forces, as it were, to help move old earwax out so new, "clean" earwax can form. The old earwax gets washed away when you bathe.The Dos and Don'ts of Cerumen Impaction
So what's the low-down when cerumen, the clinical term for earwax, builds up in your ears?
In the guidelines' section called "Dos and Don'ts," it explains that impaction takes place when the ear fails to properly eliminate earwax. This happens most often in older people, Dr. James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), said, explaining a common scenario:
"For those with impacted ear wax, the use of cotton-tipped swabs may push the earwax deeper into the ear canal and harm the eardrum … About 2 percent of adults with impacted earwax may go to the doctor with hearing loss as their symptom."7
Cerumen buildup is one reason why many elderly people are unable to hear well. Whether you're having trouble hearing or think you have earwax buildup, see a healthcare professional, who may use microsuction to clean your ear canals using gentle suction and instruments, or other appropriate removal methods.
If the volume of cerumen is high, high-pressure ear canal irrigation with a syringe may be necessary, but only by a professional because improper methods and pressure could damage your ear drum.
However, don't use irrigation to clean your ears if you're diabetic or have a broken ear drum.
Again, that's where the most important "don't" comes in: Don't use any kind of sharp instrument like a knitting needle, bobby pin or pencil to clean your ears. (Yes, all of these are tools that have been used for this purpose.)
Another "don't" recommendation is to avoid overcleaning your ears because it might make an impaction problem worse. The drive to have clean ears is cultural, Schwartz explains, but it's best to simply wipe away excess wax when it makes itself evident on the outside of the ear.
As for some of the "Dos," one is to talk to your doctor about how to treat earwax impaction yourself in the privacy of your own home. That said, some ear conditions (which you may not even realize you have) may make some self-cleaning options unsafe.And About Those Ear Candles and Jet Irrigators — No, Just No
The concept of ear candles may have emerged as far back as 2500 B.C, according to the Colon Therapists Network:
"Ancient cultures, including the Egyptians, made reference to its use. Parchment scrolls discovered in the Orient also have described the procedure for ear candling, also known as ear coning."8
Audiology.org describes these earwax removal devices and how they're purportedly used:
"Hollow tapered cones made of cloth and soaked in beeswax or paraffin; the narrow funnel is placed into the ear and the opposite side of the cone is ignited … Proponents of ear candling claim oxygen is drawn from the flame, thus producing a vacuum that literally pulls residue out of the ear."9
One study10 said that in a limited clinical trial involving eight ears, no cerumen removal from the external auditory canal was evident, and that 122 otolaryngologists counted 21 ear injuries from ear candle use.
Candle wax was often deposited during the process, and in conclusion, "ear candles have no benefit … and may result in serious injury."
Ash residue is another substance ear doctors have found in peoples' ears after using ear candles, and accidents (which you'll have sometimes when you're playing with fire) are credited with more than a few injuries.When Too Much Earwax Is Just Too Much
"It's not a bad thing to have wax in your ears. Everybody does and should," Schwartz said. "It's more of an issue when it becomes too much."
There's also the fact that some people experience drainage, pain, hearing loss and even bleeding from their ears. In any of those cases, it's a problem that must be addressed by a medical professional, so it's a definite "do" to see your doctor.
The simplest and safest way to remove earwax at home is to lie on your side with a towel under your head and put a few drops of olive oil, coconut oil or water in your ear to soften the earwax.
Then, pour a capful of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide in your ear to flush the wax out. Pure, clean water or a sterile saline solution works just as well as oil or over-the-counter eardrops.
Using hydrogen peroxide may also help improve respiratory infections, like colds and flu. You may hear a bubbling noise or feel a slight stinging sensation; both are perfectly normal. When those subside, repeat with the other ear.
Insufficient amounts of omega-3 fats in your system may be making your earwax buildup worse. The best way to remedy this is to eat omega-3-rich foods like wild-caught Alaskan salmon and sardines or take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 supplement. When your buildup or impaction has dissipated, make sure you're getting sufficient amounts of omega-3 to prevent a recurrence.
Hearing loss is not always an indication that someone has wax built up in their ears. In fact, the older a person is, the more opportunities they've had in their life to experience loud noises that could precipitate partial hearing loss. It's one of the most common causes. The NIDCD says:
"Sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a brief time, or when they are both loud and long-lasting. These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)."11
By Dr. Mercola
According to a recent report1 by the U.S. surgeon general, substance abuse is skyrocketing in the U.S., and that includes alcohol. In fact, substance abuse in general has eclipsed cancer in terms of prevalence.
According to this report, more than 66 million — nearly 25 percent of the total adolescent and adult population — reported binge drinking at some point in 2015. In terms of healthcare costs, alcohol abuse is racking up a price tag of $249 billion a year.
Drinking has become so common you might not give it much thought. Researchers have even stated that moderate alcohol consumption may have certain health benefits, which may serve as a comforting justification for some.
However, there's still plenty of controversy on this issue, and I would not use it to justify chronic drinking, regardless of the amount. As demonstrated in the BBC investigation above, drinking tends to do far more harm than good, even if you're within guidelines for "moderate" alcohol consumption.Do Drinking Patterns Make a Difference?
The BBC segment above investigates the differences between moderate drinking and binge drinking, using identical twin brothers as guinea pigs. They each drink 21 units of alcohol over differing time scales — one consumes them all in one night while the other has three drinks per day over the course of a week.
Twenty-one units amounts to three-quarters of a bottle of whiskey, two bottles of wine, or 10.5 pints of beer. The test continues for a month. Medical tests before and after assesses the physical effects and potential damage.
Overall, the tests reveal that alcohol consumption is quite detrimental in general, no matter how it's consumed. The doctor was actually quite surprised at how bad moderate drinking was, considering it's within the U.K. guidelines for alcohol consumption.Factors That Influence How You're Affected by Alcohol
The effect of alcohol on your body depends on a number of factors, including your gender, weight and genetic makeup. The smaller you are, the more concentrated your blood alcohol level will be compared to a larger person drinking the same amount.
Women, who tend to have more body fat than men, will also tend to be more affected by alcohol, as alcohol is soluble in fat. This is why drinking guidelines are lower for women.
Genes also play a significant role in how your body processes alcohol, which subsequently determines how likely you are to suffer a hangover as well. Enzymes that break down alcohol are determined by genes. If you have slow-metabolizing enzymes, you're more likely to get a hangover when you drink.
In essence, the hangover is your body's way of telling you it's having a hard time metabolizing the alcohol and is struggling with elevated toxicity. Continuing to drink despite such physical objections raises your risk of liver disease.
That said, if your genetic profile predisposes you to not suffer hangovers, that does NOT mean you can drink without physiological repercussions.
The breakdown products of alcohol are what cause the most biological damage, and those byproducts are produced even when your body metabolizes alcohol quick enough to avoid a buildup of toxic byproducts (which causes the hangover).Conventional Drinking Guidelines
In the U.S., the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines2 suggest women consume no more than one drink per day (equivalent to no more than 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine). Men have a two-drinks-per-day allotment.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking3 as consuming five or more drinks within two hours for men, and four or more drinks in two hours for women. In the U.K. bingeing is defined as six units for women (equivalent to two glasses of wine) and eight units for men.How Alcohol Ruins Your Health
Acutely, alcohol depresses your central nervous system, which slows down the communication between your brain cells. Your limbic system, which controls emotions, is also affected. This is why alcohol consumption lowers your inhibitions.
Your prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with reasoning and judgment, also slows in response to alcohol, leading to more impulsive behavior and poor judgment.
At higher doses, your cerebellum, which plays a role in muscle activity, will also be impacted, leading to dizziness and loss of balance. Over time — even over as short a period as one month — alcohol:4,5,6
• Increases liver stiffness, which increases your risk of liver cirrhosis. In the film, after one month, the liver stiffness of the binge-drinking brother was increased from 3.9 to 4.9 — a 25 percent increase in liver inflammation that leads to cirrhosis.
The moderate-drinking brother fared nearly as badly. His liver stiffness increased from 3.9 to 4.8, so spreading the drinks out did not make any significant difference in terms of the liver damage caused by 21 units of alcohol per week.
• Diminishes the formation of memories due to ethanol buildup in the brain. This is why you may not remember what you did while you were drunk. Alcohol also causes your hippocampus to shrink, which affects memory and learning.
• Promotes systemic inflammation. The two brothers both had significant increases in five different inflammatory markers, although binge drinking caused a more dramatic rise.
Studies have shown even a single binge causes a dramatic rise in inflammation. In other words, your body reacts to alcohol in the same way as it reacts to injury or infection.
• Increases stress on your heart, raising your risk for cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, high blood pressure and stroke.
Blood alcohol levels spike two to three hours AFTER your last drink, which means it may occur in the middle of the night during sleep. This raises your risk of accidental death due to choking on your own vomit and/or suffering cardiac failure or stroke while sleeping.
• Significantly increases endotoxin levels. In other words, alcohol causes gut damage allowing bacteria to escape from your gut into your blood stream.
The film showed that bingeing caused significantly worse damage, suggesting one week between binges is nowhere near enough to heal the gut damage caused by high amounts of alcohol. That said, regular consumption also led to elevated endotoxin levels, suggesting 21 units of alcohol per week is too much, and "sensible" drinking limits likely need to be much lower. How low is still unclear.
These are just a handful of the physical effects of alcohol. In reality, alcohol affects every part of your body, as shown in this Healthline infographic.7 In terms of chronic disease, studies have linked excessive alcohol consumption with an increased risk for poor immune function (which raises your risk for most diseases), pancreatitis and cancer.
Source: Healthline June 30, 2014Cancer Risk Rises With Alcohol Consumption
One recent study found alcohol was routinely linked to cancers in the rectum, liver, colon, esophagus, oropharynx, larynx and, in women, the breast.8 Overall, it found that alcohol is a causative factor in nearly 6 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide. The research did not identify the biological causation between alcohol and cancers in these seven sites, but according to the researchers:9
"Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause."
The percentage of deaths related to alcohol and cancer increased by 62 percent in the past 12 years, up from 3.6 percent in 2003 to 5.8 percent in 2015 worldwide.10 This increase may be the result of other factors in the lives of people who suffer from cancer triggered by alcohol, such as poor dietary choices, lack of exercise and poor sleep quality.
In order to assign causation of cancer to alcohol, study participants would have to randomly be assigned to drink or abstain over the course of their life. Instead, researchers have studied a large body of epidemiological data that comes as close as it can to linking alcohol with cancer.
Another study linked even light drinking to the same list of cancer types.11 The American Cancer Society also warns that even a few drinks each week can increase your risk of breast cancer.12 The risk is higher in women who have low folate levels. Other research links the recurrence of breast cancer with alcohol intake.13
Both of these links appear to be related to alcohol's ability to raise your estrogen level. Alcohol also affects hormones in men. Chronic alcohol use is associated with testicular failure and male infertility.14,15
Feminine symptoms in men suggest that alcohol may also contain biologically active phytoestrogens.16 Studies such as these suggest that if you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or prostate cancer, and especially if you are overweight or postmenopausal, it would be a good idea to cut back or eliminate your alcohol intake.In the Big Scheme of Things, Less Alcohol Is Better
I generally define "moderate" alcohol intake (which is allowed in the beginner phase of my nutrition plan) as a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or 1 ounce of hard liquor, with a meal, per day. As you progress further in the nutrition plan, I recommend eliminating all forms of alcohol. Even if it provides some benefit, it's unlikely that alcohol will add much to an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle.
That said, if you're currently a drinker — whether your consumption is moderate or you tend to overdo it — research suggests exercise can go a long way toward mitigating the health risks, including reducing your risk for heart disease.
This makes sense when you consider the fact that exercise may be one of the most effective strategies for protecting and strengthening your heart. So much so, research shows regular exercise can significantly lower your health care costs if you have heart disease. In one study, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, five times per week, resulted in annual health care savings of more than $2,500 per person.17Exercise May Mitigate Risks of Alcohol Consumption
Exercise is a foundational aspect of good health, but may be even more important if you drink alcohol on a regular basis. According to recent research,18 chronic drinkers who exercise five hours a week have the same rate of mortality as those who never drink alcohol, in large part by counteracting the inflammation caused by alcohol.19,20,21
The study looked at data from 36,370 British and Scottish adults — 85 percent of whom drank "occasionally" or "often." Thirteen percent of them were heavy drinkers, consuming 14 or more units of alcohol per week.
Interestingly, those who got at least 2.5 hours a week of moderately intense exercise significantly reduced the biological impact of their drinking. Those who exercised for five hours a week had the same mortality risk as teetotalers, even if they were heavy drinkers. The only ones who could not cancel out the harms of their alcohol consumption were those who drank dangerous levels of alcohol each week (20 or more standard drinks for women and 28 or more for men). As reported by The Daily Mail:22
"[The study concluded:] 'Our results provide an additional argument for the role of physical activity as a means to promote the health of the population even in the presence of other less healthy behaviors.' Professor Matt Field, [Ph.D.,] from the U.K. Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Liverpool said:
'This is a rigorous piece of research with some clear conclusions. The relationship between drinking alcohol to excess and increased risk of death is significantly weaker in people who are physically active. Therefore, it appears that physical activity may partially offset some of the harmful effects of drinking, particularly alcohol-attributable cancers.'"Exercise Also Diminishes Risk of Alcohol Abuse
Previous research23 has also found that long-time drinkers who exercise regularly have less damaged white matter in their brains compared to those who rarely or never exercise. The white matter is considered the "wiring" of your brain's communication system, and is known to decline in quality with age and heavy alcohol consumption.
In addition to helping protect your brain, if you know you're prone to alcohol abuse or have a family history of alcohol addiction, exercising regularly may also reduce your risk of becoming dependent. The cravings for alcohol can become all-consuming, and eventually alcoholics do not feel "normal" until they've had a drink. The alcohol abuse inevitably throws off your circadian rhythm — the normal times you eat, sleep and wake up — as well, leading to a downward spiral of health and emotional effects.
Alcohol chemically alters your brain to release dopamine, a chemical your brain associates with rewarding behaviors. Exercise also triggers the release of dopamine, along with other feel-good chemicals, which means you can get the same "buzz" from working out that you can get from a six-pack of beer, but with far better outcomes for your health.
Exercise is also beneficial for those who are already addicted, and may actually help to lessen cravings. In one study,24 hamsters that ran the most consumed less alcohol, while less active hamsters had greater cravings for and consumption of alcohol. By replacing drinking with exercise, you may find that the rewarding feeling you get from exercise provides you with a suitable alternative to the rewarding feeling you previously got from alcohol.
On the other hand, chronic alcohol consumption also tends to IMPEDE your fitness goals. Working out is typically not high on the list of priorities when you're feeling hung over. In higher doses, alcohol can also affect testosterone production, muscle protein synthesis and leucine oxidation, thereby impeding your ability to build muscle and reach your fitness goals.
So, on the whole, thinking exercise will cancel out the harmful effects of alcohol is unrealistic, and such a program may be difficult to maintain in the long run.Helpful Protocol to Minimize Damage of Alcohol
While I don't recommend drinking alcohol, if you know you'll be having a few drinks, taking this natural protocol beforehand can help "pre-tox" your body, thereby minimizing the damage associated with alcohol consumption. Just beware that this protocol will NOT make you less susceptible to alcohol poisoning or other acute adverse events associated with binge drinking, so please use common sense and drink responsibly.
• N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine. It is known to help increase glutathione and reduce acetaldehyde toxicity that causes many hangover symptoms.25 Try taking NAC (at least 200 milligrams) 30 minutes before you drink to help lessen the alcohol's toxic effects.
If you're wondering just how powerful NAC can be, consider that, like alcohol, one way that Tylenol causes damage to your liver is by depleting glutathione. If you keep your glutathione levels up, the damage from the acetaminophen may be largely preventable. This is why anyone who overdoses on Tylenol receives large doses of NAC in the emergency room — to increase glutathione.
• B Vitamins: NAC is thought to work even better when combined with vitamin B1 (thiamine).26 Vitamin B6 may also help to lessen hangover symptoms. Since alcohol depletes B vitamin in your body, and the B vitamins are required to help eliminate alcohol from your body, a B-vitamin supplement taken beforehand, as well as the next day, may help.
• Milk Thistle: Milk thistle contains silymarin and silybin, antioxidants known to help protect your liver from toxins, including the effects of alcohol. Not only has silymarin been found to increase glutathione, but it also may help to regenerate liver cells.27 A milk thistle supplement may be most useful when taken regularly, especially if you know you'll be having cocktails on more than one occasion.
• Vitamin C: Alcohol may deplete your body of vitamin C, which is important for reducing alcohol-induced oxidative stress in your liver. Interestingly, one animal study showed vitamin C was even more protective to the liver than silymarin (milk thistle) after exposure to alcohol.28
Making sure you're getting enough vitamin C, either via supplements or food, is another trick to use prior to indulging in alcoholic beverages. Vitamin C is actually such a powerful detoxifier that if you take large doses prior to receiving dental anesthesia, the anesthesia will be significantly weakened and may not work.
• Magnesium: Magnesium is another nutrient depleted by alcohol, and it's one that many are already deficient in. Plus, magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce some hangover symptoms. If you don't eat a lot of magnesium-rich foods, taking a magnesium supplement before an evening involving drinking may be helpful.
Marigold has much value today and in traditional cultures as a homeopathic remedy, but the oil extracted from the flowers, called calendula oil, is not far behind in providing benefits.
Learn more about this oil distilled from the petals of the pot marigold or Calendula officinalis, and how you can harness its health and practical everyday uses.What Is Calendula Oil?
Marigold is a genus of about 15 to 20 species of plants in the Asteraceae family.1 This flower is native to Southwestern Asia, as well as Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
The common name "marigold" refers to the Virgin Mary, with whom it has been associated since the 14th century, when it was included as an ingredient in an English recipe for fighting plague.2
Apart from also being used to honor Mary during Catholic events, marigold was also considered by ancient Egyptians to have rejuvenating properties.3 Hindus used the flowers to adorn statues of gods in their temples, as well as to color their food, fabrics and cosmetics.
Pot marigold or C. officinalis is the most commonly cultivated and used species, and is the source of the herbal oil. "Calendula" comes from the Latin word "calendae," meaning "little calendar," because the flower blooms on the calends or the first of most months.4
It should not be confused with ornamental marigolds of the Tagets genus, commonly grown in vegetable gardens.5
Calendula, with fiery red and yellow petals, is full of flavonoids, which are found naturally in vegetables and fruits and are substances that give plants their lovely bright colors.6
Calendula oil is distilled from the flower tops and is quite sticky and viscous. It has a very strange smell described as musky, woody and even rotten — like the marigold flowers themselves. This smell does not readily appeal to many individuals, even when used in a remedy.Uses of Calendula Oil
Here are three classifications of calendula plant and oil uses:
It has great anti-inflammatory and vulnerary action, making it helpful with stubborn wounds, acne, ulcers, bed sores, varicose veins, rashes, eczema and related conditions.8 It helps soothe sore, inflamed and itchy skin conditions.
Calendula massage oil also assists in soothing, and softening skin, making it a good addition to massage oils or when preparing a carrier oil blend.
2. Cooking — Since the Middle Ages, the petals of marigold have been used as "the poor man's saffron" for coloring cheeses, butters and side dishes.
During the Elizabethan era, both petals and leaves were used in salads, although the latter showed to be very strong. The petals flavored soups and stews.
3. Practical uses — Marigold has been used as a dye. Dried petals can also be added in potpourris.Composition of Calendula Oil
In a study,9 calendula oil was obtained in low yield (0.3 percent) by steam distillation with cohobation from flowers and whole plants. Identified by the researchers were 66 components, mainly sesquiterpene alcohols with α-cadinol as the main constituent, at about 25 percent.
The essential oil from the whole plant was differentiated from that of the flowers through the presence of monoterpenes hydrocarbons, aside from the alcohols.
The principal constitutes of calendula essential oil10 are flavonoids, saponosene, triterpenic alcohol and a bitter principle. The useful components of calendula itself include a volatile oil, carotenoids, flavonoids, mucilage, resin, polysaccharides, aromatic plant acids, saponins, glycosides and sterols.11Benefits of Calendula Oil
Calendula oil is traditionally used for abdominal cramps and constipation.12 It's your skin that will receive a good bulk of the benefits, though, thanks to the oil's anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and related properties. Here are some of the promoted benefits of this oil:13
1. Skin dryness or chapping — Calendula oil is a great moisturizer for dry skin and for severely chapped or split skin. It helps soothe the area and reduce the pain.
2. Inflammation — It works well on sprained muscles or bruises; its anti-inflammatory action helps lessen swelling from injury. Calendula oil also helps treat spider veins, varicose veins, leg ulcers and chilblains.
3. Baby care — The oil helps relieve diaper rashes, which can extremely irritate an infant.
4. Minor cuts and wounds — The antiseptic and antimicrobial action of the oil help speed up healing of wounds and minor cuts, and also help relieve insect bites, acne and bed sores.
5. Skin issues — Eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and other skin problems can be soothed using calendula oil, applied topically. Calendula oil's antifungal action is also great for helping treat athlete's foot, ringworm and jock itch.How to Make Calendula Oil
Calendula oil is extracted by steam distillation.14 There is almost no way to obtain 100 percent pure calendula essential oil, so this makes calendula essential oil an infusion and not a pure extract.15
In order to get the oil from the flower, the petals are steeped in oil, preferably olive oil. The oil left over when distillation is done is calendula oil, which should be a golden orange color.
You can create homemade calendula oil using the following instructions from Keeper of the Home.16
What you will need:
• Dried calendula petals
• Carrier oil (olive oil, almond oil or sunflower oil are some great options)
• A clean glass jar with a lid
• Cold infusion method — This is the usually preferred technique because it protects the delicate calendula from heat damage.
1. Put your desired amount of dried calendula petals in a clean, dry glass jar.
2. Fill the jar with your carrier oil of choice to cover the petals by an inch.
3. Put in a sunny place to infuse for four weeks.
4. Drain the petals from the oil and store the oil in a container with a lid for up to one year.
• Hot infusion method — This method is much quicker than the cold infusion method but won't have the same strength because of the presence of heat.
1. Put your desired amount of dried calendula petals in a clean, dry glass jar.
2. Fill the jar with your carrier oil of choice to cover the petals by an inch.
3. Dump the entire contents of the jar (the petals and the oil) in a small saucepan or slow cookers. Heat on low for four hours, stirring occasionally.
4. Let cool. Drain the petals from the oil and store the oil in a container with a lid for up to one year.
Calendula oil is used in various products, oftentimes as a great base for lotions, salves, creams, several natural cosmetics and personal care products and herbal ointments. It also very commonly works as a base oil in aromatherapy. Furthermore, you can use calendula oil in an all-natural herbal hair color recipe.19
You can create an infused oil by filling a jar with the dried flowers, which you cover with a carrier oil.20 You can get more out of these flowers by macerating the mixture in a blender. Leave it infused for two weeks or more to extract the flowers' beneficial properties. When ready to use, filter the oil through cheesecloth, and use it directly in a balm or as part of a homemade cream or lotion.Is Calendula Oil Safe?
Calendula oil is generally safe for use, but I advise you to heed the following safety guidelines and considerations:21
1. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should generally avoid using calendula oil. Do not take calendula by mouth, as there is a concern that it might cause a miscarriage. Avoid topical use as well.
2. An allergic reaction may occur in individuals who have sensitivity to ragweed and related plants, such as marigolds, chrysanthemums and daisies. Before using calendula oil, check with your doctor if you have allergies.
3. Combined with medications used during and after surgery, calendula use might cause too much drowsiness and should be stopped at least two weeks before surgery.Side Effects of Calendula Oil
If you are not pregnant, nursing, allergic or about to undergo surgery, you can use calendula oil with likely no side effect. It is best, however, to consult your health care provider before you use it, especially for therapeutic use.
Remember, though, that sedative medications or CNS depressants interact with calendula. The plant extract might cause sleepiness and drowsiness, and taking it with sedative drugs might result in excess sleepiness. Some sedative drugs include clonazepam, (Klonopin), phenobarbital (Donnatal) and zolpidem (Ambien). I advise you to also explore safe, natural ways to get a good night's sleep.
By Dr. Mercola
On any given night, about half of Americans toss and turn, unable to fall asleep or stay asleep.1 Lacking in this fundamental human necessity takes a heavy toll, raising the risk of chronic diseases, obesity and premature death while costing the U.S. economy up to $411 billion a year in lost productivity alone.2
Needless to say, a tried-and-true solution to the epidemic of not sleeping, especially one that doesn't involve taking risky and often-addictive sleeping pills, could yield immeasurable benefits to society. Tech devices are among the newest additions in the battle against insomnia, but they're also increasingly popular — and expanding.
There's Sense, the product of a 2014 Kickstarter campaign that raised $2.4 million, which uses sensors to collect your tosses, turns and other sleep data, which are then analyzed via a smartphone app to give you personalized insights into your sleep.3
Other tech-based devices to help people get more of the elusive "shut-eye" include the Sleep Shepherd headband, which monitors your brain waves while you sleep and, one of my favorites, Muse, which is a personal meditation assistant that promotes relaxation. When used before bedtime, it may help lull you into a restful night's sleep.Can Technology Help People Sleep Better?
There are many anecdotal reports of sleep trackers and apps helping people to get more sleep, but the reality is many of these products are so new that longer-term studies proving their effectiveness have yet to be done.
It's ironic, too, that technology is being used to cure sleep troubles that may be caused by the same technological advances; use of smartphones, computers and tablets after dark is a leading contributor to insomnia because their blue light interferes with melatonin production that's important for restful sleep (and other health benefits, like cancer prevention).
Still, while there are hundreds of apps to track your sleeping habits, many do so successfully without interfering with sleep. Fitness-tracking wristbands, such as Jawbone's UP3, tell you what activities led to your best sleep and what factors resulted in poor sleep.
There are also smart mattresses and mattress pads that track your sleep and provide reports so you can adjust your sleeping habits accordingly. Some even claim to help users regulate their body temperature during sleep.
Once you're armed with empirical data, it's then up to you to make changes to support your sleep. No app or other sleep device can do that for you.
There's also the issue of how accurate these devices really are, which Hawley Montgomery-Downs, Ph.D., a sleep expert and an associate professor of psychology at West Virginia University, believes has much room for improvement.
She told The New York Times, "Sleep sensors are feeding back inaccurate information … They're telling people they sleep better than they do."4Smart Sleep Devices Gather Your Data — and Then What?
I've found sleep trackers to be useful for revealing the actual time I spend asleep (as opposed to the time spent in bed), which allowed me to adjust my bedtime to get my desired number of sleep hours each night.
But others have found their data collection to be less useful, for instance letting the user know that they wake up in the middle of the night, something the user already knew. There are now smart pillowcases, smart pajama belts, bed sensors and smart alarm clocks, all of which promise to give you detailed reports on how you sleep.
But while knowing your precise minutes of REM sleep, light sleep and other odds and ends that occur during sleep is arguably intriguing, it's not going to help you feel more rested or translate into helping you fall asleep faster.
Ultimately, the data needs to be translated into a platform that gives users useful personalized feedback and advice that translates into a better night's rest.
Still, in the meantime, having access to your sleep data could prompt you to pay more attention to your sleeping habits. At least one study has found activity trackers to be useful in the realm of sleep, with users reporting 30 minutes more sleep per night after a year of use.5
Study author Laura Pugliese, deputy director of innovation research at New York-based Healthcare Innovation & Technology Lab, told STAT, "People didn't realize how little they were sleeping, and it wasn't until it was in front of them and aggregated that they realized."6Online Insomnia Therapy Puts Insomniacs to Sleep
Another way technology may help fight insomnia is via online therapy programs. One recent start-up company created an online sleep improvement program called Sleepio, which features a virtual therapist, for instance.7
Cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is considered the gold standard treatment for insomniacs, but specialists in this area are hard to come by and many do not receive treatment. An online program could provide a way for people to get the help they need from anywhere with a working internet connection.
In a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, more than half of people with chronic insomnia reported sleeping better within weeks of starting the online program and most were sleeping better one year later.8 According to the study:
"In this randomized clinical trial of 303 adults with chronic insomnia, those who received the internet cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia intervention (Sleep Healthy Using the Internet [SHUTi]) had significantly improved sleep compared with those who received access to the patient education website, with 56.6 percent achieving insomnia remission status and 69.7 percent deemed treatment responders at [one] year."Misuse of Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids Common
Beyond tech devices, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are a popular crutch used by many desperate for a good night's sleep. Yet, these medications can be dangerous, particularly when used for longer periods of time, a common practice according to a 2015 Consumer Reports survey.9
The survey included more than 4,000 Americans, 20 percent of whom had used an OTC medication for the purpose of improving sleep within the past year. Eighteen percent of them used such drugs daily, and 41 percent used the drugs for a year or more.
The OTC drugs in question include Advil PM, Nytol, Simply Sleep, Sominex, Tylenol PM, Unisom SleepMinis, ZzzQuil and others, which include the active ingredient diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that can lead to next-day drowsiness and problems with coordination and driving performance, along with constipation, dizziness and confusion.
The drug is only meant to be used for short periods of time (not longer than two weeks), as longer use can be habit-forming, leading to psychological dependence. Despite this, many of the drug packages advertise them as being "non-habit-forming."
One study also linked its long-term use to an increased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.10
Many of the medications also contain other drugs, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, which carry other risks, including gastrointestinal problems, ulcers and liver damage.
Considering the steep physical risks — and the mental and emotional toll chronic insomnia can take — you may be willing to try anything, even sleeping pills, to get some sound sleep.
However, psychotherapy, specifically CBT-I, which helps people change their thoughts and behaviors regarding sleep, has been proven to be more effective than drugs.
In a set of reviews commissioned by the American College of Physicians (ACP), CBT-I was the clear winner, helping to relieve insomnia with minimal side effects, as opposed to insomnia medications, which carried sometimes-severe risks.11
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) also recommends psychotherapy as a first-line treatment for insomnia. In this way, technology, namely online CBT-I therapy, may prove beneficial in helping people avoid the pitfalls of sleeping pills, including OTC varieties.What Else Works for a Good Night's Sleep?
If you're having trouble sleeping, I suggest reading my Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for 33 tips on improving your sleep. While tracking your sleeping patterns and time spent asleep may be helpful for some people, getting back to the basics of improving your sleeping environment is also important.
No. 1 on my list? Avoid exposure to blue light, including LEDs, after sunset. Wearing blue-blocking glasses is a simple way to achieve this. Further:
✓ Avoid watching TV or using your computer/smartphone or tablet in the evening, at least an hour or so before going to bed.
✓ Make sure you get BRIGHT sun exposure regularly. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. If you are in darkness all day long, it can't appreciate the difference and will not optimize your melatonin production.
✓ Get some sun in the morning. Your circadian system needs bright light to reset itself. Ten to 15 minutes of morning sunlight will send a strong message to your internal clock that day has arrived, making it less likely to be confused by weaker light signals during the night.
✓ Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep, so cover your clock radio up at night or get rid of it altogether. Move all electrical devices at least 3 feet away from your bed. You may want to cover your windows with drapes or blackout shades, or wear an eye mask when you sleep.
✓ Install a low-wattage yellow, orange or red light bulb if you need a source of light for navigation at night. Light in these bandwidths does not shut down melatonin production in the way that white and blue bandwidth light does. Salt lamps are handy for this purpose, as are natural, non-toxic candles.
✓ Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F. Many people keep their homes too warm (particularly their upstairs bedrooms). Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 to 68 degrees F.
✓ Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases your core body temperature, and when you get out of the bath it abruptly drops, signaling your body that you are ready to sleep.
✓ Avoid using loud alarm clocks. Being jolted awake each morning can be very stressful. If you are regularly getting enough sleep, you might not even need an alarm, as you'll wake up naturally.
✓ Be mindful of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom. EMFs can disrupt your pineal gland and its melatonin production, and may have other negative biological effects as well. A gauss meter is required if you want to measure EMF levels in various areas of your home.
If possible, install a kill switch to turn off all electricity to your bedroom. If you need a clock, use a battery-operated one.
By Dr. Mercola
Are you happy? Do you feel your life has meaning and purpose? If the answer is not a resounding yes, have you given thought as to what might be blocking your sense of happiness and purpose? Could it be that you have too much STUFF?
I've written a number of articles about the health benefits of happiness and offered many different strategies shown to increase your happiness level, but I've never approached the subject from the angle of re-evaluating your material possessions.
While there's no wealth of scientific data to show that living with less stuff will increase your happiness, a growing number of people insist that this is in fact part of the equation.
Over the past few years, a trend best known as "minimalism" has sprung up, with converts hailing the elimination of excess material trappings as the answer to their growing sense of unhappiness and discontent. "Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things," which is available on Netflix, has helped spread that message.Why Do We Hold on to Things?
The film features Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, two childhood friends best known as "The Minimalists" to the millions of people who read their blog and books.
Millburn's journey into minimalism began seven years ago. He was earning a respectable salary and had all the trappings a successful professional married man could want. Then, within the span of a month, his mother died and his wife left him.
Faced with the task of sorting through and storing all of his mother's belongings, he had a number of epiphanies, which he describes in the TEDx Talk, "The Art of Letting Go," above.
For example, he realized the reason his mother had held on to every scrap of paper from his first through fourth-grade classes was probably because she was trying to hold on to the memories of his youth.
But looking through those papers, he realized that "the memories are in us, not in our things," and that discarding the papers would not have eliminated her memories of his childhood. Nor would his own memories of those days be destroyed by tossing the papers out.
To make a long story short, he ended up canceling the U-Haul truck and the storage unit he'd reserved to transport and store his mother's belongings and sold, donated and threw away virtually all of it. And then, when he got back home, he did the same with his own stuff.Increasing Your Wealth by Living With Less
Nicodemus' story began in much the same way. By his late 20s, he was making lots of money and had all the material goods he ever wanted. Yet he felt depressed, depleted and overworked. When meeting Millburn one day, he was astounded to see his friend — who'd just lost his mother and his wife — so upbeat and happy.
Upon hearing Millburn's story, he decided to give it a try. The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the pair travel the world sharing the benefits of living with less, which include more time to focus on your health, relationships and personal growth, community involvement and building a life that has meaning.
Reducing your spending — buying only that which you actually need — also brings financial freedom by eliminating debt and increasing your savings.
As noted by Nicodemus, the average credit card debt for Americans who carry a balance is $16,000,1 and 38 percent of U.S. households carry some amount of credit card debt. The total outstanding consumer debt in the U.S. in 2016 alone was a staggering $3.4 TRILLION.
The answer, they point out, is to buy less. Many who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they've been able to significantly reduce the amount of time they have to work to pay their bills, freeing up time for volunteer work, creative pursuits and taking care of their personal health.Radical Measures
When it comes to decluttering and minimizing, there are many ways to go about it. Millburn spent months whittling down his possessions to the bare necessities while Nicodemus decided on a more radical and faster approach.
Together, they packed up every last item in his apartment, including the furniture, as you would if you were moving.
Then, over the course of three weeks, he dug out items from the boxes as he needed them — his toothbrush and a towel here, a cup, plate and fork there. At the end of those three weeks, he knew exactly what he actually needed, and what was superfluous.
Approximately 80 percent of all his belongings were still in boxes, and all of it was sold, donated or thrown away. So, did it make him happier? Yes, he claims, and it just might make you more content too.
As noted by Millburn, we often keep things "just in case," even though we've never needed the item in question in several years or even decades of owning it. Meanwhile, it's taking up space and costing you both time and money in storage, cleaning and upkeep. Worse, all that excess has a tendency to overwhelm us and prevent us from seeing and appreciating our true "treasures," be it a particularly cherished item or our own family members.Baby Steps
If a "packing party" sounds too extreme, consider Millburn's approach of whittling things down a little at a time. You may start by asking yourself:
- How might my life be better with less?
- What do I value in life?
- Does this thing add value to my life?
One way of making slow but steady progress would be to eliminate one unnecessary item per day. Over the course of a year, that's 360 items less — provided you don't bring any more in. You may also want to evaluate how you spend your time, and minimize time-wasting distractions just as you would minimize unnecessary belongings.
Do you spend hours each day surfing the net, interacting on social media or watching TV? How many hours a week do you spend shopping? Chances are, you're wasting a lot of time on activities that add zero value to your life, and if they don't add value, chances are they're not increasing your happiness either.The Art of Letting Go
Minimizing your belongings is often easier said than done. Even people who are not hoarders tend to struggle when it comes to ditching certain items. In psychology terms, the reason we're so emotionally attached to things is because of the "endowment effect"2 — we tend to value items more highly once we own them. Once something is ours, it becomes "special."
In the video above, this and other psychological underpinnings of emotional attachment to material things are explained. Not only do we learn, from an early age, to equate our own "self" with the things we own, we also have a tendency to view things as being imbued with a certain "essence."
This "magical thinking" is a major reason why it's so difficult to part with family heirlooms in particular. Giving or throwing such items away equates to discarding the person it belonged to — whose "essence" is still considered part of that object.
Hoarding disorder3 is in part caused by an exaggerated sense of responsibility and protectiveness of these "special" items. The crux is that ALL items become special in the eyes of a hoarder. In essence, hoarding is the endowment effect on steroids, and it may be more common than previously thought. An estimated 15 million Americans have hoarding disorder, which can be hard to treat and overcome, but there's a wide spectrum of over-accumulation.
Americans in general tend to own far more stuff than they need or can even properly care for. According to Sandra Stark, who works with a peer-led hoarding response team at the Mental Health Association of San Francisco, 70 percent of Americans who own homes cannot park their car in the garage due to it being filled to the hilt with stuff that doesn't fit inside the house.4Psychological Trick That May Help You Shed More Stuff
Understanding the psychology behind your attachments may help you declutter your space and let go of some (or a lot) of your excess. As noted by Tom Stafford in a previous BBC article on this topic:5
"Knowing the powerful influence that possession has on our psychology, I take a simple step to counteract it … Say I am cleaning out my stuff. Before I learnt about the endowment effect I would go through my things one by one and try to make a decision on what to do with it. Quite reasonably, I would ask myself whether I should throw this away.
At this point, although I didn't have a name for it, the endowment effect would begin to work its magic, leading me to generate all sorts of reasons why I should keep an item based on a mistaken estimate of how valuable I found it. After hours of tidying I would have kept everything, including the 300 hundred rubber bands (they might be useful one day), the birthday card from two years ago (given to me by my mother) and the obscure computer cable (it was expensive).
Now, knowing the power of the bias, for each item I ask myself a simple question: If I didn't have this, how much effort would I put in to obtain it? And then more often or not I throw it away, concluding that if I didn't have it, I wouldn't want this. Let this anti-endowment effect technique perform its magic for you, and you too will soon be joyously throwing away things that you only think you want, but actually wouldn't trouble yourself to acquire if you didn't have them."
For sentimental items, Millburn suggest taking photographs of them before you send them on their way. While the item doesn't actually hold your memory, things can trigger memories. But you don't need the actual item. A photo of the item can accomplish this just as well.What Can You Gain From Owning Less?
In the two TEDx Talk videos above, Millburn and Nicodemus share many stories of what they've gained by letting go of their stuff and refraining from buying more than they actually need and use. This includes:
✓ Working less yet having more money
✓ Having more time and energy to look after your health
✓ Cultivating and prioritizing personal relationships
✓ Having the time to pursue your passions
✓ Being able to contribute time and money to help others
✓ Less stress
While the idea of owning nothing but the bare necessities will not appeal to everyone, many could probably benefit from taking a closer look at their material possessions and questioning their pursuit of material goods. What are you actually seeking? What do you imagine you'll gain once the item is yours?
Retaining only the items that actually add value to your life can be an excellent way of editing your life down to more manageable levels, decreasing much self-inflicted stress and easing financial woes. As noted by Millburn and Nicodemus, the purpose of minimalism is to get the benefits you experience once all the clutter is gone.'Love People and Use Things'
Consumption itself is not the problem; unchecked compulsory shopping is. It's like being on a hamster wheel — you keep shopping, thinking happiness and life satisfaction will come with it. Yet it never does. Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that you may be trying to fill a void in your life.
The problem is that void can never be filled by material things. More often than not, the void is silently asking for more love, connection and experiences that bring purpose and passionate engagement.
Part of the answer is to stop trying to find life meaning through the act of shopping and to become a more deliberate consumer. If an item is not going to have a useful purpose or bring you great joy, it will probably only get in the way of your efforts to find purpose and joy. Worthwhile questions you may want to ask yourself as you go about decluttering your space include:
- What are my priorities?
- What do I value and want more of in my life?
- Who do I want to be and what kind of life do I want to live?
- How do I define success?
- Why am I discontent?
If you fail to address and answer these kinds of questions, you're likely to refill your empty spaces with new things, which defeats the whole purpose of doing it in the first place. Purging without also following through on not buying more stuff will only feed the destructive consumer cycle — a cycle that is currently taking a tremendous toll on the global environment. "Love people and use things, because the opposite never works," the two minimalists say, and that's a motto we could all benefit from.
Also please remember our lead story yesterday on what happens to clothes when you donate them. It discussed the surprising destination of most of the clothes you donate. The ultimate long-term solution is not to keep donating but to tackle the fundamental cause of the problem, apply the principles of this article and not purchase them in the first place.
In my case, I typically purchase clothes every five years or so, but I noticed that I had an abundance of clothes that I never wear. I realized that most of them were gifts from well-intentioned relatives who really did not know what to gift to me other than clothes. So I had to tell them to stop giving me clothes, as most of them I never wear and simply have to get rid of.
By Dr. Mercola
There are several reasons why some people choose to live in the country or in less-congested areas rather than along a busy highway or in the thick of things in the city. There’s not as much noise, less pollution in the air and generally better scenery.
Now there’s another reason, and probably a more important one: A study1 published in The Lancet now says living close to a major roadway may increase your risk of developing dementia.
“Develop” is the operative word, as it denotes something that accrues over time, and in this case, that’s accurate. Researchers who put together the study defined a road as “major” depending on traffic volume, such as an interstate highway in the U.S. The closer you live to major thoroughfares, the higher the dementia risk.
Co-study author Dr. Ray Copes, chief of environmental and occupational health at Public Health Ontario (PHO), said, “There is a gradient of increased risk as you get closer to major roadways. By the time you’re 200 meters away, the risk is essentially down to baseline.”2 According to CNN, this basically means:
“The level of risk decreases proportionally, they say, with a 4 percent higher risk among people living 50 to 100 meters (328 feet) away and a 2 percent higher risk among people living 101 to 200 meters (656 feet, or about a 10th of a mile) away.”3
While the researchers also examined the effects of highway proximity in relation to Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis, only dementia showed up as having an increased risk.Dementia: Causes, Risk Factors and the Environment
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that around 47 million people around the world suffer from dementia, and 7.7 million new cases emerge every year. The threat is definitely growing, and there have to be reasons for it; nearly anyone might argue it has something to do with the environment.
As a disclaimer of sorts, Copes and his fellow researchers stress that it’s only a link (observed between proximity to highways and dementia risk), with no proof of a definitive cause. Nevertheless, Copes said, “The link continues to exist.”4
Additionally, people living similar distances from highways still have varying levels of dementia risk for various reasons. Factors like socioeconomic status, education level and whether or not study subjects smoked, exercised or were overweight were taken into account in the study.
Copes stressed, “There is no single cause for dementia ... but our study shows that one of the factors now appears to be exposure to traffic pollution.”5
Hong Chen, Ph.D., study co-author and associate professor in occupational and environmental health at the University of Toronto, said the team’s next project includes figuring out which pollutants are most accountable for causing dementia, those factors’ potential impact and how effective the interventions for dementia are that are currently in place.
When air pollution affects children, something must be done, because researchers visited 39 schools in Barcelona, Spain, and determined that air pollution related to traffic is at the bottom of impaired cognitive development in school children.6How Bad Is the World’s Worst Air Pollution? Can You Say ‘Airmageddon?’
How deadly is air pollution? WHO reports that it kills more than 3 million people every year, worldwide. Poor air quality is not just scientists’ and environmentalists’ concern, but conclusively is one of the greatest environmental health risks.
If there were a contest, China would easily win the “deadliest” country in regard to air pollution, as there it kills 1 million people per year.
Bloomberg reported that a whopping one-third of China’s cities, where choking air pollution necessitates that people wear face masks, have issued red alerts, the highest level that necessitates government action. Residents are referring to the latest air pollution crisis as “airmageddon” and “airpocalypse.”7
Chen Jining, China’s minister of environmental protection, said the agency has cracked down on 20 cities with the poorest air quality, including the capital, Beijing. Companies out of compliance are required to cut production; vehicles responsible for toxic emissions are banned from the roads.
CCTV.com said the ministry handed out punishments when more than 500 construction sites, enterprises and 10,000 vehicles given pollution-response plans “breached” them. In the first week of 2017, 10 inspection teams found many of those manufacturers up and running again, still ignoring emission-reduction measures.8Pollution Breaches in China, India and London
A disturbing time-lapse video9 recently went viral, revealing just how toxic the air pollution is in China’s largest cities. The video compressed 20 minutes into 12 seconds, showing thick smog rolling into Beijing on January 2, 2017.
The New York Times said “Hundreds of flights were canceled and highways were shut down because of low visibility.”10
Videographer Chas Pope, a British expatriate, said the Air Quality Index (AQI), an official air quality rating system ranging from the lowest at 0 to 500, estimated the air in the video to be in the 400-plus range. The U.S. rates readings of 301 to 500 as “hazardous.”11
Chinese officials reported that the air quality in Beijing had improved overall, but Time said data provided to Chinese media by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection noted that while that may true, it’s still 109 percent over the national standard.12
India comes in second in the who-has-more-pollution contest, as the death toll has reached upward of 600,000, with Russia racking up more than 140,000 deaths in 2012.13
The Guardian listed the deadliest countries in the world for air pollution, and noted that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution, mostly from diesel vehicles, causes 5,900 early deaths every year in London.
“At 25th out of 184 countries with data, the U.K. ranks worse than France, with 16,355 deaths in 2012 versus 10,954, but not as poorly as Germany at 26,160, which has more industry and 16 million more people. Australia had 94 deaths and 38,043 died in the US that year from particulate pollution.”14
Countries considered “low-income” have it the worst, but even the most developed countries can have this problem — although not to the degree of China and India. However, in the first five days of 2017, London’s air quality breached its annual air pollution limits. The Guardian reported:
“The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has pledged new measures and to double funding to 875 million pounds over five years to tackle the problem. But the U.K. government’s national plans have twice been ruled illegal in the past two years and it has been sent back to the drawing board to develop a third strategy.”15Toxic Particles in Air Pollution Can Enter Not Only Your Lungs, but Your Brain
Pollutants like sulfites, nitrites and black carbon can penetrate your lungs, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and other serious diseases.
Researchers have already revealed that pollution from the air and traffic noise can increase nerve degeneration in your brain. In fact, tiny particles often found in air pollution can be breathed in, lodge in peoples’ brains and possibly cause Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study from Lancaster University.16 In fact:
“ … [A]bundant magnetite nanoparticles [were found] in the brain tissue from 37 individuals aged  to 92-years-old who lived in Mexico City and Manchester.
This strongly magnetic mineral is toxic and has been implicated in the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) in the human brain, which are associated with neurodegenerative diseases …”17
Angular magnetite particles are thought to form naturally in the brain, but most detected by spectroscopic analysis were spherical and measuring as large as 150 nanometers (nm) in diameter, and some had fused surfaces, all typical of particles formed via high temperature, as from vehicle engines, particularly diesel, or open fires, the study said.18
Other particles such as nickel, cobalt and platinum are also found in the spherical particles, but magnetite is toxic to the human brain, explained Barbara Maher, professor of environmental science at the University of Lancaster, who submitted the study with colleagues from Oxford, Mexico City, Manchester and Glasgow.19
But an even more disturbing detail that ties in with Copes’ study is this: Maher said the particles found were “strikingly similar” to the magnetite nanospheres abundant in airborne pollution in urban settings, such as near busy roads, formed by combustion or frictional heating from vehicle engines or brakes.
Anything smaller than 200 nm is small enough to be breathed in through the nose and absorbed into the brain through the olfactory nerve. The same concoction of air particles can also be found in residue from open fires or poorly sealed stoves.Solutions to Dementia May Include Environmental Clean-Up
Dr. Maria Neira, director of public health and the environment department for WHO, said: “Countries are confronted with the reality of better data. Now we have the figures of how many citizens are dying from air pollution. What we are learning is, this is very bad. Now there are no excuses for not taking action.”20
Several people involved in or connected to Copes’ study believe more attention must be paid to the environments in which too many people are forced to live. Whatever the cause, people should at least agree that the air in the cities where people live and work must be cleaned up. CNN noted several of Copes’ ideas to help alleviate the problem, including:
“ … [P]olicies to reduce emissions in cities, better city planning that keeps residential areas away from major roadways and designing buildings and ventilation systems to act as barriers to pollution are a few ways to alleviate the problem.”21
In many cases, people aren’t able to change where they live, even if they live near a major highway. However, the aforementioned contributing factors to dementia and most other serious diseases are exacerbated by a number of factors that you can control, such as the use of common (and toxic) household cleaners and personal care products.
Other ways to drastically curb the toxins that enter your world, as well as your family’s, is to use as many natural products as possible. Natural fibers for your clothing and furniture, such as 100 percent cotton, linen, flax or wool; wood and natural-fabric toys for your children rather than plastic (especially painted); glass and ceramic cookware and dinnerware; drinking pure water rather than soda or other harmful “fake” products; and eating organic foods free of pesticides and hormones.
In addition, since it is impossible to eliminate all air contaminants, one of the best things you can do is incorporate a high-quality air purifier in your home and office. Depending on where you live, your indoor air may be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, so filtering your indoor air is an important step.22A Possible Solution: Get in the Sauna
Scientists in Finland did an extensive study to determine how long-term (over 15 years) traffic-related air pollution might be responsible for at least contributing to dementia in one of its most prominent cities. The result (although not tested on women): “We observed associations between dementia incidence and local traffic pollution that remained after adjusting for known risk factors.”23 The above study was influenced and cited by a 2013 study reported in Neuropathy, which asserted:
“Dementia takes a heavy toll on the patient, the patient’s close relatives and society as a whole. Within the next 40 years, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is expected to triple unless preventive measures are developed.
The number of studies suggesting an association between traffic pollution and cognitive function in adults is increasing. In a cross-sectional study of 399 elderly women in Germany, the exposure to traffic-related particles was estimated by the distance to the closest busy road, and consistent associations between traffic-related particle exposure and mild cognitive impairment were found.”24
Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) says about 46.8 million people in the world live with dementia, and unless new prevention and treatment strategies are found, this number is expected to reach 131.5 million by 2050.25
Interestingly, researchers in Finland found a link between regular sauna use and a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia in men.26 Factors such as age, alcohol intake, smoking status, body mass index (BMI), previous heart attack incidence and whether or not they had type 2 diabetes were all noted.
“Compared with men who used a sauna once a week, men who used a sauna four to seven times weekly were found to be at 66 percent lower risk of any dementia and had a 65 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The researchers speculate that sauna use increases heart rate in a way that is comparable to exercise, which benefits heart health. This same mechanism could also be beneficial for memory, the team suggest.”27
By Dr. Mercola
You've probably heard of studies showing how healthy it is for you to get plenty of sunlight and, in the absence of that, how using a high-quality tanning bed or taking vitamin D supplements can help supply what your body needs.
But there are just as many studies that report how extensively a vitamin D deficiency can damage your health in ways you've probably never even imagined. One of those adverse effects is an increased risk of headaches.
A study1 from Finland addressed this point, as it analyzed data from about 2,600 men between the ages of 42 and 60 from 1984 to 1989.
According to Live Science, from the men's blood samples, 69 percent of them were found to have low vitamin D levels, which were defined as below 20 nanograms per milliliter, or ng/ml (50 nanomoles per liter). This is actually a serious deficiency state, as optimal levels are between 40 and 60 ng/ml.2
The researchers wrote, "Chronic headache occurring at least on a weekly basis was reported by 250 men, and men reporting chronic headache had lower serum vitamin D levels than others."
Those with the highest level of serum vitamin D had a 116 percent lower risk of chronic headaches, and men with the lowest vitamin D levels were twice as likely to have frequent headaches (defined as at least one a week) as men with the highest levels.
The researchers weren't sure which came first, the low vitamin D levels or the headaches. They conjectured that if you have a headache, you're not likely to spend as much time outside, so they didn't get the sunlight they need.Beyond Headaches: Health Problems Linked to Low Vitamin D
Beyond frequent headaches, Science Nordic offered a short list of health conditions that may occur when people don't get enough vitamin D: "Cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, poor semen quality, depression and osteoporosis."3 An in-depth review of 1,706 studies published between 2000 and 2010 concluded:
- Solid evidence says optimized vitamin D levels strengthen bones and reduce overall mortality
- It's likely that vitamin D also has a beneficial effect on the muscles
- Scientific evidence suggests vitamin D can help prevent cancer, diabetes and obesity
Headaches come in many forms, with many causes, as sufferers know well. Some are caused by tension, while others may be brought on by:
✓ Artificial fragrances
✓ Bright lights
✓ Poor posture
✓ Weather changes
✓ Menstrual periods
✓ Loud noises
✓ Poor eating habits
✓ Alcohol, especially red wine
Genetics and fluctuations in hormones such as estrogen are two explanations for migraines. Research has also linked migraines to deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin, CoQ10 and magnesium.Sunlight, Its Absence and What to Do to Make Up for It
Ideally, instead of opting for vitamin D supplements, sensible sun exposure is the best way to get all the vitamin D your body requires. While some foods, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, contain vitamin D, it's difficult to get enough from dietary sources alone.
As mentioned, a vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) level between 40 and 60 ng/ml is thought to be ideal for optimal health and disease prevention.
You may need to get approximately 5,000 to 6,000 IUs of vitamin D per day from all sources — sun, supplements and food — in order to reach and maintain a healthy blood level of 40-60 ng/ml.
Keep in mind that the specific dosage is still a very loose guideline, because people vary widely in their ability to respond to vitamin D. Some may need 8,000 IU a day to reach optimal levels, for instance.
Vitamin-D deficiency is extremely common, not only in Nordic countries but also in sun-drenched areas because people spend so much time indoors.
So, it's important to take steps to alleviate the problem, especially if low (or extremely high) temperatures make it unpleasant to expose your skin to adequate amounts of sunlight.
If you aren't sure you've been getting enough vitamin D from the sun, there's a blood test that can reveal your levels definitively (25(OH)D or 25-hydroxyvitamin D).The Main Question in Relation to Headaches: How to Get Rid of Them
For people who get headaches, frequently or infrequently, discovering the cause is an important part of determining how to get rid of them.
Tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches (which are usually rare and brief, with pain around your eyes) are the three most prevalent types. The latter two are the most intense and painful.
While around 5 percent of the population has cluster headaches, about 13 percent of headache sufferers in the U.S. have migraines.
Unfortunately, migraines are still largely misunderstood in the medical community, in large part because the symptoms are so diverse. Some people describe throbbing or searing pain, either on both sides of their head or on just one side.
People who have migraines sometimes experience "auras" when they are just coming on. Healthline describes the visual disturbances known as ocular migraines:
"Ocular headaches can develop with or without the accompanying pain of a classic migraine. During an ocular migraine, or migraine with aura, you may see flashing or shimmering lights, zigzagging lines or stars. Some people describe psychedelic images. It may also cause blind spots in your field of vision."4
Auras are often confused with retinal migraines, which, while rare, can be accompanied by vision loss in one eye. If you experience this symptom for the first time, having it checked out by a doctor is a good idea to ensure it's not some other serious condition.Food Allergies and Headaches
Food allergies and intolerances can also trigger headaches. Common culprits include food containing nitrites, such as hotdogs or lunch meat, and foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), often found in processed foods and fast foods as a flavor enhancer.
Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharine and sucralose (brand name Splenda), are also a known cause. The use of glyphosate on wheat crops has been associated with headaches, too, not to mention celiac disease.
Adding coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to your supplementation regimen may have a tremendous effect on lessening the severity and frequency of your migraines. It impacts every cell in your body, but especially your brain and heart.
It's important to understand that a lot of medications, including hormone replacements, antacids, birth control pills, diabetes drugs and statins to lower cholesterol, may cause a depletion of CoQ10 throughout your body,
Magnesium is a mineral that, when lacking in your body, can set off a headache. In fact, it's estimated that around half the people with recurrent headaches are actually magnesium deficient. So, increase your consumption of green leafy vegetables, which are rich in bioavailable magnesium. Spirulina is another good source.
Be aware that, like so many other compounds your body needs, medications may block this mineral. Taking an Epsom salt bath can provide magnesium sulfate, which absorbs into your body through your skin, or consider supplementing with 400 to 600 milligrams of magnesium (magnesium threonate) per day.
Additionally, taking 400 mg of vitamin B2, aka riboflavin, will also provide an uptick in another important mineral and may help prevent the onset of a migraine, according to one study.5 Ideally, you'll want to balance riboflavin with the other Bs by taking a "B complex" with it. Other supplements that help provide what your body needs and may help prevent headaches include vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid.
One way to find out if something you're eating is at the bottom of your headache problem is to try eliminating potentially offending foods from your diet, one by one, for a period of a few weeks. Called an elimination diet, you then re-introduce the foods one at a time to see if your headaches reoccur. This is one of the quickest ways to see if something you're eating on a regular basis is the culprit.Tending to Your Emotional Health May Relieve Headache Pain
Stress, cortisol and thyroid hormone also play a role in headaches and migraines, making stress relief and addressing your thyroid function essential components of a more comprehensive plan. Selenium and ashwagandha are two helpful supplements as they both support thyroid function.
Another "trick" to keep in your bag for relieving headache pain and frequency is the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). 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, your body can often rebalance itself and accelerate healing of both emotional and physical problems.
Dramatic results for headaches were demonstrated by Greek researchers, whose study involved 35 people receiving treatment for frequent tension headaches at a headache clinic. After eight weeks, those who had been taught how to do EFT on their own and tapped twice a day reduced the frequency of their headaches by 62 percent and the intensity of the headaches by 60 percent.6
This was from performing EFT on their own; it's likely if they worked with a skilled EFT practitioner the results may have been even more impressive. If you are currently struggling with headaches, please realize that using EFT and other mind-body tools to relieve the pain can help free you of toxic prescription and over-the-counter painkillers.
By Dr. Mercola
While nuts generally receive top marks for being a healthy addition to your diet, there are a few factors to consider. Peanuts — which despite the name are not actually a nut but a legume — are among the most allergenic of foods.
In 1999, less than 0.5 percent of American children had a peanut allergy. A decade later, that number had risen to 2 percent. This despite the fact that during that time, parents were warned to avoid all peanut products before the age of 3.
Clearly, the advice was not having an impact. The avoidance recommendation has been further challenged by a number of recent studies.
Research actually suggests that exposing children to peanuts early on can help reduce their risk of developing an allergy, while strict avoidance actually heightens the risk.
Moreover, giving trace amounts of peanuts to children with peanut allergy has been shown to de-sensitize their immune systems and boost their tolerance over time.
Naturally, if your child has a known peanut allergy, you would embark on this kind of de-sensitization program under the guidance of a knowledgeable doctor to avoid a potentially life threatening situation. Also, to avoid choking, never give young children whole peanuts or ground peanut bits.
That said, the broader, more general recommendation that parents should avoid feeding their children peanut products during infancy has now radically changed. In fact, research suggests early exposure to peanuts may cut the risk of allergy by 80 percent or more.New Guidelines Call for Introduction of Peanut Products During Infancy
The new guidelines,1,2,3,4 issued by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), recommend introducing pureed food or finger food that contains peanut powder or peanut extract at or before the age of 6 months. According to The New York Times:5
“If broadly implemented, the new guidelines have the potential to dramatically lower the number of children who develop one of the most common and lethal food allergies, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the institute’s director, who called the new approach ‘game changing’ …
It appears there ‘is a window of time in which the body is more likely to tolerate a food than react to it, and if you can educate the body during that window, you’re at much lower likelihood of developing an allergy to that food,’ Dr. [Matthew] Greenhawt [co-author of the new guidelines] said.”
In 2008, scientists became intrigued by anecdotal reports that Jewish children in Israel had very low rates of peanut allergy. A comparison of statistics revealed that Jewish children in the U.K. had 10 times the rate of peanut allergy as those in Israel, despite the similarities in genetic background.
A major difference between the two groups was that Israeli children were typically fed foods containing peanuts, starting in infancy. Bamba, a puffed corn and peanut butter snack, is very popular among Israeli children.
The researchers tested the hypothesis that early exposure to peanuts might lower the risk of allergy by recruiting infants between the ages of 4 and 11 months of age, all of whom were at high risk for peanut allergy.6 The children were randomly assigned to receive peanut-containing foods on a regular basis, or no peanuts at all.
By the age of 5, less than 2 percent of the children fed peanuts developed an allergy, while nearly 14 percent of those who were never given peanuts became allergic.
The difference was even more striking among a subgroup of particularly high-risk children who were already more sensitive to peanuts at the outset of the study. In this group, 10 percent of those who were fed peanut-containing foods went on to develop an allergy, compared to 35 percent of those who did not receive any peanuts.
The findings were considered revolutionary, and eventually formed the basis of the updated recommendations.How to Implement the New Guidelines
The new guidelines divide children into categories based on perceived risk:
• Low-risk infants (no eczema or other food allergy, and no family history of peanut allergy) can start receiving peanut-containing foods at any age, once other solid foods have been introduced.
• Moderate-risk infants (mild eczema) may receive peanut-containing foods around 6 months of age.
• High-risk infants (severe eczema and/or other known food allergies) should receive peanut-containing foods as early as 4 months under medical supervision.
An evaluation by an allergy specialist is strongly advised, and peanut-containing foods may be administered in the doctor’s office for safety. If a skin test reveals your child is already allergic, complete avoidance may be recommended.
For low- and moderate-risk infants, you may use a 50/50 mix of smooth peanut butter and warm water. Stir to blend into a purée-like consistency. However, do not make peanut butter the first or only solid food your baby eats.
Once introduced, continue giving your child peanut-containing foods at least three times a week throughout the childhood years. If you’re at all unsure about whether your child might be allergic to peanuts, ask your pediatrician to perform an allergy test.Allergic Children May Also Be Desensitized Through Early Exposure
As mentioned, even those with diagnosed peanut allergy may benefit from early exposure, provided it’s done under careful medical supervision. In one study,7 allergic children between the ages of 7 and 16 were given very small doses of peanut protein powder, beginning with a dose equivalent to about 1/70th of one peanut.
After six months of gradually increasing the dose, more than 90 percent of the children could tolerate the equivalent of five peanuts in one sitting with no reaction.
Other research8,9 also suggests the allergy protection a child gets from being exposed to nuts during infancy can be sustained even if nuts are later avoided for up to a year. As reported by BBC News:10
“The New England Journal of Medicine study11 looked at 550 children deemed prone to developing a peanut allergy …
The new study suggests that if a child has consumed peanut snacks within the first 11 months of life, then at the age of 5 they can afford to stop eating the food entirely for a year, and maintain no allergy.
Lead author Prof. [Dr.] Gideon Lack said: ‘[The research] clearly demonstrates that the majority of infants did in fact remain protected and that the protection was long-lasting.’
He said that part of the problem was that people lived in a 'culture of food fear.' ‘I believe that this fear of food allergy has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the food is excluded from the diet and, as a result, the child fails to develop tolerance,’ he told the BBC News …”Pros and Cons of Peanuts
Peanuts do contain a number of valuable nutrients, including trace minerals such as copper, manganese and molybdenum, along with vitamins B1, B3 and E, folate, biotin and phosphorous. They also contain a number of highly beneficial antioxidants, including resveratrol and p-coumaric acid.12,13
Unfortunately, peanuts tend to be heavily sprayed with pesticides14 and are frequently contaminated with aflatoxin15 — toxic metabolites produced by certain molds that grow in soil and moist environments.
To avoid pesticides, I recommend buying only organically grown peanuts and peanut butter. Just beware that organic peanuts are not a guarantee they’ll be free of aflatoxin.
Contamination can occur anytime during pre-harvest, storage and/or processing, and is therefore difficult to avoid. Unbeknownst to many, gut problems such as leaky gut can be related to the presence of mycotoxins such as aflatoxin.
(To rid your body of aflatoxin, you need to use bentonite clay. Activated charcoal will absorb other mycotoxins, but not aflatoxin.)
In terms of nutrition, peanuts also have the drawback of being relatively high in omega-6, so they may further skew your omega-3-to-omega-6 ratio — a problem you may struggle with if you’re eating a lot of processed foods and shy away from omega-3-rich fish such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies (and do not take an animal-based omega-3 supplement). So, while introducing small amounts of peanuts may help reduce your child’s risk of peanut allergy, avoid overdoing it.Gut Health and Food Allergies
No discussion about food allergies is complete without addressing general gut health. Without a well-functioning gastrointestinal (GI) tract, your baby will be more vulnerable to pathogens, allergens and a number of immune-related diseases, so getting your baby’s gut up and running efficiently is crucial.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant would be wise to address their own gut health as early as possible to give their child the best start possible in this regard. According to an analysis of clinical trials,16 women who take probiotics during pregnancy do reduce their child’s risk of developing allergies. That said, it’s never too late to address your, or your child’s gut, and most people would likely benefit from doing so.
The bacteria located in your GI tract play a crucial role in the development and operation of the mucosal immune system in your digestive tract. They also aid in the production of antibodies to pathogens. Beneficial bacteria even train your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.
This important function prevents your immune system from overreacting to non-harmful antigens, which is the genesis of allergies, be it peanuts, eggs or any other food allergy.
Your baby gets his or her first “inoculation” of gut flora from your birth canal during childbirth. If your flora is abnormal, your baby’s flora will also be abnormal; whatever organisms live in your vagina end up coating your baby’s body and lining his or her intestinal tract. Breastfeeding also helps protect and normalize your baby’s gut flora, which is why breastfeeding is so crucial to your child’s health. No infant formulas can do this.Consider Introducing Fermented Foods Early
A condition known as “leaky gut” can be a contributing factor to allergies, which can help explain why children with healthier gut flora have a reduced risk of developing allergies. Even more significantly, pathogenic microbes in your baby’s digestive tract can damage the integrity of his or her gut wall, allowing all sorts of toxins and microbes to flood his or her bloodstream, which can then enter his or her brain and disrupt proper brain development.
Providing abundant probiotics in the form of fermented foods is one of the most powerful ways to optimize your baby’s gut microbiome. Oftentimes, a commercial probiotic supplement won’t even be needed.
Raw organic grass-fed yogurt is well tolerated by most infants and children. It’s best to make your own yogurt at home from raw organic milk, and start with a very tiny amount. Once yogurt is well tolerated by your baby you can introduce kefir. If you have any problems with dairy, you can substitute vegetables fermented with yogurt culture or kefir culture.
Avoid commercial yogurt from the grocery store, as these typically contain high amounts of sugar, and sugar tends to feed pathogenic bacteria — the exact opposite of what you’re looking for.
To learn more about introducing fermented foods to your newborn, I recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome,”17 which has a large recipe section for fermenting your own foods at home and using them to benefit all members of your family. If your baby has a severe condition, then the addition of a high-quality probiotic supplement might be needed.
As for peanuts, I generally don’t recommend them due to the risk of pesticide and aflatoxin contamination. However, complete abstinence from early childhood could potentially increase your child’s risk of developing a peanut allergy, so you’ll have to weigh the various risks and benefits.
If you choose to include peanuts, opt for an organic brand of peanut butter that contains nothing but ground peanuts to avoid pesticides. Also, if you have any doubts whatsoever, be sure to perform an allergy test before introducing peanuts into your baby’s diet.
By Dr. Mercola
Most Americans have closets overflowing with clothing — some of which may rarely if ever be worn. Inexpensive clothing — so-called "fast fashion" — has become so common, it's not unusual for people to throw away clothes worn only once or twice.
In fact, Americans buy 500 percent more clothing today than we did in the 1980s.1 But the low price tag is deceptive. Upon further scrutiny, each item of clothing exacts a significant toll on the environment, and on human health across the globe.
Each year, Americans buy an astounding 22 billion items of clothing, and only 2 percent of these items are made in the U.S. Transportation alone, since each item has been shipped numerous times from country to country by the time it ends up in a retail store, creates an enormous amount of air pollution.
In an apparent reaction to decades of excess, recent years have seen a revival of "minimalism" and more environmentally-conscious fashion.
Bestselling books like Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" have led many to clear out their previously brimming closets. But what actually happens to all of the discarded clothing?Most of Your Discarded Clothes End Up in Landfills
Most people will drop clothes off at a donation center such as Goodwill, thinking they will get re-sold to someone with limited means who really needs them. In reality, much of the discarded clothing ends up in landfills.
In 2013 alone, a staggering 12.8 million tons of textiles were sent to landfills — that's more than 7 percent of the total U.S. landfill waste — costing charitable organizations millions of dollars in various fees and transport expenses, to boot.2
But the vast majority are sold to textile recyclers and carpet manufacturers. According to a 2006 report by ABC News,3 upward of 90 percent of clothing donations to charitable organizations end up with textile recyclers.
Only 10 percent are offered for sale to struggling Americans looking for a bargain. As noted by The Huffington Post:4
"Knowing how Goodwill works can help you make smarter decisions when deciding if another jeans purchase is really worth it for you, for the donations staff and for the environment."
It's also worth noting that those used clothing donation bins you may find scattered throughout your neighborhood typically belong to for-profit textile recycling companies that sometimes falsely disguise themselves as charitable organizations.5What Happens to Your Clothes Once You Drop Them Off With Goodwill?
According to Huffington Post associate lifestyle editor Suzy Strutner, Goodwill will sort through donations to determine what can be sold and what cannot. If it's in near-perfect condition, it will remain on the sales floor for four weeks. After that, the item gets sent to a "Buy the Pound" liquidation outlet.
Most other charitable organizations that deal in used clothing operate in in the same way.6
Whatever isn't sold in these outlet stores gets sent on to Goodwill auctions, where you bid on entire bins without knowing precisely what you're getting. Whatever still remains at this point is sent to textile recycling organizations such as SMART, a trade association for textile recyclers.
Of the clothing SMART acquires, approximately 5 percent is discarded to landfill, 30 percent gets cut into rags for industrial use, 20 percent is processed for fiber fill that gets used in furniture and insulation, and 45 percent is resold into the American and international second-hand clothing markets. According to Strutner:
"This isn't necessarily a good thing. Obviously, re-selling clothes into the U.S. secondhand market just encourages them to make the cycle all over again. And sending clothes overseas can majorly hinder the textile industries in developing countries, robbing locals of jobs and income."African Textile Industries Suffer Due to Glut of Cheap Cast-Offs From the West
In March, 2016, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda issued a joint proposal to ban all imports of used clothing by 2019 in order to boost local textile and clothing industries.7
Used clothes sell for less than 10 percent of the cost of a locally made garment, making the local garment industry incapable of competing. Already back in 2006, Bama Athreya, deputy director of the International Labor Rights Fund in Washington DC, told ABC News:8
"Many of these countries in Africa used to have a fairly well-developed indigenous market for textiles and clothing and particularly for hand-crafted or hand-tailored clothes. And we've seen those markets virtually disappear …
There is no question that the secondhand clothing market has had a significant impact on domestic African clothing production. The tailors, the small producers have been put out of business.
Those were good jobs for Africans and there are no jobs taking their place. This is a trade that feeds on the poor rather than benefits the poor."
In Uganda, more than 80 percent of all clothing purchased are second-hand discards from the West. The proposed ban has created a great deal of political push-back, however, especially from the U.S., so it's unlikely the ban will go through.
Still, it's yet another sign that our Western shopping habits have truly global effects — and not in a good way. Some believe the only way forward is for Westerners to become more conscious consumers. As noted by Kelsey Halling, director of impact for Thread International:9
"We need to find better uses for that "going-out top" bought for $15 and worn only twice. Places such as Uganda, and Haiti, and India shouldn't have to be — and very soon may choose not to be — responsible for our excess."The True Cost of Disposable Fashion
Part of the answer is to give some serious thought to reducing your total consumption. A film that brings the problems of "fast fashion" to the fore is "The True Cost" (see trailer above), available for viewing on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
It explores the harsh realities of sweatshop workers who suffer to produce the goods we buy on the cheap and discard with nary a thought of what it took to make it, or what will happen to it once we discard it.
According to the film, fashion used to have two seasons — warm-weather dressing and cold. Then it became four — winter, spring, summer and fall. Now, there are 52 "fashion seasons" per year. That's right, the industry is now moving forward at the breakneck speed of new styles and trends being launched WEEKLY.
To stay on trend, you really got your work cut out for you! The question is, is it worth spending so much of your hard-earned money on things that will lose their fashion-forward appeal in a matter of days or weeks?Overconsumption Is the Root of the Problem
Westerners have a tendency to think that we're being generous by donating so many cast-offs, allowing those with few means to get clothes they might not be able to afford otherwise. The reality is, the second-hand industry is struggling with such an overwhelming amount of clothes.
They cannot even house it all — which is why charities will only keep donated items in their thrift shops for a month before shipping them off for bulk liquidation. There's simply no shortage of second-hand clothing, so you're not really doing the world any favors by routinely adding to the donation piles. As noted in a recent Fashionista.com post:10
"… [T]ake [author of "Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion" Elizabeth] Cline's advice: 'Buy way less and buy better, so that used clothes can continue on in the best possible condition.'
Cline, who recently returned from a trip to Kenya, where she was studying the impacts of the 30 million pounds of used clothing the U.S. routes to the country each year, argues that while charities' lack of transparency around the donation process is a real problem, 'overconsumption of throwaway clothing is the root problem.'"
That's not to say you shouldn't donate your clothes when they no longer fit your body or lifestyle. Donating is still the right thing to do, since the alternative is to toss it in the garbage, which goes straight to a landfill. But by buying less, you'd probably be able to afford better quality — items that were not produced by slave laborers in unsafe conditions using processes that damage the environment, that will last longer, and be able to be reused by someone else later on rather than be turned into rags or insulation.Alternatives to Goodwill and Salvation Army
You may also want to reconsider where you haul your discarded clothes off to. If you have good-quality, gently-used clothing, consider donating them to places such as:11
- Dress for Success and Career Gear (professional attire for the disadvantaged)
- Cinderella Project and Fairy godmothers Inc. (prom dresses for those who cannot afford one)
- Your local church charity that may distribute them to the needy within your community
- Local women's shelters and crisis centers (call first to find out what kind of donations they accept)
- The Big Brother/Big Sister Foundation
- Brides Across America (provides free second-hand wedding gowns to military brides)
The garment industry as a whole takes a significant toll on the environment. Textile dyeing facilities, for example, tend to be located in developing countries where regulations are lax and labor costs are low. Untreated or minimally treated wastewater is typically discharged into nearby rivers, from where it spreads into seas and oceans, traveling across the globe with the currents.
An estimated 40 percent of textile chemicals are discharged by China.12 According to Ecowatch, Indonesia is also struggling with the chemical fallout of the garment industry. The Citarum River is now one of the most heavily polluted rivers in the world, thanks to the congregation of hundreds of textile factories along its shorelines.
Tests by Greenpeace reveal the river water contains alarming amounts of lead, mercury, arsenic, nonylphenol (an endocrine disrupting chemical) and many other toxic chemicals — all of which are dumped by textile manufacturers straight into the river without even the most basic of chemical filtration or treatments.
The final clothing items also contain nonylphenol, and it can take several washes before it's all washed out. This means the chemical is also entering your local sewer system. Nonylphenol is considered so hazardous that many European Union (EU) members have banned its use in the garment industry. It's not even allowed in imported textile goods. The U.S. has no such restrictions, however.Becoming a More Conscious Consumer
Most cotton grown today is also genetically engineered (GE), which has its own set of problems, starting with the environmental destruction that goes along with the mounting use of pesticides needed for these crops. In Texas, winegrowers fear the approval of new herbicide-resistant cotton crops and more toxic herbicides may wipe out the industry.
Pesticides have a nasty habit of not staying put but, rather, drifting wherever the wind blows — and that's terrible news for vineyards that cannot tolerate the newer herbicide mixtures being used on GE crops. Paul Bonarrigo, who owns a vineyard in Hale County, has been unable to produce grapes for the past two years in a row. They keep dying from chemical damage. As reported by Texas Tribune:13
"Other Texas winegrowers have seen similar damage, and they blame it on dicamba and 2,4-D, two high-volatility herbicides commonly used on cereal crops, pastures and lawns. Now, the state's vintners are alarmed that use of the chemicals may soon expand to include 3.7 million acres of cotton fields in the High Plains, where cotton is being invaded by weeds immune to the Roundup pesticide long used."
Besides reducing the amount of clothes you buy, seeking out clothing made from organic fabrics made according to sustainable practices also needs to become more the norm than the occasional exception. Such garments are more expensive (right now), but they also tend to last longer with proper care. There's definitely something to be said for the minimalist trend where you own fewer but higher quality items made in a sustainable way that you can wear for many years to come.
Opt for organic cotton, organic hemp and/or wool items, ideally colored with nontoxic, natural dyes when possible. While this will not solve all of the environmental problems related to the garment industry, it's a huge step in the right direction.
Businesses investing in organic farming and natural dyes include PACT (undergarments and loungewear), Boll and Branch (bed linens, blankets and towels), Jungmaven (organic hemp and cotton T-shirts), Industry of All Nations (clothing) and many others. As noted by The Washington Post:14
"Juan [Gerscovich, co-founder of Industry of All Nations] … stands over a 250-gallon vat of indigo, set in a hole dug in the ground … He acknowledges that the clothes produced this way aren't cheap — T-shirts from Industry of All Nations … start at $40.
But like other organic manufacturers, he says the high cost of this clothing ideally will translate into consumers giving serious consideration to the impact of their purchases. 'Shopping is thought of as fickle, something mindless, but in fact it is one of the most important activities an individual can do,' he says. 'Shopping is the equivalent of voting.'"
By Dr. Mercola
Industry funded 'science' has tainted our world and turned science based evidence into science biased propaganda. Universities are laundering money through foundations to intentionally hide relationships, while scientists secretly nurture their relationships with corporate executives.
Negative outcomes go unpublished, the peer review process is so weak only studies that challenge industry interests are heavily scrutinized (usually by scientists hired by corporate public relations firms). Media is paid handsomely to ensure the public that 'the science is settled', especially when corporate liability is a primary concern.
Raw data is held captive, conflicts of interest are not fully disclosed, and studies are designed to specifically obtain a desired outcome.
It’s certainly no secret that academic research is often funded by corporations. Academia often claims that such funding allows for innovation and does not influence the outcome of the studies. Industry, too, claims that such relationships do not influence the scientific process.
Syngenta spokesman Luke Gibbs even told The New York Times, “Syngenta does not pressure academics to draw conclusions and allows unfettered and independent submission of any papers generated from commissioned research.”1
James Cresswell, Ph.D., a pollination ecology researcher with the University of Exeter in England, had a different take on the matter, however. He spoke openly to the Times about his relationship with the pesticide giant, which included Syngenta-funded research into what’s causing bee colonies to die.
Despite having reservations about receiving corporate funding, he did accept it, and soon after began to see the effects of this supposedly independent relationship “The last thing I wanted to do was get in bed with Syngenta,” Cresswell told the Times. “I’m no fan of intensive agriculture [but] … absolutely they influenced what I ended up doing on the project.”2University Pressured Researchers to Accept Corporate Money
Cresswell’s foray into the world of corporate-funded research started when his initial research caused him to question whether neonicotinoid pesticides were to blame for bee deaths.
The chemicals, which are produced by Bayer and Syngenta, have been implicated in the decline of bees, particularly in commercially bred species like honeybees and bumblebees (though they’ve been linked to population changes in wild bees as well). In 2012, Syngenta offered to fund further research by Cresswell on the link.
It was an offer Cresswell felt he couldn’t refuse. “I was pressured enormously by my university to take that money,” Cresswell told the Times. “It’s like being a traveling salesman and having the best possible sales market and telling your boss, ‘I’m not going to sell there.’ You can’t really do that.”3
A University of Exeter spokesman said up to 15 percent of academic research in Britain is funded by industry and that such sponsors are independently analyzed.4
In Cresswell’s case, he and Syngenta agreed on a study looking into eight potential causes of bee deaths, including a disease called varroosis, which is spread by varroa mites. Pesticide makers have argued that it’s the mites, not pesticides, that are killing bees, but Cresswell’s research didn’t find such a link.Manipulating Research to Fit Industry Agendas
When he reported the findings to Syngenta, they pushed back, suggesting he tweak the study in various ways, such as looking at specific loss data in beehives instead of bee stock trends and focusing on data from specific countries or only in Europe, as opposed to worldwide.
After the parameters were changed, varroosis became a significant factor in bee colony losses, according to Cresswell’s research. It’s a clear-cut example of how scientific research can be easily manipulated to fit the sponsor’s agenda, a practice that’s well known to occur in pharmaceutical research.
In a tongue-in-cheek essay in the British Medical Journal, titled “HARLOT — How to Achieve Positive Results Without Actually Lying to Overcome the Truth,”5 it’s wittily explained exactly how industry insiders can help make their agenda, in this case drugs, look good:6
- “Pairing their drug with one that is known to work well. This can hide the fact that a tested medication is weak or ineffective.
- Truncating a trial. Drugmakers sometimes end a clinical trial when they have reason to believe that it is about to reveal widespread side effects or a lack of effectiveness — or when they see other clues that the trial is going south.
- Testing in very small groups. Drug-funded researchers also conduct trials that are too small to show differences between competitor drugs. Or they use multiple endpoints, then selectively publish only those that give favorable results, or they 'cherry-pick' positive-sounding results from multicenter trials.”
Some scientists willingly embrace corporate funding for their research, including James W. Simpkins, a professor at West Virginia University and the director of its Center for Basic and Translational Stroke Research. Simpkins has conducted studies for Syngenta regarding the herbicide atrazine.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) specifically cited research by Tyrone Hayes, Ph. D., an integrative biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, which found atrazine may be chemically castrating male frogs, essentially turning them into female frogs.
Hayes used to conduct research for Novartis, which eventually became Syngenta, but he resigned his contractor position after the company refused to allow him to publish the results of studies they had funded.
After resigning, he obtained independent funding to repeat the research, which was subsequently published and found that atrazine causes hermaphroditism in frogs. Syngenta attempted to discredit Hayes after the damaging research was released.
Meanwhile, Simpkins’ research, which he often co-authors with Syngenta scientists, continues to support atrazine’s supposed safety.
In addition to receiving funding for research, Simpkins also receives $250 an hour from Syngenta to consult on expert panels and is involved in a consulting venture with a Syngenta executive, according to the Times, after a Freedom of Information Act request.
Syngenta also donated $30,000 to a West Virginia University foundation to support Simpkins’ research.7How University Foundations Hide Corporate Funds
A foundation is a non-governmental entity that is typically established to make grants to institutions or individuals for scientific and other purposes. Donors often give money to foundations instead of to the university itself, in part, because foundations have a fiduciary responsibility to represent the donors’ interest.
Also important, money given to a foundation can be kept private in order to protect the donor’s identity and does not become public record.8 It provides the perfect opportunity for industry corporations like Syngenta and others to pay for research on their behalf without receiving any public scrutiny for doing so.
The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, which is dedicated to improving higher education in North Carolina and the U.S., noted that many researchers refer to foundations as “slush funds” and “shadow corporations” “that too often operate in secrecy, despite spending taxpayers’ money [although foundations are often supported by donations as well].”9
It’s difficult to gain access to university foundations’ activities, contributions and spending. Records are often considered to be off limits, which means corporations can easily channel funds to the universities they believe will give them the best pay-off in the form of favorable research.
The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal quoted David Cuillier, director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism, as saying:10
“‘I think there are a ton of flags that need to be raised when it comes to university foundations. I think it’s one of the most underreported scams in America. It’s total slush fund … What a great way to hide money for a university.’
[Cuillier] said foundations have allowed universities to hide ‘wrongdoing, and questionable expenditures’ because foundations usually aren’t subject to public records laws, and may not comply with them in states where they are.”
Universities and foundations often claim that protecting donors’ privacy is key to keeping fundraising avenues open, but making such information public is in the public’s interest. Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., told the Columbia Journalism Review:11
“Whether donors are buying influence with public agencies is the information that the public needs the most … It’s ironic that the institutions that claim they’ll be unable to raise money if they can’t protect their donors’ privacy will engrave their donors’ names in 10-foot-high letters into the facades of buildings.”Confidentiality Agreements Silence Researchers
Another tool used by corporations to control science is confidentiality agreements. Syngenta predecessor Ciba-Geigy had a confidentiality agreement with Switzerland-based agricultural research center Agroscope.
So when one of their researchers, Angelika Hilbeck, found problems with genetically engineered corn (specifically that it appeared to be toxic to a beneficial insect, lacewing, which eats other pests), the corporation ordered her to keep the results secret.12 Hilbeck ultimately published the results anyway, and her contract with Agroscope was not renewed. According to the Times:13
“Dr. Hilbeck continued as a university researcher and was succeeded at Agroscope by Jörg Romeis, a scientist who had worked at Bayer and has since co-authored research with employees from Syngenta, DuPont and other companies. He has spent much of his career trying to debunk Dr. Hilbeck’s work [and has since become the leader of Agroscope’s biosafety research group].”US Biotechnology Panel Financially Tied to Biotech Industry
Even government panels are not immune from industry ties. In fact, they’re prime targets for conflicts of interest. The latest scandal involves a panel studying biotechnology, which is expected to give advice to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which in turn provides policy guidance to the U.S. government. Of the 13 experts named to the panel, seven have potential conflicts of interest. This includes:14
- Richard M. Amasino, professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who holds various biotechnology patents
- Jeffrey Wolt, professor of agronomy and toxicology at Iowa State University, who has a commercial interest that violates the organization’s conflict of interest policy
- Steven P. Bradbury, professor of environmental toxicology at Iowa State University, who owns a consulting firm that advises companies on biotechnology
- Richard Murray, professor of bioengineering at the California Institute of Technology, who co-founded Synvitrobio, a synthetic biology (i.e., genetic engineering) start-up
- Steven L. Evans, fellow in seeds discovery research and development at Dow AgroSciences, which has major interests in the biotechnology industry
The tentacles of industry-funded research reach far and wide — even to your dinner table. In investigative journalist Gary Taubes’ new book, “The Case Against Sugar,” you can read how food companies manipulated research to make sugar a mainstay of Americans’ diets.
As it became increasingly clear that excess sugar was linked to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases, the Sugar Association, an industry trade group, stepped in to combat it by funding industry-friendly research and attacking the credibility of researchers that found otherwise.
Decades’ worth of research convincingly shows excess sugar damages your health, yet the sugar industry managed bury the evidence and cover it up with faux science that supports sugar as an important food. According to The Wall Street Journal:15
“These efforts were successful enough to influence the language of FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] reports on sugar in 1977 and 1986, as well as the first government-compiled Dietary Guidelines, released in 1980, which unsurprisingly declared that fat caused disease.”
While scientific research is far from, well, an exact science, when industry funding is involved it may be virtually impossible for scientific truth to be heard. Whether the subject is sugar, pesticides or biotechnology is irrelevant. Although most researchers and sponsoring companies will insist the research is sound and unbiased, it’s well-known that industry-funded research almost always favors industry.
By Dr. Mercola
Many Americans dutifully recycle their plastic bottles and newspapers, but when it comes to food and yard waste may toss them directly in the trash.
While it may seem like a banana peel here and pile of spoiled greens there would do little in the way of environmental harm, food waste is actually the second largest component of waste sent to U.S. landfills, making up 18 percent of the waste stream, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).1
Yard trimmings make up another 7 percent. When combined, this organic waste makes up the largest share of U.S. trash, more than any other material, including paper and plastic.
In all, the food waste alone amounts to more than 30 million tons of waste entering U.S. landfills every year. This is particularly tragic since food and yard waste is easily recycled, though not by placing it in a recycling bin at your curb.
It’s actually quite simple to “recycle” these types of organic materials right in your own backyard. It’s called composting, and it’s being taken up on a large scale slowly but surely across the U.S.Large-Scale Composting Is Catching On
At the Prince George composting facility in Maryland, which already processed thousands of tons of yard waste daily, food scraps are now being accepted.
Twenty-five commercial customers send food scraps (and even pizza boxes), such as coffee grinds and vegetable peels, to be naturally composted into a valuable natural resource.
Next year, the facility plans to double its food-processing capacity and will be adding 30 more customers, including a university and an airport, according to The Christian Science Monitor. They continued:2
“ … [A] dearth of landfill space, friendly public policies, social pressures and other factors are beginning to spur industrial-scale efforts to turn trashed food into something useful.
For example: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Rhode Island have banned some large food producers and other large businesses, such as convention centers and supermarkets, from throwing away food, making composting a popular alternative.”
It may soon be possible that curbside recycling programs could expand to collect food waste alongside your paper towel rolls (and soiled paper products, including paper towels, are often compostable, too).
Residential food composting programs are currently being tested in a number of U.S. cities, including New York City, Austin and Milwaukee, and more than 180 communities collect food waste from residences.3 Many of the programs started out by allowing residents to add food scraps to their yard waste recycling bins.
In the city of Oak Park, Illinois, for instance, a residential food scraps program was tested in 2012 and expanded as a subscription service in 2013. About 740 households and six multi-family buildings currently participate.
The organics recycling service costs an additional $14 per month and is diverting an estimated 10 pounds of food scraps and soiled paper per household/per week from landfills to composting.4Composting Yields Impressive Benefits
Composting food waste is about far more than simply conserving limited landfill space. For starters, when organic materials sit in landfills, bacteria break them down into methane gas, which is the third largest source of U.S. emissions.5 So cutting back on the amount of organics entering landfills cuts back on these emissions.
Also important, food waste can be turned into a valuable resource — compost — that is otherwise wasted. Although often described as fertilizer, compost is actually most valued for its organic matter content.
While it can reduce fertilizer use, it also enhances the chemical, physical and biological properties of soil, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).6
Topsoil loss and erosion are major concerns in the 21st century, leading to watershed problems and threatening “our ability to sustain life on Earth,” ILSR noted. “Advancing composting and compost use is a key sustainability strategy to create jobs, protect watersheds … improve soil vitality and build resilient local economies,” they continued.
In their 2014 report, “The State of Composting in the U.S.,” ILSR highlighted many of the benefits of amending soil with compost:7
- Improved soil quality and structure
- Erosion and sedimentation control
- Improved water retention
- Reduced chemical needs
- Cutting non-point source pollution
The Marin Carbon Project in Northern California, which began in 2008, is revealing how valuable composting can be to communities. Researchers applied one-half inch of compost over land used for grazing cattle and have been observing the land for nearly a decade.8
Forage on the composted areas increased by 40 percent to 70 percent, year after year. The change was so dramatic that the cattle herds tended to feed primarily in the areas that had been treated with compost.
The project also revealed increases in the amount of water-holding capacity in the soil, which are a major benefit in the drought-prone area.
Also significant, increases in soil carbon were also noted. It's estimated that one-third of the surplus carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stems from poor land management processes that contribute to the loss of carbon, such as carbon dioxide, from farmlands.9
So-called carbon farming is a simple premise that involves using agricultural methods like composting that can naturally trap carbon dioxide in the ground (for decades, centuries or more), while also absorbing it from the air.
The process, known as "carbon sequestration," could help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions while regenerating the soil and more.
Other benefits, including increased plant productivity and reduced need for commercial feeds, were also seen. If it can be done in California, it can be done elsewhere as well, with potentially radical benefits to the environment.Compost Tea for Improving Soil Health
Green Pastures Farm in Rucker, Missouri, is another poster child for composting. Through the use of compost, rotational grazing and other natural methods for improving soil biology, they raise grass-fed beef and other livestock without the use of any chemical fertilizers or herbicides.
The use of compost tea, which is basically the liquid from compost steeped in water, proved to be particularly beneficial for increasing soil health. Farmer Greg Judy told Holistic Management International:10
“One pound of properly made compost can make 300 gallons of compost tea. You only need 30 gallons/acre of the tea if the soil is completely broken … roots don’t die back when a plant is grazed if the soil is healthy. The plant just exudes food for the soil life through the roots.
It still maintains its root structure and can still access water and minerals below ground to grow more forage above ground! This opens up a whole new way of looking at grazing, particularly in drought-prone areas.
The compost tea can improve any soil, anywhere, so the possibilities are amazing! Since land is the biggest expense in ranching, if you can grow double your forage with compost tea, you’ve just bought yourself a whole new ranch for very little money.”Barriers to Large-Scale Composting
With immense benefits and potential to transform the way food waste is handled in the U.S., why haven’t more large-scale composting programs been started? As ILSR pointed out:11
“The potential to expand composting is enormous. The U.S. disposes of 164 million tons of garbage per year. Almost half the materials Americans discard — food scraps, yard trimmings and soiled paper — is compostable.”
However, there are many barriers standing in the way of expansion (none of which are insurmountable). Richard Flammer, a composting consultant, told the San Diego Reader:12
“ … [F]actors including low ‘tip fees’ at local landfills, a lack of composting facilities near population centers, lack of coordination among a host of different waste service providers, and ‘poorly-written or nonexistent zoning and local land use restrictions’ all contribute to a relatively low participation rate in composting across the county.”
In many areas, it still costs more to compost food waste than it does to throw it in the landfill (although the opposite is true in some cities). There’s also a catch-22 going on, in which firms are reluctant to invest in composting facilities until they know they’ll have a guaranteed supply of organic material to support it. However, city governments are reluctant to begin collecting the organic material until they know there’s a facility to compost it.13You Can Compost in Your Own Backyard
Ideally, city-wide recycling programs will soon expand to collect food and yard waste along with other recyclables, with the organic material being sent to composting facilities. You don’t, however, need to wait for this to happen to begin reaping the benefits of compost in your own backyard.
You can compost in a pile, in a box or a ready-made tumbling composter bin. The latter is very convenient but can cost upward of $200. Less expensive options include making your own from wood, recycled plastic, or even chicken wire.
Tumblers (rotating drums) are great because they make aeration a breeze — all you have to do is turn the drum every few days, which takes less effort than turning a pile with a fork or shovel. They are also much faster to compost; you can get great compost in as little as one to two weeks, while the piles will take many months to digest.
Many local municipalities also have bins available for a reasonable price. For the best moisture and temperature regulation, select bins that hold at least one cubic yard.
Your compost zone should be conveniently located, as close as possible to your source of raw materials (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, soiled paper products) where it won't be too much of an eyesore. If you are using piles or bins, I recommend having two of them as then you'll have a place to put fresh scraps while one full "batch" of compost finishes curing. Happy composting!
By Dr. Mercola
Magnesium is a mineral important to the health of every cell and organ in your body, especially your heart, kidneys and muscles. Symptoms of a deficiency can include unexplained fatigue or muscle weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, eye twitches and muscle spasms.
Unfortunately, determining a deficiency of magnesium from a simple blood sample isn’t possible, as only 1 percent of the magnesium in your body is found in your blood stream. Instead, most of your magnesium will be found stored in your bones and organs.
It is quite possible to be unaware of a deficiency, which is why it has been dubbed the “invisible deficiency.” Some researchers estimate that up to 80 percent of American do not get enough magnesium from their diet to replace the magnesium lost.1
Studies have also demonstrated that only 25 percent of U.S. adults are getting the recommended daily amount of 310 to 320 milligrams (mg) for women and 400 to 420 mg for men.2
Even more concerning to your overall health, these amounts are just enough to stop your body from experiencing the overt symptoms of a deficiency, but not enough to support optimal health.Adequate Levels of Magnesium Linked to Improved Heart Health
In a recent study, researchers conducted a dose-response meta-analysis of over 40 studies with over 1 million participants, published between 1999 and 2016,3 looking for a correlation between magnesium intake and diabetes, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality.
They found no significant association between increasing the intake of magnesium above 100 mg per day and the risk of CVD or congestive heart disease (CHD).4
However, the same increase in magnesium intake per day was linked with a 22 percent reduction in the potential risk of heart failure and a 7 percent decrease in the risk of stroke. The increase in magnesium was also linked to a 10 percent drop in the risk of death from all causes and a 19 percent drop in the potential risk of diabetes.5
While the analysis was based on observational studies and did not prove a direct link, researchers wrote that the results of their meta-analysis supported the theory that increasing your daily dietary intake of magnesium may provide you with overall health benefits.6
A deficiency of magnesium at the cellular level can lead to a deterioration of metabolic and mitochondrial function at the cell level, and lead to more serious health problems.
Although a mineral, magnesium also functions as an electrolyte, crucial in electrical activity throughout your body.7 Without healthy levels of electrolytes, such as calcium, magnesium or potassium, electrical signals throughout your body aren’t sent and received properly, affecting your heart, brain and muscle function.Cardiovascular Health Has a Significant Public Health Impact
Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.8 In the U.S., someone has a heart attack every 42 seconds and someone dies every 60 seconds from a cardiovascular disease.9 The impact of CVD is not limited to your health and finances, but creates a large cost to the community and your employer.
Immediate costs include hospitalization, ambulance, diagnostic tests and immediate treatments, including surgery. Long-term costs include drugs, time off work and cardiac rehabilitation. The combined direct and indirect costs were estimated to be $444 billion in 2010, or $1 of every $6 spent on healthcare.10
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, killing more than 289,000 in 2013, or accounting for approximately 1 of every 4 deaths.11 Although it is sometimes thought of as a man’s problem, approximately the same number of men and women die from CVD each year.
Unfortunately, symptoms in women are less obvious than they are in men, with 64 percent of women who die from CVD having no previous symptoms.12Magnesium May Be Key to Controlling Your Blood Pressure
One in every 3 adults in America suffers from hypertension, or high blood pressure.13 Having high blood pressure increases your risk of having heart disease and stroke, and only half of people with hypertension have their condition under control.14
Magnesium has a direct effect on the relaxation of vascular smooth muscle and the regulation of ions important to blood pressure control. Hypertension is labeled the “silent killer” as there are usually no symptoms of the condition or warning signs.
A meta-analysis funded by the Indiana University School of Medicine Strategic Research Initiative made a direct link between those who were deficient in magnesium and hypertension.15
Lead author, Dr. Yiqing Song, associate professor of epidemiology at Indiana University, noted:16
“With its relative safety and low cost, magnesium supplements could be considered an option for lower high blood pressure in high-risk persons or hypertension patients.
Consistent with previous studies, our evidence suggests that the anti-hypertensive effect of magnesium might be only effective among people with magnesium deficiency or insufficiency.
Such suggestive evidence indicates that maintenance of optimal magnesium status in the human body may help prevent or treat hypertension.”
Since approximately 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium and 33 percent suffer from hypertension, balancing your magnesium levels may be the strategy you need to prevent the development of hypertension.
Past studies demonstrated this association in patients suffering from chronic kidney disease, but this study found the same correlation in an otherwise healthy population. Participants in this study were without signs of CVD.
Those with the highest serum level of magnesium enjoyed a 48 percent lower risk of hypertension, 69 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes and a 42 percent lower risk of an elevated CAC score.Magnesium Is Essential to Overall Health
In this short video you’ll discover some of the more common symptoms of magnesium deficiency. However, don’t rely on experiencing these symptoms before evaluating lifestyle choices that deplete your magnesium stores and dietary choices that may not provide you with enough daily magnesium.
Magnesium is involved in over 600 different reactions in your body, and so is important to your overall health. Other cardiovascular benefits of magnesium include reducing your potential risk for atherosclerosis, or thickening and stiffening of the arterial walls.19
Low levels of magnesium have been associated with the risk of developing fatal cardiac arrhythmias. There are several different types of arrhythmias, but each have an abnormal electrical conduction that governs your heart rate and heartbeat.20
Optimal levels of magnesium may also reduce your potential risk for developing painful and debilitating migraine headaches.21 In fact, some studies suggest magnesium can help prevent and treat migraine headaches.22,23
Magnesium plays an essential role in brain function and mood stabilization. Low levels of magnesium are connected with depression as well.24 Magnesium is important to your metabolism and has a significant impact on type 2 diabetes. Some experts believe that up to 48 percent of people suffering from diabetes are magnesium deficient.25
Low magnesium levels also affect insulin resistance, important in metabolic syndrome and a precursor to type 2 diabetes.26 High levels of insulin in the blood, common with insulin resistance, lead to further loss of magnesium.27Lifestyle Choices That Deplete Magnesium
In this short video Dr. Carolyn Dean discusses magnesium deficiency and the effect it has on your health. One of the primary reasons for a magnesium deficiency is a diet rich in processed foods. Heat and processing depletes magnesium from real foods. Experts believe low levels of magnesium may be the result of low levels found in food.28
Magnesium is also lost through sweating during heavy exertion, as a result of lack of sleep and alcohol consumption. Certain drugs tend to reduce the amount of magnesium in your body, such as statins, fluoride and fluoride containing drugs.29
Unfortunately, there is no easy blood test to determine your magnesium levels. Some specialty labs do provide an RBC magnesium test that can give you a reasonable estimate, but the test is costly and not all labs can do the testing. Serum levels of magnesium are not a good indication of whether your muscles and bones have enough magnesium for optimal health. Perhaps the best way to determine your status is to carefully evaluate and track your symptoms.
Symptoms of low levels of magnesium are related to the functions the mineral plays in your body. Muscle spasms, insulin resistance, heart arrhythmias, low energy and high blood pressure are some of the signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency.30 Muscle spasms present as a “Charlie horse,” or spasm in your calf muscle, that happens when you stretch your leg.
An increased number of migraines or headaches, loss of appetite and fatigue are other early signs of magnesium deficiency. More chronic and serious symptoms include abnormal heart rhythms, coronary spasms and seizures, as well as changes in personality and behavior.Optimize Magnesium Through Healthy Dietary Choices
To optimize your magnesium level, be sure to eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods, such as:
✓ Swiss chard
✓ Turnip greens
✓ Beet greens
✓ Collard greens
✓ Brussels sprouts
✓ Bok choy
✓ Romaine lettuce
✓ Raw cacao nibs
✓ Unsweetened cocoa powder
✓ Raw seeds: Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower have the highest
✓ Raw nuts: Cashews, almonds and Brazil nuts are the best sources
✓ Fatty fish: Wild-caught Alaskan salmon and mackerel are the best sources
✓ Fruits and berries: Papaya, raspberry, tomato and strawberries rank highBalance A Magnesium Supplement With Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K2
Since magnesium is inexpensive, safe and readily available, you may want to consider supplementation. There are also instances when supplementation is particularly advisable:31
- You have suffered or are at risk of a heart attack
- You have experienced ventricular arrhythmia
- You have had or are planning heart transplant or open heart surgery
- You are taking diuretics
- You have hypertension or congestive heart failure
There are several considerations if you choose to take a supplement as it is easy to end up with lopsided nutrient ratios. In general, most real foods have most of the cofactors and other nutrients in the correct ratios. It is important to maintain the proper balance between vitamin K2, vitamin D, magnesium and calcium. Considerations include:
- The ideal ratio between magnesium and calcium is currently thought to be 1-to-1. Keep in mind that since you're likely getting far more calcium from your diet than you are magnesium, your need for supplemental magnesium may be two to three times greater than calcium.
- Vitamin K2 (MK7 form) has two crucial functions, one is in cardiovascular health and the other is in bone restoration. By removing calcium from the lining of the blood vessels and shuttling it into your bone matrix, vitamin K2 helps prevent occlusions from atherosclerosis. Meanwhile, vitamin D helps optimize calcium absorption.
- Vitamins D and K2 also work together to produce and activate Matrix GLA Protein (MGP), which congregates around the elastic fibers of your arterial lining, thereby guarding your arteries against calcium crystal formation. Magnesium and vitamin K2 also complement each other, as magnesium helps lower blood pressure, which is an important component of heart disease.
- While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be determined, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue (whom I've interviewed on this topic) suggests taking 100 micrograms (mcg) of K2 for every 1,000 to 2,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D you take.
I strongly recommend getting your vitamin D level tested twice a year (summer and winter) to help determine your personal recommended dosage. Sensible sun exposure is the ideal way to optimize your levels, but if you opt for a supplement, your "ideal dosage" is one that will put you into the therapeutic range of 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml).
By Dr. Mercola
The Mediterranean diet is one that has managed to maintain popularity through changing fads, and for good reason. A number of studies have confirmed its health benefits — most of which are likely due to it being low in sugars, moderate in protein and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthy fats.
Contrary to popular belief, there's actually no single "Mediterranean diet." At least 16 countries border the Mediterranean Sea, and dietary habits vary from country to country due to differences in culture, ethnic background, religion and agricultural production.
That said, a primary hallmark of a Mediterranean-style diet is a focus on whole, minimally processed foods. The emphasis on fresh vegetables alone makes it far healthier than the standard American diet, which is very high in processed foods.Health Benefits Associated With a Mediterranean-Style Diet
Eating a Mediterranean-style diet has been linked to a number of health benefits, including:
One review of 35 clinical trials found it helped reduce belly fat and high blood pressure, elevate HDL cholesterol and improve blood sugar levels, compared to those who ate a low-fat diet.1
According to recent research, marine animal-based omega-3 may lower your risk of heart disease even if you're already at increased risk due to high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and/or triglycerides.4,5
Higher levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) from seafood or supplements was associated with a 16 percent lower risk of heart disease in those with high triglycerides, and a 14 percent reduced risk in those with high LDLs.
• Improved overall health and longevity. In one study, women who closely followed a Mediterranean-style diet in their 50s and 60s were 46 percent more likely to live past the age of 70 without chronic illness or cognitive problems.10Mediterranean Diet Linked to Healthier Brain
Overall, the Mediterranean diet is one of the best conventional diets for brain and heart health. For example, research has shown diets rich in healthy fats from nuts, avocados and olive oil may boost memory and cognition in older adults.11,12
Previous research has also suggested a Mediterranean diet may lower your odds of Alzheimer's disease, but it wasn't clear whether the diet was responsible, or if people who eat this way also make many other healthier lifestyle choices that decrease their risk.
In an effort to shed more light on the potential links between diet and cognition, the researchers randomly assigned nearly 450 seniors with risk factors for cardiovascular disease — such as overweight, high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol — to follow one of three diets:13,14
- A Mediterranean diet supplemented with 1 liter of extra virgin olive oil per week
- A Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 grams of nuts a day
- A low-fat diet
Brain function tests were conducted before and after the study. Those following a Mediterranean diet with supplemental nuts showed significant improvement in memory, while those who got supplemental olive oil experienced significantly improved cognition.
The low-fat group, on the other hand, experienced a significant decrease in both memory and cognitive function.Older Adults Suffer Less Brain Shrinkage on Mediterranean Diet
More recently, scientists found that a Mediterranean-style diet also helps reduce age-related brain shrinkage in older adults. As reported by the LA Times:15
"In a group of 562 Scots in their 70s, those whose consumption patterns more closely followed the Mediterranean diet experienced, on average, half the brain shrinkage that was normal for the group as a whole over a three-year period …
The researchers used the food-frequency surveys to divide the group into two — those who at least approximated a Mediterranean-style diet and those who came nowhere close.
Even though many in the Med-diet group were far from perfect in their adherence, the average brain-volume loss differed significantly between the two groups."Your Brain Needs Healthy Fats for Optimal Function
Results such as these certainly make sense when you consider how important healthy fats are for your brain function. After all, your brain is composed of at least 60 percent fat — the most important of which is DHA, found in seafood such as clean fish and krill oil. That said, it's important to choose your seafood wisely.
What you're looking for are fish high in healthy fats, such as omega-3, while also being low in mercury and other environmental pollutants. Good choices include smaller fatty fish like sardines, anchovies and herring.
As a general rule, the lower on the food chain the fish is, the less likely it is to contain harmful levels of contaminants. Many of these smaller fish also contain higher amounts of omega-3, so it's a win-win. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon is another healthy choice. If you avoid fish, it's important to take a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as krill oil.
Besides fish, other examples of beneficial fats that your body (and your brain in particular) needs for optimal function include avocado, organic grass-fed raw butter, clarified butter called ghee, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia and free-range eggs.
It's also important to avoid sugars and processed grains. Research from the Mayo Clinic shows diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia, while high-fat diets are associated with a 42 percent reduced risk.16Omega-3 Is Important for Other Psychiatric Conditions as Well
Animal-based omega-3 in combination with vitamin D has also been shown to improve cognitive function and behavior associated with certain psychiatric conditions, including ADHD, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia — in part by regulating your brain's serotonin levels.17,18,19
The omega-3 fat EPA reduces inflammatory signaling molecules in your brain that inhibit serotonin release from presynaptic neurons, thereby boosting your serotonin levels. DHA — which is an important structural component of your brain cells — also has a beneficial influence on serotonin receptors by increasing their access to serotonin.
Other diets shown to be particularly beneficial for brain health include the DASH and the MIND diets,20 the latter of which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and berries, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, beans, poultry and fish, while limiting red meat, cheese, butter, sweets and fried foods.
What these three diets have in common is an emphasis on whole foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, and at least SOME healthy fats. Considering the importance of eating real food, it's not so surprising that the DASH diet, Mediterranean diet and MIND diet rank No.1, 2 and 3 respectively as the best overall diets for good health, according to a panel of health experts.21Benefits of the DASH Diet
The DASH diet in particular has been shown to be quite effective for lowering your risk of hypertension. However, I believe the real reason for this effect is not due to the reduction in salt but rather the reduction in processed foods, which is high in fructose.22,23 As your insulin and leptin levels rise in response to net carbs, it causes your blood pressure to increase.
Excess fructose promotes hypertension to a far greater degree than excess salt. One 2010 study24 discovered that those who consumed 74 grams or more per day of fructose (the equivalent of about 2.5 sugary drinks) had a 77 percent greater risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg (stage 2 hypertension). Consuming 74 grams or more of fructose per day also increased the risk of a 135/85 blood pressure reading by 26 percent, and a reading of 140/90 by 30 percent.
Elevated uric acid levels are also significantly associated with hypertension (by inhibiting nitric oxide in your blood vessels), and fructose elevates uric acid. In fact, uric acid is a byproduct of fructose metabolism. So, by eliminating excess sugar and fructose from your diet, you effectively address root issues that contribute to high blood pressure.
I recommend keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day. If you're insulin resistant (about 80 percent of Americans are), have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or other chronic disease, you'd be wise to limit your fructose to 15 grams or less per day, until your condition has normalized.
As for the issue of salt (which the DASH diet restricts), it's important to realize that salt is actually essential for maintaining and regulating blood pressure. The key is to use the right kind of salt. Ideally, replace all processed table salt with a natural unprocessed version, such as Himalayan salt, which contains a variety of trace minerals your body actually needs.
Part of the DASH diet's effectiveness for hypertension may also have to do with the fact that it focuses on vegetables, which helps improve your sodium-to-potassium ratio. Your body needs potassium to maintain proper pH levels in your body fluids, and it plays an integral role in regulating your blood pressure. It's actually possible that potassium deficiency may be a greater contributor to hypertension than excess sodium (but not likely a greater factor than fructose).Mediterranean Diet May Cut Your Heart Disease Risk by Nearly One-Third
The importance of healthy fats cannot be overstated in my view. Fats are important for so many biological processes, especially those related to your brain and heart function. In the case of the latter, a Spanish trial,25 which included nearly 7,450 volunteers between the ages of 55 and 80, was stopped early for ethical reasons as the low-fat control group was deemed to be at a dangerous disadvantage.
The participants had all been diagnosed with high risk of cardiovascular disease, but were asymptomatic at the outset of the study. Participants were followed for a median of 4.8 years. The volunteers were randomly divided into three groups (two intervention groups and one control):
- Mediterranean diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, seafood, whole grains and mono-unsaturated fats, very low in meat and dairy and supplemented with 30 grams (1.05 ounces) of nuts per day (15 grams walnuts, 7.5 grams almonds and 7.5 grams hazelnuts)
- Mediterranean diet (as above) supplemented with 50 milliliters (1.7 ounces) of virgin olive oil per day instead of nuts
- Low-fat diet (control)
There were no calorie restrictions for any of the groups, nor was physical activity promoted or required. Compliance with olive oil and nut consumption was tested via blood and urine analysis. The primary end point was a composite of myocardial infarction, stroke and death from cardiovascular causes. Secondary end points were stroke, myocardial infarction, death from cardiovascular causes and death from any cause.
Remarkably, in less than five years, the two intervention groups achieved a 30 percent relative risk reduction for cardiovascular disease, and stroke reduction was an impressive 49 percent. No wonder they felt the trial had to be stopped for ethical reasons!
Sadly, low-fat diets remain among the most accepted diets in the medical community, both for weight management and cardiac health. There's no telling how many millions of people have prematurely died from this fatally flawed and scientifically-refuted advice.Are You Eating Enough Fish?
According to the latest report26 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Americans increased their seafood consumption by nearly 1 pound per person in 2015, to an average of 15.5 pounds per year, or just over 4.75 ounces per week.
That's the largest increase in seafood consumption in two decades, yet we still fall short of dietary recommendations, which call for 8 ounces of seafood per week. Ideally, aim for two to three servings of fish like salmon or sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring each week, to obtain healthy levels of omega-3. Avoid canned tuna, mackerel, swordfish, grouper, marlin, orange roughy, snapper and halibut, as they have some of the highestlevels of contamination.
For more information about mercury in fish, see the Mercury Policy Project's website, "Mercury and Fish: The Facts."27 They have a helpful guide you can print out for reference.28 A 2015 article in Investigate West also addressed this issue, and includes a guide to how many meals per week you can safely eat based on any given seafood's contamination level.29Why Higher Fish Consumption Is Likely Part of Mediterranean Diet's High Success Rate
Besides omega-3 fats and other valuable nutrients, fish is also a good source of high-quality protein. However, most fish contain only HALF of the protein found in beef and chicken, and this is actually a very good thing. While we do need protein for muscle, bone and hormone health, eating more than your body actually needs can stimulate your mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) — a pathway that plays an important role in many cancers, among other things.
In fact, Valter Longo, Ph.D.,30 — a professor of biological science at the University of California and a well-known longevity researcher — believes the reduced protein content in fish may be one reason why the Mediterranean diet is linked to life extension and reduced risk for chronic disease. In essence, those who eat more fish than red meat automatically get far less protein, thereby preventing the excessive stimulation of mTOR.For Health and Longevity, Be Sure to Optimize Your Omega-3
If you do not eat this amount of fish on a weekly basis, consider taking a daily omega-3 supplement such as krill oil. As for dosage, the amount of omega-3s you need depends on your body size, age, health status, the type of omega-3 and more. Your best bet is to get an omega-3 index test. This test measures the omega-3 in your red blood cells, which is really the only way to determine if you're getting enough from your diet or supplements. Your index should be above 8 percent.
While there's no set recommended standard dose of omega-3 fats, some health organizations recommend a daily dose of 250 to 500 milligram (mg) of EPA and DHA for healthy adults. Higher amounts (upwards of 1,000 to 2,000 mg of EPA and DHA daily) are typically recommended for the prevention of memory loss, depression and heart disease.
If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, your body will likely require additional omega-3 fats. The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada recommend pregnant and lactating women (along with all adults) consume at least 500 mg of omega-3s, including EPA and DHA, daily.Other Vital Reasons Why Mediterranean-Style Diet Is a Good Choice
Aside from the important dietary components mentioned above, there are at least three other lifestyle factors that contribute to the benefits achieved by those actually living in the Mediterranean countries. The obvious one is that these are subtropical countries and most people are able to achieve a healthy level of sun exposure, as the opportunities to go outside with minimal clothing on are far more frequent than for most of us living in the U.S.
The other two are related in that they are social variable. There is less reliance on cars and automated tasks that allow them to walk and be more active and mobile than many of us in the U.S. Additionally, there is an important social component to most meals that is typically not encountered in the U.S.Is There Something Better Than the Mediterranean Diet?
If you are healthy and have an ideal body fat percentage, then the dietary choices discussed above are a sound choice, especially if you integrate the other variables discussed in the section above.
But the sad reality is that well over 80 percent of those in the U.S. do not fit this profile, as they are either overweight, have cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune or neurodegenerative diseases. If this applies to you or someone you love, then I firmly believe you need to teach your body to burn fat as its primary fuel before you engage in this type of diet.
My new book, "Fat for Fuel," discusses how to radically limit your carb and protein intake while integrating periods of feast and famine cycling, which will help your body regain its ability to burn fat as its primary fuel. Once you normalize your weight and other conditions, and your body has regained the capacity to burn fat as your primary fuel, then it makes loads of sense to shift to a Mediterranean diet.
By Dr. Mercola
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017 there will be 1.68 million new cancer cases and over 600,000 deaths.1 This means three new cases and one death every minute of every day. The top five cancers diagnosed are estimated to be breast, lung, prostate, colorectal and melanoma, in that order.
The link between obesity and cancer, and the high number of insulin receptors on cancer cells2 make sugar and a high-carbohydrate diet a significant risk for developing cancer.
A recent study from Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center demonstrated a significant link between sugar and some cancers, especially breast cancer.3
As it is estimated that breast cancer will be diagnosed more than any other cancer in 2017, and the amount of sugar in a standard Western diet only continues to grow, it is very important to evaluate your dietary choices to reduce your risk and improve successful treatment.
Interestingly, a recent study from Ruhr University in Germany has identified a positive effect of the spicy molecule in chili peppers against some of the more aggressive forms of breast cancer.4Not All Breast Cancers Are the Same
Regardless of race or ethnicity, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed. However, with recent breakthroughs in the ability to identify genetic markers in cancer cells, scientists have been able to categorize different types of breast cancer and also design more effective treatment protocols.
Although referred to as a single disease, breast cancer is categorized by where it is found and the type of cells in the tumor. Important to both diagnosis and treatment are the site of the tumor (if it is found in the ducts or lobules of breast tissue), whether it is in the walls or has become invasive, and the reproductive status of the woman.5
Biological markers are also used to evaluate treatment options and prognosis. These markers include Luminal A, Luminal B, triple negative and HER2 types. The most aggressive of these subtypes is the triple negative cell type. The name is derived from the tumor cells being progesterone, estrogen and HER2 receptor negative.6
Within the triple negative subtype, there are also several subsets. Between 15 percent and 20 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed are triple negative, tending to occur most often in younger women and African American women.7
The majority of cancers that develop in women with the gene mutation BRCA1 are both triple negative and basal-like. Recent research tested this most aggressive subtype of breast cancer, triple negative, basal-like tumors.Cancer Cells Succumb to Capsaicin
The active ingredient in hot chili peppers is capsaicin, which is what makes your mouth burn and gives the peppers their pungent odor. According to recent research, capsaicin also inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells.8
Using the aggressive triple negative breast cancer cells, researchers carried out experiments to determine the effect of capsaicin on the tumor cells.
The team first confirmed the presence of olfactory receptors on the tumor cells called Transient Receptor Potential Channels (TRPV1), which are normally activated by capsaicin and the scent of a fresh ocean breeze. Next, they activated these receptor cells by adding capsaicin to the cell cultures for several hours to several days.9
As a result, the tumor cells began dividing much more slowly and began to die in large numbers.10 The surviving cells also lost the ability to move quickly and reduced the ability to metastasize or develop secondary growths away from the primary site.
Past studies had demonstrated the antiproliferative activity of capsaicin, but the molecular basis to induce cell death had not been identified.11
Existing research had also suggested that transient receptor potential (TRP) channels played a significant role in influencing cancer cell growth. One of those receptor channels were olfactory, TRPV1.
The goal of this latest study was to investigate how the expression of TRP channels in breast cancer tissue could influence cell growth, and how it may be used in treatment protocols. Dr. Lea Weber, co-author of the study, commented:12
"In this study, we aimed to identify the TRP channels in different breast cancer subtypes and to investigate the effect of TRPV1 ligand on breast cancer progression.
To our knowledge, no studies have yet conducted a large-scale comparative study of the TRP channels expression profiles in breast cancer cell lines.
In our experiments, a significant reduction in cell proliferation after capsaicin stimulation was observed. This finding was in accordance with the results of other scientists, who demonstrated a significant decrease in the cell growth rate of MCF-7 breast cancer cells upon capsaicin stimulation."Combining Ginger and Chili Peppers May Boost Anti-Cancer Activity
While capsaicin alone is a powerful molecule, in combination with 6-gingerol found in raw ginger root, it becomes even more important to your health. In a recent study, researchers discovered mice who were prone to lung cancer experienced a reduction in diagnosis when fed a combination of capsaicin and 6-gingerol.13
Together the chemicals had an increased ability to bind to a receptor that is responsible for tumor cell growth. This ability reduced the potential for developing lung cancer in the experimental animals. During the study, researchers fed one group just capsaicin, another just 6-gingerol and the third a combination of the two.
While under observation, all of the mice who received capsaicin developed lung tumors, half of the mice who received 6-gingerol developed lung tumors but only 20 percent of the mice who were given the combination developed cancer.14
The anti-inflammatory properties have given many people relief with the pain of osteoarthritis.18 As ginger also increases the motility of your gastrointestinal tract, it has been used for the treatment of chronic indigestion.19
Capsaicin has a long list of benefits as well, including inhibiting pain transmission that can help prevent headaches and prevent inflammation in your body.23 Chili peppers also have more vitamin C than oranges, to help support your immune system.24Diet and Nutrition Influences Cancer
Having battled cancer himself, Dr. Gary Fettke came to realize the influence of nutrition on cancer, and the importance of eating a diet high in healthy fats and low in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber, i.e. non-fiber carbs).
In this video, Fettke explains the metabolic model of cancer and how you can use this knowledge to prevent abnormal growths and help treat those which may have already occurred.
Simply put, scientists have thought that genetic defects typically were responsible for cancer. However, these changes actually occur after mitochondrial damage has been done. This dysfunction is at the core of all diseases, putting your mitochondria at the center of any wellness or disease prevention strategies.
Your mitochondria produce energy aerobically in the cell. In the presence of oxygen, cancer cells over produce lactic acid, normally produced in anaerobic activity. Called the Warburg Effect after Dr. Otto Warburg, this activity indicates that cancer cells are fed by sugar and unable to use fat for fuel. Normal cells have the flexibility to use either sugar or fats, but cancer cells are limited to primarily sugar.
Since cancer can be accurately classified as a mitochondrial metabolic disease, the good news is you can optimize your mitochondrial function through lifestyle choices, thus reducing your potential for developing cancer, or to help improve treatment success.
The inflammatory process is a major driver of disease, and several of the key culprits of increasing this response are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs), trans fats, artificial ingredients and sugar in all forms, including refined grains and high-fructose corn syrup. As you reduce the amount of net carbs you eat, you drive down inflammation, and when inflammation disappears, your body can heal.
Cancer requires glucose for fuel, and building materials from surrounding cells to continue to thrive. The process cancer uses to invading surround tissue is known as the Reverse Warburg Effect, relying on hydrogen peroxide generation triggered by oxygen free radicals and water. Fettke explains these processes in the featured video. Understanding these concepts presents a new set of cancer prevention and treatment strategies.Strategies That May Prevent Cancer
Cancer screening is often portrayed as the best form of "prevention" you can get against various forms of cancer. But early diagnosis is not the same as prevention. And some forms of cancer screenings do more harm to your health than good. I believe the vast majority of all cancers could be prevented by strictly applying basic, common-sense healthy lifestyle strategies, which includes the following:
✓ Eat Real Foods
Avoid processed foods and sugar to avoid feeding cancer cells. Limit or eliminate PUFA oils and trans fats. Limit protein to 0.5 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. Increase your fresh organic vegetables (antioxidant intake) to counteract free radical damage and increase your fat from high quality organic sources such as avocado, raw butter, seeds, nuts and cacao nibs.
✓ Stop Eating at Least Three Hours Before Bed
There is compelling evidence demonstrating that fueling your mitochondria at a time when they don't need it increases leakage of a large number of electrons that liberates reactive oxygen species (free radicals), damaging mitochondria and eventually nuclear DNA.25
There is also evidence to indicate that cancer cells uniformly have damaged mitochondria, so the last thing you want to do is eat before you go to bed.26
✓ Optimize Your Vitamin D Level
Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature's most potent cancer fighters. Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death).27 Vitamin D works synergistically with every cancer treatment I'm aware of, with no adverse effects.
✓ Limit Protein Intake
To quiet this pathway, used in protein metabolism,30 I believe it may be wise to limit your protein to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or roughly a bit less than half a gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. That is roughly 40 to 70 grams per day for most people.
✓ Maintain a Healthy Weight
This will come naturally when you begin eating a diet low in carbohydrates and high in healthy fats, as well as including a consistent exercise routine. It's important to lose excess body fat because fat produces estrogen and obesity is linked to higher rates of cancer.31
✓ Exercise Regularly
One of the primary reasons exercise works to lower your cancer risk is because it drives your insulin levels down and regulates your leptin receptors — two powerful ways of preventing inflammation and cancer cell growth.
Apoptosis (programmed cell death) is triggered by exercise, causing cancer cells to die.32 Exercise may also help lower estrogen levels, which explains why it is particularly potent against estrogen receptor positive breast cancer.33 Exercise also increases the creation of more mitochondria, essential to fighting cancer.34,35
✓ Improve Insulin and Leptin Receptor Sensitivity
The best and most efficient way to accomplish insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity is to avoid sugar and grains and restrict non-fiber carbs to under 100 grams per day, and include regular exercise, especially high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
✓ Eliminate Unfermented Soy Products
Unfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, which increases the chances for mutations and cancerous cells.36
✓ Balance Your Omega-3 and Omega-6 Ratio to 1-to-1
Include plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats in your daily diet through eating high quality, non-toxic fish or through a high-quality krill oil supplement. The standard American diet tends to be high in omega-6 fats, which need to be balanced with omega-3 fats to reduce your potential risk of cancer.37
✓ Include Curcumin
This is the active ingredient in turmeric and in high concentrations can be a very useful adjunct in the treatment of cancer. For example, it has demonstrated major therapeutic potential in preventing breast cancer metastasis.38 It's important to know that curcumin is generally not absorbed that well, so I've provided several absorption tips here.
✓ Avoid Alcohol
Limit or eliminate alcohol as it is a known carcinogen.39
✓ Avoid Electromagnetic Fields
Limit your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) in your bedroom by removing your cell phone and electric blankets, and moving your alarm clock to the far side of the room.
✓ Avoid Synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy
Especially if you have other risk factors for breast cancer, synthetic hormone replacement may increase your risk. Several different types of breast cancer are estrogen receptor positive. According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), breast cancer rates for women dropped in tandem with decreased use of hormone replacement therapy.
If you experience excessive menopausal symptoms, you may consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy instead, which uses hormones that are molecularly identical to the ones your body produces and do not wreak havoc on your system. This is a much safer alternative.
✓ Avoid BPA, Phthalates and Other Xenoestrogens
✓ Ensure You Are Not Iodine Deficient
There is compelling evidence linking iodine deficiency with certain forms of cancer. Dr. David Brownstein,41 author of the book "Iodine: Why You Need it, Why You Can't Live Without it," is a proponent of iodine for breast cancer.
It actually has potent anticancer properties and has been shown to cause cell death in breast and thyroid cancer cells. For more information, I recommend reading Brownstein's book.
I have been researching iodine for some time ever since I interviewed Brownstein as I do believe that the bulk of what he states is spot on. However, I am not convinced that his dosage recommendations are ideal. I believe they are five to six times higher than optimal.
✓ Reduce Grilling Your Meat and Avoid Charring
Charcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased breast cancer risk. Acrylamide — a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted or fried — has been found to increase cancer risk as well.
Recipe From Susan Luschas, Ph.D.
If you’re in a pinch, this delicious and healthy recipe, submitted by Susan Luschas, Ph.D., can be made quickly. What I love about this snack is that it combines one of the best fermented foods available, raw sauerkraut, with avocado. Avocados are a personal favorite of mine, and I eat one almost every day for their many health benefits. Meanwhile, sauerkraut (I recommend making your own) will provide you with beneficial bacteria.
Try this nutritious recipe the next time you need a quick snack. Even picky kids have been turned on to eating fermented foods, thanks to this simple and delightful treat.
½ cup raw sauerkraut
- Slice the avocado in half and take the pit out.
- Fill the pit holes with about ¼ cup of raw fermented sauerkraut each. The amount of sauerkraut you need depends on the size of your avocado.
- Spoon a bit of the sauerkraut juice over the exposed sides of the avocado to keep them from turning brown. This step is unnecessary if you’re going to eat it immediately.
- Add some Himalayan salt and black pepper to suit your taste.
This recipe makes one serving.
A Quick and Delicious Snack That Can Help Improve Your Health
Raw sauerkraut is affordable and it offers a lot of health benefits as well. For instance, it provides you with beneficial bacteria to help optimize your gut health. Here are other benefits of eating raw sauerkraut:
- Offers anti-cancer properties. Raw sauerkraut contains high levels of glucosinolates, which may reduce DNA damage and cell mutation during carcinogenesis (the formation of cancer).[i]
- Rich in vitamin C. One serving of raw sauerkraut will provide you with 35 percent of the average recommended intake of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps with white blood cell production and promotes cellular repair and regeneration.
- Helps maintain optimal eye health. Raw sauerkraut is rich in vitamin A to help reduce your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration.[ii]
- Supports bone health. A single serving contains 23 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin K, which helps release proteins that regulate bone mineralization.
- Fights inflammation. This “superfood” offers anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its phytonutrient antioxidants, thus, it can help reduce joint and muscle pain.
On top of these health benefits from raw sauerkraut, avocados also have a lot to offer. They are one of the healthiest fruits around due to their low fructose content, so they won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. I recommend eating avocados regularly because they:
- Are packed with nutrients. According to Authority Nutrition, avocados contain vitamins C, K, B9, B5, B6 and E, providing a significant amount of your RDA.[iii]
- Help maintain normal cholesterol levels. Avocados are rich in beta-sitosterol, a beneficial plant-derived fat that decreases the amount of cholesterol absorbed by your body from food. They are rich in monounsaturated fats as well, which may raise your “good” cholesterol while lowering your “bad” cholesterol.[iv]
- Assist in regulating blood pressure. Most people aren’t aware that avocados contain more potassium than bananas. Some studies have shown that potassium plays an important role in reducing blood pressure, a major risk factor for kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.[v]
- Improve digestion. They are rich in fiber that can help prevent constipation and maintain digestive tract health. Sufficient fiber intake promotes regular bowel movements, a crucial part of the body’s natural detoxification process.[vi]
About the Author:
Susan Luschas, Ph.D., is an MIT-trained scientist and engineer. She was forced to apply her critical thinking skills to debug her own family's health problems. She has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of her life on doctors, experiments, and research. She didn't stop until her family achieved radiant health. Changing the family diet was the biggest step forward in the healing journey. More details can be found on her website Debug Your Health.