By Dr. Mercola
Are organic foods healthier, and therefore worth the extra expense? The scientific debate over this issue has raged on for many years now. I believe the answer is clear-cut, at least if you believe that toxic chemicals have the capacity to harm your health...
Two years ago, meta-analysis by Stanford University1 received widespread media coverage, and with few exceptions, conventional media outlets used it to cast doubt on the value of an organic diet.
This despite the fact that the analysis—which looked at 240 studies comparing organically and conventionally grown food—found that organic foods are less contaminated with agricultural chemicals. In an effort to further clarify the 2012 findings, a group of European scientists evaluated an even greater number of studies, 343 in all, published over the last several decades.
Just like the Stanford study, the new analysis2, 3, 4, 5, 6 also found that while conventional and organic vegetables oftentimes offer similar levels of many nutrients, organic foods have fewer pesticide residues. They also have on average 48 percent lower levels of cadmium,7 a toxic metal and a known carcinogen—a clear bonus, if you ask me.
One key nutritional difference between conventional and organics however, is their antioxidant content. According to the featured findings, organic fruits and vegetables can contain anywhere from 18-69 percent more antioxidants than conventionally-grown varieties. According to the authors:
“Many of these compounds have previously been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers, in dietary intervention and epidemiological studies.
Additionally, the frequency of occurrence of pesticide residues was found to be four times higher in conventional crops... Significant differences were also detected for some other (e.g. minerals and vitamins) compounds.” [Emphasis mine]
Antioxidants are a very important part of optimal health, as they can control how fast you age by fighting free radicals. So the fact that organic foods contain far higher levels of them vouches for the stance that organic foods are healthier in terms of nutrition, in addition to being lower in pesticides.
Co-author Charles Benbrook notes8 that one reason you’re advised to eat more fruits and vegetables is in fact to get more antioxidants into your diet. “And if organic produce provides more of them, we think that's a big deal,” he says. I couldn’t agree more.
There are also a number of other studies that support the claim that organically grown produce contain higher levels of nutrients in general. For example, in 2010 PLOS ONE published a study9 that was partially funded by the USDA, which found that organic strawberries were more nutrient-rich than non-organic strawberries.
Ironically, LA Times10 noted that “It's not entirely clear to scientists whether the human body can absorb the extra antioxidants in organic foods and put them to use.” To me, this line of reasoning shows a remarkable depth of ignorance, if not outright deception.
The nutrient content of foods has dramatically declined across the board since the introduction of mechanized farming in 1925. For example, as explained by Dr. August Dunning, chief science officer and co-owner of Eco Organics, in order to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in 1950, by 1998 you had to eat 26 apples!
Were people prior to the 1950s eating foods that were “unnecessarily” nutrient-dense? Was most of their diet superfluous, in terms of the amount of nutrients a body can get by on?
The idea that your body wouldn’t put the extra nutrients to good use is just plain silly! You did not suddenly develop a new set of genetic instructions over the past 60+ years that allow your body to thrive on toxins and “not know what to do” with antioxidants! So please, do not fall for that kind of nonsense.
One of the primary reasons food doesn’t taste as good as it used to is also related to the deterioration of mineral content. The minerals actually form the compounds that give the fruit or vegetable its flavor. All of these issues go back to the health of the soil in which the food is grown.11
Healthy soils contain a huge diversity of microorganisms, and it is these organisms that are responsible for the plant’s nutrient uptake, health, and the stability of the entire ecosystem. The wide-scale adoption of industrial agriculture practices has decimated soil microbes responsible for transferring these minerals to the plants.
In 2009, the American Association for the Advancement of Science featured a presentation on soil health and its impact on food quality,12, 13 concluding that healthy soil indeed leads to higher levels of nutrients in crops.
Agricultural chemicals destroy the health of the soil by killing off its microbial inhabitants, which is one of the primary problems with modern farming, and the reason why the nutritional quality of conventionally-grown foods is deteriorating. As reported by Scientific American14 back in 2011:
“A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding ‘reliable declines’ in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century.
Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition... The Organic Consumers Association cites several other studies with similar findings: A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent.”
The photographic adventure of NPR commentator and science writer Craig Childs offers a clear view of the death and destruction brought on by modern agriculture—genetic engineering-based monoculture in particular. Childs decided to replicate a photo project by David Liittschwager, a portrait photographer who spent years traveling the world dropping one-cubic-foot metal frames into gardens, streams, parks, forests, and oceans, photographing anything and everything that entered the frame. Around the world, Liittschwager's camera captured thousands of plants, animals, and insects within the cubes, with entirely different “worlds” of plants and animals living as little as a few feet away from each other.
However, when Childs set up his camera among the genetically engineered corn stalks on a 600-acre farm in Iowa, he found NO signs of life with the exception of an isolated spider, a single red mite, and a couple grasshoppers...
The fact of the matter is that the "faster, bigger, cheaper" approach to food is slowly draining dry our planet's resources and compromising your health. The earth's soil is depleting at more than 13 percent the rate it can be replaced. We have already lost 75 percent of the world's crop varieties over the last century. Over the past 10 years, we've had 100 million tons of herbicides dumped onto our crops, polluting our soil and streams. And genetically engineered (GE) crops are now speeding up the destructive process by completely altering the composition of soil bacteria in the fields where such crops are grown.
It’s worth noting that certain types of pesticides are not even counted when researchers assess pesticide contamination on food. The soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), produces Bt toxin—a pesticide that breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. This pesticide is actually permitted in organic farming, where it’s applied topically. It’s known to photodegrade over time, making it fairly harmless by the time the food reaches your plate.
However, genetically engineered “Bt” crops, such as Bt corn, are equipped with a gene from the Bt soil bacteria. These plants actually produce the Bt toxin internally, in every cell of the plant, from root to tip. This plant-produced version of the poison is thousands of times more concentrated than the topical spray. It cannot be washed off, and it does not photodegrade. This internal Bt toxin is not counted in pesticide counts, yet it’s present in every single kernel!
Monsanto and the EPA consistently claimed that the genetically engineered Bt corn would only harm insects. The Bt toxin produced inside the plant would be completely destroyed in the human digestive system and would not have any impact at all on consumers, they claimed. These claims have since turned out to be false. In 2011, doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found Bt-toxin in the blood of:15
- 93 percent of pregnant women tested
- 80 percent of umbilical blood in their babies
- 67 percent of non-pregnant women
The study authors speculated that the Bt toxin was likely ingested via the normal diet of the Canadian middle class—which makes sense when you consider that genetically engineered (GE) corn is present in the vast majority of all processed foods and drinks in the form of high fructose corn syrup, corn oil, and other corn products. They also suggested that the toxin may have come from eating meat from animals fed Bt corn, which most livestock raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are. Other research16 has revealed that the Bt toxin produced in GE plants is toxic to humans and mammals, and triggers immune system responses, including:
- Elevated IgE and IgG antibodies, which are typically associated with allergies and infections
- An increase in cytokines, which are associated with allergic and inflammatory responses. The specific cytokines (interleukins) that were found to be elevated are also higher in humans who suffer from a wide range of disorders, from arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease to MS and cancer
- Elevated T cells (gamma delta), which are increased in people with asthma, and in children with food allergies, juvenile arthritis, and connective tissue diseases
As suggested earlier, some pesticides have antibiotic properties, and very effectively and aggressively kill off the microorganisms in the soil. Glyphosate is a perfect example, and is one of the primary pesticides used on other types of GE crops, particularly those known as “Roundup Ready.” These crops are engineered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of the chemical. The idea is that by being “immune” to the chemical, only weeds will be killed off, allowing farmers to liberally spray their fields.
But when farmers spray glyphosate on their fields, not only are they destroying the fertility of the soil, they’re also promoting chemical resistance in the field AND antibiotic resistance in the human food chain... Indeed, weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, making the weed problem an ever-worsening one. But that’s not all. Livestock raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are routinely fed GE feed—typically GE corn and soy—which destroys the animal’s gut bacteria and promotes disease.
And, feces from animals raised in CAFOs are used as fertilizer on crop fields, which scientists now admit is yet another way antibiotic-resistant disease appears to be promulgated! Modern agriculture is truly stuck in a vicious circle where the “garbage in-garbage out” motto rules supreme...
By Dr. Mercola
The dangers of amalgam fillings, which are composed of about 50 percent mercury, are becoming widely known. Even conventional news outlets, like NBC affiliate WCNC News in Charlotte, are featuring stories with headlines reading "Metal fillings in your teeth could make you sick."
This would have been controversial even a few years back, and although health agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Dental Association (ADA) still remain staunch advocates of dental amalgams, the evidence is quickly being stacked against them.
For more than 30 years, the US FDA has simply refused to issue any public warning about dental amalgam's neurotoxic risks. In 2009, the FDA actually declared it safe under Class 2 for adults and children over the age of 6 who are not allergic to mercury.
This irrational declaration occurred despite the overwhelming evidence showing mercury to be highly toxic and easily released in the form of vapor each time you eat, drink, brush your teeth, or otherwise stimulate your teeth.
These mercury vapors readily pass through cell membranes, across your blood-brain barrier, and into your central nervous system, where it can cause psychological, neurological, and immunological problems.
Children and fetuses, whose brains are still developing, are clearly most at risk, but anyone can be impacted, and the health risks increase the longer you have your fillings.
Many hoped that the FDA would reconsider this foolish stance after the World Health Organization called for the phasing-out of amalgam in their 2011 report: "Future Use of Materials for Dental Restoration."
In May 2011, the Council of Europe also issued a proclamation calling for restrictions and prohibitions of mercury fillings, which are already banned in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Health Canada also stopped endorsing amalgam for use in children, pregnant women, and people with impaired kidney function, all the way back in 1996!
On September 22, 2011, Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of the Center for Devices & Radiological Health (the branch of the FDA responsible for the approval and safety of all medical devices) promised to make an announcement on amalgam by the end of 2011. When questioned by a reporter at a major newspaper, the FDA repeated that it would act in 2011.
As 2011 came to a close, the suspense grew as everyone speculated whether FDA would finally act, to protect the health of American children. With just six minutes left in the work year, at 4:54 pm on Friday, December 30, FDA conceded that no announcement was forthcoming – not in 2011, and maybe not at all.
In 2013, the international treaty, named the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury, was passed, which requires the phasing out of many mercury-containing products, including thermometers, by 2020, and also calls for an end to all mercury mining within 15 years. The treaty takes effect only after its ratification by 50 nations, which can take three or four years.
Even after the treaty was passed, instead of working for the phase-down and ultimate phase-out of amalgam use, FDA and the ADA are pushing stalling tactics, saying that before phasing out amalgam we should go through a litany of diversions like (1) prevention of tooth decay, (2) research and mercury inventories, and (3) mercury waste management.
None of these actually phase down amalgam use, as required by the Minamata Convention. These stalling tactics can appear attractive at first glance. But don't be fooled by the World Dental Federation: all three of their "amalgam phase-down measures" are designed to delay the demise of mercury fillings.
We simply do not need any additional research before we take action. There are many effective, affordable, and available mercury-free alternatives that have already been researched for over half a century.
The International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT), along with several other groups, recently filed suit against the FDA, seeking an order to require a response to 2009 petitions that called for a formal ban on dental amalgam or its placement in the Class 3 device category. The latter would require:
- Additional restrictions for vulnerable individuals, such as pregnant women and children
- More stringent proof of safety
- An environmental impact statement
Griffin Cole, DDS, president of the IAOMT, stated in a press release:1
"We have banned mercury in disinfectants, thermometers, and many other consumer products… There is no magic formula that makes mercury safe when it's put into our mouths. It's inexcusable to use mercury in dental fillings when there are much safer alternatives."
Meanwhile, attorney James M. Love, who filed the lawsuit, pointed out that the FDA's lack of regulation is allowing the ADA to continue to mislead the public:2
"The ADA has misrepresented FDA's lack of regulation as proof of safety, and continues to use this toxic dental filling, despite scientifically demonstrated risks…
Most individuals remain unaware that those 'silver' fillings, prevalently used as a dental restoration and covered by insurance policies, consist of 45-55% metallic mercury, and that there are health and environmental risks associated with those fillings."
As the world rallies around the obvious necessity of replacing mercury-based products with non-toxic alternatives, the ADA continues to shill for mercury fillings -- heedless of dentist-members who have rejected amalgam and aware that taxpayers must pay the price for the pollution caused by pro-mercury dentists.
Perhaps their staunch opposition, even as facts are now impossible to deny, has to do with their massive conflicts of interests. The ADA is a former patent-holder of amalgam, and has helped draft woefully misled policy statements affirming that dental amalgam is "safe" and its contribution to environmental mercury contamination "minimal."
The ADA has also historically covered up the fact that the term "silver filling" is profoundly deceptive, as the composite material contains anywhere from 49 to 54 percent mercury, thus should be called mercury fillings not the euphemistic and deceptive term silver filling. At one time, they even declared that removing mercury fillings is unethical and many dentists lost their licenses for removing them.
Last year, following an episode of the Dr. Oz Show that detailed the dangers of mercury amalgam fillings, the ADA even announced they had ended their affiliation with Sharecare, a consumer website co-founded by Dr. Oz. This wasn't surprising, considering the ADA also aided and abetted dental boards to yank licenses from dentists who truthfully told patients that amalgam is mainly mercury and who advised against its use.
This was despite the known fact that dental amalgam emits mercury vapor after it is implanted in your mouth, and this mercury bioaccumulates in the tissues of your body, endangering your health in too many ways to count.
The IAOMT video above powerfully demonstrates that if you have amalgam fillings, then every time you eat, chew, visit the dentist, or drink hot coffee, mercury vapors are released into your oral cavity, where it can be absorbed into your bloodstream. The poisonous vapors are odorless, colorless, and tasteless however, so you won't be able to tell that they're there.
A single dental amalgam filling may release as much as 15 micrograms of mercury per day. The average individual has eight amalgam fillings and could absorb up to 120 micrograms of mercury per day. In contrast, eating mercury-tainted seafood will expose you to about 2.3 micrograms per day -- and that alone was enough for scientists to call for a worldwide warning back in 2006.3
Many are unaware that dental mercury is a danger to dental practitioners, patients, and the environment. In fact, in the US, dentist offices are the largest source of mercury in wastewater entering publicly owned treatment works. Once there, dental mercury converts to methylmercury, a highly toxic form of mercury known to be hazardous to brain and nervous system function, particularly in fetuses and young children. Mercury is extremely dangerous once in the air, water, and soil -- levels gradually increase over time, as it accumulates. It's no wonder then that contaminated fish and other seafood are the largest dietary source of mercury in the US, courtesy of polluted waterways.
Several studies show that about 50 percent of the mercury entering municipal wastewater treatment plants can be traced back to dental amalgam waste. This mercury waste amounts to about 3.7 TONS each year! An estimated 90 percent is captured by the treatment plants generally via sewage sludge4 -- some of which ends up in landfills, while other portions are incinerated (thereby polluting the air) or applied as agricultural fertilizer (polluting your food), or seep into waterways (polluting fish and wildlife).
In 2010, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it would create a rule requiring dentists who use dental amalgam to at least use best-management practices and install amalgam separators. An amalgam separator is a wastewater treatment device installed at the source, in the dental office, that can remove 95-99 percent of the mercury in the wastewater. As originally proposed, EPA said the regulation would be finalized by 2012. Unfortunately, the EPA is on the verge of withdrawing the rule that would order dentists to buy amalgam separators. The costs – and health risks –that ensue will be passed on to American taxpayers and families.
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For those of you who have mercury fillings, I recommend that you have them removed… but avoid making the mistake I did by having it done by a non-biological dentist. When you have these fillings removed, you can be exposed to significant amounts of mercury vapors if the dentist doesn't know what he or she is doing. It's also for this reason that I strongly suggest you get healthy BEFORE having your fillings removed, as you want your detoxification mechanisms optimized prior to removal.
My struggles with my own teeth led me to learn about and embrace biological dentistry, also known as holistic or environmental dentistry. In a nutshell, biological dentistry views your teeth and gums as an integrated part of your entire body, and any medical treatments performed takes this fact into account. The primary aim of holistic dentistry is to resolve your dental problems while working in harmony with the rest of your body. Biological dentists are well aware of the dangers involved with toxic materials such as mercury fillings (aka amalgams). Some things that need to be done to keep you (and your dentist) safe during amalgam removal include:
Providing you with an alternative air source and instructing you not to breathe through your mouth Using a cold-water spray to minimize mercury vapors Putting a rubber dam in your mouth so you don't swallow or inhale any toxins Using a high-volume evacuator near the tooth at all times to evacuate the mercury vapor Washing your mouth out immediately after the fillings have been removed (the dentist should also change gloves after the removal) Immediately cleaning your protective wear and face once the fillings are removed Using room air purifiers
Keep in mind, too, that if you need a filling, there are many alternatives to amalgam. One of the most popular alternatives is resin composite, which is made of a type of plastic reinforced with powdered glass. It is already common throughout the US and the rest of the developed world, offering notable improvements over amalgam, as it:
- Is environmentally safe: composites, which contains no mercury, do not pollute the environment. This saves taxpayers from paying the costs of cleaning up dental mercury pollution in our water, air, and land – and the costs of health problems associated with mercury pollution.
- Preserves healthy tooth structure, because, unlike amalgam, it does not require the removal of significant amounts of healthy tooth matter. Over the long term, composite preserves healthy tooth structure and actually strengthens teeth, leading to better oral health and less extensive dental work over the long-term.
- Is long-lasting: While some claim that amalgam fillings last longer than composite fillings, the science reveals this claim to be baseless. The latest studies show that composite not only lasts as long as amalgam, but actually has a higher overall survival rate.
Knowledgeable biological dentists can be hard to come by, so start your search by asking a friend, relative, neighbor, or inquire at your local health food store. The following links can also help you to find a mercury-free, biological dentist:
- Consumers for Dental Choice
- International Academy of Biological Dentistry & Medicine (IABDM)
- Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS). E-mail them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-644-4572 for an information packet
- Huggins Applied Healing. You'll need to fill out a form and they will connect with you to find a suitable dentist in your area
- Holistic Dental Association
- International Association of Mercury Safe Dentists
The Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry, the project organized and led by Charlie Brown of Consumers for Dental Choice, has made amazing progress toward mercury-free dentistry. But there's still hard work ahead as Consumers for Dental Choice is now running education programs for consumers… holding training sessions for dentists… and organizing briefings for governments around the world. You can help stop dental mercury today! Will you please consider a donation to Consumers for Dental Choice, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to advocating mercury-free dentistry? Donations are tax-exempt and can be made online at www.toxicteeth.org. Checks can be mailed to:
Consumers for Dental Choice
316 F St., N.E., Suite 210
Washington DC 20002
For updates on the movement for mercury-free dentistry, join Consumers for Dental Choice on Facebook or sign up to receive their newsletter. You can also take a stand with us and tell the EPA not to let polluting dentists off the hook: It's time to stop dental mercury dumping.
By Dr. Mercola
Most people donate blood because they want to help others, and, indeed, donating blood a single time may help save the lives of up to three people.1 Still, less than 10 percent of the US population eligible to donate blood actually does so every year.
Why don’t more people donate blood on a regular basis? According to the American Red Cross, the most common reasons given by people who don’t give blood are because they “never thought about it” or “don’t like needles.”
It may be time to start thinking about it today, or muster up the courage to overcome your fear of needles, as giving blood doesn’t only help others… it helps you too.
Someone in the US needs blood every two seconds,2 so if you’re up for doing a good deed, donating blood is a phenomenal choice. More than 41,000 blood donations are needed each day, and because blood cannot be manufactured, the only way to supply this need is via generous blood donors. It’s certainly an altruistic act… but it’s also one that offers important yet little-discussed benefits.
1. Balance Iron Levels in Your Blood
In my view, this is clearly the most important reason. For each unit of blood donated, you lose about one-quarter of a gram of iron.
You may at first think this is a bad thing, since too little iron may lead to fatigue, decreased immunity, or iron-deficiency anemia, which can be serious if left untreated. This is common in children and premenopausal women.
But what many people fail to realize is that too much iron can be worse, and is actually far more common than iron deficiency (especially in men and postmenopausal women).
So for many, the fact that donating blood helps to rid your body of excess iron is one of the greatest benefits it offers. It has been long known that menstruating women have fewer heart attacks. This was previously thought to be due to hormones but is now thought to be due to lower iron levels.
Similar to premenopausal women, blood donors have been found to be 88 percent less likely to suffer from a heart attack,3 and this is thought to be due to its effects on iron levels. Researchers explained:
“Because high body iron stores have been suggested as a risk factor for acute myocardial infarction, donation of blood could theoretically reduce the risk by lowering body iron stores.”
Interestingly, in a study published in the April 2013 issue of American Journal of Public Health,4 researchers found that statin cholesterol-lowering drugs improved cardiovascular outcomes at least partially by countering the pro-inflammatory effects of excess iron stores.
In this study, the improved outcomes were associated with lower ferritin (iron) levels but not with “improved” lipid status. Researchers concluded iron reduction might be a safe and low-cost alternative to statins, and according to logic this means that donating your blood, which reduces iron, could potentially help too.
2. Better Blood Flow
Do you know what a high-sugar diet, smoking, radio frequencies, and other toxic electromagnetic forces, emotional stress, anxiety, high cholesterol, and high uric acid levels do to your blood?
All of these make your blood hypercoagulable, meaning it makes it thick and slow moving, which increases your risk of having a blood clot or stroke. Hypercoagulable blood contributes to inflammation, because when your blood does not flow well, oxygen can't get to your tissues.
For example, early (and some current) birth control pills were notorious for causing heart attacks in women. One of the mechanisms that cause this increased risk is that synthetic estrogens and progesterones increase blood viscosity.
Repeated blood donations may help your blood to flow better, possibly helping to limit damage to the lining of your blood vessels, which should result in fewer arterial blockages. (Grounding can also help to thin dangerously thick blood.) Phillip DeChristopher, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Loyola University Health System blood bank, told TIME:5
“What is clear is that blood donors seem to not be hospitalized so often and if they are, they have shorter lengths of stay… And they’re less likely to get heart attacks, strokes, and cancers.”
3. You Get a Mini Physical
Every blood donor gets a “mini physical” prior to donation. Your temperature will be checked along with your blood pressure, pulse, and hemoglobin. Your blood will also be tested for 13 infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis B and C, West Nile Virus, and syphilis.
Donating blood is certainly not a replacement for medical care, but it does give you a (free) glimpse into your health (as well as notice if you’ve been exposed to an infectious disease without knowing).
4. A Longer Life
People who volunteer for altruistic reasons, i.e. to help others rather than themselves, appear to live longer than those who volunteer for more self-centered reasons. Altruistic volunteers enjoyed a significantly reduced risk of mortality four years later according to one study,6 with the study’s lead author noting:7
“This could mean that people who volunteer with other people as their main motivation may be buffered from potential stressors associated with volunteering, such as time constraints and lack of pay.”
Iron is essential for life, as it is a key part of various proteins and enzymes, involved in the transport of oxygen and the regulation of cell growth and differentiation, among many other uses.
One of the most important roles of iron is to provide hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that contains iron at its core), a mechanism through which it can bind to oxygen and carry it throughout your tissues, as without proper oxygenation, your cells quickly start dying.
However, because your body has a limited capacity to excrete iron, it can easily build up in organs like your liver, heart, and pancreas. This is dangerous because iron is a potent oxidizer and can damage your body tissues contributing to serious health issues. Cancer researchers have found evidence that bowel cancers are two to three times more likely to develop when dietary iron is too high in your body.8 High iron levels have also been linked to:
Cirrhosis Liver cancer Cardiac arrhythmias Type one diabetes Alzheimer's disease Bacterial and viral infections
This is a personal issue for me, as getting my dad’s iron levels checked saved his life 20 years ago. I discovered he had a ferritin level close to 1,000. It was because he has beta-thalassemia. With regular phlebotomies, his iron levels normalized and now the only side effect he has is type 1 diabetes. His high iron levels damaged his pancreatic islet cells triggering what is called “bronze” diabetes, and so he requires the use of insulin.
I also inherited beta-thalassemia from him but thankfully, I am able to keep my iron levels normal by removing about a pint of blood a year. This is removed not all at once but over a few dozen deposits. I screen myself with ferritin levels several times a year. I also screened my patients with ferritin levels and noticed nearly one-fourth of them had elevated levels. So I would strongly encourage you and your family to be screened annually for this, as it is SO MUCH easier to prevent iron overload than it is to treat it.
Hemochromatosis is one of the most prevalent genetic diseases in the US. The C282Y gene mutation is thought to be responsible for the majority of hemochromatosis cases. It takes two inherited copies of the mutation (one from your mother and one from your father) to cause the disease (and even then only some people will actually get sick). If you have just one mutation, you won’t become ill but you will absorb slightly more iron than the rest of the population, a trait that may have given people an advantage when dietary sources of iron were scarce.
Checking your iron levels is easy and can be done with a simple blood test called a serum ferritin test. I believe this is one of the most important tests that everyone should have done on a regular basis as part of a preventive, proactive health screen. The test measures the carrier molecule of iron, a protein found inside cells called ferritin, which stores the iron. If your ferritin levels are low, it means your iron levels are also low.
The healthy range of serum ferritin lies between 20 and 80 ng/ml. Below 20 is a strong indicator that you are iron deficient, and above 80 suggests you have an iron surplus. The ideal range is between 40-60 ng/ml. The higher the number over 100 the worse the iron overload, with levels over 300 being particularly toxic. Levels this high will eventually cause serious damage in nearly everyone that sustains those levels long term.
People with hemochromatosis are not the only ones who may accumulate more iron than is healthy. While premenopausal women who are menstruating regularly rarely suffer from iron overload due to the monthly loss of blood, most adult men and postmenopausal women tend to be at a high risk, as they don't have a monthly blood loss (one of the best ways you can get rid of excess iron is by bleeding). Another common cause of excess iron is the regular consumption of alcohol, which will increase the absorption of any iron in your diet. For instance, if you drink wine with your steak, you will likely be absorbing more iron than you need. Other potential causes of high iron levels include:
- Cooking in iron pots or pans. Cooking acidic foods in these types of pots or pans will cause even higher levels of iron absorption.
- Eating processed food products like cereals and white breads that are "fortified' with iron. The iron they use in these products is inorganic iron, not much different than rust, and it is far more dangerous than the iron in meat.
- Drinking well water that is high in iron. The key here is to make sure you have some type of iron precipitator and/or a reverse osmosis water filter.
- Taking multiple vitamins and mineral supplements, as both of these frequently have iron in them.
If you find out that your iron levels are elevated or you have hemochromatosis, donating your blood is the safest, most effective, and most inexpensive approach to remedy this problem. If, for some reason, a blood donor center is unable to accept your blood for donation, you can obtain a prescription for therapeutic phlebotomy. At the same time, you will want to be sure to avoid consuming excess iron in the form of supplements, in your drinking water (well water), from iron cookware, or in fortified processed foods.
By Dr. Mercola
Pre-packaged processed foods may be convenient, but cooking from scratch using fresh unprocessed ingredients is a must if you want to improve your health. Remember, if you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
While this means that someone – you, your spouse, or someone else – needs to spend regular time in the kitchen, it typically does not require nearly as much extra time as people imagine.
One of the most important strategies is to make the appropriate food swaps. For example, does it take more time to use real butter instead of margarine? Of course it doesn’t!
The following list will give you an overview of some of the most important food swaps you can make. They can go a long way toward making you healthier.
Whenever you have the option, choose organic varieties of food over non-organic. As a general rule, organic foods are safer, and probably healthier, than conventional foods, for the simple fact that you’re ingesting fewer toxins.
And, contrary to popular belief, this is actually even more important when it comes to animal products such as meat, dairy products, butter, and eggs.
While conventionally grown fruits, vegetables and berries are typically heavily sprayed with a wide assortment of pesticides, non-organic animal products tend to be among the most contaminated, as the animals are fed a steady diet of these conventionally grown, pesticide-contaminated and genetically engineered grains...
While I believe organic foods grown in healthy soils can be far more nutritious than their conventional counterparts grown in depleted soils with synthetic chemicals, a major benefit of organically grown foods really is the reduction in your toxic load.
A 2012 meta-analysis by Stanford University1 confirmed that organic foods expose you to fewer pesticides – about 30 percent on average. Organic meats also reduce your risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by an average of 33 percent. Conventional meats are in fact a major contributor to antibiotic resistance, which poses a grave public health threat these days.
If you can only afford to buy some foods organic, make it organic, grass-fed meats. This will cut down on your exposure to toxic pesticides. Factory farmed meats are also typically contaminated with hormones and antibiotics.
Most cows raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are fed grains (oftentimes genetically engineered grains, which make matters even worse), when their natural diet is plain grass.
This difference in the animals' diet creates vastly different end products in terms of nutrition. When left to feed on grass-only diets, levels of conjugated linoleic acid or CLA are three to five times more than those fed grain-based diets. And that’s just for starters.
A joint effort between the USDA and Clemson University researchers in 2009 found a total of 10 key areas where grass-fed beef is better than grain-fed for human health. In a side-by-side comparison, they determined that grass-fed beef was:2, 3
Lower in total fat Higher in total omega-3s Higher in beta-carotene A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84) Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA) Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
Several studies have demonstrated the superior safety of raw milk compared to pasteurized. For example, raw milk is:
Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract High in omega-3 and low in omega-6, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These enzymes are destroyed during pasteurization, making pasteurized milk much harder to digest Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live Lactobacilli Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism Rich in healthy unoxidized cholesterol Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats
While both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC warn that raw milk can carry disease-causing bacteria, they completely overlook the fact that these bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased animals, which may then in turn produce contaminated milk.
There are basically two types of raw milk, and only one is suitable for raw consumption. Raw milk from a CAFO must be pasteurized in order to be fit to drink, whereas raw milk from cows raised on pasture does not. Cleanliness and pasture are critical parameters for producing healthy milk fit for raw consumption.
CAFO milk must be pasteurized to prevent the spread of potentially hazardous pathogens, which are the result of crowded, unsanitary living conditions and the routine administration of antibiotics that are needed to keep these cows well. In the process, all valuable enzymes are also destroyed, such as lactase for the assimilation of lactose; galactase for the assimilation of galactose; and phosphatase for the assimilation of calcium. Literally dozens of other precious enzymes are destroyed in the pasteurization process. Without them, milk is very difficult to digest, and gives rise to allergies.
The quality of grass-fed milk and other grass-fed dairy products can easily be ascertained by its color. The carotenoids in the plants cows eat on pasture gives grass-fed products a more yellow-orange cast. When cows are raised on dried grass or hay, opposed to fresh-growing grass, you end up with a whiter product, which is an indication of reduced carotenoid and antioxidant content.
Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
The unfortunate result of the low-fat diet craze has been the shunning of healthful fats such as butter, and public health has declined as a result of this folly. There are a myriad of unhealthy components to margarine and other butter impostors, including:
- Trans fats: These unnatural fats in margarine, shortenings, and spreads are formed during the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oils into a solid fat. Trans fats contribute to heart disease, cancer, bone problems, hormonal imbalance, and skin disease; infertility, difficulties in pregnancy, and problems with lactation; and low birth weight, growth problems, and learning disabilities in children. A US government panel of scientists determined that man-made trans fats are unsafe at any level.
- Free radicals: Free radicals and other toxic breakdown products are the result of high temperature industrial processing of vegetable oils. They contribute to numerous health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
- Emulsifiers and preservatives: Numerous additives of questionable safety are added to margarines and spreads. Most vegetable shortening is stabilized with preservatives like BHT.
- Hexane and other solvents: Used in the extraction process, these industrial chemicals can have toxic effects.
A far better choice is good-old-fashioned butter. When made from grass-fed cows, it’s particularly rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)—just like grass-fed beef. CLA is not only known to help fight cancer and diabetes, it may even help you to lose weight, which cannot be said for its trans-fat substitutes. Butter is also a rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A (needed for a wide range of functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape) and all the other fat-soluble vitamins (D, E, and K2).
These vitamins are often lacking in the modern industrial diet. It also contains important trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, and selenium (a powerful antioxidant). RealMilk.com4 can help you locate a source of raw butter. If you want to try your hand at making it yourself, check out Positron.org.5 They have an excellent web page with step-by-step instructions6 for making your own butter from scratch, using raw, grass-fed milk.
While proteins are found in many types of food, only foods from animal sources, such as meat and eggs, contain “complete proteins,” meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health, choline for your brain, nervous and cardiovascular systems, and naturally occurring B12. Eggs are powerhouses of healthy nutrition, provided they’re harvested from organically raised, free-range, pastured chickens. True free-range eggs are from hens that range freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
Conventional large-scale CAFO egg-producers raise their hens indoors and in cages. Egg-laying hens confined to cages do not have space to move or stretch, and they show more fearful behavior and become prone to skeletal problems. Large numbers of animals confined in small spaces also pollute the air, water, and soil with the vast amounts of manure they produce. CAFO eggs are also far more prone to harboring pathogens that can cause foodborne illness.
The nutritional differences between true free-ranging chicken eggs and commercially farmed eggs are again a result of the different diets eaten by the two groups of chickens. Instead of seeds and insects, the main ingredients of commercially raised hens' diets are genetically engineered (GE) soy and corn. Commercial eggs, even if they state “free-range” on their label, will typically fall into this category. You can tell the eggs are free range or pastured by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.
Your best source for fresh eggs is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. To find free-range pasture farmers, ask your local health food store or refer to EatWild.com7 or LocalHarvest.com.8 Cornucopia.org also offers ahelpful organic egg scorecard9 that rates egg manufacturers based on 22 criteria that are important for organic consumers.
Soda and other sweetened commercial beverages have no nutritional benefits, and are loaded with chemical additives and high amounts of refined sugar, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup—or even worse, artificial sweeteners. The average 12-ounce can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar, at least half of which is fructose, so one can of soda alone exceeds your daily recommended allotment of fructose (15 grams/day) if you’re insulin resistant, which about 80 percent of Americans are.
Excess sugar has been unequivocally linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, and many other serious health problems, so the less sugar you consume, the better. If you really feel the urge for a carbonated beverage, try sparkling mineral water with a squirt of lime or lemon juice, or sweetened with stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners. (Keep in mind that if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding ALL sweeteners.)
Nothing beats pure water when it comes to serving your body's needs for fluids, and when it comes to water, your best bet is to filter your tap water. Many are still under the mistaken impression that bottled water is more pure, but about 40 percent of bottled water is nothing but regular tap water, which may or may not have received any additional treatment. In fact, most municipal tap water must adhere to stricter purity standards than the bottled water industry. The plastic bottle itself is also extremely detrimental to the environment, and can further contaminate the water inside it by leaching hormone-disrupting plastic chemicals into it. This includes:
- Cancer-causing PFOAs
- PBDEs (flame retardant chemicals), which have been linked to reproductive problems and altered thyroid levels
- The reproductive toxins, phthalates
- BPA, which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen
Just remember that the caveat to drinking tap water is to make sure you filter your tap water. I've written a large number of articles on the hazards of tap water, from fluoride to dangerous chemicals and drugs, to toxic disinfection byproducts and heavy metals, so having a good filtration system in place is more of a necessity than a luxury in most areas. A whole house water filter is your best bet, as it will remove harsh chlorine disinfection byproducts from your whole house. These toxins pose a health hazard not only in your drinking water, but also in your shower and appliances.
The best option for your home's drinking water is to filter at the point of use with an NSF certified water filter. This addresses all of the chemicals found in well water or an urban water supply, along with any lead that might leach into the water if you have old plumbing. You can also optimize your drinking water by injecting physical energy into the water. The simplest way to do this is by vortexing, where you simply stir the water with a spoon or use an automated device that spins the water at high speed over high powered magnets before drinking it. This helps create “living water,” or EZ water—so named by Gerald Pollack, PhD, author of the groundbreaking book: The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor.
Another option to consider is to bottle your own water from a gravity-fed spring, which provides natural living water. There's a great website called FindaSpring.com10 where you can find natural springs in your area. The best part is that most of these spring water sources are free! Remember to bring either clear polyethylene or glass containers to collect the water so no unsafe chemicals can contaminate your water on the way home. If you choose to use glass bottles, be sure to wrap them in towels to keep them from breaking in the car.
Make no mistake about it. A few strategic food swaps can go a long way toward improving your health. Basically, what you’re doing is replacing processed food items and factory farmed foods for less contaminated—and in most cases more nutritious—options. While the list could be far longer, the food swaps covered above are, I believe, among the most important. Swapping adulterated and pasteurized dairy products, such as milk and butter, for organic, raw varieties will allow you to reap the true benefits of dairy.
Likewise, swapping factory farmed animal products like beef, chicken, and eggs for grass-fed or pastured varieties will automatically reduce your toxic burden and exposure to hormones and antibiotics. Last but not least, since soda is clearly at the top of the list when it comes to promoting obesity and related health problems, swapping them out for pure filtered water and/or mineral water can be one of the most potent health changes you could possibly make. For even more nutritional guidance, please see my free, optimized nutrition plan.
By Dr. Mercola
The nutritional myth that saturated fat is bad for you continues to fall apart as a steady stream of new books and studies on this topic hit the media. The latest work to challenge the old dogma is a book called The Big Fat Surprise by journalist Nina Teicholz, interviewed above.
Her book comes alongside new research that raises questions about the long-held but false belief that cardiovascular disease is related to fat and cholesterol intake.
Teicholz points out the flaws in the original Ancel Keys study; how saturated fat has been a healthy human staple for thousands of years, and how the low-fat craze has resulted in excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates, which has resulted in increased inflammation and disease.1 Teicholz tells the Wall Street Journal:2
"There has never been solid evidence for the idea that these [saturated] fats cause disease. We only believe this to be the case because nutrition policy has been derailed over the past half-century by a mixture of personal ambition, bad science, politics, and bias."
The cholesterol myth has suffered a bit of a triple whammy of late, making it harder and harder for heart specialists to uphold the company line. This information is just the latest in a long line of science disproving the need for the saturated fat phobia.
- In 2012, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology examined the health and lifestyle habits of more than 52,000 adults ages 20 to 74, concluding that women with "high cholesterol" (greater than 270 mg/dl) had a 28 percent lower mortality risk than women with "low cholesterol" (less than 183 mg/dl).
Researchers also found that, if you're a woman, your risk for heart disease, cardiac arrest, and stroke are higher with lower cholesterol levels.3
- In 2013, a prominent London cardiologist by the name of Aseem Malhotra argued in the British Medical Journal that you should ignore advice to reduce your saturated fat intake, because it's actually increasing your risk for obesity and heart disease.4
- Then in March 2014, a new meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, using data from nearly 80 studies and more than a half million people, found that those who consume higher amounts of saturated fat have no more heart disease than those who consume less.
What do these journalists and scientists know that your physician might not? Going back forty years or more, fat has been misidentified as the culprit behind heart disease, when all along it's been sugar.
A high-sugar diet raises your risk for heart disease by promoting metabolic syndrome—a cluster of health conditions that includes high blood pressure, insulin and leptin resistance, high triglycerides, liver dysfunction, and visceral fat accumulation.
Making matters worse, the average American gets inadequate exercise, suffers from chronic stress and sleep deprivation, is exposed to environmental toxins, and has poor gut health (dysbiosis). This is the perfect storm for chronic disease.
About 800,000 Americans die from cardiovascular disease annually. A quarter of these deaths could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and managing insulin and leptin levels.
By reducing your cholesterol, you may actually be increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease. Your body needs adequate cholesterol to perform a number of critical functions, and there is strong evidence that people have a higher risk for heart attacks by having their cholesterol levels driven too low, as is being done by drugs like statins.
Cholesterol plays important roles such as building your cell membranes, interacting with proteins inside your cells, and helping regulate protein pathways required for cell signaling. Having too little cholesterol may negatively impact your brain health, hormone levels, heart disease risk, and more. Therefore, placing an upper limit on dietary cholesterol, especially such a LOW upper limit as is now recommended, is likely causing far more harm than good.
Just as your body has requirements for cholesterol, it also needs saturated fats for proper function. One way to understand this is to consider what foods humans consumed during their evolution. Many experts believe that since the Paleolithic Era, we evolved as hunter-gatherers. Paleolithic nutrition states that we have eaten animal products for most of our existence on Earth. To suggest that saturated fats are suddenly harmful to us makes no sense, especially from an evolutionary perspective.
As recently as 2010, the current recommendations from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) call for reducing your saturated fat intake to a mere 10 percent of your total calories or less. This is astounding, and quite the opposite of what most people require for optimal health! The latest science suggests healthy fats (saturated and unsaturated fats from whole food, animal, and plant sources) should comprise anywhere from 50 to 85 percent of your overall energy intake. Saturated fats provide a number of important health benefits, including the following:
Providing building blocks for cell membranes, hormones, and hormone-like substances Mineral absorption, such as calcium Carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K Conversion of carotene into vitamin A Helping to lower cholesterol levels (palmitic and stearic acids) Acts as antiviral agent (caprylic acid) Optimal fuel for your brain Provides satiety Modulates genetic regulation and helps prevent cancer (butyric acid)
1. HDL/total cholesterol ratio: HDL percentage is a very important heart disease risk factor. Just divide your HDL level by your total cholesterol. This percentage should ideally be above 24 percent. Below 10 percent, it's a significant indicator of heart disease risk. 2. Triglyceride/HDL ratios: Divide your triglyceride number by your HDL. This ratio should ideally be below 2. 3. NMR lipoprofile: Possibly the most powerful test for evaluating heart disease risk, this test determines your proportion of smaller, more damaging LDL particles. Small LDL particles get stuck easily, cause more inflammation, and are tied to insulin and leptin resistance. This test is not typically ordered, so you might need to request it from your physician or order it yourself through a third-party. (For more information on the NMR Lipoprofile, please watch my interview with Chris Kresser, above.) 4. Fasting insulin: A normal fasting blood insulin level is below 5, but ideally, you'll want it below 3. If your insulin level is higher than 5, the most effective way to optimize it is to reduce or eliminate all forms of dietary sugar, particularly fructose, and processed grains. 5. Fasting blood glucose: Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood glucose of 100-125 mg/dl had nearly three times the risk of coronary artery disease of people with a blood glucose below 79 mg/dl. 6. Waist-to-hip ratio: Visceral fat, the type of fat that collects around your internal organs, is a well-recognized risk factor for heart disease. The simplest way to evaluate your risk here is by simply measuring your waist-to-hip ratio. (For further instructions, please see the link to my previous article.) 7. Iron level: Excess iron can exert very potent oxidative stress, so if you have excess iron in your blood, you can damage your blood vessels and increase your risk of heart disease. Ideally, you should monitor your serum ferritin level and make sure it is below 80 ng/ml. The simplest ways to eliminate excess iron are blood donation and therapeutic phlebotomy.
The following table outlines my version of a "heart-healthy diet," which minimizes inflammation, reduces insulin resistance, and helps you reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. If you want further details, I suggest reviewing my Optimized Nutrition Plan, which will guide you through dietary changes in a step-by-step fashion, moving from beginner to intermediate to advanced.
1. Limit or eliminate all processed foods 2. Eliminate all gluten and highly allergenic foods from your diet 3. Eat organic foods whenever possible to avoid exposure to harmful agricultural chemicals, such as glyphosate 4. Avoid genetically modified ingredients (GMO), which wreak biological chaos on a cellular level and are linked to abundant health problems, including chronic inflammation and heart disease 5. Eat at least one-third of your food uncooked (raw), or as much as you can manage; avoid cooking foods at high temperatures 6. Increase the amount of fresh vegetables in your diet, locally grown and organic if possible 7. Eat naturally fermented foods, which help optimize your gut bacteria and prevent inflammation-causing superantigens from pathogenic bacteria, as well as providing valuable vitamin K2, B vitamins, and other nutrients 8. Avoid all artificial sweeteners. 9. Limit fructose to less than 25 grams per day from all sources, including whole fruits. If you have insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, or heart disease, you'd be well advised to keep your fructose consumption below 15 grams per day until your insulin resistance has normalized 10. Swap all trans fats (vegetable oils, margarine etc.) for healthy fats like avocado, raw butter, cheese, and coconut oil; avoid consuming oxidized cholesterol (cholesterol that has gone rancid, such as that from overcooked scrambled eggs) 11. To rebalance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, take a high-quality animal-based omega-3 supplement, such as krill oil, and reduce your consumption of processed omega-6 fats from vegetable oils 12. Drink plenty of pure water every day
In addition to following the heart-healthy plan discussed above, there are several more strategies that can be profoundly helpful in reducing chronic inflammation and thereby lowering your cardiovascular risk:
- Exercise regularly. One of the primary benefits of exercise is that it helps normalize and maintain healthy insulin and leptin levels. Exercise also boosts HDL, increases your growth hormone production, helps curb your appetite, and improves your mood and sleep.
- Intermittent fasting. Fasting is an excellent way to "reboot" your metabolism so that your body can relearn how to burn fat as its primary fuel, which helps you shed those excess fat stores. Intermittent fasting has a far greater retention and compliance rate compared to conventional all-day fasting regimens. Another version is alternate-day fasting.
- Grounding yourself to the earth. When you walk barefoot, free electrons are transferred from the earth into your body, and electrons are some of the most potent antioxidants known. Grounding (also called Earthing) helps alleviate inflammation, as well as thinning your blood and causing your red blood cells to repel each other, making them less likely to clot.
- AVOID statin drugs. Statin drugs can reduce your cholesterol to dangerously low levels, while doing nothing tomodulate LDL particle size. Statin drugs may even accelerate heart disease. A 2012 study showed that statin use is associated with a 52 percent higher prevalence of calcified coronary plaque compared to those not taking them.7 And coronary artery calcification is the hallmark of potentially lethal heart disease. Antidepressants have also been associated with heart disease.
- AVOID chemicals whenever possible. BPA, for example, has been linked to heart disease: adults with the highest levels of BPA in their urine are more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease as those with the lowest levels.
By Dr. Mercola
Ticks can spread a number of diseases, including human babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Lyme disease, which has become one of the most serious and controversial epidemics of our time.
According to preliminary statistics1 released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year, approximately 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed in the US each year.
This is about 10 times higher than the officially reported number of cases, indicating that the disease is being vastly underreported. Since national surveillance began in 1982, the number of Lyme cases reported annually has increased nearly 25-fold.2
The Oscar shortlisted documentary Under Our Skin,3 exposes a hidden story of “medical and scientific malfeasance and neglect,” as thousands of people with Lyme disease go undiagnosed, or get misdiagnosed each year. Many who suffer the troubling effects of Lyme disease are simply told that their symptoms are “all in their head.”
As the film follows patients fighting for their lives and livelihoods, it brings into focus a haunting picture of a health care system that is all too willing to put profits ahead of patients. The featured version is the newly released Director’s Cut, which includes 15 minutes of restored footage, re-edited scenes, and character updates.
Lyme disease refers to illnesses transferred by insects. Although many still attribute transmission exclusively to ticks, according to Dr. Deitrich Klinghardt, one of the leading authorities on Lyme disease, the bacteria can also be spread by other insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and mites.
Ticks are blood suckers, and prefer dark, crevices such as your armpit or behind your ear, or your scalp. Once it attaches itself and starts feeding on your blood, it will at some point “spit” its bacterial load into your blood stream. If it carries an infectious organism, the infection will spread to you via this salivary emission.
Common side effects of tick bites include an itchy “bull’s eye” rash, pain, fever, and inflammation. Symptoms of Lyme disease typically start out with unrelenting fatigue, recurring fever, headaches, and achy muscles or joints.
The disease may progress to muscle spasms, loss of motor coordination, and even intermittent paralysis, meningitis, or heart problems. For a more complete list of symptoms, refer to the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance.4 Lymedisease.org has also created a printable Symptom Checklist.5
Interestingly, a recent paper published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology6, 7 argues that ticks should be reclassified as venomous, noting that many of its salivary proteins, and their known functions, are similar to those found in scorpion, spider, snake, platypus, and bee venoms. An estimated eight percent of tick species are in fact capable of causing paralysis with a single bite.
The most simple presentation is the orthopedic forms of Lyme disease as they’re typically more superficial, affecting the larger joints. When the microbes and the associated immune reactions are situated in the connective tissue, the infection presents as a “vague, dispersed pain,” which oftentimes ends up being misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia by conventional doctors.
Lyme disease, just as syphilis was, is also known as “the great imitator,”8 as it mimics many other disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ALS, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite debilitating symptoms, many Lyme patients outwardly appear completely healthy, which is why Lyme disease has also been called “the invisible illness.” People with Lyme often “look good,” and their blood work appears normal, but their internal experience is a different story altogether.
As a result, many patients simply end up being referred to a psychiatrist. Doctors have even been known to accuse Lyme patients of being attention seekers, fabricating their illness...
A big part of the problem is that Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose using conventional lab tests. One of the reasons blood tests are so unreliable as indicators of Lyme infection is that the spirochete has found a way to infect your white blood cells.
Lab tests rely on the normal function of these cells to produce the antibodies they measure. If your white cells are infected, they don’t respond to an infection appropriately. Interestingly, the worse your Borrelia infection is, the less likely it will show up on a blood test. In order for Lyme tests to be useful, you have to be treated first. Once your immune system begins to respond normally, only then will the antibodies show up.
This is called the “Lyme Paradox”—you have to be treated before a proper diagnosis can be made.
I recommend the specialized lab called Igenex because they test for more outer surface proteins (bands), and can often detect Lyme while standard blood tests cannot. Igenex also tests for a few strains of co-infections such as Babesia and Erhlichia.
That said, a negative on the Igenex test for these co-infections doesn’t necessarily mean you are not infected, there are many more strains than they can test for.
There’s great variation in the presentation of the disease as well, depending on where you contracted it, and whether or not you have any other coexisting infections. The only distinctive hallmark unique to Lyme disease is the “bull’s eye” rash, but this is absent in nearly half of those infected. Fewer than half of Lyme patients recall a tick bite. In some studies, this number is as low as 15 percent.
Lyme disease was named after the East Coast town of Lyme, Connecticut, where the disease was first identified in1975.9 The disease was initially referred to as “Lyme arthritis” due to the presentation of atypical arthritic symptoms. By 1977, the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis, also known as the deer tick) was linked to transmission of the disease.
Then in 1982, Willy Burgdorferi, PhD, discovered the bacterium responsible for the infection: Borrelia burgdorferi. The bacteria are released into your blood from the infected tick, while the tick is drinking your blood. We now know there are five subspecies of Borrelia burgdorferi, more than 100 strains in the US and 300 worldwide, many of which have developed resistance to our various antibiotics.
Borrelia burgdorferi is10 is a cousin to the spirochete bacterium that causes syphilis. In fact, they look very similar under a microscope, and both are capable of taking different forms in your body (cystic, granular, and cell wall deficient forms), depending on what conditions they need to accommodate. This clever maneuvering helps them to hide and survive. B. burgdorferi’s corkscrew-shaped form allows it to burrow into and hide in a variety of your body’s tissues, which is why it causes such wide-ranging multisystem involvement.
The organisms may also live in biofilm communities—basically a colony of germs surrounded by a slimy glue-like substance that is hard to unravel. All of these different morphologies explain why treatment is so difficult, and why recurrence of symptoms occurs after standard antibiotic protocols.
Ticks can also simultaneously infect you with a number of other disease-causing organisms, such as Bartonella, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, and Babesia. Any or all of these organisms can travel with Borrelia burgdorferi (the causative agent of Lyme) and each organism causes a different set of symptoms. Many Lyme patients have one or more of these co-infections, which may or may not respond to any given treatment.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) publishes guidelines for a number of infectious diseases, one of which is Lyme. IDSA’s 2006 clinical practice guidelines for Lyme disease11 claim that Lyme is very rare, and easily cured with two weeks of antibiotics, requiring 28 days in rare cases. They also claim there is no scientific evidence for chronic Borrelia infection. However, the literature choices they list in their reference section reflect a clear bias. Of the 400 references they cite, half are based on articles written by their own people. Their literature review in no way represents the total body of science related to the study of Lyme disease.
IDSA’s guidelines have sweeping impacts on Lyme disease medical care. They are commonly applied by insurance companies to restrict coverage for long-term treatment and strongly influence physicians’ treatment decisions. Insurance companies have denied coverage for long-term treatment, citing these guidelines as justification that chronic Lyme disease is a myth.
Opposing the IDSA is the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), the members of which argue that Lyme disease is far more prevalent than previously recognized, in large part due to inaccurate laboratory tests. They also insist that many patients suffer long-term consequences, and require far longer treatment than recommended by IDSA.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal has been a strong advocate for people with Lyme disease.12 In 2007, while he was Connecticut Attorney General, Blumenthal conducted an antitrust investigation into the IDSA’s panel members and 2006 Lyme disease guidelines. His investigation found rampant conflicts of interest in the IDSA, with numerous undisclosed financial interests among its most powerful panelists. Some of them had financial interests in diagnostic tests, vaccines, and insurance, for example.
IDSA agreed to create a new panel to review the ethics of the 2006 IDSA panel, overseen by Blumenthal’s office. Eight hours of testimony13 from both sides of the fence were heard by the newly formed panel on July 30, 2009. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to any changes. The Final Report14 published on the IDSA site concluded that the original guidelines were “based on the highest-quality medical/scientific evidence available,” and that the authors “did not fail to consider or cite any relevant data.” As a result, chronic Lyme patients continue having to fight for their right to treatment. You can find suggestions for how to respond to insurance denials based on IDSA’s guidelines on LymeDisease.org’s website.15
Considering the difficulty of diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, taking preventive measures16 should be at the top of your list:
- Avoid tick-infested areas, such as leaf piles around trees. Walk in the middle of trails, and avoid brushing against long grasses path edgings. Don’t sit on logs or wooden stumps
- Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves, to make it easier to see the ticks
- Tuck your pants into socks, and wear closed shoes and a hat—especially if venturing out into wooded areas. Also tuck your shirt into your pants
- Ticks, especially nymphal ticks, are very tiny. You want to find and remove them before they bite, so do a thorough tick check upon returning inside, and keep checking for several days following exposure. Also check your bedding for several days following exposure
As for using chemical repellents, I do not recommend using them directly on your skin as this will introduce toxins directly into your body. If you use them, spray them on the outside of your clothes, and avoid inhaling the spray fumes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list17 indicating the hourly protection limits for various repellents. If you find that a tick has latched onto you, it’s very important to remove it properly. For detailed instructions, please see LymeDisease.org’s Tick Removal page.18 Once removed, make sure you save the tick so that it can be tested for presence of pathogenic organisms.
Doctors who believe chronic Lyme to be a reality will typically rely on long-term use of antibiotics. While this treatment can be effective, there are many reasons to opt for alternatives such as those detailed in my interview with Dr. Klinghardt, as antibiotics will disrupt your gut flora, thereby exposing you to a whole host of other pathologies. Dr. Klinghardt’s basic treatment strategies are summarized below. His full treatment protocol is too complex to include here, but if you want details, I recommend reading our 2009 article that focuses on those specific Lyme treatment strategies. You can also visit Dr. Klinghardt’s website, where he posts his more current treatment protocols and recipes. In summary, there are five basic steps to his protocol:
- Evaluation of all external factors. External factors include electrosmog, EMF, microwave radiation from wireless technologies, and molds. (For more information on mold, go to Ritchie Shoemaker’s website19).
- Remediation and mitigation of external factors. Once external factors have been assessed, they're remediated and mitigated. (Please refer to our previous article on mold remediation.) To mitigate microwave radiation, Dr. Klinghardt recommends shielding the outside of your home with a graphite paint called Y Shield. Inside, he uses a special silver-coated cloth for your curtains. Patients are instructed to remove all cordless telephones and turn off all the fuses at night, until they have recovered from Lyme disease.
- Addressing emotional issues. Emotional components of the disease are addressed using Energy Psychology tools, including psychokinesiology (PK), which is similar to the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), but more refined and advanced.
- Addressing parasitic, bacterial, and viral infections. Dr. Klinghardt addresses the parasites first, followed by the bacteria and the viruses. The “Klinghardt antimicrobial cocktail," which includes wormwood (artemisinin), phospholipids, vitamin C, and various herbs, is an integral part of this treatment. He addresses viral infections with Viressence (by BioPure), which is a tincture of Native American herbs.
- Addressing other lifestyle factors. Nutritional considerations and supplements are addressed.
Also, the following table lists a variety of different treatment strategies that have been found to be useful in Lyme disease by those embracing natural methods.
Probiotics to improve immunity and restore microflora during and after antibiotics Curcumin is helpful at reducing neurological toxins and brain swelling Astaxanthin to neutralize toxins, improve vision, and relieve joint pain, common in Lyme Whey protein concentrate may help with nutrition, often poor in Lyme patients who don’t feel well enough to eat properly Grapefruit seed extract may treat the cyst form of Borrelia Krill oil to reduce inflammation Cilantro as a natural chelator for heavy metals Serrapeptase helps to break biofilms Resveratrol may treat Bartonella, a co-infection and also helps detoxification GABA and melatonin to help with insomnia Artemisinin and Andrographis, two herbs that may treat Babesia, a common co-infection CoQ10 to support cardiac health and reduce muscle pain and brain fog Quercetin reduces histamine (often high in Lyme) Transfer factors can help boost immune function
In Dr. Klinghardt's experience, the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is by far the best and most responsible group. The following are some other resources you might find helpful. For more, see the Resource page on UnderOurSkin.com:20
- Tick-Borne Disease Alliance (TBDA). Under the “Diagnosing TBDS” tab, you can find a listing of medical professionals knowledgeable in the treatment of Lyme
- Lyme Disease Association, Inc.
- Leading Lyme disease expert Joseph J. Burrascano, MD, wrote what is essentially a manual for managing Lyme disease, entitled Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease, which is worth adding to your resource files. Realize that his treatment focus is long-term antibiotics, which I believe should not be your first choice. Nevertheless, there is some good information in this publication.
By Dr. Mercola
Nail biting, or onychophagia, is a relatively common habit that affects people of all ages. There are many theories as to why people bite their nails, but most agree that it often stems from stress or may be an activity that’s picked up as a child.
Estimates suggest that 30 percent of children, 45 percent of teenagers, 25 percent of young adults, and 5 percent of older adults bite their nails,1 with the aesthetic consequences being the most obvious.
For some people, the social stigma and embarrassment over the look of their nails causes them to become depressed, isolated, or avoid activities they would otherwise enjoy. Beyond this, however, is there reason to worry if you regularly bite your nails?
Nail biting may actually be harmful to you beyond the emotional effects. For instance…
1. Disease-Causing Bacteria
Your nails are an ideal location for bacteria to thrive, and that includes potentially pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli (which would love to call the underside of your nail tips home).
As you bite your nails, those bacteria easily transfer into your mouth and the rest of your body, where they may lead to infections. Your fingernails may actually be twice as dirty as your fingers,2 considering they’re difficult to keep clean, making this a prime point of transfer for infectious organisms.
Although I’m not aware of any research on this, it’s often suggested (anecdotally) that people who bite their nails have stronger immune systems, and therefore get sick less often, than those who do not.
One potential explanation for this is that nail biting may help introduce pathogens from your environment to your immune system, helping it to learn and build defenses, similar to what occurs when people eat their boogers.
2. Nail Infections
Nail biters are susceptible to paronychia, a skin infection that occurs around your nails. As you chew your nails, bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms can enter through tiny tears or abrasions, leading to swelling, redness, and pus around your nail.
This painful condition may have to be drained surgically. Bacterial infections caused by nail biting are actually one of the most common nail problems, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).3
3. Warts Due to HPV Infections
Warts on your fingers caused by human papillomavirus, or HPV, are common among chronic nail biters. (Here I’m referring to the types of HPV that cause warts on your hands, as opposed to those that lead to genital warts and, rarely, cervical cancer.) These warts can easily spread to your mouth and lips as you bite your nails.
4. Dental Problems
Nail biting can interfere with proper dental occlusion, or the manner in which your upper and lower teeth come together when you close your mouth.
Your teeth may shift out of their proper position, become misshapen, wear down prematurely, and become weakened if you bite your nails over time. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that frequent nail biters may rack up $4,000 in additional dental bills over the course of their lifetime.4
5. Impaired Quality of Life
A study published this year found that people who chronically bite their nails report significantly higher quality of life impairment than those who do not.5
The level of impairment rises with time spent on nail biting, the number of involved fingernails and those who report visible nail abnormalities. Tension when trying to resist nail biting, suffering due to nail biting or nail-eating behavior also negatively influenced quality of life.
In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association decided to re-classify nail biting as a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), along with other forms of “pathological grooming.”
If nail biting is taken to the extreme that it is significantly interfering with your life and causing you extreme emotional and physical pain, you could, perhaps, make a case for a psychiatric-disorder connection, but in the majority of cases this appears to be another case of disease mongering to sell more psychiatric drugs.
As reported in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, most cases of nail biting in young adults does not appear to be the result of a psychiatric disorder but rather simple boredom or stress:6
“Nail biting in young adults occurs as a result of boredom or working on difficult problems, which may reflect a particular emotional state. It occurs least often when people are engaged in social interaction or when they are reprimanded for the behavior.”
Nail biting tends to begin in childhood, peak in adolescence, and then slowly (or abruptly), decline with age. Whether you’re an adult who can’t seem to kick the habit, or a parent of a child or teen who bites his or her nails, here are simple options that are often effective for quitting:
Keep a journal to identify your nail-biting triggers, such as boredom or watching TV, then avoid the triggers as much as possible Wrap your fingertips with Band-Aids or electrical tape Keep your nails trimmed short or manicured Keep your hands busy with other activities, such as knitting Consider behavioral therapy, such as habit reversal training7 Put an unpleasant tasting substance on your fingertips (vinegar, hot sauce, or commercially available bitter-tasting options)
I also urge you to try the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is a powerful self-help method that can help you rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress.
It’s very effective for regular stress management as well as for breaking all kinds of addictions. Once the emotional distress is reduced or removed, your body can often rebalance itself and accelerate healing.
I've seen its effectiveness first-hand for a number of years, which is why EFT is the healing technique I most highly recommend to optimize your emotional health. Specifically, EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over five thousand years, but without the invasiveness of needles.
Instead, simple tapping with your fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem -- whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, etc. – and voice positive affirmations. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit" — the emotional block — from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance, which is essential for optimal emotional health and the healing of physical disease.
For a demonstration of how to perform EFT, please view the video below featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman. This is a general demonstration that can be tailored to just about any problem. You can also find text instructions and photographs of where to tap on my EFT page. For when you're on the go, there are at least four different EFT applications available in the iTunes store. The apps range from a simple recap of the EFT’s Basic Recipe to a sophisticated virtual coaching app for specific mental health problems like anxiety and depression.
Bear in mind that while EFT is quite easy to learn and perform, I strongly encourage you to seek out a qualified therapist for more serious or complex issues. It is an art, and tapping for deep-seated issues typically require the kind of skill that only a well-seasoned practitioner will have. If you try to self-treat, you may end up falsely concluding that EFT doesn't work, when nothing could be further from the truth... This is particularly pertinent if you're trying to address trauma-based stress such as PTSD or grief following the loss of a loved one, but if you’re a chronic nail biter, this would certainly still apply.
By Dr. Mercola
Alzheimer's disease, a severe form of dementia, affects an estimated 5.2 million Americans, according to 2013 statistics.1
One in nine seniors over the age of 65 has Alzheimer's, and the disease is now thought to be the third leading cause of death in the US, right behind heart disease and cancer.
A growing body of research suggests there's a powerful connection between your diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes.
Contrary to popular belief, your brain does not require glucose, and actually functions better burning alternative fuels, especially ketones, which your body makes in response to digesting healthy fats.
According to some experts, such as Dr. Ron Rosedale, Alzheimer's and other brain disorders may in large part be caused by the constant burning of glucose for fuel by your brain.
Alzheimer's disease was tentatively dubbed "type 3 diabetes" in early 2005 when researchers discovered that in addition to your pancreas, your brain also produces insulin, and this brain insulin is necessary for the survival of brain cells.
In your brain, insulin helps with neuron glucose-uptake and the regulation of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning. This is why reducing the level of insulin in your brain impairs your cognition.
Research2 has also shown that type 2 diabetics lose more brain volume with age than expected—particularly gray matter. This kind of brain atrophy is yet another contributing factor for dementia.
Studies have found that people with lower levels of insulin and insulin receptors in their brain often have Alzheimer's disease. But according to recent research published in the journal Neurology,3 sugar and other carbohydrates can disrupt your brain function even if you're not diabetic or have any signs of dementia.
To test their theory, they evaluated short- and long-term glucose markers in 141 healthy, non-diabetic, non-demented seniors. Memory tests and brain imaging were administered to assess their brain function and the actual structure of their hippocampus. As reported by Scientific American:4
"Higher levels on both glucose measures were associated with worse memory, as well as a smaller hippocampus and compromised hippocampal structure.
The researchers also found that the structural changes partially accounted for the statistical link between glucose and memory. According to study co-author Agnes Flöel, a neurologist at Charité, the results 'provide further evidence that glucose might directly contribute to hippocampal atrophy.'"
The findings suggest that even if you're not diabetic or insulin resistant (and about 80 percent of Americans fall into the latter category), sugar consumption can still disrupt your memory.
Long-term, it can contribute to the shrinking of your hippocampus, which is a hallmark symptom of Alzheimer's disease. (Your hippocampus is involved with the formation, organization, and storage of memories.)
The authors of the study suggest that "strategies aimed at lowering glucose levels even in the normal range may beneficially influence cognition in the older population."
Normally, a fasting blood sugar level between 100-125 mg/dl is diagnosed as a pre-diabetic state. A fasting blood sugar level of 90-100 is considered "normal." But in addition to the featured research, other studies have also found that brain atrophy occurs even in this "normal" blood sugar range.
Neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, MD insists that being very strict in limiting your consumption of sugar and non-vegetable carbs is one of THE most important steps you can take to prevent Alzheimer's disease for this very reason.
He cites research from the Mayo Clinic, which found that diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia. Meanwhile, high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk.
Compelling research shows that your brain has great plasticity, which you control through your diet and lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, the American public has been grossly brainwashed by the sugar and processed food industries into believing that sugar is a perfectly reasonable "nutrient" that belongs in a healthy diet.
Without accurate information, it's certainly more difficult to make health-affirming choices. Newsweek5 recently ran an article revealing just how far the sugar industry will go to defend its market share:
"According to a new report6 from the Center for Science and Democracy... industry groups representing companies that sell sweeteners, like the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association... have poured millions of dollars into countering science that indicates negative health consequences of eating their products.
For example, when a University of Southern California study from 2013 found that the actual high fructose corn syrup content in sodas 'varied significantly' from the sugar content disclosed on soda labels, the Corn Refiners Association considered paying for its own counter research.
A consultant suggested that the counter research should only be published if the results aligned with their goal of disputing the USC study: 'If for any reason the results confirm [the University of Southern California study], we can just bury the data,' the consultant wrote, according to the report."
According to the Center for Science report, the Sugar Association even threatened the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO had published a paper on sugar, recommending a 10 percent limit on added sugars, stating that added sugars "threaten the nutritional quality of diets."
The Sugar Association shot off a letter to the director general, warning him that, unless WHO withdrew the study, the Sugar Association would persuade the US Congress to withdraw the WHO's federal funding. The following year, when WHO published its global health strategy on diet and health, there was no mention of the offending sugar study.
Indeed, despite overwhelming evidence showing that sugar, and processed fructose in particular, is at the heart of our burgeoning obesity and chronic disease epidemics, the sugar lobby has been so successful in its efforts to thwart the impact of such evidence that there's still no consensus among our regulatory agencies as to the "factual" dangers of sugar...
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data,7 13 percent of the average American's diet is sugar. In the UK, a recently published report8 by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends limiting your added sugar intake to five percent, in order to avoid obesity and type 2 diabetes. They calculate this to be the equivalent of 25 grams of sugar (5-6 teaspoons) per day for women, and 35 grams (7-8 teaspoons) for men.
This matches my own recommendations for healthy, non-insulin resistant individuals—with one key difference. I recommend restricting sugar/fructose consumption to 25 grams from ALL sources, not just added sugar. This includes limiting your non-vegetable carbohydrates as well. Crazy enough, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition still recommends you get 50 percent of your daily energy intake in the form of starchy carbohydrates, which will undoubtedly and significantly raise your risk of insulin resistance. If you're insulin/leptin resistant, diabetic, overweight, or have high blood pressure, heart disease, or cancer, I recommend restricting your sugar/fructose consumption to a maximum of 15 grams per day from all sources, until your insulin/leptin resistance has been resolved.
It's becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also hold true for your brain. As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of glucose and insulin that blunts its insulin signaling, leading to impairments in your thinking and memory abilities, eventually causing permanent brain damage.
Additionally, when your liver is busy processing fructose (which your liver turns into fat), it severely hampers its ability to make cholesterol, an essential building block of your brain that is crucial for optimal brain function. Indeed, mounting evidence supports the notion that significantly reducing fructose consumption is a very important step for preventing Alzheimer's disease.
Because of the very limited treatments, and no available cure as of yet, you're really left with just one solid solution, and that is to prevent Alzheimer's from happening to you in the first place. As explained by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, Alzheimer's is a disease predicated primarily on lifestyle choices; the two main culprits being excessive sugar and gluten consumption.
Another major factor is the development and increased consumption of genetically engineered (GE) grains, which are now pervasive in most processed foods sold in the US. The beauty of following my optimized nutrition plan is that it helps prevent and treat virtually ALL chronic degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's. Dr. Perlmutter's book, Grain Brain, also provides powerful arguments for eliminating grains from your diet, particularly if you want to protect the health of your brain. In terms of your diet, the following suggestions may be among the most important for Alzheimer's prevention:
- Avoid sugar and refined fructose. Ideally, you'll want to keep your total sugar and fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin resistance or any related disorders. In one recent animal study, a junk food diet high in sugar resulted in impaired memory after just one week!9 Place recognition, specifically, was adversely affected.
As a general rule, you'll want to keep your fasting insulin levels below 3, and this is indirectly related to fructose, as it will clearly lead to insulin resistance. However, other sugars (sucrose is 50 percent fructose by weight), grains, and lack of exercise are also important factors. Lowering insulin will also help lower leptin levels which is another factor for Alzheimer's.
- Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain barrier, the barrier that keeps things out of your brain where they don't belong, is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don't belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer's.
- Eat a nutritious diet, rich in folate, such as the one described in my nutrition plan. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements like folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.
- Increase consumption of all healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3. Beneficial health-promoting fats that your brain needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called ghee, organic grass fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado.
Contrary to popular belief, the ideal fuel for your brain is not glucose but ketones. Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat (as opposed to glucose) into energy. The medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) found in coconut oil are a great source of ketone bodies, because coconut oil is about 66 percent MCTs. In 2010, I published Dr. Mary Newport's theory that coconut oil might offer profound benefits in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. She has since launched one of the first clinical trials of its kind to test this theory.
Also make sure you're getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. (I recommend avoiding most fish because, although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most fish are now severely contaminated with mercury.) High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
- Optimize your gut flora by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high-potency and high-quality probiotic supplement
- Eat blueberries. Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanin and antioxidant content, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.
Another helpful tip is to reduce your overall calorie consumption, and/or intermittently fast. As mentioned above, ketones are mobilized when you replace carbs with coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats. A one-day fast can help your body to "reset" itself, and start to burn fat instead of sugar. As part of a healthy lifestyle, I prefer an intermittent fasting schedule that simply calls for limiting your eating to a narrower window of time each day. By restricting your eating to a 6-8 hour window, you effectively fast 16-18 hours each day. To learn more about intermittent fasting, please see this previous article.
Also be aware that when it comes to cholesterol levels and Alzheimer's, lower is NOT better. Quite the contrary. According to Dr. Perlmutter, research shows that elderly individuals with the lowest cholesterol levels have the highest risk for Alzheimer's. They also have the highest risk for dying. As he says, the war on cholesterol is fundamentally inappropriate and harmful.
Finally, there's a short list of supplement recommendations worth noting for their specific benefits in preventing and treating dementia. So, although your fundamental strategy for preventing dementia should involve a comprehensive lifestyle approach, you may want to take special note of the following natural dietary agents. These four natural foods/supplements have good science behind them, in terms of preventing age-related cognitive changes:
- Gingko biloba: Many scientific studies have found that Ginkgo biloba has positive effects for dementia. A 1997 study from JAMA showed clear evidence that Ginkgo improves cognitive performance and social functioning for those suffering from dementia. Another 2006 study found Ginkgo as effective as the dementia drug Aricept (donepezil) for treating mild to moderate Alzheimer's type dementia. A 2010 meta-analysis also found Ginkgo biloba to be effective for a variety of types of dementia.
- Alpha lipoic acid (ALA): ALA has been shown to help stabilize cognitive functions among Alzheimer's patients and may slow the progression of the disease.
- Vitamin B12: A small Finnish study published in the journal Neurology10 found thatpeople who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer's in their later years. For each unit increase in the marker of vitamin B12 the risk of developing Alzheimer's was reduced by two percent. Remember sublingual methylcobalamin may be your best bet here.
Lifestyle choices such as getting regular sun exposure and exercise, along with avoiding toxins, are also important factors when it comes to maintaining optimal brain health. Here are several of my lifestyle suggestions:
- Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer's patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health.
Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer's through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer's.
- Exercise regularly. It's been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,11 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer's. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has also shown that people with Alzheimer's have less PGC-1alpha in their brains12 and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer's. I would strongly recommend reviewing the Peak Fitness Technique for my specific recommendations.
- Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However, you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
- Avoid aluminum, such as antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc.
- Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.
- Avoid anticholinergics and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers.
Statin drugs are particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.
- Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer's disease.
By Dr. Mercola
Sleep deprivation is a well-known risk to your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact one aspect of your health… it impacts many.
When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not going to react as quickly as you normally would, making driving or other potentially dangerous activities, like using power tools, risky.
Your ability to think clearly is also dampened by lack of sleep, which means you will have trouble retaining memories, processing information, and making decisions.
As your reaction time and cognition slows, your emotions will be kicked into high gear. This means that arguments with co-workers or your spouse are likely and you’re probably going to be at fault for blowing things out of proportion.
But much more than that, sleep deprivation has virtually the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which may help explain why lack of sleep is tied to an increased risk of numerous chronic diseases.
There’s an important caveat to be aware of that is not yet widely known, however, and that is your sleep quality is every bit as important as your sleep duration. So if you stay in bed for eight or nine hours a night, but during that time you’re waking up repeatedly, it’s just as bad as getting hardly any sleep at all…
Just one night of interrupted sleep is all it takes to make you feel more depressed, fatigued, and confused, according to new research.1 What’s more, there was little difference in the negative effects of interrupted sleep (defined as four prolonged awakenings spread across eight hours in bed) compared to those of restricted sleep (spending just four hours in bed, total).
Night-wakings also lead to reduced vigor and motivation and increased errors on an online performance test. The study attempted to mimic life-like night-wakings, which for the study purposes included making a phone call to participants in the middle of the night directing them to complete a brief computer exercise (at four separate occasions during the night).
It’s a scenario that may not seem unfamiliar to you, especially if you find yourself waking at night frequently. What does this mean for new parents, doctors (mostly residents in training but certain specialties like OB and trauma surgeons on ER call), and the millions of other people who find their sleep regularly interrupted at night (by pets, noise, racing thoughts, light pollution, work obligations, and more)? If you suffer from interrupted sleep, it might be putting your health at risk. Professor Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University, the study’s lead author, said:2
“Our study shows the impact of only one disrupted night. We know that these effects accumulate and therefore the functional price new parents — who awaken three to ten times a night for months on end — pay for common infant sleep disturbance is enormous…
I hope that our study will bring this to the attention of scientists and clinicians, who should recognize the price paid by individuals who have to endure frequent night-wakings.”
It makes sense that interruptions to your sleep would result in much the same damage as lack of sleep, because sleep occurs in phases. Ideally, you should progress from slow-wave sleep back up to REM sleep in 60- to 90-minute cycles.
Any interruptions to this make your body start over, in a sense, which means you might never reach the most restorative, deeper phases of sleep.
You might as well not be sleeping at all, which is likely one reason why lack of sleep and interrupted sleep result in such similar damage. In a healthy night’s sleep, you should progress through the following sleep stages (though not necessarily in this order):3
- Stage One, when you’re preparing to drift off
- Stage Two, during which your brain wave activity becomes rapid and rhythmic while your body temperature drops and heart rate slows
- Stage Three, when deep slow brain waves emerge (this is a transition from light sleep to deep sleep)
- Stage Four, also known as delta sleep, this is a deep sleep stage
- Stage Five, or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, is when most dreaming occurs
As reported by Psych Central:4
“Sleep does not progress through all of these stages in sequence, however. Sleep begins in Stage One and progresses into stages 2, 3, and 4. Then, after Stage Four sleep, Stages Three, then Two are repeated before going into REM sleep. Once REM is over, we usually return to Stage Two sleep.
Sleep cycles through these stages approximately 4 or 5 times throughout the night. We typically enter REM approximately 90 minutes after falling asleep.
The first cycle of REM often lasts only a short amount of time, but each cycle becomes longer. This is why we need long periods of sleep each night as most of the REM sleep occurs in the hours before awakening.
If we get short periods of sleep, we can’t really get through the stages we need to heal and stay healthy. REM can last up to an hour as our sleep progresses. In case you are wondering, if you feel like a dream is taking a long period of time, it really is. Contrary to what was once believed, dreams take as long as they actually seem.”
If you’re wondering just how sensitive your sleep cycle actually is, you might be surprised to learn that it’s incredibly vulnerable to changes, such that even the small amount of sleep deprivation caused by Daylight Saving Time may be problematic.
One Washington University neuroscientist told CBS News that adjusting clocks forward one hour corresponds with a significant increase in traffic accidents and heart attacks5 over the next two to three days.
One study also found that the spring transition, which causes a phase advance, is particularly hard on the average person’s sleep-wake cycle,6 and while it’s generally thought that the loss of one hour of sleep on the night of the change is inconsequential, research suggests otherwise. According to a report in Sleep Medicine Reviews:7
“…data suggests that increased sleep fragmentation and sleep latency present a cumulative effect of sleep loss [following the spring transition], at least across the following week, perhaps longer.
The autumn transition is often popularized as a gain of 1 h[our] of sleep but there is little evidence of extra sleep on that night. The cumulative effect of five consecutive days of earlier rise times following the autumn change again suggests a net loss of sleep across the week. Indirect evidence of an increase in traffic accident rates, and change in health and regulatory behaviors which may be related to sleep disruption suggest that adjustment to daylight saving time is neither immediate nor without consequence.”
As far as lack of sleep goes, research has shown that when participants cut their sleep from 7.5 to 6.5 hours a night, there were increases in the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk, and stress.8 In other words, getting just one hour less sleep a night may raise your risk of multiple chronic diseases. Interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
Increase your risk of heart disease. Harm your brain by halting new cell production. Sleep deprivation can increase levels of corticosterone (a stress hormone), resulting in fewer new brain cells being created in your hippocampus. Impair your ability to lose excess pounds or maintain your ideal weight. This is likely the effect of altered metabolism, because when you're sleep deprived, leptin (the hormone that signals satiety) falls, while ghrelin (which signals hunger) rises. Contribute to a pre-diabetic state, making you feel hungry even if you've already eaten, which can wreak havoc on your weight. Accelerate tumor growth, primarily due to disrupted melatonin production. Melatonin inhibits the proliferation of a wide range of cancer cell types, as well as triggering cancer cell apoptosis (self-destruction). The hormone also interferes with the new blood supply tumors require for their rapid growth (angiogenesis). Contribute to premature aging by interfering with your growth hormone production, normally released by your pituitary gland during deep sleep (and during certain types of exercise, such as high intensity interval training). Raise your blood pressure. Increase your risk of dying from any cause.
Deep sleep is one of the most important sleep phases as your body repairs and regenerates, your immune system is strengthened and much more. The more time you can spend in this crucial sleep phase during the night, the more refreshed you’re going to feel in the morning, as well. Sound stimulation has been shown to be effective for prolonging deep sleep, so if you’re having trouble staying asleep at night, this is a simple trick to try.
Published in the journal Neuron,9 the study found that playing “pink noise” sounds that were synchronized to the subject’s brain waves when the subject approached deep sleep allowed them to remain in deep sleep longer than when the sound was not played. The participants were also shown 120 pairs of words before going to bed and tested the following morning to see how many they could remember.
After sound stimulation, the subjects improved their memory retention by nearly 60 percent, recalling an average of 22 sets of words compared to 13 when the sound was not played. The key, according to the authors, is that the frequency of the sound was synched to the subject’s brain waves. This produced an increase in the size of the brain waves during deep sleep, and these slower brain waves are associated with information processing and memory formation. You can find special “pink noise” apps to play in your bedroom, or you can simply turn on a fan to get this benefit.
If your sleep is being interrupted, the first step is to determine the cause. If you’re a new parent being woken by a newborn, there’s obviously little you can do, aside from teaming up with your spouse or another family member so you can each have alternating nights of uninterrupted sleep. Most cases of sleep disruptions, however, will be related to environmental or emotional factors. Some common examples include:
- Eating a heavy meal, or spicy foods, too close to bed
- Pets in your bed or bedroom
- Pain (headache, menstrual cramps, back pain, etc.)
- Alcohol in the evening
- Use of your computer, tablet, cellphone, or television
That last one is a biggie, as about 95 percent of Americans use an electronic device within one hour of going to sleep, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll.10 This has a major implication on the quality of your sleep, in ways you might not even imagine. Certainly, such devices can keep you awake by making noises, but they also interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, in far more insidious, and damaging ways.
Exposure to even small amounts of light from a television, your computer, tablet, or smartphone can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Plus, when you're connected to the Internet, your phone or computer are communicating with nearby cell towers, which means they're also emitting low levels of radiation. One 2008 study revealed that people exposed to radiation from their mobile phones for three hours before bedtime had more trouble falling asleep and staying in a deep sleep.11, 12
According to the 2014 Sleep in America Poll, 53 percent of respondents who turn electronics off while sleeping tend to rate their sleep as excellent, compared to just 27 percent of those who leave their devices on.13 This is why I recommend avoiding watching TV or using a computer or tablet at least an hour or so before going to bed. If you do keep your devices in your room, make sure they are physically turned off along with your Wi-Fi router. An alternative, you can try a free computer program called f.lux (see justgetflux.com), which alters the color temperature of your computer screen as the day goes on, pulling out the blue wavelengths as it gets late.
Small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes. Number one on my list? As mentioned, turn off your electronic gadgets and keep them out of your bedroom:
- 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 three 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.
- 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.
- 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
Up to 80 percent of the US population will experience back pain at some point during their lives. Most often, the problem is mechanical in nature:1 the result of poor posture, repetitive movements, or incorrect lifting, for instance (as opposed to resulting from injury, infection, or serious diseases, like cancer).
If you visit a conventional physician for back pain (which is actually the second most common reason for doctor visits, outnumbered only by upper respiratory infections), you’ll most likely be offered only a superficial treatment.
Pain-relieving drugs are among the most common treatment followed by steroid injections and even surgery. Along with being fraught with side effects, none of these solutions tend to lead to full recovery, leaving many patients still struggling with back pain, often chronically.
This is where the natural remedies that follow can be invaluable. Before you even consider drugs, injections, or surgery, give these 15 natural remedies for back pain a try.2
This list is in no way meant to be comprehensive and all inclusive, but merely therapies that I have encountered or personally used.
1. Chiropractic Care
Seeing a qualified chiropractor is a wise option if you suffer from any type of chronic pain, including back pain. One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that chiropractic care is often better than medication for treating musculoskeletal pain.3
2. Stretching, Especially the Egoscue Method
Participants who took 52-minute stretching classes (which emphasized trunk and leg stretches) received as much back-pain relief as those taking yoga classes.4 The way you stretch matters, however, and static stretching may actually lead to irritation and injury.
Another option is the Egoscue Method, which is a series of very specific posture stretches and special exercises tailored to each person's specific needs. Egoscue helps to restore muscular balance and skeletal alignment and is often used as a natural method of pain relief. Personally, this method worked well for me in eliminating pain I had when I got out of my chair or car.
3. Strength Training
A regular strength-training routine will help strengthen your back and core muscles, which is essential for both relieving pain and preventing injury.
4. Osteopathic Manipulation
Osteopathic manipulation, which may involve moving joints back into place, massaging soft tissue, and helping you relax stressed muscles, was found to reduce chronic low-back pain in a study of 455 people. Participants received eight weeks of either osteopathic manipulation, a sham treatment, or ultrasound therapy.
Sixty-three percent of those who'd had osteopathic manipulation reported a moderate improvement in their pain while half said they had a substantial improvement.5
5. Reduce Your Stress
People with persistent negative thoughts and anxiety are more likely to suffer from back pain.6 The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) borrows from the principles of acupuncture, in that it helps you balance out your subtle energy system.
It helps resolve underlying, often subconscious, negative emotions that may be exacerbating your physical pain. By stimulating (tapping) well-established acupuncture points with your fingertips, you rebalance your energy system, which tends to dissipate pain and relieve stress.
Meditation can be a powerful pain reliever. Among volunteers who had never meditated before, those who attended four 20-minute classes to learn a meditation technique called focused attention (a form of mindfulness meditation), experienced significant pain relief – a 40 percent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 percent reduction in pain unpleasantness.7
Yoga, which is particularly useful for promoting flexibility and core muscles, has been proven to be beneficial if you suffer from back pain. People suffering from low-back pain who took one yoga class a week had greater improvements in function than those receiving medicine or physical therapy.8 The Yoga Journal has an online page demonstrating specific poses that may be helpful.9
Massage releases endorphins, which help induce relaxation and relieve pain. Massage therapy for 10 weeks offered greater back-pain relief than usual care, according to one study, and the benefits lasted at least six months.10
Acupuncture can be another useful approach, although in my experience requires a bit more time to achieve results. In one analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,11 researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain, such as back pain and headaches – more so than standard pain treatment.
10. K-Laser Therapy
Several beneficial things happen during K-Laser treatment. First, infrared laser therapy treatment helps reduce pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance tissue healing—both in hard and soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, or even bones.
These benefits are the result of enhanced microcirculation, as the treatment stimulates red blood cell flow in the treatment area. Venous and lymphatic return is also enhanced, as is oxygenation of those tissues.
Finally, the treatment stimulates the cytochrome oxidase enzyme in your cells' mitochondria. This is really one of the key discoveries in the whole science of laser therapy.
Specifically, injured cells are targeted because damaged cells are more readily accepting of photons of light, whereas healthy cells don't need this extra energy. As explained by Dr. Phil Harrington, who is an expert on the use of K-Laser therapy:
"By stimulating the cytochrome oxidase enzyme, we are utilizing that oxygen in the respiratory chain inside of the mitochondria, producing more ATP for that cell. So regardless of what kind of cell it is, it's going to function at a higher level."
The three infrared wavelengths of the K-Laser target water, hemoglobin, and the enzyme to most efficiently stimulate cellular metabolism. The K-Laser is unique in that it is the only Class 4 therapy laser that utilizes three infrared wavelengths that penetrate deep into the body to reach areas such as your spine and hip.
11. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Talking with a therapist, with a focus on changing your thoughts and behavior, helped relieve back pain after just six weeks. After one year, nearly 60 percent of those who received cognitive-behavioral therapy reported that their pain was gone (compared to 31 percent of those who did not receive therapy).12
12. Tai Chi
A form of Chinese martial arts, tai chi is an ancient form of self-defense that is said to support the balance of "yin and yang" in your body, thereby improving the flow of "qi," or life energy. Often described as "meditation in motion" or "moving meditation," the activity takes your body through a specific set of graceful movements. Your body is constantly in motion and each movement flows right into the next. A 10-week tai chi program has been found to improve pain and disability in people with persistent low-back pain.13
13. Physical Therapy
People who received physical therapy soon after an episode of back pain are less likely to require subsequent medical care than those who seek it at a later time.14
14. Comfrey Root
Comfrey, a perennial shrub, is traditionally used to reduce inflammation as well as heal pulled, sprained, or strained muscles and ligaments. Research shows that ointment containing comfrey extract may lower back pain significantly,15 although you shouldn’t use it longer than 10 days because it can lead to liver damage if used chronically.
15. Aquatic Therapy
Water therapy conducted in a pool is a gentle way to alleviate lower back pain. This is especially useful for people who are sedentary and pregnant women.
Does your back pain flare up when it’s hot or humid? New research found that weather parameters, including temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, and precipitation do not increase the risk of a low-back-pain episode.16 According to the study’s lead author:17
“Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms. However, there are few robust studies investigating weather and pain, specifically research that does not rely on patient recall of the weather… Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain.”
So if the weather isn’t the problem, then what is? Poor posture and/or improper movement is to blame for most cases of back pain. Spending most of your day slouched behind a desk or on the couch is a surefire way to develop back pain. Sitting is also an independent risk factor of everything from diabetes to heart disease, and can even take years off your life—even if you exercise regularly! If you spend the majority of your day sitting like I do, then I could not encourage you more strongly to review this article on sitting and intermittent movement, which provides dozens of different mini exercises you can do to interrupt your sitting.
Even though I have always been very fit, I believe my chronic sitting caused me back pain, and these intermittent movement exercises have eliminated it. Proper posture is truly foundational for health and most who live in industrialized cultures have far from ideal posture. By understanding the functional biomechanics of your body, you can learn to optimize the way you move at all times. This in turn effectively prevents aches and pains from developing. An effective method to relearn proper posture is Foundation Training, developed by chiropractor Dr. Eric Goodman to address his own chronic back pain.
Despite it being so common, few people—including specialists—have a clear understanding of how to treat back pain. If you have low back pain and see different specialists, you will get different tests: rheumatologists will order blood tests, neurologists will order nerve impulse tests, and surgeons will order MRIs and CT scans. But no matter what tests you get, you'll probably end up with a prescription for a painkiller and perhaps a spinal fusion -- because the latter is one of the "more lucrative procedures in medicine," according to Shannon Brownlee, author of the book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer.
This despite the fact that the best success rate for spinal fusions is a mere 25 percent! According to one 2011 review, more than 17 percent of patients told they needed spinal surgery actually showed no abnormal neurological or radiographic findings that would necessitate surgery.18 A related concern is the fact that lower back pain is also one of the primary reasons why people get hooked on prescription painkillers. Deaths caused by overdosing on painkillers now surpass murders and fatal car accidents in the US, and over the past five years, heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent.19
Officials blame this increase on the rise of addictive prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, codeine, and Fentora, all of which are opioids (derivatives of opium). Heroin is simply a cheaper option to these prescription medications. Still, prescription painkillers claim far more lives than illegal street drugs like heroin. According to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription painkillers were responsible for 16,600 deaths in 2010—well over five times more than those caused by heroin.20
US officials have recently gone on the offensive, stating that narcotic painkillers are a driving force in the rise of substance abuse and lethal overdoses, and that both patients and doctors need to become better informed about their risks. Back pain, in turn, is a driving force behind opioid drug use, which makes it a central focus not just for decreasing disability claims and improving health and quality of life for millions of people, but also for tackling a rapidly growing problem of legal drug abuse and the associated death toll. Please do not let your physician convince you that prescription drugs are your only option for pain relief. I’ve already included nearly two-dozen alternatives in this article, and if you read below you’ll find even more.
Below I list 14 more non-drug alternatives for the treatment of pain. Again, this list is in no way meant to represent all of the approaches available; they are simply some of the best strategies I know of. If you are in pain, please try these first, before even thinking about prescription painkillers, steroid injections, or surgery of any kind.
- Eliminate or radically reduce most grains and sugars from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels and decrease insulin and leptin resistance, which is one of the most important reasons why inflammatory prostaglandins are produced. That is why stopping sugar and sweets is so important to controlling your pain and other types of chronic illnesses.
- Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat. My personal favorite is krill oil, which contains highly absorbable phospholipid-bound omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they manipulate prostaglandins.)
- Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
- Astaxanthin is one of the most effective fat-soluble antioxidants known. It has very potent anti-inflammatory properties and in many cases works far more effectively than anti-inflammatory drugs. Higher doses are typically required and you may need 8 mg or more per day to achieve this benefit.
- Ginger: This herb has potent anti-inflammatory activity and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility.21 A past study also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the overproduction of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.22
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains specific active anti-inflammatory ingredients. This is one of my personal favorites as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Bromelain: This enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form but eating fresh pineapple, including some of the bromelain-rich stem, may also be helpful.
- Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. I have used this for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards. I used a topical preparation for this.
- Evening primrose, black currant, and borage oils: These contain the essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmits pain signals to your brain.
- Medical cannabis has a long history as a natural analgesic.23 At present, 20 US states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. Its medicinal qualities are due to high amounts (about 10-20 percent) of cannabidiol (CBD), medicinal terpenes, and flavanoids. As discussed in this previous post, varieties of cannabis exist that are very low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive component of marijuana that makes you feel "stoned"—and high in medicinal CBD. The Journal of Pain,24 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis.
- Hot and cold packs, and other mind-body techniques can also result in astonishing pain relief without any drugs.
- Grounding, or walking barefoot on the earth, may also provide a certain measure of pain relief by combating inflammation.
By Dr. Mercola
Demand for food at cheaper prices has dramatically altered the entire food chain. Today, food production revolves around efficiency—the ability to produce more for less.
This mindset has significant ramifications for both animal and human health, and the environment.
Today, nearly 65 billion animals worldwide, including cows, chickens, and pigs, are crammed into confined animal feeding operations known as CAFOs. These animals are imprisoned and tortured in crowded, unhealthy, unsanitary, and cruel conditions.
As noted by the Cornucopia Institute,1 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the US. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.
Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high-quality nutrition, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock bottom prices.
A typical poultry CAFO measuring 490 feet by 45 feet can hold at least 30,000 chickens or more. Animal Welfare Guidelines permit a stocking density that gives each full-grown chicken an amount of space equivalent to an 8.5-inch by 11-inch piece of paper.
An example of a poultry CAFO can be seen in the video above. It's a short clip from the film Food Inc. Sickness is the norm for animals raised in these CAFOs—the large-scale factory farms on which 99 percent of American chickens come from.
These animals are also typically fed genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans, which is a far cry from their natural diet of seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
This unnatural diet further exacerbates disease promulgation. Processing byproducts such as chicken feathers and other animal parts can also be added to the feed.
To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding, lack of vitamin D (as CAFO chickens may never see the light of day), and an unnatural diet, the animals are routinely fed antibiotics (hormones, on the other hand, are not permitted in American-raised chickens).
Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to human health, and contaminate the environment when they run off into lakes, rivers, aquifers, and drinking water. According to a landmark "Antibiotic Resistance Threat Report" published by the CDC,2 two million Americans become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of them die as a direct result of those infections.
Research suggests you have a 50/50 chance of buying meat tainted with drug-resistant bacteria when you buy it from your local grocery store. In some cases, the risk may be even greater.
Last year, using data collected by the federal agency called NARMS (National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System), the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found antibiotic-resistant bacteria in:
- 81 percent of ground turkey
- 69 percent of pork chops
- 55 percent of ground beef
- 39 percent of raw chicken parts
Despite the well-documented health and environmental hazards, most consumers are still unaware that well over 90 percent of all chicken meat and eggs sold in the US come from CAFOs.
Most people are also unaware that these cheap CAFO foods are very different, from a nutritional standpoint, from animals raised on pasture, and that while they may be inexpensive at the checkout line, there are significant hidden costs associated with this kind of food production.
As discussed in the featured article,3 the hidden costs of cheap factory farmed chicken can be divided into three categories:
- Ethical costs: Research has shown that chickens are not only quite smart, they experience suffering just as animals higher up in the food chain—including you.
"Chickens have nervous systems similar to ours, and when we do things to them that are likely to hurt a sensitive creature, they show behavioral and physiological responses that are like ours.
When stressed or bored, chickens show what scientists call 'stereotypical behavior,' or repeated futile movements, like caged animals who pace back and forth," Cornucopia writes.
- Environmental costs: CAFOs are notorious for producing massive amounts of offensive waste that disturbs and pollutes the local ecosystem.
The featured article references a number of areas in which residents are battling nauseating odors and infestations of flies, rats, mice, intestinal parasites, and other disturbing health effects. As stated by Cornucopia:
"Tyson produces chicken cheaply because it passes many costs on to others. Some of the cost is paid by people who can't enjoy being outside in their yard because of the flies and have to keep their windows shut because of the stench. Some is paid by kids who can't swim in the local streams. Some is paid by those who have to buy bottled water because their drinking water is polluted. Some is paid by people who want to be able to enjoy a natural environment with all its beauty and rich biological diversity.
These costs are, in the terms used by economists, 'externalities' because the people who pay them are external to the transaction between the producer and the purchaser... In theory, to eliminate this market failure, Tyson should fully compensate everyone adversely affected by its pollution. Then its chicken would no longer be so cheap."
- Human health costs: Besides the health ramifications suffered by those who happen to live near a CAFO and are exposed to the environmental contamination caused by these factory farms, cheap CAFO chicken and eggs are also taking a hidden toll on your health when you eat them.
In part because their nutrition is inherently inferior; in part because they're contaminated with antibiotics; and in part because they raise your risk of contracting a foodborne illness. Most recently, Foster Farms and Kirkland chicken brands issued recalls4 for Salmonella contamination that has affected hundreds of consumers across America since March 2013.
Recalled items have "use or freeze by" dates ranging from March 17, 2014 to March 31, 2014. The identifying plant marks on the recalled products are P-6137, P-6137A, or P-7632. You can find this plant mark inside the USDA mark of inspection. One of Foster Farms' processing plants was also shut down by government mandate5 after cockroaches were discovered during a Food Safety inspection. And last fall, yet another of its plants were threatened with closure due to the presence of Salmonella contamination.6
Your risk of foodborne illness is magnified if you fail to follow safe handling instructions. For example, washing your chicken increases your risk of food poisoning, as it allows dangerous campylobacter bacteria to spread.7, 8 As reported by Fox News:
"When washed, campylobacter from raw chicken can be transferred into water droplets, which may splash onto neighboring surfaces, hands, clothing, and cooking utensils. If the campylobacter bacteria are ingested directly or via unwashed cutting boards and utensils, they can cause campylobacteriosis, characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, cramping, and fever."
Another important safety tip is to designate separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. Do not cut vegetables on the same cutting board you just used to prepare your chicken (or other meats). Besides avoiding cross contamination in your kitchen, also make sure you cook the chicken thoroughly, to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria.
CAFOs represent a corporate-controlled system characterized by large-scale, centralized, low profit-margin production, processing, and distribution systems. It's important to realize that the factory farm system is NOT a system that ensures food safety and protects human health. On the contrary, it makes the food system far more vulnerable to pathogenic contaminations that have the capacity to kill—both the livestock, and the people who eat them.
For example, over the past year, nearly 10 percent of the entire swine population in the US has been wiped out by a highly lethal virus called Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDv), which has been—at least in part—traced back to pig's blood used in piglet feed. In this case, the virus does not affect humans. But it's a valuable demonstration of how fragile the system becomes when you veer too far from the natural order of things.
Besides everything mentioned already, the factory feeding model also involves the mixing of animal parts (in this case, blood) from a large number of animals, which is then fed to large numbers of animals—the meat from which in turn are again mixed together in large processing plants, before it's ultimately sold in grocery stores across the nation. All this mixing and cross-contamination allows for pathogens to contaminate huge amounts of food products, and is the reason why a single food contamination can spread so far and wide, affecting people across multiple states.
Processing plant (i.e. plants where meat is cut or milk is pasteurized, for example) are primary culprits when it comes to the spread of pathogens. Due to regulations, traditional farmer-to-consumer practices have been outlawed. Now processors run the show and cut out the farmer's share, which has decimated small farmers and created this industrialized, disease-promoting mess.
The weaknesses of the factory farm model are usually overlooked during food safety discussions. Instead, small-scale raw food producers—and raw dairy producers in particular—are targeted and vilified as sources of dangerous pathogens that threaten human health. Such attacks are completely out of order and do nothing to improve food safety on the whole, as the PRIMARY sources of pathogenic contamination actually originate in CAFOs, large-scale butchering and processing plants, and processed food manufacturing plants, where multiple ingredients are mixed together.
For example, late last year, Chobani Greek yoghurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.9 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides. In 2011, Cargill recalled a whopping 36 million pounds of ground turkey10 after an antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella in the meat was linked to 107 illnesses and one death.
Remarkably, as explained in a previous Food Safety News article,11 a large-scale meat producer can have 50 percent of its samples test positive for Salmonella, and still get the green light of approval from the USDA! When it hits 51 percent contamination, the meat is tagged "unsafe." But even at that point, USDA testing simply continues until illness is reported. This is factory farmed food safety for you...
Meanwhile, a small organic farmer will notice a health problem with an animal in his herd long before it gets sent for slaughter, and he can then treat that individual animal as necessary. And, should a pathogenic outbreak occur on a farm, the risk of public exposure is limited by the fact that the animal products are sold locally; they're not shipped long distances and mixed in with others. This is why a food borne outbreak on an organic farm may affect one or two people, whereas an outbreak originating from a processing plant can affect hundreds, or even thousands. One pasteurized milk contamination sickened 200,000 people!12
If food safety, optimal nutrition and disease prevention really matters, the way forward is to shift into a socially responsible, small-scale system where independent producers and processors focus on providing food for their local and regional markets. This alternative produces high-quality food, and supports farmers who produce healthy, meat, eggs, and dairy products using humane methods. And it's far easier on the environment.
True free-range chickens and eggs come from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture, where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms. Keep in mind that when it comes to labels such as "free-range" and "natural," there are loopholes that allow the commercial egg industry to call eggs from their industrial egg laying facilities "free-range," so don't be fooled.
By far, the vast majority of food at your local supermarket comes from these polluting, inhumane farm conglomerations. If you want to stop supporting them, you first need to find a new place to shop. Your best source for pastured chicken (and fresh eggs) is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. If you live in an urban area, visiting a local farmer's market is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality chicken and eggs. Again, free-range pastured chickens should be allowed outside, and to eat insects. To see how this looks in the real world, please watch my video below with farmer Joel Salatin.
If you really want to be sure your food is healthy and safe, it would be best to avoid grocery stores as much as possible, as conventionally-raised livestock, including chickens, are far from ideal. The more we all make it a point to only buy food from a source we know and trust, the faster factory farming will become a shameful practice of the past. Farmers and lovers of real food show us that change is possible. Here are a few suggestions for how you can take affirmative action to protect your and your family's health:
- Buy local products whenever possible. Otherwise, buy organic and fair-trade products.
- Shop at your local farmers market, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or buy from local grocers and co-ops committed to selling local foods. The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a humane, sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
Support restaurants and food vendors that buy locally produced food. Avoid genetically engineered (GMO) foods. Buying certified organic ensures your food is non-GM. Cook, can, ferment, dry, and freeze. Return to the basics of cooking, and pass these skills on to your children. Grow your own garden, or volunteer at a community garden. Teach your children how to garden and where their food comes from. Volunteer and/or financially support an organization committed to promoting a sustainable food system. Get involved in your community. Influence what your child eats by engaging the school board. Effect city policies by learning about zoning and attending city council meetings. Learn about the federal policies that affect your food choice, and let your congressperson know what you think. Spread the word! Share this article with your friends, family, and everyone else you know.
By Dr. Mercola
Four in 10 US homes are cell-phone only, meaning they’ve ditched their landlines entirely.1 This is twice the rate in 2009, and a sign of just how integrated cell-phone use is in our culture.
Among certain demographics, the reliance on cell phones as the only household phone is even higher. For instance, more than 65 percent of adults aged 25-29 live in households with only cell phones, along with nearly 60 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds.
The convenience comes at a price, however, especially if you’re planning to have children, or already have them.
A systematic review and meta-analysis looked into the impact of low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR) – the type emitted by cell phones – on sperm quality, both in the lab and among male patients at fertility clinics.
Their analysis of 10 such studies showed that exposure to EMR from cell phones lowered sperm motility by 8 percent and sperm viability by 9 percent.2 Previous studies have also found that cell phone radiation can affect men's sperm count, and the quality and motility of their sperm. One such study, published in PLOS One found:3
"RF-EMR in both the power density and frequency range of mobile phones enhances mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation by human spermatozoa, decreasing the motility and vitality of these cells while stimulating DNA base adduct formation and, ultimately DNA fragmentation.
These findings have clear implications for the safety of extensive mobile phone use by males of reproductive age, potentially affecting both their fertility and the health and wellbeing of their offspring."
During the 2013 discussion “Cell Phones & Wi-Fi – Are Children, Fetuses and Fertility at Risk?,” leading experts from top universities further reported:4
“There is a direct relationship between duration of cell phone use and sperm count decline. Sperm count is reduced by half in men who carry cell phones in their pants pockets for four hours per day. The motility of the sperm is also impaired.
The testicular barrier, that protects sperm, is the most sensitive of tissues in the body, and is 100x more absorbent. Besides sperm count and function, the mitochondrial DNA of sperm are damaged 3x more if exposed to cell phone radiation.
…DNA mutations have been linked more to damage on the male side in research from Iceland, the assumption being that male sperm is more vulnerable than female eggs, which are more protected. Mutations increase with the age of the father, and more autism and schizophrenia increase with the age of the father.”
The data suggest men who plan to father children, in particular, may want to reconsider carrying their cell phones on their belts or in their pocket, in close proximity to their reproductive organs. In addition, both men and women have a number of other sensitive organs in that general area, including your liver, kidneys, colon, and bladder—all of which are susceptible to radiation.
Dr. Devra Davis, one of the most well-respected and credentialed researchers on the dangers of cell phones, and founder and president of Environmental Health Trust, warned at the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) meeting that Wi-Fi use might cause cancer.
In particular, Dr. Davis warned about the risks to pregnant women and their unborn children, noting that prenatal animal studies have shown exposure to radiation from cell phones:
- Altered DNA
- Altered brain metabolism
- Compromised spinal cords
- Affected learning abilities
Children’s brains contain more liquid than adults’, which impacts the amount of radiation absorbed (children absorb far more). Among teens who use cell phones from a young age, the risk of brain cancer is about four to five times higher than that of teens who didn’t use cellphones.
Dr. Davis also warned about the increased cancer risks to those who live near cell towers, and even the potential dangers of having Wi-Fi in schools. She said:
“We should not rely on proof in a form of death or a disease before taking action… we should rather look at evidence that shows the risks. We now have strong evidence that shows wireless radiation is a possible carcinogen, if not a definite carcinogen.
…A number of well-designed studies indicate that cellphone use increases cancer risk. Cellphones change the brain. Antennas for cellphones are continually searching for signals to send and receive information. The body or brain absorbs about half the radiation emitted from the phone at any time.”
Dr. Davis compared the radiation from cell phones to the radiation from a microwave oven, noting that power level is the only difference. That being said, it’s not an issue of heating per se.
The SAR ("Specific Absorption Rate") value is a measure of the maximum tested power of the cell phone and its potential for heating tissues. The SAR rating itself is nothing new. In fact, the SAR values of phones have been available for some time, typically listed in fine print somewhere in your owner's manual, on the manufacturer's website, and in the FCC's databases.
But the SAR level only measures the power density of a phone, estimating the radiation penetration into the head using a plexiglass head of a simulated 200-pound man. This is just an estimate, and it is only an estimate of one of the components of risk from cell phones – the heat.
It does not gauge the risk from the frequencies of the cell phone, the erratic pulsing and modulation of the signals, or the magnetic fields from batteries, which is sorely needed, since it’s now apparent that cell phones and Wi-Fi trigger changes even without heating tissues.
According to Martin Pall, professor emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University, more than 20,000 publications in the scientific literature show significant biological effects at exposures well within safety standards, including about 4,000 that discuss non-thermal effects.5
Unfortunately, both US and international safety standards are based only on the notion that low-frequency electromagnetic radiation and microwave radiation induce harm by heating.
Dr. Pall found, however, that 23 studies have shown that microwave and other low-frequency EMFs act by activating voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs)6 with “most biological effects being due to elevated intracellular calcium, consequent nitric oxide (NO) elevation, and either peroxynitrite or NO signaling.” He reported on a “whole serious of biological changes” that may be produced by microwave exposures via VGCC activation, including:
Oxidative stress Single and double-stranded breaks in cellular DNA Blood-brain barrier breakdown Greatly depressed melatonin levels and sleep disruption Cancer Male and female infertility Immune dysfunction Neurological dysfunction Cardiac dysfunction
What experts in the area of the biological effects of electromagnetic frequencies and wireless technologies are finding is that there's virtually no doubt that cell phones and related gadgets are capable of causing not only cancer but also contributing to a wide variety of other conditions, from depression and diabetes to heart irregularities and impaired fertility. Researchers have now identified numerous mechanisms of harm, which explain how electromagnetic fields impact your cells and damage your DNA.
One such expert is Dr. Martin Blank, PhD, one of the most experienced researchers of the cellular and molecular effects of electromagnetic fields in the US. He gave an informative speech at the Commonwealth Club of California program, "The Health Effects of Electromagnetic Fields," co-sponsored by ElectromagneticHealth.org. In it, he explained why your DNA, with its “coil of coils” structure, is especially vulnerable to electromagnetic fields of all kinds. As described in the International Journal of Radiation Biology, April 2011, DNA possesses the two structural characteristics of fractal antennas: electronic conduction, and self-symmetry.7
These properties contribute to greater reactivity of DNA to electromagnetic fields than other tissues, making the long-term consequences of repeated microwave exposures to our genetic material of great concern. Dr. Blank is adamant when he says that there is evidence of harm, and that the harm can be significant. He also points out that the science showing harmful effects has been peer-reviewed, published, and that the results have been replicated, evaluated and "judged by scientists capable of judging it."
An analysis of the range of known mechanisms of action, including DNA effects, was published in November 2010 in "Non-Thermal Effects and Mechanisms of Interaction Between Electromagnetic Fields and Living Matter.”8 Furthermore, the mobile industry's own research in the 13-country Interphone study showed a 40 percent increased risk of brain cancer from 1,640 or more hours of cell phone use,9 and independent Swedish research published in 2007 showed a 540 percent increased risk of brain cancer from greater than 2,000 hours of cell phone use.10
Around the world, many countries are already adopting the Precautionary Principle regarding cell phone use. Russian officials have issued the recommendation that all children under the age of 18 should avoid using cell phones entirely. The UK, Israel, Belgium, Germany, India, France, and Finland also urge citizens to err on the side of caution with respect to their children's use of cell phones. Cell phone dangers will one day likely be as well-known as tobacco dangers, but there's going to be a window when people are extremely vulnerable.
And that window is right now. Children are especially vulnerable to damage from cell phone radiation and should not use them at all (or only for very limited amounts). Men and women who want to have healthy children need to take special precautions to protect their reproductive organs and should not keep phones in their front pockets or close to their abdomens. In the US, public warnings are not yet commonplace, but it's still important to protect yourself – and your children. There is plenty of science showing harm to warrant taking action now, and here’s how:11
- Children should not play with radiating cell phones. Young children should not use cell phones except in an emergency. While you can put the phone in “airplane mode,” which disconnects it from Wi-Fi and the Internet, the cell phone still emits magnetic fields from the battery, which have also been shown to have equally important biological consequences. In no cases should children sleep with cell phones, and extreme caution is advised for pregnant women or women hoping to conceive due to the profound long-term impact of environmental factors.
- Limit or eliminate Wi-Fi exposures. If you have a Wi-Fi router, make sure your router is a low-power version, not in a high-use area and keep it turned off as much as possible. Consider putting it on a timer so it is only available during certain hours, and never during sleeping hours.
- Schools should not have Wi-Fi. Cabled/wired connections do not pose the same risks. If there is Wi-Fi, again, it should be limited to the time when the Wi-Fi is specifically needed and not be operating at other times. Ideally, classrooms, school libraries, and gyms should be Wi-Fi-free.
- Resume using landline phones whenever possible. Get rid of your portable phone and use your landline. At the very least, don’t keep your cell phone in your bedroom while you sleep. Be aware even landline phones emit magnetic fields from the speaker, and sensitive people can sometimes feel them, especially on long calls and particularly when using trim phones. Old-fashioned desk phone earpieces offer a greater distance between the speaker and your ear that can make a meaningful difference.
- Keep your cell phone away from your body. Avoid keeping it in your pocket or on your belt. If you’re pregnant, keep your cell phone away from your belly. Keep your phone at the other end of the room or on the seat of the car. Use texting more than talking. A cell phone case for the iPhone is available that filters out a significant portion of radiation (but by no means all the power and frequencies, and other biologically disruptive signal characteristics also remain). There are several options for shielded cell phone cases and holsters at www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
- Use a wired earpiece or headphones with cell phones. Like with landline phones, some people are impacted by the magnetic fields from the speaker in the ear buds, so choose a model with the greatest distance from your ear, or use air tube technology with no electronics near your ear.
- Use caution using your cell phone in your car. Signals bounce around inside your vehicle, and your head is the antenna.
- Opt-out of new utility meters called “smart meters.” Prevent smart meters from being installed in your home whenever possible.
- Avoid using wireless baby monitors, as they all operate on microwave frequency. Look for the old wired monitors.
- Know your exposures. You or your community can purchase an RF meter for about $500 to measure RF in homes, schools, churches, etc. See www.EMFSafetyStore.com.
- Support labeling laws that require cell phone manufacturers to list radiation levels in an obvious place on the packaging and at the retailer.
By Dr. Mercola
The United States lags far behind many other nations when it comes to food safety and nutritional recommendations, and this is perhaps particularly true when it comes to raw milk.
The fact is, large dairy farmers operating under the factory farm model simply cannot produce raw milk safe for human consumption.
They're too large, and therefore end up being hotbeds for pathogenic contamination. They also cannot provide enough open pasture for tens of thousands of cows to continually graze on.
Cleanliness and pasture are critical parameters for producing healthy milk fit for raw consumption. So really, the war on raw milk boils down to control—controlling the competition, which is selling a superior product. It's NOT an issue of safety at all.
In fact, several studies have demonstrated the superior safety of raw milk compared to pasteurized, yet the vilification of raw milk continues unabated—science and statistics be damned...
In sharp contrast to the US, some European nations sell raw milk in vending machines! And contrary to popular (American) belief, the bodies are NOT piling up as a result. As reported by Modern Farmer:1
"Europe's embrace of raw milk vending machines isn't new. Such daring dispensers of unpasteurized dairy can be found in France, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands and, as one map2 shows, all over the place in Italy."
The safety measures are remarkably simple. If the temperature of the milk rises above the regulated level, the machine will stop dispensing milk, and the farmer is notified via text message. The milk spout is sterilized by a UV light between each purchase.
In the US, several states have outright banned the sale of raw milk for fear of contaminated milk despite the fact that, statistically, such fears are completely and udderly unfounded (pun intended).
Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD,3 featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows that you are actually about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk!
The vast majority of foodborne illnesses in the US are linked to factory farmed and highly processed foods, not raw foods. For example, late last year, Chobani Greek yogurt was recalled following reports of gastrointestinal illness.4 The yogurt, which is pasteurized and not raw, was found to be contaminated with a fungus called Murcor circinelloides.
In 2011, Cargill recalled a whopping 36 million pounds of ground turkey.5 An antibiotic-resistant strain of Salmonella in the meat ended up causing 107 illnesses and one death.
An investigation revealed that this strain of Salmonella had been found four times over the course of one year, yet the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), took no action against the producer. And, from the time the first illness was reported and the recall took effect, five months passed, allowing over a hundred more people to become ill from the contaminated meat.
A major part of the problem is that, despite being in charge of food safety oversight of meat and poultry, the USDA does not have the authority to take action against a meat or poultry producer—even if the permissible limits of pathogenic contamination are repeatedly exceeded.
Clearly, this does not bode well for food safety. As explained in a previous Food Safety News article discussing this case:6
"For example, take ground turkey. When USDA tests for Salmonella, they take individual 1-pound samples on 52 consecutive days of production. Sometimes it takes a year to complete a set — and the establishment gets a heads up that a sample is going to be taken!
In addition, if 26 or fewer are positive, the sample set passes. If more than 26 are positive, the sample set fails.
Basically, these are like open book exams — not pop quizzes — where a 50 percent is still passing! And even when a sample set fails, USDA does another set of testing. And they keep doing testing until a set passes."
What this means is that if 50 percent of the samples are contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, it's deemed "safe." But if it hits 51 percent, it's tagged as "unsafe." And testing simply continues until illness is reported. What sense does this make?
Yet anytime the lack of food safety is discussed, the focus is suddenly turned to raw milk! It's almost as though US agencies are using raw milk as a scapegoat to keep you from looking at the real problem, which is that factory farms produce inherently unsafe foods. It's like a propaganda machine sleight of hand maneuver...
Mark McAfee, CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy and an internationally recognized expert in raw milk production and safety, has on numerous occasions tried to set the record straight with US authorities, to no avail. In a 2012 letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he writes:7
"As a grade A producer of retailed-approved raw milk in California, I find your raw milk page filled with highly erroneous and very misleading information... In California, we have legal retail-approved raw milk in 400 stores consumed by 75,000 consumers each week. This retail legal raw milk is tested and state inspected and far exceeds pasteurized milk product standards without any heat or processing.
It is clean raw milk from a single source dairy. There have been no deaths from raw milk in California in 37 years. Two years ago, I submitted a FOIA request to the CDC to request data on the two deaths that the CDC database claims were from raw milk. The data I received back from the CDC showed that in fact there had been no death from raw milk at all.
The two deaths had been from illegal Mexican bath tub cheese and not raw milk from any place in America. Why does the CDC persist in publishing this erroneous information? ...The last people to die from milk died from pasteurized milk at Whittier farms in 2007, not from raw milk."
While both the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC warn that raw milk can carry disease-causing bacteria, they completely overlook the fact that these bacteria are the result of industrial farming practices that lead to diseased animals, which may then in turn produce contaminated milk.
They make no distinction whatsoever between disease-riddled factory farmed milk and the milk from clean, healthy, grass-fed cows. This is indeed a key issue, as raw milk from a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO) IS dangerous and must be pasteurized in order to be fit to drink, whereas raw milk from cows raised on pasture IS NOT dangerous and DOES NOT need pasteurization. The source of the milk makes all the difference when it comes to raw milk.
The CDC also fails to inform visitors in its website that legal raw milk producers oftentimes adhere to stricter safety standards than CAFOs do. California, specifically, has its own special set of standards for raw milk for human consumption, in which farmers must meet or exceed pasteurized milk standards, without pasteurizing.
Instead of giving you the facts, the CDC lists raw milk as one of the riskiest foods in America, without any real proof to back up such a proclamation. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has even called for a complete ban on raw milk because it is so "dangerous." But on what do they base their assumptions? On the CDC's unproven opinion? If safety was truly the issue, then pasteurized dairy would be banned, as that's what's causing the most disease.
So you've got to ask yourself, is this really about our personal safety or the safety of the milk industry? Eating directly from the farm is prohibited by industry so they can control our food supply. They make it very difficult for farmers to sell directly to us, whether dairy products or meat products. They claim this is done for our safety, but it's really just a plot to control our food system.
"The FDA does not mention raw milk on their top 10 most risky foods in America list," McAfee notes. "Pasteurized ice cream and pasteurized cheeses make the top 10 risky foods list... According to the Cornell study performed on CDC data, there were 1,100 illnesses caused by raw milk between 1973 and 2009. There were 422,000 illnesses caused by pasteurized milk. No deaths from raw milk and at least 50 deaths from pasteurized milk or pasteurized cheese—the CDC left out the 29 or more people that died from the pasteurized Jalisco cheese listeria incident in 1985."
The CDC, as McAfee notes, is absolutely riddled with bias. While most of it is obvious, some of the bias is hidden by the way the CDC counts its statistics. For example, it counts outbreaks rather than the number of people affected by the outbreak. In one outbreak caused by pasteurized milk, 200,000 people fell ill! Yet it's only counted as one incident. Its website also makes no mention whatsoever to studies showing how raw organic milk differs, nutritionally, from CAFO milk, and how it improves health. For example, raw milk is:
Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract High in omega-3 and low omega-6, which is the beneficial ratio between these two essential fats Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These enzymes are destroyed during pasteurization, making pasteurized milk much harder to digest Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live Lactobacilli Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism Rich in healthy unoxidized cholesterol Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible It also contains phosphatase, an enzyme that aids and assists in the absorption of calcium in your bones, and lipase enzyme, which helps to hydrolyze and absorb fats
Pasteurizing milk, on the other hand, destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamins, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria, and actually promotes pathogens.
In the video above, I interview Max Kane, a local raw dairy farmer from whom our office purchases a variety of raw dairy products from. Max was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 10. Through years of study, he eventually healed himself through nutrition and lifestyle changes. He now consumes only 100 percent raw, 100 percent organic, and 100 percent pasture-raised dairy products. Raw dairy makes up about 50 percent of his diet.
"The cream is perhaps the most important part of the milk because the cream is where all the energy is that's needed to digest the milk protein casein," he explains. "That's why it's important to consume full-fat dairy products instead of non-fat or skim dairy products. The cream is also responsible for regulating the sugar absorption into your blood. It decreases the likelihood of insulin spikes. The cream naturally floats to the top of the milk, and it can be skimmed right off the top. Traditionally, people would use the cream line as a visual aid to help them assess the quality of the milk...
Homogenization [is] an industry process that fractionates the cream molecule, the fat molecule, into small little pieces. This was done for the purpose of making the cream line non-detectable to the human eye... That's how they standardized the milk, by taking away the viewable quality assessment from the consumer, and ultimately left the consumer with no real visual way to assess the quality and the value of the milk."
The quality of grass-fed milk, butter, and yogurt can easily be ascertained by its color. The carotenoids in the plants cows eat on pasture gives grass-fed products a more yellow-orange cast. When cows are raised on dried grass or hay, opposed to fresh-growing grass, you end up with a whiter product, which is an indication of reduced carotenoid and antioxidant content. Raw milk yogurt is also very thick and creamy, compared to pasteurized commercial varieties. The same goes for pastured eggs, which can be ascertained by their deep orange yolk. CAFO chickens, which never go outdoors, and are fed grains rather than bugs and insects, produce eggs with pale yellow yolks.
ABOUT Max Kane - Max Kane was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 10, and through years of study, healed himself through nutrition and lifestyle changes. 100% of his dairy products and over 50% of his other foods are purchased directly from farms. When it comes to dairy, he only consumes 100% raw, 100% organic, 100% grass-fed. Dairy makes up about 50% of his diet. After realizing the healing power of fresh farm foods, Kane teamed up with Amagisoft to create FarmMatch.com.
ABOUT FarmMatch -- It's free to create an account, but no account is required to use the system.
FarmMatch is built over the Google mapping system and makes local food searchable worldwide, making it easy to find a local farmer. Not only are specific farm products searchable, but products are searchable by quality standards as well… 100% grass-fed, non-GMO, etc. You can connect with farmers and buy online as well. The order management system is consumer funded. Buyers pay a $2.95 fee when placing an order or can opt into a $3.95/month plan that allows unlimited ordering with no $2.95 fees. Through these small affordable consumer fees, FarmMatch delivers a state-of-the-art software suit to every small scale farmer at no charge to the farmer. The FarmMatch business model not only helps individual small farmers, but it also lifts the entire local food movement as a whole.
The fight over raw milk stands as a symbol of the much larger fight for food freedom. Who gets to decide what you eat? You? Or the FDA? If the FDA and other government agencies are allowed to impose their view of "safe food" on consumers, raw milk won't be the only thing lost—all food will be pasteurized, irradiated, and genetically engineered. The effort to reclaim our right to buy and consume raw milk is leading the way for everyone who wants to be able to obtain the food of their choice from the source of their choice. So please, get involved! I urge you to get involved with the following action plan to protect your right to choose your own foods:
- Get informed: Visit www.farmtoconsumer.org or click here to sign up for action alerts. To review the raw milk laws in your state, see the Farm-to-Consumer.org's Raw Milk Nation page.
- Join the fight for your rights: The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is the only organization of its kind. This 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization provides a legal defense for farmers who are being pursued by the government for distributing foods directly to consumers. Your donations, although not tax deductible, will be used to support the litigation, legislative, and lobbying efforts of the FTCLDF.
- Support your local farmers: Getting your raw milk from a local organic farm or co-op is one of the best ways to ensure you're getting high-quality milk. You can locate a raw milk source near you at the Campaign for Real Milk Website. California residents can find raw milk retailers by using the store locator available at www.OrganicPastures.com.
By Dr. Mercola
You've heard the advice before: stay out of the sun or use plenty of sunscreen to block cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays. But while it's true that excessive sun exposure resulting in sunburn may increase ayour risk of skin cancer, it's a fallacy to believe that sun exposure should be avoided altogether.
The key is to find the right balance, where you're exposing plenty of skin to the sun's rays, but not staying out to the point of getting burned. Sun exposure can only be therapeutic when it's done in appropriate and measured timeframes.
Excessive sun exposure provides no benefit and can only result in damage like sunburn, which is an inflammatory response in your skin to UVB overexposure. However, UVB exposure is precisely what you want, in appropriate amounts, because when UVB strikes the surface of your skin, your skin converts a cholesterol derivative into vitamin D3.
The benefits of optimizing your vitamin D stores cannot be overstated, and I've discussed this in a large number of articles spanning more than a decade. Ironically, one of the benefits is actually a significant reduction in cancer risk—both skin cancer and many other types of cancer.
Most recently, researchers1, 2 again confirmed that adequate vitamin D stores increases the survival chances for bowel cancer patients. Another recent study3 found that low vitamin D levels increases the risk for advanced liver fibrosis in patients with hepatitis C.
Research continues to support that vitamin D truly is a "master key" for optimal health and disease prevention. This is why it's so important to strike the right balance. You need sun exposure—but not so much that you burn your skin.
So, how can you get the benefits without raising your risk for skin damage? It's important to remember that the sun can either be helpful or harmful depending on what type of ultraviolet light you're getting. The ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths:
- Ultraviolet A (UVA) – Considered the unhealthy wavelength because it penetrates your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage. Sunblocks containing SPF filter out the beneficial UVB, not these cancer-causing UVAs, unless they also contain a UVA blocking ingredient.
As a result, wearing sunscreen may prevent you from burning, as excessive UVBs are the chief cause of sunburn, but you still receive a large amount of skin-damaging radiation. Moreover, UVA rays are constantly available, even on cloudy days. There are likely some benefits to UVA in moderation that we do not fully understand, as there appears to be with many spectrums emitted from the sun.
- Ultraviolet B (UVB) – This is the 'healthy' wavelength that helps your skin produce vitamin D. While both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, UVB does so far more rapidly.
Contrary to UVAs, which are more readily available, UVB rays are low in morning and evening, and high at midday or solar noon, making this the most optimal time for vitamin D production (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.). Ironically, this is the timeframe most mainstream experts warn you to stay out of the sun.
As a general rule of thumb, to optimize your vitamin D levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun – including your legs, back, arms, and chest. For optimal benefit, strive to have at least 40 percent of your skin uncovered.
The key is knowing when to cover back up. You want your skin to turn the lightest shade of pink. This can occur in as little as 10-20 minutes, depending on your skin tone and other factors, such as location and cloud cover.
At that point, you've reached your skin's equilibrium or saturation point, and your body will not produce any more vitamin D. It can take three to six times longer for darkly pigmented skin to reach the equilibrium concentration of skin vitamin D.
You can create as much as 20,000 units of vitamin D per day this way. Best of all, your body has this built-in feedback loop that prevents you from overdosing on the nutrient when you get it via sun exposure.
If you're taking supplemental vitamin D3, not only do you need to get your level tested regularly to ensure you're taking enough to maintain optimal levels (between 50 and 70 ng/ml), you also need to be mindful of increasing your intake of vitamin K2. When using the sun, having and maintaining a tan can serve as a "visual measure" of your vitamin D status.
The charts below display the likelihood of vitamin D synthesis across the U.S. by month.
According to experts in the field, you can likely get sufficient amounts of UVB radiation when the sun is as low as 30 degrees above the horizon, or whenever the temperature is warm enough to expose large amounts of skin. Dr. Ola Engelsen with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research has noted that the sun must be more than 15 degrees above the horizon during cloudless conditions, in order to provide beneficial UVBs. He also developed a helpful calculator4 that takes a number of factors into consideration to give you an estimate of how many minutes of exposure you need to produce the equivalent of 1,000 IUs of vitamin D.
It's important to remember that there's no additional benefit to staying in the sun past the point of "pinking." For some light-skinned individuals with minimal previous sun exposure, this could only be a few minutes. You're only raising your risk of sunburn, which is something you definitely want to avoid. The risk of sunburn is higher if you have a lighter complexion. Telltale signs of sunburn include:
- Redness of the skin or erythema
- Skin that's warm or hot to the touch
- Discomfort when skin gets touched or rubbed against clothes
- Peeling or flaking of the skin
- Extreme dryness or wrinkling of the skin
These symptoms are frequently not immediately visible, but become obvious a few hours after overexposure. They tend to be most painful in the first 24 hours. Like ordinary burns, sunburns are classified into three degrees: first, second, and third. First- and second-degree sunburns are fairly temporary and are manageable at home. In third-degree sunburns, infection-prone skin blisters, fever, and chills can occur, and immediate medical attention is recommended to avoid complications.
The benefits of sun exposure definitely outweigh its risks, but you do need to be smart about it. Taking a few sensible steps to avoid sunburn will ensure you're maximizing the benefits while limiting any potential adverse effects. To continuously enjoy the positive effects of sun exposure without getting burned, I recommend following these safety tips:
- Protect your face and eyes by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a cap. The skin around these areas is much thinner than other areas of your body and is more at risk for cosmetic photo damage and premature wrinkling. If it's too hot to protect your skin by covering with light clothing, be sure to use a broad spectrum sunscreen on your skin - these products often contain zinc.
- Limit your initial exposure and slowly work your way up. If you are a fairly light-skinned individual who tends to burn easily, limit your initial exposure to just a few minutes, especially if it is in the middle of summer. The more tanned your skin gets, the longer you can stay in the sun without burning. If it is early or late in the season and/or you are a dark-skinned individual, you could likely safely have 30 minutes on your initial exposure.
- Build an internal sunscreen with beneficial antioxidants. Astaxanthin – a potent antioxidant – has been found to offer effective protection against sun damage when taken as a daily supplement. Do note that it takes a couple of weeks for it to build up in your system, so you cannot simply take it the day you're hitting the beach. Astaxanthin can also be used topically. You can make your own lotion by adding astaxanthin to organic coconut oil, be careful of staining your clothing as astaxanthin is a very dark red. Other helpful antioxidants include proanthocyanidins, resveratrol, and lycopene.
- Moisturize your skin naturally. Before sunbathing, apply organic coconut oil on the exposed areas of your skin (as noted above, you could add some astaxanthin to the oil for an added measure of protection). This will not only moisturize your skin to prevent dryness, but will also give you additional metabolic benefits.
The amount of antioxidants you get from your diet actually plays a major role in how you effectively avoid sunburn. The more antioxidants you have in your skin, the lower your risk of getting burned. They act as an internal type of sunscreen and allow you to maximize your sun exposure while minimizing the risks. Carotenoids, for instance, are critical to the photosynthetic process and protect a plant or organism from damage by light and oxygen.
By consuming plants or organisms that contain these pigments, you gain a similar protective benefit. Vitamins A and C are also important – your cells use them to regulate both light absorption and protection against sun overexposure. Besides astaxanthin, which is taken as a supplement, dietary sources of effective antioxidants include whole fresh vegetables and fruits such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Although the exact pathway by which antioxidants help protect your skin from burning has yet to be elucidated, it's most likely related to the antioxidants' anti-inflammatory properties, as sunburn is actually an inflammatory process.
Taking measures to prevent sunburn from occurring is clearly your best course of action. But should you end up getting overexposed, the following strategies can help speed the healing of your skin, and minimize the damage. One of the most effective first-aid strategies I know of is to apply raw aloe vera gel topically to the burn. It's loaded with powerful glyconutrients that accelerate healing. Aloe is also easy to grow if you live in a southern location, and is an excellent medicinal plant to keep in your home garden (or keep one in a pot on your balcony).
You need to be careful of the species as many have very flat leaves with virtually no gel. The best plants have the thickest leaves. They are relatively easy to propagate and you can turn one plant into six or more in under a year. I now have about four dozen aloe vera plants on my property, which I use both for oral and topical use. After cutting the leaf from the plant, you want to first cut off the prickly edges. Then, using a peeler, peel the skin off one side. You can now rub the jelly side directly on your sunburn. For a demonstration, see the following video. Apply it five times a day until your condition improves.
Applying cold compresses to the sunburned area can also help lessen the burning pain. To avoid further irritation, do not wash sunburned skin with harsh soaps. Speaking of water, you also want to make sure to stay properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Young children need to be carefully monitored for signs of dehydration.5
Avoid applying petroleum jelly on your sunburn, as it may exacerbate the burn. It is also a petrochemical that is loaded with toxins you don't want in your system. I would suggest never applying petroleum jelly topically. Also, it's inadvisable to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications or painkillers in most cases, as they may simply worsen your condition. Besides aloe vera, there are plenty of other topical food-based remedies that can help ease the pain and speed healing. For example, you can use:
Potatoes - Potatoes have starch-based compounds that may help soothe sunburn. Chop an uncooked potato into slices, and rub or pat down a piece on your sore sunburned spots. You can also try grating a cold raw potato and applying it as a poultice. Honey - The ancient Egyptians were known to use honey as a topical salve for skin burns. Just make sure you're using high-quality honey, such as raw organic honey, or Manuka honey, which has very potent medicinal qualities. The "Grade A" type honey you find in most grocery stores is more akin to high fructose corn syrup, which is more likely to increase infection, and should never be used to treat topical wounds. Vinegar - The acetic acid found in vinegar is said to reduce pain, itching, and inflammation. Add a cup of apple cider vinegar into your bath water and soak your burned skin into it. It can also work like a natural aspirin. Simply dab a bit of white vinegar on to your sunburn for 20 minutes of instant pain relief. Green tea - Green tea's catechin and tannic acid help soothe sunburn pain. Soak a couple of tea bags in cool water. You can either use the tea bags themselves as a cold compress on the burnt areas, or wash your face gently with the cold tea extract. Studies also suggest that drinking just two cups of green tea a day can provide additional sun-protective benefits. Cucumbers - With cucumber's cooling effect, simply putting it on top of your sunburns is guaranteed to provide instant soothing effects. You can also use it as a paste by mashing it and applying it on your skin. Lettuce - To take advantage of lettuce's painkilling benefits, boil its leaves in water. After straining, allow the liquid to cool. Keep it chilled inside the refrigerator. Using clean organic cotton balls, carefully apply the lettuce juice over the affected area. Calendula - It has natural anti-inflammatory and healing properties that are especially beneficial for burns. Although there are many calendula creams sold in drugstores today, you can make your own calendula poultice using fresh calendula blossoms for faster healing of your sunburns. Coriander oil - For a soothing effect, use it as an essential oil by lightly rubbing it onto your sunburn.
As noted earlier, sunscreens effectively protect against UVB, which is the main cause of sunburn, and are classified into their level of sun protection factor or SPF:
- SPF 15 - Blocks 93 percent of UVB radiation
- SPF 30 - Blocks up to 97 percent of UVB radiation
- SPF 50 - Blocks up to 98 percent of UVB radiation
This means that when you apply sunblock, even at a lower SPF 15, you're effectively eliminating any chance of raising your vitamin D level. And, as mentioned earlier, most sunscreens do not filter out the more damaging UVAs, unless it also contains a UVA block. So you're still being exposed to harmful UVA rays, even if you don't get burned. Besides preventing vitamin D production, sunscreens are problematic for other reasons as well.
Many contain toxic and/or hormone-disrupting ingredients, which migrate through your skin directly into your bloodstream. Products that contain vitamin A and its derivatives, retinol and retinyl palmitate, may also increase the speed at which malignant cells develop. Consumer Reports recently warned6, 7 that parents should stop applying spray-on sunscreens on their kids until more research is done to assess the dangers of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide—two key sunscreen ingredients. According to the report, children may be inhaling these chemicals when the sunscreen is sprayed on.
In my view, sensible sun exposure is so important for optimal health, you're really doing yourself and your kids a disservice by not learning how to do so safely and effectively. A robust and growing body of research (totaling in the neighborhood of 34,000 studies) clearly shows that vitamin D is absolutely critical for disease prevention. Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Incidence of several types of cancer could also be slashed in half.
This is why I am so excited about the D*Action Project by GrassrootsHealth. It is showing how you can take action today on known science with a consensus of experts without waiting for institutional lethargy. It has shown how by combining the science of measurement (of vitamin D levels) with the personal choice of taking action and, the value of education about individual measures that one can truly be in charge of their own health.
In order to spread this health movement to more communities, the project needs your involvement. To participate, simply purchase the D*Action Measurement Kit and follow the registration instructions included. (Please note that 100 percent of the proceeds from the kits go to fund the research project. I do not charge a single dime as a distributor of the test kits.)
As a participant, you agree to test your vitamin D levels twice a year during a five-year study, and share your health status to demonstrate the public health impact of this nutrient. There is a $65 fee every six months for your sponsorship of this research project, which includes a test kit to be used at home, and electronic reports on your ongoing progress. You will get a follow up email every six months reminding you "it's time for your next test and health survey."
By Dr. Mercola
In the US, July is National Watermelon Month, so named not only because a cool, refreshing slice of watermelon represents the epitome of summer, but also because watermelon harvests peak this month.1
Watermelon is now the most-consumed melon in the US (followed by cantaloupe and honeydew). This cousin to cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash is thought to have originated in Egypt close to 5,000 years ago, where it is depicted in hieroglyphics.
Today, upwards of 300 watermelon varieties are grown in the US and Mexico (although only about 50 are popular).2 You may think you know everything there is to know about this summertime fruit, but allow me to surprise you… watermelon is more than just delicious… it’s a super-healthy addition to your diet (in moderation, of course).
You just need to be careful when eating any melon, including watermelon to follow the advice of Wayne Pickering in my interview. Eat melon alone or leave it alone because it will make your stomach groan. So ideally, no food 30 minutes before or after eating melons.
1. Watermelon Has More Lycopene Than Raw Tomatoes
Compared to a large fresh tomato, one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the lycopene (6 milligrams (mg) in watermelon compared to 4 mg in a tomato).3 More on why lycopene is so important shortly…
2. Watermelon Juice May Relieve Muscle Soreness
If you have a juicer, try juicing about one-third of a fresh watermelon and drinking its juice prior to your next workout. This contains a little over one gram of l-citrulline, an amino acid that seems to protect against muscle pain.
One study found that men who drank natural unpasteurized watermelon juice prior to their workouts had reduced muscle soreness 24 hours later compared to those who drank a placebo.4
You do need to be careful with drinking watermelon juice, though, as it contains a significant amount of fructose. It may be better to eat the entire fruit, or opt for these other tips to prevent muscle soreness.
3. Watermelon Is a Fruit and a Vegetable
Remember how watermelon is related to cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash? That’s because it’s part vegetable and part fruit (it’s a sweet, seed-producing plant, after all).5 The other clue that watermelon is both fruit and vegetable? The rind is entirely edible…
4. You Can Eat Watermelon Rind and Seeds
Most people throw away the watermelon rind, but try putting it in a blender with some lime for a healthy, refreshing treat.6 Not only does the rind contain plenty of health-promoting and blood-building chlorophyll, but the rind actually contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh.7
Citrulline is converted to arginine in your kidneys, and not only is this amino acid important for heart health and maintaining your immune system, but it has been researched to have potential therapeutic value in over 100 health conditions.8
While many people prefer seedless watermelon varieties, black watermelon seeds are edible and actually quite healthy. They contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber. (In case you were wondering, seedless watermelons aren’t genetically modified, as they’re the result of hybridization.9)
5. It’s Mostly Water
This might not be surprising, but it’s still a fun fact; watermelon is more than 91 percent water.10 This means that eating watermelon with you on a hot summer day is a tasty way to help you stay hydrated and avoid dehydration (it’s not a substitute for drinking plenty of fresh water, however).
6. Some Watermelon Are Yellow
The Yellow Crimson watermelon has yellow flesh with a sweeter, honey flavor than the more popular pink-fleshed Crimson Sweet. It’s likely that yellow watermelon offers its own unique set of nutritional benefits, but most research to date has focused on the pink-fleshed varieties.11
Watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, with upwards of 6,500 micrograms (6.5 mg) in less than half a cup (the red-fleshed varieties will contain significantly more lycopene than yellow-fleshed watermelon).
Also noteworthy, the lycopene in watermelon appears to be quite stable, with little deterioration occurring even after it’s been cut and stored in the refrigerator for more than two days. In one study, it took about seven days of storage for the lycopene to deteriorate, and then it was only by about 6 percent to 11 percent.12
So what makes lycopene so important? Lycopene's antioxidant activity has long been suggested to be more powerful than that of other carotenoids, such as beta-carotene. In one study, after controlling for other stroke risk factors, such as older age and diabetes, they found that men with the highest blood levels of lycopene were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest.13
A 2014 meta-analysis also revealed that lycopene decreased stroke risk (including stroke occurrence or mortality) by more than 19 percent.14 In addition to lowering your risk of stroke, lycopene has been shown to have potential anti-cancer activity, likely due to its potent antioxidant properties.
A 2014 meta-analysis of 10 studies also showed that dietary lycopene may protect against the risk of ovarian cancer among postmenopausal women.15 There is also some evidence from animal studies that lycopene may help with cancer treatment as well.
One study found that lycopene treatment reduced the growth of brain tumors while another showed frequent lycopene intake suppressed breast tumor growth in mice.16
New research also highlights the role of watermelon nutrients on heart attack prevention, via a significant reduction in blood pressure. Obese study participants who received citrulline and arginine supplements derived from watermelon extract had significant improvements in blood pressure and cardiac stress, both while at rest and undergoing a stressful cold-water test.17 According to the researchers:
“Watermelon supplementation reduced aortic BP [blood pressure] and myocardial oxygen demand during CPT [cold pressor test] and the magnitude of the cold-induced increase in wave reflection in obese adults with hypertension. Watermelon may provide cardioprotection by attenuating cold-induced aortic hemodynamic responses.”
Remember, in your body the citrulline in watermelon is converted into L-arginine, which is a precursor to nitric oxide. Adequate nitric oxide is required to enable you blood vessels to stay relaxed and open for blood flow, which is one reason why it may help lower blood pressure.
L-arginine may also help with erectile dysfunction by helping to relax your blood vessels, including those supplying blood to your penis – and that’s why watermelon is sometimes referred to as “Nature’s Viagra.” In fact, citrulline supplementation has been found to improve erection hardness in men with mild erectile dysfunction.18
What else is watermelon good for? It’s rich in anti-inflammatory substances. For instance, watermelon contains the anti-inflammatory antioxidant lycopene as well as cucurbitacin E, or tripterpenoid, which reduces the activity of the pain and inflammation-causing enzyme cyclooxygenase – the same enzyme blocked by COX-2 inhibitors, which include most NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen. While being very low in calories (about 46 calories in a cup), watermelon also contains an impressive variety of other important nutrients in which many Americans are lacking, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin A
Cutting into a watermelon and finding out it lacks flavor is disappointing. There’s a trick you can use to pick out a ripe watermelon, either from your farmer’s market or your own melon patch. Look for a pale, buttery-yellow spot (not white or green) on the bottom. This is where the watermelon sits on the ground ripening, and it’s one of the best indicators of ripeness you can use (even commercial watermelon pickers use this as a gauge).19 Other tricks for picking a ripe watermelon include:
- Should be heavy for its size
- Smooth rind with a dull top (the top is the side opposite the ground spot)
- The thump test (this is controversial, but ripe watermelon is said to have a hollow bass sound)
Store your watermelon in a cool area (50-60 degrees F) until it’s cut. Cut watermelon should be refrigerated (and be sure to wipe off your watermelon with a damp cloth prior to cutting it). Remember, try the rind blended with some lime juice rather than simply tossing it in the trash (choose an organic watermelon especially if you’ll be eating the rind). Finally, watermelon should be enjoyed in moderation due to its fructose content. One-sixteenth of a medium watermelon contains 11.3 grams of fructose (I recommend keeping your total fructose intake below 25 grams of fructose per day if you're in good health, and below 15 grams a day if you’re overweight or have high blood pressure or diabetes).