Natural Health Blog & News
By Dr. Mercola
If you’re aware of the health benefits of animal-based omega-3 fats and the fact that salmon is a great source, you may be shocked to discover that farmed salmon has more in common with junk food than health food. This is the grim reality revealed in Nicolas Daniel’s documentary “Fillet-Oh-Fish,” which includes exclusive footage from fish farms and factories across the globe.
Among the experts featured is Kurt Oddekalv, a respected Norwegian environmental activist who claims salmon farming is an unmitigated disaster, both from an environmental and human health perspective. Below the salmon farms dotted across the Norwegian fjords is a layer of waste some 15 meters (49.2 feet) deep, teeming with bacteria, drugs and toxic pesticides, and since the farms are located in open water, this pollution is in no way contained.
Farmed salmon also pose a more direct toxic threat to your health. Fish has always been considered a health food, but food testing reveals that today’s farmed salmon is one of the most toxic foods in the world. As noted by the producers of the film, “through intensive farming and global pollution, the flesh of the fish we eat has turned into a deadly chemical cocktail.”1
In a global assessment of farmed salmon published in the January 2004 issue of Science,2 13 persistent organic pollutants were found. Farmed salmon also does not have the nutritional profile of wild salmon. Rather than being a wonderful source of much-needed omega-3 fats, farmed salmon contains far more omega-6 than omega-3, which can have deleterious health ramifications, seeing how most people are deficient in omega-3 while getting far more omega-6 than they need.
More than half of the fish Americans eat now comes from fish farms.3 Aquaculture promotes itself as a sustainable solution to overfishing, but in reality, fish farms cause more problems than they solve. For starters, it takes 1.5 to 8 kilograms of wild fish to produce just 1 kilogram of farmed salmon, so the aquaculture industry is actually contributing heavily to the depletion of wild fish stocks rather than saving it.4
A salmon farm can hold upward of 2 million salmon in a relatively small amount of space. As with land-based factory farms where animals are kept in crowded conditions, fish farms are plagued with diseases that spread rapidly among the stressed fish. According to Oddekalv, sea lice, pancreas disease5 and infectious salmon anemia virus have spread all across Norway, yet consumers have not been informed of these fish pandemics, and sale of diseased fish continues unabated.
A number of dangerous pesticides are used to stave off disease-causing pests, one of which is known to have neurotoxic effects. Workers who apply the pesticide must wear full protective clothing, yet these chemicals are dumped right into open water.
The pesticides used have also been shown to affect fish DNA, causing genetic mutations. Disturbing examples of deformed cod are shown, and estimates suggest about half of all farmed cod are deformed in this fashion. What’s worse, female cod that escape from farms are known to mate with wild cod, spreading the genetic mutations and deformities into the wild population.
Farmed salmon suffer less visible but equally disturbing mutations. The flesh of the farmed salmon is oddly brittle and breaks apart when bent — a highly abnormal feature. The nutritional content is also wildly abnormal. Wild salmon contain about 5 to 7 percent fat, whereas the farmed variety can contain anywhere from 14.5 to 34 percent. For a visual demonstration of this difference in fat content, check out the video above.
The elevated fat content is a direct result of the processed high-fat feed that farmed salmon are given. But farmed salmon don’t just contain more fat overall; the real tragedy is the radically skewed ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fats.6 Half a fillet of wild Atlantic salmon contains about 3,996 milligrams (mg) of omega-3 and 341 mg of omega-6.7 Half a fillet of farmed salmon from the Atlantic contains just a bit more omega-3 — 4,961 mg — but an astounding 1,944 mg of omega-6;8 more than 5.5 times more than wild salmon.
While you need both omega-3 and omega-6 fats, the ratio between the two is important and should ideally be about 1-to-1. The standard American diet is already heavily skewed toward omega-6, thanks to the prevalence of processed foods, and with farmed salmon, that unhealthy imbalance is further magnified rather than corrected.
Farmed and Dangerous9 provides an example of a salmon feed label, and the ingredients are very telling in terms of where these excess omega-6 fats are coming from. The first nine ingredients in Skretting’s “Winter Plus 3500″ salmon feed are poultry meal, fish meal, poultry fat, fish oil, whole wheat, soybean meal, corn gluten meal, feather meal and rapeseed oil. These are all ingredients that no wild salmon has ever encountered and is about as far from a species-appropriate diet as you can get.
Farmed salmon also contain far higher levels of contaminants than wild, in part because of their elevated fat content. Many toxins readily accumulate in fat, which means even when raised in similarly contaminated conditions, farmed salmon will absorb more toxins than the wild fish. Shockingly, research reveals the most significant source of toxic exposure is not actually the pesticides or the antibiotics given to farmed salmon, but the dry pellet feed.
Pollutants found in the feed include dioxins, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides and a number of other drugs and chemicals. When consumed by the salmon, these toxins accumulate in the fat. One study,10 which tested 700 salmon samples collected from around the world, found PCB concentrations in farmed salmon are, on average, eight times higher than in wild salmon.
According to the authors, “Risk analysis indicates that consumption of farmed Atlantic salmon may pose health risks that detract from the beneficial effects of fish consumption.”
Another group of scientists concluded that11 “Consumption of farmed salmon at relatively low frequencies results in elevated exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds with commensurate elevation in estimates of health risk.” Toxicology researcher Jerome Ruzzin has also tested a number of different food groups sold in Norway for toxins, confirming that farmed salmon contain the greatest amount of toxins of them all, and by a large margin.
Overall, farmed salmon are five times more toxic than any other food tested. In animal feeding studies, mice fed farmed salmon grew obese, with thick layers of fat around their internal organs. They also developed diabetes. Ruzzin notes that a theory gaining traction is that rising rates of obesity are related to the increasing number of toxins and pollutants we’re exposed to through our environment and food. In light of his own findings, Ruzzin has stopped eating farmed salmon.
To investigate why the fish feed is so toxic, the film visits a Norwegian fish pellet plant. Here, we find out that the main ingredient is eel, used for their high protein and fat content, and other fatty fish from the Baltic Sea. That’s where the problem begins, as the Baltic is highly polluted. Some of the fish have toxic levels of pollutants, which then simply get incorporated into the feed pellets.
In Sweden, fish mongers are required to warn patrons about the potential toxicity of Baltic fish. According to government recommendations, you should not eat fatty fish like herring more than once a week, and if you’re pregnant, fish from the Baltic should be avoided altogether. Swedish Greenpeace activist Jan Isakson reveals some of the sources of all this pollution. Just outside of Stockholm, there’s a massive paper mill on the bank of the Baltic that generates toxic dioxins.
Nine other industrialized countries surrounding the Baltic Sea also dump their toxic waste into this closed body of water. Dioxins bind to fat, which is why herring, eel and salmon end up accumulating higher amounts than other fish. So, as a result of being deemed unfit for human consumption, some of these fatty fish are now primarily used as fish food. Alas, in the end, these toxins wind up on our plates anyway whenever we eat farmed fish, especially farmed salmon.
Some of the toxicity also stems from the manufacturing process of the pellets. The fatty fish are first cooked, resulting in two separate products: protein meal and oil. While the oil has high levels of dioxins and PCBs, the protein powder also adds to the toxicity of the end product. To this protein powder, an “antioxidant” called ethoxyquin is added. According to the filmmaker, this is one of the best kept secrets of the fish food industry — and one of the most toxic.
Ethoxyquin was developed as a pesticide by Monsanto in the 1950s. Its use is strictly regulated on fruits, vegetables and in meat, but not in fish, because it was never intended for such use.
Fish feed manufacturers never informed health authorities that they were using the chemical as a means to prevent the fats from oxidizing and going rancid, and so its presence in farmed fish was never addressed. Disturbingly, testing reveals farmed fish can contain levels of ethoxyquin that are up to 20 times higher than the level allowed in fruits, vegetables and meats.
What’s more, the effects of this chemical on human health have never been established. The one and only study ever done on ethoxyquin and human health was a thesis by Victoria Bohne, a former researcher in Norway who made a number of disturbing discoveries, including the fact that ethoxyquin can cross the blood brain barrier and may have carcinogenic effects. Bohne was pressured to leave her research job after attempts were made to falsify and downplay her findings.
Others have linked the secret use of ethoxyquin in Norwegian fish farming and the lack of scientific investigation into its effects to the Norwegian minister of fisheries and coastal affairs, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, who also happens to be a major shareholder in a commercial salmon farm, and has held many high-ranking positions within the fishing industry.
Fish can be one of the healthiest foods you can eat, but in the industrial age you have to be really mindful of your choices. If you needed another reason to avoid processed foods, watch this film to the end, where it describes how fish waste has become a “highly valued commodity” used in processed foods. At less than 15 cents per kilo (2.2 pounds), fish heads and tails, and what little meat is left over after filleting, are a real profit maker.
Virtually nothing actually goes to waste anymore. Fish waste is washed and ground into a pulp, which is then used in prepared meals and pet food. Since food manufacturers are not required to tell you their products contain fish pulp rather than actual fish fillet meat, this product offers a high profit margin for food manufacturers. One tipoff: if the product’s list of ingredients includes fish without specifying that it’s made with actual fillet of fish, it usually means they used fish waste pulp.
Fish fraud is also commonplace. Investigations have shown that 1 in 3 fish labels is false or misleading. Typically, an inexpensive fish is mislabeled as a more expensive one. Some farmed fish are also passed off as wild. Since traceability is more complex in the processed food industry, due to the mixing of ingredients, that’s where most of the fish fraud occurs. It’s somewhat more difficult to pass off fillets of fish as another species, although that also occurs.
It’s become quite clear that fish farms are not a viable solution to overfishing. If anything, they’re making matters worse, destroying the marine ecosystem at a far more rapid clip to boot. So, what’s the answer? Unfortunately, the vast majority of fish — even when wild caught — are frequently too contaminated to eat on a frequent basis. Most major waterways in the world are contaminated with mercury, heavy metals and chemicals such as dioxins, PCBs and agricultural chemicals.
This is why, as a general rule, I no longer recommend eating fish on a regular basis. There are exceptions, however. One is authentic wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon; the nutritional benefits of which I believe still outweigh any potential contamination. The risk of sockeye accumulating high amounts of mercury and other toxins is reduced because of its short life cycle, which is only about three years. Additionally, bioaccumulation of toxins is also reduced by the fact that it doesn't feed on other, already contaminated, fish.
Alaskan salmon (not to be confused with Atlantic salmon) is not allowed to be farmed, and is therefore always wild-caught. My favorite brand is Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics, which offers a nice variety of high-quality salmon products that test high for omega-3 fats and low for contaminants.
Canned salmon labeled "Alaskan salmon" is a less expensive alternative to salmon fillets. Remember that wild salmon is quite lean, so the fat marks — those white stripes you see in the meat — are on the thin side. If a fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is likely farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as salmon bearing this label are almost always farmed.
Another exception is smaller fish with short lifecycles, which also tend to be better alternatives in terms of fat content, such as sardines and anchovies. With their low contamination risk and higher nutritional value, they are a win-win alternative. As a general rule, the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will accumulate.
Just make sure they’re not from the Baltic Sea, which is exceptionally polluted. Other good choices include herring and fish roe (caviar), which are full of important phospholipids that nourish your mitochondrial membranes.
By Dr. Mercola
Nearly 20 percent of Americans, or 48 million people, report having some degree of hearing loss.1 It may be easy to take hearing for granted as it happens without any effort on your part. However it is a complex process, beginning with sound in your environment and ending in your brain. Unlike any other sense involving a chemical process, such as smell, taste or sight, hearing is strictly the result of physical movement.
This physical movement is dependent on specific factors in your ear canal and Eustachian tube working to equalize pressure between the outside of your eardrum and inside your middle ear. This is one reason why people have difficulty flying when they are congested. But, before understanding how pressure affects your eardrum and hearing, it helps to understand the structure of your ear.
In this short video you’ll see a demonstration of how sound is transmitted through the structures of the ear. Sound is created by vibrations caused in the air, which your ears capture. The structure of your outer ear helps you decipher the direction the sound originates from and helps direct the sound into the ear canal. As sound waves enter the canal, they vibrate the eardrum, the piece of thin skin sitting between your outer and middle ear.
Behind the eardrum sits the middle ear and a group of tiny bones called the malleus, incus and stapes. Collectively these are called the ossicles and are the smallest bones in your body.2 As the eardrum vibrates it moves the ossicles to amplify the force of sound as it passes through the middle ear to the inner ear and the cochlea.
The cochlea looks like a large snail and is filled with fluid to conduct sound to the auditory nerve, which then translates the impulses to your brain for interpretation. While the concept of how hearing works is fairly straightforward, the specifics of how the small structures produce recognizable patterns of sound in your brain is complex. Scientists are still learning how your brain interprets these electrical signals in the cerebral cortex, especially as it relates to prevention and treatment of hearing loss.
The structures behind your eardrum are in a closed system. In other words the eardrum maintains an airtight seal between your outer ear and your middle ear, which does not allow any movement or exchange of air. This structural element becomes significant as you move from one area of air pressure to another, such as when you go scuba diving or ride in an airplane. Your middle ear is connected to the outside through your oral and nasal cavities and pharynx by your Eustachian tubes.
The surface of the earth is covered in a thick layer of molecules called the atmosphere. Although the atmosphere is only a fraction of the density of the ocean or the soil, the atmosphere behaves in much the same way. For instance, going deeper into a pool or lake, pressure becomes greater. The same is true with atmospheric pressure. The closer you get to sea level the greater the air pressure on your body.3
On the other hand, the higher above sea level you are, the less pressure is exerted. You experience the difference when you have difficulty exerting energy without losing your breath. At sea level, not as much hemoglobin is required to transport oxygen through your body.
However, at higher elevations lower atmospheric pressure reduces the partial pressure of inspired oxygen and the driving force for gas exchange in the lungs.4 When you go to higher levels, it takes your body a week or two to acclimate and produce enough hemoglobin to transport adequate amounts of oxygen.
A similar event happens behind your eardrum. While your eardrum acts as a barrier to liquids, it requires air pressure on both sides of the eardrum to be roughly equal in order to allow vibration of the drum and hearing. Normally, equalizing this pressure is something your body does quite easily.5 Inside your ear is a pocket of air normally the same pressure as what's found outside your ear. When the pressure around you changes the air pushes in on the eardrum.6
On the other side of the eardrum is the Eustachian tube, helping to equalize pressure between the inside and outside. It opens when you swallow so you may hear a small pop as the pressure is equalizing. This tube is more vertical in adults than in children. In small children the tube is more horizontal, allowing for fluid buildup and bacterial growth, which may lead to ear infections.
When the Eustachian tube is unable to open, pressure in the middle ear decreases.7 Thus, by opening the Eustachian tube and allowing the air bubble to move, the body quickly equalizes pressure between the middle ear and the outside. This reduction in pressure often includes a reduction in pain and discomfort.
Increasing or decreasing pressure usually has no effect on fluids or the solid part of your body. However, it has an effect on gas filled cavities, such as your ear, as demonstrated in this short video.
The difference in altitude creating pressure between the external ear and the middle ear is one of the most common complaints from airline travelers. Often, it's a simple annoyance resulting in temporary pain or even temporary hearing loss. However, due to the difference in formation of the Eustachian tube in children, they may experience greater discomfort.
As an airplane takes off, the cabin pressure drops, as does the pressure on the outer ear. With this change, the eardrum becomes distorted until compensation occurs in the middle ear.8
If the pressure does not equalize between the outer and middle ear, the eardrum will bulge outward, causing pain and discomfort. A similar thing happens with pressure change as the plane descends, except in this case the eardrum bulges inward. As an airplane reaches cruising altitude, the cabin pressure normalizes so there is no difference in pressure between the inner ear and the outer ear.
If the eardrum remains deformed it causes physical discomfort but also decreases vibrations of the eardrum, making sound muffled.9 The Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the outside, is normally closed. However, with sufficient pressure difference between the middle ear and the pharynx, the Eustachian tube can open.
As the Eustachian tube opens, it lets pressure in the middle ear to equalize with the external pressure, allowing the eardrum to return to its normal shape.10 The popping or clicking sound you hear as your ear pops is a small bubble of air entering the middle ear through the Eustachian tube to equalize pressure.11
Swallowing normally produces slight clicking noises as this bubble moves into the inner ear to equalize pressure. You may consider some of the strategies outlined below to help your Eustachian tube open and reduce the amount of discomfort you experience as you move to different air or water pressures.
• Yawning and swallowing
These movements activate muscles to open the Eustachian tube. Try to force a yawn several times until your ears pop. Alternatively, sip water, suck on hard candy or chew gum to help increase the need to swallow.
• Toynbee maneuver
For this technique, you'll pinch your nose closed with your fingers while swallowing at the same time. This technique may be as effective as the Valsalva maneuver (pinching your nose, closing your mouth and gently blowing out your nose) without the added associated risk of rupturing your eardrums.
• Frenzel maneuver
To do this, pinch your nose closed and use your tongue to make a clicking sound or a “k” sound.
• Decongest your Eustachian tubes
When your Eustachian tubes have difficulty opening because you're already congested from a cold, holding a warm washcloth or heating pad against the ear may help eliminate the congestion. This will help to open the Eustachian tube and allow pressure to equalize. Additional options to help reduce congestion prior to, while and after flying is to use essential oils, including bay oil, myrtle oil or amyris oil.
Since babies are not able to intentionally pop their ears, you can assist them by encouraging bottle-feeding, nursing or pacifiers during times when pressure changes are likely, such as during ascending and descending in an airplane. Do not allow a baby to sleep during descent as children are especially vulnerable to blockages since their Eustachian tubes are narrow and set at a different angle.15
While sleeping, they are unable to swallow or yawn, increasing the risk they'll develop severe discomfort or pain. If you can't get your ears unclogged or are experiencing pain days after riding in an airplane, it may be time to consult with your physician. Your doctor can help rule out any underlying medical condition extending your symptoms of discomfort and pain. These conditions can include sinus or ear infection, ear wax buildup, temporomandibular joint disorder or enlarged adenoids.16
Although commonly used, the Valsalva maneuver may cause your eardrum to rupture. While this may help to open the Eustachian tubes, if done with any force it may rupture your eardrum.17
Additionally, never put anything smaller than your finger in your ear to relieve pressure or reduce pain as it is easy to rupture the eardrum.18 While your eardrum may rupture in flight if you are not able to equalize the pressure, it is unwise to do anything that may increase your risk. Complications from a ruptured eardrum may include some hearing loss, middle ear infection or the development of a cholesteatoma (middle ear cyst) consisting of skin cells and debris.19
By Dr. Mercola
Your brain is like a sponge, soaking up not only the information around you on a daily basis but also the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytochemicals in the food you eat. The more you eat a diet based on whole, healthy foods, the more your brainpower will soar, even to the point of staving off age-related cognitive decline and other brain disorders. While eating real foods is key, there are some superstars that stand above the rest.
By planning your meals to include the brain-boosting foods that follow, you’ll be providing the fuel your brain needs to not only stay healthy in the future but also function optimally today, bringing with it increased productivity, focus and a creative edge.
Small cold-water fish that are rich in animal-based omega-3 fats but have a low risk of contamination are among your best choices for healthy fish. This includes anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. The omega-3 they contain is vital to your brain, helping to fight inflammation and offer numerous protections to your brain cells.
For instance, a study in the journal Neurology found "older women with the highest levels of omega-3 fats … had better preservation of their brain as they aged than those with the lowest levels, which might mean they would maintain better brain function for an extra year or two."1 In separate research, when boys were given an omega-3 supplement, there were significant increases in the activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex part of the brain.2
This is an area of your brain associated with working memory. They also noticed changes in other parts of the brain, including the occipital cortex (the visual processing center) and the cerebellar cortex (which plays a role in motor control). In addition, older adults with memory complaints who consumed the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), alone or in combination with another omega-3 fat eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), had improved memory.3
Consuming healthy fish once a week or more is even linked to a 60 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared with rarely or never consuming it.4 If you don’t like fish, you can alsoget animal-based omega-3 fats in therapeutic doses by taking a supplement like krill oil. But if you’re looking for a dietarysource, the healthy fish named above are among the best sources.
Cruciferous Veggies and Leafy Greens
Eating just one serving of green leafy vegetables a day may help to slow cognitive decline associated with aging, helping you to be 11 years younger, cognitively speaking, than your non-leafy green-eating peers.5 They’re a rich source of brain-protective nutrients like folate, vitamins E and K, lutein and beta-carotene.6
Choline intake during pregnancy "super-charged" the brain activity of animals in utero, indicating that it may boost cognitive function, improve learning and memory and even diminish age-related memory decline and the brain's vulnerability to toxins during childhood, as well as confer protection later in life.7 Pastured organic eggs and grass fed meat are other good food sources of choline.
Broccoli offers additional benefits as well, including the anti-inflammatory flavonoid kaempferol and three glucosinolate phytonutrients that work together to support your body’s detoxification processes.8 In another study, women who ate the most cruciferous vegetables or leafy greens had slower cognitive decline than those eating the least, to the point that their brain function equaled that of someone one to two years younger.9
Pastured, organic eggs, particularly the yolks, provide valuable vitamins (A, D, E and K), omega-3 fats and antioxidants. They’re also one of the best sources of choline available. Choline helps keep your cell membranes functioning properly, plays a role in nerve communications and reduces chronic inflammation. Choline is also needed for your body to make the brain chemical acetylcholine, which is involved in storing memories.
In pregnant women, choline plays an equally, if not more, important role, helping to prevent certain birth defects, such as spina bifida, and playing a role in brain development. In addition, people with higher choline intakes were shown to have better cognitive performance, doing better on tests of verbal and visual memory, than those with low intake.10
According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, only 8 percent of U.S. adults are getting enough choline (including only 8.5 percent of pregnant women).11
Among egg consumers, however, more than 57 percent met the adequate intake (AI) levels for choline, compared to just 2.4 percent of people who consumed no eggs. In fact, the researchers concluded that it’s “extremely difficult” to get enough choline unless you eat eggs or take a dietary supplement.
Some of the symptoms associated with low choline levels include memory problems and persistent brain fog. Your body can only synthesize small amounts of this nutrient, so you need to get it from your diet regularly. One egg yolk contains nearly 215 mg of choline.
Increased coffee (and tea) consumption was linked to a lower risk of glioma brain tumor, such that people in the top category of coffee consumption were 91 percent less likely to have glioma compared with those in the bottom category.12
It may help your brain function as well, with research showing that drinking one to two cups of coffee daily may lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, cognitive decline and cognitive impairment compared to drinking less than one cup.13
Drinking coffee may even enhance long-term memory consolidation14 and, if you drink the caffeinated variety, improve attention and alertness while decreasing your risk of depression.15 Caffeine can be a double-edged sword, with excess consumption causing adverse effects, and everyone’s tolerance to caffeine is unique.
However, most people naturally adjust their coffee consumption to avoid the jittery feeling that comes from too much caffeine. Ideally, coffee should be organic and shade-grown; drink it black or with added coconut oil or medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil.
Wine (One Glass)
Limited wine intake—one glass a day or no more than seven drinks a week—has been found to protective against dementia in later life.16 Part of the benefit likely comes from the catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), found in red wine and tea, which has been found to stop beta-amyloid proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease from killing brain cells.17
Resveratrol is another compound in red wine linked to brain benefits, including protecting the neuromuscular junctions (NMJs) between neurons.18 Resveratrol may also help to restore the blood-brain barrier in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, which could help keep out unwanted immune molecules that can worsen brain inflammation and kill neurons.19
Even Champagne contains beneficial compounds, including relatively high amounts of phenolic acids, that appear to have a neuroprotective effect against oxidative neuronal injury.20 It’s important to note that only a small amount of alcohol may be beneficial, and excess amounts are toxic to your brain.
Blueberries are rich in phytochemicals linked to improvements in learning, thinking and memory, along with reductions in neurodegenerative oxidative stress. They’re also relatively low in fructose compared to other fruits, making them one of the healthier fruits available. Wild blueberries, which have high anthocyanin and antioxidant content, are known to guard against Alzheimer's and other neurological diseases.
Wild blueberries have even been shown to reduce some of the effects of a poor diet (such as high blood pressure systemic inflammation). In an animal study, wild blueberries reduced the proinflammatory effects of a poor diet as well as prevented high blood pressure, which would be beneficial for your brain health.21
Further, women who consumed at least a half-cup of blueberries a week for 15 years had slower cognitive decline than women who did not, with researchers noting, “berry intake appears to delay cognitive aging by up to 2.5 years.”22
It’s not only what you eat that matters to your brain — your environment matters, too. Interestingly, one of the most restorative environments for your brain, according to research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, is the beach.23 The best atmosphere for psychological restoration when visiting the beach or, as the study called them, “coastal parks,” is a combination of mild temperatures and low tides. There are a number of factors that make the beach an ideal locale for your brain, including:
• Sun exposure: This is important for optimizing vitamin D, as low vitamin D levels are linked to a risk of cognitive decline in the elderly.24 Beyond this, sunlight affects your mood and mental health through a number of mechanisms, including affecting your vitamin D, serotonin, endorphins, nitric oxide levels and mitochondrial energy.
• Walking barefoot on the sand: When you put your bare feet on the ground, a process known as earthing or grounding, you absorb large amounts of negative electrons through the soles of your feet. These free electrons act as antioxidants in your body and help to reduce chronic inflammation, the root of many chronic diseases.
Further, grounding thins your blood, making it less viscous, and your zeta potential quickly rises, which means your red blood cells have more charge on their surface, forcing them apart from each other. This action causes your blood to thin and flow easier. If your zeta potential is high, which grounding can facilitate, you not only decrease your heart disease risk, but also your risk of multi-infarct dementias, where you start losing brain tissue due to microclotting in your brain.
• Swimming in the ocean: Ocean water is a unique source of important minerals like magnesium, potassium and iodine,25 whereas swimming provides physical activity. Physical exercise, in turn, decreases risk of age-related brain shrinkage, and increases cognitive abilities by promoting neurogenesis — your brain’s ability to adapt and grow new brain cells.
It’s believed that the adult brain’s hippocampus continues to generate new neurons into adulthood in response to things like exercise, dietary compounds and mental stimulation. However, a new study suggests progenitor cells, or stem cells, as well as young neurons, which are important for forming new connections, are absent past the age of 13 years.26 Further, such cells rapidly declined much earlier than this, decreasing by 22 weeks in utero and further lessening in number by age 1.
The study was conducted on tissue samples, which are often poor quality and could have affected the outcome of the study. However, René Hen, a professor in Columbia University's departments of psychiatry, neuroscience and pharmacology at the Kavli Institute for Brain Science, told CNN the study is “provocative” because “it claims that in the average human brain there are very few neurons left — in other words, it's probably not functional …
It is important because there are few studies that have documented how many of these young neurons are present in the hippocampus in humans."27 It remains to be seen whether the study will be further confirmed, but it’s also interesting to note that no one knows how many young neurons are necessary for function; it could be that a very small number could have “quite potent effects,” according to Hen.
In addition, it has previously been shown that certain lifestyle strategies can promote neurogenesis and regrowth of brain cells, including the following. All of these strategies target a specific gene pathway called BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes brain cell growth and connectivity as demonstrated on MRI scans.
Bright-colored berries, popularly eaten on their own or added to various dishes, are known to deliver vital health benefits. Aside from the usual strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, there are more berry varieties out there, some of which you might have not even heard of. Cloudberry is one interesting example.
An Arctic, north-temperate species, cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus L.) comes from the Rosaceae (rose family) and can be found growing wild in cool or cold environments. In North America, you can see it in regions like Newfoundland, Alaska and British Columbia. In countries like Norway, Finland, England, Sweden and Russia, cloudberry also thrives well.1
A low-growing perennial, cloudberry typically grows in boggy and open tundra or forests. The plant is dioecious, meaning there are male or female cloudberry plants, with the latter known to produce the fruits.2
Cloudberry fruits form on very slender stems that aren’t more than 2 to 8 inches high. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, cloudberry plants can be distinguished by their two to three circular leaves, each with rounded lobes and toothed edges, alongside a single white, five-petal flower. Meanwhile, the small and round berry itself is composed of six to eight drupelets.3
An unripe cloudberry fruit is hard, red and sour, but as it ripens, it softens and lightens, turns either a rosy peach or amber hue and develops a sweet flavor. The taste is tart but floral, and can be described as a combination of red currant and raspberry.4
Cloudberry retains its distinct shape because of its juice. When the juice oozes out, a small percentage of fiber (found in the thin skin) and a number of seeds remain.5 You can use these seeds to grow new cloudberry plants.6 Unfortunately, cloudberry isn’t widely cultivated, so it isn’t exported and may not be available in many areas around the world.7
Just like other berries, cloudberry can positively impact the body by:8
• Improving the immune system: Cloudberry contains vitamin A, which provides carotenoids that act as antioxidants to help protect the skin and the eyes against the signs of aging. Meanwhile, vitamin C in cloudberry can stimulate white blood cell production and serve as an antioxidant that can neutralize harmful free radicals.9
• Helping with blood circulation: Cloudberry contains iron,10 which can be important for blood circulation. This mineral is essential for red blood cell production, and may help reduce your risk for anemia.11,12
• Improving skin health: Ellagic acid, another important antioxidant, is found in cloudberry.13 This acid is said to have photoprotective effects that may help minimize the appearance of wrinkles caused by UVB radiation.14
• Promoting better digestive health: Phenolics in cloudberry may be beneficial in preventing development of gastrointestinal pathogens such as Salmonella and Staphylococcus.15
Because of cloudberry’s juicy and tart quality, some cooks incorporate them into recipes. This berry is often mixed into jams, candies, alcoholic beverages and baked goods.16 Cloudberry is dominantly used in traditional Scandinavian cuisine, although it also appears in Inuit foods.17 Indigenous tribes in northern Canada regarded cloudberry as an important dietary component as well.18
Historical documents also revealed that cloudberry was utilized by Norwegian sailors and North American Eskimos to protect against scurvy,19 while its roots and leaves were used for medicinal purposes.20 Meanwhile, in ancient Scandinavian medicine, cloudberry leaves were brewed into tea to help ease urinary tract infections.21
The cloudberry plant can withstand low temperatures, which is why it thrives best in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions.22 Cloudberry plants can tolerate shade, although they grow best under full sunlight.23 They also prefer soils that are sandy, loamy and clay.24 You can propagate cloudberry from seeds, but make sure to stratify these first for a month at a temperature of 37 degrees F. After stratifying, sow the seeds as early as possible in the year.
When the seedlings grow large enough and can be handled properly, prick and continue growing in a cold frame, then move the plants to their permanent place outdoors in the spring of the following year.25 The cloudberry plant can also be propagated via the roots.26 Cloudberry ripens during late July through early August. Depending where you live, it’s best to gather the berries in mid- to late summer. When ripe, cloudberries are soft and amber-colored with a pink blush. They come off the stem very easily.
You can tell whether a cloudberry is ripe or not is by its firmness. Using three of your fingers, gently squeeze the fruit. A cloudberry isn’t ready to be harvested if it’s either hard, firm, slightly firm or slightly half firm. A cloudberry is ripe if it’s soft and slightly bouncy.27
To harvest cloudberry, gently pull the berry to allow it to break free from the stem. If you end up with half a berry being left on the plant, it might be because the fruit is overripe or because you pulled the berry off the stem with a sloppy side motion, instead of pulling it straight.
Cloudberry should be picked by hand, since these are too delicate to be handled by a picking tool. Avoid using buckets since there’s a tendency for the pile of berries on top to be so heavy that it’ll crush the berries underneath it into juice. Place the berries in a shallow container instead.
After picking, place the fruits gently into the container to retain their shape. Gathering berries in your hand can create pressure and trigger the bottom layer of berries to start leaking juice. At home, avoid washing the berries because they might disintegrate.28
For best flavor and keeping quality, cloudberry should be picked at peak ripeness, and must be eaten or preserved on the same day they’re harvested. Be gentle in handling the fruits and move them around as little as possible. Avoid washing them unless they’re dusty. Don’t forget to pick through the berries to remove leaves or debris too.29
After harvesting and cleaning, berries should be refrigerated in a shallow container. An advantage of cloudberry is its naturally high benzoic acid content, allowing the fruits to keep longer than expected without spoiling or fermenting. Afterward, you can use the berries to make cloudberry jam or add it to baked goods.30
Because cloudberry isn’t common in many parts of the world, there isn’t much research focusing on its long-term effects on your health. Plus, cloudberry tends to be very sweet, so if you have pre-existing insulin resistance, you might exacerbate your condition if you eat too many berries.
There is also no significant amount of allergen reporting linked to this fruit. Although cloudberry isn’t known as an allergen, there is a unique combination of nutrients and acids in the fruit that may prompt side effects. As a precaution, consume cloudberry in moderation and see how your body responds to it.
Cloudberry seed oil, which is extracted from cloudberry seeds, offers various benefits. It’s abundant in oleic, linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, vitamin E and plant sterols.31 This oil also contains different antioxidants like carotenoids that may help increase protection against UV rays, and plant compounds called phytosterols that may help strengthen cell membranes.32
Unfortunately, there isn’t enough research yet discussing the long-term side effects of cloudberry seed oil. Talk to a physician or a trusted health expert first and do a skin patch test prior to using this essential oil to see how your skin will react to it.
By Dr. Mercola
Depression and anxiety are two leading mental health problems that have seen a dramatic rise in incidence in recent years. Worldwide, depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability,1,2 with rates rising 18 percent in the decade between 2005 and 2015.3
In the U.S., more than 16 million people struggle with the condition, and 1 in 4 women in their 40s and 50s are on antidepressant drugs.4 This, despite the fact that antidepressants have been proven to work no better than placebo.5,6,7,8 Eight9 to 14 percent10 of pregnant women are also on antidepressants, even though studies have linked their use during pregnancy to birth defects.11
Meanwhile, data from the National Institute of Mental Health suggests the prevalence of anxiety disorders — which include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and panic disorder — may be as high as 40 million in the U.S. — about 18 percent of the population over the age of 18 — making it the most common mental illness in the nation,12,13 and 800 percent more prevalent than all forms of cancer.14
As described by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, panic attacks — which are on the more severe end of the anxiety spectrum — can occur "out of nowhere" without warning.15 Love had his first panic attack during a game against the Atlanta Hawks, and has since spoken out about this particular mental health challenge to break the stigma and encourage others to seek treatment.
Just what might account for this remarkable rise in anxiety and depression? I've previously written about the compelling links between a high-sugar, processed food diet and poor mental health outcomes, and studies investigating the connection between obesity and mental health add further support to the diet-depression link. As noted in Prevent Disease:16
"Abdominal fat distribution (as measured by waist-hip ratio) appears to be a key mediator in the relationship between obesity and depression … Several studies have found that a disproportionate number of patients with mental illness are obese compared to the general population. A study17 comprising randomly selected outpatients receiving psychiatric care in Maryland found that their body mass index was almost twice that of the comparison group."
Another more recent study18 looking at body fat distribution and depression found very similar results. Postmenopausal women who had abdominal obesity were significantly more likely to struggle with depression than not (37.6 percent versus 27.5 percent respectively), leading the researchers to conclude that "visceral fat accumulation was an independent and positive factor significantly associated with the presence of depressive symptoms."
A third paper,19,20 published earlier this month, found a woman's waist-to-height ratio was associated with anxiety. This was the first time this body measurement has been linked to anxiety specifically. As a general rule, a woman is considered obese if her waist measurement is more than half of her height measurement.
Data from 5,580 Latin American women between the ages of 40 and 59 were evaluated. Overall, those with waist-to-height ratios in the middle and upper thirds were at significantly higher risk for anxiety than those with less abdominal obesity. Those with the greatest abdominal obesity were also the most likely to actually exhibit outward signs of anxiety. As reported in the featured article:21
"Anxiety is a concern because it is linked to heart disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, respiratory disorders and drug abuse, among other documented medical problems. Research has shown an increase in the frequency of anxiety in women during midlife, likely as a result of decreased levels of estrogen, which has a neuroprotective role.
'Hormone changes may be involved in the development of both anxiety and abdominal obesity because of their roles in the brain as well as in fat distribution. This study provides valuable insights for health care providers treating middle-aged women, because it implies that waist-to-height ratio could be a good marker for evaluating patients for anxiety,' says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, [North American Menopause Society] executive director."
Insulin resistance is a driving factor not only in obesity but also in most chronic diseases, and based on the evidence, it's clear it plays a significant role in your mental health as well. After all, your physical and psychological health are closely linked. For example, your vagus nerve connects your gut to your brain, which is why gut dysfunction can wreak such havoc on your psychological states.
On the whole, any diet that nourishes your gut microbiome, reduces insulin resistance and optimizes mitochondrial function — such as a cyclical ketogenic diet — is going to have a beneficial impact on both your physical and mental health. A key dietary culprit that does none of those beneficial things is sugar, and research has repeatedly found that high-sugar diets encourage depression and anxiety. Among them:
Most notably, high-sugar, processed food diets promote insulin resistance, which in turn encourages fat accumulation and Type 2 diabetes. According to work by the late Dr. Joseph Kraft, author of "Diabetes Epidemic and You: Should Everyone Be Tested?" 80 percent — 8 out of 10 — Americans are in fact insulin resistant.26,27 It's no wonder then that conditions rooted in insulin resistance — including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety — are all skyrocketing.
Sugar is also incredibly inflammatory, and chronic inflammation has also been identified as a major factor in depression. Some believe it's causative.28,29,30 The inflammatory cascade triggered by excessive amounts of sugar also damage your mitochondria. Your mitochondria generate the vast majority of the energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP) in your body.
When your body uses sugar as its primary fuel, excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals are created, which damage cellular mitochondrial membranes and DNA. Needless to say, as your mitochondria become dysfunctional, the cellular energy your body can produce goes down, which means your entire body will struggle to work properly, including your brain. Since your brain is a heavy energy feeder, even a small dip will result in impaired function that can translate into depressed mood.
Healthy dietary fats, on the other hand, create far fewer ROS and free radicals when burned for fuel. Fats are also critical for the health of cellular membranes and many other biological functions, especially the functioning of your brain. This is one of several reasons why a cyclical ketogenic diet is so beneficial for your mental health. In fact, mental clarity is often one of the first "side effects" people notice when going ketogenic.
While anxiety and depression can be triggered by any number of factors, there's ample evidence to support the idea that your diet can have a tremendous impact, as it lays the groundwork for your physical and mental functioning. For this reason, it would be foolish to ignore it.
Again, one of the root contributors to depression is insulin resistance, which brings inflammation in its wake. The good news is that insulin resistance is an easily corrected health problem, and I detail the dietary protocol for this in my book "Fat for Fuel." Here are a few key points to remember:
• Dramatically reduce your sugar intake by replacing processed foods with real whole foods. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is associated with lower odds of depression and anxiety,31 an effect ascribed to antioxidants that help combat inflammation.
Certain nutrients are also known to cause symptoms of depression when lacking, so it's important to eat a varied whole food diet. As a general rule, if you're insulin resistant, limit your added sugar intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin resistance has resolved. At that point, you can go up to 25 grams.
• Replace sugar and grain carbs with healthy fats. Examples include avocados, grass fed meats, pastured butter, organic pastured eggs, coconut oil, MCT oil, raw cacao butter and raw nuts. To learn more, see the beginner's section of my nutritional plan.
Most people need anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of their daily calories in the form of healthy fats. Just be sure to avoid vegetable oils, such as soy, canola and corn oil, which are toxic to the human body. Dr. Cate Shanahan's book "Deep Nutrition" provides an in-depth review of dietary fats and how processed vegetable oils harm your health.
• Limit protein to 0.5 grams per pound of lean body mass (or for the Europeans: 1 gram per kilo of lean body mass). In addition to stimulating mTOR, protein also affects your insulin and leptin. Dietary fats do not affect either. As a result, a low-carb, high-protein diet may still be troublesome if you're struggling with obesity, insulin resistance or diabetes. To learn more about the importance of protein restriction, see "Precision Matters When It Comes to Protein."
• Consider intermittent fasting and/or multiday water-only fasts, which will jump-start your body's ability to burn fat for fuel and dramatically improve your insulin sensitivity. Water fasting can be particularly powerful if you're obese. However, it's significantly easier to transition into water fasting if you start with intermittent fasting.
Once you've worked your way up to the point where you've been intermittently fasting for 20 hours a day for a month, then doing a four or five-day water fast will not be particularly difficult.
Remember, to suggest that depression is rooted in poor diet and other lifestyle factors does not detract from the fact that it's a serious problem that needs to be addressed with compassion and nonjudgment. It simply shifts the conversation about what the most appropriate answers and remedies are. Considering the many hazards associated with antidepressants, it would be wise to address the known root causes of depression, which are primarily lifestyle-based.
Drugs, even when they do work, do not actually fix the problem. They only mask it. Antidepressants may also worsen the situation, as many are associated with an increased risk of suicide, violence and worsened mental health in the long term. So, before you resort to medication, please consider addressing your diet (above) and try out several of the lifestyle strategies listed below until you find a combination that works for you.
Limit microwave exposure from wireless technologies
Studies have linked excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields to an increased risk of both depression and suicide.32 Addiction to or "high engagement" with mobile devices can also trigger depression and anxiety.33 Research34 by Martin Pall, Ph.D., helps explain why these technologies can have such a potent impact on your mental health.
Embedded in your cell membranes are voltage gated calcium channels (VGCCs), which are activated by microwaves. When that happens, about 1 million calcium ions per second are released, which triggers a biochemical cascade that results in mitochondrial dysfunction.
Your brain, along with the pacemaker in your heart, has the highest density of VGCCs of the organs in your body, which is why Alzheimer's, autism, anxiety, depression appears to be strongly linked to excessive microwave exposure.
So, if you struggle with anxiety or depression, be sure to limit your exposure to wireless technology. Simple measures include turning your Wi-Fi off at night and, carrying your cellphone on your body, and not keeping portable phones, cellphones and other electric devices in your bedroom.
Get regular exercise
Studies have shown there is a strong correlation between improved mood and aerobic capacity. Exercising creates new GABA-producing neurons that help induce a natural state of calm. It also boosts your levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which help buffer the effects of stress.
Animal research also suggests exercise can benefit your mental health by allowing your body to eliminate kynurenine, a harmful protein associated with depression.35
Spend more time outdoors
Spending time in nature has been shown to lower stress, improve mood and significantly reduce symptoms of depression.36 Outdoor activities could be just about anything, from walking a nature trail to gardening, or simply taking your exercise outdoors.
Listen to nature sounds
Nature sounds have a distinct and powerful effect on your brain, lowering fight-or-flight instincts, activating your rest-and-digest autonomic nervous system,37,38,39 and produce brain activity associated with outward-directed focus, a trait associated with a lower risk for depression and anxiety.
Previous research has also demonstrated that listening to nature sounds help you recover faster after a stressful event. So, seek out parks, or create a natural sanctuary on your balcony, or indoors using plants and an environmental sound machine. YouTube also has a number of very long videos of natural sounds. You could simply turn it on and leave it on while you're indoors.
Practice proper breathing
The way you breathe is intricately connected to your mental state. I've previously published interviews with Patrick McKeown, a leading expert on the Buteyko Breathing Method, where he explains how breathing affects your mind, body and health.
According to Buteyko, the founder of the method, anxiety is triggered by an imbalance between gases in your body, specifically the ratio between carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen. Your breathing affects the ratio of these gases, and by learning proper breathing techniques, you can quite literally breathe your way into a calmer state of mind.
Here's a Buteyko breathing exercise that can help quell anxiety. This sequence helps retain and gently accumulate CO2, leading to calmer breathing and reduced anxiety. In other words, the urge to breathe will decline as you go into a more relaxed state.
Get plenty of restorative sleep
Sleep and depression are so intimately linked that a sleep disorder is actually part of the definition of the symptom complex that gives the label depression. Ideally, get eight hours of sleep each night, and address factors that impede good sleep.
Address negative emotions
I believe it's helpful to view depression as a sign that your body and life are out of balance, rather than as a disease. It's a message telling you you've veered too far off course, and you need to regain your balance. One of the ways to do this involves addressing negative emotions that may be trapped beneath your level of awareness. My favorite method of emotional cleansing is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), a form of psychological acupressure.
Research shows EFT significantly increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotional states.40,41,42 It's particularly powerful for treating anxiety because it specifically targets your amygdala and hippocampus, parts of your brain that help you decide whether or not something is a threat.43
For serious or complex issues, seek out a qualified health care professional that is trained in EFT44 to help guide you through the process. That said, for most of you with depression symptoms, this is a technique you can learn to do effectively on your own. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman shows how you can use EFT to relieve symptoms of depression.
Optimize your gut health
Your mental health is closely linked to your gut health. A number of studies have confirmed gastrointestinal inflammation can play a critical role in the development of depression.45 Optimizing your gut flora will also help regulate a number of neurotransmitters and mood-related hormones, including GABA and corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety and depression-related behavior.46
To nourish your gut microbiome, be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and traditionally fermented foods. Healthy choices include fermented vegetables, lassi, kefir and natto. If you do not eat fermented foods on a regular basis, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is recommended.
Optimize your vitamin D with sensible sun exposure
Studies have shown vitamin D deficiency can predispose you to depression, and that depression can respond favorably to optimizing your vitamin D stores, ideally by getting sensible sun exposure.47,48,49
In one such study, people with a vitamin D level below 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) had an 85 percent increased risk of depression compared to those with a level greater than 30 ng/mL.50 For optimal health, you'll want to make sure your vitamin D level is between 60 and 80 ng/mL year-round, so be sure to get a vitamin D test at least twice a year.
Optimize your omega-3
The animal-based omega-3 fat DHA is perhaps the single most important nutrient for optimal brain function and prevention of depression. While you can obtain DHA from krill or fish oil, it is far better to obtain it from clean, low-mercury fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies and fish roe.
In addition to getting your vitamin D checked, I recommend getting an omega-3 index test to make sure you're getting enough. Ideally, you want your omega-3 index to be 8 percent or higher.
Make sure your cholesterol levels aren't too low for optimal mental health
Low cholesterol is linked to dramatically increased rates of suicide, as well as aggression toward others.51 This increased expression of violence toward self and others may be due to the fact that low membrane cholesterol decreases the number of serotonin receptors in the brain, which are approximately 30 percent cholesterol by weight.
Lower serum cholesterol concentrations therefore may contribute to decreasing brain serotonin, which not only contributes to suicidal-associated depression, but prevents the suppression of aggressive behavior and violence toward self and others.
Increase your vitamin B intake
Low dietary folate is a risk factor for severe depression, raising your risk by as much as 300 percent.52,53 If using a supplement, I suggest methylfolate, as this form of folic acid is the most effective. Other B vitamin deficiencies, including B1, B2, B3, B6, B8 and B12 also have the ability to produce symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders. Vitamin B12 deficiency, in particular, can contribute to depression and affects 1 in 4 people.
A number of herbs and supplements can be used in lieu of drugs to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. These include:
By Dr. Mercola
Insulin is absolutely essential to staying alive; unfortunately, the vast majority of people have resistance to this essential hormone, speeding up the aging process and contributing to the development of degenerative diseases. Any meal high in grain and sugar carbs typically generates a rapid rise in blood glucose. To compensate, your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream, which lowers your blood sugar to keep you from dying.
Insulin, however, is also very efficient at lowering blood sugar by turning it into fat. The more you secrete, the fatter you become. If you consistently consume a high-sugar, high-grain diet, your blood glucose level will be correspondingly high and over time your body becomes desensitized to insulin, requiring more and more of it to get the job done. Eventually, you become insulin resistant and prone to weight gain, and then full-blown diabetic.
Prediabetes1 is defined as an elevation in blood glucose over 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) but lower than 125 mg/dl, at which point it formally becomes Type 2 diabetes. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 84 million American adults — about 1 in 3 — are prediabetic, and most are unaware of this fact.
However, this is a semantic moot point as any fasting blood sugar regularly over 90 in my book suggests insulin resistance. As you will read below, the seminal work of the late Dr. Joseph Kraft, author of “Diabetes Epidemic and You: Should Everyone Be Tested?” suggests that 80 percent — 8 out of 10 — of Americans are insulin resistant.
Based on data from 14,000 patients,2 Kraft, former chairman of the department of clinical pathology and nuclear medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Chicago, developed a powerful predictive test for diabetes.3 He would have the patient drink 75 grams of glucose and then measure their insulin response over time, at half-hour intervals for up to five hours.
Interestingly, he noticed five distinctive patterns suggesting a vast majority of people were already diabetic, even though their fasting glucose was normal. Only 20 percent of patients had a pattern signaling healthy post-prandial insulin sensitivity and low diabetes risk, which means 80 percent were prediabetic or had “diabetes in situ.” As explained by IDMProgram.com:4
“If you simply wait until blood glucose is elevated, then you have [Type 2 diabetes], no question. But if you have normal blood sugars, then you may still be at risk of diabetes (prediabetes). So, we give a big load of glucose and see if the body is able to handle it … If the body responds by very high secretion of insulin, this will force the blood glucose into the cell and keep the blood glucose normal.
But this is not normal. It’s like the trained athlete who can easily run 10K in one hour and the untrained athlete who must dig deep and use all his effort to do so. Those people who need to produce prodigious amounts of insulin to force the glucose back to normal are at high risk [for diabetes].”
A team of Scandinavian researchers now argue that there are at least five broad manifestations of diabetes: Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes, plus four different kinds of Type 2 diabetes.5,6,7,8 To reach this conclusion, the researchers analyzed medical records of about 15,000 diabetic patients in Sweden and Finland. By looking at six common variables, including age of diagnosis, body mass index and severity of insulin resistance, the group found patients fell into five distinct groupings:
According to lead author Leif Groop, an endocrinologist at Lund University Diabetes Center in Sweden and Folkhalsan Research Centre in Finland,9 “Current diagnostics and classification of diabetes are insufficient and unable to predict future complications or choice of treatment. This is the first step toward personalized treatment of diabetes.”
I personally believe these subtypes of Type 2 diabetes offer nothing but meaningless confusion. Kraft made it crystal clear: If you have insulin resistance — remember that is 80 percent of the U.S. population — you either have outright Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, period. Fortunately this is one of the easiest problems in health to correct. All one needs to do is follow a cyclical ketogenic diet as I outline in my book “Fat for Fuel.”
The following blood tests will help you determine whether you might be prediabetic or diabetic:
Not surprisingly, conventional medicine remains clueless and the American College of Physicians (ACP) is now arguing for even less aggressive blood sugar targets when treating Type 2 diabetes.10 According to ACP president Dr. Jack Ende, “There are harms associated with overzealous treatment or inappropriate treatment focused on A1C targets.” In a new set of guidelines, the ACP now recommends aiming for an A1C between 7 and 8 percent, rather than the lower levels recommended by many diabetes groups.
For those who have already achieved a lower level, the ACP suggests reducing or stopping medication altogether and “just allow the A1C to be between 7 and 8.” The American Diabetes Association has firmly rejected the ACP's recommendation, and considering the risks involved, it seems really unwise to “just allow” your level to remain as high as 8 without addressing it. The best way to tackle it, however, is not with medication but with lifestyle changes.
It’s important to realize that Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are rooted in insulin (and leptin) resistance, and that a vast majority of people — likely around 80 percent — are affected. This means it’s a rare individual who does not need to address his or her diet and physical activity, as these are the two most important and most effective prevention and treatment strategies. The good news is Type 2 diabetes — regardless of the subtype — is fully preventable and reversible without drugs.
I originally wrote my book “Fat for Fuel” for cancer patients, but it is even more effective for Type 2 diabetes. Cancer is a complex and typically a major challenge to treat, requiring more than diet. However, Type 2 diabetes in nearly every case is resolved with the type of eating plan I discuss in “Fat for Fuel.”
So, remember, if you’re at all concerned about your health, addressing any indication of insulin resistance and prediabetes is really crucial. Here is a quick summary of some of the most important guidelines. Taken together, this plan will lower your risk of diabetes and related chronic diseases and help you to avoid becoming victim to a health condition you might not even realize you have.
Limit added sugars to a maximum of 25 grams per day. If you're insulin resistant or diabetic, reduce your total sugar intake to 15 grams per day until your insulin/leptin resistance has resolved (then it can be increased to 25 grams) and start intermittent fasting as soon as possible.
Limit net carbs (total carbohydrates minus fiber) and protein and replace them with higher amounts of high-quality healthy fats such as seeds, nuts, raw grass-fed butter, olives, avocado, coconut oil, organic pastured eggs and animal fats, including animal-based omega-3s. Avoid all processed foods, including processed meats. For a list of foods that are particularly beneficial for diabetics, please see “Nine Superfoods for Diabetics.”
Get regular exercise each week and increase physical movement throughout waking hours, with the goal of sitting down less than three hours a day.
Get sufficient sleep. Most need right around eight hours of sleep per night. This will help normalize your hormonal system. Research has shown sleep deprivation can have a significant bearing on your insulin sensitivity.
Optimize your vitamin D level, ideally through sensible sun exposure. If using oral vitamin D3 supplementation, be sure to increase your intake of magnesium and vitamin K2 as well, as these nutrients work in tandem.
By Dr. Mercola
Let’s face it, many people love that new car smell. In fact, it is so intoxicating air fresheners for cars are designed to mimic the scent. Scientists aren’t sure why this particular scent holds so much appeal, but it is likely a form of classical conditioning, since the smell is associated with the luxury of owning a new car. Scent is a powerful marketing tool as it commonly evokes feelings and emotions on which sales people are adept at capitalizing.
Memories associated with certain scents is called “odor-evoked autobiographical memory” or the Proust phenomenon, named after French writer Marcel Proust. Researchers have discovered your brain analyzes odors and memories in a similar region, closely connected to your amygdala and hippocampus. This connection may explain why scent is tied to vivid memories.
Scents may not only bring up good memories but may also be associated with traumatic memories, triggering trauma-related flashbacks. The power of scent reveals why aromatherapy is so effective in generating calmness and relaxation. However, while the scent of a new car may generate good feelings related to the ownership of a new luxury toy, the scent carries significant health risks and car manufacturers do not purposely include it in new cars.
Tests were done on 200 of the most popular cars in 2011-2012, checking for chemicals off-gassing from steering wheels, armrests, carpet and dashboards that contribute to the new car smell.1 The researchers were interested in measurements, as the average American spends 1.5 hours each day in their car, and off-gassing chemicals are a significant contributor to indoor air pollution.
The truth is, that new car smell is made up of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Robert Weiz, certified microbial investigator and founder of RTK Environmental Group,2 says the materials used to make the interior of a new car contain plastics, glue and carpeting, all of which outgas or release VOC molecules.
Although these molecules eventually evaporate, contributing to outdoor air pollution, in a confined space they are immediately harmful to inhale. Some individuals experience abrupt symptoms such as headaches and respiratory problems.3 This class of chemicals is present in cleaning products, home improvement products and building materials. The materials in new cars are unstable and give off gases, including benzene and formaldehyde, both of which are known carcinogens.
The U.S. does not have standards to protect citizens against VOCs, but other countries do. New car interiors can contain up to 128 times the legal limit of VOCs in countries like Australia.4 This raises a significant concern as you are exposed to VOC molecules in multiple areas of your life, compounding the effect they have on your health.
For instance, formaldehyde, or formaldehyde releasing products, can be found under a number of different names on product labels,5 including in lotions, shampoos, cosmetics and even toothpaste. Product labels will rarely if ever contain the word formaldehyde, but rather a synonym for a formaldehyde-releasing chemical. Some of these names include formalin, methanal, quaternium 15, methylene oxide and formic aldehyde.6
Organic compounds contain carbon and are found in all living things. However, VOCs easily become vapors or gases and contain elements such as fluorine, bromine, sulfur or nitrogen.7 VOCs are released from burning fuel, emitted from diesel exhaust and released from solvents, paints and glues. When VOC molecules combine with nitrogen oxides they react to form ozone, or smog, significantly affecting your respiratory system.
Health effects related to VOCs are dependent upon the concentration of the chemicals in the air and the length of your exposure. People have different symptoms depending upon their age, gender, health conditions and exposure to other chemicals. Short-term exposure can trigger:8
Allergic skin reactions
Shortness of breath
Aggravated asthma symptoms
Decline in serum cholinesterase levels
Nose and throat discomfort
While these symptoms often go away after exposure stops, long-term exposure has caused cancer and negatively affected the liver, kidney and nervous system.9 Benzene, formaldehyde and acetylaldehyde are commonly emitted from household products and found in outgassing from your new car. Each of these chemicals are linked to cancer in animals and humans.10
The Ecology Center team, led by Jeff Gearhart, found the chemicals of immediate concern were bromine, chlorine, lead and heavy metals.11 While these chemicals were of primary concern to the researchers, they found over 275 different chemicals in the interior of the cars tested. Gearhart commented:12
“Research shows that vehicle interiors contain a unique cocktail of hundreds of toxic chemicals that off-gas in small, confined spaces. Since these chemicals are not regulated, consumers have no way of knowing the dangers they face. Our testing is intended to expose those dangers and encourage manufacturers to use safer alternatives.”
Bromine is often found in brominated flame retardant chemicals, linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in female firefighters who are exposed to toxic smoke on the job. Flame retardants belong to the same class of chemical as DDTs or PCBs (organohalogens), which react with other chemicals to create cancer-causing dioxins,13 and are widely used in furniture, carpeting and your car.14
Researchers have also found associations between exposure to flame retardant chemicals, such as bromine, and neurodevelopmental delays in children when exposed in utero and after birth,15 making your car a potential hazard for cognitive delay and poor attention.
Chlorine, another of the chemicals detected in significant levels in new car smell, is among the 10 highest volume chemicals made in the U.S.16 Although a gas at room temperature, chlorine is used to disinfect water, in the production of paper and cloth, and in polymers, rubbers and pesticides.
When chlorine enters your body through inhalation or by exposure through your skin, it reacts with water, producing corrosive acids and detergent byproducts that damage cells on contact.17 Chlorine is toxic enough to be classified as a chemical weapon, and has been associated with dementia in the elderly, increasing asthma episodes and eye and skin irritation.18
Lead exposure carries yet another list of side effects and negative health consequences you wouldn’t expect while riding to work or the grocery store. Lead poisoning is cumulative. In other words, your body doesn’t metabolize or excrete it. Over time, lead builds up in your bones and teeth. Young children are especially vulnerable to the mental and physical conditions lead may trigger, which include developmental delay, learning disabilities, irritability, hearing loss and seizures.19
In response to consumer demand, car manufacturers are moving toward reducing the amount and density of toxic chemicals off-gassing into new cars. While researchers continue to find a large number of chemicals, some manufacturers are now producing cars without hazardous flame retardant bromines and PVCs that outgas chlorine. In 2006, PVC was used in nearly all new cars,20 but today 17 percent of new vehicles are PVC-free and 60 percent are free of bromines.21
Topping the list of cars with the least number of chemicals were 2012 models of Honda Civic, Toyota Prius and the Honda CR-Z. The worst ranking were the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Chrysler 200 SC and the Kia Soul.
Although the industry trade group, Global Automakers, and Kia Motors did not comment on the results, Marcos Frommer, manager of corporate affairs and communications at American Honda, said,22 "We're pleased to be recognized by HealthyStuff.org for our efforts. Over the past decade, Honda has taken a number of steps to reduce or remove chemicals of concern from our vehicles."
Your car is a chemical laboratory as plastics exposed to temperatures as high as 192 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and dashboard temperatures up to 248 F increase the amount of VOCs released in an enclosed area.23 The featured study found the danger to children, adults and pets was greatest in the first six months after the car rolls off the showroom floor.24
Carmakers say they are moving toward removing VOCs from vehicles and have made improvements in cabin ventilation and filtration systems. Many of these changes were triggered by regulations in Europe where greater restrictions on exposure to toxins were implemented to protect people and the environment.25 While China and the state of California are developing their own regulations, the U.S. federal government is lagging in any effort to do the same.
Ventilating your car is a two-edged sword. While it’s best to keep your window open when driving a new car, it’s better to close the windows in heavy traffic and turn on your recirculating function to reduce the amount of toxic-laden exhaust entering the car.26
You may also consider purchasing a used car, as VOCs and lead emissions are significantly reduced after six months. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns continued exposure to pollutants found in new cars may lead to reproductive issues, damage to your liver, kidneys and central nervous system, and cancer.27,28
In order to reduce off-gassing triggered by high heat, park your car in the shade and leave a window open if possible. At the very least, open doors on both sides of the car to allow for air exchange before getting in to drive after the car has been closed and parked. Avoid sitting in the car when it’s parked and use a solar shade on the windows to reduce heat buildup in the vehicle. Frequent dusting with a microfiber cloth will help reduce dust in the car where airborne chemicals often settle.
By Dr. Mercola
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),1 approximately 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. Nearly 735,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. Of these, 525,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 are repeat heart attacks. Knowing the risk factors, symptoms and taking early action increases the chances of survival.
There are a number of risk factors associated with heart attack. Data published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology2 demonstrates that by following six lifestyle guidelines, women may lower their risk of heart disease by 92 percent and of heart attack by 70 percent. These include eating a healthy diet, getting 2.5 hours of exercise each week, not smoking and limiting alcohol, maintaining a normal weight and watching television no more than seven hours per week.
Stress,3 less than optimal mineral levels,4 daylight saving time5 and even severe emotional loss6 can increase your risk of heart attack as well. While many use the terms "heart attack" and "cardiac arrest" interchangeably, the two conditions are actually different, and knowing the difference can be a matter of life and death.
Sudden, unexpected cardiac arrest is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.,7 which is different from a heart attack. Understanding this difference can help save a life. The most immediately recognizable difference between the two conditions is that a heart attack victim will remain conscious with their heart beating, while someone who suffers from sudden cardiac arrest will be unconscious, with no discernible heartbeat.
Your heart is an extraordinary organ, even continuing to function when it's detached from your body.8 Since your heart has its own electrical system, as long as it receives an adequate supply of oxygen, it can continue beating. Your heart beats nearly 100,000 times each day and pumps nearly 1 million barrels of blood in an average lifetime. This is enough blood to fill more than three supertankers.
While a heart attack affects the oxygen supply to your heart, cardiac arrest affects its electrical impulses. During a heart attack, part of the heart may have a reduction in oxygen when blood supply is restricted, but the remainder of the muscle continues to beat. During cardiac arrest, the electrical system is negatively impacted by conditions such as cardiomyopathy, heart failure, arrhythmias or ventricular fibrillation.
While heart attacks occur from a lack of oxygen supply and cardiac arrest happens from a disturbance in the electrical system, a heart attack does increase your risk of having a cardiac arrest, and is perhaps the most common reason for this occurrence.9 In other words, loss of oxygen supply to the heart muscle affects the electrical impulses and may trigger cardiac arrest.
As the underlying causative factors of both conditions are different, so too are the symptoms. A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, causes injury to the heart muscle. While the heart may continue to beat, the longer you go without treatment the more of the muscle becomes injured and dies. Symptoms of a heart attack can include:10,11
Shortness of breath
General sense of anxiety
Pressure or pain in the chest or abdomen
Mild intermittent chest discomfort may come and go over a period of days
Discomfort or pain in one or both arms spreading to your upper back, neck or jaw
Women sometimes experience additional symptoms, including stomach or abdominal pain, vomiting and weakness or overwhelming fatigue.12 To maximize the odds of survival and minimize permanent damage, it's important someone experiencing a heart attack receive immediate emergency medical care.
In contrast, electrical problems resulting in cardiac arrest will produce a loss of blood being pumped throughout the body and the brain. Subsequently, the person will suddenly pass out, lose consciousness and their heart will stop beating. In some instances, you may notice some abnormal gasping lasting for a minute or two and in other instances there may be seizure activity at the beginning of the event.13
Anyone can provide lifesaving care. Whether an individual suffers a heart attack or cardiac arrest, it's crucial to immediately call emergency medical services (EMS). Call your local emergency number (911 in the U.S.) and follow the dispatcher's instructions while waiting for EMS to arrive.
In the case of a heart attack, with each passing minute more of the heart muscle deteriorates and dies,14 so it's critical to restore blood flow. EMS would rather be called and discover it is not a heart attack than to not be called and the individual die.
If the individual is awake and conscious, ask him or her to lie down and rest until EMS arrives. In many instances a person having a heart attack will deny the severity of their symptoms and insist they're OK. It is not necessary to have their permission to call EMS, but it is important not to agitate them by insisting they sit down or rest as this only increases the stress on the heart. Instead, you might distract them until EMS arrives by engaging in conversation or asking questions about something other than their health.
In contrast, when an individual suffers a cardiac arrest, the heart immediately stops beating. This means there is no blood being pumped to the body or brain. At this time it is critical for bystanders to call EMS, give CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and use the nearest automated external defibrillator (AED).
While you may hesitate, being afraid you could hurt the victim, at this time the person is clinically dead and can't get any worse. Bystander CPR and AED can only help. Additionally, good Samaritan laws provide protection for those who render aid to victims in good faith.15
Sudden cardiac arrest annually affects nearly 326,000 people, approximately 10 percent of whom survive. This number increases to nearly 40 percent when bystanders immediately call 911, start CPR and use AEDs before EMS arrives.16,17 If you don't have formal training, 911 dispatchers can give you specific instructions on using an AED and performing CPR until EMS arrives.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,18 95 percent of people who have sudden cardiac arrest will die from it, whereas rapid treatment with an AED can be life-saving. These machines are lightweight and battery operated. Sticky pads with sensors are attached to the chest and those electrodes send information to the computer inside the machine.
The AED computer will analyze the heart rhythm to determine if electric shock is needed. If required, the machine uses voice prompts to tell you what to do and when to do it. AED machines are safe to use and there are no reports of them harming bystanders or users, or delivering inappropriate shocks.19
In a study by the National Institutes of Health,20 a team analyzed data collected between 2011 and 2015 from six U.S. and three Canadian hospital regions. Nearly 50,000 cardiac arrests occurred outside of a hospital during this period. The team's analysis demonstrated a greater likelihood of survival when a bystander used an AED rather than waiting for EMS to shock the heart.
The difference was nearly 20 percent greater potential for recovery in those who had early treatment using an AED by a bystander. Additionally, people who were shocked by a bystander had minimal disability after the cardiac arrest versus those whose treatment was initiated by EMS. The more time elapsed, the larger the benefit of bystander AED.21
In a previous analysis of data between 2005 and 2009, the team found approximately 500 more lives could be saved each year in the U.S. and Canada if bystanders used AEDs. Following this and other research, AEDs became more widely available and the team now estimates nearly 3,500 people having a cardiac arrest could be saved by bystander AED use.
By the time you experience symptoms of many diseases, the condition may have already claimed 80 percent of your health. For instance, in the case of heart disease, your first symptom may be a heart attack, and it may claim your life. This means it is critical you proactively use reasonable screening methods to determine your risk of a heart attack, and take preventive measure to avoid a growing disease. Many of the risk factors are modifiable through lifestyle changes. Here are some of the most common risk factors for and indicators of heart attack and cardiac arrest risk:
• Body mass index
In the same study, extreme low or high body mass index was predictive of sudden cardiac death, but not coronary artery disease.
• Serum ferritin and GGT
While iron, measured as serum ferritin, is necessary for biological function, excess iron can lead to chronic and deadly conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. GGT is a liver enzyme used in glutathione metabolism and may be used as a screening marker for excess free iron.
The presence of excess stored iron measured by serum ferritin, and free iron measured by GGT are vital indicators to your risk of sudden cardiac death. Maintaining "normal" lab value ranges is not enough to reduce your risk as you'll discover in my previous article, "Serum Ferritin and GGT — Two Potent Health Indicators You Need to Know."
• Cholesterol ratios
Your body makes nearly 80 percent of your cholesterol; the rest you get from your diet. If you eat less, your body will make more. The true indicators in your cholesterol numbers are not the total numbers but the ratios between your high density lipoproteins (HDL) to the total cholesterol number and your HDL to triglyceride number. You can find more information about how to assess your risk using your blood results in my previous article, "Cholesterol Plays Key Role in Cell Signaling."
• Insulin resistance
Many heart attacks are the result of insulin resistance. The higher your insulin resistance, the worse markers such as fasting insulin, triglyceride-to-HDL ratio and HbA1c will be, suggesting you're at increased risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Recent research has demonstrated two specific metrics: Circulating adiponectin and macrophages can with near 100 percent accuracy predict your obese phenotype, meaning whether you're obese insulin sensitive or obese insulin resistant. By making lifestyle changes I discuss in my previous article, "Insulin, Not Cholesterol, Is the True Culprit in Heart Disease," you may effectively reduce your risk of heart attack.
Since the first symptom of a heart attack is often a heart attack, there are several strategies you can implement to help prevent heart disease and reduce your risk of death.
If your iron level is high, you'll want to take steps to lower it. One of the easiest ways to do that is to donate blood on a consistent basis. Interestingly, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health23 found statin cholesterol-lowering medications worked by partially countering the proinflammatory effects of excess iron stores. You can achieve the same effect without the side effects of statin medications by donating blood.
Prepare for daylight saving time
Daylight saving time has been associated with a number of negative health effects, including heart attacks and increased rates of suicide and automobile accidents. You can protect yourself in the spring by following natural strategies to help your body resync after the time change. By waking up 30 minutes earlier on Saturday and Sunday, you'll minimize the impact of getting up earlier on Monday morning.
Get sunlight early in the morning in order to reduce your levels of melatonin quickly, which will help you get to sleep earlier in the evening. Set your clock ahead on Friday evening so you can adjust more slowly over the weekend.
By optimizing your vitamin D levels and managing your stress you'll also have less problems falling to sleep. You'll find specific strategies to help you sleep through the night in my previous article, "Want a Good Night's Sleep? Then Never Do These Things Before Bed."
Cyclical ketogenic diet
Lowering your levels of inflammation may also help to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack. A study from Brigham and Women's Hospital24 analyzed accumulated data from over 25 years and determined a reduction in inflammation could reduce the risk of a recurrent heart attack. By normalizing your weight and improving your insulin resistance, you'll also reduce inflammation in your body.
Some of the more significant factors affecting the inflammatory process include an excess of insulin, unbalanced fatty acids, leaky gut, high iron stores and inadequate levels of magnesium. The first three of these can be addressed by choosing a cyclical ketogenic diet as described in my previous article, "A Beginner's Guide to the Ketogenic Diet: An Effective Way of Optimizing Your Health."
Magnesium deficiency can trigger a number of health conditions, including anxiety, diabetes, migraines, heart disease and hypertension. Each of these has a significant effect on your cardiovascular health. You can optimize your magnesium levels by eating dark green leafy vegetables or juicing your greens. Other foods rich in magnesium include avocados, seeds and nuts, herbs and spices and fruits and berries. Discover more of how magnesium affects your health in my previous article, "Magnesium An Essential Mineral for Heart Health."
For interesting facts about cholesterol and the ratios important to your health, see the following infographic:
Embed this infographic on your website:
Click on the code area and press CTRL + C (for Windows) / CMD + C (for Macintosh) to copy the code
Improve blood flow
There are many factors that can negatively affect blood flow in your body, including a high sugar diet, smoking, electromagnetic forces, stress and high uric acid levels. While repeated blood donations increase the ability of your blood to flow more easily, other strategies you can use include getting enough sensible sun exposure, as this increases the production of a natural vasodilator, nitric oxide.
Earthing or grounding can also help improve a separation of electrical charges and allow your blood to flow against gravity, toward your heart, more easily. The same effect can be achieved by touching another living being, which may be the reason why hugs and pets are so healthy.
It is important to release the grip stress has over your life as it is a strong predictor of heart attack and stroke. Discover the physical effect stress has on your amygdala, the symptoms you may experience, and successful strategies to reduce stress in your life in my previous article, "How Stress Influences Your Heart Attack and Stroke Risk."
By Dr. Mercola
In Canada, it’s illegal to sell or give away raw milk, a law that’s enforced in many provinces. In Ontario, distributing raw milk was long considered to be a regulatory offense punishable by fines, but as of January 2018 an order issued by Ontario’s Superior Court changed that. Now, anyone who distributes or sells raw milk in the area can face years in prison.
As Karen Selick, litigation director for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, wrote in the Financial Post, “[T]he province of Ontario appears eager to fill its empty jail cells with individuals whose so-called crime was distributing raw milk.”1 The injunction was part of Downing v. ARC, a legal case between Gavin Downing, Ontario’s milk director, and ARC, a farm co-op owned by Canadian raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt that was distributing raw milk to its members.
According to A Campaign for Real Milk, a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation, “In Ontario, farmers may be fined $250,000 and sentenced to three years in jail [for selling or distributing raw milk] … Challenges to these laws are now underway. And in spite of onerous penalties, Michael and Dorothea Schmidt of Glencolton Farms provide milk to cow shareholders in Toronto.”2
Schmidt has been battling with the Canadian government for decades in order to provide safe raw milk to area residents. He has been harassed with threats, surveillance, intimidation and raids, even though no one has ever gotten sick from drinking the raw milk products he provides. Since it is illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, those who wanted to enjoy Schmidt’s raw milk products formed the Glencolton farm-share, in which each owned a piece of a cow and could therefore legally enjoy its milk.
The government eradicated this loophole, however, so the shareholders moved to own the farm instead of just the cow, by transforming into the ARC co-op. The government still intervened, however, forcing the members to “operate with caution” out of fear that they might be raided while trying to pick up a gallon of milk. Although members have tried to set up meetings with government officials to outline their concerns and reach an agreeable conclusion, the government has not been interested.3
In 2011, Schmidt even went on a 37-day hunger strike, which ended with him meeting former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, although no progress was ultimately made. Selick, who was Schmidt’s lawyer from 2010 to 2013, explained that the injunction handed down in 2018 is being appealed and a constitutional challenge has been launched seeking to overrule the “outdated” legislation, adding:4
“[O]ver the 24 years that Ontario has been prosecuting Schmidt, the number of U.S. states that have enacted laws allowing consumers to access raw milk has risen from 26 to 42. Canada is the only G-7 country that completely prohibits the distribution and sale of raw milk, through both federal and provincial laws. In many European countries, raw milk is sold in vending machines. Italy alone has about 1,300 such machines.
Do all these foreign governments care less about their people than Canadian governments do? Or do they simply recognize that raw milk really isn’t very risky compared to all kinds of stuff that people consume legally every day? Canadian kids make an alarming number of trips to the hospital emergency room every year (and occasionally die) due to choking on hard candies or balloons, but we don’t outlaw those.”
Elisa Vander Hout, who is married to Schmidt, believes the Ontario injunction violates their constitutional right to access raw milk and has, along with other co-op members, filed a motion to have the injunction stayed.
For now, they have stopped distributing the milk in order to avoid criminal charges, feeding the wholesome food to pigs and chickens instead of handing it out to co-op members.5 It’s a similar story in the U.S., where efforts continue to expand access to raw milk — the only food banned from interstate commerce — and, in so doing, protect people’s right to eat and drink what they please.
You might remember that at one time all milk was “raw,” as pasteurization did not yet exist. This 19th-century invention is touted as crucial in making milk safe, but what it’s actually done is allow for the proliferation of the “dirty dairy” industry, aka milk that comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOS). The Tenth Amendment Center is one of the latest NGOs to get involved in the raw milk legalization cause. The 10th Amendment reads:6
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
What this means, then, is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in violation of the Constitution by trying to enforce raw milk bans within states. Such bans tend to favor industrial dairy at the expense of small, family farms, according to Mike Maharrey, national communications director for the Tenth Amendment Center. He said in a position paper:7
“Constitutionally, food safety falls within the powers reserved to the states and the people … The feds have no authority to enforce food safety laws within the border of a state. Nevertheless, federal agencies still want more control over America’s food supply, and they go great lengths to get it.
For example, the FDA bans the interstate sale of raw milk. But, not only do they ban the transportation of raw milk across state lines, they also claim the authority to ban unpasteurized milk within the borders of a state.
FDA ultimately wants to maintain a complete prohibition on raw milk with a one-size-fits-all control over everything you eat and drink. While FDA apologists claim the agency only wants to protect consumers, in truth, federal regulations tend to benefit big companies and squeeze out family farms. In the name of safety, FDA regulations limit your ability to access local, fresh food.”
On CAFOs, milk can be produced in filthy conditions, then heated until all the pathogens are gone. Never mind that, along with killing “germs,” pasteurization kills off beneficial organisms in the milk and prevents natural souring (while naturally soured milk can still be consumed, pasteurized milk past its prime will quickly go bad).8
Rather than forcing dirty and dangerous CAFOs to clean up their acts, the FDA has waged a war against raw milk producers — those who are typically producing milk using far healthier, more humane and more sustainable methods than the industrial dairy industry ever could.
As CAFOs became the norm for dairy farms (even in idyllic-seeming dairy states like Vermont), farmers were forced to grow their herds and increase milk production using artificial (drug and hormone-based) methods, among others (like feeding cows an unnatural amount of grain-based food, 24-hour confinement and increased number of milkings per day).
The price of milk has gone so low that an average-sized dairy farm in Vermont (about 125 cows) may operate at a loss of $100,000 a year.9 According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), meanwhile:10
“Dairy farmers are suffering because the companies that send their milk to the grocery store refuse to pay them what it costs them to produce the milk. On the West Coast, cooperatives created to sell dairy products have been accused by their members of pocketing millions of dollars in an elaborate accounting scheme.
Meanwhile, farmers in the Northeast have filed a lawsuit against their co-op, Dairy Farmers of America, and Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk processor, alleging the companies conspired to monopolize the market and drive down prices, knowing their member farmers would have nowhere else to sell their milk.
Milk prices are so bad this year — farmers are getting the same price they got 20 years ago — that at least one milk processor sent farmers phone numbers for suicide prevention hotlines and other mental health services along with the latest market forecasts.”
Only about 3 percent of Americans regularly consume raw milk, but OCA states this could offer a major push to rural economies. In fact, if 100 farms in Wisconsin could provide raw milk to 50 local families, it would lead to more than $10 million in “increased wealth and well-being” for Wisconsin residents.11
OCA further noted, “A boost like that is exactly what rural economies need as U.S. dairy farmers continue going out of business at an unsustainable rate. In 1950, there were about 3.5 million farms with milking cows. By 2016, there were only 41,809. Between 2015 and 2016, 1725 dairy farms went under.”12
The irony of federal agents conducting raids on small raw milk farmers becomes all the more apparent when you learn that, each year, 48 million Americans, or nearly 15 percent of the population, are sickened by foodborne illness in the U.S., compared to 1.5 percent of the U.K. population.13 Meanwhile, 128,000 Americans are hospitalized, and 3,000 die, from foodborne disease.
A joint investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and The Guardian further noted “shocking” and “deeply worrying” hygiene failings at 47 U.S. meat plants that could flood the market with “dirty meat.” Data stemming from 13 red meat and poultry plants over a two-year period revealed more than 150 violations a week, totaling 15,000 violations in all. Incidents included:14
There were likely far more violations that went undetected as well. When The Guardian interviewed meat hygiene inspectors, they agreed that violations could inevitably slip through the cracks due to the fast line speeds.
The findings are worrying, to put it mildly, as professor Erik Millstone, a food safety expert at Sussex University, told The Guardian, “ … because of the risks of spreading infectious pathogens from carcass to carcass, and between portions of meat. The rates at which outbreaks of infectious food poisoning occur in the U.S. are significantly higher than in the U.K., or the EU, and poor hygiene in the meat supply chain is [a] leading cause of food poisoning in the U.S..”15
At Pilgrim’s Pride, a poultry giant that processes 34 million chickens a week, noncompliance reports detail an average of nearly 1,500 regulatory violations a month at 24 plants, spanning a 25-month period, The Guardian investigation revealed:16
“An inspector discovered ‘carcasses of poultry showing evidence of septicemic disease ... carcasses showing evidence of having died from other causes than slaughter ... guts of carcasses, [and] poultry carcasses with heads attached.’ He requested that the condemned items be removed. A similar incident was recorded some days later.”
Poultry CAFOS are among the worst offenders when it comes to foodborne illness (although pork and red meat CAFOs also revealed numerous violations). Case in point, in April 2017, the CDC released a preliminary report stating that 8,547 cases of the more than 24,000 foodborne infections reported in 2016 were caused by campylobacter (compared to 8,172 caused by salmonella).17
It’s likely not a coincidence that these two bugs are then singled out as major drivers of outbreaks related to unpasteurized dairy. The CDC report noted, “ … [O]utbreak-related illnesses will increase steadily as unpasteurized dairy consumption grows, likely driven largely by salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis.”18 It seems strange to peg campylobacter as a “raw milk germ,” when it’s regularly detected on CAFO chicken sold in U.S. supermarkets.
According to the CDC, “Campylobacter was found on 47 percent of raw chicken samples bought in grocery stores and tested through the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).”19 The CDC also states:20
“Most cases of campylobacteriosis are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry meat or from cross-contamination of other foods by these items … Even one drop of juice from raw chicken meat can have enough campylobacter in it to infect a person! One way to become infected is to cut poultry meat on a cutting board, and then use the unwashed cutting board or utensil to prepare vegetables or other raw or lightly cooked foods.”
Also revealing, while campylobacter is the bacteria responsible for most cases of foodborne illness, leafy greens are actually the No. 1 source of food poisoning in the U.S, accounting for nearly half of all illnesses.21 Why, then, is raw dairy considered worthy of banning while the CAFO model is subsidized?
Raw dairy farmers have been put out of business for mere suspicion of contamination. Even in the absence of a complaint of contamination, farmers and consumers are often harassed over the buying and selling of raw milk. In contrast, Blue Bell Creamery — the third-largest ice cream maker in the U.S. whose ice cream sickened 10 people with listeria, three of whom died as a result, in 2015, was fined just $175,000 for the incident.22
Ultimately, the choice of what to eat should belong to the individual consumer, not the state or federal government. 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 — one day virtually all food could be pasteurized, irradiated and/or genetically engineered.
And remember that quality matters. No matter what food you’re in search of, choosing food that comes from small regenerative farms — not CAFOs — is crucial. If you’re interested in raw milk, here are tips for finding high-quality raw milk sources:
Does the farmer and his entire family drink the milk themselves?
Does the farmer test his milk for pathogens, and can he prove that his product has a low pathogenic population?
Are the cows fed with natural grass on a pasture? If not, what are they feeding the cows?
How long has the farmer been in business producing raw milk?
What conditions are the cows raised in? Do they look healthy?
Is the farm accredited with sanitation standards? In a related note, does the farm have a history of sanitation problems?
Is the milk quickly chilled after collecting?
Are cows given antibiotics and growth hormones? (Remember, organic standards do not allow this practice.)
By Dr. Mercola
The opioid epidemic — which between 2002 and 2015 alone claimed an estimated 202,600 Americans’ lives1 — shows absolutely no signs of leveling off or declining. On the contrary, recent statistics suggest the death toll is still trending upward, with more and more people abusing these powerful narcotics. The most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include2 methadone, oxycodone (such as OxyContin®) and hydrocodone (such as Vicodin®).
This dangerous class of drugs promises relief from pain and is filling a hole in human hearts and souls everywhere. According to the most recent data3 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose cases admitted into emergency rooms increased by more than 30 percent across the U.S. between July 2016 and September 2017. Overdose cases rose by:4
In the Midwest region — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin — overdose cases rose by 70 percent and opioid-related mortality by 14 percent. Large cities also saw a 54 percent increase in overdose cases in that same timeframe. According to CDC officials, the results are “a wake-up call to the fast-moving opioid overdose epidemic.’’
Curiously, opioid abuse appears to be a uniquely American problem. As noted in a recent write-up in New York Magazine,5 the U.S. “pioneered modern life. Now epic numbers of Americans are killing themselves with opioids to escape it.” I’ve written about opioid misuse and addiction on many occasions in recent years, and it seems one cannot discuss this issue enough. Many are still unaware of the dangers involved with filling that first prescription.
As an indication of the need for awareness, the March 5 issue of Time magazine, “The Opioid Diaries,”6 is aimed at exposing the national crisis. For the first time in the magazine’s history, an entire issue is devoted to a single photo essay — the work of photojournalist James Nachtwey, who has documented stories for Time for over three decades. In “The Opioid Diaries,” Nachtwey’s photos detail the stark reality of this all-American crisis.
He and editor Paul Moakley spent months traversing the U.S., interviewing over 200 people along the way. As noted by a deputy sheriff who has seen more than his fair share of the fallout of this epidemic, opioid addiction doesn’t discriminate. “It’s not just the guy who’s never worked a day in his life,” he says. “It’s airline pilots. It’s teachers. I’m sure there’s law enforcement, firemen out there hooked on it. It’s Joe Citizen that’s dying.”
Here are some statistics about the U.S. opioid epidemic that really ought to get everyone’s attention:
Leading cause of death for younger Americans
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50.7
Annual death toll greater than entire Vietnam War
Preliminary data for 2016 reveals the death toll from drug overdoses may be as high as 65,000,8 a 19 percent increase from 2015; the largest annual increase of drug overdose deaths in U.S. history, and a number that exceeds both the AIDS epidemic at its peak and the death toll of the Vietnam War in its entirety.9
That much-opposed war claimed the lives of 58,000 American troops. Now, we’re suffering a death toll exceeding that of the Vietnam War each and every year, courtesy of a drug addiction epidemic created by the pharmaceutical industry.
Deadlier than breast cancer
Synthetic opioid abuse skyrocketing
Deadly overdoses involving fentanyl, an incredibly potent synthetic opioid, rose by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014 and another 72 percent between 2014 and 2015. Over 20,000 of the drug overdose deaths in 2016 were attributed to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.14 In Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, fentanyl was responsible for at least 70 percent of all opioid-related deaths between July and December 2016.15
While some users will buy fentanyl on purpose, others buy tainted wares and end up taking it without knowing the risks. This is a critical problem, as fentanyl is so potent just a few grains can be deadly.
An inexpensive fentanyl test strip can check for the presence of the drug, and trials where test strips have been given to users show they’re more likely to cut back on the amount they’re taking when they know it’s tainted with fentanyl. As such, fentanyl testing can be employed as “a point-of-care test within harm-reduction programs” aimed at lowering the death toll.16
Significant factor in unemployment rates
Opioid abuse has been identified as a significant factor in rising unemployment among men, accounting for 20 percent of the increase in male unemployment between 1999 and 2015.17 Nearly half of all unemployed men between the ages of 25 and 54 are using opioids on a daily basis.18
Americans use vast majority of global opioid supplies
Americans consume 99 percent of the hydrocodone sold worldwide, and 81 percent of all oxycodone — approximately 30 times more than medically necessary for the population size of the U.S.19 A number of different statistics convey this massive overuse.
For example, in a five-year span, between 2007 and 2012, 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills were shipped to West Virginia, which has just 1.8 million residents.20 More than 1 in 5 Americans insured by BlueCross BlueShield were prescribed an opioid in 2015, and insurance claims involving opioid dependence rose by nearly 500 percent between 2010 and 2016.21
Declining life expectancy
Life expectancy for both men and women in the U.S. has declined two years in a row,22,23 and this decline is largely attributable to the opioid crisis. Just as the opioid epidemic, declining life expectancy is a uniquely American phenomenon. No other developed countries has experienced this decline in life expectancy.
There are compelling reasons to suspect the opioid epidemic was purposely engineered by the drug companies that make them, and that these same companies have, and continue to, shy away from doing what’s necessary to curb the use of opioid pain killers for financially-driven reasons.
Moreover, while this was not likely planned, the industry’s misleading promotion of narcotic pain relievers appears to have coincided with a growing trend of emotional pain and spiritual disconnect, and opioids satisfy people’s need not only for physical pain relief but also psychological and existential pain relief. As noted by New York Magazine:24
“The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, postindustrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness …
[U]nless you understand what users get out of an illicit substance, it’s impossible to understand its appeal, or why an epidemic takes off, or what purpose it is serving in so many people’s lives. And it is significant, it seems to me, that the drugs now conquering America are downers: They are not the means to engage in life more vividly but to seek a respite from its ordeals … And some part of being free from all pain makes you indifferent to death itself.”
The article cites a number of firsthand accounts of the experience opioids provides — the blissful serenity of being able to stand apart from one’s psychological pain in addition to physical pain; the sensation of being connected to some deeper wellspring of peace. These are experiences typically derived from spiritual practices, and hint at a widespread lack of connectedness to the divine in general.
While the drug industry deserves a large portion of the blame for creating the opioid epidemic, the U.S. government also mismanaged the situation right from the start by supporting drug companies’ efforts to make narcotic pain killers more readily available for people with nonlethal pain conditions, and its slow reaction to the problem has only allowed matters to worsen. In a recent Washington Post article, columnist David Von Drehle writes:25
“With the possible exception of alcohol, no substance on Earth has a longer track record of disastrous addiction than opium and its derivatives … Yet despite centuries of hard-won knowledge, pharmaceutical companies and prescribing physicians were allowed to make such opioids as Percocet and OxyContin widely available as treatments not just for acute pain, but for chronic discomfort.
Their fantasy of benign long-term opioid use is the root of the epidemic. Nearly 80 percent of heroin users report that prescription pain relievers were their gateway drugs … Such a failure of epic proportions by a generation of public-health officials merits a major congressional investigation to reduce the chance that anything like it ever happens again.”
The U.S. government is further exacerbating drug use by tightening restrictions on less harmful and far safer non-narcotic alternatives such as medical marijuana, CBD oil and kratom. As noted by New York Magazine, “The iron law of prohibition, as first stipulated by activist Richard Cowan in 1986, is that the more intense the crackdown, ‘the more potent the drugs will become.’ In other words, the harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs.”
During the prohibition of alcohol, people didn’t turn to beer making. They started making hard liquor — moonshine. The same thing is happening now, as heroin — the street version of opioids — is being replaced with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times stronger than heroin. Users buy what they can get, and so the spiral of drug abuse and death continues spinning out of control.
“The critical Office of National Drug Control Policy has spent a year without a permanent director,” New York Magazine writes. “Its budget is slated to be slashed by 95 percent, and … Kellyanne Conway — Trump’s ‘opioid czar’ — has no expertise in government, let alone in drug control.
Although Trump plans to increase spending on treating addiction, the overall emphasis is on an even more intense form of prohibition, plus an advertising campaign. Attorney General Jeff Sessions even recently opined that he believes marijuana is really the key gateway to heroin — a view so detached from reality it beggars belief …
One of the few proven ways to reduce overdose deaths is to establish supervised injection sites that eventually wean users off the hard stuff while steering them into counseling, safe housing, and job training …
[W]e would have to contemplate actually providing heroin to addicts in some cases, and we’d have to shift much of the current spending on prohibition, criminalization, and incarceration into a huge program of opioid rehabilitation … We would, in short, have to end the war on drugs.”
On the other hand, the safer you make drug use, the more drugs will be misused. That’s exactly what a recent study looking the variations in timing of expanded access to naloxone found. Naloxone is a drug that can reverse an overdose if administered quickly enough.
In 2013, states began expanding access to the drug beyond trained medical professionals, and more than 40 states now have expanded access, making it available to police officers, nonmedical emergency responders, teachers and even family and friends of the addicts themselves.
While the idea behind expanded access was to prevent deaths, by lowering the risk opioid-related overdoses shot up even more. As mentioned earlier, overdoses increased by more than 30 percent in the 14 months leading up to September 2017.
Worse, mortality increased by 14 percent in the Midwest after naloxone access was expanded, in large part due to increased use of fentanyl, which typically requires multiple doses of naloxone. Even with multiple doses, it doesn’t always work. Expanded access to naloxone has also led to more opioid-related crime, including the illegal possession and sale of opioids.
Evidence suggests opioid makers such as Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, knew exactly what they were doing when they claimed opioids — which are chemically very similar to heroin — have an exceptionally low addiction rate when taken by people with pain.
In fact, the massive increase in opioid sales has been traced back to an orchestrated marketing plan aimed at misinforming doctors about the drug’s addictive potential. The drug’s general effectiveness against pain has also been vastly exaggerated by drug manufacturers. In April 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a paper in which it noted that:26
“Most placebo-controlled, randomized trials of opioids have lasted six weeks or less, and we are aware of no study that has compared opioid therapy with other treatments in terms of long-term (more than 1 year) outcomes related to pain, function, or quality of life.
The few randomized trials to evaluate opioid efficacy for longer than six weeks had consistently poor results. In fact, several studies have showed that use of opioids for chronic pain may actually worsen pain and functioning, possibly by potentiating pain perception …”
More recently, government-funded research27,28,29 published in the journal JAMA earlier this month confirmed that patients taking opioids did not experience better pain-related function than those taking far safer, non-narcotic pain relievers. The study is the first to compare opioids against non-opioid pain medication for people with chronic back pain or osteoarthritic pain in the hip or knee.
Contrary to popular belief, patients who took Tylenol, ibuprofen or lidocaine actually reported less pain intensity than those taking an opioid drug such as morphine, Vicodin or oxycodone. Not surprisingly, however, opioid users were far more likely to experience adverse side effects. According to the authors:
“Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with non-opioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain ... Overall, opioids did not demonstrate any advantage over non-opioid medications that could potentially outweigh their greater risk of harms.”
It seems we’re not going to get anywhere with this epidemic until or unless we begin to address deeper societal issues. Most areas have lost a sense of community, and social media has only deepened the gulf between us. In many ways, the opioid epidemic appears to mirror a deeper, psychological and spiritual disconnect.
It’s important to recognize and address our human need for life purpose, a sense of community and shared values. There are no quick fixes to existential despair. It will require a shift in mindset across society as a whole. With an eye on the big picture, it appears we really need to find ways to reinfuse meaning into our lives.
With regard to physical pain, we clearly need to have compassion. But the most compassionate treatment isn’t necessarily a narcotic pain reliever. A number of studies have already confirmed that opioids do not work well at all for chronic pain. Most recently, they were found to be no more effective than Tylenol and ibuprofen over the long term. Opioids really must be a drug of last resort, and should almost never be considered for chronic long-term use. It’s important for both doctors and patients to recognize this.
That said, considering the health risks associated with opioid painkillers, I strongly urge you to exhaust other options before resorting to these drugs. The good news is there are many natural alternatives to treating pain, including the following:
Medical marijuana has a long history as a natural analgesic and is now legal in 28 states. You can learn more about the laws in your state on medicalmarijuana.procon.org.30
Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) is a plant remedy that has become a popular opioid substitute.31 In August 2016, the DEA issued a notice saying it was planning to ban kratom, listing it as Schedule 1 controlled substance.
However, following massive outrage from kratom users who say opioids are their only alternative, the agency reversed its decision.32 Still, its scheduling remains uncertain, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently declared kratom an opioid.33
Kratom is safer than an opioid for someone in serious and chronic pain. However, it’s important to recognize that it is a psychoactive substance and should be used with great care. There’s very little research showing how to use it safely and effectively, and it may have a very different effect from one person to the next. The other issue to address is that there are a number of different strains available with different effects.
Also, while it may be useful for weaning people off opioids, kratom is in itself addictive. So, while it appears to be a far safer alternative to opioids, it’s still a powerful and potentially addictive substance. So please, do your own research before trying it.
Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)
Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, originally developed in the early 1960s for the treatment of opioid addiction. When taken at very low doses (LDN, available only by prescription), it triggers endorphin production, which can boost your immune function and ease pain.
|Curcumin: A primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric, curcumin has been shown in more than 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity. Curcumin is hard to absorb, so best results are achieved with preparations designed to improve absorption. It is very safe and you can take two to three every hour if you need to.|
|Astaxanthin: One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required for pain relief, and you may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve results.|
|Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as it worked well for many of my former rheumatoid arthritis patients.|
|Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider eating some of the pulpy core when you consume the fruit.|
|Cayenne cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting your body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.|
|Cetyl myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in dairy butter and fish, acts as a joint lubricant and anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation of CMO to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild case of carpal tunnel syndrome.|
|Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils: These oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid, which is useful for treating arthritic pain.|
|Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea, or incorporated into fresh vegetable juice.|
By Dr. Mercola
Chickens that lay eggs in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) endure some of the cruelest conditions in industrial agriculture. Most hens spend their short lives in “battery cages” that are about the size of a piece of paper — so small the hens cannot spread their wings. Within a year, they lose their feathers and have their skin rubbed raw from the close contact with other birds.
Forced to lay eggs with no privacy (a very stressful situation for a hen) and live with no space, the industry also painfully severs the end of their beaks to prevent the birds from pecking at each other. Severe health problems are common as a result of their immobility, from spinal cord deterioration leading to paralysis to muscle and bone wasting. As for male chicks, the facilities have no use for them, so they’re ground up alive or suffocated in a plastic bag.1
There are public health issues created by CAFOs as well, from the spread of antibiotic-resistant disease to widespread pollution to the fact that CAFO eggs are more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria. One study found eggs from hens confined to cages in CAFOs had 7.7 times greater odds of harboring salmonella bacteria than eggs from non-caged hens.2
Battery cages have already been banned in the European Union, but in the U.S., 94 percent of eggs produced come from these inhumane CAFOs.3 The more word has gotten out about the brutal conditions, however, the more demand has increased for more humane eggs — and restaurants and retailers have been listening. About 100 grocery store chains and dozens of restaurants and food manufacturers, including McDonald’s and Walmart, have pledged to stop using caged eggs within the next 10 years.4
According to The Intercept, “These outlets collectively comprise 70 percent of consumer demand in the United States,”5 which is more than enough to prompt real change in the industry. This would require the majority of CAFO egg producers to rethink the cheap way they’re churning out eggs, so not surprisingly there’s been some serious backlash.
A bill introduced in Iowa and already passed by the Iowa House of Representatives would require grocery stores in the state that participate in the Women, Infants and Children federal food assistance program and carry “specialty eggs” such as cage-free or free-range eggs, to also carry CAFO eggs.6
The pitch is that cage-free eggs can be more expensive, so the bill is supposed to protect consumers’ access to cheaper eggs and ensure “consumer choice,” but what it’s really about is protecting the interests of industrialized agriculture. Cody Carlson, an attorney at animal welfare group Mercy for Animals, told The Intercept, “These bills are designed to keep a dying industry afloat that consumers no longer want to support … This is an industry that refuses to change in any meaningful way.”7
It’s incredibly brazen to allow the government to dictate to stores what they must carry, especially when the product in question is one that comes at such a heavy environmental, public health and animal welfare cost. “In Iowa,” The Intercept reported, “the strategy of these corporations now rests on overriding the demands of the market and empowering the government to dictate to stores what they must sell — in particular, barring them from refusing to sell eggs that are the products of grotesque cruelty.”8
Americans yield incredible power when it comes to forcing change in the marketplace, as was demonstrated in California with the passage of Proposition 2 in 2008. The ballot initiative, which “passed in a landslide,” prohibited California egg producers (as well as producers of veal calves and pregnant pigs) from keeping hens in cages too small for them to turn around, stand up, lie down or stretch their limbs.
The measure brought at least some relief to hens raised in cages, but at the same time put the state’s egg producers at a disadvantage to producers from other states, who could produce cheaper eggs without Prop. 2 requirements, then ship them to California to be sold. The state remedied this by applying the Prop. 2 standards to all eggs sold in the state. According to The Intercept:9
“Since Prop 2’s passage, elected officials in Iowa and other egg-producing states have been vigorously fighting to undercut those laws in order to preserve access to California’s massive consumer market for their own egg producers — without requiring them to invest in better conditions for their hens.”
Ironically, one of the key arguments used against Prop. 2 was that it stood contrary to a free market and kept consumers from their freedom of food choice. Now the tables have turned, and consumers are demanding the right to choose eggs from cage-free hens, but Big Ag doesn’t want to hear about it. Chris Holbein of the Humane Society of the United States told The Intercept:10
“It’s extremely hypocritical that Iowa’s factory farmers have pretended for a long time to care about protecting the free market, because now that the free market is turning against them and in favor of more responsible producers that are trying to do the right thing for consumers and animals, the factory producers want the government to force grocery stores to sell a product that is both unsafe and unethical.”
To date, all measures from Iowa that have tried to target Prop. 2 have failed, including in 2016 when Iowa’s governor and five other state attorneys general sued California’s attorney general in order to block Prop. 2 enforcement. Now, California is taking Prop. 2 a step further and proposals have been made to expand minimum cage sizes. Meanwhile, a ballot initiative in the state is calling to get rid of cages entirely, proposing that all California eggs be produced from cage-free hens.
The Iowa bill to force stores to carry CAFO eggs is disturbing though not surprising given the government’s history of protecting industrialized agriculture. Consider Vande Bunte Eggs in Michigan, an egg-laying chicken CAFO that houses 1.6 million birds. With more than 200 state permit violations in the span of three years, you might think the facility would be in danger of being shut down.
Instead, it’s received more than $1 million in federal subsidies. The company’s owner, Tim Vande Bunte, also testified in support of Senate Bill 660, which was introduced in December 2017 and would push back the deadline for Michigan egg producers to provide cage-free chicken housing from 2020 to 2025.11
Vande Bunte’s many violations are but one example cited in a report compiled by the Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan.12,13 The report analyzed 272 CAFOs in Michigan and found they had collectively received more than $103 million in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2014, all while racking up 644 environmental permit violations by the end of 2016.
Meanwhile, in early 2017, 35 advocacy groups, including Food & Water Watch, called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to close federal loopholes that are allowing CAFOs to continue polluting the planet. In a petition, the groups asked the EPA to require CAFOs housing a certain number of animals or using a certain kind of manure management system to obtain a permit. The EPA has said that up to 75 percent of CAFOs need permits but only 40 percent have them.
Iowa has much at stake when it comes to CAFO eggs; the state produces about 1 in 5 eggs produced in the U.S. each year,14 and virtually all of them come from hens kept in battery cages. As the market for CAFO eggs declines, they’re banking on the new bill to force stores to continue selling their unsafe and inhumane product — but that doesn’t mean you have to buy it.
At the Main Street Project in Northfield, Minnesota, 100 acres of land are serving a very good purpose, hosting a poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system that’s grounded on an ecological, social and economically integrated management system.
“Rather than trying to fix the endless barrage of problems industrial farming has spawned, we simply don’t create those problems in the first place,” the Project notes, using methods such as cover crops, solar heating in chicken coops and perennial plants, including hazelnuts and elderberries, to protect chickens and provide revenue.
Small grains, cover crops and perennials provide a cash crop to farmers while offering nutrition and shelter to the chickens. “[T]he chickens in exchange provide the manure to fertilize not only the paddock and the plants within, but also other vegetables and perennials that provide associated agricultural enterprises in the area,” according to the Project, which continues:15
“Chickens are at the center of our system because they work so well with the crops, farmers and environment. They’re a one-stop weed-eating, bug-killing, soil-enhancing replacement for the counter-productive synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers destroying conventional farms and their communities.
They can also … increas[e] the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. More carbon sequestration means an actual reduction in greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere – something that conservation alone cannot do.”
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, an innovator in the field of regenerative agriculture and chief strategy officer at Main Street, is the principal architect of the poultry-centered regenerative agriculture model used at the Main Street Project. The system he came up with is a blueprint for regenerative farming that can be applied on a larger scale, and with it, he hopes to structure a real, commercially viable, food revolution from the ground up that can be replicated and customized anywhere in the world.
According to Haslett-Marroquin, regenerative agriculture needs to be centered around livestock in order to be optimized, and adding chickens is an easy way to do that. Not only is poultry something that connects every community in the world, but the meat and eggs are also a valuable source of animal protein (critical when dealing with hunger in a permanent way), and can be a solid economic platform to deal with poverty.
Poultry is also very accessible to small-scale farmers, who produce most of the food in the world — an important fact that many are unaware of. The Main Street Project has moved past the proof of concept stage, showing that their poultry-centered, regenerative agriculture prototype works.
They’re now in Stage 2, building an integrated central farm with seven poultry units that has an output of 21,000 meat chickens per year, perennials established (with harvest to come) and annual crops. The next phase is to scale the project into a regional system, the Project notes:16
“ … to the point where we gain significant market share while regenerating soil, protecting our waterways, and supplying the region with nutritious free-range poultry meat and eggs. With greater participation and crop production, we will also see increased expansion into more enterprise sectors — not only selling grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables, but seeing community members turn products into jams, salsas, soups and other value-added products.”
The systems the Main Street Program is developing are far superior to conventional ones for integrating poultry into a viable model for providing food for the masses. This system is geared not for those growing food in their backyard, but for creating a larger-scale food system based on small-scale farms that are both sustainable and high-yield (although you can use similar principles in your backyard garden or hobby farm as well).
However, until such systems become the norm instead of the exception, CAFO eggs still dominate the market — a sad truth you have the power to help change. Choosing food that comes from small regenerative farms — not CAFOs — is crucial. While avoiding CAFO meats, dairy and eggs, look for antibiotic-free alternatives raised by organic and regenerative farmers. Unfortunately, loopholes abound, allowing CAFO-raised chickens and eggs to masquerade as "free-range" and "organic."
The Cornucopia Institute addressed some of these issues in their egg report and scorecard, which ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. It can help you to make a more educated choice if you’re buying your eggs at the supermarket. Ultimately, to find safer, more humane and environmentally friendly chicken and eggs, the best choice is to get to know a local farmer and get your meat and eggs there directly.
By Dr. Mercola
Nitrate-rich plant foods are a valuable part of your diet as they help promote heart health. Meanwhile, the nitrates in cured and processed meats such as bacon and hotdogs are known to be carcinogenic. So, what’s the deal? Why are plant-based nitrates healthy and animal-based nitrates harmful? The answer to that question has to do with biochemistry — how the nitrates are processed in your body based on cofactors found in their source.
In a recent Nutrition Action article on this topic, Gunter Kuhnle, professor of food and nutritional sciences at the University of Reading, U.K., explains the core differences between plant- and animal-based nitrates:1
“When you eat nitrates, they are converted to nitrites by bacteria in your mouth. Once the nitrites reach the stomach’s acid, they can turn into either nitric oxide [NO] or N-nitroso compounds. N-nitroso compounds like nitrosamines are carcinogenic. What makes processed meats so ideal for forming N-nitroso compounds is that they have a combination of nitrite and proteins from the meat. And the meat’s heme seems to help convert them into N-nitroso compounds.”
Nitrates are also more prone to converting into carcinogenic nitrosamines when heated. According to a review of more than 7,000 clinical studies, the World Cancer Research Fund concluded there’s no safe lower limit for processed meats2 and that they should be avoided altogether to minimize your cancer risk.
Plants, on the other hand, contain antioxidants (such as vitamin C and polyphenols) that impede the formation of harmful nitrosamines. The presence of these compounds help to ensure that the nitrites are converted into beneficial NO once they reach your stomach rather than harmful N-nitroso compounds.3 Most plant foods are also not cooked or fried at high temperatures, which further minimizes the chances that harmful substances will be produced.
NO is a soluble gas, and while it’s a free radical, it’s also an important biological signaling molecule that supports normal endothelial function and protects your mitochondria — the little “power stations” in your cells that produce a majority of your body’s energy in the form of ATP. NO is a potent vasodilator, helping relax and widen the diameter of your blood vessels, thereby allowing a greater volume of blood to flow through.
Healthy blood flow in turn helps your body function optimally, carrying oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and organs while removing waste material and carbon dioxide. Importantly, NO infuses into areas that are hypoxic, meaning in need of oxygen, and both your heart and brain4,5 are heavy oxygen users.
NO has actually been shown to improve brain neuroplasticity by improving oxygenation of the somatomotor cortex (a brain area that is often affected in the early stages of dementia).6,7 As for your heart, cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra explains the importance of NO, saying:8
“Adequate NO production is the first step in a chain reaction that promotes healthy cardiovascular function, while insufficient NO triggers a cascade of destruction that eventually results in heart disease… NO promotes healthy dilation of the veins and arteries so blood can move throughout your body. Plus, it prevents red blood cells from sticking together to create dangerous clots and blockages.”
While NO is continually produced from the amino acid L-arginine inside your cells, you can also boost your body’s NO production by eating certain NO-boosting foods and/or performing high-intensity exercises such as the Nitric Oxide Dump (see demonstration below). Research9 shows a nitrate-rich diet can be a powerful strategy for the treatment of prehypertension and hypertension (high blood pressure), and as such helps protect against heart attacks.
In conventional medicine, nitrates are used to treat angina and congestive heart failure, and research shows a glass of beetroot juice has the same effect as prescription nitrates.10 Raw beets — which are high in nitrates — have been shown to lower blood pressure by an average of four to five points within a few hours.11
Another study12 found drinking 8 ounces of beet juice per day lowered blood pressure by an average of nearly eight points after the first week, which is more than most blood pressure medications. Raw beets have also been shown to boost stamina during exercise by as much as 16 percent,13 courtesy of increased NO production.
The caveat with beets is they’re high in sugar, which is why I recommend them only in limited amounts or in fermented form. Fermenting your beets rather than eating them raw gives you all the health-boosting benefits of raw beets without the concerns of high sugar content, as the beneficial bacteria created during fermentation consume most of the naturally occurring sugars.
While NO has potent health benefits, the same cannot be said for the nitrosamines formed when nitrites from processed meats react with gastric acid in your stomach.
Again, the reason meat-based nitrites don’t boost NO production but rather turn into harmful N-nitroso compounds has to do with the presence of proteins and heme14 (an iron-containing compound that makes up part of the hemoglobin molecule in blood) and the absence of antioxidant compounds. The evidence against processed meats — including bacon, ham, pastrami, salami, pepperoni, chorizo, hot dogs, sausages, hamburgers and more — is fairly extensive. For example:
• Studies have linked processed meats like sausages, hot dogs and sandwich meats to an increased risk of cancer, male infertility and early death.
• A 2007 analysis15 by the World Cancer Research Fund found eating just 1.8 ounces of processed meat per day — about one sausage or two to three slices of bacon — was found to raise your likelihood of bowel cancer by 20 percent.
• The American Institute for Cancer Research16 recommends avoiding processed meats entirely to minimize your risk of bowel cancer, and explicitly warns that “there is no safe threshold” for eating processed meats. They also recommend limiting red meat a maximum of 18 ounces per week, to avoid raising your risk for colorectal cancer.
• After reviewing some 800 studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, concluded that processed meat can cause colorectal cancer in humans,17,18 and has classified processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen, right next to tobacco and asbestos. The agency estimates a daily serving of 1.8 ounces of processed meat can increase your risk for colorectal cancer by 18 percent. Higher amounts may raise your risk even higher.
(Keep in mind the IARC’s classifications of carcinogens are based on strength of evidence, not degree of risk, so this does not mean processed meats are as hazardous as smoking and asbestos exposure. It simply means the strength of the evidence is the same.)
• A British study19 published in January this year, which evaluated data from more than 262,000 women, found eating just 9 grams of bacon per day significantly raises a woman’s risk for breast cancer later in life.
While the presence of saturated fat is not a valid reason to shun bacon, the presence of nitrates is of real concern. Still, bacon can be a healthy addition to your diet, in small amounts, provided you take certain precautions. First, make sure your bacon comes from organic pasture-raised pigs, as this will reduce the risk of pathogenic contaminations20 that factory farmed pigs are prone to. Second, make sure it’s free of added nitrates. The easiest way is to check the label, but the color of the meat can also be a powerful tipoff.
As noted in The Guardian,21 “The pinkness of bacon — or cooked ham, or salami — is a sign that it has been treated with chemicals, more specifically with nitrates and nitrites.” The article includes commentary from French journalist Guillaume Coudray, author of the book “Cochonneries,” which loosely translates into “junk food,” but also means “piggeries.”
In his book, Coudray argues that it’s really the addition of nitrates that creates the problem, and the processed meat industry could easily make these foods far less hazardous. As reported by The Guardian:
“’Pure insane crazy madness’ is how Coudray described the continuing use of nitrates and nitrites in processed meats … The madness, in his view, is that it is possible to make bacon and ham in ways that would be less carcinogenic. The most basic way to cure any meat is to salt it — either with a dry salt rub or a wet brine — and to wait for time to do the rest.
Coudray notes that ham and bacon manufacturers claim this old-fashioned way of curing isn’t safe. But the real reason they reject it is cost: it takes much longer for processed meats to develop their flavor this way, which cuts into profits … The health risk of bacon is largely to do with two food additives: potassium nitrate (also known as saltpetre) and sodium nitrite.
It is these that give salamis, bacons and cooked hams their alluring pink color … when otherwise it would be a murky greyish brown … It is this nitrite that allows the bacteria responsible for cured flavor to emerge quicker, by inhibiting the growth of other bacteria … It is the use of these chemicals that is widely believed to be the reason why ‘processed meat’ is much more carcinogenic than unprocessed meat.”
Hopefully, you can now appreciate the difference between nitrates from plants versus those from processed meats. A nitrate-rich diet is indeed a boon to your health, but only when the nitrates come from the plant kingdom. Here’s a list of the Top 10 most nitrate-rich ones to add to your diet.22,23,24 Eating garlic also helps boost NO production. While low in nitrates, garlic increases nitric oxide synthase, which converts L-arginine to NO in the presence of cofactors such as vitamins B2 and B3.25
As mentioned earlier, high-intensity exercise will also trigger NO production in your body and, ideally, you’d both eat nitrate-rich veggies and exercise. The Nitric Oxide Dump exercise, developed by Dr. Zach Bush and demonstrated in the video above, will help:
Your body stores NO in the lining of your blood vessels (the endothelium). It’s produced inside your endothelial cells from the amino acid L-arginine, and acts as an important signaling molecule throughout your body. When you exercise and your muscles ache, it’s because you’ve run out of oxygen, which your body compensates for by releasing NO (to dilate your blood vessels making it easier for oxygen to be delivered).
This process fuels muscle development, but here’s the secret that’s not widely known: When you exercise, it takes only about 90 seconds for your blood vessels to run out of stored nitric oxide and begin the process of making more. “So working each major muscle group out for 90 seconds,” says Bush, “gives you the most efficient workout to tone and build muscles.”26 Indeed, the key to harnessing your body’s NO-generating powers is to engage in short bursts of high-intensity activity.
You also want to wait at least two hours between sessions because that’s how long it takes for NO to synthesize for subsequent release. “Your body has the ability to regenerate nitric oxide every couple of hours, giving you the opportunity to release it multiple times a day,” Bush says. “What that means is the most effective way to increase your muscle function is to work out very briefly every few hours.”27
Your body loses about 10 percent of its ability to produce NO for every decade of life, which is why it’s important to take steps to increase your NO production, especially as you age. One way to do this is by eating nitrate-rich plant foods such as arugula and beets, as the plant-based nitrates are converted into NO in your body.
Just remember that nitrates from processed meats will not have this effect. On the contrary, processed meats will encourage the creation of carcinogenic substances — again because of the combination of a lack of antioxidants and the presence of proteins and heme, which triggers the creation of N-nitroso compounds rather than NO. This is an important distinction, so don’t get confused.
Beyond diet and high-intensity exercises such as the Nitric Oxide Dump, you can also increase NO by getting sensible sun exposure on large portions of your body, as NO is released into your bloodstream when UVA from sunlight touches your skin.28,29 Certain supplements, like olive extract and bitter melon, as well as acupuncture,30 may also enhance your body’s generation of NO, as may using a sauna31 or even taking a hot bath.32
By Dr. Mercola
Fasting is a powerful tool nearly anyone can use to take control of their health. Animal research indicates a fasting-mimicking diet not only can help your pancreas regenerate itself, but it can also reverse diabetes symptoms. In another study, also involving lab mice, restricting daily calories to a six-hour window significantly reduced levels of a particular mutant protein known to play a role in Huntington's disease.
Given these results, as well as other research, the tremendous benefits of fasting continue to emerge. If you haven't yet considered how fasting can make a positive difference to your health, I encourage you to keep reading and also consider one of three methods: the fasting-mimicking diet, intermittent fasting or water-only fasting. Fasting is one of the best tools you can use in the fight against chronic disease.
In a study published in the journal Cell,1 a group of U.S. researchers, most of whom were affiliated with the University of Southern California (USC), suggest your pancreas may be able to regenerate itself through a fasting-mimicking diet.
In animal experiments, the scientists, led by Valter Longo, Ph.D., professor of gerontology and biological sciences and director of the USC Longevity Institute, were able to restore pancreatic function using a modified version of the fasting-mimicking diet. This diet is characterized by periods of feast and famine.
Longo notes the diet promoted the "generation of insulin-producing beta cells, resembling that observed during pancreatic development."2 (Beta cells detect sugar in your blood and release insulin if blood sugar levels get too high.) Given its restorative effects on the pancreas, the fasting-mimicking diet also reversed diabetes symptoms in lab mice.
Said Longo, "Our conclusion is by pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back — by starving them and then feeding them again —the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming that rebuilds the part of the organ that's no longer functioning."3 The experiments reflected noticeable benefits for mice with diabetes: Fasting-mimicking diet cycles restored insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mouse models. Longo stated:4
"Medically, these findings have the potential to be very important because we've shown — at least in mouse models — that you can use diet to reverse the symptoms of diabetes. Scientifically, the findings are perhaps even more important because we've shown you can use diet to reprogram cells without having to make any genetic alterations."
Unlike traditional fasting centered on abstinence from all food for a period of time, a fasting-mimicking diet allows you to consume a greatly reduced number of calories, usually for a five-day period, in a way that allows you to realize some of the same therapeutic benefits of traditional foodless fasting.
Longo's fasting-mimicking diet involves restricting your calories to 800 to 1,100 calories per day for five days each month. This approach greatly improves compliance, as many would find a five-day water-only fast to be too difficult. The low-calorie strategy provides many benefits while also reducing your likelihood of suffering adverse side effects.
The five days of calorie restriction come in the form of choosing foods low in carbohydrates, low in protein and high in healthy fats. The rest of the month, you are free to eat whatever you want. The goal is to mimic periods of feast and famine. While all of this sounds simple, Longo is quick to suggest the diet is best undertaken with medical guidance. "It boils down to: Do not try this at home." Longo says, "This [diet] is so much more sophisticated than people realize."5
New research by Canadian scientists, published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications,6 indicates restricting food intake to a specific daily time period could benefit sufferers of Huntington's disease. More than 30,000 Americans are affected by this progressive neurological condition, which typically appears between the ages of 30 and 50.7
Symptoms of Huntington's include cognitive impairment, involuntary movements (chorea) and mobility problems. Most conventional approaches involve taking drugs such as tetrabenazine to manage symptoms like chorea. Using lab mice, the researchers found that limiting calorie intake to the same daily six-hour period improved mouse models of Huntington's disease.8
Specifically, this strict eating schedule, which involved fasting for the remaining 18 hours a day, resulted in significant reductions in the levels of a particular mutant protein that plays a role in Huntington's disease. The disease is caused by an inherited mutation in the huntingtin (HTT) gene known to pass from parent to child. The mutant form of HTT is referred to as mHTT; it is thought to work with other bodily proteins to accelerate progression of the disease.
The study revealed food restriction triggered a process in the mice called autophagy — a cell self-cleaning process known to remove damaged or unnecessary components. Researchers noticed fasting-induced autophagy reduced levels of mHTT in the rodents' brains.9 About the research, lead study author Dagmar Ehrnhoefer, Ph.D., principal investigator at BioMed X Innovation Center in Heidelberg, Germany, stated:10
"We know specific aspects of autophagy don't work properly in patients with Huntington's disease. Our findings suggest, at least in mice, when you fast, or eat at certain very regulated times without snacking in between meals, your body starts to increase an alternative, still functional, autophagy mechanism, which could help lower levels of the mutant huntingtin protein in the brain."
Study coauthor Dale Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of biology, Waterloo University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, said, "More studies are needed, but perhaps something as simple as a modified dietary schedule could provide some benefit for [Huntington's disease] patients and could be complementary to some treatments currently in clinical trials."11
After some initial hesitations, I am now embracing multiday water fasting as one of the best metabolic interventions available. I say that because this type of fasting switches your cells to a protected "antiaging mode." It also promotes autophagy, the cell self-cleaning process mentioned earlier, thanks to the activation of stem cells.
I have completed several five-day water-only fasts in recent months and highly recommend this as a regular practice. Assuming you are properly prepared, if you are dealing with insulin resistance, I believe you could benefit from monthly water-only fasts. Provided you're not anorexic, old and frail, pregnant or dealing with a serious health issue, fasting for three to seven days will likely be beneficial; a short fast certainly won't kill you, nor will it cause significant muscle loss. With respect to water-only fasts, ABC Science states:12
"After two or three days of fasting, you get your energy from two different sources simultaneously. A very small part of your energy comes from breaking down your muscles — but you can avoid this by doing some resistance training … The majority of your energy comes from breaking down fat.
But very soon, you move into getting all your energy from the breakdown of fat. The fat molecules break down into two separate chemicals — glycerol (which can be converted into glucose) and free fatty acids (which can be converted into other chemicals called ketones). Your body, including your brain, can run on this glucose and ketones until you finally run out of fat.
In humans, fasting seems to have health benefits for high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and epilepsy in children. In animals, fasting seems to reduce the cognitive decline that happens in conditions such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease."
You may find that starting with intermittent fasting first can prepare your body (and your mind) for a water-only fast. Simply by lengthening the number of hours you go without food can condition your body for completely foodless days. My habit of intermittently fasting 20 hours a day definitely made water-only fasting easier for me. Even if you intermittently fast short of 20 hours, you will be helping your body begin using fat for fuel.
I recommend you take a high-quality multimineral supplement any time you do a water-only fast, and you should continue taking your regular nutritional supplements, too. If you supplement with magnesium, be aware it may cause severely loose stools during foodless fasts. You also need to consume high-quality salt.
In his book "The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease and Optimize Weight," Longo suggests the fasting-mimicking protocol supports your overall health and well-being because it helps you maintain healthy levels of:
Beyond that, according to Longo, the fasting-mimicking diet both protects and rejuvenates your body by going after multiple body systems and causing regeneration and improved performance in those systems. Among the health benefits, Longo says the fasting-mimicking diet:
Given his years of research and experience, Longo strongly recommends actively incorporating the fasting-mimicking diet with cancer treatment. Not only will it radically improve the effectiveness of your cancer therapy, he says, but it will also decrease some of the unpleasant side effects. Longo states:
"This has been a difficult battle. We work with the top oncology hospitals in the world: MD Anderson, Mayo Clinic [and] USC Norris Cancer Center … we really didn't want to be the rebels … We fought very hard, but also, we wanted them to agree with us. We wanted the oncologists to basically say, 'Yes. This [diet] is a good way to do it.'
The safety concerns … are really minimal and the potential benefits are very high … In mice, we consistently see cancer-free survival even in the metastatic models."
Longo believes fasting-mimicking diets are particularly beneficial in cases of more advanced cancers that have metastasized, leaving the patient with very few options. In those instances, he has encouraged oncologists to seriously consider integrating the fasting-mimicking diet with standard cancer care. To date, Longo and his team have demonstrated the effectiveness of the fasting-mimicking diet for kinase inhibitors, chemotherapy and all kinds of cancers.
He says hundreds of clinical trials are underway that involve the fasting-mimicking diet, and new data comes in regularly about new therapies. One of the new therapies, Longo suggests, is immunotherapy. It makes cancer visible to your immune system so it can be attacked by your immune system.
Whatever your situation with respect to cancer treatment, Longo recommends you bring the fasting-mimicking diet to the attention of your oncologist. For starters, you might suggest he or she "at least … read the clinical trials that are already published," said Longo. He adds, "I think it's important to talk to [cancer] patients about this [diet], and give them an opportunity, particularly where they don't have any other viable options."
Certain health conditions require more stringent medical supervision to ensure the safety of fasting. Regardless of your health, be sure to talk to your doctor before undertaking any fasting program. If you have a chronic disease, your doctor will need to closely monitor your condition and any potential complications related to fasting. I advise you avoid, or at least cautiously evaluate, fasting if you are:
Anorexic or seriously underweight
Pregnant or breastfeeding
Fragile or in ill health
Taking medication, especially if it must be taken with food
Have liver or kidney disease
Taking an antihypertensive or hypoglycemic medication, due to the risk of overdosing
More than 70 years of age, unless you're exceptionally healthy
If you are in good physical health, you may be able to realize benefits from adopting a fasting-mimicking diet for five days every 90 days. However, if you are facing health challenges such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, you may have more success by cycling on and off the diet monthly, at least until you see improvement in your health.
Longo underscores the need for some form of cycling on and off the diet because the cycling is vitally important to your success. The episodic fasting and refeeding is one of the keys that unlocks the many benefits of this diet. Notably, cycling also helps circumvent the negative effects associated with continuous fasting or chronic underfeeding.
If the information presented in this article has stimulated your thinking about fasting, you may be ready to take your diet to the next level. The potential benefits of fasting make each type of intervention worth checking out, mainly because your body was designed to: 1) run on fat as its primary fuel and 2) cycle through periods of feast and famine. As a means of taking control of your health, I encourage you — under the guidance of your doctor — to seriously consider one or more of the following types of fasting:
Since many who are interested in fasting also may be sensitive to lectins, you might want to read my article How Fasting and Minimizing Lectins Can Benefit Your Health.
By Dr. Mercola
Siberian ginseng may be the common term for the versatile root recognized in ancient Eastern cultures as a powerful medicinal, but the botanical term, or at least part of it, is eleuthero. The entire scientific designation is Eleutherococcus senticosus, and it’s been used for thousands of years for overall longevity, endurance and to boost immunity.
These and a multitude of other benefits have made the odd-looking root a very expensive commodity all over the world. It’s right behind gingko as the most popular herbal supplement, but it’s often confused with other roots with “ginseng” on the label.
It doesn’t help that other monikers for it around the world include Russian ginseng, devil’s shrub, touch-me-not, wild pepper and shigoka. A thorny shrub that can reach 10 feet in height, Siberian ginseng bears yellow or violet flowers that develop in umbrella-shaped clusters and, later, round black berries. But it’s the wrinkly, twisted root that gets all the attention. Its active ingredients are phytochemicals known as polysaccharides.
For centuries, healers from Russia, where it originated, to Asia and other Eastern countries and beyond have used it extensively to remedy colds and flu. One of the most effective aspects of Siberian ginseng is that it’s an adaptogen, which means your body is better able to adapt to stressors, whether physical, mental or emotional. Multiple studies on E. senticosus indicate the root is good for a number of diseases and disorders, often rivaling the drugs and medications prescribed by doctors.
While saying scientists aren’t sure how it works, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC)1 states that compounds from Siberian ginseng stimulate immune cells and protect the nervous system. It also notes, “Siberian ginseng extract was shown to moderately inhibit breast cancer resistance.”2
The MSKCC website either asserts that claims Siberian ginseng can increase strength and stamina and reduce side effects of chemotherapy are unsubstantiated scientifically, or that “more research is needed.” Patented drugs with ginseng components, however, were given much more credence. Acknowledgment of plant chemicals with active ingredients note:
“In vitro studies indicate that eleuthero contains chemicals that bind to estrogen, progestin, mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors. In macrophages, a Siberian ginseng extract suppressed LPS-induced iNOS expression and thus nitric oxide production by possibly inhibiting nuclear factor-kappa B activity or Akt and JNK signaling, and inhibited reactive oxygen species production.
Eleutheroside B, eleutheroside E and isofraxidin — active constituents of Siberian ginseng — showed protective effects against Aβ(25-35)-induced atrophies of axons and dendrites in rat cultured cortical neurons. Isofraxidin also inhibited cell invasion and the expression of matrix metalloproteinase-7 by human hepatoma cell lines HuH-7 and Hep G-2, possibly through the inhibition of ERK1/2 phosphorylation.”3
In a 2004 randomized double-blind study,4 20 elderly hypertensive participants undergoing digitalis treatment who reported feeling weak and tired with no energy were given either Siberian ginseng or a placebo. At the end of the four-week study, the subjects were tested and found to have higher scores in social functioning and mental health, noticeable after four weeks of therapy and none noted “adverse events” in any of the patients.
Seventy percent of the patients on ginseng supplementation said they received “active therapy” compared to 20 percent in the placebo group. The same study noted that the definition of “adaptogen” was first referenced in the late 1950s. Subsequent research noted pharmacological results in cell cultures, animal and human subjects, listing improvements in several areas in regard to:
Immune system stimulation
Lowered insulin levels
The effect involves the adrenal glands and supports their function, along with stress hormones such as cortisol.5 Bulletproof lists a number of studies that have explored different ways Siberian ginseng helps, treats and prevents illnesses and conditions in several ways:
One study showed that Siberian ginseng improved endurance, initiated through improved oxygen utilization.13 Further, it may protect DNA14 and enhance cardiovascular function,15 and bacterial cultures treated with ginseng compounds were resistant to radiation16 and even protected study subjects from ionizing radiation exposure. Research also strongly suggests that Siberian ginseng has a positive and significant effect on several types of cancer cell cultures, including breast,17 stomach,18 lung and colon cancers.19
Incidentally, there’s something known as Korean ginseng or Asian ginseng, which also contains healing properties, but it presents a perfect example of the phrase “the word is not the thing.” In other words, just because it has the word ginseng in its name doesn’t mean it’s synonymous with Siberian ginseng (which is not considered a “true” ginseng”). SFGate notes:
“Korean ginseng and Siberian ginseng, despite both being called ginseng, are not from the same family. Siberian ginseng does not belong to the Panax family, so it is not considered a “true” ginseng … Siberian ginseng contains polysaccharides which are associated with lower blood sugar levels, and eleutherosides are its active ingredient.
They are also both associated with increased mental ability and concentration, greater alertness and higher stamina levels. Both are also associated with potentially helping lower triglyceride and blood pressure levels, and may be helpful in treating and avoiding cardiovascular complications.”20
There’s also American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), an endangered, wild-growing, shade-loving and widely poached root. While Korean or Asian ginseng is known in Chinese medicine as a “hot” or mild stimulant, the American variety is “cool” or calming, useful for enhancing memory, mood and possibly lowering blood sugar levels.21
All have ginsenosides, but in varying levels, Smithsonian.com22 says. The American type found in moist patches of Appalachian Mountain regions was used by Native Americans and even propagated by the Cherokee tribe as a medicinal. Samples and then boatloads of the roots were shipped from North Carolina, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada to Chinese markets as early as the early 1700s.
While adaptogens such as Siberian ginseng are generally fine for most people, don’t typically cause allergic reactions and can be taken for extended periods of time, caution is advised with both Siberian and Korean ginseng. If you’re on medication, keep in mind they can interfere with a number of them, including immune system suppressants, blood thinners, heart medications and any types of sedatives or stimulants.23
Precautions should be taken due to a number of potential side effects, including accelerated heartbeat, insomnia, mood swings, sudden changes in blood pressure and feeling dizzy and/or jittery. Anyone with sleep apnea, narcolepsy, heart disease, mental illness such as mania or schizophrenia, autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis should also pass it up.24
Importantly, children should not be given ginseng. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) notes that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as those with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer, should avoid ginseng as it can have an estrogen-like effect;25 women with a history of uterine fibroids may also be vulnerable.26
It’s imperative that you check your sources when buying ginseng, whether it’s in supplement or root form, as one lab reported that only nine of 22 samples met quality and purity criteria. At the same time, harvesting methods, handling techniques and high-heat processing can damage the therapeutic compounds. Livestrong notes:
“Supplements are available in liquid and solid extracts, powders, capsules, tablets and tea form. Up to 25 percent of Siberian ginseng supplements sold in the United States do not contain the herb, and it can pose side effects. For these reasons, pharmacist and doctor guidance is recommended.”27
Ginseng has become one of the most popular additives in multivitamins, energy drinks, teas, chewing gum and snacks, claiming to impart all manner of benefits. But it should be noted that most Americans aren’t aware there’s any difference between the ginseng varieties, which are so intermingled in advertising their advantages that governmental agencies have stepped in. For instance, Smithsonian.com observes:
“‘What is most striking about ginseng is the amount of misinformation in ads and on packages,’ says nutritionist David Schardt at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). ‘Panax ginseng, the most commonly available type, does not boost energy levels, mood, or memory and doesn’t reduce stress.’
After reviewing studies over the past two decades, the CSPI asked the Food and Drug Administration three years ago to halt phony claims. During the past two years, the FDA has sent letters to about half a dozen manufacturers, ordering them to limit product health claims due to the lack of evidence to support them.”28
For arguably any disease, prevention is a wonderful thing, but don’t take advantage of Siberian ginseng by assuming that the compounds that stimulate your immune response can make up for living irresponsibly. Bulletproof notes:
“Adaptogens are worth exploring, but don’t use them to make up for a crappy diet and lifestyle. Making sure to eat good food, get outside and sleep well, and generally take care of yourself will do more for your stress, energy, and longevity than any one herb will do. Pay attention to adaptogens and key supplements, but don’t forget the basics.”29
1 Which of the following nutrients is required for the activation of vitamin D in your body?
2 Health officials often claim getting an annual flu shot will lessen your symptoms should you contract influenza. Recent research from France found influenza vaccination resulted in:
3 To improve public health, lower health care spending and reduce environmental pollution by 2025, the global population is called to:
4 Which of the following strategies are a potent combination for preventing and treating depression and other mood disorders?
5 The average cherry tree will start producing fruit in two to four years. What's the average annual yield for a fully mature cherry tree?
6 Monsanto has steadfastly claimed that Roundup is harmless to animals and humans because the mechanism of action it uses (which allows it to kill weeds), called the shikimate pathway, is absent in all animals. However, the shikimate pathway is present in:
7 Low-grade accumulation of concussions over time accelerates the process of: