Natural Health Blog & News
By Dr. Mercola
Your body is designed to run on a 24-hour cycle, or circadian rhythm. Many things can throw this delicate cycle off, however, including traveling across multiple time zones. When there’s a disconnect between what time your body thinks it should be, and what the actual local time is, the resulting condition is known as jet lag, and it affects most air travelers who cross five or more time zones.1
It’s typically worse when traveling eastward than westward, which is because your body’s internal clock actually runs on a slightly longer than 24-hour schedule. When you travel to the west, the day gets longer, which is easier for your system to handle than traveling east, which means the day gets shorter.2
Light cues from the environment also play a major role in jet lag symptoms. Inside the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of your brain, which is part of your hypothalamus, resides your master biological clock. Based on signals of light and darkness, your SCN tells your pineal gland when it's time to secrete melatonin — promoting sleep — and when to turn it off.
This is why light therapy has been revealed as one of the most promising tools for treating jet lag. Light exposure at the correct times can help to synchronize your body’s clock with the environment around it.
Exposure to light leads to advances or delays in your circadian rhythm, known as phase shifts, which can cause the symptoms of jet lag to disappear. Typically, exposure to light early in the morning causes a phase advance, which leads to earlier waking. Light exposure at bedtime will lead to a phase delay, or later wakening. Researchers explain in the journal Sleep Medicine Clinics:3
“Flying east requires a phase advance of the circadian clock, and flying west requires a phase delay. For example, when it is early in the day in the U.S., it may already be approaching nighttime in Europe. Common language for those in the U.S. is to say that Europe is ahead of us, and when you arrive there you have to set your wristwatch ahead by moving the hands later.
However, your circadian clock has to be reset earlier, and the technical term is a phase advance. For example, if you flew east seven time zones (e.g., Chicago to Paris) and expect to go to sleep at midnight in Paris, you are really trying to go to sleep at 5 p.m. according to the time of your circadian clock, which is still on Chicago time.
You are trying to go to sleep earlier, to advance the time of your sleep, and your internal circadian clock has to phase advance to realign with your advanced sleep schedule and the new local time.”
When traveling east, exposure to bright light in the morning, and the avoidance of bright light at night, should help to minimize jet lag, while the opposite holds true when traveling west.
However, it gets complicated when you travel through six or more time zones, which, as pointed out by Dr. Michael Greger, a nutrition expert, physician and founder of NutritionFacts.org, may confuse your body clock, causing it to adjust in the wrong direction. He offers the following cheat sheet to remember if you’ll be embarking on long-distance travel:4
“[I]f you fly from LA to London, eight time zones east, you’d avoid light between 6 a.m. and noon local time, and expose yourself to light between noon and 6 p.m. local, and the rest of the day, it doesn’t matter and won’t affect you either way …
On subsequent days, the local times of light avoidance and exposure need to be advanced [earlier] by [one to two hours] each day, until light avoidance coincides with [when you’re sleeping].”
If you need to avoid light exposure in the morning, consider wearing a pair of blue light-blocking glasses with amber lenses, which will help to prevent your melatonin levels from plummeting (this can’t be achieved via regular sunglasses). Blocking blue light is known to help regulate your internal clock to control sleep patterns.
Disturbed sleep, including insomnia, early waking or daytime fatigue, is the hallmark of jet lag, but it can also cause additional symptoms ranging from grogginess and difficulty concentrating to mood changes and stomach problems.
Research is promising, though, that light exposure may offer a solution, especially when combined with carefully timed melatonin supplements. According to one paper published in the Journal of Molecular Microbiology and Biotechnology:5
“Critically timed exposure to bright light and melatonin administration can help to reduce symptoms. Bright light is one of the most powerful synchronizers of human rhythms and melatonin serves as a ‘dark pulse’ helping to induce nighttime behaviors.
Thus, enhancing day and night signals to the brain, appropriate to the environmental light/dark cycle of the new time zone, can serve to re-establish adaptive timing relationships between the body's internal biological rhythms and the external environment, and thereby reduce the symptoms of jet lag.”
You can achieve bright light exposure by going outdoors into the sunlight, using a light box or using a device that offers transcranial bright light (TBL) via your ear canals. TBL has previously been shown to have antidepressant and antianxiety effects, and it may also enhance psychomotor performance.
When researchers administered TBL for 12 minutes, four times a day, in the seven days following an eastward transatlantic flight, it led to a significant reduction in jet lag symptoms, sleepiness, fatigue and forgetfulness. The results were cumulative, emerging three to four days after travel, with researchers concluding, “Intermittent TBL seems to alleviate jet lag symptoms.”6
Even light therapy that exposes people to short flashes of light while they sleep may be beneficial, not to mention convenient (perhaps even being administered prior to your trip, while you sleep). What’s more, being exposed to short two-millisecond light flashes every 10 seconds for an hour worked better than continuous light exposure for an hour.7
The flashes led to two hours of adjustment in circadian rhythm, compared to 36 minutes from the continuous exposure.8 You can also use outdoor light to manipulate the symptoms of jet lag.
“After a westward flight, it is worth staying awake while it is daylight at the destination and trying to sleep when it gets dark. After an eastward flight, one should stay awake but avoid bright light in the morning, and be outdoors as much as possible in the afternoon,” researchers wrote in BMJ Clinical Evidence. “This will help to adjust the body clock and turn on the body's own melatonin secretion at the right time.”9
In cases when you need to phase advance your circadian clock (leading to earlier waking), exposure to intermittent bright light in the morning along with melatonin supplementation in the afternoon and gradually advancing your sleep schedule have been found to be effective.10 You might consider this option prior to eastward jet travel.
If you’re traveling at night, wear blue-blocking glasses on the plane and continue wearing them until you go to sleep, as excess blue light will impair your melatonin production and make it difficult to fall asleep.
Also, once you're at your destination, get up as close to sunrise as possible and go outside. This will help to reset your melatonin production. If weather and circumstances allow, it would be best to do this outdoors with your bare feet on the ground.
Then, just before bedtime, take a fast-acting sublingual melatonin along with a slow-release oral melatonin. Keep in mind that only a very small dose is required — typically 0.25 mg or 0.5 milligrams to start with, and you can adjust it up from there. Taking higher doses, such as 3 mg, can sometimes make you more wakeful instead of sleepier, so adjust your dose carefully.
According to a 2002 Cochrane Database review, people who traveled across five or more time zones and took melatonin close to bedtime at their destination experienced less severe jet lag symptoms compared to placebo.11
You can also get some melatonin via your diet. If you prefer to use food, pistachios are the most melatonin-rich nut, and can provide measurable amounts in just two nuts. Eating a small handful of them before bed could give you a meaningful melatonin boost.
Keep in mind the release of melatonin is dependent on the release of another hormone, norepinephrine. Excess stress, and the resulting release of cortisol, will inhibit the release of norepinephrine and therefore the release of melatonin.12 So consider engaging in stress-reducing strategies before bed, such as yoga, stretching, meditation and prayer.
Sleeping in complete darkness is also important. If you get up during the night to use the bathroom, be sure to keep the lights (and night lights) off so you don't shut off your production of melatonin.
Magnesium also plays a role in reducing brain activity at night, helping you to relax and fall asleep more easily. It works in tandem with melatonin. Foods containing higher levels of magnesium include almonds, avocados, pumpkin seeds and green leafy vegetables.13
The stimulation of certain acupuncture meridians is sometimes used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a technique for alleviating jet lag. One simple version of this technique is demonstrated in the video above (originally taped in 2009) by cardiologist Dr. Lee Cowden, using your heart meridian. Here's a summary of the steps:
1. The day of your trip, set your clock to match the local time at your destination (depending on the time of your flight, you may have to do this a day ahead)
2. At 11 a.m. (the local time at your destination), stroke your heart meridian three times on the left and three times on the right. Your heart meridian begins just to the outer side of your nipple, up through your armpit and down the ulnar aspect (inner side) of your arm, down the outside of your pinky.
Once you reach the end of your pinky, gently press into the base of the fingernail (heart point in TCM). For a demonstration, please see the video above
3. At noon, repeat the heart meridian strokes
Also, when adjusting to a new time zone, be sure to shift your mealtimes accordingly. You can do this once you reach your destination or start prior to your trip. Another strategy, developed by researchers at Harvard and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is called the anti-jet lag fast.
It involves determining the time of breakfast at your destination and then fasting for 12 to 16 hours beforehand. This strategy is thought to work because fasting causes your master clock to suspend the circadian clock and instructs your body to sleep less. When food intake resumes, the master clock switches the circadian clock back "on."14
Combining these dietary and TCM strategies along with properly timed light exposure and melatonin are likely among the best ways to relieve jet lag symptoms so you can start your trip off right.
If you have an upcoming flight scheduled, Jay Olson, Ph.D., created Jet Lag Rooster,15 an online calculator that lets you input your flight time and destination, along with your usual sleep and wake times. It then gives you a customized plan to best reduce jet lag using light exposure and, optionally, melatonin.
If you’re visiting the Pacific Islands, you might be given a ceremonial drink called kava kava that’s made from the kava plant (Piper methysticum), a shrub that can grow up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) tall.1,2,3
The kava plant is a member of the pepper family.4 Large, green and heart-shaped leaves grow thickly on its green, red-and-black striped or spotted stems,5 and its roots, often used to make kava kava, resemble bunches of knotty, woody and hairy branches.6
Kava is known for its relaxation capabilities, which may help elevate mood, well-being and contentment.7 These benefits are attributed to kavalactones, the main active ingredients in kava root. Historically, kava has also used by Pacific Islanders to help relieve pain caused by conditions like muscle and back pain, stomach problems, cystitis and urethritis, to name a few.8,9
Kava roots are ground to make kava kava, a thick brew used as a “welcome drink” and given to guests and dignitaries visiting Pacific islands like Fiji and Tonga. Kava kava is consumed during social gatherings and ceremonies to reduce inhibitions, promote better relationships between people of the community, and induce relaxation and amiability.12,13
Kava kava is typically served in a coconut shell, and is swallowed in one or two quick gulps. When drinking kava kava, always mention thoughts of gratitude, especially toward the person who served you the beverage.14
It’s advised that you consume each kava kava serving 10 minutes apart. The drink’s effects can kick in quickly because of kavain, a kavalactone present in the plant. Other effects of kavalactones may not register until after 30 minutes.
However, this drink isn’t just used to foster good relationships. In fact, kava kava was traditionally used as a sedative because research shows that the kava plant itself can be ideal for alleviating anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain and benzodiazepine withdrawal, and in promoting relaxation.15,16
Apart from its traditional culinary uses, kava is utilized for medicinal purposes too. Pacific Islanders used kava to help ease:
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Kava has also been used as a mouthwash to help relieve canker sores and toothaches, and as a topical ointment to help heal wounds and sores caused by leprosy.17
Although this plant has been widely used for years in these tropical islands, some people have doubts about its benefits because of various reports about kava’s potentially addictive nature.18 While published studies and books that examined kava’s qualities highlighted a lack of evidence,19 it would still be wise to regulate your kava intake since major side effects have been linked to it.20
Although kava is still available in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer advisory in March 2002 that highlights the rare but potential risk of liver failure from kava-containing products.21 In Europe, kava has already been linked to around 30 cases of people experiencing liver-related damage, including liver failure.22 It’s vital to monitor your intake of kava to prevent the complications linked to this herb, such as:23,24
Dizziness or drowsiness25
Allergic reactions like contact dermatitis and skin lesions26
Loss of appetite
Partial loss of hearing
Hair loss or alopecia
Flaky, dry and yellowish skin discoloration
Avoid drinking alcohol with kava, as it may cause side effects like a higher risk of impaired reflexes and liver damage.27 Refrain from drinking kava with anti-anxiety medicines, sedatives, diuretics, phenothiazine drugs, levodopa and liver-metabolized medicines. These medicines’ effects will be enhanced and may cause complications when ingested alongside kava kava.28
Kava shouldn’t be taken before doing tasks that demand a high level of attention and alertness, such as driving or operating machinery, because it may trigger drowsiness.29 If you’re thinking about adding kava to your diet, consult your physician first, and take this herb under close supervision. Do not take kava for more than four weeks. Lastly, if you fall under any of these groups, avoid kava in general:30,31
People with liver disease like cirrhosis or hepatitis
People suffering from depression or bipolar disorder
Parkinson’s disease patients
Pregnant or breastfeeding women
People who will undergo surgery (kava prolongs the anesthesia’s effect)
To grow kava at home, you need kava cuttings from mature plants, as they propagate easily. Ideally, kava plants should be grown in an area with partial shade32 and without exposure to direct sunlight because it causes leaf dryness.
You can grow your kava cuttings either in potting bags or homemade containers, woven coconut leaf baskets or nursery beds. The Pacific Agriculture Policy Project suggests the following tips when planting kava at home:33
These plants must be planted in fertile and loose soil to allow the roots to stretch their “legs” and maximize the area. As a rule of thumb do not plant kava in a hard-packed growing medium or in too-loose soil that’ll cause it to dry out.34 When growing kava in a container, ensure that it drains well and constantly water it to add moisture.
Once these plants have grown at least 20 to 30 centimeters (cm) tall (7.8 to 11.8 inches) and 2 to 6 months old, you can move them into their new home. Prior to this, ensure that your plant has already been hardened by decreasing the amount of water you provide it.
If you’re transplanting cuttings grown in a potting bag, first make a 30-cm deep hole (just under 12 inches) in the soil and make the hole wide to provide enough space for both seedlings and soil. Do this quickly so they won’t dry out. It’s recommended that you transplant the kava cuttings during wet or rainy days to assist the plant in establishing roots and promote speedy recovery from the hardening process.
Should the plant seem dry, add more soil and mulch around it to boost moisture. Now that this is done, you can watch your kava plants flourish. However, don’t forget to regularly water the plants, and check and remove weeds that may hinder growth.35
You can make kava tea by simmering kava roots in water, but you can also use kava powder that you can buy from online stores.36 Just make sure the powder contains kava root extract, to ensure that it’s effective. To determine if you’re using an instant mix, check if the powder completely dissolves in water without leaving any residue. If it’s clear, it’s instant.37
Traditionally, kava tea is prepared by straining 1 to 2 ounces of dried kava powder (2 to 4 tablespoons per person) in water using a nylon stocking, cheesecloth, a 1-gallon paint strainer or muslin bag. Once the powder is placed inside the strainer, hold the edges together at the top to prevent the powder from falling out. Afterward, immerse the bag in a bowl of cool water. Per 2 ounces of powder, make sure there’s a quart of water.
Here comes the unique part: Knead the kava powder using your hands. It feels oily because of kava’s kavalactone levels, but the oiliness will decrease after constant kneading. Once the powder doesn’t feel oily and the water is mud-like, stop kneading. However, if you don’t feel like kneading, you can just repetitively bring the strainer bag out, squeeze it and place it back in the water.
The good news is you can still make traditional kava tea even if you’re pressed for time. All you need is kava powder, water and a blender.38
This makes one serving.
By Dr. Mercola
Chances are, you’ve heard of Claire Wineland. An incredible inspirational speaker and YouTube sensation, Wineland founded the Claire’s Place Foundation1 at the tender age of 13, to help families with children who, like herself, struggle with cystic fibrosis (CF) — a progressive and terminal genetic disease that causes an overproduction and buildup of thick, sticky mucus in the lungs and other organs.
The disease requires daily breathing treatment for up to five hours a day, and children with cystic fibrosis typically end up spending a lot of time in the hospital due to respiratory distress and chronic infections. Wineland is said to have spent about a quarter of her short life in the hospital.
She died September 2, 2018, from a massive stroke following an otherwise successful lung transplant.2 She was 21. As you can see in the video, she was an extraordinarily beautiful young woman who was exceptionally articulate and full of love and gratitude.
In the video above, taped about a week before her surgery and untimely death, Wineland gives thanks to the thousands of people who donated nearly $268,000 to her Go Fund Me campaign to raise the funds needed for the surgery that she and her family otherwise could not afford.3
She had initially refused the idea of a double lung transplant, but earlier this year had a change of heart, as her health took a nose dive, and she felt she still had more to contribute to the world.
August 26, she was notified that her surgery was a go. The transplant surgery took nine hours, and went well. Alas, shortly afterward, she suffered a massive stroke on the right side of her brain. She was placed in a medically induced coma, from which she never emerged. The silver lining of this story is that at least she didn’t have to suffer and passed away peacefully.
Two years ago, Wineland received the 2016 World of Children Youth Award4 for her foundation’s support of children with CF and their families.
She knew, from firsthand experience, how challenging it can be for parents when a child is hospitalized for extended periods, and her foundation’s family support program offers not only support and information about treatment and care options, but also gives out extended hospital stay grants to help families pay for basic necessities and hotel stays.
At the age of 19, Wineland also launched CF University, an online resource for children where they can learn more about their disease:
“Growing up I always wished there was a place I could go to learn how to deal with everything that came with having CF. How can I make shots hurt less? How can I make my treatments more fun? How do I deal with mean nurses or confusing doctors?
For 15 years I have gathered tricks, tips and laughter to work with a situation that is completely out of my control. And so the CF University was born … The CF University will have everything from craft ideas when you are stuck in the hospital, tips on traveling with an illness, decoding ‘doctor talk,’ connecting CF families with each other, with support and with resources …
It is my mission to help everyone with Cystic Fibrosis and the families and loved ones in their lives feel empowered about life no matter what life chooses to throw at you next.”
Last year, Wineland gave a TEDx lecture at Cardiff by the Sea, in which she shares her core message — prioritize fulfillment and living your purpose, no matter what is going on in your life. If you think you have troubles in your life you can look at Wineland. It can help put things into perspective, and hopefully will elevate your appreciation of life no matter what your circumstances.
Indeed, Wineland’s life, while filled with chronic illness and all that it entails, was a testament to how to live life well. She inspired people to “love what is,”5 to love every breath; to not waste life and to make a life that matters.
“You can have a painful life. You can suffer; you can experience what it’s like to feel like a human being, all those messy and gross emotions, and yet you can make a life for yourself that you’re very, very proud of,” she says. “You can suffer and be OK. You can suffer and still make something.
The quality of your life isn’t determined by whether you’re healthy or sick, or rich or poor. Not at all. It’s determined by what you make out of your experience as a human being, out of the embarrassing moments and the painful moments. It’s what you make and what you give from that place …
It’s not about just being happy … Life is a rollercoaster of crazy emotions … [but] it’s not about emotions. It’s not about how you feel second to second, it’s about what you’re making of your life, and whether you can find a deep pride in who you are, and what you’re giving.
Because that’s so much more impactful, so much deeper than whether you’re happy or content or joyful. It’s OK to feel pain … there’s nothing wrong with you …
I don’t care that I’m sick at all, genuinely … because that has not determined the quality of my life. I’m not trying to fix myself. My suffering has given me so much, and I have been able to make something and give something to people from it.”
Wineland’s life was nothing if not impactful. Now, Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Nicholas Reed is making a film about her life. All proceeds from the still untitled film, which is scheduled to be completed in November, will go to Claire’s Place Foundation.
“When I met Claire, I was totally blown away. All my partners instantly said ‘she is the most amazing young person we have ever met, we have to do a film on her.’ And wow, with each meeting we were humbled more and more by her story.
We are honored to have worked with Claire and with the blessing of her family on this official documentary that encapsulates the true nature of Claire and her courageous battle to help dignify people who are sick.”
You can support Wineland’s legacy by buying tickets to or renting the documentary when it comes out, or you can make a donation directly to Claire’s Place Foundation. Last but certainly not least, you can honor her gift by living your own life with gratitude and purpose.
Optimism and having a sense of purpose in life has actually been scientifically shown to have direct benefits on health and is associated with increased life expectancy. Wineland herself was perhaps a testament to this, as she never expected to make it past her teens.
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” ~ Robert Bryne
“He who has a Why to live can bear with almost any How.” ~ Nietzsche
As explained by Wineland, your purpose is really all about what you believe you can give; how you can make a difference. So often, people get stuck in the limiting mentality of “I’m just one person, how could I possibly make a difference?”
Well, you can. You might not be able to help everyone, but you can help some. What are you enthusiastic about? What revs your internal engine? What comes really naturally to you? What do you enjoy doing most? Exploring your answers to these questions can help you discover your purpose, if you haven’t found it yet.
In the video above, Adam Leipzig also shares how to find your life purpose by answering the following five questions:
Related to this is gratitude. Aside from augmenting happiness and life satisfaction, gratitude actually produces measurable effects on a number of bodily systems, including beneficial effects on mood and pleasure-related neurotransmitters, reproductive and social bonding hormones, cognition, blood pressure and more.
A greater sense of pleasure, as gratitude stimulates your hypothalamus (a brain area involved in the regulation of stress) and your ventral tegmental area (part of your brain’s “reward circuitry,” an area that produces pleasurable feelings)12
A higher likelihood of engaging in other healthy activities and self-care such as exercise
Higher relationship satisfaction
Improved work performance (in one study, managers who expressed gratitude saw a 50 percent increase in the employees’ performance)
Reduced stress14 and emotional distress, in part by improving emotional resiliency
Enhanced well-being15 and improved mental health by triggering the release of antidepressant and mood-regulating chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and oxytocin, while inhibiting cortisol
Reduced inflammation and pain
Improved immune function17
By Dr. Mercola
Infertility has become increasingly pervasive in recent decades. In “Sperm Count Zero,”1 GQ Magazine discusses this troubling fact, noting the situation has become so dire that “within a generation we may lose the ability to reproduce entirely.”
The article highlights research2,3 published last year, which found total sperm counts in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand dropped by nearly 60 percent between 1973 and 2013. (South American, Asian and African men had no noticeable decline, although this discrepancy could be due to the smaller sample sizes obtained from those countries.)
The paper in question was a meta-analysis of 185 studies and the largest of its kind. In a nutshell, men in many areas of the world are producing less semen overall, and the semen they do produce contains fewer sperm. What’s worse, the researchers found no evidence to suggest this downward trend is leveling off. As noted by GQ:
“Sperm counts went from 99 million sperm per milliliter of semen in 1973 to 47 million per milliliter in 2011, and the decline has been accelerating. Would 40 more years — or fewer — bring us all the way to zero?”
Aside from the implications this has on the human species as a whole, reduction in sperm production is also a warning sign that men’s health is in serious jeopardy, as poor semen quality has been linked to a number of other health issues, including a higher risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and early death. Researchers also warn that men are becoming increasingly less male overall.
“One of the most significant markers of an organism's sex is something called anogenital distance (AGD) — the measurement between the anus and the genitals. Male AGD is typically twice the length of female, a much more dramatic difference than height or weight or musculature.
Lower testosterone leads to a shorter AGD, and a measurement lower than the median correlates to a man being seven times as likely to be subfertile and gives him a greater likelihood of having undescended testicles, testicular tumors, and a smaller penis.6,7
‘What you are seeing in a number of systems, other developmental systems, is that the sex differences are shrinking,’ [reproductive epidemiologist at Mount Sinai and one of the lead authors, Shanna H.] Swan told me. Men are producing less sperm. They're also becoming less male.”
GQ also interviews 82-year-old Dr. Niels E. Skakkebæk, a pediatric endocrinologist at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, Denmark. In Denmark, 1 in 5 men cannot father children, and Skakkebæk has been investigating the country’s growing infertility trend since the 1970s, when he discovered infertile male patients with an identical yet curious abnormality he’d never seen before.
“What he found was a new form of precursor cells for testicular cancer, a once rare disease whose incidence had doubled,” GQ writes. “Moreover, these precursor cells had begun developing before the patient was even born.” In other words, Skakkebæk discovered that testicular cancer actually originates in utero.
What’s more, he suspected that if testes were not developing properly, the likelihood of something else misdeveloping was also high. Skakkebæk eventually came up with the name “testicular dysgenesis syndrome” to describe a collection of reproductive problems that appear to originate in fetal development. These include:
The cause of these problems? So-called gender-bending endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The chemical revolution foisted thousands of chemicals upon the population, and many of them are now being found to have significant health impacts. Among the most pernicious are plasticizing chemicals such as phthalates,8 which makes plastic soft and pliable.
Phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenol-A are estrogen mimickers, and when male fetuses are overexposed in utero, it permanently alters their reproductive system, rendering them less male and more female.
In adults, the more phthalates a man has in his system, the lower his testosterone level will be, and the lower his sperm count. Other recent research9 also confirms that environmental estrogens have generational effects, which is why males are successively becoming increasingly more sterile with each passing generation.
Other environmental and lifestyle factors that impact male fertility include:
For a list of strategies that can help treat infertility and boost fertility naturally, see “Skyrocketing Male Infertility May Threaten Mankind’s Survival.”
There are approximately a dozen different types of phthalates, and they can enter your body either through ingestion, inhalation and/or through your skin.11,12 Several studies have linked inhaled exposure to phthalates with asthma and respiratory allergic reactions.13,14
A study from Columbia University was the first to demonstrate an association between childhood asthma and prenatal exposure to phthalates. Children born to mothers exposed to higher levels of butylbenzyl phthalate and di-n-butyl phthalate during pregnancy had a greater than 70 percent increased risk of developing asthma between age 5 and 11.15 Phthalates of various kinds are found in, among other things:
Fast food packaging
Plastic hoses and medical tubing
Raincoats and other rubber items
Vinyl flooring and wall coverings
Lubricants and adhesives
Beauty products such as makeup, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo
Although most phthalates have a half-life of 24 to 48 hours and are excreted from your body within 96 hours, studies have detected a toxic load of phthalates in urine, blood and breast milk, courtesy of repeated (probably daily) exposure. Since the chemicals are fat soluble, they’re stored in your fat cells and, when released, contribute to the level of phthalates found in your urine.16
Phthalates are particularly prevalent in personal care products, which is why women tend to have higher levels in their system than men. Higher levels are also evident in people who regularly eat fast food, as the food is packaged in plastic and/or nonstick wrappers.17
The glands of your endocrine system and the hormones they release influence almost every cell, organ and function of your body, which is why endocrine disrupters such as phthalates can have such dire consequences. Your endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function and metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes.18
In a study led by environmental health scientist Richard Pilsner, Ph.D., at the University of Massachusetts, researchers determined that a father’s preconception exposure to phthalates led to a pronounced decrease in blastocyst quality.19
Once fertilization of the egg is achieved, the zygote begins to divide or cleave.20 This happens repeatedly in the first three to five days of conception. At this point the embryo becomes a hollow ball of cells called a blastocyst. It is at this stage in vitro fertilization is attempted.
The study evaluated immature eggs from 50 couples undergoing in vitro fertilization. There were 761 oocytes (immature eggs) in the study, of which only 184 developed well enough to be transferred to the prospective mother. The researchers found an inverse association between men who had high levels of phthalates in their urine and the development of high quality blastocysts.21
Studies have also linked phthalate exposure during early childhood with delayed puberty in girls,22 while other research23 warns that phthalates in makeup and personal care products can trigger early menopause — effectively shortening the reproductive age of women from both ends.
Women with the highest levels of phthalates in their urine began menopause 2.3 years earlier than women with the lowest levels. However, some may enter menopause as much as 15 years earlier. This can have severe consequences for a woman’s fertility, especially as more women are now waiting to bear children until their mid- to late 30s or even later.
Attention deficit disorder
Type 2 diabetes
Autism spectrum disorder
Imbalanced growth hormone28
Altered thyroid function29
Phthalates are also affecting the reproductive capacity of wildlife, having been found in polar bears, deer, whales and bottlenose dolphins, just to name a few. A 2008 report by ChemTRUST,30 which focused on the ill effects of various endocrine disruptors on wildlife, are also relevant for humans since all vertebrates have similar sex hormone receptors.
Their paper lists the symptoms found in each of the numerous species tested, which includes testicular cancer, hermaphrodites, genital deformations, low sperm counts and infertility. Again, these adverse effects are caused by phthalates’ ability to reduce testosterone synthesis by interfering with an enzyme needed to produce the male hormone.
Other changes in wildlife populations that have been traced back to endocrine disrupting chemicals include:31
Baltic seal population reduction
Eggshell thinning in birds of prey
Alligator population decrease in a polluted lake
Frog population decrease
Male sex organs on female marine animals such as whelks and snails
Negative effects on fish reproduction and development
“For the first time, phthalate metabolites have been detected in the urine of wild bottlenose dolphins. Parent phthalate compounds are common additives to plastics and other products …
Because dolphins are sensitive gauges of their surroundings, detection of phthalate exposure in these dolphins suggests some level of environmental contamination. Additional research is needed to determine the source of their exposure …”
GQ concludes “Sperm Count Zero” with the dire prediction that childbearing may soon become a privilege afforded only to those with the financial means to undergo fertility treatments, and the possibility of technological advancements eliminating the need for sperm altogether, ushering in a brand-new era where women may carry the entire burden of procreation of the species:34
“It's true that fertility treatments have already given men with extremely low sperm counts the chance to be fathers. Indeed, by looking at their cases, we can glimpse what our low-sperm-count future might look like.
We know that it will be arduous to conceive, and expensive — so expensive that having children may no longer be an option available to all couples. A fertility-treatment-dependent future is also unlikely to produce a birth rate anywhere near current levels …
As long as we hover somewhere above Sperm Count Zero, and with an assist from modern medicine, we have a shot. Men will continue to be essential to the survival of the species. The problem with innovation, though, is that it never stops.
A new technology known as IVG — in vitro gametogenesis — is showing early promise at turning embryonic stem cells into sperm. In 2016, Japanese scientists created baby mice by fertilizing normal mouse eggs with sperm created via IVG. The stem cells in question were taken from female mice. There was no need for any males.”
Considering the generational effects of phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals, you’d be wise to take proactive steps to limit your exposure, and that goes for both men and women. This is particularly important for the younger generations. Although it's virtually impossible to steer clear of all sources, you can minimize your exposure by keeping some key principles in mind.
Avoid plastic food containers and plastic wrap. Store food and drinks in glass containers instead.
Avoid plastic children’s toys. Use toys made of natural substances, such as wood and organic materials.
Read labels on your cosmetics and avoid those containing phthalates.
Avoid products labeled with “fragrance” as this catch-all term may include hidden phthalates which are commonly used to stabilize the scent and extend the life of the product. Avoid air fresheners.
Use personal care products stored in glass containers.
Read labels looking for PVC-free products, including children’s lunch boxes, backpacks and storage containers.
Do not microwave food in plastic containers or covered in plastic wrap.
Frequently vacuum and dust rooms with vinyl blinds, wallpaper, flooring and furniture that may contain phthalates as the chemical collects in dust and is easily ingested by children.
Ask your pharmacist if your prescription pills are coated to control when they dissolve as the coating may contain phthalates.
Eat mostly fresh, raw whole foods. Packaging is often a source of phthalates.
Buy products in glass bottles instead of plastic or cans, and use glass baby bottles instead of plastic. Breastfeed exclusively for the first year if you can to avoid plastic nipples and bottles all together.
Remove your fruit and vegetables from plastic bags immediately after coming home from the grocery store and wash them before storage.
Cash register receipts are heat printed and often contain BPA. Handle the receipt as little as possible and ask the store to switch to BPA-free receipts.
Use natural cleaning products or make your own.
Replace feminine hygiene products with safer alternatives.
Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets; make your own to reduce static cling.
Check your home’s tap water for contaminants and filter the water if necessary.
Teach your children not to drink from the garden hose, as many are made from plasticizers such phthalates.
By Dr. Mercola
Nearly 25 million American adults suffer from pain on a daily basis and 23 million report experiencing severe pain.1 In fact, pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined and is cited as the most common reason Americans access health care.
Pain is a major contributor to health care costs and a leading cause of disability.2 The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates at least half adult population in the world experienced at least one headache in the past year.3
In an effort to alleviate pain, many turn to using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) often prescribed after an injury, to treat menstrual cramps and to reduce fever or headache. In the U.S., nearly 70 million prescriptions are written and 30 billion doses are consumed when over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs are included.4
Although they may appear innocuous as they are sold in local convenience stores, by conservative estimates, over 105,000 people are hospitalized every year from side effects of these drugs and over 16,000 died.5 Long-term side effects from NSAIDs are varied, but research demonstrates short-term use significantly increases your risk of heart attack.6
A recent study published in BMJ examined cardiovascular risk in individuals taking the NSAID diclofenac (marketed in the U.S. under the names Voltarol or Voltaren) compared against other traditional NAIDs.7 Danish researchers used 252 cohort studies mimicking the design strategy, which included more than 6.3 million adults who had at least one year of continuous prescription records.
They analyzed the data to evaluate the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events occurring within 30 days of first taking diclofenac, naproxen, ibuprofen or paracetamol.8 The team, led by Morten Schmidt, Ph.D., at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, concluded adverse event rates in those taking diclofenac were 50 percent higher than in those who took no NSAIDs.9
Documented adverse events included atrial fibrillation, ischemic stroke, heart failure and myocardial infarction. The results of the study prompted the researchers to make strong recommendations for clinical use and future study:10
“It is time to acknowledge the potential health risk of diclofenac and to reduce its use. Diclofenac should not be available over the counter, and when prescribed, should be accompanied by an appropriate front package warning about its potential risks.
Moreover, the choice to use diclofenac as the reference group to provide evidence of safety of selective COX-2 inhibitors represents a potential flaw in safety trials.
Future trials should instead use low dose ibuprofen (≤1200 mg/day) or naproxen (≤500 mg/day) as comparators. In conclusion, our data support that initiation of diclofenac poses a cardiovascular health risk, both compared with no use, paracetamol use, and use of other traditional NSAIDs.”
When the results were compared against ibuprofen and naproxen the researchers found those medications increased the risk of cardiovascular events 30 percent over those who did not take the medications. The results of this study confirm those of previous studies also finding those taking naproxen and ibuprofen at higher risk of having a heart attack.11
In 2005 the FDA12 asked manufacturers of OTC NSAIDs to revise labeling on their packages to provide more specific information about potential cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks. The labels were also to remind patients to limit dose and duration of treatment as these medications were not meant to be used long-term.
In July 2015, the FDA strengthened those warnings based on a comprehensive review of safety information and required updates on drug labels of all prescription NSAIDs, saying:13
“The risk of heart attack and stroke with NSAIDs, either of which can lead to death, was first described in 2005 in the Boxed Warning and Warnings and Precautions sections of the prescription drug labels.
Since then, we have reviewed a variety of new safety information on prescription and OTC NSAIDs, including observational studies, a large combined analysis of clinical trials, and other scientific publications.”
Despite these warnings, the number of prescribed NSAIDs or OTC purchases has not abated. The initial warning from the FDA came shortly after Merck voluntarily pulled Vioxx, an NSAID COX-2 inhibitor, off the shelves. Of the 4 million Americans who had taken Vioxx prior to the recall, it's estimated the drug caused 140,000 heart attacks resulting in an estimated 60,000 deaths.14
Although some believe taking NSAIDs for a short period of time does not increase your risk,15 researchers found an increased risk just days after starting the drugs.16 Using data from several large studies, analysis showed those who took NSAIDs for one week had a significantly higher risk of having a heart attack, with the highest risk occurring in those taking them for a month.
Interestingly, in this study, the risk did not appear to increase further after 30 days. The researchers theorized this occurred as those who were most vulnerable to the effects of the drug would have experienced heart problems within the first 30 days.
After adjustments for potential factors connected to heart disease such as diabetes, cholesterol levels and previous history of heart disease, the link remains significant. Although this study confirmed selective COX-2 inhibitors did trigger heart problems, it also demonstrated traditional NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, carried similar risks.17
OTC NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. All NSAIDs work by inhibiting cyclooxygenase enzymes (COX), which the body uses to create prostaglandins. There are two types of COX enzymes, COX-1 and COX-2. OTC NSAID medications target both, but prescription NSAIDs are selective COX-2 inhibitors.
Blocking COX-2 enzymes reduces the production of prostaglandins, chemicals that promote inflammation, pain and fever. However, prostaglandins also protect the lining of the stomach and intestines from the damaging effects of acid.18
Used long-term, OTC NSAIDs may result in erosive gastritis leading to an intestinal bleeding, or even perforation. Selective COX-2inhibitors were developed to reduce this specific side effect. The only COX-2 inhibitor currently left on the market in the U.S. is Celebrex (celecoxib). The remaining COX-2 inhibitors were removed from the U.S. including:19
The reduction and the production of prostaglandins increases the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. Another is hearing loss. One study suggested taking aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen two or more times a week led to hearing loss, especially in younger men.20
Data from the Nurse’s Health Study, which involved data from more than 55,000 women, found those who regularly used NSAIDs or acetaminophen over six years had a 9 to 10 percent greater risk of hearing loss than in the decade before.21 Lead author of the study, Dr. Gary Curhan at Brigham and Women's Hospital commented:22
“I worry that people think NSAIDs and acetaminophen are completely safe, and that they don't need to think about their potential [side effects]. But particularly for people who are taking them for chronic pain, I try to encourage them to look at why they are having the pain, not what they can take to try to treat the pain."
Women in their childbearing years should also be aware that NSAIDs taken around the time of conception or early in the pregnancy significantly increases the risk of miscarriage in the first eight weeks.23 Reducing prostaglandin production with NSAIDs leads to difficulty with implantation and raises the risk of miscarriage.
Since the drug reduces inflammation and pain, some people use them before or after a particularly difficult workout or long run to reduce inflammation in the muscles and joints. However, a study by a professor of kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan found those who used ibuprofen immediately after their exercise experienced more bone loss than those who did not use drugs.24
Prostaglandins help to prevent bone loss or build bone. Weight training can boost prostaglandin production, which can prevent bone loss. When NSAIDs are taken, it inhibits the release of prostaglandins canceling any beneficial effect on the bone from weight training.
Much of the pain relief afforded by ibuprofen and other NSAIDs is a reduction in inflammation. However, there are safer alternatives to reduce inflammation that do not involve drugs. Consider seeking the help of a pain specialist familiar with alternative treatments as they can help relieve pain in the short term while identifying the underlying cause.
Pain is your body's way of communicating something is wrong, and if you suffer severe pain or struggle with chronic pain, it can quickly sideline your life. Whether you experience a short-term injury or suffer from chronic pain, it is vital you identify the cause.
When used cautiously and correctly, prescription pain relievers have their place, but they become dangerous when relied upon on a daily basis. For lasting relief, most people find they need more than one modality to reduce inflammation in their body, including making dietary changes. This is a process of trial and error to find what combination works best for you.
Acupuncture — An estimated 3.5 million Americans use acupuncture for relief from pain associated with a number of physical conditions, including fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, back pain or injuries. This therapeutic technique has been used for thousands of years to rebalance your body. Read more about it in my previous article, “All About Acupuncture and How It Works.”
Processed foods and sugar — Processed foods not only contain sugar and additives but are also loaded with omega-6 fats, upsetting the balance of omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. This in turn contributes to inflammation, a key factor in most pain.
Sugar, especially fructose, should be avoided and eliminated as it raises your insulin and leptin levels, one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. This is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling pain.
Vitamin D — Optimizing your production of vitamin D by getting appropriate sun exposure will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) — EFT may help reduce pain and discomfort by reducing stress.
Omega-3 fats — The fats contained in animal-based omega-3, EPA and DHA, have demonstrated a reduction in inflammation and benefit in pain relief in many animal and clinical studies. Your best food sources include mackerel, herring, anchovies and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Consider supplementing with high quality krill oil if you don't include these foods in your diet.
Cayenne cream — Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body's supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells transmitting pain signals to your brain.
Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO) — An oil, found in fish and dairy butter, it acts as a "joint lubricant" and an anti-inflammatory. It is available as a topical preparation as well.
Evening primrose, black currant and borage oils — These oils contain the fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
Bromelain — A 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 leaving a little of the pulpy core intact when you consume the fruit.
Boswellia — Also known as boswellin or "Indian frankincense," this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years.
Curcumin — This is the primary therapeutic compound in turmeric. Curcumin has been shown in multiple studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.25
Ginger — An anti-inflammatory herb offering pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
Astaxanthin — One of the most effective oil-soluble antioxidants known, astaxanthin has very potent anti-inflammatory properties. Higher doses are typically required and one may need 8 milligrams or more per day to achieve this benefit.
By Dr. Mercola
Today, many are so used to the idea an antibiotic can cure almost any infection, few consider the possibility this remedy may soon no longer be an option. Antibiotics have increased human life span by nearly a decade and certain conditions could simply not be treated without them.1
In many ways, modern medicine is built on a foundation of antibiotics. It is now severely threatened, however, by the emergence and phenomenal growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Prior to the development of antibiotics, half of the world's population died from infections.
The reality is antibiotic-resistant microbes have now become a major threat to public health worldwide. According to the British Office of National Statistics, for the first time life expectancy in the U.K. has dropped as the result of antibiotic resistance.2 This is a man-made epidemic triggered by the widespread misuse of antibiotics.3
In the U.S., resistant pathogens are conservatively estimated to cause at least 2 million infections annually and lead to 23,000 deaths each year. An estimated 25 to 60 percent of Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumoniae) blood infections are now resistant to several strains of antibiotics.
The rise in resistance to multiple drugs has increased the use of carbapenems, a class of last-line antibiotics. Research from Australia now demonstrates multidrug-resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis (S. epidermidis), found on the skin of all humans, may be responsible for an alarming number of antibiotic-resistant sepsis infections.4
Sepsis is a massive immunological response to a bacterial infection in the blood. It often leads to organ failure or injury and is a medical emergency responsible for killing over 250,000 Americans each year.5 During the infection, the body releases chemicals to fight bacteria, which also trigger widespread inflammation.6
In severe cases, one or more organs may fail. Anyone can get sepsis, but those at higher risk are infants, children, the elderly and those with serious injuries or medical problems. Although triggered by a blood infection in many cases, it may also result from an infection confined to one part, such as the lungs, urinary tract, skin or abdomen.7
A sepsis infection with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria is even more lethal. Australian scientists have discovered three new strains of S. epidermidis resistant to all known antibiotics in hospitals across the world. Microbiologist Ben Howden, Ph.D., involved in the discovery, commented8 the bacteria often just colonizes the skin, not leading to infection.
Potentially colonized on the skin of patients and hospital care workers, the bacterium is now poised to cause serious invasive infection. After studying samples from 78 institutions in 10 countries the researchers were able to identify the bacteria. Howden believes it has been spreading, unrecognized, for a number of years.9
Researchers from the Doherty Institute believe antibiotic impregnated medical devices, such as catheters and prosthetic joint replacements, maybe one of the causes for mutations and rise in antibiotic resistant infections.10 The researchers suggested implanting catheters with antibiotics as a strategy to prevent infection was potentially promoting the development of resistance.
They also stated the use of antibiotics in the intensive care unit where patients were sickest and the strongest drugs were liberally prescribed, was promoting the development of additional resistance. Howden commented on those who had a compromised immune system or had a prosthetic material implanted, such as a catheter or joint replacement, saying:11
“The discovery of these new strains means we are now routinely using our last line antibiotics that are expensive and toxic. This makes these infections very costly and difficult to treat.”
The researchers were surprised to discover the bacteria had made small changes in DNA leading to resistance to two major, unrelated antibiotics. Dr. Jean Lee commented on the importance of this discovery, saying:12
“Our study suggests current guidelines for treating these infections with the combination of these two antibiotics that were thought to protect one another against developing resistance are based on an incorrect assumption and that current treatment recommendations need to be reviewed.”
In past decades the drugs have been widely overprescribed for infections that don't respond to antibiotics. For instance, viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics as the drugs only kill bacteria. Yet, many have taken a course of antibiotics for a cold or flu caused by a virus.13
Each time a new antimicrobial medication is introduced, drug resistance quickly follows. Antimicrobial treatments place selective pressure on the organism, favoring the emergence of a drug-resistant strain.14 In fact, antibiotic resistance emerged within a decade of the first clinical trials of penicillin, with more than 50 percent of Staphylococcus aureus being resistant by the end of the 1940s.
While this should have been a red flag, predicting the rise of greater resistance with each new medication, the use of antimicrobials has only risen. Bacteria have an amazing ability to adapt to their environment. Unless completely wiped out, the survivors pass on their resistance to the next generation.
Bacteria are also able to share genetic material among themselves with remarkable ease, conferring resistance to others in close proximity through a plasmid, which rapidly transfers genetic information between bacteria.15 Overuse in humans is only one way resistance is gaining a foothold.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) routinely use antibiotics to speed growth and counteract poor hygiene and crowded conditions. In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned antibiotics for the express purpose of growth promotion.16 However, few changes have resulted as antibiotics are still used prophylactically to prevent disease in animals raised in confinement.17
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 400,000 Americans get sick from antibiotic-resistant foodborne bacteria every year, stating,18 “Antibiotic use in food animals allows antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow and crowd out the bacteria that do respond to antibiotics.”
A report by consumer advocacy group Food and Water Watch19 noted nearly 22 percent of annual antibiotic-resistant infections in the U.S. originate from foodborne pathogens. They explain these bacteria spread from farm animals to humans through food and contaminated waste used in fertilizer or entering waterways. Increasingly, these bacteria show the potential to affect anyone.
Antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, but the misuse and overuse in humans and animals is accelerating the process as a growing number of infections, including sepsis, are becoming harder to treat. Resistance is leading to longer hospital stays, higher medical cost and an increase in mortality.20
Dr. Paul Marik, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital on Eastern Virginia medical campus, recently discovered a simple and inexpensive way to treat sepsis using intravenous vitamin C and thiamine (vitamin B1) in combination with hydrocortisone.21
In a small retrospective before-after clinical study,22 data showed using this cocktail for two days reduce mortality nearly fivefold, from 40 percent to 8.5 percent. Of the 50 patients treated using this protocol, only four died, but none actually died from sepsis; they died from their underlying disease.
His first patient presented in January 2016, a 48-year-old woman with a severe case of sepsis. Marik described her condition, saying:23 “Her kidneys weren't working. Her lungs weren't working. She was going to die.”
After reading a study by researchers who had moderate success treating individuals with sepsis using intravenous vitamin C, he decided to give it a try. He added hydrocortisone and thiamine to the infusion. In combination with vitamin C, hydrocortisone is able to eradicate the infection. Thiamine is important in the metabolism of vitamin C metabolites and reduces the risk of renal failure.
Marik expected his patient would not survive the night but was surprised to find her well on the road to recovery the next morning. After treating 50 patients with this combination and experiencing stunning results, he documented and published the results. Marik has used this protocol with more than 150 patients suffering from sepsis and only one has died from the condition.24
Although cause for celebration, there have been detractors who think these results may only be valid at Marik’s hospital and may not be corroborated with a larger group study over multiple centers. Drug companies have spent billions of dollars searching for an effective treatment for sepsis and selling specific antibiotic cocktails.
Developing an effective treatment could reap billions of dollars. However, in this case, profit is not the motive, as the cost of ingredients for the protocol are as little as a single dose of antibiotics. Marik said,25 "I obviously have no vested interest. Nobody's going to make money from this — so this is a very anti-capitalistic thing!" This may in fact be one reason it has not been widely studied and utilized.
In the high stakes real-life game against antibiotic-resistant superbugs, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) developed their own Pathogen Predators project26 in an effort to defend against biological warfare. Their project began in 201427 with a call for proposals to demonstrate infections may be treated with live predatory bacteria.
While some studies have demonstrated positive results28 and there is some hope to use this protocol in the treatment of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,29 the concept may fail in use for treatment of current infections, as the predatory bacteria do not demonstrate the ability to completely eradicate infectious bacteria.
Prevention continues to be the best option for spreading infection, at home and in the hospital. Alcohol-based hand washes, commonly used by health care professionals between patients are also losing their effectiveness against superbugs.30
Specifically, it is the alcohol that bacteria are becoming more resistant to. In particular, a group of bacteria known as Vancomycin-resistant enterococci have mutated to prevent alcohol from bursting their cell walls.
Laboratory research has also been duplicated in animal studies, demonstrating it's not just a laboratory phenomenon, but a characteristic of the bacteria being able to escape a standard infection control procedure. The bacteria called Enterococcus faecium is a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections and recognized by the World Health Organization and CDC as a superbug.31
Washing your hands is generally recognized as the most important infection control strategy you can use. However, it needs to be done correctly in order to be truly effective. Simply rinsing your hands with water or a quick scrub with soap is not enough to remove germs. To actually remove bacteria when you wash your hands follow these guidelines:32
By Dr. Mercola
Over the years, I've written a number of articles outing industry front groups1 such as the Genetic Literacy Project, the American Council for Science and Health (ACSH),2 Science 2.0, GMO Answers, Independent Women's Forum, Science Codex, Center for Consumer Freedom and the Center for Inquiry.
Once you start to investigate these front groups, you'll find the same names appearing again and again, cowriting articles, interviewing each other and referring to each other's work in a closed loop.
I've also written about academics and journalists who, while presenting themselves as independent experts, are actually shills for industry. This is a fairly close-knit group of individuals, so the worst actors are not hard to identify based on their associations.
In the TED Talk above, award-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson discusses strategies used by industry to manipulate public opinion and steer online discussion.
A strategy that has become phenomenally popular with the advent of social media is astroturfing, which is when a special interests group creates a fake grassroots campaign for or against a particular agenda. You might think it's a group of moms devoted to children's health that is touting the benefits of GMOs or vaccines, for example, when in fact the campaign is run by industry.
Increasingly over the past year or so you may have seen a number of articles simultaneously criticizing both the "anti-vaxxers" and "anti-GMO movement," making contemptuous and sometimes wildly insulting comments about people who question the safety of either of these industries and their wares.
In a May 18, 2017, Forbes article,8 Senapathy (one well-known mouthpiece for the GMO industry) took aim at the "anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements," saying they're "inextricably linked and cause preventable suffering."
"The thoroughly answered question of whether vaccines cause autism isn't really a question outside of conspiracy-theorist circles," Senapathy writes.
"The body of evidence shows that vaccination has … vastly reduced suffering and death … and that vaccines don't cause autism, cancer, dementia or long term health problems, and that any minute risk is vastly outweighed by benefits to individuals and society.
Now with Donald Trump embracing vaccine skeptics, the anti-vaccine movement has earned a hallowed place on the shelf next to other tinfoil hat clad schools of thought.
The question of the safety of genetically engineered crops (GMOs) has been answered just as thoroughly, and the anti-GMO movement deserves its own place on the same shelf, not just for being wrong but for its role in unconscionable suffering …
She goes on to point out how similar the communication tactics are between vaccine and GMO detractors. Ironically, her article reveals just as much if not more about the biotech and vaccine industries' messaging tactics. You can go through her article and check off numerous boxes for how to spot a piece of industry propaganda.
That includes the claim that the science is settled (which automatically precludes the need for further discussion), citing a fellow industry shill (in this case Kloor), using strong, derogatory language when describing those who disagree with industry talking points, making ample references to "conspiracy theories" and "other tinfoil hat clad schools of thought."
Whenever you hear or read that someone is a "quack," and that "the science has been settled," or that something is "science-based," it's probably a smear campaign created by an astroturf group, industry front group or paid shill. In fact, the seven techniques of propaganda have been clearly delineated and are used without exception by most industries. As noted by writer Morgan Crouch in his article, "What Are the Seven Techniques of Propaganda?" these include:9
While Senapathy tries to show how those who question the safety of either GMOs or vaccines are all alike — that is, tinfoil hat-wearing lunatics who follow flat-earth theories in their spare time — what she ultimately achieves is a perfect example of industry PR.
This systematic messaging strategy has been carefully developed, and is known to have a penetrating psychological effect. Both the vaccine and biotechnology industries use the same terminology and the same psychological assault strategies to make you feel like you're in the wrong — or worse.
In her article, Senapathy basically accuses all vaccine and GMO safety advocates of being killers, merely for asking questions and not settling for non-answers, and doing what they think is right for their own health and that of their children.
Another article10 that connects the vaccine and chemical technology industries was recently published by The Feed.
In it, Ashleigh Morse, Ph.D., whose training centers on psychology and the influence of environmental cues on decision-making, and who says she works as a consultant to "a range of clients" in the field of science communication and public health,11 argues that juries are incapable of assessing the validity of scientific evidence presented in court, or the validity of the scientific methods used.
Specifically, Morse — whose professional credits include a single published research paper listed on her LinkedIN bio on the role of opioid processes in reward and decision-making — is referring to the recent jury verdict against Monsanto, but she goes on to link that to vaccine science. "When juries decide on the science, we get autism linked to vaccines and the Monsanto verdict," she writes.
Then there's the curious claim that the Russians are to blame for Americans' lack of faith in vaccine safety.12 According to a recent paper13 published in the American Journal of Public Health, Russian trolls and Soviet-directed Twitter bots promoted anti-vaccine information on social media to "amplify the vaccine debate" and create dissent in the U.S.
According to the authors, "Accounts masquerading as legitimate users create false equivalency, eroding public consensus on vaccination," and "Directly confronting vaccine skeptics enables bots to legitimize the vaccine debate." Those two sentences are interesting and revealing indeed.
In a nutshell, they're saying that by providing anti-vaccine content, these bots made it seem as though there was actually something to discuss when, in the opinion of the authors, no discussion about vaccine safety should occur at all.
Apparently, it is their view that the vaccine debate is "illegitimate," since there's "public consensus" on vaccines (refer back to the bandwagon strategy, No. 6 in the propaganda list above).
In other words, everyone knows vaccines are safe; the science is settled, so there's no valid reason to question it. Summing up the alleged Russian bots' efforts to sway public opinion against vaccination, the authors referred to it as "weaponized health communication."
Coincidentally, the vaccine paper above was submitted for publication shortly after news stories began circulating claiming the Russians were behind anti-GMO rhetoric.14 Minnesota Farm Living writes:15
"Researchers from Iowa State University (Shawn Dorius and Carolyn Lawrence-Dill) wanted to better understand the controversy around genetically engineered food.16 The issue is with the overwhelming belief in the science community is that GMOs are safe, consumers still question their safety. Dorius and Lawrence-Dill wanted to find out why.
What they found was surprising. The ISU researchers looked at not only how U.S. publications portrayed GMOs but also looked at the American versions of RT and Sputknik, two Russian publications. They counted how many times the term 'GMO' was used in different publications …
They went a step further and analyzed the tone of each article. What they found is the Russian publications were overwhelming anti-GMO. The articles talked negatively about environmental risks, nutrition concerns, and health risks of GMOs."
Here, the author links to the "Are GMOs Safe?" page on the Genetic Literacy Project's website as evidence to support GMO safety. But, the Genetic Literacy Project is a well-known front group for the GMO industry and hardly a reliable source of impartial information.
As for why the Russians would want to spread anti-GMO rhetoric in the U.S., the study authors note Russia has an interest in creating division among the American people to weaken the country as a whole, and to promote their own agricultural exports, as Russia banned GMOs in 2016 and is trying to increase its exports of organic food.
In the Minnesota Farm Living article cited above, you can see the telltale industry rhetoric in the sentence, "the overwhelming belief in the science community is that GMOs are safe, [yet] consumers still question their safety." The reality is there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.
That is in fact the title of a scientific statement17 published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, January 24, 2015. The statement, aptly titled "No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety," was signed by 300 scientists, researchers, physicians and scholars.
What's more, the paper states that the claim of scientific consensus on GMO safety is in actuality "an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated," and that such a claim "is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue."
In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration still does not possess any evidence demonstrating safety because they do not do scientific reviews. And even if they did, hundreds of scientists say there's no evidence demonstrating that genetically engineered foods are safe, and a number of independent studies have raised serious health concerns.
To learn more about how GMOs were introduced into the food supply without safety testing, see my two-part interview with attorney Steven Druker, author of "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth." (Part 1, Part 2.)
The reason for the joining of PR forces between the vaccine and biotech industries becomes clearer when you take into account the fact that GMOs are moving into the vaccine industry. The 2016 article,18 "GMOs Lead the Fight Against Zika, Ebola and the Next Unknown Pandemic," published in The Conversation, asserts that GMOs play a "vital role" in medicine, adding:
"Most modern biomedical advances, especially the vaccines used to eradicate disease and protect against pandemics … rely on the same molecular biology tools that are used to create genetically modified organisms.
To protect the public, scientists have embraced GMO technology to quickly study new health threats, manufacture enough protective vaccines, and monitor and even predict new outbreaks."
Additionally, scientists are also exploring the possibility of vaccinating plants against pests as an alternative to using pesticides.19 In other words, it's really quite crucial for these two bedfellows, strange as their joining may seem at first, to get people to embrace both genetic engineering and vaccines.
That's why we're now seeing more and more articles deriding both vaccine and GMO safety advocates in the same piece, whether it necessarily makes sense to do so or not.
Both of these industries are using the exact same messaging strategies — because so far they have worked — to achieve the same aim: Shame those who dare question the safety of either, and make them feel like ignorant outcasts and social misfits, thereby shutting down the conversation.
In my five-part "Ghost in the Machine" series, I discuss the many ways in which big industries manipulate science, and how they've captured our regulatory agencies and manipulate our political system. Here's a listing of the series, in case you missed any of them:
A feature common to both the vaccine industry and the biotech industry is the use of legislation to preempt your rights and force you to use their products whether you want to or not, and without regard for the health consequences.
In recent years, I've written extensively about the vaccine industry's attempts to mandate vaccines and eliminate personal belief exemptions across the U.S. In some cases, they've succeeded. In others, they've lost, but efforts to strip every American of their right to informed consent and medical freedom is ongoing.
The chemical technology industry is following the same agenda. One of the latest infringements on your rights is a provision in the Farm Bill that would block local governments from regulating pesticide use. The U.S. House committee approved the draft back in April. As noted by Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides:20
"This is really a backdoor attempt to interfere with state governments and local governments. I think the trend is for local governments to engage on this issue. This would undermine that."
A common corporate tactic is to use "third-party experts" to bring the industry's message to the public under the cloak of independent opinion or expertise (No. 4, "Testimonial"). The idea is that academic types are far more credible than industry employees when it comes to defending the industry's position.
A well-known spokesperson for the GMO industry is Henry Miller, who was thoroughly outed as a Monsanto shill during the 2012 Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign in California. A "No on 37" advertisement had to be pulled off the air because Miller was fraudulently identified as being part of the Stanford University faculty.
Last year, Miller was outed yet again — this time as a ghostwriter for Monsanto. Forbes fired Miller when it became clear he had submitted ghostwritten material. On a relevant side note, Senapathy has cowritten articles with Miller, which is why some of her Forbes articles ended up being deleted as well,21 and the foreword for her book “Fear Babe” was written by Folta, a University of Florida professor who hid his financial ties to Monsanto.
The Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) discovery against Monsanto was led by U.S. Right to Know (USRTK). Proving he's still working on Monsanto's behalf, Miller penned a two-part article22,23 for Investor's Business Daily this past summer, in which he tries — quite unsuccessfully — to tie USRTK to the alleged Russian GMO disinformation campaign.
The fact that they're still turning to Miller is probably a sign of just how desperate Monsanto (now Bayer) has become. Other discovery documents obtained by USRTK included email correspondence revealing Monsanto has been quite desperate for a number of years already.
In an email dated February 26, 2015, Daniel Goldstein, senior science lead of medical sciences and outreach for Monsanto, tells Monsanto's food safety scientific affairs lead, John Vicini, Ph.D.:24
In this email, Goldstein admits two pearls: First, the list of supporters willing to do their dirty work is short — which is why we keep seeing the same names pop up in pro-GMO propaganda pieces — and ACSH is a most valuable front group for the biotech industry.
So, who else wants you to think that "the Russians did it"? Mark Lynas, a long-term shill for the GMO industry, just published: "Opinion: Russian Campaign to Spread Anti-Vaccine Myths Part of a Wider War on Science and Truth"25 on the Alliance for Science website.
As the other examples cited above, Lynas — normally a pro-GMO advocate — is now cross-linking GMOs and vaccines, closely mimicking the core message of Senapathy's article, which is that "Many anti-GMO groups and anti-vaxxers are closely linked."
Again, what we're seeing is a crossover or merging of the GMO and vaccine industries in terms of messaging and propaganda angles. Rather than fighting public doubt separately, the shills for these industries are now putting out a single joint message that anyone who doubts the science presented by either of them is an anti-science nut job.
The take-home message here is that these tactics are nothing but a PR ploy. Yes, they're trying to make you feel like an outsider, an outcast. They're trying to make you feel ashamed of your "ignorance," or worse, as if you've fallen for false propaganda propagated by evil Russians in an effort to divide and conquer.
But all you really need to do is look for the hallmarks of astroturfing, and you'll quickly see through their ruse. You are not wrong for questioning flawed and biased science. You are not ignorant for questioning whether vaccines and GMOs might be unsafe when there's a clear lack of evidence to support safety claims.
You are not a danger to the public for looking at the evidence and making your own decisions about whether or not you want your family to receive a particular vaccine or eat a certain food. Your inquiries and thought processes are only dangerous to the industries in question which, by the way, are willing to go to just about any lengths to hide the dangers of their products in order to maintain their profits. Stand your ground. It's solid.
By Dr. Mercola
In the U.S., a Sunday chicken dinner is as all-American as apple pie, but this dietary mainstay is an example of one of the biggest problems facing the food supply: the growing market concentration.
Unless you happened to purchase your chicken at a local farm, farmers market or food co-op, and can attest that it was raised on pasture, the way many people think their chicken is raised, it likely came from a major player in the industry, like Perdue or Tyson.
Tyson claims to be “one of the leading supporters of American agriculture,”1 for instance, but it’s not because they’re out in the field tending to their flocks. Instead, it contracts with more than 4,000 so-called “independent” farmers, who are tasked with raising the birds according to the parent company’s strict demands.
In fact, almost all chicken farmers (more than 97 percent) work under the thumb of a giant producer,2 who controls their pay, their farming and ultimately their fate. In many rural areas, there’s only one (or may two) big chicken companies in town, and they have no choice but to enter into exclusive contracts that, for many, saddle them with debt and little recourse if the relationship sours.
U.S. chicken farmers are forced to work like zombies, whose every move is controlled by their puppet master, Big Chicken. “They … act like a lord with serfs, or a landowner with sharecroppers,” The Atlantic wrote of the poultry giants.3
It starts out with farmers taking out loans in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and often more than $1 million, to build a house for their chickens. They contract with one of the big poultry players, who then sends them their chicks, which the farmers raise for market according to the company’s rules.
The corporation then takes care of slaughtering the chickens, packaging the meat and selling it to consumers, who are none the wiser that their farmer middleman may have only been paid 5 to 6 cents per pound of meat. The farmers have very little say in how the chickens are raised. Jonathan Buttram, president of the Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association, told The Atlantic that in these contract relationships:4
“The company has 99-and-a-half percent control over the grower … I’ll list what they tell you: what time to pick up the chickens, what time to run the feed, what time to turn the lights off and on, every move that you make. Then, they say we’re not an employee — we are employees, but they won’t let us have any kind of benefits or insurance.”
Farmers struggle with low pay, lack of autonomy and no job security. In 2001, former chicken farmer Alton Terry contracted with Tyson Foods to raise chickens, after taking out a $500,000 loan to build houses for the chickens. After a couple of years, Tyson told Terry to purchase more equipment, to which he refused, and the next year he believes the company gave him sick chicks, then canceled his contract.
With no other chicken companies in town, Terry couldn’t find another customer to buy his chickens, essentially putting him out of business.
“Terry sued Tyson in 2008, alleging the company canceled his contract because he rallied farmers in the area to lodge complaints about the company with their congressional representatives and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),” The Guardian reported. “[H]e said Tyson mistreated him with tactics such as weighing his birds incorrectly while not allowing him to watch the weigh-in, a violation of USDA rules.”5
Yet, Terry lost the case because he wasn’t able to show that Tyson had harmed the entire poultry industry, forcing him to pay the poultry giant’s legal fees and eventually declare bankruptcy, losing everything he had.
At one time, there were 1.6 million independent farms in the U.S. Today, there are about 25,000 contract farms that raise most U.S. poultry, with many of them raising upward of a half-million birds annually.6
There are many downfalls to raising chickens this way, not the least of which is seeing the chickens living in inhumane, filthy conditions. “They pack these chickens in these houses so tight,” Buttram said. “It's nasty. It is hard to see.”7
Talk of committing suicide is par for the course for farmers facing high levels of debt with little hope of a way out. Part of the problem is that the farmers are paid using a tournament-style system that may deduct money from their paycheck based on others’ performance.
Tyson calls it a “performance-based incentive system that rewards poultry farmers who effectively convert the feed we provide into weight gain in the birds they raise.” Yet, part of the payment formula includes “the performance of their flock compared to those raised by other contract growers.”8 As the USDA explains it:9
“Contract fees are rarely a fixed amount per pound delivered; instead, fees are based on a grower’s relative performance compared to other growers who deliver chickens to the poultry company at the same time.
This method is sometimes called a tournament method of determining pay because, like a professional golf or tennis tournament, a participant’s earnings do not depend on absolute performance, but on performance compared to other tournament competitors.
Fees are determined in the following way. The integrator measures the average cost of the inputs that the integrator provided to growers for chickens delivered to the processing plant in a week — the total value of feed, chicks and veterinary services provided to growers divided by the total weight of chickens delivered that week. The company develops this calculation for each grower.
Each grower is then paid a base fee, and those growers whose costs are lower than the average for all growers receive a premium over the base fee; those whose costs exceed the average for all growers receive a deduction from the base. The amount of the premium or deduction reflects the size of the cost difference.”
Imagine being promised that you can make a good living raising chickens, taking out $1 million in loans to get started, then being told your wages have been reduced because your neighbor raised his chickens at a lower cost.
If you complain, it could backfire, as many contract farmers claim they’ve been retaliated against for doing so, punished by not getting shipments of new chicks, getting sick chicks or having their contracts canceled.
“These companies go into economically depressed areas and tell you you’re going to make a lot of money growing chickens,” Barbara Patterson, government relations director for the National Farmers Union (NFU) told Civil Eats. “What they don’t tell you is that you’ll be indebted for the rest of your life, at their mercy for as long as they have you.”10 As mentioned, suicide is sometimes viewed as the only way out. Buttram continued to The Atlantic:11
“Back a few months ago, a grower called me and said he was going to kill his broiler manager and kill himself …
I never thought that I would have to be talking people out of committing suicide or committing murder. It shouldn't be that an entity can coerce you into committing suicide when you have put everything on the line — your mortgage, your farm — and the company has nothing invested in it but a few chickens.”
At the farmers’ expense, poultry giants are able to get rich by selling cheap chicken to Americans. As noted by the Cornucopia Institute,12 the price of chicken has dropped dramatically over the past few decades, becoming the cheapest meat available in the U.S. As a result, consumption has doubled since 1970.
Seeing how chicken is supposed to be a healthy source of high-quality nutrition, the fact that it has become so affordable might seem to be a great benefit. But there's a major flaw in this equation. As it turns out, it's virtually impossible to mass-produce clean, safe, optimally nutritious foods at rock-bottom prices, and this has been true since the beginning of “industrialized farming.”
In their report, “The Hidden Cost of Cheap Chicken,” the Cornucopia Institute pointed out three primary issues with the CAFO chicken that accounts for 99 percent of poultry sold in U.S. grocery stores:13
• Ethics — Chickens are intelligent and deserving of access to the outdoors where they can express their natural behaviors.
Sadly, in CAFOS, “The National Chicken Council, the trade association for the U.S. chicken industry, issues Animal Welfare Guidelines that indicate a stocking density of 96 square inches for a bird of average market weight — that’s about the size of a standard sheet of American 8.5-inch by 11-inch typing paper …
They are unable to move without pushing through other birds, unable to stretch their wings at will, or to get away from more dominant, aggressive birds.”
• Environment — CAFOs are notorious polluters of the land, air and water, with problems reported across the U.S. The report noted:
“ … [former] Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson was threatening to sue Arkansas poultry producers, including Tyson Foods, saying that waste from the companies’ operations is destroying Oklahoma lakes and streams, especially in the northeast corner of the state.”
• Human Health — The spread of infectious disease and antibiotic-resistant superbugs is a fact of life at CAFOs. In 2015, a bird flu outbreak among U.S. poultry led to the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys in three states (Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa) before spreading elsewhere in the U.S.
Even though there were supposed safeguards in place to contain deadly disease outbreaks from spreading, poultry veterinarians noted that those strategies failed, as the bird flu managed to spread across 14 states in five months.
We haven’t even touched on another of the big issues facing contract farming, which is the fact that the chickens’ growing conditions contribute to the spread of disease.
One study by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that chicken samples gathered at the end of production after having been cut into parts, as you would purchase in the grocery store, had an astonishing positive rate of 26.2 percent contamination with salmonella.14
What’s more, it’s recently been suggested that urinary tract infections (UTIs) may be a foodborne illness caused by eating chicken contaminated with certain strains of E. coli.
In fact, in a study led by Lance Price, a professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, it’s suggested that “People are definitely picking up those infections from poultry” and “We have to open up our heads and acknowledge that foodborne infections aren’t just diarrhea and/or vomiting; they can be UTIs, too.”15
It’s not the chicken that’s the problem, but the way it’s being raised, at the behest of the poultry giants. In addition to contamination with pathogenic bacteria, CAFO chicken also pales in comparison to pasture-raised chicken in nutrition. Pasture-raised chickens have been found to be higher in vitamins D3 and E and have an average omega-3 to -6 ratio of 1-to-5, compared to a much less healthy CAFO value of 1-to-15.16
Many farmers who enter into contracts with agrigiants do so with good intentions of raising food and supporting their families, only to get burned by the veritable hand that feeds them. What many of them are not aware of is that there are better ways to raise chickens — for the planet, for health and even for profits.
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, an innovator in the field of regenerative agriculture, has developed an ingenious system that has the potential to transform the way food is grown. According to Haslett-Marroquin, regenerative agriculture needs to be centered around livestock like chickens in order to be optimized.
Haslett-Marroquin's program has generated a system that has regenerative impact both on the ecology and the economy, meaning it restores the ecology that produces food, and the economic flows necessary for that food to be economically sustainable and resilient.
It also addresses the social conditions of food production in the U.S (and elsewhere), which is important considering the fact that farmworkers are typically poorly paid immigrants.
The chickens are completely free-range, with access to grasses and sprouts as they are rotated between paddocks. This system significantly reduces the amount of labor involved as compared with other ideas out there.
Further, in a poultry-centered regenerative system, tall grasses and trees protect the birds from predators instead of cages — in addition to optimizing soil temperature and moisture content, extracting excess nutrients that the chickens deposit, bringing up valuable minerals from below the soil surface and being a high-value perennial crop.
Opposite of CAFOs, these poultry-centered systems are regenerating the land instead of destroying it, raising chickens humanely instead of cruelly and producing nutritionally superior, not inferior, food.
If you choose to eat chicken, finding a local grass fed farmer raising chickens on pasture is the safest, and healthiest, route to go, and you can also feel good that you’re supporting a farmer making a fair living — not being beholden to, and bankrupt by, corporate giants.
By Dr. Mercola
The plastic piling up on the shores of Manila Bay in the Philippines is disturbing, and the first thought that comes to mind when you watch the video above may be along the lines of, “Where does all that plastic come from?”
It comes from around the globe, in the form of plastic bags, bottles, utensils, straws, microfibers and more, which make up both large debris and an estimated 15 trillion tons of tiny microplastic particles floating in the ocean.1
You’ve probably seen the tragic photos of sea turtles and other marine life entwined in plastic bags or six-pack rings, but some of the most pernicious plastics may be those that aren’t so readily visible; some can’t even be seen with the naked eye.
Ranging in size from 5 millimeters to microscopic lengths, microplastics are being ingested by fish, plankton and other marine life, as well as the creatures on land that consume them (including humans). What this means for the future remains to be seen, but studies conducted to date have painted an ominous picture.
It’s estimated that close to 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year, more than half of which are for single-use products. Those discarded plastic bottles, bags, straws and other plastic waste end up largely in our oceans, to the tune of more than 8 million tons a year.2 Carried along with the ocean’s currents, swirling gyres of “plastic smog”3 now cover about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces.4
In 2008, researchers from the University of New South Wales in Sydney showed that tiny plastic particles don’t simply pass through sea creatures unnoticed, as was once thought. Using mussels as an example, the study revealed that ingested microplastics first accumulated in the gut but, within three days, traveled to the circulatory system where they remained for more than 48 days.5
Not only may microplastics moving throughout the bloodstream and organs cause physical damage like inflammation, but they may also leach poisonous chemicals, including both those added to the plastic and those picked up from the surrounding water.
Microbeads, for instance, those tiny plastic beads once widely used in personal care products, may concentrate such toxins at levels 100,000 to 1 million times higher than the levels found in seawater.6
The beads, which resemble fish eggs, are then eaten by many forms of marine life, including plankton, fish, seabirds and whales. According to one 2015 study, there may be as much as 236,000 tons of microbeads filling the water columns of our oceans.7
Exposure to microplastics has also been shown to prove catastrophic across multiple generations, with the potential to lead to extinction. When researchers exposed the zooplankton Daphnia magna to microplastics, they experienced decreased growth and reproduction rates.
Those born to the plastics-exposed plankton still showed reduced growth, reproduction and population growth rate, even though they were raised in clean water.
“Overall, these results indicate that D. magna recovery from chronic exposure to microplastics may take several generations, and that the continuous exposure over generations to microplastics may cause population extinction,” the researchers explained.8
Most studies on plastics in the environment look at only one type of plastic using relatively short exposure periods. But the reality is much messier, with organisms exposed to multiple types of plastics at varying levels over the course of their lifetime.
One set of researchers are looking into how polyester microfibers may be affecting microorganisms in the soil, especially since sewage sludge, which is applied as a fertilizer in industrial agriculture, is loaded with microfibers.9 They found that the microplastics did, indeed, lead to changes in the soil, including altering the bulk density, water-holding capacity and microbial activity.
Microplastics are well-known to accumulate in seafood intended for human consumption as well. In a study of fish markets in California and Indonesia, one-quarter of the fish were found to have plastics in their guts.10 Plastics and other man-made debris were also found in 33 percent of shellfish sampled.11
In a study of freshwater environments, 83 percent of the fish also had plastic debris in their gut, mostly microplastics, particularly microfibers.12 Microfibers were also found to be the predominant type of microplastic found in beer, tap water and sea salt samples.
“Based on consumer guidelines, our results indicate the average person ingests over 5,800 particles of synthetic debris from these three sources annually, with the largest contribution coming from tap water (88 percent),” according to researchers in PLOS One.13 Even the air you breathe may be a source of exposure to microplastics that are literally falling from the sky. Scientific American reported:14
“Stephanie Wright, a research associate at King’s College London, is trying to better understand how much microfiber humans are actually exposed to and whether airborne microplastics might penetrate the lungs. She is also teaming up with the university’s toxicology unit to examine their lung tissue collection for signs of microfibers and related damage.”
Even as the realities of plastics pollution loom larger than ever, recycling rates remain dismal in much of the world. In the U.S., nearly 260 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) are generated annually, but only 90 million tons of this MSW is recycled or composted, making up a recycling rate of close to 35 percent.15 That’s down from 37 percent in 1995.16
Even though most plastic water and soda bottles are made from highly recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET), most such bottles end up littering oceans and landfills. The Guardian reported that fewer than half of the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled, and only 7 percent were made into new bottles.
In contrast, Norway recycles up to 97 percent of its plastic bottles, the spoils of an environmental tax plastics producers in the country must pay — if they don’t reach a recycling target of 95 percent or more. Producers who meet the target recycling rate do not have to pay the tax, which most accomplish by attaching a deposit of about 15 to 30 cents to every plastic bottle.
Reverse vending machines are found all over Norway, in schools, grocery stores and more, making it easy for consumers to bring their plastic bottles back for recycling and the return of their deposit. Adding to the simplicity of the system, in Norway companies can only make plastic bottles with two particular PET resins.
Polymateria CEO Niall Dunne told Huffington Post, “Then they lined the whole value chain up behind it, all the municipalities, the recycling machines and processes, and achieved great results.”17 Polymateria is producing next-generation biodegradable or recyclable plastics, another strategy to reduce some of the plastic going into the waste stream.
As for the U.S., the idea of attaching deposits to plastic bottles has been suggested but lobbied against by manufacturers who worry the increase in price could affect their sales. Even in areas where bottle return centers have been built, like California, they haven’t been widely frequented, and in fact have dwindled in numbers by 40 percent over the last two years.18
A growing “plastic attacks” movement is also taking off in the U.K., Hong Kong, South Korea and Canada, where shoppers purchase groceries, remove all the plastic packaging and return it to the store. The cartloads of plastic waste, much of it not recyclable, are eye-opening, helping to raise awareness of just how much throwaway plastic is added to packaged foods.
The British Retail Consortium has said they’re making strides toward reducing plastic waste, including offering nonplastic utensils and straws, putting tomatoes on cardboard trays and letting customers use their own containers for fish and meat.
Still, global plastic production continues to rise, growing from just over 300 million metric tons in 2014 to an estimated 625 million tons by 2038.
While plastic manufacturers tout the merits of plastics in helping food to stay fresh longer, travel longer distances and avoid contamination, those involved in the plastic attacks movement say people should buy local, purchase sensible amounts of food that don’t go to waste and use reusable containers in home fridges to avoid disposable plastics.19
In another positive move in the fight against plastic waste, Kroger supermarkets, one of the largest chains in the U.S., announced it will be phasing out plastic bags from its stores, with complete elimination by 2025. They’re encouraging customers to switch to using reusable grocery bags instead. Other companies and governments have also stepped up, including:20
If you’re still using plastic grocery bags, keep in mind that they usually can’t be added to your curbside recycling bin. Municipal recycling facilities often do not recycle plastic bags because they can get caught in their machinery causing damage.
Many grocery stores, however, have collection bins where you can drop of plastic bags to be recycled. A better bet, however, is to use reusable bags and ditch the plastic ones entirely.
Many people toss questionable items in their recycling bins hoping to give them a shot at being recycled, but the reality is that certain nonrecyclable items will only be tossed into the trash bin at the recycling center.
Worse, some of the items may end up contaminating entire loads of recyclables that would otherwise have gone on to other uses. In addition to plastic grocery bags, the following items also typically cannot be recycled (to verify the recycling guidelines in your area, contact your local facility):
Anything smaller than a Post-it Note, as it's too small to be sorted properly. This includes plastic bottle caps, unless you screw them onto the bottle.
Just be sure to empty all liquid first, or the bottle will be discarded.
Plastic that does not hold a shape
Wax paper and wax paper liners (such as those in pizza boxes)
Paper cups with shiny coatings, such as hot-serve coffee cups
Paper food bowls with plastic lining
Foil potato chip bags
Greasy pizza boxes (if you rip off the unsoiled cardboard lid, that can be recycled)
Foil lids from yogurt containers (however, foil food trays and pie tins may be accepted as long as you remove as much food as possible)
With the amount of plastic used worldwide, it may seem an insurmountable feat to cut back, but it can be done, one piece of plastic at a time. Don’t underestimate the impact even one person can have by making simple tweaks to their daily life.
Will you really miss that plastic straw with your water? Do you really need a throwaway bag to carry home one or two items from the store? In the U.S., it’s crucial that we rethink our throwaway society and become more sustainably creative. Ideally, seek to purchase products that are not made from or packaged in plastic.
Another important point is to choose reusable over single-use, which is possible in most instances. Opting for the following will help you to inch closer to a minimal-waste lifestyle while keeping your share of plastics pollution out of the oceans:
Use reusable shopping bags for groceries
Take your own leftovers container to restaurants
Bring your own mug for coffee, and bring drinking water from home in glass water bottles instead of buying bottled water
Request no plastic wrap on your newspaper and dry cleaning
Store foods in glass containers or mason jars rather than plastic containers and plastic freezer bags
Avoid disposable utensils and straws and buy foods in bulk when you can
Opt for nondisposable razors, washable feminine hygiene products for women, cloth diapers, handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues, rags in lieu of paper towels, and infant toys made of wood rather than plastic
Avoid processed foods (which are stored in plastic bags with chemicals). Buy fresh produce instead, and forgo the plastic bags
It’s easy to get down about the amount of plastic swirling in the world’s oceans, including in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which covers 1.6 million square kilometers (nearly 618,000 square miles) of the Pacific ocean’s surface, making it the largest mass of ocean plastic worldwide.
The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization developing advanced technologies to rid the oceans of plastic, estimated it would takes thousands of years to clean up this garbage patch using conventional nets and vessels, but fortunately they’ve got another plan — a passive trash-collecting system that they estimate may remove half of the plastic from the patch in just five years.
Using natural oceanic forces, including wind, waves and currents, the system funnels plastic into an artificial coastline. The plastic is then picked up by a support vessel or “garbage truck of the ocean” and transported to land. Let’s hope that the system is a success, and also that we can all come together to reduce the amount of plastics being generated, used and discarded.
By Dr. Mercola
Turmeric, a yellow curry spice used in Indian cuisine, has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin is one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric,1 having over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and powerful anticancer actions.
Cancer has an incredible global impact and places a vast financial and emotional burden on the families it touches. Nearly 40 percent of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and over $125 billion is spent annually on medical treatment and patient care.2
The American Cancer Society estimated there would be over 1.6 million new cases diagnosed in 2017, equating to 4,630 new cases and 1,650 deaths every day.3 The most common types of cancer include breast, colon, lung and prostate.4
Despite advances in cancer treatment protocols, scientists realize prevention plays an essential role in reducing the number of people who die from the disease. After 30 years of testing more than 1,000 different possible anticancer substances, the National Cancer Institute announced that curcumin has joined an elite group that will now be used in clinical trials for chemoprevention.5
In this interview, Dr. William LaValley discusses the interaction curcumin has on cancer and the multiple ways this molecule affects cancer growth. If you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, it may feel as if it grew overnight when, in fact, cancer cells take years to develop.
The progression of a cell from normal growth to cancer happens through several stages. Deregulation of physiological and mechanical processes that initiate and promote the growth of cancer cells makes use of hundreds of genes and signaling routes, making it apparent a multitargeted approach is needed for prevention and treatment.
Research has demonstrated that curcumin has a broad range of actions as it is able to effect multiple cellular targets.6 Studies have found, based on the activities of curcumin in the body, the spice could be an effective method of cancer prevention, or in treatment when used in conjunction with conventional treatment protocols.
Curcumin triggers a variety of actions that affect the growth, replication and death of cancer cells. Cancer cells lose the ability to die naturally, which plays a significant role in the hyperproliferation of cells common to cancer. Curcumin is able to turn on the apoptosis (cell death) signaling pathway, enabling the cells to die within a natural time span.10
Cancer cells thrive in an inflammatory environment. Although short-term inflammation is beneficial for healing, long-term inflammation increases your risk of disease. Curcumin is able to block the pro-inflammatory response at several points and reduce the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the body.11
The strong anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may match the effect of some drugs.12 Early in development, cancer cells learn to replicate and grow in an environment cells normally find inhospitable. Curcumin may change the signaling through several pathways, and put a stop to this replication.13
Curcumin may also stop the ability of cancer stem cells from replicating and reduce the potential for recurrence after treatment. Curcumin also helps support your immune system, capable of seeking out and destroying early cancer cells naturally.
Some of the same ways that curcumin works in your body are the processes used to enhance your cancer treatments and chemotherapy.
While some chemotherapy has been developed to target specific cells, most therapy drugs are nonspecific and affect all cells in your body. Some studies in the past decade have demonstrated exciting potential for curcumin in the fight against cancer.
In addition to changes to your cells mentioned above, researchers have found curcumin may help protect your body against the damage caused from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and it may enhance the effect of these same treatments, making them more effective.
Patients treated for chronic myeloid leukemia with chemotherapy exhibited a reduction in cancer growth factor when curcumin was added to the treatment protocol, potentially improving the results of the chemotherapy over being used alone.17
Protection against radiation therapy was demonstrated in a study using breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.18 At the end of the study those taking curcumin had less radiation damage to their skin.
Curcumin has also been effective against angiogenesis in tumors, or the growth of new blood vessels to feed the overgrowth of cancer cells, and against metastasis.19
Curcumin is able to affect cancer cells through multiple pathways and has fulfilled the traits for an ideal cancer prevention agent as it has low toxicity, is affordable and is easily accessible. However, while effective, it has poor bioavailability on its own.20
In my interview with LaValley, he discussed the poor bioavailability of curcumin in raw form. Only 1 percent of the product will be absorbed; even supplements that have a 95 percent concentration are absorbed at 1 percent.
This means, when the supplement is taken alone, it is a challenge to maintain a therapeutic level. However, in the case of colon cancer, this poor absorption into the bloodstream may be an advantage.
As there is poor absorption, higher levels of curcumin stay in the intestinal tract for longer periods of time, having an effect on gastrointestinal cancers. In one study, participants took a 1,080 milligram (mg) dose per day of curcumin for 10 to 30 days between their initial biopsy and surgical removal.
A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and at Pondicherry University, India, discovered the bioactive ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can both prevent and cure bowel cancers.22 The team found the compound triggered cancer cell death by increasing a level of protein labeled GADD45a.23 Lead author Rajasekaran Baskaran, Ph.D., who has more than 20 years of experience in cancer research, commented:24
"Studies on the effect of curcumin on cancer and normal cells will be useful for the ongoing preclinical and clinical investigations on this potential chemopreventive agent."
As an increased bioavailability and absorption may also improve the actions of curcumin in the body, researchers have studied a variety of different delivery methods, including oral, intravenous, subcutaneous and intraperitoneal, as well as different formulations of the product.25
Bioavailability improved when curcumin was delivered as a nanoparticle, in combination with polylactic-co-glycolic acid, liposomal encapsulation26 and when taken orally with piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.27
Research demonstrates that while curcumin has multiple pathways through which it impacts cancer cells, the substance also has an effect on multiple types of cancer. Studies estimate that genetics may play a role in approximately 5 percent of all cancers, with the majority of cancer growth attributed to lifestyle choices.28
Research demonstrates curcumin exhibits activity against breast cancer and decreases the toxic effect against some of the chemotherapy agents commonly used.29 Mitomycin C is a potent antineoplastic drug. However, prolonged use may lead to kidney and bone marrow damage, with secondary tumor growth. Curcumin appears to reduce the side effects of Mitomycin C and improve the efficiency of the drug at the same time.30
Another study demonstrated that curcumin inhibited the growth and metastasis of lung cancer cells.31 One of the deadliest cancers worldwide, pancreatic cancer, also appears to respond to the use of curcumin in preclinical trials.32 The antiproliferative effects on pancreatic cancer appeared to be from a reduction in oxidative stress and angiogenesis and triggering apoptosis of cancer cells.
Apoptosis, anti-inflammatory actions, reduction in angiogenesis and reduction in the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic agents has also led researchers to consider curcumin an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of liver cancer.33 Curcumin also inhibited and slowed the development of bladder cancer in rats,34 stopped the formation of metastasis in prostate cancer,35 and when combined with ultrasound, increased death of cervical cancer cells.36
But not all scientists are convinced by the number of studies over the past 15 years demonstrating the multiple effects curcumin has on the inflammatory response and cancers, as well as the low toxicity profile.37 In one meta-analysis, researchers claimed curcumin could not meet the criteria for a good drug candidate.38
Curcumin offers additional benefits to your health. It may work as well as some anti-inflammatory medications to treat arthritic conditions.39 In combination with aerobic exercise, curcumin was found to improve endothelial cell function in postmenopausal women,40 and was also found to ameliorate arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress in the elderly.41
Your brain can develop new connections powered by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).44 Reduced levels of this hormone may be linked to depression and Alzheimer's disease. However, curcumin can increase your levels of BDNF45 and effectively reduce your potential for suffering from age-related reduction in brain function.46
Researchers have also discovered that curcumin has an effect on several pathways in your body that may reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.47 The reduced potential for metabolic syndrome and obesity is related to the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, which may also have an effect on heart disease, atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes.48
It is becoming widely accepted that cancer is not a preprogrammed inevitability, but rather the result of the impact of your environment on genetic regulation that may trigger cancer cell growth. There are multiple influences that may damage or mutate DNA, and consequently alter genetic expression, including:
Free radical damage
Toxins and pollution
Infectious toxic by-products
Researchers have demonstrated curcumin may affect more than 100 different pathways in your cells, helping to prevent hyperproliferation of cell growth characteristic of cancer, and aiding in the treatment of the disease. Through the reduction of inflammation, prevention of the development of additional blood supply to support cancer cell growth and destruction of mutated cells to reduce metastasis, curcumin has great medicinal and preventive potential.
Several studies have demonstrated an impact on transcription factors and signaling pathways, and have reviewed the molecular mechanisms curcumin uses to regulate and modulate gene expression.49,50,51 Overall, curcumin is powerful, cost-effective and has a low toxicity profile.52
Turmeric is a wonderful spice used in Eastern culture cuisine. It is one spice I recommend for your kitchen as it works well with tomato sauces, soups, leafy greens, cauliflower, stir-fries and stews. Choose a high-quality turmeric powder instead of curry powder as studies have found some curry powders have very little curcumin.
If you are looking for therapeutic effects, you may want to consider a supplement. It is difficult to achieve a dose of curcumin used in research solely from your diet. Typical anticancer doses range between 1,200 and 3,000 grams of bioavailable curcumin extract.
You can increase the absorption by making a microemulsion, combining 1 tablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil, as the curcumin is fat soluble. Then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.
Absorption may also be increased through boiling. Add 1 tablespoon into a quart of boiling water. (If you add it to room temperature water and then boil, it doesn't work as well.) After boiling it for 10 minutes, you will have created a 12 percent solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of the solution over time, and in about six hours it will be a 6 percent solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours.
Curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren't careful. To avoid inadvertently staining your kitchen yellow, I recommend you perform any mixing under the hood of your stove with the exhaust fan on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.
Alternatively, it is far easier to take curcumin in supplement form — just make sure it's a high-quality brand that is formulated to increase bioavailability. And, look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Just be aware that these are relatively rare and hard to find.
By Dr. Mercola
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),1 potatoes hold the top spot for highest daily per capita consumption of vegetables in the American diet, edging out tomatoes. This means the average person consumes 48 pounds of potatoes annually, of which about 40 percent are frozen.
While commonly known as a vegetable, due to their nutritional composition, potatoes are better classified as a starch. On the positive side, potatoes are rich sources of fiber, vitamins B and C and minerals like iron and potassium. When cooked then chilled, regular potatoes become a resistant starch, making them easier to digest.
Sadly, the majority of potatoes sold and consumed in the U.S. and elsewhere are in the form of french fries and potato chips. You should avoid these potato types due to the lack of nutrition they provide and also as a way to reduce your exposure to a neurotoxic chemical called acrylamide, which is found in browned or charred foods.
Also, because potatoes are grown in soil, and soil conditions vary widely around the globe, you may be increasing your exposure to toxic pesticides and heavy metals every time you eat a tuber. For that reason, it’s best to purchase organic potatoes and moderate your intake, keeping in mind that even organic brands can be tainted with heavy metals.
As a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family, regular potatoes are related to eggplants, peppers and tomatoes. As such, they are a potentially inflammatory food. Potatoes originated in South America, specifically in the Andes Mountains region, and 4,000 edible varieties are said to exist worldwide.2
In the 16th century, Spanish explorers introduced potatoes to Europe. Due to their vitamin C content, potatoes were used during sea voyages to help combat scurvy. In the 18th century, Irish immigrants brought the potato to the U.S.
Today, potatoes are cultivated worldwide, taking their place behind rice and wheat as the world’s third largest crop in terms of human consumption.3 Notably, due to their moderate-to-cool climates, the states of Idaho and Washington produce about half the potatoes consumed in the U.S.4
Each type of regular potato, as well as sweet potato, varies in shape, size, color, flavor and nutritional content.
As mentioned in the featured video, a medium plain baked potato eaten with its fiber-rich skin contains just 160 calories per serving. It also contains about 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. In terms of nutritional benefits, potatoes are:
About the potassium level in potatoes, Victoria Jarzabkowski, a registered dietitian nutritionist on the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, said, "All potatoes are potassium-rich. They have even more potassium than a banana, and a lot of it is found in the skin."5
In terms of the impact of potatoes on blood pressure, CNN noted, “Potatoes … offer vitamin B6, vitamin C and iron, and are an excellent source of potassium. A medium potato provides about 20 percent of the recommended daily value for potassium, an important mineral that may help blunt sodium's effects on blood pressure.”6
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 100-gram potato with its skin on also contains significant portions of calcium, niacin, phosphorous and folate.7
A very small 2013 study8 published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism suggested potatoes exert a greater influence on your satiety — in terms of their ability to reduce your appetite after being consumed — than other carbohydrate side dishes such as pasta.
Despite their many beneficial properties, potatoes are best consumed in moderation due to their high starch content. Another reason to eat potatoes only occasionally has to do with the soil in which they are grown.
Given the amount of pesticides and heavy metals in ground soil worldwide, unless you grow your own, you cannot be certain of the toxin load you may be ingesting with your favorite tuber. To reduce as much toxicity as you can, it’s vital you choose organic potatoes to avoid the many chemicals routinely sprayed on conventional tubers.
The Pesticide Action Network North America’s “What’s on my Food?” website suggests 35 chemicals were found on potatoes by the USDA’s pesticide data program. Among the 35 chemicals noted are carcinogens and neurotoxins, as well as bee, hormone and reproductive disruptors.9
Even when you choose organic brands, keep in mind they likely contain heavy metals mainly because potatoes are grown in soil, which can be contaminated with metals such as arsenic, cadmium and lead.
Researchers behind a 2018 Consumer Reports’ analysis of 50 nationally distributed packaged baby food products for heavy metal toxicity, including several organic brands of sweet potatoes, stated:10
“Although foods certified as organic by the USDA do have benefits — including lower pesticide levels and less impact on the environment — avoiding heavy metals isn’t one of them. Twenty of the products in our test were labeled organic, and, as a whole, they were just as likely to contain heavy metals as the conventional ones.”
“Arsenic and lead, which have been used in the past as pesticides, are prohibited under organic regulations,” says Consumer Reports’ food labeling expert Charlotte Vallaeys. “Because these heavy metals are contaminants in the soil, there's no reason why organic baby foods would contain lesser amounts.”11
Clearly, if organic sweet potatoes sold in small amounts as baby food have ignited health concerns about heavy metals, you can imagine eating a whole sweet potato also carries some risks.
Choosing reputable sources and eating potatoes in moderation are key to leveraging the nutritional benefits of tubers while minimizing the health risks. Also, as mentioned in the video above, rotating potatoes and other foods known to absorb heavy metals (such as rice) in and out of your diet can also help lower your exposure.
While there are a few similarities, regular potatoes are decidedly different from sweet potatoes. As mentioned, potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are part of the Solanaceae family, a plant group that produces a poisonous compound called solanine. For this reason, never eat the leaves or stems of nightshade plants.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) take their place in the Convolvulaceae family, along with morning glory vines. Unlike regular potato plants, which are highly toxic, the leaves of sweet potato plants can be eaten safely and are quite nutritious.
Potatoes have white or pale-yellow flesh with brown, red or yellow skins. They are either smooth or rough. On the other hand, sweet potatoes can appear in various colors, including cream, pink, purple, orange and yellow.
Some consider sweet potatoes to be a healthier choice than regular potatoes due to their higher levels of nutrients like vitamins beta carotene and C. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gets converted to vitamin A in your body and is important for healthy eyes and skin.
As the name suggests, sweet potatoes are indeed sweeter: They contain about seven times the sugar content of regular potatoes. Because of the carbohydrates they contain, both potatoes and sweet potatoes will fill you up, give you energy and leave you satiated for a long time.
The choice of regular or sweet potato is a matter of personal preference and totally up to you. My only recommendation is to moderate your consumption of tubers, regardless of the type you choose. I also advise you eat regular potatoes only after cooking and chilling them to boost your body’s ability to digest them.
Most potatoes contain digestive-resistant starch, which consists of complex starch molecules that resist digestion in your small intestine. These starches slowly ferment in your large intestine, where they act as prebiotics, feeding your healthy gut bacteria.12
Because they are not digestible, resistant starches do not cause spikes in your blood sugar. In fact, research suggests resistant starches help improve insulin regulation, reducing your risk of insulin resistance.13
Surprisingly, many leftovers contain resistant starch. After being cooked and cooled in the refrigerator, starchy foods like pasta, potatoes and white rice develop resistant starches. About resistant starches, Paul Arciero, professor of health and human physiological sciences at New York’s Skidmore College, says:14
“Cooking the carbohydrate starch alters the chemical bonds in the food. The ensuing structure of those bonds during the cooling process is what makes them resistant to then being digested in the small intestine.”
The resistant starch remains in the food even after reheating. While potatoes have more resistant starch than sweet potatoes, the total amount of resistant starch in any food depends on the amount of resistant starch found in its raw form, as well as the manner in which the food is prepared.
Learn more about resistant starch and how it helps your body by watching the video above, which was produced by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition15 observed an association between the consumption of potatoes and french fries and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The research followed a large cohort of nearly 85,000 women over a 20-year period.
According to CNN,16 the positive association between potato consumption and the risk of Type 2 diabetes in the study was noted primarily in obese and sedentary women, “who are more likely to have underlying insulin resistance, which may intensify the adverse metabolic effects of higher-glycemic carbohydrates.”
A logical conclusion to draw from this research would be the need for moderation when it comes to potato consumption, especially fried potatoes. In general, it’s simply not wise to eat large amounts of potatoes unless you have the metabolic flexibility to burn fat as your primary fuel, get plenty of exercise and avoid long periods of sitting.
In terms of blood pressure effects, one group of scientists found eating six to eight small antioxidant-rich purple potatoes twice a day can have a positive effect on your cardiovascular system. The study authors said, “[P]urple potatoes are an effective hypotensive agent, and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke in hypertensive subjects, without weight gain.”17
In contrast, research completed in 2016, involving data extracted from three large cohort studies, associated the consumption of potatoes — most especially french fries — with an increased risk of high blood pressure.
The study authors asserted, “Replacing one serving a day of boiled, baked or mashed potatoes with one serving of a nonstarchy vegetable was associated with a lower risk of developing hypertension.”18
As you can see, the research results correlating potato consumption and blood pressure are mixed. So, much of how potatoes affect your health is going to depend on the types of potatoes you eat, how you prepare them and how often you eat them.
For certain, if you consume potatoes on a daily basis, I agree with the advice to replace one serving a day with a nonstarchy vegetable. Later in this article, I share recipes that use cauliflower and zucchini as substitutes for potatoes in two popular dishes.
While plain baked potatoes can be good for you, potatoes that are fried in oil, such as french fries, hash browns and potato chips, are not healthy. As you may imagine, the process of frying potatoes significantly drives up their health-damaging potential.
One major reason to avoid fried potatoes is due to the unhealthy omega-6 vegetable oils involved in preparing them. Some of these oils, like canola and soybean oil, not only may be hydrogenated, but also genetically engineered.
Processed potato products may also contain trans fat and very often chemical additives and other processed ingredients known to contribute to chronic health conditions like cancer, heart disease and obesity.
Some suggest roasting potato wedges tossed in olive oil and rosemary is a healthier alternative to fried potatoes. While that may sound tasty, remember olive oil does not tolerate high heat and can easily be damaged at high oven temperatures.
If you insist on roasting or frying potatoes, try using coconut oil because it is stable enough to resist heat-induced damage. Or, better yet, check out my healthy tips on How to Bake Potatoes.
While not immediately life-threatening, consuming fried potatoes also exposes you to a cancer-causing and potentially neurotoxic chemical called acrylamide. Acrylamide is the byproduct of a chemical reaction between sugars and the amino acid asparagine at temperatures above 250 degrees F (120 degrees C).
Carbohydrate-rich foods such as french fries and potato chips, which are heated to very high temperatures to produce a browned or charred surface, are likely to contain high amounts of acrylamide. Potato chips are, by far, the worst.
According to an analysis performed by the California-based Environmental Law Foundation, all potato chips tested exceeded the legal limit of acrylamide by a minimum of 39 times, and some by as much as 910 times!19
Data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveals that baked chips, which have been touted as healthier, may contain more than three times the level of acrylamide as regular chips.20
An easy way to reduce your starch intake from regular potatoes is to substitute cauliflower and zucchini in dishes that used to be reserved exclusively for potatoes. With respect to zucchini, you may want to try my Scrumptious Baked Zucchini Tots recipe.
Steamed and mashed cauliflower, also known as “caulitators,” has a consistency similar to mashed potatoes and is a healthier alternative to regular mashed potatoes. Below is a simple recipe that feeds eight and can be prepared in about 20 minutes. For the best results, be sure to use organic, grass fed dairy products.
Like most foods, potatoes can be either healthy or unhealthy depending on how you prepare them, as well as how much and how often you consume them. Eating an organic baked potato on occasion, as part of a balanced meal, can be healthy. On the other hand, consuming french fries and potato chips on a daily basis would not be a healthy choice.
Occasional consumption of sweet potatoes also can be beneficial because they contain just enough sweet to help curb your cravings for other sugary foods. Eating a sweet potato for dinner once in a while is far better than consuming a sugary dessert after the meal.
If you love potatoes, my advice is to take care how you prepare them, how you portion them and how often you add them to your plate. And, to avoid the concerns about potatoes and heavy metals, you might consider growing potatoes in your garden where you can ensure healthy soil.
1 Which of the following supports healthy thyroid function, boosts metabolism and helps normalize insulin and leptin function?
2 How many carcasses per minute must USDA food inspectors inspect for signs of disease and fecal material in chicken slaughter lines?
3 Chagas disease is contracted from and spread by which of the following insects?
4 Which of the following placebo treatments or criteria has been shown to be the most effective?
5 Cumin has a warm, earthy flavor that plays a starring role in which popular spice blend:
6 The SAR value on your cellphone tells you:
7 Which of the following has NOT been scientifically linked to autism?
By Dr. Mercola
What vegetable looks like a cross between a jalapeno, a mini cucumber and a star fruit, has enjoyed a long Southern tradition and was recently found to provide some really incredible benefits for your health? If your answer was okra, you get a thumbs-up, and if you or someone you care about struggles with their blood sugar, not to mention bouts of hunger that only exacerbates their blood sugar woes, listen up.
But first, a little okra history: Also called "ladyfingers," and closely related to both cotton and hibiscus, okra comes in more than one variety, so it can be tinged with red and have either a smooth or a rough and even prickly texture.
A favorite in the American South and areas of Africa and the Mediterranean, where it's usually cooked to reveal a slimy texture, there are (fortunately) serving alternatives; five possibilities, with a few twists, are inspired by Smithsonian Magazine:1
It should be noted that far healthier oils than the standard fare include coconut oil, avocado oil, organic grass fed raw butter, ghee and sesame oil, which are recommended when frying. Olive oil is good, but only at temperatures lower than 180 degrees F, as fumes emitted from cooking olive oils can potentially be carcinogenic; plus, the oil is easily damaged by high heat.
An animal study conducted in 2014 revealed that okra extracts may help reduce oxidative stress and insulin resistance, and as a result, improve blood sugar levels.6 In another clinical study,7 roasted okra seeds, which people in Turkey have eaten for years to offset diabetes mellitus symptoms, were found to do just that.
Additionally, a large phytochemical analysis showed that okra seed extracts also had antistress (adaptogenic) and nootropic (cognitive enhancing) effects on volunteers.8 I also would like to remind anyone with high blood sugar tendencies that managing your ability to handle stress is an important factor in managing diabetes, as over the long term, elevated stress levels can take a toll on your ability to prevent spikes.
Diabetes.org observes that anything that triggers your fight-or-flight response can cause insulin to "pile up" in your blood.9 In the same vein, one reason listing the health advantages of okra consumption is so timely is that the instances of diabetes cases are steadily rising, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In 2014, it was reported, for instance, that while around 167,000 youth under age 20 had Type 1 diabetes in 2009, more than 18,000 new cases have been estimated for the same age demographic every year since then.10 Differences between the three types of diabetes (Type 1, Type 2 and gestational diabetes) and the problems each can cause are important to understand.
According to Medical News Today,11 the earlier reference to diabetes mellitus denotes a group of metabolic disorders that prevent your body from properly storing and using glucose, or blood sugar, as fuel; it can be because you don't produce enough insulin, your body's cells fail to respond properly to insulin, or both.
However, not just Type 1 diabetes (when your body fails to produce insulin) but Type 2 (when your body fails to produce enough insulin for proper function) and gestational diabetes (which affects pregnant women) are included in the kinds of diabetes that okra consumption may be able to help. While the research is said to still be in its early stages, okra has proven itself effective for diabetes sufferers.
Okra, aka Abelmoschus esculentus, a rather forgotten garden vegetable, provides a number of valuable nutrients, including fiber. Several of the most prominent of them must be obtained through food, and if you don't get enough of them, a deficiency can seriously compromise your health. Five of the most beneficial include:12
• Potassium — A mineral as well as an electrolyte, meaning it conducts electrical impulses through your body, potassium helps normalize your muscle contractions, heart rhythm, blood pressure, digestion, pH balance and more. Because your body doesn't produce it, you must obtain an optimal amount of foods containing it, while making sure it balances your sodium intake.
• Folate — One of several B vitamins, this one produces red blood cells and both makes and repairs your DNA, and a deficiency can lead to anemia, depriving your cells of oxygen. One of its most crucial functions is for pregnant women as it's involved with preventing birth defects.
Note: Although many people interchange them, do not confuse folate, which occurs naturally in foods, with folic acid, which is a synthetic form of vitamin B9 used as a supplement and an additive to processed foods.
• Calcium — Stored in your bones, it works with vitamin D to ensure your body absorbs it properly to avoid brittle, prone-to-break bones. It also works with vitamin K2 to keep calcium from settling in areas it shouldn't be, such as your arteries and soft tissues, and directing it to where it should be, like your bones and teeth.
• Vitamin K — A fat-soluble vitamin that plays critical roles in protecting your heart, building your bones, optimizing your insulin levels and helping your blood to clot properly, vitamin K can help prevent heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple types of cancer and even Alzheimer's disease.
• Vitamin C — This powerful antioxidant lessens both the duration and severity of a cold and is necessary to produce collagen, the most abundant protein in mammals, which keeps your skin and tissues firm but flexible. A "C" deficiency weakens your immune system and is infamously known for causing the sailor's dread: scurvy.
Mentioned earlier as one of the many benefits of eating okra, dietary fiber is so important for your overall well-being, it really can't be overstated. Consuming high-fiber foods like okra help the other foods you eat move smoothly through your system and provide the bulk required to eliminate waste from your system. Eight 3-inch-long okra pods provide around 3 grams of fiber.
In one study,13 researchers separated the skin and seeds of immature okra pods to compare their polysaccharides, polyphenols, flavonoids, quercetin and similar compounds, as well as their antioxidant and anti-fatigue activities. It's interesting to note that the scientists wrote that the fairly small doses given to mice in the study are easily obtainable simply by eating okra itself.
The seeds won; the scientists found significantly more anti-fatigue effects because of reduced blood lactic acid and urea nitrogen, which enhanced hepatic glycogen storage and promoted antioxidant ability by lowering the level of malondialdehyde (a marker for oxidative stress14) while increasing superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase levels.
These results, according to the study, "proved okra seeds were the anti-fatigue part of okra pods and polyphenols and flavonoids were active constituents." Bulk fiber from eating okra has been shown to aid digestion by reducing your hunger cravings and keeping you feeling fuller, which is an important component for controlling diabetes symptoms.
Further, increasing your fiber intake is shown in clinical trials to encourage improved glycemic control and insulin sensitivity, and lower cardiovascular risk factors and chronic kidney disease in Type 2 diabetes patients.15 The Global Journal of Medical Research16 asserts more health benefits:
In summary, the journal concludes:
"One of the better health advantages of consuming okra is definitely the powerful management of the body's high cholesterol level. This healthy vegetable is beneficial in slimming down and also reducing cholesterol … It is [also] a good vegetable for those feeling weak, exhausted and suffering from depression ... [additionally it can be] used for ulcers, lung inflammation [and] sore throat."
One of the most dramatically game-changing compounds in okra is glutathione, which one study acknowledges has anticarcinogenic properties. According to Immune Health Science,17 foods containing glutathione fall into two categories: those containing the glutathione molecule and those that promote glutathione production and/or "upload" the activity of glutathione enzymes in your body.
However, it must remain uncooked; cooking glutathione foods diminishes its content. Storage methods can affect it, too. One study shows that dietary glutathione intake can lower your risk of oral and pharyngeal cancer,18 while an animal study19 observed that it protects against diabetic nephropathy (damage to kidneys due to diabetes) and neuropathy (damage to nerves and eventual renal failure).20
But here's the kicker: Among all the foods listed as having the highest glutathione content, one study reflected the "Glutathione in foods listed in the National Cancer Institute's Health Habits and History Food Frequency Questionnaire,"21 ranking okra fourth in milligrams (mg) per a 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving. According to Immune Health Science,22 here's the breakdown:
Whether or not you're aware of this "craze," okra water has become a thing. In fact, drinking Bhindi juice (another name for it) is said to impart several health advantages besides those already mentioned. How it's prepared, however, can make all the difference. Diabetes Self-Management offers this recipe for making okra water:23
"Take two to four small pods, cut off the tips, puncture or slice the sides and soak them overnight in 8 ounces of water. Then take the pods and squeeze the goop into a new cup and water to that."
Shredded okra peel is how this veggie has been used in traditional medicine. Simply use a grater, and just one-half of a teaspoon is enough to provide nutritional benefits. When looking for okra pods to try a few culinary forays, look for bright green, unblemished pods to ensure freshness, and smaller pods, which are tastier and more tender, but still firm.
Store okra without washing it first; a paper bag will do just fine, but store it in a warmer part of your refrigerator as the colder it is, the faster it decays. To freeze it, simply flash-blanch it, trim it, dry it thoroughly on paper towels and store in freezer containers or reusable baggies.
A hernia is a condition where an organ pushes through an opening that a certain muscle holds in place. There are four different hernias that typically occur in the human body:
This guide will focus on hiatal hernia. This condition can occur in anyone, from unborn children to those who are approaching middle and senior age. Its symptoms should not be ignored, because they can be very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.5,6
Most of the time, hiatal hernias are minor and asymptomatic, and you can live a full life without needing medical treatment at all. However, those who do develop complications typically display symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).8 This is a condition in which stomach acid rises to your esophagus, causing symptoms such as:9,10
Even if your hiatal hernia is asymptomatic, there’s still a chance you can develop complications if you don’t follow certain preventive measures. This guide will show you massages, dietary practices and other methods to help you deal with hiatal hernia.
Recipe by Pete Evans
Many people just can’t end a meal without dessert. After all, a satisfying dessert refreshes your palate and gives your lunch or dinner a sweet ending.
Most people, however, would reach for a bowl of ice cream or a slice of cake to satiate their sweet tooth — but why do so when there are healthier dessert options to choose from? Case in point: these delicious cherry bites from Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans, with whom I co-wrote “The Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook.”
This easy dessert recipe combines the freshness and tartness of cherries with the bitter taste of raw cacao chocolate and the mild sweetness of coconut flakes, giving you a deep burst of flavor in every bite.
Prep time: 15 minutes (plus 30 minutes chilling time)
Cook time: 15 minutes
1/2 pound fresh cherries, pitted and cut into halves
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 fresh dates, pitted
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1/2 pound raw cacao chocolate, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place the pitted and halved cherries on a pastry paper-lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Keep the cherry stems aside in a separate bowl. Allow the cherries to cool.
3. Place the baked cherries, honey, dates, coconut flakes and coconut oil in a food processor and pulse briefly until mixture is combined.
4. Roll the mixture into cherry-sized balls, and insert a cherry stem into the center of each ball at the base.
5. Continue rolling between the palms of your hands until they form perfect balls. Place each directly onto another tray prelined with baking paper. Transfer the tray to the freezer and chill for 30 minutes or until the cherry balls are firm.
6. Meanwhile, place the raw cacao chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan filled to 3/4 with simmering water and stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
7. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat.
8. Dip the chilled cherry balls into the chocolate until they are completely coated, then return them to the paper-lined tray. When all the cherry balls have been dipped and coated, return the tray to the refrigerator and chill for another five minutes or until the chocolate sets.
This recipe makes 15 cherry bites.
Three Cheers for Cherries!
Fresh cherries are a favorite fruit during the summer season, not only because of their luscious flavor but their versatility as well. You can use cherries in different recipes: baked in pastries, added to fruit salads or even to complement the saltiness of sauces and gravies.
However, did you know that there are two classifications of cherries, in the form of either sweet or tart (sour)? The former is often eaten fresh, while sour ones are usually frozen, sold dried or made into juice. They also form a deeper and fuller flavor when cooked, which makes them more preferable in baked desserts.[i]
Nevertheless, both tart and sweet cherries are loaded with various vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which all give them their amazing health benefits, such as:
Based on research, consuming tart cherry juice helped increase melatonin levels and improved total sleep time and sleep efficiency.[iii]
Reducing your stroke risk. Consuming tart cherries activates peroxisome proliferator activated receptors (PPAR) in your tissues, which have a beneficial effect on your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and may help reduce risk of not only stroke but other diseases.
Improving risk factors of heart disease and diabetes. Quercetin, one of the most potent antioxidants in cherries, has been found to improve cardiovascular health by managing blood pressure levels.[iv]
Meanwhile, another animal study where rats were given tart cherry powder with a high-fat diet gained less weight and had less body fat than rats that were not. Lower levels of triglycerides and inflammation were also noted.[v]
Reducing risk of dementia. Polyphenols in cherries help combat inflammation and oxidative stress, which both play a role in dementia.[vi]
Lowering risk of colon cancer. Cherries are found to reduce the formation of carcinogenic compounds like heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs).
One study found that when added to hamburger patties, cherries had anywhere between 69 and 78.5 percent less HAAs after cooking, compared to patties that did not use the fruit.[vii]
The Best Way to Store Fresh Cherries
For this recipe, it’s best to use fresh cherries. However, you must take note of certain factors when storing them to prevent them from going to waste. Ideally, they should be consumed within two days, if at room temperature, for maximum flavor.
You can also store cherries in the fridge for a longer shelf life. Do not wash them before storing to prevent speeding up their deterioration. Instead, wash them before eating or using in recipes.
The Health Merits of Raw Cacao Chocolate
The health benefits of dark chocolate are mainly attributed to cacao’s naturally occurring compounds, like epicatechin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and resveratrol, known for its neuroprotective effects. Numerous studies have confirmed that cacao can benefit your blood vessels, heart, nervous system and brain, and that it can help combat diabetes and other inflammation-related conditions.
However, remember there’s good chocolate, and there’s bad chocolate — if you’re picturing the usual sweet candy bars sold everywhere, then you’re thinking of the latter. For you to truly reap the benefits of chocolate, you must make sure you’re getting one that has a high cacao content, and is low in sugar.
Basically, the higher the cacao content, the darker the chocolate. However, cacao is very bitter owing to the beneficial polyphenols it contains. Hence, if you’re looking for chocolate to obtain its health benefits, choose organic dark chocolate that has a raw cacao percentage of 70 or higher.
If You Suffer From Insulin Resistance, Eat This Dessert in Moderation
These cherry bites are a wonderful alternative to the usual processed, sugar-loaded concoctions you see in stores, but take note that they still contain fructose — mainly because of the cherries, dates and honey used. If you are struggling with obesity or any condition related to insulin resistance, moderate your consumption of this dessert to prevent wreaking havoc on your health.
About Pete Evans
Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef who has joined forces with Dr. Mercola to create a healthy cookbook that’s loaded with delicious, unique Keto recipes, ideal for people who want to switch to a ketogenic diet. The “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook” is the perfect tool to help get you started on your ketogenic journey. CLICK HERE to order your copy now.
Pete has had numerous noteworthy contributions to the culinary world. He has not only cooked for the general public, but he’s also cooked a royal banquet for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart, and even represented his hometown at the gala GʼDay USA dinner for 600 in New York City. Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room with many TV appearances including Lifestyle Channel’s “Home show,” “Postcards from Home,” “FISH,” “My Kitchen Rules” and “Moveable Feast.”